Updated: Vancouver Riots 2011, Redux

“The future belongs to crowds”.
– Don DeLillo, “Mao II”

The destruction, which led to police reading the riot act, was worse than the June 1994 Stanley Cup riot in downtown Vancouver after the Canucks lost in the seventh game of the final in New York against the Rangers.

“Definitely more looting … went on,” said CBC reporter Alan Waterman, who covered both riots and was taken to hospital this year.

“We never saw the sort of looting in ’94 that we did this time. We saw scores of people just racing into stores and coming out with armloads, armloads of electronics — iPods and gold watches, we saw go by, and perfume. Anything in the major stores display windows was gone.”


[Is this first one a Photoshop? It feels like one, but it showed up on the CBC website. More here.]

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Oil at the Post

Jim Quinn at Burning Platform sent this over on oil markets. Good, hyperbolic fun.


Peak Oil — The Long & The Short

Does it seem like we’ve been here before?

A barrel of Brent Crude (the truest indicator of worldwide oil scarcity) sits at $118, up from $75 per barrel in July 2010 – a 57% increase in eleven months. In the U.S., the average price of gasoline is $3.69 per gallon this week, up 37% in the last year and up 100% in the last 30 months.

The pundits and politicians are responding predictably. They blame the Libyan revolution, the dreaded speculators and that old fallback – Big Oil. When the Middle East turmoil began in earnest in January, gas prices had already risen 15% in three months, spurred by increased worldwide demand and by Ben Bernanke’s printing press. Congressmen have reacted in their usual kneejerk politically motivated fashion by demanding that supplies be released from the Strategic Oil Reserve.

Congress has a little trouble with the concept of “strategic.” They also have difficulty dealing with a reality that has been staring them in the face for decades. Politicians will always disregard prudent, long-term planning for vote-generating talk and gestures.

[Read more…]

Namesake and the Alive Web

My friend Om’s post today about the “Alive Web” reminds me why I’m delighted to be a teensy shareholder in my amigos Dan & Brian’s company, Namesake. It is very much about the alive web, about surfacing content, driving immersive conversations, and generally become a live fabric.

Have you heard of Turntable.fm? If you haven’t, then let me tell you that it is cool, and might represent where the web is going.

Turntable.fm is a New York City-based social music listening and discovery service that is spreading on the web like wildfire. The idea behind the service is pretty simple: You sign-up by using your Facebook credentials, create a music listening room and invite people to come join you in the room. You can create a playlist by selecting songs from the service or upload your tracks. Others can join, and become co-deejays.

…. It’s fun. It’s addictive. And it’s the enemy of productivity. But more than anything, it makes the whole web experience come alive. It’s social, like being in a club — part of an ever-changing visage, a canvas painted in real time. Turntable.fm is not an isolated example,  though it might be one that captures the essence of the future web — Alive Web.

More here: Say hello to the alive web! — Tech News and Analysis.

DIY Weapons

While the DIY/maker ethos is everywhere, I hadn’t thought through its consequences for weaponry. Enter, Libya. Check this photo set from The Atlantic. Astonishing.

For the past four months in Libya, rebel forces made up of civilians and army defectors have been waging battles against Muammar Qaddafi’s armed forces, holding their own and sometimes advancing with the assistance of NATO air strikes. Scrambling to arm themselves against mercenaries and a professional army, rebels have been making use of everything they can — from using captured weapons and munitions to rigging anti-aircraft guns and aircraft rocket launchers to the backs of civilian pickup trucks. Collected here are recent images of some of this weaponry used by the Libyan rebels. [34 photos]


via DIY Weapons of the Libyan Rebels – Alan Taylor – In Focus – The Atlantic.

Gifts for Natives: Financial Urban Legend?

I’m a big fan of urban legends, financial and otherwise. You learn so much about people’s fears, paranoias, confusions, etc.

Here are a few examples from Snopes:

  • U.S. law specifies that a creditor does not have to accept more than 100 pennies towards the payment of a debt or obligation.
  • The letters ‘JS’ on the U.S. dime represent the initials of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
  • A significantly large percentage of U.S. currency bears traces of cocaine.

