Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yeah, I've Been Away

...and not in the literal sense, as in I went on a vacation or something. I've just been busy. I scored an overnight job, and I have an interview in the morning for a position that looks promising. I'm taking a summer class, in which I recently had problems. You see, I registered for the wrong class, while handing in assignments for the class I'd intended to register in (it's an online class, hence the confusion). But it got fixed up. I am still learning Spanish, and it's going very well. I'm using a computer program, and I'm committed to taking 2 lessons a day. I know that there's a big difference between knowing Spanish, and being fluent in it, as in being able to hold conversations and look on it and the words without even thinking, as one would do with their native language. But I'm working on it. I bought a microphone today for my PC, to speak Spanish words into it and make sure that I'm pronouncing them correctly. I'm then going to transfer it to my MP3 player to memorize them.

I'm also catching up on TV. I just watched all 12 episodes of this show called "Burn Notice", it gets my seal of approval, it's awesome. The 2nd season's coming on in a few weeks on USA; until then, you should go to and check out the first season. It reminds me of the A-Team, but cooler.

I'm still reading about peak oil. It's amazing in that I consider myself fairly well-informed, I keep up with the news and current events, yet I was so ignorant of this until I read Kunstler's book (which I've talked about). I'm currently reading another very informative book called "The Party's Over". Whereas Kunster's book was more of a screed, this is more of a heavier read. I recommend both books, go to your nearest bookstore or library and read them, then after you're done, read them again, and then keep up on it via the Internet. But one word of advice: I wouldn't recommend these books for bedtime reading. After reading Kunstler's book, my outlook on life totally changed. It was that mind-blowing. And I decided that I was going to devote as much time as my life would permit to do more research and also read about survivalism. But the first night that I tried that, I felt like I had this huge hole in my stomach and I couldn't sleep. I knew that I couldn't devote that amount of time. As much as I know it's wrong, I have to keep living my life, going to school, getting a good job (and hoping it lasts), etc. It reminded me of that saying, I'm paraphrasing, "people don't like too much reality".

Well, anyway, I just wanted to catch up. I want to say that I'm going to try to blog more, like I have in the past, but I'm tired of making promises that I can't keep. For the foreseeable future, I'll probably be too busy to blog regularly. But I will certainly try when I can. Until then, to steal a line from "Demolition Man" (a guilty pleasure of mine, as most Stallone movies are), "be well".

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Waste Not

This article from the Houston Chronicle talks about a potential silver lining in this current era of higher gas prices due to the possible global production peak of oil. A growing amount of people are actually being conservative when it comes to their food. For far too long, we've been very wateful with our food, often carelessly throwing it out. But as the food prices are soaring, some of us are finally thinking.

This book by James Kuntsler has really had an impact on me. I went to Pathmark today, after that Quizno's, and you just have a totally different outlook going to these places. You know that it wouldn't be possible without oil. This suburban way of life of ours would have been a non-starter without oil. At Quizno's, I had a veggie sub, and for the first time, while eating it, I actually thought of where the bread, the lettuce, the olives, everything, all come from. How much oil was used just so I could have this for lunch? When you think about it, unless you're doing your shopping at a local farm, you're probably eating oil, literally.

One more thing on the book

I have at least one other thing to say about the book. I say "at least", because I'm sure I'll have more to say about it in the weeks to come. It's really changed my outlook. It's not a book you want to read before bedtime, I can tell you that much. Anyway, there was another conception of mine that was blown out of the water while reading this book. Up to this point, I thought of our soaring gas prices in the typical way: "pain at the pump", it increases the prices of everything and hurts the economy, etc. But this book helped me realize that these effects of our passing Peak Oil just barely scratch the surface of what could happen.

I'm astonished that more people cannot see the contradiction of our system, which I can see more clearly than ever. We are living in a system that promotes and advocates constant consumption and growth, and the engine that fuels that system, that is making that system possible, is built upon a natural substance that is in limited numbers and is already showing serious signs of decreasing. I find the willful ignorance of the average person even more scary than the ramifications of passing Peak Oil itself. I'm scared about the possible scenarios that I read about in this book occuring, but I really feel that Kunstler wildly underestimated the average American's connection to our way of life. I do hope that he is wrong, for all our sakes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Book That Will Kick You In The Balls

I am a reader; I always have been, as anyone who knows me or has known me would attest to. However, it is very, and I mean very, rare for me to get totally absorbed in a book. I mean "totally absorbed" as in not eating, holding off sleep and the other things that I've been doing (mainly, looking for a summer job, taking a summer online class and teaching myself Spanish). I believe the last book where this had happened was "World War Z", an "oral history" of a zombie infestation and invasion of the world. Before that, there were a few books that influenced me and in which I'd read more than a few times, mainly Howard Zinn's "People's History of the United States", and a few of Noam Chomsky's works, primarily the pamphlet-sized ones (like "The Common Good" and "What Uncle Sam Really Wants"). While I'm not a far-leftist and have veered more to the center in recent years, I really appreciate those books for giving me a deeper understanding of the world and asking myself questions that I'd never thought to before.

