eh folks. Just letting you know I’m still alive.

Taking a bit of a breather this week, as I polish my resume and wait on some computer repairs.

In the meanwhile, check this out and, and remember: just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean the world isn’t really ending.

a good reality test for something is to see that it keeps happening even when you stop believing in it.

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26 thoughts on “…and I feel fine

  1. Hey.

    Composite comment. Not entirely on topic. Suspect I may be using this comments board as an emotional clearing house:

    So one of my big problems with dealing with peak oil as an issue is that I tend to pendulum between abject terror and blase acceptance without the vital “building a fort in the wilderness / becoming King and saving the world” [sic with extra irony] phase in between. So committing to any future course of action that takes more than a couple of years seems a bit tricky. Case in point – I’m about to start training in TCM, but can’t guarantee that lots of sweet (non-medical) jobs a long way away might not present themselves over the next few years. Which is more important, saving cash to buy the farm or learning the portable skills? Not to mention the ‘how to spend your finite time, external skills vs. internal development’ quandary. There’s a real conflict (for most people) between awareness of the almighty shit-storm coming our way and the necessary calm, clarity and stillness required for any kind of personal insight and development.

    Fact is, this is all fear-based thinking that I’m not so enamoured with any more. Committing to the course is just another gamble for me now, like getting up or leaving the house or eating things I haven’t grown myself. Thinking back, this all began in 2005 with me googling ‘Decline of the West’ and ending up paralysed by fear over Peak Oil for 6 months. Even then I assumed it wasn’t worth doing anything cos civilisation was going to collapse sometime in 2006. (I think I ended up here by going deconsumption => rigorous intuition => AB).

    Useful fear, in one way, since it fuelled a very steep learning curve on all manner of crazy “this is the way the world ends” shit, but I recognise now a lot of it came out of having (finally!) quit weed a couple of months earlier. 2 and a bit years on and I’ve eventually got round to finding a decent acupuncturist who is starting to help me undo the damage I did to myself.* So now I’m having to rescan all my mental apparatus in a lower fear-intensity mode, meaning I can’t rely on my ideation of past personality as any kind of guide as to my future actions. (Although, from a Buddhist perspective, there’s nothing special about that, right?)

    In the end I’ve just got to exercise a bit of surrender, assume I’ve got three years to work with and refuse to be surprised if i don’t. The questions don’t go away, tho. You might remember me asking about Bujinkan – I finally went along for a class – lots of fun, great instructor. Didn’t really realise that it was so soft! I already (thought I) do internal martial arts but everything required a fraction of the power I’m used to putting in. Anyway, if i move away, no more Gao-style Ba Gua, but there will be access to a different Bujinkan group, so should I start Bujinkan now or stick with the Gao, which is finally starting to work for me?. Etcetera.

    I’ve gone from a framework where I couldn’t be bothered to commit to anything more than a few hours away to one where I’m happy to devote decades to a project if it has a reasonable prospect of returning the input – since everything worthwhile seems to take ages (the good martial arts, TCM, meditation) – right at the time when I cannot guarantee there will be adequate food supplies or a lack of marauding gangs anywhere even for the next 6 months!

    Like I say, there’s no solution but staying with it rather than losing myself in denial and making the highest-quality decisions I can as and when they present themselves. Can’t help being amused by the irony, though. The “I wish I’d done something other than smoke weed for those 7 years” regret trap just doesn’t seduce me for some reason, but the comparison between my previous pathologically listless self and my current desire / willingness to apprentice myself to some sly Chinese doctor for a decade or so is probably karma telling me the shit is about to hit the fan. Probly more interesting this way, anyway.

    ch.

    * This is where this whole comment ramble started! I was going to mention, in case you haven’t already heard of him, jost sauer (dot com, I think), who is a German TCM dude living in Oz. He claims to be an expert on TCM for drug addiction / ex-users, and he has some excellent articles on his website. It wasn’t until I read them that I really started to understand a lot of stuff that’s gone on with me for the last few years (e.g. the fear, q.v.).

    In particular, I really value his explanation of why drugs feel good, and the connection he makes to the fact that you cannot, therefore, simply tell people to stop, but have to incorporate an understanding of why they did it and why they will feel pretty empty when you take the magic carpet rides away from them. Until I had that understanding in place, a part of me still wanted to go back to the blue pill. I guess you might even find his ideas useful professionally, by way of drumming up business from amongst the drug-addled bohemiana of the Sunshine Coast?

