Archive for the ‘Thoughts and Observations’ Category

Thoughts on Lal 2008, “Carbon Sequestration.”

Monday, August 1st, 2016

From Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B

Carbon sequestration is defined as the transfer of carbon from the atmospheric carbon pool to other carbon pools. Including the atmospheric pool, there are five carbon pools, with the largest being the oceanic pool at an estimated 38,000 Pg C. The pedologic pool is the third largest at 2500 Pg and further subdivides into the soil organic carbon (SOC) and soil inorganic carbon (SIC) pools.

There are abiotic techniques for carbon sequestration comprised of engineering methods and chemical processes. Many of them consist of injecting carbon into non-atmospheric pools. There are also biotic techniques that rely on organisms, primarily plants and microbiota, for removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Theoretically, abiotic techniques can store more carbon, but there are questions about the safety and reliability of those techniques. The risk of carbon leakage and the effects of leakage on ecosystems is still uncertain. Additionally, the expensive cost of geo-engineering is a limitation. By comparison, biotic techniques are more cost-effective and less risky, while providing accompanying benefits such as improved soil and water quality and ecosystem preservation absent from abiotic methods. Biotic approaches do have a smaller cumulative carbon sink capacity than abiotic approaches.

Biotic techniques can be subdivided into oceanic sequestration and terrestrial sequestration methods. In terms of terrestrial methods, afforestation in the U.S alone can sink up to 117 Tg C per year in the U.S alone (IPCC 1999). The cost of afforestation is the drain on water resources, which can make the practice prohibitive in drought-stricken regions, like California. The family of techniques focusing on SOC and SIC sequestration can also cumulatively sink a significant amount of carbon. Land use conversion and restoration of degraded soils can increase overall microbiota concentrations and diversity in soils. Restoration of degraded soils and habitats in the tropics can potentially sequester an additional 1.1 Pg C per year (Grainger 1995). What constitutes “degraded lands … with potential for afforestation and soil quality enhancement” is something I am not clear on, as I have not read the Grainger paper. Moving away from mono to multi-cultures for agricultural crops can mitigate SOC losses and improve the ability of agricultural-use land to sequester carbon.

A lingering question — how many acres could be converted from agricultural usages and how much soil could be restored if food waste were more controlled throughout the world?

Sincere Muscular Bald Dudes

Friday, April 17th, 2015

…who are in touch with their emotions and are kind and earnest are important in keeping civilization from utter collapse. This is what Furious 7  taught me.

Buy a Fat Tire for the kind and genuine muscular bald dudes in your life the next time you get a chance.

Avatar: The Last Airbender — Belated Thoughts in 2015

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

In 2005, I watched a couple of episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and it couldn’t keep my interest.

A decade later, I liked the show enough to breeze through it in a week.
The humor and chibi-inspired shenanigans didn’t quite cut it for me, but I think this is a case for me where the cast dynamics and some incredible character arcs allowed me to forgive things that typically would induce facepalms, such as idealism, clear-cut morality, and preachy writing. (It amused me to no end by the way after I learned that Ann of Arrested Development was the voice actress for Katara.)

Zuko’s character arc is simply incredible. His decision to depart from his father was one of the finest payoffs I’ve felt from any show, up there with Stringer Bell’s demise in the third season of The Wire, Elizabeth telling Phillip to come home in the first season of The Americans, Jasper’s badassery in this most recent season of The 100. (I realize these names probably mean nothing to you, by the way.) Iroh was also a sweet supporting character.

The pacing in this show was also masterful. It helped that there were a lot of multi-part episodes, and I am wondering how they were able to schedule those because there were quite a few of them. I think many shows would benefit from having longer mid-season and season finale climaxes. The last episode did a wonderful job of tying together lose end and even bringing back bit episode characters.

I do have a major problem with how this show handled death, genocide, and collateral damage, and I’m guessing that a lot of that was just the writers trying to figure out how to get the show to meet a Y7 rating. But come on man, all the protagonists on the show are basically made to have completely clean hands, but even if they did not kill directly, you know that some of the usages of the bending had to have resulted in deaths for the cannon fodder. Throwing people off cliffs, exploding entire vehicles/ships with people still inside — it made it seem like the characters were in a state of cognitive dissonance sometimes.

