25 March 2009

Recycled pens

I went shopping today, got some groceries and stuff, and had a look in a book store just for fun. They had these "bottle 2 pen" pens, which are apparently made from recycled plastic bottles. The pen is made from a clear plastic and is supposed to be refillable. You just unscrew the tip and replace the ink cartridge inside the pen. But after a look around, I noticed that there are no ink cartridges for sale in the store. Not a single one of any kind. Seems very stupid to me. What is the point of a refillable pen, if you can't buy the stuff to refill it with? Instead of just buying the cartridge, you would have to buy a new pen with a fresh cartridge in it when this one runs dry. This creates more plastic waste. But I guess that's the whole point. If you don't sell cartridges, people would HAVE to buy a new pen, thereby spending more money, making the pen makers a bigger profit. It wouldn't surprise me a bit. In fact, companies do this on purpose all the time.

Did you know that a ridiculously large proportion of all the things you can buy, are ON PURPOSE made to be disposed of within six months? Have a look at this website: http://www.storyofstuff.com/ It's a pretty interesting 20 minute video that explains a lot of stuff about consumers and resources.

15 March 2009

Recovery

It is now 11 days since I had my tonsils removed, and while my throat hasn't healed completely quite yet, it's getting to be quite decent. I can eat more or less normal food, though not very spicy or salty stuff and I still avoid really coarse stuff that would scratch my throat too much. It doesn't hurt very much anymore either. The first day or two after the surgery were quite bad, but it was OK with the painkillers and only liquid food. Then after about 4 days it got a lot worse again.
Normally, if you cut yourself, the wound closes up and you get this brown scab on it that falls off after a while when the wound has healed enough under it. That doesn't happen inside your mouth. Instead of a brown, hard scab, you get this white layer of soft stuff that looks more like a thick layer of mold than anything else. It falls off after a while, but the tissue under it is still more or less an open wound and it can start bleeding again. After about 4 days, this white stuff gradually started to fall off, revealing the wounds from the surgery. To tell you the truth, that's when it started to hurt like a motherfucker. Anything I ate made my throat burn like it was being stabbed by a thousand needles. The painkillers took away most of the ache, but it did virtually nothing for the pain of swallowing something. For a day or two, I ate pretty much nothing more than popsicles. The ice made my throat a bit numb so I was able to swallow. Now, most of the white stuff is gone, so I'm guessing my throat will be all good and ready for anything in about a week.

I've taken a bigger interest in ecology and the environment lately. I saw this show on the Discovery channel, Discovery Project Earth, where scientists and clever people build various prototypes for things that might help clean up the atmosphere and the planet. Some of the ideas, even though they work, seem incredibly far fetched and not very practical, but some ideas actually seem quite cool. One of the episodes had this big contraption invented by a guy named David Keith. It filters carbon dioxide out of the air by using a sodium hydroxide solution. Seems good, but where are you going to put the CO2 after it's been captured? Filtering CO2 is not a bad idea, but wouldn't it be better to make factories and other sources stop putting so much out in the first place? There have been so-called rules imposed against large companies, etc. but they are ridiculously full of loopholes and most large initiatives seem kinda inefficient. Take the Kyoto protocol, for example. A country can just decide to not sign it and keep doing things the way they want. Then what? Norwegian gas platforms in the sea off the coast of Norway have hefty fines to pay if their output of CO2 is over a certain limit. So they invented clever ways to filter the CO2 out of the gas they are pumping up, and put it back where it came from so that their emissions are within limits. Seems to me that that's the way to go. Necessity is the mother of all invention, so why not impose a 5 year time limit, and then apply fines of such a ludicrous magnitude that it would be financial suicide for a company to not abide by the limits. They would simply HAVE to come up with similar ways of decreasing their emissions. Companies try to make money. That's what they do. So if they have to invent stuff in order to save money, they will come up with the necessary stuff in no time at all. They are plenty enough of smart people in the world to make it happen. The only thing missing is a good enough reason, and to keep repeating the same stuff about CO2 being bad for the environment and that it causes global warming that will make ice caps melt and cause loads of trouble in about 50 years or so is just not good enough. Stock holders are making money now. They don't care about trouble in 50 years from now, especially if it means paying money to change something now.

