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Comment: Re:Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 1) 190

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47753497) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

This is interesting stuff. Where do you recommend buying thi s equipment?

Since we buy new we have shopped reputable dealers. Since what we wanted was small and self-contained we were able to find a dealer with something suitable already on the lot that he was having trouble unloading, so we got it at a good price.

The trick is to research the manufacturers on the net, first, to find out which have a track record of producing good products.

It's been a while since we last bought one, so our research is out of date and you'll have to do your own. There is some turnover in the industry, so a company that is good for decades may cheapen their product, merge, or go out of business.

Our current one is by Sunnybrook, which has since merged into another company. (Pity: They did great trailers with solid aluminum framing, great layouts, and high quality throughout. Only problem was the imported tires - which we replaced with Goodyears after a few thousand miles.)

Before that we had a Prowler from Fleetwood, which has since gone out of business. (They had had a great rep, but our instance, and others from their last few years, had issues with water leakage.)

Comment: Re:Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 1) 190

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47745369) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

Considering you're talking about multiple properties already, I dont think your cost scale exactly matches everyone elses.

Even (especially!) in Silicon Valley you don't accumulate multiple properties by being spendthrift.

How much did you spend on your hobby equipment? Or your last couple vacations?

Even in pricey California you can buy a good NEW travel trailer in the 20' range, loaded, for about $15k. That will sleep four if they're friendly, two quite comfortably. If you're willing to go small you can get into the $7k range. Special order skipping the microwave, oven, and air conditioner can drop it further. Buy used for far less, if you know what to look for, are willing to accept the extra maintenance risks or put in a bit of sweat equity fixing it up, and you can get to silly price levels. (I wouldn't, though, due to allergies.)

The trick is "travel trailer", not "RV" or even "Fifth Wheel", and going small. (You can easily drop the price of a medium-sized house for one of the class-A land yacts.) Pickup campers, on the other hand, tend to live on the pickup truck because it's such a pain to remove it, so the rig might as well be an RV.

In addition to the price difference, the trailer/tow vehicle combo beats the heck out of RV in the long run: The house and the runing gear wear out at different rates - with an RV when one dies they both do. Unhooking the tow vehicle gives you a vehicle at your camp. Keeping it small also gives you the ability to camp in a lot more places than something large (like some federal and state parks of the more wilderness sort, which have twisty roads and small campsites tucked into out of the way places.)

The trailer/RV/whtever approach may not make sense JUST for earthquake preparedness. But if you find camping or cross-country travel enjoyable (and are getting a bit too fragile to do it with tents), using the money you'd otherwise have spent JUST stocking earthquake supplies can make the camping budget far more managable. It also lets you get two benefits for ONE chunk of your time getting things set up.

(I also find it's lots of fun to set it up with techie toys. B-) )

Comment: Travel trailers have dual use. (Score 4, Informative) 190

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47743519) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Prepared Are You For an Earthquake?

We have a self-contained travel trailer that doubles as natural disaster supplies. Stocked with canned and boxed food for weeks, 14 gallons of propane (always more than 7, since you swap tanks when one of 'em empties and top 'em off after a trip) can keep the fridge going for months, and we have a couple spare tanks.

40 gallons of fresh water are good for three days of camping WITH showers. In a natural disaster you can skip the showers and stretch it for a month or so. A couple hundred amp-hours of batteries (i.e. two of 'em) can keep things going for a while and can be charged from solar panels (or the vehicle engine) as well. (And we're just starting to convert the lighting to LEDs, for about a 8-16x improvement in power consumption vs. incandescents.)

The townhouse also has canned food for months and a case or two of bottled drinking water (as does the ranch house, which also has a well if we ever get a generator, windmill, or solar panels & inverter that can run it when grid power is out.) It also provides redundancy if the trailer is damaged, just as the trailer provides redundancy if the house collapses or burns.

Travel trailers are not very expensive. Set them up for a weekend's camping, park them far enough from the house that expected disaster cases don't zap 'em both, and they'll give you your "three days until help arrives" in style, or a month's survivalist roughing-it. They also have the advantage that, if they don't get damaged in the initial event or you have warning, you can hook 'em up and move to a safer or more convenient location. All "for free" if you like occasional camping, or cross-country ground travel without having to rent allergenic hotel rooms. B-)

Comment: WELL said. (Score 1) 132

What "we" are worried about is the rich cultural and political elite losing their seaside mansions ...

