27 April 2007

Happy Birthday Sheena!

Happy birthday to my girl, Sheena Easton who turns 48 today!

"Giving Up, Giving In"

"Love Is In Control (at G.A.Y.)"

25 April 2007


She adores sunglasses...

How cute is she?

Some things never change...

“Of all races in an advanced stage of civilization, the American is the least accessible to long views… Always and everywhere in a hurry to get rich, he does not give a thought to remote consequences; he sees only present advantages… He does not remember, he does not feel, he lives in a materialist dream.”
—Moiseide Ostrogorski (1902, 302-303)

24 April 2007

What's going on

As some of you know, I was asked by managers at my company last week to take down/alter a blog entry I had posted concerning the state of strike negotiations with one of the unions. I had included some commentary on how the head office workers were interpreting things. I think there was too much truth for some people thus the request to erase history.

At any rate, at the end of the week I had been told by another department that it had been wrong for the company to ask me to remove personal comments on a personal blog.

However, early this week I found out from another source that there were still people monitoring my 'site of interest', thus the decision to pack up, move and remove all traces of the company's name from all posts dating back to the beginning of this blog. I've had some wise advice and had some nightmares come back to haunt me again through all of this ordeal. Like, I realize this is public domain, but it's also personal commentary so if you don't like it, fuck off. I didn't cross over any business ethics lines in what I had posted. And now, if I still hear any crap from anyone at work with the blog at its current location, I'll know they are intentionally trying to get something on me which is a more serious problem.

This all might be quite a symbolic move as I'd like nothing better right now than to put this ordeal and the entire company where is stems from behind me.

Green Earth = Brown Hand

Sheryl Crow takes a swipe at toilet paper use
CBC | April 23, 2007 | 4:26 PM ET | CBC news staff

Last Updated: Monday, April 23, 2007 | 4:26 PM ET CBC News

In an effort to help save the environment, U.S. singer Sheryl Crow is calling on everyone to limit the amount of toilet paper used "in any one sitting" to one square.

Crow made the suggestion in her blog chronicling her recent tour of the United States on a biodiesel-powered bus to raise awareness about climate change.

She and environmental activist Laurie David toured 11 university campuses to persuade students to act to help safeguard the world's environment.

"I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming. Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating," she writes.

"One of my favorites is in the area of conserving trees, which we heavily rely on for oxygen.

"I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.… We can make it work with only one square per restroom visit."

Crow acknowledges there could be occasions when the one-square limit might not suffice, such as "on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required."

She writes that when she presented the idea to her younger brother, he went a step further, suggesting that people could "just wash the one square out."

Crow's other green ideas include a clothing line she has designed with a detachable "dining sleeve" that can be used as a napkin, thereby saving on the use of paper napkins.

She also suggests a reality show in which participants compete to live the greenest life.

Is she nuts? Does she even eat? I don't think she realizes how much normal people crap. A single piece of paper would not do me any good. Wouldn't even make a dent. She should probably start by asking people to eat less so that they poop less, but I already know how successful that one would be.

State of the Drought

Drought Uncovers Drowned Town In Australia Alps

Shards of pottery, rusted batteries, bottles and other remnants of everyday life in the old town of Adaminaby dry in the sun, with the foundations of old houses covered by a thick layer of silt from what used to be the bed of the lake.

by Neil Sands
Adaminaby, Australia (AFP) April 18, 2007

Australia's worst drought in a century has uncovered a town deliberately flooded 50 years ago as part of a massive hydro-electricity scheme, stirring painful memories for former residents.

Adaminaby, a small farming town nestled in the Snowy Mountains on the border between New South Wales and Victoria states, was submerged under 30 metres (98.5 feet) of water in 1957 when the local valley was dammed to form the man-made Lake Eucumbene.

The settlement was never expected to be seen again but the severity of the drought has evaporated most of the lake, bringing it back to the surface.

"We couldn't believe it when the old streets started to reappear," said Leigh Stewart, a local history buff who grew up in the old town and once ran a shop there.

"It brought back a lot of memories, I can still see in my mind's eye how the town was," he adds, gesturing around the muddy wreckage of what was once his family home.

Stewart said the town's re-emergence was a striking demonstration of the severity of the drought.

"It shows how bad the situation is around here," he said.

"The dam's at about 20 percent capacity now and it's getting worse. We're all hoping it turns around soon and we get some consistent rains that will fill the lake again."

The hills around the lake are topped with green vegetation that stops abruptly at a line mid-way down the valley, replaced with brown mud that marks the old shoreline, some 30 metres above the current water level.

The sloping main street of the old town, its bitumen eroded from decades underwater, is now being used by locals as a boat ramp to access the depleted Lake Eucumbene.

Shards of pottery, rusted batteries, bottles and other remnants of everyday life in the old town dry in the sun, with the foundations of old houses covered by a thick layer of silt from what used to be the bed of the lake.

The blackened skeletons of trees drowned half a century ago poke out from the water about 50 metres (165 foot) from the current shoreline in a straight row, still marking the route of a road they once lined in the old town.

A flight of concrete steps leads up to the remains of the St Mary's Catholic Church, now reduced to a few tilting brick columns and rotten wooden floorboards.

It was at the top of these stairs that Greg and Mary Russell were sprinkled with confetti when they were married 60 years ago.

Greg, now 82, said he had mixed feelings wandering the streets in the old town where he played as a child.

"It's sad and it makes me a bit nostalgic," he told AFP. "We had some good times there and it's strange to see it this way now."

"They said it was for the good of the nation"

The creation of Lake Eucumbene was one of the largest projects in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme, a huge post-war engineering project designed to harness the power of the Snowy River.

The scheme involved building seven power stations and 16 dams, linked by 145 kilometres (90 miles) of tunnels through the mountains and 80 kilometres (50 miles) of viaducts.

More than 100,000 workers were involved in its construction, many of them refugees from war-ravaged European communities whose arrival permanently altered Australia's demographics, diluting the predominance of those from British roots.

Tiny Adaminaby, a hamlet of about 700 people, stood in the way of the ambitious nation-building project and policy-makers in Canberra decided it must be sacrificed in the name of progress.

"We were told we had to move," said Anne Kennedy, who was still a child when her home was flooded.

"A lot of us never wanted to go, my father tried to chase them down the street with a gun, but they said it was for the good of the nation and we had no choice in the matter."

A contemporary photograph taken at the ceremony to mark commencement of the dam's construction shows the townsfolk dressed in their Sunday best, their sombre, worried expressions contrasting with the official bunting and celebratory placards.

More than 50 buildings from the old town were moved nine kilometres away over a hill to the town that now bears the name Adaminaby.

Some timber houses were simply lifted onto the back of trucks and driven to the new settlement, others such as St John's Church of England were dismantled stone-by-stone and rebuilt.

Kennedy said only about 250 of Adaminaby's residents resettled in the new town, the rest took compensation packages they regarded as woefully inadequate and moved elsewhere.

She said the town, which had once been a thriving local hub, struggled as its regional rivals prospered with the development of ski-fields and other tourism attractions in the area.

Many locals developed a deep mistrust of outsiders because they felt they had been betrayed when their community was relocated, she said.

"We had an influx of new people a few years ago who bought retirement homes here," she said. "People weren't very welcoming because they didn't trust outsiders after what happened with the relocation. Adaminaby was starting to get a reputation as an unfriendly place."

Kennedy's solution was to begin work on a huge quilt showing the town's history that involved all members of the community working together in the local town hall for two years.

She said the plan successfully brought the community together and the re-emergence of the old town now also gave displaced townsfolk a chance to come to terms with the past.

"It lets people say goodbye to the old town because they never really had a chance to do that originally," she said.

She was also hopeful the ruins of the old town could become a tourist attraction to bring visitors to modern Adaminaby.

"Who knows?" she said. "At least it would mean something good came from all of this."

Source: Agence France-Presse

How scary is that? This is almost too hard to believe. I'd be getting pretty nervous if the 4/5ths of Glenmore Reservoir dried up too. Poor Australians. They're pretty screwed.

23 April 2007


My company's Intranet weekly poll this week:

What will you do on Earth Day this weekend?

1. Go for a nature walk
2. Plant a tree
3. Pledge to car pool or use transit
4. Watch An Inconvenient Truth
5. Participate in a local Earth Day event

My choice for option 6:
6. Rent an SUV with a big front grill and clunky roof rack and burn as much gas as possible, driving as quickly as possible, on low-pressure tires.

