Oct 5, 2010


Like most of the twitterverse, been a loooong time since my last post on this big macro-bloggy thing.  What?  I can use more than 140 characters?  I can barely think that long anymore.

While I'm at it, gonna replace the old tagline, which has been hanging there since Henry Rollins told it to a bunch of soldiers during a USO Tour, circa 2008-ish:

"Your commander would never lie to you.  That's the vice president's job."

ruin porn

A coworker sent a link to a Detroit Free Press slideshow of Detroit's crumbling ex-treasures.  He knew that his small audience would be interested; we're the ones who discuss Detroit's history more than its sports and solve the world's problems during coffee breaks.  But as much as I've been fascinated by well taken pix in the middle of our ruins, they're growing tedious.  Hipsters, TEDxDetroiters, and 'Detroit Soul' t-shirt wearers call these shots and the breathlessly concerned, belated text they're usually accompanied by 'ruin porn.'  Fascinating and riveting, sometimes beautiful, but essentially cliche.

Something I never see amongst all the sentimentality about how some building was where generations of Detroiters went to get their family watches fixed, or what great bands played at certain now-crumbling venues is the point that this didn't happen in a vaccum, and it wasn't just the city's fault.  In this area it's always a 'they' type of accusation and never a 'we' acceptance of responsibility.  The sentimentality of ruin porn amongst suburbanites who stopped using the city as they shifted to shopping malls and strip mall theaters is a misplaced symptom of the throwaway society that was fostered at the same time.  It didn't start with plastic bags; it started with entire cities.

Some of the fascination is genuine and more or less blameless.  Often removed by only one generation from a home in Detroit, this really is some suburbanites' first view of what was.  The city, they were told and believed, was not somewhere worthwhile anymore, and everything new was inherently better.  It's nice that more eyes are opening to Detroit's past and future, but can we move past this ironic rehashing of our fixation with ruins that our own apathy and inability to tackle the problem caused?  Don’t get me wrong, there were a LOT of Big Problems that got us here; even if everyone had pitched in, not sprawled out, and done the heavy lifting to keep this city vibrant, there would still be spectacular ruins like the Packard Plant.  That said, the tone conveyed by people I grew up around and articles that I read is normally, 'Wow, would you look what happened here,' as if we just stumbled upon this mess for the first time, archaeologists and not direct participants.

I don't mean to second guess the combined result of a lot of individual decisions; I just wish we could stop pointing at the carcass as if we had nothing to do with it, wipe away the crocodile tears, and get busy living in a city we're actually proud of.

Apr 23, 2010


It means 'dot' in Turkish, but is unlike any dot I've ever seen.

Nokta . from Onur Senturk on Vimeo.

Thanks to Open Culture for sharing this.

Feb 16, 2010

Gerald McBoing-Boing

A 1950s cartoon of a little boy that speaks only in sound effects, adapted from a story by Dr. Seuss. More here at wikipedia.

Plus, I just learned you can do screenshots like the below while showing video - very cool.

Feb 6, 2010

lunchtime doodling (originally drafted July 14, 2009)

A coworker and I were using Wordle, which generates word clouds based on text or page addresses you give it. During lunch I tried a couple more things with it and then looked for phrases, appropriate or not, based on location clusters of words in the first inauguration speeches of 43 and 44. I listed them below, but there are many more.

done lines
force feed cooperation
just met
work today
big government
every small crisis
work now
make peace
economy challenges
americans fear power
god country
question every freedom


allow poverty
trust power
abuse government
simple american
children (abandonment) promise
public god
defend problems
good economy pledge
angel interests
follow now
ideals achieved
generations make america
responsibility challenge
cause beyond ambitions


Heard these guys in an NPR interview this morning.  Fantastic, eclectic, and a mix of New Orleans old and very, very new.

