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Thursday, September 28, 2006

George Carlin - Modern Man

Ah...did in 3 plus minutes at 68 yrs old which any "new" comic couldnt even fathom of thinking nor delivering. George Carlin is still the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.

I am absolutely in awe of his ability to masterfully work the English language .. "I'm in the moment, on the edge, over the top, but under the radar .. a high-concept low-profile medium-range ballistic missionary" .. "a raging workaholic, a working rageaholic" .. something this clever, kitschy, and lyrical doesn't need to make you guffaw to have you in stitches.

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: Future Hi: George Carlin on Transhumanism | George Carlin : "I'ma Modern Man " | Bayosphere | YouTube - George Carlin - Modern Man | YouTube - George Carlin Modern Man | YouTube - George Carlin Modern Man | YouTube - George Carlin - Modern Man | Viewpoint West Partners: George Carlin : "I'ma Modern Man " | George Carlin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia | mensch: A MODERN MAN | Nightly.Net -> George Carlin - Modern Man

6:33:09 PM    

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Geek's Book List

Well, I was tagged by Glenda to answer these questions!
(1) One book that changed your life?

It's really a shame that I can't recall this book. I read it in my small school's library and unlike any other textbooks, it was breath-taking and exciting.

As I remember it, young men were invited to a mysterous place to do some big-game hunting. After a fancy meal and a good night's sleep, they were awakened and told that they were going to be the big-game being hunted. The story then told of their experiences and how they survived.
I don't think it was the book, just the experience of learning that books don't have to be like textbooks - Reading can be fun! I've been a friend of books ever since.
 (2) One book you have read more than once?

This is a little sad, but the book I read a little bit everyday is "HTML for the World Wide Web by Elizabeth Castro."
 (3) One book you would want on a desert island?
This one is a little funny, I would want "The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker". It would be even greater with a CD player to also be able to look at the 68,647 cartoons ever published in the magazine.
 (4) One book that made you laugh?

The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams
 (5) One book that made you cry?

Big boys don't cry, but a book that shattered my belief in technology is "The Day The Phones Stopped" by Leonard Lee. Human error or computer malfunction? January 15, 1990 nearly half of AT&T long distance lines around the nation were disabled for almost nine hours. In 1988 the USS Vincennes accidently shot down an Iranian airliner killing 290 passengers on board. On Dec 3, 1990, eight people died when a Northwest DC-9 wandered onto the wrong runway. In 1986, two cancer patients at a Texas hospital were killed when they accidently received lethal doses of radiation. And so on...
(6) One book you wish you had written?

That would have to be "The Cuckoo's Egg" by Cliff Stoll a story of a unbelievable ingenious astronomer who trapped a spy ring, that was reporting to the KGB, and had been hacking US missile bases and satellites, using a simple teletype connected to his lab's computer.
 (7) One book you wish had never been written?
I'm not one to censor books, but I would have to say Mein Kampf by Adolph Hilter
 (8) One book you are currently reading?

I have a few started, but Fiasco by Thomas Hicks the American Military Adventure in Iraq is first in line.
 (9) One book you've been meaning to read?
The Pretext For War by James Bamford a fearless account of the failures of America's intellengence agencies and the Bush's Administration's calculated efforts to sell a war to the American people.
And tag five bloggers to do this, too.

I won't tag any bloggers to do this, but I invite all readers to give it a try

That's my list!  Not a beauty contest, just books - I like that.

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: Top 20 geek novels -- the results! from Guardian Unlimited: Technology | The Geek Nature Preserve » Book List | Homo Sum » Blog Archive » Geek Book Meme | KhmerAK* | a Phnom Penh Geek | Oyce's LJ - Bits and pieces | Paul Glen - Improving Technical Leadership | Wired News: 2005's 10 Sexiest Geeks | Geek News Central Revealing Technical News and useful links | Amazon: Listmania! - View List " Geek books " | Amazon: Listmania! - View List " Geek Books "

8:42:48 PM    

Monday, June 05, 2006

Colbert Tells Knox Grads: Get Your Own TV Show

At the close of his commencement speech before 250 graduates (and 4000 others) at tiny Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. on Saturday, satirist Stephen Colbert left them with a piece of advice: Get your own TV show. "It pays well," he observed, "the hours are great and you have fans. Eventually, some nice people will give you an honorary degree for doing jack squat."

This advice could be crucial, for earlier he had observed: "I don't know if they've told you what's been happening in the world while you've been matriculating. The world is waiting for you people with a club....They are playing for KEEPS out there, folks."

Colbert, who slipped in and out of his rightwing blowhard TV persona on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” received an overwhelmingly positive response compared with the mixed reaction at the recent White House Correspondents Dinner. Afterward, students presented him with a purple “Veritasiness Tour” t-shirt (which translates, very roughly, as "truthiness").

He had opened his speech with: "My name is Stephen Colbert, but I actually play someone on television named Stephen Colbert, who looks like me, and talks like me, but who says things with a straight face he doesn't mean."

