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

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Vino Barbs It All

There are only two possible explanations as to why Alexandre Vinokourov would do what he's been accused of. One, he was so stupid and desperate, and his chances in the Tour were so far gone, that he was willing to risk it. Or, two, doping is so widespread and testing so poor that the chances of being caught are deemed an acceptable risk.

Consider the consequences: A shameful expulsion from the tour. The fact that he has forced all of his teammates to withdraw from the race (assuming none of them are complicit), a very ironic turn after his being forced out of the tour last year because several of his teammates were ejected based on doping allegations. The fact that another big doping scandal is another big blow to the sport and to the Tour. And, if proven, a fine of a year's salary, and a ban from the sport of at least two years.

I suspect we're not done with this cycle of doping scandals.

In any case, at least cycling fans can take comfort in the fact that the doping in this sport is being made public, unlike most other sports.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Whole Fools

I previously reported that John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, made some stupid antitrust-ish comments, in writing, while attempting to purchase rival Wild Oats. Now, it's come out that he's been trash talking Wild Oats on Yahoo's finance forum.

So let's get this straight. First anti-competitive statements in discoverable documents, in the middle of a merger. Then, surreptitious stock price manipulation of the company he is trying to purchase.

John Mackey needs to resign or by fired by his Board of Directors. Then, the Board needs to get on with cooperating with any DOJ or SEC investigation of Mackey's actions.

I can't see that the merger can still proceed at this point. Whole Foods management should call it off now, take full responsibility for the failure of the merger, and pay Wild Oats the full $15 million termination fee.

In the meantime, we'll have to hope that Wild Oats didn't put all of its eggs in the Whole Foods basket and can somehow pull through this disaster.

Full disclosure: Although I own stock in both companies, I am not an employee, director, manager, or even CEO of either. And my name is not Rahodeb.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Three Weeks in July

For anybody who thinks cycling isn't a real sport or who thought the Tour this year would be overshadowed by the doping controversies or who worried that the lack of an American star would make the race uninteresting, I have news. So far, after the Prologue and three stages, the mystique of this competition remains intact.

No, I don't think Levi will win. I just have never seen him go an entire three weeks of a major tour without having at least one really bad day, and you can't win the Tour if you do that. Maybe he'll surprise me.

In the Prologue, we got to see why the World Champion gets to wear that rainbow jersey (temporarily traded in for yellow).

Stage One showed us incredible teamwork and tactics. David Millar's finesse at getting the polka dot jersey was perfect. And Robbie McEwen's remarkable win after his crash was jaw-dropping. His team set him up perfectly, and his incredible speed was unstoppable.

In Stage Two, we got to see how the Quick Step boys earned their name. Everyone expected Boonen and his team to make that win happen and they didn't disappoint. The only fly in the ointment was the the big crash at the finish -- looking at the replays, it appears that it was Boonen's rear wheel that touched Zabel's front wheel and set off the chain reaction crash that stopped 150 riders from joining the sprint finish. Perhaps Boonen was not perfectly focused and contributed to the mayhem, and with his less than stellar results in the other stages so far perhaps he is showing a bit of vulnerability.

Then in Stage Three today, it was the gutsy breakaway caught right at the finish and more intriguing tactics in the KOM/polka dot jersey race. And then an incredible demonstration of the almost super powers inferred onto the wearer of the yellow jersey. Another jaw dropper, and when you saw Cancellara go you could just tell that he was going to pull it off.

So, we're just starting, not even to the mountains yet, and it looks like this will be another great year for the TdF.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Zero Net Carbons

I've been pondering the concept of carbon neutrality -- the idea that people should buy "carbon offsets" to make up for their carbon emissions.

They do encourage people to take some responsibility for their impact on the environment, and may do a bit of good. However, I believe they create a market for entrepreneurs to enrich themselves over people's desire to do good, they often have no impact on warming (or actually increase it), and they encourage an attitude of smugness in which people no longer feel obligated to make the real changes necessary to really address the global climate change problem.

