Archive for April, 2011

2011.04.27

Roses on Sant Jordi

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2011.04.27

Hemp Oil Versus Gasoline

This morning started with an interesting discussion about replacing all energy consumption with hemp oil. What this has to do with IT, manga or anime I don’t know but there it is. The debate got heated (we failed to follow the rules) and eventually the other fellow walked away in a huff. He said, in essence, that hemp oil could essentially fix all our energy problems. I disagreed saying hemp oil couldn’t resolve even one energy problem. Later he came and apologized for his overreaction and I’ve since sent him an email with most of what appears below to give him some insight. I thought it worth sharing.

With best estimates, hemp can produce about 100 gallons per acre.

Using outdated information from 2004, America consumes about 140,000,000,000 gallons of gas per year.

Hemp can be harvested every 120 days, which gives about 3 harvests a year in an idealized world (which we do not have).

140,000,000,000/100 = 1,400,000,000 acres required from a single hemp harvest to equal gasoline consumption. However, let’s go with the hypothetical three harvests a year:

1,400,000,000/3 = 466,666,666 acres needed if we can get three harvests a year.

466,666,666 acres = 729,166 square miles. America is 3,537,441 square miles, which seems like a lot. However, of that land only 635,038 square miles are usable (based on 406,424,909 acres of cropland).

635,038 is less than 729,166, so not only could we not grow enough hemp, but we wouldn’t be able to produce any crops and we would starve. Incidentally, hemp will not grow in some environments so usable acreage is actually smaller. Even more damning is the fact that gasoline is already processed for consumption; hemp oil would need to be processed as well, which would reduce the volume actually produced. There is also hemp’s lesser fuel efficiency to factor into the equation. Clearly hemp oil cannot replace gaoline on any sort of equal footing.

All of this only addresses automobiles gasoline consumption; it doesn’t touch upon electrical or natural gas consumption.

The problem with the whole argument isn’t necessarily that my coworker was wrong. It’s that he listens to and blindly agrees with pundits that say things like, “Hemp oil can replace gasoline!” The best thing for the world would be to stop believing people on the radio, television and in books who talk like they know what they are saying but possibly don’t. Look up the facts for yourself. Use a critical mind even -and maybe especially- with people you agree. Don’t get sucked into the belief, so prevalent today, that one way is absolutely correct and everything else is wrong. Remember wise Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

In this case The Suffering is our world and so many people on it. Our inability to find fact-based solutions to problems because so many people are blinded by ideas and beliefs has, and will continue to, give rise to too many evils.

1 Comment | Catergorized: grrr  science  technology  thoughts

2011.04.26

Advice to Writers

Excellent advice for writers from Nobel winner VS Naipul.

VS Naipaul’s Rules for Beginners

1. Do not write long sentences. A sentence should not have more than ten or twelve words.

2. Each sentence should make a clear statement. It should add to the statement that went before. A good paragraph is a series of clear, linked statements.

3. Do not use big words. If your computer tells you that your average word is more than five letters long, there is something wrong. The use of small words compels you to think about what you are writing. Even difficult ideas can be broken down into small words.

4. Never use words whose meaning you are not sure of. If you break this rule you should look for other work.

5. The beginner should avoid using adjectives, except those of colour, size and number. Use as few adverbs as possible.

6. Avoid the abstract. Always go for the concrete.

7. Every day, for six months at least, practice writing in this way. Small words; short, clear, concrete sentences. It may be awkward, but it’s training you in the use of language. It may even be getting rid of the bad language habits you picked up at the university. You may go beyond these rules after you have thoroughly understood and mastered them.

I should print this out for the members of my writers group. I like that the list is simple and direct.

2 Comments | Catergorized: writing

2011.04.24

Prayer for the Daughter

Tina Fey get’s it right… I need my own personal prayer for my unborn daughter. There’s so much trouble she could -and probably will- get into that will drive me absolutely crazy. How does one cope? I suppose I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, not to be too cliché, but: baby steps.

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2011.04.23

A Little Announcement

It’s Saint Jordi’s Day so maybe it’s time for a little announcement…

Rosa and I are going to be parents.

We’re expecting a little girl with a due date of September 11th. Although only 3-5% of babies are born on their due date we are excited about this particular day for two reasons. First, we can start taking back the day for America and second, it’s the national day of Catalonia which is where Rosa is from.

So… I’m going to be a father. How’s that for a “little” announcement!

3 Comments | Catergorized: family  kids  life

2011.04.21

Fixing California

I have little to argue with this article on the late, great California legislature. It points out three creeping, insidious and long term failures affecting the California legislature that inhibit and stymy the performance of its duties.

1: Term limits kill any experience from accumulating in our representatives. Essentially term limits as they stand now are a knowledge drain, and the result is sewage.

2: Proposition 13 needs, at a minimum, to be reformed. Not only does it keep housing taxes at a fixed rate more-or-less in perpetuity, but it requires any new taxes of any kind to require a 2/3 vote in the legislature. I’m not saying new taxes are always a solution, but let the legislature hang itself with the taxes when we vote them out when they screw up.

3: The article’s advocation of eliminating individual campaign contributions is the one item I have an issue with. I think this is a field that could be reformed or, better, completely revamped. I propose that to run for a legislative seat you should a certain number of signed petitions (say 100,000). Once underway, anyone can contribute to that election. The candidates all pull equally from that pool. Individuals, corporations and special interests can all contribute to the pool without limits. This way the candidates have equal footing so long as they can make the ticket.