Well said, sir. (I already commented in the article so couldn't mod that up. I had to settle for "friend"ing you. B-) )

Also: In the spirit of "Never letting a crisis go to waste", it's also an opportunity for the 1% to incrase their power over the 99%, and find ways to rip them off. (Carbon taxes. Government mandated carbon credit exchange schemes, with markets provided, and billions in transaction fees raked in, by "entrepenuers" like Al Gore and Barak Obama.)

Comment: Bigger quakes are longer. (Score 3, Interesting) 132

"Why do Californians think they can "feel" the strength of a quake? It's complete nonsense because you cannot feel its distance."

It's not nonsense at all. Bigger quakes last longer. The duration of the shaking is a good measure of the actual strength, and can be read directly off the seismographs, while more accurate estimates take a while to compute from these and other measurements.

That's why you see initial estimates as "duration magnitude", later revised to "moment magnitude" which more accurately measures the energy from measurements of the distortion of the underground structures due to the stress changes. You'll notice that it's SO good that the adjustment is usually only a couple tenths of a scale point - less than a 2:1 difference in energy.

The rip starts at some point along the fault and propagates along it in fits and starts, much slower than the compression and shear waves from the individual releases, as the motion from the relaxing stresses in the section that let go increases stresses in the next section. This keeps up until the effect reaches a point where the stress isn't enough (at the time) to make it let go. (You get aftershocks when the more gradual readjustments add "straw to the camel's back" and get it going again - or start one on another nearby section or another nearby fault.)

The strength of the wave decays with distance. But the duration increases as the wave takes multiple paths, scattering off underground structure. So a distant earthquake doesn't "feel" shorter than a nearby one. Longer-but-weaker. Also, the P wave propagates much faster than the S wave, is weaker, and doesn't "stretch out in time" much at all. Time separation is greater with distance. They feel very different. (Mnemonic: First the P wave makes you pee, then the S wave ...) So with enough experience one could ballpark both the strength and the distance from the feel of the quake.

For instance: Loma Prieta, a 7.1 moment magnitude (6.9 early duration magnitude estimates), propagated along aobut 22 miles of fault. It lasted 8 seconds, though as you got farther away the shaking got up to 45 seconds before it became too weak to be noticed. I was standing in front of Palo Alto City Hall when it got there, and my perception was first (P wave) "a truck is going over this overpass - wait', I'm not ON an overpass", then (S wave) "being in an airplane experiencing 15 seconds of mild turbulence." (Most ground-bound constructions {except for mobile and modular homes, which are built to be shipped on highways}, weren't built to withstand "15 seconds of mild turbulence". B-b ) I was listening to a San Francisco radio station: Seconds after the shaking started, the announcers got in two sentences (first about feeling an earthquake (P wave), then that it felt big (start of S wave)) before the transmitter failed (a bit into the S wave) - and the shaking was far from over.

The scale is logarithmic base 10, so a 1 point difference in scale is a 10x difference in energy, and thus time. This makes it EASY to guess the magnitude (if your sense of time doesn't distort to much from the excitement). A 6.1 would be 1/10th the energy of Loma P., so also about 1/10th the time, and Nappa to Oakland is comparable to Loma Prieta to Palo Alto, so call it a second and a half of the strong shaking.

On the other hand, for the first quake I felt after moving to CA I was nearly on top of a small one. (I think it was a high 2.x or a low 3.x.) Very sharp single shock - like a car hitting a concrete building while you're inside - followed by "echoes" as the wave moves on rapidly and EVERY building makes the sound of being hit (followed by a chorus of car alarms - shock sensors were common then). Sensation: Being in an elevator when it hit a misaligned section of the guide track. Three-stage perceptual distortion, as I realized that I was standing on the ground and my brain momentarily remapped my motion as a memory of the surroundings moving, as if they were painted on canvas scenery that was being shaken, then I realized it was an earthquake and it all remapped back - though the memory of the remappings was still there. (Next I wondered how much this phenomenon contrubuted to magical thinking among the cults California is noted for harboring.)

Comment: Light but reactive element = high energy density (Score 1) 143

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47718377) Attached to: How Argonne National Lab Will Make Electric Cars Cheaper

"lithium is in the upper left-hand corner of the periodic table. Only hydrogen and helium are lighter on an atomic basis."

  I'm wondering if this is a non sequitur for electric batteries.

Not a non sequitur at all.

An important factor for batteries is energy density: How much energy is stored per unit mass. This is particularly important for electric cars: The higher the energy density, the less mass you havce to haul around for a given amount of "fuel", which means the less "fuel" is spent hauling your "fuel" around, so it's a more-than-linear improvement.

Lithium is both extremely light and a very reactive nonmetal. So you're talking about a lot of energy per unit mass for the lithium-based electrode's contribution to the reaction.

