Monday, March 31, 2008

Yet another on nationality and identity

I received an application "form" for becoming a volunteer in the Rackham Graduate School's I-Connect Program for the 2008/2009 academic year. I filled out the entire form, but there was one item that stuck in my craw, and which I wrote a comment to them about, both commenting on my answer, and why their question was not a good question.

Here's the commentary I wrote:
Although I recognize that I fit into a minority category, let me explain why I don’t like answering the question of “Country of Origin.” Although I put down “USA/Japan”, if you think about it, my answer represents neither a country of origin (as requested) nor a true national identity (since I don’t consider myself to be either “typically American” or “typically Japanese”). To make it more complicated, I was born on Guam, which is only technically part of the United States of America.

A likely assumption underlying this whole thing is that your country of origin is where you grew up and from where you derive a nationality, culture, and personal identity. It was to the assumption of a conflation I answered “USA/Japan” (my nationalities, but not my personal identity). However, in this day and age, this assumption cannot be assumed (something to which I feel the I-Connect Program should be quite cognizant). I have friends who were born in the United States while their parents were attending university during the 1970s, but ended up growing up in their parents’ home country. Since many countries provide automatic citizenship for their nationals’ children, these friends of mine ended up with dual citizenship, and spent most (if not all) of their lives in their parents’ country of origin. What do these people put down on such a form? To report the literal truth, they would have to put down “USA”, since they were born (i.e., “Originated”) in the USA. However, they may well be as foreign to the United States as many of the international students in their incoming cohort.

If the I-Connect Program wants to ask a question about identity, then I suggest that in future it instead ask for a volunteer’s “National Identity” (or something that doesn’t conflate identity with origin). With this question, people in a similar position as my friends could put down that they are of the country where they grew up, and it offers an option for people like me, who grew up as “third culture kids” (TCKs) to give an answer unconstrained by national borders. Finally, it doesn’t change the answer given by those people who were born and grew up in the country of their nationality (indeed, I imagine that such people wouldn’t immediately see any difference between the two questions).

Although the question of “Country of Origin” is not as outmoded as asking for a single racial identity (which is no longer done), I believe it is just as difficult for people like me and my friends to provide a suitable - and ultimately useful - response to the question. As a mixed-heritage, multi-national student, born in an organized unincorporated territory of the United States, and grew up in seven different countries, asking me my “Country of Origin” has about as much useful truth for those using my answer as asking me to limit my racial identity to only one racial group.

Of course, if Rackham asked for some more concrete concept, such as nationality (and for many people, country of origin and nationality are the same thing), merely asking for nationality wouldn’t make TCKs and dual-nationals once again feel issues of inadequacy of not belonging to a wider culture, since “nationality” and “national identity” are not necessarily the same thing. Furthermore, nationality is a simple question, and if the eventual reader wants to assume some correlation between nationality and identity, that’s up to him or her.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

About Radical Christian Craziness

Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars:

This was so perfect that I had to edit my speech for Wednesday night to include it. From anti-gay whacko James Hartline and quoted, naturally, in the Worldnutdaily:

"The American Civil Liberties Union has done everything possible to destroy Christianity in the American culture and government. From tearing down crosses on public property to removing crosses and the Ten Commandments from governmental buildings, there has been no greater hate machine against our constitutional right to free religious expression in America than the ACLU!" Hartline said.

Notice how he shifts ground, using examples of government religious expression and then claiming that the ACLU is out to destroy individual religious expression? That's standard operating procedure for the ACLU haters.

