Global Warming: cocain users did it

Posted by & filed under Misc.

Oh jeeze… yet another “You’re causing global warming no matter what you do” story. Apparently, cocaine users are making global warming worse.
Because Colombian forrests are being cut down just to grow more coca plants. Someone even managed to calculate the ratio — 4 square meters of rain forrest die for every “few lines”.

Now, I don’t like it when people use drugs, but accusing them of worsening global warming? Will they actually care? The answer is probably “No”.

Anyways, here are a couple other things that make global warming worse and were in the press lately:

Nitrous Oxide is apparently worse, than CO2, plus damages ozone layer (does anyone care about the ozone hole these days, by the way? everything seems to be about warming, the UV rays expose doesn’t seem to get much press these days), so think twice about that laughing gas back-up during dental visit.

Methane, which is about 25 times more potent than CO2 is not only produced by farm animals, but also bubbling up in arctic seas. Are we going to drain marshes and burn up the methane? Or at least harvest is somehow to use for more productive things? Also probably no.

Oh, and remember, when you breathe, you exhale CO2, so … you know…

Review: A Certain Magical Index, A Certain Scientific Railgun

Posted by & filed under Misc, Reviews.

A Certain Magical Index (とある魔術の禁書目録)

Yes, yes I love anime. Duh, geek and all. But I don’t like just any anime. When I started watching A Certain Magical Index I have to admit, I was worried a bit — first few episodes were a bit heavy on Tōma’s monologues. In fact, he talked way too much.
But the story line and visuals did compensate for that.
I don’t know many anime series where magic/esper-abilities are combined well with day-to-day living. Usually that subject deals with some middle-earth type of reality, or takes itself soooo seriously, it’s not even funny. But here there’s plenty of humor, there’s overall conspiracy that keeps the story line going, characters are likable and seem quite plausible. And it’s nice for a change to see main character that has anti-powers. I bet I’m missing something from the comic book world, so feel free to correct me. Standard “boy meets girl, then another girl, then they fight evil which may not be so evil after all” subplot is present, but not very annoying.
4 stars because a few episodes were slow and it took them a while to get the timing of monologues/dialogues right.

A Certain Scientific Railgun (とある科学の超電磁砲(レールガン))

So, I watched the whole set of Index (equipped with fast forward on a couple of slow episodes), and almost forgot about it. Except then I ran into A Certain Scientific Railgun. I got momentarily confused, as characters seemed familiar but the plot “didn’t match” what I saw before. Only around middle of first episode I’ve realized that this must be a prequel to the main events of Magical Index. And even though I know what will happen, it’s still nice to know the background stories and events that lead to main story’s plot lines. Plus, there’s still humor, same characters and enough fun.

Anime News Network:
A Certain Magical Index/To aru Majutsuno Index
A Certain Scientific Railgun/To aru Kagakuno Railgun

Texas got its Spring back

Posted by & filed under Misc.

Finally, temperatures are back to normal — upper 70s, pleasant and slightly breezy. Of course it also probably means that very soon it will get hotter and hotter. And screams of global man-made warming will be back too.

I was quite entertained by the whole “unfair attacks, weather is not climate” screams coming after a number of people poked fun at global warming (well, now it’s “global climate change” as warming doesn’t sit well with public any more). I believe both sides have the right to a pay back. You brand every heat wave as “global warming”? You get “global cooling” for every instance of abnormally cold weather, and you don’t have the right to complain. Though given that global man-made warming is marked as less than 5F increase in average temperatures, the question is, why do we obsess over these future temperature increases while calmly ignoring pollution of “non-warming” kind?

Nature already had global warming, and on much higher scale (just ask geologists and biologists). I don’t think it’s important if the warming is caused by human activity or not. Just check what happened way back then, in previous eras.
While ecosystems were affected, nobody can give a clear answer as to how this current temperature change trend will affect current system. We believe it will be bad, but as soon as someone tries to ask concrete question in terms of “fine, predict what will happen to storm systems or how much more/less rain there will be or what kinds of birds will die” you get back a refrain of “weather is not climate, no data, can’t say”. Oookay…

Wouldn’t deforestation and, again, chemical pollution, along with general habitat destruction kills way more species that gradual warming did (or perhaps even will)? Nature itself doesn’t care much about polar bears, or humans or any particular kind of animal. Whatever organism is the most efficient to solve a task of surviving when it’s hotter, it will win.

What about the problem of raising ocean levels? Fantastic, perhaps that will make people not build within 20 feet of the ocean. Can there be a financial estimation, on how much it would cost not to allow new build-outs in low-lying areas and areas, prone to flooding? Would it cost more than trying to cut down on just the CO2 emissions? Will water level raise in next 30 years by significant amount and can we have a gauge to see if prediction comes true?

