Feb 242006

You are reading this on my new host. It gives me a lot more room to play around with – I was limited to 500mb and 5gb/month on my old host. Gallery 2 is working at the moment, but stuff like the RSS feed is busted, and the theme is just a quick hack. Once I get my claws into it, I should be able to do some pretty cool integration with this front page (random/new image blocks) and some interesting managing & sorting (photo map?).

Feb 212006

(All photos for this entry are posted here)

austin austin austin

Anna was in Austin last week for business, I tagged along for the weekend to check out the city. I have heard a lot about Austin, but this was my first time visiting the city. We stayed at the fabulous Austin Motel on South Congress. Cheap, stylish (in a mid century way), friendly, and well located. What more could you ask for?

Austin is a curious city to me. It is an odd mix; artsy-hippy-nuevo with a dash of proud-texan. The sort of place where you can order collard greens and brisket, omelets with velveeta cheese, or vegetarian chorizo tacos to go with your kombucha. For a smaller city (800k?), Austin has a lot going on, and a lively night scene.

Our fist foray into the city we decided to try Cuba Libre. Upon walking in, I was told to remove my hat. This seemed a bit odd for a city that was so casual, but it was fine with me. However, the dress code seemed silly when our too-cool-for-school server played with a toothpick hanging from his mouth the entire time we were there. Classy and hygienic. We should have taken that as an omen. The food was, in a word, horrible. I could only manage a few bites of my meal before pushing it aside. I wouldn’t return if you paid me.

Not a great start. Luckily Cesar had some great recommendations. After some tea at Halcyon (I wish more places would do coffee house bars), and some great beer at The Gingerman, we had completely forgotten the earlier experience.

Of course, we hit up the usual suspects in Austin – The Alamo Draft House, live music, and BBQ. I wish we had a Draft House in San Diego. What a fantastic way to enjoy a movie, we ended up staying for two. There was a folk music convention going on in the city, so we caught some live music put on by some of the attendees. Good stuff. COTR were a lot of fun, a nice mix of musical styles. As for the BBQ, we got our fix at Stubbs, great food.

We spent a good bit of time wandering and people watching around the city. Austin is a cafe kind of town, and fairly walk-able if you stick to the downtown core and area. Outside those parts it does seem to be more of a car city. It was really nice to walk around the river, they have some well done trails. We definitely need to come back when it is warm enough to visit the swimming holes and see the bats.

PS – By my extremely scientific observations of the Dallas airport, I believe Texas has 85% of the world’s supply of chunky gold nugget jewelry. What’s up with that?

I have some Austin photos I want to publish, but I am busy fighting with Gallery 2 and importing the old albums onto the new site. Stay tuned..

Feb 162006

Time was running out on my 1&1 hosting, so I took advantage of a good deal from dreamhost. Since I’m moving hosts, I figured I would do some infrastructure changes around here as well.

1) Migrate from Gallery 1 to Gallery 2.
 a) Build a new theme
 b) Integrate maps/location as a way to access photos (probably using gmap-module).
 c) Restructure albums. Currently 1 album per date – ie gallery/060225. Too hard to navigate. Perhaps break down access like so: gallery/2006/02/25/ (top level years, then months, then days). It will be a bit awkward for months where there is only one album, and this will break my perma-links. Maybe I should only create day albums when there are multiple entries per month, otherwise just shove it all in the month album.
 d) Change hotlink rewrite code for G2, maybe force watermark when hotlinked?

2) Move WordPress over to new host
 a) Integrate gallery 2 (probably with WPG2)
 b) Set up a site for Anna. Not sure of the best way to do that. Separate installs? Just different authors? Point sub domains to the author’s archives?
 c) Add location/map navigation, probably using something like Travelog. I would like to get it integrated with the gallery maps, but I’m not sure that’s possible at the moment.

Sounds a lot like work. Gonna have to start with baby steps. Things could get ugly while I transfer stuff over. Suggestions?

Feb 072006

This whole cartoon thing is rediculous. Michael Standaert has the right idea:

Why does the Danish Prime Minister even need to be involved in this situation or apologize for this? What I don’t understand is the fact that GOVERNMENTS have been drawn into this mess. They are not responsible for the actions of writers and artists working at independent newspapers within their countries. Since when did a few independent newspapers become equated with the governments in those countries? One has to wonder what kind of cultural or psychological barrier there is between these worlds. How do the limits imposed upon free expression in the Middle East and the fact that a lot of the press in that part of the world have been under government and/or religious control play into the reactions we are seeing?

