For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Home is Where the Central Cardio-pulmonary Organ Is, and see what else has been going on.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Celebrate Human Achievement Hour

Posting is going to be a bit sporadic here for the next while, but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my appreciation and gratitude for some of the wonderful things we humans have achieved.  While others insist on sitting around in the dark for Earth Hour tomorrow, I will be celebrating Human Achievement Hour.

Here are just a few human achievements I have personally benefited from in the last few weeks.

The internal combustion engine, that most evil of evils, the fossil fuel burning engine in our van.  The one that got me to the hospital quickly and safely.

The discovery of such things as saline solution IVs, which got me hydrated at a time when I was incapable of doing something as simple as drink water.

Morphine, administered through my IV, that was finally able to kill the pain that had me writhing uncontrollably for hours.

Xrays, used to try and find the cause of my pain.

CT scans, used to try and find the cause of my pain.

Ultrasound, used to try and find the cause of my pain.

The various technological instruments that allowed medical staff to test my blood and, in short order, be able to rule out various possible causes of my pain.

The technologies that will allow doctors to use cameras and various narrow instruments through tiny incisions, through which they will remove the large cyst and the ovary it's attached to, the biopsy they will perform on the tissue to doubly verify that it is, indeed, just a cyst and not something more, while I remain under anesthetic, and which will allow me to go home on the same day I go in for surgery - or, should George (my cyst) turn out to be something else, will provide me the medical care I will need to deal with whatever it turns out to be.

What other human achievements do I appreciate?

The swift care and treatment that kept my SIL alive after her heart attack.

The care and treatment my father got after the stroke (the third of 5) that paralyzed half his body, helping him become mobile again.

The pacemaker that helps keep him alive to this day.

The technology that allows me to sit here and type this post, where people all over the world are able to read my rambling.

The transportation and refrigeration systems that allows us to eat a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in any season, helping keep us healthy.

The agricultural technology that has allowed more food to be grown on less land at less expense and with less harm to the environment.

And so much more!

The quality of live we enjoy today in so many parts of the world is the result of human ingenuity and creativity, coupled with individual freedom, democracy and free enterprise.

This is what I choose to celebrate.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How well did the Japanese wind farms really do?

Another topic about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami is being passed around like crazy right now.  It's supposed to be a "good news" story.  The one I'm seeing the most at the moment is another HuffPo piece, Battle-proof Wind Farms Survive Japan's Trial by Fire.

Did they really?

The story doesn't actually give a lot of information - but it does seem to imply a lot.

The facts, according to this story:
  • the wind industry is "still functioning and helping to keep the lights on."
  • there has been no wind facility damage reported by wind association members
  • this includes the "semi-offshore" Kamisu wind farm, which is located "about 300 km from the epicentre of the quake."
  • most wind turbines are fully operational, though 3 are off line due to grid damage, and that one particular wind farm (Kamaishi) was unaffected by the tsunami due to being 900m above sea level.
  • wind farm owners have been asked to "step up operations as much as possible"
  • stocks for wind farms have gone up
Oh, and the Tokyo Electric Company, which also owns the damaged nuclear facilities is probably very happy that they have a diverse portfolio that includes wind farms.

Somehow, that last bits sounds really... wrong to me.

What is implied is that, right now, the Japanese wind farms are currently the only reliable source of electricity for Japan - or at least in the affected area - and that they're more earthquake proof than nuclear power plants.  At least that's how it seems to me.

What we don't know:
  • were these wind farms affected by both the earthquake and the tsunami (though we do know that one specific wind farm was not affected by the tsunami)
  • how many wind farms Japan has
  • where these wind farms are located, particularly the Kamisu wind farm
  • how much of Japan's energy needs are met by wind farms, and are these wind farms truly meeting these needs.
We're also not being told how close the affected nuclear plants are to the epicentre of the quake, nor how many nuclear plants, or any other electricity generating plants, Japan has.

The article neglects to mention another important point.  While the Fukushima plants were damaged by the earthquake, they were not endangered by it.  Had they been affected by only the earthquake, there would have been no danger of a meltdown.  What the plants couldn't withstand was the tsunami on top of the earthquake.  Age of the plants was another factor; they were not built to the same standards as newer facilities.  There is also apparently a human element involved that potentially goes back years, but I'm not going to touch that area at all.

