Ethanol and wet dreams?

Coal has been the world’s fastest growing energy resource in recent years, and demand is projected to climb more than 50 percent in the next two decades, according to the International Energy Agency.

Demand for natural gas is forecast to increase 89 percent, while oil use will grow 57 percent. High prices for natural gas and oil coupled with limited supplies, give coal leverage.

Herbicide-resistant weeds

Chris Preston, head of the research cooperative Australian Weed Management, was cited as saying that growing weed resistance would one day push up food prices for consumers.

Dr Preston said the first herbicide-resistant weed was documented in 1982 and the problem had been building over the past 24 years, stating, “Some farmers are down to their last one or two herbicides.

It’s not going to get any better – there aren’t many new herbicides coming along, and as farmers continue to use herbicide they will continue to get resistance. It’s a real problem for farmers and ultimately if nothing gets done, we’ll see a change in the price of food.”

The story says that new research had shown 33 different species of weeds had become resistant to standard herbicides.

About 18 of the 20 weeds that were the most serious problems for farmers had some herbicide resistance, Dr Preston said, with annual ryegrass, wild radish and wild oats the worst.

And resistance has been found for 10 of the 13 families of chemicals used to control weeds.

Farmers are stuck in a catch-22 in which many of the producers battling the increasingly tough weeds were making the problem worse. “The fact they are a problem means farmers target them with herbicide, which means they are more likely to get herbicide resistance – which makes them more of a problem,” he said.

“It’s almost a no-win, unless you can find other ways of managing these weeds.”

Anonymity is our norm

While obviously what we do — and who we are — on the Net keeps surprising us, we would be fools not to learn from our experience as selves in the real world. So, here’s something I think the real world teaches us.

The term “anonymity” has a bad connotation because it’s used primarily where there’s an expectation of identification. We don’t say that someone entered a movie theater anonymously unless we’re implying that the person had reason to hide her identity, even though, in truth, anyone who pays cash for a theater ticket is entering it anonymously.

So, because we use the term “anonymous” mainly where identification is expected, this may lead us to think that being identified is the usual state — the default state — in the real world. In fact, the rarity with which we use the term actually indicates that the opposite is the case: Anonymity is the norm in the real world.

Anonymity (including pseudonymity) does much good online.

Massive spending ahead

Raw sewage is being dumped out of broken pieces of almost 1 million miles of sewer pipes in this country, most installed 60 years ago in the great post-war building boom. We might expect more than 70,000 sewage spills per year.

It’s not just a burden on old cities. Los Angeles owns one of the leakiest systems in America, averaging “one spill a day”.

Many of the more popular beaches in Southern California are polluted with sewage as often as one out of every three days. Monitored with obsolete methods and outdated science, data shows 10% of our beachwater can make us sick. Beaches across the country were closed 20,000 times in 2005.

A recent UCLA and Stanford study says water polluted with sewage sickens 1.5 million people a year in Southern California alone.

America has bloated the national output of fast food and restaurant grease to three billion pounds a year causing ‘fat infarctions’ to plug pipes and divert sewage.

There is a looming $300 billion to $500 billion cost to fix our bursting sewer pipes. Some say, this will require more than a 10% rate increase to cover $10,000 to $25,000 costs per household. Local governments are already raising taxes.

But wait. The country’s water system — much of it installed during the early 1900s — is crumbling, too. Another $250 billion.

The Clean Water Act was signed into law in 1965 to restore and maintain the integrity of America’s water infrastructure, but money seems to have been somewhat diverted. The Bush Administration proposes dramatic cuts to clean water funding. The yet to be confirmed Clean Water Trust Act, a deficit funded drop in the bucket, might provide $7.5 billion annually over two decades to repair or replace leaky, outmoded systems around the country.

With a Sausalito, California partner, for over 10 years we’ve been promoting a method of drying sewage sludge that would then be used as a fuel to convert sewage plants into power plants!! Yes, dried sludge burns.

The cost savings and revenue could truly help local governments and community waste systems. Removing sludge from downstream management saves plenty of money as well.

Managers of the development company seem to have squandered their opportunity, but we’re hoping a new team will bring it back.

Vonnegut, H-bombs, the Jerry Springer Show

“Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”

A lot of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, five hundred years before there was that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.

When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn’t you like to say. “As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

And so on.

Lazy programming

Newshutch blog says it like I’ve wanted.

“No user interface design mistake bothers me more than when too much information is forced into a tiny non-resizable area. As usual, Microsoft is the worst offender.