The greatest irony of all this, the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, is that the satire, crude as it may be, has been lost on the very people it could influence the most. Who can deny that a large faction of Islam has been debased by a militancy tied inherently, and falsely, to that religion of over a billion people? A Danish cartoonist didn’t create that, he just held up a mirror. Muslims who use Islam for political means to rally others of their faith to do violence have debased the image of the Prophet Mohammed more than any cartoonist ever will. I’d say the exact same thing about fundamentalist Christians who try to depict Jesus as a militant hero, coming to slay the unbelievers, and I have.

What the world needs is more free expression, not less.

A group of people is mad about being shown as violent, this group of people then expresses their outrage by being violent towards innocent people. That’s just retarded. Come on people, even this – Iran presents: Holocaust cartoon contest – is a much more reasonable response than firebombing an embassy.

Feb 062006

Last year there was some debate over the possibility of two-tier internet, as a number of different ISPs wanted to charge sites for performance. This was more than a foolish money grab. It was the first shot in an attack on the very neutrality that has made the internet so successful.

Fast forward to today. BellSouth is still being dumb, and some others have decided it was about time they started as well. AOL and Yahoo will start to charge businesses for guaranteed email delivery.

“Companies will have to pay between one-quarter of a cent to a penny for each commercial message they want to send to AOL and Yahoo Mail users. Otherwise, they risk having their emails blocked entirely, delivered late, sent to users� spam or bulk message folders, or not have the graphics or links in their messages appear.”

This will all end badly. I just hope people vote with their wallets.

Verizon jumps on the retard bandwagon.
Bells dig in to dominate high-speed Internet realm

Feb 022006

One thing I neglected to mention in my Oh Canada post about Harper, was his plans for Arctic defense. This would include three heavy-duty, armed icebreakers as well as a new port for them near Iqualuit. Harper would also bring back the Airborne unit (but hopefully not its troubled history), as it would be critical to being able to quickly deploy troops to the Arctic.

This touched off a nerve with U.S. ambassador David Wilkins, declaring that Americans don’t recognize Canada’s claim to the Northwest Passage. This in turn lead to Harper saying he doesn’t take orders on sovereignty from the U.S. ambassador, and that he will stick with his plan to station armed icebreakers, remote-controlled aerial drones and troops in the area (story here).

Why the need for so much posturing over a bit of ice? Times are changing, especially temperatures over the last 30 years in the Arctic. As a result of global warming, Arctic ice coverage has declined by 25 percent, and is 32 percent thinner. The U.S. Navy predicts that the Northwest Passage will be open to non-ice-strengthened vessels for at least one month each summer. So what? Well, The Tyee has a great article: The Need to Defend Our New Northwest Passage

The changing ice conditions offer a sea route between Europe and Asia that is 7,000 kilometres shorter than the route through the Panama Canal. The Northwest Passage could also accommodate supertankers and container ships that are too large for the canal. International shipping companies are eyeing the fuel, time and canal-passage fees that could be saved; some are already building ice-strengthened vessels.

The cruise ship industry is also looking north; the Kapitan Khlebnikovi, a Russian-flagged converted ice-breaker, already offers luxury voyages through the Northwest Passage-at US $10,000 per person. The melting ice will facilitate access to Alaskan and northern Canada’s vast stocks of oil, gas, diamonds and precious metals.

Also, Canada’s Arctic waters could eventually become a valuable fishery as reduced ice cover and warmer waters enable plankton and fish species from more temperate latitudes to move north. Indeed, Pacific salmon and Atlantic cod are already invading Arctic waters, with likely dire consequences for smaller, slower-growing indigenous species.

Canadians should be alarmed. An international shipping route along Canada’s third coast could facilitate the entry of drugs, guns, illegal immigrants and perhaps even terrorists into this country, as well as providing an alternative route for illicit shipments of weapons of mass destruction or missile components by rogue states. And any shipping involves the risk of accidents, particularly in remote and icy waters. An oil spill would cause catastrophic damage to fragile Arctic ecosystems; a cruise ship in distress would require an expensive and possibly dangerous rescue mission. Any new fishery will be highly susceptible to over-exploitation, particularly because of the difficult-to-police location, rapid declines in fish stocks elsewhere and the consequent, excess fishing capacity that now exists worldwide.

