chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
We won at trivia last night, and ate for free, enjoying the fruits of our previous victories. Herewith have some links to celebrate. (Yeah, you get the party you paid for.)

A) Jim C. Hines discusses The Politics of Comfort. Jim's point is that most if not all writing has a political content. The money quote:When Ann Leckie chose to write about a protagonist from a genderless society in Ancillary Justice, that was a political choice. So was Jim Butcher’s choice to write Harry Dresden as a straight white male. Neither of those choices is automatically Right or Wrong.

B) On free speech, like this guy I support free speech AND I support criticism of speech.

C) The folks at a site called The Truth About Guns re-enacted the Charlie Hebdo shooting (which has a lot of tactical similarities to a "standard" workplace shooting) and found that one armed bystander was not enough to stop the killing.

D) My open letter to James Fallows was published on his site.

E) Apparently, anti-environmentalists argue that, just like when we ran out of whale oil, when we run out of regular oil we'll switch seamlessly to something else. The actual history of the event begs to differ.


Aug. 13th, 2013 10:49 am
chris_gerrib: (Me)
With my grandmother's illness and death, I've made several trips to Central Illinois over the past few weeks. The drive there and back is not especially scenic, consisting mostly of corn and soybean fields. In order to at least look at different fields, I've varied my trips to include taking Illinois 49 for part of the way.

Illinois 49 runs through western Vermilion County, passing through the not-even-a-wide-spot-on-the-road town of Hope, south of Rankin. Hope is at the southern end of the California Ridge Wind Farm, a 200 megawatt collection of giant wind turbines. (For those not of Central Illinois, the "ridge" in question is really just a gentle swelling of land maybe 100 feet above the plain.)

I personally find the wind turbines pretty, and visually soothing. At least some of the locals don't, and several homes sprout signs of varying degrees of professionalism advertising, a web site detailing the problems of living near a wind turbine. This site seems to want the turbines to be sited farther away from houses, claiming evils from ice chunks flung from turbine blades (possible, I guess) to infrasonic harm to humans (???).

Now, having driven through the area, it's as close as Central Illinois gets to being uninhabited. Nor do any of the turbines look especially close to one of the handful of houses, and my understanding is that the actual property owners are renting out the land that the turbines sit on. But then I don't have a dog in this fight - I just drive through the area.

The whole concept is proof that no matter what one wants to do, somebody else will object to it.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
From [ profile] baron_waste I get this article which claims that solar panels could destroy US utilities. Basically, the argument is:

1) Solar panels will eliminate peak load requirements - the most expensive electrical power.
2) People will convert to battery systems, providing 24/7 off-grid power, much like they ditched land telephone lines.
3) This reduction in demand will result in higher prices for the non-converting customer, forcing us to convert or demand that regulated utilities reduce prices.

To which I say, most politely, bullshit. Here's why:

First, unlike telephone lines, solar power requires construction and will always be a capital project for the average homeowner. Second, the battery technology needed to go off-grid remains way too pricey for all but the way-out-in-the-wilderness crowd, and there's no indication that will change soon. But even if it does, re-engineering the average US house will take time and money, resulting in a long and slow adoption curve. Also, somebody's got to maintain those systems, so there's a market for service contracts.

But there's another fallacy here - the idea that peak power is the most profitable form of electrical power. It's not - which is why Com Ed will pay you for the right to shut your AC off. Peak power is actually the least profitable form of power, because it requires building expensive plants designed to start up quickly. These plants have to be staffed 24/7, but don't run all the time. The most profitable power is base-load power.

Lastly, not every building can generate enough solar power to meet their needs. There's only so much roof area a building has, and many buildings (most commercial buildings, high-rises) consume more power than they could generate. Not only that, but as more Americans drive battery-powered cars like the Chevy Volt, electrical power demand will go up, especially at night, as those cars are recharged.

In short, utilities will have plenty of time to adapt and plenty of customers to serve.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Like the label on the tin says:

1) An interesting take on how men and women can (and do) view the same event through different lenses.

2) This guy seems to think that humanity can't live without Earth dirt. Not sure how much dirt Eskimos are exposed to, but the bottom line is we'll only know for sure by trying to live in space.