Jan 17, 2010

rest in peace dad

This is the eulogy I gave for my dad, who died December 22nd.  I practiced saying it out loud at least half a dozen times, but that didn't help me avoid crying anyway when I had to do it for real.
This has been started and rewritten a dozen different ways in the past week.  I had a couple of starts that sounded great in my head but flopped once they hit paper, so in deference to simplicity I’m going to keep it short.  I also cut out my lame attempts at jokes, which involved Ronald Reagan, dressing as a cheerleader for Halloween, and a sailor’s creative vocabulary.
I’ve thought for a long time that we should have funerals before the person in question dies; I think it would be very nice to see all of our loved ones together and hear a lot of nice things being said about us.  Talking to so many of you today and sharing stories about my dad, I know that he would have deeply appreciated being here amongst you.
Chuck Harvey valued self-reliance, his family, rationality, craftsmanship, education no matter where one got it, and the dignity afforded everyone by the values of our country.  He led by example, expecting others to fall in line and take up some slack just as he would in their shoes.  He didn’t like to be out in front of people, and he could just barely tolerate formal situations, but I never saw him shirk responsibility or manners to avoid those things.  He normally considered what he thought before he opened his mouth.  He was caring, forgiving, and deeply passionate.  Though he drilled into me the value of humility, he was one of my biggest cheerleaders; he always told me I could do something, even if he sometimes secretly thought that I probably couldn’t.  He was a tolerable sailor and a not overly impressive surfer, but he was also a faithful and loving son, a steadfast husband, a loving dad, and an intelligent and decent man, and every one of us who knew him is better for it.
In memory of him, I hope each of us can remind ourselves to ride a motorcycle a little too fast, read some Steinbeck, take a lot of pictures, listen to music too loud—opera or The Doors, doesn’t matter—be decent even to people that we know won’t return the favor, stay curious, argue like hell for what we believe in but be smart enough to realize when we’re wrong, and set everything aside for family.

Dec 9, 2009

Not quite as much change as I was looking forward to

Particularly lame headlines all on Yahoo! tonight:
# Obama, other Dems praise new health compromise (AP)
# House votes to extend $31B in expiring tax breaks (AP)
# SC lawmakers nix Sanford impeachment, back rebuke (AP)

Dec 7, 2009


Just finished an article in Technology Review throughout which I was waiting for the a-ha moment that illustrated what I'd missed with my initially-excited reaction to the news that Jack Dorsey's Square was aiming to empower individuals with the ability to transact without cash, but it didn't happen. Instead, one critic focused on the hardware and the other came straight out of a Business 101 course questioning demand:
Mark Beccue, a senior analyst at Abi Research who studies consumer mobile technology, also has reservations. "What puzzles me is, what market we are addressing here?" he says. "I saw a video of using [Square] in a coffee shop and thought, 'Don't they have a cash register?' " Beccue concedes that the product may work for certain niches, such as markets or art fairs, but he doesn't think it has mainstream appeal. He suggests that most small businesses will prefer traditional point-of-sale systems for managing credit cards, and that ATMs are convenient enough that individuals aren't likely to turn to Square to pay each other.
I'm guessing Mr. Beccue has never started his own company, because the absolute most galling part of the process was not learning how much of revenue would have to be set aside for taxes, it was applying for a merchant account, paying for the privilege, and then jumping through hoops so the parasitic bank would allow me to continue paying them an inflated fee with every transaction. There's a huge market for Square if it takes the banks out of credit/debit transactions and not only levels the field for merchants (which will be largely dependent on its pricing structure), but also empowers individuals in ways that ATM's with two and three dollar service charges just don't.

Getting back to the 'don't they have a cash register' issue, the Square site mentions different hardware configurations, but the underlying challenge isn't the hardware, as Mr. Paisner suggests; it's rebuilding a trusted cashless transaction infrastructure from the ground up. Once Square does this, they'll be able to leverage their reputation and business model to nearly any piece of technology, handheld or not, plugged into an audio jack, or inherent in every phone. Both critics ignore whether Square will be able to do the wet side of the job and vastly underestimate the portability of the service if it can.

Nov 18, 2009

fotD 37

Empire State Airship Mooring, originally uploaded by lazzo51 (FWIW, this is the only photoshopped picture I've ever thought of posting - read the caption on flickr to see why).

Nov 1, 2009

getting wood

This is beautiful.

Oct 28, 2009

Does green building demand complexity?

Just read the Oct. 2009 Buildings article about New York City's One Byrant Park, a recently-completed skyscraper that has become the first office tower in the world to achieve LEED Platinum. Green features which are growing common in smaller buildings but are mostly unheard of on this scale (2M sq ft) include:

  • it's mostly constructed of recycled and recyclabe materials
  • insulating glass allows max daylight while reducing heat transfer
  • a low-emission cogeneration plant complements power
  • a grey water recycling system designed to save millions of gallons per year
  • planted roofs, etc.

