Thursday, December 29, 2005

Gilberton Coal-to-Clean-Fuels and Power Project

The US Department of Energy is seeking comments on a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Gilberton Coal-to-Clean-Fuels and Power Project, which would construct a plant to produce clean hydrocarbon liquids, electricity, and steam from anthracite coal waste. Comments can be made at two public meetings:
  • Jan. 9, 2006 at 7:00 PM at Shenandoah Valley Senior High School, Shenandoah
  • Jan. 10, 2006 at 7:00 PM at DHH Lengel Middle School, Pottsville
Information sessions at both places from 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM preceding the public hearings.

You can also submit written comments by Feb. 8, 2006. Full details here.

From the Environmental Consequences section of the draft EIS: "Trace emissions of other pollutants would include mercury, beryllium, sulfuric acid mist, hydrochloric acid, hydrofluoric acid, benzene, arsenic, and various heavy metals." Now, while they will scrub the emissions to reduce the amount of these elements that gets sent into the atmosphere, further on in the paragraph it reads "a high percentage of hazardous air pollutants and trace elements in the synthesis gas would be removed, but no estimates of the proposed facilities' emissions of these pollutants are currently available." I interpret that "as we can remove 99% of x, but we don't know what x is." So therefore, they can't really say how much of each of these hazardous materials will be released. They do go on to say that the EPA allows a max of less than 10 tons for any single hazardous air pollutant (e.g., mercury) and less than 25 tons total of all hazardous air pollutants in a rolling 12-month period. So I guess we can infer that they think it will be less than the maximums allowed, but that isn't even guaranteed, based on this statement (page 4-9): "Part of the purpose of the proposed project is to generate environmental data, including hazardous air pollutant measurements, from the operation of the integrated technologies at a sufficiently large scale to allow industries and utilities to assess the project's potential for commercial application." So I guess we're guinea pigs.

Then there's that little Global Warming thing. From the EIS, page 4-11: "The proposed facilities would increase global CO2 emissions by about 832,000 tons per year, which is about 0.003% of global CO2 emissions of 26,713 million tons resulting from fossil fuel combustion in the year 2000." While 0.003% doesn't sound like much, to think that one little plant in Schuylkill County will be adding 832,000 tons of CO2 emissions is a little ... alarming.

Based on their analysis of the effects to the local water supply, it doesn't sound bad (other than reducing the flow of water to the Mahanoy Creek by about 43%, but they say since no one drinks from the Creek, that doesn't really matter).

There are probably some more interesting insights that can be made by reading the entire EIS. I encourage people to post comments here.

I'm all for looking for alternative energy production methods, but it seems we're just swapping in another non-renewable energy source here (anthracite waste). Public funding is far better spent on researching and implementing renewable resources that do not contribute the environmental hazards that burning fossil fuels do -- let's look at solar collectors and wind farms and quit relying on fossil fuels. I'd much rather have a wind farm in my back yard than five more smokestacks spewing unknown quantities of pollutants.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

College newspaper advisor canned for letting students use Macs

You see, allowing students to use Macs doesn't prepare them for the real world. Okaaay. Link. via Digg.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Future of HTML

IBM's developerWorks has an interesting article on the future of HTML, mentioning HTML 5, a proposed progression to the HTML standard that is backwards-compatible with HTML 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 (I can sense you nodding off already). They also touch on Web Forms 2.0, which would extend current forms implementations to include built-in client-side validation (so you don't have to write custom JavaScript for required fields, or validating an e-mail address). There seems to be a lot of interest in what the web is transforming into, after Google showcased what you can do with AJAX to create a more compelling user experience. So what's the best approach to a more engaging and useful web - AJAX, Flash, the next generation of HTML or XHTML, or a combination of all these things?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Mom's Cancer

Mom's Cancer is a graphic novel about a family dealing with their mother's struggle with cancer. Highly recommended reading for anyone dealing with the anguish and struggle that cancer introduces into a family's life. Author's website is here.

How does your workplace hold up?

The Job Tracker database allows you to look up some interesting info on companies, including if they export jobs, endanger workers' health, or violate workers' rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Schuylkill County from the air

Before Google Maps and NASA's World Wind let you peer at your house via satellite photos, we had to settle for looking at Schuylkill County from an airplane.

Papers Please

Deborah Davis refused to show her ID to a security guard who demanded to see everyone's ID on a public bus. After all, this is America, right? We can move about in public without the fear of the authorities demanding "your papers, please." But Deborah got arrested. For not showing her papers.

