Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wind Power from... the Jet Stream?


Many believe it's possible, and even more viable than land based turbines:

Companies look for power way, way up in the sky
BOSTON – The world's strongest winds race high in the sky, but that doesn't mean they're out of reach as a potentially potent energy source.

Flying, swooping and floating turbines are being developed to turn high-altitude winds into electricity.

The challenges are huge, but the potential is immense. Scientists estimate the energy in the jet streams is 100 times the amount of power used worldwide annually.

Cristina Archer, an atmospheric scientist at the California State University in Chico, said there's "not a doubt anymore" that high-altitude winds will be tapped for power.

"This can be done, it can work," she said.

The question is, when? Some companies project their technology will hit the market by the middle of the decade, but Fort Felker at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory says the industry is 10 years away from making a meaningful contribution to the nation's electricity demands.

[...]

The lure of high-altitude wind is simple: Wind speed generally increases with its height above the ground as surface friction diminishes. Each time wind speed doubles, the amount of energy it theoretically holds multiplies by eight times.

The world's most powerful winds circulate in the jet streams, which are found four to 10 miles off the ground and carry winds that regularly break 100 miles per hour.

The dream is to eventually tap the jet streams, but high-altitude wind companies are focusing for now below a 2,000-foot ceiling, above which complex federal air-space restrictions kick in. Adam Rein, co-founder of the Boston company Altaeros Energies, said his company calculates winds at the 2,000 foot level are up to 2 1/2 times stronger than winds that can be reached by a typical 350-foot land turbine.

High-altitude wind advocates say their smaller, lightweight turbines will be far cheaper to build and deploy than windmills with huge blades and towers that must be drilled into land or the sea floor.

Those savings would mean inexpensive energy. With wide-scale use, advocates see a range of prices, from something comparable to land wind's current 9 or 10 cents per kilowatt hour down to an astonishingly low 2 cents per kilowatt hour.

"They are projecting crazy numbers," Archer said. "I'm not saying that it's true. ... But it's really the lowest, the cheapest energy source, possibly." [...]

It goes on to point out some of the obstacles that need to be overcome, but many believe it's doable and practical. Clean and cheap energy for our Brave New World.

     

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The Many Functions and Benefits of Lecithin

We were discussing at dinner, trying more recipes with eggs. Eggs are a good source of Lecithin, so it would be more of a good thing:

Facts About Lecithin and Function of Lecithin

     

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Oregon's State Budget, and Facing Reality

Here is an interesting read. It claims our state deficit needn't exist:

The Fallacy of a $3.5 Billion State Budget Deficit
[...] The official assumptions assume we will continue to do almost everything the state is doing now, in the same manner it is doing them now. This is not only a recipe for a huge deficit, but it is also a recipe for shortchanging everyone who has a right to expect that their state government will focus on its core responsibilities and do so in a fiscally responsible manner.

As set forth in Facing Reality, we identify a number of ways the state can reform how it performs certain services, how it pays for them, and how it can spin off or end other services to reduce costs and/or improve service. Included are items such as privatizing liquor distribution and sales and the DMV, reducing corrections costs, eliminating a number of costly tax credits and new programs, and targeted reductions in public employee compensation. All together these reforms could save some $2 billion in the upcoming biennium.

In Facing Reality we also propose a reasonable limit on the future growth of state expenditures, and the reduction or elimination of perhaps the most damaging symbol of Oregon’s perceived unfriendliness to business and entrepreneurship: the highest-in-the-nation 11 percent capital gains tax. [...]

Read the whole thing for the details; it's excellent. Now we just have to find a way to force our politicians to face reality.


Also see:

Oregon tax hikes lead to cut jobs, higher prices

Oregon nears highest income tax in the nation

Oregon; following California's example?
     

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Is it worth saving money anymore?

I still believe in keeping some savings, but what about long term financial planning?



I'm 31. Where should I be financially?
[...] Once you have a retirement goal in mind, you want to be able to refer to benchmarks along the way to see how you're doing. Otherwise, you could find yourself at the end of your career well short of the savings you'll need.

The best yardstick is the size of your nest egg relative to your income. To quit working at 65 with a decent shot at replacing 80% of your pre-retirement earnings, you'll need savings equal to roughly 12 times your income (that assumes you'll collect Social Security but no pension). [...]

