Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Green TV

There is a price to going green. Hopefully green products will come down in price on day. I thought this was the first in a list of green electronics and homeware.

What is OLED
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. The "organic" in OLED refers to organic material. Carbon is the basis of all organic matter. Examples of carbon-based substances include sugar, wood and the majority of plastics. The "LED" stands for "Light Emitting Diode" and describes the process of converting electric energy into light. There are two types of OLED ? small molecule OLED and polymer OLED. Sony uses the small molecule type because it has a longer lifespan.
How does OLED work
A layer of organic material is sandwiched between two conductors (an anode and a cathode), which in turn are sandwiched between a glass top plate (seal) and a glass bottom plate (substrate). When electric current is applied to the two conductors, a bright, electro-luminescent light is produced directly from the organic material.
How is colour created
OLED has more control over colour expression because it only expresses pure colours when an electric current stimulates the relevant pixels. The OLED primary colour matrix is arranged in red, green, and blue pixels, which are mounted directly to a printed circuit board. Each individual OLED element is housed in a special “micro-cavity” structure designed to greatly reduce ambient light interference that also works to improve overall colour contrast. The thickness of the organic layer is adjusted to produce the strongest light for each of the colours ? red, green and blue - used to render the colour picture. The three colours are further refined by a colour filter, which purifies each colour without the need for a polarizer, rendering outstanding colour purity

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I Hate To Say This, But Now I'm Really Scared

This is not hyperbole, just the way I feel at this minute. Knowing about something and seeing it in your backyard are two different things. Check out this article in the New York Sun: there's food rationing in the US. I'll say that again: THERE IS FOOD RATIONING IN THE USA. And this does not look like it's going to get any better.

Admittedly, there's no militia at the door, no line-ups, no panic. But this is one of the richest countries in the world with the most elaborate industrial food system on the planet--a place that literally eats from the whole planet--and they are having trouble supplying staples like rice and flour.

Living on the farm for a decade and a half, I'm used to having two to six months of food put by--separate from the two-week's-worth of food in the pantry. Depending on the time of year (more in November, less in April) we would have bags of flour, ten kilos of rolled oats, rice, pasta, canned goods, extra olive oil by the litre or gallon, honey, just stacks of food binned up or canned or frozen.

Now, living in a city again, we don't take the same care with our food security. We sorted through the bins yesterday--before I read this article--and while it was good to see a week or two of food on hand, it was still only a week or two. I've felt off-balance all winter, knowing that there wasn't enough food in the house. I've told myself "It's okay. We're not likely to get snowed in for a week in Victoria, there's money on a semi-regular basis, we'll be okay." And we have been.

But the system has not been. We've stressed our food supply chain worldwide. No one has bothered with local food security, relying instead on the continued availability of unsustainably cheap fossil fuels. Canada, Canada cannot feed itself. We produce enough calories, but not in a broad enough spectrum of foods. We rely instead on providing inputs into the industrial food chain, exporting things like hogs and beef by the (yes, really) mega-tonne. But how is all that exported protein raised? At the expense of broad-based food crops. The money is in industrial food exports, not in feeding ourselves.

We've developed this insanely complex system that relies on cheap fossil fuels and the movement of commodities to maximize profits, and there comes a point where such complex systems become chaotic. With climate change racing ahead (and the developed world really ignoring the problem) and oil prices touching $115/barrel as I write this, we've introduced new variables
and new uncertainties into an over-stressed system. We may be fucked.

We might get lucky, it might be a great growing season this summer in the northern hemisphere. Maybe. But I'm not holding my breath. I don't
foresee any problems over the next five months here--even with only a
mediocre season--but any weirdness on the part of the weather this
summer and we could be seeing rationing by winter solstice.

"[...]Costco members were being allowed to buy only one bag. Moments earlier, a clerk dropped two sacks back on the stack after taking them from another customer who tried to exceed the one-bag cap.

"Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases
based on your prior purchasing history," a sign above the dwindling
supply said.

Shoppers said the limits had been in place for a few days, and that rice supplies had been spotty for a few weeks. A store manager referred questions to officials at Costco headquarters near Seattle, who did not return calls or e-mail messages yesterday.