  2. The video segment reeked of bullshit to me. Seemed like the piece was designed to justify the quickly increasing gas prices while the oil companies drown themselves in record profits. Yeah, the oil industry MAY be rotting, but I’m not so sure it’s because we’re running out of crude oil.

    Of course my opinion is all based on information that has been passed through many hands. I’ve never had any experience in the oil business, but I do know what shit smells like.

    If we “make the changes”? What changes would that be? Changes to save the hoi polloi, or changes necessary to benefit “THEM”?

  3. I know Simmons has been pushing the Peak Oil issue pretty hard for some time now, and I don’t think that, simply because a major media outlet decided to give him some air time, that the issue has gained any more legitimacy than it had before. For me, Peak Oil really DID start to go away when I quit reading about it and obsessing about it. In the end, any “Decline of the West” scenario posited around Peak Oil relies on a hefty sum of assumptions (no new discoveries, mis-reported figures, no new technologies, no creative adaptation, etc.), so I treat it with the level of skepticism that such a number of assumptions deserves.

  4. peak oil is more complicated than that–while oil will, without doubt, peak, the effects are not going to be anywhere close to the James “Jeremiad” Howard Kunstler/Matt “Fat Rich Oil Banker” Simmons’s apocalyptic scenarios wherein everyone is forced to farm for survival with huts built out of materials stolen from abandoned strip malls. For peak oil to destroy civilization technological advancement needs to stop as of right now in order for oil consumption to remain as high per capita. And we should also keep in mind that per capita oil consumption in the US actually dropped in the late 70s and early 80s until Reagan instituted the Mourning-in-America plan, part of which we can see in the “light truck” categorization for SUVs and trucks that allows them to be less efficient–long story short, this is much less of a problem than the internet doom-and-gloomers have it. That said, I own a small quantity of oil speculatively and do anticipate its price to rise from a fundamental perspective. Supply will falter but it is not going to cause the massive shocks some expect. Hell, it may even be good in the long run–if the average citizen (referred to as “the consumer”) cuts back on consumption of crap because of the market discipline imposed by the rising prices of gas, that should actually pose a “deflationary” pressure. That central banks do not seem concerned with reacting to oil prices indicates that they may be tacitly counting on this. And all that said, it should be pretty obvious that the US, China, and Russia have already begun a new chapter in the great game where oil is increasingly a concern (drugs are as well but only the US seems concerned with those and that is also basically door number one to the rabbit hole so i am not headed down it again right now).

    Long story short, for peak oil to work, we have to assume that it is impossible for us to reduce our oil consumption while maintaining something close to but reduced from our current economic level of activity. In the 1970s we managed, and yes, it was bad, but we were still capable of reducing consumption then without the technology we have today. And that Simmons and T. Boone Pickens and other bankers (and even Lou Dobbs) can get on the Teevee and talk about peak oil without getting assassinated or blacklisted indicates that the “powers that be” aren’t trying to intentionally instigate a peak-oil future, at least not too much.

    All that said, it is probably going to be absolutely necessary for the US to reduce overall consumption and lower its standard of living, while the third world raises its standard, to avoid a Weimar-style currency crisis. (I own gold)

  5. well, I suppose I ought to know better than to yell fire in a public place, and not nuance my wording.

    I’m already on record with my peak oil thoughts of course. I’ve gone back and forth thinking that it might be bunk, to seeing the price go up and up and the spare capacity dry up and see that there is seemingly no plan to fill the widening gap between supply and demand. If you dig a little deeper you can hear simmons talk plain sense that we have no more drilling rigs to extract any oil that we might find, ( and if we started building them today still wouldn’t have them for almost a decade) , even if we did find it, which we probably won’t and haven’t for the last three years. No amount of digits on paper changes that.

    I really don’t know what the result of that is going to be, other than look at what it already has been for the last three years: a frog in a pot.

    I don’t think it will be the petro apocalypse in the sense that these neo malthusian wonks are preaching, but it’s not a blip either. I don’t have any particular faith in america’s or anyone else’s ability to reduce consumption or lower their standard of living.

  6. Sorry for the long absence, I’ve been sucked down an incredible rabbit hole. Last time I posted was about peak oil, and the big question (do you see, do you understand, what will you do). It was obvious that the only solution to this problem and several others was free energy. So I started investigating some online free energy websites, and nothing was really workable or believable.

    Then out of the blue, a company called Steorn printed a full page ad in The Economist, you can see it there: http://netherlabs.nl/steorn-big.jpg

    I started getting involved in their online forum, and soon it was obvious that this was either one of the most elaborate scam ever devised, or the truth. As someone over there did put it, whatever happens they will have shifted paradigms, either of science or scam. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steorn ). A truthful error on their part is totally out of question, they either are deluding us voluntarily or have what they claim.

