I am most impressed by the following experiment:
Pick a nearby tree easily visible from your window. Mine is a pine tree with just a top-knot of branches. The slightest murmur of air, and the top-knot sways against the background of trees that surround it.
As you walk through the living-room, glance at the tree. If it is not swaying, that is, if there no discernible motion, immediately turn off every mains-powered electrical appliance in your home. The refrigerator, the oven and stove, the lights, the VCR/DVD, the alarm clocks, the computers (You have an Uninterruptible Power Source? OK. Leave that on, but unplug it from the wall and listen to the banshee wail).
Then sit on the couch, unable to read a book (no lights, remember!) and wait for the tree to move. Then turn everything back on and resume cooking whatever has congealed on the stove.
A couple of things. One, I know that you won’t perform this experiment; it is far too scary. Two, I know that if the wind dies down HERE that it is still blowing THERE, but now contemplate the engineering and technical structure required to load-balance supply and demand – we have enough blackouts with supposedly predictable power sources (nuclear, water, coal etc) and how much worse will it be when that darned cyclone blows itself out?
Our ability to predict weather, which is as bad as our ability to predict climate, tells me that our ability to predict anything based on weather is non-existent.
And having studied Prob&Stats a long time ago, I know about averages and expectations, but I don’t want an average temperature when my little lamb chop needs to sizzle on the stove-top Right Now!
Some Good News!
And it’s not really about the Toronto Transit Commission and its buses, streetcars, light rail lines, subway etc.
Buried deep in the article is a significant paragraph: “Cars will be able to cross the tracks only at intersections with signals, the only place where left-hand turns and U-turns on advanced green arrows will be allowed.”.
“Cars” as in “Any non-TTC vehicle”.
Think about it: A single vehicle waiting to make a left-hand turn against oncoming traffic holds up a lane of perhaps 20 vehicles behind it. What a waste!
Coercing vehicles to make left-hand turns in batches, groups of two or three, seems to make a lost more sense, although I haven’t run a computer model since I got tired of the Global Warming scam.
After supper Saturday night, a friend and I dropped in to the local dairy Queen on Dundas Street. Exiting, my friend elected to make a left-hand turn, waiting for the our-side three lanes of traffic to afford a break, and then waiting, stranded in the center of the street, waiting for a break in the right-hand traffic.
- I found this odd, un-nerving even.
I was taught to make a right-hand turn, go with the flow, ease across to the center lane (check mirror, signal etc), and then either make a U-turn from the center lane, or turn left into a side-street, make a U-turn, and then another easy right into the flow.
I was also taught to make a left turn by making three right-hand turns; that’s often enough faster and safer. It means I can cruise until I see my cross street, and then, without panic, make the next right, make the next right, make the next right, and cross the traffic straight-through with a green light.
- It is unselfish, and it is safe.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch … reducing opportunities for left-turns on major thoroughfares could be the best thing to happen here in a long time. Think smoother traffic flow, fewer delays, better use of green lights.
Then it will be a thorough-fare, thanks to the TTC!
The Toronto Star just happens to be my local paper. You’ll probably find this same story in your local state-wide, province-wide, or county-wide-down-at-the-local-diner newspaper today and over the weekend.
The story is about luxury jets and executives begging for money. I’m not going there.
I’m about Clear Thinking, and in this column especially Bad Logic.
Background: Three auto-industry leaders flew in separate private jets to Washington to beg for a bailout, promising to trim costs etc etc etc.
“…the flights cost about $20,000 (U.S.) each. U.S. Airways was offering return Detroit-Washington flights for $329.”
And then “Chrysler and General Motors responded, saying private jets were being used to ensure security and make the best use of the executives’ time.”
Now we already know that plebs can read, use cell-phones etc while waiting for an airplane, so we already know that these arguments sound hollow, but here’s the clincher: I was in a downtown office yesterday and overheard a head honcho discussing leaving the downtown office at six to make a seven-thirty flight to Cincinnati. A comparable flight. Probably took a cab (read, cell) to the departures level, stood in line (cell) for twenty minutes, then made for the boarding lounge (cell, read) for thirty minutes. I know that you know how it goes.
Remember that $20,000?
Let’s be generous and say that that saves a harried exec ninety minutes each side. That’s a three-hour saving.
Three into twenty thousand comes to, er, nearly seven thousand dollars an hour.
I’m in the wrong job.
Thanks to Jefferson Scher for pointing me to a nifty little utility called Fiddler.
I spotted this video commercial while waiting for a www.cnn.com news video to roll.
I found it very strange that a firm would advertise a powerful shredder using a fellow with a nice throat-tie getting ever closer to the throat of the shredder.
For a little while longer you can download the 650KB video from here.
