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Author: dsamojlenko

Leave It In The Ground

Tar Sands

The Tar Sands are a literal stain on our country’s landscape, and yet our political leadership has staked our entire economy on its development and expansion.  The process is wasteful, complicated, and throws off all kinds of toxic byproducts into our lakes, rivers and forests destroying ecosystems and wildlife habitats.

ThinkProgress on How To Make Gasoline From Tar Sands, In Six Simple Steps

After all of this, it takes as much as four tons of sand and four barrels of fresh water to make a barrel of synthetic oil, which is good for about 42 gallons of gas, or one fill up in a ’97 Suburban. The good news is about 10 percent of that water is recycled! (On the downside, the other 90 percent is dumped into toxic tailing ponds, which currently cover about 50 square kilometers [19 square miles] along the Athabasca River, and is leaking into the ecosystem at a rate of perhaps 11 million liters a day.)

This is nasty stuff, and our children will pay for our shortsightedness.

Housekeeping – FineDiners.ca Content

For a brief time I ran a foodie blog at finediners.ca, but after a brief initial spurt of creativity, it kind of trailed off and I haven’t published there in a long while.  I eventually let the domain lapse, and I’ve since felt bad that there were a handful of interesting articles there that were just orphaned and destined to be lost.

I finally decided to do something about that and I’ve migrated all that old content to this blog (wordpress export/import worked great!).  I still have to cleanup some of the stubs I had posted to this blog linking to the articles on the now-dead domain, but it’s nice to know that the writing I did there hasn’t been lost.  Since all those articles are buried in the archives here now, I thought I’d link to some of my favourites here:

Makin’ Bacon Part 1: DIY Cold Smoker

Makin’ Bacon Part 2: The Cure

In The Kitchen: Bacon Jam!

What do you do with day-after Risotto?

Butchery 101 – Strip Loin

In The Kitchen: Mom’s Easter Bread

In The Kitchen: French Onion Soup

In The Kitchen: Wine Marinated/Braised Beef Short Ribs

In The Kitchen: Fish in a Bag

Most of these are early experiments in my journey towards learning to cook.  Looking back at these, I realize that I’ve gotten a lot better since then and could probably do a much better job on those dishes.

Think about this the next time the collection basket comes around

The Catholic Church has invested nearly $2 million attempting to deny equal marriage rights to all.

Taking up where the Mormons left off in 2008, the Catholic Church – and its affiliate, the Knights of Columbus – have made considerable investments in the marriage fights in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington State and Maine this election cycle – spending nearly $2 million. In addition, a close ally of the Church and past co-conspirator, the National Organization for Marriage, spent more than $5.2 million this cycle. Final campaign figures for Maryland and Maine will be available by the end of the month.

Marriage equality opponents across the four states raised $11.3 million. The Catholic Church’s contributions make up 17 percent of that total figure. When you add in the contributions of Church ally NOM, the reality of the coordinated effort becomes clear: the Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus and NOM are responsible for funding nearly 65 percent of all anti-equality efforts in Minnesota, Maryland, Washington State and Maine.

Election Night Drinking Game

Who’s with me?

Whether you get your results from CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, C-SPAN or one of the broadcast networks, take a drink* every time someone on screen says anything on the following list:

  • Ground Game
  • Firewall
  • Sandy
  • Photo ID
  • Recount
  • Youth Vote
  • Enthusiasm
  • The Name of a Third Party Candidate (Gary Johnson, Jill Stein,Virgil Goode, Rocky Anderson)
  • Ohio
  • Reagan

Sounds Wonderful

Farhad Manjoo on Microsoft’s Surface:

The first problem is speed. Everything you do on the Surface takes more time than you expect. When you load an app, switch between apps, launch a Web page, go back to a previous Web page, check your email, and do pretty much anything else, you’ll find yourself waiting a half-second too long. This sounds like nothing, but when you compound that time time across every action on the Surface, the wasted half-seconds add up to an annoying trudge.

It’s not just the extra time that kills, but also how the tablet clues you in to its slowness. The surface is littered with little visual bugs that make you think the thing’s broken. When you pinch-to-zoom in on a Web page, the text first shows up looking jagged and low-res; after a small wait, it gets sharp. Every single time you go back in the browser, you’ll see the previous page grayed out; it takes a split second for it to light up.

When you switch the Surface from portrait to landscape mode, its interface doesn’t switch immediately. There’s a half-second where nothing happens, enough time to make you wonder if the switch registered the orientation switch, so you begin to turn it back the other way just as the screen flips to the new orientation. And when the screen does eventually flip, it’s not as smooth as the iPad. Instead the Surface’s screen simply quick-cuts from landscape to portrait and back again, and while that gets the job done, the transition feels less than elegant. And then there were the times I found myself tapping the Surface like a madman, because I couldn’t tell whether it was just responding slowly or whether it hadn’t even noticed me. This happened often. It wasn’t pleasant.

