Interesting news on the Energy front

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From Environment & Energy News:

DOE could use wartime law to help coal. Here's how it works
Invoking a Korean War-era law to aid struggling coal and nuclear units would represent a dramatic expansion of the Trump administration's campaign to rescue the industry, lobbyists and analysts said yesterday.

The Department of Energy is reportedly weighing use of the Defense Production Act of 1950 to prevent the retirement of ailing coal and nuclear units at the request of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). The law gives the president broad powers to require businesses to prioritize contracts for materials deemed vital to national security. Bloomberg first reported on DOE's plan.

A bit more about the law

The Defense Production Act was passed during the Korean War to ensure the U.S. industrial base could meet the needs of the American war effort. It was later used during the California energy crisis, when the government compelled natural gas suppliers to fulfill contracts with the then-ailing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The idea was controversial at the time.

In a 2001 hearing about the law's use during the crisis, then-Texas Sen. Phil Gramm (R) said, "The Defense Production Act is the most powerful and potentially dangerous American law, in my opinion."

The law was amended in 2009 to restrict its use, said Susan Tierney, a former DOE official in the Obama administration. Two provisions require the law to be limited to scenarios where a scarce material is essential to national defense or to instances where national defense requirements cannot be fulfilled without disrupting civilian markets.

All it will take is one major storm during an unseasonably cold winter to collapse the grid.


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XKCD nails it - so true:


On the road again

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Heading out in an hour or two - back to the farm for a few days.

Warnings for Romaine Lettuce

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The E. Coli outbreak is getting worse - from Food Safety News:

All get expanded romaine warnings because of Alaska findings
The federal government today expanded its romaine lettuce warning to include all types of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing region, including whole heads and hearts of romaine in addition to chopped, because of an ongoing E. coli outbreak. No specific brands, growers or processors have been named.

On April 13, the warning against romaine from the Yuma, AZ, only included pre-chopped romaine and salads containing pre-cut romaine. At that time 35 people from 11 states had been confirmed with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the sick people, 22 had required hospitalization.

The CDC’s expanded warning today did not go as far as Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization, did in recent days, urging people to avoid eating any form of romaine lettuce from any region because of the “potentially fatal consequences” until the government declares it “definitely safe.”

The CDC has these recomendations

    • Do not buy or eat romaine lettuce in any form from a grocery store or restaurant unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, AZ, growing region.
    • Unless the source of the lettuce is known, consumers anywhere in the United States who have any store-bought romaine lettuce at home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. Food contaminated with E. coli usually does not look or smell bad.
    • Product labels often do not identify growing regions; so, throw out any romaine lettuce if you’re uncertain about where it was grown. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, pre-packaged salads, and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.
    • Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any romaine lettuce in any form from the Yuma, AZ, growing region.
    • The expanded warning is based on information from the illnesses in Alaska . Ill people in Alaska reported eating lettuce from whole heads of romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.

Borg Vs. McEnroe - the movie

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It was a good day for a movie so T and I went to see Borg Vs. McEnroe

Excellent film and a fun job of interspersing older video clips with new footage. Well worth seeing on the big screen.


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T and I are embarking on a campaign to declutter our lives. Some interesting statistics from Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist:

21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own
Most of us know we own too much stuff. We feel the weight and burden of our clutter. We tire of cleaning and managing and organizing. Our toy rooms are messy, our drawers don’t close, and our closets are filled from top to bottom. The evidence of clutter is all around us.

Today, increasing data is being collected about our homes, our shopping habits, and our spending. The research is confirming our observation: we own too much stuff. And it is robbing us of life.

