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Monday, August 27, 2012

Cowards hide behind children

Attila the Hun was one of the most terrifying individuals during the dark ages.  His tactics were brutal and often gruesome to watch.  One of his most favorite methods was to take men he had captured from a city he was about to invade and strap them to the front of his wagons.  As they invaded, the men guarding the city were unable to fire back as they were afraid of killing their own people.  This gave Attila the advantage in laying siege to the city.

In today's political landscape, these methods have not gone away (only the medium has changed).   Many political ads (starting as early as 1960 with the use of the girl picking daisies) have used children as political messengers.  They go on TV and read scripts handed to them saying:

- Why do you want to destroy my school?
- Why do you want to fire my teacher?
- Don't take my home away.
- We want clean air to breath and clean water to drink
- Why do you want to take my Dad's job away!
- If my mom doesn't have healthcare she will die!

Using them as political messengers it prevents the other side from debating the actual merits of what is being proposed. 


These issues are ADULT ISSUES and need to be DISCUSSED BY ADULTS!

Next time you see an ad using children (Democrat or Republican) call the people who made the ad and tell them that they are COWARDS and are exploiting children for their own enjoyment.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Can Solar replace all other energy sources?

I spent some time calculating how many solar panels we would need to produce to replace all of Americas electrical energy with solar energy.

Here area the results

On average we use 5 trillion kWH of energy every year.  That works out to 570,000,000,000 watts of power needed every hour.  Your average 16 square-foot panel produces on average 100 watts of power.  This means we would need 570,000,000,000 / 100  panels = 5,700,000,000.  Each panel is 16 sq-ft so they would cover 9827  sq-mi.  or a roughly a 100 mi x 100-mi area.

Now that seems fairly small and do-able.  So what's stopping us?

Let's look at the costs.
   First each panel today costs about $1000 to produce, takes up about 16 square-feet and generates about 100 Watts of energy.

   Second, we will need to generate enough electricity during the daylight hours to have enough stored up energy for the nighttime.  Given approximately 8 hours of good daylight to work from we will need about 3 times (24/8) the size of grid to do this. (I will not be adding in the cost of the storage facility)

Therefore the overall cost (not including support, assembly, wiring, control) is almost 17 TRILLION DOLLARS.  This is 1 TRILLION more than our current US debt.  And that is just for 1 GRID.  If we needed more than 1 for redundancy or for bad weather, the cost would double or triple. 

There are other hidden dangers and costs of solar energy as well.

1) Solar panels will have an effect on plants and animals
    Light energy used for generating electricity cannot be used for anything else.  Wherever we put
    these panels, the plants that need the light and the animals that feed off the plants in that region
    will disappear for good.  That 100x100 mile square area will become a total desolate wasteland in
    which no living thing would exist.

2)  Solar panels will change the climate too.
    Light reflected off of these panels will get reflected back up into the atmosphere and will change
    the weather patterns (imagine a 100 mile x  100 mile mirror reflecting light.. you don't think that
    will have some effect on our weather?)

NOTE: There are 9 states SMALLER than 10,000 sq-miles.  The closest to this size is New Hampshire or Maryland and Vermont with sizes of 9775 and 9249 respectively. Just to give you
some scale as to how large this area is.

Unlike most solar power enthusiasts and environmentalists would tell you, solar power energy is NOT FREE!   It is VERY expensive which is why our power companies have not adopted it as a good energy source.   In my opinion the cost of solar energy needs to drop by 100X so that a solar panel costs $10  and not $1000.  Then and only then will solar energy become a cost effective source of energy.   We will also have to live with the fact that our new method of "clean energy" will have effects on land, animals and maybe even our climate.

Is this possible?

Probably not.

