Extra Daylight Causes Warming

I feel that it is my general desire to believe in the best in people that makes me wish this was a satirical letter to the editor, however I suspect that Ms. Meskimen is stone-cold serious. Last week, she wrote that “Daylight Savings Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?” Perhaps Congress has assumed more authority than the Constitution provides for them, if they are changing the amount of daylight on the U.S. The letter’s author continues “Perhaps this is another ploy by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat.” Actually, varying DST appeared to have a negligible effect on the country’s power usage. No word on the number of hours of daylight, as apparently we were all too hot to notice. (via BoingBoing)

Peering Through A Haze

Sorry things have been kind of quiet here for a few days. I am currently under a thick fog of antihistamines and decongestants as a result of Richmond’s annual Spring pollen onslaught (I never had allergy problems before moving here, but this annual yellow blanket of snow is just unbelievable). I’ll get my head out of the fog in a couple of days or so. In the meantime, please check out my del.icio.us feeds (both links and news); or simply watch the new Harry Potter & TOTP trailer over and over and over…

Ethanol Health Risks

Angela forwarded me a similar article on some resent research which states that ethanol may have greater health risks than gasoline as a auto fuel. From the article I tagged in del.icio.us from New Scientist (see lower right, titled "Warning: Biofuel may harm your health"), it appears that the number of deaths increases by 185 going to an ethanol fleet from a gasoline fleet in the Stanford researchers model. That’s out of about 10,000 deaths annually, or less than 2%. Frankly, I have reservations against believing that one model can really predict within 2% (maybe if this was a summary of several studies). But assuming it is accurate, there’s always the question about what carbon emissions will do as well. Will more than 185 people die as a result of not switching to biofuels. Frankly, I think that a switch to non-carbon based fuel sources or generation of energy (e.g. – wind, solar, hydro, geo, etc.) is the only long-term, sustainable answer in any case.

On The Events At Virginia Tech

As some of you may know, I lived in Blacksburg for about 20 months while working towards a Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at Virginia Tech. This was over six years ago so I’m by no means particularly close to the university anymore. However, I’ve discussed a little bit about my experiences there as well as the recent tragic news with family and friends and I think I would be remiss if I didn’t say anything here as well.

Most of my time in Blacksburg was spent holed up in either my apartment (supposedly writing but often watching TV and playing with a young Harry) or off in one of the labs setting up and performing experiments; either across the bypass at the large structures lab or on campus in Hancock Hall. However, of my time in class, all of it was spent in Patton Hall and Norris Hall. Patton Hall houses the department of Civil Engineering and Norris Hall houses a variety of departments, mostly engineering, and classes from various majors. None of the professors which I took course under, that I know of, were hurt or killed on Monday. That’s not to say that they were involved and directly affected, I’m sure they all are. At least one of my former profs was able to barricade his office against the killer. It’s hard to find a way to be thankful after such events, but I’m glad that even more people were not killed or harmed given the apparent mindlessness of the events on Monday morning.

I do not wish to try and tie my life to these events as they are only tangentially related at best. I do not appreciate when others hope to draw attention to themselves or to their causes by creating some false sense of attachment to tragedy. At best this is misdirected empathy but more than not it is simple attention seeking and does nothing for those who are truly scared by such events. Rather, I would like anyone who reads this to spend just a few moments getting to know those who died on Monday. They represent a cross-section of what makes Virginia Tech so wonderful of a school and why it must go on for the thousands of students and faculty there. They are of all different ages, races, nationalities, and backgrounds. Men and women who seemed to share one thing in common: a desire to explore the world through learning. I did not know anyone involved but I can say that I feel that the world is dimmer without them. Everyone deserves to live. These people seemed to be ones who made their school, this Commonwealth, and their world a better place through their lives.

Tragedy strikes all too often and all around the world. This particular one seems especially senseless. Unexplainable. Unreasonable. Far closer than usual.

Already, and in the coming days and weeks, people will try and attach this horrible event to their causes and opinions. Some out of true concern but most out of nothing but an attempt to turn sympathy into influence. All I can say is that this seems to have been the confluence of many small events that lead to one great tragedy. A troubled, imbalanced youth out of place who refused and rebuked help extended to him placed in a location where his obsessions could both be fed and hidden. Attacks on the many individual cards that made up a deck will do little good as far as I can tell. What happened was dealt by random chance as much as anything else. This is not to say that many policies and attitudes are not in desperate need of review and change. Only that the public’s appetite for placing blame isn’t likely to be satisfied with any one bit of this story.

I offer my sincerest condolences to the families and friends of those who were robbed of their lives in ways they could never have imagined. I also offer my condolences to the family of the killer as their burden is also greatly unfair. Even if we cannot find meaning in the deaths of these people, hopefully we can find meaning in their lives.

New Bugaboo for the Size Conscious

An interesting new product from Bugaboo called the Bee (yes, a baby stroller). I still prefer the Frog, as it’s more versatile. However, I keep reading complaints about the size of the other Bugaboos (as well as the cost, which is slightly more valid). Am I missing something, or is this still the same country with people who sleep on California King-sized mattresses in their suburban McMansions? Where soccer Moms drive their two kids in Chevy Tahoes and people drive solo, thirty minute commutes in Hummer H2s? But an average-sized stroller is too big? That may be reasonable from a parent who drives a Mini and carries their child in a cloth sling, but hardly from the average American parent who thinks an SUV is a requirement of parenthood. (via DaddyTypes)

Good, Because Children Like Butterflies

One evening last week, I got a chance to meet up with a couple of friends of mine who I used to work with back at URS Corp. (mega-engineering company roughly 1,000 times the size of where I work now). One is a soon-to-be Dad, like me, only a couple of months ahead. The other is the father of two boys, ages 7-1/2 and 4.

