then all is lost
Sunday, April 23 2006
After a soaking rain last night, there was enough surface runoff for me to finally determine whether or not my new drainage systems were carrying away water as I hoped. Well, they weren't. Somehow the water was pouring out onto the driveway between the two new ditches and crossing it from there. It only took me about ten minuted, but I had to dig a shallow ditch around the west side of the driveway between the collection points of both of my fancy new stone-paved trenches to ensure that the water would flow into them.
My web-based SQL front end (which goes by the Microsoftesque name Tableform) has become so complex and can handle so many situations that adding new features has come to require large investments of planning, experimentation, and implementation. This is partly because of the existing mass of code that must continue to function as before and partly because new features are, by their very nature, extremely complicated. All of the simple and moderately-complex stuff has already been implemented. The weight of the additional complexity is starting to detract from the underlying elegance of the system, enough to put me into something of a funk. When a project gets to this point it's probably best to say it's complete. Not that it really is; there are plenty of features that it would still make sense for me to add. But hoping to make a tool that can serve as the optimal system for the editing of all classes of data will probably take me down the road to disappointment.
This evening I watched a show on Nova about "global dimming," the phenomenon whereby manmade particulate pollution dims sunlight over the entire surface of the Earth. This dimming is measurable and very dramatic, accounting for a loss of about 10 percent of sunlight. The fact that global warming has continued despite this loss of solar radiation implies that global warming is a much more powerful phenomenon than had been thought.
Airplane contrails make up a small fraction of the man-made dimming pollution, and yet when planes were grounded for three days after 9-11, scientists measured a one-degree-celsius increase in the nation's average day-to-night temperature swing, the largest such change ever recorded. By the way, I'd never heard of global dimming until seeing this show.
Another gloomy bit of news I hadn't really heard was the strong likelihood of a runaway greenhouse effect should the Arctic start warming up. This is due to the large stores of methane hydrates locked up in cold ocean sediments. Should these be warmed beyond a certain threshold, they would be released into the atmosphere. And methane is eight times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Once we get to that point, we can expect average global temperatures to rise 25 degrees Fahrenheit.
Usually on PBS such morbid environmental programs end with a cheery upbeat message of how people are starting to get it and progress is finally being made. Not the one on global dimming. The closest we got to upbeat was NASA's Jim Hansen saying we have maybe ten years to act and then all is lost.
Later Gretchen and I watched a DVD of Walk the Line, the true story of June Carter and Johnny Cash. The thing that most impresses me about Johnny Cash is that, despite his personal demons, he was such an unusually empathetic person. Here was a guy who only spent a few nights in jail (once for illegally picking flowers) and yet he had such compassion for inmates that he wrote songs about their plight, performed concerts for them, and even lobbied Richard Nixon on their behalf. Empathy is rare commodity in modern times; mostly when one sees it these days what one actually is witnessing is a performance, and usually one done on behalf of someone or something non-controversial. Not Johnny Cash. You could tell he really cared; after all, his heart was going out to prisoners. If he was alive today you know he'd be mad as hell about Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
The new ditches across the driveway, as seen from the Solar Deck. You can see the shallow ditch I had to dig today along the edge of the driveway. You can also see my massive stone "library," including one very large sheet of bluestone.
Where my drainage system dumps all its water, at the west end of a ditch running past the north end of the house.
Sally today, being bored in the driveway.
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