I used to believe in this kind of advice. I still do, in theory. But is it worth doing NOW, when our money is being devaluated?

In my youth, till I learned to manage my money properly, I went hungry a few times between paychecks. Then, after going into debt with credit cards, I learned to save money to pay off the debt. After that, I was good at saving money so I kept doing it, enabling me to buy property. Since then, I've always had savings. But nowadays, I keep thinking I need to spend it, before it becomes worthless. Like it happened in Germany in the 1920's, where people's entire life savings were wiped out overnight.

James Turk did the following interview with Moneychanger.com. Turk maintains that our currency has already collapsed, that we are already in the "process", and it just hasn't reached critical mass yet. The interviewer argues forcefully against Turks assessments, but Turk holds his ground, answering a lot of good questions by the interviewer. Here's a sample:

JAMES TURK ON THE DOLLAR’S COMING COLLAPSE
[...]
Moneychanger Since, at least the New Deal and the succession of Roosevelt and all his monetary/inflationary tricks, people have been predicting that the dollar would collapse. Aren’t you ashamed to come along 70 years later and predict again that the dollar is going to collapse?

Turk By any logical interpretation the dollar has already collapsed. Today’s dollar only purchases five cents of what it purchased in the 1930s, ten cents of what it purchased in the 1960-70s, and maybe 50 cents of what it purchased in the 1980s. So inflation has already brought the dollar to an ongoing collapse. The sound money people have been warning about this through the decades: the dollar is no longer an effective form of currency.

That raises another question: will the dollar’s problems become more severe? That’s where it becomes a bit more troublesome in terms of projecting and looking at the future. Can this decades-long situation continue, or must it end in some cataclysm? In our view it must come to end in a cataclysm, and that’s what we lay out in the book.

Moneychanger But isn’t the word “collapse” misleading? The people who mange the dollar, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury, have managed the collapse from 1934 until 2004, 70 years, so that the economy did not collapse along with the dollar. Can you really call that a collapse? Also, what’s to prevent their managing it a bit longer, through this decade? Even if it loses (as I expect) at least 75% of its value in this decade -- and it’s already lost nearly 30% from February 2002 to March 2004 -- it still won’t disrupt the economy too terribly.

Turk Let’s look at the first part of that question, the claim that the economy hasn’t collapsed. You’re widening the point that I was making earlier about the dollar collapsing in terms of purchasing power. When you bring the economy into the discussion you have to ask yourself another question. Are people better off now than they were 20-30 years ago? Looking at real wealth and adjusting for the dollar’s debasement, people are less wealthy today than they were 20-30 years ago. Incomes are lower today than they were 20-30 years ago, partly because the dollar’s been debased, partly because people take home less money after taxes. By any logical measure, I don’t think people are as well off as they were in the 1960s or 1950s when the dollar problems weren’t as severe as they’ve become in recent decades.

But there’s more to that question: we’ve created a debt mountain, a debt bubble. Bubbles always pop. We mortgaged our future trying to maintain standards of living by debasing the currency and borrowing. This is unsustainable and will ultimately bring about the dollar’s collapse.

Moneychanger But the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have managed the collapse. That’s what they do. They are crisis managers. They exist to manage the debasement of the dollar so that this infection does not give the whole economy a fever resulting in death. Would you agree?

Turk Yes, and as a clear result of their managing an unsustainable situation, we have less and less freedom. The Patriot Act just presents the latest example. Look at US financial history. They continue to erode and encumber our freedom. Why? Because they recognise that the present system is not sustainable and they are trying to keep the bubble in the air.

Moneychanger You claim the present system is not sustainable. Allan Greenspan says it is. George Bush says it is.

Turk Well, are they going to tell you that it’s not sustainable?

Moneychanger No, but they have 70 years of success to argue on their side. What makes it different this time? In the dollar’s darkest hours of 1980, when gold hit $850 and silver $50 and they pushed interest rates over 20%, well, yes, it’s a crisis, but we’ll muddle through this one, too. They’ve been muddling through since 1934. What is to prevent their muddling through this time? What specific things will make the dollar collapse this time? By “collapse” I don’t mean “erode” or even “erode quickly”, but I mean collapse in the sense that currency collapsed in Germany in 1923 or Argentina in 2002.