This sort of conflation shouldn't come as a surprise when you realize that "Conservative Protestants' Religious Beliefs Contribute to Their Low Wealth", and that education and wealth are good indicators of each other. From the actual paper (free access!):
Low educational attainment is an important reason for low CP [Conservative Protestant] wealth. There is long-standing evidence that religion affects education (Glenn and Hyland 1967; Greeley 1969; Lenski 1961), and recent research shows that CPs complete comparatively low levels of schooling (Darnell and Sherkat 1997; Sherkat and Ellison 1999). CP cultural orientations tend to be at odds with the approaches of nonreligious schools and universities that propagate secular humanist values (Sikkink 1999) and promote scientific investigation rather than acceptance of divine truths (Darnell and Sherkat 1997). ... As a result, educational attainment for CPs is significantly lower than for members of other faiths (Darnell and Sherkat 1997), declining most noticeably after high school (Lehrer 1999).
To some people, the conflation that Ed outlines is non-existent. They only see government interfering with their "God-given" rights (through a "Christian-influenced" Constitution) of freedom of religion. The way to deal with these sorts of anti-ACLU accusations from such Conservative Protestants (wingnuts thought they may be) may well be to follow the advice that Cortunix suggests over at his blog:
Some people only know the language of power. They see conciliation and compromise as weakness. Show strength. If they are sissies hiding behind machismo, slam them hard. You have nothing to lose. Some will convert and come to your side. Some will go cower in the corner. None will hang around risking your anger for very long.
I mean, we aren't trying to "convert the choir" with the issues of public displays of religion; proselytization in schools; accusations of a "homosexual agenda"; the mythology of the United States being founded as a "Christian nation"; and others. Why not use their own tactics of bluster and steam-rolling (which they can understand) against them? (Of course, make sure we have all our facts correct at the get-go.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Some USGS river gage data fixed... others still out.

The USGS has filled in the data for the Salt River gage. Apparently, there was a "little bit" of a change in discharge from the long-term average discharge values (~23000 cfs vs ~2000 cfs). And with the sudden increase in discharge, it's no wonder that the gage shut down/

However, the Big Muddy River gage at Murphysboro is still in need of correction, and may need to be replaced. (I'm basing this last hypothesis on the fact that there is no current discharge measurement being made at this site.)

I'm not familiar with the White River near Fayetteville, AR, but I assume that it normally runs at a discharge level of slightly larger than the ~1 cfs indicated in its graph. Possibly another indication of an outed gage?

Again, not being situated in the Mississippi River system, I have little opportunity to actually go out and check on the situation of these gages. However, based on news reports, the Kaskaskia river did overflow its banks in Fayetteville during the recent rain storms and flooding in the Mississippi River basin. (I assume that the Kaskaskia and the White converge at some point near the city.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

TMI and ignorance

Via PhysOrg:
... economists Isabelle Brocas and Juan D. Carrillo present a situation – commonly observed in real life – in which all parties have access to the same information, but one party still manages to control public opinion.


The study, “Influence Through Ignorance,” is the first to thoroughly examine situations in which power comes from controlling the flow of public information, as opposed to the possession of private information.

As Brocas and Carrillo explain, there are secrets – facts that are deliberately withheld – and there are facts that are not known to anybody.

“It’s not necessary to have extra information,” Brocas said. “You can induce people to do what you want just by stopping the flow of information or continuing it. That’s enough.”

Notably, the party manipulating the flow of information must deliberately choose to remain uninformed as well – which can backfire.


“Overall, the ability of to control the flow of news and remain publicly ignorant gives the leader some power, which is used to influence the actions of the follower,” the researchers wrote. “Our result suggests that the chairperson, the President and media can bias the decision of the committee, electorate and public by strategically restricting the flow of information.”
This is something that I believe can also be seen in any discussion of science vs. religion - specifically in the evolution vs. creation debate. In the end-point of such debates one is left wondering why the other side chooses to remain ignorant your point-of-view (note: I'm not presently saying that one side is correct in their viewpoints, just that both sides might well feel that the other chooses to remain ignorant of the evidence so clear to them).

What one must do when confronted with such a feeling, however, is to consider whether or not the actual reason why there is such a feeling arises from a lack of access to knowledge (or explicitly choosing to remain ignorant of knowledge) on one's own side, or if it is more the case on the other side. I would argue here that dogmatic environments of learning tend to control the types of knowledge their adherents (be they students or acolytes) receive, while more liberal learning environments tend to encourage their adherents to learn from a variety of sources (or even - gasp! - on their own).