And if not… well… Do you really think that people without extra disposable income will behave in more “ecologically sensitive” way? I kinda doubt it. If you don’t have money for gas heater, you will burn old phone books. When extra 20 bucks a month means you have to cut grocery budget, chances of switching to more ecologically friendly energy provider are minimal. Faced with threat of survival on local scale, global problems usually go on a back-burner. And getting everyone to agree on something that kinda sorta should be good in the future in “if we didn’t screw up the model too much” way is very-very difficult.

So… For those who worry about global man-made warming I say think of what will happen if Sun will warm the Earth by those 5F. And see how the end result will affect humanity and prepare for it.

For everyone else — enjoy nice warm weather, and don’t forget to visit the Wild Flower center — flowers are about to go wild, like most of Texas nature does in Spring.

If you want broadband measured, do it yourself

Posted by & filed under Politics, Technology.

That old proverb — if you want something to be done well, do it yourself, is perfect for broadband measurements. For quite a while now FCC used third parties in “measuring” the broadband. And while practically any geek that lives outside the Verizon’s FIOS fiberoptic heaven can tell you on the spot “US broadband sucks, compared to other countries” official position has long been that of wishful thinking and denial.
“Everything is great, availability is super, prices are fantastic” — what else would you expect to hear from groups that are connected to the very providers, who are being governed by the FCC? Improving infrastructure costs real money, and stock market these days does not tolerate any expenditures that don’t give shareholders immediate return. Just look back at the market reaction to the Verizon’s decision to invest heaps of money in laying fiberoptic to the end user’s premises.
Thanks to such thinking AT&T decided to stay with the copper (“good enough for now”) and options for most citizens are quite limited.

So, to avoid extra regulation reports would count whole counties as ones with “available broadband” when there’s at least one potentially serviceable spot. Speed of the connection declared to be “broadband” are abysmal — 750kbps. And those who live in unserviced areas aren’t counted at all. This madness was sprinkled with “we can’t really tell you exact data on availability and speed because competitors would steal our customers” seasoning and served over and over. Sorry provider, but if your speed sucks and half the households can’t even get service, you do deserve to get a competitor that maybe will serve them better.

I’m glad the FCC decided to give people means to actually report what’s going on with their broadband. Now they can see the truth, on where the internet connections develop (areas where multiple providers compete) or languish (rural broadband, monopoly locked-down to one provider, or two — one cable, one telco). And maybe, just maybe, they will do something to add more competition to the mix.
Yes, current investors of the ISPs will be unhappy. But no, to help people get better jobs, more services, and more variety, it is necessary.

Please let me buy tv channels à la carte

Posted by & filed under Misc.

Today’s rant is dedicated to the cable companies and other pay TV providers, that figured out how to make money by selling unneeded junk. You know that joke, “in the future there will be 500 TV channels… and nothing to watch“. The future is now.

Sadly, out of the 300 or so channels I have with Time Warner, 90% are junk, marginal channels and other fluff, meant to make me feel good about paying just a few cents per channel.
Problem is, even with Tivo trying to hunt down things I want to watch, I hardly go beyond 10 or so channels, sprinkled through the whole digital package.

And no, I don’t think I need ESPN, MTV (no music there anyways) or E!. Plus those annoying TV shopping channels (frankly they should be paying me for cluttering up my tv lineup).
Unfortunately both content providers and cable companies are happy with current status quo.

Content providers can inflate their viewership, or quietly sidestep it by providing “availability” numbers for their smaller channels. Fights break out over who gets to live on “basic” cable package, because so many people get it. “In fact 20.7 million homes throughout the USA now have access to GOD TV”, exclaims, for example, GOD TV channel’s web site. But of course out of those millions of homes only a tiny fraction actually watches the channel, but who cares about that…
So, the content providers get to charge more for advertising.

Plus, they also get to push their new channels in addition to the old and popular ones. You want ABC? Then you have to carry whole package of other smaller ABC channels. Have you ever tried to subscribe to HBO? It’s a whole bouquet, that rotates exactly same movies over 3-4 different channel, and no option to just have one “primary” HBO channel for a cheaper price. “But you’re getting 10 channels for the price of one!!”. Yeah, but there’s barely enough content for one channel.

Cable companies get to charge you more and more, and blame it on content providers (which is partially true, but don’t forget about the margins). And also play “hundreds of channels to choose from”.

There’s also a third group, that supports packages — people who say we need to keep this system or “small channels will die”. Great. That’s just a subsidy to keep weak and uninteresting channels afloat. Instead of culling channels with low viewership, everybody else pays for someone’s addiction to shopping for jewelry on tv, or watching something else strange on local access channel.
If content provider can’t be profitable, they will have to raise prices. But it also means that content quality will need to improve. Because if people loose interest in art channel, they will have to solve the problem of improving quality of tv shows, instead of shrugging it off by being packaged with some popular channel as a deadweight.

I hope FCC will have enough willpower and independence to force change into current system, and we will have more choice. I am not saying that we have to have only a la carte system. No, by all means add it as an option. If someone sees value in 50 “music” channels and all that tv shopping, great. For those who doesn’t want to sponsor stuff he/she is not watching, there will be “pick 10 channels” option (or even each channel individually).