Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wind farm photo

A few have commented favorably on my masthead photo. This is what a wind farm looks like BEFORE it is completely operational. You can tell since they are all pointed in different directions.... I took this pic of the Chandler Wind Farm in Chandler, MN in the fall of 2007, while we were down there investigating additional turbine locations. It was late evening and a great storm had just gone through so the bright turbines looked remarkable in the setting sun against the darkened sky.

But it could be anywhere....

Some people complain that wind turbines "spoil the landscape". What a crock of shit. Like corporate agriculture, powerlines, railroads, roads, farms and their silos, clearing forests, and native praries, cities, suburbs, locks and dams, bridges, etc. didn't long ago "spoil the landscape". Get real, humans are in the BUSINESS of "spoiling the landscape".


Now you want "spoiled landscape"? Global climate change is going to spoil your landscape!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bad Blogger, No Biscuit!

When you have a blog, you are supposed to BLOG. I've been bad: not blogging; a bad, bad blogger....

Well, I'm going to change that soon....

I swear!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Metal melting fun

Yesterday I learned that when welding small diameter stainless tubing you use the tig welder, rather than the big mig welder.

Our great old Linde 253VI mig machines, 30-40 years old though they may be, make incredible welds on thick stainless and mild steel. Absolutely beautiful, perfect welds: it takes so little sometimes to make me happy.... Anyway I love those machines, in that very special way that so many boys love their toys, and sometimes love is blind.

Case in point:

Small diameter, thin stuff is not the same as thick stuff, and you can't move a mig torch (any mig torch) quickly or accurately enough to keep from burning through or creating a pile of weld metal.

I did both last night....

While working on my powerboat....

In my truck-shop....

Yeah, I like to think I'm an "environmentalist", but I'm really just a hypocritical mass of contradictions.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

This King Business

I am a giant-sized Dashiell Hammett fan. Just so you know, and aren't surprised by future posts showing current events through the prism of his writings.

I'm currently reading a collection of his short stories and assorted writings put out by the Library of America. Many gems there.... Most of these are crime stories, written in first person narrative, which involve his archetypal character The Continental Op. The Op character has been transplanted into other genres, including Akira Kurosawa's character played by Toshiro Mifune in the movies Yojimbo and Sanjuro. The character is further reprised by Clint Eastwood in the "Fistful of Dollars" spaghetti westerns, "The Man with No Name" in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Willis in "Last Man Standing", Byrne in "Millers Crossing", etc.. Like those characters, The Op is a brilliantly effective, but amoral manipulator by method, who maintains a strong core morality which drives him to his goal.

But the story I just read which struck me with its current significance is "This King Business". It revolves around an immature, adventurous young trust-funder who strays into political intrigue in the Balkins, and The Op's manipulations to protect the young man from himself and the political players who seek to defraud and kill him. However, what strikes me as current has nothing to do with The Op in this story, it has to do with another character.... One of the characters in the story, is xxx the President of Murovia (the fictional country where the story is set). He is a brilliant and well-known scientist, the pride of Murovia, who is installed as president when Murovia first becomes independant due to the universal esteem in which he is held. However, he is a political naif, and what the elites know and he does not is that he is merely a figurehead, with the real power being held by his vice-president, a General and chief of the army. The General is moderate and widely respected, but has a clash with the President where he spills the beans. At this point the President tries to marginalize the VP, however, he is so politically hopeless that he is completely manipulated by his own secretary, who praises and strokes the ego of the President while at the same time subverting him. In this way the Secretary becomes the defacto head of state. Meanwhile, the young trust-funder is suckered into thinking he is competent enough to be King of the country, and is part of a plot (with the Secretary and some Generals) to overthrow the President. But even though he is being suckered, at least he is bright enough to know that he wouldn't yeild any real power, he only doesn't realize they will take his money and assasinate him....

I'm not sure how clear the current parallels are to anyone else, but....

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Giving away the farm


We are now going to share with the world our brilliant idea. We were going to save it for our next business adventure. The "fun" one that was going to be our retirement fund. Was going to buy us that oceanside cottage in Tahiti and set us up for life.

But the child is dead, the dream is gone.

So now, out of our love for our fellow humans, and because we want to see this dream come alive in our lifetime, we offer this;

Norwegian fortune cookies - fortune cookies with pithy sayings of Norwegian wisdom and wit.