PZ Myers points to a great example that shows an explicitly dogmatic point-of-view in this evolution vs. creation "debate", and it does seem to me that much of the dogmatism in this "debate" does seem to rest with the side of the creationists. There is a lot of what appears to be dogmatism on the evolutionist side, but one has to realize the difference between assertions and dogma (at least how I'm using them).

Assertions are statements of fact based on repeatable observation or a rational explanation. Dogma are statements of fact based on tradition, which requires neither repeatable observation nor a rational explanation. One can say that Newtons laws of motion are "dogmatic" within kinematics - many people accept the three laws based on the long line of physicists that came before them who used the laws accurately and without mishap. However, this "dogma" was based ultimately on an assertion which was (using my definition above) based on repeatable observation (which can still be done today) as well as rational explanations (which work to accommodate many other areas of physics).

The coverage of the Brocas and Carillo paper does go on to say that:

Competition, supported by media diversity and public sources of research funding, not only induces outlets to release more information but also causes the “influence through ignorance” effect to diminish – and under certain circumstances to vanish – the researchers found.
This leads one to wonder whether, in the evolution vs. creation "debate", competition-based information releases will actually reduce ignorance, or if the authors are only really discussing situations where the information produced on all sides is accurate and equally accepted. If the former, then scientists shouldn't matter, and the whole PZ-Dawkins vs. Expelled! controversy should just quietly blow over (which much of the scienceblogosphere doesn't think will happen) with the passage of time. However, I feel that the opposite will happen: hard-held beliefs will not be broken with merely the presence of well-disseminated information (especially if there is equally well-disseminated [false] information supporting the opposing view, which happens to match with the pre-existing world-views held onto strongly due to those very hard-held beliefs science might be trying to sway).

At least the fight should prove interesting. I only hope that we don't end up with an American version of Lysenkoism (because that would NOT be good for the advancement of American science).

Re: Where are the multiracial Americans?

From Sociological Images: Seeing is Believing:

Over at the New York Times, Peggy Orenstein wrote a light article about the social construction of race, ethnicity, and culture through the lens of multiracialism. This figure (in Hawaii, Hapa means "half") shows the states with the highest percentages of people claiming to be multiracial:

For background: 2000 was the first year that the Census allowed us to mark more than one race... talk about the social construction of racial categories!
My response to this posting (and to Orenstein's piece) is this:

I'm Hapa, but I think this has article has a few problems...

One might argue that there are many more "multi-racial" people throughout the country if the question were changed to ask if a person knew of having ancestors from more than one race.

I think that a whole lot of "African-Americans" are multi-racial, but identify themselves as "African-American", and not "multi-racial". Similarly, I think that many "Caucasian" peoples are likely to be "multi-racial" by descent, but identify themselves as only a single race.

Because of the relatively recent "allowability" of claiming multiple races on the Census, I think that this question only really affects people who have parents of different [single] "races" and aren't themselves subsumed into a single racial group. For example, Barak Obama is multi-racial. However, he is more likely to be seen as "African-American." He may try and distance himself from being "African-American", but I think that many people in a similar "racial descent" position may allow themselves to identify (at least publicly) themselves as the racial group which most of society sees them as.

On the other hand, some "races" have not allowed the children of mixed-race marriages to really enter into their society. (I'm thinking specifically of "white" and "Asian".) This provides for a strong environment for a person to cultivate an ethnic identity as something other than merely one or the other.

Similarly, in some places (such as some areas of California and many places in Hawaii), there are enough children of mixed "racial" heritage that identifying oneself publicly as mixed is acceptable (and one merely got aggravated with stupid government documents requiring that you note whether you were "Non-Hispanic Caucasian" or not).

Friday, March 21, 2008


It's snowing in Ann Arbor right now. It started about 15 minutes ago, and expected to go until 8AM.

