Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Science Toys - 1

Volcano Making Kit

I have been thinking lately about the abysmal state of science in America and have decided to do something about it. So I'm going to put up a post every week or so about science toys and the science books that go with them.

The first one I'm going to look at is a Volcano Making Kit The price is right at about $10 and it is powered by baking soda and vinegar. Read the comments at the link before going ahead with this project. It is not easy. It requires thinking about what you are doing and some advance planning. A lot is covered in the reviews. However, the reviews for the most part are good. And besides kids (and adults) love to see volcanoes blow their tops. And no toxic chemicals are required which is always a consideration for young kids.

A good book to go with the kit is Volcanoes (The Wonders of Our World). If you want a nice picture book on volcanoes the National Geographic is always a good choice: National Geographic - Volcano!.

A poster helps to remind kids of a subject. The Chemistry of Geology - 27.5 x 18.75

And lastly for now a little deeper look into the subject, a textbook. Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Where Are The Barking Dogs?

I just saw an interesting comment on the Gaza situation at The Belmont Club.

Notice the lack of actual violence in islamic countries about the gaza situation…

Compare and contrast the to cartoon riots…

Dec 29, 2008 - 12:02 am
Yes. It is interesting.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bent Burris For The Illinois Senate

Bent Rod Blagojevich plans to name Roland Burris to the US Senate seat vacated by Mr. Obama who plans to carry on as the Most Corrupt President Elect Ever™ although I might hasten to add that there is no proof, so far, that Mr. Obama who came up through Chicago politics and who was heavily involved with convicted Chicago fixer Tony Rezko has done anything for which he can be indicted. There are hints though. Like the deal Mr. Rezko was involved with for the purchase of Mr. Obama's house. And a very nice house it is.

Ignoring threats from the U.S. Senate Democratic leadership to block his pick, Gov. Blagojevich this afternoon said he's appointing Roland Burris to President-elect Barack Obama's vacant U.S. Senate seat.

"The people of Illinois are entitled to have two U.S. Senators," said Blagojevich, whose arrest on corruption charges earlier this month places Burris' appointment under a cloud. "If I don't make this appointment then the people of Illinois will be deprived."
He is quite right about the people of Illinois being deprived. Deprived of the chance to vote for the crook of their choice. A shame really.
During a downtown news conference, Blagojevich called Burris, 71, an individual with "unquestioned integrity" and a "senior statesman of Illinois."
That is Chicago speak for "more corrupt than most and possibly soon to be indicted".
"I have faith in the record I have accomplished in the past four decades," Burris said. "I am humbled to have this opportunity. I will uphold the integrity of this office."
Which is Chicago speak for "With Blago tainted by the scandal I had an opportunity to get the Senate Seat at a discount, which is an offer I just couldn't pass up."
Burris and his lobbying/consulting firm have donated about $15,000 to the governor's campaign fund. His firm has done work for the Illinois Department of Transportation under Blagojevich, and a law-firm to which he is "of counsel" has been a recipient of state bond business.

Burris, however, ridiculed reporters who asked questions about whether his relationship with the Blagojevich administration might have played a role in the governor appointing him. Burris said the two talked about the appointment Sunday night.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) made a surprise appearance at the press conference to give Burris a vote of confidence and urge the U.S. Senate not to stand in Burris' way.

It is imperative the Senate have an African-American replace Obama, Rush said.
Bobby is an ex-Black Panther who has gone far in Illinois politics. Interesting that Mr. Obama's seat is now considered a wholly owned subsidiary of the Black folks from Chicago. Don't you think that a racial spoils system is a tad unseemly Mr. Rush?

And note the rather small campaign donation Mr. Burris gave Blago in the past. I told you he was getting the seat at a discount.

Well the Democrats in the US Senate are not happy. If Burris takes his seat it makes them look more corrupt than usual. And you know, that would not be good for their chances to hold on to power and pass out the goodies to their favored friends for more than the next two years.
Before the Blagojevich and Burris news conference, which was aired live on multiple national news channels, Democratic leaders in the Senate issued a statement saying any Blagojevich appointee would not be seated. And the leaders urged Blagojevich to resign.

"It is truly regrettable that despite warning from all 50 Democratic senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety," the statement read.

"We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris's ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus."

The statement said the Senate is preparing to embark on "one of the most important debates of the year outlining an economic recovery plan to create jobs and invest in America" and Illinois needs two sitting senators "without delay."
Why yes. The Democrats are working on a Christmas Tree of a bill and it would taint the procedure of ratifying the thievery to have a man appointed by some one even Democrats consider an inept crook voting in favor of the theft.

Well the deal is the Democrats just want all this to go away. You know in the words of our Most Corrupt President Elect Ever™ "it is a distraction". So what is their proposed solution? Rather simple really. Some other Democrat needs to appoint the crook who will replace Mr. Obama. No reason Blago deserves any of the swag after all the embarrassment he has caused.
"We again urge Gov. Blagojevich to not make this appointment," the Democratic leadership said. "It is unfair to Mr. Burris, it is unfair to the people of Illinois and it will ultimately not stand. The governor must put the interests of the people of Illinois and all Americans first by stepping aside now and letting his successor appoint someone who we will seat.
And of course no election for the people of Illinois. They might do the unthinkable and elect a Republican crook. It has happened before.

So why would Blago want Burris? Maybe Burris owes him a few favors.
In 2002, Burris became a lobbyist and has had a portfolio that has included Commonwealth Edison, Comcast and the state's funeral home industry. His lobbying firm, Burris & Lebed Consulting, of Chicago, also has snared $294,545 in state contracts under Blagojevich since 2004, state records show.

He, his lobbying firm and his law firm, Burris Wright Slaughter & Tom, have contributed $20,296 in cash and services to Blagojevich's campaign fund since 2002. The most-recent contribution, $1,000, came last June. It was already widely known at the time that Blagojevich was a target of federal investigators.
It never hurts to have a Senator you can count on.

So what do the Illinois Republicans think about all the goings on?
Statement from Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna on Roland Burris Senate Appointment:

“Illinois Republicans were the first to demand Rod Blagojevich have nothing to do with appointing our next United States Senator.

“Because they went back on their word and refused to strip Blagojevich of his appointment power and pass a special election, Illinois Democrats have created yet another constitutional crisis for Illinois.

“Blagojevich Democrat Roland Burris is emblematic of the old-school, pay-to-play culture that has plagued Illinois for generations and this appointment is another embarrassment for the people of Illinois.

“Once again, Blagojevich Democrats have failed the people of Illinois by refusing to strip Rod Blagojevich of his senate appointment power and blocking a vote of the people.”
In Illinois speak "The Democrats are blocking the Republican's chance to capture the seat two years early. And besides it would make one more Republican the Democrats would have to buy to get legislation passed in the US Senate. Which of course proves the whole undemocratic nature of the Democrat's move."

My hope is that they keep this whole farce going for at least two years and the legislature in Washington is forced to do nothing. Maybe the thievery can be slowed some, for a while. It couldn't hurt.

H/T Backyard Conservative who has even more dirt on Burris.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

An Agent For Change

Terry Nelson was a Federal agent for 30 years with the U.S. Border Patrol, the Customs Service and the Department of Homeland Security. Here is what he says about drug prohibition.

Busting top traffickers doesn't work, since others just do battle to replace them. Despite the obvious failure of our drug control strategy, the public discourse surrounding this issue has focused primarily on continuing to wage the "drug war."

Mandatory prison sentences and interdiction efforts have very little effect on drug use. This year the World Health Organization found that the U.S. has the highest marijuana and cocaine use rates on the planet, despite having some of the harshest sentences.

