Sunday, March 29, 2009

Earth Hour

Okay, I admit the "Earth Hour" concept falls into what I'd call harmless but useless feel-good efforts. It's a little too self-conscious and precious for my taste. I get the point, and don't really have a problem with it, other than the fact that it accomplishes not much. Nevertheless, the response from the right-wing is pretty revelatory.

The idea is to turn off lights, curtail energy use around the world, for an hour. I didn't; but I'm impressed by how many seem to have. On the other hand, I find THIS (a luddite level call to burn the planet down) pretty obnoxious, if entirely true to wingnuttia form and unsurprising. 

We can't avoid sharing the planet with stupid people; it's just that it's strange that their particular form of stupid is actively advertising itself. Look at me, it says. I'm not only stupid, but I want everyone in shouting distance to notice.

A friend of mine, from Kentucky, liked to say: What are the last words of a redneck? Hey, watch this!!

I hope those redstate rednecks live long enough to find out how wrong they were.


  1. It's a silly gesture, yes, but so is wearing red ribbons.

    I didn't notice the Hour, and I don't know if I'd turned off anything. I doubt it, since I think it was around dinnertime.

    I only have fluorescent lighting, though, and I almost compulsively turn off lights when I leave a room. At work I turn off printers and displays when leaving on Fridays.

    Small potatoes, of course, but my electricity and waterbills are pretty low. Heating is a bitch, however, despite my keeping it pretty cold.

    I expect to have saved €200 on water this year (the meters were read last week) simply by having shorter showers after I started working and having to get out of the house early. I plan to use the money on a new watersaving showerhead - and probably a small oven to use when I can't fill the big one in the stove.

    Of course, it won't save the world.

  2. au contraire. It's doing the things you describe every day that WILL make a difference. I do, too. I'm wearing two shirts as I type.

    I hope you understood that it wasn't Earth Hour I was calling stupid. It was the response by the wingnuts to which I linked.

  3. Someone once said "Stupid is as Stupid Does"... some educated people might say its Stupid to turn off your lights for an hour and think that it matters...Why not an hour and 1/2, or get really crazy and do it for 2 hours??? Talk to me about conservation when you sell your petrol burning car...

    and here's your perfect chance to make me look like an A-hole, and tell me you haven't driven a car since 1971, and you walk or take Light Rail everywhere...I mean, its the internet...not like I can prove you wrong...

    How much JP-8 did Nancy Pelosi/Di-Fi burn goin to that Cop funeral in Oakland??? somehow I don't think they took Amtrak...


  4. here's your perfect chance to make me look like an A-hole

    Sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

  5. Sometimes the best answer is the one you don't hear...

    So what model Volvo DO you drive Sid??...oh wait, my Bad.....

    its a Saab...


  6. Sid, I really don't want to go off topic but I gotta ask; do you think you'll write at Surgeonsblog again? It's superb! I've applied to med school (waiting to hear back) and having read your book and blog, I don't want to sound like I'm kissing ass here, but you're an inspiration to me. To be a surgeon and go through the brutal training and see horrific things happen to good people, and yet to retain the humanity and compassion that your blog and book strongly suggests you have, if I get into med school, I'm going to aspire to be a doctor like you.

    Best Wishes
    Alex D

  7. A study came out maybe two years ago purporting to prove that a food calorie is more energy intensive than a petroleum calorie. By way of illustration, if you buy a Yakima tomato in Yakima it will have travelled through Seattle. So, walking to work may not be as reasonable as it sounds. However, the internal combustion engine is notoriously energy inefficient, and the human body is startlingly energy efficient. I don't know this figures into the study.

    I've got my home about as energy efficient as I can get it without spending an absurd sum. My understanding is that your home heating efficiency is largely governed by its weakest link, usually windows. Switching to triple-pane windows would cost tens of thousands so I just can't see it. Similarly solar is so expensive that I can't rationlize that either. Also batteries are a pain.

    I'm always aware that any energy I conserve may contribute towards the next guy having an extra child. When I think about how there should simply be fewer people then I despair of making any sense of out life at all.

