I was tired all day today. Napped for a long time. But now I'm drinking coffee.
Earlier this week, I received a surprise in the mail: "The Einstein Sisters Bag the Flying Monkeys" - a political satire by WhosPlayin guest writer Irving Wesley Hall. (see the link) I had talked to Irving months ago about the book, and had bought the e-book version, but honestly - I just can't read that way. So I was happy to have the paperback version in hand.
The book is political fiction about 3 young teen sisters in Florida during the 2000 elections. I'm looking forward to reading it for my sons. I'm also touched that he's put my name in the acknowledgments.
Today I took the kids to a really cool store here in Lewisville called "Northern Tool" They sell all sorts of industrial tools and equipment, as well as parts that tinkerers and hobbyists like myself can use. The also sell solar panels pretty inexpensively. I didn't buy anything though. I'm a little broke until next payday.
Work has been frustrating. There hasn't been a huge amount of work to do, and what I do have, I've been having trouble getting timely answers to my questions from my clients. So, I sit around a lot at work wondering "what in the hell can I do now, to stay billable?" I've had another firm recruiting me, but the position would probably be less pay and would require me to commute to Carrollton each day. I've got an open mind. I've got a friend that keeps trying to convince me to step up to a higher-level job. I'm not sure what to think about that. I do like doing technical things, but I'm about as far as I can go in my field, and the technology I work with only has a limited life. Either I move up, take a lateral move, or hope that the ship doesn't go down until I retire.
I'm told that some folks have tried to register for accounts on this website, and that the accounts were somehow rejected. If that happens, and you really want an account, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I usually approve all account requests unless they look like spammers, but I don't doubt that I've probably flushed the baby with the bathwater on occasion. At one point, this website was getting thousands of spam comments per day. For awhile, people were even posting porn in the forums. I've had to remove the forums and add an extra field to the comments. If you ever want to leave a comment, you have to type "washington" in the verification field in order for it to post correctly.
Speaking of comments, some of you email me - which is fine, but some of your comments are really good. I think other readers would benefit if you want to post your thoughts.
I mowed the yard today. It was damn hot. Did you know that I have a wind-powered lawn mower. Sort of, anyway. It's an electric lawnmower with a rechargeable battery. (And my household buys electricity from Green Mountain) I love it:
- It's lightweight - It starts instantly and stops instantly - It's MUCH quieter than a gasoline mower - It's very reliable - The mower deck adjusts up and down with just one lever. - It can bag or mulch - No trips to the gas station.
I bought it last year, and feel really smart right now that gas is nearly $4. I've got a rechargeable electric trimmer/edger too. About a two weeks ago, frustrated that my blower is still gasoline, I bought an eco-friendly cordless battery free solution: a push broom. Yes, amazing. Did you know that grass clippings can actually be swept off the sidewalk?
Do you ever get sick of political news? Boy, I sure do. Sometimes I just can't stand to hear anymore of it. I much more enjoy actually talking to real people about ideas and policies. Three times in the past few weeks, I've sat down with Republicans for various discussions. What strikes me the most is how much we actually agree on, in terms of facts, but that our disagreements are mostly related to what we do about certain problems, and the extent and nature of unintended side effects. I've been working on a blog post about how people disagree. I don't know if I'll get around to posting it, or if it will sit in my pile with the dozens of others....
I really want to see "Baby Mama" with Tina Fey:
Did I mention that I "graduated" from the Citizen's Fire Academy last week? Look in the "Recent Photos" section.
Dallas Morning News is reporting that a federal judge has found a Farmers Branch ordinance banning apartment rentals to most illegal immigrants to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Sam Lindsay (Appointed 1998 by President Clinton) issued a permanent injunction blocking the city from implementing the measure, Ordinance 2903.
Judge Lindsay failed to rule on Ordinance 2952 since it had not yet drawn a legal challenge, and he refused to assist the city in drafting an ordinance that would hold up.
These residential rental "licenses" are required of each occupant of the unit, and require a $5 fee and proof of citizenship. It would seem then that even Ordinance 2952 amounts to a poll tax (any per-person tax), which is unconstitutional.
WhosPlayin is donating ad revenue for the months of May and June, 2008 to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day event. So far our readers have helped us raise over $300 through direct donations and ad sales and clicks.
We have a month to go! If breast cancer has affected someone you love, support our sponsors these two months, or click and donate via the 3-Day ad.
Much thanks to a generous group of people!