Here are the first five out of Joshua's list of 21 - sobering:

    1. There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).
    2. The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years (NPR).
    3. And still, 1 out of every 10 Americans rent offsite storage—the fastest growing segment of the commercial real estate industry over the past four decades. (New York Times Magazine).
    4. While 25% of people with two-car garages don’t have room to park cars inside them and 32% only have room for one vehicle. (U.S. Department of Energy).
    5. The United States has upward of 50,000 storage facilities, more than five times the number of Starbucks. Currently, there is 7.3 square feet of self storage space for every man, woman and child in the nation. Thus, it is physically possible that every American could stand—all at the same time—under the total canopy of self storage roofing (SSA).

Much more at the site - we are drowning in clutter.

The product is slick but they lose money with each one sold - they depend on government handouts subsidies to survive. From Soverign Man:

More hilarious facts about Tesla from a hedge fund manager who’s short the stock
A few weeks ago, we shared a note about Tesla from the hedge fund Vilas Capital Management. The firm, which is short the shares, said “Tesla is going to crash in the next 3-6 months.”

I received an update from Vilas this morning explaining why they’re even more bearish on Tesla today. The firm pared its short positions after the recent selloff. And Telsa now comprises about 98% of their short book.

Clearly Vilas thinks Tesla’s reckoning is imminent.

Spiffy product - they definitely catch the eye when you see one but still, our taxpayer dollars at work. Time for the market to level things out a bit.

On the road again

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Heading down to Seattle for a few days. More posting later tonight.

Back to work

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Loading up the truck for another run to the dump - getting to know the staff there...

Great short editorial by Ted Cruz

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I would not mind seeing Mr. Cruz in the white house once President Trump's two terms of office are over. He gets it.
From Time Magazine:

President Trump is a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America. The fact that his first year as Commander in Chief disoriented and distressed members of the media and political establishment is not a bug but a feature.

The same cultural safe spaces that blinkered coastal elites to candidate Trump’s popularity have rendered them blind to President Trump’s achievements on behalf of ordinary Americans. While pundits obsessed over tweets, he worked with Congress to cut taxes for struggling families. While wealthy celebrities announced that they would flee the country, he fought to bring back jobs and industries to our shores. While talking heads predicted Armageddon, President Trump’s strong stand against North Korea put Kim Jong Un back on his heels.

President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo. That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.

Spot on analysis.

Another full day

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Heading out for coffee, post office, dump and then back home to load up for another dump run.

A new way to make graphene

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Graphene is one of the latest hot new materials - it is basically a very thin layer of carbon and can be used for electronics as well as chemical processes (filtering) Used to be expensive to manufacture but no more - from MIT:

A graphene roll-out
MIT engineers have developed a continuous manufacturing process that produces long strips of high-quality graphene.

The team’s results are the first demonstration of an industrial, scalable method for manufacturing high-quality graphene that is tailored for use in membranes that filter a variety of molecules, including salts, larger ions, proteins, or nanoparticles. Such membranes should be useful for desalination, biological separation, and other applications.

“For several years, researchers have thought of graphene as a potential route to ultrathin membranes,” says John Hart, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity at MIT. “We believe this is the first study that has tailored the manufacturing of graphene toward membrane applications, which require the graphene to be seamless, cover the substrate fully, and be of high quality.”

Very cool!

Self-driving cars boats

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Curious development - from Motherboard:

Autonomous Boats Will Be On the Market Sooner Than Self-Driving Cars
When the Costa Concordia hit a rock near Tuscany and dipped into the Mediterranean in 2012, people around the world wondered how the captain of a cruise ship carrying 4,229 people could have made such a simple yet fatal miscalculation. Altogether, 32 passengers died.

“Ships worth hundreds of millions of dollars shouldn’t be able to be manually driven onto the rocks. We have the technology available to control these vessels,” marine engineer Michael Johnson, who worked as vice-president of project management at Crowley Maritime at the time, told me in a phone interview from Boston. His company ultimately won a bid to perform what, at $1.5 billion, became the most expensive commercial salvage of all time.

