Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Architecture is the art of how to waste space

This was a Google 'Quote of the Day (by Philip Johnson.)' The popularity of books like "A timeless way of building' and Vesuvius' 'Ten Books on Architecture' among system architects reinforces the idea that there's some correspondance between building architecture and system (or what I call 'regular') architecture.

So, I'm thinking about how this metaphor works.

People Accepting Climate Change

Part Al Gore movie, part Katrina. And actually? I think the penguin movie made people care about the poles somewhat more, which allowed them to realize the glaciers were missing. Over the last three years, Climate Change has moved from 6th to 1st in a ranking of Americans' environmental concerns. I suppose it's hard to take wetlands destruction seriously if you believe we're about to get a whole lot more of them.
In the 2006 survey, 28 percent of the respondents agreed that it is a serious problem and immediate action is necessary--up from 17 percent in 2003. All together, almost 60 percent of the 2006 respondents agreed that there's enough evidence to warrant some level of action.
I could not explain to you what was going on with the other 40 %.
In 2003, people were willing to pay on average $14 more per month on their electricity bill to "solve" global warming. In 2006 they agreed to pay $21 more per month--a 50 percent increase in their willingness to pay.
As the guy says, that's $25Billion dollars, which is enough to buy every last Senator and Member of Congress.

On the topic of Al Gore's role in all this, I read a Slashdot comment today that irritated me.
if anyone else had tried to get congress to act on Global Warming, there would have never been An Inconvenient Truth. Had Gore been more successful in convincing congress to join the Kyoto treaty or strengthen EPA guidelines, I don't believe there never would have been the movie.
Now, Senators do hard things -- enriching yourself without crosssing any standing laws is trickier than you think, as is stovepiping legislation written by corporate malefactors. But, getting Congress to join the Kyoto treaty? Is anyone out there trying to think of an argument that would finally bring Senator Inhofe around? It was really a tough crowd -- the idea of starting at the top showed a little too much institutional bias; it was the people that needed to hear the message the whole time. But, having chosen to convice Congress instead, it's disingenuous to suggest Gore failed because of a lack of commitment or charisma.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Another business model being swiped

Among other things, [New York City's Department of Environmental Protection] was concerned by the damage storm surges might inflict on a city surrounded by water. Although city officials declined to discuss concrete solutions for this article saying they were still in the "assessment" phase, scientists foresee potential fixes ranging from raising key infrastructure and building dikes, to flood gates and temporary seals over tunnel entrances. One group proposes raisable flood barriers large enough to protect all of Manhattan Island.

Sea levels have risen almost a foot in the past century, partly because of ice melt and thermal expansion (warmer water has more volume), and partly because of naturally occurring land subsidence of the Northeast. In the same period, area temperatures have risen nearly 2 degrees F. About two-thirds of that increase occurred in the past 30 years and sea-level rise has accelerated in the past decade. "The core body of knowledge has solidified" on climate change, says Cynthia Rosenzweig, the lead GISS scientist on the climate-change task force. "We're moving into a solution phase."

Hmph. I wanted to lead the Manhattan seawall boondoggle. I mean solution.

10 years for Manhattan?

So, twice in the last week I've heard people near me refer to a magazine article that claimed Manhattan would be underwater in ten years. Now, of course, the official Red Cross position is that there'll be a Category 5 hurricane in Manhattan in the next five years; I know they don't know, and I wouldn't expect magazine writers to be any more on the ball.

By which ball I mean crystal.

But, I'm happy to hear it's in the zeitgeist. The faster we start responding to climate change, the more we should be able to mitigate the damage. Well, that's the whole argument for prudence. But, I'm curious as to where the ten-year figure came from. James Hansen believes we have no more than ten years to act meaningfully, not that Manhattan will be underwater in ten years.

Does anyone have this reference? What magazine is this?

The 2006 Hurricane Season

Remember the August 8 Update? Don't you maybe think we should have had one since?
1. Expected Activity - 75% chance above normal, 20% chance near normal, 5% chance below normal
Now, things with a 5 % chance do happen, roughly one in every twenty times. But, shouldn't we have expected some Bayesian updating? They told us "For the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season, the expected ACE range is 110%-170% of the median... A value of 117% of the median corresponds to the lower boundary for an above-normal season." So, we expected above normal to way, way above normal.