If you want to honor someone you love who has suffered breast cancer with a $20 donation, we would be glad to run their photo and a message of your choice here.
There are many things that people do that I do not agree with, I think are stupid , or I see as a burden to society. Despite this, I will defend their right to live their lives as they see fit.
Marriage seems to be a big issue in the news these days. California’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of same sex marriage. The state of Texas is in a mess with this FLDS polygamy sect.
I have one question for every one that wishes to limit the legal definition of marriage; why do you care? Within the Bill of Rights we have all taken away, right or wrong the idea of freedoms to live our lives as we see fit, so long as in doing so we do not interfere with anyone else’s right to do the same. This is an admirable idea, and one we must work harder to live up to.
FLDS sects always seem like weirdos, and they are. They have values that do not fit into the mainstream idea of morality in our society, for most of you I am sure the idea of more than one spouse is hard to understand. It is for me! Marriage to one person can be hard enough. Having more than one spouse just does not fit within my idea of what a family is, or “ should be”.
And while monogamous same sex marriage is a little closer to what I think about as marriage; two people in love raising a family: It is still not my cup of tea at all. I am a man, I want to married to one woman. With a little luck until the day I die.
Therefore I ask myself the same question I ask with any civil liberties issue: "Do I have the right to tell someone else that they must live the way I do?" No matter that I think my way of doing things is best, and I do, or I would do it differently. We still have a great country, we are the envy of the world because our ideas of freedom are better! WE THE PEOPLE must remember this. We have all kinds of relationships these days that do not fit into what we think of as a normal marriage. Men and women commonly have children from multiple mates without ever being married. "My baby daddy" is not a way for a woman to refer to her husband, it implicitly refers to, the father of her child that is not her husband.
More and more people are not getting married at all. Deciding instead to live "in sin" to use a parlance of our times. I have know many couples raising children together but not married. They are all strong families. And we are all familiar with the high rate of divorce in this country. Some people choose to have a mate of the same sex, Some people choose to have multiple mates at the same time.
Furthermore the inclusion of homosexual and bisexual sex in heterosexual marriage is almost common place today. No matter how much you or I many not like it, we have the responsibility to defend there right to do so. If you can not stand up for another’s right to live differently then you, you in turn must be willing to give up your right to live as you wish.
Are you so against gay marriage or polygamy that you are willing to give up your marriage, your right to marry who you wish? Well but one man and one woman is natural, you say. Well ok, that being true we would see throughout the animal kingdom monogamous heterosexual relations. But in fact we see that animals that mate for life with the opposite sex is rare. Most mammals are polygamous, and there are many examples of homosexuality thought out the animal kingdom. Even great heroes of the Bible had more than one wife. The Romans were the first to organize the Catholic church, with the Council of Nicaea. And is there any question about Roman history of homosexual behavior?
Maybe your religious beliefs tell you that marriage is one thing. That’s fine, follow that belief. I promise that if necessary I will die to defend you right to do so. But we must all being willing to fight for everyone’s rights. We have become a country of tolerance in many ways. There are people from every corner of the globe that call the USA their home. Likewise there are people of every faith here too.
Our diversity has always been part of what makes this such a great country. You know this, dear reader!!! So can we not manage to deal with gays and polygamists being married?
BossKitty at BlueBloggin tell us how truck owners and operators are delving into long-ignored gas saving subjects like aerodynamics, slower cruising speeds and all the snake oil scams to increase mileage. This could lower your food prices and consumables; Ten mpg is now feasible … may save you money!
Chris Bell is widely rumored to be considering a run for the Texas Senate seat being vacated by Kyle Janek, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs joins the call to encourage him to do so.
Social wing nuts are up to their old tricks, as the TX State Board of Education give the finger to teachers and parents alike this past week. On a 9-6 vote, your kids get a decade's worth of grammar lessons etched on a napkin.
Lightseeker of Texas Kaos takes on the question of what to do with all these new Democratic/Progressive activists and voters? Are they doomed to grow quickly disillusioned, retreating into political cynicsm again ? What can be done to keep the momentum for change going? What's going on in your precinct to organize for November?
Since I got my "stimulus" check, I've been looking for some ways to spend it on energy efficiency around the house. I consulted with an expert in the solar energy business, and he suggested that there were a lot of things I could do. After checking some of those things, I got in the mood to create something new. Our expert had suggested that you get a lot more bang for your buck using solar energy to directly heat water than to use it as electricity - as in photo-voltaics.