We won't be able to expand treatment and prevention efforts until we stop spending so much money enforcing ineffective penalties, building new prisons and buying fancy cars and helicopters for law enforcement agencies. As we begin to treat problematic drug use as a public health issue, it will become much easier to prevent the death, disease and addiction that have expanded under the criminal justice mentality of prohibition.

But even with the best public health efforts, there will always be some who want to use drugs, and, as long as drugs are illegal, many willing to risk imprisonment or death to make huge profits supplying them. My years of experience as a federal agent tell me that legalizing and effectively regulating drugs will stop drug market crime and violence by putting major cartels and gangs out of business.

The Department of Justice reported [this month] that Mexican cartels are America's "greatest organized crime threat" because they "control drug distribution in most U.S. cities." If what we've been doing worked at all, we wouldn't be battling Mexican drug dealers in our own cities or anywhere else. There's one surefire way to bankrupt them, but when will our leaders talk about it?
Probably never. Why? In my estimation they have already been bought off by the cartels.
"The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995
Here is what the Most Corrupt President Elect Ever™ has to say about marijuana legalization:
“President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”
End of story. For now.

I think the murder rate from the presence of the Mexican gangs in our cities will have to go a lot higher before even discussion of legalization by our elected officials is on the table. One of the things that will help is a wave of kidnapings that the Mexican gangs are also famous for. Coming soon to a city or town near you. I can hardly wait.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friends Of Saudi Arabia

It looks like ole Billy Boy Clinton is doing real well for himself.

Now that Bill Clinton has released the list of his 205,000 donors who have given close to $500 million to his library and foundation, it is clear why he resisted releasing the list while his wife was running for president.

Compelled by the Obama transition team to make it public as a condition of his wife's appointment as secretary of state, it becomes clear that the list is a virtual encyclopedia of conflicts of interest for the husband of a senator, to say nothing of the husband of an incoming secretary of state.
Every one knows money doesn't buy influence in Washington. That kind of stuff only works in Illinois.
Specifically, Clinton got:

Between $10 million and $25 million from:

-- The government of Saudi Arabia

Between $1 million and $5 million from:

-- Friends of Saudi Arabia

-- The Dubai Foundation

-- Saudi businessman Nasser Al-Rashid

-- Saudi tycoon Sheikh Mohammed H. Al-Amoudi

-- Former Lebanon Deputy Prime Minister Issam Fares

-- The government of Kuwait

-- The government of Qatar

-- The government of Oman

-- The government of Brunei

-- The Zayed Family, rulers of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates

He also received between $500,000 and $1 million from Saudi businessman Walid Juffali.
That kind of money can buy an awful lot of books. I wonder what Bill will be reading? Maybe he is studying to become a mining engineer.
The list reveals another key center of conflicts of interest in Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Republic, now home to some of the world's greatest mineral deposits and ruled by a corrupt dictator, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, who according to The New York Times has all but quashed political dissent."

Clinton visited Kazakhstan and met with its president on Sept. 6, 2005, accompanied by Canadian mining financier Frank Giustra. Soon after, Giustra was awarded a highly lucrative contract to mine uranium there. Now, lo and behold, Giustra turns up having given the library and foundation $10 million to $25 million and the Clinton Giustra Sustainable Growth Initiative-Canada gave $1 million to $5 million more. And Clinton got $1 million to $5 million from Laksmi Mittal, the fourth wealthiest person on the Forbes billionaire list and a member of the Foreign Investment Council in Kazakhstan.

In addition, Clinton further fished in troubled waters by taking $1 million to $5 million from Victor Pinchuk, the son-in-law of the controversial former president of Ukraine.
You know. I'm beginning to think Obama doesn't care a bit about being President. All he has to do is stick out the job for four or eight years without creating too much havoc. The real money is in being an ex-President. Especially if you can get your wife elected Senator. Dick Durbin can probably be induced to resign in 2014 if Obama loses in 2012. I wonder how much the seat will be worth then? And if Obama lasts until 2016 his old seat will be available. How fitting. Carol Mosely Braun II. Or III depending on who gets the seat next. Is Valerie Jarrett still in the running?

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Ruins Of Detroit

The Ruins of Detroit
I was reading a bit in The Weekly Standard about Detroit.
As the night wears on, Charlie grows defensive, and almost defiant, about Detroit. He recounts everything it's done for the country, insists the city still matters and won't disappear, speculates about the potential for it to become a major port since "water is the new oil," and insists that Henry Ford is more important to history than Jesus Christ since "even Muslims drive Toyotas." At this, Patterson, a good Catholic boy, leans into my tape recorder, "That was Charlie. .  .  . When I go home tonight, I will make the sign of the cross and pray to Henry Ford."

Charlie heads for the restroom, and Patterson grows philosophical: "Detroit's history has gone the way of Rome and Athens and Constantinople. It is what history does. History moves on. And history has moved away from the Babylonian Empire. It moved away from Egypt. It be what it be. .  .  . I think Detroit sees itself in its rearview mirror. But Detroit will never again be where those other cities were, including Detroit."
And then I got a heads up from a site I had posted at a couple of years ago which reminded me of a pictorial essay The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit.

Now all this is too fresh to be just an interesting ruin. It still hurts to see wealth turn into decay. Give it another 100 or 200 years and it will be an archaeological site and not the screaming pain of a city in its death throes. Civilization has moved on. Water ways are not so important for transporting industrial goods. The graft and political encrustations of Detroit are no longer supportable. Factories that were once state of the art are now too much overhead for changed technology. The layouts are wrong. The attitudes of the people are too hardened. Too much "this is the way it has always been done". So the last of the life is being sucked out of Detroit. It is sad. But we are too close. In a hundred years it will just be "interesting".
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my works. Ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Ride Of The Valkyries

Link: Fleg Master Tlpizza

Not Safe For Work

This is a commercial. It is supposed to have something to do with washing machines.

The comments at Tech Crunch are definitely worth a read.

H/T Instapundit

Attorney General: Legalize Marijuana

It seems like Arizona is worried about the brewing border war between the US and the Mexican drug cartels.

PHOENIX -- Attorney General Terry Goddard said he might be willing to consider legalizing marijuana if a way can be found to control its distribution -- and figure out who has been smoking it.

Goddard said marijuana sales make up 75 percent of the money that Mexican cartels use for the other operations, including smuggling other drugs and fighting the Army and police in that country. He said that makes fighting drug distribution here important to cut off that cash.

He acknowledged those profits could be slashed if possession of marijuana were not a crime in Arizona. But Goddard said a number of other hurdles remain before that even becomes a possibility.

Goddard's comments came following a news conference announcing the breakup of a major ring that police said has been responsible for bringing about 400,000 pounds of marijuana across the border and into Arizona each year since 2003.

The operation has so far led to the indictment of 59 people and the arrest so far of 39 of them, some in this country legally and others who were not.

Phoenix Police Lt. Vince Piano said the operation was very sophisticated, complete with specially designed heavy-duty trucks to actually let vehicles drive over the border fence.

They also had solar-powered radio towers and a network of lookouts who told the trucks, each carrying up to 2,500 pounds of marijuana, when to move and when to hide under camouflage. He said there even was a system of "food drops' to supply the drivers.

Piano said this operation was one of several under contract to Mexican drug lords to transport the marijuana from the border through the Tohono O'odham Reservation all the way to Phoenix.

Piano said busting this organization doesn't stop the flow of drugs, saying this is one of several "transportation groups' working with the cartel. But he said it does disrupt at least part of the flow.
Imagine that. Solar powered drug gangs. Talk about going green.

And what does he mean by disrupting part of the flow? Simple. More profits for those who remain in the business.