No thanks necessary, but you're welcome.

Corporations are stoopid

So my pard and I were chatting over a MOMosa about retractable Sharpies (ain't life excitin'?) and I mentioned how the best thing to mark on metal parts is whiteout pens. Seriously, they are the best! She went on to observe "Why didn't they put the whiteout in pens back when it mattered?" Why indeed?

There you were, as she said, with your bottle of whiteout - that dries out after you use it 2 times - and there is BIC. Why didn't somebody at BIC say, "Hey, we have these pen things, we've got blue ink and black ink and red ink and green ink, we even have pen thingys that we fill with butane to make FiRE, what if we filled one of them with WHITE ink? Do you think we could sell a pen with WHITE ink?"

Do ya think?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

International Bidniz

Previously posted (by me) at lame myspace.

I had a very disturbing meeting with my primary vendor (based in the Netherlands) while in Houston. I think I said he was delusional (but that might have been about other matters, such as how incompetent their US rep is and how badly he hurts their reputation, but I digress)....
Apparently the view in Europe and the rest of the world (according to him) is that the United States (and Canada) is basically a 2nd world country, less important than China, India, Singapore, or Eastern Europe. More on par with Russia and Brazil.
Wow. No matter how you feel about that in terms of "global justice" that is just WOW.
If you believe it.
For the record, I disagree, but see how one could come to that conclusion given the last 7 horrific years *ahem*. The Dutch are stubborn people though (so I'm told *ahem*), and I (we) could not convine him otherwise on that or any other topic (which he didn't get given his preconcieved business plans and prejudices, or maybe it was the booze). Anyway, he is also under the impression that we sue everybody without any excuse. A useful sterotype (for some) but news to me since I've never sued anybody, or been sued in over three years of business, and have never even heard of a contractor in my business being sued (in over twenty years in the business), let alone a contractor in my business suing their vendor.
We aren't ogres over here, we actually do cultivate business relationships, believe it or not.

But I rant....

Monday, June 9, 2008

New Math

This weekend I had a college reunion. I learned many things (many of which are a little too obscene to repeat), and had several very interesting conversations.

A common topic these days is the price of fuel. One of the observations I tried to get across is that this isn't likely price gouging and it isn't likely to get any better.
I'm not the only one who thinks so. I would add that the dollar/euro currency situation is also a major driver since fuel is priced in dollars (at least for now and that is another topic), as well as the credit crisis which is one of the main root causes of the dollar implosion (also another topic). Get ready for a brave new world in the very near future where fuel costs $6-$7 per gallon. It isn't going to matter who gets elected this November: there is absolutely nothing which is going to stop or derail this. One thing for sure, it won't be the end of the automakers; they have an entire installed base of gas-guzzlers that people will be desperate to replace....

But the price of fuel is not what concerns me; what worries me is global climate change. Unfortunately, the "global prosperity" that most moral people of the West have longed for is actually happening, and god help us all. The developing industrial and commercial markets in Inda and China alone and the increased energy consumed by the approximately 2.5 billion people living in those countries will dwarf the efforts of the much smaller Western world (less than 1 billion) to reduce carbon emissions. Please note that almost all of that energy is fossil fuels.

So, to do the math, say that the United States and Europe cut per capita use of energy by half, assume 0.5 billion people in the US and Europe (over-estimate). We can even use the US per capita number of 2003 of 7844 kilos of oil equivalent (koe), that is almost double Europe so I'm being even more generous. So 0.5 billion people x 7844 equals 3922 billion koe. Cut that by 30% and you have a decrease of 905 billion koe. Since the population isn't expected to grow much between the US and Europe combined over the next couple dozen years, this is a pretty workable number. As of 2003, India and China used an average 825 per capita koe. So assume the approximate current population of 2 billion x 825 koe equals 1650 billion koe. The project population increase is to around 2.5 billion over the next decade or so (an increase of 25%), if they also increase energy use by 7% per year over the next ten years (projected economic growth) you have 1650 billion koe x 1.25 x 1.07^10 which equals 3245 billion koe. That is an increase of 1595 billion koe, a net growth of 29% energy use.

Bottom line, decreasing fossil fuel use in the developed world by 30% nets a total increase of carbon emissions of nearly 30% using current trends in India and China alone, not to mention the rest of the underdeveloped world. But please check my sources and math to see if I missed anything.