My Solar Water Heater Prototype
So, I drew up some plans and my son and I constructed a small (24 x 18") solar collector box to house the coils.
What you can't see from this picture is that the coils sit approximately 1 inch above the bottom of the box, which has a layer of fiberglass insulation under the metal plate.
The box which will be air-tight when completed, and will contain copper tubing (about 18 feet) painted black. A clear Plexiglas cover will be placed on top and the air will be removed from the box to avoid losing heat to the air.
When the sun shines on the metal plate and coils, the sun's light will be converted to heat, which will be conducted into the water.
When the temperature of water in the coils exceeds a set point, a solar-powered pump will circulate the hot water into a tank, and bring up cooler water to heat.
The coils are constructed of 1/2" rigid copper tubing put together with elbows and street elbows, and sealed with sweat joints of lead-free solder. The individual tubes in the coil are 18.5" in length each, and there are 10 runs, plus a 14" length at the bottom leading to the outlet. When you add in the elbows, I'm estimating it's about 18' of tubing.
Temperature test without water in the coils
In the picture to the left, you can see the nearly-completed unit. The collector plate and coils are painted black to absorb the maximum solar heat. This was a temperature measurement after 15 minutes in the sun and no water in the coils. The Plexiglas cover is just sitting on top, and there is no vacuum in the box.
As you can see, the temperature is 157.3 degrees Fahrenheit in this photo.
I should note that it was sunny, but partially cloudy, and the unit was laying on my driveway on top of a sheet of paper that I had used to paint parts on. There is one inch of fiberglass insulation underneath the coils, so you're not seeing driveway heat.
The coils were inclined a few degrees north here because of the slope of my driveway.
Water in coils - Start
This photo is the beginning of my test with water in the coils of my solar water heater prototype. I filled the coils with as much water as I could force in, which ended up being 720 ml.
The temperature probe went into the short tube, and was only about 1 inch inside the box at the corner of the elbow on the bottom left of the photo.
The inlet and outlet pipes were sealed (sort of) with foil tape, but once the coils started heating, they immediately started to drip - probably because of the expansion of the water and air inside.
In this photo, the top number on the thermometer is actually the time: 10:07 (Actually 12:07 Central). The next number was the beginning temperature of the water (at the time I took the picture). Actually the temperature was showing 81 before I laid it in the sun, but by the time I got the camera, it had increased to 82.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
Note from the reflection in the Plexiglas that the sky was partly cloudy. Even with clouds obscuring the sun about 40% of the time, the temperature of the water steadily rose.
Water in Coils - 41 minutes later
In this photo, at 10:42 (per the clock on the thermometer - Pacific time, I believe) the temperature in the coils is 138.0 degrees Fahrenheit. The foil tape sealing the inlet and outlet pipes had continued to leak, and at this point I had estimated that it had leaked about 195 ml.
The temperature sensor, as I noted before, was not fully into the body of the coils, but was in the short end of the outlet, about 1 inch inside the frame.
Also, the unit was not sealed vacuum tight, but was just ambient pressure. The top of the Plexiglass was not noticeably warm to the touch, but the water dripping out of the pipes was definitely hot.
This thermometer shows 138, but most domestic water heaters heat water up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit.
When I first started this experiment, the box was angled a few degrees to the north, following the downward slope of my driveway (to the right), and laying flat on the driveway. In this photo, I had inserted a couple of 1 x 2" boards to elevate the angle just a bit to the west, toward the sun.
Water in Coils - End
After my initial experiment was concluded, I removed the foil tape from the inlet (left) and outlet (right) and removed the temperature probe from the outlet.
I suspected that because I had inserted the temperature probe in the shorter outlet, and it had not extended fully into the coils, it might not be registering as high as it should. This photo was taken about one minute after standing the unit on its side.
I threaded the temperature probe down into the long inlet, all the way down, and the reading showed 146.8 degrees Fahrenheit
Note that with the unit on its side, and the Plexiglas not yet sealed to the frame, air movement against the coils started rapid cooling after this photo was taken.
The unit was then dumped out into a pail, and the remaining water measured volumetrically. The remaining water was 525 ml, which was 195 ml less than the original 720 ml that was poured in at the start of the experiment.