    In mars, Steorn started a free private developer forum that I joined, under NDA. Things have been progressing ever since, information given, and today I am confident enough in them to say that they very probably have what they claim, although as of today no hard evidence has been presented.

    A public demo of the technology is planned for July.

    Now, let’s start cracking the possible implications of this. I will assume for the sake of discussion that this is for real, and am not interested at all in discussing the reality of Steorn claim, as this is a horse which as been flogged to death for me already. If you want to do that, head to their public forum. Instead, I need some input from you all brilliant minds in exploring the social, economical and political consequences of this discovery.

    Let’s say that in July they show the world a working device, along with validation from the scientists that this works. Immense press coverage ensue. the world at large is now aware of the reality of a unlimited source of energy that is free, and easy to manufacture at home.

    One of the political implication: Malthusians are out. The impact this will have in the mind of everyone is the instant replacement of the ‘There is not enough for everyone’ meme with the ‘There is and always will be more than enough for everyone’ meme. How will current politics adapt to this? They are all running on fear, and global warming and peak oil is just the latest scare. Not to say that this isn’t real, just that it is being exploited. You can read a very interesting piece from RA Wilson called Malthus, Machiavelli, and Pop-Ecology on the history of this exploitation there: http://www.rawilson.com/sitnow.shtml .

    So, what will be the reaction of the political figures?

    One of the possible economical implication: Collapse of the current economy. The doom scenario goes like this: Everybody becomes suddenly aware that petrol is out. The value of the american dollar is based on the fact that oil business use it as its currency. America is deeply in debt. Some big guns understand that they need to get back their money now or never. Panic ensue. Overnight, the economy of the USA collapses. In its wake, the whole interconnected economy of the world follows, making 1929 looks like a picnic party.

    How will economical and political actors react to this threat, if this scenario is believable?

  7. sounds good to me!

    here is a 5-minute interview with the CEO (?) of steorn going into some depth about the endeavor. especially interesting is his description of how much of the scientific community has reacted: as fundamentalist zealots.

    curious to hear the thoughts of others about this (esp. those who are less easily influenced than myself)

  8. I recall watching that some time ago.

    I don’t doubt that some source of essentially abundant energy exists. After all, if we harnessed some miniscule fraction of the sunlight hitting the earth we’d be more than fine. And that will certainly happen sooner or later.

    peak oil isn’t a so much a question of electricity. I’m sure we’ll always find a way to get enough electricity, and eventually those ways will be free.

    peak oil, the really scary parts of it, have to do with transportation fuels and food.

    you can’t fly planes with electricity, nor can you manufacture plastics, pharmaceuticals, or energy dense transportation fuels with electricity alone. you can’t fertalise soil with electricity, although you could probably find a way to fix nitrogen abundantly with limitless electricity.

    the underlying issues are two: how profoundly is our civilisation tied to petrochemicals that are obviously peaking in production, and how well can we make that transition to something else, if at all. .. and the other is the deeper question of human psychology and how, or if, we can escape a psychological set that revolves around scarcity and begin to treat life as essentially abundant, if not physically and functionally, which it clearly is not always, nor can it be, then emotionally and energetically.

  9. Sure. But if you don’t use oil for land transport and electricity generation, or heating, you have plenty left for the other uses. Also some substitution is possible, for example plastic out of hemp: http://www.hempplastic.com/newSite/index.htm . The only thing that is difficult to replace is kerosene for planes, but if we accept to travel a bit slower there are plenty of other air transportation alternative.

    Also the claimed power density of the Steorn device is at least 0.5 watt per cm3, linearly scalable. That’s a lot of punch packed in a small volume. They are constantly refining it to make it more efficient and simple to engineer (constant motion instead of start stop). Anyway I agree that the central point is the one of scarcity. I guess it’s much more easy to be joyful and giving when the needs of all are met and there is no fear of this being withdrawn later. This has of course never happened, but I’m optimistic, and I’m quite sure that most people will deal perfectly with that. Maybe there will be some acute boulimia when people will realize that everything will be free forever (this is essentially the case in the long term when you have unlimited energy, even when you consider resources, matter is after all nothing but energy). But after some time we will reorient towards more profound matters.

    I’m still worried about what the short term impact of this technology will be on the world, but I’m confident that whatever happens, spirits will be lifted high.