This concerns me, because I can't shake the feeling that there are a bunch of potential hurricanes still out there, and that the tropical ocean has to relieve itself. Also, last hurricane season went into January, and this year's much warmer, at least in Manhattan. Generalizing about the rest of the world from what's happening in Manhattan is a core value of American writing, so it can't be wrong. So, I think that maybe the whole seasonal evolution thing is badly skewed enough that hurricane season is still kind of stuck in the middle.

I'm a little worried that January 2007 will be like September, with one tropical depression after another growing to hurricane status, half of them major. It's really important that hurricane season end by mid-February, because I'm going sailing in the Virgin Islands.

All I'm saying is, it'd be nice to have a new update from the NHC.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I'm looking at this site in Internet Explorer 6.0

I can't recommend it. Firefox and Opera work great, but I guess there are still some holdouts on IE -- if IE7 doesn't fix it, I'll look into what's wrong.

And I think I'm using 6.0sp2 or some such thing. What's the point of the '.0' if they're going to call their minor releases service packs?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What the Red Cross is preparing for

Um ... don't panic


The message below is part of an ARCGNY drill to assess the availability of our volunteer base to respond to an event with similar conditions and timing. Please give your availability as if you were now being asked to respond to this event, taking into consideration your real-life schedule and commitments; however, nothing beyond you’re email response is required for this simulation. The data collected from this request will be used in a tabletop drill tomorrow.


An incident has just occurred at Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan , NY . Over the next several hours and the days to follow the American Red Cross in Greater New York may be called upon to assist in any necessary evacuations of the areas surrounding this nuclear facility with the establishment of shelters in our northern counties. At this time we are asking disaster volunteers of all areas of training to submit their availability and standby for more information.

Transportation will be available from 520 W 49th Street leaving/returning at the following times: 6am-6pm, 2pm-2am, 10pm-10am.

For volunteers able to stay in the northern counties for several days, lodging will be provided.

Please let us know the following:

  • Name:
  • Phone number:
  • Area(s) of training:
  • Are you able to stay for several days?
  • Dates/Times available:


Thank you for your participation.

The Staffing Team

Monday, November 13, 2006

I'm the big winner!

Or, you know, the last runner up. But, I have momentum.

I actually agree with cartoon Karl Rove

Why did anybody anywhere vote for a Republican candidate?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Audience Extras

It's mystifying how people live in New York, primarily because it's so expensive. I like live theater as much as the next guy, but any show you'll see advertised will set you back some $80 - $140 per seat. This is a lot more than a movie or a game of pool, so theater rarely wins the "what will I do on some night four months in the future" question.

But, there are secrets. I've come to believe, for instance, that only tourists pay to see comedy. And I've joined the $30 opera ticket club. So, now I'm starting to crack the code around play acting. I've just joined Audience Extras -- for $115, I can get ten tickets, alone or in pairs, over the next year. And I can keep adding money, at $3 per ticket. It certainly sounds like a good deal. For example, there's a concert Wednesday selling on the venue website at $40, to which I could get two tickets. Granted, it's all public domain music ;)

I'm looking forward to this!

EULAs we're not meant to read

A friend invited me to a new social network, and I obediently went to their site to sign up. Next to a checkbox, there was a link saying "I have read and agreed to Terms of Service", which I clicked. This launches a 500-pixel wide window. The content width is explicitly set to 755 pixels, which makes the Terms of Service unreadable.

Nothing suspicious there....

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Finally some liberal crackers

I was pretty offended yesterday when some talking head said that despite the grotesque unreliability, unusability and general systematic disempowerment of the electronic voting machines, at least the expected hacking problems hadn't arisen.

So, I just wanted to point to David Dill of Verified Voting's statement that part of the problem of the vulnerability is that you wouldn't know it was happening. A cracker would just flip enough votes to ensure his side won, so in a squeaker, the black hat's candidate probably got fewer actual votes.

Since most of the close races went to Democrats....

Oh, one more thing. All Hail Micheal Young!

March Deadline

As a blogger, I'm a self-proclaimed member of the media. And, as a member of the media, I have the inherent right to dictate policy and political strategy to politicians. So, I want to lay out a March deadline.