We're all a little antsy from the threat of terrorism, but we shouldn't let that serve as an excuse to create Big Brother.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Monday, November 14, 2005

Trans Siberian Orchestra - Nov. 12, 2005 Wilkes-Barre PA

This is starting to turn into the concert review blog. Anyways, this was my third TSO show. They're always a good concert when they come to town, but the setlist doesn't seem to vary much. And this year, it seemed a little too early to be seeing a Christmas concert. They did most of Christmas Eve and Other Stories as the opening set, as usual, followed by a mix of rock and classical (and classic rock) -- this year's Zeppelin song was "Rock and Roll" (last year was "Immigrant Song," I believe).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Springsteen - Nov. 8, 2005 Wachovia Spectrum, Philadelphia

This was a different show - not a huge stadium mega-concert, but simply solo Bruce on guitar, piano, organ, and, at one point, ukelele (I Wanna Marry You). The opening song used only harmonica and some kind of foot-powered thumping percussion panel, and the vocals were so distorted as to make the lyrics completely garbled, as if the sound was coming through an old, tinny radio heard from a distance. I had no idea what the song was, and I don't think most of the audience did either. This morning I found out it was Born in the USA. Go figure.

Otherwise, a great show. Different takes on a few songs - Johnny 99 was also fairly unrecognizable, unless you knew the words. It was great to hear the acoustic Atlantic City. This Hard Land was another highlight, along with a rocking Open All Night (quite a few from Nebraska, including Highway Patrolman -- loved hearing that live!).

So it was nice to see this intimate rendition of these great songs. I've been debating if I would have preferred the full band, over-the-top Bruce concert experience vs. this solo act (and since I've never seen Bruce with the full band, it's kind of hard to say). Anyway, setlist follows:
  • Born in the U.S.A.
  • Devils & Dust
  • The Ties That Bind
  • Long Time Comin'
  • Highway 29
  • Fade Away
  • Incident on 57th Street
  • Johnny 99
  • Ain't Got You
  • Atlantic City
  • Highway Patrolman
  • Reno
  • Be True
  • Drive All Night
  • The Rising
  • Further On (Up the Road)
  • Jesus Was an Only Son
  • This Hard Land
  • The Hitter
  • Matamoros Banks
  • I Wanna Marry You
  • Open All Night
  • The Promised Land
  • Dream Baby Dream

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Campaign to Make Poverty History

In the United States, you can get involved with the ONE campaign to make poverty history. Elsewhere in the world, please visit the Global Call to Action Against Poverty at Update: This article at Scientific American asks " Can Extreme Poverty Be Eliminated?" The answer: Yes. But we all need to participate.

A few thousand SF magazine covers

This cool Flash file lets you browse a few thousand science fiction magazine covers (Analog, Asimovs, etc.). Mouseover for a thumbnail, or click for a larger image.

Wal-Mart Watch

Wal-Mart only provides health insurance to about half their employees. Therefore, Wal-Mart employees rely on public health programs for health coverage. That's right - a company with amazing profits relies on taxpayers to cover employee health care costs. No wonder those profits are so amazing. Much more interesting information at Wal-Mart Watch.

Eerie Saturn sounds

NASA recording of radio emissions from Saturn.

Optical illusions

A couple of links to some interesting optical illusions (they do require the Flash plugin):

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Oil companies report record profits for 3Q

Oil companies are reporting record profits for the 3rd quarter. Now think about this for a second - a major natural disaster hits the United States in the form of hurricane Katrina, and the first thing oil companies decide is that they should raise prices immediately, taking advantage of a disaster to line their pockets, knowing that the oil-industry friendly White House won't do anything to stop them. Now I normally don't advocate for government getting involved in regulating business, but if business is going to take advantage of people knowing that they can get away with it, maybe it's time that a few company executives get jailed for price gouging and the government takes steps to ensure that this type of nonsense doesn't happen again. Of course, the Bush White House won't do anything, so maybe we need to start there (it's not like they've displayed extraordinary competence or anything...).

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Some Star Wars links

Someone did Episode IV as an animated gif. And this page looks at Episode IV taking into account the events of Episodes I to III. Pretty funny stuff, there.

250,000 bouncing balls

A Sony commercial features 250,000 bouncing balls (requires Quicktime and patience, as even high bandwidth takes a while to load). Via Digg.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The first of many posts about nepotism and cronyism

Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination today. This is a good thing. She was obviously incapable of doing the job and, much like Ron Brown, recommended for the position because she was a Bush crony. I'm glad that many people saw the absolute absurdity of the situation and applied enough pressure so that it was resolved before becoming even more of a public spectacle.

As you may notice, nepotism and cronyism is one of my pet peeves. There are far too many untalented hacks who only do a good job being an incompetent sycophant. Their blatant incompetence is overlooked by management because they're a "buddy," and the company (or the public) suffers because of it. Look at the FEMA response to New Orleans. And look around you at work - you know who they are.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

So what are you reading?

Comics-wise, that is. I'm currently going through a run of Legion of Super Heroes (at issue 300+). Nice Keith Giffen art, OK stories, nothing spectacular. Also, old Gold Key Star Trek are on the list, as well as some old Space Family Robinson (there's something about those old Gold Key comics). On the current comics scene, reading Fantastic Four, Ultimate FF, Flash, and Legion regularly, Heavy Metal for something outside of American mainstream, the Blankets graphic novel (a great read; highly recommended). Ultimate FF was very good for a while with Warren Ellis writing, but the latest issue, introducing Namor, was a sleeper.