Archive for April, 2010

Gulf Coast Oil Spill- Catastrophic Potential

AP/NASA satellite photo of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill taken Thursday 4/29

As the oil slick from the exploded BP offshore rig begins seeping its way into the Lousiana bayous and shoreline- the worst-case scenario is mind-boggling; four times the Exxon Valdez- per week.

This isn’t the contents of one oil tanker.  This is a well drawing oil on a continual basis.

Here’s a web site with an article that explains what could occur:

The worst-case scenario for the broken and leaking well gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico would be the loss of the wellhead currently restricting the flow to 5,000 barrels —  or 210,000 gallons  per day.

If the wellhead is lost, oil could leave the well at a much greater rate, perhaps up to 150,000 barrels — or more than 6 million gallons per day — based on government data showing daily production at another deepwater Gulf well.

By comparison, the ExxonValdez spill was 11 million gallons total. The Gulf spill could end up dumping the equivalent of four ExxonValdez spills per week.

“Typically, a very good well in the Gulf can produce 30,000 barrels a day, but that’s under control. I have no idea what an uncontrolled release could be,” said Stephen Sears, chairman of the petroleum engineering department at Louisiana State University.

In what is described as one of the worst ecological disasters in history, remnants of the Exxon Valdez spill are still being cleaned up and the accident occured on March 24,1989- more than 21 years ago.  Four times bigger, every week is a disaster of indescribably epic proportions that could affect the Gulf Coast for generations.

Again, this is the worst-case scenario.  There are wildly conflicting numbers right now on how big this spill is.  The days ahead will tell the tale.

Compared to the ecological damage already occuring, much less possible- the following point is minor.  But, really, imagine being the member of the Obama adminstration who convinced the President a couple of weeks ago to propose opening up more of the U.S. coastline for off-shore drilling?  As of this writing Friday at noon, Obama is still behind the proposal.  But it’s getting harder to sell by the minute.

UPDATE: The web site linked to above is now claiming there is a classified government document that was sent around Wednesday that mentions fears that this situation with the oil rig may well become an unchecked gusher. Here is their latest.

When Your Sports Team Embarrasses You

I didn’t spend a second on the ice, I lost no teeth, my personal Power Play is working just fine, thank you. Nevertheless, I am a little red-faced today over the infamous, notorious and historic Washington Capitals collapse last night.

There is a tremendous irony here that leads to a few suggestions for next year’s Washington hockey team. This would not be such a horrific embarrassment for the entire city or for Washington area sports or specifically for the Caps, if they had not done so well in the regular season; if they had not fashioned one of the best regular-season records in the history of the sport.

So noting the trends from the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, here are my suggestions for next year.

Home Ice Does Not Matter

There is no advantage to playing at home. In fact, as three of the four division winners in the Eastern Conference can attest- home ice is actually a disadvantage.

Having the Best Record in the Regular Season Does Not Matter

All it gets you is home-ice advantage. See above. And it guarantees you will play a dangerous team that has nothing to lose.

The 82 Regular Season Games You Play Mean Absolutely Nothing

Other than to qualify for the post-season, play mediocre hockey and just barely squeek into the playoffs. This will give you both the away-ice advantage and tremendously reduced expectations.

You Don’t Need Such a High-flying Offense

It masks your defensive liabilities. If one hot goalie can shut down your entire offensive juggernaut in the playoffs it doesn’t really matter how many goals you scored in the regular season.

Lights, Sirens and Fights

If you really like the sounds of the siren going off and the little flashing red
light- activate them during intermission between periods. To make up for fewer goals
get into more fights. This will make the games more entertaining and emotional.

Get a Really Hot Goalie

And you don’t have to pick him up until a week before the playoffs. Remember- you don’t want to win a whole lot of regular season games. The real season is from April through June. The rest of it is all window dressing.

I think that about covers it. In an effort to win fewer regular season games, you can probably shed a lot of high-priced stars who, as it turns out, didn’t show up for the playoffs anyway.

In their place, get guys who block shots and goons who beat the crap out of people. That will also require less emphasis on the Power Play and more on Penalty Killing. But that’s cool because it’s a lot easier to slap a puck away to the other end of the rink than to fit it through a tiny slit and past a goaltender and into a fairly narrow net.