At least he understands the basic point. The only way to defeat the cartels is to under price them which shouldn't be hard. Hydroponic marijuana should cost no more than 10X the cost of hydroponic tomatoes. With hydroponic tomatoes running about $2 to $3 a pound retail that would make hydroponic marijuana cost about $1 to $2 an ounce. Maybe as little as 10¢ to 20¢ an ounce. When you compare that with prices for the illegal stuff running at up to $500 an ounce is it any wonder that even a small town like mine (pop 150,000) has two hydroponic stores?

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Politics Explained

The Right fears fun.

The Left fears money.

Between them, when they get done with us, we will be miserable and broke.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saving Is Good

H/T Megan McArdle

Cross Posted at Classical Values

More Malware Protection

I'm using Spybot - Search & Destroy 1.6 which seems to do a very good job. It was suggested by a friend. It is free, however you can make a donation.

As per usual may I suggest you install it before you need it.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Carbon Transistor Advances

IBM is doing some great work in advancing carbon transistor technology.

IBM Researchers today announced that they have demonstrated the operation of graphene field-effect transistors at GHz frequencies, claiming the highest frequencies reported so far using the non-silicon electronic material.

IBM is a long-time proponent of graphene -- a special form of graphite, consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms packed in "honeycomb lattice" -- as a material for building nanoelectonic circuits smaller than those in today's silicon-based computer chips.

The company in March announced that it discovered a way to suppress unwanted interference of electrical signals that are created when shrinking graphene. That development was followed closely by research from the University of Maryland that found that electrons travel more than 100 times faster in graphene than in silicon.

Specifically, IBM said today that its scientists have fabricated nanoscale graphene field-effect transistors and demonstrated the operation of graphene transistors at the GHz frequency range, establishing scaling behavior for the first time.
Faster transistors are only part of the equation though. Today the wires in chips represent about one half the delay between circuits. So even if transistor delays went to zero chip speed would only double.

Still, this will help and it may lead to other discoveries that will change the way chips are made. For instance DNA might be designed that could grow chips out of carbon. But we are a ways off from that.

Here is what DARPA has to say about their graphene transistor program.
The Carbon Electronics for RF Applications (CERA) program will develop wafer-scale graphene synthesis approaches and ultra-high-speed, low-power graphene-channel field effect transistors for RF/mm-wave circuits. The many desirable material properties of the novel graphene films, including ultra-high mobility, high saturation velocity, high current carrying capability, excellent thermal conductivity, ultra-thin geometry and the potential to integrate with traditional CMOS processes, offer the potential for graphene-based transistors with high promise for high-performance, high-integration-density RF system-on-chip applications. For this reason, the CERA program focuses on developing innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in materials science, epitaxial growth, transistor development, and RF circuit design. Desirable properties of CERA transistors include high mobility, high cutoff frequencies (ft and fmax), high transconductance, low noise, and low voltage operation. In addition, graphene-channel devices also offer low parasitic resistances, excellent electrostatic scaling and high integration potential with silicon CMOS. The CERA program will culminate in a demonstration of high performance W-band (≥ 90 GHz) low noise amplifiers (NF ≤ 1dB) making use of graphene transistors on wafers with diameters ≥ 8 inches.
Low parasitic resistances could speed up the other half of the equation - the delay between transistors.

If the material can operate at higher temperatures than silicon it could also be the foundation of more compact high power electronics. High power MOSFETs are essentially hundreds of thousands of small transistors connected in parallel. If they can be made smaller, faster, and cheaper they could lower the cost of high power electronics such as those used in converting solar cell energy to AC line current or making hybrid, plug in hybrid, and battery powered auto electronics smaller, cheaper, and more efficient.

We do have quite a ways to go to turn lab experiments into a production process. However, there is a start here and a proof of concept so the rush will be on. We are quite a ways ahead of where we were in 1925 when Julius Edgar Lilienfeld invented the Field Effect Transistor, but no one knew how to reliably manufacture them. The kinks were not sufficiently ironed out in the manufacturing process until the early 60s although the bipolar junction transistor was made to work in the 50s.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Obama Gets Some Questions

So what does Obama really think about marijuana legalization?
“President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.”
Well he was for it before he was against it.
To be fair to President-Elect Obama, he never pledged to legalize marijuana. Quite the contrary, during his Presidential campaign he backtracked from his previous comments supporting pot decriminalization, and he even went so far as to pick one of the chief architects of the modern drug war to be his Vice President. In short, to believe that the Obama team would have responded to the legalization question any other way was idealistic at best, and foolish at worst.
There is a video of Obama speaking on the issue in 2004.
The Washington Times has unearthed a video of a debate in Barack Obama’s initial Illinois campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2004. The debate tape from Jan. 21, 2004, at Northwestern University shows Obama proclaiming the war on drugs an “utter failure.”

“We need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws,” he said to scattered applause. “But I’m not somebody who believes in legalization of marijuana. What I do believe is that we need to rethink how we’re operating in the drug war. Currently, we’re not doing a good job.”
That of course leaves a lot of what Obama the stoner thinks about the drug war open to interpretation.

My guess is that he will go with more police, harsher penalties, and more killer SWAT team raids. It is what Bill Clinton did. And no one complained (well except for the legalizers).

As those of you paying attention know - Obama was never about policy. He was about getting elected. His policies will be what ever he feels will give him the best chance for re-election. It is not like any great number of Americans think drug prohibition is working (well except for making illegal drugs easier to get than beer and financing criminal gangs and supporting the narco take over of Mexico) it is just that the prohibitionists are loud and they have a lot of government money behind them.

"The Latin American drug cartels have stretched their tentacles much deeper into our lives than most people believe. It's possible they are calling the shots at all levels of government." - William Colby, former CIA Director, 1995

H/T Suzanne Wills via e-mail

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Attorney General: I Make Better Decisions With Morphine

This is pretty amazing stuff.

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, in an entirely under-reported November interview, claimed that he makes the best decisions "when I have a lot of morphine in my system."
Perhaps some one needs to talk to Obama about this.

You can watch the 5 1/2 minute video of the interview at the above link.

H/T Suzanne Wills via e-mail

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Steampunk Fusion Video

I got this video from Popular Science where you can read an interesting article on the subject. At Steampunk Fusion I have a look at whether this is a scam or could it really work. The short version: the engineering is very difficult but it could work.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


In his new book, What Would Keith Do?,due out in May, Keith Richards says:

I've never had a problem with drugs, only with policemen.

H/T Buford Terrell via e-mail.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The Bad Kids Got Toys

From Neko Bijin’s Serious Blog:

Forget namby-pamby solar or pie-in-the-sky fusion power. Coal is where it’s at this winter. I heard it that bad kids got plastic toys this year, but good kids got precious, precious coal.
Because keeping warm is a very good thing.

The Secretary Is Into Commerce

Governor Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico), Obama's Commerce Secretary designate, is being investigated for a bit of commerce.

New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson, who is the newly named Secretary of Commerce in Obama's about-to-be Cabinet, is also being investigated by a federal grand jury in his home state for possibly steering state bond business from the New Mexico Financial Authority toward David Rubin, a significant campaign contributor, according to an NBC News report, among others. NBC's Lisa Myers reports that two former state officials say they've recently been questioned by a federal grand jury specifically about allegations that Richardson or aides pushed state business worth nearly $1.5 million in fees toward CDR Financial Products in 2004. The company is headquartered in Beverly Hills.

This was about the same time as CDR's founder, Rubin, donated $100,000 to two of Richardson's political action committees; mainly it appears to cover expenses of the governor and his staff at the Democratic Party's National Convention in Boston that summer.

Rubin also donated another $29,000 to Richardson's unsuccessful presidential campaign this year and last.
You know what I hope? I hope the Obama administration goes after Republicans in retaliation. Perhaps between the two parties some of the rot in the country will get cleaned up. One can only hope.