  10. Steorn looks like horseshit, sounds like horseshit, and smells like horseshit. They have simply managed to rebrand–quite successfully–19th-century perpetual motion scams as “Open Unity” and free energy. The talk by Steorn’s CEO sounds oddly like one of those fax pump-and-dump penny stock schemes. Remember the internet advertising for the Segway, which was supposed to change urban life forever? Before anyone goes to blather about how oil and energy companies oppose this idea, ask yourself, which is there a bigger market for, free unlimited power generators–after all, someone has got to make the machine–or oil?

    But this is a bigger issue and I will write volumes about it so i will save it for later and I’ll even maybe post on it later.

  11. I understand your reaction laboratorian.

    Time will tell if this is for real or not, and you have every right to be skeptical. indeed, you should. This is a very huge claim, and they have shown no hard proof yet.

    Now, humor me. What do you think will happen if this is finally proven to work? I’m not interested in debating over the reality of it. I’m interested in the consequences it will have if it is real. Treat it as a thought experiment.

  12. I think a lot of it would depend on how it’s impelemented. internal combustion is a hundred years old but we’re still making incredibly inefficent heat engines. why? the tyranny of the installed base. I know friends who grew up on the prairie and they all have stories about some farmer who figured out how to make the engine on his tractor 5x more efficent and then a bunch of guys show up with a million dollars to get him to shut the fuck up about it, and hand over his working models. this isn’t the same farmer they’re talking about, but a few different guys…

  13. Actually, zac, one of my pet conspiracy theory about this is that Steorn is illuminati funded. Makes sense, with peak oil about to happen, global warming, etc… Fear is good for control of the masses, apocalypse isn’t good for business. So, after having pumped money as best as they can with oil, they finally decided to release the free energy device they had since Roswell to the masses. That’s why this hasn’t been suppressed by a cohort of men in black, or the Steorn laboratory nuked from orbit.

    Seriously, they didn’t have any problem because everybody knows full well that perpetual motion or free energy is impossible, and that there is hundred of claims every year of it since the beginning of the industrial age. So they are below the radar.

    Meanwhile, the knowledge of the effect has been spread to several people, and quite a lot of information has been released in the private developer club. It is too late for any kind of suppression. If they’re really clever (which I think is the case), they have harvested enough e-mail address to be able to send white papers and blueprints automatically with some kind of software dead man switch if the worst happened.

    For the record, Steorn CEO said he had zero men in black problem so far, and he didn’t expect to have any.

  14. well the point is that, even if it works, the device will tend to be defined by whoever gets in on the ground floor and locks in the technological base. computer code is free, but microsoft has the stranglehold.

  15. Nope. Not this time. They have a open model for dissemination, and they will serve the information to whoever ask for it for a nominal fee, after the discovery has been validated by the jury. Meanwhile they don’t accept money from anyone.

    So whether you are Sony, Shell, or the average joe, you get the same access. Actually, large commercial business will pay more than the amateur, because they will have to license every unit produced.

    Anyway, you can bet that this will be fast on every P2P network on the planet. So with 0$ you will soon have access to all the information you need to build one. It will be free of charge to any developing, third world country.

  16. I know, sounds too good to be true. Only one month to wait and you will be able to tell if I was deluded or not.

    Meanwhile, I’ll be delighted by any thought on the matter, or links to any relevant consideration on the problem: Free, easy to build, decentralized, infinite energy. No string attached. Treat it as a reasonably small sized black box, that can power your house, your car, whatever. Works of fiction about the problem welcome too.

    What will it do to the world? I’m tired of thinking about the implications on my own. It is too overwhelming, has too many possible simultaneous consequences to be able to forecast what will happen in the short term, and I think we will soon sorely need all the forecasting we can get to prepare for it.

    Maybe I’m wrong. But what if I ain’t?

  17. Peak oil is for real. The crash is coming. Physical life ain’t airy fairy. What goes up must come down. We can have all the wonderful spiritual experiences but we still live in a physical body and have physical needs. There is no limitless abundance living in a physical body in the 3 d world.

  18. *Feeling sheepish due to massive ramble at top of page*

    If it’s fiction you’re looking for, Asimov’s “The Gods Themselves” is one of his best. If I remember correctly, free energy comes from discovering a parallel universe with identical physical laws except for one isotope being “iridium (orwhatever) 133” rather than “134”. This tiny difference is harnessed by the ‘electron pump’ to give free energy to both universes. Eventually it turns out that the physical laws from each universe are also leaking through threatening to destroy our sun in a massive supernova.

