Archive for February, 2005


Sunday, February 6th, 2005

Our blog is getting hit with a lot of comment spam. I’ve added words to the spam file, which should catch more of the illegitimate comments. Comments with spam words get put into the moderation queue. If you do not see your comment appear immediately then it’s likely in the moderation queue, to be approved or disapproved by me. I don’t look at the queue that often so these comments make take awhile to appear (sorry, Garry, one of your comments got caught).

The latest spam attack attached itself to every single post. It took awhile to delete. If I see a lot more spam then I’ll need to moderate all the comments.

In the meantime, authors, feel free to delete the spam when you see it.

Can’t get away from the real world in online games

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

From MSNBC, via Slashdot, what’s going on in massive multiplayer games boggles the mind.

A funny thing is happening in these sprawling online multiplayer arenas. The ultimate in digital escapism, virtual worlds keep ending up in the ultimate in depressing reality: the courts.

It goes onto to explain how players and game companies are engaging in legal battles over virtual activity. However, this is the quote that got me to sit up:

Digital sweatshops, businesses where [real]Third World laborers play online games 24/7 in order to create virtual goods that can be sold for cash, are also on the rise.

Apparently players can buy digital goods on sites like eBay as a way to enhance their playing experience. One such sweatshop produces digital weaponry that is then auctioned off for real money. To give you a sense of the kind of money we’re talking about, a digital island on eBay recently was auctioned for $30,000. That’s $30,000US in real money to buy a virtual piece of property.

For more information on virtual worlds and the law, check out the conference, State of Play.

To bring it back to the topic of the blog, I wonder if there is any environmental regulation in these digital worlds? Can we have a clean air act in EverQuest?

Death of Environmentalism gains currency

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

The report I mentioned in an earlier post, The Death of Environmentalism, has made it into the NYTimes: Paper Sets Off a Debate on Environmentalism’s Future. These days the authors are receiving numerous speaking engagements. I’m sure that at the same the report’s become somewhat of a scourge of the left wing, it’s become a darling of the right wing.

Schrodinger’s cat gets away…

Friday, February 4th, 2005

Schrodinger's cat gets away

Another of Pete’s cat photos. Fortunately the box is more humane than a steel case. For more information on the classic problem in quantum mechanics, see The Interactive Schrodinger’s Cat

Edible Packaging

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

We know that packaging makes up a large portion of the waste stream today. A paper published by the American Society of Agricultural Engineers highlights a new type of edible packaging designed by the Agricultural Research Service together with the Western Regional Research Center. The edible packaging is made of food and vegetables, that can be used to store food and also can be eaten, and in themselves, contain nutritional benefits! It could not be used alone, though, in places with unsanitary conditions nor could it be used during transport and storage; however, it would ideally be used for packaging leftovers in the refrigerator, or food carried in a lunch bag. Considering 1.8 million tons of packaging waste is dumped into landfills each year, this may reduce some of the waste. Moreover, they were experimenting with different ingredients to make the film that would be the protective coating. They used apple puree, and various lipid-based concentrations.

A few years ago, during high school, I did a co-op program at the University of Western, and worked in a chemical laboratory, harvesting bacteria to make cellulose. Cellulose was originally found in fruits, (in Japan, it was first commericially harvested from a rotten black cherry), but today it is used in a variety of ways and across many sectors. Its strong and resilient, yet flexible properties makes it versatile, lending itself to products such as medical tools, wound dressings, personal hygiene products, and also it is used in low-fat drinks (it doesn’t have any calories, but it makes the drink thicker). I’m curious whether they’ve considered this type of technology for their use in edible packaging. They probably have…

What will it take?

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Ok… well here we go, my first chance to steer away from the technological aspects of this course… although I don’t know how any blog can not be related to technology, due merely to the fact that a blog requires a fairly advanced combination of technology. This post relates to the intersection of nature and society.

So in searching for a blog to review I found a list of blogs related to the December ’05 tsunami, a natural (or was it?) disaster, occurring in South East Asia. I came across one blog that was a honey-mooning couples account of the seismological activity and resultant environmental and cultural effects. If you have the time to skim through this blog please pay special attention to the recurring theme: what happened to the couple’s luggage.

The point I want to make here, is that planet Earth just experienced one of the largest natural disasters in recent history, yet many of the human inhabitants of the Earth can not get past the idea that the tsunami may affect their cultural lives. The honey-mooning couple was worried about their luggage, locals are worried about rebuilding their homes, caring individuals are thinking about and helping the many orphaned children, but who is thinking about the state of the Earth?

With global climate change upon us, scientists are predicting that natural disasters will only happen more frequently and more intensely, drastically altering the Earth as we know it. What is the sake of culture if there is no place to host it?

What people all around the world need to start realizing is that these “natural disasters” may not be so natural at all… that is if you consider humans to be removed from nature. Human induced climate change is a real possibility – it may be that our own species is taking enjoyment (i.e. driving around their fancy cars, consuming factory made goods) from creating conditions that may prove only to deteriorate the cultural world as we know it. Hundreds, even thousands, of communities were demolished as a result of December’s tsunami – why wasn’t it yours or mine? What will it take for people to realize that we are our own demise?