An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled.

The curbs and shortages are being tracked with concern by survivalists who view the phenomenon as a harbinger of more serious trouble to come.

"It's sporadic. It's not every store, but it's becoming more commonplace," the editor of, James Rawles, said. "The number of reports I've been getting from readers who have seen signs posted with limits has increased almost exponentially, I'd say in the last three to five weeks."" (from the New York Sun article)


I see there has been a lot of discussion about this rationing on the mainstream news outlets."There is no shortage of rice" they repeat, trying to avert panic. And a good thing, too. Americans are prone to panic--see 9/11.
But the original article pointed out that there were restrictions also on the purchase of cooking oil and flour (note also that Canadian farmers have moved away from growing wheat destined for bread). Again, this is in the world's most voracious consumer population. And the one that dominates the world's food supply. And this was not just at Costco, but also at Sam's Club outlets. These are not the problems of some corner grocer, but of some major wholesale heavyweights.
And this is not an isolated problem. The world food shortage--well, as usual, more of a distribution problem with radically higher prices--cannot help but impact us here in North America. We've buggered our food supply system, concentrating on industrial food at the expense of secure supply. Saskatchewan's PotashCorp., the world's largest supplier of potash for agricultural uses (it's a feedstock for fertilizer production), cannot supply enough potash to meet the current demand.
The U.N. World Food Program is having its own difficulties as well;

In a video conference from Rome, WFP Executive
Director Josette Sheeran told UN reporters that soaring food prices and
tight supplies are endangering the efforts of the agency to feed
millions of hungry people around the world.

"We can buy 40 percent less food than we could last June with the same contribution," Sheeran said." [reported by the Xinhua News Agency]

North Americans are going to have to get used to the idea that not only is the price of gas going to rise to $1.50/litre this summer (although possibly easing come fall), but natural gas prices, home heating oil prices, and the cost of electricity generated from oil, gas, or coal is also likely to rise, and we are no longer going to be able to count on food costs being less than 10% of our household budget.

There are the usual suspects in all this--Paul Krugman, writing in the New York Times details a few of them:

"Governments and private grain dealers used to hold large inventories
in normal times, just in case a bad harvest created a sudden shortage.
Over the years, however, these precautionary inventories were allowed
to shrink, mainly because everyone came to believe that countries
suffering crop failures could always import the food they needed.

left the world food balance highly vulnerable to a crisis affecting
many countries at once — in much the same way that the marketing of
complex financial securities, which was supposed to diversify away
risk, left world financial markets highly vulnerable to a systemwide [sic]

There's more, and it's a not-bad short read. But to get some deeper insight into where the problems are coming from, I can't help but recommend by standbys: Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and, funnily enough, Planet of Slums by Mike Davis to get a sense of how badly we handle systemic problems.

The storm is here: global climate change (see Australia's major drought), higher prices for petroleum products (everything from gasoline to ethylene), higher commodity prices (potash in particular), and an industrial food system unlinked from the populations they're supposed to serve, mean that we are in for a bumpy and desperate ride over the next few years. With luck and foresight--the latter not something I count on our corporate and political masters to provide--we might come out the other end alive and with an improved system of agriculture. But I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, become friends with a farmer, buy local, and grow (where possible) and preserve your own food. It can't hurt, and, who knows, it might even help save your family, your community, and the planet.

(posted Friday, April 25th)

News That's Really Useful

Okay, maybe not. But where else are you going to hear about a Brazilian priest that filled a thousand party balloons with helium and tried to set a record for time in the air?
Of course, the wind shifted and blew him out to sea, he's now lost and there's a search on for him, but even so.... there's even a short video over at the Guardian article.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear

Great new article on Vanity Fair's website about the history of Monsanto and the litigation factory it has become.

Required reading for anyone concerned about their food supply.

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear

Bush Still Doesn't Get It. So What Else is New?