Well, let's see if we can find out some of this information.  First off, where is the Kamisu wind farm, with its "semi-offshore" turbines.  The article makes no mention, though there is one photo of the Kamisu wind farm showing what looks like 6 turbines.  After a bit of digging, I found this map.  Select a country from the drop down menu on the right hand side, and it will show the Japanese wind farms.  You can then select Kamisu.  The Kamisu wind farm is in the Kanto region.  If you zoom in, you can see that the wind farm is located at a small spit of land sticking out into the ocean.  To see where that is in relation to the epicentre of the quake and the affected nuclear power plants, I found a clearer map.  I've taken a screen capture and added an arrow to show approximately where the Kamisu wind farm is.

You'll note that 300 km is quite a bit farther away from the epicentre of the quake itself than the Fukushima nuclear facilities.  It is not one of the areas hit the hardest by the earthquake, though at 8.9 magnitude, it certainly would have been affected strongly.  Also, noting the bulge of land where the nuclear reactors are located, it's clear why that area was hit so hard by the tsunami.  I notice another nuclear symbol much closer to the epicentre, but there doesn't seem to be any concern about it.

How did the tsunami affect the area the Kamisu wind farm is located?  Though I'm finding some references to the area, and it does seem to have been hit hard, there's nothing about how badly the wind farm itself had been hit by the tsunami.  If someone else can find that information, please pass it on to me.

Next questions; how many wind farms does Japan have, how many wind turbines are at the Kamisu wind farm, and how much energy do these wind farms provide for Japan?

For the first part, I found this image.

The Kanto region has only 13 turbines.  The Tohoki region is closer to the epicentre and has 54 turbines, but there's no mention of how they've been affected by the earthquake, nor do we know if they're close enough to the coast, or low enough, to have been affected by the tsunami.

As for the Kamisu wind farm itself?

It has only 7 turbines.

This is barely even significant.  Why is this wind farm in particular noted in the article?  Is it because it's turbines are semi-offshore? 

Okay, so now we know how many wind farms there are and where the Kamisu wind farm specifically is located.  We still don't know how many turbines were actually affected by the tsunami, though we do know that some are inoperational due to grid damage.

Before I go into how much of Japan's energy is sourced from wind power, let's see if another article being passed around helps any.

Japan's wind industry hails earthquake-resilient wind farms.

Oh, dear.

Let's see what potential problems we see here.

To start with, right near the beginning, it references the HuffPo piece I've already linked to. 

Kelly Rigg, writer of the HuffPo piece, is the chief executive of the Global Campaign for Climate Action

Rigg spoke to Yoshinori Ueda, who is the leader of the International Committee of the Japan Wind Power Association and Japan Wind Energy Association, and is the source for some of the information in the HuffPo piece.

Eurus Energy Holdings, owner of 22% of Japan's wind farms and a subsidiary of the Tokyo Electric Company, is another source.

EU climate change commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, is another source.

And finally, while the bi line states the story was written by "BusinessGreen Staff," a note on the bottom states that it was written by the Executive Director of TckTckTck, also of the Global Campaign for Climate Action. though I suppose that might actually be in reference to Rigg, of the HuffPo piece.

So the sources are not only severely biased towards the anthropogenic climate change agenda, with its attendant anti-nuclear stance, but there's also massive corporate bias from wind energy companies.

In other words, those involved in the "green" business are busily using the disaster in Japan to push their agendas.


Does this piece give us more information?  A bit.  It mentions that 6 wind farms had been offline due to grid failure, but are back up and running again, and that "The resumption of power output came in response to a request from Tohoku Electric Power."  I'm not entirely sure what that means.  Are they saying that, if the TEP didn't send a request, they would have stayed offline?  It also mentions that "most" turbines were working, once again mentioning Kamisu (again, perhaps because it's semi-offshore).  Meanwhile, we still have no real information about how the turbines were affected by both the earthquake and the tsunami.

Okay, back to our final question.  How much are Japan's energy needs met by wind farms.  A related question would be, what are all the sources of Japan's electricity?

For that, I found this graphic.

Japan, it turns out, had a total of 54 nuclear reactors in operation at the time of the earthquake.  There are 4 reactors in the Fukushima plant, and it looks like all four of them are in danger right now. Which means there are still 50 operational nuclear reactors in Japan, including one that was much closer to the epicentre of the earthquake, according to the first graphic I included at the top.  That's about 92% of Japan's nuclear reactors that are still providing power for Japan (or at least to those places that are able to receive power).

You'll note that there is no percentage for wind farms on the pie chart above.  They fall into the "other renewables" cagetory, which also includes geothermal and solar.  How much of that 2% is made up of wind farms, we're not told.

