Tag Archives: energy

Meaning Of Life Discovery

bigfishsmallpondDad used to say, “No one ever said life is fair.” I’m pretty sure that’s a lie. Someone, no doubt delusional or hopped up on drugs, must have said it at least once. Duh.

Dad got a lot of shit wrong. Dead wrong. But he was right about this one. And how. Dad wasn’t always a liar. Sometimes he was a master of understatement.

In fact, dad didn’t go far enough. Not by a long shot. Allow me to take a stab at it.

Life is completely unfair. In every possible way. And humans deliberately do what they can to obliterate any residue if it ever accidentally exists. Period. Bar none.

Oh yeah. Dad also like to say “bar none.” A lot. And, for some reason, “burlap,” but that’s another story.
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How To Survive After A Disaster

Gurney can be so mean.

Gurney can be so meanie but those eyes are so dreamy.

I am not in the mood for writing. Not at all. So I’m not gonna. Today I’m just going to go wordless because Wednesday is making me its bitch. No words for you!

Gurney Halleck: Not in the mood? Mood’s a thing for cattle and loveplay, not writing!
Tom B. Taker: I’m sorry Gurney.
Gurney Halleck: Not sorry enough!!!

Okay, okay! Dammit. I will wordlessly through the power of magic share one of my most top secret survival tips of all time. For you, the loyal reader, this is when all the bullshit you’ve put up with finally pays off.

Any idiot can survive a disaster: natural, manmade, Godmade, or otherwise. All it takes is shit-ass luck. So you survived. What do you want? A medal. Fuck that. Now comes the hard part.

Surviving your fellow human beings.

Good luck. You’re gonna need it.
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Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

scary-seussWhere did you come from? Where are you going? What are your plans? Where will you be? Seriously. Where will you be? Like, oh, say 10 years from now. Or 100 years from now? 500 years? A million years?

An asshole once said to me, “What difference does it make if people have health insurance or not? The probability of dying is 100 percent.”

This is an example of taking a truth and expanding it into something really stupid.

I replied, of course, “The difference is what kind of life will it be? A life of enrichment, helping people, challenging goals, accomplishments and experiences of pleasure? Or a life of pain? I think it matters, at least to the people involved.”

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The Universe is Catty

I keep my new cat, El Guapo Picard Tutankhamen, under tight house restriction. Here he eyes the warden from his cell.

Today just a few quick thoughts on the true nature of the Universe. Even though it pains me to be the one to break the news. Yeah, right.
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WIPP it good: Message for the future

The high tech world of nuclear waste disposal.

Most of us during the course of our careers have had at least some experience working in groups. They are generally formed to work on solutions to some immediate problem.

Imagine it is the year 1991 and you’ve been asked to serve on a group. The task? Develop a message for the future. Your deadline? 2028.

You’ve only got 38 years! You had better roll up your sleeves and get to work!

Welcome to WIPP. Also known as the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. Located 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, WIPP is a deep geological repository licensed to “permanently” dispose of transuranic radioactive waste for 10,000 years. The source of the radioactive waste is research and production of nuclear weapons.

WIPP doesn’t handle nuclear waste from reactors designed to produce energy:

As of 2008, nuclear power in the United States is provided by 104 commercial reactors (69 pressurized water reactors and 35 boiling water reactors) licensed to operate at 65 nuclear power plants, producing a total of 806.2 TWh of electricity, which was 19.6% of the nation’s total electric energy generation in 2008. The United States is the world’s largest supplier of commercial nuclear power.

Where is the waste from nuclear power plants supposed to go?

In the United States, all power produced by nuclear energy pays a tax of 0.1 cents per kWh sold, in exchange for which the United States government takes responsibility for the high level nuclear waste. This tax has been collected since the beginning of the industry, but action by the government towards creation of a national geological repository was not taken until the 1990s and 2000s since all spent fuel is immediately stored in the spent fuel pools on site.

Recently, as plants continue to age, many of these pools have come near capacity, prompting creation of dry cask storage facilities as well. Several lawsuits between utilities and the government have also transpired over the cost of these facilities, because by law the government is required to foot the bill for actions that go beyond the spent fuel pool.

Since 1987, Yucca Mountain, in Nevada, had been the proposed site for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, but the project was shelved in 2009. An alternative plan has not been proffered.

Schematic of WIPP facility. Click to enlarge.

Meanwhile, back at the WIPP, the team continues on task:

Message for the future

Since 1991, the United States Department of Energy has been working with a team of linguists, scientists, science fiction writers, anthropologists and futurists to come up with a warning system. The markers, called “passive institutional controls”, will include an outer perimeter of 32, 25-foot (7.6 m)-tall granite pillars built in a four-mile (6 km) square. These pillars will surround an earthen wall, 33 feet (10 m) tall and 100 feet (30 m) wide. Enclosed within this wall will be another 16 granite pillars. At the center, directly above the waste site, will sit a roofless, 15-foot (4.6 m) granite room providing more information. The team intends to etch warnings and informational messages into the granite slabs and pillars. This information will be recorded in the six official languages of the United Nations (English, Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese, Arabic) as well as the Native American Navajo language native to the region, with additional space for translation into future languages. Pictograms are also being considered, such as stick figure images and the iconic “The Scream” from Edvard Munch’s painting. Complete details about the plant will not be stored on site, instead, they would be distributed to archives and libraries around the world. The team plans to submit their final plan to the U.S. Government by around 2028.