Turk That is exactly what I envision for the dollar. To answer your question we have to consider both supply and demand. In recent decades demand for the dollar has been, more or less, fairly consistent. As the financial bubble has been inflated and the Debt Mountain was built, people have continued to demand the dollar. They still use it for their day to day transactions. But what happened in Argentina and in Germany in the 1920s? Eventually, in a very short period of time, people realised that the hollow promises they were using for currency weren't worth what they had previously valued them to be. Then began the flight from the currency. The demand for those currencies dropped dramatically. In a long-term time frame, you could say almost overnight, but it was really over a period of weeks and months. People moved out of that currency as quickly as they could into other alternatives.

Demand for the dollar will ultimately drop for essentially the same reasons that demand for the Argentine peso and the Reichsmark dropped: they were fiat currencies oversupplied to the market.

Today far too many dollars are sloshing around the global economy. All it takes is a little break in confidence, then people quickly understand that the dollar is not worth the paper it’s printed on. There are a lot of hollow promises backing your dollar. That will lead to the flight from the currency that will ultimately bring the dollar down. But it’s the same outcome for every fiat currency. That’s the point that Americans don’t yet get. There is no logical reason why the dollar should end any differently than any other fiat currency.

Moneychanger But help me see the unseen. In 1923 Germany the people had already suffered through the inflation of World War I. They had seen their currency lose value as prices rose 800%, they had caught on. That “catching on” was necessary to precipitate the flight from the currency.

In Argentina in the decades of the 1980s and 90s, they had three different currencies, if I’m not mistaken. It may have been four, I can’t keep up with it. All Latin America has a century-long tradition of monetary instability. In the U.S. the last two generations have grown up without seeing gold in circulation, the last generation has grown up without seeing silver in circulation. Since 1971, the whole world has been on a fiat standard. Every currency has been inconvertible, backed by nothing. So why would American confidence break now? They don’t know anything else. They have only known a regime of inflation and ever-depreciating dollars. What will put the idea in their mind now that they have to flee out of dollars?

Turk What will trigger the flight from the dollar? We can’t really predict that. It could be some geopolitical event, some domestic financial event, a bankruptcy of Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. We just don’t know what the specific trigger will be.

Look at the overall picture of what the dollar is today, and ask yourself a question. Do I want to prepare for this coming event by moving assets out of dollars into other alternatives – other currencies, precious metals, tangible assets. Never mind asking what specific event will starts the flight.

Where we stand today in this country is not unlike where Russians stood in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. If you had possessed the terrific foresight to say that in two years the Russian Rouble will collapse and the Soviet Union will be history, the average Russian would have just laughed at you. And you know what he would have said? “The government will never let that happen.” Exactly what Americans say today.

“The government will never let that happen.”

But the reality is that the market is bigger than the government. Truth can be hid for only so long, and we have been hiding the truth. We’ve been creating illusions of prosperity, while in reality we’ve been consuming infrastructure and building a debt mountain. The Debt Mountain is ultimately going to be the problem that causes the dollar to collapse. [...]

Turk claims that we have not had a sound currency since 1934, even though a sound currency was written into our constitution. He also predicts the American people will demand that we go back to it.

This interview was made in 2004. Yet he predicts some things that have since happened, or are happening now. Read the whole thing, it's a real eye-opener.

What can we DO about any of it? Idaknow. Do what we can, I suppose, to get ready for the Brave New World of Finance that seems to be inexorably coming our way?


Related Links:

Commentary: Stimulate the economy, not government

What would a U.S. currency collapse look like?

Argentina's Example: Are we heading there?

Our true national debt: $130,000,000,000,000.
     

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Windows 8 aims for tablets and more

The next version of Windows is preparing to make the leap from being an operating system for PCs only:

Microsoft aims for post-PC ubiquity with Windows 8
[...] Whether called "Windows 8" or "Windows Next", analysts this week said they believe a beta version would be available as early as September 15.

It will also feature some changes allowing it to go beyond just personal computers but into the world of Tablets -- currently dominated by Apple's iOS and the iPad.

"As we look forward to the next generation of Windows systems, which will come out next year, there's a whole lot more coming," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told developers in Tokyo recently. "As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8. Windows 8 slates, tablets, PCs, a variety of different form factors."

Indeed, Microsoft also gave clues through out the year of its intentions to target tablets, nothing that the new software "will support a new kind of hardware, system-on-a-Chip (SoC) architectures, that will power the next generation of devices."