A Nervous Wednesday for Caps Fans

Ok, I don’t really believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy but I do believe in the Washington Capitals. God- please- this once- could you not be a dream-killer?

No #1 Stanley Cup seed has ever lost an opening round series to a #8 seed after going up 3 games to 1. But the Caps have a chance to make that dubious piece of history Wednesday at the Verizon Center and they know it. Stung by complacency in Game 5 and one the best performances by any goalie ever in Game 6…we will soon know what the Caps are made of.

I am gloriously, dangerously and deeply emotionally invested in this damn thing. Granted, not as much as my season-ticket holding friends who were actually there to see the 2-1 Game 5 debacle when the Caps could have ended it all; who have followed every amazing twist and turn of a regular season that ended with Washington as the best team in all of hockey.

But the Caps are part of my neighborhood and I can’t help it. I live a block from Verizon Center and I’ve seen the red madness out in the streets of Chinatown before and after every home game. I hear the horns honking after an inspiring victory like Game 2 against Montreal when the Caps rallied to win a 5-4 nail-biter in overtime. And whether I get into the arena or not, I will be out in the streets for the joyous, delirious celebration when the boys hoist the ultimate prize above their heads.

Because I cannot accept the possibility that it could all come crashing down in one sad, pitiful moment Wednesday night; because it would make me wonder what the hell the regular season is for, and therefore, why even watch or care at all- I must believe they will pull this off.

Not only that, but I must believe that if they do win game 7 Wednesday- they have a real chance to go all the way. Here’s the theory, expressed by Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner:

…win that seventh game and no one remembers a thing. The panic subsides — for a few days at least. Jaroslav Halak can’t follow you to Philadelphia. You don’t have to go back to Bell Centre and its legion of screaming fanatics. It’s a new series and a 0-0 start and sometimes the relief of that allows a team to loosen up and make a run at a championship.

Right? Doesn’t that make sense? I have to believe. They will win. Otherwise, on Thursday morning when I wake up, Santa Claus will have been shot at point-blank range by an armed bandit, the Easter Bunny’s head will be hanging on some hunter’s wall and the Tooth Fairy will be serving 10 to 20 for a narcotics conviction. What’s left of my innocence will be gone.


April 26, 2010 1 comment

I spent the weekend closing down the old NY city apartment and helping the girlfriend move into new digs. This involved building the largest piece of IKEA furniture I have ever seen. I have emerged from this experience with a mixture of pride and, admittedly, some hostility toward the Swedish.

I must first point out that Millie’s friend Richie was the driving force behind the construction of this wardrobe monstrosity. The man knows what he is doing. He has built many an IKEA unit in his life and he approached the task with a great sense of organization and handy-man skill.

I am not that kind of person. I generally pay people to do things like construct complex pieces of furniture. So, mostly, I assisted with identification of various screws and dowels (like I knew what a friggin’ dowel was before this weekend’s enterprise). I was also in charge of handing Richie the appropriate tools at the appropriate time. Pretty much, I was the nurse in the operating room handing the surgeon the scalpel and sutures.

I knew right away we were in big trouble when he announced this would likely be a 7-hour procedure. I’m not going to get into a whole lot of detail except to say that even in the hands of a skilled professional, we nearly destroyed one of these things. The directions left out a little something. The part about how once you’ve built one of these units, be real careful how you stand it up- otherwise it may explode.

Anyway, clever improvisation saved the day. But I still marvel at the insidiousness of this Swedish-founded but now Dutch-run IKEA company. They lure you in with catalogues and beautiful showrooms of this really cool furniture. And then of course- 7 hours of hell- once they deliver the crap.

Plus, I might add, for all the labor and physical danger involved, you’d think it might be a little cheaper.

For kicks, I googled “Building IKEA Furniture.” I found two entries that said it all. The first one was entitled, “Building IKEA Furniture Makes Me Feel Like a Man.” The second entry was entitled, “Building IKEA Furniture Makes Me Wanna Punch a Hole in the Wall.”

