Category Archives: Uncategorized

Computer Crash

Got the blue screen of death on my primary XP machine on the home network and have spent several days trying to salvage data on the drive and to reboot the machine, but nothing is working so far.  Most of my data is backed up on network drives, but I lose my email stuff that is local on the hard drive of this machine.  I figure these occasional crashes are a message from the universe that it’s time for a change.

I have tried migrating to Linux several times without long term success.  I am trying again.  I have rebooted my machine with an IDE drive running openSuse 11.4 that was just released and I am slowly reconstructing my cyber interface with the open Suseworld.  openSuse seems pretty powerful.  I have always worked primarily on MS machines going back from command line dos stuff up through XP.  Some of the operating systems have been better than others.  I like XP and Win2K but they are getting a little old.  I have one machine on the home network running Vista Ultimate.  It’s ok, but seems a little flashy.

Lately M and I have been doing video editing using Final Cut Express and that has to be done on a Mac OS, so that experience may have opened me up a bit to OpenSuse.  It seems to me that Mac and Linux share some look and feel that is not present in GatesWare.  Anyway, I hope to be back to posting on stuff other than operating systems in the near future.   There is a lot of stuff going on.  I am really pretty disconnected when my primary home machine is down. Japan’s earthquake is huge.  And the apparent nuclear reactor accident that is going on in the aftermath of the earthquake makes the argument about basic safety of this energy source that is sometimes posed as green energy based on the limited CO2 emissions of a nuclear plant.  I guess we need to remember that there are many kinds of emissions.  The wars in Libya and Wisconsin continue with the folks in power doing everything they can to maintain or increase control.  Will see if I can get back up to speed in the coming week.

Did Texas Execute an Innocent Man?

If you read this article it’s very hard not to conclude that Texas executed an innocent man when it put Cameron Todd Willingham to death for the arson deaths of his children.

This is a horrible story on several levels. The basic event of a housefire with fatalities is awful. The agony of the parents who have lost their children in this way is terrible to consider. Finally, there is the awful matter that the father never should have stood trial in the matter and certainly should not have been put to death.

At this late date I even feel bad for the fire investigators, whose work was describes as more mystic work than science. There’s a good chance that in this case, as in so many where it becomes apparent that the justice system has failed, the prosecutors and experts who pushed prosecution and guilt may deny the facts for the rest of their lives. Who can blame them. Consider their alternative – they could review the facts and say, I made a mistake and I feel terrible about it.

Well, read it if you can stand it. And think about how important it is to have good forensic evidence before we jail and/or execute somebody. Jail house snitches are not to be relied on. Their information is about as reliable as Chalabi’s intelligence on Iraq, and it’s poor evidence for the same reason. The system allows, encourages, rewards folks who will swear to what people in power want to hear.

On a personal note, I got rousted by Texas Public Safety outside Corsicana a few decades  ago.  I had on a pony tail, a cowboy hat, and cutoff jeans and I was cruising though in my TR3 with the top down and I think I must have looked too much like the Austin hippie I was.  Scary hour before the skunks decided not to throw me through a nearby barb wire fence and let me go.  Corsicana is famous for its fruitcakes.  You can look it up.

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Cameron Todd Willingham in his cell on death row, in 1994. He insisted upon his innocence in the deaths of his children and refused an offer to plead guilty in return for a life sentence. Photograph by Ken Light.

Trial by Fire

The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.

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Geo-Engineering – Science for the End of Days

When you bring up drastic measures to address global warming you often get blasted for playing with fire. The problem is that we have been playing with fire since we discovered fire and the build-up of carbon dioxide is the result. One unintended impact of so many human activities is carbon dioxide buildup. It’s too bad that we can get so exorcised with ideas that intend to reduce atmospheric CO2 buildup when we are in such denial about all the activities that create buildup.

Nonetheless, I do understand the warnings inherent in so many “scientific” endeavors that have become famous for their unintended consequences.  You do not want to be the scientist remembered for introducing  Killer bees  to the Americas.

And you probably would not want to remembered for suggesting bringing Cane toads to Australia was the solution to a bug infestation.

So, when scientific thinkers start suggesting large scale geo-engineering projects to keep the small blue planet a congenial place for the kind of life that has evolved here, the discussion that follows has to include some concern that we may be fooling with some systems that operate in ways that we don’t understand and that the long term consequences could be disastrous.  If the cure is worse than the disease you might want to try living with the disease, right?

Despite those reservations and concerns, some folks are starting to suggest that when large scale extinctions are underway,  it may be time to start thinking more about geo-engineering.

I am not keen on this idea of liming the oceans to fix both the increasing acidity of the oceans  and to give the oceans a boost in their capacity as carbon sinks for a number of reasons.  One is that the creating of the lime takes a significant amount of energy, so this approach does not appear to be an elegant solution where some component or facet of the problem itself becomes a solution, this one is simply a means of hitting two problems with one energy-consumptive solution.  It’s a twofer.  I will give it credit for that.  It works on ocean acidification and carbon sequestration at the same time.

Maybe we can figure out how to unring the killer bee and cane toad bell once we come up with the geo-engineering solution to global warming?