We Are All from New Orleans Now

Mike Tidwell, writing for The Nation:

The presidential candidates decided not to speak about climate change, but climate change has decided to speak to them. And what is a thousand-mile-wide storm pushing eleven feet of water toward our country’s biggest population center saying just days before the election? It is this: we are all from New Orleans now. Climate change—through the measurable rise of sea levels and a documented increase in the intensity of Atlantic storms—has made 100 million Americans virtually as vulnerable to catastrophe as the victims of Hurricane Katrina were seven years ago.

He describes our options: 1) abandon our coastal cities, 2) adapt and fortify those cities against the rising tides, or 3) we could, you know, STOP BURNING THE SHIT THAT IS MAKING OUR PLANET HOTTER! (paraphrasing)

It’s Global Warming, Stupid

It’s Global Warming, Stupid

All it took was a major catastrophe on the eastern seaboard, but we’re finally starting to talk about the effect of climate change on weather.  Love this cover on BloombergBusinessweek, and it’s been very reassuring to see more and more recent news stories making the connection between Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change  (better late than never).

The article begins:

Yes, yes, it’s unsophisticated to blame any given storm on climate change. Men and women in white lab coats tell us—and they’re right—that many factors contribute to each severe weather episode. Climate deniers exploit scientific complexity to avoid any discussion at all.

Scientists have had a hard time making the argument for climate change because they’ve been worried about being precise – since you can’t draw a direct causal link between climate change and any one weather incident, they use caveats and language that belies the urgency of the situation.  But scientists are getting looser with language and more often are dropping the caveats, and getting at the issue in a more direct way.

An unscientific survey of the social networking liter moodature on Sandy reveals an illuminating tweet (you read that correctly) from Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. On Oct. 29, Foley thumbed thusly: “Would this kind of storm happen without climate change? Yes. Fueled by many factors. Is storm stronger because of climate change? Yes.” Eric Pooley, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund (and former deputy editor of Bloomberg Businessweek), offers a baseball analogy: “We can’t say that steroids caused any one home run by Barry Bonds, but steroids sure helped him hit more and hit them farther. Now we have weather on steroids.”

In an Oct. 30 blog post, Mark Fischetti of Scientific American took a spin through Ph.D.-land and found more and more credentialed experts willing to shrug off the climate caveats. The broadening consensus: “Climate change amps up other basic factors that contribute to big storms. For example, the oceans have warmed, providing more energy for storms. And the Earth’s atmosphere has warmed, so it retains more moisture, which is drawn into storms and is then dumped on us.” Even those of us who are science-phobic can get the gist of that.

See also this article at The Huffington Post where George Lakoff suggests we start popularizing the use of the term Systemic Causation to describe the connection between extreme weather and climate change:

Systemic causation is familiar. Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer. HIV is a systemic cause of AIDS. Working in coal mines is a systemic cause of black lung disease. Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents. Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies.

There is a difference between systemic and direct causation. Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation. Slicing bread is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation. Any application of force to something or someone that always produces an immediate change to that thing or person is direct causation. When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.

Systemic causation, because it is less obvious, is more important to understand. A systemic cause may be one of a number of multiple causes. It may require some special conditions. It may be indirect, working through a network of more direct causes. It may be probabilistic, occurring with a significantly high probability. It may require a feedback mechanism. In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal. And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled.

Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.

TIFF 2011 – The Films We’re Seeing

So after a year off, we’re heading back to the Toronto International Film Festival this year. Unfortunately we’ve used up all our vacation, so it’ll be a quick weekender, but it’ll be good to be back all the same.

Since we have such a short amount of time there, and we had to wait until tickets went on sale to the public before picking our films, we formulated a pretty simple strategy. We decided we’d get a hotel as close to the Ryerson as we could, and then just get as many films at that theatre as possible.

We figured this would save us running around town from theatre to theatre, plus it simplified our selection process – instead of putting together a big wishlist and then trying to fit as many into our schedule as we could, and then having to make substitutions on the fly on ticket day, this way our selections were pretty much made for us.

The only exception to this strategy was on the Sunday when we were hoping to get some films at the new Bell Lightbox since we haven’t been there yet (it opened last year). But on ticket day, everything that was showing there for for the timeframe was sold out, so I just grabbed a couple random movies that fit our timeline. I made sure we have a couple hours before we have to head home so we can go visit the Bell Lightbox – wish we could have seen a film or two there, but thems the breaks.

So we ended up getting 8 films total – I was hoping for 9. The only gap we ended up with is on Saturday night between 8pm and midnight – the film that was showing at The Ryerson is Drive, a big release that we don’t mind missing at the fest since it’ll be in theatres next week. We didn’t bother trying to cram something else in that gap – the few we were interested in were sold out anyway – we just figure we’ll take a little break and maybe have a sit-down dinner like human beings that night.

Here’s the list of films we’re seeing, and any trailers I could find. Counting down the hours now!

The Hunter
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIQfxCQ0PKA

God Bless America

Trishna
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ywxcP5XJpA

Goon

Melancholia
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NpVHnXCQlDk

You’re Next

Think of Me
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7CmooxsD30

Dark Horse
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zp9ueZ6rUA8