In that vein, Colbert considered the immigration debate: "It’s time for illegal immigrants to go — right after they finish (building) those walls." People keep saying immigrants built America, "but here's the thing, it's built now. I think it was finished in the '70s sometime. From this point it's only a touch-up and repair job."

His suggestions for securing the U.S.-Mexico border went beyond walls to include moats, fiery moats and fiery moats with fire-proof crocodiles.

He added that the border with Canada also has to be secure so Canadians cannot bring their "skunky beer" into the country. He backed English as the official language of the United States — "God wrote (the Bible) in English for a reason: So it could be taught in our public schools."

Noting the college was founded by abolitionists, Colbert came out against slavery. "I just hope the mainstream media gives me credit for the stand I’ve taken today," he said.

Recently picked as one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine, Colbert quipped: "If you do the math, there are 6.5 billion people in the world. That means that today I am here representing 65 million people. That's as big as some countries. What country has about 65 million people? Iran? Iran has 65 million people. So, for all intents and purposes, I'm here representing Iran today. Don't shoot."

Colbert, 42, graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston 20 years ago. He said that instead of a diploma on his commencement day, he got a scrap of paper, which informed him he had an incomplete in one class. He said he happily waved it in the photos with his parents that day. At the next graduation, half a year later, he didn’t receive his diploma because of a library fine, he claimed.

He closed his speech on an apparently semi-serious note, urging the grads to learn how to say "yes." He noted that saying yes will sometimes get them in trouble or make them look like a fool. But he added: "Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don't learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blinder, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us.

"Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. Yes is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.

"And that's The Word."

categories: Mind
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12:33:25 AM    

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Dance, Monkey, Dance!

If the above video won't play for you, click on this link.   Monkey Blogging Video

It's worth watching again even if you've seen it before.

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: That Funny Steve Ballmer Video Thing | Julie Mallozzi Productions | macboy.com: Ballmer's iPod | Funny Monkey Dance - Jokaroo.com | Dance , Monkeys , Dance - Flash animation | | MonkeyFilter | Dance Monkey Dance | MilkandCookies - Dance Monkey Boy | MacComedy - Dance Monkey Boy! | BBspot - Ballmer Monkey Dance Explained

4:55:20 PM    

Thursday, March 30, 2006

'Snakes on a Plane' Sure Box-Office Gold

This movie needs a cameo from Harrison Ford. Just a quick shot of a man in an airplane seat shaking his head and saying, "Snakes. Why does it always have to be snakes?"

Who needs advertising when you've got a really dumb title for your movie? Snakes on a Plane is still five months from takeoff but has already been declared the "worst film of 2006" by Wired magazine, according to a Wikipedia entry, anyway. Think that will hurt its opening-weekend box office? Not a chance.

As the hot topic in online movie circles, Snakes (or SOAP) is inspiring the blogosphere to create freelance movie trailers, posters and story lines. In online vernacular, it's one of the hotest memes since The Blair Witch Project. Star Samuel L. Jackson, who threatened to quit when someone proposed changing the name of the movie to Pacific Air Flight 121, signed up for the project based on the name alone.

I just hope no snakes were harmed in the making of this film. And maybe a William Castle touch would be nice: "In Viper-Vision with Cobra-Rama!!" People can read comments and blogs all over the internet about this fabulous movie and they will make you laugh SOOO much . Anyone know what rating it will be? You need to see this movie.

Plot Outline: On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, lets loose a crate full of deadly snakes.

For the posters to come, may we suggest this headline: "You've read the title. Why see the movie?"

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: Der Planet des Grauens | David Dylan Thomas :: Blog | David Dylan Thomas :: Blog » 2006 » March | David Dylan Thomas :: Blog | Tim Allen Woofs it Up in The Shaggy Dog | Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) | johnaugust.com » The sky is not falling | How Bewitching is this New Trailer? | The Rock Talks "Spy Hunter" | I find your lack of faith disturbing: August 2005

9:32:03 PM    

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Good To The Last Drop - UMR Team Wins Mug Drop

Advancing the science of Ceramic's engineering - 6-inches/drop!

With a tape measure, a stepladder and an anxious crowd of ceramic students looking on, the official Mug Drop Contest recently shattered the dreams of indestructible chalices.

Meanwhile the winning cup, made of a tough ceramic composite by students from the University of Missouri-Rolla, left a dent in the pavement.

The long-established team crushed the competition—nearly 20 other undergraduate schools. Newcomers New Mexico Tech placed second with their clay cup.

The competition

Keramos, a fraternity of students studying ceramics, has sponsored the Mug Drop for more than two decades. This year’s competition was held at the American Ceramic Society’s annual meeting in Cocoa Beach, FL in January.

Entrants abide by a slew of rules. The mug must be made solely of ceramics, have a handle, and be fired to a minimum temperature of 572 degrees Fahrenheit.

