Archie Thoughts

OK:  Y'all might get on me, but "Retrotopia" ain't my favorite screed delivered by the Archdruid.

Oh, all the thoughts are excellent, and the points that he strives to drive home in each of the posts is valid and thoughtful.  But the overall prose and presentation seems a bit forced and stilted.  Sorry John-Michael, but you get a C+/B- at best....excellent material, adequate presentation.

Mostly I have been thinking about your idea that the use of technology itself as having diminishing returns.  Ehhmmm.........No.

I don't disagree with you that, in the sense which technology has been used in our current social setting emphasizing the capitalist worldview, technology is getting close to being counterproductive.

Done and done

But truthfully, it isn't the technologies themselves that are the problem.  It is the Capitalist need for Henry Ford style mass-production and commodification of the technology that is the problem.

Each individual technology is value and cost neutral when sitting by itself.  It is how the technology fits into the current politico-economic system, is picked up by capital and exploited using the vagaries of Madison Avenue and Hermann Goering to force them down the throats of a moderately clueless population.

Consider the medium we use for this discussion.  A 56K modem and an 8088 can easily carry the text we read here each week and the data load.  3151 words in a text file around 18K.   Even with a crappy dial up connection and a 14.4 modem, reading the Archdruid would allow you to get the file in around 7-8 seconds.    But instead, we have a system where centralized capitalist corporations sell bandwidth to suppliers and consumers at all the traffic will bear to deliver access to a whole lot of nothing.  It is Bruce Springsteen's song "57 Channels and Nothing's on" writ on a massive scale.

Commercial travel is the same thing.  Used to be in the not-so-distant past that only the wealthy and the urgent got onto a plane for travel.  Truthfully, I don't even see it as useful then, but I will allow that others have such a need and that, for an exorbitant price, such service should be allowed.  But the airlines and Boeing have taken overproduction to to the extreme.  Really, what use is it to have airliners as status symbols for Nations that can't even feed their own people.

The one overused technology is the internet.  Mostly is is a means of peddling mass produced crap to unwary consumers.  But at the end of the day, it is an always on phone line in your house that allows you to connect to just about anything/anywhere for a low monthly fee.    But when you look at broadband usage, it would appear that around 70% of the bandwidth is eaten up by streaming media.
So an extraordinary resource and a huge capital expenditure is used to watch Britney Spears.  Whew.

Nearly all of the resources that we abuse now will be around in a couple of hundred years.  They will just be there in a manner that is compatible with the seriously reduced energy flows of the future.  We are struggling forward into the future dragging the heavy weight of a bunch of very bad ideas. Technology, as seen and described by John Michael doesn't fit into the long-term future of humanity. But appropriate, usually very small uses of the very same technologies will play a part quite a ways into the future.

The best analogy that I can think of is that we are currently going through a phase where we sit down for a meal of around a quarter-pound of fresh Serrano peppers as an entree.  Needless to say, the aftermath of such a gustatory overload is usually painful.

Technology, like the poor, will be with us always.  But maybe, just maybe, we can reduce the use to a level where that, like a single serrano pepper cooked into a plate of rice and beans, it can be a welcome addition to the needs of humanity.

Front End Loaded

Ugo Bardi is one of my "man-crushes".  The guy is smart, educated (the two are by no means synonymous), and seems to have a better handle on the nature of things than the average blog-generator.  As always, I am wary of my own prediliction toward observation bias, but the numbers really do seem to add up better in the peak oil blogosphere when compared to the numbers trumpeted by the financial media.

So, take a look at the curves above.  Making the assumption that the actual amount of total recoverable oil in the world is similar to the 2.1TB that is noted above, are we really are halfway through the pie? But take a look at the curve's shape on the left side.  See that big bump where the actual production pulled away from the Gaussian?

The area under the curve is the important part.  Right now it appears that there was a big surge in production that pulled quite a bit more oil out of the ground than what was predicted by the smooth normal curves so loved by scientists.  That being said, if this chart is correct, and the quantities of oil are even in the ball park of correct, then we are going to be looking at a nastier backside of the curve than we originally thought.  If the data supporting the 2.1TB total quantity is correct (and who would think that oil companies, middle eastern potentates, and Latin American tinpot dictators would lie about anything?), then it would appear that we are more than halfway through the oil and well on our way down the backslope.