And now for something apropos:
A March Snow
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Let the old snow be covered with the new:
The trampled snow, so soiled, and stained, and sodden.
Let it be hidden wholly from our view
By pure white flakes, all trackless and untrodden.
When Winter dies, low at the sweet Spring's feet
Let him be mantled in a clean, white sheet.

Let the old life be covered by the new:
The old past life so full of sad mistakes,
Let it be wholly hidden from the view
By deeds as white and silent as snow-flakes.

Ere this earth life melts in the eternal Spring
Let the white mantle of repentance fling
Soft drapery about it, fold on fold,
Even as the new snow covers up the old.

Some river gages are out/malfunctioning

There are a few river gages that are not functioning properly, due - most likely - to the major storms running through the area, possibly even tearing our or damaging the discharge sensors. For whatever reason, these USGS discharge gages are showing zero cfs discharge, even though the gage height indicator clearly shows a continued water column height increase after the malfunction of the discharge gage. Check out two of the sets of graphs below.

Unfortunately, due to specific station geometry (the geometry of the river-bottom at the location of the stream gage), it is not easy to directly translate gage height (the right-hand graphs) with the discharge (left-hand graphs). This might make it difficult to easily back-cast the actual discharge based on the gage height, especially if the user of the data is not local to the area.

Of course, the discharge gage could have just shut off due to reaching some pre-programmed maximum recording limit, and will turn back on again as flood waters decrease. Since I'm not in a position to go out and check on it, though, I'll just have to wait and see...

Photos from the end of winter/start of spring

For your pleasure, I tried to put a few photos together of what's happening around Ann Arbor as it slowly comes out from one of the wettest winters (in terms of total precipitation - not accumulation) in several years. Coming into spring, the snow and ice start to melt, humidity increases, and students start to feed the "wildlife."

Ducks swimming in the slowly-warming waters of the Huron River just downstream of the Argo canoe livery.

Fog lightly envelops the Diag. All the damp in the air started to condensate as nighttime temperatures dropped below dew point.

Students provide handouts to squirrels. (Notice the two students with cameras poised to provide their own private "paparazzi moment". I wonder if the squirrel can stand to be in the spotlight of so much attention!)

Sometimes I like to try and find views of Ann Arbor that make it look more like a proper city. I found this one when taking photos from atop a parking structure. The proximity of so many brick buildings, with the duct work snaking downward into alleyways made the shot look more "urban" than one might otherwise expect Ann Arbor to be.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Vernal Equinox

Yes, this year, because of the Leap Year, the Vernal Equinox is on the 20th of March (well, it isn't because of the leap year, since the equinox is either on the 20th or the 21st of March).

I'm off to the Grizzly Peak for some late-night-happy-hour beer in a few.

Monday, March 17, 2008

St. Patrick's Day in Cork Town

Yesterday, I went to Cork Town for St. Patric's Day. I'd never been before. I'm likely to go again, though. What a blast! Here are some photos of the trip.

Having never driven to Cork Town, it was a little difficult to actually know if where we were going was the right way to go. (There's a lot of construction around the "Bridge to Canada". All the construction tried to funnel people not in-the-know into Canada, rather than where one might otherwise want to go. Eventually, though, we realized we were in the right area.)

The minor festivities by the descendants of those Irish immigrants who settled in the neighborhood of Detroit which came to be known as "Cork Town". (As well as the people who want to just wear green, drink beer, and enjoy the company of throngs of people.)

The old train terminus station. Unfortunately, the only thing that's left of it is the shell of the building. Even the windows are broken.

Walking down Michigan Ave. after the majority of the parade has passed.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Armed America: Wow. Just wow.

