Thursday, August 22, 2013

Department of E-ducation

The President wants to lower the cost of higher education, and I want to help.

Currently, if you count student loans in with the Department of Education budget, it adds up to a figure second only to the Department of Defense. We're talking a lot of money.

For a budget of about a billion or two, I can give everyone in the US a 'free' college education, open 24hrs a day, 7 days a week.

Anybody interested in the how?

It's really very simple.

Every year, thousands of teachers go on spring break and sit at home with nothing to do. I suggest we open a competition. Let them write their own schoolbooks, based on how they have had to explain things to classrooms that just didn't get how it was explained in the book. The top five in each subject win a million dollars, get their work sent to a ghost writer to convert it to a digital format (Kindle, Nook, Apple, etc) and post it as a free download next year.

A billion dollars every year, spent like this, would make hundreds of great, but under appreciated, teachers millionaires, while giving the public access to their brilliance on every course imaginable. About 500 to 1,000 new text books every year would flood the market.

Now, just reading junk off the internet doesn't mean you're smart, and it wouldn't look as good as Harvard on a resume.

Back to all those empty schools every summer and the thousands of teachers with nothing to do (the less than brilliant ones that aren't making millions writing books). They can administer tests to validate someone's 'e-learned credentials' at, say $100 a test to prove they know what they know.

This would put higher education into the hands of anyone that could afford an E-reader of any kind, had a laptop and an internet connection, or a cell-phone with a free app.

But, unfortunately, that's not what this President is talking about.

Colleges give large donations to politicians. Politicians pass laws that make it easier for people to take out house-sized loans (they aren't qualified for) for a 4yr education. This is your basic money laundering operation, and it is the main reason why tuition has doubled over the years.

It's big money. Big business. And the only way to break the cycle is to go the Kahn university way.

I would cut the budget of The Department of Education down to two billion a year and reward a lot of great, under-appreciated teachers by turning them into millionaires.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Good luck, bad luck, and hummingbirds.

Good luck, bad luck, and hummingbirds.

I've written all of my Hummingbird series on an NEC Daylite that I bought in 2003. It tried to set the bed on fire in 2005, one month before its warrantee ran out. They 'fixed' it and sent it back a week after the warrantee ran out and I typed away with confidence again. Since, around the same time, Sony had a recall of all their lithium ion batteries (recalled because they had a tendency to set things on fire) and NEC uses the same suppliers, I pulled the batteries just to be safe.

It smoked the motherboard (yes, actual smoke that didn't stop until it was unplugged) again on 10-2-6, 12-14-6, 1-15-7, 12-26-7, 7-6-10, 2011, and about a year ago in 2012.

Each time, for a few weeks before it smoked, it would boot up with a strange 'whistle' that sounded like crinkling paper, to, you know, just kinda let me know it was thinking about being more flammable than usual.

Well, I'm about 60,000 words into Quantum of Souls that picks up from where Waffen leaves off and it's making that familiar sound again. It usually takes a few days for me to find the faulty capacitor (wearing my coke-bottle reading glasses) and replace it with parts from an old printer.

So, why would I keep such a fire hazard? I mean, I have to unplug it every time I turn it off. Why keep it, right? It's windows XP and the Ctrl key doesn't even work any more, time to kick it to the curb! Right?

Well, all true.

It's literally held together with tape.

But I feel like something in it wants to see this last book through to the end. Even if it's just an inanimate object, every word of every book has passed through its keys, that has to count for something, right?

And maybe I'm a little afraid that a new laptop just won't have the same magic. What if it's the source of the stories and I'm just the instrument?

I bought it just for writing, and I chose the ever so obscure Daylite because it was the only non-backlit laptop on the market. Non-backlit (transreflective is the technical nerd speak) makes a huge difference if you have even slightly light sensitive eyes and spend hours a day in front of a computer. Most people don't notice the difference, but some like me do, and they're typically the millions of people who 'foolishly' prefer the black and white Kindle to the iPad for reading books. And to them I say that this Daylite laptop made writing books as easy on my eyes as those B&W Kindles made reading them.

