Man. LJ has a WAY higher ratio of interesting links and stories and knowledge to crap than Facebook. Even once you block all the game spams that somebody grew a squash in Farmville, but needs your help carrying it to the market!
So, I set up a facebook account a while ago, in part to keep in touch, so to speak, with people I know who'd graduated and such. My opinion so far? It's Twitter and Flickr combined, with a bunch of flash games. But I blocked all the games, especially the annoying ones that spam updates to all your friends, so I could actually see if anything important was going on. Usually there's not. And the "status updates" have a short character limit (thus the Twitter comparison) which makes it nearly useless for long-form blogging, or my didactic explanatory posts. So basically I've used it for things like "So who's doing $thing?" and posting links to neat stuff. For the forseeable future, I don't see it replacing LJ or much of anything, for me.

Play This

Apr. 19th, 2010 10:30 pm
Digital: A Love Story is far better than it has any right to be. Go play it now.

If you want, you can read things other people have written, but there may be spoilers in those, especially ones with comments. Or mine, below

Here's the nickel summary. It's a game set "five minutes into the future of 1998" in the heady days of BBSes. You've just gotten your new computer, and it includes a modem, and the friendly local computer shop guy stuck a dialer and the number for the local BBS into it. As a bit of advice, I suggest using your online alias when it asks. Trust me. From there, you explore BBSes, learn to hack and phone phreak, fall in love, and save the world, or at least the Internet. The game is short, a couple hours at most, and well worth it. The puzzles are good at making you feel clever, even when they're objectively not too hard. And you can even get in nerd-arguments about which Star Trek captain is best.

By the time we got a computer with a modem, in all of its 14.4 glory, AOL discs were spamming mailboxes everywhere, and the net was just being "discovered". I've only ever visited BBSes a handful of times, over at a friend's house, where we played Legend of the Red Dragon and dinked around. But the feel of things is very right. Very early internet. I can't really pin down what about the game is so affecting, or why it's stuck with me so much. The soundtrack, the low-res welcome screens, everything about it made it feel right. Part of it is nostalgia, I'm sure, even if it's nostalgia for something that wasn't quite the internet I grew up on, but its ancestor. And the story will probably kick in more for anybody who's ever made those emotional contacts that can come from just letters on a screen.

So I don't know if it's the story itself that's stuck with me, or the recreation of a smaller, more secret, newer, less ad-filled days of the Internets. But whichever it was, at the end of the story, I was honestly sad, and it's kept kicking around in the back of my head in the days since I played it. And that's reason enough to recommend it.
Via TVTropes, I found out that there are people who write slashfic about anthropomorphic personifications of concepts. Like scientific disciplines, or continents, or websites. Or planets. Or software packages.

That is both insane, awesome, and hilarious. And probably disturbing, but more hilarious.
Today is obviously power music day. Dinosaur Comics and Slacktivist are both about power music and/or the power of music today.

Personally, I'm a huge sucker for big epic power music, be it ballands, metal, or whatever. Including Journey. There's just something about big epic musical awesome things. Probably that they're big epic and awesome.
So Yahoo! has a front page article on their portal, titled "Building Renewable Energy Sources Could Wreck the Environment". (Only they didn't capitalize it like you're supposed to for titles)

So let's take a closer look at this article. First off, on the actual article, the title is "Study: Renewable Energy Not Green". First paragraph:
"Renewable energy could wreck the environment, according to a study that examined how much land it would take to generate the renewable resources that would make a difference in the global energy system."
provocative! But wait, let's look at some details, like who did this research, and how they did the study. That's how you tell if it's any good or not.

"Building enough wind farms, damming adequate number of rivers and growing sufficient biomass to produce ample kilowatts to make a difference in meeting global energy demands would involve a huge invasion of nature, according to Jesse Ausubel, a researcher at the Rockefeller University in New York."

Well, that's the who. Let's do a quick google to find out who this guy is. Here's his bio from the school. "Jesse H. Ausubel is Director of the Program for the Human Environment and Senior Research Associate at The Rockefeller University in New York City." Okay, most of his bio looks like stuff related to the subject at hand. One thing, at the end of his bio, it says he's a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, one of the nodes of conspiracy theorists all over. But of more note here is the list of Corporate Members for the CFR. Pretty much every major oil company there. Oil companies, involved in think tanks influencing government? I am shocked sir, shocked! But the CFR has been involved in a lot of the fiascoes and wars the US has been involved in.

But all in all, it seems like he's pretty qualified, so let's continue through the article.