I have been thinking this thought for a while now.  If the production of the oil is front-end loaded like it appears.  Then the shape of the curve will be shifted to the left.   Hence my reference to Dr. Bardi.  He has even coined a phrase for the next 30 years or so:  The Seneca Cliff.

Now, Ugo might have drawn this curve a little too steep for my tastes.  But in the past I have discussed the long and winding road ahead of us. I have even discussed the qualities of a "negatively skewed distribution" in the past. I  have always given us a couple of generations to de-tune the current zeitgeist.  If the "cliff" turns out to be true, then the beginning of the troubles will be moved up a full generation.  Rather than my great-grandkids returning to a simpler life (against their will) it will be my grandkids, my kids certainly will have a hard time of it.

But the Cassandra's out there have a tendency toward looking at the world as a runaway train, with no feedback to correct the problems and no systems in place to slow the fall.  I think that there is a decent chance that the decline will be managed to a certain degree.

But there will be a lot of folks that will not like "the management".  I may well be one of them.  The current system implies an massive misuse of resources and a level of "freedom" that may not be useful or productive in a compressive deflationary environment.  The details of the new system are being laid in place now.


Whoda thunk it

Read This First

Appears that my guess of the UK remain was a little off.  Actually, it was just a little off.  Winning 51.9 to 48.1 kinda sucks, because what does one do to the guy next to you who still doesn't agree with you just because you won a popularity contest.

I hope that the Brits prove that they can fashion something that works.  Staying in the EU was a "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" proposition.  Unfortunately, at the end of the celebration by the winners, you are still damned.

The world is drifting towards a series of predicaments to live through.  The Brits just figured that the would rather be poorer than to be a colony of the Germans/EU like Greece.  That didn't go well either.  I think that the right decision was made.  I am not certain that congratulations are in order though.

Good luck cousins.

The Worship of the Child

This one is an odd one.

A thought came to me during last night's "old man run" to the bathroom.  It is 02:00 and quiet and the world just doesn't look all that bad.

Let's consider the abhorrence of abortion in any way shape or form.

I really think that our society's real faith is best exemplified by the abortion argument (let's not grace it with the word "debate") because at base, it reflects our self-worship at a fundamental level. 

The "abortionists" find no ethical challenge in taking a human life to make another human life better.  Theirs is the religion of Moloch, where sacrifice of the innocent is used to provide for the living.

The "baby worshippers" have some strange idea that every human embryo gestating in this country is sacred.

Both side pursue their goals with their version of sacred scripture.

But the idea of both is that the human is the be-all and end-all of existence.  That one of the three lives involved is infinitely more important than the other.  

Simply put, it is a crisis where there is no morality which can support the validity of either side of the abortion argument. Abortion is just another means of death.  All of us will pass through that gate.  

It is my feeling that fate does exist.  You can rage against the means, but the Norns don't look up from their weaving. 


Instrumentalism and Modern Science

AK Haart
, a cherished curmudgeon from over in Pommyland, who is one of ten blogs on my reading list,  was discussing his disdain for the current state of science in Climatology.   He discussed the poor relationship between predictions made and results gathered.

Now this is refreshing.

From Wikipedia.
In the philosophy of science, instrumentalism is the view that a scientific theory is a useful instrument in understanding the world. A concept or theory should be evaluated by how effectively it explains and predicts phenomena, as opposed to how accurately it describes objective reality. 
Instrumentalism avoids the debate between anti-realism and philosophical or scientific realism. It may be better characterized as non-realism. Instrumentalism shifts the basis of evaluation away from whether or not phenomena observed actually exist, and towards an analysis of whether the results and evaluation fit with observed phenomena.
Having been a working scientist for around 25 years (before my current employment as a low-level government functionary), I can tell you that this attitude is about as welcome in a scientific research establishment as a fart at the prom.

