Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Rant: Myopia on a Grand Scale

William of Ockham (circa 1285-1349) theorized that the simplest explanation is often the best one, a theory known as "Ockham's Razor." Sadly, it's all staring us in the face.

Amidst out-of-control spiraling of oil prices on the verge of destabilizing the global economy, people don't seem to realize that our current lifestyles of consumption and greed are simply not sustainable. Peak oil theories notwithstanding (dictating the end of low-cost crude oil, not necessarily the bottoming out of oil supplies), it's clear that our drive to consume has gotten us to this predicament. That and economists link it to ongoing conflict in the Middle East, political pressures from all sides, growing demand in emerging industrial countries. Add that to the fact that, and our environment is a complete mess, with global warming causing extreme weather patterns, but for some odd reason, there are some who still push the global cooling theory and say that it's all a big cycle.

What upsets me more is the fact that the technology is in place to lessen the impact of an energy crisis and has been for many years. Biodiesel could go a long way to mitigating our dependence on foreign oil supplies, and it could have, as the first diesel engine actually ran on peanut oil. Thermal depolymerization could be used to recycle municipal trash and sewage into useful hydrocarbons and chemicals, yet there is only one plant in existence. Bioplastics derived from actually break down unlike regular plastics and contribute significantly fewer greenhouse emissions. But these simply aren't profitable enough. Contrast this with the energy conglomerates that make a killing whenever the price of oil jumps a few bucks.

And then there are other social problems. War against drugs? It could've been a simple matter to focus on rehabilitation rather than criminal prosecution, which is ridiculously expensive and wasteful. Plus, it would cripple revenue streams for organized crime, which relies on the proceeds of the illegal drug trade. But doing so would upset the current status quo.

Sadly, "simple" and "easy" are two completely different things. Herd mentality dictates that we cannot make decisions without meetings and bureaucracy, and by the time that happens, it's often too late to do anything about it, or the problem has gotten larger. Change is tough when things are easy the way they are. But it's not going to be for long.

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Solutions For Better Living

Today while taking public transit, I, along with two young female passengers, bore witness to a common male problem. I'm talking about skivvies riding up the crack. This is due to several issues, although much can be traced to your underwear choice -- boxers, briefs, or boxer briefs. I prefer the latter of the three, as it provides comfort, snugness, and doesn't ride up as much.

But, in the event it does, there are ways around it. My prefered method is to through the back pocket, usually in the pretense that I'm reaching for my keys or a cell phone. This doesn't really work for jeans, but it's okay for khakis, dress pants, and cargos.

This was the case for the gentleman in question, who was wearing khakis. But, against all logic, he decided to reach down between his knees and directly attack the fabric on his crotch area. I did my best to contain myself while the two girls next to me did not. The only explanation I can offer was that he's wearing either a g-string or a thong.

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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Now on a slightly more light hearted note (yeah, I know, light crude oil @ $63.99...I've already reduced my demand by taking the bus more often), you know those emergency broadcast systems that they got on TV? Y'know, the ones that say that they would be giving instructions on what to do, "had this been an actual emergency." Have you ever gotten the feeling that in case of a real emergency, you'd probably be dead by the time they got their act together?

Last week Thursday, the Scarfe building at UBC (and a buncha other buildings) was evacuated due to a natural gas leak. Sitting in the basement dungeon (read: my office cubicle), I had no idea that there was anything wrong, just plugging away at my assignment, until I'm told that we're to leave. Nobody really smelled anything (of course, natural gas is odorless until you add something to give its distinct odor), but we're told to go outdoors, where the odor is even stronger.

So, we're sitting around on the grass (thankfully, it's a nice sunny day) and we have no idea where we're supposed to be sitting because no one can seem to figure out where the gas leak is coming from. There is someone standing on the corner with an orange safety vest and she's got yellow "Do Not Cross" tape set up in a completely arbitrary area, ambiguously defining where we're not supposed to walk. And then somebody casually strolls by while smoking a cigarette.

The firefighters are strolling around, trying to determine the source of the leak, while we still don't know where we're supposed to sit or stand. About 45 minutes later, we are allowed back into the building, only to be told to leave the second we step foot into the building. Realizing the gong show excuse of crisis management that we are witnessing, I make a point of grabbing a snack from the staff room fridge and my notebook so I'll have something to do until they let us back in.

90 minutes in lost work time due to this gas leak, I tells ya. If there were a major crisis, things would not go well.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Uninformed Opinions

"In a world without leaders
Who'd make people starve?
The world that we'd be saving
Would always be ours."
-The Offspring, "Kill the President"

When you're spending 3.5 hours round trip on a bus-Skytrain-bus commute to and from work, and you're not nodding off or napping, you start thinking about stuff.

Like, what would happen if all of our borders were completely closed up? I mean, like all of 'em? Who would have the best chance at survival? Who would thrive? Who would die? What would be left of the economies?

In a world where the gap between the haves and the have-nots gets progressively larger, one could logically say that a small handful of haves are getting richer at the expense of the have-nots. It sorta reminds me of that experiment where you take two balloons and have them hooked up to the same straw. If one balloon is larger than the other, then it'll suck up all the air from the smaller balloon.

You look at America, which sucks down 25% of the world's oil supplies, produces 25% of the world's pollution, yet has less than 5% of the world's population. The American economy is entirely dependent on foreign oil and would suffer a spontaneous crash if the price of oil becomes too much. Because shareholders and CEOs just want to increase their bottom lines, they outsource all their manufacturing jobs to foreign countries. So, if you shut all that down, what happens? Probably a lot of people would starve or die of thirst, as many midwest states have problems supplying their people with water.

Canada happens to be a net exporter of oil, which means it produces more than it uses. So, if our borders were shut down, what would happen to us? Well, we do have a burgeoning marijuana market, so at least we'll have some fun while the economy implodes because we don't know what to do with all that extra lumber or oil. Either that, or Alberta becomes an independent country or the capital of Canada, take your pick.

Could this happen? Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba was in really rough shape, as they couldn't trade out their sugar to their former allies and America put a trade embargo on them. So, after the initial shock, they were forced to grow their own food again, without the use of pesticides or fertilizers. Sure, a lot of people got really skinny really fast, but after they re-embraced organic farming, things got back to "normal", or at least to some certain sense of balance. (link: "The Cuba Diet").

It gives me some level of hope for when stuff does start getting really rough.

Maybe I should start doing something a little more productive with my time on public transit.

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