Monday, March 24, 2008

Is this a war for Iraqi oil? Do the math.

Today we learned that American # 4000 has died in the current Iraq War. Many say this is a war for Iraqi oil. So many people make this claim that it is worth investigating. Is this a war for Iraqi oil?

Let’s answer this question with numbers, because numbers don’t lie.

That 4000-Americans number is irrelevant to answering whether this is a war for Iraqi oil, because those 4000 bodies have all been shipped back to the US. More relevant is the number of Iraqis who have died. Estimates vary from tens of thousands to nearly a million, but for this calculation I’ll put the number of Iraqi dead at 85,000 as stated at Iraqi Body Count.

I’ll further assume that of these 85,000 bodies most of them were buried, mostly whole, in Iraqi soil. Because some bodies were blown to bits and so left insufficient remains for burial, some bodies were probably missing appendages that were not recovered, and some bodies belonged to faiths who do not bury their dead, it is reasonable to assume from these 85,000 dead we can only piece together 80,000 entire bodies that have been buried in Iraq because of the war.

There remains much dispute about exactly where crude oil comes from. Most people believe that it is a result of a biogenic process whereby organic matter buried within the soil and subject to pressure and heat over time turns into crude oil. I’ll assume, for the sake of answering the question at hand (remember the question at hand?) that this biogenic theory is correct and that oil really does come from buried organic matter.

I was unable to find any results (even from Cecil Adams) for how many pounds of dinosaur turn into how many barrels of oil, so for the sake of this calculation I’ll assume that 100% of a dead body’s carbon turns into oil carbon through the biogenic process. For these 80,000 bodies, I’ll further assume that each one weighed a low average of only about 100 pounds, because many of the 80,000 dead were probably small children or adults otherwise malnourished by years of liberation-caused privation.

This source tells me the human body is 18% carbon, which gives 18 pounds of carbon for each of our 80,000 buried small-but-whole bodies. This source says there is about 242 pound of carbon in a barrel of oil.

Throw all these numbers into a bit of math (80000 * 18 / 242 = 5,950) and the result is that these 85,000 deaths in Iraq may turn into something like 6000 additional barrels of Iraqi oil.

Based on these numbers, some may say, “Yes, this is a war for Iraqi oil: about 6000 barrels of it.”

At the current global rate of 83 million barrels per day, those 6000 barrels will last about 6 seconds. That additional Iraqi oil will be available (assuming biogenic theory is correct, otherwise they’re just dead bodies) in thousands to millions of years. I hope our great-great-great-etc-grandchildren appreciate those extra seconds of oil. I hope this war is finished by then.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Fantastic No-Plastic Friday the Fourteenth Goes International

On this, the second Fantastic No-Plastic Friday the Fourteenth (you did remember that today was another FNPF14, the day on which we refuse to accept any single-use disposable plastic, didn’t you?), I’m pleased to show some of the results of the FNPF14 International campaign.

Here is a picture I took last month in Delhi, where FNPF14 has its Indian headquarters.
Note how clean the streets have become. Note, also, the sign in the center:
Let’s magnify that sign, so we can read the teeny-tiny fine print:
At the bottom it clearly says "Intl. FNPFXIV"; that sign is courtesy of FNPF14 International. Do you see it?

Pat yourselves on the back, Delhi chapter; you've done a fantastic job and you’re making the entire city look like a New Delhi.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lost final script revealed

Tonight, on many ABC affiliate stations, the Lost writers will be performing a live read-through of the script for the show’s final episode. ABC and the Lost producers and writers say this is their way of thanking their audience for remaining faithful during the long writer’s strike.

This episode is not expected to air for over two years, and they say it is still rough and subject to changes. Indeed, many Lost rumor sites claim this is not the final script at all, but just one in a long series of misdirections created by the Lost staff.

I won’t be watching, because I don’t want to ruin the surprises and suspect this is just a big joke anyway. But if you’re the kind of fan who can’t stand not knowing, then tune to your local ABC affiliate tonight, precisely at 2AM March 9, when all of Lost’s final secrets will be revealed. The event will finish at 3AM.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

job interview experience of a lifetime

Board: As we’re sure you know, Michael Dell well be stepping down this year. Our search for a new CEO at Dell has come down to two candidates: you and Jonathan Ive.

Me: However this turns out, it has been an honor to be considered in the company of Mr. Ive, who is a fine young man and will someday, eventually, make a great CEO.

Board: Could you remind us of your job qualifications?

Me: My father was a beloved CEO of a major corporation, and many people wish they could have him for CEO again.

Board: We’re all aware of your father’s laurels. But we’re not hiring your father (much as we’d like to). For this position we’re more interested in what you have done, personally, that makes you qualified for this job.

Me: Sure. Well, years ago I proposed a plan for a universal scripting solution that would have covered all platforms and applications, instead of the costly mess of redundant alternatives we had.

Board: And how did that turn out?

Me: Not so well. It’s still a mess. I made some errors in judgment and community involvement.

Board: To be honest, Mr. Ive is looking pretty good. His design of the iMac, iPod, and iPhone are widely credited with turning Apple around.

Me: I did an Apple design, too. Have you heard of the iPod Freestyle?

Board: No.

Me: Oh. OK, I concede that a few of Jonathan’s past products have been pretty successful, while my judgment may have been off now and then. But this job isn’t about the past; it’s about the future. I have… um… I have…

Board: Yes? You have…

Me: I have a lifetime of experience. Yeah, that’s it: a lifetime of experience.

Board: So, in this competition you’re conceding that your competitor has made better decisions, but you should be selected because you have a lifetime of experience?

Me: Yes. That’s part of it... But there’s also the phone thing.

Board: What phone thing?

Me: Suppose there’s a critical problem with Dell manufacturing in China. It’s 3AM and the CEO’s phone rings. What’s he going to do?

Board: Um. Answer it?

Me: Sure that’s what I would do. That’s exactly what I’d do. Right away I’d pick up that phone and say “Hello, Brent the CEO here.”

Board: And Mr. Ives would do something different.

Me: Nothing against Mr. Ives, but my father was CEO of a major corporation (have I mentioned that?) and his was not. I’ve lived in a CEO’s house and he has not.

Board: So?

Me: So I know where the CEO phone is. It’s right next to the CEO bed, and I know where that is too. Jonathan has not lived in a CEO’s house and so doesn’t have this experience. He would be wandering around in the dark, stubbing his toe while he looks around for the phone. By the time he found the phone it would have switched to the answering machine, and then there’d be that awkward period of trying to talk over the answering-machine message. That’s no way to handle a crisis at 3AM, I can tell you that from experience.

Board: Experience?

Me: Yes, a lifetime of it--except for 45 minutes when I was drugged during a colonoscopy and so have no memory. But a lifetime minus 45 minutes is still a lot of experience.

Board: Thank you for your time, Mr. Noorda. We’ll get back to you.

Me: Did I mention that my father was…

Board: You mentioned it. We’ll be in touch. OK Bye.

I’m waiting for their phone call. I’m sure it will ring any minute now… any minute… Maybe I should offer Jonathan the VP position, to show there's no hard feelings.