Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Toilet Water

This next post was precipitated out of a dialogue that I had on an internet forum where we were discussing local water rates. The thread wandered into a seemingly simple question about toilet replacement programs for municipal water conservation. So I thought I’d expand a bit on my response here.

O.K. Get your number-crunching tinfoil hats of folks, because I’m going to throw a lot of statistics at you right off the bat. In the U.S. we consume about 410 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/day). That turns out to be around 12 times the volume of Lake Superior annually. About 16% of the water that we use is salt water, so that leaves ~345 Bgal/day of fresh water that is consumed. About 70-75% (242-259 Bgal/day) of that water is taken for agricultural uses, mostly irrigation. Over 50% of the water that is used for agricultural irrigation is lost due to evaporation (76 Bgal/day). Around 15-20% (52-69 Bgal/day) of the remainder of our water supply is used in industrial processes such as power generation, mining, etc. That leaves ~10% (35 Bgal/day) of our total freshwater consumption in the U.S. for municipal water use. Home use accounts for about 65% (23 Bgal/day) of that, with businesses sucking up the rest.

Fifty-eight percent (13 Bgal/day) of the fresh water used for homes is used outdoors for lawns, gardening, pools, etc. That leaves 42% (10 Bgal/day) for indoor uses. Toilets account for 31% (3.1 Bgal/day) of indoor usage. That works out to be somewhere around 1,100 billion gallons of horrifyingly filthy water that gets flushed per year, or a volume roughly equivalent to the total volume of Lake Powell on an average year. Kind if gives the term “fly fishing for browns” a whole new meaning. So, since thunder mugs are the biggest indoor users of water it seems logical that replacing inefficient commodes with high-efficiency thrones should be a great idea. Well, maybe on the surface, anyway.

Let’s say a city wants to engage in a pilot toilet exchange program. If they wanted to replace 1000 chamber pots they would need to set aside ~$200k of taxpayer funds. A program of that size would only be able to service 500 average households with 2 crappers each. In the end {…ahem…} the program would save about 131 liters of water per day per household (assuming everyone makes all of their “deposits” at home). That’s about 24 million liters (6.3 million gal) of water annually with a return on investment of about a penny per liter saved. Average municipal water rates are about $.0025 per gallon or $.00066 per liter in the U.S. (Choke that one down, all of you bottled water drinkers out there. I’m coming after you later.) At those rates, even our modestly-sized exchange program will take over 15 years to pay itself back. Doesn’t seem like too great of an investment. Plus, it places 1000 non-recyclable dunnies in the landfill – not that I think that actually matters, but I’m sure some of you do.

Maybe I’m just looking at this the wrong way. How about trying to tackle it from another angle? Saving 6.3 million gallons of water for 500 households seems like a lot of water. Let’s compare that amount to something more tangible. It is estimated that it takes 2,500 gallons of water to get each pound of beef to your dinner table. This means that the water that goes into raising and processing a 1,000 pound steer would be enough to float a destroyer. The 6.3 million gallons of water that we saved by switching out our porcelain gods is less water than it takes to bring three gross-ass stinking cows to market. That’s right, three. Hmm…three less cows or the time, effort, cost and landfill space for 1000 loo’s? I’d gladly give up beef (if I ate it) in order to keep a water-gulping jet flush shitter that gives me a hickey the size of my arse every time I drop the deuce. Well, so far our privy exchange program doesn’t look too good from this angle, either. Crap. How about one more try? O.K., it would take over 45 years of water-saving toiletry to equal the water that evaporates from agricultural irrigation in one year. Oh, dear. This one just doesn’t pass the smell test.