No amount of warning signals (eg. Tsunami) or awareness attempts (eg. “The Day After Tomorrow”) seem to be working: I still see countless cars everyday carrying only one person and there is no shortage of goods requiring huge factory emissions for production. Societal stubbornness wins out again.

Wake up people!


Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Well, I basically just wasted my entire night playing with this program. If you have a Windows computer I really recommend playing with it for the week trial, all it asks for is your e-mail, and Google recently bought them, so hopefully they’re not too evil.

The program (Keyhole) is basically a big clickable zoomable map of the entire world, which streams information from the internet (so it loads as you go) about whatever you happen to be looking at, including borders, cities, and street names, altitude, latitude and longitude. For quite a few north american, and a few famous ones in the rest of the world, you can actually zoom in far enough to see individual people and cars! It’s extremely cool. Besides trying to find your house (which my roommates could), other fun things to zoom in and/or try to find: the Coliseum in Rome, Tiananmen Square in Beijing, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and probably a lot more.

Anyways, it really is very cool, and if you happen to have a semi-decent windows computer, you should certainly check it out here.

Slashdot Review on the Cellphone Blog

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

The blog posted by “timothy” is fairly short, but brings up an interesting article regarding a study that was conducted at the University of Utah in which cell phone users have impaired driving skills. This link was also included in the blog and leads to the news article. I notice that whenever I walk on the sidewalk and someone is talking on their cell phone and approaching me, they always run into me, even if I stop and like go in the opposite direction…it bugs me. It’s funny though. Whereas, in the past we would see people talking to themselves on the street and think they were crazy, now we see people talking to themselves (with a hidden phone), and assume they’re fine.

The act of blogging leads me to a question, regarding intellectual property. If a person chooses to blog, and his or her ideas are made open to the public, can they claim it was their intellectual property, if someone else chooses to use his or her idea? And if so, are there any consequences for the person who uses their material in some way? How would one even monitor this…?

Lean and Green Article Response

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Although he has pointed out some neat ideas towards building leaner greener cities, I think in part, it is mainly wishful thinking, because some of his approaches wouldn’t work long-term. For instance, he brings up an interesting point regarding transportation and demobilization. By restricting the amount of space for driving (taking away something of value), this will force drivers to look to other forms of transit that is less harmful and less destructive on the environment. Well this seems reasonable; however, his next argument goes against his first approach. He suggests we build poly-centric cities composed of “compact, multifunctional, pedestrian-scale neighborhoods interconnected by efficient transportation and telecommunication links” (Mitchell 150). Why build more roads when he specifically said to demobilize them? Even if neighbourhoods are interconnected by efficient transportation systems, when you build a new road, instead of reducing congestion (which may occur in the short term) rather it leads to long-term congestion, as people will switch to this new system, if it is faster and more efficient. Then as this road becomes congested, a new road is built, etc. until that one becomes congested. By decentralizing locations, this leads to what we call the suburb and urban sprawl, and encourages the use of private automobiles. I like the ideas about intelligent management, but I’m not sure if his ideas regarding the placement of transportation systems will likely lead to a long-term effective solution in terms of conservation.

New green tax in Alberta

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Check this out!
Alberta of all places (sorry Liam) has implemented a new tax on electronics to help offset disposal costs.

Eco fee boosts TV, PC prices

Flushing Trees

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

While I was reading the daily in one of my classes today, about the marvel of something called a tabo, which apparently explains the mysterious bowl in the bathroom of a Filipino friend of mine many years ago. Here’s said article: Daily Article (who says our $10 fee gets us nothing)

Anyways, short summary, it involves washing yourself after you um… do your business, with a bowl of water, some soap, and your hand, and is the common practice in a lot of places. One can certainly see how this could probably in the end make things cleaner, generally we use soap and water to clean ourselves… not so much with the rubbing dry paper all over ourselves.

Now, if North America did this… well, we essentially would have no more need for toilet paper. Wikipedia tells us the average American uses 20 805 sheets a year, which certainly has to add up to a lot of trees.

Of course, those Japanese and Continental Europeans have also been cooking up TP alternatives, the bidet, which I can’t recall having ever seen in real life, and the Japanese with their technologically marvelous super toilets. Of course, as we’ve seen with a lot of ‘progress’, the cost of such super toilets may be more than meets the eye, and moving to the paperless bathroom may have the rather unfortunate consequence of creating junkyards of toxic electronic toilets. The negative effects of the bowl of water approach, other than some vague (or not so vague) discomfort on my part with the idea, don’t come to mind as easily. As an added side benefit, you’d be pretty sure everyone would be washing their hands after using the washroom.

The fact that I find it a disconcerting idea is probably indicative of a lot of Western ideas about things (I’ve already been indoctrinated see…). Dirty, gross, unsightly, or anything like it; we prefer to ignore it if we can, absolutely minimize our contact with it if we can’t, and will take a lot of illogically wasteful steps to do it. It still baffles me when people will clean spills up with huge wads of paper towel when rags are sitting by the sink, specifically for that purpose, simply so they won’t have to get their hands wet and/or rinse the rag out. Don’t even get me started on Swiffers.

Anyways, this post ended up being a lot more bizarre then I intended when I started writing it.
So, to close it off, here’s a link to confirm that, yes, in fact, most marketing IS designed to destroy the world: Because everyone needs to be encouraged to buy more paper products.