Saturday, November 17, 2007

Animas Pic

A Saturday river pic, from the Animas. A cataraft going into Smelter rapid.

Renewable Energy Update

The current energy bill has no funding for renewables, as I posted earlier, but thanks to commenter "kwolph" for alerting me to this petition to change that.
I would like to urge you to sign on.


"If they can get you to ask the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers"- Thomas Pynchon.
"Those who can make you believe aburdities can make you commit atrocities"- Voltaire
"Give Bush an inch and he thinks he's a ruler"- seen on a bumper sticker.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Symphony Joke

I'm not very good at jokes, but here's one I enjoyed:
Beethoven's ninth symphony has been played many times. The local orchestra is playing it. The bass section has no part until the end. So the bass players sneak out the back door, to the local pub for a drink. Or two.
They do it every show, coming back for the finale.
At last nights show, the drinks flowed. So one of the bass players tied the last pages of the conductors sheet music together (so he could drink longer).
The bass players got more drunk. They show up at the last second.
Time comes where the conductor finds problems with his score sewn into a pillow.
The woman next to me says " the conductor looks nervous".
"Of course he's nervous. It's the last of the ninth, the score is tied, and the basses are loaded

Wait a Minute

For reasons that are far beyond my comprehension, the New York Times "opinionator" chose to link here on the Maria Luisa planted question "diamonds or pearls?". Um, thanks. And a big hello to all the new visitors.
But really, why me? This is a tiny, mediocre blog compared to so many others.
But we do have boobies, which might make it worth your time stopping by.

More Manipulation

I guess I wasn't wearing enough tin foil last night. I was bothered by the shallow "diamond or pearls" question. Now the student who asked it, Maria Luisa, explains:
“CNN ran out of time and used me to “close” the debate with the pearls/diamonds question. Seconds later this girl comes up to me and says, “you gave our school a bad reputation.’ Well, I had to explain to her that every question from the audience was pre-planned and censored. That’s what the media does. See, the media chose what they wanted, not what the people or audience really wanted. That’s politics; that’s reality. So, if you want to read about real issues important to America–and the whole world, I suggest you pick up a copy of the Economist or the New York Times or some other independent source. If you want me to explain to you how the media works, I am more than happy to do so. But do not judge me or my integrity based on that question.”

That's so true about how the media works. Remember this as the election cycle unfolds: the media is controlling the message.
We deserve better.

Must Be Friday

Time to show some boobies.

The Media Mess

Watching the debate last night, I was reminded how much I hate the media. Wolf (the woof) Blitzer (blather) did his best Tim Russert impersonation by asking questions designed to provoke fights based on "gotcha" non-issues (i.e. drivers licenses for illegal immigrants) in a blatant attempt to advance the republican agenda. One of the worst examples:

Later, when members of the audience got a chance to ask question, we saw this gem:

SUZANNE MALVEAUX: LaShannon Spencer, please stand up for a moment. What is your question?

LASHANNON SPENCER: We constantly hear health care questions and questions pertaining to the war. But we don’t hear questions pertaining to the Supreme Court justice or education. (Applause.) My question is, if you are elected president, what qualities must the appointee possess?

MS. MALVEAUX: I’d like to get to Senator Dodd, if you would. And in answering that question, also tell us whether or not you would require your nominees to support abortion rights.

Got that? A smart voter asked a smart question. As someone who cares a lot about the Supreme Court, I was genuinely curious to hear the candidates’ responses. But CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux decided the voter’s question wasn’t quite good enough, so she decided to “fix” it, twisting it into a more conventional question about litmus tests.

After Dodd answered the question, Blitzer added insult to injury: “All right, let’s go through the whole panel. I want everybody to weigh in. This is an important question that was raised. I’ll start with Senator Biden. Would you insist that any nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court supported abortion rights for women?”

In other words, according to Blitzer, the “important question that was raised” wasn’t the one from the undecided voter, it was the one from Suzanne Malveaux who changed the important question from the undecided voter.

The question from the audience was thoughtful: "what qualities..." is a real question that should be answered with substance. By turning the question into one on abortion, Blitzer moved it onto a republican talking point. Don't get me wrong, I think abortion rights are important. But a supreme court nominee should have other "qualities".

