Monday, August 24, 2015

"May you live in interesting times." Old Chinese curse.


I watched a PBS special on the Fukushima reactor disaster which took place during the Tohoku earthquake (magnitude 9.0!) that occurred on Friday, March 16 2011.  Between the earthquake, aftershocks, and the massive tsunami that hit the two nuclear power installations on the coast (Numbers 1 and 2), both plants lost power and suffered melt downs.

Until I watched this program, I never realize that there was a distinct possibility that Tokyo and it's environs might have had to be abandoned, and the population evacuated northwards.  The only thing that prevented it was incredible courage and self sacrifice on the part of the crews manning the two control rooms , because they and their coworkers stayed and minimized the damage, although they all accepted that they personally were going to die.  In the end, outright deaths were minimal but they were exposed to excessive radiation and  the end result will be cancer deaths.

When I moved up here, I knew all about Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the movie "The China syndrome."  One of the things on our check list was no nuclear power plants with us down wind. There weren't any, so I crossed that off and forgot about it.

Years later my brother told me that after I moved here, they built two big nuclear power plants near Chattanooga. Most of our weather comes from that direction, due to the prevailing winds. They are less than 90 miles away straight line distance  from the house.

I keep a Civil Defense radiation detector here.    I bought it years ago, when I first learned those plants were in Tennessee. When you buy one of these things, you have to pay to have it calibrated. As far as I know, this is the best of the few calibration services that will work with older equipment and with individuals.

 Radiation meter calibration.

So, you buy the radiation detector, and you have it calibrated. That relieves you from the kind of tension that shows up in a lot of  post apocalyptic fiction, such as the Deep Winter series. People know from the radio that there might be fallout, but they have no way of telling if there is. I can tell if there is, but what I'm prepared to do about it is marginal.  I suppose the animals and  the people here would have to shelter in the lowest level of the house. It's two thirds build into the mountainside and has two stories above it.  Not the best , but the best option I have.

Oil is below $40.00 a barrel.  That's good for the consumer, but bad for the oil companies. Oil is a boom and bust business. When prices are up, they drill, they hire lots of people.  When prices are down, they let the rigs go idle and lay off masses of workers.  The lay offs negatively effect the economy, and the idle oil production causes oil to go up, and more of it to be imported. Both the price raise and the additional trade imbalance are bad for us.

Our entire society is built on petroleum products.

Most of us live a long way from work, and in places where there is no public transportation.
We have to buy gasoline to get where we are going, regardless. When it reaches a price we can't pay, either we change jobs, or move closer to work.

The arrogant Yankee, Professor Kunstler, who wrote The Long Emergency among other books, predicted the see-saw of oil prices on a documentary I once saw. He said there would be wild fluctuations in the price of a barrel of oil, coupled with dislocation in the stock market. In conjunction with droughts and other climate induced difficulties, he predicted massive migrations of people from the Third World to the developed countries.

Today I watched a report on Al Jazeera concerning the huge numbers of  Third World people pouring into Europe.  Since last April, Germany estimates that 750,000 immigrants have entered the country illegally.  The German people are seeing the negative results in terms of outbreaks of diseases previously eradicated in Europe, in a swelling crime rate, in the cost of providing housing and cash, medical care and education, to these hordes. As a result, bands of Germans are attacking the refuge relocation centers, in an attempt to force the illegals back into other European countries. Al Jezeera estimates that another 800,000 illegals have entered the other countries of Europe in the same time frame.  The politicians who originally lauded the arrival of these mobs are now squalling for help. Austria has called for a unified plan to send them back to their points of origination.  But we know, from our own experience, that once they get into a country, illegal immigrants never leave. There may be as many as 3 million people headed toward Europe, now coming in via the Balkans as well as over the Med. The video on the Al Jazeera news showed thousands of people walking down dirt roads through Serbia, headed for Macedonia, and from there into Greece. Once into Greece, they can go anywhere in the E.U. It looked like the Cecil B. Demile production of Exodus. All they needed was Charlton Heston with his shepherd's staff.  Instead of trying to hold back the hordes, the European countries are beating the flower drums and bleating about "the rights of immigrants" while surreptitiously fobbing off the new comers by helping them get on down the line and go be someone else's problem.