When Aang was going, “Wah, I don’t kill people. Don’t want to start now with Fire Lord Ozai!” I wanted another character to say something like, “Dude — it’s ok. Remember, when we dropped that twenty ton boulder on the group of Fire Nation grunts without bending abilities or plot armor last week and you were okay with that?”

Jet fucking died. Acknowledge it!

I also laughed when Hakota (father of Katara and Sokaa) told his children that they should flee and not worry about abandoning their Bay of Pigs invasion force because the Fire Nation would simply take them prisoners and that they would survive. Given the track record of the Fire Nation, how were they that confident that their captors would abide by the Geneva Conventions?

I think Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko (the showrunners) were also terrible at handling romantic relationships. They say they were setting up Katara and Aang the whole time, but the way they wrote it, it felt like Aang would inconsistently jolt out of the friend zone in spurts in between long stretches of receiving little romantic attention from Katara. Especially in the last few episodes, it felt like the showrunners were completely telegraphing Katara as Zuko’s eventual righthand woman at the throne. Feels like all around that would have made more sense. Symbolically unifying the nations, allowing Aang to keep on going on his own adventures or bang Toph (muscular blind girls need lovin too, man).

The failure of DiMartino and Konietzko to actualize Zutara, along with the failure of nation states to pass comprehensive climate and finance regulation will go down as one of the great lost opportunities of the 21st century. Hate to be a shipper, but man oh man, the setup was there for the taking! (On the note of Katara, I was disappointed that the focus on Zuko seemed to come at the cost of spotlight and action for her. She definitely deserved more than being a relief pitcher for Zuko during the climax.)

Finally, I found that the tendency to give all adult characters Asian accents while younger characters sounded more “white” to be puzzling.


Zuko just completely stole the third season, and by extension, the rest of the show. His development made the show a worthwhile time investment for me. Also, I found his lines to be the funniest. Him and Mai exchange their “I don’t hate you’s” was one of the few un-lame bits of humor in the show.

Appa is also one of the cutest fucking things ever conceived. The episode featuring the baby air bison almost killed me with its cuteness.

Song of the Sea Film Review

Saturday, December 13th, 2014


Song of the Sea is the cutest movie I have seen in a long time. The cute seal designs alone are worth the price of admission and runtime.

This is a gorgeously animated film, both in terms of visual style and production values. The art had this textured feel that reminded me of the art design of Japanese animation studio Gonzo’s series from 2004, Gankutsuou.

The rounded, abstracted, shimmering, and high-contrast art style suited the plot’s whimsical and ethereal nature. Magic realism is not the right word to use, but it is the word that comes to mind at the moment when I think about the story. The revelation of the existence of fairies, mythical creatures, and legendary beings are not treated with much skepticism or surprise. The world is assumed to be filled with mystery beyond human understanding, mystery to be accepted, respected, and revered by us humble humans. It is a kind of story that I cannot imagine being told in anything other than a 2d animation medium. Sure, one could attempt with CGI, but with the reduced abstraction that three dimension polygons bring, I feel that some of the sense of mystery, unknowableness, and ethereality would be lost. Anyway, that is my pseudotheory — that 2d animation more suitable for fantastic stories because us having to engage our imagination more to fill in data reduces our threshold for suspension of disbelief. What may seem otherworldly and fantastic in a 2d rendering could seem creepy, ridiculous, and alien in live action or CGI.

A gateway to the unknowable mysteries of life and the universe, a celebration of the joie de vivre that merits the sadness we experience. This is what an all-ages film should be.

Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) Film Review

Saturday, December 13th, 2014



‘Triumph’ and ‘understatedness.’ They are two unlikely verbal bedfellows. It is sensibly rare and uncanny that a film evokes both (I am less familiar with other mediums, so if this is a common thing elsewhere, do let me know.), so when one does, it is a fine piece by my books.

In the closing shot of Deux Jours, Une Nuit, directed by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) walks away from the camera on a nondescript, if well maintained road. It is an unceremonious final shot, especially when compared with that of Tangerines, which I saw last week. No swelling music, soaring camera on a jib or helicopter. The last expression we see from Sandra is a delicate smile. It is certainly not a “happily ever after” ending — and Marion Cotillard does not play it as such. Her smile is not so wide as to show any teeth. She looks downward, figure looking encumbered by the bag she is carrying at her side. Nonetheless, it is made triumphant in comparison to the struggle and glumness displayed through the preceding runtime. Marion Cotillard’s face gives the film an uplifting ending without testing believability. Cinema, at its best — some finality for a particular chapter; life continues.

