Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rocket Mass Heaters.

Not actually a rocket mass heater, but the best picture I could find. Source.

My blog has been host to a lot of ranting posts lately, giving lots of opinions but not necessarily new or interesting information.  In hopes that my blog does not devolve into a constant series of complaints and opinions, please adjust your monocles and top hats, and discover the fascinating world of rocket mass heaters!

Imagine, if you will, a woodstove.  These usually consist of a combustion chamber (usually somewhat decorative), and a chimney that goes upwards, perhaps winding so as to distribute heat evenly in the upper levels of a home, and then exiting vertically from the roof.  The problem with this setup, even with more efficient models, is that it is rather wasteful.  The hot exhaust gas from the roof is a carrier of heat that could have been used in the home.  Further, the smoke that is usually generated represents not only pollution, but also impure combustion.  This post on garbage incineration discusses this issue as well.  Smoke contains, among other things, carbon monoxide and carbon particles, pollutants that could ignite under the proper conditions and concentrations.  For the record, I am not suggesting that the world will explode if everyone used woodstoves (though you can get chimney fires this way), I only intend to highlight the wasted combustible material.  Below I shall post the solution to this waste.  I usually try to avoid linking to non-public-domain sources [aka "Wikipedia"], but this page gives the best illustration of the physics involved that I could find.
The primary advantage to this setup, known as the rocket mass heater (RMH), is the "super rockety reburn combustion chamber."  It traps the ash and smoke in the same place as the heat of combustion, leading to the burning of the impure combustion products.  Not only does this generate cleaner exhaust, but there is no lost heat in the form of smoke.  The second benefit of this design is that the exhaust usually snakes through a large mass.  This is usually cob, but others have been made using sand and brick designs.  The larger this mass, which is often formed into a bench, the more heat can be captured from the exhaust.  The mass can then retain and radiate heat hours after combustion has stopped, keeping the heated space warm.  Of course, more efficient burning means less fuel is needed overall.  It would seem that many users report needing less than one cord of wood for a winter where they would usually burn 3-5 with a conventional woodstove.

Naturally, home heating is only one of many possible functions.  Greenhouses may be heated efficiently with such a design, and the picture leading this post shows a makeshift hot water heater.  Designs without the large mass and featuring a hole at the top of the combustion chamber are known as rocket stoves, and are a very efficient way of boiling water or cooking food.  On a personal level, I am very curious as to how burning switchgrass or biochar might work.

I have only scratched the surface of this topic, and it appears that it is a fairly new idea, given the size of the Wikipedia article on the topic.  However, I actively encourage you to seek out information on the topic, I am certain it could lead to a more sustainable future, and endless fun in the form of do-it-yourself projects.


P.S. Thanks to my darling girlfriend, the brewer of the Turkish coffee that fueled this post.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Scotiabank Place, Sens Army, and that idiot wearing an out-of-town jersey.

Scotiabank Place located in Kanata, Ontario Canada.  Source.

A long while ago I wondered if I should blog about my feelings on hockey.  I decided no, that I wanted to discuss more thought provoking matters.  However, after watching the Ottawa Senators beat the Tampa Bay Lightning (a surprising and entertaining contest, it was) this past Thursday, I have decided that I would like to share my thoughts in hopes of hearing the opinions of others.


In fairness, I have nothing against the actual team or coaching staff of the Ottawa Senators, nor the physical reality of Scotiabank Place.  I have yet to find a bad seat in the stadium, and I find watching a live NHL game is quite enjoyable there.

Having said this, I have a few issues to discuss.  First and foremost would be the "Sens Army".  Army?  Really?  Nevertheless, the moniker is not the choice of the fan, but I take issue with how they conduct themselves.  Quite often during hockey games, the organ will play a tune after which the audience is encouraged to clap twice in rapid succession.  Having been to many Leafs-Senators games, I had noticed that the local fans frequently chant "Leafs suck!" in place of clapping twice.  This was, I thought, quite acceptable practice when the Leafs were visiting Scotiabank Place.  However, the chant does not only happen when the Leafs are in town.  While at the Lightning game, "Leafs suck!" was not only chanted, but proudly displayed on banners during the game.

Really?  Could these fans not simply be proud of their team or, more appropriately, speak ill of the Lightning?  Is it necessary to constantly express your disdain for the Toronto Maple Leafs?  I would like to speak on behalf of all Leafs fans when I say "we know".  We get it.  We understand that we are your sworn and most hated rivals, but I assure you that when Leafs fans go to the Air Canada Centre, they go to loudly cheer their team and taunt the visitors (or so I assume, feel free to refute this).

