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Happy Spring!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I wanted to wish everyone else in the world a happy spring. Here, however, it's hailing again - like it has every other day for the past four months. I want my springtime!



Screw you, Internet Explorer

Monday, April 28, 2008
I'd just like to take a moment to give a glare to Internet Explorer. You see, I just recently saw this page rendered under IE and was appalled at how it looked. Being a Mac user, I really only use Safari and Firefox when viewing web pages. When I was putting together the template for this page, I loaded up IE under Parallels, but didn't closely examine how it rendered; I just gave it a quick once-over and said "Yup, it works."

Apparently I was wrong. Apparently, not every browser is terribly standards-compliant. (Yes, I knew this already, I'm just complaining.)

Now, maybe I'm just bitter at Microsoft about Office 2008 and its general uselessness. Or maybe I'm bitter that the web page looked fine in every other browser I tried. Still, when Safari and Firefox render the web page the same (and correctly, I might add) but IE manages to screw it up, I get a little irritated.

So I give them a glare and some harsh language. It won't change anything, but it'll make me feel better. (And yes, I changed the template ever-so-slightly to at least not look like absolute crap under IE - I hope. Let me know if I'm wrong.)

Selling Oil Short

Let me preface this by saying that I am not an economist, I am not investment advisor, and I am not an expert. That said, I'm going to make the following prediction: Oil futures, currently trading at right around $120 per barrel, are going to drop below $60 per barrel in the next two years.

Oil prices have doubled in the last year and a half. At $60/barrel, which seemed high at the time, people were starting to talk seriously about alternatives, both in sources for oil and to oil itself. Fast forward a year and a half, and suddenly oil's at $120 per barrel. Traders are driving up the price of oil, which, in accordance to the basic rules of economics, is starting to weaken demand.

Yet, as has often been pointed out, "America is addicted to oil." In the face of this addiction, there are those who feel we will end up paying any price to feed it. I believe that we will find a replacement. You see, I think there are plenty of alternatives to $120 per barrel oil. With prices that high, there's plenty of incentive to develop an alternative that's profitable at $100 per barrel, or lower. As these alternatives start to enter the market (as well as oil fields that weren't profitable to develop at a lower cost per barrel) the demand for oil will weaken more, and the bubble will burst. Someone will blink, and oil prices will plummet quickly.

I further predict that OPEC will then try to decrease output to keep prices up (by lowering supply), but by that point it will be too late. With enough alternatives available, oil will finally be forced to compete, and those that have enjoyed their healthy profits thus far will be in for some lean times.

Just remember, you read it here first.


Thursday, April 24, 2008
My apologies for the extended outages lately. Having some trouble with networking equipment locking up randomly when no one's there to fix it, but that'll hopefully get resolved this weekend.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

Thursday, April 17, 2008
If there's one thing that Hollywood has taught me, it's that the zombie outbreak is imminent. As exciting as this may seem to some of us, it can only be really fun if you (and your loved ones) remain among the living. This is my attempt to explain to you, the reader, what simple steps you can take to increase your odds of surviving the nights.

I would recommend collecting the following tools and keeping them handy for the zomb-pocalypse:
  1. 36-inch wrecking bar - $11
  2. 26-inch camper's axe - $28
  3. Wind-up flashlight - $25
  4. Handheld CB radio - $33
  5. Solar powered battery charger - $70 (don't forget the batteries, too!)
If you can, get a gun - and plenty of ammunition. Such implements are wasted on the zombies, but might come in handy should some civilization disintegrate and some old lady is fighting you for the last piece of bread. Let me re-emphasize: Don't waste your ammo on anything without a pulse. Ammo is finite. Use an axe; they don't run out of bullets.

This list is not exhaustive, of course. You'll also want to pick up as much fresh water and food ahead of time as possible. Forget about scavenging after the fact; the first 100 days after an outbreak - if not immediately controlled - are going to be chaotic. Having a prepared stash will help you outlast the unprepared, allowing you to compete more effectively for resources after they perish. Just remember to balance preparation with mobility; staying in one place for long periods of time is just an invitation for the zombies to come knocking at your door.

Of course, there are many environmental factors that can contribute to your survival:
  • Consider how long the power will stay on. Here in the Pacific Northwest we might be alright for a while, considering that we use a lot of hydroelectric and nuclear power. However, when the lights go out we'll be more screwed than your average Californian during the winter.

  • Also consider population density. On the West Coast (and indeed, pretty much anywhere that isn't New England) we actually have space between our cities. Once the airlines are grounded (as they inevitably would be), barricading a city would become both possible and effective as a means of keeping the infected out. In large cities with high population density, however, it would become nearly impossible to keep the walking dead away from the living, and your survival chances will drop dramatically.
Armed with all this information ahead of time (knowing is half the battle) will help you survive alone. However, humans are social creatures. I would recommend attempting to hook up with a group of prepared survivors, such as these guys.

One final piece of advice: Find a friend or loved one who's capable of taking care of themselves. When you're out hunting and gathering, you don't want to be blindsided by a herd of the undead - and extra pair of eyes will help that. Be prepared, take a buddy.


Successful Completion

Sunday, April 13, 2008
Way back in September of last year, I became an apprentice instructor for TEAM OREGON. Today, I successfully completed my last classroom apprenticeship; I should now be signed off to teach as a full instructor on both the range and in the classroom. I am also consistently impressed, as an instructor, by TEAM OREGON's relentless quest for safety and improvement. It is, in my opinion, an excellently run organization filled with the highest calibre people (not, of course, including myself.)

I fully support motorcycle safety classes. I truly believe that the quality of the classes we teach, as well as the thought and organization that goes into them, leads to Oregon's relatively enviable motorcycle safety record.

There are those, however, who oppose certain elements of motorcycle safety. You see, it's not just knowledge and skills that help save lives, but also, in the case of motorcyclists, protection. There's a great article that I saw in the Salem Statesman-Journal about it (and the societal costs of injuries). A gem from that particular article (with my own added emphasis):
Jim George, who is working to loosen helmet laws in Georgia, was wearing a helmet himself when a car cut him off in 2006. He survived the subsequent crash without a severe injury.

George, the director of ABATE (American Bikers Active Toward Education) of Georgia, acknowledges the helmet may have protected him. But he also says helmets can restrict peripheral vision and hearing.

As an individual who wears his seatbelt when he drives and his helmet when he rides, I can only respond by saying, "You know what else will impair your vision and hearing? Getting your skull caved in from a crash." Seriously.

Start Seeing Motorcyclists!

Into Thin Air

Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Based on a conversation at school today, I ended up reading the article Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer - an article that shares the name of the book he later wrote. It details his climb to the summit of Mt. Everest as part of a team in what is now called the 1996 Mt. Everest Disaster. (Jon Krakauer also wrote Into the Wild, which I read last year.)

Compellingly written, Into Thin Air tells the story of personal interests, decisions, and unfortunate events that led to the deaths of eight different people in a single day during a summit ascent attempt. He writes of competition between tour guides, of determination, and, ultimately, of triage at 26,000 feet in the most heartbreaking of manners.

In the context of leadership, the story takes on an different angle. Who were the leaders of the expeditions? In this case, it was the "tour guides" who were in charge. How, then, with their vast experience and history of success did the two main guides both end up dead? What factors led to their decision to break their own rules and endanger - and ultimately lose - their lives and the lives of their clients? On reflection, I believe that in the extreme environment they were in, that the safety of the trip was compromised by financial incentives and, for that, the leaders paid the ultimate price.

I recommend that everyone who has the time read the article. It's about 11 pages long, but worth it. It's beautifully written and so much can be learned from the words it contains.



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