If you want to see some real doozies, check out the Interface hall of shame.”

Too often in the software marketplace what makes an expert is someone able to sell lousy programming

Chuck Woodford who helped develop the parallel port coding for an early Phoenix BIOS said to me, “Brian, I’m not talented. I’m just more willing to be bored when I stay up night after night to trace circuit after circuit.”

I’ve tutored users since the 1980s. I’ve heard myself encourage brilliant people not to give up because they couldn’t make their fingers execute what their brain saw as stupid.

I’ve watched lame and lazy opportunists become wealthy entrepreneurs because they were willing to promote stumbling ugly interface to bewildered but eager customers.

When my fingers navigate unnecessary nests, tiny buttons, and menu options that escape to nul, I want to sail my boat into Seattle with a song and an anthem that spangles not only stars but stock markets.

Well done television is rare

“Television is a medium because anything well done is rare.”

Quoting CopyBlogger,

I’ve always liked that clever little quote from comedian Fred Allen.

As a radio star of the 1930s and 40s, Allen may have been a bit biased, but here we are over half a century later, and many of us wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments about the overall quality of television.

stake a steak?

Electric vehicle equivalents

Slacy’s Blog says, “I think that Tesla Motors and even Toyota, should begin to educate the public around the stats that are interesting for Electric Vehicles.”

Here are some things to think about:

Displacement ~= Voltage (say, 144V)
Max Torque ~= Maximum Amperage (say, 1000A, depending on motor)
Fuel Economy = Watt Hours / mile (Wh/m) for city & highway driving
Gas Tank Size ~= Total battery pack size in Watt Hours (say, 15kWh for a small car)

The other crazy thing is that the methods of measurement of Horsepower and Torque for ICE engines vs. Electric motors is vastly different. You can’t just say that a 100hp gas motor is the same power as a 100hp electric motor. Its generally accepted that the electric motor is rated at about half of the equivalent number that a gas motor would have. So, that means thta a 100hp electric motor is as “fast” as a 200hp gas motor.

So, some day, your friend will get a new EV, and you’ll say “What kind of motor does it have?” and he’ll say “Its got a 288V system that can draw 2000A” and you’ll know that he’ll be smoking tires up to 40 mph.

Try this infinite moment

Sometimes I think we’re alone.
Sometimes I think we’re not.
In either case, the thought is staggering.

R. Buckminster Fuller via A Mindful Life


I wrote a book, a photo essay, with the title “The Moment is Infinity” in an attempt to explain that our experience of what we call infinite is always just that, an experience available only in an instant.

Did you feel it when Fuller dropped a longggg moment on you?

Canning justice

An 80 year old woman was arrested for shop lifting.

When she went before the judge in Cincinnati he asked her,

“What did you steal?” She replied, “A can of peaches.”

The judge then asked her why she had stolen the can of peaches and she replied that she was hungry. The judge then asked her how many peaches were in the can. She replied 6.

The judge then said, “I will then give you 6 days in jail.”

Before the judge could actually pronounce the punishment, the woman’s husband spoke up and asked the judge if he could say something. The judge said, “What is it?”

The husband said, “She also stole a can of peas.”

via Grass Shack

Underwater turbine power plants

The National Hydropower Association points to a new “land grab,” and likens it to the early days of Internet URLs.

There are dozens of applications at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to study the potential for tidal energy extraction in Washington, Alaska, California, Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire. There is almost a first-come, first-serve process occurring as utilities, governments and entrepreneurs race for permits to install underwater turbine power plants.

Feeling left out of a potential windfall revenue stream, Port Townsend on the Olympic Penninsula west of Seattle was surprised when they learned that the local utility was looking into tying up the rights to install over 400 underwater turbines on the tidal seabeds of Puget Sound.

I worked to promote submerged tidal and ocean current propeller power plants in the 1980s. Although I had the support of major engineering and heavy construction firms, I could not find a customer!

After a dozen costly penetrations into various sectors, I had to drop my efforts. Folks truly thought this proposal was pie in the sky, but more than that, it seemed to me that executives truly believed that the responsibilty should fall on someone else!!

The most common activity of almost every executive or manager I’ve met is to defer.

Water market spilling upward

Last year, the global water industry chalked up sales of $400 billion and is growing annually at a healthy 7% clip. But the industry’s technology segment is growing at double that pace and already accounts for a quarter of all revenues. [more]

Is America a Christian Nation?

