Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn’t compete | Giles Parkinson | Comment is free |

July 9th, 2014


Last week, for the first time in memory, the wholesale price of electricity in Queensland fell into negative territory – in the middle of the day.For several days the price, normally around $40-$50 a megawatt hour, hovered in and around zero. Prices were deflated throughout the week, largely because of the influence of one of the newest, biggest power stations in the state – rooftop solar.

“Negative pricing” moves, as they are known, are not uncommon. But they are only supposed to happen at night, when most of the population is mostly asleep, demand is down, and operators of coal fired generators are reluctant to switch off. So they pay others to pick up their output.

That’s not supposed to happen at lunchtime. Daytime prices are supposed to reflect higher demand, when people are awake, office building are in use, factories are in production. That’s when fossil fuel generators would normally be making most of their money.

via Solar has won. Even if coal were free to burn, power stations couldn't compete | Giles Parkinson | Comment is free |

Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K

July 9th, 2014

For the new issue of Forbes Magazine I wrote an article about David Crane, the visionary CEO of NRG Energy. When I met Crane for lunch a couple weeks ago, no sooner had we sat down than he began singing the praises of this new contraption he had in his basement. The machine — which can generate 10 kilowatts of continuous power, fed by Crane’s natural gas line — is a new iteration of an old creation, the Stirling engine. This version, called the Beacon 10, was created after a decade of engineering by famed inventor Dean Kamen.

With the Beacon 10, says Kamen, “you don’t have to feel guilty heating up the pool.” That’s because of the highly efficient nature of the Stirling engine. First conceived in 1816 by Scottish minister Robert Stirling, the device in its simplest form consists of applying an external heat source to a closed cylinder where the cyclical expansion and compression of air inside the cylinder drives the pistons up and down. Unlike your car, where fuel is combusted inside the engine, the Stirling is an external combustion engine; it can work with any external heat source.

via Segway Inventor Dean Kamen Thinks His New Stirling Engine Will Get You Off The Grid For Under $10K.

10 Words Every Girl Should Learn | Soraya Chemaly

July 5th, 2014

A friend posted this article on Facebook, generally agreeing with it. I, on the other hand, could only smirk at its premise that goes along the lines of “when women get interrupted by men it’s men being sexist.”

Baloney. The author says “ask any woman” if they’ve ever been interrupted. Well, no shit, they probably have. Men get interrupted all the damn time, too. Did she question if this was sexist?

It always irks me when someone wails about being oppressed: “they took my power away” and the like. No one can take you power away unless you let them. The key is to claim your power.

I think the author has a self-confidence issue that get overlaid onto a gender gap issue. If someone is interrupting her then perhaps she needs to learn to be more assertive instead of blaming someone else. Or she could simply be drawn to dumbshit men who like interrupting people, in which case she should ask herself why she likes to hang out with them. Either way, whining will get her nowhere.

And, oh, I say this as a father raising a fiercely self-confident daughter in complete control of her destiny who could kick anyone’s ass at anything she chooses.

I routinely find myself in mixed-gender environments life where men interrupt me. Now that I’ve decided to try and keep track, just out of curiosity, it’s quite amazing how often it happens. It’s particularly pronounced when other men are around.This irksome reality goes along with another — men who make no eye contact. For example, a waiter who only directs information and questions to men at a table, or the man last week who simply pretended I wasn’t part of a circle of five people I was the only woman. We’d never met before and barely exchanged 10 words, so it couldn’t have been my not-so-shrinking-violet opinions.

These two ways of establishing dominance in conversation, frequently based on gender, go hand-in-hand with this last one: A woman, speaking clearly and out loud, can say something that no one appears to hear, only to have a man repeat it minutes, maybe seconds later, to accolades and group discussion.

via 10 Words Every Girl Should Learn | Soraya Chemaly.

Feds raid CIA-connected air charter in Fort Lauderdale | MadCow Morning News

July 3rd, 2014

I spent a little time learning from the Internet how to track planes, just ’cause I’m one of those meddling kids. I turned up an interesting report on a Miami-based drug investigation last year which has some ties (albeit tenuous) to a CIA “rogue operation.” The affidavit provided by the DEA agent in charge of the investigation reads like a “Breaking Bad” script.

Don’t know if I subscribe to every conclusion on the site but it makes for interesting reading.

They combed through the trash. They searched dozens of planes. And while TV cameras from all the Miami TV network affiliates looked on, they loaded box after box filled with aviation records into government SUV’s parked in plain sight on the tarmac in front of the office.

But today— more than two weeks after more than 100 Federal agents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Homeland Security descended on the headquarters of the infamous and notorious World Jet Inc. at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport—if you want to know why they were there or what they were looking for, you’re two weeks too late.

That’s because the detailed 35-page affidavit supporting the request for a search warrant of Don and Bill Whittington’s air charter company filed at the United States District Court in Grand Junction Colorado has been sealed.

But not, thankfully, before it was discovered and leaked onto the Internet in an exclusive story by reporter Joe Hamel from The Durango Herald in Durango Colorado.

via Feds raid CIA-connected air charter in Fort Lauderdale | MadCow Morning News.

CIA rendition jet was waiting in Europe to SNATCH SNOWDEN • The Register

July 3rd, 2014

When this story broke last month that the Feds had dispatched an extradition plane to fetch Edward Snowden, I followed it with interest. I have just begun tinkering with plane tracking through their ADS-B transponders.

There are plenty of aircraft who would prefer not to broadcast their position. These include, among others, the rendition/extradition planes used by our government. Rather than use the position-broadcasting ADS-B transmitters, these aircraft use Mode-S transponders which don’t include position.