Unlike computer transistor technology where the reducing of the size of transistors allows more capability at lower cost,  photo-cells used in solar cells to convert light into electricity, do not have that same luxury.  The main factor in solar cells is not the transistor-size, but instead the effectiveness of the cell itself in converting light to energy.  Over the past 30 years solar cells have gained in efficiency, going from 10% efficient to now up over 45% efficient.  Therefore even if we could achieve 100% efficiency, that would only gain us about a 2X improvement in cost (not 100X that we need).  The only other lever to pull is the COST lever.  Here in lies the problem.  To improve efficiency, photo-cells need to employ either the use of more rare elements (which are more expensive) or more elaborate production technology.  Either of which drives UP the cost of development.   Other technologies using "thin film" which are cheaper in development have plateaued at 15% efficiency (and little sign of improving). This means that they require 3 times the areas to achieve the same amount of wattage as silicon-based photo-cells, so our grid would have to be the size of Vermont, New Hampshire  Massachusetts and Connecticut put together  ( or 1/4 of New Mexico ).  To reach our 100X cost improvement, they would have to be 300-400X cheaper than silicon-based photo-cells and currently they are only about the same price.

I don't want to be one of those people that say "We will never ...." because often they are proven wrong over enough time.  But I think that in the very near future (< 20 years), we need to be realistic and see that there are major hurdles to replacing our fossil fuel energy usage with solar energy.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Romney needs to ridicule the attack ads.. not answer them

One of my favorite movies is "The Hunt for Red October" ( I watch it any time I get a chance ).  In the movie there is a scene where the Captain of the submarine orders that the ship turn around and head straight into the path of an oncoming torpedo.  This made no sense to the other people on board (or even to the US navy personnel watching the events on sonar).  He is able destroy the torpedo by ramming it before it has a chance to arm (torpedoes have safety settings to only arm after a period of time in case it is faulty).

You can watch the clip here:

Now, what does this have to do with the election and attack ads you ask.  To answer this question I ask you to view another video called "Attack Watch" which is a snarky video that makes fun of political attack ads.

To me this video is to "Political Attack Ads" as the "Hunt for Red October" is to torpedoes.  By making an attack ad that is SO off the wall it shows how utterly ridiculous they are and you will never watch another attack ad the same way again.  This goes counter to the current thought (like turning a submarine around) which is to issue statements in response to these attacks.  For example, the latest Biden speech where he tells a black audience that Romney will "put you back in chains".  Even though this is absolutely ridiculous and no one for a second believes Biden's hyperbole, current political wisdom would require Romney to issue a statement to counter Biden's remark.   But this only substantiates Biden's statement and gives it credence, further fueling future bombastic remarks and keeping Obama from talking about what's really important: jobs and the economy.

Romney should employ people like the makers of Attack-Watch to destroy all future attack ads or speeches.  By ridiculing them you disarm them and make them nonsensical.   (I, for one, do not look at any political attack ads any more without hearing the irritating voice of "Attach Watch" ringing in my ears and reminding me of how silly they really are).  

Monday, August 13, 2012

TRYING is not good enough!

Here is a link to a portion of Obama's speech in which he makes the case for a "new direction" in which prosperity is "shared".

Obama says that EVERYONE no matter who they are are should be able to come to this country and make it if the "TRY".   To me this like saying "Every child that shows up to school and tries should be given an A on their report card and a diploma at the end of 12 years of school".    The fatal word in Obama's political view is TRY.   We all use this word.

- I will TRY to make your party on Saturday

- I will TRY to get the report done by Monday

- I will TRY to be a better parent

- I will TRY to be a better spouse

- I will TRY to get to work on time.

- I will TRY to be late next time

And the list goes on and on and on..

Try is one of those nebulous words which lacks any level of clarity.  It can mean anything from, "I will think about it", to "I will give it my 110% to make it happen".  It gives us enough wiggle room such that if we do not live up to expectation we have an "out" (Hey!  I said I would TRY!).    Is TRY good enough?   Is that the American Dream?   Did our ancestors come to this country to "TRY" to make it?   I don't think so.  Many came here with all of their worldly possessions put into a small suitcase and the clothes on their back and no return ticket home.   They did not come here to TRY but instead came here to SUCCEED.  Some did and others did not.  The American Dream is that only the best get the trophy and we all have the opportunity to prove ourselves worthy.   (As one person put it, "If everyone gets a trophy then trophies become meaningless"). 