The only real way to bring all this under control though is smaller government. Because when politicians control what is bought and sold, the first thing bought and sold is politicians.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Hey Kids - What Time Is It?

It's Sarah Palin time. Every day for the next year. Especially if you buy the Sarah Palin 2009 Calendar.And this will come as a surprise: Instapundit says it is on the Amazon best seller list - for office products. I'm still trying to figure out what that means in terms of her political future.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, December 26, 2008

Brightey Whities

A new laboratory record in LED white light production has been reached.

December 3, 2008--In the ongoing efficiency battle going on between the research labs of the leading high-power white-light LED makers, Cree (Durham, NC) has gained the highest ground, at least for now. The company just announced that it achieved an industry-best reported R&D result of 161 lumens per watt for a white-light power LED.

Cree's tests confirmed that the 1 mm x 1 mm LED produced 173 lumens of light output and achieved its 161 lumens per watt efficacy at a color temperature of 4689 K. The tests were conducted under standard LED test conditions at a drive current of 350 mA, at room temperature. This level of performance is not yet available in production LEDs, says the company.

Such efficiency levels are about ten times that of a standard incandescent bulb, and at least twice that of compact fluorescent bulbs.
One of the things LED lights will give us as research turns into products is the ability to dial in color as well as intensity. Green light for the Christmas tree. Red light for the guy in the Santa suit. Blue light for those days when your mood needs calming.

Right now the prices for LED lights is rather high. About $70 to $120 for a 100 W (incandescent equivalent) light bulb. This is not too bad for places where changing light bulbs is expensive because LED lamps have lifetimes of 100,000 hours which is about 11 1/2 years of continuous use. By the time a lamp bought today needs changing they should cost a lot less.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Born Free

Laurie Anderson

Anything Goes

Ethel Merman of course.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Solar Bail Out

Yes. Solar has a very bright future. A long as the subsidies keep coming.

If estimates hold up, by 2030, 2000-GW-scale power plants will be necessary to meet new electricity demand, and a potential need will arise to replace a large number of obsolete power plants. Demand on this scale, coupled with industrial and consumer demand and the desire to be free of foreign-fuel sources, has opened up significant opportunities for the PV market, Gartner says.
China alone is building a 1 GW coal plant every week and plans to keep doing it for decades. So let us see 21 years times 52 weeks a year equals over 1,000 GW scale power plants for China alone. That is a lot of electrical demand. Solar can surely help.
Paula Mints, principal analyst for Navigant Consulting’s PV-services program and associate director of Navigant’s energy practice, agrees that solar will continue to maintain the excitement it has garnered as of late. However, she says, the market is first going to soften, for the obvious reason: the economy. “People are drawing back on larger projects because credit is tight,” she says.

Equal to that pressure, Mints says, is the cap Spain recently put on its feed-in tariff, a popular program in Europe. Given that Europe contains more than 70% of the global solar market, this blow was significant. “Spain has been growing enormously, a lot of product was shipped into Spain, and now it has nowhere to go,” she notes.
Uh oh. Just one solar power consuming country ends its subsidy and the market backs up.

And here is the problem in a nut shell. Or perhaps a better name for the problem is the taxpayer's wallet.
According to Navigant’s Mints, incentives are the only factors that drive demand in solar unless it is off-grid. “The Spanish market is a case in point,” she explains. “[Spain] put a cap on [its] market, and now the whole world shrinks because of that [decision]. These are really expensive programs that are very difficult to design. They have to be designed to stimulate a market [but] also be controllable and economically viable because someone has to pay for it. Essentially, where there are incentives, there will tend to be a market. This [situation] is a little offset right now because of the economy, but I don’t think anyone believes the recession will go on forever. … Once there is a recovery, the proper incentives will be in place to drive demand.”

Gartner’s Hines agrees that government subsidies drive demand for this product. Therefore, growth depends on the ability of governments to support investments in solar projects through these subsidies in whatever form they take: feed-in tariffs, as in Germany and Spain, or other incentives that exist in the United States. It appears that the subsidies are intact for now, he says, but if the economic situation worsens or stays bad for a longer time, governments might have no choice but to pull them back.
Incentives are another word for bail out. Translation: bail out equals theft from taxpayers. So let me see if I get this: as long as solar electricity costs more than the alternatives it will be dependent on government thieves for survival. Or if you prefer - a bail out? Or better yet nationalization. Maybe we just hide what is going on and call it a Green jobs program.

Not to fear. Solar can depend on the dupes (oops - I mean taxpayers) to keep funding their life style.
But Applied officials remain optimistic. “We see a lot of opportunities in the solar market, and a couple of things drive that [opportunity],” says Boone. “First, government incentives still are quite strong for solar. The United States finally [passed] the extension of the ITC [incentive tax credit], and, for the first time, that tax credit is now available to residential homeowners without a cap—that means any size system.” The $2000 cap limited who could take advantage of it, she explains. “And we certainly don’t want to be in a position where … only people at a higher-income category can afford to get solar.”

Second, Boone adds, Applied sees the ability of utility companies to take advantage of the ITC for the first time as a groundbreaking opportunity. “When we look into the future, we see a very clear divide in the solar market: the residential-rooftop and small commercial-space-constrained installation, dominated by the wafer-based crystalline-silicon products that are very high in efficiency but a little bit more costly. That is a market that we see growing in both the United States and Europe.”

The company is also seeing the rise of what it believes is going to be the “transformative heart of solar’s answer to the energy equation,” as Boone explains, which is utility-scale solar. “Allowing utilities to capture tax credits for solar-generation facilities is going to unleash a lot of demand here in the United States. We have a lot of sun in the United States. Germany, the largest solar market in the world, gets as much sun as Maine, and that’s not a very sunny place. We see growth in places like California, the Southwest, and the Southeast,” she notes, pointing to Florida as an example. Last year the state passed a new RPS (renewable portfolio standard) that essentially is going to require its utilities to get a certain amount of generation from renewable portfolios.
No caps? Well good. That means there is no limit to the theft. I mean bail out. This has got to be more fun than No income, no job, no assets mortgages.

So let me see if I have this right. Electric rates will tend to go up due to higher costs but the difference will be made up in part by stealing (oops again - I mean taxing) the same people who are paying higher prices for electricity. Who ever figured this scam out was a genius. Was it Chris Dodd or Barney Frank? Something like this would be right up their alley.

So what are the prospects for getting the costs down? Not bad.
It is currently about three times more expensive to generate electricity with PV (photovoltaic) technology than with fossil fuels. But strong efforts to reduce costs in crystalline PV and thin-film PV could allow grid parity to occur between 2012 and 2015.

However, the grid-parity argument is invalid to some experts, including Andrew Skumanich, PhD, founder of SolarVision Consulting. Grid parity is an artificial notion, he warns. "You're comparing solar panels to your wall plug for the toaster, and the problem is that, when you buy solar panels, you are buying hardware that is going to generate electricity," he says. "But you have to write a check for $20,000 or $30,000 for a typical house. … Even if you lower the cost to … maybe $15,000, you're still paying only 10 or 15 cents a kilowatt hour out of the plug."

Skumanich cautions against rationalizing that, over the life of the house, you're paying 10 cents per kilowatt hour, which is the same as the grid: "You can't lose sight of the fact that you said, 'over the life of the house.' That's pretty major. When you are writing the checks for the month, do you want to write a check for $15,000 for something that is not going to pay back for 10 or 15 years?"
Well yeah. There is that capital cost thing and the banks aren't loaning money right now. And BTW are you sure to be living in the house for 10 or 15 years so you can get your money back?

I have a swell idea. The government should force every home owner it bails out to buy a roof top full of solar cells. One thing though. I hope they don't do that in Alaska. For six months out of the year they hardly get any sunlight at all. Or for that matter Seattle which is dismal and dreary most of the year. Must be all those socialists and Greens. A more earnest dreary lot would be hard to find.