This link sent to me from my brother, via Funtasticus:

Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes

March 13th, 2008 (Posted by Lordy)

Kyle Cassidy traveled 15,000 miles over two years photographing Americans in their homes and asking one question: “Why do you own a gun?” A good question, particularly since most of these guns are not easily reconcilable with the notion of self-defence and their true place should be somewhere in the Armed Forces. All the photo were later compiled in the book with its German edition being published this year. The pics below are taken from the latter. As said by Alan Cooperman from The Washington Post: “Each picture in Armed America could be a pro-gun advertisement - or an anti-gun poster. That’s what makes the book so riveting.”

The photos on the page are really nice in terms of composition and balance. There are even some which seem to show a sense of irony (or dead-seriousness). However, they are all a little spooky (at least to me) and somewhat overwhelming.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What's up with this guy?

Thanks to Ed at Dispatches for the head's-up about this article in the World "Nut" Daily. I love the method of how this article unconsciously appeals to a slightly sympathetic reader, since it shows a typical method of justifying a bigoted viewpoint by saying upfront that what follows is not a bigoted viewpoint. (Just like what that foul-mouthed Oklahoman legislator did the other day.)

Here's how I read the piece (with parenthetical comments):
Women are more depressed than men. Why? (Based on this opening rhetoric, I'm sure you're about to construct a strawman that you will easily destroy.)

I have a radio show. I've talked to many women about men-and-women issues on that show. I've informally counseled women over the years, and I've come to my own conclusion as to the root of female depression: feminism. (<-- Note the entrance of the strawman argument.) Before I continue in saying how bad I think feminism as a concept and a social movement is, I'd like to state that I'm not against feminism. Okay, now that I've made that completely empty gesture which puts me on the record that I'm not against feminism, I'll start bashing feminism. I'll start the bashing out softly by stating that the accomplishments of feminism - all good, mind - are unrelated to increased rates of depression in women. Feminism is - at the same time - good and depressing for women.

However, feminism increased women's expectations, which I wrote about in my book - here's a shameless plug. Having unfulfilled expectations leads to depression. Having fulfilled expectations does not lead to happiness, since having your expectations fulfilled only serves to undermines gratitude. (Funny how this sentiment seems to evoke derogatory statements like 'ungrateful b*tch,' but that must just be coincidence.)

Women in the past only had the expectations of house, husband, and home, and therefore were satisfied. But feminism undercut that satisfaction by letting women know that there was more to life: a career. (What about "a real life", "personal independence", and "demanding equal treatment for equal work"?)

I'm going to shamelessly plug my radio show now to let people know that depressed women in their 30s and 40s call in pining for the "good ole days." Now I'm going to generalize from these depressed women outward to the whole population by stating that most women would likely find house, husband, and home more fulfilling than a soul-sucking career. Just look at poor Lisa Nowak: her extreme jealousy only proves my point. (And Pranger wants us to think that her mindset can be extrapolated to the psychology of half the country? Pu-leez!)

I'll begin to tear down my strawman construct of feminism by stating as reasonbaly as I can that women and men need different things. Now I'll continue by the unvalidated claim that women need personal relationships to be happy, but not career work, while men need both work and personal relationships to be happy, and a man who can't give a good answer to, "What do you do?" feels a greater sense of emasculation than a woman could ever feel. Virtually no woman's identity is dependent on what she does for a living. (What is this guy on?) Men also work more hours than women, and are therefore superior, since I don't consider work in the home to be real work.

Women are disappointed with their jobs because they expected too much from work. Feminists promised a 50-50 split of household work (I don't recall this as a promise, but rather as a goal/demand of society), but this promise is usually an empty one, because men work outside the home, not inside it. Men don't have to change. It's women who must revert to the 1950s when they had only to live contentedly in the house, waiting for their husbands to return.

But this isn't the only reason women are depressed. There are more! Tune in later to read my inane driveling.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The next week and a half looks like it'll get warmer...

Good news - of a sort. The weather is supposed to get a little warmer over the next week. Therefore, although the temperature is supposed to be still cold, at least there won't be need for more salt on the roads.

This means that there is less need for car scrapers (which I don't personally need, since I don't drive), more need for umbrellas, less need for jackets, and more need for washing mud off my bike.

