May 2009

Do any readers have experience with gyms in Ottawa? I am thinking about joining one as a complement to cycling – especially for the winter months, when the roads are all serious ice hazards. Benefits would include being close to LeBreton Flats, being open at unusual hours, being inexpensive, and offering a discount to government […]


In the midst of the discussion about the ethics of traveling to Vancouver, the issue of how cars have benefited and harmed people living in urban areas came up. It is undeniable that they have been a major transformative force, when it comes to the shape and character of cities. To me, it seems that […]


Those with an interest in reading some things with an Ottawa connection should have a look at local author and performer Sylvie Hill’s website. It includes things like more than eighty of her weekly ‘Shotgun’ columns for Ottawa XPress, articles on art, book reviews, a thesis on sexual frustration in Joyce’s Ulysses, editorials, Ottawa news […]


When dealing with climate change, politicians often talk about the need to ‘balance the economy and the environment.’ I think this is a misleading categorization for two reasons. Firstly, the balance has always been tilted virtually 100% towards the economy, in Canada at least. When the government talks about the need to scale back climate […]


Separately, I have discussed both the Wolfram Alpha computational knowledge engine and the practice of hashing information. The fact that WA allows anyone to do so easily has relevance for things like making bets online, in situations where players want to conceal their guesses until everyone else has put theirs up. Here is an example. […]


Jim Prentice, Canada’s Minister of the Environment has said that Canada might not impose limits on greenhouse gas emissions until 2016. This is simply preposterous. It makes a mockery of this government’s pledge to cut emissions to 20% below 2005 levels by 2020. It is also hypocritical. This government argued that they could not meet […]


The University of British Columbia is holding a contest where participants will set out plans on how to make the Point Grey campus “net positive” in terms of energy and water, as well as reduce greenhouse gas output. The grand prize is $5,000, second prize is $3,000, and third prize is $1,000. The contest is […]


Seen from a simplistic and very selfish human perspective, ecosystems are devices for converting sunlight into human food. Sometimes, this happens fairly directly: sun hits soybean leaves, soybeans grow, and people eat them. In the case of the fish we eat, it is generally much less direct: sun hits phytoplankton, zooplankton eats that, they get […]


David MacKay’s book (described here) makes an excellent point about the asymmetry between energy supply and demand, in terms of the difficulty or ease of increasing either: It’s so simple for me to consume an extra 30 [kilowatt-hours] (kWh) per day. But squeezing an extra 30 kWh per day per person from renewables requires an […]


In a very depressing piece of analysis, Grist columnist Gar Lipow argues that the Waxman Markey climate change bill emerging in the US will do worse than nothing, when it comes to dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. This is because of how it issues permits (downstream, rather than upstream), its problematic use of offsets, and […]