A couple of months ago, I attended a symposium at the University of Michigan that offered a lot of food for thought about the global energy future. There are a lot of people that are working on the problem of supplying the world's energy needs for the next century, and beyond. But the energy supply is only a problem in as much as there is likely to be growing demand for many decades to come. In terms of energy supply, the problem is getting the energy to the people that want it, but there will be no shortage of energy sources for centuries to come, even if we have no further technological advances. We have enough resources to power the growth and development of human civilization for as long as it is likely to exist using existing technology. But we have to make choices about what we want our power supply to look like, and inherent in that choice is a decision about what we want our planet to be like. The decision that we have to make has everything to do with the emission of carbon gases. Now I know that I'm not going to convince any global warming skeptics about anything. The science of the greenhouse effect is there, and the empirical evidence of a precipitous rise in average global temperatures over the last half century that is altogether unheard of in, in terms of magnitude and speed, in at least the last million years is clear. I will say no more about this issue in this post, except to direct interested parties to the recently released United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report of 2007: http://www.ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf
The IPCC report is very conservative as far as main stream climate science goes. So if you are not convinced by the UN estimates, you must either have a pretty strong counter argument, or you aren't going to be convinced by chunk of glacial ice hitting you in the head.
In terms of looking at the world's energy future, and the decisions that we have to make as a global society, I thought that Nate Lewis' presentation at the symposium presented a pretty good picture of the reality that we are facing. If we wish to create a world that is able to meet the global energy demand without emitting enough carbon gases to raise the atmospheric CO2 concentrations above 350 ppm, and I hope that we are, we have to look at the entirety of the problem. We have to look at the total world demand for energy, and look for solutions, maybe a whole group of solutions, that can address the entire problem. I suggest that anyone that has any interest in the topic of the energy supply to check out Nate Lewis' presentations. The first link is to a video of his presentation last February at the University of Michigan. The second is a presentation that he gave at Cal Tech a couple of years ago. It's basically the same presentation, though the Cal Tech version is longer, and the Cal Tech version offers more information about Lewis's own research into photovoltaic energy production:
Let me point out that any of the possible solutions to creating a sustainable energy economy include a heavy emphasis on energy conservation. This is a problem that can be solved by technology, but technology alone is not enough without the will.
New year's eve was not so good this time around. The night started off nice enough. It had been raining pretty steadily all day, so I donned my rain gear when I left my apartment. Jen and I met early in the evening at the state theater to see "Copying Beethoven," a movie that I'd been hoping to see for several months. The movie wasn't bad, but it didn't quite live up to expectations. After the movie, we headed to the Arbor Brewing Company for a light meal and a few beers. By the time we left ABC, at a little after nine, the rain had completely subsided. We headed to the new "Metro Cafe," where my sister was to be performing on the piano. My intention had been to only stay for a little while, and to head to a party several miles out of town at around ten. But an hour and a half, and a couple of big glasses of scotch later, and I was still sitting at the bar with Jen, Katey, Anthony and others. Jen remarked on how drunk I looked, but I didn't feel too intoxicated. I jumped on my bike a little after eleven, expecting my cell phone to ring at any moment with Dom or Mike wondering where I was. I stopped at the Main St. party store to pick up some beer, before riding out on Liberty St. towards the country. I didn't put my rain gear on, as the weather appeared to be clearing up. The moon was shining brightly through breaks in the clouds, though a few flashes of lightning could be seen in the distance. I rode a couple of miles down Liberty, past Maple and Wagner. I was nearing the Thompson's house, out next to Zeeb, when a big storm came crashing in out of nowhere. The rain came down steadily and the wind really kicked up. The visibility dropped so much that I passed right by the Thompson's house without seeing it, and had to turn around. I arrived at the party soaked. I joined the smokers that were standing around in the garage to avoid the rain and pulled out a beer. I heard someone shout inside the house: Dan's here, and he's drunk. But I still didn't feel very drunk.
Most of the revelers were gone by two in the morning, when Mike invited me outside for a New Year's bowl. I'd been smoking too much pot recently, but I figured I'd have a few tokes, if only to honor the holiday. We went back in to watch television for a while, but Mike soon had to go to sleep. He offered to let me sleep on the couch, but I wanted to head for my parent's house, which I was watching, along with their dog, while my parents and younger sister were in California. When I got back on my bike the sudden squall that had drenched me on the way to the party had ended, but the clouds had rolled in and completely blotted the moon from the sky. I was out miles beyond the nearest street light. But riding in the dark isn't usually a problem for me. I have a head light and a tail light, neither of which are bright enough to illuminate the road, but they at least make me visible when I'm riding at night, which is my main concern.