To prove the materials aren't toxic, students have to drink out of their mug in front of a judge before the drop.

"A winning mug takes ingenuity, creativity and a really strong material," said Keramos president Matt Dejneka, a materials scientist at Corning Incorporated.

Similar to a high-jump competition, contestants can pass on dropping their mug at shorter heights and enter at their chosen elevation. The contest starts with a dead-drop at 6 inches above ground, and increases in 6-inch increments to a maximum height of 12 feet.

To move on to the next drop, the mug mustn't leak.

Brimming with strategy

New Mexico Tech took second place with a cup made of New Mexican stoneware clay and full of strategy. They designed a sacrificial bulbous bottom that broke on their first attempt, safely moving the protected inner-mug on to its next and final round.

But without the cushioning of the double bottom, New Mexico Tech couldn't match the 12-foot drop of the University of Missouri-Rolla (UMR) mug. Jeff Rodelas and his UMR teammates entered the blue-ribbon mug that dropped unscathed. They depended on the tried-and-true mug design of their predecessors.

"Simplicity is the key. Every year we can rely on this design that can perform pretty well," Rodelas told LiveScience. "We're trying to come up with a way to make the mug better with new materials."

The team made the hardy winning mugs out of aluminum oxide and zirconium oxide. Zirconium in another form, cubic zirconia, looks a lot like diamonds and is used in jewelry. Aluminum oxide makes a sturdy artificial hip. The zirconium oxide in the mug makes the aluminum oxide tougher to crack.

Now the group is looking at silicon dioxide fiber used on space shuttles for possible inclusion in future mugs.

The society holds the mug drop competition and a ceramic golf ball and golf club competition each year at its annual meeting, said Hammetter, who also is a manager at Sandia National Laboratories.

"That is a tradition that has been going on at least the 20 years that I have been involved" with the society, Hammetter said. "It's kind of neat."

The competitions typically draw big crowds and give students a chance to show their ingenuity in front of ceramics manufacturers and other future employers — such as national laboratories, Hammetter said.

"Ceramics are a class of materials that have been around since ancient times," he said. "People usually think of them in terms of pots or whitewear like porcelain. But they're also used in structural things: automotives, space shuttle tiles and electronics."

Contestants generally try to design mugs out of high-tech materials so they won't break.

Only one member of a team was required to successfully drop his or her mug from each height, so some of the UMR students were able to minimize damage to their personal mugs until the later rounds.

Sheena Foster of UMR says she got the "most-dropped mug" award.

"My mug was kind of a sacrificial mug in the team effort," says Foster, a junior in ceramic engineering from Camdenton, Mo. "I dropped it from every height. I think it eventually broke at about nine feet and was eliminated."

Contestants were allowed to continue, as long as their mugs could still hold liquid.

Jeffrey Rodelas, also from Camdenton, says his mug never even chipped and, in fact, "it actually dented the asphalt a few times."

After designing and strategy meetings, it took the UMR students about two weeks to create their mugs in anticipation of the contest. The mugs were made in a slip-cast mold and heated to 1,550 degrees Celsius.

Rodelas, a senior in ceramic engineering, says the keys to making a strong ceramic mug are to keep the handle small and make sure all of the surface edges are rounded.

Winning teams don't get any big prizes, but they do get recognition, Hammetter said.

"They'll probably get their pictures in the Ceramic Society magazine," he said. "That's good advertising for the school."

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: UMR News and Research: Good to the last drop : UMR team wins coffee | UMR News and Research | University of Missouri - Rolla, Materials Science Engineering | Chair’s Message | SurfWax: News, Reviews and Articles On ESPN The Magazine | St. Joseph wins bid for Elite 8 | Life in the fast lane | STD tests important | We are back!! For the first time in the history of Hostel 3, well | Jalopnik

10:24:57 PM    

Sunday, February 26, 2006

I Was Tagged by Tina at Fuzzy and Blue

Not again... I was tagged by Tina @ Fuzzy and Blue. I hate these things because I get a "brain cramp" trying to think of clever little things, and then feel disgusted because I overlooked hundreds of better choices I should have thought about instead.

1: Black and White or Color; how do you prefer your movies?
Usually color, BUT all film noir movies can ONLY be enjoyed the way they were filmed in black and white especially "Good Night and Good Luck". Ted Turner should be drawn and quartered for colorizing Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Blue Dahlia (1946) , The Third Man (1949), and D.O.A. (1949) among others.

2: What is the 1 single subject that bores you to near-death? Anything that can be heard coming from George Bush, Dick Cheney and Fox News.

3: MP3s, CDs, Tapes or Records: what is your favorite medium for prerecorded music?
MP3s, after all the 'good CD songs' have been ripped and burned to CDs or downloaded to my iPod.

4: You are handed one 1st class trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world and $10 million cash. All of this is yours provided that you leave and not tell anyone where you are going … Ever. This includes family, friends, everyone. Would you take the money and ticket and run?
Nope, I can't see that happening.