Of course, temperature lows are still expected to get below freezing...

Science, minorities, and science-blogging.

I'm an avid reader of some of the blogs over at Recently, there was a "much ado about nothing" when some anonymous person with way too much time on their hands went through all the Scienceblogs, copied out the posted photo of the blogger(s), and created a webpage showing how "Aryan" Scienceblogs is. (At least this guy didn't look at the German Scienceblogs! The petty-minded little bigot wouldn't know what to do!)

Anyway, the funniest thing was that he (I'm assuming that it's a 'he') put Scienceblogger 'Razib' in the category of Caucasian, in amongst the white people. If the guy had read Razib's blog for any amount of time, he would have thought twice about putting him in with a bunch of whities. Anyway, Razib's changed his blog photo, so that he (Razib) is no longer hiding behind his cat.

He's also written about how this whole thing is rather stupid - especially when it comes to the topic of Asians in science, pointing out that in some disciplines, Asians outnumber whites:
I assume you're not surprised?

1) There's a big difference between "Asians" and "Underrepresented minorities."

2) In most cases Asians are more overrepresented than whites. In fact, there are so many Asians in Electrical Engineering that whites are a touch underrepresented!

3) I perceive two general dimensions in the Asian data. First, one of practicality, and second, another of mathematical rigor. The more "practical" a field is, the more likely Asians are likely to be represented. Therefore, more in engineering than in physics. How many physicists do you know who went into engineering related work when the academy didn't pan out? For many of them a undergraduate engineering degree would have been the most optimal choice in terms of their career with hindsight. Second, the math aspect explains something like economics vs. the other social sciences. I know that political science, sociological and psychology use plenty of statistics, but econ can verge into applied math when it comes to the obsession with modeling.

What I want to know, however, is how are Hapa included in the above categories? Are we "underrepresented minorities" or are we lumped in together with our "non-White" ancestry? The other thing I want to know is why is this even an issue? I mean this in three ways:
  1. This shouldn't be an issue because we - as a nation - should be moving away from categorizations based on the stupid social notions of 'race'. Being a "half-breed mutt" myself, I would hope that these silly notions would just disappear, but until they do, I'm stuck in limbo-land whenever dealing with people who cannot pigeon-hole me into the "correct" racial group. (Those arseholes.)
  2. Among United States citizen scientists (see, I'm not including immigrant scientists who - by definition - aren't considered "minorities," since they aren't citizens), the majority of scientists are White. Therefore it's stupid to think that more than a minority of sciencebloggers should be non-White. Of course, if the site were called "Electrical Engineering Blogs," one would expect to see more Asians than Whites - and there would be decent (but weak) reasons for an outcry.
  3. So long as Scienceblogs doesn't have a racial policy; advocate for one; show favoritism for one type of "race" over another; or hire a Scienceblogger that promotes the racial superiority of one race of scientists over another (without good scientific evidence to back up his or her claim), the question of the racial make-up of Sciencebloggers shouldn't even be one for consideration.

More on Georgia Border Dispute: No Claim for Georgia?

From The Chattanoogan:
...[In] March 1972, just after the [Civil War train] "General" had been given by the courts to the State of Georgia despite Chattanooga’s objection, Rep. Robert G. “Bob” Peters of Ringgold[, GA] had issued the resolution to accept the current border. (No reference cited)

He simply felt that bringing up the border issue would do no good other than to create ill will between the two states.

The Peters’ resolution was approved by a vote of 116-12.

In a prophetic statement during the 1972 Georgia House vote, Rep. Thomason did say that the resolution would forever end any future negotiations between Tennessee and Georgia over the border dispute.

After the Georgia resolution passed, Tennessee also passed a resolution [by Rep. Al Edgar] accepting the Georgia peace offer. (No reference cited)
So, it seems to me that (thanks to the efforts of John Shearer) this will eventually become a moot point again (until the next time). Based on this article, both Georgia and Tennessee passed resolutions saying that the border separating the states that existed in 1972 would be the permanent border of the states. Even without having seen the actual resolutions in both legislatures, it would be fair to assume that there was no time frame after which there would be re-negotiation of this resolution.