Ideally, these challenges would be addressed by applying the full range of Canada’s own environmental, immigration, customs and criminal laws. Sovereignty over the Northwest Passage is about much more than nationalism; it is about protecting people and the environment from serious potential harm. Yet, Canadians could soon lose any ability to regulate foreign vessels in the passage, since any foreign ship that passes through without our permission undermines the sovereignty claim.

Check it out, it is a really interesting read.

Feb 012006

So Bush has finally admitted the US is addicted to cheap oil. He made some statements in his address to the nation:

– Coal. $281 million to develop clean coal technologies “to generate electricity while meeting environmental regulations at low cost.” And $54 million for a “FutureGen” project with the private sector to seek “an emissions-free coal plant that captures the carbon dioxide it produces and stores it in deep geologic formations.”
– Solar power. $148 million, more than double what was sought in 2006, “to accelerate the development of semiconductor materials that convert sunlight directly to electricity.”
– Wind power. $44 million for wind energy research — a $5 million increase over Bush’s 2006 request.
– Ethanol. $150 million, a $59 million increase over 2006, to find a more efficient way to make ethanol, the gasoline alternative now made primarily from corn in the United States. The focus is to use plant fiber from farms that is currently discarded as waste. “Research scientists say that accelerating research into “cellulosic ethanol” can make it cost-competitive by 2012, offering the potential to displace up to 30 percent of the nation’s current fuel use,” the White House said.
– Plug-in hybrids. $30 million, a $7 million increase over 2006, to develop higher capacity batteries for hybrids as well as “plug-in” hybrids that would allow drivers to charge vehicles and run on electric power only. “These vehicles will enable drivers to meet most of their urban commuting needs with virtually no gasoline use,” the White House said.
– Hydrogen. $289 million, a $53 million increase over 2006, to develop fuel cell vehicles that run on hydrogen “with no pollution or greenhouse gases.” Bush in 2003 launched a $1.2 billion hydrogen initiative and the White House said that “through the president’s program, the cost of a hydrogen fuel cell has been cut by more than 50 percent in just four years.”

From The Oil Drum

I found it interesting that the cheapest, and easiest method to reduce our dependence on oil was not even mentioned. Efficiency. We should be pushing for much higher efficiency standards for cars, appliances, and buildings. But of the points he mentions, I’m seeing some problems:

1) Clean burning coal would be nice, but ultimately we are still looking at a finite resource, with a cost peak (2nd half of the production curve becomes dramatically more expensive). This is just a stop-gap.

2 & 3) The increase in funding for wind and solar is a good start, but a drop in the bucket for what it should be. Bush’s Mars Plans are hundreds of billions of dollars, yet we are spending less than a billion on working to change our country’s energy source? Does that make sense? It remains to be seen if we can actually produce these technologies en mass (solar in particular) with out using the cheap energy and resources of oil.

4) Ethanol has some issues for mass use, without cheap oil. At least Bush seems to be pushing biomass vs. the dubious energy return of just corn. But on a whole, commercial farming requires massive amounts of oil for fertilizer and equipment. I’m wondering how long fields will remain productive if you remove all the plant material each harvest. My guess, not very long without fertilizer.

5 & 6) Plug-in hybrids and hydrogen don’t do anything to change our needs for cheap energy. These are just delivery methods for energy.

Why the sudden interest in alternative energy? It just might be that Bush actually read a report. Authored by Robert Hirsch, Roger Bezdek and Robert Wendling and titled The Peaking of World Oil production: Impacts, Mitigation, & Risk Management, the report is an assessment requested by the US Department of Energy (DoE), National Energy Technology Laboratory. A bit technical for the average reader, but it is still worth looking at (PDF, HTML). Bonus: Audio interview with Robert Hirsch

Wondering what the hell Peak Oil is? Energy Bulletin has a great primer. You will just ride your bike? Well, it is a bigger issue than just your car. Oil is more energy dense than its competitors, and that is without counting its other uses.

Bonus links:

– Ready for $262/barrel oil? Soros and other investors say oil will be in short supply in the coming months.

Carlsbad based start-up says it is planning for a 330 MPG hybrid for under $20,000. It sounds like the supercar from Amory Lovins.