Monday, July 05, 2010

Weekend Travels

Debbie had a three-day weekend off work because of the holiday, so we headed up to the White Mountains on Saturday. We spent most of the day on Mt. Washington, which is widely believed to have the worst weather in the world. You won't get any argument from me on that point; it snowed there on Thursday, and wasn't much warmer Saturday (high temp was low 50's with 35-40mph winds). There is a permanently manned weather station at the summit with the dubious distinction of having measured the highest human-measured wind speed on the planet (231mph). It used to hold the record for the highest measured wind speed period until an automated weather station in Australian beat it out in 1996. We also rode the tramway up Cannon Mountain, but we were running short on time, so it was a fast trip. We have pictures from both places, which of course are still on the camera. I'll get to them. Soon. Real soon.

Sunday and Monday, we started packing up the less-essential items and making our usual we're-not-moving-this-again pile. I'm still cranking away at my VHS-to-digital project which will eliminate one very heavy bin as well as our VCR. More books are getting piled up for donation to the local library. If we keep moving every couple years, we'll eventually get stuff whittled down to somewhat normal. Next week, we will be visiting the alligators for Debbie's interview and looking into the housing situation. If the stars align, we'll get a definite answer and have everything set before we head back to New Hampshire. That's probably asking too much, but we could get lucky this once.

Another good census story, this one from the phase I decided to pass on being a part of. In order to make this the most inefficient census in history, there are now people being paid to make follow-up calls to confirm information that has already been submitted. It's being sold as a quality assurance measure, but as you can see from that interview, this has little to do with QA and a lot to do with dragging things out as long as possible.

Here is something that we can expect to see more of:

Venezuela's government has seized control of 11 oil rigs owned by U.S. driller Helmerich & Payne, which shut them down because the state oil company was behind on payments.

Those greedy bastard corporations; expecting to get paid for stuff. Of course our government would never resort to the wholesale take-over of an industry, would it?

Speaking of energy, here is an example of asking the right question, but coming to the wrong answer:

"...I want to talk about what will happen when there’s no coal."

Good start. So, what exactly will happen?

In two centuries, people will still want to drive cars, fly in airplanes and have lighting in their houses.

People want flying cars, stock markets that only go up, endless credit and to spend half their life being paid to not work, but as we've all found out over the last couple years, wanting and having are two different things.

Coal can be converted to gasoline, if necessary, as the Germans did during World War II....
“The good news is once you build these [Fischer-Tropsch] plants, you can use anything, including garbage, for the biofuel conversion. The big problem is the initial capital cost.” We can adapt the facilities over time.

Umm, Nazi Germany lost the war in part due to chronic fuel shortages. Probably not the best example to use as an argument for a rosy future of limitless hydrocarbon fuels. And yes, the "big problem" is always "initial capital costs" as in who is going to pony up the billions (trillions?) that it would take to replace even a fraction of existing liquid fuel demand? Our bankrupt government? Our bankrupt corporations? Our bankrupt citizenry? Has anyone built a single full-scale trash-to-gas plant? What is the conversion ratio? Is there enough trash to supply even a small fraction of current liquid fuel demand?

Ultimately, predicts Laughlin, we will learn how to reclaim carbon from air.

And where is the energy to suck trace amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere and transform it into liquid fuel going to come from? And what will the net energy (energy in the liquid fuel minus the energy to create it) of this system look like? This is the worst kind of magical thinking: Do nothing and expect future technology to bail you out.

Well, I'm off to bed.

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