So what can we say about the wind farms in Japan?  Apparently, they all survived the earthquake quite handily - but that's also true of all the other power sources, except the Fukushima plant.  We don't know how they were affected by the tsunami, despite references to the semi-offshore Kamisu wind farm. 

Based on this, were the wind farms truly "battle-proof?"  In truth, we don't even know how severely they were tested.

While I'm glad to hear that the wind farms are able to help provide power to stricken regions, the notion that wind farms are any better than any of the other sources of power in Japan has not, as far as I can tell, truly been proven.  There's a severe lack of data being given.  As for these articles, I find them to be quite misleading, in that they seem to be implying that wind farms are doing better than everything else, when they're only being compared to the Fukushima reactors.  Hardly a reasonable comparison.

On top of that, I find it rather disgusting that they're gloating about how much their shares have improved at a time like this.

update:  Apparently, there are 6 reactors at the Fukushima plant that are off line.  I haven't been online much lately, but this is the first time I've heard talk of more than 4.  

The workers at Fukushima are incredible.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A tragedy made worse

I haven't had much chance to post here lately (if you visit my home school blog, you'll read why, though I do warn it might fall into the category of TMI!).  On top of that, it was just really hard to make any of my usual posts in light of what's been going on in Japan in the last while.  First the shock of an earthquake large enough to affect the earth's axis.  Then the horror of the tsunami.  Finally, Japan continues to struggle with containing their damaged nuclear reactors.

What has made this event unique is the prevalence of cameras and videos in Japan.  We've been inundated with images that have made us all eyewitnesses.  They are astonishing beyond belief.


Ten's of thousands of people are dead or missing.


Countries from around the world have offered aid.  Some offers have been accepted, while others are on standby, ready to move should they be asked.

Meanwhile, around the world, people are offering their thoughts and prayers - as well as making donations and finding other ways they can help.

Yet no tragedy seems to go to waste without someone trying to use it to spout their own agenda or spread their own hate.

The first I saw was on someone's facebook status. This was a "gamer friend" - someone I know only as a "neighbour" in a game I play.  The first was a status update that started off sending sympathies to Japan, then quickly devolved to a rant about how they were the richest country in the world and would be able to rebuild in months, because they'd taken so many US jobs.  I challenged her on her claims, but she never responded.  Instead, I saw a new update.  Here, it started as a warning against scams claiming to raise donations for Japan - followed up by another rant on how no one should be sending donations, because they were so rich from all the jobs stolen from the US.

She is no longer on my friends list.

Then you had the people trying to tie the earthquake to climate change.  No surprise there.  After Katrina, Indonesia and Haiti, they're no strangers to dancing on the bodies of the dead to push their AGW crusades.

Next on the list were the anti-nuclear crowd.  They, of course, are expecting the worst - are almost eager for it, for all their claims to the contrary - and don't believe any of the official reports.  Of course, those reports are changing so fast, there's no way to know anything right now.  We shall see how that evolved.  I find it quite disturbing, however, that they are so quick to ignore the thousands of dead while fretting over the nuclear plants and preaching their anti-nuclear message.  Some, if you can believe it, are even planning to stockpile iodine.  Which would make more sense if they were actually in any danger, but we're talking people who live in central North America. 

Just now, however, was the worst of the worst.

A certain group of people I know have started sharing a YouTube video.  I'm not going to link to this pathetic piece of garbage here, and hopefully enough complaints will have been made against it to have it removed completely.

The video is of a young woman who's going on about how "God is so good" for answering prayers.  The prayer in question was to "open atheists eyes."  The prayer was answered, according to her, through the earthquake in Japan.

Now, within the first minute of this video, it was obvious to me that this was a troll.  For someone who claimed to be a Christian, she didn't talk or act like one.  I've encountered a few whacked out extreme Christians in my time, and they don't act or talk like her, either.  A quick search revealed that this person is a member of a satirical, spoof "Christian" forum, where she's known to post under another alias as well.

For a troll, this one is particularly dedicated.  There's a year's worth of videos on her YouTube channel.  All stupid and obnoxious.  She was obviously an anti-Christian playing herself as a Christian extremist.  It didn't help that she did things like call Lent, lentil.

This particular video, however, was disgusting beyond belief.  If she had been a real Christian spouting this, it would be disgusting beyond belief.  What makes it worse is that we've got an anti-Christian troll using the horror and tragedy of Japan to troll against Christians by posing as one and spewing her garbage.