    This time of year, with cold nights and warm days, I think about building a "thermal flywheel", a water reservoir under my house with a heat exchanger. During the day, pump heat into the reservoir, and at night pump the heat back out. It should pay for much of the cost for home heating during the spring and fall.

    Frank Drackman -- "So what model Volvo DO you drive Sid??...oh wait, my Bad..... its a Saab..."

    Dollars to donuts says you couldn't get a courtesy laugh from your mom with that, Frank. It's so lame it's not even pitiful, it's just weird. Try a little harder at least to be engaging. You would seemingly bore a gerbil.

    Sam Spade

  8. Hey, Alex, feel free to go off topic anytime as long as you say nice things like that. In these difficult times, it's very nice to hear, and it's much appreciated.

    Honestly, I'd rather be writing at Surgeonsblog than here, because I think over there I actually did something useful. Here's it's just ranting to let off steam, railing about things over which none of us has any control, knowing it makes no difference.

    The problem is I came to feel I'd said most of what I had to say -- or, rather, that I'd run out of things to say. A big problem is no longer being in practice, which means the substrate has become finite. And just commenting or opining on the medical/political issues is not much different from what I'm doing here. It was my aim over there to let people in on what it's like being a surgeon, and to provide occasional bits of useful information. I've even looked over some of my old op notes to see if it'd jog some fresh memories. So far, it seems an arid field, but I haven't ruled out the possibility...

    Anyhow, thanks for your words. It makes me feel great!

  9. Sam: there are some very interesting paradoxes, all right: some of the efforts to save energy may actually cost energy or add pollution. I'm sort of like you: have done the not-exorbitant things. We have mostly double-pane glass, some storm windows. Nearly entirely fluorescent lights; keep the heat chillingly low. We get a lot of wind around here, and I'd like to have some sort of wind generator but until I feel a little more financially flush, I don't see spending the money to install a truly useful system. For solar on the roof, I think I'd have to cut down a really nice old fir tree...

  10. Did Al Gore observe? Just wondering.

    Never mind...

    Pity--that must be the equivalent of 30 houses like mine.

  11. I looked into wind also. I came away believing that Western Washington in general is a poor bet for wind energy, except along river beds. Gusts are not usable, you need steady wind. Of course if you go up high enough just about anywhere will be good, as with the mound at Gasworks Park.

    There's a fascinating web site called (I think) where the proprietor builds wind generators and such. Not long ago he set up a boiler to drive a generator. He can generate I think 3kW via any combustible material now.

    Just last night I was mulling over whether I should buy one of these. I've long wanted a hot water recirculator, but wasn't keen on running the extra pipe. The new generation of recirculators uses a valve and pump between the hot and cold lines, thereby keeping the water in the hot line hot and recycling heat from the hot line back into the hot water tank via the cold line. Supposedly you save a lot of money on hot water with these things (aside from the convenience of instant hot water). I'm trying to understand why that is the case. Certainly you save on water usage which is of course good.

    Sam Spade

  12. Does all this mean that putting extra air in my tires didn't help fuel prices, and that my kids bake sale didn't help pay off the national debt? Whoa is me!

  13. Who IS that person? never heard of him.

    Most people probably don't pay attention either way.

    Heating bills have been a killer in the northeast as well as electric.

    Just awful.

    Wish we still had our wood stove. Had one for ten years. Got it in 78. My husband used to take the dead trees out of state parks when his number was picked. it heated the entire house.

    Then I wanted more space and didn't want the smoke, etc. *sigh* Who knew?

    I use the energy efficient bulbs where I can, but I removed the water saver when we got a new shower head. To quote older son who compared our shower to pressure of city water... he said it spit at him for a shower.

    I decided it took longer to shower, rinse soap out with low pressure than it does without the saver. So water use was a wash either way...pun intended. :)

    We recycle... although I have heard on the news it doesn't help. ? Don't know why they say that.