5: Seriously, what do you consider the world's most pressing issue now? Lethal Violence and the will and means to deliver it on fellow humans like in GUNS, BOMBS and LANDMINES.

6: How would you rectify the world's most pressing issue?
Make a "New Rule #1", No one can have any kind of weapon more lethal than a stick, stone or fist. The budget of the giant Military-Industrial-Complex recycled into free nursing homes for the elderly, free hospitals for children and channeled into food-production to eliminate the world's hunger.

7: You are given the chance to go back and change 1 thing in your life; what would that be? I guess it would have been to choose to be  "richer and better looking" instead of merely studly and intelligent.

8: You are given the chance to go back and change 1 event in world history, what would that be? I can go with Tina on this one. I would render Barbara and George H. Walker Bush infertile. But I could also live with a miscarriage or an abortion as well!

9: A night at the opera, or a night at the Grand Ole' Opry –Which do you choose? WOW, that's pretty much a toss-up! I would go to the Grand Ole' Opry to see Willie Nelson and the Opera for the Student Prince to hear 'Drink, drink, drink' or Carmen to hear the 'Toreado Song' are just a few on a very short-list of possibilities.

10: What is the 1 great unsolved crime of all time you'd like to solve?
What ever happend in 1947 around Roswell, New Mexico when something crashed, or was shot down.

11: One famous author can come to dinner with you. Who would that be, and what would you serve for the meal?
George Orwell. A fine pork roast with all the trimmings. "All animals are created equal, but some animals are more tasty than others".

12: You discover that John Lennon was right, that there is no hell below us, and above us there is only sky — what's the 1st immoral thing you might do to celebrate this fact? Very little, but "Give Peace A Chance" and "All You Need is Love" comes to mind for starters

For the moment, I won't tag anybody else, but don't anybody mess with me, OK!

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: Leftist Grandpa: HERE'S MY STORYAND I'M STICKIN' TO IT | Leftist Grandpa: December 2005 | Flickr: Photos tagged with paws | fuzzy and blue --political musings by a proud Democrat | fuzzy and blue --political musings by a proud Democrat: Religious | SuicideGirls > Girls > Qato | Fuzzy Noodle Knits: February 2005 | Knitting and the City: November 2005 Archives | PURLSgoneWILD.com | PURLSgoneWILD.com

1:15:06 PM    

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Manchester Bobber Electric Generator

A Newly Electric Green – Sustainable Energy, Resources and Design

Power generation based on the "motion of the ocean" offers significant long-term value, and arguably could eventually displace solar and wind generation for large-scale renewable energy projects. Hydrokinetic power (encompassing wave, current and tidal power) doesn't have the "intermittency" problems facing solar and wind, nor are there as many issues about ruined views and overrun landscape. Costs remain high, however. There are numerous ocean power projects in testing, and while most show promise, I don't believe we've yet seen the real breakout project putting ocean power at the front of the renewable energy race.

The latest contender is the "Manchester Bobber," an ocean power platform design from the University of Manchester. The up-and-down motion of the water surface drives a generator; a full-size unit should be able to produce a mean power output of around 5 megawatts:

[Professor Peter Stansby, co-inventor of the Manchester Bobber :] "Energy from the sea may be extracted in many ways and harnessing the energy from the bobbing motion of the sea is not a new idea. It is the hydrodynamics of the float employed by the Manchester Bobber that provides the vital connection to generating electricity."

The devices unique features include:

The vulnerable mechanical and electrical components are housed in a protected environment well above sea level, which makes for ease of accessibility.
All mechanical and electrical components are readily available, resulting in high reliability compared to other devices, with a large number of more sophisticated components.
The Manchester Bobber will respond to waves from any direction without requiring adjustment.The ability to maintain and repair specific 'Bobber' generators (independent of others in a linked group) means that generation supply to the network can continue uninterrupted.

One interesting proposal is that the Bobbers be built on decommissioned oil rigs. Aside from reducing the construction costs, this idea has a significant symbolic value.

Phase 1 tests of a 1/100th working model completed early this year, and Phase 2 tests of a 1/10th scale version are now underway. The university group is working on a preliminary design of the full-size version, and hope to have a time frame for construction by the end of this year.

I believe that hydro energy production is even more promising than wind or solar because it is more concentrated energy source. It is also a steady source of power as opposed to the intermittancy of wind and solar. Another benefit is the proximity of large urban centres to large bodies of water.

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: The Manchester Bobber | The University of Manchester | Manchester develops new wave energy device: The Manchester Bobber | Manchester develops new wave energy device: The Manchester Bobber | The Engineer Online - Bobber swims into action | The Engineer Online - Bobber swims into action | The Manchester Bobber -- ComPaMED Portal | How to Save the World for Free | Iran Daily - Global Energy - 09/15/05 | Housing & buildings - Daily News

9:54:19 PM    

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rita's Long-term Impact on US Oil Unknown

There is a rather odd side to human nature. Take a problem, present it to the audience in its maximum horror and suggest it is about to happen, then ameliorate it a little, and tell everyone how the world is not nearly as bad as it is painted. And everyone agrees that things are looking up. But you are still facing a very bad situation - only the way the news has been presented makes it seem that there is no longer a problem.

