Someone Finally Spoke Up: Shell admits we already hit peak oil

Predictions of peak oil have been around for years.  The most telling prediction has been that the “easy” oil is mostly gone.  Most of what’s left is the hard to extract oil, and the Alberta tar sands project is a prime example.

Shell Says It Has Reached Peak Oil Production

Shell says oil is on its way out.

In a Thursday statement, the fossil fuel giant said its “oil production peaked in 2019,” and that we can now expect it to decline gradually by 1 or 2% per year. Shell also said its total carbon emissions peaked in 2018 at 1.7 gigatonnes.

The statement doesn’t come as a total surprise. The oil market has been in decline for years, and since the covid-19 pandemic began last year, fuel prices went from bad to catastrophically bad. Last Fall, the International Energy Agency predicted a “treacherous” path ahead for the industry. And in September, fellow energy giant BP said the world may have already reached peak oil. Shell’s own CFO hinted at the announcement in May when she told investors the company has experienced “major demand destruction that we don’t even know will come back,” and soon after, Shell wrote down $22 billion on its balance sheets. But still, this is the first time it’s made an outright announcement of this kind.

Beau of the Fifth Column just produced a video on it, talking about how oil companies will have to shift away into other forms of energy production, and how one company admitting reality could force others to do the same.

It sounds nice to say, “Oil production will go down!  That’s good for the environment!”  but there are other considerations.  Three very common uses for oil are producing plastics, computers, and creating artificial fertilizers.  From the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP):

How is Oil Used in Canada?

Average Output from a Barrel of Oil

Did you know the average barrel of oil does much more than just put gasoline in your car? In fact, oil is used to create a wide range of products, such as propane, asphalt, petrochemical feedstocks and more.

  • Transportation Fuel
  • Electronics
  • Textiles
  • Sporting Goods
  • Health & Beauty Products
  • Medical Supplies
  • Household Products

Fewer plastics is a good thing, and will be better for the environment and animals.  But a lot of clothing is synthetic (e.g. nylon, rayon, viscose, polyester, lycra, etc.) and the end of synthetics will mean new clothes have to come from natural materials (e.g. cotton, linen, wool, etc.).  Giving up “fashion” is a good thing, but we also have to make clothes more durable so they won’t need replacing.   Clothing and footwear companies will have to change their business, both in sales and manufacturing.  And that will put a lot of pressure on producers of natural materials.

We will reach a point where computers, cellphones and control systems can no longer be replaced every few years, never mind annually.  Forced obsolescence will have to end, as will forcing consumers to buy new products (e.g. OS needs a better computer, then new computer needs a new OS; phone networks going 2G to 3G to 4G to 5G; etc.).  We won’t be able to build new anymore, and will have to rely on machines that already exist.  Software companies need to stop forcing users to buy new hardware.  They may have to go back to supporting and writing programs for old hardware.

The one I worry about most is artificial fertilizers.  The 20th century increase in population from 1.5 billion during World War I to 7.8 billion today is directly linked to increased food production, which includes the invention of the Haber-Bosch process in 1918.  Without oil to maintain fertilizer production and industrial farming, what will happen to food production?


Casual Game: Lemmings turns 30 today

The original version of Lemmings was released on the Amiga computer on February 14, 1991, making it thirty years old today.  It would later be released on almost every platform and operating system in the 1990s, and be followed my many sequels and special edition version.  Lemmings was created by three programmers, David Jones, Russell Kay, and Mike Dailly.  DMA Design, which would later become RockStar North Limited, the UK division of RockStar games.

It quickly became popular and sold upwards of 20 million copies over it’s life.  It’s a wonderful combination of casual gaming and puzzle solving, and can be a relaxation or a frantic paced game, a choice that the player can make.  It was on millions of computers in the early 1990s like DOOM, but if any game resembles it most closely, it would be Angry Birds.

Celebrations as the iconic Lemmings video game turns 30

From a humble beginning the game by DMA Design would go on to to sell around 20 million copies worldwide and helped launch Dundee’s now-famous computer games industry.

Creators, gamers and Lemmings lovers have shared their favourite memories of the iconic platform adventure as it celebrated its 30th birthday.

Originally developed by DMA Design, which was originally based near Seabraes on Dundee’s Perth Road, Lemmings was published by Psygnosis for the Amiga in 1991 and later developed for a number of other platforms.