It's pointed out in the article that "Besides being the most environmentally advanced skyscraper in the world, it's also one of the most comlex." While some of the reasons for that complexity include things like being located at one of the world's busiest intersections and enveloping a 1,055-seat Broadway theater with an historical facade, much of the complexity comes from the systems necessary for its planned high performance.

I think that as we move forward with sustainable building, we'll be treading each side of the complexity issue; smaller new and renovated buildings will be very simple as inefficient systems are done away with in favor of using the building's immediate environment for conditioning, circulation, etc., but big buildings will tend toward increasing complexity, as they try to meet very different goals on a much larger scale, and various harvesting techniques will become more feasible when done in larger amounts.

Opportunity rests in both increasing simplicity and complexity; the trick is understanding where. That understanding, though, is only going to grow more complex.

Oct 8, 2009


Yoga above the clouds, originally uploaded by carl kalabaw.

Oct 7, 2009

bike racks vs. skip stops

The federal government’s landlord, the General Services Administration (GSA), was surprised in 2007 upon completion of the super-green San Francisco Federal Building when it was told by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) that the building didn’t qualify for a LEED rating. It had specifically been built to raise the sustainable bar, and GSA took it as a snub that LEED hadn’t been conferred. Architect Thom Mayne of LA’s Morphosis, didn’t seem as concerned; maybe-well-earned confidence buoyed him as he pointed out the problems with LEED that prevented it from recognizing the building’s achievements.

Most agreed that a LEED rating, which awards points based on a spectrum of measures integrated into the construction and intended operation of a building (but not so much the actual operation), wasn’t up to the task because the federal building was too advanced, incorporating features not yet addressed by LEED. Evidently the USGBC eventually agreed, as it just granted a silver rating to the building. Still, even though GSA and USGBC are praising the achievement, a silver rating seems to fall short for a building that so clearly exemplifies much of what the USGBC promotes. And Mayne? I haven't found any comment; he's busy following up on the performance of his SanFran building (I hope he reads this Epoch Times article) and designing newly astonishing ones in some of the world's other important cities.

A side view of the new Federal Building in San Francisco.
(Ivan Velinov/The Epoch Times)

Oct 2, 2009


Sometimes things that have been forgotten or purposely shelved emerge, whether from the slime or some shining glory, into our current events that are tied inextricably to other things about which we only have tangential awareness, and it’s like a firecracker going off when the connections are made. For most of my life I’ve been aware of the names Manson, Tate, and Polanski, and I’ve known that various levels of sadness surrounded those names, but until this morning had no idea the first two were tied in any way to the third.

But then I was reading the comments in a favorite blog this morning and they tied together awful events that unfolded just before I could have been aware of them, which had ensured that I would only ever hear about them as snippets bubbled up through popular culture, ferried but never explained by those who actually remembered them as events rather than micro-history. It turns out that Manson and his followers killed Sharon Tate (which I knew), an actress married to Roman Polanski, a director* (which I didn’t know). She was eight and a half months pregnant (which I thankfully hadn’t known). Eight years later, the widower drugged and raped a 13-year-old (If really pushed I might remember that Polanski was a rapist, but probably not. I’m sure I heard that association at one time or another, probably diffused through the euphimisms used to soft-peddle his crime, but I doubt I really stored it away in memory. ) and skipped town.

All these sad and awful and tawdry facts settled onto the floor like dust, the connections quickly swept into corners by our lives. Sometimes it’s good to forget about things, but forgetting doesn’t truly insulate us because at any moment they can float back into reality, dragging their forgotten connections behind them like spider silk. It’s like karma, which I do and don’t believe in, making itself obvious in our lives, reminding us with clear facts that everything we ever do has a result, and will persist, in one way or another, and we normally have the choice whether that persistence is positive or negative.

* Yes, I intended to say a director as if he’s just one of many, as if he was a truck driver, because in spite of his talents at movie making, he is just one of many. It’s just a job, and neither his talent nor his name give him any special insight into anything other than movie-making, and they certainly shouldn’t offer him any special consideration (which they’ve seemed to for 30 years), and that is important to remember when he is judged as a fugitive, pedophile, and rapist in the coming weeks.