A truth: Whoever becomes the Democratic nominee will have to defeat two opponents, the Republican AND the media.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Very Short Debate Comment

Is this what we're down to? The last debate question was to Mrs. Clinton, and the question was:
"Diamonds or pearls?"
It doesn't matter how you feel about Hillary Clinton, this is just wrong.
Added: Yes, the question came from a woman in the audience, but it was stupid and sexist.
Added update:
Maria Luisa, the UNLV student who asked Hillary Clinton whether she preferred "diamonds or pearls" at last night's debate wrote on her MySpace page this morning that CNN forced her to ask the frilly question instead of a pre-approved query about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

"Every single question asked during the debate by the audience had to be approved by CNN," Luisa writes. "I was asked to submit questions including "lighthearted/fun" questions. I submitted more than five questions on issues important to me. I did a policy memo on Yucca Mountain a year ago and was the finalist for the Truman Scholarship. For sure, I thought I would get to ask the Yucca question that was APPROVED by CNN days in advance."

Your media at work...

a homebrewer's concerns regarding a possible complete collapse of our civilisation

Okay so lets just imagine that it all goes to shit. Everything. No utility grid. No groceries. Supposing we survive- how will we have beer?
Pygalgia says he can carve up a dead critter pretty good. Super! Dead critters will probably be ubiquitous after a stupendous crisis-say,a calamitous sudden plunge back to the bronze age or something -the skills to make 'em dinner will be in demand.
How will we have beer when all the taverns and homebrew supply stores are long gone? Hmmm. Frankly, i find such a scenario terrifying, but maybe i shouldn't... as folks all over the world have always managed to contrive fermented beverages for 10,000 years or so.

I need a grain. Preferably barley. The barley must be sprouted i.e. malted by soaking and rinsing the husks in cool rainwater (assuming it rains) saving half of it for gruel, and half pressed into biscuits and baked at a long low temp (perfect for campfire coals) . Both the sprouted gruel and the half baked biscuits are spooned into a wood or stone lined trough and mixed, as hot rocks are dropped strategically into the mixture.Refer to picture above- this is neolithic style mashing!
Sprouting barley activates the enzyme diatase, which converts the inherent starch compounds to maltose- a basic sugar necessary for fermentation. The reason why half is grueled and half is baked is, the biscuit maneuver facilitates still more enzymatic activity necessary for fermentation, while the barley gruel provides lactic acid which inhibits nasties while somehow attracting Saccharomyces Cerevisiae- the yeast we want.
Now comes the tricky part... How do we get yeast? The homebrew shop, with its neat little vials of beer yeast around the world, is perhaps a smoldering ruin. Seems shaky to me, but the tried and true i.e. 10,000 year old method is simply to toss wild fruit skins into the wort. Grapes, preferably. Maybe i can find some in some canyon. More likely apples.
I have nearly exhausted myself, attempting to research where to find Saccharomyces Cerevisiae in the wild, at this latitude/elevation/eligible flora. 7000 ft desert is not a "fruity" place.
But some folks in Peru, even before the Mayans, had large-scale breweries at 10,000 ft. Apparently, they collected yeast from pepper trees.
We will figure it out, won't we? We always have.

November Weather

It's the middle of November, and we still have t-shirt and sandal weather. That is just weird for our area. I mean, I'm living at 7000ft. up in the mountains. We've been in a drought for years, so I'm not holding out for snow, but it usually is much colder.
But there's no global warming.

Spelunking on Renewable Energy

Once again, the dems are caving, this time on renewable energy:

Last Thursday, Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid said that they would jettison the renewable energy provisions in both the House and Senate versions of the 2007 energy bill in the interest of passing a bill before the Thanksgiving recess begins on November 17.

Republicans have been holding up action on the bill for months now, refusing to participate in conference committee meetings to reconcile the House and Senate versions. The big sticking points for Republicans have been support for renewable energy and ending billions of dollars in subsidies for oil companies. Democrats would like to use the oil subsidy money to support solar and wind power.

Representatives of the renewable energy industry were dismayed by the Democrats' abandonment. "This is basically Congress delivering an early Christmas present to the American public -- and it's a lump of coal," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). "We are feeling disgusted because this energy bill goes right back to maintaining the status quo."

The renewable energy provisions in the bill come in two forms: a Renewable Electricity Standard that requires utilities to supply 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind, and tax provisions, including a production tax credit for wind power and a tax credit to encourage investment in solar power equipment.