"Ausubel came to this conclusion by calculating the amount of energy that each renewable source can produce in terms of area of land disturbed.

“We looked at the different major alternatives for renewable energies and we measured [the power output] for each of them and how much land it will rape,” Ausubel told LiveScience. "


Okay now there's a red flag that this guy might not be exactly unbiased. Referring to building solar plants and wind farms and so on as "rape".

"The results, published in the current issue of International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology, paint a grim picture for the environment. For example, according to the study, in order to meet the 2005 electricity demand for the United States, an area the size of Texas would need to be covered with wind structures running round the clock to extract, store and transport the energy."

So why is a study on wind power and stuff in a journal for "nuclear governance"? This is the kind of thing a journalist should notice.

"New York City would require the entire area of Connecticut to become a wind farm to fully power all its electrical equipment and gadgets.

You can convert every kilowatt generated directly into land area disturbed, Ausubel said. “The biomass or wind will produce one or two watts per square meter. So every watt or kilowatt you want for light bulbs in your house can be translated into your hand reaching out into nature taking land.”"


This is just talking about wind, which nobody's talking about JUST wind. And there's a couple other points I'd make, but those get made by other scientists later in the article. Like so:

"Other scientists are not on board with Ausubel’s analysis and say that his use of energy density—the amount of energy produced per each area of land—as the only metric may not be the correct way to calculate the impact of energy from renewable resources on the environment.

“In general, I would say his use of energy density just does not capture the entire scope of issues and capabilities for all the different resources,” said John A. Turner, a principal scientist at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who was not involved in the study.

Turner explains that if the entire United States were to be powered by solar cells with 10 percent efficiency, an area about 10,000 square miles would have to be covered by solar panels in a sunny place such as Arizona or Nevada.

“Now there’s 3.7 million square miles of area for the continental U.S.” Turner told LiveScience. “This represents a very, very tiny area. And that’s just one technology.”

“If you look at how much land area we’ve covered with roads, it’s more than double that. So yeah, it’s a large area, 100 miles by 100 miles, if you pack it into one thing, but if you scatter it across the country and compare it to all the other things we’ve already covered, it’s not an egregious area.” "


Here's wikipedia on solar cells. Most solar cells are more than 10% efficient now. And nobody's talking about using just wind, or solar, or whatever. Not to mention all the neat ideas out now, like offshore wind farms (which wouldn't disturb any land, or flying tethered windmills, energy from methane off landfills, or any of the more hypothetical and exotic things either in testing or ready to be used. But I'm kind of repeating myself.

"Ausubel’s analysis concludes that other renewable sources such as solar power and biomass are “un-green”. According to his findings, to obtain power for a large proportion of the country from biomass would require 965 square miles of prime Iowa land. A photovoltaic solar cell plant would require painting black about 58 square miles, plus land for storage and retrieval to equal a 1,000-megawatt electric nuclear plant, a more environmentally friendly choice, Ausubel wrote."

Ah hah. And this is why the study was in the International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology. I wonder if his analysis of nuclear power plants includes the square mileage of the strip mines and processing centers to dig up the uranium for nuclear fuel. I kind of doubt it.

"However, new land doesn’t have to be put into use just for a solar plant. Some scientists say already existing infrastructures could be doubled up for use to cover such an area.

“We could do with just rooftops of buildings and homes, land area we’ve already covered,” Turner said. “We could meet 25 percent of our annual electrical demand by just putting solar panels on already existing rooftops of homes and businesses.”

“Similarly, wind farms use up a lot of land area but they only really take up 5 percent of the land they cover,” he explained. “The rest of it can be used for farming so it doesn’t really impact the land area that much.”"


I don't really have any disagreement with this part of the article, I just wanted to quote it to agree with it and so it saved me the trouble of making these points. Especially the part about putting solar panels on roofs and other places where they don't "rape" the land, because there's already structures or parking lots there. Like solar trees, which make power and provide shade, which helps reduce the heat island effect from giant spaces of blacktop.

"Ausubel thinks that a better alternative to renewable energy resources would be nuclear power, which would leave behind far less waste than other alternatives.

“There are three legs to the stool of environmentally sound energy policy—one is improved efficiency, second is increased reliance on natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration and the third is nuclear power,” he explained.

