Saturday, July 26, 2008

Make It Stop!

Almost forgot... earlier today, I added Splotchy's "Go Away, Bush" counter. Just click your mouse on his ugly mug, and you will be redirected to the counter. It takes a few seconds for the newly-incremented count to come up, but it's worth the wait. The number is rapidly approaching 2000. I'd like to see it , oh, a million times larger than that by election day.

I had been putting off adding the picture and link because I didn't know how to link the picture to the destination address. Turns out (just like everything else on these machines [with the exception of Microsoft ware]) it's much easier to do than I'd guessed. At least in Google's system, go to layout, then add a page element, then add a picture. (For the following, it'll help to have two pages open: one to your "layout" options, and the other to the increment page.) From the increment page, pic the most appealing portrait and right-click on it. Select "Properties" from the list, and the URL of that picture will be on the info panel. Copy and paste that URL into the source. For my current picture it's Alternatively, you can download your chosen picture onto your hard drive, then browse and choose that picture rather than simply pointing to it on the web.

After you add the picture, you have the option to fill in the destination URL- what you want the picture to link to. That would be Fill that in, hit save and you're done. Except for poking your picture in the eyes, punching his nose, snapping his ears, bopping him on the head, or whatever abusive symbolism you choose to engage in. And it would be nice if you encourage other blogging friends to follow your example.

Oh, and stop by and thank Splotchy for coming up with the idea and following through.

As a Cold Chill Runs Down My Spine

Last night I figured out how to "do rss," but I don't know the lingo yet. I'm having fun transferring my favorite blogs to rss feed, and picking up some new stuff. Funny how in 5 minutes of reading, you suddenly find you've got 10 minutes more reading than you did when you started. People are leaving me comments, I'm leaving other people's posts comments, I'm signing up for and visiting a fairly predictable cross-section of sites, and on and on.

I'm creating quite the interwebs fingerprint.

Then I came across this...

Dear Citizen,

As you may know, under the Public Screening Act, all citizens are undergoing routine checks for anomalies. We do so through the use of public sources only, aggregating and mining your digital traces.

According to our findings, which are accurate in 99.5% of all cases -- thus legally qualifying as proof beyond reasonable doubt -- we have come to the following conclusions:

(Read the rest...)

You really should read the rest. I'm not sayin' we're going to go this way. I'm just sayin' it sounds wayyyyy too easy to go this way.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I'm wiping up tears (literally). This is just too sweet. (Story here; see the attached news article for the full story)

Should Oil be Cheap?

Interesting article at Spiegel online today: it deals with the economic repercussions of expensive oil, with a refreshing emphasis on the upsides. (Part/page 1 should have a link to part/page 2, but here's both links in case) Economics is not really a zero-sum game, but it's often easy to forget that one person's problem is another person's opportunity. This piece is not trying to make the situation look rosy, but it does highlight some real positives and some real opportunities arising out of the current mess. One idea from my intro econ sequence that is re-emphasized for me is that the market doesn't necessarily dislike rising prices. What it really hates is uncertain prices. The article points out that with "expert estimates" (my quote marks) ranging from $75 to$200 per barrel over the next season or two, investments that would be a good deal at $100 per barrel are going unfunded.

Der Spiegel is roughly the German equivalent of the US's NYT. I signed up for their newsletter about a week and a half ago, and I've been pretty pleased. They tend to have one major story or theme they focus on each day, but they hit it from a variety of perspectives. One I really liked was a set on nuclear power. Germany under current law is required to go nuke-free over the next few years; as you might imagine, the energy price spike has a lot of people questioning that, but a lot of people adamant. Today's theme is Obama's speech. I haven't read those articles yet, but the headlines range from, He's clearly #44, to somewhat disparaging and dismissive. It's an interesting approach to reporting.

Here's their front page online. As I've said before, I like e-mail newsletters. You can sign up for theirs here.