Consider that, just yesterday, Texas was facing the third worst storm in known history and things looked very dire. The storm has now got just a bit less intense and folk are already talking about Houston having "missed the bullet." All of a sudden a Category 4 hurricane becomes news enough to ease oil prices.

We have seen this over the past year with oil prices themselves. Prices rise from $30 to $40 to $50 and then they fall back $3 and we discuss the "collapse of the price of oil." It rises to $60 and then $70 and then slips $4 and suddenly "the crisis is over."

The worst case scenario for U.S. oil and gas infrastructure after Hurricane Rita reaches land could have gasoline supplies strained further than they already are and prices reaching record levels, some analysts said on Thursday. Other analysts say prices have the "Rita effect" built in and that once the storm clears land, refineries will come back, imports will start to arrive and prices will decline.

But until Hurricane Rita reaches land, the impact it has on U.S. Gulf Coast energy infrastructure and on the price of gasoline and heating oil remains a wildcard. Hurricane Rita, now downgraded to a Category 4 storm, has veered toward the east and now is expected to make landfall early Saturday just north of Houston, Texas, shifting the focus away from refineries in Corpus Christi and toward the Louisiana border.


Katrina blew a big hole in the product market. If Rita doubles that, we are in for some serious problems," said Jamal Qureshi, an oil analyst at Washington-based PFC Energy. Already tight U.S. refining capacity was strained further after four refineries in Louisiana and Mississippi closed after flood damage from Katrina, sending the average price of a gallon to a record $3.06 a gallon.

"This could be almost worse than Katrina because there are 4 million barrels of refining in Texas areas, much more than there was in New Orleans," said Tim Evans, analyst at IFR Energy Services in New York. "(Texas) is the other major refining heart," he said, adding that Rita will be a stress test for Gulf Coast refineries.

Lack of power has kept the Louisiana refineries closed for more than three weeks, so any sustained closure of Texas area refineries will hit supplies of gasoline and heating oil needed for winter fuel. But some analysts think that Rita won't have that much of a sustained effect. "The market has already bid up the price of gasoline. It's been buy the rumor and sell the fact," said Sarah Emerson, director of petroleum at Boston-based ESAI Inc.


As the storm neared, Texas refiners intensified efforts to prepare for the hurricane by shutting down operations, taking down about 29 percent of U.S. total refining capacity. According to Qureshi, the best case scenario would be 2 million bpd of refining capacity out for four or five days. The worst case, he said, is if a big chunk of refining capacity is out for weeks or months, much like Katrina knocked out four refineries in Louisiana, which are still not back in operation after more than three weeks.

"The market is certainly tightened by this event," said IFR's Evans, who said he wouldn't be surprised to see gasoline stocks fall substantially but with demand limited by a slowdown of gasoline demand which has fallen to 6.5 pct below August levels over the past two weeks.

But some industry observers think that there will be a big difference between Rita and Katrina, which wreaked havoc on Louisiana and Mississippi. "After Katrina, there were a bunch of refineries which didn't sustain structural damage but couldn't turn the power back on," ESAI's Emerson said. While Houston isn't below sea level like New Orleans, it still can see some damage from flooding. "Houston isn't as vulnerable, but there could still be dangerous storm surges," said Aaron Brady, analyst at Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

It has been fairly easy for FEMA to meet the needs they have to hand out water, and to hire (purportedly at $24/hr with 16 hours days allowed and a credit card for all expenses) a sufficient work force for that purpose. Unfortunately for the real work in getting the oil and natural gas supplies on hand for the winter they will likely be less lucky. Unfortunately for the real work in getting the oil and natural gas supplies on hand for the winter they will likely be less lucky. The nation and the universities which carry the responsibility to train the technical support that must underpin our economy, has fallen into the management trap of purely meeting the immediate need. Petroleum Engineering Departments are high cost, and have not been strongly supported by an industry that has been more remiss than many in funding the research and development that it now has need of. Thus Departments have closed, and support infrastructure has declined.

