Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New York's water supply

The water comes from a system of 19 reservoirs and three lakes in upstate New York -- some flowing to the city from as far as 125 miles away. Most of the supply is protected and filtered by the natural processes of upstate ecosystems. It dissolves natural minerals while traveling over land or through the ground. One advantage of the system is that 95% of the total water supply is supplied by gravity.

It is, after all, one of the nation's healthiest water supplies -- so fresh that in 2007 the Environmental Protection Agency said it did not need filtration. New York pizza and bagel makers have long credited local water as a special baking ingredient. It goes down soft, without hints of tart-tasting minerals or chlorine like other public water systems.

  • The Croton system, the oldest and smallest, sits in Westchester and Putnam Counties.
  • The Catskill system, built decades later, is significantly larger than the Croton. In the early years of the 20th century, the city and state designated thousands of acres of land in the eastern Catskill Mountains to build two reservoirs that more than doubled the city's capacity.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, the city expanded its water system again, tapping the east and west branches of the Delaware River, as well as other tributaries of the Delaware and Hudson rivers to create the newest and largest of its three systems, the Delaware system, which provides around half of the city's water supply.[2]

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tim Horton's and their drive-thrus

Around the Kingston news lately (from CB):

Drive-thrus are valuable to the elderly, the immobile, parents with small children and, believe it or not, are actually better for the environment than cars in parking lots — or so says TDL, the parent company of Tim Horton's.

Early last month, Polowin presented the RWDI report to Kingston council. Its conclusion — that drive-thrus create fewer emissions than parking lots — is based on a finding that when parkers turn off their cars, the catalytic converter cools and is less efficient at reducing emissions. And so, when the customer restarts the car, a larger, initial spurt of emissions is released. There are a lot of variables to consider when comparing the emissions generated by a parking lot and a drive-thru. While drive-thrus are generally thought of as bad for the environment because people tend to idle their cars, Michael Lepage, a principal with RWDI, says, "the one thing people have missed is how much time people spend idling in the parking lot."


Well, that is a load of shit. Ok, let's narrow down the factors.

Ambient temperature.
Vehicle temperature.
Type of vehicle.
All have to do with the catalytic converter.

Let's just keep the vehicle type constant over the average.

What about idle times from start? I.e. the pollution effects controlled by the catalytic converter.

So, why is the catalytic converter so important, and why does it need to get to a certain temperature to work?

Ok, here's the chemical equation for what the converter does:

  1. Reduction of nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and oxygen: 2NOxxO2 + N2
  2. Oxidation of carbon monoxide to carbon dioxide: 2CO + O2 → 2CO2
  3. Oxidation of unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) to carbon dioxide and water: CxH2x+2 + [(3x+1)/2]O2xCO2 + (x+1)H2O
Basically, it turns nitrogen oxide into carbon dioxide and water, reducing nitrogen oxide emissions by as much as 70%! Why is nitrogen oxide bad? NO (and NxOx) destroys the ozone layer, reacts with organic chemicals and leads to biological mutations, acid rain, and respiratory issues.

Ok, but there is a catch with the catalytic converters; they need to be warm to work. Most estimates I've found seem to be around the 400-600 degrees Fahrenheit. The catalytic convert warms up because it is close to the running engine.

Now, ambient temperatures.

We see two things from this paper. One, that ambient temperature does effect catalytic warm-up times, and two, that these warm up times are linear. Times to complete warm up seem to be in between 12 to 30 minutes. Wow.. 30 minutes? Ok.. from this we're starting to learn that catalytic converters are meant to reduce emissions for longer, more often than not highway related, drives.

Somehow I don't see the 5 minutes taken to go inside a Tim Horton's long enough to totally cool down your catalytic converter. Moreover, I doubt many catalytic converters would be warmed up when entering the drive-thru.

National Resources Canada suggests the 10-seconds rule: if you are idling for more than 10 seconds, it is more efficient to turn your engine off. I found this rule employed quite often in Tokyo when I was there, with drivers typically turning their vehicles off at stop lights.


Ok, after that tangent on catalytic converters, back to the original article. So, I was talking to Jeremy about this, and he mentioned, as the article did, that that an additional, more prominent reason for this drive thru ban would be that people just don't want the traffic in their back yard.

From another article on the Tim Horton's subject from The Whig Standard:

"Specifically, the company takes exception to the 50-metre setbacks for drive-thrus from nearby residential properties.

