1. Us vs. Them

    April 15, 2008 by Craig

    The story is interesting, but the real gold is in the Fark headline:

    China surpasses the US as the world’s top carbon producer, making the problem real to conservatives and no longer interesting to liberals


  2. You Are Here Redux

    March 26, 2008 by Craig

    This Slashdot post is very much in the same vein as my earlier blog post on the size of humanity relative to the size of the earth. Here’s the jist:

    If you moved every single person in the world to the land area within Texas, we’d have less population density than New York City.

    The water outflow of the Columbia River would provide each and every person with nearly 26 gallons of fresh water per day

    We could feed all those people – about 500 square meters per person – with the existing farmland within the US

    Essentially, we could live mid-density, and feed and provide potable water for every single person on the face of the earth, and not require a single person living outside of Texas – no one on the other 6 continents, the oceans, or any other State. No one in Canada or Mexico.

    We could feed everyone without a single acre converted from farmland – wouldn’t need to touch a single acre of forest, nor city, nor ocean, nor park.

    The earth can support a LOT of people; the problem is distribution of the resources. And that is a purely political issue. Concerns about too many people on earth are demonstrably false.

    (The poster provides links for all of these claims; see the post for URLs. They’re mostly raw factual/wikipedia links with one Vegan Society link to support the food production claim).


  3. You Are Here

    August 16, 2007 by Craig

    Today I was reading this Slashdot story about this article on tapping geothermal energy for human consumption. Good stuff.

    Of course any time there’s discussion about new energy sources, someone always brings up the unforeseen consequences argument. In this case: “wouldn’t we cool the earth’s core if we started using it’s energy, causing catastrophe?” This post says “no”:

    I’ve seen too many comments about the “effect this would have on magma under the earth if we cool it this way.” The answer to these questions is that for a long long time, we’d have virtually no effect. The scale of human activity is just to small compared to the mass of the earth -the heat source for this power generation method. Go back to school and look at the graphics that show just how thin of an area the crust occupies on the earth. http://iga.igg.cnr.it/geo/what-is-for%20IGAnew_file/image038.jpg Now imagine for yourself just how thin of an area human activity would impact.

    The poster misused “area” instead of “volume”, and he’s talking about energy impact rather than physical space, but this post did get me thinking… how much area do we actually take up? I mean us, personally, not our ecological footprint.

    So I did the math:

    • Start with 1 square metre per person. That’s roughly 3 feet to a side: a little crowded but you’re not pressed up against anyone.
    • There’s roughly 6.6 billion people on the planet.
    • 6.6 Gm2 is 6,600 km2
    • 6,600 km2 is a bit larger than P.E.I., just about the size of Delaware, and a fair bit smaller than Puerto Rico
    • If you divided Earth evenly, each person would get about 77,283 km2m2: 22,567 km2 of land and 54,716 km2 of water.
    • That works out to a plot of land about the same size as Israel or New Jersey, and (mostly saltwater) lake nearly twice the size of Lake Superior an area the size of 14 U.S. football fields, or nearly 1.5 times the base area of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
    • If you want to talk volume, each person could get a chunk of Earth 164 km3 big.
    • If you limit that volume to 2 m high (the taller of you will have to duck), each piece would be 82,000 km2 in area, which is a bit smaller than Austria.

    I call dibs on the top-left corner.

    Update:I made a big calculation mistake figuring the amount of area per person, which unfortunately lessens the entertainment value.


  4. Looniebucks

    July 6, 2007 by Craig

    It figures: now that I’m living in Canada and earning US dollars, the exchange rate between the two hits its worst level in my lifetime.

    Still, I’m not complaining too loudly: I did pay off my student loans while the exchange rate was near the historically best levels (circa 1999). Complaining that the exchange rate is poor is like complaining about the weather: you can’t do much about it, unless you’re willing to move… and it’ll probably change by the end of the week anyway.


  5. Immigration as a Competitive Advantage

    July 5, 2007 by Craig

    Microsoft is going to set up shop in Vancouver. One of the reasons for doing so is the more favorable immigration policy in Canada:

    The Vancouver area is a global gateway with a diverse population, is close to Microsoft�s corporate offices in Redmond and allows the company to recruit and retain highly skilled people affected by immigration issues in the U.S.

    This is a good thing for Vancouver and Canada, a big win for those who favor relaxed immigration policies (such as myself), and a big slap in the face for those in favor of tighter immigration controls — both for economic and homeland-security reasons.

    There are smart & talented people all over the world. Those people may not be able to do the work they want to do in their home countries for a variety of economic and political reasons. Many of those people aren’t allowed to work in the U.S. due to the American love-hate relationship with immigration; this practice will allow them to work in a similar (better?) environment. While they do that, they’ll draw a salary (which is largely made up of U.S. money) and spend most of that within Canada (on taxes and domestic purchases).