Germany has long had serious problems with Turkish moslems, who came to Germany in the 1960's and 1970's, under a guest worker program. They were supposed to leave, but they didn't. France imported vast numbers of Algerians after the Algerian revolution, when the French withdrew from the country. Those immigrants have repaid France in such charming ways as the summer ritual of rioting, looting, and setting hundreds of cars alight. France has large "no go" zones around the major cities that operate under local Imams and espouse Sharia Law.

Most of the rest of Europe , especially Scandinavia, has similar problems and is suffering dramatically as a result.

The stock market is taking a pounding.  It's being called a "correction" and maybe it is. That's what they said in 1929 though, and that "correction" wound up leading the world into the Great Depression.
People starved to death by the side of the road in America. Whole populations uprooted from the dust bowl states and went to California to survive, hoping for work. If you've never read Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, you honestly should. History repeats itself.

We do live in Interesting Times.

I wonder where it's leading us ?

At least with everything else that's happening, we can forget about Hurricane Danny.

This is the final National Hurricane Center report on Danny.


  1. I try to adhere to the don't worry principle. That is, if you can do something about it then there is no sense in worrying, just do what you have to and fix the problem. And if you can't do anything about it, whats the use in worrying about it if you can't change it? Oil is down in price cause the Chinese economy has tanked. They have built all they can and they don't pay their own people enough to afford to buy the houses and goods they make. Despite the propaganda to the contrary, like most totalitarian countries they still exercise central control and keep a boot on people's necks. Very few can fulfill the dream of a better tomorrow and in striving for it, stimulate their own economy. So their economy has stagnated and their voracious demand for oil has plummeted. Much to the chagrin of the dirt worshiping tree huggers, oil will go down to 25 U$ a barrel, and will stay there for a long time, and there is still profit to be made at that price even for the fracked stuff produced here. Putin, Maduro, the Saudis and the rest of the oil despots will suffer. In the end it will benefit us in the form of cheap energy. That will stimulate our economy. O sure, there will be adjustments, but I refuse to participate. In the mean time I'll just keep loading ammo. Picked up a used skinny barrel stainless Ruger Mini 14 Ranch Rifle for a reasonable price on Saturday. Was holding out for one in 7.62x39 but they come around a lost less. So now I need to get set up for loading 223.

    1. I try to look at events and determine how they might effect me, even if I can't do anything about the overall outcome. There may be fine tuning I can do to minimize the impact of any particular event. For instance, I'm out of the stock market but a continued dive on Wall Street will still effect me, the ripple effect will impact everyone. So I try to work out what the event means for me personally. I'm not sure I'd call it worry, but it's certainly an intense desire to make an accurate prognostication of the future so I can foresee any difficulties. I don't foretell the future with any regularity or accuracy, but I try.

      I think oil will stay down for a bit. I'm not sure it will go as low as $25.00 a barrel, my guess is it's just about at the bottom now. I suppose time will tell on that one.

      The stagnant Chinese economy has been getting a lot of the blame for our own problems here, but I think , while that's a part of it, that there are people using it as a smoke screen for more insidious developments. OPEC is cracking at the seams, the Nigerians in particular are paying lip service to their quotas and then pumping for all they're worth. If the Saudis can't crack the whip and keep everybody in line, then there is no OPEC and hence it's every man for himself in terms of pump like hell now and worry about tomorrow later. That would have a long term negative effect, since oil is finite and we were just starting to take some serious looks at alternate energy sources, lame though they are. It's true a low oil price means cheaper gas, and I'm all for that. I just have a habit of looking at the overall picture and some aspects of dirt cheap oil aren't positive in the long run.

      When my dad was born in 1923, China was a medieval country ruled by war lords, and mass starvation was periodic and devastating. By the time I was born in 1953, China had largely put the bad old days behind. Personal freedom didn't exist, but people had enough to eat, by and large.
      By the time my son was born in 1987, China was a world power. That's some serious lifting yourself by your bootstraps. I wouldn't care to live under a communist regime, but I don't particular care to live under an oligarchy either, and I'm doing it for lack of any choice.

