Friday, October 28, 2005

Stuff I Wish Someone Would Research

Number #1 – Solar Power

I have no real gift for statistics or scientific research, but there are a great many things that I wish someone who did have such gifts would investigate and report on so that the rest of us could know. Indeed, one of my fantasies of the what-I-would-do-if-I-won-the–lottery-even-though-I-never-play variety involves funding research into all the odd questions that occur to me.

Ferinstance – what is the combined solar generating capacity of household rooftops in the sunbelt? Has anybody ever looked into that in a scientific way? I mean, first you’d have to define "sunbelt." I assume our hoped-for researchers would use some sort of calculus that involved the number of sunny days in a year. Any area with a certain number of sunny days would be in, any area falling below the threshold would be out.

But for now let’s say we mean California south of Fresno, all of Arizona, Most of Nevada, most of New Mexico, all of Oklahoma, all of Texas, and most of Arkansas. Certainly Florida would figure into all this.

Okay, then they would need to figure out what the sheer acreage (square-kilometerage) of rooftops was in these areas. How to do that? Satellite photos? Municipal records? A mathematical formula which extrapolates from a small data set to a larger one?

Somehow it would be done. Certainly it is possible – rooftop space is a knowable figure (but one also begins to see why basic research is expensive – already the hours involved in this are considerable).

After that, you have to start making smart guesses. How much of the roof space is shaded by trees or adjacent buildings? How much roof space is pitched facing north? (not well suited to solar generation) How much would not be suitable for the additional weight of solar panels.

Once they had a figure for the potential generating area, they would need to figure the hours of daylight available. This would vary by location within the area of inquiry, but those numbers are already available.

Then it’s a matter of a fairly straightforward math formula: acreage X hours of daylight X generating capacity of current solar technology.

And what do you get from all of this effort? A number. I suspect a very big number. Maybe a number that can open eyes and minds.

So often discussion of solar electricity centers around the difficulty/unfeasibility of converting a giant patch of land into a solar farm. It has seemed to me for a while that centrally controlled electricity generation (solar or otherwise) is maybe an old paradigm that needs to be let go of -- or at least adjusted. What if every roofed structure (at least in sunny places) was part of the solution to the nation's power generation? Wouldn’t that change things in all sorts of interesting ways?

But wait, I hear you say, won’t that cost a lot of money? Yes, but it brings up another thing that needs research: What is the point at which efficiencies of scale would effect the cost of manufacturing of solar power systems? I get the feeling that currently they are still manufactured in fairly small batches. I also get the feeling that the time is ripe to manufacture solar power systems in much the same way that we make things like cars and computers, where the costs would come way down because the volume is so high. Could the cost come down to the point where a rooftop solar system with a thirty-year expected lifespan could be bought and installed for $1500 out the door? I strongly suspect it could.

And let us not forget, at least here in California, there is a real need for more generating capacity. Money is going to be spent no matter what. Is now the time to mesh the corporately owned, centrally controlled system of power generation, with an individually owned, widely dispersed system of power generation?

Somebody ought to do the research.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

the (conservative) voice of reason

I am humbled. rational thought is possible from republicans! (ha ha, sorry, couldn't resist! I'm just being sarcastic; I still believe we all have more in common than not, and that the red-blue division is a divide-and-conquer tool of the power elite.)

good to know that not all repubs in congress are toe-the-line bushco supporters. this speech (oct. 7) by ron paul, r-tx is a fine example of a conservative argument for our withdrawal from iraq. it's very short and makes good sense. please give it a read.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

fried rice

it was more than a little gratifying to watch the senate foreign relations committee grilling (frying) some condy rice the other day on c-span. I especially enjoyed watching senator boxer ream 'er a new one. boxer came down hard on bushco's "foreign relations" front woman because of bushco's latest strategy (or earliest?) of claiming the u.s. has a mission to rebuild the entire middle east! boxer said that's not what she signed on for when the war resolution was presented.

so forget that stuff about wmd, forget about the humanitarian liberation of the oppressed iraqi people, forget about spreading the holy word of democracy to the heathen moslem world---- what we're really in iraq for is just the beginning of a reconstruction of the middle east! Oh! that's what it was all about. of course, they couldn't tell us that in the first place--- either because bushco hadn't come up with the idea yet or because they knew no senator in his or her right mind would approve the war measure. (in my humble opinion, none of them were in their right minds for approving the war under any pretext.)


