Category Archives: Technology

Wind energy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Lately in our area there’s been a lot of activity surrounding the possibility of building wind farms.  The local electric companies already have one turbine each, but there’s been a push to put up more of the wind-powered generators. There’s a lot of angst on both sides of the issue here, primarily between those who want to make some money leasing their property and those who are concerned about the noise and “flashing” and such.  So, being the hot topic that it is, I was interested to see this article at the Illinois Review site.  I’ll go ahead and put the whole thing here, since it’s nice and short:

$873K FOR “LARGER” NUTS AND BOLTS

from Illinois Policy Institute

According to our transparency website, IllinoisOpenGov.org, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) gave an $873,700.00 grant (#09-463009) in fiscal year 2009 to Unytite Inc. for “equipment that will enable the company to produce the larger nuts and bolts used in construction of wind turbines.” The DCEO’s grant tracker explains “these larger bolts (up to 48mm in diameter) are beyond the company’s existing bolt-making capability.”

For those who don’t know about DCEO (most people call it “decco” around here), it’s a government agency that handles divvying up grant money for economic development in the state of Illinois.  There was – and I’m not sure if there still is – a local office in Quincy, where I’m from.

The way I read this grant information is that Unytite Inc. needed almost $1 million to expand their manufacturing operation to make larger bolts and nuts.  Well, I can understand why it would be pretty costly to tool up to make a bolt that’s nearly 2 inches in diameter – that’s a big bolt.  But why do the need money from DCEO to do so?

We’ve been told for years how evil coal and oil are as energy sources.  We’ve been fed scary stories about nuclear power til we assume they melt down all the time and turn us into mutants.  If only we’d embrace wind, hydro, and solar power, it would be sunshine, rainbows and lollipops until the end of time.

This grant to Unytite for bolts tells me that for some reason wind turbines aren’t efficient enough and don’t make enough (or save enough) money to be able to sustain the industry that builds them.  Yet again the government is propping up an idea and telling everyone how good it is, hoping that no one will notice that it can’t even pay for itself.

Think about this for a bit.  If wind energy was such a good idea and could make money, why in the world does the government need to subsidize it?  Our local government in my area is struggling to find ways to get into hydropower on the Mississippi River.  If hydropower on this river is a money-maker, why isn’t some private company already running a plant here?  How about another one – E85 ethanol.  Without government subsidies and cheap corn prices, E85 can’t be sold cheaply enough to offset the difference fuel mileage and power delivered.

Some would argue the old point: “But, wouldn’t you rather the money stayed here and have it go overseas to the oil countries in the Middle East?”  Yep.  You’re darn right I would.  And IT CAN!  Expand drilling here at home, and start developing nuclear power again.  Reduce our dependence on foreign countries first, get the fuel sources we need, and at the same time find EFFICIENT ways to harness wind, solar, hydro, ethanol – maybe even something we’ve not heard of yet.

We’re the USA, dammit! We thrive on challenge – it’s what makes us great!

Dorks and Nerds

I’m not sure how real this is, but it sure looks real.  Back in my day people like this were “nerds” or “dorks” and they’d get their asses kicked on a regular basis.  Who’d have guessed that today’s world would end up filled with nerds?  Twitter, Facebook – these would have guaranteed nerd status back then.  Now they’re considered cool.

Facebook – useful tool or no?

I’ve been on Facebook for several months now, giving it a try.  I skipped Myspace when it was all the rage, mainly because it was painful to look at and seemed to be full of teens.  But Facebook seemed to have more structure and less mess, making it at the very least readable.

I wasn’t on Facebook long before I started getting contacted by old classmates from high school.  My 20th reunion is coming up and they are using Facebook as a way to locate and keep in touch between now and then.  It’s actually working pretty well to keep a group of people in touch.  I’m doing the same thing with my family reunion, building a group of “friends” – in this case relatives – by looking for someone I can find and then using their friend list to find other people.

So now I’ve gathered a decent list of “friends”.  I log in once in awhile to check what they have to say.  I automatically pull my posts on my blog sites into Facebook via RSS so I’ve got a running list of entries for my Facebook friends to read.  But guess what?  No one, and I mean no one, comments on my articles.  Not one of my friends writes any type of article themselves or writes anything with any content.  Yes, there are a few things of interest – one girl is using the site as a way to keep all her friends up to date with her pregnancy.  But for the most part, my Wall is filled with STUFF.  “I’m eating X for breakfast”.  “I just took a shower”.  “Blah blah blah Mafia Wars”.  I’ve got to sift through so much junk to see if there’s anything important stuck in there that I missed.