And no one expects folks in Boston to go without heat this winter. However, we might expect fewer to heat their offices or homes to the borderline-sweltering temperatures that are not uncommon. And maybe the the usually-sweltering winter temperatures on busses and trains could be cranked down to something reflecting the way people actually dress in wintertime. And maybe a few people might close off some rooms in their palatial houses (compared to any other part of the world). And no one needs to travel a hundred miles to a fifth-grade hockey game, maybe others would make many other adjustments. None of this would all be bad, though, of course, many adjustments are not indefinitely scalable. Still we have the impacts of global warming and country debt load to add to the mix of energy shortages. Both will probably make the rebuilding of the coast and energy infrastructure problematic.

categories: Mind
Other Stories according to Google: Rita's long - term impact on US oil unknown - Boston.com | Rita's long - term impact on US oil unknown | Globeinvestor.com: Rita's long - term impact on US oil unknown | Rita's long - term impact on US oil unknown | Business | Vanguard - Market News | Latest From the Wire | Vanguard - Market News | My Way Finance - Home

1:49:18 AM    

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Katrina and Public Health Truths and Myths

Hat Tip to Revere at Effect Measure

During the anthrax episode, the Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson repeatedly provided incorrect information to the news media on the number of spores required to produce an infection. The same misinformation was often repeated by public health authorities. Failure to communicate the fact that the risks from even a small number of spores could result in infection may have contributed to the deaths of two postal employees at the Brentwood facility in Washington, DC.

Misinformation from those who should know better is also occurring in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. DHHS Secretary Leavitt, for example, has warned of the risk of "typhoid and cholera" as a result of contaminated water, while others have talked generally of mosquito-borne disease and the hazards caused by dead people and animals. It is time to separate the real risks from the phantom risks.

Diarrheal disease from contaminated water is a concern, but not cholera and probably not typhoid. In order to get these diseases the water has to be contaminated with the organisms that cause those diseases, neither of which is endemic in that region. What is more likely is gastroenteritis or hepatitis A from enteric viruses or bacteria. Most are spread by the fecal-oral route, which means they are not spread directly person to person. If they get in a contaminated, piped water supply they can cause an epidemic, because piped water is an efficient way to distribute pathogens to a population. But localized contamination of flood waters is not. Individuals can get serious diarrheal disease and even die of consequent dehydration, but there is not likely to be a point source epidemic of cholera or typhoid or even diarrheal disease, only sporadic cases (which may be relatively numerous but not epidemic in nature). Lack of clean water and food can produce a risk of diarrhea and dehydration and must be attended to quickly, but not to prevent an epidemic.

Similarly the presence of dead animals and people is not a health hazard. Dead animals decompose naturally in the environment. Unless they were infected with a contagious organism before death, they will not themselves become the source of disease. The persistent concern in mass disasters over unburied bodies is an urban myth. Mass disasters like floods rarely cause epidemic disease and to suggest otherwise results in misplaced concern and potential diversion of resources from more important issues.

Mosquito-borne illness is a potential concern for some, but needs to be properly understood. Being bitten by mosquitoes is not a health hazard. The mosquitoes themselves must be vectors for a pathogenic agent like malaria or West Nile. Almost all malaria cases in the US are in people exposed and infected elsewhere who travel to this country and become sick shortly after arriving. We do not have endemic malaria, at least not at this point (global warming might change that, of course). West Nile is a possibility, because there are an unknown number of infected birds and possibly other animals in that region. However the mosquitoes that multiply in the wake of the flooding have to be the kind that both bite infected birds and bite humans. We don't know what the disaster did to the ecological niches of the potentially infected animal population nor do we know whether any increase in s specific mosquito population will be in the kind of "bridge vector" capable of biting both humans and whatever existing infected animals are around. So even a huge increase in the mosquito population does not necessarily, or even probably, mean an outbreak of West Nile or other mosquito-borne illnesses. This is important because the fear of "an epidemic" might encourage interventions that themselves carry undue risk, such as broadcast spraying of pesticides to kill adult mosquitoes. Mosquitoes reproduce exponential quickly and these techniques have not been shown to interrupt the transmission of human disease. They have the potential to just add one more biologically active toxin to the environment.

The biggest health hazards may well be those we would classify under "injury." Heat-related illness might be at the top of the list here. As body core temperatures rise above 105 degrees F., mortality increases quickly. The high heat and humidity of the area, coupled with dehydration are a significant health hazard that requires intervention by providing fluids and cooler shelters. The many sources of physical injury, whether from feral animals (snakes, alligators, etc.), sharp metal debris, falls and injuries in an environment where the hazards are numerous and not easily visible can result in substantial accumulated morbidity and even mortality. The only remedy is removal of people to a safer environment, which should be the top priority. this is also true for the many chronically ill and vulnerable people who require medication, external support from power dependent devices and supervision.

The situation is complex but the bottom line here is simple: mobilize resources to remove people from the area as quickly as possible, while providing fresh food and water to those waiting evacuation. This is something a well-organized military force, like the National Guard, should have been equipped to do from the outset. If they can plan how to put hundreds of thousands of soldiers to invade an area in a twelve hour period, they can also plan how to remove civilians in a three day period.

Or can they?

categories: Mind
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7:44:47 PM    

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Thursdays Prayer

Dear Intelligent Designer:

I hope you don't mind getting mail from your designees, I figure a little feedback is always healthy. When I first heard that evolution wasn't just a natural process, but was actually all done on purpose, I was kind of pleased by the idea. It was nice to know there was somebody out there looking out for us. Or well, I guess you're not a person, but a being, anyway. I try to think the best of beings.

