Sunday, May 19, 2013

On Hope

Have you noticed that there are more and more people who have no Hope, and that they frame their lack in various ways, depending on their disposition, where they think they caught the disease, that sort of thing.

Hope, of course, is an essential ingredient for those of us trying to keep up on the news. Why keep up, if you have no Hope? It would be too depressing. But it’s almost mundane, how this modern plague of dark consciousness seems, on the surface anyway, to be fairly straightforward, a reason-based phenomenon. Any nominally intelligent person--with a heart--who stays reasonably in touch with the news can say “Look here!” or “Imagine that!” or more commonly “The #%$*#& IDOITS!!!” and call it good. They contracted the malaise there, with that despairing issue, as any reasonable person--with a heart--would. Pretty straightforward. Almost boring through repetition. Why bother?

Well, here’s an exercise for all of you hope-deficient intelligent people who read too many newspapers but probably not enough. Look at it as kind of a test. See if the following doesn’t spark a glimmer deep down inside your happy-belly, where Hope resides, or if maybe some doctor accidentally gave you a Hope-ectomy during some unrelated but obscenely-priced medical procedure and now, through no fault of your own, you are truly hopelessly Hopeless.

What if a guy invents a real game changer in the energy world, a “solar-trap” technology that solves the solar-energy storage problem by using such materials as sand for its “batteries”. What if this new technology is almost 100% efficient, works in cloudy climates, could provide over 90% of our energy at pennies on the dollar compared to carbon-based technologies, and, if deployed, would not only turn all conversations about how much gas, oil and coal to extract and use on their heads but could put a serious dent in major zombie bank accounts that fund wingnut philosophies such as the Koch Machine (just for example)? What if this guy is so sure he’s got a sure thing that he keeps the details of his patent application secret until he owns the patent, knowing that if it leaked out before he had some nominal control over its trajectory it would be stolen by the aforementioned Lex Luthers of our age and deep-sixed until they’ve successfully sizzled the planet? And what if the technology was such a no-brainer it took a trained genius to actually see it?

Science fiction? Comic book material? Well, maybe, but look around. We live in a Sci-Fi world if we live in any world at all. The computer age is defined by the impossible occurring and becoming the new norm about once every other month. So what if a guy invents a technology that can save the world and is hiding it from the evil Lex Luther who would rather see the world sizzle? Is that any more far-fetched than “face time” on an I pad?

This story  about a patent application by an independent inventor from Maryland named Ronald Ace came from McClatchy News last week. A few outlets picked it up, including Common Dreams, where I saw it. But I don’t think it made it into a single Montana daily, or many other papers around the U.S. Maybe Mr. Ace’s claim that he had come up with a solar energy breakthrough that would end humans’ reliance on fossil fuels at a fraction of current solar energy costs seemed too "far-fetched" for most corporate editors. Read it. See what you think. Here’s what I think:

Maybe it’s just that we’re all too addicted to our own despair to see the answer we so desperately seek under our collective noses. I know. It’s hard to let go. Kind of like picking at a scab. You almost can’t not do it because there’s a certain kind of fascination to pain. All I’m saying is give this guy a chance. Google him a lot. Keep track of him, because such news outlets as the Missioulian and the Helena IR will demonstrably be the last to let you know. If the reality of such a breakthrough turns out to be even half of its promise, this is something big, in our time. 

If not, then we haven’t lost anything in being naturally inquisitive, and Hopeful. We live in the age of The Jetsons, after all. We can have solar energy technology that can save the world. Our only task is to keep it from Lex Luther, who surely lurks. But there’s probably Hope.

Below is a summary of Mr. Ace’s “Solar Trap” technology he’s apparently trying to keep from Lex Luther. You can see where I got it here:

Current solar technology
·       It's inefficient. Photo-voltaic panels collect less than 20 percent of the sun's energy that hits them. Higher-temperature solar thermal power plants radiate away most of the energy collected.
"Solar Trap" solutions
·       Ron Ace says his device is nearly 100 percent efficient, absorbing almost all of the solar energy that hits it and containing radiation losses to a negligible percentage.

Cost of Energy Storage
Current solar technology
·       It's costly to store. Rooftop photovoltaic systems can store energy in lead acid batteries, but only at very high cost. Solar plants that use concentrating mirrors can store energy in molten salt for 4 to 12 hours, usually enough for the plant to get through the night in the desert. To increase that to a week would more than triple the cost of a solar thermal plant.
"Solar Trap" solutions
·       High-temperature rooftop solar traps could capture enough energy for economical storage in cheap materials, such as sand, for as long as desired. When Solar Traps are used in solar power plants with arrays of mirrors, energy can be stored cheaply at much higher temperatures for as long as desired.