Sep 24, 2009


It happened to newspapers and journalism first; T.V. as we've known it is not far behind. I have almost no reason to watch it anymore.

Intelligent Video: The Top Cultural & Educational Video Sites

Movies 101: Where can I legally see movies for free online?

I feel a little dizzy at the possibilities...

Sep 5, 2009

fotD 35

STS128-S-038 by NASA: 2Explore on flickr

It's easy to forget, after 128 missions, how cool this really is.

Aug 24, 2009

Jefferson vs. Hamilton: the debate persists

Had a serendipitous surprise on my morning commute today. I’m listening to the audiobook of The American Future, in which Simon Schama makes the point that yes, rebuilding societies after we’ve bombed them into submission actually IS the mission of the Army. Universally-admired Generals like Eisenhower and Marshall didn’t flinch at the idea, and they probably would’ve squinted and looked at you like you were an ugly, rude little thing if you’d suggested otherwise. These were men that knew how to get things running, as Simon says, ‘to build democracy.’ They were cut from the grey cloth of the West Point that founder Thomas Jefferson envisioned (I hadn’t known that little bit either; is there anything Jefferson didn’t do?), a place that would teach its students not just to efficiently and scientifically conduct war, but more importantly to wield those same skills to build the infrastructure and foundations of the new country.

The serendipitous part was that I was about a mile as the crow flies from Detroit’s Fort Wayne when it was mentioned in the book as an example of the sturdy work of Montgomery Meigs, one of the first and best examples of the Jeffersonian West Point engineers. If I hadn’t been running late, I would’ve sat in the parking structure to hear more about his years here, building a fort and barracks which still stand after almost 200 years. Meigs has captured my attention in the book, not least for his ‘establishment’ of Arlington National Cemetery, done out of spite toward his old commander, friend, and fellow early West Point grad Robert E. Lee. When he heard of what he believed was the odious betrayal of Lee accepting the position of General of the Army of Northern Virginia, Meigs suggested using the family mansion of Lee’s wife as a burial ground for the Union dead. The first men (soon to include Meigs’ son) were buried next to Mrs. Lee’s beloved rose bushes; ‘If they ever spend another night there,’ Meigs fumed, ‘they’ll sleep with the ghosts.’ It doesn’t get any more American Gothic.

But that’s a digression from saying that, yes, the military does need to be in the business of rebuilding that which we tear down. As I was listening to Schama, I remembered some of my own experiences with my fellow enlistees and this funny and smart TED Talk by Thomas Barnett, who proposes a new way of dealing with this problem: split the military into two wings, one for tearing down, the other for building up. Given the complexity of the overlapping missions of the military, I believe Jefferson would have been fine with it. Definitely give it a listen.

Side note: If you're a political history nerd, Schama also outlines the debate between Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton regarding the mission of the Army as well as the function of government. Its applicability to the current tropes of both parties (but especially modern conservatism) is profound.

Aug 14, 2009


Let’s Celebrate Science Fridays.

I’m thinking we should borrow a little bit of each Twitter Friday to celebrate all the good in science and rationality. Nothing against Follow Fridays, but there’s room for another meme, or tweme, or whatever you want to call them, and what better one than humanity’s greatest accomplishment, the one subject that can unequivocally be identified as giving us a rational framework for understanding the world in which we live?

As for the day, why not Fridays and why not now? NPR has Science Friday, Australia’s National Science Week starts tomorrow, and we in the U.S. are being actively encouraged to devolve into shouting matches rather than rational discussions using facts on critical issues (which unfortunately isn't anything very new). Seems like a good day and time to me.

Let’s celebrate the big discoveries, the anonymous toilers, the ideas, and the underlying tenets of science every day, but on Fridays let's make it clear how much we're already tweeting about it.


Aug 2, 2009

fotD34 + 1 video

They just set a record 329 balloons launched at one time in France, and in the video below the balloon above was visible. Disney is using it to launch the movie Up in Europe.

Aug 1, 2009

The Aquatic Ape

I was happy to see one of TED's new videos was Elaine Morgan discussing the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis this morning (I often watch the laptop to get me through putting away dishes). I stumbled across her book The Aquatic Ape years ago in the library, was so amazed I read it a few times, and wondered why in the world we hadn't heard more about this. At one point I tried to find it to buy, but it was out of print. Flash forward a decade and a half or so and here she is by video explaining why she thinks we don't hear more about it, and the book is available at Amazon.