Comment: Re:12% of the population is Muslim (Score 1) 359

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47698599) Attached to: Ebola Quarantine Center In Liberia Looted

Well, they cannot become martyrs by just dropping dead. At least they have to kill some unbelievers as well...

Actualy, they CAN become martyrs by dropping dead - after deliberately NOT leaving the area of a plague and thus avoiding the spreading it, at the cost of their own lives.

Martyrdom doen't just come from being killed in a religious war.

Another way to become a martyr, for instance, is to die in childbirth.

Yet another is to die while defending your home and/or family from robbers or other attackers (as my wife pointed out to a crook who was trying to extort "taxes" for a local gang.)

Comment: Early reports indicate they may have had reasons. (Score 2) 359

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47698539) Attached to: Ebola Quarantine Center In Liberia Looted

According to a report I saw (following a link from the Drudge Report yesterday):

1)The early symptoms of Ebola are very similar to those of Malaria, to the point that people with malaria are being thrown into the ebola quarantine camps. (Also: Many of the people who HAVE ebola, or their support network, may THINK thay have malaria.)
2) The camp ran out of gloves and other protective gear - leaving the staff and patients unable to clean up after and avoid contagin from the body fluid spillages of the actual ebola patients. Come in with SUSPECTED ebola and you soon have ebola for sure.

That, alone, would make it rational for someone not yet sick or mildly sick, incarcerated in the camp, to break out and hide out.

3) Stories are circulating in the area that ebola is a myth and the oppressive government factions/first worlders/take your pick of enemies are using this story, plus the odd malaria case here and there, to create death camps and commit genocide in a way that gives them plausible deniability.

That idea, of course, can lead to mass action by some of the local population to "rescue" their fellows and sabotage the camps.

The whole think is a real-world example of the cautionary tale "The Boy who Cried 'Wolf'". When the officials lie to the people for their own benefit, repeatedly, until the people come to expect it, the people won't believe them when they are telling the truth about a real threat - and all suffer.

Comment: Re:Truly sad (Score 1) 359

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47698411) Attached to: Ebola Quarantine Center In Liberia Looted

Ebola is one mutation away from being airborne transmissable. It already happened with Ebola Reston -- fortunately for us all, that turned out to be transmissable to monkeys but not humans.

I've heard reports that it may have happened with this one, too.

It doesn't have to be as GOOD at doing airborne transmission as, say, the common cold, to be a BIG problem.

Comment: Some can be done - and is. Most is bull. (Score 1) 442

by Ungrounded Lightning (#47690447) Attached to: Is Storage Necessary For Renewable Energy?

Like file downloads vs. interactive sessions, some power loads just need a long-term average and can be adjusted in time, without noticable impact, to shave peaks and get a closer match to generation - even if some of the generation, itself, is uncontrollably varying.

In fact, this is already being done. A prime example is in California, where a large part of the load is pumping of irrigation and drinking water. California utilities get away with far less "peaking generation" than they'd otherwise need by pumping the water mostly at off-peak hours. Cost: Bigger pumps, waterways (and in some cases "forebay" buffer reservoirs, below the main reservoir) than would be needed if the water were pumped continuously. This is practical because it was cheaper to upsize the water system than build and run the extra peaking plants. (Also: The forebay-to-reservoir pump generates when water is drawn down. It can also be run as a peaking generator, moving reserevoir water down to the forebay during peak load hours.) Similar things can be (and are being) done with industrial processes - such as aluminum smelters.

But there's a limit to load flexibility. Sure you can delay starting your refrigerator, freezer, and air conditioning for a few minutes (or start a little early, opportunistically), to twiddle the load. But you can't use such tweaks to adjust for an hours-long mismatch, such as the evening peak, or an incoming warm front leading to calm air and overcast skies on a chunk-of-the-continent basis. Try it, and your food spoils and your air conditioner (or heat-pump heating system) might as well be broken, or too small for your living area. Sure you can tweak factory load some. But do it too much and you reduce the production of billion-dollar factory complexes and workers who are still getting paid full rate.

Renewable energy actually helps - because its large-scale variations are driven by some of the same phenomena that affect heating and air conditioning loads. More wind means more heating and air conditioning load due to more heat transfer through building insulation. More sun means more air conditioning. Solar peaks in the day and wind in the evening (due to winds driven by the "lake effect" on a subcontinental scale), so a mix of them is a good match for the daily peak. But it's nowhere near "tweak to match generation and load without waste".

Whatever is not nailed down is mine. Whatever I can pry up is not nailed down. -- Collis P. Huntingdon, railroad tycoon