Well, that's interesting.

Seems I had to use Netscape to set up an account with the good folks at blogspot, but now can only use Explorer to post.

How very odd.

This was not the splashy debut I had imagined for myself.

My technology is old. By which I mean hardware of about eight years, and software of about two, and an internet connection of the old-school, dial-up variety. In the world of computers, that's all obsolete.

It is not a new observation, but isn't it just a little insane that in order to use this new medium we must constantly throw away very complex machines and replace them with new ones -- not because they have worn out or broken, but because the new are incompatible with the old?

But I did not accept your invitation to post so that I could be the neighborhood grouchy old man (for one thing, I believe Algy has already claimed the post and refuses to share)

I did want to give fair warning that, although I have a great interest in things political, I have almost no interest in writing about them. So pretty much from the moment I open my virtual pie-hole, the tone of the site will change.

Hope that's okay.

Future topics to include: Stuff I Wish Someone Would Research, Food Theme Park, and a revisit of an earlier topic from the archives.

Till then,


Friday, October 21, 2005

a timely citizens' reminder

eminent historian howard zinn has this to say in the november issue of the progressive (picked up by common cause). it is a stirring reminder of the duty of the citizens of any democracy worthy of the name.

I was struck by the obvious (the hallmark of good persuasive writing); by the ready evidence, from our own history, of the power of the people, acting collectively, as contrasted with the power of the law. in a healthy and vital democracy, the law should be a close approach to the will of the people, though, by necessity, it invariably lags behind their will as that will changes with changing times.

let us not forget our duty to be the law. it is an active, demanding duty that requires our attentiveness to the shortcomings of the law as applied and a willingness to stand up for what is just.

thank you for the reminder, howard zinn.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

yes, but direct the call to the people...

jeremy rifkin writing in the boston globe today (reprinted at, suggests the u.s. should "lead the way" toward a more conservative use of oil resources, ultimately toward a more sustainable way of life.

indeed we should. but I, for one, ain't holdin' out for he-who-occupies-the-white-house to lead me anywhere. I say we should lead him--- by the nose, if necessary. besides, we don't have time to give w the education he missed while he was cutting classes at yale (or wherever it was his daddy paid for his diploma). we must lead ourselves out of this oily swamp.

what do Iraqis really think of the occupation?

the american media may not be telling the full story.

[no, really?]

this tom hayden article in yesterday's the nation tells a very different story than appears on the screens of american tv sets.

it seems that, gee, a majority of iraqis would rather we leave their country. can you believe that? what a bunch of cheeky ingrates! ;)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


does this bad news spell the end of wallace and gromit? a fire appears to have destroyed the entire studio and storage of the company that produced the much-beloved animated films.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Thank Gawd for Europe

Well, here's a development:

The Guardian (UK) reports, in an article tellingly headlined Breaking America's Grip on the Net, that "after troubled negotiations in Geneva, the US may be forced to relinquish control of the internet to a coalition of governments."

The story goes on to report that by the end of the negotiations, "the EU had decided to end the US government's unilateral control of the internet and put in place a new body that would now run this revolutionary communications medium."

Yup. The Internets is looking like it might finally change into something that's ... not completely (maybe even not at all) under the control of the U.S. Gummint.

I'll be interested to see the "Libertarian" (sic) reaction to this proposal, considering the EU's stated goal that "governments will only be involved where they need to be and only on issues setting the top-level framework" ...

My guess is, in spite of the clearly libertarian (small L) intention of the move, groups like Cato Institute will howl. Watch C-SPAN ... or tune in to a right-wing radio show near you (thanks, Clear Channel!) to hear much angry and ugly gnashing of teeth in the near future.

