{April 30, 2010}   degrowth, day 1

The de-growth conference got off to a good start last night. There were more people than I expected – I think the numbers were around 200 or 250 for the film screenings. :) Not bad for something that doesn’t seem to have been advertised very much.

oh, most of you are probably wondering what I’m talking about already. :) It’s a sustainability conference, about finding alternatives to infinite economic growth – after all, we live on a finite planet, so we can’t just keep growing forever. It’d be nice to find a balance instead of rushing towards some sort of catastrophic collapse.

The first film, What’s the Economy for, Anyway? was actually a bit boring – it’s very US-centric, although in some of the numbers I noticed canada is still far behind europe. It gave a decent overview of the problems with how the economy works these days – and some american history that I need to learn more about – but was pretty light on details.

After that there was a short talk, and then a second film: The Jevons Paradox. It’s only 17 minutes, but it was fairly good. There was another talk afterwards; the two talks and the film are all mixed up in my memory now so I won’t try to sort out which points were made when. Basically, we’re not any happier than we used to be. we’ve got all this technology, but we’re losing the things that actually make life enjoyable – nature, time with our loved ones, exercise, etc. If we’re not getting any happier, then what’s the point? We’re addicted to growth – more stuff, bigger GDP, more efficiency, more work – and it’s making us, as a society, rather miserable. It’s crazy.

The Jevons Paradox states that more efficiency actually leads to more usage – if we find more efficient energy sources, we will use *more* energy, not less. So efficiency is actually just sending us down the wrong path even faster. We need to offset this in some way to be sustainable – either by intentionally being inefficient (an idea that really rubs me the wrong way, but I’ll look into it more before passing judgement) or by working less (a great idea – more time for hacking on KDE! ;).

One of the interesting things mentioned was that the recent recession actually led to better health in america. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Apparently many people took reductions in pay and working hours in order to avoid layoffs, and this gave them more time to spend with their families, reducing stress, giving them more time to eat and exercise properly too. People drove cars less, so there were less accidents. Factories having to shut down reduced air pollution, so there was less asthma.

A big focus of the evening seemed to be that Europe is behaving a lot more sanely than North America. Over there, 5-8 weeks of vacation is normal. In canada we only get two weeks, and in the states there’s no guarantee you’ll get any! They seem to often work less hours in europe, too. I’m quite tempted to move there myself (I’d also get to see KDE people more often ;). Still, it’d be nicer to see vancouver improve than to just run away.

Oh, and some little country whose name I forget sounded even more sane than Europe. Their king declared that more important than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was Gross Domestic Happiness. He was taken seriously, and the country had a bunch of studies done on happiness, and actually based decisions on what would make the country happier – one result being that they declined to join the WTO.
Something that was jokingly mentioned during the talks was that we should have a contest between Seattle and Vancouver, to see who could be the happiest city. :) I like that idea.

After the films and talks there was beer and discussion groups (yes, in that order). They were pretty interesting, and it was great to meet people and see so many people discussing things like happiness and work and stuff… one tricky thing is the cultural barriers to working less – in vancouver there’s a lot of social pressure to work at *least* 40 hours a week. How do we change something like that?

Well, hopefully by the end of the conference I’ll have some answers – I’m sure I’ll have a lot more questions too. :)
If you’re in vancouver and didn’t know about it, you can still join in – just go to the degrowth website and register (it’s a tiny form, takes 30 seconds) and/or show up at W2 Storyeum this evening. :)
Oh, and there’s a pirate ship in the basement. a fucking pirate ship. and a train. :D

There’s no internet in there, though, so I’ll be mostly offline for the weekend – augh, I should have been out the door half an hour ago :P

{April 13, 2010}   mercury

I’m avoiding homework, so I went and researched mercury. A few weeks ago my friend was telling me that eating fish isn’t really bad for you because your body gets rid of the mercury after a while, and I’ve wanted to check if he was right.

it *does* accumulate in the body:
“The process for stiffening the felt used in making hats involved mercury, which forms organic species such as methylmercury, which is lipid soluble, and tends to accumulate in the brain resulting in mercury poisoning.”

Also, fish accumulate it in their organs and muscles.

but “A 2006 review of the risks and benefits of fish consumption found that for adults the benefits of one to two servings of fish per week outweigh the risks … (except for a few species)”
that’s probably because they’ve got lots of omega-3 fats, which most people don’t get enough of (although flax is a better source, and they’re starting to add them to all sorts of foods – seems it’s the latest health fad).
6oz of tuna a week is the recommended maximum for women and children.