So, I appreciate all the good stuff you've done. Flowers, songbirds, sex, all very nice. Or, mostly nice. But the more I thought a bout it, the more I started to get, I don't know how to say this any more nicely, kind of disappointed in a few things. So if you'll just give me a moment of your time, here are some things you might want to reconsider.

Are you really looking out for us after all? For one thing, you really ought to stop intelligently designing those bacteria to be resistant to antibiotics. Evidently you originally designed the bacteria to kill us and make us sick, and I'm sure you had your reasons. Intelligent doesn't have to mean nice. So now you're probably a little annoyed with us for coming up with ways to kill the the bugs first, but give us a break! It seems to me if we start to figure out how to stay alive for a while, you should just accept that. We get to design things too, okay? Same goes for HIV. What's that all about anyway? It was bad enough you intelligently designed it in the first place, now you keep redesigning it so the drugs don't work. Enough already. And then there's the flu virus. Don't get me started with that one. Don't you have anything better to do?

Then there's the whole question of the human body. It has a lot of great features, but a few of them just seem -- sorry to have to say this, but it's true -- not very intelligent. To begin with, there's that stupid appendix, that doesn't seem to do anything except get infected. Then there's the birth canal. It's not a problem for me personally but it is for at leat half of my friends. It's too small for the baby's head, causes no end of trouble. I could go on and on with that. The lower back. I don't expect perfection, everything has to wear out and break down eventually, but there are some pretty obvious improvements you could make there.

Then, as if an appendix isn't bad enough, you made it even worse by giving me a solitary cecal diverticulum. Damn near killed me, for no good reason that I can see.Then there are allergies. Multiple sclerosis. Schizophrenia. Huntington's disease. Neurofibromatosis. These appear to be manufacturing defects, rather than design flaws per se, but shouldn't you exercise better oversight? (By the way, can you give me the name and phone number of the being in charge of manufacturing? Or at least the mailing address? I promise I'll be civil.) The quality of the product is a reflection on you, after all, and I'd think you'd take more pride in it.

Next, I don't want to call you a hypocrite, but I hear that you get really, really angry when people kill those innocent preborn babies. But then I read that you do it yourself! Specifically, out of 100 zygotes, about 50 fail to implant in the uterus and uhh, well, there goes a Sacred Human Life down the toilet. Of the remaining 50, 30% (that's 15) are simply sloughed off in what appears to be a normal, perhaps late, menstrual cycle and the woman probably will never know that she was preganant. The remaining 35 embryos will last at least 35 days, after which pregnancy may be recognized. Of these, 25% will die in utero, perhaps recognized as a miscarriage. That leaves about 26 of the original 100 innocent preborn babies unslain by you. So why is it okay for you, and not for us? Just asking.

Now, there are some things that bother some people that are okay with me. For instance, I have nothing against beetles. You're entitled to your obsessions. It's kind of ridiculous that the whales keep stranding themselves on the beach but it's not my problem. And kudzu is a major pain but I guess it's our own fault for putting it where it doesn't belong. (That's still no excuse for poison ivy.)

Anyhow, just a few thoughts, I hope you don't mind. I know I've mostly been pretty critical, but I hope you'll take it professioally, not personally. If you're interested, I have some more ideas.

Your artifact,

(reprinted from

categories: Mind
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10:37:27 AM    

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

State-Of-The-Art: Not Good Enough

After weeks of exhaustive testing, Motor Trend editors found the Toyota Prius to be a user-friendly gas/electric hybrid capable of delivering an impressive 60 miles per gallon in city driving. However, all this is related to larger issues we as a people have with technology. It's all about the grand gesture -- Bush promises to dump billions into the hydrogen economy, which is still decades away. The Space Shuttle should have been retired or evolved away ten years ago minimum, but we needs our bipeds in space. Our biggest threat now is loose nukes, but we spend pennies on that while pissing money up a rope to build our magical missile defense space shield.  Instead automakers promise hydrogen-powered vehicles hailed by President Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, even though hydrogen's backers acknowledge the cars won't be widely available for years and would require a vast infrastructure of new fueling stations.  "They'd rather work on something that won't be in their lifetime, and that's this hydrogen economy stuff,".

"They pick this kind of target to get the public off their back, essentially." But Ron Gremban says that such a car is parked in his garage, right now.

It looks like a typical Toyota Prius hybrid, but in the trunk sits an 80-miles-per-gallon secret — a stack of 18 brick-sized batteries that boosts the car's high mileage with an extra electrical charge so it can burn even less fuel.

Gremban, an electrical engineer and committed environmentalist, spent several months and $3,000 tinkering with his car.

Like all hybrids, his Prius increases fuel efficiency by harnessing small amounts of electricity generated during braking and coasting. The extra batteries let him store extra power by plugging the car into a wall outlet at his home in this San Francisco suburb — all for about a quarter.