I guess this analysis shouldn’t be too surprising. Of course the government isn’t going to recommend that we cut down on eating beef, and it isn’t just because the cattle industry is evil. On one hand you have a potty replacement program and on the other hand you have educated consumerism. See the difference? One says consume more (buy more toilets) while the other say consume less (eat less beef). I don’t want to deviate too far into food politics here, but there has never been an instance when American consumers have been encouraged to consume less food. For example, the message of “Eat less fat” becomes “Consume more healthy fats.” So, in this case we’re led down a path that makes us feel that not only is it the municipalities’ responsibility to conserve water rather than placing the onus squarely upon the shoulders of agriculture, but also that it is the fault of homeowners since we use inefficient appliances.

It stands to reason that since most of our water is wasted agriculturally, that most of the conservation, and, therefore, the most good can come from encouraging and subsidizing better farming practices. The agricultural sector looses 3.3 times more water than the entire municipal system uses annually. So, even if we were to cut out all of our municipal water usage, clean ourselves and our clothes with soda pop, and irrigate our lawns and fill our pools with beer it would hardly matter at all in the long run. I mean taking it a step further, it seems logical to me that since 70% of all of the grain grown in the U.S. goes to feed livestock, and most of the water losses in the U.S. are due to irrigation evaporation, that maybe (just maybe) we could do better by not eating so many effing cows? Just a thought. If that seems like too foreign of a concept, then how about losing the crappy bluegrass lawns that people insist upon growing in the desert? As I said 58% of municipal home water use goes to continually water something that isn't supposed to grow in areas where irrigation is necessary. Incidentally, the bluegrass lawns that everybody loves so much were originally developed for cattle grazing. God, I hate cows.

Getting back to the latrine exchange programs to wrap this up, if municipalities were to use that $400 per household as a credit to encourage the installation of a gray water recycling system in every household we would actually save 2,500,000,000,000 gallons of water annually nationwide (assuming all of the reclaimed water gets used outdoors). Gray water recycling systems essentially divert and filter all of the water that doesn’t come from your throne room and use it for outdoor irrigation. It would take our silly nationwide stool replacement program around 4 years to save that much water (assuming every toilet in the country gets changed). I’m not shitting you, honest.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Toon In. Drop Out.

First of all, I’d like to say “Happy Father’s Day” to all of the deserving fathers out there. As for the undeserving fathers, well, you can just go scratch yourselves. Your children genuinely need you so get your crap in a pile, will ya? {Stepping off soapbox} Anyway, each year as Father’s Day approaches I think back to my childhood and compare it to how my children are growing up today. There are obviously a multitude of things that are very different, but some things are definitely stay the same. For example, children still like cartoons. I remember sitting for hours on end with my face about six inches away from the TV screen mesmerized by the images and sounds that were pouring into the room. Of course that was easy to do because a massive amount of thought and effort went into the cartoons back then. Not only were they silly and funny, but they often had a social and political message. As for the crappy animation that kids are forced to watch now, well let’s just say that I would rather run a razor blade in between my toes and stomp out some fresh lemonade than watch five minutes of the drivel that passes nowadays.

So, I sat down a couple of weekends ago with my son and my laptop, and I showed him the animated shorts that I grew up watching. As expected, he truly enjoyed them which inspired me to write this post. I have pulled years and years of research together and compiled the ultimate list of the 25 Best Cartoon Episodes of All Time. The animations that made the list are ones that still make me laugh and think; the one’s that still surprise me and make me wonder what the hell the writers and animators of the time were smoking. So without further ado, here is Daniel P.’s list of the Top 25 Cartoon Episodes Ever Created:

Honorable Mentions: As you will no doubt notice, all of the episodes that have made the list were created decades ago. Just so you don’t think I’m a completely grouchy old curmudgeon (well, grouchier and curmudgeon-ier than you already think) I thought that I’d mention two cartoons that stand out among the garbage that has been produced in the last 20 years.

27. Space Madness – 1991, John Kricfalisi: I had my son watch this one, and his only comment was: “Dad, I think that was too weird.” That pretty much sums up the whole Ren and Stimpy series, and this episode is the cherry on top of one weird-ass sundae. It features one of the best monologues ever performed in a cartoon: “It is not I who am crazy! It is I who am mad!...”