The notable SoC leaders now are UK based ARM holdings which provide the blue-prints for processors used in most cell phones, tablets, and other low-powered devices. [...]

I've even noticed that various Linux OS desktops seem to be redesigning their graphical interfaces to be more tablet-friendly. I don't think PCs will disappear overnight, but it looks like various hand-held devices will displace many of the functions that PC laptops and desktops used to fill. Tablets and Smartphones is where much of the future of personal computing will be.

Here is a glimpse of what you might expect:

Windows 8 screenshots

Log into your PC with your face

     

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Health tips, and drugs VS herbs

Gee, just when you thought you had it all figured out:

Seven daily sins: Shower every day? Rinse after brushing teeth? These 'healthy' habits could be devilishly bad for you

Heart Trouble? 18 Herbal Remedies to Avoid
Herbal remedies and heart drugs can be a dangerous mix.
     

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vitamin B12, and Alzheimers Disease

Apparently, a deficiency of the former is often mistaken for the later:

When Is Alzheimer's Disease Not Alzheimer's? When It's Vitamin B12 Deficiency!
[...] Vitamin B12 deficiency becomes more and more common as people get older. With some researchers estimating that over 800,000 elderly in the US have undiagnosed deficiency, this is NOT a small problem. Even worse is that few clinicians know about vitamin B12 deficiency or are trained to look for its symptoms. Many elderly who should be screened for this simple vitamin deficiency are, instead, diagnosed with ‘incurable’ diseases that rob them of any possible quality of life. That Mental Changes from B12 Deficiency can look EXACTLY like dementia was noted in 1902! Since then, this topic has been studied many times, and it has even been shown that CAT Scans and MRI’s that show lesions and degeneration of the brain and spinal cord are often REVERSIBLE when these lesions are caused by vitamin B12 deficiency! Yet, using these modern techniques, the presence of brain and spinal cord abnormalities is almost always used as evidence for patients and families of the Irreversible nature of their disease- when that is not necessarily the truth at all! [...]

Read the whole thing. Makes you wonder how many times Alzheimer's is a misdiagnosis.
     

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Japanese Coastal Town That Survived

The town with the highest wall and gate, survived the Tsunami intact:

How one Japanese village defied the tsunami
FUDAI, Japan – In the rubble of Japan's northeast coast, one small village stands as tall as ever after the tsunami. No homes were swept away. In fact, they barely got wet.

Fudai is the village that survived — thanks to a huge wall once deemed a mayor's expensive folly and now vindicated as the community's salvation.

The 3,000 residents living between mountains behind a cove owe their lives to a late leader who saw the devastation of an earlier tsunami and made it the priority of his four-decade tenure to defend his people from the next one.

His 51-foot (15.5-meter) floodgate between mountainsides took a dozen years to build and meant spending more than $30 million in today's dollars.




"It cost a lot of money. But without it, Fudai would have disappeared," said seaweed fisherman Satoshi Kaneko, 55, whose business has been ruined but who is happy to have his family and home intact.

The floodgate project was criticized as wasteful in the 1970s. But the gate and an equally high seawall behind the community's adjacent fishing port protected Fudai from the waves that obliterated so many other towns on March 11. Two months after the disaster, more than 25,000 are missing or dead.

"However you look at it, the effectiveness of the floodgate and seawall was truly impressive," Fudai Mayor Hiroshi Fukawatari said.

Towns to the north and south also braced against tsunamis with concrete seawalls, breakwaters and other protective structures. But none were as tall as Fudai's. [...]

The port's boats and warehouses were destroyed, but the community was protected.




Read the whole thing. The man who had the floodgate built died in 1997, but the article ends with words from a speech he made when he retired. They turned out to be somewhat prophetic.

     

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Amateur Radio Officer in Kabul will be Missed

I heard about this attack in the news. And as sometimes happens, I later read in the ham radio news that one of the people involved was an Amateur Radio operator.



James McLaughlin, WA2EWE/T6AF, Killed By Afghan Pilot
04/27/2011
James McLaughlin, WA2EWE/T6AF, was one of several Americans killed in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, April 27. News sources say that eight American troops and a US contractor died Wednesday after an Afghan military pilot opened fire during a meeting in an operations room of the Afghan Air Corps at the Kabul airport -- the deadliest episode to date of an Afghan turning against his coalition partners, officials with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISF) in Afghanistan said. McLaughlin -- a retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel -- was a contractor serving as a flight instructor for Afghan pilots.