Therefore, the recent House Resolution 1206 - and supporting Senate Resolution 587 - in the Georgia legislature should be struck down by the state supreme court, since it failed to overturn the 1972 resolution. (Of course, my lack of procedural law knowledge is a drawback for me at this point.) Of course, the Georgia House and Senate can easily draft a set of bills that seek to repeal the 1972 resolution, and - further - have it's effective date pre-date the passage of HR1206 and SR587.

Of course, this brings up two questions. First of all, shouldn't Georgia start its border dispute with North Carolina, where the 1.1 mile 'hiccup' starts? I mean, if this is where the origin of the "mismapping," shouldn't the first claim be from this point westward? More importantly, if Georgia can win a border dispute with North Carolina, it will strengthen its case against Tennessee (against which it apparently has several small legal saber-rattlings).

The second question it brings up is exactly how much of a legal expert Brad Craver really is. I mean, if he didn't know of the passing of this legislative resolution back in 1972, then what is the basis of his expertise. If he did know of this resolution back in 1972, then where are his professional ethics in not bringing it up in his until-recently confidential report?

However, the Walker County Messenger doesn't mention the resolutions from either Georgia or Tennessee.
1947-71: Many governors of Georgia contemplated reopening the border dispute but none did.
1971: The Georgia General Assembly enacts a joint resolution calling for Georgia governor Jimmy Carter to talk with the Tennessee governor about resolving the border dispute.
[1972: Resolutions in GA and TN to settle border dispute mentioned in Shearer's piece.]
2005: Dade County officials sign an agreement with the water firm of Brown and Caldwell in Walnut Creek, Calif., to research the possibility of an agreement with Tennessee to pump water along a pipeline into Dade from the Tennessee River.
So there are a few reasons I can think of as to why the resolutions in both GA and TN are not mentioned in the Messenger's time-line. 1) They couldn't find it either (which might indicate that Mr. Shearer's source is wrong, or that he's lying), 2) they purposefully omitted it (shameful, to be sure), or 3) they found it but didn't realize what they had (shameful, but not as bad as #2).

In any case, John Shearer brings up one other point in his piece. This time from the Supreme Court:
The [March 9, 1972] article also pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court had some years before ruled that state boundaries as already established would not be questioned, even if the boundary was different from what was intended on original grants. (No reference given)
Again, sorry Georgia. Apparently, the Supreme Court has already ruled against you. However, it is strange that something this important would be forgotten about by the legal clerks in the Tennessee government.

However, the Messenger piece doesn't show any Supreme Court decision. This might be because they didn't include any Supreme Court searches when putting together their time-line (shameful, imho) or they omitted it (very shameful).

Anyway, the Chattanoogan provides a good article, but it leaves out important references that call into question the veracity of the source. Therefore, if Mr. Shearer could present the following references, it would be very nice, thank you very much:
  1. The legislative resolution bill numbers passed by the TN legislature in 1972.
  2. The legislative resolution bill numbers passed by the GA legislature in 1972.
  3. The Supreme Court decision of the boundaries issue from "some years before" the 1972 article.
Oh, and while he's at it, if he could e-mail them to the Walker County Messenger as well as the Georgia state house, that would be very useful.

On use of public transport.

From Treehugger:
I complain about my city a lot (but I complain about everything) but it has subways, streetcars and buses galore (could have more) and a growing bike lane infrastructure (which they could plough in winter) but I was shocked by the statistics in Spacing that showed how many people rely on cars to get to work in Toronto, and how the number has barely budged in five years. Over all, 71.1% drove, 22.2% took transit, 4.8% walked and only 1% biked.
I live near Detroit, and was surprised at the high value of 2% that the Motor City got. One major thing that the study didn't account for was the penetration of non-bus public transportation. Here's my reasoning for why this is important: bus systems rely on the same roads that cars and trucks rely on (save for a very small handful of cities worldwide). Therefore, riding on a bus doesn't provide as much of a time-savings (especially when commuting through traffic) as riding the rails. Further, if the primary public transport is a bus system, there is less incentive to not own a car (especially if that system doesn't really provide good coverage throughout the city). However, if there is a dense non-bus public transport system (or a bus system operating on exclusive roadways), there is little reason to drive in order to live in your city.