Paying the Piper

Save the planet - just not on my dime
Consumers are clamoring for everyone from governments to corporations to green up their act - everyone, that is, except themselves.
By Steve Hargreaves, CNNMoney.com staff writer
April 12 2007: 7:25 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Everyone wants to be green. But when it comes to ponying up the cash, parting with the green can be a bit more difficult.

A number of recent studies suggest consumers - ever pressuring corporations to clean up and recently kicking out a Republican-controlled Congress seen as less than enthusiastic on the environment - are not willing to pay extra for green products.

In a nationwide telephone poll, the consumer behavior research firm America's Research Group found that while 43 percent of shoppers say protecting the environment is important, only 18 percent said they were willing to pay extra for an environmentally sound product.

The same poll also said only a quarter of shoppers were willing to pay 5 cents extra per grocery bag to cover recycling costs.

Passing the buck on fuel economy
In England, a recent survey by MORI Research said only 10 percent of flyers were willing to tack on an extra $3 to an airline ticket to offset the carbon used during the trip, usually accomplished through a tree-planting program.

"You listen to people talk about concern for greenhouse gases and they say 'it's important, but I'll let someone else pay for it,'" said Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group.

Now two polls don't necessarily make a trend, and it's easy to point to a number of green products that have gained in popularity.

Take organic food. According to the Organic Trade Association, sales have gone from under $4 billion in 1997 to nearly $14 billion in 2005, despite the fact that organic food generally costs more.

And Japanese automakers are burying their Detroit counterparts when it comes to sales growth, partly because their cars are seen as more fuel efficient.

But both these products offer benefits that go beyond simply saving the environment - there's the health factor with eating organic and saving money at the pump with a car that gets better gas mileage.

This leads some to suggest that what's needed to benefit the planet isn't individual sacrifice per say, but rather macroeconomic incentives to encourage better products to begin with.

"There is only so much an individual can do," said Liz Hitchcock, a spokeswoman for U.S. Public Interest Research group. "The solutions are economy wide."

Tim Sanchez, spokesman for the Center for a New American Dream, said people may be willing to pay more for things if they simply knew more about what products were available.

"A lot of people don't want to take the time to figure out how to do this," said Sanchez, whose center happens to provide a Web site offering help with just this kind of thing. "Americans lead very busy lives, they just need the tools."

We've become so accustomed to having everything cheap and plentiful that we've been willing to sweep the costs of environmental damage and subsidized energy under the rug for decades. Now the time to pay up for these mismanagements is coming due and no one wants to fess up or pony up. Well, the big surprise here might be that there will be nothing we can do to mitigate this. We will either be forced to start paying a lot more for everything, or we'll just continue the delusion and ponzi scheme until there really is nothing left to buy.

22 April 2007

Bill Maher: The Birds, the Bees, and Earth Day

New Rule: From now on Earth Day really must be a year round thing. And in honor of this Earth Day, starting Monday supermarket clerks must stop putting the big bottle of detergent with a handle on it in a plastic bag. I don't mean to tell you how to do your job, but you see that handle you just lifted the detergent with?

I can use that same handle to carry the detergent to my car. And stop putting my liquor in a smaller paper sack before you put it in the big paper sack with my other stuff. What, are you afraid my groceries will think less of me if they see I've been drinking? Trust me, the broccoli doesn't care, and the condoms already know.

Here's a quote from Albert Einstein: "if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man." Well, guess what? The bees are disappearing. In massive numbers. All around the world. And if you think I'm being alarmist and that, "Oh, they'll figure out some way to pollinate the plants..." No, they've tried. For a lot of what we eat, only bees work. And they're not working. They're gone. It's called Colony Collapse Disorder, when the hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, and all that's left are a few queens and some immature workers -- like when a party winds down at Elton John's house. Also, if your stinger stays up more than 48 hours, call your doctor.

But I think we're the ones suffering from Colony Collapse Disorder. Because although nobody really knows for sure what's killing the bees, it's not al-Qaeda, and it's not God doing some of his Old Testament shtick, and it's not Winnie the Pooh. It's us. It could be from pesticides, or genetically modified food, or global warming, or the high-fructose corn syrup we started to feed them. Recently it was discovered that bees won't fly near cell phones -- the electromagnetic signals they emit might screw up the bees navigation system, knocking them out of the sky. So thanks guy in line at Starbucks, you just killed us. It's nature's way of saying, "Can you hear me now?"

Last week I asked: If it solved global warming, would you give up the TV remote and go back to carting your fat ass over to the television set every time you wanted to change the channel. If that was the case in America, I think Americans would watch one channel forever. If it comes down to the cell phone vs. the bee, will we choose to literally blather ourselves to death? Will we continue to tell ourselves that we don't have to solve environmental problems -- we can just adapt: build sea walls instead of stopping the ice caps from melting. Don't save the creatures of the earth and oceans, just learn to eat the slime and jellyfish that nothing can kill, like Chinese restaurants are already doing.

Maybe you don't need to talk on your cell phone all the time. Maybe you don't' need a bag when you buy a keychain. Americans throw out 100 billion plastic bags a year, and they all take a thousand years to decompose. Your children's children's children's children will never know you but they'll know you once bought batteries at the 99 cent store because the bag will still be caught in the tree. Except there won't be trees. Sunday is Earth Day. Please educate someone about the birds and the bees, because without bees, humans become the canary in the coal mine, and we make bad canaries because we're already such sheep.

21 April 2007

The Flying Scotsman

MGM's official trailer...

20 April 2007

Ming tonight, Red Deer tomorrow

Have a good weekend, bitches! I'll be out of town this weekend. Pics of the visit with the fambly to follow!

More perspective

I'm loaded.
It's official.
I'm the 55,827,298 richest person on earth!

How rich are you? >>

Considering Plan B

One of the main tenets in my life I try to subscribe to at all times is to always maintain a Plan B for the situation I am currently in or planning to get into. Sometimes theory is easier than reality, but most of the time it works out pretty well to maintain that Plan B. I'm putting together the most ambitious Plan B ever in my life right now. It is my intention in partnership with my brother to purchase the home family section of land in Manitoba. For so many years, I had no interest to have anything to do with this land. Stupid remote rural Manitoba! Why the hell would I ever want to live there again? If my brother felt the need to buy it (it is a good area to raise a family after all, I believe), that was of his own volition. However, I'm older and wiser now. I'm a lot more interested in open space and clean environment and sustainable, humble living. As I've come to see how we're fucking up so many places and things and as I learn about all the potential clusterfucks that are looming over us at a societal level, from global warming to peak oil, mutating superviruses and immunity system weaknesses, pollution and environmental degradation, food distribution problems, overpopulation, resource depletion...I've been trying to figure out the best ways to implement a Plan B that would allow me and the people I care about to weather as many storms as possible that might come our way.

People ask me why I want to learn so much about all this 'doom and gloom' stuff -- it's not like the more I learn the better I feel about things in general nor do I have any control to effect the direction of how these things will play out, but I respond by saying that by understanding how all these things work and interact with all the other systems, it is a lot easier to be able to see the warning signs of something imminent happening, and hopefully by being aware of it, I'd be able to react much sooner than someone who has no idea what is going on. That's my expectation, anyways.

One of the fascinating (and regrettable) weaknesses of our society is to completely put our faith in the continuation of our Plan A...that it is and always will be there for us. Who needs a Plan B when your Plan A works so well? Even if logic and reason screams at us that what we're doing is unsustainable we continue on as if everything's okay. The energy basis of our entire society is a finite resource with lots and lots of byproducts. We've known this for almost 100 years, yet we continue to expand our dependency on it? How messed up is that?

First of all, I honestly believe that there aren't many places in the world that will be optimal to shelter the storms if/when shit hits the fan, but Western Canada in my opinion could be one of the best. In particular, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- relatively remote, sparsely populated and undeveloped, climates that could only improve from an increase in temperature (maybe? -- one certain unknown to be sure), very few possibilities of natural disasters (right now), lots of arable land, plentiful freshwater sources, dependable long term energy and building sources (hydro, uranium, minerals, forests, etc.) -- might be good places to hide out as the rest of the world deals with overpopulation, resource depletion, desertification, lack of dependable water sources. Of course these areas have also been damaged from intense industrial farming and resource extraction, but topsoil and natural resource loss has been comparably low to the rest of the North American breadbasket and might be the best at bouncing back if things change for the worse in quick order.