One thing is for sure, once the government starts stealing there is no limit to the number of people it can help. And if the government steals everything from everyone there will be almost enough money to help every one. And why almost? Well we will have government people helping with this project and as per usual they will help themselves to more than their share and some one is sure to get shorted.

I do know what to do though. Phase out the subsidies and just let people keep their own money. No matter what you have been told, government cannot help Paul by robbing from Paul and Peter will be leaving the country due to high rates of theft. I mean taxes.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Merry Christmas To All 2008 Version

There seems to be a lot of angst about wishing people a Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays seems to be in vogue. And of course we have The Holiday Season.

I propose we put an end to this kind of non-sense once and for all. We should refer to the holiday by its original name. The name it had before the date was moved and the name was changed.

Happy Saturnalia To All

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Hearty Appetite

Suzanne Willis sent me this e-mail. She was responding to something she read in the Dallas Morning News.

If, as Mr. Schram says, drug violence is due to Americans’ appetite for drugs, drug violence would have begun when Americans began using drugs. It didn’t.

Americans have used cocaine, morphine and marijuana since the first Europeans arrived on the continent. For most of our country’s history, distribution and use were quite peaceful.

In 1900 any man, woman or child could walk into a drug store and buy all of these drugs. Bayer Heroin cost the same as Bayer Aspirin. There are no records of “drug crimes” until after 1914 when the Harrison Narcotics Act, one of the first major laws restricting drug distribution, was passed.

The Harrison Narcotics Act was championed by the Temperance Movement and vigorously opposed by the medical community. Law enforcement was silent. Drug distribution had never been a law enforcement issue.

On May 15, 1915 , an editorial in the New York Medical Journal declared:
“The really serious results of this legislation…will only appear gradually.… These will be the failures of promising careers, the disrupting of happy families, the commission of crimes…and the influx into hospitals for the mentally disordered of many who would otherwise live socially competent lives.”

I don't think cocaine and morphine came into existence until extracting them from plant material was possible. Morphine in 1803. Cocaine in 1855. But still, the general principle is right. And what do you know? Even in 1915 it was recognized that such plant extracts could help with mental disorders. Something I have only been saying for about 7 or 8 years. Boy, am I ever behind the times. Of course those were simpler times. People thought that they had a right to choose their own medicines. Now a days the medical cartel has taken away most personal choice in the matter. Fur da grater god do val.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Stimu Lust Package

The speaker is Daniel J. Mitchell. He has written a book:
Global Tax Revolution: The Rise of Tax Competition and the Battle to Defend It.

You can also learn more at

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Oil Has Not Reached Bottom

Yesterday I was looking at oil prices and found something interesting. The price of WTI oil was about $7 or $8 below the price of the other two contracts listed. I asked if any of my readers could explain such a big difference in prices and reader Bill came to the rescue.

Yes it is what is know as cantango. when the futures prices end up with a much higher spread level. It has been going on if you look not just the cash and feb contract but out 6 months it has been widening.

It is because there is no storage available and no real credit to buy the oil to store. In normal times the out prices are in line with what can be made after paying the cash price the interest charge and storage charge, Then you sell the out contract and lock in a profit. None of these are available, It has been common knowledge that many oil producing controuies have been leasing tankers to just float on the sea and hold the oil they have no market for.

This is a very bearish setup. Until it breaks oil with go lower.
Reader Frank had something else of interest to add.
Bill is correct about oil. The exact opposite is happening in gold futures, that is, backwardation. There are more buyers for physical gold than there are sellers.
So in order to buy gold coins for example, you must pay a good premium above the current spot price to get delivery now - and that's IF you can find a seller.
So what does it all mean?

Lower oil prices, probably much lower and higher inflation (in 2008 the official figure for inflation was about 6%), so much higher inflation is probably in store.

Well I'm no economist and I have no money to put into any market and this advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, but the thing to do in times of high inflation and low interest rates to protect your assets is to buy real property. In other words it is time to buy houses.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

A Voter's Guide To Illinois Politics

There are two kinds of politicians in Illinois. Crooks and those who haven't been caught.

When voting in Illinois how do you know which candidate is the most honest? The most honest candidate is not on the ballot.

How can you tell which is the crookedest candidate? Easy: the crookedest candidate is the reform candidate.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Steampunk Fusion

Steam Punk Fusion

The picture you see above is a steam driven fusion reactor. I know what you are thinking. This is some kind of joke. It is no joke. General Fusion has a design that I think has an outside chance of working.

I was discussing it with some of the boys at Talk Polywell and I'd say it has no fundamental flaws.

Popular Science also gives some of the details of the machine and its inventors. The drawing at the top of the page shows a schematic of the machine that has 200 pistons. Now to give you some idea of the scale here is a picture of one of the pistons.
Steam Punk Fusion Piston

Huge sucker huh? Now imagine 200 of them all firing away at the rate of once a second. When the piston hits (and yes it will hit) the end of the cylinder it will be going about 250 mph and it will induce a shock wave into a sort of ball of liquid lithium and lead. But first two rings of counter rotating plasma will be shot into the middle of the rotating metal and then all the steam (yeah steam) driven pistons will fire and hit the molten metal with a timing of better than one microsecond.

Can it be done? My rough calculations at the above Talk Polywell link say yes. Not easy, but possible. So would I put money on it? Not me. But I'm an IEC Plasma Fusion type of guy. However, if the idea excites you (a steam driven fusion reactor) I'd say it has as much a chance of working as anything being done now. Definitely worth a shot. And besides how many of your friends can say they are investing in a steam driven fusion reactor? It has got to be worth some bucks just for the conversation starter value alone.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Welcome Instapundit readers.

The Auction

An election is an advanced auction of stolen goods.

H. L. Menken

Something Interesting In The Oil Market

I was just having a look at the oil market and came across something interesting.

Nymex Crude Future 38.74
Dated Brent Spot 37.43
WTI Cushing Spot 30.52
Now I have been following this market intermittently for the last few months and as I recall there was at most a few dollars difference between the different prices. And yet here we are with WTI priced way below the other two listings. There is something strange going on. Any oil guys care to explain? Or is the new bottom for oil going to be around $30 a bbl?

Maybe it will resolve itself by the end of the day. Or not.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

An Awful New Game

It seems like the kids at a high school in Maryland have invented an awful new game called Speed Camera Pimping.

As a prank, students from local high schools have been taking advantage of the county's Speed Camera Program in order to exact revenge on people who they believe have wronged them in the past, including other students and even teachers.

Students from Richard Montgomery High School dubbed the prank the Speed Camera "Pimping" game, according to a parent of a student enrolled at one of the high schools.

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

"This game is very disturbing," the parent said. "Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.

The parent said that "our civil rights are exploited," and the entire premise behind the Speed Camera Program is called into question as a result of the growing this fad among students.
Calling such robo cops into question would be terrible. Think of all the misery it would cause. A municipality would be paying for one of these devices and then their ability to generate revenue would be in doubt. The consequences could be serious. For the city budget.
Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews said that the issue is troubling in several respects. "I am concerned that someone could get hurt, first of all, because they are speeding in areas where they know speeding is a problem," he said.

Andrews also said that this could hurt the integrity of the Speed Camera Program. "It will cause potential problems for the Speed Camera Program in terms of the confidence in it," he said.
Robo cop integrity? Called into question? I hope so.