Impact of weather
Current solar technology
·       Most solar thermal power plants are being built in the Southwest to maximize sunshine and aren't even economically viable in deserts without government subsidies.
"Solar Trap" solutions
·       Solar Traps can be mounted on rooftops or used in solar thermal energy plants almost anywhere, though the cost will rise proportionately in cloudier regions.

Cost of panels
Current solar technology
·       Purchasers of photovoltaic panels usually recover costs in 15 years, roughly the life of the panels, with the help of tax subsidies.
"Solar Trap" solutions
·       The cost of rooftop Solar Traps can be recovered in two to four years, after which buyers will power their homes for free and can sell excess energy to utilities, Ace says.

Cost of large power plants
Current solar technology
·       Existing plants drawing energy from mirror fields produce electricity at 15 to 18 cents a kilowatt hour, triple the cost of coal-fired plants, even with government subsidies.
"Solar Trap" solutions
·       Conventional nuclear, coal and gas plants can be retrofitted with Solar Traps and produce electricity for about 2 cents a kilowatt hour.

Space requirements
Current solar technology
·       For current photovoltaic panels to power the country, it would take 8 to 10 times more rooftop space than exists over U.S. homes and businesses, enough to cover the state of Utah, and with inadequate energy storage.
"Solar Trap" solutions
·       Solar Traps could power the country if they covered all existing rooftops, Ace says.
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Hope Continued

A friend of mine told me that having no Hope can be a liberating thing. He claimed that with no Hope, you can never be disappointed, like you were in the old days when you thought you lived in a better, more hopeful, world than you really do. He seemed content with this, almost happy, because he's an intelligent, compassionate human being, and he came by this conclusion honestly. I'll explain.

For many years he made his living driving truck, until he passed out at the wheel of his own car after taking “Spice”. The reason he was doing “Spice” was because he was a lifetime pot smoker, and he drove truck for a pee-testing company. He had over a million transcontinental, accident-free miles under his belt, but the pee-testing company that he worked for made all of their employees—including my friend with his immaculate record—sign a contract in which the employee agreed to a pee test whenever the company felt like giving them one. After several years of holistic and homeopathic attempt to curveball the pee test, after much worrying and looking over his shoulder, he started experimenting with “Spice”, which was supposed to be a very similar high to marijuana yet didn’t show up on a pee test. And here's were we get to Hope.

Many folks who currently reside in the Ron Paul quarter of our 21st century Universe ardently believe that if we would only eliminate all the rules of society except the ones that allow the Biggest Lawyer to win, we will have a society so free that babies will be issued their “m-cards” at birth. This is called "libertarianism"--by them. 

But those of us who are old enough to remember the Eighties, when corporate fascism, marketed to us Plebes as "libertarianism", started its steady rise under Reagan. We remember that, back when pee testing was born, the drug war was simultaneously birthed from that very quarter of the Universe--and by the very same corporate interests--from which our current tea-soaked “libertarians” reside. We remember that the Drug War, and pee testing, was not about "freedom" at all. It was about control, foisted upon us by an earlier crew of self-described "libertarians" who had just been caught illegally selling arms to terrorists in Iran and funneling the profits to terrorists in Central America. The Reagan team needed two things immediately; distraction and control.

An emerging technology allowing public agencies and private corporations to detect trace amounts of THC in your pee up to a month after you’ve taken a hit provided the Reagan team with its excellent answer. Never mind that allowing such an Orwellian search-and seizure technology to be inflicted upon law-abiding citizens was patently unconstitutional. The Reagan team decided to ramp up the drug war by simultaneously making marijuana so illegal and allowing pee testing to become so ubiquitous that kids would turn their parents and teachers in to the government (which some did) and that deep-pocketed interests could hold an employee’s pee over their head and threaten them with jail time if they don’t just shut up and do what they’re told. 

Voila! The new, improved Drug War was declared just as the Reagan-era "libertarians" were getting exposed undermining our Constitution and common decency etcetera, etcetera (etcetera, etcetera). With just a tiny tad of smoke and mirrors—so to speak—the first of many sweeping techno-invasions of our privacy was granted to those public and private entities by the very Team-in-power dry-casting desperately for distraction and control lest they soon become the Team-out-of-power. And that, to say the least, was a serious business for the government as well as for Corporate America, who naturally took it seriously. 