As suggested above, the film follows a character named Sandra who has been on leave from a job at a solar panel foundry because of depression. Her specific job is never mentioned, but with the talk of welding and fabrication, it is implied that she has a blue collar manufacturing job susceptible to economic and managerial pressure. That her specific position is never mentioned further sets her up as a representation of the modern, replaceable worker, a cheap cog in a machine.

At the start of the film, Sandra is notified by a friendly coworker, Juliette, that the employees at her company, Solwal, were forced to choose between allowing her to come back to the company or getting €1000 bonuses, That they voted for the bonuses, in part because of intimidation and prodding from the foreman, Jean-Marc. Sandra obviously reacts grimly to this news. She is still afflicted by symptoms of depression and does not appear to be ready to go back to work, but her family needs her salary and she has told her colleagues that she is ready to return. Juliette and Sandra’s husband, Manu, convinces Sandra to meet with the Solwal CEO, who decides to allow another vote because of the foreman’s tampering. Through the rest of the film, Sandra tracks down her colleagues over the course of a weekend to lobby them to vote to keep her in the coming Monday vote.

The scripting of this film was impeccable, not insulting to the cognitive faculties of its characters or the audience. It is biased toward Sandra’s cause, but is not a polemic on the evil and selfishness of all humans. Counterarguments are not shunned — Sandra frequently falters in her unconfident pitching and pleading, and members of the pro-bonus camp mostly justify their positions with simple, reasonable, and relatable defenses that are painful to argue against. (As is the case with reality though, some people are not reasonable though and some justifications sound better than others.) The writing anticipates concerns the audience may come up with by having characters cover a few angles in articulating their reluctance and unwillingness to vote to keep Sandra. Demonstrating a confluence of good direction, writing, and acting, many of the Solwal colleagues manage to exude contradiction, hypocrisy, and multifacetedness despite only getting minutes of screen time. There are not many outright caricatures.

Rather than lamenting human self-interest, the film is more an indictment against managers, executives, people in power, who force contrived and artificial decisions onto their constituents, employees, serfs. The CEO and foreman characters are the closest the film gets to caricatures and straw men. More than once, Sandra is accused of being an instigator and divider, but with his passive absence and the repeated highlighting of the false dichotomy set up by the vote, the filmmakers implicate the CEO as the wrongdoer. The notion of false dichotomies perpetuated by those in power reminded me all too much about the fractious political debates being waged in the United States and Europe.

The realistic, informed manner in which depression was portrayed was another standout aspect of this film. Sandra’s condition was consistently inconsistent throughout the film, swinging between anxious sobbing and despondent catatonia. I feel that many works of cinema do not acknowledge the inconsistent and lingering nature of mental illness. For example, in Silver Linings Playbook, whose calling card was all about its portrayal of mental illness, I recall the characters played by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence (forgot their characters’ names) ostensibly being symptom free past a certain point in the film. They behaved steadily and regularly through their scenes, permanently improving after clearing checkpoints in their character development with little in the way of lapses or erraticness. This is not the case in Deux Jours, Une Nuit, where Sandra was prone to lapses and impulses, her momentum easily deflated by awry remarks from her colleagues. Capably transitioning from stupor to euphoria to anxiety and then back again in single scenes, Cotillard does some admirable physical acting with remarkable postural and facial control. (See Foxcatcher for more recent examples of dedicated and attentive physical acting.)

In regards to technical aspects of the production, I do not have much to say. I was glued to the plot of the film and did not pay too much attention to the editing or cinematography, which indicates competency. I do not remember anything in particular about the editing — Walter Murch and Edward Dmytryk would be proud. In terms of cinematography, the approach was minimal and workmanlike. Natural lighting, handheld photography. No spectacular compositions or how-the-heck-did-they-do-that?! tracking shots. Unlike the case for Tangerines (which again, I still enjoyed — just truthfully a less polished film), I can recall nothing odd and distracting from the camera movement. I do remember that the camera movement moving between character’s faces to capture their expressions as they reacted to dialog was sublimely timed, particularly for the in-car sequences.

“We put up a good fight,” Sandra says in the last shot. Indeed, the film mounts an effective, but not overbearing indictment against those who force false dichotomies onto their toilers and dependents. Deux Jours, Une Nuit is a work of heartfelt and respecting empathy. Up there with Nightcrawler and Force Majeure as one of my favorite films of the year.