The game was programmed by Mike Dailly, Dave Jones and Russell Kay and was inspired by a simple animation that Dailly created while experimenting.

Speaking on the 30th anniversary he said: “One of my many favourite Lemmings moments was seeing a Lemming walk across a level for the first time in Russell Kay’s demo. That’s when I thought we all had something.

[. . .]

“My biggest surprise with the game is how loved the music has been. To me it’s always been functional, and slightly annoying. But to many, it’s the sound of their childhood. Never thought that would have happened…

“This game helped change my life, and brought me more joy over the many years than I could have possibly imagined.”

Despite the games success of the past three decades fellow original programmer Russell Kay still sometimes thinks it’s amazing the Lemmings game saw light at all.

“It was actually rejected by almost everyone we showed it to, to start off with,” said Russell, 51, a former pupil of Craigie High School who is now chief technology officer at Yo Yo Games in Dundee.

Here’s a complete playthrough of the game.  Now you can see how to solve all those levels you could never finish.  I know the feeling.

The First Solidbody Made: The Fender Telecaster turns 70

I’m sure all the guitarists and guitar hero fans know this one.

The Fender Telecaster (first named the Broadcaster) was the first commercially successful solid body guitar, released on the market in the fall of 1950.  It was the first bolt on guitar, the neck detachable from the body by screws.  Prior to that, guitars were single piece from head to end to ensure strength, and the Telecaster proved that wasn’t necessary.  Unlike all the other famous models of guitar (Stratocaster, SG, Les Paul, Thunderbird, Explorer, etc.) the Telecaster has never been out of production since it was introduced.

The standard Telecaster has two single coil pickups, giving it a much cleaner sound than most guitars.  Double coils and guitars with three pickups have more distortion due to the interference caused by magnets close together, a problem the Telecaster doesn’t have.  (Some early Telecasters had only one single coil, meaning even less distortion.)  Its sound is versatile and can be found in all styles of music, from rock to pop, blues, country, punk, jazz and many others.

Here is a small sample of guitarists who use it, most of them live recordings.  In the case of Queen, May used the Telecaster on the song instead of the Fireplace.

Albert Collins, “Cold, Cold Feeling”

Graham Coxon of Blur, “Charmless Man”

PJ Harvey, “This Is Love” (most live videos show her with a Gibson Thunderbird)

Frank Black (a/k/a Black Francis) of The Pixies, “Gigantic”

Brian May of Queen, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”

Rory Gallagher of Taste, “Gambling Blues”

Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, “Killing In The Name”

Ed Bickert Trio, “Street Of Dreams”

Larry Carlton, “So What”

Cate Le Bon, a Welsh singer/songwriter/guitarist

Jerry Reed and Glen Campbell of “The World’s Most Famous Unknown Band”

Wilko Johnson of Dr. Feelgood, “Milk and Alcohol”

Valentine’s Day Sucks: Two brief thoughts

First, as seen today, summing up all civilized people’s thoughts:

Roses are red, no lives are blue.

Defund the police, abolish ICE too.

Second, VD is as unwanted as a VD.  Never mind the commercial products being sold, I hate the implication that you’re a “failure” if you don’t have a relationship on February 14th.  Socially pressures and demanded participation in certain “holidays” are mentally damaging, regardless of whether it’s December, February, May or June.  (Hallowe’en fans don’t go around demanding others’ participation, and besides it’s fun.)

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Joan Armatrading turned 70 recently, born December 9, 1950.  (Dang!  Another birthday I missed!)  One of her best known songs is “Me, Myself, I”, about the joys of being single.  May this be your anthem for Sunday.

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The List Shortens: The Economist’s 2020 Democracy Index is out

The Economist’s Intelligence Unit publishes its Democracy Index annually.  They ask a group of experts to evaluate world’s nations on how democratic they are on a scale of one to ten (worst to best) based on five criteria:

  1. Electoral Process and Pluralism
  2. Functioning of Government
  3. Political Participation
  4. Political Culture
  5. Civil Liberties

from which they generate an overall score.  The world’s worst is (unsurprisingly) North Korea at 1.08, and the best is Norway at 9.81.

According to the 2020 Democracy Index, there are only twenty three full democracies in the world.  France and Portugal have fallen off the list, while Japan and Taiwan joined it.  There are two each from North America, South America, and Oceania; three from Asia; thirteen from Europe; and only one from Africa, the tiny island nation of Mauritius.  A significant number of countries have dropped in the rankings over the past five years where rightwing “populism” came into fascism. . .I mean, fashion.  And least surprsing of all, many governments used the pandemic to violate people’s human rights and freedoms.