President Obama has spent too much time in academia where "showing up" is the new C, "trying" is the new B and "sucking up" is the new A.  This is what is wrong in our schools and Obama wants to make it the standard for our nation as well.   He wants it to be where we can make it if we "try".  If we show up most of the time, don't create any new problems, don't get into any fights, don't upset the boss, don't show up drunk or intoxicated, give a minimal amount of effort to perform our duties and above all have an excuse for our failures.

Seems to me President Obama just wants the same standard for us that he uses for himself.  Like a student begging the teacher for "just a little more time" because they procrastinated and under-estimated their abilities to deliver on the assignment, Obama is begging the American public for 4 more years to, as in his words, "Get this done!".  He tried to fix the economy, but there were "head winds from Europe and natural disasters he could not foresee".   He tried to close Guantanamo but "no countries would help out in taking them".   He tried to cut the deficit in half after 4 years but it proved too hard so he claims he needs an extra term to get that accomplished.  He would try to bring the troops home in a year but he did not anticipate all "Islamic Spring" and how daunting of a task it was.  He tried to work with Congress, but they would not take his proposals without any changes. 

You see Mr. President, our country does not reward TRYING.  We only reward SUCCESS which is why you will not be re-elected come this November.   

Friday, August 10, 2012

Polls == Donations.

I have written several blogs on polling data having to do with the election and I have shown that we need to pay attention to WHO is doing the polls and WHO are being polled.

But here I want to tell you WHY various polling institutions are showing Obama moving ahead right now.

The most important reason for giving Obama favorable polling data now is not so Obama can sleep good at night.   Instead it is meant to help stimulate donors to give more to Obama and less to Romney.  Money is the life-blood of elections and restricting the giving of money to a campaign will keep it from being successful.  This is true in investments as well.   When a stock analyst gives a bad "futures" report on a company, the stock tanks.  When another analyst gives a good report, the stock rises.  We often pull money from investments based on other data.  The same holds true for elections.  The "analysts" are the "polling-companies" they say which investments are working and which ones aren't.   We tend to withhold money from candidates if we "perceive" that they are a bad bet.   On the flip side, we tend to give MORE money to candidates that are ahead because everyone wants to support a "winner" (Get on the band-wagon!).   The polling data today is meant to help Obama raise money and slow down Romney.

Later (probably end of October) we will see the polls tighten and may even see Romney with a "slight lead".   The purpose here is that the donor season is over and now it's time to get the voters worried that their candidate (Obama) might not make it and they need to get to the polls and hit the streets.

We must NOT let the polls affect our donations to the Romney campaign.  We must fight the urge to think its a bad bet and go with our gut instinct that our country will chose Romney over Obama come this November.

If you have not given yet.... GIVE NOW!

Olympic Track and Obama's misleading polls

I wrote a blog a while back talking about "Likely Voters (LV)" verses "Registered Voters (RV)" and "Adults (A).   As I watch the poll numbers, Obama's margin over Romney "seems to be widening", but not when you take only the LV polls.  There his margin has shrunk to less than zero.  Also when you throw out known leftist organizations like MSNBC/NBC or Democracy Corps or CNN you see Romney is in much better position than you might think.

I actually think that these crappy polls will work into Romney's favor in the end.  An analogy I like to use comes from Track and Field (watch the Olympics and you will see what I mean).   When you watch the 200m or 400m races, the runners are "staggered" (they don't start on a straight line) because going around a circle, the outside running would end up running farther than the inside runner.  To make up for this, the outside runner starts out "ahead" of the other runners so that in the end ALL the runners run the same distance.   The outside runner still has a disadvantage however because he starts out in a position that he cannot see how far the other runners are behind him and he may think himself to be winning when we may in fact he may be losing.   The runner in the back has an advantage for just the opposite reason.  He sees himself as being behind and runs harder to "catch up".   He can also see ALL the runners and judge better where he stands in the race.

