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February 20, 2007

Broken Blog

You've surely noticed the layout and colors of this page are somewhat different from those you're accustomed to seeing when you visit my blog.

Over the past year or two I've been writing here, my blogging platform, MovableType, has undergone a number of changes. I've been upgrading the software but not keeping up with the modifications I've needed to make in order to keep pace with the upgrades. As a result, I noticed a glaring incompatibility between my old layout and the new software today.

So, for the next few days, I'm going to keep the site like this and research how to modify my layout the Right Way.

40 Degrees

It's about 40 °F outside right now, a temperature that provides a stark contrast to the below-freezing temperatures of the past several weeks. A forceful but relatively warm wind blows across the city, and once in a while, icicles can be heard shattering against the ground.

We've had below normal temperatures in Pittsburgh so far this February, despite the balmy conditions in December and early January. My most recent gas bill states the average temperature for the billing period was down eight degrees on last year, though we barely had snow at all then.

A factory's smokestacks belching pollutants into the atmosphere (Image credit: Utah Department of Environmental Quality)
This brings up an interesting point of disagreement among people across the country. That's the "G" word... or, perhaps, the "G" phrase: Global Warming.

On New Years Day this year, when one could walk outside in a tee shirt and be more or less comfortable, everyone was quick to point out that global warming was the probable cause of the abnormal weather. The colder it got, however, the more those conversations disappeared. Clearly, the concern was temporary, but just as clear should be the fact that the controversy has not gone away.

I'm not an environmental scientist, so I can't really bring hard facts to the table when it comes to discussing this, but I've read my share of articles on the subject, and I must say the evidence is obvious: global warming is here, and it's not leaving until we do something about it.

Overzealous politicians have tried to propose implausible ideas like the Kyoto Protocol, which sounded like a good idea on the drawing board but calls for too much of a solution too soon. Indeed, it seems only the United Kingdom and Sweden are actually on track to meet their 2010 emissions requirements.

A mere three days ago, a number of countries that, this time, included the United States agreed upon the Washington Declaration, the supposed successor to Kyoto. The Washington Declaration is somewhat more tenable, and with the comparatively firm support of the United States, it may actually go somewhere.

I'd like to ask you this: if you could force the world to do one thing to combat this grave problem, taking also into account the related complex economic and political issues, what would it be? That's a daunting task, but thousands of people are working on it every day. And, they're not just working on one big thing everyone can do; they're trying to figure out what hundreds of tiny contributions governments, companies, and individuals can make toward overcoming the struggle against global warming.

Now, I'd like to propose a challenge. Each of you intelligent, well-informed, environmentally conscious readers should come up with one thing you can do to reduce your toll on the environment and do it for a week. See how it goes, and if you're proud of the benefits you're producing at the minor expense to your lifestyle, keep going. Tell your friends about it, too, and maybe they'll join you.

February 13, 2007

Travel Database (Oh, and My Birthday)

Well, it's been quite some time since I posted anything here... so long, in fact, that up until this entry gets posted, the front page will have been empty for a couple days. Weird.

It's my birthday today (or, rather, it was my birthday yesterday), and I had about 10 text messages and 28 emails when I woke up, most of which had something to do with that particular fact. I spent the day like any other day, with the exception of opening five packages of completely unexpected presents sent from far and wide. Thanks, everybody! I also tried to get my friend Steve to go have Japanese food with me this evening, but it turns out he's at a conference in San Francisco. Alas, we'll perhaps celebrate my birthday this weekend, instead.

In other news, I've stopped hanging onto boarding passes and started collecting data on my travels in a database. Maybe I'll use it to create cool graphs or something in the future, but right now, it's just getting started. The travel databaseI've been able to insert 34 flights into it so far, most of which are from 2006.

I think this database will be interesting to view in the future, when I feel like looking back on a trip to Buenos Aires or that time I smelled cinnamon and cloves in Harvard Yard. Technical graphs of flight frequencies and interfaces to airlines' web sites would be pretty cool to include eventually, too.

I would like to appeal to those of you with whom I've flown in the past: if you have old boarding passes, emails, journal entries, bills of lading, deportation notices, or any other such items that might give me a clue about flights I've taken, I'd love to have that information. For example, I don't have any information on the flights I took back and forth between Texas and Oregon in 2002 and 2003 (hi, Kari!). Nor do I have any data for when I met Tamara in Seattle in July, 2004, or when Katy and I spent Christmas in New England and Texas in 2005. I'm also missing flight numbers for the week I spent in London in 2004 (hi, Uncle John!). Oh, and how about the Thanksgiving trip to New York City, also in 2004? And the various trips to Pittsburgh before I started graduate school in 2005?

All those flights aside, the gold mine, of course, would be to find old information for the flights I took around the world when I was much younger (hey, Mom?). It would be really neat to know which KLM, Pan Am, and Eastern Airlines flights I took when I was a jet set two-year-old. I have my old passports around here somewhere, but those are only going to help so much.

February 04, 2007

A Night in Pittsburgh

I'm at home in Pittsburgh for the night, where the temperature is 7 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind chill varies based on whether the wind feels like blowing at 20 or 30 miles per hour. When my plane landed this evening, the wind was blowing at 28, and the resulting turbulence gave my stomach a reason to complain for the next couple hours. Those little Embraer jets just can't handle the wind quite like the big guys can.

I don't really know what to expect in Missouri over the next couple days, other than seeing my old friend Rick for the first time in about seven years. It'll be good to see him again, but I should focus on my work, since I need to assimilate a whole lot of information in the 47 hours between flights. The work is steeped in mechanical engineering (industrial thermodynamics and heat transfer) but is essentially a software programming project. I can handle all the aspects of it, but it would be nice to go into this consulting deal with a better idea of what they want out of it. I ironed a couple shirts, anyway, just in case I need to make some quick, authoritative decisions and have people respect the words coming out of my mouth.

I'll just be sure to take tons of notes and drink more than my fair share of coffee, and everything should work out. After all, that strategy got me a pretty nice masters degree. :)

February 01, 2007

Dilbert the Engineer

An hilarious clip from the Dilbert TV show (there's a Dilbert TV show?) about Dilbert becoming an engineer... it's on YouTube, so check it out.

Oh, and happy February!