Polowin said those regulations are usually based on issues of noise, most often emanating from the drive-thru speaker box. He said the company is working on making that technology better.

Another issue is how drive-thrus might interfere with pedestrians, and particularly in downtown heritage areas of cities.

Polowin said the City of Ottawa recently adopted his wording on their official plan that sets down more precise guidelines for building esthetics in the downtown core but could still allow for a drive-thru to be built...

Schmolka said the official plan is mainly concerned with traffic flow, pedestrian safety and proximity to residences and that staff may ask for extra studies to deal with concerns."


One final point on that TDL (Tim Horton's) study.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Glover (a Kingston city councilor) disputed those findings:

In support of their case, they have prepared a report suggesting that drive-throughs are more environmentally friendly than parking lots. Unfortunately, at their presentation to the Planning Committee last Thursday, they said it was based on a sample of 52 cars, which does not seem to me to be a sufficiently large sample to carry much weight. By contrast, the city’s by-law against idling vehicles was based on the science available from Environment Canada. The presentation also seemed to incorporate a number of assumptions that may not be valid.

Basically, Tim Horton's feels the need to put money toward changing the public perception behind idling because they make so much money from their drive-thrus. I'm not sure how much, but if McDonald's is making 65% of its cash from drive-thrus, I would bet that Tim's is over 80%.

As discussed in an older National Post article,

A ban on new drive-thrus was debated in the city of North Vancouver but was rejected in March by city councillors. Coun. Sam Schechter said he proposed the ban as one step towards orienting his city towards more sustainable design.

"It was simply part of better urban design for building cities that are less car reliant," Mr. Schechter said. "You're orienting your community away from the automobile and towards pedestrian and more sustainable transportation."

Michael Bryant/Darcy Allan Sheppard video

Not sure if this has been out for a while, but I just saw this.

New York City, until the 3rd.

Jer, Milan and I drove down to New York City yesterday... Not a bad drive at 8.5 hour drive including two stops.

Since we've last visited him, Milo got a new place down here. View from the balcony on 13th, between A and 1st:

Woke up, went for a quick bike ride, and now sitting down to do a bit of work, along with a late lunch... Yes, I brought turkey leftovers here. I've already been scolded by Milo.

Gonna try to do some work for a bit; I'm feeling quite at home!

New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record.

Tomorrow is going to be the big walking day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Song of the day: The Smashing Pumpkins - Geek U.S.A.

Top 3 Smashing. Best drummer of the 90s hands down.

Lover lover let's pretend
We're born as innocents
Cast into the world
With apple eyes

To wish wish dangerous
My dear delirious
To try and leave
The rest of us behind

Shot full of diamonds
And a million years
The disappointed disappear
Like they were never here

Kiss kiss all of this
The hiss that we had missed
And understand what can't be understood

Sear those thoughts of me
Alone and unhappy
I never liked me anyway

If by chance
Or circumstance
We should fail
Don't be so sad

Shot full of diamonds
And a million years
The disappointed disappear
Like they were never here

In a dream
We are connected
Siamese twins
At the wrist

And then I knew we'd been forsaken
Expelled from paradise
I can't believe them
When they say that it's alright

Words can't define what I feel inside
Who needs them?
Caught with this virus of my mind
I give in to my disease, of my needs
To my disease, of my needs

She really loves to break
Her dad says its OK
She really loves to break
And give it all away

Her ma says she's afraid
What more can she fake
She really needs to break
And give herself away

She gave it all away
She gave it all away
She gave it all away
We really love the USA


Merry Christmas, all. Happy Holidays. Time to think about nothing else but family and love.

For Poles, Christmas Eve is a night of magic when animals are said to talk and people have the power to predict the future. It’s a time for families to gather and reconcile any differences, and to remember loved ones who have gone before them. (via here)

Wigilia, which literally means "vigil," or waiting for the birth of Baby Jesus, is considered more important than Christmas Day itself.

Dinner. Tilapia, Fried Sol, Grouper, Herring in oil, Herring soaked twice and fried in oil, cold cod, and steel head trout. Cabbage, pierogi with cheese, pierogi with mushroom and sauerkraut, carrots and peas, potatoes, salad, plum soup, with bread and butter to start. 15. Odd numbers.

But first, Opłatek.

