Archive for May 25, 2008

Knife Control Laws Aren’t Working

Robert Knox, 18, who acted alongside Daniel Radcliffe in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, became the 28th teenager killed in Britain this year, and the 10th in London to die from stab wounds.

……Mr Knox, a grammar school boy, is understood to have been fatally stabbed after trying to save his 16-year-old brother, Jamie, from a man armed with two knives.

The man began attacking drinkers outside the Metro bar, next to Sidcup railway station, south-east London. Witnesses said that the attacker had earlier been thrown out by bouncers, but returned in the early hours with several friends.

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Most crime prevention measures fail when there aren’t any real penalties attached.

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“Quake Lakes” a Danger to Chinese Survivors

From Xinhua.net

…..Many feared the aftershock and subsequent landslides might hamper some 1,800 rescuers as they trekked toward a large quake lake at Tangjiashan, where they hoped to blast the lake barrier on Sunday night, before it bursts and causes a flood. Earlier attempts to carry out the mission by helicopter were hampered by bad weather.

The Tangjiashan quake lake, which is in danger of bursting as water builds up in it, is one of the more than 30 such lakes in rivers blocked by landslides from the earthquake and thousands of aftershocks.

The lake is 3.2 km upstream from the Beichuan County seat, from which thousands of survivors have been evacuated since Wednesday.

Its barrier is in danger of bursting as the water level rose by nearly 2 meters on Saturday to 723 meters, only 29 meters below the lowest part of the barrier, which measured 752 meters high.

Source: Xinhuanet.com

My heart goes out to the Chinese people struggling to cope with so many disasters at once.

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Ethanol Enthusiasm Running on Empty

I was reading this in the paper, and had to chuckle to myself:

”Consumers are starting to get restless, and Washington is starting to listen,” said Morningstar analyst Ann Gilpin, who follows Decatur, Ill.-based Archer Daniels Midland, the country’s second-largest ethanol producer.

The ethanol market would be severely limited if Congress rolled back the federal mandate that calls for annual increases in the amount of biofuels added to the fuel supply — 9 billion gallons by the end of this year, increasing to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

That would most hurt companies that rely exclusively or primarily on ethanol, which include a mix of small, often locally-owned distillers — already under pressure since ethanol prices fell and corn prices rose sharply — as well as larger publicly traded firms like VeraSun Energy, the country’s top ethanol producer.

”If you sell one product and the only reason there’s a market for it is because the government makes a law requiring consumption — if that law goes away, obviously you’re in trouble,” Gilpin said.

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Yep. If the only reason for consumption is because the government requires it, I would say that there is a problem. A really, really big one.

In its bid to halt climate change, Florida has pumped $50-million into ethanol projects in the past two years.

Is it worth it?

Florida has bet millions on unproven technology. If it works, in a decade Florida will produce enough ethanol to offset less than 2 percent of its thirst for gasoline. The state’s gamble on ethanol continues, even as new research indicates that ethanol could be far worse for the planet than gasoline.

Source:

If turning sugar into alcohol to run a vehicle is that cost effective, seems to me that there should be a still in every back yard. Why enrich some middleman paying for something that you can do yourself?

In the meantime, I’m still pissed off because the government is forcing me to buy a blend of gas and ethanol that will reduce my fuel efficiency and doesn’t save squat at the pumps.

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Uruguay Drought Creates Energy Crisis

The scarce rainfall registered first in agricultural areas, where vegetable and fruit growers watched their irrigation ponds dry up and their customers at farmers’ markets grumbled about undersized apples and pears.

Vázquez initiated the first phase of the conservation measures on April 14, banning outdoor entertainment at night and instructing public agencies to cut energy consumption by five percent.

In all, Uruguay received 3.3 inches of rain from March 1 through May 10, 4.4 inches below average, according to the National Institute of Agricultural Research. It rained less than an inch last month, and there has been no significant rainfall in May.

That has so slowed the Río Uruguay, on the western border, and the Río Negro, in the center of the country, that Uruguay’s four hydroelectric plants are almost completely disabled. In the Río Negro, the government is preserving what little water remains at the dam for the winter months. On the Río Uruguay, the largest dam, by the city of Salto, is operating at 20 percent of capacity and the energy it produces is shared with Argentina.

Normally, the dams are the pride of Uruguay, producing 80 percent of the country’s energy needs, according to government statistics. Last winter, they satisfied all domestic demand, idling the costly oil-fired plants in Montevideo.

Now, those plants are burning imported oil day and night to feed the grid, draining the government treasury. The state energy company, UTE, already has spent more than $300 million in 2008, after budgeting $340 million for the entire year.

The price of the oil UTE buys, though heavily subsidized to forestall electricity rate hikes, recently jumped by 5 percent. It has almost doubled in the past two years, although that increase has not been passed along to customers.

Even operating at capacity, Uruguay’s power generators are falling short. With no domestic oil or natural gas, the country is now at the mercy of Argentina and Brazil to provide electricity because the oil-fired plants in Uruguay are already operating at capacity.

”If it rains, we’re independent,” said Magdalena Marinoni, one of three members of a government commission implementing the president’s energy saving plan. “If it doesn’t, we’re not.”

Source: Miami Herald

Alternative energy sources are great, but…..hydroelectric can be knocked out by drought. Wind power…well, THAT’S no good if the wind isn’t blowing. Solar is still too expensive for the average bear and not so good in cloudy climates. Ethanol (sugar based) again depends on the climate and rainfall.

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Mything Person: Robert Asprin Passes Away


For those of us that enjoyed Robert Asprin’s hilarious sci fi books, the news of Robert Asprin’s demise comes as a shock. I started reading Robert Asprin in the late night hours after the birth of my son who even then preferred the late night hours. (Even today, while he has a daughter and a successful business, he will be playing music with his ol’ friends until 3 or 4 a.m. on the weekends.)

As time passed and Robert Asprin got in trouble with the IRS, I could sympathize: Been there, done that. I had hoped that his troubles with the IRS were over and the fans could look forward to a new, prolific writing future but alas, it was not to be.

Wherever you are, Robert Asprin, I bet you’re having a great time.

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