A colleague sent me a link to this story in Zee News. More garbage about the debate over trash, in this case bad-mouthing part of the solution.
“Hamburg, July 17” reads the article, “Worms are killing the planet”. is the headline. “Recent research done by German scientists” it starts off, and quickly segues into “an interview with a leading renewable resources journal, Jim Frederickson, senior research fellow at Britain’s Open Universities faculty of technology”.
Now we all ought to stop when we read “Worms are killing the planet”. I can’t even be bothered looking it up. I’m going to guess/assume that four hundred million years is a ballpark figure for the existence of earthworms of all varieties, including the ones that burrow six feet down, and the top-dweller: eisenia foetida.
It might not be 400,000,000 years, but it’s a lot longer than mankind, and for all that time, worms have been digesting material, aerating and fertilizing the soil. Yay Worms!
Killing the planet? Come ON!
None the less, I was fascinated, wondering what else they could come up with.
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
Here is my reply to my colleague:
It’s the usual crap, metaphorically speaking.
Read Alan Caruba’s blog, daily, for a week, then call me back; http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.com/
Or read my pages on bad logic.
The quoted article is full of holes; I’m only surprised that he didn’t drag in a few ozone holes:
“could be doing more harm than good”
What would you think if I told you “I could be taken on a space shuttle ride”? Just because it’s true “I could” doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. I happen to believe that my ride is MORE likely to happen, than damage caused by malicious worms. After all, all I need is a few million dollars. What the worms need is a sudden genetic shift to invalidate what they’ve been doing quite happily for 400 million years, give or take an eon.
OTOH, if he means “Now that we are producing so much kitchen waste”, then two alternatives suggest themselves:
(1) don’t waste so much food
(2) produce fewer humans and more worms.
“a significant amount of greenhouse gases”
I knew they wouldn’t.
What is significant? 10%? 1% 0.1%? Even 0.001% is measurable, and can therefore be said to be significant.
“produced a third of nitrous oxide gases when used for composting,”
A third of WHAT? The global total?
Do they mean that one-third of the gases emitted by worms is Nitrous Oxide?
And if so, what does that represent to the global total?
And why should we care, when we’re being told that CARBON dioxide is the killer (which it isn’t).
And by “produce” do they mean “emit from their little orifices”, and if so, do they care that 70% of the NO2 is reabsorbed by nematodes in the soil without leaking out to the atmosphere?
And how could any one disprove the 70% I just made up.
It all, after all, depends on how you define the closed system.
“worm composting has deleterious effects on the environment”
I love these statements.
Let’s see, worms have been chomping away for, oh, I dunno, let’s say 400 million years.
And once we make lettuce leaves available to them the planet goes bonkers, sideways, rapidly?
“they can actually produce more greenhouse gases than landfill sites”
Again, where are the quantities? Management Measures.
More, like 100% More? 10% More? The Dreaded 0.001% More?
What if a landfill site emits one gallon of NO2 per day. Should I care if worms would double that?
What if a landfill site emits one hundred gallons of NO2 per day. Should I care if worms would double that?
What if a landfill site emits one million gallons of NO2 per day. WHY Should I care if worms would double that?
Jim Frederickson, senior research fellow at Britain’s Open Universities
He’s always looking for grants, publicity, publications, being quoted.
He’s an academic (Chris said, disparagingly)
“they contribute to global warming”
So does grass. So do Caterpillars. So do Dandelions. Cows we know about. Or was that methane?
WHEN ARE THEY GOING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE BUSH FIRES AND VOLCANOES? That’s what I want to know.
“We need to investigate all alternative systems for greenhouse potential”
No we don’t.
We need to stop sending diesel trucks around the city twice a week collecting stuff that shouldn’t have been lugged home in the first place.
We need to stop collecting leaves.
And grass clippings.
“290 times more potent than carbon dioxide and 20 times more potent than methane”
I’ve heard better lines on sitcoms, back when I used to have the TV plugged in.
More Potent? That is, more powerful. But power FOR WHAT?
Get serious. If worms in vermicomposters are THAT good at producing methane, we should trap that CH4 and use it to heat the vermicomposter over winter time.
Maybe even patent it as a perpetual (bowel) motion machine.
Next week: Fungus gnats and their potential for disrupting air traffic at Pearson International Airport.
“They didn’t use to swarm like they do now before I installed a second vermicomposter on my small balcony”, says an expert in Etobicoke, directly under the flight path. “Fungus Gnats, I mean”, he added once the noise of the passing plane had died away.
I can stand uninformed ignorance, just barely.
But I just can’t stand bad logic.
Good stuff I like, and you can read it here: http://www.cathyscomposters.com/
Today’s Toronto Star carries a story (http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/536020) about the debate over trash and our lead-the-consumer-by-the-nose society.