Freedom From Religion Foundation
The U.S. Constitution is a secular document.
It begins, “We the people,” and contains no mention of “God” or “Christianity.”
Its only references to religion are exclusionary, such as, “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust” (Art. VI), and “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (First Amendment).

The presidential oath of office, the only oath detailed in the Constitution, does not contain the phrase “so help me God” or any requirement to swear on a bible (Art. II, Sec. 1, Clause 8).

If we are a Christian nation, why doesn’t our Constitution say so?

In 1797 America made a treaty with Tripoli, declaring that “the government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” This reassurance to Islam was written under Washington’s presidency, and approved by the Senate under John Adams.

Be aware of rodent risks

It’s been hot here in California … and … oh,
after the wildfires and the flash floods
and the never-ending heat storms
that have hit my part of the country,
I wonder what will be the next plague to hit California?
Oh, wait …

The next plague to hit California will be … the BUBONIC PLAGUE!
Spread by SQUIRRELS! THE BUBONIC PLAGUE!! I kid you not.
via Tourbus

[42 treatable cases in rural counties so far in 2006]

Hot urban, valley & desert areas are low risk.
Cover up in the woods and coast.

Use Deet.
Don’t touch.

A question males ask

Why don’t I have a girlfriend?

Tristan Miller of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence refuses to spend his life brooding over a lack of luck with women.

This is a question that practically every male has asked himself at one point or another in his life. Unfortunately, there is rarely a hard and fast answer to the query.

Many men try to reason their way through the dilemma nonetheless, often reaching a series of ridiculous explanations, each more self-deprecating than the last:

Is it because I’m too shy, and not aggressive enough?

Is it my opening lines?

Am I a boring person?

Am I too fat or too thin?

Or am I simply ugly and completely unattractive to women?

When all other plausible explanations have been discounted, most fall back on the time-honoured conclusion that “there must be Something Wrong™ with me” before resigning themselves to lives of perpetual chastity.

Tristan says, “I refuse to admit that it has anything to do with some inherent problem with me. Instead, I am convinced that the situation can be readily explained in purely scientific terms, using nothing more than demographics and some elementary statistical calculus.”

Check it out. It’s fun.

Hydrogen is a big distraction

Talking to Peter Lehman can be a real turn-off.

If authors like Jeremy Rifkin, who wrote The Hydrogen Economy, have convinced you that hydrogen will one day rocket the planet to a new era of abundant, clean energy, Lehman will point out that hydrogen is a very expensive way to store energy, not an energy source at all.

If you think fuel cell vehicles running on hydrogen will ease up the accelerator pedal on global warming, Lehman will tell you that after 10 years of research and development, Honda, General Motors and other car makers have managed to produce only prototypes with short life expectancies and million-dollar price tags.

He might add that most hydrogen is made by refining natural gas, a process that emits carbon dioxide, the culprit of global warming.

Such opinions may seem odd coming from Lehman, who sits on the board of the National Hydrogen Association, and who directs the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University which produced both the first street-legal hydrogen fuel cell vehicle and the first solar-powered hydrogen energy system in the United States.

As Lehman sees it, however, the myths about hydrogen energy are big distractions from the real energy challenges facing the planet, America in particular.

“The biggest misconception people have is that hydrogen energy technology is a silver bullet technology that will save our butts and enable us to have business as usual and not have to deal with dwindling energy supplies and global climate change.”, Lehman said recently.

Us are solitary

We Contain Multitudes

How was it, Sen asks about that murderous year, that “the broad human beings of January were suddenly transformed into the ruthless …of July”?

“For a bewildered child,” Sen remembers, “the violence of identity was extraordinarily hard to grasp.”

[Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen] takes aim at what he calls the ” ‘solitarist’ approach to human identity, which sees human beings as members of exactly one group.”

This view, he argues, is not just morally undesirable, but descriptively wrong.

While “a Hutu laborer from Kigali may be pressured to see himself only as a Hutu and incited to kill Tutsis . . . he is not only a Hutu, but also a Kigalian, a Rwandan, an African, a laborer and a human being.”

Because all of us contain multitudes, we can choose among our identities, emphasizing those we share with others rather than those we do not.

Whale thanks rescuers

If you read the front page story of the SF Chronicle December 2005, you would have read about a female humpback whale had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines.

She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, and a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gate) and radioed an environmental group for help.

Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her, a very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer.

They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her.

When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed gently around-she thanked them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives.

The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you.