Archive for June 22, 2008

Brownout: Coming Soon to You.

By as early as next year our demand for electricity will exceed reliable supply in New England, Texas and the West and, by 2011, in New York and the mid-Atlantic region. A failure of a power plant, or a summer-afternoon surge in the load, could make for a blackout or brownout. “There really isn’t any excess in the system,” says Rick P. Sergel, chief executive at the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

Read the rest at Forbes.

Better not start building electrical generating plants. It will take years to get them up and producing:

Coal is cheap, but it has no friends. Anticoal activists brag that 59 coal-fired plants were canceled in 2007. Nearly 50 more in 29 states are being contested. Recall how the private equity buyers of Texas utility txu agreed last year to cancel eight power plants to defuse environmental opposition. It takes years to plan and at least six years to build a large power plant.

I know they’ve been cancelled. Several coal plants, a fuel source that we have plenty of, have been cancelled in Florida in favor of “renewable resources” which may or may not actually work. After all, we have to worry about some nebulous “global warming” which was invented by people that know the politicians don’t know jack shit about the role water vapor and CO2 play in the atmosphere.

What are these people thinking? Energy isn’t born at the electrical outlets. It has to be produced. Plants have to be built. They have to have a power source. And the politicians want to drag their feet because it will take years to come on line, and they may lose some financing from “environmental” groups. Well, guess what, geniuses. It took years to get in this situation, too.

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From Anthony Watts: If Global Warming Was a Business Decision, How Would You Vote?

Let’s say this issue was on a company board of directors decision to choose to make changes to policy related to employee comfort. Some employees complain that the work environment is too hot and they have been suffering a long term effect. The board decides to hire four consultants with the mandate: tell us if we should expend the money to replace all of our a/c units company wide in all of our world locations. The cost will be huge, so we need to know before we make a policy change to do this.

One of the consultants to members of the board who strongly advocates the policy change also has been lobbying company staff worldwide and other board members with the data he has collected and collated that shows that the trend is shifting in the direction that he advocates. As consultant, he is also the creator of one of the datasets used to evaluate the policy change.

Now when the time comes to make the decision, the board brings in all the data sets from consultants. They look at each one and see that the majority of them have no change in the last 11 years that supports the policy change to put in new a/c units. Yet the one consultant that has been pushing this policy change gives an impassioned speech that his data set tells a story that the others do not. Some of the board members who are skeptical of this person and his data that supports the policy change do some research of their own. They discover that the dataset created by the consultant who advocates the policy change has been adjusted at many data points, almost without exception in favor of the policy change. Some board members also learn of some math errors in the data, point out the math errors, and also some of the questionable ways individual data points have been adjusted. the consultant shrugs and retorts “you’re just a bunch of court jesters”.

Meanwhile, it has been discovered that one of the business friends of the consultant who has been lobbying board members and staff has a company that trades in air conditioner systems. That person has been traveling to all of the worldwide offices of the company and lobbying the employees to tell them that their work environment is indeed getting hotter, and that the data from his friend the consultant proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt. He tells them that his friend the consultant uses special techniques to find the “real” trend in the data and that the other datasets aren’t as valuable as this one. He urges the employees to form pacts and unions to lobby the corporate board to make a change. The employees do just that.

The board looks at the data, they listen to the impassioned pleas of the employees, and the one consultant who calls them “court jesters”, and his friend the a/c salesman, who says “the time is now, you must act now’. But a few employees that are concerned that the expense the company may be about to undertake is unwarranted, they think the work environment is just fine, and the “solution” may hurt the company more than help it. One of the employees finds that in the largest company facility, 78% of the temperature sensors in used to collect environmental data in that facility have been installed incorrectly, and shows that they are too close to equipment that produces waste heat. They also discover that two of the consultants use IR sensors to get the data, but that the other two consultants are using the direct measure environmental sensors, 78% percent of which in the largest company facility are installed incorrectly. These few employees that discover this also lobby the board by pointing out some of these issues with the datasets.

So it is time for the board to vote.The one consultant who has lobbied the board most heavily says “don’t worry about that 78% of the problematic environmental sensors in the biggest facility, I can adjust for that.”

But then one of the other skeptical board members says: “The employee that found this says “How can you adjust for these if you’ve never seen or visited them? How can you know they are all equally biased or not?”. And isn’ it true that in some of the data you presented, there were no sensors present, and some of the data was interpolated by you, particularly at the far ends of the building?”

The consultant says: “I stand by my data and methods, and if you don’t do something soon, your facility may reach a tipping point where you can no longer keep it cool enough to work in, your company productivity will tank.”