I may not be a linguist, scientist, anthropologist, futurist or even a science fiction writer, but I can’t help but wonder. Just how hard is it to devise a message that says, “We were a bunch of motherfucking dumbasses.” Doesn’t the existence of WIPP at all make that message rather self-evident? Or maybe they could just etch a likeness of Lady Gaga in a sign made out of titanium?

I should have been asked onto that team. Perhaps at least 38 years of my life could have been useful.

Wikipedia is the source for quotes, information and images contained in this post.
Water Isolation Pilot Plant
Nuclear power in the United States

Energetic energy extrapolations

Energy is that which makes us go. It’s fuel that makes our vehicles move, and electrical power that heats and cools our homes. And it’s electricity that powers industry and business.

By now, most Americans have heard statistics like the United States is 5 percent of the world’s population but responsible for 25% of global energy consumption. So I was little surprised to learn that the U.S. is 7th in “energy consumption per capita” behind Canada and a number of small countries. Even so, the U.S. is still the world’s largest consumer of energy.

Where does our energy come from? Approx. 40% from petroleum, 23% from coal, 23% from natural gas, 8.4% from nuclear power, and 7.3% from renewable, which includes mainly hydroelectric dams but also wind power, geothermal and solar.

US Energy Consumption Graph. Fossil fuels (petroleum, coal, and natural gas) represent about 86 percent of the total.

Energy always seems to come with a price. It’s like a wish that comes true but carries a curse. Petroleum pollutes our atmosphere and cities. Coal mining is dangerous and also causes pollution. Natural gas is advertised as “cleaner” but it still adds to global carbon emissions. Nuclear power is high risk and produces toxic waste products. Even hydroelectric power has its problems like ecosystem damage, other environmental effects and risk. (They can fail.)

I’ve been thinking a lot about energy recently due to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. And I’ve been thinking a lot about the hubris of us humans.

Japan is a country located in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” which is an area where large numbers of volcanic activity and earthquakes occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean. Japan, in particular, is situated on the meeting point of two major tectonic plates. The Pacific Plate is moving westward against the younger and less dense Philippines Plate. Over time the Pacific Plate is pushing under the Philippines Plate. As we all know, the activity between tectonic plates is occasionally experienced by humans in the form of earthquakes.

U.S. Energy Consumption By Energy Resource 1635-2000 (in Quadrillion Btu)

Einstein said famously that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In our history we have accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Yet we still tell ourselves, “Yes, we can do this. We know what we’re doing.” We’re really good at failing to learn the lessons of history.

Perhaps part of the problem is that we think of those incidents as “accidents.” Perhaps our mindsets would be slightly different if we thought of them as “inevitables.”

I like to think of it like this. Imagine that the nuclear power industry is a home you want to build. But the only land you can afford is in a 100-year flood plain. Wikipedia says, “a 100-year flood has approximately a 63.4% chance of occurring in any 100-year period.” It could happen the year after you build your dream home. Or in a hundred years. Or in two hundred years or longer. The point being, it’s a random probability.

You took that land, of course, because, all other factors being equal, it was cheaper than land that wasn’t in a flood plain. In other words, you accepted the risk. We humans seem to lack the ability to effectively gauge or even imagine what isn’t right in front of our faces. If the dream home is built and then gets washed away next year, guess who will be crying crocodile tears about it? Too bad, so sad. Talk to the hand!

The nuclear power industry is a home built on a 100-year flood plain.

Worse, the nuclear reactors built in Japan were supposed to be the best of the best. They were supposedly engineered and constructed to the highest earthquake and disaster standards in the world. It turns out, though, that they didn’t even represent the best we humans could do. Reports are now saying that the reactors needed “upgrades” and stuff.

In other words, they were only built to withstand, perhaps, 80 percent of what might conceivably happen. And that’s perfectly analogous to a 100-year flood plain. So it’s no big surprise what happened. Most likely, it was inevitable.

And, I have a question. It might be a stupid one and expose that I know diddly squat about this entire topic. I’m willing to risk that ridicule because I want to know. Nuclear reactors contain fuel and water is used to control the heat, etc. So my question is this: After the earthquake, were the reactors still in operation? Was the fuel still in there doing its fuel type of stuff? So water and power were still needed to manage coolant to control the process?

Were the reactors shut down and the nuclear fuel completely removed as a safety precaution right after the earthquake so there would be absolutely no possibility of the reactors going out of control and overheating?

