A Journal of the Irrepressible

Archive for June, 2008

Peak Oil

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My friend B. wrote me this:

So I was reading the Bay Area Guardian, something I do exactly as regularly as I vote, and I ran across something that I thought might interest you. It seems San Francisco has a Peak Oil Preparedness Task Force to explore life after fossil fuels. Of course few take them seriously.

And I replied:

Do you mean that people locally don’t take the task force in SF seriously? Or don’t take post-oil seriously?

The peak oilers are sometimes hard to listen to because they’re so apocalyptically pessimistic. They see the energy packed into a hydrocarbon molecule and moan, What can possibly replace this? They don’t see anything on the shelf that can replace oil, so assume we’re all doomed. I do admire their historical analysis, tho, and I think Hubbert was right; well, he was right, US production peaked right when he said it would. A year or so ago the Saudi Minister of Energy said the planet was running out of oil and had to get ready. And now the King of Saudi Arabia has created a $10-billion endowment for a new university, sci and tech research, that will be a mini-kingdom unto itself in order to free it (and thus attract students and faculty) of Sharia, the heinous religious law of fundamentalist Islam. The king’s reasoning was explicit: Saudi Arabia won’t be an energy economy for much longer and needs to transform itself into a knowledge economy. Amen, brother. At last we agree on something. Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Brian

June 18th, 2008 at 5:56 pm

A Perfect Storm of Organic Truthiness: The Webinar


I’ve been doing a little research in preparation for my last day, tomorrow, in Michigan. I discovered a list of Banished Words from Lake Superior State University, the smallest and most Canadian-friendly public university in Michigan. It’s located on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which is where I’m headed in the morning.

LSSU has been creating annual lists of Banished Words since 1976. Many times imitated, they claim to be the first and, heck, I believe them. I like the LSSU Banished Word site as an amateur linguist and you might, too, as you can add your comments to the list of words.

Among this year’s banished words is “organic.” John Gomila, New Orleans, Louisiana, for instance, writes that “The possibility of a food item being inorganic, i.e., not being composed of carbon atoms, is nil.” Amen; it’s like the difference between “all natural” and “man made,” as if humans weren’t natural.

Another is “sweet” as an exclamation of approval or concord; way over used and, I admit, I’m guilty. Shall I banish myself to Canada?

“Decimate” makes the 2008 list, as well it should. It’s never used correctly; in the vernacular usage, people say “decimate” when they mean “total destruction.” But a quick scan of the word’s formation clearly reveals that it means “one in ten.” To destroy one in ten of something is not “total.” Sweet. Let truthiness in semantics reign supreme.

I was delighted to see “webinar” on the list, as I’m constantly bombarded with emailed offers to take expensive webinars that promise to teach me all sorts of little niche aspects of Web marketing. Thing is, this is a self-perpetuating marketing scheme and what I’ve learned from webinars is that if you want to make money on the Web, you should offer webinars.

Check out the LSSU Banished Word list here.

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Written by Brian

June 13th, 2008 at 7:14 pm

Posted in linguistics

Traverse City, Michigan and Environs

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My room at the Holiday Inn in Traverse City“Bend of bay and swerve of shore” begins Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and that pretty well describes the Lake Michigan shore around Traverse City. I’m here for the ACE 2008 Conference, a gathering of agricultural and natural resource science communication professionals. I’m staying at the Holiday Inn.

If you don’t know “Michigan Girls” by Califone, I hope you’ll check the song and the band out.

Broke heels and bare legs
Pink waterline gave up on your twisted code
God’s eyes are crossed maybe just like yours. (“Michigan Girls” by Califone) Read the rest of this entry »

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Written by Brian

June 12th, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Good Advice for Cougar Researchers

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Large carnivore’s have been on my mind lately, as my Web development team (the amazing Phil and Rose) just finished a refresh of WSU’s Large Carnivore Conservation Lab’s Web site. I’m pretty sure the Large Carnivore Lab is going to offer you better advice than this, but it probably won’t be as funny:
confronting a mountain lion

I found this sign on a section of Flickzzz called Very Weird Signs. Probably not entirely work safe. More advice for dealing with animals:

The comments on the source post raise doubts as to the legitimacy of some of the signs portrayed there (i.e., they’re a bunch of damn fakes; who was it that said there are lies, damn lies, and Photoshop?), but that doesn’t detract from the irrepressible creativity of the collection.



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Written by Brian

June 9th, 2008 at 11:44 pm