Bloggin’ Stats

Just a little update for you folks out there eagerly waiting for the next version of my graph plugin: it’s still quite far from being ready for launch, but I’ve made little progress here and there. For example, see this (rather ugly) bar graph depicting the number of blog posts and comments on this site since the launch up until today. The amount of static pages is not included in the post count.

As circumstances are the way they are, I still cannot promise any release dates though. But we’re getting there.

Who owns the Google Alphabet?

After accidentally entering just ‘s’ in my Firefox address bar and pressing enter, and having been redirected to McDonald’s website, I immediately started wondering who owns the Google Alphabet. (Because Firefox address bar redirects to Google’s “I’m feeling lucky” if it doesn’t contain a valid URI.) Here are the results, looked up with English (US) Google. (Obviously for other languages the list is a bit different, for example in Finnish Google White House gets top ranking for letter W, in English it comes only second.)

Shamed to be European

These days I’m almost beginning to feel ashamed for being European.

The currently on-going WTO talks in Hong Kong were doomed to fail before they even began. Reason for the failure of this phase of the Doha round is the European Union and its stubborn refusal to cut agricultural subsidies. Perhaps most notably it’s France that is to blame for this fiasco, but in fact all the EU countries are pulling the same stupid rope, Finland included. It’s perhaps a little ironic that talks held in Hong Kong, which is in the front row of trade liberalization itself, will mark such an accomplishment in refusal to liberalize.

Anyway, issues like these make me sometimes wonder if it is so wise to be part of this union, along with moronic member states such as France, Spain and Italy. If we were alone, we could make better policies, unilaterally decide to abolish trade barriers, and simply not care if our strawberries are of certain size or how many wolves must roam our backyards. There are some groups in Finland that have opposed the EU membership since day one (and even before that actually), but then again, if we’d let those people get their way, we’d probably head in even worse direction than the EU is doing. Then I’d probably have to be ashamed because of my nationality…

On the other hand, I wouldn’t feel too proud for being from sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America or some other area in which countries rely heavily on protectionism either. Some of those countries are even worse than the EU, they blatantly refuse to even talk about lowering their own trade barriers because we won’t cut ours. It’s almost like mercantilism never died! The poorest countries in the world raise their trade barriers on average three to four times as high as we do here in the prosperous West. In India some import tariffs are even way over four hundred per cent! It’s like forcing people to have to either buy expensive goods or no goods at all instead of buying cheap goods would make them more prosperous, what the… I’d be really ashamed if I were from one of those countries and didn’t move out already.

Well, here I am, mocking people for being born in wrong places. It’s not something they could have influenced by themselves, so what’s my problem, some might wonder. No, no one can choose their place of birth. But they can try to influence it while they are there. Ultimately it’s the fault of the local government that a country and its people are poor. If they chose to, they could experience similar economic growth that Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan and others have experienced in recent years, or what for example Finland and Sweden experienced during the 20th century.

In fact, the Korean Peninsula is a perfect example. Before the Korean War the north and south were roughly similar. After the war the two countries headed into wildly different directions, and we can all see the results today. South Korean farmers protest in Hong Kong against cutting agricultural subsidies (which means they’re quite prosperous at the moment) while North Korean farmers starve in their self-isolated puny country. In which country would you prefer to live?

Actually, it’s rather nice up here north. If just those Frenchies would come to their senses…

Stop farting, save the world!

British scientists have found a way to reduce cow flatulence by up to 70%. This might sound like a joke, but it’s far from it. Apparently farm animals produce 14 per cent of global methane emissions by farting quite a lot. Methane brings about global warming 21 times more effectively than carbon dioxide, so it’s quite important to curb those emissions.

The funny thing is that the European Union subsidises every European cow by more than two euros a day (more than half of the world’s population make a day) and still they don’t require the cows to be environmentally friendly in spite of all the boohoo about carbon dioxide emissions. Maybe a directive to reduce cow emissions would be in order?

Of course, people fart too. Maybe we should introduce a flatulence tax for people? Naturally it would require an anal probe for everyone to measure methane emissions. (The worse it smells, the more methane it has.) The measurement would be used to calculate individual tax burdens. Maybe this would eventually become an incentive to consume more healthy food, assuming that healthy food generates less flatulence…

Microsoft to sell basic OS features as add-ons

Okay, I admit the title is a little provocative, but that’s what this thing is really all about: according to Reuters Microsoft will begin a public beta test for their new service, Windows OneCare Live, which will later become subscription based (non-free). The service offers the same things as many third-party vendors already do: antivirus, firewall, backup and recovery.

