23 April 2009


Videos that are scary-dumb

Example the First: I stumbled into this fine satire of a climate change denial video the other day. It's hilarious, with its ironic attempts at hipness, images of the world exploding, and with-it clip art youth proclaiming "Shut up!", "What the hell?", and "No way!"

Except, um, it's not a satire. It's an actual, serious video from our pals here at Vancouver's right-wing think-tank the Fraser Institute. I think it may very well be the "Gathering Storm" of anti–global warming videos—so ridiculous it's laughable.

Example the Second: Via Phil Plait, I found this astonishing record of Texas congressman Joe Barton, yesterday asking the U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu (also the winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics, by the way) where all the oil in Alaska came from. Chu is obviously puzzled at why Barton would ask something so basic, but as the congressman continues his question, Dr. Chu realizes that Mr. Barton apparently doesn't have the first clue about geology or plate tectonics:

Wow. Even more depressing, Mr. Barton thought he'd stumped Dr. Chu, and said so on his Twitter account! The rest of the Twitterverse (me included) quickly corrected the congressman. Since Dr. Chu only had six seconds to respond, and was obviously so aghast at Mr. Barton's lack of knowledge, he couldn't formulate a proper response. Given a minute, he could have said:

Hundreds of millions of years ago, when Alaska was in a different place on the globe because of continental drift, trillions of microorganisms lived and died there. Immense heat and pressure converted their bodies, buried deep underground by geological processes, into simpler hydrocarbons, like oil. That’s why they’re called fossil fuels.

Not an Example: As a relief from those, here's something amazing (via Tim Bray and kk+):

That's more like it.

Labels: , , , ,

12 September 2008


Indian Arm

Tip of the Indian Arm at Flickr.comIndian Arm is a forbidding, steep-sided wild fjord, which is nothing unusual on the British Columbia coast. What is unusual is that I can see it (or at least the mountains that surround it) from my front window. Mere minutes from Vancouver's urban sprawl, the waters of the Arm are frequented by boaters of all sorts—but the slopes rising from its shores are too steep and rugged, and almost no one ever traverses them.

Back in 2003, engineer, rock climber, and trailbuilder Don McPherson completed his project of many years: a trail around the entirety of Indian Arm. But it's no stroll, nor even a hike. The "trail" is really simply a route, a roughly marked, 70 km, four-day (minimum) slog up and down mountain ridges, along cliffs and valleys, and through thick forest. The elevation map is insane. McPherson himself writes:

Traveling the easy way is a 16,500 ft (5500 m) elevation gain, and nearly a 20,000 ft descent. A climbing rope and the knowledge of how to use it should be included in your 35-50+ lb pack. I do not recommend this route to anyone.

There's an endorsement. His "easy way" (from west to east) starts 1000 metres up Seymour Mountain (there's a parking lot for the ski area), ascends to near its summit, and then follows the alpine ridgeline of the mountain range behind. All that climbing and dropping means that, if you walked the whole route, you would ascend and descend as far as if you were climbing 14,000 ft Mt. Rainier in Washington.

I will never hike that trail, which is one reason it fascinates me. Years ago, I rode a mountain bike route along logging roads from Squamish to Indian Arm, which ended at the fjord's northern tip. But we had booked a water taxi to return us to Vancouver, because McPherson's crazy trail would have been the only path directly back, even if it had been finished back then. There has never been a road, and probably never will be.

Vancouver is a substantial city, but we have always been a city at the edge. To the west lies Georgia Straight, then the Pacific Ocean. To the east and north, craggy and glaciated mountains as rough as anywhere. Indian Arm makes sure we don't forget it.

Labels: , , ,

30 January 2008


Links of interest (2008-01-30):

A bunch of stuff I've been accumulating over the past few months:

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 December 2007


Surfing molluscs

Snail at Flickr.comWe have aquatic snails in our fish tank, rather by accident. They came in on one of the plants we bought for the aquarium, and they multiply like crazy.

As someone who specialized in marine invertebrates for my biology degree, I rather like these little molluscs. They keep the sides of the tank spotlessly clean. They move surprisingly quickly (for snails). There are, however, often too many of them—they outnumber the fish by at least an order of magnitude—so we occasionally have to scoop some out and, uh, send them to greener pastures. (I have no doubt that things are greener, not to mention sludgier, in the Greater Vancouver sewer system.)

The snails perform one stunt that I hadn't seen before. Often they will make their way to the top of the aquarium and then "surf" upside down on the underside of the water's surface, riding the currents created by the tank filter. Sometimes one will circulate around for several minutes, its muscular foot flat against the surface tension, then it will either stick to a side or drift down to the gravel at the bottom to start trucking its way around again.

It's pretty cool, and probably the fastest these creatures will ever travel in their lives. Unless they get to visit the sewer someday, I guess.

Labels: , , , ,

30 November 2007


An end of month mishmash

To honour the end of NaBloPoMo (in which I didn't participate officially), this final post of November will contain a mishmash of nothing in particular:

Cory Doctorow is reasonably digitally paranoid, but he has a point about Facebook: "Adding more users to a social network increases the probability that it will put you in an awkward social circumstance."

It's worth listening to what Dave Winer has to say about podcasting, since he helped invent it, so when he writes, "I've heard that podcasting didn't achieve its promise," that's worth reading. His response begins: "First, obviously it depends on what you felt was the promise. Second, it depends whether you think there's more to do." He does.

Evel Knievel was an icon during my childhood, the epitome of cool to elementary school boys in the '70s. He died today.

Finally, here's a video of our pal Dizzy the Podcast Puppy licking my daughter on the face, after some prompting:

Labels: , , , , , ,

14 October 2007


Gearing up for more chemo tomorrow

About 13 hours from now, I start a new six-month round of chemotherapy, my first such treatment since back in May. This batch is intended to try to shrink the metastatic tumours in my lungs that spread from the original cancer in my intestine, which was removed in July.

I'm having a whole new fun regimen codenamed "GIFOLFIRI," which involves irinotecan (Campto), folinic acid (Leucovorin), and our old friend 5-FU. No oxaliplatin as far as I can tell. The irinotecan is the nasty one this time around, with risks of hair loss (maybe, not for certain, but I don't care much) and possibly drastic diarrhea, which can be treated, but only about 15% of patients get it, so they don't give the antidiarrheals to everyone. They're also giving me bevacizumab (Avastin, an artificial monoclonal antibody) again to see if it can slow or reverse the tumour growth.

All of that is for the metastases in my lungs, of which I believe there are four, and which are still small and not growing too fast. (I've noticed no decreased lung function, although I haven't been doing really strenuous things such as bike riding like I used to.) I'm just not sure how I'll react, or how I will feel in a few days.

On a cheerier note, I've been enjoying these old TV theme songs (via JWalk), especially S.W.A.T. and of course the immortal Mission: Impossible (MP3 files). And crazy people who jump off mountains are fun to watch too.

Labels: , , , , ,