It’s not just democracy that sets these countries apart.  With only the five exceptions named below, all 23 have three other things in common:

  1. Geographically small, under 1m sq. km of land (Canada, Australia)
  2. Population under 50 million (Japan 126m, Germany 83m, UK 68m)
  3. Secular societies

Countries which are geographically large or have large populations require larger governments and bureaucracies yet are harder to govern, making corruption much easier to hide and for individuals to perpetrate.  It doesn’t surprise me that 21 of the 23 Full Democracies are among the 36 highest ranked countries on the Corruption Perception Index for 2020 (wikipedia version).  There’s also a strong correlation at the other end: the countries which are most oppressive and most corrupt are the most religious, with oppressive communist (and officially atheist) states being the exception.

This is a screenshot of the Democracy Index from wikipedia, the numbers matching the EIU website’s index:

From Democracy Without Borders:

EIU report: In 2020, democracy declined worldwide amid pandemic

In the 2020 edition of their Democracy Index, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recorded the worst state of global democracy since the index was first produced in 2006.

Snapshot of global democracy

The report aims to measure the state of democracy in 167 countries, covering almost the entire population of the world and the vast majority of the world’s sovereign states. Using 60 indicators that collectively measure the electoral process and pluralism, the functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties, it assigns each country a democracy score on a scale of 0 to 10. Based on their scores, countries are grouped into “full democracies”, “flawed democracies”, “hybrid regimes”, and “authoritarian regimes”.

In 2020, the average global democracy score fell from 5.44 in 2019 to 5.37, marking the lowest score in the index’s history. In total, the democracy scores of 116 countries declined, with only 38 improving and the other 13 stagnating. On a positive note, the percentage of the world’s population living in “full democracies” rose from 5.7% in 2019 to 8.4% in 2020 thanks to the improvement of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. At the same time, France and Portugal lost the “full democracy” status they had regained in 2019.

[. . .]

Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

The global health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic resulted in the largest curtailment of civil liberties ever undertaken by governments during peacetime. These restrictions, enacted in order to slow the spread of the disease and prevent further loss of life, were the primary contributor to the democratic regression seen in most of the world’s states, from “full democracies” to “authoritarian regimes”.

According to the authors of the report, the scores of many governments were downgraded because of the censorship of lockdown skeptics and other dissenting voices, the imposition of states of emergency and restrictions on civil liberties, and the general lack of citizen involvement in the processes that were used to make these decisions. [. . .] In many “hybrid” and “authoritarian regimes”, rulers took advantage of the pandemic in order to suppress dissent, subdue political opponents, and further solidify their grip on power. Contrary to past years, actions like these resulted in the largest democratic declines occurring in some of the world’s most authoritarian countries. In China, the pandemic led to an expansion of online censorship and surveillance, as well as a tightening of media controls and restraints on civil liberties. In order to control the spread of the coronavirus, similar steps were taken by other authoritarian governments throughout the world.

The rankings for several countries went up in 2020, despite the pandemic (Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan) while the openness of other governments’ about public health information (e.g. Australia, New Zealand, Mongolia) offset the reductions in personal freedoms. It proves that oppression wasn’t needed to deal with the crisis.

A Good Deed Punished: Dr. Hasan Gokal is out of a job

Dr. Hasan Gokal is a doctor who worked in Houston, Texas.  His work history included much charitable efforts such as during Hurricane Maria in 2017.

In December, a batch of COVID-19 vaccine had been opened.  There were ten shots left and no one assigned to receive them.  Dr. Gokal make the decision that rather than let it go to waste, he would find ten people and give them their first round of the vaccine.

When incompetent and arrogant bean counters learnt what he did, he was fired.  Then he was charged with theft.

It doesn’t matter that the charges were dismissed, this is a stain on his record, and those who made the decision to harass and falsely accuse him have faced no consequences.  I have to question the intelligence of anyone who describes his actions as other than responsible, decent, and quick thinking.

The Vaccine Had to Be Used. He Used It. He Was Fired.

The Texas doctor had six hours. Now that a vial of Covid-19 vaccine had been opened on this late December night, he had to find 10 eligible people for its remaining doses before the precious medicine expired. In six hours.