So it happened, that from the day my friend signed a contract that should have been declared unconstitutional on the face of it by any insect let alone any judge, whenever he allowed THC to pollute his pee, which he did on a semi-regular basis, he risked losing his job and possibly having criminal charges filed. This state of affairs forcibly wrapped around his life led him to experiment with "Spice".

Ironically, he may have been able to pass a pee test if one had been given him during this brief period of his life. But they never gave him one, and he passed out instead, while driving, thus losing the job he was trying to save by switching to “spice” in order to dodge a "libertarian" policy that, if you were to believe contemporary tea-ranters such as Ron Paul, had outlived its "libertarian" purpose. 

To be fair, my friend was close to retirement, and the company wasn’t run by bad people per se. They didn’t really care if their drivers smoked pot. They were just doing what they felt they had to do to stay in business, which they thought included being a pee-testing company and not retaining drivers who had a record of passing out while driving. Pretty reasonable, they thought, and they gave him a desk job to mark out his time until he qualified for Social Security. He still works under the same pee-testing contract, but the company doesn't pee-test their office help as a general thing. 

“See!” he told me. “No hope. It’s a good thing.”My friend seemed content, almost happy which, unsurprisingly, he generally is anyway.

I can’t prove or coroborate any of this of course, except that my friend is a professed atheist who basically practices the core precepts of true Christianity. But as far as pee-testing goes, this is an accurate description of how I saw it in 1986 and, allowing for some minor adjustments for inflation and other details, is how I see it now. 

The Reagan team showed us all what a "libertarian" skirt looked like, and we just didn't pay attention. Know thyself by the company ye keep, and Hope's Hope, no matter what you need to call it to get by, day by day.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Reading Tea Leaves in the Bottom of a Cracked Pot; The Dregs from the 2013 Montana Legislature

Nancy Ballance, Bob Lake, Rick Hill and the bullet-riddled “Obama Presidential Library”   Ravalli County Memorial Day Parade, 2012

The 2013 Montana Legislature is over and there are lessons we can learn, especially if you’re a fortuneteller, like I am.

It’s easy to be a fortuneteller, or at least it’s not rocket-science. I can teach you how to do it. 

Here’s how. Just look for clarity. You can find it anywhere, but in this case let’s look for it in the bottom of the the 2013 Montana Legislature, the cracked teapot where the dregs that passed for reasonable debate in Helena this year settled. 

Clarity in the dregs, you ask? Of course. Simply observe how the various strands of tea settle on top of each other, which strands dominate, which submit. Use your intuition if you wish, but you don’t have to. It’s pretty damn clear in the case of the 2013 Montana Legislature, which is what we fortunetellers love. Clarity. It makes us look good.

Are you ready? Let’s give it try. Any cracked teapot will do, but let’s do use the 2013 Montana Legislature, since it’s so handy, and they’re done with it anyways. No argument there? O.K. Now give that glop at the bottom a good, thoughtful look. It’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Look at which strands float to the top and dominate, and which strands submit. Think, but don’t think too much. They didn’t. Are you ready for your fortune, Montana. Here it is:

Paranoia Strikes Deep.

Look at the strands. They're like animal tracks. They don't lie.
  • We must have more guns, but we must have less healthcare
  • We must preserve our god-given right to self-preservation through firepower, with no correlating god-given right to self-preservation through affordable healthcare.
  • We must preserve our sacred right to own enough massive firepower to kill and maim hundreds of people at a whim, but we must not have any correlating sacred right to heathcare.
  • If you can’t afford it, you don’t deserve it. It's quite clear, this maxim applies to both guns and healthcare, and is god-given.
  • A gun shop owner’s feelings are more important than the feelings of a mother whose six-year-old child was gunned down in school by a card-carrying N.R.A. member with an assault rifle that his "sport-shooting" mom had safely tucked away in her closet.
  • We have the right to preserve our personal selves with guns and more guns, but the planet that preserves us all can bloody well go to hell.
Look across the mountains this morning into the next day and your kids’ futures. If you still believe that Montana is the best place to raise them on the face of the Earth you’ve seen so far, you’re right.

But consider, as you read the dregs of the 2013 Montana Legislature, the severe fault lines separating reality from the wicked ideology displayed in Helena this session and how that thoroughly-avoidable crack is going to shape your kids’ futures along with our Big Skies.

And take heed the warning gifted us by the majority of Montana’s state legislators who, with due diligence, said the following to you and yours:

"Your kids matter less than our guns."

Paranoia strikes deep. That’s your fortune, Montana. You’re welcome.