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. []