H/T National Review

Cross Posted at Classical Values

More Power From Less Wind

Shrouded Wind

Wind power is currently limited by the fact that there is a minimum wind speed required for a wind turbine to begin operation. We could harvest a lot more energy from the wind if that minimum speed was lower. Plus it would help a lot if the wind passing the turbine was speeded up to make generation more effective. There is a new design for wind turbines which does exactly that.
FloDesign Wind Turbine, a spin-off from the aerospace company FloDesign based in Wilbraham, MA, has developed a wind turbine that could generate electricity at half the cost of conventional turbines. The company recently raised $6 million in its first round of venture financing and has announced partnerships with wind-farm developers.

The company's design, which draws on technology developed for jet engines, circumvents a fundamental limit to conventional wind turbines. Typically, as wind approaches a turbine, almost half of the air is forced around the blades rather than through them, and the energy in that deflected wind is lost. At best, traditional wind turbines capture only 59.3 percent of the energy in wind, a value called the Betz limit.

FloDesign surrounds its wind-turbine blades with a shroud that directs air through the blades and speeds it up, which increases power production. The new design generates as much power as a conventional wind turbine with blades twice as big in diameter. The smaller blade size and other factors allow the new turbines to be packed closer together than conventional turbines, increasing the amount of power that can be generated per acre of land.

The idea of enshrouding wind-turbine blades isn't new. But earlier designs were too big to be practical, or they didn't perform well, in part because the blades had to be very closely aligned to the direction of the wind--within three or four degrees, says Stanley Kowalski, FloDesign's CEO. The new blades are smaller and can work at angles of up to 15 to 20 degrees away from the direction of the wind.
One of the questions that will have to be answered is does the turbine wind up sounding like a jet engine? If so it will limit the places it can be deployed.

There are other problems as well. Like how will the rig stand up to 100 mph winds? Still it is a promising development.

H/T Helius at Talk Polywell.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Monday, December 22, 2008

Politics In A Few Easy Lessons

H/T Dean Esmay

Cross Posted at Classical Values

The War

I don't agree with Roseanne Barr about much but she nails this one:

The War On Drugs is a war against poor people on street drugs, waged by rich people on prescription drugs. -- Roseanne Barr

I did a post on this very topic a while back but Roseanne nails in a sentence what it took me a few paragraphs to say:

Class War

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Going Whole Hog On Alternative Energy Will Increase CO2 Emissions

Let us do a thought experiment. Alternative Energy is a Good Thing. But the energy it produces costs more than electrical energy from coal fired plants. Now we want to make our alternative energy equipment the lowest cost way possible - so we will have to burn coal to make the equipment - because if we used the alternative energy equipment to make alternative energy equipment it would raise the price. Which is bad for market penetration.

Now a certain amount of loss (How much? YMMV) is necessary for advancement. It is called research and development. But if we push alternative energy too far ahead of the learning curve we will actually worsen one of the problems it is purported to solve. Actually several of those problems. So maybe the push for change is not actually about solving problems. Maybe it is more about satisfying religious impulses. Where costs and profits hardly matter. Where doing the right thing has its own value and results don't count.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

I Was Misinformed

Tom, over at Talk Polywell, and I have been having a discussion about Global Warming and how the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) may be affecting trends. And what the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has to say about all this. Now shouldn't it be the Scientific Panel on Climate Change? Or some such? Of course not. Science is incidental because the IPCC is all about taxation and regulation. Science is in the back seat and will please keep quiet unless called on.

So here is what I had to say to Tom:


You are correct. The PDO - discovered in 1997 - has yet to make it in to an official IPCC report. I was misinformed.

If you follow this from 20 May 2008 it may explain why I got it wrong. I will give a few pertinent quotes.

You may have heard earlier this month that global warming is now likely to take break for a decade or more. There will be no more warming until 2015, perhaps later.

Climate scientist Noel Keenlyside, leading a team from Germany's Leibniz Institute of Marine Science and the Max Planck Institute of Meteorology, for the first time entered verifiable data on ocean circulation cycles into one of the U. N.'s climate supercomputers, and the machine spit out a projection that there will be no more warming for the foreseeable future.

Of course, Mr. Keenlyside-- long a defender of the man-made global warming theory -- was quick to add that after 2015 (or perhaps 2020), warming would resume with a vengeance.

Climate alarmists the world over were quick to add that they had known all along there would be periods when the Earth's climate would cool even as the overall trend was toward dangerous climate change.

Sorry, but that is just so much backfill.

There may have been the odd global-warming scientist in the past decade who allowed that warming would pause periodically in its otherwise relentless upward march, but he or she was a rarity.

If anything, the opposite is true: Almost no climate scientist who backed the alarmism ever expected warming would take anything like a 10 or 15-year hiatus.
What they mean by "so much backfill" is that the Official Consensus Climate Folks were making shit up. Which - you know - is considered moderately unscientific.
Last year, in its oft-quoted report on global warming, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted a 0.3-degree C rise in temperature in the coming decade -- not a cooling or even just temperature stability.

In its previous report in 2001, the IPCC prominently displaced the so-called temperature "hockey stick" that purported to show temperature pretty much plateauing for the thousand years before 1900, then taking off in the 20th Century in a smooth upward line. No 10-year dips backwards were foreseen.

It is drummed into us, ad nauseum, that the IPCC represents 2,500 scientists who together embrace a "consensus" that man-made global warming is a "scientific fact;" and as recently as last year, they didn't see this cooling coming. So the alarmists can't weasel out of this by claiming they knew all along such anomalies would occur.
Every one knows their predictions are impeccable. And if they make a minor mistake in the future they will correct the past to show how really good they are. They have to. There are a lot of governments depending on them.
According to the U. S. National Climatic Data Center, the average temperature of the global land surface in January 2008 was below the 20th-Century mean for the first time since 1982.

Also in January, Southern Hemisphere sea ice coverage was at its greatest summer level (January is summer in the Southern Hemisphere) in the past 30 years.

Neither the 3,000 temperature buoys that float throughout the world's oceans nor the eight NASA satellites that float above our atmosphere have recorded appreciable warming in the past six to eight years.

Even Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, reluctantly admitted to Reuters in January that there has been no warming so far in the 21st Century.
Now it is that last bit which I bolded which may have confused me. What he said was not in any IPCC report. He was just speaking to some news agency which doesn't count. So officially the gravy train is still on the tracks. Whew. Close one. The IPCC needs to muzzle that guy before he emits further embarrassment.

So we have a notch in the hockey stick. The rise in temps is not as smooth as we have been led to believe. And you know even in a 30 year smoothed average an 8 year bump should be visible.

Now what do you call a model that leaves out known facts and has poor predictive value?


I like this bit from the UK Telegraph.
If the model could accurately forecast other variables besides temperature, such as rainfall, it would be increasingly useful, but climate predictions for a decade ahead would always be to some extent uncertain, he added.
But of course for a century ahead they will be right on the mark, because you can depend on the errors to average out. Lucky for them, huh?

Watts Up With That in April of 2008 had some nice graphs and comments on what the PDO stuff might mean.
From the PDO data itself, it is just too soon to be able to tell whether the current cool phase is just one of the shorter cycles, or whether it is the beginning of a longer term cycle like we saw back in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It is tempting, when looking at the warming rate cycles, to believe that we’ve just come out of a 60-66 year “Kerr” climate cycle, and are on the cusp of a cool phase like we see for the 1950’s and 1960’s.

But if you look closely at the end of the purple curve for our warming rate cycle, it seems to be about ready to turn back up. Now we do not want to put too much stock in the end values of a series that has been smoothed with HP filtering. So it could still be on a downward trend.

Then, to make it all the more interesting, we have solar cycle 23 lingering on. Considering that also, confidence is higher that we will continue to see a relative respite in the rate of warming and that we’re not likely to see our warming rate cycle jump back to where it was during solar cycles 22-23. But whether we see a full blown interlude between two strong warming trends, like we saw during the 1950’s and 1960’s, remains to be seen.

