Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I've heard some otherwise smart people say that nuclear power is a potentially acceptable energy source. It isn't. Period. If you thought you could trust the people doing the research on it, read this. They are as trustworthy as those in the oil industry. We CAN'T deal with the waste. There is NO place it can be put safely. Until they can figure that out. It should be off the table completely.

Monday, August 20, 2007

So, Montreal may be my second favorite city I could never live in. I knew it would be a nice city, but it has a feel that most US cities, that I’ve been to, are lacking. The locals are friendly. It’s young and vibrant, but old world at the same time. It’s a bilingual city, which just by being that, makes it smarter than most of the cities in the US. A significant number of people commute by bike. Downtown has as many people on bike as the campus area near UC Berkely, maybe more. Certainly more than right around campus in Austin, and more than any city I’ve recently been to in the US. The conference was in the heart of downtown, and is really at the heart of the city. I walked through Chinatown from my hotel to the conference center. Old Montreal is just a few blocks on the other side, and easily traveled by foot. While touristy it still has a good feel to it. The area towards McGill University is just back on the other side of the conference, and the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art is there. Right now they have a show of Bruce Nauman’s work (He went to UC Davis back in the 1970s, I believe). The Latin Quarter (which isn’t particularly “latin” in my definintion) is just a short walk from there. It’s a particularly vibrant area of town, with many restaurants and bars. One of the bartenders at the conference (yes, they serve beer for the evening poster session) pointed me to the Cheval Blanc as a good Montreal microbrewery. It was. Friendly barkeeps, too. I know that once you get out of downtown it becomes a much more spread out city, but cities like Dallas, Houston, and LA would be much better places if the downtowns were as compact and vibrant as Montreal. If they didn’t have such brutal winter here… I mean, they essentially have an underground city for the winter, which means their winters are as brutal as Houston’s summers.

Scientific conferences, for those that don’t know, are the land of the brilliant and poorly dressed. Especially international ones. The no socks with the sandals memo didn’t make it to the Germans. I don’t claim to be the best dresser in the world, but I can usually get reasonably close to matching. I don’t mix green madras with orange stripes. The Swedes did keep up the black metal scientist rep for this conference. There were a bunch of Japanese at the conference. I didn’t expect so many limnologists out of Japan as that. Overall the conference was good. I saw a number of talks that really have me thinking about my work. I also saw some really bad ones. This one woman gave a talk where she said “uh” or “um” over 250 times. I’m not exaggerating. I think I’m underestimating it by a fair amount. I was close to walking out, but something made me start counting. At least once per sentence in a 20 minute talk. I’m not making fun of her. I know she was nervous. This conference is probably the most important one in my field. I’d be nervous too. In some ways I wish I’d given a presentation, but in other ways, I’m glad I didn’t. My poster was fairly well received. Alex Horn (who along with Charles Goldman is one of the patrons of the field) talked to me extensively about it. I’ve interacted with him before on Clear Lake stuff since that was his study site back in the 60s. He certainly fits the mould of the classical limnologist.

So now I’m back and have to prep for a busy semester trying to finish up my work and teach. The next 9 months are going to be brutal, but I’ve got to graduate in May...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