Weird how your priorities and worldview can change in light of new information, eh? Now, that rich farmland of my family's legacy (it's been in my family for over 100 years) shows more promise and potential to me than it even did a few short years ago. My priority, even more than buying a house here in Calgary, is to ensure that that square mile of land in remote Manitoba stays within the control of my family, no matter what we decide to do with it in the short- and long-term future. The reason my brother and I need to buy it now rather than have it willed to us by my dad is to release some of the equity value in the land for my dad's retirement. He owns the land outright, therefore most of his value-generation over his working life has been tied up in the value of that land.

Right now, the decision to do this might look only moderately attractive -- general remote-area farmland value is stagnant and relatively low since farmland is not considered very high priority in North America at the current moment. It's much more valuable as a suburb or resort development, or if it has something considered valuable on it or under it.

Fortunately for me, even at a minimum, it's not a bad investment. It could be a fantastic investment. It could save my life someday. It's high-quality arable land, which I believe can only go up in value in the future. It has its own dependable water supply, is only a few miles north and south of some of the best natural wilderness areas in Manitoba and has temperate climate buffered by its location in the valley between the Duck and Riding Mountains, thus the weather is never as intense as you will find in more southern areas of Manitoba where most of the people live. In the future, demand for this type of 'pristine' location might become very desirable and I want to be the one in control of how this is managed, at least for the little bit of land that I will own. I see now how very fortunate I am to have this opportunity to do this, as not many people have the same offering of a big acreage of good land to call their own.

Of course, this future event timeline could change in the blink of an eye. Considering worst case scenarios, what if the government had to enforce martial law and expropriate all privately owned farmland for food production purposes? What if global warming runs away and all this land desertifies and becomes completely worthless? What if collapsing food distribution and energy systems, or rising sea levels and shifting climate patterns forces thousands of people to become refugees and relocate thus creating problems in this formerly remote part of the world? What if I die prematurely and none of this matters? Realistically, in a worst-case scenario, hiding out in a relatively safe place may be a pipe dream anyways.

Oh well, I have what I consider my main Plan B. It gives me a bit of comfort in a world that seems to be heading straight down the craphole (yes, cynicism abounds, but the alternative, hope, isn't any more productive now, is it?). It's not even that bad of a Plan A, or Plan C either if it ever came to that despite what might be happening elsewhere. I urge everyone to start thinking about Plan Bs if you haven't already.

I don't have the answers. Hell, I don't even know for sure if my concerns are defendable. Twenty years from now I might be able to reflect and laugh about the paranoid doomsayer thoughts I had in the naughts...

Yes, there are a lot of things to factor in and a lot of uncertainties and unknowns that you will never be able to predict about the future, but there are obvious, reasonable, affordable opportunities that everyone should seize on when they present themselves. I believe in technology and science and that our society has achieved many wonderful things. I believe that we have the intelligence and wherewithal to mitigate all the problems we are facing and might have to face in the future if we can get our collective shit together. Maybe it's all a matter of timing. All I know is that I can count my blessings that I at least have these choices. And I will have a good Plan B that works for me.

We paved paradise

So why can't we find any place to park? Because parking is one of the biggest boondoggles -- and environmental disasters -- in our country.

By Katharine Mieszkowski, Salon.com
Oct. 1, 2007 | In Tippecanoe County, Ind., there are 250,000 more parking spaces than registered cars and trucks. That means that if every driver left home at the same time and parked at the local mini-marts, grocery stores, churches and schools, there would still be a quarter of a million empty spaces. The county's parking lots take up more than 1,000 football fields, covering more than two square miles, and that's not counting the driveways of homes or parking spots on the street. In a community of 155,000, there are 11 parking spaces for every family.

Bryan Pijanowski, a professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue University, which is located in Tippecanoe, documented the parking bounty in a study released this September. When it made the news, Pijanowski got puzzled reactions from locals. In short, they said: "Are you crazy? I can never find parking where I'm going!"

That's the paradox of parking. No matter how much land we pave for our idle cars, it always seems as if there isn't enough. That's America. We're all about speed and convenience. We don't want to walk more than two blocks, if that. So we remain wedded to our cars, responsible for "high CO2 emissions, urban sprawl, increased congestion and gas usage, and even hypertension and obesity," says Amelie Davis, a Purdue graduate student who worked on the study.

Despite all the environmental evils blamed on the car and its enablers -- General Motors, the Department of Transportation, Porsche, Robert Moses, suburban developers -- parking has slipped under the radar. Yet much of America's urban sprawl, its geography of nowhere, stems from the need to provide places for our cars to chill. In the past few years, a host of forward-looking city planners have introduced plans to combat the parking scourge. This year, some are making real progress.

Our story begins in the 1920s with the birth of a piece of esoteric regulation, the "minimum parking requirement." Before parking meters and residential parking permits, cities feared that they were running out of street parking. So municipalities began ordering businesses to provide parking and wrote zoning restrictions to ensure it. Columbus, Ohio, was first, requiring apartment buildings in 1923 to provide parking. In 1939, Fresno, Calif., decreed that hospitals and hotels must do the same. By the '50s, the parking trend exploded. In 1946, only 17 percent of cities had parking requirements. Five years later, 71 percent did.

Today, those regulations could fill a book, and do. The American Planning Association's compendium of regulations, "Parking Standards," numbers 181 pages. It lists the minimum parking requirements for everything from abattoirs to zoos. It is a city planner's bible.

To Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA, parking requirements are a bane of the country. "Parking requirements create great harm: they subsidize cars, distort transportation choices, warp urban form, increase housing costs, burden low income households, debase urban design, damage the economy, and degrade the environment," he writes in his book, "The High Cost of Free Parking."

Americans don't object, because they aren't aware of the myriad costs of parking, which remain hidden. In large part, it's business owners, including commercial and residential landlords, who pay to provide parking places. They then pass on those costs to us in slightly higher prices for rent and every hamburger sold.

"Parking appears free because its cost is widely dispersed in slightly higher prices for everything else," explains Shoup. "Because we buy and use cars without thinking about the cost of parking, we congest traffic, waste fuel, and pollute the air more than we would if we each paid for our own parking. Everyone parks free at everyone else's expense, and we all enjoy our free parking, but our cars are choking our cities."

It's a self-perpetuating cycle. As parking lots proliferate, they decrease density and increase sprawl. In 1961, when the city of Oakland, Calif., started requiring apartments to have one parking space per apartment, housing costs per apartment increased by 18 percent, and urban density declined by 30 percent. It's a pattern that's spread across the country.

In cities, the parking lots themselves are black holes in the urban fabric, making city streets less walkable. One landscape architect compares them to "cavities" in the cityscape. Downtown Albuquerque, N.M., now devotes more land to parking than all other land uses combined. Half of downtown Buffalo, N.Y., is devoted to parking. And one study of Olympia, Wash., found that parking and driveways occupied twice as much land as the buildings that they served.

Patrick Siegman, a transportation planner, who is a principal with Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates in San Francisco, says Americans are gradually waking up to the downside of parking requirements -- at least in one way. "Americans love traditional American small towns, main streets and historic districts," he says. "But largely because of minimum parking requirements, it's completely illegal to build anything like that again in most American cities. It's really hard to build anything where anyone would want to walk from one building to the next."

Parking regulations vary locally, but a typical one in suburban communities requires four parking spaces for every 1,000 square feet of office space. Yet, typically, just over two spaces per 1,000 square feet are used. A classic restaurant parking regulation might require 20 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of restaurant, which can mean more than five times the space for cars than for diners and chefs.

Wonder why the mall parking lot is half empty most of the time? Developers build parking lots to accommodate shoppers on the busiest shopping day of the year -- the day after Thanksgiving -- so that shoppers need never, ever park on the street. Similarly, the church parking lot is designed to accommodate Christmas and Easter services. So a whole lot of land gets paved over that doesn't have to be, transportation planners argue.

The environmental impacts of all this parking go way beyond paving paradise. The impervious surfaces of parking lots accumulate pollutants, according to Bernie Engel, a professor of agricultural engineering at Purdue. Along with dust and dirt, heavy metals in the air like mercury, copper and lead settle onto the lots' surfaces in a process called dry deposition. These particles come from all kinds of diffuse sources, such as industry smokestacks, automobiles and even home gas water heaters.

"If they were naturally settling on a tree or grass, they would wash off those and into the soil, and the soil would hold them in place, so they wouldn't get into the local stream, lake or river," Engel says.

But when the same substances settle on parking lots, rain washes them into streams, lakes and rivers. Engel calculates that the Tippecanoe land used for parking creates 1,000 times the heavy-metal runoff that it would if used for agriculture. Because the surface of the lots doesn't absorb water, it also creates 25 times the water runoff that agricultural land would, which can increase erosion in local waterways.