Were these types of tough decisions authorized to be made by personnel actually on site at the reactors? Or did “shut down” decisions have to come from elsewhere, which might have been a bit difficult and complicated right after a big earthquake? Were there procedures for shutdown and proactively be safe? You know, just in case something like a tsunami might follow? (It’s been known to happen.)

I have absolutely no idea. But I can imagine it would have been a big decision. Should we turn off the grid and affect millions of people? What if we’re wrong? How do we balance that against an unknown “if” that may or may not happen?

I’d be very curious to know.

This post is too long. I’ll probably have to continue it in a part 2. “To be continued.” Heh. Here are some final quickie thoughts.

Coal? I once saw a movie that claimed every time you flip on a light switch you blow up a mountain. I actually think about that when I turn on the lights.

Then I heard about the mayor of small town (pop. 200) in Texas that was surrounded by 18 natural gas wells. The company that profited from the wells assured the mayor that everything was safe. But the mayor’s kids had constant nose bleeds, and not just little dribbles. They were gushers. I heard him on The Story, a radio program on NPR. The mayor loved his town and fought the good fight, but eventually choose to move out of town to protect the health of his family. That was the right decision. The safety of his family had to come first. Along the way he fought the company and got little help from the state of Texas.

When it comes to energy, all I hear about is how we need, more, more, and more. Projections for energy use in the U.S. in the future show that demand will be going up. But what if less was more? What if the most powerful weapon we ever had (conservation) was already within our grasp? What if we figured out new ways to get by with less? Of course, we live in a culture where fuel economy in vehicles has barely moved a blip since the time the combustion engine was invented. This sort of approach seems to be of little interest to us.

We need energy. We crave energy. We demand energy. Our very lives and almost everything single thing we do depends on energy. But at the same time, energy production is one of the most destructive things that we humans can ever do.

How will we ever reconcile this? Is it even possible?

In part two I’ll try to answer the big question, “What if we found a limitless and perfectly safe form of energy?”

This is my “E” post for the April 2011 “A to Z Blogging Challenge.”

What if everything came up roses?

Lemon YellowWhat if a guru came down from the lonely mountain and discovered a beautiful world full of possibility, promise and the milk and honey of human kindness? What if, also, he realized that referring to himself as “guru” doesn’t necessarily make it so?

Yes, today is the first day of the rest of your life … so make it a good one.

Today is a good day. I’ve got the warmth of the loving sun on my face and the fresh air in my lungs. And my feet ready to take me anywhere I want to be. How lucky is that?

What if you already possess everything you ever required to be the happiest you’ve ever been? What if it was locked inside of you and all you had to do was let it out? And what if nothing was easier, if only you knew the way?

So what if life throws a lemon at you every now and again? That’s just to keep you on your toes. It helps to prevent boredom from setting in. But, don’t just make lemonade. Make it a fun adventure. Throw in some creme fraiche and some escargot and do it up Top Chef style. Turn any everyday fruit beverage into an amuse bouche. Inject your own style and personality and make it yours. And then drink deeply of the rich adventure of life. That’s the most precious gift of all.

Rosebud from rose from neighborEvery morning, for something different than the same o’ same o’, wake up, roll out of bed, leap to your feet and scream at the rest of the world, “I am here! I have survived to live another day! And this day will be mine!”

Life isn’t meant to be easy. Nothing good comes easy. You have to want it, grapple with it, subdue it and make it yours.

Remember the wise words of Captain James Tiberius Kirk:

“Maybe we weren’t meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through – struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can’t stroll to the music of lutes. We must march to the sound of drums.”

Aye, Captain. We will make it so!

I feel so different … so alive. Yes, the power of change is coursing through my veins. Today I feel like spreading motivational positivity.

Yes, something has happened to me. Today I feel different.

There’s a stranger in my mirror
Who don’t know how to behave
He keeps grinnin’ ’bout you
And whistlin’ tunes
While he ought to be watchin’ me shave

We move alike and we look the same
But I swear we’ve got totally different brains
And the love we’re in with you just makes it clearer
He used to be my twin
Now there’s a stranger in my mirror

So who’s with me? Who else believes that thoughts are things, and if only you believe, then your wildest dreams will come true and come to you? All you have to do is believe.

Today I’m going out, I’m going to take on the day, and I’m going to do my part to make the world a better place.

Be the best you you can be and your well of abundance will spill over and quench the thirst of those around you. Lead by example!

1 hour North StarJust do it. Make it happen. Be the change you want to see in the world. You are an army of one.

There is no “I” in team! Give it your all, give it your one-hundred and ten percent.

Step up to the plate.

Think outside of the box.

Now I have to go. I can’t wait to get to work. I’m like a kid on Christmas morning who can’t wait to open his presents. Come on, time, move. I’m getting impatient to live this day!

If you need me, just look up. You’ll find me at the second star to the right and straight on till morning.