Sunday, November 30, 2008

Plastic or Download?

Speaking of things becoming obsolete in my previous post about magazines (assuming you are viewing this chronogically) reminded me of something I've been meaning to post since about, oh, mid-August or so. Man alive, I have to stop neglecting this little slice of 'net...

I read a statistic recently to the effect that a song is downloaded for free 20 times for every time it is purchased. I don't know if purchasing includes both download and CD, but it is nonetheless a telling stat.

Much like the various forms of reading material discussed earlier, I still prefer to have the real thing on hand. While downloading is obviously "cleaner", I still buy compact discs and will for as long as I am able to. I like having that safety net in case my computer crashes and I lose everything.

This is particulary true because I can not transfer my ITunes files to my MP3 player. Some combination of exclusive deals between all the various companies prevents it. So it's not as though I could transfer and be confident that at least I'll have the music in that format if my computer goes Max Headroom on me.

So still being a CD consumer, and needing to make a trip to Calgary this past August, I wanted some "fresh new spins" (that's DJ talk. Or maybe it's just the one clown on a local radio station trying to sound cool) for the plane ride. I took a stroll over to HMV and left with three new records. Yay!

While sitting in my 40-foot limo on the way home, I noticed something written on my HMV plastic bag. It said...

Once discarded in landfill sites, the exposure to sunlight, oxygen and heat will convert the plastic in this bag into water, carbon dioxide, mineral salt and biomass. Like a fallen leaf it will disappear over time and leave no harmful residue in the soil.

This message was brought to you by EPI Environmental Technology. I would like a clearer definition of "over time", mind you, but still. I like knowing that this is out there, if their claims are legit.

Assuming they are, I would like to see the EPI logo on all grocery store bags as well. We do try to bring our own bags with us when grocery shopping but occasionally forget, or make an unscheduled stop and don't have them on hand. While still not great, this would be...huh...less bad, I guess. I suspect that people who avoid using plastic bags are still very much a minority so perhaps having this specific kind more commonly available would helps significantly.

As far as downloading goes, I am not opposed to it. Far from it. I am all in favour for reasons other than (but in addition to) the environmental aspect.

I have been interested in music since I was about ten. I used to wake up to Sweet's Ballroom Blitz, played from a borrowed eight-track. I'm sure my folks loved that.

And though never a fan of theirs by any stretch, I recall air-guitaring to Kiss' I Love it Loud. Yikes...

Can't go wrong with those genius lyrics...

A memory from earlier still is asking my mum to play The Night Chicago Died by Paper Lace repeatedly.

I was basically a toddler. Not exactly a song for a four-year old but it should be pointed out that I didn't speak English back then. Thankfully, otherwise, I might have turned out like John Gotti. Or Vanilla Ice.

In any event, I love music, but I hate the music business. Aside from frequently hearing about bands being screwed over on record deals, I've often felt the same was being done to me.

I'm the obsessive collector type, so when I get into something, I'm a completist; I need to have and know everything. Nothing insults me more, as a music fan, than a "best of" album with two "previously unreleased tracks" included.

Ah, thank you so much for abusing my loyalty. Please picture me with an extended middle finger as I guiltlessly (is that a word? It really should be...) download the two tracks that were not previously deemed good enough for any of the band's studio albums.

Better still is the so-called deluxe edition of records that are the exact same album with perhaps an extra CD with a few live tracks or some such. It's usually released 1-3 months after the...huh...ordinary edition. Of course, being a fan, I bought the original almost right away. So now I would have to pay full price for the extra material and a batch of duplicates.

So while I don't like to see bands suffer from their material being traded freely, I take some joy in knowing that the music industry is scrambling. And I believe (and hope) that before long record companies will be obsolete, or at least drastically reduced in number.

It's always been my understanding that bands make their money from touring, not from record sales, so if more of them are able to continue to be successful without having to deal with the business side of it, more power to them.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Green Living Online

I was made aware of this from a World Wildlife Foundation newsletter from last month. The fall issue of Green Living Magazine is also the first online version. It comes instructions for the less technically-inclined but basically click on the arrows at top left to flip pages, and on the pages themsleves in order to make them large enough to read.

I recall reading an interview with Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee around the time the first Spider-Man movie came out in which he was asked whether he thought the internet would kill comic books. He thought it would not because people prefer to have something "in hand" to read; something they can take to another room in the house or carry with them while travelling.

I agree with him that reading a magazine online is hardly the same, but with laptops and blackberries becoming more and more common, perhaps paper versions have finally met their match. And for a magazine called "Green Living", going online would seem to make sense.

Just one more thing to get used to. ;-)

Edit: I subscribed for future issues, only to find out that the winter ecition is out already. Here it is.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

School of Rock


By Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A rock found mostly in Oman can be harnessed to soak up the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide at a rate that could help slow global warming, scientists say.

When carbon dioxide comes in contact with the rock, peridotite, the gas is converted into solid minerals such as calcite.

Geologist Peter Kelemen and geochemist Juerg Matter said the naturally occurring process can be supercharged 1 million times to grow underground minerals that can permanently store 2 billion or more of the 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide emitted by human activity every year.

Their study will appear in the November 11 edition of the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences.

Peridotite is the most common rock found in the Earth's mantle, or the layer directly below the crust. It also appears on the surface, particularly in Oman, which is conveniently close to a region that produces substantial amounts of carbon dioxide in the production of fossil fuels.


They also calculated the costs of mining the rock and bringing it directly to greenhouse gas emitting power plants, but determined it was too expensive.

The scientists, who are both at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, say they could kick-start peridotite's carbon storage process by boring down and injecting it with heated water containing pressurized carbon dioxide. They have a preliminary patent filing for the technique.

They say 4 billion to 5 billion tons a year of the gas could be stored near Oman by using peridotite in parallel with another emerging technique developed by Columbia's Klaus Lackner that uses synthetic "trees" which suck carbon dioxide out of the air.

More research needs to be done before either technology could be used on a commercial scale.

Peridotite also occurs in the Pacific islands of Papua New Guinea and Caledonia, and along the coast of the Adriatic Sea and in smaller amounts in California.

Big greenhouse gas emitters like the United States, China and India, where abundant surface supplies of the rock are not found, would have to come up with other ways of storing or cutting emissions.

Rock storage would be safer and cheaper than other schemes, Matter said.

Many companies are hoping to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by siphoning off large amounts of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and storing it underground.

That method could require thousands of miles of pipelines and nobody is sure whether the potentially dangerous gas would leak back out into the atmosphere in the future.

My only concern would be that people would treat this as the miracle cure (note that scientists believe it would "slow" global warming, not stop it). Let's not bother to even try to reduce emissions, we've got our magic rock. Kind of like the people who think that switching to Diet Coke means they can eat whatever they want and lose weight.