Watch the video, though. I'm no evolutionary biologist, but I know a bit about it and it seems to be a very compelling argument, even if for nothing more than to synthesize our understanding, to add a branch to the whole story, fleshing it out.

Jul 31, 2009

saving energy so you can use it somewhere else

I'm a little skeptical every time I see something like this from someone like them, but it's a cool widget anyway. However, they missed a number of my favorite energy intensive pastimes that they may want to consider adding:
  • Shooting rats at the dump
  • Peelin' out to impress the ladies
  • Burning tires
  • Chasing rabbits in the field with my jeep
  • Whaling
  • Burning coal for heat while reading Charles Dickens to my filthy children (I'm a fool for accurate reenactment)
  • Cruizin' and drinkin' fo-tees

Jul 30, 2009

a funny exchange

In the random execution of my job, I came across something this morning that I wanted to clarify, so I emailed Doug, who knows some experts:

Git your guns, I need some lawyerin'!
Would you kindly guide your and your various lawyers' eyes to the below and tell me if it means what I think it means, that it's OK to carry a shotgun into a federal facility if you're legally hunting? The public (not to mention Dick Cheney) needs to know!!
From 18 USC 930:

(a) Except as provided in subsection (d), whoever knowingly possesses or causes to be present a firearm or other dangerous weapon in a Federal facility (other than a Federal court facility), or attempts to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.

(b) and (c) excluded for readability

(d) Subsection (a) shall not apply to -

(1) the lawful performance of official duties by an officer, agent, or employee of the
United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof, who is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of any violation of law;
(2) the possession of a firearm or other dangerous weapon by a Federal official or a member of the Armed Forces if such possession is authorized by law; or
(3) the lawful carrying of firearms or other dangerous weapons in a Federal facility incident to hunting or other lawful purposes.

His reply:
Are you going to dress like Elmer Fudd and, when you approach the metal detector, you’ll whisper "shhhh…be vewy, vewy quiet…I’m hunting rabbits…pwease wefer to section (a), subsection (d), 3, heh heh heh heh…" Can I watch?

Jul 24, 2009

fotD 33

May 09 159 by Lord Jim, featured in the flickr pool Neon Boneyard

Jul 19, 2009

fotD 32

File under 'if you've thought of it, you're definitely not the only one':

Rock Climbing, Oklahoma City by 1980Andrew

Detroit has a few opportunities to do the same thing. This would be great, especially right next to traffic on the Rouge Bridge.

Jul 15, 2009


I didn't read the Palin op-ed carefully. Even skimming it went against my recent self-imposed blackout of all things AK gov. But I was looking for news on something else and there it was, both her shpiel and the numerous reactions to it. One of those reactions came from someone else I don't give much attention to, but in this case he reflected exactly what I wonder about regarding Republicans and conservatism. Isn't the central tenet to be careful, not move too quickly, and... conserve? So how can conservatives be in favor of burning through essential natural resources? From the Daily Kos:
But I don't eschew the value of conservative thought, with the emphasis on conservation. A truly conservative person, a cautious and pragmatic individual, would save some supplies, just in case. Call it rainy day money, or emergency supplies, whatever you like. In tough times, those reserves will help you survive. And the best way to employ them is in conjunction with a plan. Like our would-be farmer from the analogy, those reserves might help you survive until you can set up a self-sustaining system to meet your needs. A survivor on a raft in the ocean might try calculating how long it might take before rescue, or how far to travel to a life-sustaining island, when figuring out how to ration his or her emergency rations. But, just eating those rations up in the hopes that something will change by the time you're finished, is not acting to a plan. It is a desperate, foolish act, because when you are reduced to that level, you have given up conscious control over your own destiny.
I learned that style of conservatism, ironically, in college. Having very limited cash resources taught me the sting of burning through them without setting aside at least a little, or trying to shave a little off my consumption every day to extend the days that I'd have money. It's a simple lesson, really. Those that blather on about too much spending and too much change should probably also be lecturing the likes of me on the merits of slowing down a little and saving a little of our energy resources.