It only took a few minutes of searching to find out her double identity, and that she was a fake.  The people sharing her video (and giving her channel hits in the process) fell for it.  They're the usual bunch of anti-Christians, and they shared it with comments such as this.

PLEASE GOD, Save us from the Christian Right!!!

I don't recall this woman's political views being mentioned, but then I didn't waste time watching the whole thing.  This crowd always assume Christian = political right, and it's a common phrase.

This is why I hate organized religions.

Because apparently, this video is what they think organized religion is like.  Nothing like painting millions of people worldwide with the same brush!

This will make your hair stand on end.  To quote my source for this: "... and people are afraid of Muslims?"

Okay, aside from the hyperbole in the first sentence, the second one is just plain ignorance.  People are afraid of Muslims because they see all those videos and read news about radical Muslims teaching their kids that Jews are dogs and pigs that need to be wiped off the face of the earth, and that the greatest thing they can do is blow themselves up while killing as many infidels as possible, or go around shooting US soldiers after watching a fake video supposedly showing atrocities by US soldiers but were actually taken from a movie, or murder families in their sleep.  People can't tell one type of Muslim from another.  It's not like the extremists walk around with signs taped to their foreheads reading "I am a radical Muslim!"  Comparing this woman's ignorant blathering doesn't exactly fall into the same category.

Here's the thing.  Of the many thousands of Christians around the world posting, sharing and otherwise articulating their caring for the victims of Japan's triple tragedy, sending their heartfelt prayers and organizing ways to send help, this group of Christophobes (and it's a very specific group only) is busily sharing this disgusting video, giving the troll who made it more traffic on her YouTube channel in the process, and using it to spew their own anti-Christian bigotry.

I wonder how many of them bothered to go to the YouTube page and flag the video as offensive?  Somehow, I don't think a single one did - just as not a single one bothered to do a simple google search to find out if this sicko was for real, or the troll that she turned out to be.

Which, as far as I'm concerned, makes them every bit as disgusting as the troll who made the video.

update:  Well, that was fast!  The woman who made the video I've been talking about has admitted her videos were all fake, and her YouTube account is now closed.

Let's see how many of the people who shared this will apologize for spreading their hate.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Are they daft?

I just read the most bizarre article at the Huffington Post.

Regulators Reject Proposal that would bring Fox-style News to Canada.

Good Lord, what a piece of BS!  Take this part...

Fox News will not be moving into Canada after all! The reason: Canada regulators announced last week they would reject efforts by Canada's right wing Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to repeal a law that forbids lying on broadcast news.

1) "Fox News" was never trying to move into Canada.
2) the PM had nothing to do with any efforts to repeal any laws (and from what I've been told, our "right wing" PM would be considered a bleeding heart socialist liberal in the US).
3) any regulations we currently have sure as heck aren't stopping our current news broadcasters from making s**t up whenever they please.  Like claiming Fox News is trying to get into Canada and that the PM is trying to force changes in our laws to allow them in.

Then we get this part...

The provision has kept Fox News and right wing talk radio out of Canada and helped make Canada a model for liberal democracy and freedom. As a result of that law, Canadians enjoy high quality news coverage 

1) Canadians are free to watch Fox News and listen to "right wing" radio all they want.  They just have to buy the right bundle from their satellite or cable tv carrier.  Canadian regulations require Canadian broadcasters to have a minimum amount of Canadian content.    (see section 4)
2) how does this provision make Canada a model for democracy and freedom?  Oh, sorry... that was *liberal* democracy and freedom.  I forgot.  Only liberals are allowed to have democracy and freedom.  Anyone else doesn't count.
3) Canadians enjoy high quality news coverage?  What rot!  Our news coverage is biased, obnoxious and frequently misinformative.  Guess which side is the one represented?  Our news coverage is biased heavily towards the left, with very rare exceptions. This does not equal high quality news coverage.  It equals garbage.

Political dialogue in Canada is marked by civility, modesty, honesty, collegiality, 
Is this guy for real??  What absolute BS!  Spend some time watching CSPAN, then tell me how civil, modest, honest or collegial our political dialogue is.  Look at the drive by smear campaigns that pop up on a regular basis.  Granted, our politics may not be quite as bad as in the US for that sort of thing, but that doesn't mean it's any good.

When Stephen Harper moved to abolish anti-lying provision of the Radio Act, ...
Oh, look... we're making things up again.  PM hasn't done anything of the sort and hasn't got anything to do with it.