      The mini-14 is a nice find. .223 is not a bad round, and you can reload it probably for less a round than you could 7.62X39 so maybe it's not so bad that's what turned up. There are still places that sell once fired military brass, although you have to swag the primer pocket to get the crimps out of it. I have a little gadget mounted on my reloading bench that does that with one push of the handle.

  2. Hey Harry,


    On the stock market thing. I think it will be a 'bipolar market' (up and down) until October then then anther black Monday, Friday or whatever. Another 1987 or another 2007-2008, or another 1929.

    Who knows.....

    The debt, currency manipulation, China's lies about growth. Sometime this will all come full circle.

    On the Nuke plant, Fukishima disaster thing. Its all the same crap. Greed and incompetence will win over common sense and safety any day.

    There will be other disasters in the future. History will always repeat itself.

    1. Hey Harry.


      Two things I can fault Tepco with.
      1. Storing fuel rods above the reactors in the containment buildings.
      2. Back up generators not built high enough off the ground and sea water taking the generators out (now this is debatable because no one was expecting 50 foot waves. Never the less from my surfing and ocean going existence rogue waves exist. The ocean is dynamic. Failure to respect the capabilities of the ocean will lead to disaster.

    2. CC, I'm not sure the problem at Fukashima was greed and incompetence. Earthquake that ring up a nine on the Richter scale are damned rare, even in Japan. They had a sea wall in place to withstand a 30 foot wave. In the event, they got seven waves, some as high as 50 feet. "Man proposes but God disposes."

      I wouldn't say your analysis of the immediate future is improbable. The stock market has been begging for a correction for a long time. I remember in a 1984 episode of Miami Vice, the villain was bragging that he was going to buy himself a big present when the market hit 1900. I'd say it was a little inflated today.

    3. CC. I guess you could blame the Japanese for the layout of the buildings and the fuel rods being stored above the reactors in the containment buildings. But the Japanese bought the reactors and plans from Westinghouse, so........

      What most businesses do is take a look at a threat , do the analysis, and then plan to deal with something at a higher level than the most likely occurrence. For instance, I've seen nuclear reactors on the beach in Florida that have no sea wall at all. They just don't think an earthquake in the gulf is going to happen. so they don't plan for it.

      The Japanese based their assessment of the tsunami threat on past historical events. A 9.0 quake is just about unheard of, so they weren't' ready for the gargantuan waves it created.

      People are always torn between what's needed and what's affordable. The levies in New Orleans are a good example. There are lots of gambles out there, and when they don't pay off, disaster is the result.

    4. Sunrise here in about two hours. If you are up now, are you going out to the beach for your morning coffee?

  3. I've got couple of the old CD meters, too. I paid like $5 each for them, and in hindsight, I should have bought a truckload of them at that price.

    The only thing "bad" about them is that they're not very sensitive. That means that by the time you get a reading on even the lowest scale, you're already being exposed to quite a bit of radiation, and if you have to switch to a higher range to get the needle to read on the scale, get the hell out of wherever you are!

    When I worked at Fermilab, we used to call them "Zero-to-Death" meters, meaning that by the time they showed you "getting a good dose", it might be too late.

    1. You got an excellent deal. I paid about seventy dollars for mine, years ago.

      Mine comes designed to separate into two components. The sensor detaches, and you put it outside of your shelter when you learn you may have radiation coming your way. The sensor is connected to the meter portion by a long cable. So you can read the meter from the "safety" of your shelter, such as it is. No need to walk around in the fall out.

    2. Well, "DUH"!

      You're right, the detector "can" can be separated from the meter unit, and placed outside.

      Totally forgot about all the cable wound up and stored inside the case!

    3. Your point is still valid, though. Unless you can just set the detector component out in advance, you're going to have to walk around in the hot zone to get a decent reading. So it's a limited device, but radiation detectors are very expensive and a person can only acquire equipment within their fiscal constraints.

  4. Harry Its Rob at the lake in the woods,, using an old laptop tonight. If oil goes down, wouldn't it also mean that products made from oil would go down in price?? Not sure how it works.

    1. Yes, in the short term falling oil prices should mean that commodities produced from petroleum should come down in price. For the consumer, with no ties to oil, falling oil is a good thing. Where it gets dicey is the inherent up and down nature of the industry.