“Nuclear power has the proliferation issues, which are serious but the environmental issues are small. With nuclear energy the issue is to contain radioactivity, which has been successfully done.”
"

Well, his three legs are sort of right. We need to vastly improve energy efficiency. We have many many ways of doing that already, but companies haven't been working very hard at them. Which is especially odd since improving efficiency means less waste, which means less costs and more profit. We have the technology to do a lot of energy efficiency, we just haven't been. It's a massive market failure, and one of the reasons we need government to step in on the issue. As for natural gas, I don't recall any working examples of carbon capture and sequestration, the power companies don't seem interested in that except as a way of avoiding any real cuts in their production. And if we have working carbon capture and sequestration, they'd presumably work on coal and oil and anything else, not just natural gas. Nuclear power I'm iffy on. There's a lot of downsides, but there's also a lot of new designs that address some of the safety and other issues, so it's something that depends. There's still the issues of waste, which haven't been as successfully addressed as the flippant quote it the article makes it sound. And the fact that nuclear power is just a matter of piling radioactive stuff up until it gets hot and then using that heat to make steam feels kind of inelegant.

"Turner agrees that nuclear power leaves a smaller carbon footprint, but he thinks that the waste issue associated with this technology is very serious.

“It’s unconscionable to dismiss the issue of nuclear waste," Turner said, “because you have to store that waste for hundreds of thousands of years and nuclear wastes are particularly damaging to the environment and have social impacts also.”

Similarly, Gregory A. Keoleian, co-Director for the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, thinks more in-depth analyses are needed before dismissing renewables and considering nuclear power as a viable option.

“I think the characterizations made that ‘renewables are not green’ and ‘nuclear is green’ sound provocative, but they do not accurately represent these technologies with respect to a comprehensive set of sustainability criteria and analysis,” Keoleian told LiveScience. “The treatment of renewable technologies [in this study] is shallow and the coverage of the nuclear fuel cycle is incomplete." "


I agree with most of the critiques of the study above. It's too bad the people writing the headlines didn't read this part of the article. Or the editor didn't read it and promote this point to the main point of the article, which gives the study a false aura of importance, when it's shallow and flawed and ignores several major issues.

"To capture the entire scope of issues and capabilities for all the different resources, scientists believe there need to be more studies and discussions.

“We have a finite amount of time, a finite amount of money and a finite amount of energy, and we need to be very careful about the choices we make as we build this new energy infrastructure,” Turner said. “I’d like to see something that will last for millennia and certainly solar, wind and biomass will last as long as the sun shines. “ "


Well, the one sentence paragraph about more studies is banal, and mostly false. Not that scientists are against studies and discussions, but the invocation of "more study!" by global warming deniers and opponents of change makes it ring really hollow. Scientists have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done. Which is get away from burning coal and oil and gas, and use less energy, and use the energy we use smarter. The specifics of how to do it for each area depend on the area. Though I'm pretty sure biomass, wind, and solar plants would require upkeep, repair, and upgrades to last as long as the sun shines.

This article's worst sin is its totally misleading headline and title, which are usually not the reporter's fault. And the author did a good job of speaking to other scientists to find out other opinions on the study. But the other big failing with this article is the same as with many other articles, in science, politics, and beyond. It's presented just as a "He said, and he said" article, with the two opposing viewpoints presented, but the author doesn't do any research to determine which of the viewpoints is right. Objectivity doesn't mean reporting just "both" sides of something, it means trying to find the objective truth behind it. And there's no attempt at that here. No concluding paragraph showing the author has an understanding of the issue and isn't just a stenographer. The whole reason journalists are supposed to be paid is to help people reach an understanding and knowledge of what's happening. And at that, they're failing.

Cat Food

Jul. 18th, 2007 03:03 pm
LOLFeeds

If your LJ name doesn't work, scroll down to where they have the option to put in the full URL, and type in "http://username.livejournal.com/rss" only with the journal name replacing username.

Enjoy, kitties!
Google bought Youtube a couple days ago.

Huh.
Email is a very poor vector to get math advice from.
I'm sure most of you have seen this already, but I never let redundancy stop me. I love the Internet. A lot because it lets so many awesome things happen that wouldn't have happened before, and most of them done just by random folks.

Like these videos. There's a band, called Ok Go! They posted a pair of videos on YouTube, one for "A Million Ways", the other for "Here it Goes Again". The first video made the rounds a couple months back, the second's going around now. And they're both pretty awesome, even though it's just filming the four of them in the one guy's backyard, or the four of them in a coordinated dance on treadmills.Well, the coordination and choreography is pretty awesome. But y'know, the fact that it's just the four guys and the one guy's sister doing the choreography and filming them, literally, in their backyard or basement is part of the appeal. And the music's pretty good.