Over the past century to ideal of science has shifted from the understanding of the world to the creation of devices/services.  Pure science is loaded into cosmology (which is rapidly becoming an exercise in furious handwaving) and computer models of climatology (which appear to be suffering the same fate.).
There have been quite a few articles lately concerning the state of research in any number of fields.  Just to keep my few readers amused and off of a barstool, I present the following:

A brutal takedown of a Psych study

When an Economist can cast stones at other field

An oldie but a goodie

Science has been our priesthood for my lifetime and more.   But I think that we are going through a phase somewhat analogous to the Medici popes.  It will be interesting to watch this reformation.


Perfidious (more accurately smart) Albion

I was fascinated when the folks up in Scotland tried to free themselves from the tyranny of Westminster.  It really didn't matter to me one way or the other, but the fact that so many people voted to hit the road was fascinating and encouraging.

Britain is in decline.  No two ways around that uncomfortable and irritating little fact.  Their industries are gutted, their national identity is in question, and they are making what appears to me to be sensible noises in leaving a bad deal before the French and the Germans suck them into being on the wrong end of the wealth pump.

But the barbaric murder of an MP has put the question into question.  A week ago there was a pretty strong trend towards getting gone from Brussels.  Now that trend seems to have reversed itself and I would venture a guess that the vote will go toward staying.

Look, I don't have a dog in this fight.  My family was transported, free of charge, to an entry level position on a North Carolina plantation, courtesy of one of  James II's magistrates (Grampa was apparently one of the low-level henchmen in Pride's Purge, so once the Royalty returned, there was some discomfort leaving the progeny of such types lying about on the island).

But the thing that I would like to discuss is the way that rational thought is hijacked and subverted during the electoral process.   Folks don't seem to connect things very well.  It seems like the MP who was killed was a sweet lady who tried her best.  Two lovely children, happy family.  Truth be told, she appears to be of the best sort that England has to offer.  Despite all the noise to the contrary, it appears that she attempted to do right and worked tirelessly to do so.

Now the flow is against Brexit.  I would posit a guess that Brexit will narrowly fail.  This will because people vote in terms of emotions and symbols, not self interest of rational thought.  (If you doubt this, please do me the courtesy of examining this US presidential election).  So when Mrs. Cox was murdered, people made her a powerful symbol.  The government didn't do this, it is a normal and understandable way of dealing with grief and shock.

Her symbol is a powerful aid the the "Remain" campaign.  Sympathy for the late Mrs. Cox will make the undecided and wishy-washy tend, as a group, to come down on the side of remain out of respect for a fine woman.  I have a feeling this will be enough to keep Great Britain in the EU for the time being.

The deciding votes for this campaign will not be cast by people who have thought the problem through and are making the best choice in light of the options presented.  They will be voting for the visceral and powerful need to support a  symbol.


I am not ashamed

19 eggs, the pickling sauce is leftover pickle juice from a big bottle of dill pickles

The happy hour of the proletariat, pickled eggs and Pabst Blue Ribbon


Hillary and the Ay-Rabs

Interesting little piece the other day.



Hillary is a mess.  She has used her office and her husband's former office to fund her lifestyle and feed her desperate need for attention.  She is the evil candidate from the Stupid Party (Donald is the Stupid candidate from the Evil Party...please try to keep these straight).  I think that more and more of these kind of "revelations" will be coming out in the next five months.  Most folks won't pay any attention. Such is life.

The latest to this is that the Saudi's  and the Petra were "hacked".  So, there is a chance that this isn't true.  But why is it that even if you try to give her the benefit of the doubt, the accusations still ring true?

If she is elected, her administration will be crippled from the start.  There is so much going on in the way of sleaze in her actions at the State Department and the Clinton Foundation that there will be a constant defensive stance to her administration.  The partisanship and gridlock will continue, because, the best that I can tell, Hillary is as well-liked as Ted Cruz ever was and there is too much ammunition available from a lifetime of her and her husband's sleaze to attack her with.

I am truthfully embarrassed by the Punch and Judy show that this election has turned into.

BTW:  Donald Trump is a asshole too.

A pox on them all.


Low Impact, Low Cost, Low Capital Beer

Items that I put together for the first attempt at low-impact beer

This is the first effort at trying to figure out the antithesis of the current zeitgeist of the current American home brewing hobbyhorses.