While we're at it, has anyone seen the proposed amendment that would "abolish the anti-lying provision." The actual regulation is here, BTW.  The pertinent part reads:

Prohibited Programming Content

8. (1) No licensee shall distribute a programming service that the licensee originates and that contains
(a) anything that contravenes any law;
(b) any abusive comment or abusive pictorial representation that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability;
(c) any obscene or profane language or pictorial representation; or
(d) any false or misleading news.
(2) For the purpose of paragraph (1)(b), sexual orientation does not include the orientation towards a sexual act or activity that would constitute an offence under the Criminal Code.

 See also here.


5. (1) A licensee shall not broadcast
(a) anything in contravention of the law;
(b) any abusive comment or abusive pictorial representation that, when taken in context, tends to or is likely to expose an individual or a group or class of individuals to hatred or contempt on the basis of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age or mental or physical disability;
(c) any obscene or profane language or pictorial representation; or
(d) any false or misleading news.
(1.1) For the purposes of paragraph (1)(b), sexual orientation does not include the orientation towards any sexual act or activity that would constitute an offence under the Criminal Code.

 Pretty much all of those get skirted on a regular basis.

What I find interesting about the claims that sections 8d and 5d above has "kept Fox News" out of Canada is that by saying this, they are basically saying that absolutely everything coming out of Fox News (or anything from the right) is a lie.  Stranger still is that people actually believe this.  They literally believe that, if something comes from the political right or out of Fox News is false.  Gee, closed minded, much?

Oh, and I have yet to see the actual proposed amendment that would supposedly allow news broadcasters to lie to their hearts content (though, of course, only those on the right would do so.  The left would never make up things... like the crap in this article.  /sarcasm off/).  I've followed a number of links that supposedly showed this proposed amendment, but there was nothing there.  I had to dig through the CRTC website just to find the parts I quoted above.  I've searched the CRTS site repeatedly, with no success.  All that I've been finding date back several years.  You'd think, since their decision against the amendment is making news right now, I'd be able to find it in their "newsroom" section.  Or the "decisions, notices and orders" section.

Of course, how this amendment has been described to the public has changed.  Originally, people were saying that the amendment would open a "loophole" to the "fair and balanced" regulation - but nothing on just how it would do that.

To continue:

...Canadians rose up to oppose him fearing that their tradition of honest non partisan news would be replaced by the toxic, overtly partisan, biased and dishonest news coverage
Uhm.  No.  No they didn't.  A very small, very vocal minority has been shouting out the sort of BS that's in this article in their efforts to block SunTV.  Our left-biased media has been fighting tooth and nail to prevent competition for the airwaves.  A large number of Canadians, tired of our biased media, would LOVE to see a Canadian alternative available.  They'd LOVE to at least have the choice.

Plus, our news is already toxic, partisan, biased and dishonest.  What people who support having the SunTV option want is a news media that isn't toxic, partisan, biased and dishonest, for a change.

Harper's proposal was timed to facilitate the launch of a new right wing network, "Sun TV News" which Canadians call "Fox News North."

Again, no.  This was never "Harper's proposal."  Since I can't find the proposed amendment, I also can't find who made the proposal.  As for timing, since the CRTC is the foundation of our biased media, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the timing for this proposal (the paperwork for such things take months, and it likely goes back to well before SunTV's license application became public news) is probably very deliberate - on their part.

Also, the only Canadians who call it "Fox News North" are left-wingers and our left-biased media.   The rest of us call it SunTV.

Harper, often referred to as "George W. Bush's Mini Me," is known for having mounted a Bush like war on government scientists, data collectors, transparency, and enlightenment in general. He is a wizard of all the familiar tools of demagoguery; false patriotism, bigotry, fear, selfishness and belligerent religiosity.
Wow.  How much BS can you shove into two sentences?

1) Harper is not "often refereed to as George W. Bush's Mini Me."  I've only encountered that reference once, ever, and that was when the Conservatives first won the election years ago.  Hardly anyone uses the term.
2) there has been no "Bush like war" on any of those groups. Though I suppose having one's funding threatened because it's a useless or redundant waste of taxpayers dollars might be viewed as such by the people who's careers depend on those taxpayers dollars.
3) That last line?  Pure BS.  Plain and simple.

There's one last paragraph in the article I won't bother trying to quote from.  The whole thing is ... dare I say it?

False and misleading.

update: Tasha Kheiriddin does an excellent take down of this same article.

upperdate:  I've found a timeline for all this, and guess what?  It was the CRTC itself that proposed the amendment, the Joint Committee recommended against it, and the whole thing goes back to 1992.