    We have some good windows but still have some old drafty ones too, but that is alright with me because of potential radon in the area. When your house is sealed from weather proofing, the gasses are also trapped.

    I think that even though we think we don't make a difference...every little bit helps and multiply that times x amount of people and you are helping your corner of the world, one house at a time.

    We DO miss surgeon's blog. Bongi is doing a series about OR rules and said something about he hoped that didn't mean his blog would end.

    I like your writing and so I am here... but I'd much rather be in surgeobsblog. Not that this isn't a good blog... but it's just stressful and that's okay because it is your blog. I just don't have the same anger that you and many commentators seem to have here and then I go away feeling bad about some of the things I read. I know... I don't have to come in... but I like to see what your up to every now and then. :)

  14. Hi Sid,

    Thanks for being there this morning. It's my chance to get away from medicine after the weekend.

    We spent three hours at the Kaiser Permanente Urgent Care clinic on Saturday getting a physician's assistant to give my husband an Rx for pain pills and some prednisone to help ease his discomfort. He has had three back operations, the most recent one in 1998 for spinal stenosis.

    My husband and I came back from Mexico on March 22 (photos of the resort are up at my blog). We enjoyed the warm weather and pleasant surroundings. Well, I tolerated the mid-80 degrees and stayed wet and airconditioned for two weeks. Mexico is sweltering for me, and what is a pleasant walk for others ends up aggravating my hyperhydrosis. I perspire from top to bottom and it it is truly difficult to explain to most people.

    The local Mexican people are clearly struggling to make their lives better. Many of the employed people say business is down about 50% from this time last year.

    Earth Hour came and went while we were checking email with one small banker's light on. There are some neat pictures from the event, showy as it was around the world. Cut and paste:

    Re: Your blog(s). I also check back once in a while, but it's all politics pretty much all the time. You do it imaginatively and certainly as well as any author I've seen on a blog. I've reopened my blog to many topics and joined I may be the only old lady on their service. It's fast and furious, but yesterday, I sent a message to radio talk personality Thom Hartmann and actor Kevin Spacey, who said he used to be a shoe salesman!

    Sid, I'm going to hit the gym now. It's 3:00 AM PT, but we joined 24 Hour Fitness years ago and it's half a mile away downhill. I can almost coast my car to their facility! On Monday morning, they close the pool for cleaning at 7 AM, so I should get going. I'm going to drown my troubles in.... in pool water.

    Hope you have a great week. EK

  15. Hi Ellen -I will look for you on twitter. :)

    i was going to suggest to Dr D. to check out twitter. A lot of his blogging doc friends twitter too.

    I remained a twitterling for so long, but now I am into it and to quote a word of dr Robs... it's twitterific! :)

    Come join us Dr S! :)

    You can see my twitter at the bottom of my web page or just google twitter or go look at anyone else's twitter.

  16. Umm Ellen,
    Please tell me you didn't just say you drive your car 1/2 a mile to the gym to EXERCISE!?!?! Jeez, I thought I was lazy..ohh and I'm sure the pool isn't Heated, with you bein all eco-friendly and everything..


  17. Oh, I understood, alright.

    I just do think EH is a bit silly. And I think wearing coloured ribbons is stupid, too. I'm just not much for gestures, however well meant.

    Of course, saving helps. But I alone won't make a different. I can only hope that I'll help set an example for others, and eventually get the politicos to take their heads out their collectives arses.

    I have pretty good waterpressure here in town, so it can't hurt to try a new head out. Of course, if it doesn't work I'll go back to the old one.

  18. Hey Sid,

    sorry for the late reply! Glad to hear there's still a possibility of surgeonsblog becoming active once again! I really enjoy reading this blog as well, being from the UK, it's great to be able to get a better understanding of US politics, especially when someone such as Obama is striving to make a difference! On another, quite irrelevant to this blog I guess, is that in my previous post I mentioned I'd applied to med school, and I've been accepted at southampton! So hopefully in 10 years time I'll be a surgical trainee and will be using your book and blog for guidance throughout med school ;)

    Best wishes
    Alex D


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