In fact, standard Windows XP installation already delivers some of these services. So, what can we deduce from this new service? First, obviously even Microsoft doesn’t trust the current firewall of WinXP. Second, Microsoft will allow the existing features to deteriorate further to make market for the new service. Third, as security should be a basic feature in an operating system, it seems that Microsoft doesn’t even plan to make a decent operating system as long as they can get away with delivering crap while charging big bucks.

This new service proves that Windows security is going to remain inadequate, unless you are able to spend some extra on it. It begs the question, why bother paying at all for crap while better products are available for free? Is that brand loyalty or what…

Where does renewable energy come from?

For years there has been considerable pressure from the green movement towards taking advantage of so called renewable energy sources. These include solar, wind, wave and geothermal power and some other ideas, as opposed to fossil fuels or nuclear power, which are based on finite resources. However, the actual source of the renewable energy is neglected in virtually all 0f such discussions. Is it energy “out of thin air?” No, it is not.

In essence, taking advantage of any of these renewable energy sources is about capturing the existing energy that is all around us the nature. Take wind power for example, it is basically transforming the kinetic energy of the winds into electricity. Similarly, wave power means capturing the kinetic energy of the waves and transform it into electricity. Geothermal power is drawing thermal energy (warmth) from the ground, usually to warm households etc. And finally, solar power is capturing the light and warmth of sun that would otherwise go to ground and/or structures. You get the idea.

Common to all of these methods is that energy is taken from one place and put somewhere else, with different efficiency ratios. Important thing to note is that the energy indeed has to come from somewhere, it’s not a by-product of these forces. Implications of this can be rather significant.

For instance, what happens if we draw all the energy we need from the winds around the globe? The kinetic energy of the winds will decrease by the exact same amount that we transform into electricity. Winds have many important functions, like transferring warmth around the world, bringing clouds to rain over dry areas, and so on. The question is, has anyone calculated what are the consequences to the climate if we reduce the power of the winds that much? And how much wind power can we safely use not to do any harm to existing natural forces? Or our power needs just miniscule in comparison to what huge amounts of energy are in the global winds?

Another factor is the way we use the electricity we generate. Practically every usage of electricity wastes some of the energy as thermal energy due to resistance in our current conductors. If the system that distributes warmth around the world more evenly (ie. the winds and/or the waves in oceans) is impaired, what will happen to the warmth we get from our light bulbs, heaters, computers, television sets and other electric items? Will some (urban) places become warmer and other places colder?

And to answer the question where does these renewable energy sources draw their power: the sun. Perhaps with the exception of tidal waves caused by the gravity of the moon, all the other sources owe their existence to the sun. There would be no winds if it weren’t for the uneven distribution of warmth in the first place, neither would there be any currents in the oceans. So, if we didn’t have the sun “up there,” our only energy sources would be fossil fuels and nuclear power.

In an indirect way, oil and natural gas are a form of stored solar energy from millions of years ago. They were formed over long time periods from the remnants of dead plants and animals under high pressure deep in the ground. Those plants and animals owed their existence to the same natural forces we experience today, and the sun. So, what’s left now, if the sun wasn’t around in the first place (but somehow we were)? Coal and uranium.

Coal is unclean. I think we all agree we want to stop burning coal. In addition to greenhouse gases, it produces other health risks which at least in the short-term are even more severe. The ash from coal furnaces is more radioactive than plain uranium. Burning coal produces tiny impurities in the air that cause lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. Etc.

Finally, there’s uranium and nuclear power. Drawing power from nuclear fission isn’t energy from nowhere either. The uranium is fissile and it would slowly release all the energy it has if left to its own devices in the ground. Causing the chain reaction in enriched uranium within nuclear reactors is just making that process faster. It’s also rather inefficient: the so called nuclear waste could be re-enriched and reused as nuclear fuel many times over, and this will also happen in the large scale as the uranium supplies in the ground grow thinner.

Nuclear fusion could be a solution, if ever achieved. It “burns” hydrogen, and there’s hydrogen practically everywhere. Not an infinite source either, but almost. And then there’s that crazy idea of capturing solar energy in the orbit and beaming it down to Earth as microwaves. That would be actually bringing more energy in to this nearly closed system called Earth.

If I had a point when I started writing this article, I lost it somewhere. Sorry. I’ll stop while I can.

Update an hour later: Okay, yes, the thinking above might be a “bit” flawed. Yet I maintain that the influence of getting all energy from renewable sources should be investigated thoroughly.

Downtime is over!

So, that maintenance downtime was here, what, four days. I said the site would be back up soon. 🙂 As you can see, I changed from my fancy “oldish” layout to this Kubricky theme that came with WordPress. I’ve been planning to change to WP for a long time now and finally did it. Wasn’t that hard actually. I’ll tweak this layout (or at least the sidebar) more later…