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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Renewables: The Experts are often wrong…

The world’s newspapers have lately been filled with climate doom and gloom. Most reports are undoubtedly accurate and there is room for alarm. However, millions of forward-thinking, innovative, entrepreneurial brains have been at work, and many courageous investors have risked billions of their money in renewable energy. This side of the picture is not highlighted often enough. Here’s an attempt to redress the balance.

Environmental Research Web has the following comment about predictions made in the recent past:

…REN21 have produced a very timely review of renewables progress and prospects drawing on interviews with 170 energy experts around the world. It set the scene by reminding us that many past projections have been overtaken by reality: ‘the International Energy Agency in 2000 projected 34 GW of wind power globally by 2010, while the actual level reached was 200 GW. The World Bank in 1996 projected 9 GW of wind power and 0.5 GW of solar PV in China by 2020, while the actual levels reached in 2011, nine years early, were 62 GW of wind power and 3 GW of solar PV’.

Looking forward, in the interviews, most industry experts believed that the world could reach at least 30-50% shares of renewables long term. And some advocated 100% or near-100% futures. European experts cited higher shares just for Europe, with many saying that Europe could attain 50-70% shares.

See the link below for a full copy of the Renewable Energy Policy Network’s REN21 Global Futures Report, released in January this year.


Chips on their Shoulders

Our 2 cats are getting ready to move to Hong Kong. And as of last week they both have a chip on their shoulders, literally. Ah the wonders of modern veterinary medicine. Took only a few seconds each and they didn’t flinch when the sliver of a chip was injected into the left shoulder of each. When will humans get them? How convenient it would be to label us like our pets. For example: John Smith, genetically predisposed to adipose and flatulence, no known history of association with terrorists and terrorism, may freely pass national borders without additional security measures or scrutiny, no passports or visas needed… and so on.

The Myths we live by

“The myths we live by” is a phrase that is commonly used. But what does it mean?

Here, Devadutt Pattanaik beautifully transfers the concept to modern business, international management, globalization, and the clash of cultures. Take a look at this TED Talks video when you have 20 minutes to spare. Well worth the time.

Many thanks to Dinesh for the pointer to this video.

Alexa Zombie: Bleeding the Undead

Democratic societies have to protect freedom of speech and allow freedom of enterprise, I presume, however hateful the speech or distasteful the enterprise. But surely a company that sells lifesize female dolls (suggesting an ex-girl friend) for target practice at $99 apiece cannot thrive in a sane society! Who would buy such a ghastly thing? Apparently there are enough people buying to make the website below worthwhile.


$89.95 – Bleeding Alexa Zombie 
Life-Sized Tactical Mannequin Target
“Bleeds” When Shot!!!

Here’s the website’s rationale for offering the Alexa doll for target practice. Ironically, a Voodoo Witch is on the side of the good guys.

Alexa was from Louisiana and was always drawn to the occult.  She had a wicked mean streak in her and was known for her nasty disposition, especially if she had been drinking.  She also happened to be in love with a young man, but there was a slight problem.. he was married to another women.  When he told her that he loved his wife and could never be unfaithful to her, Alexa became enraged.  She decided to seek the help of a local tarot card & palm reader who also dabbled in Voodoo.  When she told the Voodoo Witch of her plan to break up a loving a marriage.. the witch refused to help her.  That’s when Alexa lost her cool for the last time and crossed the wrong person.  She let out a slew of insults directed at the witch and told her she would get her way one way or another.  That’s when the Voodoo Witch cast a spell of her own.  Alexa never knew what hit her and before she reached her home that evening she joined the ranks of the Undead!

Let’s stop worrying about international terrorism for awhile until goods peddlers of this ilk disappear from our own neighbourhoods.


Blanket Theory of Harmony

Lao-Tse says (it is said) that one good turn gets most of the blanket. There was a minor upheaval at 02.03 am this morning and my blanket disappeared, together with the cat that lay on it. As I lay, cold and shivering in the dark, I remembered the great sage’s advice. Get your own blanket!

I therefore rose and fetched my own blanket. Thanks to the wisdom of the ancients, perfect harmony was restored by 02.06 am.

Monday Morning Flying Metal in Vienna

Stood at a street corner bus stop in Vienna at 7.30 am this morning and was moved to make this observation. In the space of three minutes waiting, approximately fifty cars raced by (I couldn’t count them all, they passed by too quickly). On average I computed roughly 1.2 occupants per car, most drivers completely focussed on driving, a few already looking a bit stressed and in a hurry. That’s 100 kilos of humanity per car.

