Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tashi Delek!

Tashi Delek! Today is the Tibetan New Year, Losar. That is the traditional New Year greeting in Tibet.

I converted to Tibetan Buddhism over ten years ago, but I'm not going to discuss religion. What I want to point out is something really amazing about the Tibetans.

In 1959 China invaded Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama with many monks and nuns escaped Tibet over the Himalayan Mountains. Some traveled on horseback, but many walked over the Himalayan Mountains into India and Nepal.

At the time they went into exile, Tibet was very isolated from the rest of the world. If you watch the movies Seven Years in Tibet and Kundun, you'll get an idea of how technologically illiterate they were.

Here's the amazing thing, they have embraced 21st century technology more thoroughly than any group that I know. Back in the late 90's when the internet was young, many of the Tibetan teachers, organizations, and centers had websites with information and teaching on it. And now here we are in 2011. They still have their websites with even more stuff on it including classes that you can take online which wasn't available ten years ago. And you can find them on facebook, twitter, and youtube.

Here's the Dalai Lama's website, facebook, twitter, and youtube channel.

Amazing. Simply amazing considering how many US businesses and organizations still don't have basic websites.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Today I attended the Southern Sprints, an indoor rowing regatta raced on ergometers (rowing machines).

For those of you who aren't familiar with the sport of rowing, it is one of the most physically challenging sports you can participate in. It's difficult to describe so take a look at this video:

The majority of the power for a stroke comes from the legs, then the back and arms.

I rowed back in high school. I really enjoyed the feel of rowing a boat and would like to do it again. So, I've been talking to Tim Edsell about adaptive rowing which is rowing for people with disabilities, and he asked me to come down and watch the adaptive rowers compete.

There were three adaptive rowers competing in two events, 1000 meters and 500 meters. They were only using their arms and shoulders on the ergometer. The other rowers were using their arms, trunk, and legs for a distance of 2000 meters. As I watched Tim, Laura Schwanger from Philadelphia Adaptive Rowing, and Dani Sapiro of Jacksonville, Fl row their race using only their arms and shoulders, my eyes filled with tears and my heart filled with awe. I KNOW how hard it is to row when one is perfectly healthy and can use one's legs and back. These three were doing it with only their arms and shoulders. I'm not sure that I could do that.

They're heroes in my book. A inspiring example of not giving up and living life to the fullest NO MATTER WHAT.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NASA - Day of Remembrance

Today, January 27, is NASA's Day of Remembrance for Apollo One, Challenger, Columbia and all astronauts who gave their lives to space exploration.

NASA - Day of Remembrance
(You have to click twice on the remembering XXX astronauts to get the slide show to play.)

Growing up in Brevard County, the space program was a huge part of my life and my friend's lives. When I was a kid, we watched the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo rockets blast off on the television, then ran outside and watched the rockets soaring overhead. So much has changed since then. Now you can get tickets to see the shuttle launch at the Visitor's Center. You can follow the astronauts on Twitter and Facebook. It's become so common place that we tend to forget how dangerous it was and still is.

So, thank you to those brave men and women who gave their lives to space exploration.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rubber Ducks

I don't remember why I went looking for a place that sells rubber ducks online, but I did. Holy smokes, was I surprised at what I did find: big ducks, little ducks, traditional ducks, celebriducks. You can even buy a "quacker bouquet" of rubber ducks. Who knew that rubber ducks came in such a wide variety?

With some vaque idea of buying a jumbo duck, plopping it in the hottub, and taking a picture of it, I clicked on the page for the jumbo rubber ducks. I do believe that there is a typo in the description for the jumbo ducks: "From 5' to a whopping 18' tall..." An eighteen foot tall rubber duck would be as tall as a two storey house. It would be the size of a small yacht. Imagine a rubber duck the size of a small yacht floating in your local harbor.

It boggles my mind.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Thirty Eight Thousand. That's how many denominations of Christians there are in the world today: thirtyeight thousand (38,000)

I ran across this little factiod as I was looking on Wikipedia for a list of Christian denominations. You can see the wiki article here.

I can't remember why I was looking up that information. I got rather side tracked by that rather large number: thirtyeight thousand. I was expecting somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty to fifty not a number one thousand times larger than that.

And all of this got me to thinking and wondering.

That's 38,000 different interpretations of the same text.

How would one know which is the "right" interpretation?