Parking lots also contribute to the "urban heat island effect." The steel, concrete and blacktops of buildings, roads and parking lots absorb solar heat during the day, making urban areas typically 2 to 5 degrees hotter than the surrounding countryside. "This is most apparent at nighttime, when the surrounding area is cooler, and the urban area starts radiating all this heat from the urban structures," explains Dev Niyogi, an assistant professor at Purdue, who is the Indiana state climatologist.

The urban heat island effect can be so dramatic that it changes the weather. One Indianapolis study found that thunderstorms that reach the city often split in two, going around it, and merging again into one storm after the urban area. "The urban heat island is not simply a temperature issue. It could affect our water availability," says Niyogi.

In Tippecanoe, Pijanowski thinks the county could take steps to keep parking from eating up more land. With changes to zoning laws, a church and a school could share a parking lot, with the worshippers using it on the weekend, and the school kids and teachers parking in it during the week. "These new parking lots that are being built on the urban fringe are huge," says Pijanowski. "They're mega-lots that are servicing mega-buildings for big-box retailers and mega churches. Even our new schools in rural communities have huge parking lots. Having a parking space seems to be one of those amenities that you think is a good thing, but it probably isn't."

Still, there are few frustrations like driving around looking for a parking space, which has its own environmental impacts. Shoup studied a 15-block district in Los Angeles and found that drivers spent an average of 3.3 minutes looking for parking, driving about half a mile each. Over the course of a year, Shoup calculated the cruising in that small area would amount to 950,000 excess miles traveled, equal to 38 trips around the earth, wasting about 47,000 gallons of gas, and producing 730 tons of carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming.

But if simply requiring businesses to build more parking isn't the answer, what is? Today there's a burgeoning movement among urban planners, transportation advocates and city officials to manage parking without blindly building more of it.

Some cities, like Seattle and Petaluma, Calif., are loosening or chucking their minimum parking requirements. Great Britain found that minimum parking requirements bred such bad land-use policies that the nation recently outlawed them entirely. It's a policy that has appeal for both sides of the aisle. "Liberals can love it because it does a huge amount on the affordability of housing, reducing traffic, improving the environment. And conservatives can love it because it's deregulation," says Siegman.

For his part, Shoup wants street parking to be priced at a market rate, so it can compete with lots and garages. Raising rates in the most congested areas will free up space curbside by inspiring thrifty drivers to park farther from their destinations, or -- heaven forefend! -- take the bus or train. To be politically feasible, he wants to see cities use the money raised by those increased fees to improve the city streets where they're collected, cleaning up graffiti or street cleaning, so shoppers and businesses can see the benefits of where that money is going.

Some cities are putting his theories to the test. In Redwood City, Calif., which boomed during the Gold rush by processing and shipping lumber to San Francisco, city planners are trying to revitalize the historic downtown by luring businesses and shoppers back from the far-flung malls and big-box stores. Yet adding parking spaces would mean adding parking garages, where capital costs can run $20,000 to $30,000 per parking space.

Recently, the city managed to subvert the parking code bible and add a 20-screen movie theater with 4,200 seats without adding more than a thousand parking spaces. Even before the cinema opened, on Friday and Saturday nights, drivers trying to go to restaurants and clubs circled the block searching for the elusive free street spaces, creating gridlock. Meanwhile, parking lots a few blocks away stood half empty. "We had plenty of parking," explains Dan Zack, downtown development coordinator for Redwood City. "What we had was a management problem, not a supply problem."

Transportation planners contend this is true in many urban areas, where street parking is free, and everyone is trying to grab a coveted space right in front of their destination. "You could add another 10,000 parking spaces to a place like downtown Redwood City, and it still wouldn't help you empty out the overfill on street spaces," says Siegman.

To prevent drivers from circling, Redwood City raised the prices of parking on the street from zero in the evening to 75 cents an hour on the main drag, and 50 cents and 25 cents in the surrounding streets until 8 p.m. Even farther from the center of the action, parking is still free on the street. Drivers searching for a good deal quickly caught on and went to the surrounding streets, cheaper parking lots and garages, which can be free with validation. Other cities, such as Ventura and Glendale, both in Southern California, are adopting similar schemes.

In Brooklyn, N.Y., transportation advocates are pushing for the city to consider doing the same. A survey by Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for bicyclists, walkers and public-transit users in New York City, found that 45 percent of drivers surveyed in Park Slope were just cruising looking for parking. And street parking was so overcrowded that one in six cars on the main drag, Seventh Avenue, was parked illegally. Only increases in the price of street parking can fix the problem, they contend.

"For the past 100 years, traffic engineers looked at problems like this, and said, 'Oh, the problem is that we don't have enough parking.' That's what got us into the nightmare that we have today," says Wiley Norvell, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives. "What we have to start doing is managing the demand for parking, and the way you manage demand is through pricing. The logic with parking for as long as anyone can remember has been supply-oriented. What that does is induce demand: The more roads you have, the more parking you have, the more cars you have." The hope is, of course, to create more incentive to bike, walk or take the bus, instead of driving.

But it's tough to convince drivers to accept that they might have to pay for something that they're used to thinking that they get for nothing, even if they're really paying for it in all kinds of invisible ways. Ever since their first game of Monopoly, Americans have been conditioned to think that parking is free. "I think that we've done things wrong for so long that it takes a while to break all our bad habits of wanting to be freeloaders," says Shoup. "We know that land is fabulously valuable and housing is expensive, but somehow we think we can park for free. We can't."

Grrr...conservative economists

Critics assail Ottawa's dire Kyoto predictions

Opposition parties and environmentalists yesterday accused the Conservative government of willfully overlooking the economic benefits of green technology to inflate the costs of reducing greenhouse gases. The critics also heaped scorn on the sinister predictions of Environment Minister John Baird, that Canada will have a severe recession if it fulfills its obligations to cut carbon emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. “Every time that a new measure to protect the environment has been presented, there have been resisters predicting doom and gloom,” Liberal environment critic David McGuinty said at a news conference. “The truth is that we can afford to deal with climate change.” He said the government “has an isolationist and defeatist strategy.” “This minister has put forward no analysis on the related positive economic benefits [of Kyoto],” McGuinty said. “In fact, he deliberately ignored those benefits that come from better energy efficiency, lower energy use and jobs related to the benefits of emissions reductions.” The issue also arose in Question Period in the Commons, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper reiterated his opposition to Kyoto targets, as all three opposition parties united to criticize the government on its handling of environmental issues. “This party has no intention of doing anything that will destroy Canadian jobs or damage the health of the economy,” Harper shot back.

A government-commissioned study released yesterday predicts 275,000 workers across the country would lose their jobs if Canada started attempting to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by one-third by 2012. Many plants would be forced to shut down, while energy bills and the price of gas would double, the study states. Those bleak predictions, endorsed by some of the country's leading economists, were aimed at discrediting a Liberal-sponsored bill that would force Ottawa to abide by its international obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. The report was also designed to prepare voters for the Tories' announcement of their own greenhouse-gas reduction initiatives next week. According to documents leaked to the news media, the Conservatives would bring the benchmark year for carbon cuts to 2006, instead of 1990, as prescribed by Kyoto. Under the Kyoto Protocol, Canada must reduce carbon emissions between 2008 and 2012 by 6% compared with 1990 levels, which amounts to a one-third reduction compared with current levels, the Tories say. “There would be just one way to make this happen: The government would need to manufacture a recession,” Baird told the Senate environment committee. But the report he presented also states that its calculations do not take into account the benefits of green technology infrastructure, or the jobs created by new investments in that technology. Neither does it consider the impact of monetary policies the government could implement to diminish losses. And, when pressed by senators, Baird was unable to present the figures the government used to forecast its bleak predictions. Critics also pointed out that the Kyoto Protocol provides for targets unmet to be transferred to post-2012 agreements.
(Globe and Mail 070420)

Why, oh why do we continue to take the words of economists to heart? They are as successful at predicting the future as anyone else. No, wait a minute, I take that back. In fact, they're worse than normal people because they always assume status quo when putting together 'effective' calculations and estimates. In the example above of the Conservative report that came out, there is absolutely no mention of the potential societal economic benefits, emerging technologies and positive sector spinoffs that would result from an attempt to reach Kyoto targets. The economists will say, "well, that's because we can't predict the future." Well, no shit Sherlock! Why should we believe the accuracy of your first report, then?

Economists are the ones that get us into these shitpiles all the time anyways. Like their models can effectively predict human behavior. Idiots.

What did I do?