3) Small modular nuclear reactors are going from paper to steel in Tennessee.

4) The photo caption tells a fascinating story: Squadron Leader J A F MacLachlan, the one-armed Commanding Officer of No 1 Squadron RAF, standing beside his all-black Hawker Hurricane Mark IIC night fighter, 'JX-Q', at Tangmere, Sussex.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
They say three things make a post, so:

1) John J. Lumpkin's eagerly-awaited (by me, at least) second book, The Desert of Stars, is now available on Amazon.


2) Some German engineers have created a free-piston engine. Its immediate use would be to generate electricity for extending the range of electric cars.

3) Sometimes the best truths come from humorists. Today's example from - 5 Ways Statistics Are Used to Lie to You Every Day. Well worth the read.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Thanksgiving dinner this year will probably be at Central DuPage Hotel Hospital, and I'll be the help desk at work Friday. All of that means Link Salad today! (Yeah, I know there's a few logical inconsistencies there, just go with it.)

1) No, Rand, there is no 'ban' on incandescent light bulbs.

2) The Federal deficit is falling at the fastest rate since the end of WWII. Ending a war (Iraq) and holding Medicare costs down will do that.

3) Presented without comment: Kior this month will begin shipping biofuel from its first “commercial-scale” facility, a significant step for the long-delayed advanced biofuels industry.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Comment The First

From Jay Lake [ profile] jaylake I get this: artificial leaf is 10 times as efficient as nature. The article makes a radical claim: the chip [the size of a deck of cards] could produce enough electricity to power a house in a developing country for an entire day. Since the device works by generating hydrogen, it would allow the power to be stored for night-time use.

Obviously, the average house of the developing world uses less electricity than your house or mine, but still, this is a radical improvement. This device, if the claim is true, could make solar power even more competitive.

Comment The Second

Pirates in Somalia remain problematic - the Dutch amphibious ship HNLMS Rotterdam recently shot up a pirate mother ship (pictures at the link). Why the pirates elected to fire on a 12,000 ton warship with AK-47s is beyond me. They lost the election.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I'm working, and the links just keep piling up, so:

A) A sentimental link for space geeks The day Robert Goddard dreamed of taking a rocket to Mars.

B) An interesting article on how the Republic of Venice managed to self destruct and interesting parallels with the current United States of America.

C) I've long thought that deep underground mining will be something done only by remotely-controlled machines. This article suggests letting bacteria do the digging.

D) There's a theory floating about that modern man's increase in allergies is due to our being too effective at killing microbes. This article talks about a man who put that theory to the test.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Like the label on the tin says:

A) The title says it all: How I Lost My Fear of Universal Health Care.

B) What's really killing the US coal industry: cheap natural gas. Gas turbine plants burning natural gas are cleaner, cheaper to run and at the moment natural gas is cheaper per megawatt produced than coal.

C) This post has some interesting political observations, but why I link to it is for this: One thing I'd like to be clear about is that Mike Huckabee has always struck me as a pretty good example of why "Someone I'd like to have a beer with" is a pretty lousy criteria for picking a national leader: Huckabee has always seemed to me like the kind of guy who would be a great, slightly wacky neighbor, the kind of guy who throws great cookouts and can be trusted to check your mail or water your plants but not somebody you'd vote for.

D) An interesting opinion: Syria's army is on the way out, unable to operate due to IEDs.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Like the title says:

A) Someone from Massachusetts, home of Romneycare AKA Obamacare 1.0, says To all the handwringing, all I can say is look to Massachusetts. We already have a working model of how this will play out. The short answer - it will be fine.

B) One of the problems with wind and solar as an energy source is storing the energy. This young lady has an idea - compressed air.

C) I've frequently mentioned the fact that, in Ye Olde Dayes, busting unions was accomplished by busting open the heads of union members. Here's a brief list of noteworthy union-head-busting events.

D) Speaking of Ye Olde Dayes, here's a new word for you: thief-taker. Back before professional police forces, people were paid to hunt thieves, recover goods and arrest crooks. Many of those paid were also collecting protection money from thieves and/or running criminal gangs on the side.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
They go bad if I leave them over the weekend:

1) Federal judge blocks Florida voter suppression law.