But mostly, and I can't stress this enough, I just can't afford another major expense right now. So here's hoping that my good luck in finding the very screen I needed so I could get back into writing again, on the unluckiest laptop I've ever owned, will last long enough to finish one more book in the Hummingbird Series.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Recycled to death (and how we can save the world from CO2 and global warming)

One of the easiest ways to remove CO2 from the air and sequester it in a stable form for thousands and thousands of years is right under our noses and we're too blind to see it. And it's so cheap it's almost free to implement. No need to build any fancy particle accelerators or invent some new catalysts or materials, everything we need has been around for thousands of years.

Trees, as we all know, are the very symbol of the green movement because their role in the carbon cycle is so iconic. It's only fitting that trees will play a key roll here as well.

Recycling paper is often sited as the cornerstone of environmentally responsible practices, and it keeps millions of trees from being harvested every year, as well as millions of tons of paper from going into landfills where they would take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose.

Hundreds or thousands of years to decompose.

Hundreds or thousands of years to decompose.

If the USA stopped recycling paper (one of the most stable forms of SEQUESTERED CARBON, besides coal) and simply buried it deep under landfills, we would effectively be removing millions of tons of NET CO2 from the atmosphere (carbon cycle) and sequestering it underground in the most stable form ever conceived by man to date. The infrastructure already exists. The economics are already in place. All of the logistics scream go! Go! Go!

All we have to do, to save the planet from global warming, is to stop recycling paper (building more things out of wood wouldn't hurt either).

When a tree falls in the woods, whether it makes a sound or not is still up for debate, but unless it gets covered up by a landslide (nature's landfill) and turns to coal, it'll rot, get eaten by termites, and be returned to the atmosphere as CO2 and methane within a few decades. All that CO2 that tree spent its entire life removing, nature will put back in a fraction of the time, unless a logger, a paper mill, and a landfill gets to it first.

In the 70s the environmentalists teamed up with the communists to halt the construction of new (CO2 free) nuclear power plants in the USA, resulting in a doubling of new, CO2 spewing coal plants over the last three decades. Their hearts (the environmentalists, not the communists) were in the right place, but nonetheless they (and the coal plants) are largely responsible for today's increased global CO2 levels. I hope they learn this lesson on unintended consequences and repeal their insistence on the counter productive and purely symbolic paper-recycling scheme before it's too late.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dam methane

I'm always baffled by people's inability to see the glass half full."hot-spots"-emissions#

I read this article on 'the evils of dams' and how they're 'destroying the world' with their clean energy. The focus of the complaint was that dams create methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is far worse than CO2. This is, of course, ridiculous, as they don't 'create' methane but instead accumulate the methane creating organics already present in the water and concentrate them in one place (where it's no longer too diluted to notice).

Now, setting aside the nonsense that methane is a greenhouse gas (it's a thermal conductor which is often confused for a greenhouse gas) lets look at the problem again. The problem, as stated, is that the water pools behind the dam, like a P-trap under your sink, and it accumulates stuff that, if the dam wasn't there, would otherwise be flushed into the ocean, unnoticed and unseen. This accumulated organic matter 'rots' and puts off gas, one of which is methane.

Now, methane, when released into the air, is considered bad.

But Methane, delivered to your house in a pipe for cooking and heating, you can charge MONEY for.

Take a step back and look at the horrible horrible earth-ending problem that's "only solution must be the destruction of dams all around the world!" But this time, look at it as a glass half full instead.

It's rather simple to capture the methane and sell it when it's concentrated like this. And methane that is burned is turned into the much less dangerous CO2.

It's not economical to capture methane from a river or stream, but it is if you already have a billion dollar P-trap called a dam with complete control over how and where the water flows. Several models jump to mind, from dredging and a covered cesspool style (like farmers do with pig poop all the time), to an underwater or underground 'digester', to a passive system that pulls it from the water itself.

If the volume of methane is anywhere near the 'earth ending' levels they try to portray, then it's a goldmine, waiting to be tapped. And, as noted, it is 100% organic, would qualify as entirely carbon neutral (as the pig-poop example does), and could easily be a double green green win win... if politics wasn't always getting in the way.

Dams are highly political in that politicians get lots of money to pretend to hate them, and this methane complaint is just another twisted fact that as politicians aim and fire for their campaign donors, when in reality it is a goldmine waiting to be tapped.