As some of you know, earlier this week I had posted an entry on the state of negotiations between my company and field maintenance crews, which could be hitting the picket lines as soon as Monday. On Tuesday morning, I had been contacted by my manager's manager insisting that I take the post down. It essentially consisted of a publically-released news report on the state of the talks and then some personal comments on how this was going to affect me and my coworkers.

Here is the comments I put in after the news article:
I am not slated to be on the first-wave of relief workers, as I'm deemed essential personnel (plus Aly's on holidays until the beginning of May so I have no relief either). Darren is supposedly being relocated in Saskatchewan for a two-week shift starting next week, Rod is on two-week standby, and if this drags on into May, I might be going out for a tour of duty as well as I'm sure it will be deemed that one FTE is enough to carry on essential services in our department given the circumstances. I could be out on the chain gang in gobforsaken Northern Ontario or something before May's out, and all this on top of the outsourcing initiative which is supposed to be telling us whether we stay or go by mid-May (the work on this, of course, is not being compromised by the strike). Ducky. Just ducky.

I laugh at our Manager. It's 'business as usual', my ass. Everything is being screwed up by this perfect storm, and things are undoubtedly going to get more chaotic in the next few weeks. Because of the outsourcing, attrition rates are unexpectedly high and this is a great concern of the higher-ups. We don't even have enough people on staff right now to get everything covered, nevermind continued attrition and strike duty.

And here were some of the comments added to the post by myself and others:
Well....whats works for x can't be bad for y right? I swear RRers of all ranks manage the gov't like two kids nagging Mom - If you can go on strike and get a big raise and raise hell before being legislated back to work GIVE 'ER! Now management is just as delusional....problem - what problem? We can always head out in the field and play choo-choo for a while. Hell we might even cause a wreck or two while we're at it? If we are lucky though y won't make the 6:00 news because x does that almost daily already.

Seriously though, I've worked in the operations dept (as you know Reid) and the attitude is only surpassed by the civil service. Everyone who works for the RR loves to bash it. If there is any good news in this I remember there being a couple of hot conductors in the Field bunkhouse.....so Northern Ontario might not be so bad after all :-)

"We can always head out in the field and play choo-choo for a while."

Priceless, absolutely priceless.
I think this can only end in tears, or at least with the spending of a LOT of money until it is resolved.

What a bunch of crackerheads!

If the boys are cute in the bunkhouse -- all may not be too bad, eh?

It was all these above opinions that raised the ire of management here. I was told that I was infringing on business ethics agreements that were in place and that I had signed. I agreed that I hadn't used my normal discretion when putting this post together -- normally I do not mention the company I work for when posting thoughts on my work environment. It was only the inclusion of the news article that allowed them to Google my blog post, make the connections, and quickly demand that I take it down. Stupid me.

The events of last fall taught me never to divulge too much connection between me, the people I hang out with, where I live or where I work, however sometimes things slip through and I concede that. Nevertheless, my department manager even admitted to me that the people involved in the labour dispute were all very hypersensitive at this point in the game and it was just better to avoid controversy by taking the post down.

Interestingly, this morning one of my co-workers who spends most of his time working for the HR and Communications departments came and told me that the stance of these teams was that it was wrong for the 'company' to demand that I take a personal blog posting down as it is public domain and there was no sensitive or secret information divulged, and for that they apologized to me! I was quite surprised, but after discussing this for a bit realized that what I had posted (above) wasn't infringing on any delicate negotiations nor would it affect the opinions of others in any way. One statement I had made was inaccurate, but the rest of the post and comments were purely opinion and speculation. So much for free speech when there's money at stake, eh?

Anyways, that was a nice bit of news this morning. I'm really quite surprised how far this innocuous little post went. It seems that anyone 'in the know' in the company was apparently aware of this blog post. I may have not got my gold star at work on Tuesday, but who cares? Hey, I'm famous, dammit! LOL

19 April 2007

...and you thought the C-Train was bad

As Mumbai grows, commuter trains turn deadly

India's economic growth in the past several years has brought new wealth and a higher standard of living to many in Mumbai, a metropolis of 18 million. But it also has created suburban sprawl that is adding more people to a rail network that has seen few new trains or tracks added in the past 30 years. Indian officials have a new term to describe the 2.5 times capacity crowds that now ride at peak hours: Super-Dense Crush Load. That is, 550 people crammed into a car built for 200. The result is what may be the world's most dangerous commute. According to Mumbai police: 3,404 people, or about 13 each weekday, were killed in 2006 scrambling across the tracks, tumbling off packed trains, slipping off platforms, or sticking their heads out open doors and windows for air. The toll has been increasing as daily ridership has increased to more than six million people a day. Last year's tally was up 10% from the year before. Accidents are so common that stations stock sheets to cover corpses.

The commute in many Indian cities has been getting worse as throngs flock from the countryside to urban centers in search of work, and housing developments create a new suburbia. In Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, the railway system has long been a problem. But with ticket prices set artificially low by the federal government it is a money-losing business. The federal and state governments have squabbled in the past over who is responsible for improvements. Now, a US$2 billion upgrade is under way, partly financed by a loan from the World Bank. But that will take at least another five years to finish. Meanwhile, the network's tracks carry 20,000 passengers a day for each kilometer, or 0.62 mile, of rail, eclipsing even Tokyo -- famous for its gloved pushers who cram passengers into cars -- where the system carries 15,000 per kilometer. In New York, the Long Island Rail Road's comparable number is 420, according to the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corp. Even after the current expansion plans add 113 miles, or 22%, to the existing railways and 147, or 74%, more trains, Mumbai's commuter trains will still have to carry 1.5 times their capacity during peak hours.
(Wall Street Journal 070419)

Jebus. What a wreck. Now THAT puts things into perspective.

18 April 2007

Lego my religion, brickhead!

From Rey, awesome storytelling!

The Brick Testament

A timely boondoggle

Has daylight saving time fuelled gasoline consumption?

The US government's plan to save energy by advancing daylight saving time - and the copycat action by Canada - appears to have driven up gasoline consumption as motorists took advantage of the evening daylight to hit the road, a Calgary energy analyst says. Peter Tertzakian, chief economist at ARC Financial, said the daylight policy is a textbook case of politicians “exacerbating the problems they were originally trying to tackle.” He said US gasoline demand was growing at a rate of 1.9% prior to the early introduction of daylight saving time, then jumped to a rate of 2.9%, which represents an additional 266,000 barrels a day of crude oil imports. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the US Congress decreed that daylight saving time would begin this year in mid-March, rather than the first week of April, and would end a week later this fall. Sponsors of the bill claimed the extra daylight in the evening would save electricity because Americans would use fewer lights during the waking hours. With the exception of Saskatchewan, Canadian provinces fell in line with the US measure because they did not want to be out of sync with their major trading partner. But Tertzakian looked at data on both electricity and gasoline consumption for that three extra weeks of daylight savings time. He concluded that, while there was a negligible impact on power usage, demand for gasoline climbed significantly during the period. The economist said timely data is not available in Canada, but that he assumed the same pattern held as in the US. “I'm highly confident that there's been no impact on electricity demand as a consequence of this program,” he said in an interview. “The major assumption was that the hour [of daylight] that you take away in the morning, people were sleeping. But that's not necessarily true - they get up and have to turn the lights on to make breakfast; you haven't gained anything.”
(Globe and Mail 070418)

More evidence on just how stupid politicians really are.

Daylight savings time is a dumb idea for Canada. It's dark all winter anyways, so why not just keep our time on Daylight savings time all the time? It won't make a difference in the winter, but in the summer it will already be in place as soon as the days start getting longer. Factor in the societal costs of the changes twice a year - the well documented increase in car accidents the Monday after the spring time change, the loss of productivity from tired employees, and the time change looks even more stupid.

Good intentions, unintended consequences....

Funny that the assumption was that we would save a few thousand barrels of oil equivalent in electricity by changing the time sooner in the spring and later in the fall and not take into account the reality of people's lives. People might be putting their lights on in the morning earlier now, but more importantly -- they're out burning up more gasoline because it's still daylight out later in the evening. How ridiculous!

16 April 2007

Bees, please

Are mobile phones wiping out our bees?
Scientists claim radiation from handsets are to blame for mysterious 'colony collapse' of bees
By Geoffrey Lean and Harriet Shawcross
Published: 15 April 2007

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) occurs when a hive's inhabitants suddenly disappear, leaving only queens, eggs and a few immature workers, like so many apian Mary Celestes. The vanished bees are never found, but thought to die singly far from home. The parasites, wildlife and other bees that normally raid the honey and pollen left behind when a colony dies, refuse to go anywhere near the abandoned hives.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.

