Archive for August, 2008

An Interesting Idea for Alternative Energy

August, 20

For most of my adult life I have live in urban areas, and I have often sat on a stoop or leaned against against a building only to become mesmerized by the heat waves roiling off the pavement. While watching this dance of thermodynamics I have wondered how much energy was being stored and released by the asphalt that is ubiquitous in the urban jungles we have created. As it turns out I wasn’t the only one who wondered about this, because researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute have recently released a paper describing how payment might be a more cost effective way to collect solar energy.

Tapping the hot asphalt jungle for energy (link / archive)

However, as a realist one has to ask: “What’s the downside?”

Although I love the theory, I’m doubtful if it would work in practice. For example, asphalt roads are already high maintenance. It seems reasonable that road repair costs would have to increase significantly if every road crew had to handle the plumbing problems associated with miles and miles of pipes. Furthermore any area prone to potholes, or any road allowed to carry heavy trucking would force us to ask: “Are these roads as cost effective as ‘the proof of concept paper’ originally thought?” If they are not as cost effective as we had originally thought, then that probably eliminates not only 75% of U.S. roads but also about 75% of all roads across the world.

Obviously, additional research and testing needs to be done. Perhaps a five mile test track in Boston/Cambridge on Mass Ave. Boston/Cambridge are both northern cities so they are more often than not fraught with potholes. Additionally, Mass Ave is a major thoroughfare that allows buses and heavy trucks. I don’t know Worcester that well, otherwise I would have suggested a road in Worcester that happens to run right past the university that conducted the original study. 

This new study should track the cost of actual installation for the five mile test track and if it runs into Big Dig like cost overruns, then we know that it not feasible. This study should also track maintenance cost of the road and compare those costs to a similar stretch of road with similar patterns of traffic and use. Finally it should compare the test track to the over all cost/effectiveness of a traditional solar system. 

If the test track compares favorably – I’m thinking that the cost of the power is only 2-3 cents more per kilowatt hour than a traditional solar system – then it might be something that we ought to pursue. According to the CIA World Factbook the US has 4,165,110 km (includes 75,009 km of expressways) of paved roads. That’s a lot of surface area and surface area is what solar energy needs in order to successfully collect the power of the sun. Assuming that such a system can be made cost effective it would be silly for the US or any country for that matter to overlook the energy potential of their paved roads and parking lots.  

With additional studies I am optimistically realistic about the success of this idea.

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Facebook & “100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh for VP”

 August 21

Facebook used to consume a lot of my time, but now its just part of the electronic background noise of my wired life. As such I often join things such as “100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh for VP” without much thought. I assumed that since someone sent this to me there must be a political reason why I wouldn’t want Bayh for VP. Several weeks went by and I had just about forgotten that I had joined this group, when out of the blue I receive the following email from Facebook & “100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh for VP”:

Subject: Digg it!

With both the New York Times and AP still reporting that Evan Bayh one of the three likely VP picks, and the selection expected to be announced any day now, it’s a good time for another recruiting push.

By now presumably everybody’s invited all their Facebook friends, blogged about it if you have a blog, and mentioned it in comments wherever anybody else is talking about VPs. [If not, please do so!] But there’s something we haven’t tried yet …

A digg campaign!

Max’s HuffPo article about Max and the Marginalized’s new song “Vultures and Hawks” is the perfect opportunity. Getting a few hundred diggs is typically enough to get it featured as a hot story, and if we can get it onto the digg front page, then we can get the word out to zillions of new people.

So … digg it!

At first the email didn’t seem to have any connection to Bayh, Obama or the presidential elections, since there was no link in the email to the article/song mentioned. This immediately got me thinking about Tony and his experience with Facebook: Was this group just some bizarre marketing scheme for this “Max and Marginalized”? (It probably is, but that has nothing to do with the topic of this blog). 