For the most part, American hobbyists view their weird little perversions as a dick matching contest, with hurried and frequent trips to the local homebrewing store of the internet to purchase, at often ruinous expense, the latest geegaw that will prove to their peers that their equipment can beat anyone else's equipment at brewing beer.  It is somewhat akin to "Fishermen" who, when they add in the cost of their boat and tackle and sundry probably spend $55.00 an pound for the fish they catch.

Beer was created by the Sumerians.  2050 BCE was quite a while ago.  All the technical commercial crap is not necessary to the task.
Alulu beer receipt – This records a purchase of "best" beer from a brewer, c. 2050 BC from the Sumerian city of Umma in ancient Iraq.[1]

So, I am proceeding in the opposite direction.  For this first little effort, I am going to attempt a small batch of beer (1.5 to 2 gallons)<2 a="" and="" apartment.="" dinky="" fits="" gallons="" in="" into="" it="" little="" make="" my="" p="" system="" that="" to="" try="">


  1. Stainless steel 2.5 gallon pot with lid, steamer insert and draining thingamajig
  2. 1 quart pyrex measuring cup
  3. balance
  4. big nylon straining bag for the grain
  5. small muslin bags for the hops
  6. thermometer
  7. Some siphon tubing and a hose clamp
  8. Fermenting bucket 
  9. Air lock


  1.   3.25 pounds 2-row barley @ $1.09/lb ($3.54) 
  2.  0.25 pounds of Crystal 80 @ $1.69/lb ($0.43)
  3.  0.25 pounds of Chocolate Malt @ 1.99 ($0.50)
  4.  0.25 pounds of Chocolate Wheat @ 1.69 ($0.43)
  5.  1 ounce Summit hops ($2.50)
  6.  11.5 grams Safbrew Abbaye yeast ($5.99)


OK:  there are a lot of resources out there for helping you work out the details.  For this little project, I used these folks:

First step is to put the nylon sack into the pot and put in five quarts of water and stick it on the burner. 

Keep the thermometer close at hand and watch the temperature, when it gets to 169-170 F. (76-77 C.)

Full Stop:  First rule....do not buy a cheap thermometer....

First crack a failure...The temperature was actually around 200 instead of the 170, the grains are ruined, the enzymes dead.  Tomorrow is another purchase of grain and a decent thermometer.

Back to Work:

To Be continued


Yoga Capitalism Ramble

Hipsters Got It:

The capitalism and consumerism that is practiced in this country really is becoming a self-referential bit of a mess.  What is being sold and produced, here and abroad, for the masses in America is derived nearly solely of status symbols and affectations.  That is the nature of American Capitalism.

The stupid expensive cars. The $100 yoga pants.  Iphones and Ipads.  McMansions.

All of these things just don't matter to a life well led.  What they are is a way of flouting one's self-perceived superiority and "success".  The life that folks are leading is a series of purchases required to cobble together a "lifestyle" in order to establish an identity.

Really think about that last sentence.  I especially want to you to dwell on the word that defines our society today.  Lifestyle.  The two roots are obvious enough that I won't belabor them.

Style is the interesting word.  There are a whole series of definitions to this monosyllable (though out here in Orygun the word tends toward disyllabic).  We have a society whose sole purpose seems to be the generation of and maintenance of the surface and the ephemeral.  Education is not about advancing your knowledge, it is about getting sufficient training to allow a future employer to offer you a job.  Government is based on spin.  Taxpayer revolts are about starving the commons for the sake of the self.

Nearly all of our "culture" is cartoonish.  Super-heroes and super-cops fight out in morality plays.

Even our religion is tainted.  Super churches spout a creed of capitalism that would make their erstwhile savior rush into the temple to drive out the money changers.  Christian tenets such as voluntary poverty and human brotherhood are traded for the latest fashion, a new 4x4 pickup and a hatred of the other.

Our lives have become a fulfillment of the ruling class'  wishes for us.  We are now consumers.  I think that it is time that we woke up to it and stopped feeding the machine.  I am trying.  Wish me luck.