He's part of a small but growing movement. "Plug-in" hybrids aren't yet cost-efficient, but some of the dozen known experimental models have gotten up to 250 mpg. With mass-production, the high battery cost would come down a lot.

Green Car Congress writes about a very cool project by Canadian engineer Steve Lapp who modified his 2001 Prius by installing solar panels on the roof. It is admitted that the car is still a rough prototype, but so far the fuel economy improvement are of 10%, a respectable figure; for reference, Honda completely redesigned the Honda Civic engine for the 2006 model and achieved a 6% increase in fuel economy (the comparison is not quite fair, but I just want to point out that it can take lots of engineering efforts to gain even a few percents). "Lapp’s modelling predicts a 10%–20% fuel efficiency improvement for the 270 watts of PV (to be bumped up to 360 watts with the additional of a fourth panel)".

Here's a quote from Lapp's plan:

...the fact that [current Toyota hybrids] can run on electricity alone, with their gasoline engines off, offers the opportunity to provide them with more electricity and therefore drive further with the gasoline engine off.

Electricity can be provided from the electrical grid by charging an onboard battery, and depending on where that electricity comes from, it will have various emissions associated with it. [The plug-in concept.] However if it is provided from renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic panels, then it is "green".

This begs the question of why not put the PV panels directly on a hybrid car and generate electricity onboard while the car is parked outside, or even while driving. The general reaction of people to this idea is that there could not be enough energy striking the roof of a car to provide enough electricity to drive any meaningful distance.

This is where the incredible efficiency of the hybrid car must be taken into account. To drive a hybrid car about 1 km, takes about the same electricity as to light a 150 watt bulb for one hour! The point is not to drive the car using only solar power, but to effectively use solar power to improve gasoline fuel efficiency.

How much gasoline can this photovoltaic hybrid car save? Well let’s look at the energy available from the sun on the roof of the car. For June and July in Kingston Ontario, about 6 kWh of energy from the sun strikes each square meter of horizontal surface. If we install 2 square meters of photovoltaic panels on the car and we collect 10% of the energy from the sun as electricity (well within present PV efficiency), we can theoretically go about 8 km each day on just the sun’s energy. If we drive 24 km on a sunny day, that is enough to reduce our gasoline consumption by 33%. This would take the Prius from 5.0 l/100km [47 mpg] to 3.3 l/100km [71.2 mpg].

While the big focus today is on battery-assisted hybrids, research is going into the use of supercapacitors to offer a regenerative power boost. Able to quickly charge and discharge, supercapacitors could be used in place of batteries in some applications, or as an additional energy source to add power when a vehicle is climbing hills. Check this article for more info. Meanwhile, we’re waiting for the übercapacitor, on which Bosch is working with Doctor Emmett Brown.

Our man Bruno, at the University of Michigan’s Automotive Research Center, hipped us to the fact that the EPA has been playing around with hydraulic drive systems for a while. He notes, “They work especiall well for larger vehicles, where batteries are becoming very expensive. Also, the large mass of SUVs & delivery trucks requires a very high rate of energy charge & discharge, which is where hydraulic accumulators excel in comparison to batteries.” We still wonder why this system hasn’t been adapted to cars, as it seems to us that while hydraulic fluid can be made recyclable, batteries inherently cause lots of waste. Not to mention that the electrocution factor’s a lot lower when hydraulics are involved.

Of all the inanities uttered by former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, perhaps none was more inane than his May 2001 assertion that burning fossil fuels was part of the "blessed" American way of life. Those driving giant cars, he suggested, were not only exercising some fundamental right of citizenship but proclaiming American exceptionalism.

After 9/11, Hummers became a cocky symbol of American greatness. Driving the biggest, baddest, least-fuel-efficient car on the planet was tantamount to giving the finger to environmentalists, Arianna Huffington, and all those who suggested that the involvement of Saudi citizens in the attacks should lead us to rethink our dependence on foreign oil. You could be an active home-front warrior by buying an expensive Hummer—imitating our troops in Iraq and stimulating the economy at the same time. (Hummers also come in handy in case you need to mount a motorized assault on the Stop-n-Shop.)

Comparing the Prius and the Hummer is like comparing apples and oranges, or apples and watermelons. Since the new 2004 model was introduced in the fall, the Prius has been stomping the Hummer. In November 2003, the Prius outsold the H2 by a 2-to-1 margin, according to Autodata. In January 2004, Prius sales were up 82 percent from January 2003.

For the 2004 model year, Toyota initially boosted production 50 percent to 36,000. But demand has been strong enough that production has already been increased to 47,000. And that's still not enough. My Toyota dealer doesn't have a Prius on the lot and says that interested purchasers must put down a deposit today and wait six months. By contrast, my local Hummer dealer has several on the lot.

The demand for the Prius is pushing Toyota to install hybrid technology in other models, including SUVs. Also, it's spurring other automakers to adapt hybrid motors. Apparently, there's even a hybrid version of the Hummer in the works.

categories: Mind
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5:26:00 PM    

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