Had no idea that the volume of shipping was so great:

In the autonomous revolution that is underway, nearly every transportation machine will eventually be self-driving. For cars, it’s likely going to take decades before we see them operating freely, outside of test conditions. Some unmanned watercraft, on the other hand, may be at sea commercially before 2020.

That’s partly because automating all ships could generate a ridiculous amount of revenue. According to the United Nations, 90 percent of the world’s trade is carried by sea and 10.3 billion tons of products were shipped in 2016. According to NOAA’s National Ocean Service, ships transported $1.5 trillion worth of cargo through US ports in 2016. The world’s 325 or so deep-sea shipping companies have a combined revenue of $10 billion.

Makes a lot of sense - eliminating 20-50 jobs per ship quickly adds up. No reason why the Captain can't be sitting in an office somewhere looking at a screen for eight hours (although the mariner in me cringes at the thought).

Yikes - power outage in Puerto Rico

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From the Chicago Tribune:

Excavator blamed for blackout that left 1.4 million without power in Puerto Rico
An island-wide blackout hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday after an excavator accidentally downed a transmission line, officials said, as the U.S. territory struggles to repair an increasingly unstable power grid nearly seven months after Hurricane Maria.

Officials said it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power to more than 1.4 million customers as outrage grew across the island about the state of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority. It was the second major outage in less than a week, with the previous one affecting some 840,000 customers.

Odd that the grid would be so tender that one incident could take out the entire thing. The last paragraph speaks volumes:

The new blackout occurred as Puerto Rico legislators debate a bill that would privatize the island's power company, which is $14 billion in debt and relies on infrastructure nearly three times older than the industry average.

Hate to think of what combination of corruption and incompetence brought this about. Privatization is the way to go here - establish some standards and stick to them.

Busy day - in the dumps

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Did a dump run this morning after my coffee and now the truck is full again. Dead carpet, floor tiles, cardboard for recycling. Basically gutting the house and starting over again.

Heading out for dinner - surf for a bit when I get home.

An odd dinner

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Drove about 20 miles North to eat at the Hong Kong restaurant in Mt. Vernon. It had gotten good reviews and was awarded the Best of Skagit County for 13 years so I figured it would be decent.

Very strange - started off with a cup of Hot and Sour soup and it was delicious. Nice and pungent and flavorful with lots of bits of stuff in the soup. Really tasty. Next time I catch a cold, I am driving there just to have a big bowl of it.

I then had their Ginger Beef and was a big letdown! The meat was good but it should have been called Onion Beef - loads of white onion in there - semi-raw. The ginger was dried powdered ginger so I would get the occasional flavor but no slices of fresh ginger root that makes the dish what it is.

From The Smithsonian:

First Infant Gorilla Born at the Zoo in Nine Years; Watch a Video of the Birth
As heavy rains engulfed Washington, D.C., last night, the city welcomed an eagerly awaited ape into the world. At 6:25 p.m., Moke—“little one” in Central Africa’s Lingala language—became the first male western lowland gorilla born at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in nine years.

In the minutes after giving birth, 15-year-old Calaya cradled her newborn in her arms. Since confirming the pregnancy last fall, Zoo staff had been hard at work preparing for the important addition to a species whose wild population has decreased by about 60 percent over the past quarter-century, due to disease and poaching. “The birth of this western lowland gorilla is very special and significant, not only to our Zoo family, but also to this critically endangered species as a whole,” said primate curator Meredith Bastian in a report from the Zoo. “The primate team’s goal was to set Calaya up for success as best we could, given that she is a first-time mother. Doing so required great patience and dedication on the part of my team, and I am very proud of them and Calaya.”

A little over 16,000 of them. Searchable and you can either listen to them online or download individual ones as a WAV file.

Go here: BBC Sound Effects

Some restrictions:

The Sound Effects are BBC copyright, but they may be used for personal, educational or research purposes, as detailed in the license.