Making things environmentally friendly can be tricky on a large scale. Even wind power has its problems. Imagine replacing all the power plants in your country with nothing but big wind turbines. It's a renewable source of power, sure, but energy doesn't come from nothing. The turbines simply convert the energy in the wind into electric energy. And any energy that is turned into electricity is reduced from the energy in the wind. So if you have enough wind turbines, they will inevitably slow down the wind. What does that lead to? I have no clue, but there is bound to be some kind of meteorological consequence. Still, it's a whole lot better than coal power plants if you ask me.

But not everything about being environmentally friendly is problematic. There are plenty of ways you and any one person can help the planet. Recycle if you can, use low-energy light bulbs, re-use things instead of throwing them away, take the bike instead of driving your car, get an electric or hydrogen car instead of a gas guzzler (if you have the money for a new car) and many other things. I do all of the above, (except for buying the new car, I don't have a drivers license). It doesn't take any extra effort, so why not? I also like building things, so I'm going to build a small but simple CO2 scrubber myself. All I need is a small airpump from an aquarium, an empty 2 liter soda bottle, some water and some green, sludgy algae from the nearest creek or pond. It doesn't cost much, and it will convert CO2 into oxygen in a perfectly natural way. Algae are the most efficient organisms in the world for this kind of stuff. They convert CO2 into oxygen by the loads, way more than trees do. Only problem is that there isn't enough of it to keep up with all the coal power plants and cars in the world. Did you know that in the USA alone, there are about 600 coal plants? Each one burns about 1,4 million tons of coal and pumps out about 3,7 million tons of CO2 every single year. It would take quite a bit of algae to keep up with that.

05 March 2009

Sans golf balls

Ah, finally back home. I had my tonsils removed yesterday at the hospital. I was a bit tense before the operation, since I had never been operated for anything before. I was the first patient of the day, and the operation started at around 8 am. The surgeon was quite impressed with the size of my tonsils... I think the thing that surprised me the most was how fast I fell asleep from the anesthesia. They put a plastic tube into my hand for the IV, and gave me two injections through it. The first one made me quite dizzy, the whole room started spinning. Then the nurse told me she was going to inject something that would make me fall asleep, and about two seconds later I was out cold. Next thing I remember is waking up after the surgery, still quite dizzy. A nurse came to see me with a big wet rag and told me that she was going to clean up my face from all the blood. She literally mopped my entire face with the rag, which seemed kinda funny. Was the operation that messy? They injected me with some painkillers, and I spent the next 12 hours or so mostly sleeping. I had to stay at the hospital over night in case my throat started bleeding, but it didn't. When I was awake, it really started to hurt quite a lot, so I got some more painkillers.
I had expected it to hurt mostly at the back of my throat where the main portion of the tonsils were, but it was actually much worse further down my throat. Talking was really painful. Also, I had some pretty painful bruises and cuts around my mouth. They put this metal thing in your mouth to keep it open for the surgery, and it's apparently a bit brutal.
Gin and my mom came to visit me at the hospital and gave me a whole pile of magazines to read. I didn't really have much chance to read them, though. I spent most of the time asleep even after that. The doctor checked my throat today and I got to go home at around 11. I got some prescriptions for some painkillers, so right now I'm doing pretty good. I had read online that your voice might change a little after a surgery like this, but so far I can't really tell. My throat is all swollen and looks like a real mess, so I guess I'll find out once it heals a bit more.

Overall, trying to drink yesterday evening was quite horrible, but today it's a lot better. It still hurts a bit, especially when I swallow or try to talk, but not as much as I had expected. I've had colds worse than this, so I'm pleasantly surprised. A week more and I'll be singing opera arias again. :)