Insomnia Log

This is what keeps me awake at night???

Who needs sleep? (well you’re never gonna get it)
Who needs sleep? (tell me what’s that for)
Who needs sleep? (be happy with what you’re getting,
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the second world war)

-- words and music by Steven Page & Ed Robertson

Location: Boulder, Colorado, United States

Everything you need to know about me can be found in my posts

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tax and Spend Commie President Does It Again

President Bush, in his State of the Union address, claimed to want to cut taxes and cut spending. However, his specific proposals put the lie to his words.

Take, for example, his new health care plan. He is creating a brand new tax on employer-provided insurance plans. At the same time, he wants to increase funds to states to provide health insurance to their own citizens.

That's right, not just raising taxes, but creating whole new taxes.

His proposal also has a remarkably Marxian tone as well. Get this. The stated goals of his plan include not only providing better insurance to the poor, but also encouraging well-off Americans to get worse insurance.

As Bush's mentor once said, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

What's the Difference Between Ignorance and Apathy?

I don't know and I don't care.

That's about how I've been feeling lately. The weather here is finally getting to me. Yes, it is winter, and nothing we've experienced is out of character for winter in Boulder. But normally in Boulder (at least in recent winters), after the bad weather we get plenty of nice days to remind of us why we live here.

I'm not going to blame the extreme weather on global warming. You just can't say that a long-term statistical trend is responsible for any single event. Nor am I going to pine for the upcoming warm days when global warming makes weeks of snow seem like the good cold days.

Maybe it's just cabin fever. The medical term is Seasonal Affective Disorder. But whatever it is, these days it's been easy to get riled up but hard to use that indignation constructively (like, for example, ranting on this blog). Really, complaining about people that drink too much water? I really have to get a life.

If you don't live in Colorado, here's what it's been like. Every week another snowstorm. Two inches or two feet, but enough to cement down what is already there. A warm up of a couple days, to give you hope for seeing the ground. Then another storm. Major wind storms. Frigid temperatures. Sometimes all at the same time. And always, just in time for the weekend/holiday.

The city doesn't plow residential streets, and my car is parked at the curb. As in long-term parking. There are several inches of packed, slick, rutted, bumpy snow/ice in both directions on the street, even if I dug my way out of the snow blocking me in.

So that leaves walking, the bus, or begging my wife for a ride in her more practical vehicle. Ok, I can do that, I'm an environmentally-minded kind of guy. I walk to the city rec center, which is maybe a mile from home. The other evening on my way there, I slipped on a patch of black ice on the sidewalk in front of a neighbor's house. Badly shaken and with a very sore knee, I hobbled to the rec center, thinking I'd feel better if I got in the pool.

Of course, as soon as I walked in the door, one of the clerks rushed me into the back out of the sight of the kids in the lobby. With the blood dripping down my face, he told me I had to take the bus to the emergency room for stitches. Yeah, what fun!

I don't blame my neighbor and don't worry I'm not suing anybody. People are keeping up with the shoveling as well as they can. I calculated (can anybody say "nerd"?) that for every foot of snow I shovel I move literally a ton of the white stuff from our driveway and sidewalk to the ever-growing piles adjacent to them. What is that, six or eight tons of snow so far this winter? And we haven't even hit our snowy months yet.

I'm not complaining about the weather, just about my reaction to it. But maybe some day soon, by the time I stop limping and the scar on my face starts to fade, I'll actually see the ground and street near our house.

Here's what's gonna happen. In a couple of weeks we head off for a week in sunny Puerto Rico. What do you want to bet that it will finally be nice that whole week, and dump another foot the same day we get back?

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Drinking to an Early Grave

I gotta get more readers in Sacramento. If only the (ex-)DJs of the Morning Rave show had read my rant about drinking too much water. Or any of the other folks who worked at KDND and created the contest to see who could drink the most water. Or perhaps one or two of the contestants in their contest. Especially Jennifer Lea Strange, who died as a result of that contest. Or the people who called into the show and were unable to convince the DJs to call off the contest.

As part of the contest, Jennifer drank close to two gallons. That's about four times the oft-quoted recommendation to drink 8 eight-ounce glasses of water per day. But, if you drink eight glasses per day and they happen to be 12 or 16-ounce glasses, you're getting closer. Or, if you just haul around a water bottle wherever you go and constantly remind yourself to drink, who knows.

The scientific fact is that, in order to stay hydrated, you need to drink -- get this -- when you are thirsty. Yes, there have been scientific studies on how reliable the thirst mechanism is. And guess what? It's pretty darn reliable. Drink alot less or alot more, and you will get sick, even in extreme cases die.

So, please, put down your Nalgene bottle and save a few trips to the bathroom. And, if a radio morning DJ asks you to sign a waiver to enter a contest and then brags on-air that it doesn't matter if you die because you signed the waiver, it's time to go home.