Jul 6, 2009


I'm reeeaaallllly not one for I-told-you-so, especially in this case since most everyone agrees with me anyway as is evident by bailouts, manipulated bankruptcies, etc. (though not for Ford, pointedly), but I stumbled across this little ditty from October 2006 while looking for something else.

fotD 31

A new favorite flickr contact: Aerial Photography.

One of the things I miss most about flying for a living is the wonderful perspective 1,000 feet gives you, and the combination voyeur/explorer feel of looking into people's lives and the natural world from a very powerful and unique perspective, straight down.

Jun 17, 2009

vote for growth

Finally got a chance to take in my recycling last Saturday. RecycleHere! was in Corktown (not quite here, but until I get curbside everything, I'm sticking with these guys in spite of the drive) so I filled every cubic inch of the car and headed to the train station.

While there I met Matthew Naimi, the guy who started RecycleHere!. We ended up standing on the curb, talking for about 30 minutes about his run for Detroit City Council, RH's business model and activities, growing recycling in Detroit, urban agriculture, even urban aquaculture; in fact, he not only didn't look at me like I was from Mars when I suggested growing fish in the city, but he took off with the idea like only someone who's thought of it before could have, suggesting that the effluent and water from the fish be turned into compost for the co-located crops.

The first thing I asked about, not having an opportunity every day to talk to someone knowledgeable about how Council really works, was whether my friends and I had it wrong - would the city in fact benefit from a representational rather than the current at-large Council? Absolutely, he said - we weren't missing any subtleties. Accountability is lacking and this is the only way to get it. Indeed, there's an initiative that will be given some thought during the next session (I think) he said. This would be great, but I'm not optimistic that anything is going to change unless at least a few of the Council members are changed first. Those sitting now have been able to get re-elected specifically because of the lack of a representational requirement; I don't see them acting against their own interests, no matter the interests of Detroit.

Some other items:
  • Matthew's got a great grasp of the social and organizational issues around not just garbage removal and recycling in the city, but also of the unions and utilities.
  • RecycleHere! comes across all happy and light (note Carl Oxley's bee logo) but positioning it the way he did and making it viable was very savvy.
  • He's supporting a Detroit-based recycling program that, if successful, will replace his company. He's willing to put himself out of business to see the city succeed.
  • He supports urban agriculture, and understands that this isn't just a nice way to help inner-city residents grow some good organic food. Detroit's vast open spaces are a resource the city could leverage to underpin a number of directions for improvement.
If you live in Detroit, give serious consideration to Matthew Naimi for City Council. More info at recyclehere.net and on Twitter.

Jun 16, 2009

this is kinda short, but...

...y'know, Twitter's down. That whole Iran voting like it's 2000 in Florida thing.

Just saw a trailer for a Depp/Bale movie about John Dillinger called 'Public Enemies.' Looks so cool I don't even mind that it's yet another chance for my wife to get all drool-y over Johnny.

Jun 12, 2009

Just have to get Iowa onboard...

Stumbled across this looking for something else. It's the abstract of a UC Berkeley Engineering study on corn ethanol.
It is shown here that one burns 1 gallon of gasoline equivalent in fossil fuels to produce 1 gallon of gasoline equivalent as ethanol from corn. Then corn ethanol is burned as a gasoline additive or fuel. Burning the same amount of fuel twice to drive a car once is equivalent to halving the fuel efficiency of those cars that burn corn ethanol, and will cause manifold damage to air, surface water, soil and aquifers. The overall energy balance of corn conversion to ethanol demonstrates that 65% of the input energy is lost during the conversion. Carbon dioxide sequestration by corn is nullified when corn ethanol is burned. Therefore, we conclude, subsidizing ethanol from corn as a gasoline oxygenate is one of the most misguided public policy decisions made in recent history.

College freshmen get it (though the crisp 1 to 1 ratio above may be a little more blurry than that). We need to stop subsidizing (some say to the tune of $5B) this wrongheaded approach that is pushing up food prices, increasing our dependence on petrochemicals, and exacerbating the problem it's touted to solve.

Jun 11, 2009

'What are they thinking?' They're not.

I know not everyone surrounds themselves with as much environmental info as I do, but I've been barraged the last few days by two stunningly ignorant comments, and one that just made me want to strangle someone.