In my experiment with water in the coils but not circulating, I came up with the following results:
Time in minutes: 42 Time, in seconds: 2,520 Average volume of water heated: 622.5 ml (avg of 720ml starting, 525 ml ending) Temp. gain (F): 64.8 degrees F (146.8 - 82.0) Temp. gain (C): 36.0 (using conversion factor) Calories Gained: 22,410 Cal/Sec: 8.89 Watts: 37.23 (Using conversion factor) kWH in test duration: 0.03 10 hour day kWH: .372 (Assuming 10 hours of good sun)
Daily energy savings, assuming 80% efficient water heater and 16 cent per kWH electric rate: $0.07 Extrapolated Monthly Savings: $2.23 Extrapolated Yearly Savings: $26.81
Assumptions and Limitations
- Loss of volume between measurements is assumed to be steady so calculations use the average volume. - Rounding errors and lack of precision in measurement are to be expected. It's hard to get a good temperature reading when your thermometer takes only one reading every minute, and its precision is one tenth of a degree. Volumetric measurements used a 100 ml graduated cylinder, but were not temperature compensated. - Savings assume an electric water heater with only 80% efficiency, which is a ball-park figure. - The final temperature was probably under-stated due to poor placement of the temperature probe in the first place, and the removal of the plexiglass cover prior to taking a final measurement deep in the coil. - Efficiency probably would be better with water circulating in the coils, since there would likely be a greater temperature differential between the metal and the water, affecting greater transfer speed. - The temperature achieved was probably lower than it could have been if the box had been sealed and a vacuum drawn. It is assumed that some heat was lost by conduction into the air in the box, and into the wood and Plexiglass, as well as through unsealed cracks.
I've used silicone sealant to seal up the box around the inlet and outlet, as well as to adhere and seal the Plexiglass to the wooden frame. A vacuum port was drilled and a rubber hose insert was sealed in place with silicone. In 24 hours it should be sufficiently cured to try drawing a vacuum on the box.
I may try using an infrared heat lamp for a set duration both with and without vacuum just to see how much it will conserve the heat inside the box.
Once I get it all done and tested, I'll work on a circulation system to pump water to and from a storage tank. I have a small 12 volt solar panel, lead-acid storage battery, and 12 volt 1 gallon per minute pump. I need to find a way to control the pump based on temperature differential. The solar panel will not handle the current drawn by the pump, but the battery will. The solar panel can keep the battery charged if the pump is only run for a few minutes of each hour.
If everything works, I'll run the numbers on whether it's cost effective to hook up to my home's electric water heater / storage tank. In that case, I would turn the electric water heater's thermostat way down so that it only kicks in when the solar water heater is not functioning - such as on a cold winter day.
( This was sent to me, thought you all should read it)
Thousands of Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans are returning home only to become casualties of war - at their own hands. Suffering from psychiatric injuries, 1,000 veterans under Veterans Administration care are attempting suicide each month. Almost 40 percent of the young men and women returning from combat almost have proven mental health injuries that include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, major depression and traumatic brain injury.
But when they seek help, disabled veterans face a claims system so mismanaged and inefficient that they often must wait more than five years for any assistance. The Department of Veterans Affairs is choking on a backlog of some 600,000 unresolved benefits claims. Even after their eligibility has been established, thousands of veterans cannot obtain adequate mental health treatment. While they wait for the care they are owed, veterans are dying. About 126 veterans per week commit suicide. Vast numbers of veterans are living with mental illness, sometimes so severe that they are unable to work. Nationally, about 154,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and twice that many are homeless at some time during the year.
In a federal court lawsuit tried in San Francisco last month, two veterans' organizations asked Judge Samuel Conti to order the VA to streamline its systems for deciding benefits claims and obtaining mental health treatment. A decision is expected within a month.
During the trial, the VA vowed to do better, but history warns us against taking the VA's promises on faith. For example, a year ago, the VA adopted a Mental Health Plan for Suicide Prevention, which included many well-meant resolutions. But, in practical terms, none of the recommendations in this plan has been implemented, and none of its stated goals has been met. The suicides continue.
The VA's mental health professionals who work directly with veterans are skilled and caring, but the attitude of the VA bureaucracy is apparent from an internal e-mail from the VA's head of mental health, Dr. Ira Katz, that surfaced during the trial. At a time when the VA was publicly reporting only 790 veteran suicide attempts in all of 2007, Katz wrote, "Shh! ... Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month ... Is this something we should (carefully) address ... before someone stumbles on it?" The VA seems to rate "damage control" as more important than caring for veterans who have been injured while serving our country.