Okay, the first two are myths, but the third one turns to be true.

Anyway, I recently ran into the story that National Geographic expense reports included a line for “Gifts for natives”. According to the story, decades ago that was common, but an increasingly populated planet meant that National Geographic journalists & explorers no longer needed to give natives gifts, so it became disallowed as an expense, disappearing as a line item from expense reports.

It’s a great story. It’s so good that it falls into the category of “too good to check”, an anecdote so apt that one doesn’t want to find out if it’s false because it would be a huge pain in the ass to come up with a better one. Sometimes, however, you just have to check, damn it.

So … is it true? Did the National Geographic really have an expense line for “Gifts for natives”? I checked around, looked for an example of such forms, and couldn’t find it. I emailed National Geographic, getting myself into an amusing conversation with a senior communication person there who seemed to think he was being punked. After some back and forth, however, and after some consulting with an archivist there, the answer seems clear: No, there never was a line item for “Gifts for natives”. Yes, now and then people might have actually expensed some strange things, but it was never (I’m told) a formal line item.

Another financial urban myth bites the dust. Sorry about that. If you have more, send ’em my way.

Global Oil Crosses Into Structural Deficit

I’m on the record as a long-term bull on oil prices, with us likely to see repeated spikes over the coming decade as weak new supply wars with stubbornly high economic growth in emerging markets. Periodically, high oil prices will, at best, tip us into recession, and prices will bounce back and forth until something breaks, whether in supply or demand.

Some new analysis from RigZone reinforces this view. Picking up from where some related analysis from The Economist left off, and using new BP data, we have the following graph. It shows that oil, on an annual supply/demand basis, crossed over into structural supply deficits in 2005 and has never climbed back. Granted, this does not include biofuels, coal-oil, etc., which BP doesn’t track, but still thought-provoking.

Economists graph 2

Cars vs Cell Phone Embodied Energy

Last week in a talk energy guru Vaclav Smil made the claim that four cell phones equal one car in terms of embodied energy from manufacturing. This is not energy used on daily basis, nor is it a comparison of electrical energy stored in batteries; this is the energy required to fold, spindle and mutilate materials into the useful form that we call cars or cellphones.

Here is the math on the subject, however, from WattzOn. I’m sure I’m missing something — Smil is a smart guy, and while he makes many strong claims, they are almost always supported — because I get nowhere close to 1 cell phone = 0.25 cars in embodied energy terms.

Car Phone

Fun in Roman Septic Tanks

I love archaeologists so much, mostly because they do stuff like this so we don’t have to. As an aside, I’m hugely fond of now knowing that Romans accidentally dropped stuff — gold ring? — in their toilets like we do iPhones.

Archaeologists found a treasure trove of everyday artefacts after digging up nearly 800 sacks of compacted human waste from the tank, which lies beneath the remains of a Roman apartment block in Herculaneum, destroyed after it was buried by ash from the volcano in AD79.

The British team has found hundreds of objects, including bronze coins, precious stones, bone hair pins and an exquisite gold ring decorated with a tiny figure of the god Mercury.

Close scrutiny of the composted human waste has revealed that the estimated 150 middle- and lower-class inhabitants of the three-storey block of flats had a much more varied diet than previously thought.

They regularly feasted on fish, spiky sea urchins, figs, walnuts, eggs and olives, using the olive pips as fuel in their homes.

via Dormice, sea urchins and fresh figs: the Roman diet revealed – Telegraph.

Debating the Tech Bubble

The Economist magazine pits Steve Blank and Ben Horowitz against one another in debating whether we are in a “new tech bubble”.


I am closer to Steve Blank’s position than Ben’s — the latter’s position is too clever, theoretical and parsed — but whatever we are in could go on for some time. As an aside, Blank’s homage to Horowitz’s partner’s ever-misspelled surname, is nice, what with Steve mentioning Linked-in, Linked-In, & LinkedIn. Wait, it’s not an Andreessen homage?

Anyway, thoughts?

Google Search Trends: Mobile vs Desktop by Time of Day

From Danny Sullivan at a Google event today, comparing desktop vs mobile search traffic at Google by time of day: [-]