The polls that put Obama in the lead actually put Obama in a position of a false-lead like the runner staggered in front of the other runners. While it may give Obama an easier time sleeping at night one must ask, "Will the voters in November feel the urgency to come out and vote if all the polls show Obama as having  a somewhat comfortable lead?".    Likewise, "Will the voters for Romney see the urgency of getting their family and friends out to the polls?". 

My advice to all who watch the polls like I do is this:  "Ignore them, when they show Obama UP, work HARDER!"

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to improve education

I have been thinking a lot lately about what is ailing our education system and how to improve it. But before you jump in and yell "We need to get rid of the stupid teacher unions" let me say that there is more to it than that (although I must agree with you on that statement as well).

The first thing we must do as parents is put education above EVERYTHING ELSE in our kids lives.  I have seen parents who put there children in "select soccer teams" and then drive them 500 miles to a soccer tournament that lasts 2 days and pay gas, food and lodging to see their child play for a few hours.  But ask these same parents to spend a few hours a week working with their children and their education and you would have thought you asked them to accompany them on a trip to the moon.  You must ask yourself, "Is my child going to make a living out of soccer, baseball, football or any other sport?"   If you answer is NO, then you need to put education before any sport or after school activity they have.

The second thing you must do is show your child where the stand in regard to their global peers.  They need to see that the US is 20th in rankings for science and math.  They need to see that California is 40th in state-rankings for science and math.  Therefore being in "honor roll" means you are at the TOP of the BOTTOM of the BOTTOM.   They need to see that their global peers go to school on average 220 days a year while we in the US only go to school 180 days a year.  Compounding this with the fact that many of the countries have their students spend 6-7 hours a day in class verses in the US we only spend about 4-5 hours in class, and you see that we on average spend almost 400 hours per year LESS than other countries.   To put this way,  every 3 years our children spend in school the Indian children are getting 4 years of education so by 3rd grade, children in India are learning 4th grade math, by 6th grade they are learning 8th grade math and by 9th grade they are learning 12th grade (senior) math.   Get the picture?   We used to make fun of India and how they were the world's "call center", but given this trend, in 20 years the US will become the world's "call center" and India will become the predominate technology developer.  Therefore we as parents must be willing to supplement our children's education with "After School Education" (supplied by a professional or by our own energy) to give our children the same hours of education otherwise they will be mathematically eliminated from the job market.

The third thing you must do with your children is TEACH THEM HOW TO LEARN!   This seems odd, but it is very much true.  Imagine teaching a person to drive by sitting them in the car, handing them the keys and telling them, "Now drive safe!".   Would the person learn how to drive?  Probably over time they will and probably after lots and lots of accidents.  But they will of course develop many bad habits in the process such as not using their mirrors, blinkers or giving other drivers the right-of-way.  Learning how to drive this way would be ludicrous and dangerous at the same time.  But that is what we do to our kids when we send them to school and tell them "Now make sure you listen to the teacher and learn!".   We as parents need to show our children proper learning skills.  This includes reading for comprehension which is different than reading for pleasure.   Here in lies the other problem with our education system which teaches our children how to read books like "Harry Potter" (pleasure reading) but never teach them how to read articles on biology or history (informational reading).   Not that pleasure reading is bad, but as far as careers go, unless you plan on being a novel editor or proof-reader, there is very little use for pleasure reading to earn a living.  Informational reading requires the reader to extract dates, places, names, numbers, definitions and concepts whereas pleasure reading only requires the reader to extract names and plots (which is why kids today tend to read serial-novels like Harry Potter because after the first book the reader already knows the names and plot-lines and can read the follow-on books while in auto-pilot).