With these sudden doubts, I decided to take a moment to reflect critically. I asked myself: “What do I know about Evan Bayh?” Not surprising I realized that I knew very little.  I remember that Evan Bayh became governor of Indiana while I happened to live and go to school in the state. If I were to pick a date I am pretty sure it was 1988, the year that Dukakis lost to Bush the First. I also remember his father, who was a senator before him. But other than those facts and the obvious point that Bayh always compared favorably to that other Indian scion Dan Quayle, I realized that I really didn’t know anything about his recent work. Consequently I decided I had better take a look.

The first thing I decided to check was his stance on the Iraq War, and this is obviously why there is a Facebook group dead-set against him being the VP. He took the lies and trumped up intelligence mustered by the current administration hook-line-and-sinker. Not only that he and Lieberman were the democratic party advocates for the Bush administration who helped secure needed votes among fellow Democrats. According to the Washington Post’s blog, The Case Against Evan Bayh, he, unlike other democrats, has staunchly refused to admit having made an error in giving his support to the administration’s policies on Iraq. He beleives there is some plausible middle ground which requires us to keep our troops committed yet is somehow different from the policies of the current administration.

As I predicted back in October 2001 and something I still personally believe: The military interventions that started with the failed “seek and destroy mission” for Osama bin Laden and then the schizophrenic switch of focus to Saddam Hussein were the biggest strategic blunders in our nation’s history. And while we have been preoccupied with chasing terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq,  North Korea has gone nuclear and Iran is on the verge of doing so, the economy is on the brink of collapse and many of the the refugees driven from their homes by Katrina three years ago are still waiting for affordable permeanant housing. 

Now that I was comfortable with my decision to join the group, “100,000 Strong Against Evan Bayh for VP,” I decided to track down the Huffington Post article mentioned in the email which seemingly initiated this whole tirade.

Finally I decided to see who else was on Obama’s short list of possible running mates. Joseph Biden and Tim Kaine were the other two names mentioned most frequently. For me, Biden is too much of a Washington insider to feel comfortable with him as VP. Sadly I don’t know much about Tim Kaine accept for the fact that he is the governor of Virginia and Karl Rove was ragging on him: “No disrespect to Gov. Kaine…[but] he’s been a governor for three years. He’s been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that he’s done.” 

Hold on a minute Mr. Rove! Your former boss had been an “undistinguished” governor of Texas, and I bet back in 2000 not many people could have named anything he had done either accept for the fact that he had been a fairly unsuccessful businessman.

If Carl Rove is laying into Tim Kaine, then one has to ask one’s self: “Why?”

Personally if Rove believes this is a man he needs to undermine, that is all the endorsement I need to make this man my choice for VP.  

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

The Beginning of the End: English Village Style

Monday, 18 August

Another summer vacation has come to an end, and with it I start my last days at English Village.

When I stepped back into the office after a lovely three-week hiatus, I noticed that the computer which has resided on my desk for 2 1/2 years was gone; replaced with a computer from Ready Room 1 that won’t even boot. It seems that someone has removed it from my office as a replacement for their broken machine. Unfortunately, the loss, in terms of work, is rather severe because it contained all the SIT Documents that I have been asked to organize before I go. I think English Village is just trying to make the task more challenging so it consumes the last ten day that I have here.

I searched the Ready Rooms assuming that would be where the machine would be relocated, but to no avail. The powers that be certainly weren’t going to make it easy on me. I popped my head into a couple of nearby classrooms to see if perhaps the machine had ended up in them, but again; life is not that easy.

I am now trying to piece together the document record by using materials on Gina, Dave’s and other computers in the office and classrooms, but I’m not sure if those documents are the most recent versions of the documents I need. Like I said, the task has become infinitely more challenging.

Besides the missing computer which has given me a figurative headache, the office is quite peaceful. Dave is on his honeymoon doing whatever honeymooners do, Gina is where-ever Gina is doing whatever Gina does, and Chris and Tish keep popping in and out between sessions of whatever program they are teaching this week. Hopefully when I get back from the bank with Anna and Jangmonim, I will be able to tackle some of the projects that have escaped me while I was on vacation. Since EV has made the task of organizing the SIT document infinitely more challenging, I figure I should wait at least until tomorrow to really start the process, because who knows maybe the missing computer will miraculously re-appear.

Monday, August 18th, 2008