2018BRM120 Miura Peninsula

I rode my third century of January and my first randonnée of the year on Sunday. After completing the 204 km ride (finished in 12:04) I rode home, for a total distance of 233 km. I had done the same event in 2015 – with only minor route changes – and almost the same time (12:06).

The main difference was that on Sunday it was not quite as chilly. Perhaps that was because it was overcast, which preserved more heat from the day before than if the night sky had been clear. It also meant that the sun wasn’t in our faces (and the faces of drivers coming up behind us) when we cycled towards Kawasaki around sunrise. I felt a lot safer because of that.

This brevet is the flattest by far of any events that AJ NishiTokyo (my local club) organizes. On the other hand, the first third and the last quarter had a fair number of traffic lights. Still, there was less pressure to make closing times than on any other brevet I rode.

I had to be at the start by about 5:20 to pick up the brevet card and attend the safety briefing, so the night before I rode 30 km from my home to a cheap hotel near the start where I spent the night. This I could still get almost 7 hours of sleep. Perhaps I’m getting soft in my old age 🙂

After passing by the Yokohama harbour near Chinatown, I took the optional route over the hills. This is where a lot of foreigners set up their homes when Japan opened to the world after the arrival of Commodore Perry’s Black Ships. On the Yamate district up on a hill you see many western style villas, a great view of the harbour and the historic Foreign Cemetery.

From Kawasaki to Yokohama down to Yokosuka the roads were urban, with traffic lights slowing you down. Yokosuka is home to the US Seventh Fleet. Not far from it is where William Adams (the Miura Anjin of James Clavell’s “Shogun”) had his fief back in the 1600s. The peninsula turns rural thereafter.

It was too overcast to see the mountains of Boso peninsula in Chiba, on the opposite side of the mouth of Tokyo bay. At Kurihama I passed Perry Park, a memorial to Commodore Perry who landed here in July 1853.

Following the coastline the route passed through seaside towns and fishing villages. Miura peninsula is one of the vegetable gardens of Tokyo, with mainly cabbage and daikon (radish) being grown.

After PC2 in the southwest corner of the peninsula, the route headed up the west coast. This is my favourite part, particularly in the late afternoon, with the sunlight reflected in the ocean, or when it’s cloudy and the sky can be very atmospheric. We passed the Imperial villa at Hayama. Emperor Yoshihito, father of WW2-era emperor Hirohito, died here in 1926.

A couple of km to the north we passed by Kamakura, one of the 4 historic capitals of Japan (Kyoto, Nara, Kamakura and Edo/Tokyo). In summer it’s popular for its beach, but even in winter there are many windsurfers (see picture at the top).

The next major town was Enoshima, which offers great views of Mt Fuji when it’s sunny, but not that day. Before the mouth of the Sagami river we turned inland, heading up north to loop back to the start. About 5 km later we reached PC3, that final control before the goal.

By this time I was about 1:15 ahead of closing time, so I could have made it to the goal even with an average of 10 km/h. I still kept up the speed to cover as much distance as possible before the sun went down. I only rode about the last hour in darkness, plus the ride home after the event.

Due to business travel my February distance will be lower than my January distance, but I’ll try to get one century in on the first February weekend, weather permitting. Today it’s snowing here in Tokyo. Usually we only have a couple of days of snow a year and this makes CaM a lot easier here than in many other parts of the planet.

Swisscoin (SIC) Crypto-Currency Spam

When crypto-currencies like Bitcoin (BTC) were first introduced, they were claimed to offer the potential of a low-cost, frictionless international payment system. This has not really happened, as BTC turned out to be severely restricted on the volume of transactions it could handle. From then on, it increasingly became a vehicle for criminal transactions (including fraud) and speculation.

In the past twelve months, people have been buying BTC and other crypto-currencies primarily because of the expectation that they could later sell them at a profit. This has allowed existing holders of crypto-currencies to do precisely that. This is very much how “pump and dump” scams operate, usually involving unlisted (OTC) stocks.

“Pump and dump” scams used to involve selling by phone, but in recent years many switched to email spam. Now we are seeing crypto-currencies being advertised via spam. One example is Swisscoin (SIC), as in this email received on 2018-01-16:

It’s probably not news to you at this point if I tell you that bitcoin has made tons of people tons of money. Something else you probably already know is that it will never go up like crazy again. Its time to shine is long gone. That’s why we must look into what the next big thing is, and the truth is that there have been plenty over the last few months. Can you jump on the next huge one before it soars? Swiss coin {SIC} is the most likely candidate for a fifty thousand percent return this year. It has the support of the Switzerland government. It is already considered as legal in the country. It’s the type of coin that you can buy a thousand bucks of right now, sit on for a small period of time and you could make out crazy wealthy when all is said and done. SIC has already doubled since Saturday. This long Martin Luther King weekend could bring you even more upside if you act quickly. For those of you who know what this means- you can get it for under 50 satoshi right now. And if you have no clue what this means, it basically means that you can get in on the ground floor How do you get some? You just need an account at coinexchange. Read the currency’s official page to find out more info: https://swisscoin.eu/sic-deposits.html

The truth is, far from “having the support of the Switzerland government”, Swisscoin / swisscoin.eu is listed on a warning list by FINMA, Switzerland’s independent financial-markets regulator. The Swiss company listed in the FINMA warning did not have an office there. It was founded with a capital of only CHF 20,000. Its officers are based in Leipzig, Germany.