The first, a discussion about the serving options for a recent birthday party. We were going to get about 50 inexpensive plates (not ceramic, but you know, actual non-throwaway plates) so they could be used for all such parties in our family. Someone was trying to dissuade us in favor of plastic due to the work of cleaning them. We said we didn't want to keep generating all that one-time-use garbage, buying plastic plates every time there was a get-together, throwing more crap away. The answer, "But they're already made."

The second came while talking to someone about the floating mass of platic and garbage in the Pacific north of Hawaii (I mistakenly mentioned it was the size of Texas. It's actually twice that.). Their solution, "You'd think they could figure out a way to burn it."

The one that made my hands clench hungrily was when a condo organization's board member dismissively waved off the assertion that leaving every front and back door light on all night (which she'd just suggested for security's sake) would waste a lot of energy and add to the growing amount of light pollution in the area. "Nobody cares about that." Tool.

I tend to believe it's only an information problem that stands in the way of solving most of our problems, that if we can just inform most people about the effects of certain actions, they'll come around. But it's more than that, isn't it? People need to be able to think past the very next thought in their heads, and if they don't do that habitually, who the hell has the time to train them?

May 29, 2009

A Sticky Problem

I enjoyed this morning's NYT editorial 'Forests and the Planet' about the House climate bill including pollution offsets, and jumped in with both feet. It mentioned how environmental groups (NYT says they were ‘European,’ that could be; I don’t remember) standing in the way of the proposed Kyoto Protocol’s proposal to allow offset payments by nations if they didn’t meet carbon reduction levels. Excluding that from Kyoto contributed to rampant deforestation, a Pennsylvania of rain forest every year, which then can't sequester as much as 20% of global carbon pollution. It may have even been the first time I heard the phrase about the perfect being the enemy of the good, because that’s what this obstruction was. It stuck in people’s craw that a polluter, the developed world, could just keep on keeping on and write a check and ‘get off’ without doing their fair share.

I’m the first to admit I can be a vindictive, petty prick; I really do want to see companies suffer if they’ve knowingly skirted legalities, suppressed science to increase profits, and lied about it all through slick marketing campaigns, and I want to see traditionally dirty industries cleaned up. That said, if I can see the benefit of allowing nations and companies to pay their way out of decreasing their emissions, why didn’t the Europeans? We all Most of us want companies and nations to run cleaner, but if we can’t quite get there, doesn’t denying the option of paying for some other positive measure smack of the worst kind of petty hair-splitting? The active word here is ‘pay.’ One way or another, money will be diverted from the bottom line to anti-pollution efforts. Further, as long as a company or country is paying these fines, it leaves the door open to influencing them further. What I’m trying to say is, as far as the editorial is concerned, count me in. I think we should definitely support this kind of measure, if not as an end goal at least as a step in the right direction.

The problem, as always, arises once we consider the economics. The editorial uses the example of an acre of rainforest being worth $250 when converted to crops but $2,000 when used as a carbon sink. What happens after ten or so years of slowing deforestation, though, when the drumbeat of impending global warming doom has dulled and the prices of mahogany and bananas have risen 1,000%? Then will forest acreage be worth more than $2,000? What if it’s on a waterway, offering easy access to growing populations (we’ll be pushing 8 billion by that point) in need of food, work, and escape from crushing megalopoli? I’m not backing out of my support for the idea, just pointing out that if we are lucky enough to implement it, we’ll need to stay very diligent, taking action to minimize the decrease in its impact as long as it will be useful. Some things we'll have to do will include:
  • Devalue some forest products (wood, especially exotic woods)
  • Value sustainable products (fair trade coffee and other sustainable agriculture, ecotourism, medicine research, carbon sink service)
  • Implement a policing system to ensure compliance (You think getting Pakistan to fight the Taliban was expensive? Try getting Indonesia or Brazil to crack down on every illegal logger. That $2,000 per acre could disappear pretty quickly.)
  • Implement a carbon-negative economy before the value of carbon sinks drops enough to make sense to mow them down again.

Again, having the safety valve of paying fines if standards can’t or won’t be met is a needed step, and I applaud Congress for including it (even if it is due to a backroom deal with lobbyists - not that it is, I just wouldn’t be surprised). But it’s only the beginning of a very long, very complex fight.