How do you read for learning? It's actually quite simple..

1) Read first and last paragraphs of the article.  This gives you a clue as to what the article is about.
2) Scan the article for all bold or italicized words.  These are often important words or definitions you must know to understand the article.  Look up in the dictionary any words you don't understand and write them down.
3) Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph.  This shows you overall what the article is going to discuss and gives you a "map" of the article for your mind to categorize the information it extracts.
4) Finally read the entire article from beginning to end.

This type of reading takes practice to perfect but like all things gets better with use.  (Note: it's important to use this method on ALL types of articles ... even BORING ones you find now enjoyment in at all).

Finally, help your children become familiar with difficult subjects.  Fear is often one of the biggest hindrances to learning as these become mental roadblocks.  To illustrate this I will use my experience with deer hunting.  I did not grow up hunting deer, but a friend of mine introduced me to it and showed me where he hunted on a camping trip.  He familiarized me with the hunting trail and made me feel less fearful about getting lost.  Over time I have become very familiar with the area and enjoy the hunting aspect all the more.   By showing children more difficult subjects earlier in life and encouraging them that over time they will understand these topics as well we take away the fear of learning and when the time comes to take them on, they will be old topics they saw long ago.   

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Backpacking is the solution

Every society collapses, not from want, but instead from being spoiled.  When societies grow and prosper future generations take the hardships that their parents, grand-parents and great-grand-parents went through for granted.  To illustrate, look at the Occupy-Movement.  Many of these are young people "camping out" in the city with their iPads and iPhones, eating at restaurants and getting their coffee at Starbucks all the while cursing the very people who give them these "necessities of life" (Reminds me again of the plaque my Uncle Carl had on his farm that said "Don't curse the farmer with your mouth full!").     These people have never had it so good and yet they don't realize it.

This past weekend I was out camping and we took a hike up to hills to look for deer.   We brought our own bottles of water, but the hike took longer than expected and we were low.  Phil, knew of a place where we could get fresh water so we went there and just as expected the spring was still running (in the heat of summer) and we were able to refill our bottles to get us back to camp.  It was while we were filling our bottles that I realized how precious that water is and how we take it for granted back home.  We turn a little knob and gallons of water per minute flow out into our sinks and baths for our use and pleasure.  But it wasn't always that easy.   Men and women coming to California had to find their own water.  They had to dig wells deep into the earth to access these springs.  Later they had to move large amounts of dirty and concrete to build dams and reservoirs and canals to hold back and divert the water to where we live.  They had to later build complex filtering and pumping facilities to insure we had disease-free water no matter where you chose to live whether int he valley or up in the hills.  All this, we take for granted.

If I were made President, I would require all children 12 and older to go backpacking 3 days a year.  They could only bring what they could carry on their backs for food and water and shelter.  Most likely they could survive the first day on what they had brought, but the last 2 days they would have to live on what they could find.  No water faucets to turn on... only springs , lakes and streams to drink from (hopefully they packed a filtration system).    No McDonalds or Taco-Bell to "forage" from when they became hungry... only fruits, berries and roots to munch on (or a rabbit if they are able to capture it).    Like the SurvivorMan show on the Discovery Channel, they would have to live by their wits and would LONG for hot meals we got from our microwave ovens or our fast food restaurants.  They would gain a new appreciation for the safety of their homes when they don't have to make huts out of branches and tree limbs to sleep under.  They will hold in high value the hospitals that are there if we hurt ourselves (Trust me!  You have a different view of healthcare when you are hiking 30 miles to the nearest hospital).  They would appreciate the ability to turn a dial or press a button to turn up the heat in their homes when cold or turn on a light when they have to struggle for hours to get a small fire lit from rubbing two sticks together.  When they go to bed at night they will notice the soft pillow-top mattresses provided to them because they didn't have to go out and gather leaves or branches to lay on in order to sleep. 

To me, 3 days of hell should be enough to make all of our young people realize just how good they have it.