President Trump and Korea

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The guy knows how to get things done; how to get people talking together. From CNBC:

North and South Korea reportedly set to announce official end to war
North and South Korea are in talks to announce a permanent end to the officially declared military conflict between the two countries, daily newspaper Munhwa Ilbo reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed South Korean official.

Ahead of a summit next week between North Korean premier Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, lawmakers from the neighboring states were thought to be negotiating the details of a joint statement that could outline an end to the confrontation.

Kim and Moon could also discuss returning the heavily fortified demilitarized zone separating them to its original state, the newspaper said.

Nothing like some sanctions with teeth, a possible visit of the Rods from God (story, definition) wiping out Nork's nuclear capabilities. Fat-boy Kim is worth billions - he went to school in Switzerland, he could just as well live out his days there.

Great insight into what is happening in the political arena from C Thi Nguyen writing at Aeon:

Escape the echo chamber
Something has gone wrong with the flow of information. It’s not just that different people are drawing subtly different conclusions from the same evidence. It seems like different intellectual communities no longer share basic foundational beliefs. Maybe nobody cares about the truth anymore, as some have started to worry. Maybe political allegiance has replaced basic reasoning skills. Maybe we’ve all become trapped in echo chambers of our own making – wrapping ourselves in an intellectually impenetrable layer of likeminded friends and web pages and social media feeds.

But there are two very different phenomena at play here, each of which subvert the flow of information in very distinct ways. Let’s call them echo chambers and epistemic bubbles. Both are social structures that systematically exclude sources of information. Both exaggerate their members’ confidence in their beliefs. But they work in entirely different ways, and they require very different modes of intervention. An epistemic bubble is when you don’t hear people from the other side. An echo chamber is what happens when you don’t trust people from the other side.

Explains a lot and it is fun (as a conservative libertarian) to see the self-induced bubble that the author has placed themselves in - they only cite examples from the far right. Virtue signalling much?

And that is it for the night

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Filing my taxes tonight - spent some time today getting all the papers organized. Also installed some track lighting in the new DaveCave - the existing lighting was one ceiling fixture at the top of the stairs and one naked 100 Watt bulb hanging by some zip cord - not code by any stretch of the imagination. Now I have nice LED lighting - dimmable too although I do not have the dimmer installed yet.

Should only take an hour so I will surf for a bit after that - YouTube too.
See if anything interesting crawls out from under a rock...

Russian meddling

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Now this is interesting - from Newsweek:

Forget about allegations of Russian interference in U.S. presidential elections for a moment, or even “collusion” between Russian officials and Trump campaign operatives.

The real action is in the European and U.S. energy markets, according to a letter from two Texas congressmen to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that details what they call “a covert anti-fracking campaign” with “little or no paper trail.”

A bit more:

Smith and Weber quote sources saying the Russian government has been colluding with environmental groups to circulate “disinformation” and “propaganda” aimed at undermining hydraulic fracturing. Commonly called fracking, the process makes it possible to access natural gas deposits.

Russia sells Natural Gas to the rest of their world. This is one of their larger sources of hard currency. They will do anything to prevent anyone else from tapping into this market. They have been selling Natural Gas and Propane to the USA and Canada for a long long time - here is an article from May 15th, 2008:

MTUSA to Subscribe for 100% of Capacity in North American LNG Terminal
Gazprom Marketing & Trading USA, Inc. (GMTUSA) and the Rabaska partners, Gaz Métro (TSX: GZM.UN), Enbridge Inc. (TSX, NYSE: ENB) and Gaz de France (Euronext Paris : GAZ) announced today that they have signed a Letter of Intent outlining the major terms under which GMTUSA will become an equity partner in the proposed Rabaska liquefied natural gas (LNG) regasification project and contract for 100 percent of the import terminal’s capacity. The parties expect to execute definitive agreements before the end of this year.

