6-20-15 Hodgepodge

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Drought That Needn't Have Been?

Over at Fast Company is an article that claims that better use of rainfall and treated sewage could easily solve California's water shortage. Here is an example of the "decentralized" measures it suggests:

A dilapidated city park was remodeled with cisterns below, as were medians along broad boulevards that were themselves underwater during heavy rains. The result was a system, using ancient Roman technology, that captures 8,000 acre feet of water each year. That's about twice what the entire city consumes, solving the flooding problem and creating a source of fresh water for thousands of residents. By the way, the investment also gave the city a new park with ball fields and picnic grounds and higher adjacent property values.
It is interesting to consider how widespread such measures might have been without massive, government-encouraged wastefulness. With the article's environmentalist slant comes an unwarranted dismissal of desalination, another obvious solution, but one that government regulation will doubtless impede.

Weekend Reading

"It's a rare friendship that can last a lifetime." -- Michael Hurd, in "Friendships Can Be Seasonal" at The Delaware Wave

"If you respect yourself, you don't need to spend money other than for your own or your loved ones' sake, or maybe a charity or a cause that you value." -- Michael Hurd, in "You Can Buy a Lot of Things, but Not Self-Respect" at The Delaware Coast Press

Thank You, Linus Torvalds!

The following, from a profile on Linux creator Linus Torvalds, causes me to respect the man even more:
The truth is that Torvalds has never really been a man of the people. "It's not that you do open-source because it is somehow morally the right thing to do," he says. "It's because it allows you to do a better job. I find people who think open-source is anti-capitalism to be kind of naive and slightly stupid."

Torvalds's attitude and direct language have left him isolated. The proprietary software clan does not care for him. Nor do parts of the open-source clan, who want a leader more willing to spout religious zeal. Torvalds also has a tendency to be nasty to the followers he does have, peppering Linux forums with foul language and reprimands. "SHUT THE F--- UP!" he wrote to a Linux developer in 2013. "Fix your f---ing 'compliance tool,' because it is obviously broken. And fix your approach to kernel programming." The general reaction to this was: "There goes Linus again." [bold added]
As a proponent of the idea that the moral is the practical, I disagree that choosing to do something because it works well is somehow amoral. That said, given how commonly-accepted the moral-practical dichotomy is (and how many Free/Open Software advocates are leftists), Torvald's attitude is quite understandable. Fewer F-bombs would be nice, too, but his focus of what's important and his refusal to compromise on it really impress me. By the way, I just realized that I have been using Linux as my main operating system for nearly two decades. Thanks again, Mr. Torvalds!

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

Back in the 80s I ran across a proposal to use a bio-sewage system using water hyacinths. Apparently San Diego ran (or runs) a 1 million gallon per day system and Disney World/EPCOT runs one about 1/3 that size. The effluvia is clean enough to drink.

I don't know what the top scale would be for this approach to sewage treatment and perhaps the capital, area required, or time necessary are prohibitive in regard to the volume that urban areas generate. But I would be unsurprised to find that some regulation or lobbying group has made the widespread use politically infeasible.

Speaking of regulation, there are some states where it is illegal to use rain barrels; that you are stealing water from senior water rights' holders by not allowing it to run off or sink into the aquifer. Now personally, I think that if something lands on your property, it's yours to use, barring a prior property claim. And if the water rights' people want to argue that that water is theirs prior to ending up in runoff or the aquifer, then shouldn't I be able to sue them for flood damage caused by 'their' rain?

Last point about the absurdity and inhibiting effects of regulation and associated rent-seeking. One of my customers had a mountain cabin on property deeded from their great-grandparents. A stream runs through it; that is, they own the property on both sides of the creek. He put a small generator in where there was sufficient 'fall' to make it worthwhile.

Idaho Power found out about it and took him to court to have it removed. Not because he was interfering with any project they had or were about to undertake and not because there is some mystical electricity reservoir that belongs to Idaho Power and that he was somehow depleting. Nope. Idaho Power has an exclusive FRANCHISE to generate electricity using hydro-electric technology in this state. He wasn't selling it to anyone, but I guess this is I Da Ho's* version of Wickard v Filburn. You know, the institutionalized practice of straining gnats and swallowing camels.

*a reference to the political prostitution that goes on in the incestuous dance between lobbyists, utilities, and whorish politicians.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...


Quite an interesting mouthful, that. My hopes for an end to Cali's man-made drought are slim-to-none for the short term.