Monthly Archives: September 2005

Google Archaeology

Here’s a little tidbit: An Italian computer geek found the remains of an ancient Roman villa using the excellent Google Earth satellite images available on Google Maps. He was looking at satellite imagery of his home town when he noticed telltale signs of a dried up riverbed. Studying this ancient watercourse, he came across rectangular shapes that could only be a buried, man-made structure. Luca Mori describes his discovery on his blog, Quelli Della Bassi – which is currently slashdotted.

Lolita at 50

Let’s keep up with the literary themes: Here’s a couple articles celebrating fifty years of Nabakov’s masterful paen to love and nymphets, Lolita.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Now that boys and girls, that’s what we call writing. Wow. The entire novel scintillates with prose like this. It is simply incomparable, a lush delight to read. And the lurid subject matter makes it all the more enthralling. That Nabakov wrote such prose for a perverted pedophile, wow.

Climate & Kim Stanley Robinson

Via the always enjoyable World Changing, I came across a fascinating interview in the Guardian with Kim Stanley Robinson, one of my favorite current science fiction authors. He’s about to release a new novel, the second in a trilogy dealing with global warming and climate change. Fifty Degrees Below sounds enticing, especially after reading Mr. Robinson’s response to a question about U.S. culpability in global warming:

“I think the US is in a terrible state of denial,” he says firmly. “Worse than that, we seem to be caught in a kind of Gotterdammerung response: we’d rather have the world go down in flames than change our lifestyle or admit we’re wrong. Even here in California, 50% of cars on the freeway are SUVs, and they’re political statements: they say, we’re going to take the rest of the world down with us because we don’t give a damn.

Boy, you can say that again mister. There is a strong nihilistic streak in American culture, a morbid fascination with our own destruction. Movies, books, television, music, art, and science, the currents are easy to pick out.

Let me plug another fascinating interview with Mr. Robinson, this one from several years ago, following the release of his alternate history novel, The Years of Rice and Salt.

Teachers And Requiem For A Dream

A couple stories that interested me.

  • Teaching In America: The Impossible Dream – I’ve never felt much pull to become a teacher, despite a strong affinity for pontification and several seminal teachers in my long school history. Despite any lingering romantic notions of service as a teacher, I rather like making a decent salary and not being denigrated by students and irate parents. The Alternet article is a plug for Teachers Have It Easy, a book exploring why teachers are paid so poorly in the United States.
  • Requiem For An Office – An interesting article from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (the guys behind the Doomsday Clock), written by Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science.

Max Havoc Blows Chunks

Ralph Coon lays out the whole ridiculous scam that is Max Havoc in Hollywood Comes to Guam.

The sad thing is this comical farce is all too familiar to people on Guam. And nobody will ever be held accountable for this fiasco – certainly not the governor, certainly not GEDCA.

The Onion Just Rocks

Halliburton Gets Contract To Pry Gold Fillings From New Orleans Corpses’ Teeth

September 14, 2005 | Issue 41•37

HOUSTON—On Tuesday, Halliburton received a $110 million no-bid government contract to pry the gold fillings from the mouths of deceased disaster victims in the New Orleans-Gulf Coast area. ‘We are proud to serve the government in this time of crisis by recovering valuable resources from the wreckage of this deadly storm,’ said David J. Lesar, Halliburton’s president. ‘The gold we recover from the human rubble of Katrina can be used to make fighter-jet electronics, supercomputer chips, inflation-proof A-grade investments, and luxury yachting watches.’

That’s My Prez!

This can’t be real, but it is.
photo © Reuters/Rick Wilking
U.S. President George W. Bush writes a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a Security Council meeting at the 2005 World Summit and 60th General Assembly of the United Nations in New York on September 14, 2005. World leaders are exploring ways to revitalize the United Nations at a summit on Wednesday but their blueprint falls short of Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s vision of freedom from want, persecution and war.

Oh, and Dubya needs to pinch a loaf.

Randomly Cool

A couple links o’ interest:

  • Ecology of Absence – Derelict buildings and their history, from my hometown of St. Louis.
  • Ghost Diagrams – Following in the footsteps of that Wolfram ring tone site, check out this little python program that makes cool patterns of tiles. Sort of like a do it yourself M.C. Escher program.
  • Eat My BlogPim gets featured in the Guardian.
  • Tongue-Eating Bug Found In Fish – Yech.
  • Hosting For Life – TextDrive is back with another round of web hosting for life. Snatch one up while they’re still available.

Pacific Power Woes

The power went out one night last week, a reminder of the once familiar power woes that plagued Guam in the mid-nineties. It was a muggy, still night when the power went out, leaving me swathed in sweaty sheets without a breath of air.

I have a feeling I better get used to it. The entire power grid on Guam is supplied by a series of base load generators that burn either diesel or bunker oil, both petroleum derivatives. The oil crunch is starting and Guam is especially susceptible to price fluctuations. The Guam Power Authority has already raised rates by 20% this year, and less than a month after raising rates in August the power authority is making noises about raising rates again to cover the skyrocketing cost of fuel. The agency is mandated by law to break even on fuel costs, but it is running in the red right now, wildly hoping that the price of oil drops in the near future.

Last month Guam played host to the Pacific Power Association meeting, a gathering of regional energy utilities and agencies. Was anything discussed at this meeting about the coming oil crisis? I’m sure plenty of the talks were about renewable energy, probably about using waves or ocean currents to generate power. This sounds cool, but let’s see some demonstrable progress on these initiatives. I remain skeptical that wave generation will ever provide anything more than negligible amounts of electricity.

But one thing I am certain of – the oil is running out, and Pacific island nations will be among the first and hardest hit. The time to develop renewable sources of electricity is now, using proven technologies like wind and solar. Case in point, San Diego Gas & Electric just signed a contract with Stirling Energy Systems to buy 300 megawatts of electricity from a solar farm in the Imperial Valley. The electricity will be generated using a solar Stirling engine, a closed cycle motor powering an electrical dynamo.

300 megawatts is more than enough to satisfy Guam’s electrical needs. Of course the power would only be available during daylight hours, but it would certainly provide a consistent source of energy during the hottest part of the day, the peak hours of electrical consumption. So while solar will not provide a complete solution, it can certainly help reduce the demand for oil and eventually supplement other petroleum free sources of energy, whether these be wind turbines, those pie in the sky wave generators, or even some form of (gasp) nuclear power.

In the long run I doubt centralized electrical generation will prove sustainable. As prices for electricity continue to rise people will slowly disconnect themselves from the grid and start collecting solar power on their rooftops, or throwing up windmills to snatch power from the winds. Eventually I suspect fuel cell technology will progress to a level where a home can be powered by a bank of fuel cells, providing both electricity and piping hot water.

For the time being though, the most efficient way to stretch remaining oil supplies is also the one that has the most effect on consumer’s wallets. Conserve energy. Install energy efficient fluorescent bulbs in lamps. Turn off the damn air conditioner and use a fan instead. Replace that old electric water heater, or put it on a timer. Live sustainably and lessen your ecological footprint on the planet.