      When oil is high, there is funding for expansion. For exploration, new drilling , new equipment. When oil is high, then things like shale and tar sands are cost effective to produce oil. But when oil goes down for a long period, exploration tapers off. The higher end things that cost a lot to produce like shale and tar sands ratchet back. Lots of oil field workers and support people lose their jobs. The oil industry has tentacles into just about every thing and when they are not doing well the pain flows down hill.

      Then oil production drops off. Oil consumption doesn't to any extent. So less oil and the same or more people needing it means a rise in price. Then the cycle repeats itself.

      Right now, the Chinese economy is lagging, so they aren't using as much oil, as CC and Michael pointed out. That creates a glut and prices go down.

      The people who really get hurt are the ones who invested in oil at , say, sixty dollars a barrel. Their return is based on the profits from a specific property in most cases. You take the amount of oil produced in a month, what it sold for, subtract expenses and the investment managers cut, and distribute the rest out to investors. So when you invest at sixty dollars a barrel, and oil is selling at one hundred ten dollars a barrel, you get big checks, bigger than the prospectus promised, and you are happy.

      But if oil drops in price, then the same production on the same property can be worth only half as much, or less. The overhead costs don't change, but the left over profit to be split is less. It can even be so severe that the investors in the property not only don't get a check, they have to pony up , sending in a check to cover the shortfall on the property. Then they are far from happy.

      That's a thumb nail sketch of something you could take a semester long course on and not scratch the surface, but it's about the best I can do.

  5. I will check my library for that pbs show. They have a good number of them. Last night I watched one I checked out by pbs about the 1918 influenza epidemic.

    I have read The Grapes of Wrath, but it was years ago.

    1. The Great Influenza by John Berry is probably the definitive book on the 1918 Spanish flu. I'm sure they have a copy in your library, or could get it for you if not.

      The Grapes of Wrath is a great book on a number of levels, not least because it's interesting and people who read it learn things about the depression that often, they did not know. I don't think many Americans today have any understanding of what it was like. My mom and dad lived through it, and I can remember talking to my grandparents about it. My grandmother kept a huge pantry full of food right through the 1960's, til she died. She told me once, when I asked her why all the canned goods were stored in the house, and why she had three freezers full of food, she was never going to be hungry again in her life. My father hated talking about the depression, but the few things he told me about life during that period were very bleak indeed. My mom's parents both worked for the railroad, and though money was tight they never suffered since the railroad kept functioning and paid well and on time, in hard cash. I know my dad kept large quantities of silver dollars at the house, in a metal box in his closet. I once asked him if he collected them and he said no, but the silver money gave him peace of mind. He had a bad time in the depression, even though he was just a kid.

    2. My parents went through it, too.

      My Mom's family had a much harder time than my Dad's did, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons she was always nervous about "something" happening where we'd "lose it all".

      She was also the driving factor in getting my parent's 30 year mortgage paid off in about 12 years!

      Every extra nickle and dime my Dad made went to paying down the principal, and my Mom did a lot of sewing on the side for cash.

      And she canned a lot of the fresh stuff that my Dad's brothers grew for the entire family, all the way through the 1960's.

      And my Dad always had quite a stash of silver dollars, too.

    3. As the older people who experienced the event die, actual understanding of just how bad it was fades out. Most people now have no living relatives who lived through the Depression. So it becomes a historical event with no direct connection to life today, like "The South Sea Bubble."

      Nobody much reads Steinbeck anymore, either. He's naturally classified as a racist and "insensitive." Some truths are insensitive, but we don't acknowledge that life can be cruel or unfair anymore. Vicki was talking today about how it's fashionable now to hand out trophies to all the kids in a sporting event, winners or losers, because it's not "fair" that some kids should not receive an award just because they didn't win.

      You and I belong to the last generation that will have any connection to the depression through people we knew who experienced it. More and more, our society is based not on historical events and human experience, but on the left wing unproven philosophies of detached self appointed guru's who have no grounding in reality.

    4. And we all know how well that turns out.

      Or at least those of us who read history do......

    5. Not many do anymore. There's just no interest in a history dominated by old dead white guys. Today is the day of the hip hop and rap role models.