Usually these planes can only be tracked by radar, however some enterprising folks have figured out the technology needed to triangulate these planes positions, using multiple ground-based receivers. Called multilateration, hobbyists using tools like PlanePlotter can combine their receiver data to plot the position of a mystery plane. This technique has been used by activists to “out” the black ops aircraft which would normally fly below the radar (well, technically above the radar above 45,000 feet). The same technique was used to get the approximate position of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
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Downtown summit? First things first

July 2nd, 2014

The News and Observer wrote an editorial about the need for a downtown summit. I’ve been pondering it for a while and have a few comments.

Revitalization has been a success, to be sure. But with that success comes challenges the city now must address. Yes, the City Council is doing so in working on a “downtown plan,” but a broader effort is needed, because the boom has brought up some issues.

Therefore, council members can lead the way in calling for a downtown summit of sorts, bringing in not just the dedicated advocates from places like the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, but residents from North, South, East and West Raleigh, people who perhaps, even now, don’t come downtown all that much. Even with all the hoopla, it’s still not uncommon to meet North Raleighites who have never been downtown, period.

Actually, some people will never visit downtown and it doesn’t matter what you try to do to change this. There are suburbanites who don’t “get” downtown and likely won’t ever. And you know what? That’s okay. Raleigh is a big city now and offers something for everyone – for downtown fans and others. You can get by just fine if you never go downtown.
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The Day We Set the Colorado River Free

June 29th, 2014

This is a wonderful read in about this spring’s temporary unleashing of the Colorado River. Our food choices and environmental decisions have consequences, folks.

This story makes me want to strap on a backpack and head west.

Back in the era of massive dam building, farmers and city planners were only too happy to see the wild Colorado transformed into a domesticated delivery system. Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, San Diego, Mexicali, and many more municipalities drink the Colorado every day.

As do you. Most of America’s winter veggies are grown in the irrigated valleys of Southern California and Arizona. Your fridge is filled with Colorado River greens. Your beef was fattened on Colorado River alfalfa. Even your milk may well be the Colorado transformed. We all nurse from the mother river.

via The Day We Set the Colorado River Free | Nature |

One Parks board meeting left

June 26th, 2014

Raleigh's Parks board at the Fred Fletcher awards, May 2014.

Raleigh’s Parks board at the Fred Fletcher awards, May 2014.

At last week’s Parks board meeting, I did some calculations and realized I have exactly one meeting left: July 17th. Has it been six years already? Where does the time go?

So much has been accomplished during my time with the board. I recall how contentious my early board meetings were, with lots of strong opinions and little sense of compromise. I contrast that to the last few years, where my fellow boardmembers have voted unanimously on nearly every issue. I don’t think that all votes should necessarily be unanimous but I’m so glad to have been on a board where the members try to work together.

I’m working up a speech to give for my two minutes of member comments at the end of every meeting. There’s a lot to cover for these six years so I’ll have to choose my words carefully.

While July 17th will be my last meeting, my term doesn’t officially end until September 5th. Thus I have one more dedication left to attend: the Mount Hope Cemetery dedication on September 4th. After that, who knows where life will lead me?
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Ring Around Raleigh bike ride!

June 21st, 2014

Ring Around Raleigh

Ring Around Raleigh

Tomorrow morning I’ll be leading a number of my friends and neighbors on a Ring Around Raleigh bike ride using bike-friendly streets and greenways. It’s the same route my family has been riding over the past few weekends. I was inspired by a friend who posted about his ride around Raleigh and thought I’d try to do it, too.

My experiment proved easier than I expected. The streets taken are quiet neighborhood streets with little traffic and the vast majority of riding is along Raleigh’s beautiful greenways. It seems so easy and fun I thought I would help get the word out to my cyclist friends so they could begin riding it, too.

If you’d like to join us, be at Lions Park (1600-ish Bennett Street) at 8 AM Sunday morning. We’ll leave the park promptly at 8:15 AM and spend the next three hours or so working our way clockwise around the city. The weather’s shaping up to be great, too: with a sunny, breezy day and a high of only 84 degrees.

Hope to see you tomorrow at Lions Park!

Our Route:
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Having it both ways on Jones Street

June 20th, 2014

By BigBuzzMedia

By BigBuzzMedia

I learned yesterday that there is some consternation in the North Carolina General Assembly over the City of Raleigh’s decision to allow two-way traffic on Jones Street. The street is one of four that the city is converting from one-way to two-way traffic.

One-way streets have been the bane of downtowns everywhere, turning streets which should be serving the businesses and homes around them into miniature highways. One-way streets prioritize commuter traffic over local traffic and that’s not how our modern-day downtown works. My only complaint with this decision is that the city didn’t fix the rest of the one-way streets along with these four.

Why is the General Assembly so up in arms? Who knows? Could it be that two-way streets threaten their cushy, legislators-only on-street parking on Jones? Could it be their worry about the schoolchildren who cross Jones at the front of the Legislative Building? Could it be that our right-wing state leaders don’t want Jones Street ever moving to the left? Or could this simply be our legislators’ desire to micromanage every goddamn municipality in the state?

Here’s an idea, legislators: why not let the experts be the experts and not try to butt in on every decision anyone in the state makes? Let professional educators decide how education should be run and let the traffic engineers decide how traffic should work. While we’re at it, how about letting Charlotte leaders run Charlotte and Raleigh leaders run Raleigh? You can focus on important stuff like legalizing opossum abuse and denying climate change.

Trust me. You’ll feel better. And we’ll be much happier when we drive past the Legislative Building. Both ways.