In other words, as we saw with Easterbrook’s analysis, we can be reasonably confident in projecting at least no further warming for a while. For that to happen, the purple warming rate curve must not only turn back upwards, it must rise into the region of positive values, and continue to rise for several years. If solar cycle 24 turns out to be a weak solar cycle, and there are historical precedents for cycle length suggesting it is likely to be weak, that probably isn’t happening.

I’ll have more on solar cycles 23 and 24 coming up in the next day or so.

So, in summary; probably no net warming for awhile, and maybe a period of extended cooling as in the mid 20th century. It all depends on whether this current PDO shift is a short term or longer term event such as we saw in the mid 20th century.
Things are so quiet on the solar front that a bulletin has been issued. Of course that was on 14 Dec 2008. No matter. A week later and things are still quiet. Today's sunspot number? Zero.

This is rather unusual since for the past few cycles (excepting this one) the sunspots from the previous cycle overlapped (although at different latitudes) the sunspots from the current cycle.

Now some of the solar boys - based on various theories predicted the strongest solar cycle ever in August of 2006. But you know there is always a contrarian in the bunch. A denier. Some one who just will not go along with the consensus. A renegade. An evil person who is to be despised and denigrated by all right thinking people who are in the majority and therefore unassailable. How can the majority be wrong?
But another group, led by Leif Svalgaard of ETK, a consulting firm in Houston, Texas, US, contends that the upcoming solar cycle will not be very strong because the magnetic fields at the poles are currently weak. That group is calling for the weakest solar cycle in 100 years.
Say isn't he from Texas? Don't they have a lot of oil there? Well obviously he is in cahoots with the oil companies in a plot to destroy the earth for profit. Don't you just hate that?

Unfortunately Leif appears to have a better handle on the subject than the consensus. How can that be? It goes against reason. It goes against belief. And worst of all it weakens the case for taxing the heat, the street, and your feet.

And what was I blogging about in May of 2007? Something called the solar conveyor belt.
"Normally, the conveyor belt moves about 1 meter per second—walking pace," says Hathaway. "That's how it has been since the late 19th century." In recent years, however, the belt has decelerated to 0.75 m/s in the north and 0.35 m/s in the south. "We've never seen speeds so low."

According to theory and observation, the speed of the belt foretells the intensity of sunspot activity ~20 years in the future. A slow belt means lower solar activity; a fast belt means stronger activity. The reasons for this are explained in the Science@NASA story Solar Storm Warning.

"The slowdown we see now means that Solar Cycle 25, peaking around the year 2022, could be one of the weakest in centuries," says Hathaway.
And cycle 24 aint doin so hot either.
...the Sporer, Maunder, and Dalton minima coincide with the colder periods of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from about 1450 to 1820. More recently it was discovered that the sunspot number during 1861-1989 shows a remarkable parallelism with the simultaneous variation in northern hemisphere mean temperatures (2). There is an even better correlation with the length of the solar cycle, between years of the highest numbers of sunspots. For example, the temperature anomaly was - 0.4 K in 1890 when the cycle was 11.7 years, but + 0.25 K in 1989 when the cycle was 9.8 years. Some critics of the theory of man-induced global warming have seized on this discovery to criticize the greenhouse gas theory.
You can read more of my thoughts on the solar slow down at the Power and Control link.

Of course the folks at Real Climate and Master NASA Scientist Hansen plus Climate Science Nobel Winner Al Gore - those bastions of the consensus - have dug out some heretofore missing epi-cycles to prove all this solar stuff is errant nonsense. And thankfully for all of us the Great Oz has spoken. And not just one Oz. A whole consensus of them. Which is a lot.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mr. Simon You're A Genius

The Deniers List

“I think the deniers should put their names on a big list to be handed to future generations,” writes Smiths. “These are the people that screwed the planet.”

Very well, “Smiths”. The big list begins.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Can You Buy Happiness?

Richard Epstein of the University of Chicago discusses how money can buy happiness and also how money can cost you happiness. His bottom line is that only you can decide what you value but that it is the wise person who knows or at least has thought about (often with the help of others) the trade offs. He also makes an astute observation which I like very much.

The people consumed by envy are a small misanthropic set of the general population.

What he fails to emphasize sufficiently is that it is those people who are often bellowing the loudest, trying to influence others to employ theft (government) to bring things into the "proper" balance. To the detriment of all concerned.

It never works. Because there is always some one smarter, prettier, taller, more charming, more accomplished, more talented, etc. etc. etc. And there is nothing you can do about it even if you make every one's material condition identical.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Going Green

The Green movement really has nothing to worry about.

If coal is shut down and electricity prices spike or the grid becomes unreliable the people who voted against coal will be out of office. For decades.

The only way to get off coal is to find a cheaper alternative.

Keep up with just say no and the reaction will be - no way.

The success of the Green movement will lead to its failure because instead of putting the money into research it has put the money into politics.

And worse - if we are headed into a little ice age because of PDO reversal and the 300 year solar cycle which is past its peak, it will take 50 to 75 years for any one to listen to Greens again.

Politics is about putting guns to people's heads. The tricky thing is the guns you once held can be turned on you.

The only sustainable Green movement is one that is profitable: go Green and get richer. No guns required.

Inspired by Coal Is My Worst Nightmare.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Johnny Bunko - Or How To Find Real Happiness

Johnny Bunko Cover

Click on the image to read the whole thing.

And here is a two minute introduction:

You can buy it here: The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need

Brought to you by The Online Investing AI Blog which is currently the best economics blog on the 'net. Funny. Readable. Sensible. Interesting. Good without being ponderous. Plus they cover stuff that you are unlikely to find in other places like Johnny Bunko.

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Recycling Gris Gris

Not safe for work

The only recycling that makes sense economically is metals recycling. And you know what? It has been going on for at least several hundred years for common metals and for thousands of years for precious metals like gold and silver. Let me add that industrial recycling works in some situations. You have a factory that produces plastic scrap that is pretty pure and only one kind of plastic, it pays to re-use it. And quite often that re-use happens inside the factory that creates the scrap. The shipping costs are minimal.

So what is the best thing to do with the stuff (other than metals) that you used to recycle? Send it to the dump. Yep the dump. If it ever becomes economically useful we can mine the dumps.

And what about all that paper waste? Newspapers, Time Magazine, etc. Easy. Don't buy them. Because - other than technical magazines and newspapers - they are full of pollutants that will foul your mind.

H/T Jason Pye

Cross Posted at Classical Values

Wind Is Not All It Is Cracked Up To Be

You can learn more about wind turbine noise by watching these videos. So what is the answer? I think offshore wind is the way to go for now until the issues brought up in these videos are sorted out.

An alternate view. Farm machinery is nosier. And from the look at the blade construction on the turbine in this video it seems different from that in most of the others I have watched.

Another contrarian view from England.

One thing for sure is that the subsidies for wind need to be phased out.

Thanks to Josh Cryer at Talk Polywell for the heads up.

The Next Big Thing

In Secular Decline I looked at where we are in the business cycle. What I said basically was that semiconductors and the microprocessor advance were no longer providing excess profits. To a pretty fair extent the world has been computerized. Profit opportunities are declining.

So then comes the question: What will be the next big thing? The The Online Investing AI Blog linked has a nice graph of the business cycle. But let me cut to the chase.

Solar power. Fusion power. Mind-Machine interfaces. Nano-technology. Personalized medicine. Rapid prototyping.
They also mention "Smart AI-powered investing for the masses". Now I don't see how that can work. If they can identify above average opportunities reliably, the masses will all invest and there goes your above average opportunity.