    Microsoft is showing that it’s not just trying to lobby for an H1B cap increase (as many have claimed): they’re serious enough about a real problem to take some actions outside the realm of the U.S. Government. The message to the American closed-border crowd is very clear: current policy is detrimental to business, and if it’s not corrected the U.S.A. will be loose out in the long run.


  6. Exports

    June 27, 2007 by Craig

    There are some goods and services that, for various reasons, you just can’t get in Canada: warm weather in January, pictures of yourself hugging Mickey Mouse, a view of the Mona Lisa. If you want those, you have to travel to some other place.

    You can also add doctor-assisted suicide to that list. Unlike the others though, getting that service will get your loved ones questioned by police… and, if the lobbyists have their way, arrested, charged, tried, convicted, and imprisoned.

    This service is obviously in demand (Sue Rodriguez made big headlines for weeks back when I was in high school). There’s some very sound ethical arguments for allowing it. But the laws in Canada don’t allow for it, potentially to the point of prosecuting those who seek the service off of Canadian soil.

    Something else to note: by forcing assisted-suicide seekers to foreign countries, you in turn:

    • Limit its availability to those who can afford the travel expenses.
    • Limit its availability to those who can physically make the trip — thus forcing a life-or-death decision earlier than would otherwise be required.

    I don’t think that that serves much purpose.


  7. Happy Canniversary

    June 25, 2007 by Craig

    As of yesterday I’ve been back living in Canada for one year. Over all it’s really good to be back.

    The most notable improvements, in my experience, are:

    1. The friendliness and competency of the average stranger (the people you meet on the street, on the road, at the check-out, and at the customer service call center).
    2. The general positive attitude of the people.
    3. The lack of social/cultural/political division and conflict.
    4. Affinity for nature, expressed through outdoor activity and concern for the environment.
    5. The number of days with pleasant weather.
    6. Not having to jump through hoops to appease the immigration police.
    7. The unopressiveness of the health care system. We’re getting better care thusfar without the high premiums and threat of bankruptcy-inducing medical bills.

    The most notable declines:

    1. The lack of access to good online retailers.
    2. Worse restaurants overall.
    3. Fewer options for air travel.

    I’ll note that a lot of this is regional (Calgary vs. Ft. Lauderdale) rather than national (Canada vs. USA), but a lot of it does apply elsewhere in both cases.

    We’re both very happy to be here. :-)


  8. The “S” Word

    April 6, 2007 by Craig

    My aunt and Laura and I went to see The Yeomen of the Guard at the Pumphouse Theatre last night. For a small community-theatreish production, it was performed really well, and we all enjoyed it.

    A bit of humor occurred during the intermission, when a member of the theatre group announced that the next production the group was doing was the play No Sex Please, We’re British… to which he embarrassingly added “and, uh, we’ll leave that one right there”.

    I snickered. “No Sex Talk Please, We’re Canadian.”


  9. Shiny

    April 5, 2007 by Craig

    Calgary, where I now live, is the cleaneset city in the world.

    Well, at least out of the 215 surveyed. I know firsthand that there’s more smog in Calgary in the summer than there is in say Saskatoon (the city where I grew up). Obviously not ever city in the world could be included. Still, that’s pretty impressive.

    Vancouver is the best overall city in Canada and tied for third in the world (with Vienna, behind Zurich and Geneva). Calgary came in at 24 worldwide behind the Canadian cities Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. I haven’t seen the actual report yet to analyze further; all the third-party reports I’ve seen quoted the winters as being negative factors in the Canadian cities’ ratings (and thus Vancouver’s high score).

    The differences aren’t severe. With New York serving as the base of 100 points, Calgary scored 103.6, Toronto 105.4, and Zurich 108.1. Baghdad, the worst city, got 14.5… so what’s 8 points among friends?

    Lastly, the linked article took an obligatory pot-shot at the USA:

    Every Canadian city scored better than all the U.S. cities surveyed.

    I generally don’t like America-bashing (especially by Canadians, for whom it’s more “me too!” than expressing valid grudges), but I figure that since I put up with years of “USA is the greatest country in the world rah rah!” I can relax that a little. :-)


  10. Why are Countries Happy?

    February 16, 2007 by Craig

    Marco replied to my previous blog post:

    There are a lot of questions as to *why* these numbers are the way they are.

    The article has a few statements on this:

    Further analysis showed that a nation’s level of happiness was most closely associated with health levels (correlation of .62), followed by wealth (.52), and then provision of education (.51).

    There is a belief that capitalism leads to unhappy people. However, when people are asked if they are happy with their lives, people in countries with good healthcare, a higher GDP per captia, and access to education were much more likely to report being happy.

    We were surprised to see countries in Asia scoring so low, with China 82nd, Japan 90th and India 125th. These are countries that are thought as having a strong sense of collective identity which other researchers have associated with well-being.

    The frustrations of modern life, and the anxieties of the age, seem to be much less significant compared to the health, financial and educational needs in other parts of the World.

    So the answers are perhaps not so mysterious: people who are materially comfortable, healthy, and well-educated are happier, but individualism also plays an important role (or else Japan would be way up on the scale).