24 October 2010

How 'Bout a Mix of Wind and Direct Solar Power

Have You Heard of Montessori Education?

If you haven't seen Monetssori education work, it's time you visited and observed at a Montessori school. You'll be amazed. If you want to talk to a former Montessori student and now certified Montessori teacher, I just happen to know one (daughter Carri, presently an OCCC math adjuct prof.)


The Sound of Music's von Trapp Family, Alive and Well

Those of you who are fans of _The Sound of Music_ will be happy to know that a number of the real von Trapp family are quite alive and well and running a lodge in Stowe, Vermont, USA, where they've been since they escaped Hiltler's takeover of Austria in 1939.

See also http://www.trappfamily.com/story .

Don't Worry, Be Happy

If even one-tenth of the stuff in this collection of articles is correct, it may be time for our children and grandchildren to eat, drink, and be merry.

C L Oates
22 Oct 2010
Norman, OK, USA...

05 July 2010

A Personal Historical Glimpse: Will Rogers and the Irish Lad

Chuck Oates
5 July 2010
Norman, Oklahoma, USA

A Personal Historical Glimpse: Will Rogers and the Irish Lad

My granddad, Lee Oates, grew up in Oklahoma just east of Higgins, Texas where the then-unknown Will Rogers* and many of his even lesser-known friends were (real) cowboys in and near Higgins in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The Irish Lad, a character who later often appeared in Will Rogers' newspaper stories and radio broadcasts, was in real life a fellow named George Sennitt who worked for the Oates family for a time on their farm just east of Higgins. Sennitt had a habit of doing very unconventional things, like plowing up the streets of Shattuck, Oklahoma when he became enraged at some offense that Shattuck had perpetrated against him. Later these escapades made excellent fodder for story-teller Will Rogers.

The Irish Lad had his gentler side, though. My granddad said that when he was a little boy, he had been rocked to sleep many a night by the Lad. I believe the Lad may be the source of many of my granddad's bedtime stories, told to me when I was little. Some years later, I was quite surprised when I was given a copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales when my daughter was little and found that a good many of granddad's stories were works of the Brothers Grimm, their origin unknown to my granddad and their content modified a bit by generations of re-telling. The one I remembered best was clearly a retold version of Bremen Town-Musicians. (Seehttp://www.nationalgeographic.com/grimm/bremen.html .) " ... We're going to Bremen to join the band. ..." I had always asked for that one when I was little.

In the early 1980s, I read this story and some other Brothers Grimm stories to my daughter Carri at her bedtime, selecting pretty carefully among them because of their sometimes-scary content. Unfortunately, I found that for her they had the effect opposite of the desired one. I was often awakened by Carri pulling on my shirtsleeve and asking, "What happened next, Daddy?"

The fairy tales that worked so well for me and for my granddad had put ME to sleep instead of Carri!


A little more information on Will Rogers and the Irish Ladd can be found in this Handbook of Texas article on the Box-T Ranch: http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/BB/apb2.html . That article contains an unfortunate typographical error. The ranch that Will Rogers worked for was *not* the Little Rob Ranch, but the Little Robe Ranch in present-day Dewey County, Oklahoma. Google "Little Robe Ranch" for more information. --CLO

* Will Rogers: famous Oklahoma-born U.S. national humorist of the 1920s and '30s.

24 May 2010

Green Skies and Hail

Green Skies and HailShare
I do not like green skies and hail.
They leave me feeling cold and pale.

In autumn gentle rains befriend us,
But spring brings lines of cumulonimbus.

The siren sounds to go to shelter.
There follow scenes from Helter-Skelter.

They love it at NSSL.
It's my idea of living hell.

Vacation days are meant for May.
Your *empty* house then blows away.

If safe in May you want to be
You must not go near OKC!

(My boundless apologies to Theodor Geisel.)
Chuck Oates
17 May 2010
Norman, Oklahoma, USA

12 May 2010

Tornadoes Dance North and South of Norman, Oklahoma, 10 May 2010

Chuck Oates
10 May 2010, Last rev.8:34 p.m.
Norman, Oklahoma, USA

Tornadoes Dance North and South of Norman, Oklahoma, 10 May 2010, 5:30 - 5:45 p.m.

They're still blowing tornado warning sirens intermittently as I write this, but it appears the tornado danger may have passed here in Norman. Parts of Oklahoma City, Choctaw, Moore, Noble Little Axe,and the Lake Thunderbird Marina, were not so fortunate.

The following videos were shot from my back yard at the times indicated on 10 May 2010.