Other apiarists have recorded losses in Scotland, Wales and north-west England, but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs insisted: "There is absolutely no evidence of CCD in the UK."

The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".

No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks.

German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.

Dr George Carlo, who headed a massive study by the US government and mobile phone industry of hazards from mobiles in the Nineties, said: "I am convinced the possibility is real."

Oh. my. gob. What the hell is going on? Is it cellphone radiation? GM crops? A new pest? Chemicals/poisons in the ecosystem? Why now as opposed to decades ago? What is the link? This is very chilling. Just another in a very long list of things that are terminally wrong. Things that have been working fine for thousands of years and suddenly aren't working right anymore. Jeez.

Oh well, can't affect me, right? I mean, it only has repercussions on the food supply. I'm going to drive my Escalade down to the mall for some 'free-form' shopping. Helps me calm my nerves.

Further on in the report:

The case against handsets

Evidence of dangers to people from mobile phones is increasing. But proof is still lacking, largely because many of the biggest perils, such as cancer, take decades to show up.

Most research on cancer has so far proved inconclusive. But an official Finnish study found that people who used the phones for more than 10 years were 40 per cent more likely to get a brain tumour on the same side as they held the handset.

Equally alarming, blue-chip Swedish research revealed that radiation from mobile phones killed off brain cells, suggesting that today's teenagers could go senile in the prime of their lives.

Studies in India and the US have raised the possibility that men who use mobile phones heavily have reduced sperm counts. And, more prosaically, doctors have identified the condition of "text thumb", a form of RSI from constant texting.

Professor Sir William Stewart, who has headed two official inquiries, warned that children under eight should not use mobiles and made a series of safety recommendations, largely ignored by ministers.

Are we all freaking going nuts? We're all going to end up senile or riddled with cancer when we get older because we believed the scientists who developed all this technology for the corporations that sold it to us! I don't know who or what to believe anymore. I'm forced to have a cell phone on me for work, but I would feel a lot more comfortable if some definitive results came in on these theories. And my brain and testes would probably be thankful too.

15 April 2007


What a completely lazy weekend. I went out with the guys to the Priape Model Contest at Twisted on Friday night and things sort of escalated out of control, so I was nursing an extreme case of the tired, hungover, blahs yesterday. I skipped both running and the gym, so my impetus is to make up for it today in order to relieve my guilt. Jeez - racing season is only a few weeks away! It's already 2pm and there is no indication that I'm going to make it out today either. So lazy...

I'm going to get ready to head out for a run right now. It's 11C out, good enough for shorts. Yay!

13 April 2007

Monstrosity Boom

With Calgary's boom and bust economic cycles, it is quite easy to figure out why it happens. When buildings are going up as fast as resources are available to build them with a guarantee that all available floorspace is to be filled, most developers go with the current design and building trends with nary a thought or a dollar put towards uniqueness or style. That's why Calgary's skyline is so periodic and functional, not known for its variety of styles from different architectural schools, gradual evolution and beauty.

I have often lamented on the lack of imagination put forth by the architects and engineers that think up all these humdinger of towers in Calgary, whether commercial or residential. Especially during the boom years, it seems like all the developers use a design factory that churns out one familiar, unimpressive design after another. Right now, with the building boom going on in Calgary most of what are new that are going up are glass and metal boxy monstrosities that have stupid sweeping metal flares (see Chocolate, Arriva, Vantage Pointe...and so on) on top, supposedly to distract people's gazes from the complete blandness and utilitarianism of the rest of the building. Ooh! Look! They used green glass on that one! How original!

And what's with those metal awnings they're putting on everything? They collect ice that comes crashing down to ped level in the spring. They have to cordon off areas in order that no one gets chunks of ice in the head, yet they keep adding more of them to the new designs! What the hell are they thinking?

What's with the new Calgary Courts Centre? The closer to completion they get, the uglier I think that building is. It is completely unimaginative, and it has so much glass on it, it almost seems that they can never get to a point where they have all the glass panels on without at least one being broken. How energy efficient is that complex going to be anyways? And the Sheldon Chumir Hospital they're building down the street from my house. When completed, to be named the ugliest building in Calgary. Nice glass box you got there...

And what's with all these condo tower developments with the teeny tiny balconies? Do they think no one that lives in the downtown likes to go outside? That's the main reason I won't buy a condo in Calgary, at least until they design something with decent balconies.Lausanne and Montreux. Great names, ugly, herpes-infected penises....

Here is a very thorough list of in progress, approved, and proposed developments going on. Notice the similarities of all the designs.

For all this legacy stuff they're supposed to be working towards, they're sure not putting a lot of thought, energy or money into nice-looking architecture.

Despite all the glass and metal overload, I do see the new Penny Lane development looking a little more non-standard. This will hopefully look as good in reality as in the renderings.

And then, of course is the proposed Bow Tower, Encana's new office building. It is supposed to be the tallest office tower in Canada second only to First Canadian Place in Toronto. It will definitely be an imposition on the Calgary skyline. Here's hoping they put a little effort into the design of this one, too. From the renderings, it looks like a glass and steel clone as well. But this one is round! Whoo!

12 April 2007


Scene: Jeff, Doug and Reid around the table at our regular Vietnamese restaurant for soup lunch today:

Reid: So I hear there's this group of activists that have bought a boat and are heading out to do a documentary on the huge trash heap out in the middle of the Pacific.
Jeff: It's apparently from all the container ships losing cargo.
Reid: I think there's a lot from the crap dumped by cities in there too.
Doug: Can you believe that cities like Victoria still dump their raw sewage into the ocean? Apparently they get away with it because the currents in the Juan de Fuca Strait send it straight out to sea.
Jeff: How can this all be acceptable to everyone?
Reid: Out of sight, out of mind, baby.


Here's the truth on the North Pacific Gyre:

-----Original Message-----
From: Jeff
Sent: April 12, 2007 1:29 PM
To: Doug; Reid
Subject: WONDERFUL!!

The centre of the North Pacific Gyre is relatively stationary (the area it occupies is often referred to as the horse latitudes) and the circular rotation around it draws waste material in. This has led to the accumulation of flotsam and other debris in huge floating 'clouds' of waste, leading to the informal name The Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Eastern Garbage Patch. While historically this debris has biodegraded, the gyre is now accumulating vast quantities of plastic. Rather than biodegrading, plastic photodegrades, disintegrating in the ocean into smaller and smaller pieces. These pieces, still polymers, eventually become individual molecules, which is still not easily digested. The photodegraded plastic can attract pollutants such as PCBs. The floating particles also resemble zooplankton, which can lead to them being consumed by jellyfish and thus entering the ocean food chain. In samples taken from the gyre in 2001, the mass of plastic exceeded that of zooplankton (the dominant animalian life in the area) by six times.

Occasionally, shifts in the ocean currents release flotsam lost from cargo ships into the currents around the North Pacific Gyre, leading to predictable patterns of garbage washing up on the shores around the outskirts of the gyre. The most famous was the loss of approximately 80,000 Nike sneakers and boots from the ship Hansa Carrier in 1990: the currents of the gyre distributed the shoes around the shores of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii over the following three years. Similar cargo spills have involved tens of thousands of bathtub toys in 1992 and hockey equipment in 1994. These events have become a major source of data on global-scale ocean currents. Various institutions have asked the public to report the landfall locations of the objects (trainers, rubber ducks, etc.) that wash up as a method of tracking surface waters' response to the deeper ocean currents.

For several years ocean researcher Charles Moore has been investigating a concentration of floating plastic debris in the North Pacific Gyre. His study indicates that ocean currents have added to the mass until it is now about the size of Texas. Many of these long-lasting pieces wind up in the stomachs of marine birds and animals.

-----Original Message-----
From: Doug
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 1:42 PM
To: Jeff; Reid
Subject: RE: WONDERFUL!!

We'll next time we go to PHO HOE I'm ordering the Atlantic Seafood Chowder Special w/ extra polymerized zooplankton!

From: Jeff
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 1:46 PM
To: Doug; Reid
Subject: RE: WONDERFUL!!

Me too! Can't get enough of that plastic!! YUMMY!!! Who needs fruits and veggies when you can get your roughage by consuming copious amounts of photodegraded plastics? I'm surprised someone hasn't done some research and introduced this as a new diet? The North Pacifie Gyre diet. Just get a couple of cute buff boys and gals on the cover and have a really bright primary color scheme with something shiney. We would be rich in now time. People like Betty Butterfield would order 12 or so online.