I'm not advocating that the world's undeveloped and developing world "take one for the team", but we also can't allow a desire for "equitable distribution" of temporary prosperity to endanger the sustainability of human (and most other) life on the planet. Global climate change can be a human species extinction event and we have to stop fucking around and do everything to prevent it. No matter how painful or "unfair".

So what to do? I'll keep throwing out my ideas, but yours are welcome here as well.


Previously posted (by me) at myspace:

A googol = 10 duotrigintillion = 10^100 = ten to the hundredth power. A googolplex = ten to the googolth power. That is alot, but the numbers only get bigger from there.
There is no known quantity in the universe which can be counted by the googol, with the largest estimate of particles in the universe (only) up to 10^87. Nobody knows for sure because we don't have enough fingers to count that high.
I don't know if anybody has named the actual, exact, unquantified number of particles in the universe (whatever it may be). If they have, fine, I'm beat, but according to my google searches only Archimedes came close, estimating 10^64 as a hypothetical amount of number of sand grains to fill the universe (or something like that). Anyway, if this actual, (hypothetical?) quantity of total particles in the universe hasn't been named yet, I'm naming it a universillion. For fun's sake (since this is such fun) a universillion is all of the 'matter' particles, the 'anti-matter' particles would be a negative universillion. Heh, heh.
So, you read it here first; now doesn't that make you feel all special warm and fuzzy?
This could actually be useful for thought experiments, like 2 universillions, 10 universillions, a googol universillions, infinite universillions, etc.. You could abbreviate it as a 'u' and do math with it, 1u + (-1u) = 0, meaning a universillion plus an anti-universillion = 0. Maybe somebody wants to write that proof?

Global climate change and the coming environmental clash

Previously posted (by me) at Myspace:

The "Environmental Movement", if you could call it that, will cease to be relevant in its current state in the near future. It's all gotta change. Well, ok, maybe not everything.
The looming crisis is not because environmentalism has been a failure, but because much of the actions that we have demanded (and I strongly include myself in the "we") in pursuit of its goals contained false assumptions. The primary false assumption is that there is no negative environmnetal impact to pursuing positive environmental goals. Global climate change turns that idea on its head. Expending energy has a cost in increased global warming and accelerating global climate change no matter what the goal. I've coined the term "carbon benefit analysis" to get people thinking about this concretely. The energy costs of implimenting environmental cleanup actions, including the energy costs and lost energy efficiency of reducing pollution, such as emissions controls, have to be measured and balanced to determine the net effect of the action. What is the trade-off (carbon benefit) between 1 part per billion and 10 parts per billion in environmental impact vs. global warming? What is the carbon benefit of deisel over gas? Of 50mpg (half the CO2) and 15% greater hydrogen sulfide output and 25mpg (twice the CO2) and 15% less HS? These are real questions which can't be ignored any longer by serious environmentalists.
The concept is already integrated into the slogan "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle", but I doubt that the originators of the phrase realized it could (and should) also could include environmental cleanup and mitigation. The key word in that statement is "REDUCE".
There is some hope of course and not everything is a trade-off. Global climate change is a very nasty actor in a myriad of ways, so many key aims of environmentalists look even more attractive by their added positive climatic effects. These include leaving pristine areas pristine, allowing native lands such as shorelines, etc. to return to native, and generally getting people to reduce their impact through conservation of resources and energy (i.e. turn off your damn tv! Buy locally!).
Having said that, environmentalists (like myself) need to make some very difficult decisions moving forward. We need to do intense soul searching to develop an integral concept of "What's the Point", and develop priorities on what trade-offs are worth making. The landscape is changing.
Not my last post on this topic, just getting the ball rolling....

What's with the name

The Herb part is rather obvious. The verb is because I'm a "Man of Action".

So what's with the blog?

I can't quite tell what this blog is going to morph into. There are a multitude of random topics which I would like to comment on. Most are based in my personal and professional experience. Much of that I will focus on infrastructure building and the economy (power, transportation, mining, agriculture, etc.). Some I will focus on the politics of those efforts (lifestyle, trends, government action, etc.). Some I will focus on the mundane day-to-day, and some will be reviews of things I see in everyday life (food, music, movies, etc.).

Hears crickets chirping......