I have strong views on consumerism, our spoon-fed society, too much TV, not enough reading, trash, the throw-away society, and so too, no doubt, have you. Perhaps your view is opposed to mine.
But these articles I write are supposed to focus on LOGIC, so that’s what we’ll do.
I think that a 20c deposit on water bottles, coffee cups, and styrene food containers would be a Very Good Thing. You may not. That’s not the point here.
Please read the article (at http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/536020) and then go back and re-read this little beauty:
“The restaurant industry … mounted a furious lobbying effort against the move, arguing that no suitable paper lids exist that would make the cups recyclable”.
No suitable paper lids exist!
Here’s what baffles me right now: We can manufacture and use a paper-based recyclable container that holds up to one liter of near-boiling hot fluid, and we trust that container to last over an hour, without collapsing in our firm grip, or leaking into the cup-holder in the rented car.
As an aside, I bring the darn things home and plant orange and lemon pips in them, make little trees and give them away. You can see one in the last image of Greaves’s Groves. But I digress.
The paper cup does an excellent job of holding one litre of boiling hot coffee.
What does a lid have to do?
It has to stop a small amount of liquid sloshing over the top.
A few drops.
Not even a storm in a tea-cup.
I could use my own hand without much danger, palm downwards, did I not need both hands on the steering wheel.
Logic: If we have a CUP made of paper that does an excellent job, what is so difficult about a LID?
Now I also like Tim Horton’s. Say what you will, their stores are clean and consistent. The staff are friendly. I could use more chains like them.
Tim Horton’s has its Roll Up The Rim To Win contest each year, and the rims on the coffee cups are so darned hard to unroll, that some guy Down East has started a mini-industry manufacturing a metal doo-dad to help people unroll the rim and win anything from nothing, through a free coffee, to a luxury SUV; usually NOTHING. (You can read about it in yet another Toronto Star article at http://www.thestar.com/living/article/516703)
If we can have paper cups with rims so solid and unyielding, strong and robust, that a small INDUSTRY starts up, where’s the problem with a lid with a similar rim or ribbed strengthening component?
Again, it’s the (bad) logic that fascinates me.
Myself I’d ban all take-out containers from public use. (I’ll make exceptions for intensive care units in hospitals etc).
But I just can’t stand bad logic.
Here are three sheets from the Michelin series “Commonwealth Cemeteries and War Memorials”, maps 51, 52 and 53 pasted together.
In writing this note I note “Commonwealth”, and realize that this is only half the battle, so to speak.
Here is part of the map in more detail. The purple marks are officially recognized cemeteries. They do not take account of private or unmarked graves behind farmhouses, or the bodies that were churned into dust and reburied repeatedly by high explosives.
Even more detail, around the city of Albert in northern France near the border with Belgium.
Peronne lies at the lower right-hand corner of this image, Baupame at the top-right.
Google Earth tells me this is 50N and 2:47E, approximately.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I walked around Sherway Gardens shopping mall last Saturday. It seemed to me that every twenty feet we had a veteran with a tray of felt poppies.
I felt bad for several reasons, not the least of which was the number of times I’ve bought a poppy only to lose it by virtue of its being detached from my lapel, or the pin disengaging from the flower.
My main feeling stems from this being an annual drive that kicks off about two weeks before Remembrance Day, November 11th. On that day, in major cities of the western world, traffic grinds to a halt, and all falls silent for two minutes as we remember The Fallen. I know I do.
I remember The Fallen every day of the year. One of my pastimes is reading about the origins of the Third Balkan war, which degenerated two days after it started into World War One.
When I moved apartments a year ago, I purchased 22 (“twenty-two”!) bookcases in part to hold my growing collection of books on the origins of The Great War. I borrow about two books a week on The Great War from the Toronto Public Library system. I feel confident in saying that there’s not a day goes by but I’ve read part of a book about World War One.
The Great War is always on my mind. Daily. Especially The Fallen. But please see “Preface (Somme page xix)” in Factoids .
So I walked around the mall feeling guilty because I wasn’t wearing the poppy I bought yesterday, which is on my other jacket. Why not buy a second poppy, one for each jacket? How can I compare a dollar coin with some family’s member’s life?
But I read too about the White Feathers (“cowardice”) that were handed out to men in civilian clothes, sometimes to long-term serving officers home on civil leave for two weeks before returning to the front. Women embarrassed young men by presenting them with a white feather, in the hopes of shaming the men into signing up and going off to be killed.
Which is how I feel as I skulk around the mall.
Perhaps more than any other non-veteran in the mall that day, I know more of and feel more deeply for the young men of ninety years ago. I have a couple of shelves of books of personal accounts, diaries, of privates, not generals.
Today I have a clearer idea of what they felt when they saw women bearing down on them with white feathers.