Only a few cars passed me as I rolled down the darkened country road. I hugged the edge of the road as best as I could to stay out of the way of traffic, and I concentrated on riding in a straight line, as my head was still buzzing from the weed I smoked with Mike. I didn't notice the debris in the road until it was too late. It was hard to make out the dark tree branches that were lying on the dark pavement, but I'm sure I would have seen them if I was paying a bit more attention to the road in front of me. When I did notice that there were objects blocking my lane I was only feet away from them. There was probably enough time for me to swerve into the opposing lane to get around the obstruction, but my instincts told me not to ride into the middle of the road, where speeding traffic might be approaching. So I gripped my handlebars tightly and tried to ride foreword, not even knowing what I was about to run over. I made it over the first limb or two, but it was a large branch that had fallen in the road, and one of the limbs was too large for me to get over. My bike stopped moving foreword as it hit the branch, but my momentum carried me on, right over the handlebars. I caught my fall with my arms, but my left elbow impacted hard on the pavement. There was an immediate pain in the back of my arm, but I chekced, and found that I was quite able to flex the arm and move my fingers. It couldn't be broken, I thought. So I picked my bike up and started to ride again. As I leaned foreword into my handlebars and put weight on my left arm I felt a lot of pain, so I shifted most of my weight to the right side, and was able to continue to ride on.
I didn't have to apply the breaks until I got to Wagner road, but when I squeezed the brake lever the pain in my arm swelled, and as my weight shifted foreword as I came to a stop, the pain got even worse. Perhaps my arm was injured a bit worse than I had initially thought. I thought it might be a good idea to go to the hospital to get my arm checked out, but I was convinced that it wasn't broken. Sure it hurt like hell, but I was able to move my hand, flex my arm and whatnot. I didn't want to go to the emergency room for what might only be a sprain or a contusion. So I decided that I would keep on riding towards my parent's house. I had to get some sleep before going to inventory at work on New Year's Day. I thought I might go to the hospital after work if my arm was still bothering me then.
As I rode through town the pain in my arm was growing worse. There were many more stoplights and turns that I had to make, which required me to shift more weight to my left arm and apply the brakes more often. As the pain overwhelmed me I decided to ride on the sidewalk, which is something that I never do, even when I'm required to by law. I didn't realize it, but I turned off of liberty and started heading towards my apartment, even though I was intending on riding to my parent's house. After a few minutes, I noticed that I was going in the wrong direction, and I corrected my course. But my arm was still bothering me, so I finally just stopped and tried to assess the situation. I felt the back of my arm, above the elbow, and found that the swelling had become pretty bad. I tried to feel my bones to see if anything felt out of place. Something was moving and scraping on the back of my elbow that didn't feel right. I was about a mile away from home, but I decided that it was time to head for the hospital. I headed up State St. and resigned myself to my fate.
I locked my bike to a traffic sign near the emergency room and walked inside. After going through triage I was sent to have X-rays taken. Then I was sent to a small room in the ER after a wait of around a half hour. I was very apologetic to everyone in the hospital, as I still thought that my arm probably wasn't broken. I had gone to the ER when I had severely bruised my ankle when I was slammed to the ground while playing schoolyard football back in high school. I still feel guilty about wasting the doctor's time with such a minor injury all of those years before. That was one of the reasons why I had been reluctant to head for the hospital in this situation until the pain became too much. But after a wait of an hour or two, a guy from orthopedics came in to put a plaster splint on my arm. He informed me that I had indeed fractured my elbow, and that it would most likely require surgery. I was absolutely shocked. My plastered arm was placed in a sling and I was sent on my way at some time around nine in the morning on New Year's Day. I unlocked my bike and walked the two miles back to my parent's house, as the buses weren't running on the holiday. I arrived at my parent's house after ten in the morning and headed straight for bed. I feel asleep immediately, but only for about an hour. My alarm woke me at eleven so I would be up in time for work.
I actually drove one of my parent's cars to work, as I was left with no other choice. I didn't even punch in when I got there, expecting to be sent home as soon as I arrived. Everyone that I passed at work inquired about my obviously injured arm, and I felt myself obliged to tell the story of my bicycle accident over and over again. I started to get really sick of it, so I responded to questions about my arm with the simple phrase, "I fell off my bike." My boss didn't stop me from working, and I didn't ask to leave. I helped Phil with the cheese inventory, as I always do, and then I sat down and stopped working. There was nothing else for me to do. The kitchen staff was engaged with the usual cleaning tasks, but I couldn't do much with only one arm. My boss saw me just sitting there, but didn't say anything. I figured that I would be sent home if I sat for twenty minutes, but nothing was said to that effect. Finally I went and filled out a few pieces of paperwork for my department and announced that I was going to go home. I wanted to just crash out and go to sleep, but the Rose Bowl game was coming on that afternoon. I had been anticipating the game for weeks, and there was no way I was going to miss it. So I stayed up, and then drove my parent's car over to Dom's parent's house to watch the game.
I scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon on January 3rd. A resident explained that I had fractured the tip of of my ulna, which is called the olecranon. That's the end of the elbow joint, and the place where the triceps muscle inserts on the lower arm. The surgeon told me and my sister, who drove me to the appointment, that he wanted to operate on my arm the next day. That suited me just fine, as I knew I would not be allowed to do much with my arm for at least two months after the surgery. The sooner he operated, the sooner I would be back to work, and more importantly, back on my bike.
I arrived at the hospital at around seven in the morning for my surgery. I was taken to a hospital bed within a couple of minutes after I had checked in. I stripped and got in a hospital gown, and was hooked up to several different electrodes. An IV tube was threaded into a vein in my hand, and I had a long talk with three or four anesthesiologists about the possibility of totally numbing my arm. Apparently my surgeon doesn't like to do that, as the area that he was going to be operating on is right next to several major nerves, as well as major blood vessels. If my arm was deadened, the surgical team wouldn't be able to ascertain if the surgery resulted in any nerve damage. And the whole process of anesthetizing my arm sound uncomfortable in the first place. It involved the use of an ultrasound device and electrodes to locate the proper nerves in my arm. When the doctor finally arrived he said that he didn't want my arm to be numbed, but they could go ahead and do it after the surgery was over if I wanted. I said that I would rather not, if possible. So the anesthesiologists went ahead and administered the general anesthetic, which sucked. Someone told me that there would be a burning sensation as the stuff was pumped into my veins. It wasn't so much a burning as the feeling of liquid death running down my arm. That isn't surprising, as general anesthesia brings you pretty close to death. If the doctors didn't keep your lungs pumping artificially, you would die of asphyxiation when anesthetized.
I regained consciousness in a large recovery room a couple of hours later. My arm had already been covered in a new plaster splint and the surgery was over. The surgeon was long gone, off operating on someone else. I sat for what seemed like a long time watching a monitor that displayed my vital signs. I noticed that my blood oxygen levels were low. The attending nurse advised me to take deep breaths. She said that my oxygen saturation would probably never reach 100%, as I had been a long time smoker. After a while I was wheeled into another room, and my sister was brought in to see me. Soon I was instructed to change into my clothes and told to leave. The hospital had reserved a room for me, in case I had to spend the night after the surgery. But no one even asked me if I was interested in spending the night or not. It was just assumed that I would be leaving immediately. I wonder if I didn't have a conversation about leaving while I was still drugged. I remember a nurse giving me an injection of morphine and phentanol. It's quite possible that I was awake and drugged for quite a bit longer than I remember. Before I knew it I was clothed and being wheeled through the hospital to my sister's car. We drove to several pharmacies before we found someone that could actually fill my oxycodone prescription. At one stop I almost walked into the wrong side of an automatic door at a drug store. Then I went back to my parent's house and hung out with my sister and Jen for a while and watched an old Pink Panther movie.
The pain got a lot better pretty quickly. A week after surgery I was out of the splint and totally off medication. The doctors had prescribed enough oxycodone to last a couple of weeks at fairly high dosage, but I only used it for a couple of days. They removed the staples from my wound yesterday, and I'm slowly gaining mobility in my arm. But I won't be able to ride my bike or go to work for at least a month and a half.
My splinted arm before surgery
My hair, which I had neither cut nor trimmed for three and a half years ..S6000017.jpg"> ..et.com/albums/y30/mayorbrotherdan/S6000017.jpg">
I buzzed my hair after surgery, as I couldn't tie a pony tail one handed
My sister, my parent's dog and I
My surgery wound two days after the splint was removed, the bruising was much worse before
A girl in Illinois ran over and killed a bicyclist. Her excuse: she was too busy downloading ringtones on her cell phone to pay attention to the road. Here's a link to an article about the story. She got off with a slap on the wrist, a few month's probation and she has to take a driving class. This is a sick country. I'm absolutely disgusted.
*edit: she deleted her page shortly after I posted this blog entry, and several others posted similar entries in online forums. Serves her right to get run out of town in cyberspace. I only wish murderers like her would get similar treatment in the real world.*