2) There's a group of people in Appalachia called "Melungeons" who claim exotic ancestry. Based on DNA research, they are really just mixed-race white and black.

3) Paul Krugman on the oversized egos of Wall Street types.

4) Roger Ebert has some interesting reflections on John Wayne.

5) In space news, Soviet lander discovered water on the Moon in 1976.

6) The question is, is this the key to vastly better batteries?

7) A 19-year-old Egyptian student may have invented a new type of space engine. Will future spacefarers call it the "Mustafa Drive?" In other space news, Mars One.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
1) I don't believe in evolution. For those not clicking through, I also don't believe in my chair. I have empirical evidence that the chair exists (my ass is not on the ground) and I have the same sort of evidence to support evolution.

2) Larry Niven's Laws. Of especial interest:
1a) Never throw shit at an armed man.
1b) Never stand next to someone who is throwing shit at an armed man.

3)NASA gets into the algae-fuel boom. Their solution is a bag that floats in the ocean.

4)As somebody with genetic risk factors for prostate cancer, the idea of using ultrasound to kill tumors is interesting.

5) An interesting article from Reuters: Marine insurance, or lack of it, may yet turn out to be the most effective sanction used by Western nations in 17 years of tightening the screws on Iran's nuclear program. I use insurance companies as a motive force in my latest magnum opus Pirates of Mars.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I found my energy levels so low yesterday that I neither blogged nor went to the gym. Having gone to the gym over lunch today, I am now resuming blogging with a few hand-selected links.

1) Some scientists were cleaning out their bookshelves and came across a paper from 1981 predicting climate change. The money quote? To conclude, a projection from 1981 for rising temperatures in a major science journal, at a time that the temperature rise was not yet obvious in the observations, has been found to agree well with the observations since then, underestimating the observed trend by about 30%, and easily beating naive predictions of no-change or a linear continuation of trends. It is also a nice example of a statement based on theory that could be falsified and up to now has withstood the test. The “global warming hypothesis” has been developed according to the principles of sound science.

2) Does the US really have more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia? no, not really. A key point - true "shale oil" isn't "oil" it's oil that hasn't been cooked by nature, and to get it to a usable state requires heating it.

3) On the softer side of things, why some Civil War soldiers glowed in the dark.
chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)
Because I've got Rotary today:

1) A nice review of Pirates of Mars.

2) A interesting article about the fall of Rome, the rise of Islam and Battlestar Galactica.

3) Yes, Virginia, private enterprise is interested in saving energy: Oil scare turns Fedex into hybrids and alternative fuels.

4) The Denver Post debunks Canadian health care myths.

5) Available for free but well worth paying for: a Jay Lake novella set in his Sunspin universe.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
So, various political types of the conservative / Republican persuasion are running around saying that if we just drill enough domestic oil, we can have $2.50 / gallon gasoline. Various libertarians, including The Usual Suspects, are in full ditto-head mode.

Not so fast, alligator-breath. First, US oil production has been falling since 1984, AKA, 'Reagan's second term'. It just recently trended up, a trend that started in 2009, AKA, 'Obama's first term.' Since Reagan and the Bushes weren't exactly anti-oil, and there were a number of Republican congresses in that period, anybody not wearing a dunce cap has to conclude that US production is being driven by factors other than politics.

One would be correct. In the Dakotas, the oil they are drilling is coming from the Bakken formation, which was discovered in 1951. When it was discovered, the technology to get the oil out didn't exist. Now, that technology (fracking) does exist, but it's not cheap. So, with rising oil prices, drilling the Bakken makes sense.

But why are oil prices rising if supply is increasing? Well, as this fellow points out, oil demand is increasing faster than supply. The money quote: "From 2005 through 2010, the growth in demand from China and India was double the demand lost in the U.S., and 1.14 times the combined demand loss of the U.S. and Europe."

We are in no danger of running out of oil, and crude oil may, in the short term, fall below $100 / barrel. But we've already run out of cheap oil.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I had my first session with my personal trainer yesterday. (She looks and acts like Central Casting's idea of a personal trainer.) Today, though, muscles I forgot I had are reminding me that they exist. [insert witty and/or funny transition here] Have some links:

1) In an attempt to get one step ahead of Internet bank fraud, IBM is offering a PC-on-a-stick.