Using the Rabaska terminal, GMTUSA, a wholly owned subsidiary of OAO Gazprom, expects to import Russian LNG supplied from the Shtokman liquefaction project currently under development by OAO Gazprom, which anticipates initial production of LNG from Shtokman in 2014. The Shtokman gas and condensate field, discovered in 1988, is located in the central part of the Barents Sea, approximately 450 kilometers northeast of the city of Murmansk, Russia. The Rabaska terminal is designed to be capable of receiving, storing and re-gasifying imported LNG with a nominal natural gas send-out capacity of 500 million cubic feet per day.

Like I said, their natural gas industry is a major source of revenue for Russia and they will do anything to prevent anyone else from taking their rice bowl away - what's a couple million cash to some environmental groups. That is pocket change when you look at the money at stake.

Starbucks in the news again

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Two days ago, I posted five  reasons why not to patronize Starbucks Coffee. The New York Times published reason number six:

Starbucks Employee Who Called Police on Black Men No Longer Works There, Company Says

... excerpted ...

On Thursday, the two men asked to use the coffee shop’s restroom. An employee refused the request because the men had not bought anything, officials said. They sat down, and they were eventually asked to leave. When they declined, an employee called the police.

Some of what happened next was recorded in a video that has been viewed over 10 million times on Twitter and that was described by Mr. Johnson as “very hard to watch.” Police officers surrounded the men and escorted one of them out of the Starbucks in handcuffs. The other soon followed.

The men, who have not been identified, were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. But Starbucks did not want to press charges and the men were later released, Commissioner Richard Ross Jr. of the Philadelphia Police Department said in a recorded statement on Saturday.

And a bit more:

The episode goes to the heart of how the company has modeled itself, with campaigns that address racial and social issues and promote its image as a community meeting place for customers to linger.

In 2015, the company encouraged its baristas to write the words Race Together on coffee cups as a way of promoting discussion and unity. Many were skeptical of the effort, pointing out that Starbucks’s own leadership was predominantly white.

A perfect textbook case of virtue signalling - Howard &co are saying cool edgy hip stuff to try to engage today's culture but all the while, their board of directors is populated with old white people and there is no apparent training of the staff.

Besides, their coffee is mediocre at best.

From Marijuana Moment:

Trump To Support Major Marijuana Legislation
President Trump is preparing to support far-reaching legislation to reform federal marijuana prohibition so that states can enact their own cannabis laws without interference.

“Since the campaign, President Trump has consistently supported states’ rights to decide for themselves how best to approach marijuana,” U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) said in a statement. “Late Wednesday, I received a commitment from the President that the Department of Justice’s rescission of the Cole memo will not impact Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. Furthermore, President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states’ rights issue once and for all.”

In a briefing with reporters on Friday afternoon, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the development, calling Gardner’s statement “accurate.”

“We’re always consulting Congress about issues including states’ rights, of which the president is a firm believer,” she said.

Very cool - States' Rights is part of the constitution embodied in the Tenth Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

28 words and a very powerful addition to our Constitution. This is where the power of government should rest.

Rain rain go away

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Been raining more than usual for Spring in the Pacific Northwest. This has caught Cliff Mass' eye (here and here). It sounds really nice on the roof but it is taking its toll - Special Weather Statement from the National Weather Service:

Rainfall of up to 2 to 5 inches over the lowlands and foothills of western Washington in the past several days has once again increased soil moisture to high levels. Light to moderate showers are expected today that could add up to only a half an inch to an inch in some places. But with these wet soils that could be enough to trigger a landslide or two. This elevated threat will persist through Tuesday, before slowly decreasing over the following few days.

Several landslides have already been reported or suspected in various locations in western Washington in the last day or two, including on the Burke-Gilman trail in King County, and this morning on the railroad tracks just south of Everett.

Just wonderful. A lot of the island shoreline is bluff - hope that everybody stays safe.

Sweet dreams

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Tired and heading over to YouTube for 30 minutes or so.

Working at home all day tomorrow so more posting then.