Nonprofit organizations, such as Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, try to pick up the pieces of veterans' broken lives, but they cannot possibly meet the overwhelming need. In San Francisco, these nonprofits can provide only a few hundred beds where veterans can receive targeted, residential mental health treatment, while at least 1,200 to 1,500 veterans live on the street, and hundreds more sleep in cars, parks and churches.
We learned from the experience of Vietnam veterans that allowing this situation to persist will lead to epidemics of unemployment and underemployment, homelessness and family breakdown. Sens. Barbara Boxer D-Calif., and Kit Bond (R-Mo.) have introduced the Honoring Our Nation's Obligations To Returning Warriors (HONOR) Act, which would improve efforts to prepare soldiers for the stress of combat, and provide supportive services for families. Please ask your congressional representative to support the Honor Act and to demand that the VA fulfill its mission of caring for our wounded soldiers after they come home.
Some numbers we should not forget -- The suicide rate of veterans is at least three times the national suicide rate. In 2005, the suicide rate for veterans 18- to 24-years-old was three to four times higher than non-veterans.
-- About 154,000 veterans nationwide are homeless on any given night. One-fourth of the homeless population is veterans.
-- There are more homeless Vietnam veterans than the number of soldiers who were killed during that war.
-- It takes at least 5.5 years, on average, to resolve a benefit claim with the Veteran's Administration.
-- More than 600,000 unresolved claims are backlogged with the Veteran's Administration.
-- Approximately 18.5 percent of service members who have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq currently have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or depression.
-- 19.5 percent of these veterans report experiencing traumatic brain injury.
-- Roughly half of those who need treatment seek it, but only slightly more than half of those who receive treatment receive at least minimally adequate care, according to an April 2008 Rand Report.
Sources: Veterans Administration, U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Rand
Michael Blecker is the executive director of Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco, and Vietnam combat infantryman.
This article appeared on page B - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle
I just put my second pot of coffee on to brew, and haven't had a sip yet. I was so groggy, I forgot to put coffee in the basket.
I spent a good portion of yesterday out in the garage working on a solar water heater prototype. My oldest son, Seth (age 9) helped me out. I let him help me sweat the copper joints - which he really enjoyed.
I'm about half-way done putting this solar water heater thing together, although I'm still not sure how I'm going to do a couple of things. I need a pump that can handle hot water at high pressure, and is rated for potable use. I'm looking at this one, which is actually designed for use in R.V.s but it might work for my purposes. This first one I'm building is only a prototype though.
These gas prices are insane. And I don't have a whole lot of ideas about how we could fix it, other than by conservation. Some have pointed out that the commodities market has a lot to do with it. I hope that McBlogger will post some of his thoughts soon.
I've been getting a lot of spam lately from dimwits trying to sell kits that purport to make your car run on water rather than gasoline. It's a sad testament to the state of science education in this country that people would fall for such a thing. To make a complicated thing simple: It takes more energy to separate hydrogen from water than you get when you burn the hydrogen. To make a vehicle that separates its own hydrogen and then burns it with no external power source would be akin to the perpetual motion machine.
Responding to a question from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board about calls for her to drop out of the race, she said: "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know I just, I don't understand it," she said, dismissing the idea of abandoning the race.
Clinton said she didn't understand why, given this history, some Democrats were calling for her to quit.
Really? That's just not classy. I wish that I could believe your apology was sincere, but it's simply easier to believe that you will do or say whatever you think you need to in any given situation.
Update: When I first heard about this statement of Clinton's, it disgusted me enough to write this post. I've tried to stay positive throughout the entire primary season, though I made my preference for Obama known. I've up to this point avoided the negative talk about Hillary Clinton.
From the reactions I've seen in some of the blogs, it would seem that the Clinton supporters do not understand why people are upset or offended by this. They point to a quote from R.F.K. Jr. that indicated he was not offended - as if they think the source of offense is in using R.F.K.'s assassination for political purposes.
The invocation of Robert Kennedy's assassination is not what bothers me, so much as just the implication that we should all worry about Obama being assassinated. That's what bothers me. It's sort of an implied assent to the cowardly notion that we shouldn't nominate someone as likely to be assassinated (read: black and assumed "Muslim").
Not only that, but it's intellectually dishonest. The big presidential primaries, such as California are no longer in June. California's primary was on February 5th, and Clinton already has her 203 delegates from that state. Nothing at this point is going to significantly alter her delegate count, and staying in the race at this point will not put her in any better advantage in the case of an assassination.