My first car in 1975 was a bottle green first-generation VW Golf that weighed 840 kilos. Today’s Golf generation weighs around 1400 kilos (although they consume less fuel) on average. Most SUV’s and bigger cars weigh in at two tons or more.

If one takes an average modern car to weigh 1400 kilos, then we can assume that in three minutes, on just one street corner in Vienna, I was passed by 70 tons of rubber, metal and plastic complexes (marvels of engineering), carrying 5 tons of commuter following their workaday routines. What does this say about us as an intelligent species? We transport our meat, vegetables, oil and other traded goods more efficiently than this.

SOS for Syria

Most people I know find the Rubik Puzzle impossibly hard to sort out.  A quick look at the Wikipedia entry on the Rubik’s Cube shows that:

The original (3×3×3) Rubik’s Cube has eight corners and twelve edges. There are 8! (40,320) ways to arrange the corner cubes. Seven can be oriented independently, and the orientation of the eighth depends on the preceding seven, giving 37 (2,187) possibilities. There are 12!/2 (239,500,800) ways to arrange the edges, since an even permutation of the corners implies an even permutation of the edges as well. (When arrangements of centres are also permitted, as described below, the rule is that the combined arrangement of corners, edges, and centres must be an even permutation.) Eleven edges can be flipped independently, with the flip of the twelfth depending on the preceding ones, giving 211(2,048) possibilities.

This number, I’m told, represents 43 quintillion possibilities; a number that I’m not numerate enough to even read out in full. And yet, people with mathematically analytical minds can unscramble the Rubik Cube from any random position whatsoever within seconds; the world record being under 10 seconds.

The news out of Syria, what there is of it, is grim. Beyond all the killing and the bloody scenes, the most striking thing when listening to news reports is the hopelessness of the predicted outcome, whichever side wins.

As the leaders of each country at the core (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Iraq); at the periphery (Iran, Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE); and powerful nations in the wider world beyond (USA, Russia, France, UK) wonder how to best manage the outcome of the conflict to serve their own legitimate interests, they are advised by the most astute analytical minds in their respective countries. However, geopolitical problems cannot be solved by the sort of intelligence that can realign the colors of a Rubik’s Cube.

Neither can religion or religious leaders. The latter usually compound the problem with deeply held beliefs that exclude the certainties of other faiths. My God is better than your God. Or even worse, My God is the only true God! So if religion and religious leaders are excluded as possible solutions to the crisis, what then? Spirituality.

Spirituality? Without religion? Without religious leaders? Yes. A collective Self Organizing Spirituality; an SOS for Syria. How can this function? I cite below the founding principles of the Community of Peace People in Ireland, where the conflict was as hate-filled, bitter and bloody as any.


  • We wish to live and love and build a just and peaceful society.

  • We wish for our children, as we do for ourselves, in our homes, at work or at play, lives filled with peace and joy.

  • We acknowledge that to build such a life demands hard work and great courage.

  • We acknowledge there are great problems in our society that are the source of conflict and violence.

  • We acknowledge that every shot that’s fired and every bomb that explodes makes our task more difficult.

  • We reject bombs, bullets and all technologies of violence.

  • We pledge, with neighbours near and far, to work day and night to build a peaceful society in which the tragedies we have known will become but a searing memory and a constant warning.

When the above principles begin to be put into practice, then, and only then, can the brilliance of the Rubik Cube analysts begin to de-randomize the geopolitical colors of the problem.

Happy Birthday, Internet

Belated good wishes to the Internet, which turned 20 on the 30th of April. This time next year it will have grown to full adulthood and will be given the keys to the world by us, its collective parents. In fact, it was given the keys to the world over a decade ago,while still in pre-puberty. The analogy can only be stretched so far!

Sometime around 1994, an excited computer programmer friend walked into my office and said, “I need your computer for half an hour. Go and take a walk in the park.” I obeyed. When I returned to my office, glad for the refreshing break, he told me to look at my screen. I casually sat down and watched as a few lines in red began to appear from the bottom up. Ten minutes later, I could hardly breathe for excitement. Line by line, a clearly discernible color image had formed on the lower half of my screen. The cave paintings of Lascaux, instantly recognizable, one of the places on my bucket list of things to see before I kicked it. Seventeen thousand year old images brought to my screen in half an hour by a technology I knew nothing about. I was hooked.

For the rest of the day, I sat in front of the monitor and looked at various images from the Lascaux caves, captivated as each image formed in twenty to thirty minutes. A year later, I remember, one of my colleagues phoned down to the same programmer and complained that the network was slow and his pages were taking more than a minute each to load. What does this say about us and our expectations that collectively drive the world? Time to reflect between now and next year this time, when we will symbolically hand over the keys to our future to this kid.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.