May 23, 2009

fotD 30

Paris Exposition: night view, Paris, France, 1900

The Commons on flickr is putting out some very cool photos. I like this one, and it reminds me of Van Gogh's 'Starry Night Over the Rhone.'

May 19, 2009

The pious and the sinner

Photo borrowed from Lickbike.com

There was a good NYT piece today on the rivalry between 'Gino the Pious' Bartali and 'Fausto the Sinner' Coppi, a legendary debate which, while it still holds Italians in thrall, I'd never heard of before, and given that my love for the sport is twenty years old, I should have. I'll be checking out more cycling books discussing the pre-Hampsten/Hinault/LeMond/Indurain years.
The article mentions a photo (above) of the two sharing a water bottle that is claimed by each side as proof it was their man who was the better teammate; for my money, I'd say it's Coppi doing the hand-off.

May 17, 2009


Dinner at Michael Symon's Roast in the Book Cadillac last night.  Fantastic.  It's great for couples but, really, Roast makes for a great group dining venue.  We started with mussels that had the faintest hint of dill followed by our entrees.  I had the roasted whitefish that was complimented with crab and, again, dill with a nice riesling and was very, very good.  However, Michelle had the smoked pork chop with polenta and peppers...this dish took you places.  I had visions of a grassy, flowery field on a sunny day, really.  The subtle smokey flavor followed by the succulent pork melted in your mouth like soft serve ice cream.  Dessert was a vanilla brulee for me and a cherry almond crisp with sherry ice cream for Michelle.  I think I came out on top with dessert.  

May 16, 2009

fotD 29

May 5, 2009

"I am but an egg."

Mar 31, 2009

fotD 28

On Top of Things, originally uploaded by Allard One.

Mar 23, 2009

my ‘running capitalist dog’ post

Cleaning off my desktop this morning I skimmed an article about Roger Baldwin, civil libertarian and the founder of the ACLU, saw a caption about communism (he wasn't), and was sent on a mental tangent. It dawned on me for the first time how similar the struggle between capitalism and communism is to that between rationality and religion. In both cases we’re presented with systems that have been tested, again and again, and while capitalism and rationality do have their occasional shortcomings, they work really well as long as they are practiced consistently and fairly. Communism and religion? Their ideas may feel good, they strive to quickly answer questions people want answered, but neither can produce any tangible proof of their validity. The practice of communism especially was based on predicted results of untested hypotheses and relied on a complete lack of history to sound believable. Nevertheless, people bought into it based on nothing more than a hunch. What’s funny about this is the fact that so many people who are die-hard, laissez-faire, no-new-taxes business types are also religious. Crazy.

Then, during lunch, I came across a post titled ‘Buffett Speaks’ by Frank Boosman. More red meat for my patriotic mood.

Mar 16, 2009

Sign. Me. Up.

Doug, Pete, and Chad, too, I'd bet.

Thanks to fixed gear for the global awareness.

Mar 12, 2009

it's coming...

Tesla's Model S (for sedan). Half the price of the roadster and slated for 2011. Sounds like a long way off, but it's not.

A sneak peak from Treehugger:


Great. A new acronym we're going to wish we'd never heard. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterial infection that is resistant to most antibiotics. I'll spare you the grisly skin details, but suffice to say it kills more people in the U.S. now than AIDS. 'What's the culprit?' you may be wondering, 'global warming, insects?' Pigs.

Pigs grown in CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), the industrial scale source of almost all of our meat, even a lot of the stuff labeled 'organic,' are packed in tighter than Londoners in the 1300s. And, like every European city in the Middle Ages that mixed high density with animals and shoddy cleaning, CAFOs breed disease almost as efficiently as they breed create tail-less pigs. Enter MRSA.

I'd never heard of this particular infection until today when I read two different pieces about it (I'm supposed to be on vacation). Just one more reason to start cutting down on your meat intake unless it's from more natural, sustainable places than antibiotic- and petroleum-fed factories. And this really is the only thing that's going to bring about change: your decision to eat sustainably. This is not a top-down solution, especially because the President's choice for Secretary of Agriculture is an industry guy. We have to start giving a damn about where our food is coming from and demanding better.

Feb 22, 2009

fotD 27

Cool picture. Depressing story.

Feb 18, 2009

fotD 26

I don't care if they've become cliches. Hiking canyons like this is very high on my travel list.