Anyway, I'm posting all this because I'd just read one of those kinds of books. A book that totally absorbed me for 2 and a half days, to the exclusion of nearly all else. And it's a book that has changed my thinking in terms of our future, perhaps radically. It is a book by James Howard Kunstler, entitled "The Long Emergency." And it's a book I discovered totally by chance. In the library the other day while waiting for my ride, I had a few minutes and decided to look at a magazine that looked remotely interesting. I saw a magazine called MacLean's, which is a Canadian news periodical (I guess it's maybe their "Time" or "Newsweek"). Anyway, the cover was of a man holding a gas pump to his head in lieu of a gun. I always love novel covers like that, and I'm very interested in the escalating costs of gas, so I picked it up and read the cover story. One of the people interviewed was James Kunstler, and I'd read that he's been talking about this and its ramifications for a fairly long time. So I looked him up on the library database, and as it turned out, they had one of his more recent books, published in 2005, called "The Long Emergency." Although I've already started reading a book, "The Kite Runner", I decided to take this out and read it in what little free time I could carve aside for myself.

...But little did I know. I began reading this book on Monday evening, and it hooked me instantly. Kunstler is such a good writer, you can tell he's been at it for a long time, and upon looking at it at first glance, you might dismiss it as alarmist or doomsday. But what made it so scary, and ultimately what got me into it, was that his argument was entirely plausible. Up to this point, I've looked at our rising prices of gas with what I now realize was naivtity. I drummed it up to some conspiracy between the Bush administration and the oil companies. But what it all comes down to is our limited supply of petroleum. And then came another whopper, that dispelled another one of my misconceptions. I've long believed that we should start seriously investigating and researching alternative energy, since our supply of fossil fuels isn't infinite and will run out quite soon due to our massive use of it. But, as Kunstler compellingly argues on scientific grounds, all these ideas being brandied about (from hydrogen to wind and solar, and everything else in between) are little more than a pipe dream. The underlying architecture (for lack of a better term) of these systems would inherently depend on liberal amounts of traditional fossil fuels, which we are in short supply of. And even if we did have the fossil fuels, if we converted to these systems, they would be nowhere near capable of supporting the way of life that we have come to know and grow accustomed to.

He refers to the fallout from passing the global oil peak as The Long Emergency. According to him, life as we currently know it would totally vanish. The biggest change would be our need to grow food. The reason why we have these supermarkets and Super Walmarts in which all this processed food is available to us for low, low prices, was due to cheap oil and natural gas. When we pass this peak, and it's very plausible that we may already have, that way of life would be turned totally on its head. Factory farming by companies like ADM and ConAgra would become extinct. Kunstler feels that one of the top jobs that will be in demand in a near-future America is "farmer". A danger of this, in addition to the quite obvious one that most of us are ill-prepared, at best, to farm land, is that the knowledge of farming, which has acculmated over centuries, has been greatly damaged by the advent of corporate farming.

Another big change would be the death of suburbia. As Kunstler explains here, and in a few of his other books, he believes that the creation of what we have come to know as suburbia is the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. And its ability to flourish and become accepted as the American way of life up to this point, has been possible due to one thing: you guessed it, cheap fossil fuels. It'd become possible for people to drive long distances from home to work, and wherever else they need to go. Who needs public transportation, or walking? But in an era of lowering production of oil, and increasing demand, prices of gas will continue to rise expotentially and the suburb will go bye-bye.

Kunstler also explains that America, in particular, is ill-suited to deal with this kind of situation. For one thing, we've always had our heads in the sand. We've had oil crises in the past, meaning the 70's, but they didn't last forever, and we continued to "sleepwalk into the future", according to Kunstler. Other culprits are our corporate farming system; a Long Emergency will require our farming to be local. No longer will we be able to eat many apples from Chile, for example. Also, the near-destruction of our public transportation system. I think we're already starting to see that it will be inadequate to deal with our increasing needs. Another thing, the destruction of our local communities by the Walmarts and the other big-box stores. Ironically, those same big-box stores may well be a victim of a Long Emergency.

There are so many things covered in this book, that I can't possibly talk at length about them. Otherwise, I'll never leave. So, if you want to read a really absorbing thing, that will possibly change you, please read this.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Iran pulls assets out of Europe banks

This is interesting about how Iran has moved its assets out of European banks and put them into Asian banks. I also found out that Iran has changed from accepting the dollar in oil trading to accepting the yen. I wonder if that has any bearing on why Bush is talking so tough about Iran, and might invade them before the end of his term.

Chuck Berry won't sing for "Johnny" in election

Something I've always found funny about our presidential elections, are the choices of the songs that our candidates use as their campaign themes. I mean, often, they're not very imagintive. It's usually something like "Beautiful Day" by U2 or "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty. Although, Reagan's selection of "Born in the USA" by Springsteen in his 1984 re-election campaign I always find amusing, since anyone who listened to the lyrics knows that it isn't a patriotic song, and Springsteen had come out against Reagan's use of the song.