Long day today

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Witnessed the baptism of one of T's relatives this morning. Really nice ceremony and I liked the music. Turns out the organ was built by one of my favorite builders.

Up on the island for a few days - taxes, bookwork, dump runs and scheduling surveyers and engineers. Now the fun begins!

Actually once - to meet for a Craigslist deal (camera lens) - did not buy anything. One reason why from Instapundit:

Starbucks’ CEO (now executive chairman) Howard Schultz, a self-proclaimed “life-long Democrat,” floated the idea of having his baristas lecture customers on racial tolerance, trashed Trump, openly endorsed Hillary and afterwards, vowed “to hire thousands of refugees after President Donald Trump’s first executive order that temporarily banned travel from seven mostly-Muslim nations.”

The other reason? Their coffee is a really mediocre product. There are wonderful roasters in Bellingham, in Seattle, and on Camano Island who make an excellent product. No need to resort to the lowest common denominator.

Facebook killer? Meet Hello

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An interesting alternative lurcking in the wings - from Bloomberg:

The Man Behind Orkut Says His ‘Hello’ Platform Doesn’t Sell User Data
In 2004, one of the world’s most popular social networks, Orkut, was founded by a former Google employee named Orkut Büyükkökten. Later that year, a Harvard University student named Mark Zuckerberg launched ‘the Facebook’, which over the course of a year became ubiquitous in Ivy League universities and was eventually called

Orkut was shut down by Google in 2014, but in its heyday, the network had hit 300 million users around the world. Facebook took five years to achieve that feat. At a time when the #DeleteFacebook movement is gaining traction worldwide in light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Orkut has made a comeback by launching a new social network in India. Say hello to “Hello”.

“ is a spiritual successor of,” Büyükkökten told BloombergQuint. “The most important thing about Orkut was communities, because they brought people together around topics and things that interested them and provided a safe place for people to exchange ideas and share genuine passions and feelings. We have built the entire ‘Hello’ experience around communities and passions and see it as Orkut 2.0.”

Sounds good - if they can resist the temptation to commercialize by aggregating user data and selling it, they should do OK. I like the community idea - something a bit more regulated than Reddit. Reddit is a lot of fun but it is a bit Wild West for my tastes.

Pssst - wanna buy a bridge

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Really. Not the whole thing but individual two-ton sections. From Green Bay station WBAY:

2-ton sections of iconic Mackinac Bridge up for sale
A chunk of the Mackinac Bridge can be yours if you can get it home - which is easier said than done.

Sections of the bridge's original steel grating are going on the auction block. Each one is about 5.5 feet (1.6 meters) wide, 38 feet (11.5 meters) long and weighs two tons (1,814 kilograms).

The bridge is nearly 5 miles (8 kilometers) long. It connects Michigan's Upper and Lower peninsulas and crosses the waterway that links Lakes Huron and Michigan. reports that seven identical sections of the grating will be sold in an online auction that ends April 19 at 9 a.m. EDT.

That would be fun for a bridge over a stream or pond - a bit of history.

Curious editorial at New York Magazine:

The Internet Apologizes …
Something has gone wrong with the internet. Even Mark Zuckerberg knows it. Testifying before Congress, the Facebook CEO ticked off a list of everything his platform has screwed up, from fake news and foreign meddling in the 2016 election to hate speech and data privacy. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility,” he confessed. Then he added the words that everyone was waiting for: “I’m sorry.”

There have always been outsiders who criticized the tech industry — even if their concerns have been drowned out by the oohs and aahs of consumers, investors, and journalists. But today, the most dire warnings are coming from the heart of Silicon Valley itself. The man who oversaw the creation of the original iPhone believes the device he helped build is too addictive. The inventor of the World Wide Web fears his creation is being “weaponized.” Even Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, has blasted social media as a dangerous form of psychological manipulation. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he lamented recently.