The final piece I think is missing from the article is a reform of California’s referendum system. The referendum system is clearly broken with almost every single one requiring government spending (often mandatory) with no inclusions of where the money will come from. In some few cases it is used to limit the rights of others, and in other cases to cover for a cowardly legislature.

Now that I think about it, maybe what California really needs is a complete reboot. A new constitution, a clean wipe of all debts and existing laws. Let’s just make sure to get it right this time.

Comments Off | Catergorized: political  thoughts

2011.04.18

American Aristocracy

When we were taking the train to Sevilla for our honeymoon, Rosa had picked up a copy of ¡Hola!, one of the numerous Spanish gossip magazines, to pass the time. Like the junk we have here in the States it covered “the important” people, but one of the main differences I saw was that many pages were devoted to the comings, goings and doings of the Spanish aristocracy. Spain, like England, is a constitutional monarchy (kind of like the many other European countries at the link).

It struck me that there was so much coverage, and gossip, of royalty, a class I personally consider dated and extinct. It’s something we in America hear about but rarely experience directly except our multitude of celebrities and their often disasterous lives. In a sense, from the perspective of the scream sheets, celebrity is the American aristocracy. I had told this to Rosa, even, but lately I’m thinking I am wrong.

America did away with European nobility on our shores and replaced it with something new and publicly secret: the rich, or as most of them should be called, the overclass.

Take any of the old rich (Rockefellers, Du Ponts, Venderbilts, Astors, Hearsts, etc) and you’ll see they are still wealthy. Take any of the newer rich (Koshs, Hiltons, Bushes, Waltons, etc) and you’ll see they are blatantly passing wealth and power to their children, too. They have manipulated the system so that their wealth stays inside their families so that within a generation you have people who have known nothing but excessive money and have only grown more of it because the system as it exists now allows them. This sounds stikingly like noble families, who have also known nothing but their power and influence.

Take, for instance, the debate around inheritence taxes, which conservatives call a “death” tax. Statistically 91% of Americans inherit nothing (except, often, debt). Those that do inherit are already in the top 10% of wealth (which, generally speaking, are millionaires or better). While technically not a “noble” class with titles and “royal” blood, they are an effective oligarchy with the richest 400 families controlling $1.27 trillion, little of which “trickles down” to the rest of the nation. When power and wealth remains concentrated in the few and is handed down generation to generation within the family, then we no longer have anything akin to democracy in a republic; we have a plutarchy.

We do have our own form of aristocracy here in America. The gap between the rich and the rest of us is only increasing. When will we get back to our roots and have a revolution?

Unfortunately, not until we all realize the idea that any one of us could also join that upper class is as likely as any one of us being struck by lightning (~1/750,000) the exact same moment we learn we won the grand lottery (~1/120,000,000): statistically impossible.

Comments Off | Catergorized: grrr  political  thoughts

2011.04.17

Adèle Blanc-Sec

Last night Rosa and I watched The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (warning: somewhat annoying Flash w/ audio), a film by Luc Besson based on the comic books by Jacques Tardi. I’ve been reading the English adaption of the comics from Fantagraphics to Rosa complete with bad French accents.

While not an “extraordinary” film, we enjoyed it greatly. Louise Bourgoin, as the titular character, is convincing, strong, independent and humorous. It was interesting to see how the comic was adapted; the pterodactyl story is mixed and modified with mummies and Adèle’s quest to save her sister from a fate worse than death. The motivation to save her sister is one welcome addition to the movie that the comics lack. In the comics we don’t see much motivation or reason for Adèle having her adventures in the first place, other than to write and illustrate a story. This could change the further along Rosa and I get with the stories, but so far the character of Adèle has been rather like her namesake: dry (“sec” in French).

I feel the movie adaption could have better chosen the plot elements it included (there is a LOT going on), and the editing could have been better (especially at the end, which was a bit long). My biggest criticism, though, was Adèle topless and having a bath. As a straight man of consenting age I didn’t have a problem with the scene myself. However, the movie lends itself to giving young teenage women a strong female role model but most American parents would probably freak out because of the nudity. I’m not asking Mr. Besson to compromise his art, but the scene didn’t really add anything to the movie itself that couldn’t have been shot differently.

Still the movie was fun, entertaining and worth watching. We watched in the original French with English subtitles; someday we’ll watch the English dub, but I’m not a huge fan of dubbing except in animation. Two thumbs up!

2 Comments | Catergorized: manga  movies

2011.04.14

Comment on Old Pages, Not Old Posts?

Does any WordPress guru out there know how to close comments on old posts, but exclude old pages? I would like old post comments to be closed automatically but leave old page comments open. By default the current WordPress (3.1.1) seems to treat both types as “articles” in the Admin > Settings > Discussion section where you can set a date for comment expiration. I’ve done searches on this and have started in on finding a plugin but so far: nothing.

Any help?

Comments Off | Catergorized: site  technology

2011.04.13

Galleries Coming Back Online

Ever since I upgraded the theme for the site I’ve lost the various photo galleries that I had online. I’ve started putting them back and you can find pictures from our wedding in Spain in the “errata” menu above.

I’m thinking I will start with those and ignore all of the previous galleries I used to have. Unless there’s one that someone misses? Maybe I’ll do a “retrospective” of older pictures. That should be entertaining…

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