26. PTV – Dan Provenmire, 2005: Also known as “The FCC Episode” from the brilliant Family Guy series. This one pushes pretty much every no-no button the FCC has. The Side Boob Hour?!? Come on! Irreverent and hilarious.

25. One Cab’s Family – MGM, 1952, Tex Avery: This short is very similar to “Little Johnny Jet” in that Tex Avery shows his brilliance in imbuing human qualities on inanimate objects. “Little Johnny” was even nominated for an Oscar. One Cab’s Family is packed with car puns and sight gags, but the train wreck breaks through the comedy momentarily and has you genuinely concerned for the cab’s son. Great stuff.

24. Book Review – WB, 1945, Robert Clampett: Simple craziness after midnight at the bookstore as the stories come alive and spill out of the deranged minds of the folks at WB at the time.

23. Popeye Meets Sinbad – Fleischer, 1936, Dave Fleischer: This is a great example of the early animation technique used in some of the Popeye episodes that give them a sort of 3D feeling. And Wimpy chasing the duck around with a meat grinder is just disturbing enough to make it funny.

22. Mouse Trouble – MGM, 1944, Tex Avery: This is what happens when cats try to follow directions. The classic Tom and Jerry episode.

21. Car of Tomorrow – MGM, 1951, Tex Avery: This one was part of a couple of other episodes which included “The Farm of Tomorrow” and “The House of Tomorrow” that introduce silly futuristic concepts and insult mothers-in-law everywhere. How can you go wrong?

20. Rock-a-Bye-Bear – MGM, 1952, Tex Avery: Spike gets a new home with a very noise sensitive bear. This one is essentially the precursor to the Deputy Droopy episode that was made three years later. QUIET! SHUT UP! I CAN'T STAND NOISE!

19. The Girls' Night Out – MGM, 1960, Hannah/Barbera: Fred cuts a record at an amusement park and becomes the teen singing idol, Hi-Fye, until his bitch of a wife starts passing rumors that he’s a square…like four corners, man. Just thinking about this episode gets “The Rocking Bird” stuck in my head for about a month.

18. The Great Piggy Bank Robbery – WB, 1946, Robert Clampett: Great characters such as 88 Teeth, Bat Man, Doubleheader, Hammerhead, Jukebox Jaw, Mouse Man, Neon Noodle, Pussycat Puss, Pickle Puss, Pumpkinhead, Rubberhead, Snake Eyes and a bunch of other weird-ass villains are featured as Daffy tries to catch the piggy bank thief.

17. Northwest Hounded Police – MGM, 1946, Tex Avery: This one is sold on me every time the wolf overreacts to finding Droopy in his hideout. Classic cartoon explosive expression at its finest.

16. Pig in a Pickle – Lantz, 1954, Paul Smith: These Maw and Paw cartoons were short-lived classics. In this episode, Milford (the pig) is kidnapped during his birthday celebration by neighboring hillbillies intent on eating him. Maw and Paw try various ploys to get him back. Best quote: “Didn’t work, Maw.” (Sorry I couldn't find a link to the full episode.)

15. Gearld McBoing-Boing – UPA, 1951, Robert Cannon: This one is based on a Dr. Seuss story that was originally aired on a children's record in 1950. It tells the quirky tale of a child that only speaks through sound effects. It’s a little strange, but I think you get the picture that most of the ‘toons on this list are strange.

14. Porky in Wackyland – WB, 1949, Robert Clampett: Porky (the early porky, when he was still funny) goes in search of the last Do-Do. Landing his plane somewhere in Africa (Darkest Africa, to be exact) he comes across seriously strange creatures and a Do-Do acting as insane as the early Daffy (when he was funny) ever did. It’s also a reminder of how racist the cartoons were back then. Notice the black duck saying, "Mammy, mammy," as it walks past Porky. Nice…

13. The First Bad Man – MGM, 1955: The true (well, probably not true) story of Dinosaur Dan. I love these cartoons that use a narrator to dictate the action. Great last line: “Hey, Man. When you all gonna let me outta here?”