Mystery in Space

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…it’s….a baby space shuttle launched Thursday night by the Air Force under a deep veil of secrecy. Meet the X-37B:

It reads like a cheesy techno-thriller. Developed by Boeing’s Phantom Works Division and under the operation of the Air Force Space Command’s 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron, the unmanned craft is a tiny version of the space shuttle. Only 29 feet long and with a wingspan of 14 feet, it will live in low-earth orbit for possibly 270 days before making an automated landing at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The location of Mission Control is unknown.

The government is not saying what it will do, what experiments will be conducted, what the ultimate point of the thing is, other than it appears to be the U.S. military’s first space plane.

Some speculate it’s an extension of predator technology; remote-controlled airborne vehicles that started out as surveillance tools but now carry weaponry and are employed regularly in attacks on terrorist targets along the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. In other words, it’s a potential fast-response space vehicle fairly easily launched and landed. But this mission is said to be just a test of the viability of the craft for later operational programs.

Others speculate it’s a program that started decades ago that sort of gained its own bureaucratic momentum and couldn’t be stopped. A military space specialist interviewed by puts it this way:

The second explanation is that of bureaucratic inertia in military programs which is why the justifications and cost estimates are so obscure and mysterious. Once started, programs are difficult to kill especially when the proponents speak of marvelous capabilities analogous to aircraft style operation down the road.

It does have geo-political implications. The Chinese, for example, are likely to see it as the first efforts at U.S. militarization of space and take it as a threat and maybe even a challenge.

I’m not really sure what to make of it. A military space race is not necessarily a comforting prospect. On the other hand, presuming this isn’t some bureaucratic boondoggle- maybe it’s us just being really clever and sophisticated in developing the modern tools we need to beat the bad guys.

I am assuming, of course, that we will always be the good guys.

God’s Intentions

So Rush Limbaugh said last Friday that the Iceland volcano was God’s reaction to passage of major health reform legislation. You laugh? I think Rush is on to something here.

Here’s the exact quote:

You know a couple of days after the health care bill was signed Obama was walking around saying hey you know I am looking around the Earth hasn’t opened up, no Armageddon out there the birds are still chirping. I think the Earth may have opened up. God may have replied. This volcano in Iceland has grounded more airplanes. Air space has been more affected than even after 9/11 because of this plume, because of this ash cloud.

Ok, sure, I see the cause-and-effect relationship. God does not want health care reform and therefore decides to let loose a huge ash cloud that cripples those healthcare-reform-loving European countries.

This has caused me to now wonder what God might have been saying through a number of other natural disasters and calamities over the years.

The Great San Francisco Earthquake, San Francisco, California. April 18, 1906, 5:12am:

President Theodore Roosevelt had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to negotiate peace in the Russo-Japanese War. Clearly, this was God saying, “Ok, Buster, Mr. President, Mr. Rough Rider, stop your egotistical meddling in the affairs of other nations and here’s a little calamity that ought to keep you busy for a while- in your own backyard- Mister Know-it-all.”

The Hindenburg Disaster, Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, May 6, 1937, 7:25pm:

God sets off a spark on the outer cover at the rear of the German dirigible and within 34 seconds, the entire airship is engulfed in flames as hundreds of thousands listen to a live radio broadcast of the disaster. This was also the year a freshly re-inaugurated Franklin Roosevelt made employers and employees in the United States pay 1% of all income toward Old Age Benefits- the dawn of Social Security. Hello. Like this wasn’t God saying, “Yo, Roosevelt, you patrician socialist, let’s unleash a little hell on earth in the state adjacent to the one you used to govern. Teach you to take care of old people, Mr. New Deal.”

Mt. St. Helen’s Volcanic Eruption, Skamania County, Washington state, May 18, 1980, 8:32am:

God unleashes an earthquake that causes the Mt. St. Helen’s volcano that had been dormant for 100 years to erupt and turn the area into a barren, moon-like landscape. At the time, Major League Baseball was considering expansion and Vancouver, British Columbia, was in the running to get its own team. Clearly, this was God saying, “No! We already have baseball teams in Montreal and Toronto. Let this volcanic eruption, visible in Canada, be fair warning that there are already enough Canadian teams in baseball.”

In Conclusion

Pat Robertson was quite clear about the Haitian earthquake and the practice of voodoo. Rush, as we know has weighed in on the Iceland volcano and health reform. There are the three obvious examples listed above. We could go on and on. There’s just no telling the various connections God finds before he unleashes one of his mighty lightening bolts at something flammable or explosive to teach us all a serious lesson about one thing or another.