Further, and to bring Habs fans into the mix, yes, your favourite team is Montreal or Ottawa, and your second favourite is whomever is playing against the Leafs.  Let me say now that it was amusing the first time I heard it, but by the tenth time it had lost its novelty.  Now, when I hear it and watch a grin cross the face of the speaker, I do not get upset or irritated because you hate my team so.  I am irritated because the joke is old, childish and stale.

To introduce a rather technical matter, I would like to address the booing of Dion Phaneuf at Scotiabank Place.  Yes, Leafs fans boo Daniel Alfredsson every time he touches the puck, but the reason is not his captaincy.  Rather, it is the following hit laid on Darcy Tucker (0:15 of the video):

In fact, subsequent to this event, I have seen Alfredsson hit several players from behind without taking a penalty.  My hypothesis for this is that it is assumed Alfredsson "is not the kind of player" who engages in dishonourable hits.  He is, but officials are lenient with players who are "not that kind of player."

I am not sure if this sort of behaviour arises because the Senators are a young team.  Yes, I know that the Senators were a team in the early 20th century, but it was not continuous.  The team turns 20 this year, and perhaps there has not been enough time to breed pride, but only nonreciprocating hatred.  Or perhaps it is that all fans over the age of about the team likely abandoned the Habs or the Leafs to cheer for the Senators.  In either case, I would like to believe that at some point genuine Senators fans will overtake the Leafs haters and I will no longer have to listen to the tripe that has become commonplace.  For example, when Leafs fans visit Scotiabank Place, the common and spontaneous chant that arises is "Go Leafs Go", not "Sens Suck".  They [we] arrive primarily to cheer their [our] team, not to berate the other.

For the record, I am also aware that the plural of the word leaf is leaves.  However, the Toronto Maple Leafs are named after the Maple Leaf regiment of the first World War, and the plural of the proper noun "Maple Leaf" is to use the suffix -s.  The name of the sporting squadron then becomes Toronto Maple Leafs.

As a random aside, I would also like to comment on the person wearing the garb of the Detroit Red Wings at Scotiabank Place, and his ilk who wear garb of the Sabres, Canucks, and even Leafs when the Lightning are playing.  Are you lost?  Are you caught in a mental haze in which you forgot who was playing?  Those fans with jerseys from a different conference are most confusing.  Yes, you are proud of your team, but you are in the wrong place, and you look like an idiot.

Finally, I will admit that the Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967.  The Senators have won just as many Cup titles in that time.  Maybe a little more pride and a little less hatred would allow the City of Ottawa to keep a franchise in town.



P.S.  To you, the silent majority who are legitimate Senators fans who are proud of your team, I apologize.  It is my sincerest hope that your brethren act more like you.

P.P.S. I have since softened my stance on out of town jerseys.  I've talked to a couple people who engage in the practice, and the prevailing line of reasoning is that they are going to a hockey game, so they wear a hockey jersey.  It just so happens that the jersey they own is that of their favourite team and/or player.  I suppose I'll accept that, and it doesn't necessarily make the person an idiot.  I'm going to leave my previous statements above, unaltered, in the interest of transparency, but I will also be leaving my Leafs jersey at home when they're not playing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The .xxx domain.

Promotional logo for the .xxx domain.  Source.


As of December 6th, 2011, the .xxx domain has been available for websites with adult content.  A domain is like .com or .org, for those that may not know.  In the spirit of my holiday posts, I shall keep it short and simply offer my two cents on the matter.


This development has me somewhat miffed.  Frankly, it should not have taken this long for .xxx to exist as a domain. From what I have read, it seems that conservative influences existed when the original list of top level domains was created, and it was felt that having a .xxx domain would legitimize internet pornography.  Naturally without an official label, pornography never made it onto the internet, and this most marvelous series of tubes maintains only the highest of moral standards.

Wait a second.  Hold on to your monocles and top hats, people, I have just received some horrifying news.  There is porn on the internet!  Done locking your doors and barring your windows?  Good.  Let us continue.

Had pornography been given an official domain from the start, it would have been far easier to sort everything out from the beginning.  Content filtration would be especially easy, as one could simply block all .xxx domain access in business or family settings.  I would like to believe that pornography would migrate to its domain, and .com could be used for the commercial arm of adult entertainment companies, but I think it is far more likely that it will continue to be a mess for the foreseeable future.

Of course, the groups originally opposed to the .xxx domain have gotten their knickers into a twist over the development.  From what I have read, the main opposition is that reputable domains are purchasing their corresponding .xxx domain to protect against defamation.  There is also the less sensible argument that the amount of pornography on the internet could double, with companies having a .com and a .xxx domain.  I believe this is needless hysteria, but there it is.  I also believe that organisations like Harvard University purchasing its corresponding .xxx domain is an example of an established practice of buying related domains to protect against defamation, and should not be a big deal.

To sum this all up, I'd like to direct you to an article from the satirical news site The Onion, saying that most of our problems could be solved by stopping and thinking for two seconds.