2) I am not a cat person, so I read with amusement how your cat is making you crazy. There's a wonderful SF story or two in there.

3) Apparently, the current clown-car-crop of Republicans found biofuel funny. Well, the US Air Force dares you to laugh at their biofuel. It really is sad how stupid the current political debate has gotten.

4) A quick reminder of the costs of war and why we shouldn't be in a hurry to get in one.

5) A reminder - I will be down in Westville tomorrow signing books at our lovely new library.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
I'm a bit cranky this morning, due to an (entirely avoidable) snafu with Rotary. So here's some links with comments.

1) You may have heard that oil and gas prices are going up. Well, it's not because we're not doing the "drill, baby drill" thing - The number of rigs in U.S. oil fields has more than quad­rupled in the past three years to 1,272, according to the Baker Hughes rig count. Including those in natural gas fields, the United States now has more rigs at work than the entire rest of the world.. The real story is (a) pumping oil from shale is more expensive than sand (b) China is buying more oil so (c) the era of cheap oil is over.

2) Daniel Larson, no flaming liberal, points out that Rick Santorum doesn't understand what 'environmental stewardship' means. Like the link says, stewardship, "necessarily involves limiting and restraining our desires so as not to exhaust or waste what has been entrusted to us. Viewed that way, we are here to care for the earth and for one another, and in so doing serve the Creator Who made both."

3) No, Virginia, you can't get free health care in an emergency room - Last year, about 80,000 emergency-room patients at hospitals owned by HCA, the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chain, left without treatment after being told they would have to first pay $150 because they did not have a true emergency.

4) From Paul Krugman: Last week the European Commission confirmed what everyone suspected: the economies it surveys are shrinking, not growing. It’s not an official recession yet, but the only real question is how deep the downturn will be. Government austerity does not restore confidence, and "restored confidence" does not result in economic growth. In other news, water is wet.

5) Here's an interesting theory about why we're still arguing about birth control in 2012. This is explicitly presented without comment or (necessarily) agreement.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Like the label on the tin says:

1) That radical group of hippies, the US military, is working with solar power. They have all sorts of deals with Alta Devices, who makes the world's highest-efficiency solar panels.

2) Tell me again why the GM bailout was a bad idea. The company just posted a record annual profit and has a surging stock price.

3) So, as part of what can only be classified as an ongoing Republican war on contraception, they decided to call an all-male panel to testify to Congress. Talk about shooting oneself in the foot.

Okay, so I can't count. (Actually, it's a late edit.)

4) Not Being Able to Scrape By With $200k Is Usually Your Own Fault.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Like the label on the tin says:

1) In a shocking and surprising bit of news, Kochs' Family Empire Founded on Government Handouts. Of course, it's not really shocking at all.

2) A very interesting article on SpaceX, Elon Musk's private NASA.

3) Much has been written of how the failure of Borders means that bookstores are dead. This article begs to differ.

4) From Tobias Buckell, Wind turbines without the blades.

5) An interesting article about a long-time FBI informant on white-supremacist groups.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Because they're piling up:

1) Water will become the new oil because the Ogallala Aquifer is running dry. When that water's gone, it won't come back until after the next Ice Age. Most of the agriculture of an area from North Dakota to Texas is dependent on it. Solutions can be found (pipelines and solar desalinization) but they are not cheap nor will the free market magically build them.

2) A remarkable video of a remarkable device: an airplane that flies like a bird. Speaking of airplanes, here's a spherical model that can fly horizontally and take off and land vertically.

3) From the archives, the pharmacology of zombies. Basically, the same neurotoxin found in the Japanese fugu fish - tetrodotoxin - is blamed.

4) On the solar power front, this fellow argues that current photovoltaic cells, running at 14% efficiency, are more than sufficient for our long-term needs. Basically, all of our current sources of energy average out at around 20% or so.

5) From the same blog as above, and probably where I got the inspiration for yesterday's golfing with God post, an argument that space colonization is not in our near future. Although the author makes the very cogent point that the distances involved are ginormous, the problem is not distance but economics.


chris_gerrib: (Default)

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