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Dave Samojlenko Posts

Leave it in the Ground, pt 3


Extracting tar sands oil is no easy feat.  One method involves injecting super-heated steam under high pressure deep into the ground to liquefy the hardened tar so it can be extracted.  Only sometimes this results in a blowout and the toxic bitumen starts oozing out in unexpected places – like beaver ponds and lakes and forests.  And the best part is,

“This is a new kind of oil spill and there is no ‘off button,’ ” said Keith Stewart, an energy analyst with Greenpeace who teaches a course on energy policy and environment at the University of Toronto. “You can’t cap it like a conventional oil well or turn off a valve on a pipeline.

“You are pressurizing the oil bed so hard that it’s no wonder that it blows out. This means that the oil will continue to leak until the well is no longer pressurized,” which means the bitumen could be seeping from the ground for months.

And would you believe that the media and photographers are being kept away from these blowout sites and that government scientists are afraid to speak out about them?

No one knows how to stop these tar-sands oil spills | Grist.
‘Nobody understands’ spills at Alberta oil sands operation | Toronto Star.

A little too much water in his beer


Ethan Hawke did Ask Me Anything on Reddit and had this to say about Nic Cage:

I’m kind of obsessed with Nic Cage. I just found out about /r/onetruegod too. He’s the only actor since Marlon Brando that’s actually done anything new with the art of acting; he’s successfully taken us away from an obsession with naturalism into a kind of presentation style of acting that I imagine was popular with the old troubadours. If I could erase his bottom half bad movies, and only keep his top half movies, he would blow everyone else out of the water. He’s put a little too much water in his beer, but he is still one of the great actors of our time.

I’m a huge fan of Nic Cage, despite all the terrible stuff he’s done.  When he’s at his best, he’s better than anyone.  Birdy, Raising Arizona, Vampire’s Kiss, Wild at Heart, Leaving Las Vegas… all have special places in my cinematic heart.

I got addicted to his films in college and spent countless hours hunting down and watching all of his films.  Most of my friends at the time were lukewarm to him at best, and my fascination with his work was largely a solo endeavour.

I remember reading a story about how and why he changed his name from Coppola to Cage so that he could build his own reputation outside the shadow of his uncle.  Apparently he got the name Cage from a comic book hero, Luke Cage of Power Man and Iron Fist fame.

As a kid I collected Power Man and Iron Fist and I was the only one I knew who did – I spent years collecting a comic that as far as I knew nobody else read – I have never in 30 years since I started collecting met a single person who even knows the series or the heroes, let alone a fan.  I still have all those books, and today my set is about 15 issues from being truly complete (every appearance of either character in any series).  There is nothing else in my life that I’ve enjoyed so much for so long and so obsessively as that collection, and I’d always felt so alone in my devotion to it.

When these two worlds collided my brain just about melted!  Ever since then I’ve felt this little connection to Nic (see, in my mind we’re on abbreviated-first-name-basis), and no matter how many terrible movies he does, there will always be that top half of his movies that made me a fan in the beginning, and I will always think of him as that one other fan of Power Man and Iron Fist out there in the world!

Leave it in the Ground, pt 2


University of Alberta scientist David Schindler holding a deformed whitefish collected from the Athabasca watershed, downstream from the oilsands industrial development.
University of Alberta scientist David Schindler holding a deformed whitefish collected from the Athabasca watershed, downstream from the oilsands industrial development.

Believing in clean oilsands is like believing in ‘magic fairies,’ top scientist says.

He said this reflects the current federal ideology — not anti-science, but “anti-some kinds of science. Anything with ‘environmental’ in it seems to be anathema.”

Showing his audience an aerial photo of a scarred landscape in oilsands country, he said environmental assessments show there is no environmental impact and companies claim the damage is later remediated.

“Why are people allowed to lie to the public like this? I just don’t understand this. We have to challenge them,” he said. “Obviously the people who used to challenge them, the civil servants, are no longer allowed to.

What does 200 calories look like?

200 Calories-worth of Bagel

I’ve been on a bit of a diet recently – trying to drop about 20lbs or so before my 40th birthday in May.  So far I’ve been keeping it simple – mostly portion-control and smart food/drink choices.  I’ve been laying off the booze (although that’s partly a function of being busy in other aspects of life), sticking mostly to water rather than iced-tea or soft drinks, I have been keeping cookies and other snacks out of the house, and generally trying to eat lots more vegetables and lots fewer carbs.

I’ll write more about that and my progress separately, but because of all of this, I found this series of photos interesting.


Introducing: OC me

 I’ve been playing around with the OC Transpo Live Next Bus Arrival Data Feed API and built a simple little mobile web site that will tell you when the next bus is coming for your stop.  Check it out: OC Me

Simply enter a stop number and click Get Routes, or if you have geolocation enabled on your mobile device, you can find a stop close to you on a map.  The application will get live GPS and schedule data from OC Transpo, and tell you which buses are coming soon, with an estimated arrival time.

This was all built in JQuery Mobile, and has only been tested to work on my iPhone 4.  I have no idea how well it works on other platforms.  On the backend it’s PHP, and I’ve written some xml-caching functions so I don’t overload my API calls to the Live Data Feed API.  The app is mostly bilingual, but the current translation is probably pretty bad (I have a translator girlfriend who promises she’ll help me fix it up at some point soon).

No doubt there are plenty of other bus tracker apps out there for OC Transpo, including their own official iOS app, and many of them have far more features than I intend to build into mine.  I built this mostly as a personal proof-of-concept project, but I figured I’d throw it out there for others to see anyway.

I will post the code to GitHub soon in case anyone wants to see how it was built and perhaps build one of their own.

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.