Scrambling, the doctor made house calls and directed people to his home outside Houston. Some were acquaintances; others, strangers. A bed-bound nonagenarian. A woman in her 80s with dementia. A mother with a child who uses a ventilator.

After midnight, and with just minutes before the vaccine became unusable, the doctor, Hasan Gokal, gave the last dose to his wife, who has a pulmonary disease that leaves her short of breath.

For his actions, Dr. Gokal was fired from his government job and then charged with stealing 10 vaccine doses worth a total of $135 — a shun-worthy misdemeanor that sent his name and mug shot rocketing around the globe.

[. . .]

Late last month, a judge dismissed the charge as groundless, after which the local district attorney vowed to present the matter to a grand jury. And while prosecutors portray the doctor as a cold opportunist, his lawyer says he acted responsibly — even heroically.

“Everybody was looking at this guy and saying, ‘I got my mother waiting for a vaccine, my grandfather waiting for a vaccine,’” the lawyer, Paul Doyle, said. “They were thinking, ‘This guy is a villain.’”

Dr. Gokal, 48, immigrated from Pakistan as a boy and earned a medical degree at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse. After working at hospitals in Central New York, he moved to Texas in 2009 to oversee the emergency department at a suburban Houston hospital. His volunteer work has included rebuilding homes and providing medical care after Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

I am really glad Cheetolini is out of a job.  Now we can hope racist and islamophobic attitudes and anti-science stupidity stops.

Chinese New Year Arrives: 2021 is the year of the Ox

Yes, it’s Chinese New Year again, February 12, 2021.  Gong Xi Fa Cai.  CNY occurs on the second new moon after the winter solstice, but changes every year because the traditional Chinese calendar has either twelve or thirteen months.  And you thought calculating easter was hard.  It can be anywhere from January 21 to February 20. Subtract eleven days every year, and if it goes before January 21, wrap from the other end (2022 is February 1; 2023 is January 22; 2024 is February 10).

It also means a day or seven of insufferable noise, fireworks going off at all hours for a week, just what my ears don’t need.  At least I get a week off of work.

2021 is the year of the Ox, the second year in the twelve year cycle.  Don’t say cow, because it’s a homophone for a swear word in Mandarin.

That’s not my year, 1967 was year of the Goat.  No, I don’t believe in astrology one iota.  Chinese astrology is just as much hokum as European.  Goats allegedly represent “filial piety” (yeah right, my “parents” are dead and I’m glad), “purity” (if you knew me, you’d laugh) and “kindness” (well, I try and live up to that one).

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Archaeological Dig: And you thought historical revisionism only happened here

Huang Heqing teaches at the School of Arts and Archeology at Zhejiang University, one of the most respected universities in China.  So one would think a high level of credibility and intellectual integrity would be needed to keep his position at the university.  Apparently, not.

This past week Huang gave an internet lecture in which he claimed ancient European and Egyptian civiliations are 19th century fakes.  Quoting from an HK01 news item, using google translate, emphasis mine:

Professor of Zhejiang University said the Pyramid with Pictures and Truth is a modern forgery built with concrete in the 19th century

Huang Heqing, a professor at Zhejiang University, claimed in his live lecture recently that ancient ruins such as the Parthenon in Athens and the pyramids in Egypt were forged by the West in modern times.

Taking the Pyramid of Khufu and the Sphinx in Egypt as examples, the Yellow River Ching showed that there are solid Western book illustrations and historical photographs, which prove that it did not exist at the time. It was built with concrete in the 19th century. “Because the West has always been Suppressing Chinese civilization, this kind of denial of Chinese civilization, so I also rectify Chinese civilization to some extent.”

Huang Heqing stated that from the 19th to 20th centuries, the West was rampantly forging historical and cultural relics, spending huge sums of money everywhere forging ancient relics, and elevating the status of ancient Egypt, the ancient Mesopotamia and ancient Indian civilizations. Chinese civilization is more ancient, and its intention is to use a large number of false images to disrupt the truth of world history and weaken the glory of Chinese civilization.” Huang Heqing believes that the only purpose of the West to fabricate history and forge ancient relics is to demean Chinese civilization.

Huang Heqing’s theory is to “prove history with pictures,” which refers to the acquisition of a large number of rare, almost undisclosed Western ancient book illustrations and historical photos through Internet resources, which “unquestionably proves” that many ancient Western relics are modern forgeries. Taking the Pyramid of Khufu in Egypt as an example, Huang Heqing said that he had found the paintings of Denon, the first curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris, and the delegation of scientists who followed Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt. They published pictures in “Description of Egypt” after they returned home. , Both show that the pyramid was built on a gully hill like the Loess Plateau in northern Shaanxi. Not only was it totally inconsistent with today’s environment, but also there was no Pyramid of Khufu and Sphinx at that time.