From: Reid
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 2:06 PM
To: Jeff; Doug
Subject: RE: WONDERFUL!!

You could give the coverboys a glossy sheen finish on their skin, sort of like they've eaten too much plastic -- oooh! look! shiny boys! I'm glad no one is concerned about the Gyre -- all those Nike shoes and rubber duckies are a great addition to the natural ecosystem, to be sure!

-----Original Message-----
From: Reid
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 2:08 PM
To: Jeff; Doug
Subject: RE: WONDERFUL!!

I have to add this discussion to my blog. It's just WAY too funny.

From: Jeff
Sent: Thursday, April 12, 2007 2:13 PM
To: Reid
Subject: RE: WONDERFUL!!

Go right ahead.

I don't know why we just don't pave this garbage, add some trees and sand and make an airport and then it can become a vacation destination. Pacific Gyre...where tranquility is the only abundant thing....

Add something shiny, hot boys and girls and there ya go!!

Just take out the e-mail addresses thou before you post. Don't need any weirdos e-mailing us.

Passing the buck on fuel economy

Instead of ensuring that we use less gas, politicians and consumers take the easy way out, says Fortune's Alex Taylor.
By Alex Taylor III, Fortune senior editor
April 9 2007: 12:26 PM EDT

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- President Bush thinks we should use less gasoline to reduce our dependency on imported oil and limit the emissions of greenhouse gasses. That's a worthy idea, and one that is endorsed by most politicians and a majority of Americans.

But rather than change their behavior or make any sacrifices to actually accomplish this, Americans would rather shift the responsibility onto somebody else. In this case, it's the auto companies - and it's a mistake.

Bush is right about one thing: Since Americans aren't willing to conserve gasoline on their own, the government should step in. Consumers talk a good game about fuel economy before they arrive at the showroom. But they get dazzled by glitzier features when they walk into a dealership.

"Customers will trade five miles per gallon to get fancy cupholders," says Mike Jackson, head of AutoNation, the country's largest auto retailer.

Want proof? Back in 2000, when gasoline was the cheapest liquid around, fuel economy ranked as the 29th most important attribute in buying a car. Today, when gas costs as much as $3.25 a gallon, good mileage still ranks only 22nd. Sound systems and convenience features rank higher as purchase considerations.

But rather than giving consumers an incentive to change their buying habits, Bush wants to force automakers to build more fuel efficient cars by raising the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards for passenger cars and light trucks.

By so doing, though, Bush is reviving an urban legend that the technology is cheaply available if only the lazy old automakers would bother to use it.

We should be so lucky. Making people save gas by buying thriftier cars, as General Motors executive Bob Lutz has said, is like telling people to lose weight by wearing smaller clothes. Yes, the technology is available - but at a cost.

For small cars, it might be enough to add aluminum body parts or a more efficient CVT transmission to boost fuel economy. Larger vehicles might require reengineering from the tires up at a cost of $5,000 to $6,000 a car, according to GM (Charts). And given consumers' consistent pattern of behavior, they are still likely to buy the biggest, most powerful cars they can afford.

Another solution proposed by Bush is to increase the use of gasoline blended from ethanol. True, less gasoline would be consumed, but so much energy is required to make ethanol in the first place that there would be no appreciable net savings. Besides, ethanol is a much less efficient store of energy than gasoline, so the miles traveled per gallon of fuel consumed drops by 30 percent.

If Bush wanted some guidance on how to quickly and efficiently meet his goals, he need only look to Europe and Japan, where the motor vehicle fleets get dramatically better mileage than they do in the United States. Cars average 36 mpg in Europe and 31 mpg in Japan vs. only 21 mpg in the United States.

The reason is simple: Higher taxes force drivers to pay more for gas. Taxes add $4 to the price of a gallon of gas in Europe and $3.25 in Japan, but only 40 cents or so in the United States.

Raising taxes in the United States, say, ten cents a year until they reach $2, would stop people from driving their Hummers to get a quart of milk. For those who would be economically impacted, the extra money they pay in gas taxes could be returned to them as a tax rebate.

But any system so simple and so fair hasn't got a prayer of becoming law in the current political climate, where politicians quake at the thought of asking voters to make sacrifices. And without incentives, consumers will continue to choose cupholders over good citizenship.

In the meantime, other interested parties are filling the breach. Last week, AutoNation became the first retailer to identify the vehicles that lead their classes in fuel efficiency. It will attach a green, leaf-shaped logo to all cars and trucks that produce at least 28 mpg or beat the average mileage in their class by 10 percent.

At least ignorance of mileage will no longer be an excuse for wasting gas.

The spineless politicians are so scared to implement such an obvious idea, I doubt it will get considered until it is absolutely imperative to do so. Then whoever has to do it will blame the last guy for not doing it sooner. Oh, the game never changes, only the players do.

Oooh! Look honey! Shiny cupholders!

Thought of the Day from our favorite Corporate Monster coffeehouse

The Way I See It #216

A very bad (and all too common) way to misread the newspaper: To see whatever supports your point of view as fact, and anything that contradicts your point of view as bias.

--Daniel Okrent, Ombudsman

Even if they're the minority or faced with a wall of evidence to the contrary, it's amazing how some people can convince themselves that their point of view is correct. Especially amazing is if these people are the ones who scream and crow (and get really good sponsors with deep pockets) to get their way to which all reasonable people cowtow to them to get them to shutup. Interestingly, this can refer back to this discussion thread. Ever wonder why Intelligent Design is being taught in Kansas classrooms? This is how these things happen. That's the way I see it.

11 April 2007

Colors of my mental instability

[Ren Hoek]
Oh I get it.
Hey Guido, I'm the lemon merchant.
And you're the keeper of the cheese...and he knows it!
Quickly! We must flee!
Before they let loose the marmosets!

Urgh...do you ever have those times in your life when you think you are truly losing your marbles? I'm going through one of those phases right now. In fact, it has been happening since the end of March. I'm sure pre-OutGames prep stress, the problems at work, pre-season bike team preparations, and getting ready for a vacation I wasn't really ready for led to getting rundown and sick and had some part to do with it, but thinking that all this time concentrated away from my work, training, boyfriend, and relationships made me feel even more out of control.

It all sort of came to a head this weekend when I blew up at Joe on Saturday night. I'm still not really sure why I did it then and there. The copious amounts of beer and prayers, perhaps? The conditions certainly weren't right to have a constructive dialogue about a lot of things, and consequently I've really screwed things up between us. I'm pissed off with a lot of things in my life, but now I'm even more pissed off at myself for how I've handled things. I really question my intelligence in these situations. In fact, I've been questioning my intelligence more and more these days. If I know that I have the tools to handle these situations a lot better -- I even am quite aware of what my shortcomings and bad habits are. Then why when it comes to the real situation do I fall back into my old habits? I let all my frustrations fester and boil and then at a trigger point, let them explode in a verbal assault that messes everything up and that I regret later. Pretty elegant, eh? Maybe I'm too distracted by everything to notice the warning signs?

This always happens at the same time of year too, which I am trying to figure out as well. I think in the spring, when I start taking my vacation and start to get outside more and see more people again, I start to see the increased potential and possibilities that could happen in my life and I just get more and more frustrated that they aren't going in the direction I would like. A lot of times I feel like my life is just static and status quo and has been for a long time -- I feel like I'm falling further behind, out of touch, yet nothing ever changes to address the issues. It's not just in my relationships, it's in my job, my residence, my interests, my obligations. This is reflection season, I guess.

Typically Joe is at the receiving end of this frustration, and I end up unfairly and cruelly hurting him as a result. It's all so pathological and wrong. Joe doesn't deserve this from me or anyone else. He deserves so much more as he is the one who brings more to this relationship than I do. He is who he is and I still can't figure out why, after seven years together, I still can't figure this out. Why do I expect so much more from him than anyone else? Why do I hold him and his actions to a higher standard and greater scrutiny than everyone else? Is this what I want in a relationship? I'm not sure what this all implies. Either I'm not getting things fulfilled in my life that I need, or, as I'm thinking more and more, I'm not really good (or maybe not experienced enough) in relationships and am probably much better off as a single person, at least for now.

I think I need therapy.

10 April 2007

Anniversary of sorts?

April 18, 2007 is the 30th anniversary of then-President Jimmy Carter's now infamous 'Sweater Speech', the "President's Proposed Energy Speech".

Haunting food for thought. I vaguely remember watching it on TV ----- in the shadow of the fuel crisis of the time, saying we're really screwed unless we change our ways. He tried to warn us, sacrificed his Presidency for his beliefs, and we went in the opposite direction anyways because we refused to believe his nonesense (not exactly breaking news).