There is no “ground floor” opportunity for Swisscoin. It has been marketed via MLM since 2016 and various people called it a Ponzi scheme. The Dynamoo blog writes in a recent post:

There are questions as to whether Swisscoin is actually a cryptocurrency or a Ponzi scheme. Honestly, I don’t know and I’d advise you to do your own research. However, this has all the markings of a pump-and-dump scheme, so it’s quite possible that someone who bought Swisscoins at their peak wants to pump the price up so they can sell off their holdings. Given that the spam is being sent out from a network of hacked machines and does not comply with anti-spam laws, you can pretty much guarantee that this is not legitimate and should be avoided.

Never buy anything advertised via spam!

Carbon Sink Concrete Snake Oil

When I was a kid, I learnt that carbon dioxide (CO₂) makes up around 0.3 % (300 ppm) of the atmosphere. Man-made CO₂ output, from burning of fossil fuels to deforestation, has increased this number year after year. In 2013 it first exceeded 400 ppm. Even back in the 1950s, after over century or coal and oil burning, the number was already the highest in 650,000 years. We are still adding CO₂ to the atmosphere every year and the amount being added per year is still increasing. As CO₂ is a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, this has far-reaching consequences. There are dangerous feedback loops that will amplify the consequences, from increased arctic warming from absorbed sunlight due to melted sea ice to increased methane output from melted permafrost regions. Disappearing mountain glaciers will have effects on rivers downstream.

As humanity realizes the dangers from changing climate, from rising sea levels to extreme weather patterns, devastating droughts and wildfires, desertification and failing harvests we need to take action. We will need to cut CO₂ emissions as much as possible as soon as possible, but we also need to look at ways of binding CO₂ that has already been released.

Some people are trying to make a quick buck on this or to deflect consequences from industries that harm the environment. Because of this, be very skeptical of any claims made for carbon sink technologies that aim to delay the phasing out of fossil energy sources (including but not limited to “clean coal”).

A couple of years ago a US company called Calera made headlines with bold claims of a process that could act as a carbon sink for CO₂ from fossil fueled power stations while producing a product that could be used in place of cement. About 5 % of global CO₂ output is from cement production while power stations account for about 1/3 of CO₂ output in the US, therefore this would sound like a win/win situation. The process would extract calcium from sea water, combine it with CO₂ from the smoke stack of a power station and output calcium carbonate (lime stone) as a building material. Calera received funding from ventures capital fund Khosla Ventures and built a prototype plant adjacent to the Moss Landing power station at Monterey bay, California.

The company has always remained fairly tight lipped about how its process would actually work and what its inputs and outputs would be. However, despite the numerous articles that repeated its ambitious claims, nothing much seems to have come off it since.

The fact is, their claims were debunked by two critics, Jerry D. Unruh and Ken Caldeira, but relatively little attention was paid by the media to the inconvenient facts they had pointed out.

Most of the calcium and magnesium dissolved in sea water is either in the form of calcium bicarbonate or magnesium bicarbonate. To precipitate dissolved (Ca,Mg) bicarbonate as solid (Ca,Mg) carbonate, one has to remove CO₂, not add it. Calcium and Magnesium dissolved in the ocean is there because rain water absorbs CO₂ from the atmosphere and then dissolves lime stone and dolomite rock as it seeps down into the ground before re-emerging in springs and rivers:

H₂O + CO₂ + CaCO₃ => Ca(HCO₃)₂
H₂O + CO2 + MgCO₃ => Mg(HCO₃)₂

Precipitating solid carbonate from dissolved bicarbonate reverses the process and thus releases CO₂:

Ca(HCO₃)₂ => CaCO₃ + H₂O + CO₂
Mg(HCO₃)₂ => MgCO₃ + H₂O + CO₂

Fundamentally, calcium and magnesium ions (Ca++, Mg++) in sea water are not a viable option for binding millions of tons of CO₂ as they are already the end result of a carbon-binding process. Turning bicarbonates into carbonates either releases CO₂ or it requires huge amounts of alkaline materials to bind that CO₂.

The truth is, besides CO₂ and seawater, Calera’s prototype plant consumes existing stocks of alkaline magnesium oxide left over from previous industrial uses at the site, but those stocks won’t last forever. If one had to replenish these stocks from scratch year after year, this typically would involve the high temperature calcination of magnesium carbonate, which consumes roughly as much energy and produces as much CO₂ as making cement does.

Calera has suggested a few alternatives in place of magnesium oxide as alkaline process inputs for a full scale production system, but these don’t make much more sense either:

  • Making sodium hydroxide from brine via electrolysis consumes more electricity than can be produced from any power station whose CO₂ this process could clean up.
  • Fly ash from power stations can be a low cost source of alkalinity, but only in the case of relatively carbon-heavy coal and not natural gas. Even there the amounts of ash are far too small relative to the amount of CO₂ to be absorbed from burning the coal. Cleaning up CO₂ from coal using fly ash still leaves you with more CO₂ than burning natural gas without cleanup.

Long term, the cheapest way of dealing with rising CO₂ levels are not carbon sinks, but not producing the CO₂ in the first place. This means reducing energy consumption, a halt to deforestation, switching transport to electricity and producing power from wind, solar, geothermal and other non-fossil energy sources. The sooner we do this, the more livable this planet will remain for its 7 to 12 billion inhabitants this century.

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