To understand what went wrong — how the Silicon Valley dream of building a networked utopia turned into a globalized strip-mall casino overrun by pop-up ads and cyberbullies and Vladimir Putin — we spoke to more than a dozen architects of our digital present. If the tech industry likes to assume the trappings of a religion, complete with a quasi-messianic story of progress, the Church of Tech is now giving rise to a new sect of apostates, feverishly confessing their own sins. And the internet’s original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model.

To keep the internet free — while becoming richer, faster, than anyone in history — the technological elite needed something to attract billions of users to the ads they were selling. And that something, it turns out, was outrage. As Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality, points out, anger is the emotion most effective at driving “engagement” — which also makes it, in a market for attention, the most profitable one. By creating a self-perpetuating loop of shock and recrimination, social media further polarized what had already seemed, during the Obama years, an impossibly and irredeemably polarized country.

Much more at the site - an interesting read.

They have made their money, they have lobbied for legislation which allows them to maintain their monopoly and now they apologize for the social ills caused by their making their platforms attractive.

Time to cue the Worlds Smallest Violin...

Well crap - RIP Art Bell

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I used to listen to his radio show a number of years ago. Pure conspiracy theory but a lot of fun. From the Las Veas Review-Journal:

Pahrump-based radio host Art Bell dies at 72
Longtime late-night radio host Art Bell died Friday at his Pahrump home. He was 72.

Bell was best known for his unsettling conspiracy theories shared on his paranormal-themed show, “Coast to Coast AM.” He was fascinated with the paranormal and the unexplained, including Bigfoot, UFOs and crop circles.

Coast to Coast was syndicated nationwide on about 500 North American stations in the 1990s before he left the nightly show in 2002. He broadcast the show from Pahrump’s KNYE 95.1 FM, a station he founded. He was his own producer, engineer and host.

He was also a long-time radio amateur - W6OBB now SK

Hat tip to The Silicon Graybeard for the link: The Open Space Agency One of their projects is the Ultrascope - a smallish reflector telescope using an arduino for the controller and a smartphone camera for the imager (no eyepiece). This scope is designed to be remotely operated as a distributed array for people looking for asteroids, meteors, etc...

From the project website:

For the Ultrascope project we asked ourselves if it was possible to develop a kit-set telescope that would reduce the cost of pro-level astronomy by an order of magnitude.

In other words, a robot telescope - or ARO - Automated Robotic Observatory, that would allow amateur astronomers to contribute to citizen science projects for a radically reduced cost. We're still refining the performance of our first EXPLORER SERIES ULTRASCOPE - a 3.5 Inch mirror ARO that is able to conduct celestial photography and photometry.

This dream would have been almost impossible just 24 months ago. The levels of precision required for a maker-made scientific quality scope would have resulted in compounding errors conspiring to make observations frustrating for aspiring citizen scientists. However the emergence of low-cost 3D printers and Laser-cutting, paired with microcontroller platforms such as Arduino and Lumia 1020- with its 41 Megapixel CCD - mean that a project such as this is now eminently possible. 

Very cool and something definitely do-able for anyone with access to a makerspace.

A fun time to be alive. I would be building this project if I didn't live in an area with poor seeing.

On the road again

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Driving down to Seattle for a few days.

YouTube time

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Watching more videos on welding and such.

Driving down to Seattle for a few days tomorrow.

Could not be happening at a better time. Of course, it will be several years before production is ramped up but there is a worldwide need for Rare Earths and China is the only vendor so far. We have huge resources in the USA but the environmentalists will not let us mine them. From Nature:

The tremendous potential of deepsea mud as a source of rare-earth elements
Potential risks of supply shortages for critical metals including rare-earth elements and yttrium (REY) have spurred great interest in commercial mining of deep-sea mineral resources. Deep-sea mud containing over 5,000ppm total REY content was discovered in the western North Pacifc Ocean near Minamitorishima Island, Japan, in 2013. This REY-rich mud has great potential as a rare-earth metal resource because of the enormous amount available and its advantageous mineralogical features. Here, we estimated the resource amount in REY-rich mud with Geographical Information System software and established a mineral processing procedure to greatly enhance its economic value. The resource amount was estimated to be 1.2Mt of rare-earth oxide for the most promising area (105km2×0–10mbsf), which accounts for 62, 47, 32, and 56 years of annual global demand for Y, Eu, Tb, and Dy, respectively. Moreover, using a hydrocyclone separator enabled us to recover selectively biogenic calcium phosphate grains, which have high REY content (up to 22,000ppm) and constitute the coarser domain in the grain-size distribution. The enormous resource amount and the efectiveness of the mineral processing are strong indicators that this new REY resource could be exploited in the near future.

Very cool - 50 years worth of ores. China just lost a major revenue source.

A fun evening

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Just got back from a meeting with these people: Camano Preparedness Group

A fun and well run meeting; they are a 501(c)3 organization so have revenue from grants and donations to buy radio equipment and supplies. These people are ready for the big one.

There was a flap about ten days ago because Sinclair Broadcasting Company (which is a conservative company) wanted its on-air talent to toe the conservative line. They were not - they were doing the usual mainstream-media never-Trump fake news and Sinclair wanted to nudge them back on track. Needless to say, this had the liberals up in arms.

Segue to today - from Reason:

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren Want the FCC to Revoke Sinclair's Broadcast Licenses
How stupid is the panic over Sinclair Broadcast Group's hamfisted, "must-run" promotional video decrying "fake news"? This stupid: Yesterday 12 senators, including reported presidential aspirants Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), officially requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "investigate Sinclair's news activities to determine if it conforms to the public interest." If such an inquiry were to uncover "distorted news reports," the senators reckoned, that "could disqualify Sinclair from holding its existing licenses" and put the kibosh to its proposed purchase of Tribune Co. television stations.

"Multiple news outlets report that Sinclair has been forcing local news anchors to read Sinclair-mandated scripts warning of the dangers of 'one-sided news stories plaguing our country,' over the protests from local news teams," states the letter, authored by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.). "As strong defenders of the First Amendment guarantees of free speech and freedom of the press, we are alarmed by such practices....Must-run dictates from Sinclair harm the freedom of the press guaranteed in the First Amendment by turning local journalists into mouthpieces for a corporate and political agenda."

FCC chair Ajit Pai this afternoon responded with a curt thanks-but-no-thanks. "In light of my commitment to protecting the First Amendment and freedom of the press, I must respectfully decline," Pai wrote. "I have repeatedly made clear that the FCC does not have the authority to revoke a license of a broadcast station based on the content of a particular newscast. I understand that you disliked or disagreed with the content of particular broadcasts, but I can hardly think of an action more chilling of free speech than the federal government investigating a broadcast station because of disagreement with its news coverage or promotion of that coverage."

Talk about being out of touch and clueless as to the underlying laws of our Nation.

Interesting if true - Syria

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From Heshmat Alavi's twitter account:

Report indicate in the past 48 hours 3 Syrian passenger planes have landed in Tehran's Mehrabad Airport & not returned. There is word that Assad's family & a number of senior regime officials were on board.

Further reports show 22 Syrian Sukhoi warplanes have flown over Iraq & landed in Shahid Vahdat airbase in Dezful, SW #Iran, the M15 airbase in Kermanshah, W Iran, & the Fakuri airbase in Tabriz, NW Iran. IRGC bases are on high alert.

Heshmat is a Human Rights & Political Activist. Writer/Commentator on Iran & the Middle East

A quiet day

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Nothing much happening in my neck of the woods - nothing major in the world. Glad to see Paul Ryan resigning - he has done more harm to conservative principles than most people realize. A weak leader at the time when we need strength and conviction.

Heading out for coffee soon and getting on with the day...

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