Of course, his numbers are off and technology and some implementation of his ideas of efficiency and conservation have increased production and moderated the consumption of what we use currently (until you factor in Jevon's paradox) more than what was thought in 1977, but all this has still only delayed the inevitability of the date when the supply starts to slide. On the consumption side, we've only increased the rate at which we 'BURN IT ALL UP'!

So, on that positive note, Happy Anniversary!

Ooh! The Irony!

Bush Almost Blows Himself Up
By: SilentPatriot on Monday, April 9th, 2007 at 9:02 AM - PDT

Not for nothing, President Bush and Dick Cheney have to despise alternative energy. They made (and continue to make) fortunes from oil and must see this as a direct threat to their livelihoods. And now that a hybrid almost killed the President, it must make it even worse.

Detroit News:

Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation.

Mulally told journalists at the New York auto show that he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford's hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week. Ford wanted to give the Commander-in-Chief an actual demonstration of the innovative vehicle, so the automaker arranged for an electrical outlet to be installed on the South Lawn and ran a charging cord to the hybrid. However, as Mulally followed Bush out to the car, he noticed someone had left the cord lying at the rear of the vehicle, near the fuel tank.

"I just thought, 'Oh my goodness!' So, I started walking faster, and the President walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the President. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front," Mulally said. "I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen This is all off the record, right?"

Another gay sunshiney day....

The OutGames Western Cup sport tournament wrapped up this weekend along with the Outfest component of OutGames. From what I've seen and heard, everyone is ecstatic about the success of the Games, and that our little GLBT community here in Calgary was able to pull off such a feat. I can now reflect on the Running event that I was Race Director for as being very successful. Of course, like any other event that you're planning, not everything goes as it was intended but you have to roll with the punches.

My friend Harri, who organized the Different Strokes swim meet gave me some great words of advice this weekend. I think his points are very poignant especially in light that both swimming and running were making their debut at Western Cup this year. We had absolutely no benchmarks to base our decisions on, while many of the other sports have had many years to establish themselves as mainstays for this weekend.
Swimming Officials at Talisman Centre
His words of advice for planning an event were:

"(Being a first-time for doing this) you simply don't know what you don't know so don't beat yourself up for something you didn't know about"

"You can only be reactive to things on the day of the event. Anything you haven't done before go-day is now irrelevant, and you will have to react in accordance to how things are unfolding."

Looking back on this endeavor, I complained and stressed about the amount of work required because I was doing it on a volunteer basis and it was impacting a lot of the other important things in my life that had a lot more relevance than this did. I see now how much I really enjoyed the whole event planning thing (even more if I got paid for it). It was interesting to have to hit the pavement for the marketing endeavours and forge all these relationships with service providers that I can now consider part of my network which would make doing something like this again a lot easier the next time. Maybe a future career move? I guess project management is much in the same.

There were big problems of course. A few of them were systemic, others were event-based, all were a learning experience. Some people felt the sports entry fees were too high, which I would certainly agree with given the numbers we ended up with and the feedback I got from some of the participants. Early on, it was said that people travelling from far away wouldn't be concerned if the entry fee for the run was $50 or $70 -- the amount is insignificant in the whole scheme of things. However, for the local people who would make up a large number of the participants and be the base of participation in all the events, it would be an issue, and obviously was, especially for the new sports.

For the run, we gave out free technical toques with the OutGames logo to the participants and volunteers. At the time of ordering about six weeks ago, we had NO idea how many to order, so we went ahead with a 200 toque order of which we now have ~100 left. This was our one big financial mistake, but it's not like the money's lost. We simply have to figure out a way to sell off 100 toques to make the money back. Anyone interested? I've got tons to sell!

We could have had a larger contingent of out-of-town participants, but communications were far too little, too late. This was a main point of contention for me because at the outset we were assured that communications and marketing were being managed by someone else, then they weren't and consequently over 50% of my time on this project was spent on marketing and communications.

We've also realized that we need to forge closer relationships with our sister groups in Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg. I was disappointed by the turnout of Canadians to this event, but then some of us thought, "why should they decide to come to Calgary when none of us (at least identifying as a part of the Frontrunners group) have come to their cities to participate in their events or even run with them?". Very good point, indeed.

The truth that "you're only as successful as the team you have around you" rang so true this weekend. That the Calgary Frontrunners team is such a small, tight group yet we were able to pull off such a large complicated event is evidence of the excellent people that I run with. None of this would have happened if the people that came up to the plate weren't as ambitious and generous as they are.

The big disappointment of the weekend was the no-show of DJ Tracy Young at the Silver dance on Saturday night. Everyone was upset over this, but it was another of those 'things out of your control'. People were angry and demanding to be reimbursed at the front table. I recall saying to someone at some point in the night, "Why? There's nothing that could be done. It's no one's fault." to which they got all huffy and mad. I was like, whatever.

I'm amazed to this day how some people come to expect all this stuff to happen, as if it all does magically with no effort, planning or cost required in the background to make it happen. These are the people that piss me off. They don't want to contribute yet expect it all to happen in the way they expect, otherwise it sucks. I saw examples of it all weekend, and to those people, I say 'fuck you'.

Despite the hiccups, the events were fabulous. Thursday night was Registration at the Westin. I spent the evening at the running table from 4-9pm and got to meet many of the participants as they came to pick up their registration packages.

Friday was the Cowboys and Queens reception at the Westin. I spent Friday morning volunteering at swimming, then Tim and I ran around town picking up stuff for the run. Brian and I marked out the course at 5pm and then we had an IFR dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory at 6pm. The Cowboys and Queens party was a combination of a casino/western dance/karaoke competition/drag show in three different rooms. There were quite a few people there, but not as many as I had expected (which was the same for most events over the course of the weekend). Joe and I got out of there fairly early.
Dinner at the Spag

Saturday was the run. Rob and I were off at 6:30am getting tables and equipment for the start/finish line and water station. Most of the rest showed up at 7am. All the volunteers, many my friends including Joe, Jeff, Doug, Matt, Felix, Justin, Lisa, Rebecca, Brenda, Dennon, Doug, and Ken showed up early at 7:30 to 8am. One group was out putting the course together, another putting the start/finish together with Running Room and WinningTime, another team organizing volunteers and the reception room in Eau Claire market and another managing the registration/sign-in tables. It was a very busy morning for me until around 9:15am when I started to get ready for the Half Marathon. It was a rather cold morning with a strong southeast wind so I'm sure for some of the less acclimatized southerners and sea-level people, it was a challenging event. I won the Half with a time of 1:25.46, which is pretty close to what I ran two years ago when I last ran a Half. I was pretty pleased with that time! It's good to have a few good results early in the season since it is a boost psychologically that all your winter training has kept you in the game!
The Start/Finish Line
11K down, 10K to go...
After the teardown, cleanup, and dropoff, Tim, Doug and I went to watch the men's volleyball finals and then I managed to get a couple of hours sleep before Lily Tomlin and the Silver dance. Lily went on at 7:30 and put on a great show to a small, yet enthusiastic crowd. Joe and I immediately went over to the dance at the Telus Convention Center. The place got really full (I think they were expecting around 1,500) by 11pm, but that's when the rumours started flying around that Tracy Young wasn't showing up. There was some sort of security problem in Seattle and her flight was grounded there. Everyone was pretty upset, but we made the best of a bad situation, straightened out the DJs to put together some up-to-date, non-sucky non-80s-songs-I've-heard-a-million-times music playlist that might keep the gay men around a little longer otherwise the place would turn into a ghost town. Even by 1am when we left, there were still quite a few people around, but not near the crowd that had been there at 11pm when it peaked.

I went to the Outgames Celebration at Jack Singer Concert Hall by myself at noon on Sunday. I counted around 300 in attendance. Carole Pope belted out some tunes, there was an aerial act, Vong did a great standup routine and the MC from Vancouver did a wonderful job. A group of us went to MoneyPennies after for the Recovery Party. After that, I went home, collected some things and went over to my buddy Ryan's place on Sunday night and spent the night there.
Carole Pope
Yesterday was a day to clean the house, unpack from the California trip (still), get caught up on some things and try to catch up on some sleep (which didn't happen). There is still a lot of work and legacy reporting to do in the aftermath of the Games, and despite the glitches and the ugly sights such as the protesters, the memories of this great weekend in little ol' backwater Calgary are sure to stick in many minds for awhile.

Next year, Philadelphia!