Therefore, to return to Detroit - a city with a very limited non-bus transport system - I was surprised with the number of 2%. The only non-bus system in D-town is the People Mover - a one-way automated elevated tramway loop of only 2.9 miles through the downtown area - and with its limited service area, it's surprising that it has a reported 7,300 riders per day (quite possibly from parking garages).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Why giant CO2 bags on the bottom of the ocean should't explode

Via Inhabitat:

Plastic bags are the center of a huge green debate, but here’s one use we’d never imagined: Underwater ocean carbon sequestering!? With all the talk about carbon sequestration, which involves storing liquefied CO2 deep beneath the earth, Dr. David Keith from the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Calgary has devised a scheme to store it underwater in the ocean floor, contained in giant sausage-like plastic bags. Could this possibly be a good idea?

Just to give this perspective, visualize this: in order to hold around 160 million tons of CO2 (around 2.2 days worth of current global emissions), it would take a cylindrical bag measuring 100 meters in radius and several kilometers long. The obviously immense weight of the bag, as well as the pressure from the ocean, would contain the CO2 and prevent the bag from floating up. If you’re wondering where a gas-filled bag of this size might be located, it would sit 3 kilometers below the ocean’s surface. Just like in subterranean carbon sequestration, the CO2 would be pumped and moved via pipes to the bag.

Maybe it’s just us, but giant plastic bags filled with carbon dioxide, submerged in the oceans depths sounds like a recipe for disaster. What if one of those things leaks or explodes? And with that kind of deep-ocean pressure on a bag so large.. how would this really work?

I wish to address the "bag explosion" issue. Let's assume a few things:

1. The depth the bag is placed at is roughly 3800 m (the average ocean depth).
2. The temperature of the surrounding water is roughly 4 C (the average water temperature at that depth).

This means that the pressure on the bag (and the CO2 in the bag) is roughly 368bar, and the temperature of the CO2 will be roughly 277Kelvin. If you look at a phase diagram of CO2, you'll note that when CO2 is in this range of pressure and temperature, it is actually a liquid. (True, CO2 sublimates at ranges near standard temperature and pressure, but the ocean floor is anything but standard.)

It is likely, therefore, that if the bag bursts, there will not be a catastrophically large explosion. Instead, there will be a "pool" of liquid CO2 (CO2 is heavier than H2O) at the bottom of the ocean.

"So this isn't too bad," you say, right? Well, you have to remember that CO2 is also highly dissolvable in water. The pool of CO2 will slowly dissolve into the surrounding ocean waters - up to its saturation point, but here's the caveat. CO2 changes into carbonic acid when mixed with water:
CO2 + H20 <=> H2CO3

Near the atmosphere, this isn't really an issue, since there is gas exchange with the atmosphere, and the partial pressure of H2CO3 remains relatively low. However, at the ocean floor, this might be very different. (I'm not a physicist, nor a chemist, so I'll leave that train of thought there for now.)

The additional "downside" of all this is that you now have a pool of heavy liquid CO2 sitting on the ocean floor. That CO2, like any liquid, will slowly flow downhill, to the lowest point it can fill. This will mean that it could easily wash over organisms living on or near the sea floor (sponges, nudibranchs, etc.), suffocating them.

Therefore, long story short, the scary thought of an exploding bag of CO2 is not likely to occur (since the CO2 will change into a liquid at that temperature and pressure). However, a burst giant bag of CO2 will mean a liquid pool of suffocation streaming across the sea floor until it reaches a nadir.