Therefore, I am coming out against the concept of carbon offsets.

The basic idea is very similar to that of purchasing "indulgences" in the middle ages. You figure out exactly how much you've sinned (e.g., polluted), and you give somebody some money calculated to exactly make up for that amount of sin. Then, you go on doing whatever it was you were doing.

The first issue is the marketing of carbon offsets by for-profit companies. Now, I have no problem with a company that makes a profit by helping people do good. However, when you provide no actual service or goods to your customers except a slip of paper, I'm not convinced I would ever give you my money. This is the route that Al gone has taken, although I'm pretty sure that in his case the concept is much more complex than just paying someone else to conserve on his behalf.

Suppose you purchase your offsets from a reputable non-profit? There's still very little you can do to verify the actual carbon savings being generated on your behalf. You may be able to find out what sorts of things your money's being invested in, but the details of the net carbon impact may be elusive.

Take for example, planting trees, one very popular method of reducing carbon. In fact reforestation in the tropics turns out to be a pretty good and cheap strategy, as long as the right kinds of trees are planted (likely quick-growing, hopefully native species), local farmers aren't kicked off their land, and a host of other human rights problems don't emerge.

But planting trees elsewhere could actually increase climate change. Reduced reflection of sunlight can increase warming more than the cooling effect of the carbon absorbed. The act of planting trees can release carbon stored in the soil. The carbon stored in the trees will be released as soon as the trees are harvested or burned. And maybe those trees were going to be planted anyway, and someone is just using the carbon offsets to make money off the transaction.

What about buying pollution credits? Well, how can you verify that the company wouldn't be reducing their pollution anyway, for cost, regulatory or other reasons?

I assume that there are some good things that can be done with carbon offsets. Things like investing in renewable energy, or methane storage. But you have to be able to convince yourself that these things wouldn't be happening anyway without your purchase of offsets.

But the fundamental problem with carbon offsets is that they allow people to buy their way out of caring about their impacts on the planet. I may drive 20,000 miles every year, but by spending $150 I can assuage my conscience and go about my daily life with no change. In essence, I'm paying someone else to drive less for me.

So if people shouldn't buy carbon offsets, what should they do?

Well, first of all look hard at your own impacts. Drive less. Turn off your AC. Make your house more efficient. Start replacing light bulbs with more efficient compact fluorescent ones. As you replace appliances, choose the most efficient ones. Buy less stuff. (Every time you buy something, you are paying someone else to pollute on your behalf.) Don't go out and replace all your stuff at once, because the act of buying and shipping something new along with disposing of the old thing just adds to the problem. Recycle and compost. Go live in a cave. To really stop all of your emissions, shoot yourself. (Actually, stabbing yourself would be a more environmentally friendly way to go.)

So, you're riding your bike down to the local farmers market to pick up some locally-grown organic produce, but you're concerned that you're not down to zero. Now what?

Well, pick a cause you believe in, like renewable energy. Find a non-profit you believe in that invests in your cause. And write them a contribution. This is not an offset for your carbon emissions, it is an investment in society that you believe will make a fundamental change. Write the contribution off your taxes. Then take the money you just saved and write another check. (Actually, making your contribution electronically is probably a more environmentally friendly way to do it.) If you can, volunteer, start a company, or whatever makes sense for you.

That's it. You're working on improving your impact on the planet. You're making a positive impact in an area that matters. And, best of all, you are doing it because the cause is important to you, not because you are feeling self-centered and want to be able to claim carbon neutrality.

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Gore Tricks

Perhaps celebrating a bit early on the 4th, VP Al Gore's son, Al III, was pulled over for speeding in his Prius at 100 MPH on the San Diego Freeway, and arrested for possession of marijuana and several prescription drugs for which he didn't have a prescription.

So here's what I want to know: A Prius can go 100 MPH? Even when the driver is slowed down by Xanax, Valium, Vicodin, Adderall, and marijuana? What kind of fireworks was he using as a supplemental fuel source?

Can I get some of that for my bicycle?

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