Looking Southeast toward Noble, OK
5:32:50 p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GybbPhJirHQ
5:33 p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5uB8ddIH78
5:34 p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6q9P3T4hkNA
5:39 p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ir9ofqjqrk
5:39.5p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sZyLSymRLXQ
5:40 p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YtpE3W3aEE
5:43 p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77bcOg_Y8IM

Looking North toward Moore, OK
5:30 p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYTjZ7wGtQg
5:32 p.m. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNPIwZFVV9s

So far the Norman HealthPlex in Northwest Norman has treated 20 patients injured in the storms. There is a report on News9.com of one fatality in Oklahoma City. [8:34 p.m.] News9.com is now reporting an additional three fatalities in Tecumseh, Oklahoma, east southeast of Norman.

*** C A U T I O N ***

Making photographs and videos when severe weather is in your area is DANGEROUS. Tornadoes at distances greater than five miles (8 km), in daylight, with good visibility, with a weather radio or TV in hand are one thing; tornadoes at distances less than five miles, OR at night, OR in poor visibility, OR without a working weather radio or TV are quite another. Particularly if you're young, DON'T TAKE CHANCES WITH THESE STORMS. THEY CAN AND DO KILL PEOPLE!

Prof. Oates

03 May 2010

Nil, Baby, Nil

Chuck Oates
3 May 2010
Norman, OK, USA
(from a Facebook wall posting)

Support for Offshore Drilling after the Louisiana Spill:

Nil, Baby, Nil

The Nashville Tennessean, a real tree hugger's rag, notes that support for offshore drilling is disappearing like government-haters after the OKC Murrah Building bombing [my words, not theirs]. See http://www.tennessean.com/article/20100501/NEWS08/5010349 .

Instead of drilling offshore, we could, of course, decide instead to capture large amounts of energy from the sun and the wind. Since our only net energy income is from the sun, these methods make very good sense, both economically and ecologically, not to mention the national security implications. (Presumably, OPEC can't turn off the sun!) The wind turbine and thin-film solar panel technologies are ready, but only minimally deployed, at least in the U.S.

If we can build an atomic bomb in four years and go to the Moon in ten, we could get ourselves out of the fossil fuel dependency mess in a decade or so, if we choose to, while generating large numbers of U.S. equipment manufacturing jobs. It's a matter of deploying existing energy technologies and, of course, continuing to develop new ones. Given our squabbling Congress, our still-out-of-control financial system, our behemoth oil lobby, and our vision-less corporate leadership, though, don't hold your breath.

Here's one guy who's thinking, even if he did go to OSU: http://www.pickensplan.com/ .
(Use the Hide ... button to bypass the signup page, if you like.)

Thin-film solar panels are cheap, efficient, and in production NOW: http://www.firstsolar.com/en/modules.php
We need terawatts of production for solar energy farms, though, not gigawatts.

The mid-continent U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of wind ( http://www.windpoweringamerica.gov/wind_maps.asp ), and there's certainly no shortage of sun in Arizona and Nevada (http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html ). Demand for oil is going up, and the supply is soon to decline (2023 by the 18-model average at http://www.trendlines.ca/scenarios.htm ). What are we waiting for?

Infrastructure to carry the electrical energy from the production areas to the population areas and a financial system that's willing to finance it, that's what. And we'll be sitting here dependent on $250/barrel oil and $10/gallon gasoline in ten years (five?) if we don't get busy and build it.

-- Vox Clamantis in Deserto

P.S. And in the mean time, Boone Pickens, much as I hate to admit it, is exactly right: natural gas that we control and have in relative abundance is the interim fuel we'll need until we can get more direct-from-the-sun fuel sources in place. --CLO

31 January 2010

A neighborhood house in the winter wonderland following the ice-sleet-snow storm of 28-29 January 2010
Posted by Picasa

09 January 2010

Cause for Optimism

If you live in the US and have been paying any attention at all to what's going on around you lately, you've probably picked up on some disturbing trends. Let's note a few of them.

o Fewer and fewer people have access to health care. The apparent solution for this is to legislate that all of us will have to have health care insurance, purchased from private insurers who will be able to charge pretty much anything they wish for any set of services they wish to provide, with no insurer of last resort available. Oh, and we'll have to pay a $750 per year fine for not buying health insurance. Having been without major medical insurance for the past year because it was going to cost me $25,000-plus per year, I have great confidence that this is a fine solution to the health care access problem--or more likely it's health care reform turned into a corporate welfare program for medical insurers.

