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28 February 2012

Poverty in the USA

The video below contains some unbelievable stuff. Children going to bed without food and folk eating rats. The well established consciously condemning the poor to death. Not really a surprise that is happening in the USA, that democracy where only two parties can win: liberal and even-more-liberal. It is sad, really sad, to see how educated human beings can treat each other.

The home of the brave, where once you loose your job you loose everything else: medical care, home, energy, hot water, mobility, dignity. This is what a country without a Social State looks like, and this is what the liberals are trying to accomplish in Europe, with the tragic help of hesitant and drifting conservatives.

22 February 2012

Electricity consumption in Portugal collapsing

When Portugal committed together with the other members of the European Union to the 20-20-20 targets in 2006 it would be perhaps difficult for its political leaders to imagine that they would reached so soon. Six years later energy consumption in Portugal is declining in almost all fronts, the European Energy Policy has become largely irrelevant in this state. In recent days it became known another staggering figure, last month electricity consumption fell 6.3%, the largest contraction on record. This figure already has in account consumption seasonality and climatic variations, being thus set aside any transitory effects.

14 February 2012

Tactics and Strategy at the Strait of Hormuz

Afonso de Albuquerque arrived at the Indian Ocean in 1506 commanding a squadron of five war vessels integrated in Tristão da Cunha's Armada. In the summer of 1507, after the conquest of Socotra, the Armada's main objective, Afonso de Albuquerque parted on its own commanding a fleet of six vessels and 500 marines to take the easternmost island at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, called by local folk Hormuz. Defeating a garrison of 15 000 men with his artillery, Albuquerque took Hormuz and commissioned the construction of a fortress. Though not exactly making the narrowest point of the passage between the Persian and Oman Gulfs, this island would eventually lend its name to one of the most important choke-points of the Indian Ocean, at the time the principal commercial pathway of commodities from Asia to Europe. With him Afonso de Albuquerque had brought from Lisbon a sealed letter from the King appointing as Vice-King to the East Indies, replacing Francisco de Almeida, whose strict naval prowess strategy didn't fancy the territory thirsty King. A period of indecision ensued, with most naval officers in the region initially refusing Albuquerque's rule and Hormuz was lost. In 1515, in his final days as Vice-King, Afonso de Albuquerque stormed Hormuz once again, taking it for good without military resistance; the fortress, that lasts to this day, was finally completed, sealing the command over the commerce in the region.

After the Portuguese came the Persians and then the English; the importance of the fortress waned, but of the Strait of Hormuz itself, if anything, it has only increased. Commodities flow in the opposite way these days, but unlike the luxury and exoticism of the past, today they are vital inputs to the world economy.

07 February 2012

Answers to the Renewable Energy Consultation

In Computing circles there is this old concept of Deadline Oriented programming. Just a metaphore for those moments when one has to make things work in very creative ways to meet that dreaded day of delivery. In my Faculty years I used such programming paradigm in a few occasions.

These days such practices are imposed by the vicissitudes of the daily routine. Today closes the Consultation on Renewable Energy and up to this evening I hadn't written a single sentence. A deadline oriented answer was in order, with the main topics laid down in telegraphic manner. Below the fold is the “source code”.

03 February 2012

Mismatch with the Natural Gas Market

So its cold. Very cold. The daily morning walk from home to office is becoming a considerable challenge, no matter the amount of clothing, there's always that bit of skin exposed to the glacial breeze. At sun rise the thermometer can be as low as -15º, with this temperature the light wind cuts like a knife. There's a good side to it though, the anti-cyclones the Arctic has been presented us with have cleared the skies. Fiat lux, after months of grey weather it is like a balsam for your soul, especially with all the snow and ice still covering the ground, the brightness immerses you.

And in what is now becoming an yearly routine the gas supplies from Russia got disrupted once more. This time there's no fundamental economic or political dispute, no bad tempered leaders or tough negotiations, it is simply too cold. Russian stakeholders had to choose between honouring their contracts or let their folk die of hypothermia. I guess it wasn't a hard choice.

Nevertheless, some stakeholders seem to be living in a parallel universe, where none of this is real.