The latest of this is John McCain's use of the Chuck Berry classic "Johnny B. Goode" (which is named the number 1 guitar song of all time by Rolling Stone). While Berry didn't come out against McCain per se, in this article, he expresses the utmost support for his opponent in November, Barack Obama.

While I'm on this, I am sure that Berry will be attacked by some for basically stating that Obama has his vote because he's the first black candidate, the first black major party nominee, in a general election. Some people have been saying that many black people vote for Obama only because he's black, rather than having a knowledge and approval of Obama's stance on issues. That's fair enough, that's probably true. But then, consider the people who have voted against Obama in the primaries (and no doubt will in the general) because of his being black (and/or "being Muslim"). They don't have any more of an understanding on where he stands on the issues, than his black supporters who vote for him solely on his race.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


I realize that I haven't been updating the blog as often as I would want, again. I keep vowing to spend more time, because I do have a lot of time. But I'm always finding things to do with that time, that unfortunately, don't involve blogging. Lately, I am beginning to learn a second language, that being Spanish. I took it in high school and a few classes in college, and of course, once I got them out of the way to fulfill my course requirements, I promptly forgot most of what I'd learned. But I'd wager that most everyone else who takes these classes in school does the same.

But that doesn't make it right, though. And now I'm at the point where I'm trying to find any viable job skill that an employer would welcome on a resume and jump upon it. And to me, one of the most important job skills is being bilingual. I've seen good jobs that I had to pass up because they required the applicant to be bilingual in English and Spanish. When you're out of work and your wallet's getting lighter and lighter, you start to reassess your priorities pretty quickly. In this shitty economy, you have to be competitive, and I think being bilingual would certainly give me an edge.

I'm using this great program called Rosetta Stone through my library, which is unfortunately being discontinued on August 15. So now, I'm blowing through the lessons, and writing down what I learn. I retake some of the lessons every day, as well as do one or two new ones, just so I don't forget. I also want to try to spend more time in Spanish shops or restaurants, anywhere where I could use and practice my vocabulary.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The accidental benefit of higher gasoline prices

This is another post from the Bru Notes, this one dealing with what can accurately be termed an "accidential benefit" of the higher gas prices: the lesser amount of driving that's happening, which in turn lowers the amounts of greenhouse gases that we're emitting into the atmosphere. I don't know how much of an effect this has, I wouldn't think it'd be much, but it's still encouraging. Although none of us may like the high gas prices and what harm it's doing to an already weak economy, if it is what spurs us into driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, I believe that it's really all good.

I would have liked to have seen Americans shift to hybrids due to their conscious concern for the environment, but that's always been a pipe dream. They have to feel the pinch on their pocketbook in order for them to change. But we should take that change any way we can get it. I really think it's a beautiful thing that more Americans are switching to hybrids. Yes, they're more expensive than a regular car or SUV, but when you consider the gas prices, it either works out the same or you'll save in the long run. So again, it's good all around. Except for the American car companies like GM and Ford. But that's what happens when you place short-term profit above all else, as our companies have a bad habit of doing.

Even Bush Administration can't ignore climate change

I missed this last week, until I discovered it on The Bru Notes. A report issued by the Bush administration acknowledges how global warming is already changing the U.S. There are more wildfires, agriculture stands to be affected, and animals are already migrating to more habitable areas. And it's all happening sooner than we thought, this isn't something that's far off into the future, it's happening right now. And this report seems to confirm what I've suspected, that we've already passed the cut-off point. No matter what solutions or changes we make, and it's not like we've been trying very hard, the consequences of climate change will be irreversible.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Thank God, He's Finally Gone

I haven't talked about this on the blog, but I've become quite a fan of the show "Hell's Kitchen." I really don't typically watch reality shows as a rule, but I discovered Gordon Ramsay in another show, Kitchen Nightmares, and he definitely is a one-of-a-kind personality. I love how he abuses the contestants.

Anyway, this season is winding down, and for a large part of the season, I have been waiting for Matt to be eliminated. He is such a crybaby. He always has this constipated look on his face, and he looks like Edith Bunker from "All in the Family". I suspect he's made it this long because he's a natural for reality TV. He's not all there, so you never know what's going to happen. But tonight, Chef Ramsay finally had enough. Matt just totally broke down (not that it was the first time) and talked about how he had a migrane. I loved how Chef Ramsay then took him by the hand and told him to go upstairs to the dorm. It was like a dad taking a little kid to his room.

Anyway, it's down to the last 5. I am rooting for either Christina, Bobby, or Petroezza. Jen is so loud and arrogant, I really hope she's the next to go. Corey isn't as bad, but she's manipulative and someone mentioned on a forum that her face looks like Tim Robbins'. I know that's probably an insult to Mr. Robbins, one of my favorite actors, so accept my apology, sir.