To share, to forgive, to hope, to give. Your 15 seconds. To say what you wanted to say. This is one of those times.

The camera was dropped for a bit here.

Dinner now..

After dinner = presents!

What a great, great picture.

Mom and Donna.

More candles.

Anna made Christmas smores.

Spurred a 20 minute conversation on skiing.

Spurred a 20 minute conversation on eggs, if you know what I mean ;)

My own.

As of December 4th 2009, Mom is a vegetarian.

The tradition of wearing whatever you get right away.

Donna took these...

Pictionary downstairs. (road+block). Donna was the star tonight.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Teachers be teaching

As the year draws to a close and we begin to formulate our priorities in terms of what to tackle, I highly recommend re-reading Steven Brill's fantastic piece of journalism about New York City's ongoing attempt to rid its classrooms of ineffective, under-performing teachers.

I'm not sure why I've always been fascinated with the teaching profession (I know, there should be more examples, but stick with me). Maybe it's cuz I kinda want to be one. I mean, we're all teachers, in a sort of way, and I think I am/would be pretty bad at it, but (intermixing meanings here) the hours are great, the rewards are stupendous, and the feeling of transferring knowledge to someone else is up there with riding a bike at night through the city. It's something I really want to practice every day. It's an instant high, it's repeatable/reproducible, and perhaps best of all, it's self-sustained within a good conversation/communication. Having, learning a different perspective, gaining knowledge about something else not by trying it, but through explanation and/or observation is really what it's all about. ugh... such a great feeling. And then to expand on it!.. to try it!...

Yeah, I think that's what it is. Two steps: learn and experience. Awesome. (As an aside, I was thinking if those could be, ever would be better interchanged... off the top of my head, I can only think of it happening at a great concert, a great relationship, or a great bike ride. Really I guess, if I admitted to myself, with any experience that blows you away before you get a chance to learn about it... implicit vs. explicit learning?.. hmm.. kinda. And yeah, that's tied in a with a future prepared post ;)

Stereotyping People by Their Favorite Author

Ever look at a bookshelf to figure someone out?

Margaret Atwood
Women whose favorite color is hunter green.
Joseph Conrad
People who drink old fashioneds.
Aldous Huxley
People who are bigger conspiracy theorists than Orwell fans.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
People who get ARM mortgages.
Joseph Heller
People who love buying drinks for their friends. See also, people who cringe when they see their bar tab.
C.S. Lewis
Youth group leaders who picked their nose in the 4th grade.
Richard Dawkins
People who have their significant other grab them under the table in order to shut them up whenever someone else at a dinner says something absolutely ridiculous and wrong.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
People who can start a fire.
Kurt Vonnegut
People who played Creep by Radiohead while having sex or smoking pot.

Complete list here. Via

Song of the Day: R.E.M. - Strange Currencies

Pretty raw, both musically and lyrically (except maybe the bridge, which, perhaps being necessary, kinda sucks). Re-listened to (better version of Everybody Hurts, someone said?) after a great evening and morning at the Beaconsfield house.


I don't know why you're mean to me
When I call on the telephone
And I don't know what you mean to me
But I want to turn you on, turn you up, figure you out, I want to take you on

These words, "You will be mine"
These words, "You will be mine" all the time

The fool might be my middle name
But I'd be foolish not to say
I'm going to make whatever it takes,
Ring you up, call you down, sign your name, secret love,
Make it rhyme, take you in, and make you mine

These words, "You will be mine"
These words, "You will be mine" all the time, oh
I tripped and fell. Did I fall?
What I want to feel, I want to feel it now

You know with love come strange currencies
And here is my appeal:

I need a chance, a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance,
A word, a signal, a nod, a little breath
Just to fool myself, to catch myself, to make it real, real

These words, "You will be mine"
These words, "You will be mine" all the time, oh

These words, "You will be mine"
These words, they haunt me, hunt me down, catch in my throat, make me pray,
Say, love's confined, oh


Previous R.E.M. posts:

I can't listen to R.E.M. after Monster, but pre-'96 they were on and we grew together. Here's a torrent of their albums. Don't know how to download torrents? - check here.

Kensington Market Festival of Lights

Really, really fantastic.

The fall is over! The nights are colder, but getting shorter. Which, starts getting me thinking about perspective.. how experience changes your perspective, and vice versa. But anyway, that's still a few days away type post. For now, enjoy these pics, and start planning for next year.