Oh, one more thing, a pet peeve of mine. (What do I have, about 9000?). If you claim to be an environmentalist, or if you are watching your budget, forget about buying bottled water. Not only are the health standards lower than for tap water, it probably is just tap water anyway. Tap water is practically free, you don't have to go somewhere to buy it, there is no packaging made from petroleum products, and transportation does not add to our fuel usage, pollution, or carbon generation. And, if you live here in Boulder, you have some of the best tap water around, straight from the mountains.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Girl Scouts Gone Wild

It was one year ago today that I wrote about the scandal of Girl Scouts lying about the content of their cookies. And, right on cue, I received a call today from my young niece, soliciting me to buy some of these treacherous cookies.

While I was talking to her, I checked online. Yes, the ingredients lists of the cookies (at least the varieties I checked) still include hydrogenated oils. Yes, they still claim zero trans fats.

Again, I call on the Girl Scouts of America to stop teaching their members to lie just to make a sale. Ok, the FDA has said it is ok to claim zero grams of trans fats even if there is a small amount. But that does not make it right to teach these young girls that it is ok to make a sale based on a false claim.

What did I do? Ok, I admit, I bought four boxes. But that doesn't mean I'm going to eat them.

Hmm, maybe I should set up a table down at the mall and sell them. I would certainly have to put a health warning on them, though.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Turning Water into Whine

Today's topic is something that has been bothering me for a while. It has to do with hydrogen fuel cells, touted by many as the solution to our energy problems, as well as to global warming.

There are many reasons why hydrogen is not the salvation that many claim. First and foremost, hydrogen is not a fuel source. It is a storage method for energy derived from other methods.

So, in order to get the equivalent energy of a gallon of gasoline, you have to burn the equivalent of significantly more than a gallon of gasoline, with all of the pollution, carbon dioxide, petroleum availability, and other concerns. Of course, you can also burn coal, use nuclear energy, or use large (probably impractical) amounts of solar or wind energy.

Creating vast amounts of hydrogen also takes even vaster amounts of water. Hydrogen is also hard to store and transport. Even liquid hydrogen, which requires additional energy to keep cold, takes up four times the volume as gasoline to generate the same amount of energy.

But the promise of so-called pollution-free energy is tempting. Ignore for a moment the amount of pollution (including the dreaded carbon dioxide) put into the atmosphere just to create and transport the hydrogen required to fuel something like an automobile. The only byproducts created when you burn hydrogen to create energy are heat and water vapor.

Here's what bothers me. A century ago we traded in our smelly and manure-generating horsedrawn carriages for gasoline-powered automobiles. And now, a century later, we are discovering that cars not only smell bad and generate pollution, they are part of the cause of a huge change to our planet's climate. Pretty heavy stuff for our grandparents to leave us.

How do we know that our solution to gasoline-powered mobility isn't going to leave an equivalent legacy for our grandchildren?

A recent study discovered that the amount of rainfall in Phoenix has increased by 12-14% in recent years, due to human activities. However, anybody who has lived in the southwest US for a while can tell you that things are hotter and more humid now than they were before all the people came. Human activities have increased the amount of water vapor in the air in arid cities.

What would happen if you had hundreds of millions of cars spewing water vapor into the air? Would that cause another uptick in humidity in the arid and formerly arid regions? Will we be creating a new source of local climate change?

Now, think about global warming and the greenhouse effect. The focus in the media has been mostly on carbon dioxide. CO2 is a potent greenhouse gas, we are pumping huge amounts into the air, and temperatures on our planet are rising.

However, water vapor is also a greenhouse gas. Most of the public focus has been on CO2, since that is the biggest change we are forcing into the system. In the climate models, as I understand it, H2O is not considered a driving factor. On the average over the entire planet, if more water is evaporated into the air, more precipitation will happen, and the amount of H2O will remain constant.

But what happens if we create a new, huge source of water vapor directly into the air? What if we do that everywhere, including the arid and semi-arid parts of the country and world? If we increase local humidity in a large enough percentage of the planet, won't that have a measurable impact on the average global levels of water vapor?

Hydrogen fuel cells would then be a driver for both local climate change and global climate change.

Of course, when things heat up, whether because of increased CO2 or increased H2O, the air will be able to hold more H2O, which will then further drive global warming.

Because of the many huge hurdles to overcome, it will be a long time before hydrogen fuel cells will be a feasible replacement for any significant portion of our current energy consumption, if ever. Let's hope that before we jump on a new technology bandwagon as the solution to the problems of the current system we take a long hard look at the consequences.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

If Only All He Mangled Were Words...

You know, I don't really have a problem with a person that can't correctly pronounce the nucular weapon that he has the power to launch against our enemies, real or imagined. (Or to solve the global warming problem for the next 10 years.)

It's cute when he mispronounces the names of countries, because that's an additional cue as to which ones are the bad guys.

However, what I can't imagine is how the patriotic citizens of this country would ever elect as president a man who can't even pronounce the name of our country. I'm not sure I have the spelling right, but phonetically something like "the Unind States of Amerca".

Somebody get that man to a speech therapist!