The Democratic legislature does have to come out swinging on climate change, gun control, universal health care, deficit elimination, financial services regulation, Iraq, trade policy, environmental protection and a host of other policy topics. They also have to aggressively pursue investigations into corruption and abuses of power, especially regarding Iraq reconstruction, lobbyist-written legislation and electoral shenanigans in 200, 2002 and 2004. Really, they have a full plate. I can't see them succeeding, being Democrats, but this is what the country needs.

But, this is all continuous stuff that we can't expect them to actually solve in the next two years. But, what President Pelosi needs to get done by March is the impeachment and conviction of Richard Bruce Cheney and George Walker Bush. There's no way the body politic will see that as anything but an insane power grab, so they'll need as much time as possible to adjust. A year later, she'll be in the middle of a reƫlection campaign and it will be too late. This will anger Senator Clinton, but I've never seen quite why she thinks she should be president. It'll anger Tom Vilsack and other presumptive candidates, as well as delusionals like John Kerry and Joe Lieberman. I imagine Wesley Clark will be relieved.

The President and Vice President will clearly be an ongoing hindrance to any positive change in this country, and you have to imagine anyone who put some effort into it could find some high crimes and misdemeanors. The Democrats will not be able to stay united in purpose past, say, May. President Pelosi needs to step up early to take advantage of this unity and to get some solid governing history before she gets swallowed in the electoral cycle.

Get to it, Dems!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Bush of Troy

So, now that Jacob Kreuger mentions it, George Bush's presidency does sort of read like a Greek Tragedy. The gods set him up only to make a gentle point about hubris by tearing him down, incidentally incinerating whole populations. But, that's how the Greek Gods roll.

George Bush, the demigod love child of Aphrodite and GHW Bush, is given a choice -- Love, Wealth or Power -- by Artemis, Hera and Aphrodite. He demands all three, and gets spurned. Hera later relents, and offers to grant him a desire, which is to make George Bush president. When she interprets that as his father, Dubya gets a little testy. Artemis secretly sends her son by an underworld monster, Richard Bruce Cheney, to play on his ambitions. And you know the rest.

Oh, the humanity! Four Chairs Theatre was only doing a reading tonight, as they're trying to get enough money to stage it. But, it was a well spent 2 1/2 hours. While the gods were in a Greek tragedy, the humans (including renamed daughters Cass and Sandra) speak in iambic pentameter, which is cool. Not enough playwrights use iambic pentameter anymore! And it forwards one theory on one of the great mysteries of the Bush Admininstration, which is what happened to Colin Powell.


The world holds its breath

It's come to this then. Our hope lies with moving legislative control from the part of Climate Change Denial to the party of Climate Change Inaction. So, we have these fantasies of energy policy, presidential impeachment, rapproachment with Iran (and the dealienation of much of the rest of the world.) And a cavalcade of congressional hearings! Katrina, Iraq, (finally) the 2000 elections!

We know the Democrats will disappoint us if they do take power, but if we in our hole can't stop digging, at least we can dig more slowly. And we can hold hope in our hearts, at least through this evening, and maybe through, say, March.

Best of luck to the Dems!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

GOP outstrips my ability to mock it (part 2)

One of the reasons that it's so hard to get behind any Republican politician -- and I say this as a fair-weather fan of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg -- is that the national party so clearly thinks that anyone who would vote for one is a moron. There are a lot of memes in models like "Well, they have to lie to the public, so we can't interfere with what they're doing", and "Facts and analysis are only one side of an argument" floating around.

But, this National Republican Congressional Committee ad playing in Wisconsin's 3rd Congressional District is just delightful. It accuses the Democratic Incumbent of being "funded by an organization[that would be the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] that used an image of flag-draped coffins in a commercial. Now, if you don't like images of flag-draped coffins in campaign commercials, that might speak to you. But, it's kind of undercut by the fact that they illustrate it with the same image of flag-draped coffins. To both watch TV and vote Republican, I guess you have to be able to say:

"I am a moron, and I accept this message."

Friday, November 03, 2006

What's Stuart Bowen up to?

The NYT fronts word of a provision tucked inside a military authorization bill that orders the termination of the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. Now lawmakers from both parties are saying they did not realize the provision was slipped in and want to reverse the decision.