Creative corner

    Donal's picture

    Interesting times

    We live in interesting times, but everyone seems to be watching TV. Actors Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine recently died. Each man proved himself in serious roles, Griffith in A Face in the Crowd and Borgnine in Marty, but they were far better known for long-running comedic roles on television. Don Grady died, too. He was only 68, and was known for playing Robbie on My Three Sons, but apparently he was a serious and devoted musician.

    I wonder how many of us will be better-known for our long-running comedic lives?

    With bike share programs blooming, and so many people biking to work and even enjoying it, articles about automobiles vs cyclists vs pedestrians abound right now. The basic problem is that people are just about as law-abiding on bikes as they are in cars or on foot, and the foolhardy ones get all the attention. In the comment sections are the usual crude threats against cyclists by territorial drivers. I just defriended someone after reading that sort of comment on Facebook.

    After years of hoping to be part of the solution, peak oil believers like Luis de Sousa are feeling ignored. After attending an ASPO conference in Europe, De Sousa wrote The Last Peak Oil Conference about his discouragement with trying to manage the downward slope of oil production so that people don't suffer. The problem is that to most people, Peak Oil looks more like Hard Times than The Road, and the downward slope is already being managed to the benefit of those that can manage it.

    Climate change appears in our back yards, but the weatherpersons still urge us to stay indoors and run the AC. I went running last Thursday after work. I hadn't gone twenty yards before a fellow leaned out of his pickup window and told me it was too hot to run. It was hot, but I planned my route around shady roads.

    There are lots of articles reporting that you can drive a Leaf in reverse very fast. While USA Today observes that U.S. drivers are slow to embrace all-electric vehicles, Triple Pundit notes that Nissan is trying to mass market their EV to "green and tech-minded consumers." My Nissan Leaf has a thread called Marketing Suggestions for Nissan: Let's Get Serious with suggestions from owners, dealers and the occasional Prius owner that was thinking about getting a Leaf.

    But the battery depletion conversation on My Nissan Leaf continues and the list of Arizona drivers losing charge bars grows longer. Posters seem devoted to the concept of the electric vehicle, but while Nissan is supposed to add some sort of temperature management in years to come, early adopters are getting more and more ticked off that Nissan won't acknowledge their problem. Let's hope that Nissan isn't driving the company in reverse.



    Maybe we should be driving plywood cars.  Or bamboo bikes.

    A former GM employee named Ozzie Zehner has written a book called Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism, in which he attacks many of the technological solutions that are supposed to keep us in American middle class splendor despite declines in fossil fuel production. Wired's Autopia presents a sort of point-counterpoint on his EV arguments with other EV pundits. Commenters started a lively discussion on the vagaries of wind power, which Zehner also questions.

    In a similar vein, Pierre Desrochers and Shimizu Hiroku, husband and wife academics from the University of Toronto, wrote The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet, which questions Michael Pollan's contention that eating local is better than shipping salad from overseas. Desrochers and Shimizu claim the long train ride to deliver your arugula is more efficient than driving your Volvo home from Whole Foods, that long supply lines make urbanization possible and that if Peak Oil occurs, we'll just go back to coal. While there are cogent arguments against strict locavorism, Alternet finds their arguments bogus.
     
    Speaking of which, we won't hear Tom or Ray calling "bogus" on each other's diagnoses much longer. The Car Talk radio show is ending soon.

    Comments

    We have become a nation/culture of inept, incompetent wimps who are totally lost if it isn't covered in the owners manual and written so a 10 year old can understand it.

    Lost that spark of ingenuity that got us threw WWII. We have become totally dependent on everything being a turn key system where thought is no longer required.

    Those people who came up with the plywood electric cars and similar ways to get from point A to point B are not more intelligent than we are, but they are a lot more creatively willing to do what is necessary.

    Like the guy in Kashmir who keeps his old VW Vanagan truck running under horrible conditions. Or those who manage to get some sort of wireless internet and share it within their communities.  

    Turning sows ears into silk purses is why they are beating the pants off of us. And the elites take full advantage of this. By making sure the laws are written such that any attempt to do that here is squashed with idiotic laws that are supposed to protect us but also protect the elite's monopolies.

    The problem with EVs is not the batteries and with Whole Foods is not just the supply lines. The problem is that if people figure out that it's possible to make an EV run nearly for ever by adapting other batteries to run it and home canning, freezing and preserving can keep their local produce around and local green houses can supply even during off seasons,  their dependence on the elites is broken. 

    That is when we truly become independent.


    Who is beating the pants off of us?

    The US is #1 in chips, with 9 of the 20 top manufacturers.

    2 1/2 of the top 4 auto makers

    Dominating computers & mobile phones with Microsoft, Apple, Google.

    Dominating social media, e-commerce, cloud computing, networking...