“Species with characteristically low levels of mercury include shrimp, tilapia, salmon, pollock, and catfish ” <– yay salmon. it’s tuna that’s nasty, and tends to accumulate all sorts of other junk too. swordfish and a few other unusual things are even worse than tuna.

I’m wondering how fast our bodies can eliminate mercury, though… I haven’t found the half-life, and I’m tired of looking for it, but I suppose the 6-oz limit is based on it. so one meal a week should be safe. (although if/when I start trying to get pregnant I won’t eat *any*, as fetuses are far more sensitive to such things).

of course, there’s also the overfishing problem, and the question of whether one should eat the poor fishies when we have vegetable sources of all the nutrients we need… :) but from a purely selfish point of view, one fish meal a week is ok.

{April 7, 2010}   git branch surgery

Arno just wrote about his solution to forgetting what git branch you’re on. I suffer from the same problem – I’d forget me own head if it wasn’t screwed on – but I came up with a different solution. :)

I’m been using git-svn more and more, to the point where I actually won’t write code without it if I expect the patch to take more than a few hours. I’ve accumulated several of these git-svn repos now (often within svn) and I’ve been getting more comfortable working with git, so I’ve started performing minor branch surgery.

say you were on branch foo yesterday, hacking away at a cool feature. Today, you start thinking about feature bar, and hack a bit on that. A few commits later, you remember where you’re committing to, and realise this feature doesn’t belong in that branch. However, it does *depend* on feature foo, or at least you know you’ll be dcommitting foo before bar, so you at least have things in the right order.

Now, first you create a branch to keep bar safe.
git checkout -b bar
now that that’s safe… well, I’m sure there’s a better way to do this, but the *easy* way is to first get rid of foo:
git branch -d foo
then look up the hash of the last commit that actually should belong to foo (copy&paste is your friend):
git log
run over to that commit:
git checkout <hash>
and recreate the branch there:
git checkout -b foo

ta-daa! now branch foo has gone back in time to where it should have ended, and branch bar builds on foo with your latest commits. :) and if you’d forgotten to create bar first, git would have refused to delete foo, so you don’t have to worry much about losing anything to a typo (so long as that typo is not -D. stay away from the dragons ;)

oh, and do remember to go back to branch bar before you continue hacking. :)

{April 6, 2010}   progress!

huzzah! :)
it’s been an extra-long weekend for me – no school friday or monday, and I don’t have any tuesday classes. :) so I’ve been hacking and doing homework and studying like mad. there’s still a lot of school crap to do, but I’ve also found time for KDE, yay! :)

and now, I *finally* have something I can take a screenshot of.

yes, it’s not much… but it’s mine. :) it’s the very very beginning of an activity manager. it doesn’t actualy have any *activities* as such, but the day isn’t over yet. ;)

back to hacking now.

{April 3, 2010}   blog quotas

so I went and counted, and I seem to be behind on my blog quota. iirc I have to have written 22 posts this semester, and I’ve only got 18.

It’s funny, in some ways getting marks is a motivator for blogging – I have an excuse to post stuff when I’m not *quite* sure planetkde will find it interesting. At the same time, though, it’s demotivating – it turns writing into a job, a chore, *homework*. ugh.

funny how that can work. I’m always worried that the same thing could happen when I get a foss job – will I lose interest in the code when I’m being paid to write it? my gsoc projects are usually fun, but at the same time I tend to be close to burning out at the end, and slightly sick of the code.

Of course, part of the reason I haven’t hit my blog quota is that I’ve switched back to using my lj. I have lots of angsty things to write that shouldn’t be public. I can write pages and pages and pages about how unfair life is, but I won’t get marks for it because I’m not comfortable sharing that drivel with my teacher. And since I’m taking four bloody courses, and some are actually *challenging* for once, I don’t have much else to write about – part of the angst is from having no damn time to write code! :P

Hopefully that’ll change over easter, though; four whole days to stay home, hide away from the world, and Get Things Done. sadly most of those things are *still* homework, but I will have time for code (I *need* time for code). so I should have some fun shiny things to blog about by the end (maybe even wth screenshots). :)

in the meantime… I will inflict cooking posts on the planet again. muahahaha!
…assuming I can actually remember what delicious things I meant to blog. crud. I really need to start writing about good meals right away, before I forget how I did it…

et cetera