One of the board members says, “Ok lets stop and look at this differently”. “What if we simply ignore the dataset from the consultant who calls us “court jesters” and has the buddy who’s the air conditioner salesman?. Look, now there’s no trend in the last 11 years”.

So 3 of 4 datasets, each presented by independent consultants are in front of them and show no change in the past 11 years. The one that does show a trend has been heavily lobbied and has been shown to have errors in measurment by sensors and questionable adjustment methods applied. Plus the consultant who prepared it has insulted those members who dared to question his data and methods, and he is the only one of the four consultants who has links to the air conditioner salesman, as it was discovered that tha air conditioner salesman invited the conultant to speak at one of his rallies.

How do you think the board of directors will vote on this policy change?

Read the whole thing on Watts Up With That.

Be sure and read the comments, too, which (usually) contain good information.

I’ve been a global warming sceptic for a long, long time. My scepticism is based on long years spent outside and observing the weather as well as knowing the history of Florida; the periods spent underwater, and the periods when its area was much larger. The ice age ended, Florida’s coastline moved inland, the medieval warm period occurred, and the little ice age began without human influence. Will the world cool again? Yes, I believe we’re entering another cooler period now. Will the world warm again? Yes, but perhaps not in my lifetime.

I believe that the warming records are very faulty as it is now too cold for citrus to exist commercially north of central Florida when this was not the case in my youth. The purported warming has been, as Mr. Watts points out, based on very faulty data indeed.

I regard global warming/climate change as a political power play, and I don’t like the players.

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US Border State Governors Don’t Want the Guard to Leave

McALLEN, Texas — The thousands of National Guardsmen sent to reinforce the U.S.-Mexican border two years ago have almost completely withdrawn, despite pleas from U.S. border-state governors once skeptical of using soldiers to catch illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.

When the Guard was posted along the southern frontier in 2006 to help the strapped Border Patrol, critics warned that sending soldiers would be an insult to Mexico and that innocents could get shot by troops trained for combat, not law enforcement.

But none of that happened, and now those worries have given way to fears that a bloody drug-cartel war on the Mexican side will spill into the U.S. and overwhelm the Border Patrol.

The four border-state governors who contributed the bulk of the troops have tried in vain to persuade Congress and the White House to extend the Guard’s presence, which will end as scheduled on July 15.

”Until Border Patrol has all its new boots on the ground, there’s going to be a vulnerability,” said Pahl Shipley, spokesman for New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

The Border Patrol said the National Guard force, which reached a peak of 6,000 before diminishing last year, bought it enough time to hire and train more agents. The patrol expressed confidence that it can hold the line on its own.

”We’re fine taking over. It’s all part of our plan,” said Border Patrol spokesman Lloyd Easterling.

Only a few hundred Guardsmen are left on the border, most of them finishing up construction projects in Arizona and New Mexico.

The Guardsmen were sent in a support role, not to seize illegal immigrants and smugglers. They used helicopters and night-vision gear to watch for people trying to slip across the border, then told Border Patrol agents where to find them. They also built roads and fences.

The Border Patrol’s ranks have swelled by nearly 5,000 since the beginning of Operation Jump Start, reaching more than 16,400. But the Border Patrol is still short of the 18,000-agent goal set for the end of the year. And border-state officials note those numbers include new hires who are not necessarily in place along the border yet.

Also, drug violence is surging in Mexican border areas, and ”we certainly don’t want that to spill across the border,” Shipley said.

In late April, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano joined Richardson in signing a letter to congressional leaders begging them to extend the National Guard’s presence.

”It is irresponsible to phase out the current support of the National Guard without the infrastructure and full-time personnel to fill the gap,” the letter said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry also lobbied Washington to keep the soldiers in his state, which constitutes 1,255 miles (2,020 kilometers) of the 1,950-mile (3,140-kilometer) U.S. border with Mexico.

”Not only when you cut down on law enforcement presence, but when it is known, there is an obvious threat,” said Perry spokeswoman Krista Piferrer.

There was not the same unanimity when President George W. Bush announced the plan in May 2006.

Then, Richardson worried the Guard would be stretched too thin heading into wildfire season. And Schwarzenegger said the National Guard was not trained for law enforcement duty. Perry and Napolitano supported the president’s plan.

Eventually all four governors signed an agreement allowing their National Guard units to participate in Jump Start.