Must Go Now

I sort of assumed the other day that everyone knew what LOLcats are. Turns out I wasn't actually the last person to find out about them. Here's some examples- follow the "more" links to literally thousands of these

This one had me in tears a bit ago
more cat pictures

This one sinks in slow... but that expression just gets funnier
more cat pictures

more cat pictures

This was the one that I first really cracked up over a couple of months back
more cat pictures

This one's not so much funny (just a pun), but this cat looks a lot like the one that adopted me. But she does not like being held. Picked up briefly, OK; more than a few seconds and the claws are out, digging in for traction.
more cat pictures

Please Make my New Corporate Sponsor Welcome

I don't expect to add a whole lot of advertising here, but every now and then, something just bangs my funny bone the right way. These days a blog is a nice place to keep funnies like that. So scroll down a little to see my support (no, they're not supporting me) for "Teach the Controversy." They've got a bunch of these logos that I really like. The one I chose reminds me of an old joke I like:

Californians are only afraid of four things: Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

Check out their other stuff too. I really like the t-shirt with "fucking pterodactyls."

Update: The button is no longer down from this post. Now you have to scroll up to see it.


My parents used to ruefully shake their heads and say if my brother Clark and I were turned loose on a square mile of land with one square foot of mud puddle on it, we'd be in it in less than a minute. So I can relate to this kid's past time. BTW, getting a decent signal right now for some late night blog crawling. Exploring a bunch of geoblogging out there. This came from Geological Musings in the Taconic Mountains. Lots of cool stuff there- he's into geology as art. And art with geology. My kind of taste. Yum! - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Don't Pass Gas

Sequestration- or storage- of carbon dioxide has been proposed as a way to deal with emissions of that gas, and reduce the climatic effects of using fossil fuels. I don't dismiss it, but I've been a little leery: too often what looks like a good deal turns out to have unexpected consequences. For example, fossil fuels. No one can argue that the relatively cheap, energy-dense materials haven't been of great benefit to us, but it now looks as if we've tweaked our atmosphere enough to... well, we don't really know yet. The idea of simply shoving our CO2 underground and forgetting about it is appealing, but what if it leaks?

Oddly (and tragically) enough, that is a question that has been answered: on August 21, 1986, Lake Nyos in Cameroon erupted about 1.6 million tonnes (I think that spelling implies metric tons, about 2200 pounds) of carbon dioxide, killing 1700 people and thousands of livestock. A few years later, I argued with a professor over whether pollution was necessarily man-made, and used Lake Nyos as an example. (For the context of atmospheric chemistry, his definition stood) But imagine millions of tons of CO2 erupting near a city. The victims would never know what hit them.

This is why I've been uneasy with the idea of sequestration. Most investigations have been made in land-based sites with sedimentary rocks like sandstones and limestones that have ample pore space and permeability to allow fluids to be pumped into them. But both of these types of rock would tend to be chemically nonreactive with CO2: the gas would just sit there, in human terms, essentially forever. From my perspective, it just looks like an accident waiting to happen.

However, there have been a couple of articles recently that make the idea look a little more appealing to me. A group has looked at the sea floor basalt of the west coast, from Northern California to Southern British Columbia. Basalt has a high proportion of calcium feldspar and magnesium silicates such as olivine and pyroxene. And calcium and magnesium both react nicely with CO2 to form carbonate minerals- calcite and magnesite, respectively. Basalt also contains lots of iron, which will react to form siderite. In other words, if we pump our exhaust into basalt, it will react to form stable minerals. It goes away over time, rather than sitting there as an enormous pressurized pocket waiting to leak.

A similar article out of Queensland University of Technology suggests injecting CO2 into magnesium-rich rock units.

I really like the idea of locking the gas up chemically. I'm really not comfortable with just pumping it into the ground and assuming it will stay put. And these ideas, while promising, do not represent a full answer. I haven't seen any realistic estimates of costs- and costs need to take into account the forgone energy used to pump the CO2 into the ground. If it costs all the energy generated from a ton of coal to sequester the equivalent exhaust, it's a non-starter. Another problem is that conventional methods of burning fossil fuels use regular air, which is 80% nitrogen. Thus the exhaust is 80% N. You need to either use pure oxygen to burn the fuel- expensive- or you need to separate the CO2 from the exhaust stream- which I can't imagine being cheap. Still, I see this as a promising area for further study.

Crocodile: It's What's For Dinner

Great pics at the Telegraph! Just when you thought nothing was happening.

Follow up:
Rawley pointed out that BadAstronomy had posted this in video form and shore-nuff:

The photographer, Hal Brindley, posted the video on his site. He also has up thirty some pictures, representing the whole sequence. Good stuff!