What happens if one chooses the "wrong" interpretation?

Widening that thought out to encompass all of the religions of the world, how would one know that one's religion was the "right" one?

Is it possible that the reason there are so many different religions in the world is to suit the many different personalities of humans so that the individual follows the doctrine that works the best for them?

And isn't it really ridiculous to argue over which way is "right" and which way is "wrong"?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays! And so begins the annual whinging about local businesses and governments wishing people "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." I really don't get why this is such a big problem.

Looking back through Christmas cards received over the years the following are traditional Christmas greetings:
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Season's Greetings
Happy Holidays
Peace on Earth, Good will to men
Joy to the World

Very rarely have I received a Christmas card that only wished me a Merry Christmas. Happy New Year is usually included in the greeting. Originally Happy Holidays was a shortened version of "We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year." Now it encompasses all the religious holidays that fall in December.

This is also the season when Christians should be spreading the message of peace on earth, good will to men, and joy to the world. I don't see how demanding that businesses and government institutions only post "Merry Christmas" and ignore the holidays of non-christians is in keeping with that mandate. In fact, it seems rather churlish to me to insist that Happy Holidays which includes everyone be replaced with Merry Christmas which excludes non-christians. It just doesn't seem like a very Christian thing to do to not wish your Jewish friends and neighbors a Happy Hanukkah.

Peace on Earth
Good will towards all humans regardless of what religion they practice

Friday, November 26, 2010

Are Ereaders Environmentally Friendly?

Ereaders are becoming more and more popular. There's Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook ereaders that more and more people are buying. They're touted as being enviromentally friendly. But are they really as friendly to the environment as is being claimed?

On the surface it would appear that an ereader is more friendly to the environment than a traditionally published book. No trees are used to produce an ebook nor is there any wastewater produced which must be treated.

Electricity however is used both in the production of the ebook and the reading of it. Epublishers use computers to make, market, and distribute ebooks which require electricity. While ereaders use batteries as their main source of power. Those batteries must be recharged using household electricity. The generation of electricity produces both air and water pollution and solid waste depending on the energy source.

According to the Cleantech Group as reported by cnet, the production of the Kindle produces 168 kg of carbon dioxide. A book produces 7.46 kg of carbon dioxide. After purchasing 22.5 ebooks instead of regular books, the ereader begins to produce less carbon dioxide than paper books. That number however does not take into consideration the energy required to produce the ebooks nor recharge the battery as described above.

Looking at the natural resources, books are printed on paper which is mostly made from trees. While trees are a renewable resource, the consumption of trees to make paper is an environmental concern. There is the Green Press Initiative to advance sustainable patterns of production.

Ereaders are made of many constituents including lead, nickel, cadmium, mercury, and plastic. Metals are not a renewable resource. We only have so much of it and then it is gone. Plastic is manufactured using petroleum products another nonrenewable resource. In addition there is the pollution generated from the manufacture of the plastic and the smelting of the ores needed to make the ereader.

Looking at the back end of these products life, what happens to the book when the user is finished reading it? Some people keep the books they have read. Some people pass on their books to someone else when they have finished reading them. Some people trade them in at a used bookstore or donate them to the library. Very few people who read books throw them in the trash when they are finished reading a book. (If you're one of those who throws a book away, then consider giving them away or at least put them in the paper recycling bin.) What ends up in the landfill is mostly paper which is biodegrable.

What happens to an ereader when it no longer functions? Most people will throw them in the trash. In a study of the ewaste stream, the EPA estimates that between 10 to 18 percent of electronic wastes are reused, refurbished, or recycled. 80 to 90% of ewaste ends up in the landfill and it is composed of nickel, cadmium, lead, mercury, and other heavy metals. While the EPA currently estimates that the leachate from landfills is below the standards set for these metals. It is not inconceivable that this will not always be the case and that there will come a point in time when the metals leaching from ewaste will be high enough to be a concerned.

In my opinion, the ereaders and ebooks are less friendly to the environment than a paper book. The problems created from book production can be mitigated and the industry made sustainable. The same can not be said of the ereaders.

If you want a Kindle or Nook, go ahead and buy one. (And when you're done with it, please recycle it in an ewaste recycling program.) Just understand that it is not as friendly to the environment as some proponents will tell you.

(ETA: I used to be an environmental engineer and worked in environmental compliance.)