12. King Sized Canary – MGM, 1947, Tex Avery: This one is brilliant and a good life lesson as well. Never eat plant food, people. Best line: (when the scrawny canary first appears) “Well, I’ve been sick.”

11. The Cat That Hated People – MGM, 1948, Tex Avery: Cat shoots himself to the moon to avoid the crowded and noisy earth only to be perpetually accosted by figments of the collective imagination of the wacked-out animators’ at MGM. Reminiscent of “Porky in Wackyland” ten years earlier. Tell me they weren’t eating mushrooms by the ounce.

10. What’s Opera, Doc? – WB, 1957, Chuck Jones: This one is a perfect example of how brilliant the soundtrack was to these early cartoons. Carl Stalling does “Ride of the Valkyries” as only a genius can. This is also probably the only cartoon in history that makes a myxomytosis joke: “Kill the wabbit, Kill the wabbit, NO DON’T KILL THE WABBIT!!!.”

9. Pecos Pest – MGM, 1953, Hannah/Barbera: The perpetual feuding of Tom and Jerry is temporarily interrupted when Jerry gets an annoying country-singing, cowboy (cowmouse?) visitor. Famous quote: “I can’t sing without a gee-tar string, N-n-n-n-nephew.”

8. Red Hot Riding Hood – MGM, 1943, Tex Avery: First of all, holy crap! Was Red Riding Hood hot or what?!? Even though the bulk of this short is placed inside an adult club, it is the ending to this gem that is usually edited on television rebroadcasts even today. It features Wolfie proclaiming that if he sees another woman, he'll kill himself. When Red comes back out on stage, the wolf, true to his word, blows his brains out. Sleep tight, kiddos.

7. The Cat Concerto – MGM, 1946, Hannah/Barbera: Truly classic Tom & Jerry. The same year MGM produced this piece, WB released Bugs Bunny cartoon, “Rhapsody Rabbit,” with Bugs being harassed by a mouse…while playing piano. Both pieces were almost identical, and even used the same composition by Liszt. It sparked a huge plagiarism debate at the time.

6. Duck Amuck – WB, 1953, Chuck Jones: Although this is the Daffy Duck character that has started to lose a little of his insanity and become the annoying figure that most people remember, the unseen animator altering every aspect of Daffy’s being is a road map to hilarity. When the mad animator is revealed to be Bugs himself, he unleashes one of his taglines: "Ain't I a stinker?"

5. One Froggy Evening – WB, 1956, Chuck Jones: Surprisingly this cartoon has no spoken dialog at all, except what is sung by the frog. Once again showing what excellent pantomime and musical direction can do for an audience. Unfortunately, now WB have turned Michigan J. Frog into one of there brand identifiers.

4. Magical Maestro – MGM, 1952, Tex Avery: This cartoon has stirred up controversy and was consequently censored because of two racist gags, but I managed to dig up the uncensored version for you because…well…kids aren’t racist, and the cartoons are for kids…aren’t they? Controversy aside, this one is great. There is a gag in it that children today will probably not get, however. Midway through the cartoon an annoying hair is shown on the screen as though it is caught in the projector. I have serious doubts weather anyone under the age of 21 will know what the reference means.

3. Billy Boy – MGM, 1954, Tex Avery: The unnamed wolf in this episode with the Southern drawl is one of my favorite Tex Avery characters. His calm reaction to a very hungry little Billy goat destroying everything he owns is incredibly misplaced and funny. Notice what Billy does with the gross-ass moo cow milk milk milk milk. This is another one that gets the score stuck in my head for days.

2. Rabbit of Seville – WB, 1950, Chuck Jones: In this classic, Bugs is chased by Elmer into a theater that is playing “The Barber of Seville.” Since the only dialog in the whole cartoon is sung as lyrics, this one fits my musical fetish as well. Brilliantly scored and written.