Montreal Fans Boo US National Anthem


Many- not all- but many Montreal Canadians fans booed the American national anthem last night just prior to game 3 of the opening round series at the Bell Centre.  The Washington Capitals responded with a thorough 5-1 thrashing of Montreal. 

Friday, Caps fans at the Verizon Center will get to respond and there a few different ways to go.    First of all, this is nothing new.  You can find discussion boards on the web dating back to April of 2002 about Montreal fans booing the anthem before a Bruins game.  Next game, Boston fans responded by heartily cheering and singing along with the Canadian anthem.  This, of course, is the preferred approach.

I have always found the Canadian national anthem to be rather melodically pleasing.  I should know more of the words.  Completely in contrast to what occurred at Bell Centre last night, I was once at a drunken gathering of Canadian TV and Radio News Directors, I believe in Ottawa.  At approximately 2am, several of my Canadian friends, stood up, linked arms and sang every syllable of the American National Anthem with great gusto.

How many Americans could do that with Oh, Canada?

 I think, regrettably, I tried to respond in kind and came up with: 

 Oh Canada!  My shrrf and native land, glorious and free, de dum dum dum dum dum.   La la la la, la la la la, I stand on guard for thee.  

As this was 300% more of the anthem than most Americans know, my Canadian buddies were not insulted.

But…in case there are any Caps fans reading this- Friday night is your chance to show how much classier we are than these Canadians from Montreal, who even a lot of Canadians don’t really consider Canadians but more like annoying residents of Little France.

Here then, is the Canadian National Anthem:

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

See?  It is not long- many fewer words than our own.  And again, a really lovely melody.  Sing it loud, sing it proud and then root for the Caps to smash the Hab’s faces into the ice en route to, by then, a closing first round victory.

Comparing Volcanic Eruptions

Disruptive as it’s been to international aviation, the Icelandic volcano is just a piker.  The ash has been up at around 30,000 to 40,000 feet- right where commercial jets fly.   The ash would have to reach much higher into the atmosphere to actually have an effect on the earth’s climate and much lower to the ground to impact people’s health.

The greatest volcanic eruption of modern times occurred on August 27th, 1883 on the Pacific island of Krakatoa.   It was a monster.  After years of ocean quakes near the island and with tremblers and minor volcanic activity just a few weeks before, the mountain on Krakatoa finally erupted on that August day with four powerful blasts, the last one, a colossal explosion that emitted possibly the loudest sound that’s been heard on the planet Earth over the last 127 years.

Krakatoa Image- Discovery

For sailors unfortunate enough to have been on ships within a few miles of Krakatoa, many suffered broken ear drums.  The sound of the mighty explosion was heard on the British Island of Diego Garcia in an entirely other ocean (Indian), 2000 miles away. 

It also unleashed tsunamis, gigantic 120-foot waves that killed an estimated 36,000 people on nearby islands.

And there was lots of gruesome floating debris.  Pumice, chunks of solid lava, came down from the sky and landed in the ocean and on the decks of ships.  Some of the pumice, light enough to float atop the water, eventually made its way to east Africa, embedded with the skeletons of animals and humans.

The sheer amount of ash dispersed into the atmosphere created cooler summers for years.  It’s estimated there was a loss of 20-30% of direct solar radiation. 

The Krakotoa blast also created memorable sky conditions.  Accounts in Atlantic Monthly magazine from 1884 reported sea captains seeing green sunrises.  Sunsets around the world turned a vivid red for as much as three years after the Krakatoa eruption. 

Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines created similar climactic and visual effects in 1991.  Residents of the Philippines along with U.S. military personnel at American bases there were doubly ill-fated, for shortly after the Pinatubo eruption, a hurricane hit turning the falling ash into wind-swept balls of a mud-like substance that rained from the skies.

So the Iceland volcano has certainly made history for its impact on air travel for so many days.   But it comes nowhere close to Pinatubo and is not even in the same universe as Krakatoa.

The Economic “Recovery”

You can feel the “irrational exuberance” in the air.  That was the famous phrase Alan Greenspan used as the internet bubble was about to burst at the dawn of the millennium.