Licensed since 1972, McLaughlin was a career US military officer. Bob Magnani, K6QXY, told the ARRL that McLaughlin was just in the US a week ago, visiting his family: "His son Adam, KD6POE, works for me. He told me that his dad had been in Afghanistan and Iraq many times over the past few years, most currently serving as a flight instructor.” McLaughlin posted on his qrz.com page that “almost every day, I operate at around 1230 - 1430 UTC. Sometimes I am QRV until around 1500 UTC.”

Voice of America Correspondent Steve Herman, W7VOA/T6AD/HL9OA -- currently in Seoul, South Korea -- remembers meeting McLaughlin for the first time. “I first met Jim in August 2009 when we were the only two hams operating in Kabul,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We exchanged tips on operating in our unusual environment. Jim had put together a fine radio shack in his quarters and was especially enthusiastic about his RTTY and PSK capabilities, as well as the ladder line-fed wire dipole he had managed to string up at a height of 50 feet through some trees.

“Less than 24 hours after our initial discussion, a suicide bomb went off in Kabul near the spot where we had arranged to meet. The blast killed seven people and injured nearly 100. The explosion site was also close to Jim’s QTH and it blew out windows in his residence adjacent to the US Embassy. It was obvious from spending time with Jim that ham radio was an important morale-boosting pastime and he usually spent a couple of hours per day QRV, logging thousands of QSOs” As of March 26, 2011, McLaughlin had logged 4359 QSOs, most of them on RTTY and PSK.

McLaughlin was also an active MARS operator. “He was one of our most dedicated MARS members in Army MARS Region 11,” Dan Wolff, KA7AGN/DL4VCW/AEM1WF/AEA1RD, told the ARRL. Wolff is the MARS Region 11 Director. “He relayed and delivered literally hundreds of MARSgrams every year for our region. I’ve known him for many years and he was always devoted to supporting our deployed service members. He will be deeply missed on MARS circuits and the ham bands as well.” -- Thanks to Russ Bentson, K6KLY, CNN and Fox News for the information

A brave man, and so much to admire about him. My condolences to his family.

The photo is from his page listing on QRZ.com. You can do a search there for his call sign, to see his page.
     

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Friday, May 06, 2011

When Cash Literally Flies Away

With the help of thieving starlings:


For the full story and more pics, see:    Change is in the air!
     

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Sunday, May 01, 2011

The Planets Line Up with the Moon

Well at least they did. Actually, this morning was the last chance to see them lined up with the Moon. But then planets themselves will continue to be lined up for a couple of weeks:

Six Planets Now Aligned in the Dawn Sky
If you get up any morning for the next few weeks, you’ll be treated to the sight of all the planets except Saturn arrayed along the ecliptic, the path of the sun through the sky.

For the last two months, almost all the planets have been hiding behind the sun, but this week they all emerge and are arrayed in a grand line above the rising sun. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are visible, and you can add Uranus and Neptune to your count if you have binoculars or a small telescope.

[...]

While astrologers view planetary alignments as foretellers of disasters, modern amateur astronomers look forward to them as nothing more than grand photo ops.

If you go out any morning for the next four days, you’ll be treated to a view of the crescent moon and all but one of the naked eye planets.

Because the moon moves rapidly from one morning to the next, it will only be part of the lineup for the next four mornings, but the four naked-eye planets will be there for the next few weeks.

Venus is, as always, the brightest and most visible of the planets, and it can be your guide to spotting the others. About half way between Venus and the rising sun is Jupiter, the second brightest planet.

Mars will be a tiny speck just above Jupiter, and Mercury another tiny speck about half way between Jupiter and Venus. Uranus is slightly more than one binocular field above and to the right of Venus, and Neptune is much farther to the right, about 40 degrees away in Aquarius. The Moon will be just above Venus on Saturday morning, and just above Jupiter and Mars on Sunday morning. [...]

I read somewhere that ancient peoples thought it was a bad omen, because they believed the planets were gods. Ignorance believes all kinds of things.

The article also mentions that there will be no planetary lineup occurring in 2012, no matter what the New Age Dingbats claim. So enjoy it while you can ;-)
     

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