I guess I expected more.  I expected actual conversations about things of importance.  There are significant things happening in our world today, and not one of my 33 Facebook friends has anything to say about them.  The one time one of their friends make an offhand political comment, I responded, and after a few volleys back and forth, they quit right when it was getting fun.

I’ll probably stick with it for awhile, but I’m very tempted to just email out my regular email addresses and abandon Facebook.  If it weren’t for the reunion stuff, I would have ditched it already.  It may be a useful tool for some, but for me it’s just another online persona that I have to keep up.

Time slowing down?

I love theoretical questions about space/time relativity.  Questions that only God can truly answer because He’s the only one who can comprehend the whole thing.

Here’s a new one titled, “Bizarre theory suggests time may be running out“, published in Ireland’s BreakingNews.ie.  One of the theories that has long been tossed around has been that the universe, or at least the universe that exists in our dimension, is expanding at an accelerating rate.  The theory suggests that some “dark energy” is causing the expansion.  No one knows what the dark energy is, and can’t prove it, which is probably how it got it’s name: it’s energy and we can’t see it so we’ll call it dark.

So, previously the idea is that the speed at which the universe is expanding is growing over time, and that time is a constant.  This new theory suggests that time itself may be slowing, causing us to perceive that the speed has increased (the stars have moved farther because the seconds are longer).  Our universe isn’t expanding any faster, our time is slowing, causing us to see more per unit of time than before.

The final suggestion is that at some point time will slow so much that it will disappear and we’ll be frozen in an instant in time.  I don’t think so.  I think that if things keep changing at the rate they are, from OUR perspective the universe will expand faster and faster – more change per unit of OUR time.  If someone were to exist out in that expanding universe in IT’S timeline, they would see us slow down more and more – less change per unit of THEIR time.  However, OUR perception of OUR timeline should remain constant.

Unless somehow someone another dimension with an accelerated timeline can move ahead of us and affect our timeline, which is where people get ideas about building time machines.  They figure that it’s easy enough to travel from one point to another through our first 3 dimensions.  The fourth dimension, time, is a little trickier – it’s easy to travel forward in time at the same speed as time.  It’s difficult, however, to travel ahead or backward in time.  If someone can figure out how to travel through the time dimension, then combined with being able to travel through the first 3 dimensions, they could jump from one moment/location in space/time to another.  When you start looking at dimensions 5-10 (10 is the highest possible – I’ll find the reference to that and post it someday), the goal would be to be able to cross universes and timelines as well.

Obviously, if anyone ever figures out how to do this, we’ll most likely be screwed.  People will be wanting to go back and adjust history, both for good and bad reasons.  For a humorous look at problems with time travel, check out the Back to the Future movies.

Twitter – What’s the point?

When I first heard about Twitter, I had 2 questions:

1) What is the point?  Why should I use it?

2) What would I have to say that other people might find interesting?

I’ve been on Twitter for several months now.  I don’t use it much, although I do feed my regular blog posts into Tweets.  I have a handful of followers, mainly people I already knew in real life.  I haven’t caught on yet to using Twitter much, but for what it’s worth, I haven’t got very far with Facebook yet either.

Anyway, Dr. Melissa Clouthier has a good article called The Five “I’s” to Twitter Success that helps to answer #2.  I’m going to try to follow her tips and see how things go.  She’s promised another article on the way to answer #1, and I’m waiting anxiously to see her opinion on that one.

Twitter just a fad?

Czabe was on a rant this morning on the radio about Twitter and Facebook.  He thinks Twitter is just a fad, and pointed out that Twitter starts with “Twit”.

I tend to agree with him.  What’s ironic is that he would probably have a bunch of followers if we were to join.  After all, a lot of people would be interested to know his thoughts about different sports topics during the day and during games.

Tweet Tweet

If you follow my blog, you know I’m experimenting with Twitter.  I’m gradually getting the idea of why some people like it so much, but I’m not sold on it’s value to myself or the general population.  It seems like it’s an easy way for some people to get their thoughts out to the world, real-time, but for the average Joe, what do we have to say that would be interesting to others?  I see tweets about people taking walks, buying groceries, going to bed…. pretty mundane stuff. Continue reading Tweet Tweet

Technology advances, we regress

It’s amazing with the advances in technology that we have seen in the last few years, what people will put up with.  When you were a kid, you might sneak dirty magazines and pass them around to your buddies.  Primitive 8 1/2″ x 11″ glossy photos of naked women.  Primitive, right?  Years later, I bear witness to childish men passing around a cellphone with a tiny little display so they can each catch a glimpse of a naked woman – a picture so small they couldn’t be 100% sure it was even a woman.