While the Renewable Electricity Standard would be a new federal program (31 states already have some kind of renewable mandate), the tax incentives for solar and wind would continue programs already in place. Losing these tax breaks would be devastating to the renewable energy industry, said solar lobbyist Scott Sklar of the Stella Group: "It will cause sales and investment to implode."

I'm beyond appaled...the amount of money being proposed for renewables is a mere pittance when compared to the oil subsidies, and only a small fraction of what should be invested. The American public supports alternative energy. The future of the planet demands it. So why the hell can't the dems stand up for something as simple as including renewables in an energy bill. Another spineless cave-in.

We deserve better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And After the Crash?

Strange and interesting talk at the brewery tonight. What do we do in the event of a crash? A disaster? How will our community react?
The folks in the discussion aren't tinfoil extremist types; we're pretty much "workin' for a livin'" who happen to talk politics. But I'm hearing more and more "disaster" scenarios.
Is it a market crash, a plague, or a natural disaster? Doesn't matter. We've learned that Grover Norquist won. The government can no longer swim.
This part of the country is not agriculturally sustainable. We talked about the native population density compared to the current population density. Not a good mix, or why our food isn't local is because local is high mountain desert.
But we are communitarian. We talked about skills (my having spent my younger years on a farm, and knowing how to carve up an animal was highly valued) and who has what tools, and I realized that we'll be OK.

Why Win in '08?

I'm starting to wonder why anyone would want to win the presidency in '08 (I know, rhetorical question). Who would like to inherit the wreckage of the shrub debacle?
The economy is in shambles, the deficit is huge, and the American infrastructure is falling apart after years of neglect. The latest example being the cleanup of the S.F. Bay oil spill, where the response was slower and weaker than a cleanup roughly 20 years ago. What does this portend for a federal response in the event of a major earthquake?
Global warming continues to get worse, but the efforts to address it are pitiful. Energy demand and prices will continue to increase, but the development of alternatives are so weak as to be useless. The technology is there but the development isn't.
The next president will inherit the Iraq quagmire, where "things are getting better" means that the violence is down to the level of 2005, like that was a rosy time. And shrub still has over a year to fuck up the rest of the region (which one will be the next disaster? Place your bets now).
I wish that I thought that one of the candidates looked to be the potential "great president" who could repair the damage and inspire a bright new future. I don't see one.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

On Diplomacy with Iran

In an interview done by Maziar Bahari of Newsweek with Sadegh Kharazi, Iran's former ambassador to France and the person reported to have penned the famous 2003 Iran offer to resolve outstanding issues with the United States, Kharazi makes a powerful argument for a positive diplomatic exchange.

Sadegh Kharazi: Because of the disastrous results of American unilateralism in Iraq, they are looking for an international support of their initiatives vis-à-vis Iran. Everyone knows that an American military attack will not only damage Iran but also other countries in the region as well as American interests in the Middle East.


We may have the same illusion. In either case it's wrong. Both sides should put aside the smear campaign against each other and populist slogans and adopt more pragmatic policies.


In diplomacy everything's possible and nothing is impossible. I think both countries should lay all the issues on the table and discuss their problems. There is no problem that cannot be solved. If both countries recognize each other's rights, then they can collaborate on many issues, including Iraq, Afghanistan and smuggling of narcotics. They can have differences of opinion, but there is no reason for the current hostility. America has its own differences with China, Russia and even Europe, but that doesn't mean that they cannot talk.


Even though Iran is ready to defend its interests by any means necessary, the first priority of Iran's supreme leader and the government of Iran is stability of the region. They don't want war and tension. That is why Iran cooperated with the United States to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq. Under the leadership of Ayatollah Khamenei Iran has normalized its relations with many countries who were our enemies in the past.


What our current government is doing is a reaction to years of Americans ignoring Iran's positive gestures. During the presidency of Mr. [Mohammad] Khatami, whenever we wanted to have a rapprochement with the United States they demanded more. We cooperated with them in Afghanistan and we were called a member of the Axis of Evil. On the eve of the invasion of Iraq we sent them a letter with a package of proposals, but they chose to ignore it. Extremism breeds extremism.

The sad fact that our administration will never engage in such a discussion leaves us so much weaker.

