Archive > March 2004


25 March 2004 » In Pursuits » 8 Comments

Went sailing (photos) on the Bay last weekend. Absolutely fantastic. Must take lessons now so I actually know what I’m doing.
Oh yeah, having a big party this weekend to celebrate the green card finalization. It only took 6 frigging hours (starting at 6am) of sitting in the INS office to get the stamp put in my passport. Slowest. Bureaucracy. Ever.


23 March 2004 » In Other » 3 Comments

Well, as you’ve probably noticed, this site has been down for a few days. This has taught me not to keep my online representation on a public server donated by a company that is slowly imploding and has laid off most of its employees. But Rasmus has been gracious to offer me hosting on his server and I have taken him up on that. The DNS changes should be propagating as we speak and hopefully this will be the end of the interruptions.

The Oil We Eat

18 March 2004 » In Opinion » 5 Comments

February issue of Harper’s magazine features a great article by Richard Manning entitled The Oil We Eat that delivers an indictment against the modern day agribusiness and its contribution to the depletion of the planet’s energy reserves. Manning draws well-argued conclusions and after I was done reading I had to sit and think for a while about what we’ve gotten ourselves into. Some startling facts from the article:

1. Humans capture 40 percent of primary productivity of the planet.
2. It takes 5.5 gallons of fossil energy to replace one year’s worth of lost fertility per acre. In 1997 we burned 400 years worth of ancient fossilized productivity.
3. By 1960 the supply of unfarmed arable lands stopped increasing. Between then and now world population doubled.
4. Green revolution led to heavy use of fertilizers and took a heavy toll on water supplies.
5. In 1940 the average farm in the US provided 2.3 calories of food energy for each calorie of fossil energy. In 1974 the balance reached the brake-even point.
6. David Pimentel (Cornell University) says that if the entire world were to eat the way Americans do, we would exhaust all known world fossil-fuel reserves in 7 years. His detractors say he is off about 30 percent. “Fine. Make it ten years”.
7. Corn, wheat, hay and soybeans cover 82 percent of American farmland and they are not food as such, but commodities and require heavy outlay of more energy to become food.
8. Sugar consumption increased by 500 percent in England between 1860 and 1890. One sixth of nutrition came from sugar, the same as Americans today.
9. Archer Daniels Midland developed a high-fructose corn syrup in the early 70’s as the key ingredient in 3/4 of all processed food. This plague selects the poor, who eat the most processed food.
10. Eighty percent of all grain in the US goes to feed livestock.
11. Present trends: Mexico fed 5 percent of its grain to livestock in 1960; today it is 45 percent. For Egypt these numbers are 3 percent to 31 percent. In China, 8 percent to 26 percent. The observation, that the prairie grasses could support more bison before the prairies were brought under cultivation than beef farming today on the same area of land, if true, is noteworthy.

Everyone needs to read and understand this, whether you are a vegetarian, beef-eater, member of Greenpeace, or a rural farmer.

Green Light

08 March 2004 » In Me » 24 Comments

Yesterday I emptied out the mailbox after my trip and what do I find there but an approval notice for my application to adjust to permanent status in the United States. Translation: at last I have my green card. Afte 12 years of living here and 4.5 years of the application process, it’s a welcome sight. Now is the time to plan the big party.

Back On Solid Ground

06 March 2004 » In PHP, Travel » 1 Comment

Feels good to be on solid ground again. Back from my trip to Florida and the Bahamas on the inaugural PHP Cruise.
The PHP Cruise started on March 1, but I flew in a bit earlier because I wanted to visit the Kennedy Space Center. Pictures are here.
The cruise was an unequivocal success, with about 90 attendees and 12 speakers. It was a bit unusual to have a conference afloat and the first time wrinkles made themselves known, but Marco Tabini and Arbi Arzoumani quickly ironed them out. The quality of the talks was pretty high, better than at some other conferences of the same size that I attended. I ended up taking two slots to give my presentation on regular expressions because it was so extensive.
It was my first time on a cruise ship so I have no real basis of comparison, but on the whole I enjoyed it. Onboard restaurants, casino, bars, nightlife, comedy, and of course new people. All of us at the conference had a great time it seemed and the weather was nice and sunny. At Nassau I tried out scuba diving and it was simply fantastic – I’ll have to get certified now. The pictures from the cruise are here.
Word of advice: if you can, use your miles for upgrades to upper class, rather than for tickets themselves. The flight back was much, much better that way.