    I imagine any real free energy device would follow a similar pathway. First denial it exists, then claims that it’s nothing new, then everyone adjusting to the new scenario of free energy and taking it for granted that we can all fly to Tahiti for dinner and be infinitely greedy for everything. Twenty years down the line we would discover that the ‘free energy’ it is absorbing from the environment creates a subtle quantum pollution that has given us all cancer of the chakras and that our souls are doomed to a particularly grisly hell dimension when we die. Primitivist groups start up on the internet calling for a return to the ‘natural’ lifestyle of the C20th oil economy, whilst the Carmish, who have restricted themselves at a level of c.2006 technology to the outright mockery of the rest of the world, beam smugly from the bonnets of their Toyota Subarus.

    Part of me thinks that easy access to more energy is just what humanity doesn’t need at the moment.

    On the other hand, maybe Steorn are gearing up just in time for the 2012 singularity and I will have to apologise to you all for my negativity when I see you in Zion.

  19. Well, alright, purely as a thought experiment:

    I suppose if I had some breadbox sized device that generated some fixed amount of electricty indefinitely ( i presume it does break down and need repairs sooner or later, so in the thermodynamic sense, it’s not really ‘infinite’ ), I’d first use it to run my house.

    Our hydroelectric bill comes to a couple hundred a month in the winter, so that would be free. our hot water heater still runs on gas, but with the savings we’d eventually switch to an electric water heater and stop using gas to heat the house instead of electric. most of the money we save wouldtend to be spent on something else, but if we were smart we’d leverage the independance of our power generation to increase our autonomy.

    that’s about it for for first order personal effects. after a certain amount of time, I presume most everyone who could afford one would get one, and the utlility conglomerates would start to suffer. depending on how easy it was to make and repair them, the big electricty providers would start to crumble. they’d probably get massive crony contracts to disassemble all the old nuclear reactors, coal and gas fired power plants etc.

    i suppose as a general trend this would promote the decentralisation of society. once i have my own power plant, I can run a water treatment/purification system of my own, broadcast at a high power level, etc you could be running some kind of nitrogen fixing fertaliser operation on a local level, with some variant of the ammonia fertaliser process they use now. eventually even something as ludicrous as a hydrogen economy to store all this free energy in some dense form for airplanes, boats and whatnot would be feasable.

    that in turn would promote a larger level of technical competancy in the population, by neccesity, since you’d have to keep your private infrastructure in good working order.

  20. if i had a toaster that provided free power, i wouldn’t save that much really. Maybe get some more tattoos and a good suit. It’d be hard to imagine power producers suffering from this too much, and oil is still too useful to be supplanted–airline tickets would get cheaper but it might mean the airlines could actually improve their service instead of getting blasted out of the water by jet fuel prices. I’d imagine there’d be lots of regulatory issues if and when people started selling back into the grid–and here’s a hint, you’ll be getting wholesale, not retail, on the wattage you sell.

    How much local–meaning in-home–economy would be possible? Small-scale technology was supposed to be the boon for the New Communalist / Whole Earth Catalog movement in the 60s and 70s, but it never came through. (instead, the hopes migrated into computer tech and away from communalism towards libertarianism) Truth is you need manufacturering capablity to get manufacturing capability, and if you don’t have it, you need currency to get it–short form, you need one form of capital, which is already centralized, to get another so things don’t change too much. On the other hand, end-use consumer goods would probably proliferate ridiculously.

    That said, I hope that Steorn has Illuminati funding, because otherwise their balance sheet sucks. “free power” my ass.

  21. actually now that i think about it they’d probably use all that free electricty to suck more oil out of the ground, at a cheaper price.
    Fuck the hydrogen economy! Free water injection and thermal depolymerisation forever!

  22. suddenly i have to wonder.

    Gasoline generators are pretty much available to the general public but only really popular in hurricane alley. Solar cells are available but hard to get, what with an install running between $2000 and $20000 depending on who does it, windmills, biomass generators, uranium mini-generators, etc., are not available at all. There’s a certain degree to which the public at large doesn’t want home-based, small scale power, and won’t until it’s pricy as hell to pay the util. company, and, sadly, most of our power comes from very cheap, very plentiful coal, with a smidgen from gas and oil and a little bit from uranium someone else is cooking.

  23. As an American I have a right to my car, so I’ll just zoom-zoom and make out in the back seat all I want!

    Cant we just recycle all the oil that constantly drips from our engine blocks?!?
    (also dust off the walnut press, and start fattening up those whales again!)

    mmmmm …. blubber … ahhggllglgghhhr

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