We’re all structural engineers and we did discuss the nerdy, engineering stuff for a little while. We also discussed running (all of us run) and some other non-work interests. However, most of the evening’s conversation revolved around dealing with pregnancy and raising children. It was great getting to talk about stuff like that with some good friends my age; one who’s been through it (twice) as well as someone who’s essentially going the exact same things as I am (really that Angela and I are, just through the eyes of the daddy side of life). It’s not so much an advice giving session as just a reassurance that I’m not crazy and that no one else really has a clue with how to deal with this stuff. I think I’ve enjoyed getting to talk about this with a lot of friends and co-workers and this conversation was particularly fun.

After dinner and a couple of beers, we called it an evening and decided we’d better get on home. As father-of-two and I were walking down the sidewalk talking, he happened to mention one thing that has also been on my mind a lot. He commented on how funny it was to talk with his mom and the differences on how he recalled his childhood and how his mom did.

Although it’s not exactly what he was getting at, I think this is something that both terrifies and fascinates me. I can recall a few instances of something that one or the other of my parents said to me which, although they probably didn’t mean to have so much weight behind it, stuck with me and really affected how I thought and acted. No, not some sort of deep mental scarring, just something that would guide how I saw the world from then on.

I was born in the late summer and, as in many places, that meant I could have started school a year later since my birthday was right around the time the school year began. It was around the time that I was closing in on my fifth birthday that my mom asked me if I would like to go to school. Now, I’m sure she even phrased it as “would you like to go to Kindergarten this year or wait until next year?” However, I interpreted as simply “would you like to attend school or not?” My young mind reeled at the possibility of getting to stay home and play forever. However, knowing that I wanted to grow up to be a scientist1, I determined that the best course was for me to attend school and learn as much as possible. I decided that yes, I would have to go to school.

Now, rest assured, my parents were going to send me to school regardless. They just might have waited a year to put me in if I’d thrown a fit or something. However, had that happened, I would have had an entirely different set of classmates and friends; possibly even different teachers. I think that such changes could have been pretty relevant into how I developed. That’s not really good nor bad, save for the fact that I’m pretty fond of myself as I am now. Just an interesting thought on how one little passing question could have had such a dramatic affect on me.

Sort of a "butterfly effect" of child development.

  1. You see, I was convinced that if I became a chemist or biologist, I could eventually discover how to turn ordinary people (e.g. – me) into superheroes. I particularly figured I needed to devise a red fluid which, upon drinking, would turn me into The Flash. I hadn’t yet decided if I would need to change my name to Barry Allen. []

On The Day After Kurt Vonneget Died

After reading the news of Kurt Vonnegut’s death, I decided it was about time I got with it. I’ve never read anything by him over 1,000 words long but at lunch today I went and picked up a paperback copy of Slaughterhouse-Five. Better late than never, I suppose. I’ve had a lot of friends recommend that book over the years and I’m bumping some of the other books I’ve been sitting on for a while to read it first. Vonnegut was 84 years old and is survived by his seven children, his second wife, and legions of adoring fans.

Apparantly, Mr. Iacocca Is The Leader

I read nearly this entire book excerpt with my jaw dropped. Who would have thought that one of the most sincere and harsh critiques of our country – its government, its media, and its citizens – would come from an 80’s industrialist leader who has long been a supporter of both big business and big name Republican candidates? I’m not posting this to beat up on Republicans. As a matter of fact, many of my friends and family are conservative, some even members of the party, and I’m glad that more and more, people from both sides of the aisle are questioning the government and its decisions. Looks like I may be reading a book by Lee Iacocca this summer. (via Kottke)

The Baby Is A…

It’s A Girl! And a healthy, active little girl at that.

T-Minus 20 Weeks

So, do you think our little girl looks more like me or Angela? I’m pretty sure she’s not done growing just yet, but we think she has Angela’s nose and my forehead! Either, way, I already think she’s gorgeous. I hold no hope of ever saying "no" to that face, do I?

This morning was our half-way OB visit and ultrasound. The technician was "99% sure" that what we were looking at was a girl. She was even able to identify girl parts1, if you follow. During the whole thing we could see the baby getting, uh, agitated about being poked and pressed on. She was kicking and swinging like mad like she was at a punk rock concert!

To top it all off, the doctor said the measurements and images indicate we have a very healthy little baby. All of the measurements are those that fall outside of ones which are correlated with birth defects or other health problems. We couldn’t be happier right now, to tell the truth.

We have some potential names in store, but no clear winners yet. If we make up our minds I’ll let everyone know, but as for right now, it’s just "baby girl." Now, as I said before, we’ll have plenty of pink. In order to spare our sanity in the future, please consider other colors of the spectrum… Yes, mom, you can still buy some pink; just not only pink. Is that a fair agreement for the granddaughter? :)

Colors aside, thanks everyone for the well-wishes, guesses, fun old-wives-tale guess, etc.

You’re money may now change hands for the bets, as well.

  1. So either it indeed is a girl or the someday most humiliated boy in the world. Of course, there is some error in the ability of to see with an ultrasound but the fact she was able to identify internal organs, both reproductive and otherwise, tells me she knows what she’s doing with that wand. []