What makes it even more awesome though, is it worked. The one guy was interviewed on the Colbert Report, and they got a record deal in part (EDIT: Already had a record deal) because of the attention their videos got. That's pretty cool.

I wonder if they'll keep doing those kind of music videos. It's hard to keep low-budget cred when you have an actual budget to work with.
Has anybody used Google's photo sharing service, Picasa? Is it any good? My free flickr account can only show 200 pictures at a time, and I've already got more than 200 in it, so a bunch don't show up on the main page. I could sign up for a paid flickr account, but that's like $25. Anybody have suggestions for other photo hosting things, so I can finish getting the rest of my trip photos up? I do like flickr though, it works well.
A lot of the time, reading blogs (and their comments) about things besides day to day life is kinda depressing. Because it's like listening to the guy in the bar telling you exactly what's wrong with the world. Especially when it's stuff they obviously don't know anything about.

And I can include myself in that list of guys talking about stuff they don't know about, though I usually try to limit myself to stuff I do know about.
I always get a weird feeling any time I see something I know from the Internet in a "real" publication, but several music magazines have had little blurbs about Pandora in them.

But that's not the point of this post. Pandora just brought up a song called "Black Funeral" by a band called "Dragonlord" when I was looking for something else. And it's not bad rock metal, but I can't really take it seriously, either. On the other hand, I get the feeling if I were still 14, I'd have loved it. There's just something endlessly 14 about a band called "Dragonlord".

I've actually noticed a bunch of things like that lately, comics and movies and books and songs that I can appreciate, and know would have rocked my world if I'd found them as a teenager, but don't now. Because I ran across other things that rocked my world when I was a teenager, in different or similar ways. I can appreciate the quality, but I feel like saying "I'm sorry, that position's already been filled." Or maybe I can just see some of the problems with them, not just the awesome. Or maybe I'm just getting old.
But seriously. Why the hell, in the 21st century, is the global information and pornography network confined to my desk?

(Okay, besides because I'm poor. I know that one. But I want internet capable glasses which can overlay reality with a minimap, or an arrow showing me the turns to take, plus let me access information I need to know, like Now.)
But I wish I'd found http://wikitravel.org sooner. I should have figured there'd be a travel wiki. Man. This sure would have made life easier. Now I know for next trip!

Sleep

May. 10th, 2006 11:22 pm
I should start getting to bed sooner. Most of the time when I stay up, it's not because I'm doing anything awesome or working on anything important, it's just habit. And that's a pretty crappy reason to stay up. But that's the problem with the Internet, it provides a cornucopia of distractions that are just amusing enough to keep you clicking, but not interesting or rewarding enough to really be worth it.

So, sleep, I think. Either that, or somebody tell me something awesome to do, right now. I've decided to try and improve the awesome ratio in my life, and sitting at the computer till 2AM for no real reason just ain't cutting it in the awesome lottery any more.
Man. I can't even keep track any more. Is saying "The Internets" still ironically making fun of Bush saying it in the debates, or has it become so common it's transcended irony and reached the level of Internet slang, like lol and rofl and such?
As pervasive as the Internet is, and as much I use it and have used it, it still doesn't feel quite real. It's just words on my computer screen most of the time, not, you know, actually real. So every so often when I come across a piece of the internet in real life, it's still kinda weird. Not because the things aren't cool or anything, it's just kinda like when I find out other people have actually heard of bands I like. I mean, obviously other people must like them, it's just somehow odd.

For example, Urban Dictionary has a book out. Of collected entries from it. It's a crystallized portion of the Internet, out of date already I'm sure. But I look at that and it's this paper and ink version of something that's just existed as photons and encoded magnetic stuff. And somehow, I find it kinda weird.

Or the Onion collections, though the Onion is a real fake newspaper anyway. And then there's a couple children's books I've seen based around ninjas, monkeys, robots, and/or pirates. Or books like The Pirates! in an Adventure With... Obviously, there's lots of writers on the Internet, and lots of people my age who've been exposed to all the same influences who're writing and doing things now. It's just somehow weird. Kinda like my private world of goofy weirdness is being trapped on pages and exposed to who knows what sorts of people.
Some kind soul posted these absolutely bizarre Russian Star Wars posters, over in [livejournal.com profile] warren_ellis's LJ. They are weird and awesome.
A nifty little flash presentation.

http://nomediakings.org/vidz/time_management_for_anarchists_the_movie.html

(a lot like the hipster PDA, but with more early twentieth century anarchists and sound effects.)

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