According to this CBC report, "President" Bush has set a goal of 2025 for the United States to stop increasing its carbon emissions.
Let me repeat that.
Bush's plan to combat climate change is to allow the United States, the biggest carbon polluter on the planet, to continue to increase its carbon emissions until 2025.
The 1997 Kyoto Accord targets called on industrial nations to cut their emissions to an average five per cent below 1990 levels by 2012. Bush called the Kyoto Accord flawed, then said it would have limited U.S. economic growth and shifted American jobs to other countries while letting new industrial powers such as China and India increase rather than reduce their emissions, conveniently ignoring the fact that the second round of Kyoto, to click in 2013, is to include all industrial nations in the new emissions cuts.
I don't know what sort of economy he thinks the US will have left when New York is underwater, the mid-west suffers from a never ending drought and California becomes a desert (oh wait, California already is a desert).
Maybe we should get ahead of the game and declare anarchy now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The US Remains in Good Company

The CBC notes the release of Amnesty International's report of worldwide executions in 2007. The top five executors in the world:

China (at least 470).
Iran (at least 317).
Saudi Arabia (at least 143).
Pakistan (at least 135).
U.S. (42).

According to the report, 88% of the world's executions in 2007 took place in these five countries. Saudia Arabia carried out the most executions per capita, while Iran, Saudia Arabia and Yemen violated international law by executing people younger than 18.
The organization estimates at least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries, and that up to 27,500 people are estimated to be on death row around the world.

Robbins v. Bush

In a keynote speech actor and activist Tim Robbins castigated broadcasters during his appearance before the National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas earlier this week..
In it, he noted that at the outset of the Iraq war conservative TV and radio broadcasters "told America ... that I was a traitor, a Saddam lover, a terrorist supporter, undermining the troops. I was appealing at the time for the inspectors to have more time to find those Weapons of Mass Destruction. [To critics], I was a naïve dupe of left-wing appeasement.
"If I had known then what I know now, if I had seen the festive and appreciative faces on the streets of Baghdad today, if I had known then what a robust economy we would be in -- the unity of our people, the wildfire of democracy that has spread across the Mideast -- I would never have said those traitorous, unfounded and irresponsible things."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Biggest Conspiracy of Our Time

Props to Bernie for finding this one....

Websuridty asks:
How could a single missile destroy a battle station the size of a moon? No records, anywhere, show that any battle station or capital ship has ever been destroyed by a single missile. Furthermore, analysis of the tape of the last moments of the Death Star show numerous small explosions along its surface, prior to it exploding completely! Why does all evidence indicate that strategically placed explosives, not a single missile, is what destroyed the Death Star?

Saturday, April 05, 2008

No room at the Inn...

Due to being on a mailing list for available properties in Victoria, I often am sent newsletters regarding Dockside Green and the next phase. This week's newsletter presented a welcom to a Family of 7 who had just purchased a "home" in Dockside Green. A beautiful couple with 5 kids between them from Albert purchased their vacation home. I hope this family of 7 realize that most Victoria residents can't afford to purchase, even those with modest to middle incomes find it difficult, let alone the lower income families who can barely make ends meet. Maybe they will kindly sell their vacation condo to a lower income family when they themselves find they can't get to BC when flying is no longer viable. It also means another empty condo for most of the year. Instead of deleting the newsletter, I decided to comment, after all the newsletter stated comments were welcome....

Dear Dockside Green

Dockside Green may be innovative in sustainability and creating a community, but who is this community for? Is this a community of those who live in Victoria or those who only will be vacationing here or who live in Alberta?

It is with dismay that I read about the family of 7 from Alberta who just purchased a vacation home in Dockside Green. You may welcome them, others wish they would stay in the province next door. This just means another empty condo for most of the year while low income to middle income Victoria residents cannot afford to purchase a condo. How nice of you to actually offer some of your condos to residents only. It would impress me more if you offered more condos to residents and less to those who only wish to vacation here.

Maybe the Dockside Team should take a good look at this week's Monday Magazine and read about the all the condo construction yet there are few rental buildings.

Personally, I am sick and tired of seeing empty condos abound in our city because they are purchased by people who don't live here while low income to middle income people cannot afford housing at all.