    Walmart is still like #5 company in the world for what it's worth, while the US has grown its health/organic foods industry pretty well (the fight being to keep it from being dominated by large corporates who weaken the standards)

    I think we have the top few agriculture equipment companies, probably do well in chemical industry, think we had some good solar startups last I checked.

    The "repair it yourself" model for most things has gone out the window in the age of miniaturization and complexity. Amazon has a data center 3 football fields long - servers are plug-and-play, pull-and-dispose. If a car has a microprocessor controlling brake pressure, anti-skid, fuel-efficiency, temperature, etc. across 100 gauges, what's a DIY home repair guy going to do?

    You can still get your auto kits and computer kits and hack on things - but for scalability, that's not what the consumer's going to see.

    And in terms of hacking, the US is still doing alright. Whether we dominate or place in every new field, well, that answers to a bunch of questions. Whether we're cultivating the type of education for managing projects & people, service industries and dispersed workforce, moving through new technology flexibly & efficiently - whether we're maintaining our research capabilities - all probably answered somewhere, and probably not as gloomy as expected.


    I'd say we're beating the pants off ourselves, as "our" corporations ship jobs overseas. US nameplates sell well because Americans still buy a lot of cars, but Ford, Chevy and Dodge clearly don't make the best cars, and many of the cars and parts they sell are largely made in other countries. Apple? Isn't a lot of that made in Shenzen?

     


    A lot of Apple is assembled in Shenzhen. It's mostly designed in the US. The higher margin work is done here.

    Whether our companies "make the best cars" is a theoretical issue to me - they're selling the most, and issues of quantity, margins/profitability, long-term market success, short-term survival, etc. are more quantifiable, rather than "Mac vs. PC" rants.

    As they sell worldwide, and are penetrating China, it also doesn't make sense to just make cars in the US. How do we assess global success and a fair share of the production? Majority of stock is owned in US, if companies paid taxes it might be a measure, number of "good jobs" vs. "lackey jobs" (though many people will take the latter right now)

    Back in 2008 there was a lot of upset over Toyota being #1, and how bad Chrysler had done, but these issues ignored the temporary non-auto causes of the dip (both the economy and Mideast wars), and now post-reorg we find the high prices of oil have reset the horizon. GM seems to be fine (ignoring loans and all the other support/trimmed labor costs). Chrysler had done well up through 2005 I believe (even given complaints of quality/market fit), and I think the Fiat partnership is working.

    What exactly do we want? I figure there are going to be other Googles that rise up to pull the brunt of our economy, not just focus on 100-year-old car companies and other behemoths.


    What do we want?

    Sex with animals. What? What's that? Wrong web-site? This is the political one? Oh. Ok. Gimme that question again. 

    Sigh. What do we want?

    Ten million jobs, motherfucker. This is serious.


    Yes, jobs.

    Not a debate about how I can't tune my own car anymore or why Omar is able to fix his Middle Ages cart-and-horse or Nguyen has a great 1960's model tractor spewing fumes all over his rice paddy.

    Not a debate over manufacturing coming back or whatever. Service jobs, finance jobs, development jobs, medical jobs, new energy jobs, jobs that won't be lost next year to India or Malaysia. Jobs that make money off the growing Asian economy.

    The US is still #1 in manufacturing - we just manufacture planes, farm equipment, cars, very efficient big steel. We don't do soldering or TV sets anymore, nor much people-operated blast furnace. Who knew assembly lines would be missed so badly.


    Shell has loaded a lot of youtubes of designs in Eco-MarathonAsia, which took place in Malaysia. Here are a few.

    Day One

    Day Two

    Day Three

    And here is Eco-Marathon Europe, which took place in Rotterdam. Here's a long youtube in Dutch.


    Peak Oil Oppositional Disorder: Neurosis or Psychosis?

    The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has grown to include 297 disorders, but it seems that there is always room for one more.

    Richard Heinberg recently published an article that addresses various recent claims that Peak Oil is no longer a concern. His term for the phenomenon is “peak denial.” It sounds good, and dovetails nicely with Richard's overall theme of “peak everything.” It's a thoughtful piece that does a thorough job of exposing the surreal nature of the optimists' projections, and I have no issues with his argument. I do, however, have an issue with his terminology. First, since denial does not happen to be a nonrenewable resource with a characterizable depletion profile, its peak, should we detect one, is not particularly meaningful, because it could just as easily peak again tomorrow and then again next century. Second, I suspect that “denial” is no longer the right word to describe the social phenomenon we are currently observing. I think that Ugo Bardi pointed us in the right direction: in his article reacting to George Monbiot's assertion "We were wrong about peak oil, there is enough to fry us all," Ugo used Monbiot's approach to Peak Oil using another word: “delusion.”

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