And despite fears of a repeat of 1997, when a Marine assisting the Drug Enforcement Administration in Texas mistakenly shot and killed a teenage goat-herder, not one Guardsmen shot anyone in the force’s two years on the border.

In fact, the mission was criticized in January 2007 after several heavily armed men approached an observation site in remote Arizona and the National Guardsmen pulled back and radioed for the Border Patrol, as instructed, instead of shooting it out.

Source: Miami Herald

I believe that the states can continue to deploy the National Guard from their respective states if they wish. They just don’t want to have to foot the bill. They also don’t want to be responsible for putting combat troops in full combat readiness to do battle against the drug runners, for that is what it is going to come down to.

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Plastic Warriors of Childhood at Marx Toy Museum

MOUNDSVILLE, W. Va. — He has never set foot in the Pentagon, but Francis Turner is America’s most powerful and experienced military commander. He led both the American and German armies at Normandy; he pushed aside Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee to seize control of all the troops at Appomattox; he was both the genius who planned the Sioux ambush in the Black Hills and the blockhead who led Custer’s men into it.

As owner and director of the Official Marx Toy Museum, Turner is the undisputed warlord of thousands of the little plastic army men who fueled the bloodlust of an entire generation of baby boomer boys in the 1950s and 1960s.

”These are from the days when toys didn’t have to be so politically correct,” says Turner, waving his arm at the long snaking row of glass display cases inside which countless cowboys and Indians, Yankees and Confederates, cavemen and dinosaurs and Martians and astronauts are eviscerating, decapitating and generally disrespecting one another. “That’s probably why they were more fun.”

Turner’s museum, though improbably and inaccessibly located in this all-but-abandoned rustbelt that was once the home of the biggest toy-soldier factory in the world, is the Mecca for a growing population of toy collectors (among their ranks: Steven Spielberg, Robert De Niro, Robin Williams and Ruben Blades) searching for the lost armies of their childhood. They come from as far away as Great Britain to gaze at his displays of plastified carnage.

Read the rest here.

I remember those, and the great fun we would have fighting wars with our plastic men! We arranged elaborate ambushes, moats, covered pit traps….we had really great imaginations for creatively killing the enemy. Then, of course, when we got tired of playing with the little people, we made home-made lances and bow and arrow sets, painted our faces with warpaint (mama’s lipstick) and went on the warpath against the kids who had BB guns. Then we got switched for stealing the lipstick.

Then on to the next great adventure, swinging from trees on grape vines or rope swings while doing our best Tarzan yells, and maybe later being a Knight of the Round Table with broomstick swords and garbage can lid shields.

We could only play, of course, once the house was clean, dishes were washed, beds were made, floors were swept, livestock and pets were fed and watered, eggs were gathered, cows or goats were milked, clothes were washed, folded, ironed, flower beds were weeded, lawn was mowed, garden was hoed, beans were picked and snapped, etc. In other words, not nearly as often as we would have liked!

I would like to visit the museum just to give my memory a kick in the butt, because I’m sure there are toys there that I hadn’t thought of in years.

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Arlington Family Evicts 10-Foot Alligator from Yard

JACKSONVILLE, FL — An Arlington family had an unwanted houseguest this weekend — a 10-foot long alligator.

First Coast News got exclusive video of the gator, who was found in a backyard at Nancy Norris’ home off Holly Oaks Lake Road East.

“It slept in a bush beside the pool and I said ‘What happened to this bush? Who sat on this? Now we know,” Norris says.

An animal trapper struggled to get a loop around the gator and pull it from under a fence as neighbors watched.

The gator was tied and trapped but it still struggled. An animal specialist says we can expect to see more alligators searching for water as the weather gets hotter.

Source: First Coast News

We’re going to continue to see the critters move into human habitat until we get some good rain. I’ve been keeping a hose trickling to provide water for the butterflies, dragonflies, wasps, rabbits, squirrels, and other critters that come by day and night to get a drink. I’m tired of scooping lifeless bodies out of the horse trough in the morning or, even worse, trying to scoop out a mad as hell raccoon or possum.

I have 5 toads living under the dog food dish next to the dog water bowl. Scared the heck outta me when I picked it up to rinse out and toads leaped everywhere. I would have never thought that the little indentation under the middle would be enough for big fat mama toads to squish themselves flat enough to get under, but they do. Now I leave that faucet drip so that the concrete under the dog food bowl stays nice and damp for the toads.

Maybe I better let my ol’ dog Odie sleep on the screened in porch until we get some rain. I’d hate for him to become an alligator hors d’oeuvre. My ol’ kitties, too, even though I’m allergic to them.

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