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The Idea

  • First, you heat limestone to a very high temperature, until it breaks down into lime and carbon dioxide.
  • Then you put the lime into the sea, where it reacts with carbon dioxide dissolved in the seawater.
  • The important point is that when you put lime into seawater it absorbs almost twice as much carbon dioxide as is produced by the breaking down of the limestone in the first place.
    This is a brief description of the idea. If you prefer we also have a detailed description and a slideshow presentation on the process for you to see.
    The idea works like this:

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    Glaciers of the Himalayas in Retreat

    It’s difficult to find a silver lining for this impact of global warming. The outlook for the glaciers of the Himalays is grim. They are in retreat. The increase melt is creating runoff disasters and the long term outlook is for the fresh water source for a billion people to wane. There is nothing to do here except stabilize global climate through radical change in the way we live. I think Bill McKibben is correct in setting the target at 350 ppm for CO2. I don’t know how we get there, but I think we are looking at global disaster if we don’t. As Bucky Fuller said, we can afford to do anything that we have to do.

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    In the Indian Himalayas, You Can Hear Climate Change Before You Can See It


    In the Indian Himalayas, you can literally hear the glaciers melting.

    Indian Himalayas

    The river that rushes through the Lahaul-Spiti Valley is fed almost entirely by melt from the surrounding glaciers. The sound of the river’s rapids has never been this loud. The level of the water has never been this high. In other words, the glaciers have never receded this quickly.

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    Petro Fuel Costs Have Dropped Dramatically

    It makes a person wonder if this is a good time to burn cheap petrol instead of investing in a more sustainable energy infrastructure. So why should you think about creating your own contribution to the grid? Ryan Stuchard at Climate Biz News has some reasons. Nice work, Ryan.
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    Five Reasons You Should Consider Generating Your Own Green Energy

    Is this really the best time for your company to be thinking about generating renewable energy onsite?
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    The Elegant Solutions

    You don’t need to stick a “clean” adjective on to Solar Power like you do with Coal Power. Even though there is no doubt that construction of these facilities has impact on the environment just like construction of a coal fired power plant, there is a difference in fueling the power plant. When the sun shines on this small blue planet, a solar plant starts creating energy. There is no need to scrape the tops off of mountains and dump the fill in the valleys and watersheds as you have to do to fire up a coal power plant. No matter how you treat the emissions of coal fired plant so that you can declare it a clean coal power plant, there is no way to pretend that each morning coal simply falls from the sky to fuel the plant.

    We have to be looking at these systems wholistically.

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    Solar baseload outshines ‘clean coal’ — and it always will

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    tower spain1

    Concentrated solar thermal power — aka solar baseload — remains hot. The Daily Climate has a nice update:

    All told some 60 plants are either under construction or under contract worldwide — with most in either Spain or the United States — for a total capacity just north of 5,700 megawatts

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    The Brown Cloud is an Interesting Story

    At least it is interesting in so far as it is complicated story of rampant pollution with complex impact on the living things here on the small blue planet.

    The AP has carried a story this past week about the Asian brown cloud and UN concerns that this toxic cloud of pollutants could cause more problems with our food production on this little world.

    This is really an old story.  The smog of Los Angeles a generation ago was probably not very different from the Asian brown cloud.  Brown clouds are also reported with regard to Phoenix and Denver. The Denver link goes into how the brown cloud was reduced and that’s a good story.

    The real lesson of the Asian Brown Cloud is that there really is no such thing as my backyard and any attempt to control growth and industry that does not see the world in it’s reality as one ecosystem, an amazing environment that has the capacity to support an amazing diversity of living things, really a Gaia organism of unimaginable complexity, is doomed to failure.

    You can’t live in a pristine environment and consume products made in China and not be intimately connected to the Asian Brown Cloud.  There is no free lunch.

    The brown cloud is a complex story.  Clouds of soot can offset global warming by letting less sunlight reach the ground and then less heat builds up in our troposphere.  That’s a good thing, right?  Well, maybe.

    If the clouds of soot are composed of particles that cause many people to die due to pulmonary and cardiac disease, then maybe this is not the solution to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  It’s just a different paradigm of death and toxicity related to unsustainable human activities.


    Who knows, but it’s an interesting read.
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    Scientists say a rock can soak up carbon dioxide

    Scientists sample a stalagmite of carbonate minerals in an undated photo

    NEW YORK (Reuters) –
    A rock found mostly in Oman can be harnessed to soak up the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide at a rate that could help slow global warming, scientists say.

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    Seeking the Elegant Solutions

    Our solutions to our population and environmental demand problems can be elegant instead of catastrophic.  We don’t have to go to war to control petrol reserves, Methane Moleculewe could re-tool our fuel economy to run on fuels we can develop, capture, and benefit from without bombing anyone, intelligent or otherwise, on the small blue planet.

    Methane Gas Capture

    The way that we bring the planet into balance is through elegant thinking, elegant being.  We currently have a problem with the buildup of certain gases in the atmosphere that are causing the planet to heat up with disastrous consequence for many living things.  An elegant approach to this problem is to look at the capture of one of these gases, methane, and it’s use as a relatively clean fuel.  It burns much more cleanly than gasoline or coal in terms of other greenhouse gases, so the capture of methane is a twofer.  We reduce the atmospheric buildup of a powerful greenhouse gas and we burn it in place of less clean fuels, thereby producing less other greenhouse gases as combustion byproduct when we burn methane instead of gas, diesel, or coal.

    This is happening.  At various places around the small blue planet methane is being captured as a fuel instead of being emitted as a potent greenhouse gas.  Here are some examples:

    The solution to our environmental problems is to find the solution within the problem somehow.    Here is a thought from a great thinker and problem-solver:

    When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.

    R. Buckminster Fuller