Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 24th, 2012

Water problems for energy production and possible solutions

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I didn’t realize that we used so much water in our energy sector. Michael Webber outlines the details in the NY Times:

We’re now in the midst of the nation’s most widespread drought in 60 years, stretching across 29 states and threatening farmers, their crops and livestock. But there is another risk as water becomes more scarce. Power plants may be forced to shut down, and oil and gas production may be threatened.

Our energy system depends on water. About half of the nation’s water withdrawals every day are just for cooling power plants. In addition, the oil and gas industries use tens of millions of gallons a day, injecting water into aging oil fields to improve production, and to free natural gas in shale formations through hydraulic fracturing. Those numbers are not large from a national perspective, but they can be significant locally.

All told, we withdraw more water for the energy sector than for agriculture. Unfortunately, this relationship means that water problems become energy problems that are serious enough to warrant high-level attention.

During the 2008 drought in the Southeast, power plants were within days or weeks of shutting down because of limited water supplies. In Texas today, some cities are forbidding the use of municipal water for hydraulic fracturing. The multiyear drought in the West has lowered the snowpack and water levels behind dams, reducing their power output. The United States Energy Information Administration recently issued an alert that the drought was likely to exacerbate challenges to California’s electric power market this summer, with higher risks of reliability problems and scarcity-driven price increases.

And in the Midwest, power plants are competing for water that farmers want for their devastated corn crops.

Unfortunately, trends suggest that this water vulnerability will become more important with time.

Population growth will mean over 100 million more people in the United States over the next four decades who will need energy and water to survive and prosper. Economic growth compounds that trend, as per-capita energy and water consumption tend to increase with affluence. Climate-change models also suggest that droughts and heat waves may be more frequent and severe.

Thankfully, there are some solutions. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2012 at 9:39 am

Harry James blows the roof off

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The Harry James Orchestra began solidly in the jazz/swing idiom, but financial pressures drove it to a more pop sound in time. This performance showcases Harry James’s incredible technique. The mustache, as I recall, he grew because when he joined the Benny Goodman band at 21 he was so baby-faced. A note by commenter gsmonks at the YouTube post provides some interesting info:

Dizzy Gillespe, Miles Davis and a few other of the jazz greats were asked who had the best overall trumpet technique. Without hesitation, they all said, “Harry James.” Harry always pulled off a technical gem or two at this concerts. He used a very shallow Parduba mouthpiece, and was using zero pressure long before most players had heard of the non-pressure system. When I was a kid, every young trumpet player had an Arban’s, and Mendez and James records.

You’ll note in the Wikipedia article on Harry James, link above, that his father made him learn a page from Arban’s each day.

This came via the newsletter:

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2012 at 9:28 am

Posted in Jazz

3-D printing as a scientific tool

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Interesting applications of new technology, reported in The Scientist by Kerry Grens:

If you’ve worn out the spike on your stiletto, misplaced your kazoo, or you need a cheap little centrifuge, three-dimensional printing and a growing community of designers devoted to open-source software have the solutions for you. Once considered the realm of tinkerers and toy makers, 3-D printing is providing scientists with a treasure trove of opportunities to custom-design equipment and experiments. Kevin Lance, a graduate student at the University of California, San Francisco, once fixed a broken Pipetboy by simply drawing up the dimensions of the disabled part and printing it out. “It was an obscure internal part. You’d have to spend hundreds of dollars on a replacement,” Lance says. It took him a grand total of a few hours to make the part himself.

In its simplest application, 3-D printing can produce solid plastic objects from a digital file that is written in what is called standard tessellation language. The printers, which are about the size of a copy machine, use the design instructions to lay down layers of material on top of one another to form a 3-D shape. On open-source websites such as, designers offer free instructions for downloading and printing their products. The DremelFuge, for example, is a printed rotor with mounts for six microcentrifuge tubes. Pop it onto a drill or rotary tool and spin away. “Biohackers and frugal lab workers,” as the designer puts it, can also download free instructions for printing molds and combs for gel electrophoresis.

Inspired by such industriousness, Lance and a group of other graduate students recently sponsored a competition called “Print My Lab.” . . .

Continue reading. Printing beakers whose interiors contribute to the reactions, described later in the article, shows that this technology has lots of room to grow.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2012 at 8:36 am

Posted in Science, Technology

Rapid decline and fall of the MInuteman movement following murders

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Interesting recent history: an account of the rise and fall of the Minuteman movement, in which citizens armed themselves as unofficial guardians of the borders. Following a grisly murder of a 9-year-old girl and her father by three members of the movement, the decline was swift: people in general realized that the recruitment standards of vigilante movements are not always the best.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2012 at 7:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Law

Interesting budgeting tool

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Cool Tools today identifies an interesting piece of software for creating and tracking a budget. Some years back I took a stab at creating a tool to create a budget, but it didn’t include any tracking ability. It did, however, help identify some “implicit” expenses that are often overlooked until they hit. There’s a link to it in this post.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2012 at 7:38 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

The Super is super

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The Gillette Super Adjustable, as I belatedly realized, is really an exceptional razor. Version 3.0 of the Gillette Adjustables (Fat Boy is 1.0, Slim Handle is 2.0), it shave smoothly and with finesse. Chrom suggests, in a comment to this post, that dialing the adjustment to 1 (and make sure the doors are open before turning the adjustment dial) makes the razor an angle instructor, in a sense: it will cut at that setting only if the angle is exactly right. (The same may be true of the Fat Boy and probably is true of the Slim Handle, whose head seems quite similar to the Super’s, but I’ve not tried the trick for either.)

But first things first: A fine lather from Vintage Blades LLC’s own private-label shaving soap, quite nice, worked up with the hooked-tipped Rooney Victorian of their Heritage line. Then three passes with the Super holding an Astra Keramik Platinum blade. (I wonder if part of the coating really is ceramic—somehow I doubt it.) A splash of Paul Sebastian on the very smooth result, and I’m ready for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

24 July 2012 at 7:07 am

Posted in Shaving

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