The hotter it gets, the more we burn

No surprise that with a sustained heat wave upon us, air-conditioning use is at a high across the country. (The Pope is also still Catholic).

But as we live, so we burn. As William Saletan in Slate puts it in one of those killing joke, laugh-at-your-peril conundrum stories I happen to love:

“Thank goodness for air conditioning. To keep old folks alive, cities from Washington to Los Angeles are opening artificially cooled buildings to the public…

It’s a heartwarming—or, more precisely, a heart-cooling—story. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Air conditioning takes indoor heat and pushes it outdoors. To do this, it uses energy, which increases production of greenhouse gases, which warm the atmosphere. From a cooling standpoint, the first transaction is a wash, and the second is a loss. We’re cooking our planet to refrigerate the diminishing part that’s still habitable.

Reminds me of whenever I drive to my in-laws’ house on a hot summer day. As I leave the tree-depleted, interstate-paved urban suburbs to the “exurbs” where they live, I always notice the temperature drop as the trees provide cool shelter around me. And these issues inevitably come to mind.

But any fretting about wasted/abused/dwindling resources aside, I’m fascinated by what life may be like in 70 years, just as–in the midst of this broiling heat–I’m fascinated by what life was like before air conditioning. I know I for one would have been a lazy, heat-sapped sloth in the pre-air-conditioning 1920s. But then my shoddy immune system probably would have put me out of my misery, too.

‘Bohemia is it.’

<snip>…“Of all the lager beers, Czech beers are certainly the most unchanged,” said Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster and author of “The Brewmaster’s Table,”…</snip>

A sweet New York Times article on beer in (mostly) the Czech Republic. My father’s hometown is the origin of the “original” Budweiser style of beer in Ceske Budejovice (or Budweis). Due to silly, unending disputes with A-B, that beer is finally sold in the U.S. under the silly “Czechvar” brand. But the Czech brew that survives best (in my experirence) after import to the U.S. is also the original most readily available, Pilsner Urquell.

Our father didn’t really teach us the appreciation for beer common in his native land, but somehow through the natural fermentation in our genes, we found it anyway.

From the article:
Wine snobs might call this overreaching, but great beer is inextricably tied to its environment in much the same way that a great Burgundy displays a characteristic terroir. Real Pilsner, for example, is made with the low-sulfite, low-carbonate water of the Czech city of Pilsen, its original home. Many have tried, but it’s nearly impossible to make a good Pilsner elsewhere without doctoring the water, and even then, it will never taste the same.

But isn’t soot essential to the urban experience?

“Tesla girls, tesla girls

Testing out theories
Electric chairs and dynamos
Dressed to kill they’re killing me
But heaven knows their recipe”

–OMD

 

Now this looks interesting. A 100% electric (i.e. not hybrid) car in the works for 2007, that’s a sports car that goes 0 to 60 mph in ~4 seconds. And about 250 miles per charge (so not the 50 miles/charge that a lot of past experimental cars have gotten). Something you can actually drive around town for a few days without worrying about where you’ll plug in next. For about 1 cent per mile. And a silent “engine.” (Think of the aftermarket for faux-muffler-sound generators!)

 

What’s more, their business plan is to start off with this high-performance car for almost $90k — thus netting in the early-adapters and people who have money to burn on status and image, and then use the hype and word-of-mouth to drive demand for their less expensive family sedan and (hopefully) other models to follow.

 

Looks promising. Hopefully not another pipe dream. Hopefully the designers will not be shot by a deranged oil baron or the vice president (but I repeat myself).

 

Yes, electricity generation still uses fossil fuels–but with at least two huge differences from our “traditional” 20th century mode of getting around: 

1) it doesn’t depend on imported oil, and

2) it concentrates power generation (and exhaust) in single points (i.e. power plants) rather than out of every exhaust pipe carrying every American rear end. That means cleaner air to breathe for me and your children.

 

We can deny, or we can debate, or we can pretend…that global warming is a lie or at least human-activity-independent, that electric vehicle proposals are fantasy, or its a conspiracy of America-hating liberals jealous of oil barons’ ‘hard-earned’ money, but some factors should be obvious and give us pause:

–Our economy, and the success of any leading nation in the post-Industrial Revolution world, has depended first on its access to energy;

–Our access to energy is currently very oil-dependent, considering oil supply is close to peaking while demand (welcome to capitalism, Asia) is growing;

–The global fight for oil will only become a bigger and bigger part of each world power’s foreign policy, creating more chances for violent “run-ins” with China, Iran, India;

–Studies show the average human, if given a choice, prefers to breathe cleaner air rather than inhaling vehicle exhaust.

 

Certainly seems like reason enough to keep searching for an alternative. And fast.

 

We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior…Tesla Motors?

‘You have a freaking blog?!?’

…Or so spake my lovely wife, when I told her I was messing around with a site and blog software. Immediately skeptical of why someone would want a blog — just one more reason why I love her. She’s a teacher who doesn’t sit in front of a computer all day, so she’s not constantly tempted by links and jokes sent her way by mischievous friends. Her impression of why anyone blabs to no one in cyberspace was refreshingly appropriate. I’ve explained to her how some blogs are actually convenient resources (the niche-ier the better) rather than venomous pots of anonymous whining–which she already knows but doesn’t have the time to discover first-hand.

Which brings me to laugh at myself. I used to do a great deal of media research in emerging telecom technology. So ‘blog’ has been an annoying buzzword and next thing in my life since before anyone could joke about this form of narcissism. Even in my current position it is a word that is annoyingly thrown around with some degree of ignorance, hope and “we’re hip”edness. It’s a buzzword (still!) that everyone knows but with a function few can place. So naturally I am the last one to create one; and naturally my blog’s purpose is as narrow as they come. (Hi grandma!)

And the sad thing? I’m doing it for the software. Sure, audiences are nice, and I do intend to occasionally amuse friends or family, but I can do that over email anyway. This is more a convenient way for me to organize my thoughts, interests and written threads in a journal that’s not one long Word doc. If this here blog weren’t connected to them there “Internets,” I’d still do it for the organizational software, but I suppose knowing that someone else might actually see this will help discipline my writing, too. In college, our primitive email software had an online ‘resume’ you could use to talk about yourself (“favorite food: steamed squid”), which I instead turned into a personal repository of quotes and random satire of the administration. That served me quite well, and I think that’s part of what I’m looking for here.

So I love that I’m now the stereotypical blogger journaling about things no one else cares about. And I love that my wife can now make fun of me for that. And finally, I love that now there’s a blog she’ll feel compelled to check out every once in a while.

Transmission

‘Mr. Watson, come here.’

Speaking of first transmission(s), today I was thrilled to learn that the new project of the same name by Youth and ‘Big’ Paul Ferguson will be released on CD on the Malicious Damage label. Youth (bass) and Big Paul (earth-rumbling tribal drums) were the incredibly pounding-yet-funky original rhythm section of Killing Joke, but they essentially hadn’t worked together since 1982.

Transmission also happens to be the name of a fantastic song by Joy Division. “Radio, live transmission. Listen to the silence, let it ring on…”

So what the hey, it’s the title of my first post.

"Now that I know the final conflict is within…"