As to the others. There are lots of opportunities in nano-technology. Which one? And yes, solar is probably one or ten breakthroughs away from being low cost enough to start capturing a lot of the electrical energy market. Except wind is currently lower cost and the cost reduction curve is more reliable. I can tell you, almost certain, that wind will become lower cost than coal fired electrical plants when wind turbines reach the 8 to 12 MW (peak) size. Right now the 5 MW (peak) size is just going into series production. That means that at the best wind sites the cost is below coal and at the worst it is above coal.

There are two problems with wind. All the best sites are in places (like North Dakota) where grid connections are sparse. And wind is intermittent. Which means that without storage its contribution is limited to about 10% of grid power.

Which points to two investment opportunities. The first company (GE? Westinghouse? Siemens?) to come out with 2 MV DC transmission equipment and 2 MV DC to AC conversion equipment (AC to DC is easy) will help bring wind from the upper Mid-West to the loads in the more populous states. It also gives rise to the possibility of wind going above 10% to perhaps 20% of grid power because of both wider generation averaging and load averaging.

So what is the second opportunity? Low cost very high power energy storage. Will it be batteries? Fuel cells? Flywheels? No one knows. What we know is that the technology will have low turn around losses (generation - storage - generation), very high energy capacity, reasonably long life (5 to 20 years), low losses over 24 to 72 hours of storage, and low cost per KWh stored (below 2¢ per KWh with the possibility of getting below .5¢ per KWh). A pretty tall order.

As for solar - because it is better matched to grid demands (high in the day low at night), and because of its greater predictability (when the sun shines) it can probably go to 20% to 30% of grid power before storage is a necessity.

In addition wind peaks during the low demand season of winter and sun peaks during the high demand season of summer. So the two forms of production are to a certain extent complimentary. However, solar peaks at noon and the load (air conditioning mostly) peaks at 3 PM. So economical 4 to 6 hour storage would be good. However, that storage would be mostly idle in the winter except for load leveling.

So what else will be needed? Smart grid equipment which can turn on and off loads like electric water heaters, refrigerators, and air conditioners to match supply and demand better over short intervals (say 15 to 30 minutes). If plug in hybrids become big they could be used for load leveling over short intervals as well allowing motor fuels (cellulostic ethanol?) to be used to arbitrage the high cost of day time electricity with the low cost of night time electricity. Everybody will become demand metered. And that is another opportunity.

Fusion power? There is no working prototype yet. Personalized medicine? Another 100 to 500 breakthroughs are needed. One of which is much lower cost genetic sequencing and the ability to produce required molecules in mass quantities (1 to 5 grams - which is a lot if you are making them a molecule at a time). Rapid prototyping? I saw a machine for sale a month or two ago that fits on a desktop that costs $5,000. A little pricey for a home that might only need 5 to 50 custom parts a month. And only good for small plastic parts in any case. To make such a system work you also need to be able to make metal parts too. Which means a small milling machine and a small lathe. Each of those is going to run another $5,000 or so with current technology and auxiliary equipment like clamps measuring tools etc.

Mind machine interfaces? Another 1,000 to 5,000 breakthroughs required.

Now what can we say about all these things? Progress is being made and some day in the next 5 to 20 years each will cross the 2% penetration threshold where they take off rapidly. OTOH there is danger too. If you can make your own molecules in a well stocked home lab, virus making is just a few computer codes away.

How will man, with his hunter gatherer brain, with all his passions, survive such access to power? That is the $640 trillion dollar question.

Vanderleun Is On A Roll

Some very nice pictures in high style of Obama during his Occidental College days. You really have to take a look. Trust me.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


The Bluebird Of Happiness Has Flown

For Bluebird and Hot 'n Nasty.

Investigating The Investigator

It seems like Obama's Attorney General nominee Eric Holder once had a job working for Illinois Governor Blagojevich as an investigator. And what was he investigating? The mobbed-up Rosemont, Illinois casino deal.

CHICAGO--Before Eric Holder was President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be attorney general, he was Gov. Blagojevich's pick to sort out a mess involving Illinois' long-dormant casino license.

Blagojevich and Holder appeared together at a March 24, 2004, news conference to announce Holder's role as "special investigator to the Illinois Gaming Board" -- a post that was to pay Holder and his Washington, D.C. law firm up to $300,000.

Holder, however, omitted that event from his 47-page response to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire made public this week -- an oversight he plans to correct after a Chicago Sun-Times inquiry, Obama's transition team indicated late Tuesday.

"Eric Holder has given hundreds of press interviews," Obama transition spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said in a statement. "He did his best to report them all to the committee, but as he noted in the questionnaire itself, some were undoubtedly missed in the effort to reconstruct a list of them."
Press interviews? I guess he could have a memory lapse on some of those. But this is not about a presser. It is about a fookin job. Doesn't the guy have a resume?
Holder signed the questionnaire on Sunday -- five days after Blagojevich's arrest for allegedly putting Obama's U.S. Senate seat up for sale. The Judiciary Committee asked him to provide lists and "copies of transcripts or tape recordings of all speeches or talks delivered by you" and "all interviews you have given to newspapers, magazines or other publications."

The March 2004 Chicago news conference where Holder and Blagojevich spoke was widely covered because of a controversial 4-1 Gaming Board vote earlier that month to allow a casino to be built in Rosemont. That vote defied the recommendation of the board's staff, which had raised concerns about alleged organized-crime links to the Rosemont casino's developer.

Besides that, the Gaming Board's staff had been concerned that the governor had named his close friend and fund-raiser, Christopher G. Kelly, as a "special government agent" to be involved in official state negotiations about the casino. Kelly, the Sun-Times later learned, was a business partner of Tony Rezko, another Blagojevich fund-raiser who had held an option to lease a hotel site next to the proposed casino site in Rosemont.

Rezko, also a former Obama fund-raiser, and Kelly both have denied any wrongdoing related to the casino, though both have been charged in separate, unrelated criminal cases since 2004.

The Sun-Times disclosed Rezko's interest in the Rosemont hotel site about three weeks before the news conference announcing Holder would be involved in the casino case. Holder was not aware of the story when he opted to get involved, a source said.

In an interview Tuesday, the Gaming Board's chief investigator in 2004 said the timing of Blagojevich's appointment of Holder raised the staff's suspicions.

"The concern was Holder had a bias to do whatever Blagojevich wanted, which was to give the casino to Rosemont," said Jim Wagner, who was a top Chicago FBI agent before he joined the Gaming Board, from which he retired in December 2005. "We all believed the only reason Holder was coming in was to fashion an investigation that would manipulate the casino into Rosemont."
And of course the Most Corrupt President Elect Ever™ knew nothing about this little event. He was just a State Senator running for the US Senate at the time. No doubt he was busy. Not even present. Fortunately for all concerned Holder knew nothing. Ignorance is bliss and much safer besides. And Rezko? Man that guy had his fingers in every pie it seems. And yet today he claims he is broke. Penniless. Without a dime. Except the one's he is dropping.

So where would be the best place in the Federal Government for a mobbed-up attorney to cover for his friends? Attorney General. Sounds like the height of chutzpah. Which is passing strange. I never once heard Obama claim to be Jewish. But I have heard that some of his best friends are. Rahm Emanuel rings a bell. And was Rahm close to Blago (as he is fondly called in Illinois)? Yes he was.

You have to wonder how Obama found so many bent nominees for his cabinet. Chicago? Oh yeah.

I should point out that Holder never got the job.
"Holder and his firm did some preliminary work in anticipation of the engagement, but did not undertake the investigation itself before it was canceled," said Cutter, the Obama transition team spokeswoman. "Holder and his firm received no compensation from the state for this preparatory work.

"The 2004 press conference," she said, "was not memorable because Holder's legal work for the State of Illinois never materialized."
Of course it wasn't memorable. When you talk with certain people it is best to have a very bad memory.

Cross Posted at Classical Values