Monday, November 29, 2010

Green bin waste, new video card

Ok, I wanted to quickly write up about the stuff I've been learning at those LiveGreen meetings. A couple weeks ago we talked about Toronto's waste disposal -- someone in the know explained how green bin waste is taken care of. Rather than just being cooked for a couple weeks (as some places do), it actually gets processed. First, everything's ground up into a finer mulch, to which water is added, making a slurry of guck. It is then put into a spinning tank, letting centrifugal force do the work of separating out the different parts so that heavier or lighter stuff (wood, or diaper tape, etc) is conveniently removed from the main mass. Tt this point it goes through the cooking stage (if I recall correctly, maybe not?), before it is mixed with regular soil as, by itself, it contains too much salt, etc.

I also learned that, while there are no regulations in terms of how much non-City garbage has to be recycled, private waste disposal companies are actually quite good about recycling as much as possible, as dumping (i.e. paying for space to dump on) is extremely expensive, and hence they have a strong financial motivation to recycle. Oh and City recycling is done BY HAND -- they have people on the assembly line picking out stuff, each looking for a specific kind of recyclable -- water bottles, Styrofoam, aluminum, etc. The rest is passed over and goes to the landfill. It doesn't sound like much of a job but I'd actually be willing to give up a few hours a week to help. Which in a way I guess I do when I toss out my recyclables, although mine are primarily paper flyers that I can't seem to stop from being stuffed into my mailbox -- realtors, fitness clubs, grocers, fast food places, retailers, and so on. I could make firelogs from this stuff! Although I'd imagine it'd be pretty gross smelling.

Anyway, I'll be volunteering this Saturday, at Kew Gardens, participating in an incandescent-for-LED Christmas light exchange.

Other news? I bought and installed an XFX ATI 5870 HD video card, so my machine is up and going again, though I've been fairly bound to playing casual web (Wizard's Run) and iPhone (PocketFrogs, 10PinShuffle) games. I am REALLY starting to dislike Christmas. Again. It might be better if everyone got more time off, but as it is, going to any store or mall is just nutty.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Missing the house, shopping for a video card, iPhone games

It pains me every time I think about it -- my parents have sold their house. They've done so many renovations in anticipation of it going to the market, you'd hardly recognize it now. Well, the interior anyway -- the kitchen is completely redone, upstairs is all hardwood, as are the stairs. The cobblestoned backyard patio they've had for a while but looking at it now I'm amazed anew at the result that my dad put so many hours into. I really should visit them more often.

I've just about picked out a new video card, and am aiming for either the XFX ATI Radeon HD 5850 ($280) or the XFX ATI Radeon 5870 ($380). I'd forgotten that there are so many flavours of each GPU these days. I used Ars Technica's system picks to help me get to my decision, which I've always found useful in the past. My current card, a Sapphire ATI HD 4870 x2 (2x1GB), conks out whenever I start doing anything that tasks the 3D GPU stuff, though at times (and more frequently with each boot-up) it will throw ugly vertical stripes down the screen, so that I have to resize/reposition my browser so that I can read things! And so, I'm being denied Civ 5, StarCraft 2, Dead Rising 2 and Fallout New Vegas.

Yeah, with this glut in home PC gaming, I've taken to playing more iPhone games, especially now that I am able to use my gift card money towards app purchases (and that my phone has a zippier processor). In addition to 10PinShuffle, I've taken a liking to BeastBoxing, Pocket Frogs and Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor. With the exception of the frog game, I recommend the rest -- they make excellent use of the iPhone interface. Pocket Frogs is just this dumb bug-eating thing which I strangely get a kick out of.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Rob Ford is mayor of Toronto, banged my head

Ok, I did mean to update earlier but I've been... preoccupied of late. Well, my video card slowly dying is part of the excuse to be sure. I only realized today that it's actually over two years old! Seems like I only got it last year. Have I been playing games on it for that long?? It's a tiresome bore, I'll tell you. And I'm somewhat torn on what to "upgrade" to -- I bought my Sapphire ATI HD 4870 x2 2GB for $580, and it's now worth $300 new, which is actually about what I would like to spend, money not flowing as easily as it once did for me. I'll have to bite the bullet soon enough, there being a stack of games (Civ 5, Dead Rising 2, StarCraft 2, Fallout New Vegas) beckoning me to return.

So Toronto voted in Rob Ford! What rot, what rot. I'm sure most of you are by now aware of the "amalgamation gap", the stark difference in voting attitudes between downtown Toronto and the suburbs. I mean, on some subconscious level I suppose I knew of it but WOW, the mayoral voting by ward map really shows just how wide the gap is. It makes me itch to think our mayor is Rob Ford... I just... how... but why... ugh!!!

Oh right, I went to Toronto's 2010 Skepticamp event, held in the Center For Inquiry space. It was pretty good! I mean, I was entertained, learned a lot, and met a handful of skeptically-minded people. Whether I can get more involved in the skeptical community is another thing, but I'm definitely happy I went. Yeah, I mean I listen to a lot of SGU and am hopefully learning more and more each day, removing layers of irrational ideas and unfounded beliefs. I do certainly look back upon my more foolish self with a pitying eye.

What else.. I signed up for a 1-year Bixi contract, hoping that its coverage will expand to the point that I can use them daily. That would be so cool! Uhm, but speaking of cool bicycling, I took a tumble late last Friday night and got a concussion. The current theory is that I installed the seat too tightly, causing one of the bolts to snap. In any case I took a serious tumble and am frankly quite amazed that I didn't incur greater damage, hitting my head directly to the ground sans helmet. Yeah. Fixing the bicycle was a thankfully simple thing: a short trip to Bike Sauce did the trick in terms of finding a replacement bolt (definitely recommend going there for DIY repair), and a2chow helped tweak the alignment of the handlebars. We also used some plastic clip-ties to provide some additional security against a total seat-failure, as I would very much hate to go through an unplanned dismount again.

Oh and unrelatedly, I upgraded my iPhone to the 4G model. My original plan was to simply fix the screen of my much-battered 3G, and I'd even purchased a digitizer replacement kit, but a most upsetting fall cracked the LCD screen. I must say that I rather love the 4G, with its better resolution, faster processor, and HDR-supporting camera -- could my dreams of a multimedia handheld device finally be true? Sure, I'm still tethered to reality by that draconian machine known as iTunes, but there are times when I rather covet this hunk of gleaming metal.