Wall Street is feeling kind of giddy at the moment as it appears an economic recovery is underway. But have we really done anything to stop the “boom and bust” practices that very nearly took down the whole house of cards last year?  No, not really.  Billionaire George Soros is the latest to remind us.

Talking at a meeting this week sponsored by The Economist at London’s Haberdasher’s Hall, Soros said this- and mark his words:

Unless we learn the lessons, that markets are inherently unstable and that stability needs to be the objective of public policy, we are facing a yet larger bubble. We have added to the leverage by replacing private credit with sovereign credit and increasing national debt by a significant amount.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a nifty little recovery ahead of us, one that offers the promise of a little profit-taking over the short-term.  But some time this decade, I, for one, will try to find the appropriate time to liquidate my 401K and get the hell out of the stock market and put my pennies in something safe- say, cash under my mattress.

Another warning sign; many of the same geniuses who couldn’t see the freight train coming even though they were fully bathed in the oncoming headlights two years ago, are saying everything’s just fine now.

Here’s CNBC’s Jim Kramer according to The; the same fellow who said Bear-Stearns was “not in trouble” less than a week before the March, 2008 collapse that took out the company, and almost the entire American economy, down with it:

“The turn in the economy is happening,” Jim Cramer told the viewers of his “Mad Money” TV show Tuesday.

“It’s right here, right in front of you,” he continued, and while it may not be visible to everyone, the time to profit from it is now.

Cramer said he understands why investors don’t feel like things are getting better. People are still worried about their jobs and the value of their homes, he said. People are still seeing lots of local unemployment, and are fretting over the need for tax increases to balance both state and local budgets.

Yet Cramer warned that while things might not seem better to your individual economy, the stock market is looking ahead. He said the markets are never late, they’re always early. He said if investors wait to make their move, they’ll miss the move.

Jim “Mad Money” Kramer may actually be right about the short-term.  That’s what Wall Street’s all about; all short-term and no foresight.  All I’m saying is enjoy the coming bubble, be smart, and get rich if you can.  Just don’t pretend it’s going to last forever.  Next time the bubble bursts, there won’t be a sovereign government in the world that will be able to stop the misery.

Natural Phenomena

April 15, 2010 2 comments


You can’t fly in or out of England today. Or much of Europe for that matter. And maybe not for a few days, or even weeks.  No one’s sure right now.  What is certain is that it’s one of the most disruptive events in the recent history of air travel. 

So much ash is being dispersed into the atmosphere from a major volcanic eruption in the Eyjafjallajoekull region in Iceland that all major airports in Britain are shut tight this morning; Heathrow, Glasgow, Edinburgh,  Aberdeen, Newcastle and Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Airport shutdowns and cancellations have also spread into Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland and France. 

Not only does the ash affect visibility, but tiny dust particles can work their way menacingly into jet engines.  How long the airport shutdowns last will be determined by the weather and wind patterns.

But Wait- There’s More; Balls of Fire!

Residents of the Midwest were startled to see and hear a rather ferocious fireball or meteor or something last night.   It appears to have triggered a sonic boom.  You can see a video loop of it as it explodes and the remnants appear to fall to earth here and here.  The first video was taken from a dashboard camera in a cop car in Iowa that happened to be pointed in the right direction.  The second one is from a University of Wisconsin-Madison webcam.  Residents of Missouri and Illinois also reported seeing it.

This statement was released by a Midwestern office of the National Weather Service:

 Just after 10 pm CDT Wednesday evening April 14th, a fireball or very bright meteor was observed streaking across the sky. The fireball was seen over the northern sky, moving from west to east. Well before it reached the horizon, it broke up into smaller pieces and was lost from sight. The fireball was seen across Northern Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Southern Wisconsin. Several reports of a prolonged sonic boom were received from areas north of Highway 20, along with shaking of homes, trees and various other objects including wind chimes. As of late Wednesday evening, it is unknown whether any portion of this meteorite hit the ground

Considering all the earthquakes and now volcanoes and meteors/fireballs that are affecting the planet in one form or another this week, as a public service, Garciamedialife remains on the lookout for any reports of massive swarms of insects headed toward Jerusalem.

I am considering repenting.