New Hydrogen Technology

I've posted a few things in the past on alternative energy technologies, mostly on the advantages of butanol and cellulosic ethanol over the current ethanol from foodstocks system. But this really got my interest:

Hydrogen as an everyday, environmentally friendly fuel source may be closer than we think, according to Penn State researchers.

"The energy focus is currently on ethanol as a fuel, but economical ethanol from cellulose is 10 years down the road," says Bruce E. Logan, the Kappe professor of environmental engineering. "First you need to break cellulose down to sugars and then bacteria can convert them to ethanol."

Logan and Shaoan Cheng, research associate, suggest a method based on microbial fuel cells to convert cellulose and other biodegradable organic materials directly into hydrogen in today's (Nov. 12) issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online.

The researchers used naturally occurring bacteria in a microbial electrolysis cell with acetic acid – the acid found in vinegar. Acetic acid is also the predominant acid produced by fermentation of glucose or cellulose. The anode was granulated graphite, the cathode was carbon with a platinum catalyst, and they used an off-the-shelf anion exchange membrane. The bacteria consume the acetic acid and release electrons and protons creating up to 0.3 volts. When more than 0.2 volts are added from an outside source, hydrogen gas bubbles up from the liquid.

"This process produces 288 percent more energy in hydrogen than the electrical energy that is added to the process," says Logan.

Using organic processes to generate hydrogen has huge potential, and if the 288% return is accurate then this could be a system to watch. It's certainly research worth investing in.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

Hanging at the brewery, I was repeatedly reminded how many veterans I know. Not a surprise by itself, but an interesting snapshot on America.

In honor of Veterans’ Day, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Max
Cleland (D-Ga.) wrote a joint-post for Wired’s Danger Room on the thousands of U.S. troops who return home only to find that their jobs (and benefits) are gone. In 1994, Democrats in Congress and the Clinton White House successfully passed a law to protect veterans’ seniority, salary, and benefits when they return home, but today, the Bush administration is lax about forcing private businesses to follow the law.

Today, however, the federal government is failing in this responsibility. It’s not even adequately informing returning service members about their rights, and it’s not protecting them when their rights are violated. A study by the Government Accountability Office this year found that when the Department of Labor decided to refer federal cases for litigation, it took an average of 247 days.

The Government Accountability Office also found serious problems in collecting and reporting data on claims under the law. Four different agencies collect this data. But they collect it in inconsistent formats, making it impossible to understand the problems that veterans face — particularly disabled veterans.

Until the hearing, the public had little knowledge of the problem, because the Pentagon had been classifying the most accurate statistics. Now that we know the extent of the problem, Congress must act to protect the reemployment rights of our forces.

Damn straight. I know a few too many Republicans believe “supporting the troops” means “supporting their mission,” but protecting veterans when they return home seems to be the trickier part for the Bush administration.

I'll start by saying that I'm not a veteran. I'm in the "lucky years". When I came of military age, Vietnam was over and the military was downsizing. I had an athletic scholarship to pay for my next 2 years of college, so I had no reason to go into the military. I didn't need them, and they didn't need me.
But a lot of my friends did.
My Father served during the Korean war, but in a "non-combat" role (I know that it involved intelligence and computers, but Dad took some secrets to his grave).
But then there is my friend "ducky". He was a helicopter pilot in 'nam. Shot down 5 times, 3 purple hearts, bronze star, and also got PTSD as a throw in. Ducky is a genius, a madman, and a totally loyal friend. So when we discuss current issues, I can say almost anything. The issue of VA and treating PTSD came up. He explained how hard that he had to fight to get help. I worked the psych emergency ward during the same years. While PTSD was not my area of expertise, I got psychiatric emergencies that should have been VA treated. That was then.
This is now:
Study: 1 Out of 4 Homeless Are Veterans And we really appreciate their service.

I don't have a answer, but couple this with the number of TBI cases, and this is a new health care crisis.

Nice Job

Our economy is truly in the hands of greedheads with no basis in reality:

Together, former Merrill chief executive E. Stanley O'Neal and former Citigroup chief executive Charles O. Prince have lost more than $20 billion in company money. Yet they left with $360 million in their own pockets.

As one of the little people who tries to get by on around 20k a year, I have a hard time wrapping my head around these numbers and the belief behind them. What skills do you need to lose billions of dollars? And why are those skills worth millions?