So, I haven’t had the chance to post after the Tour… Honestly I’ve got to say it hurt a little. I was really hoping for a clean tour after last year and the early part of this season. It was wide open. It could have been the most exciting tour in years, and in many respects it was. Much of the excitement was for the wrong reasons. Fuck you Vino! Fuck you Kash! Fuck you to all the others who thought they could get away with it. I really WANT to believe that all the doping is someone in the LNDD has it out for cycling (and they do need to have all certifications pulled until they fire the people who are leaking information to the press….) But I don’t. Two people on the same team get popped for blood doping. Shit, at least with EPO, HGH, Testosterone there’s a CHANCE of getting away with it. How dumb are you?! If they do a blood test, they can tell pretty easily if you’ve got someone else’s blood in you. You want to prove you’re innocent? The first statement out of your mouth should have been, “Do a blood test right now!” The cells live for 60-120 days. If it came up negative, then you’d have a case. Otherwise get out of cycling you dumb jock. No better than a fucking football player, you. I don’t know what to think about Rassmussen. They didn’t catch him actually doping, but he missed two out of competition tests, and lied about where he was. It doesn’t look good. Again, you dumb fuck, in this day and age, you know how bad that looks. If the Tour was really that important to you, do the paperwork. I want to believe that you were robbed of a legitimate win, but Floyd is innocent too…. Yeah right. Do I think Contador, Evans, and Leipheimer are clean? I don’t know. Contador is suspicious. He may have won this tour clean, but I’ll bet we find out in a year that the “A.C.” in the Oparacion Puerto documents is him. It doesn’t look good when a bunch of male cyclists are going to see the same Spanish gynecologist. The top three were really a ways ahead of everyone else. I’ve seen a number of things saying how they all had unrealistic power output on the climbs, comparing it to the heyday of EPO in the early 90s. I can see the human body progressing a ways in 15 years. Remember they used to think that running a 4 minute mile was impossible. Now, that’s slow. I can see a few people getting to that level with the right training, and a few more with some “help”. Discovery Channel had said they weren’t continuing sponsorship of the team after this year, and now the team is walking away. Giving up a ProTour license, even when they were mostly there in talks with a couple of sponsors. I don’t know what that says. Either they really don’t like the state of top professional cycling, or someone might get too close to the truth. I hate being a cynic about it, but I’m not left with much choice. I hope the riders can find jobs next year. Another rant about the LNDD: it sure looks to me that they are the only lab who finds dopers. I don’t trust them because of it. There are only two answers. Either they are the only ones doing the job right, or they are fixing data. Neither answer is good, but I just can’t bring myself to accept them when they can’t deal with their leaks to the press. If you are holding someone’s livelihood and career in the balance, you need to have irrefutable proof, and they don’t. I’ve said it before, in criminal investigation, their data would get thrown out of court. They don’t follow their own protocol. They have the same people analyze the A and B samples. They don’t follow manufacturers protocol on some of their equipment. Even if their results are good, it opens the door for questioning. And they don’t seem to be doing anything about it, which is suspicious. Arggh!

I have a web acquaintance who recently passed his one year anniversary of getting hit by a drunk driver (on his bike). His posts about it got me thinking about me getting hit. Someone on his blog claimed some of the mental stuff he’s dealing with is PTSD. I’d buy it. I think I probably still suffer a bit from it. It’s been 5.5 years for me. There are a number of reasons why I don’t ride as much as I used to. One of them is getting hit. Sure, I’ve got school keeping me busy and I can walk to campus, but I got tired of being angry on the bike. I really tried to get back into it after getting hit. Not racing. I’m done with that, but living my traveling life on the bike. It was one of the things that kept me going, wanting to ride again. As can be seen from the first part of this post, I still love the sport (even if I’m mad at the upper professional levels of it). It’s been a hobby and a profession of mine for much of my life. Bikes and science are what I have done, and what I love. I pedicabbed because I knew it would get some of my fitness back, and it did. I got back to where I was commuting much of the time on bike (through the intersection that I got hit in). I had been riding and commuting for almost 15 years before getting hit. I know how to ride in and with traffic, and I’d had close calls before. But, a couple of years after getting hit, I realized I can’t relax on the bike anymore. Maybe “can’t” isn’t the right word, but I have a hard time. What used to be one of my escapes and one of the things that kept me mentally grounded, was now something that caused stress. It’s been very painful to come to that realization. I’m trying to accept that until I live somewhere where I can mountain bike a lot, I probably won’t ride a lot. Maybe I can prove myself wrong, and find the time sooner…

So, I’m currently in Montreal, for a conference of limnology geeks. This is my first time here, and I’ve got to say I’m impressed with the city. The weather is beautiful. They have dedicated parts of streets for bikes. Not just a lane on the side, but a separate part of the road which is designated for bikes. Behind a curb. People walk around town. I haven’t explored much, but for a city of over 3 million people, it doesn’t feel spread out. Similar to San Francisco in many ways, but older so it’s probably the other way around. Compact, with a number of distinct districts. It’s not exactly cheap, but then the Canadian dollar has gotten stronger (or more likely, the US dollar has gotten weaker). They’ve got a little “Chinatown” (quotes because it’s really more Asiatown. The Vietnamese and Koreans are lumped in too). Had some great Vietnamese food for lunch. Neither English or French are the common language in that district. I’ll probably explore old Montreal a little on Wednesday. They’ve got a mountain park in the middle of town. The St. Lawrence river is the port. Two (at least) well respected, in my field, universities (McGill and UQAM). It’s too bad winter comes around, because so far I like it. The food has been good. Even the conference coffee is decent. The beer, well if you are in Montreal, you drink Molson. I haven’t felt the need to go out to the bars yet, so I don’t know if there are microbrews yet, but there have to be. It’s a big city. I got a 6 pack of Unibroue Fin Du Monde and it tastes like homebrew. STRONG, but yeasty. Not what I was expecting, but decent. Not what I usually drink. I prefer more hops to more alcohol.

must go pretend to be smart...