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August 2010 Archives

Queue head explosion

… the effect of JSY on health-system outputs and outcomes using district-level differences in differences that controlled for differences between treated and untreated observations, and differences in treated observations that might have resulted from underlying changes over time…

athabascan tar sands = "energy insanity"

Classes started today. Began my return to academia in what I'm told was true doctoral student fashion -- I missed my first class because I was on a conference call about a potential project :). It was completely worth it. Its fun to glean and interact [even minimally, at this point] with brilliant, engaged folks.

I made it to the second class, in a big theater filled to the brim with an eclectic smattering of students - undergrads, masters, doctoral, the works, from every discipline across the board. The class is out of the Energy & Resources Group and is titled "Energy and Society." Its going to be awesome and cover a breadth of topics pretty quickly.

We concluded today's lecture with a brief discussion of fossil fuel stores, much of which was enlightening to me. I knew about some of the general environmental issues surrounding tar sands and the rampant destruction producing crude from tar sands entails; I had little clue about the complete energy inefficiency of the process. The prof noted that if we include shale and oil/tar sands in our peak oil calculations, the notion that we've hit 50% capacity becomes moot -- we've hit something like 2.5% capacity. That said, he mentioned that if we assume sweet crude to require environmental/energy inputs equal to 1, tar sands is 30 or 40% higher. The process for refining tar sands [which i'll revisit as I learn more] goes something like the following:

Dig a deep-ass pit. Around 100m down, you'll hit tar sands, or as the Canadians like to call it, oil sands. Mix with water and separate the oil. There's a lot of sulfur in tar sands, and we don't like sulfur. So we take CH4, strip the carbon off, and bubble this hydrogen through the tar sand slurry. This'll form H2S. Precipitate the elemental sulfur in an ice bath, release the hydrogen into the atmosphere. You waste natural gas, you throw hydrogen away, and you get all of this goodness:

Sulfur Stockpile

Apparently there's a glut of sulfur in the market, so that just sits there in all its inimitable yellowness. Piles upon piles of sulfur cakes.

This process above is over-simplified, but that doesn't change the fact that its completely f-ing insane. The size of the Athabascan tar sands hellhole is equivalent to Saudi Arabia's oil field before it was pilfered. The government of Alberta thinks it can push production beyond 3 million barrels per day. Hard to imagine a world in which we're not reliant on oil when we keep finding ways to extract it.

Cee-Lo's vulgar new masterpiece

This track is hilarious, catchy, fantastic, and NOT SAFE FOR WORK. The video’s great; the simplicity and tone work. Awesome.

Berkeley Graduate Student Instructor Teaching Conference

Today was my first real foray into Berkeley academic culture — an 8:30a - 3:30p Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) teaching conference. For those in doubt, it made apparent the serious nature of pedagogy at Cal. There were seven hundred first-time instructors in attendance. That’s a hard number for me to wrap my head around — 700 first time instructors. There are probably two or three times that number who’ve already been through the first-time instructor rigamarole.

I’ve got a sense from my limited interactions on campus that the academic environment here is more serious than other places. This could be a function of a bit of anxiety about the program; the seemingly epoch-long two years its been since I’ve been in a formal academic environment; or just the way it is. Regardless, its radical.

I was going to write about the skull-crushing anxiety about returning to a rigorous academic environment, my doubts in my own mental capability to deal with such academic environment, blah blah yadda yadda. That’s all there, and true. But more importantly is a massive rebirth of wonder and excitement. This place is awesome and I can’t wait to be mentally taxed and learn some rad new stuff.

Perseids, Airplanes, Joshua Tree


Well, this is one of the dopest things I've ever seen. Beautiful.

Check out the new CMF website

Tons of work. Tons! The new site integrates some fancy custom social networking type features, includes amazing wide displays of student content, and is just fantastic.

We're back.

Not yet better than ever. Updates soon. The server died, taking with it all previous back-ups, templates, and changes. I’ve learned my lesson and am backing up to a few different places regularly. We’re working on getting this up to speed before the next great adventure begins [at Berkeley].