1. Deputy Droopy – MGM, 1955, Hannah/Barbera: This is my favorite cartoon episode of all time. For some reason I just cannot watch it without laughing even though I’ve seen it about 100 times.

There you have it. The only compilation of animation’s greatest moments that you will find. Hopefully it brings back some memories. What do you think? Any striking omissions? Be sure to let me know. But do it quietly. I CAN'T STAND NOISE! I NEED QUIET!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Something amazing happened yesterday. Something that sneaked up on me so fast that I barely had time to post this before it was here and gone. What could it have been? Was it the 65th anniversary of D-Day? The great Seattle fire of 1889? First drive in opens in 1933? Was it the day in 1990 when U.S. District court judge Jose Gonzales ruled that the rap album As Nasty As They Wanna Be by 2 Live Crew violated Florida's obscenity law; declaring that the predominant subject matter of the record is "directed to the 'dirty' thoughts and the loins, not to the intellect and the mind."? St. Claudius Day? Nope none of those, although they all happened on June 6th. It’s something more unbelievable and unexpected. The Missing Piece turned one year old yesterday - much more important than winning a world war or infringing on the first amendment, don’t you think? Yeah, me neither, but we made it a year!

We’ve covered a lot of ground together. We’ve discussed trash and recycling. We’ve discussed, politics, the economy, and assassinations. We’ve been introduced to some seriously righteous movies and did some mind-boggling calculations. In my first year The Missing Piece has had about 3500 visitors, which is around ten visits per day. Not too shabby considering Facebook only gets 700 million site visits per day. I’m coming for you Facebook. Hey, I’ll take ten visits per day. Washing too many brains at once could cause a tear in the thin fabric that holds society together. Best to do it slowly. In this first year, I’ve posted at least one post per week religiously for a grand total of 54 posts. Now that’s spewing a lot of BS. Don’t worry there’s more in here {points to head}. However, I grossly underestimated the amount of time that a blog needs to blossom and grow into something that is worth reading. So for the next year I will only be posting one steaming pile of knowledge every two weeks rather than every week…unless I get a wild hair up my ass about something. I believe it will lighten my load considerably. Who knows, it may even leave me time to take a shower during the week.

So, who has been visiting the blog over the past year? I’ve had visitors from every part of the globe, including Antarctica. There are even a couple of people that check up on me regularly, locally and internationally. Thanks guys. I truly appreciate it. You keep me going, and I seriously owe you a beer.

What were the most visited posts? Well, by far the most searched for post was the SW threading tutorial. It seems like I have the market cornered on that one. A close second was the post on Choroid Plexus Cysts. Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of people are going through exactly what I went through. Way back in third place was, surprisingly, the Terror Firmer review. Hopefully these posts were helpful to the folks that found them. Now, the posts that got the highest ratings (based on some telemetry such as number of comments, links etc.) were, in ascending order: Pull My Finger, 12 Days of Shite Movies, RNC, and the most popular post of the first year was (drumroll please) – The Hydrogen Bombs Essay. Sweet. I toil for weeks writing exposes covering the ills of recycling, weather or not to buy organic milk, or how wind turbines could save the world but ruin your life, and the post the people liked the most is loaded with fart jokes. Nice.

What was my favorite post of the past year? Well, I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that the hydrogen bombs essay was in the top five, but I think the ones that I had the most fun writing (which not coincidentally took the longest to write) were The Misanthrope’s List and Life by 100 Cuts. The former was definitely more fun to write than the latter, probably because I’m such a jaggoff.

So, please join me in wishing The Missing Piece a Happy First Birthday. It’s been a fun year. See, that’s way more important in the grand scheme of things than Operation Overlord, which landed 160,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in France in the largest amphibious military operation in history resulting in around 4400 Allied dead. Isn’t it? No?!? Seriously, thanks to all of the Missing Piece readers out there, and I promise you I will continue to work as hard as I can to put out more slightly interesting garbage that you may or may not find interesting. Any suggestions for the next year?