And then go here to feel better.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

more proof that congress will not lead us

friday's narrow, party-line energy bill vote in the house (rigged by repubs to gather all the foot-dragging repub voters that titleless-but-still-power-weilding delay could bully--- er, muster), once again demonstrates that our "elected" reps in congress simply will not lead us toward a sustainable future.

by a vote of 212-210, the bill offers incentives for the construction of new oil refineries, no new ones having been built in the u.s. since 1976. the vote was extended from the scheduled 5 minutes to 40 by controlling repubs--- an act denounced by house dems--- and we can thank weak-willed congressman wayne gilchrest, r-md for the narrow victory of madness, when he changed his vote from no to yes, presumably after 44 minutes of threats and harrangues by delay and the power mongers on that side of the aisle. I can imagine they threatened not only his standing in congress but his political career--- and possibly his life and family--- as well.

it's clearly up to us, folks. we can produce the "missing oil" overnight through easily-coordinated local efforts at conservation. not only have such savings been proven, they've been done before now. yet how long does it take to build and bring to full capacity a new oil refinery? god only knows, since none of recent design vintage have been tried in 30 years! it could take 5 or 10 years! (if the nuke power industry is a pertinent example, it may never happen at all.)

we must not wait to be led, we must take the reins and lead ourselves out of this hideous addiction.

Friday, October 07, 2005

This Just In: We Are at War With Oceania ...

... we have always been at war with Oceania ...

The headlines are chilling enough; then, on second blush, it becomes clear that BushCo's remarks regarding the war on Terror (the outlaw emotion) are being reported uncritically, sans analysis, by a large swath of media outlets.

Add in the dedication of space in an increasing number of U.S. homes to large screen televisions and Orwell seems an obvious place to go for -- what, solace? Resistance? Inspiration? Anti-inspiration? (Let's not forget, the book does end with the ultimate defeat of free thought ...)

As a side note, it's interesting to speculate about the effect, in this particular instance, on the headlines displayed by Google News, following their recent changeover to a formula that favors "trusted" (read:mainstream) news sources. I don't doubt Google's sincerity* in wanting to vet their sources, but I hope they pay attention to the slant that is inevitably resulting. (Maybe they could establish a new preferences setting for mainstreamized vs. unfiltered news ... I'll take mine unfiltered, thanks.)

*Then again, take a look at who was pushing Google in this direction back in February 2005 ... none other than ultraconservative columnist Michelle Malkin. To revive a 90sism, it kinda makes ya go "hmmm ..."


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

the sound of inevitability

isn't that from a line in The Matrix?

At least the canucks appear to have the sense god gave a wombat. this article, from the canadian (toronto?) online paper globe and mail, about suv sales drops there, shows that gas prices are having an effect on consumer behavior (yea!).

I wonder if the same trends are visible here in consumerica?



yes, they are. I came across this article while scanning google news. it seems u.s. sales of suvs are also down nationally.

whew! I was worried there for a minute that we weren't as clever as the canucks!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

the rotten roots of american politics

while american media sleeps (or deliberately looks the other way in its own right-wing interest), the rest of the world is well aware of the money-soaked rot at the root of the american system of politics. an editorial in the Observer, a UK publication, goes to the heart of the matter: the K Street den of thieves, washington's lobbyist headquarters.

apparently, man of the dark hour tom delay has been chief engineer of the republicanization of that already-corrupt blight on american politics. the corporate money being pumped into congressional pockets is a disturbing analogue to the pumping of oil from worldwide wells, especially given that so much of that oil ends up here.

I suspect that most republican-identifying americans just aren't aware of what goes on in the halls of goverment--- and would be up in arms if they knew. and so long as the media spotlight is trained on the paris hiltons and fall tv lineup stories of the world, they'll likely never know--- much to the republican masters' glee.

the media have been busily patting themselves on the back for their stellar reportage in the wake of katrina's gulf coast devastation; where the hell is their great work in our nation's capital?