o Last year, the US and the rest of the world was very nearly plunged into another 1930s-style Great Depression. Wall Street financiers made mortgage loan packages, then made bets on the success of those packages, and then made bets on those bets (derivative instruments and mortgage risk swaps). The purpose of finance is to supply capitol and credit for businesses and credit for consumers. What on earth does making bets on bets on bets about how mortgage packages will perform have to do with that purpose? Surely in response to this economic near-death experience, we now have regulations to keep the banks out of the securities business and to create an exchange something like the commodity exchanges for derivatives and similar financial instruments. Wrong. We do have legislation to cut down on scams by credit card companies, with the implementation date placed so far in the future that the companies have had plenty of time to increase their rates and dream up new scams, though. But that's not really the problem. We have not and probably will not protect ourselves from another economic crisis like that of September 2008. When it happens again, we will not be able to afford bailouts. We will likely then experience another Great Depression.

o In the past three decades, median US income (in constant dollars) has remained flat--no increase at all. We're doing fine, though, aren't we? The Dow Jones Industrial Average is way, way up over those 30 years, isn't it? Yes, it is. The conclusion? US businesses are doing increasingly well, while US wage earners are no better off than they were in 1980.

The list could go on endlessly, but here's the problem. The US government, particularly the Congress of the United States is now owned lock, stock, and barrel by big business, including health insurers, pharmaceutical companies, Wall Street finance companies, even US automobile manufacturers. Their power and influence in Washington can now defeat any serious health care reform, financial institution regulation, taxation changes, or other legislation that might change their short-term profitability.

Why is there no outcry, no groundswell of righteous anger from the populace? It's Stockholm syndrome. Many of us, particularly those in the southern and western US states, have positive feelings for our captors. We've been taken to the brink of economic and perhaps political disaster by Wall Street financiers, medical products and services providers, and idiotic automobile manufacturers who can't make money on a car that costs less than $35,000. Having been delivered from stepping over that brink by providing our captors trillions of dollars in ransom, we are now--incredibly--beholden to them as those who will save us from Big Government.

So why is this blog entry titled "Cause for Optimism"? Here's the deal. As it's often been observed, you can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all the time, but NOT all the people all the time. Eventually we'll come to our senses and figure out that while bumbling, inefficient government is a BIG irritation, it's not nearly the enemy that well-financed, brilliantly-staffed, accountable-to-no-one corporations are.

But if the corporate world is in control, will we be able to take back the reins when we do finally awaken? It would seem that control so firmly established and financed would endure as long as it wished. In the short run, that very well may be the case. Over a somewhat longer term, however, the outcome is not as clear. Consider the following.

Example 1. This same situation existed in post-Civil War America from the 1870s to the early 1900s. There seemed to be no limit to the power and corruption of the corporate Robber Barrons who ruled that era. Then a pesky, troublesome Republican by the name of Teddy Roosevelt, kicked upstairs into the Vice Presidency to get him out of the way, was propelled into the Presidency by the assassination of President William McKinley. The Robber Barrons were soon ousted from their thrones by the feisty, shrewd, and action-oriented Roosevelt.

Example 2. By the 1920s though, Wall Street, unencumbered by government regulation, was in a frenzy of buying on margin (buying stocks with borrowed money) on the assumption the stocks would continuously increase in value forever. A financial collapse not unlike the one we just experienced resulted. The collapse was badly mishandled for three long years by Herbert Hoover before Franklin D. Roosevelt (cousin of Teddy) was elected President. Though FDR's programs eased the suffering of the Great Depression, no recovery could be sustained. (Once a deflationary economy is firmly established, it is virtually impossible to undo, given any action short of entry into a global war.) Eventually, the wild speculation on Wall Street was firmly regulated to prevent a recurrence of this exact type of collapse, and things went pretty well until the financial wizards of Wall Street, with the aid of Sen. Phill Gramm, planted another financial time bomb in 1999 (see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramm%E2%80%93Leach%E2%80%93Bliley_Act ).

Example 3. The September 2008 financial collapse precipitated by Gramm's treachery is sill playing out, and will require a decade or more to "settle out" as the control systems folks say. It remains to be seen whether the world and the US, in particular, will successfully emerge from the crisis, brought on by the unfettered speculation that derivative "invesment" (gambling) instruments and mortgage risk swaps engendered.

What's the point of all this? The recurring theme is that big business, left to do its own laissez faire bidding, eventually destroys its own power (or produces its destroyer) and often plays havoc with our economic well-being in the process. In the current crisis, big business has very nearly destroyed our economic well-being, but has not yet destroyed its power to unduly influence and control the government for its own benefit.

We've been here before. The cause for optimism is that corporate political power will eventually ebb, if the past is, in fact, prologue. The worry is whether another economic depression, together with the seeds of political upheaval and war that depressions engender, will have to occur before We the People re-awaken and resume control of our democracy.

In the mean time, let's hope our current President is a Roosevelt, not a Hoover!