I know that predominantly white countries have a long, long history of historical revisionism based on racism (Cheetolini’s proposed “1776 project”, “triangle trade” instead of saying slavery, the denial of kingdoms and empires in Africa, etc.).  And I know that “western” countries have repeatedly stolen artifacts from other countries and not returned them.

But 19th century fakes?  Seriously?

Arguing how the Egyptian pyramids were built is a valid discussion.  So is arguing how and from where people first reached the North and South American continents.  But if the reporting is accurate, Huang’s claims are purely in the territory of cranks and crackpots.

Hong Kong 01 (HK01) was founded by newspaper editor Yu Pun-hoi in 2016 as a purportedly independent news media, but has repeatedly kowtowed to Beijing, removing or altering news articles after publication.  The HK01 item is written in Mandarin, not Cantonese, despite being based in Hong Kong.

Taiwan English News is where I first heard of this, linking back to the HK01 item (“Chinese professor: There were no ancient western civilizations, just modern fakes made to demean China”).

Pokemon, Go: Big, or go home

Early Sunday morning (1:36AM, UTC+8), Taiwan had a 6.1 earthquake off the east coast, about 85km from the town of Ilan and 42km from the Japanese island of Yonaguni.  No damage or injuries were reported.

All cell phones sold in Taiwan contain an app which gives warnings of events like military drills and other things.  Last night, my phone rang three seconds before the earthquake hit, not exactly the most useful information unless you’re carrying a pane of glass or something.

Most times, the alarm only sounds once.  However due to a glitch, everyone’s phone was activated fourteen times in the span of five minutes.  If you have only one phone, as most people do, it’s no big deal. But for “Pokemon Go Grandpa”, it was a different story.

More below the fold.

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The Cult Doesn’t Cancel: Not when it’s their own

Rightwingnuts have whined incessantly that “cancel culture is censorship!” while simultaneously harassing, doxxing, and threatening anyone into silence for daring to disagree.  Contrary to their hypocrisy, accountability is not “censorship”.

Funny how those who hurl the term “snowflake” are the ones having meltdowns.

Four cases in point, two in the last week, below the fold.

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Music Rules: Carole King’s “Tapestry” turns 50

Carole King‘s legendary album “Tapestry” was released on February 10, 1971.  Her second solo album is one of the biggest selling albums of all time, over twenty-five million copies, five million in the first two years alone.  And keep in mind it was released at a time when a platinum album was considered a big seller.  Imagine how many it would have sold were records sold in that day as well as they sold in the 1980s and 1990s.

King was born on February 9, 1942.  She began working as a songwriter in 1958, age sixteen, at the Brill Building in New York.  Brill is home to many major record company offices and studios in the industry.  She and her first husband Gerry Goffin were a hit machine, producing dozens of hit songs for Motown groups plus many others.

All the songs on the album were written by King or with Goffin, Toni Stern.  It is a mix of new material and songs that were hits for other artists.  Despite being soft rock, its emotional level is as hard hitting as any album you can name, and has affected millions of people, as if she were speaking to them personally.  It produced four hit singles, including the biggest two songs of 1971 (“I Feel The Earth Move” and “It’s Too Late”).  Ten of the twelve songs could have been hit singles in their own right.

Below the fold is a personal song by song breakdown of the album.  Oh – and her cat’s name was Telemachus.

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Audio Files And Music Formats: Recollections on record collections

Sea Of Tranquility is a youtube music and talk channel.  The host, Pete Pardo, talks about music, lists by topic, rants, some movie reviews, and others.  Occasionally he has on a big name for an interview (e.g. recently Rob Halford of Judas Priest).  Most of the music covered is Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock, but there’s occasional Jazz and mainstream music.  Though I cringed at his “guilty pleasures” selections.

On Monday nights, they do a show called “The Hudson Valley Squares” that runs an hour or more, with anywhere from four to eight guests talking about a topic.  This past Monday (February 1) the topic was “Physical Media vs Streaming vs Digital”, a topic near and dear to my heart.  I don’t agree completely with any one of them who spoke, but each says things I nodded to.

More below the fold.

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