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Journal Journal: Cool Things about Simple Thermodynamics

The New York Times seems to have quite a few tsk tsking editorials about the deregulation of electric power. Now it seems that the focus is greatest on the carrying capacity of the "big" wires. The sitting governor of New Mexico (also former Congressman, former Hahvahd professor, former Secretary of Energy and former UN ambassador) Bill Richardson, was a quiet proponent of distributed generation while still at the helm of the U.S. Department of Energy. If we would have followed "his" course, then this would not have been as much of a problem, but, alas, Five Supreme Court Justices thought (implicitly) better of the idea a few months later.

Now our friends fear us more, our enemies fear us less, and our power is faltering. Pun intended.

Remember the good old days when Republicans used to run on the platform, "The government should do a few things and do them well."?

Oh well. There is always an excuse, but I (as if a Republican reshaping the world without its consent), digress. (FWIW, I think it is morally justifiable to liberate Iraq, but at the time of this writing, it is also a pain in the butt to get UN support for reconstruction with a cowboy in charge.)

Speaking of oil, ...

I was going to say fun things about Simple Thermodynamics. Stirling engines and Stirling cycle heat pumps are neat, extremely neat. Because they are ideally hermetically sealed (and typically as close to hermetically sealed as is practical), the working parts of them are neat for a very long time. Everything you ever wanted to know about Stirling engines and heat pumps but didn't yet research for yourself is probably more than you can afford the time to study, but much of it is in the public domain, and there is a mountain of expired patents of viable Stirling technology. (Just remember to spell it with an "i" where you want to put an "e"!) Stirling technology (like its concurrently developed reciprocating steam technologies) inherently works nicely with external combustion. For that reason, engineering cleaner combustion or solar concentration is hassle free. Furthermore, the specifications of the fuels are liberal. You name it: solid, liquid, gas, slurry, effervescent mixture or solution. In principle, even nuclear power and other exotic exothermic processes could work. (Disregarding economic considerations, a plain resistor heater could also work with electric power as the input.) Then again, nuclear power generally disregards economy anyway. Funny how it all works. If a bunch of heaping forest residues were lit ablaze in controlled circumstances with a Stirling engine's butt collecting the heat, that could not be feasible politically. However, as the left and right tear each other's eyeballs clean from their sockets, neither side can see that the subsidies flow toward uneconomic nuclear power while we worry about "too much fuel" in the forest floor. Meanwhile, some alien is laughing in outer space as he/she/it looks through a telescope and somehow listens to what we say.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why MsGeek Got Added with the Green Pill

L.A.: mod 'er up a point
Kinda working class (for now?): mod 'er up a point.
smart-alecky about "shrub": another point
ideologically a neighbor: another point
Tack on about 20 "spiritual" points for being a going-back-to-school-anyway gauntlet runner.

Mod her down one point for taking pre-algebra in college and being a geek at the same time. Nah. Cancel that--linearly, that is. ;-) I just hope formal education in public speaking won't permanently rip the propeller beanie from her head and make her turn up her nose at folks like us. :::::picking nose now as if nobody was looking::::::

User Journal

Journal Journal: Moods and Ideology

In case you're noodling around here, wondering about the thinking of finallyHasANickname, lemme tell you something. I am loathe to look up postings that I felt inspired to type months ago. Why type something? Answer sometimes: because it seemed a logical conclusion that fit the kind of conclusion that seems most viscerally satisfying when typed. That is, it felt right. That is not the same as saying that it was indubitably and permanently correct and of superior legitimacy in judgment. Has anyone answered this way?

Psssst. "Has anyone answered this way?" is a quote from Nietzsche's cutesy epigrams in Beyond Good and Evil. I believe the context was this:

I do not like him. Why? Because I am not his equal. Has anyone answered this way?

Sometimes I think to myself, "Self, when I posted something on slashdot, I really felt more to the left than I generally am." Sometimes I think to myself, "Self, when I posted something on slashdot, I really felt more to the right than I generally am."

Now, given that there is such a confession here, I ask myself this: "Self, why is it that I got modded up for one of the most vaguely regrettable postings?" You know. The one that ends with something like "let the egg drip slowly down your right wing face."

I get sick and tired of people hanging things on Clinton. Well that's not quite true. I think it's fine to hang things on him when factually correct (which is somewhat frequent, come to think of it, but not as bad as a randomly selected historical President). More to the point, my patience is thin for people who ascribe to Clinton (A) the "leftish" ascription along with (B) some social or political phenomenon with no etiological connnection with policies advocated by Clinton or advanced by him in his official capacity. Among those gripes is not the gripe against the Fox News crowd for whining that Clinton implicitly diminished dishonor to liars by spectacularly and exquisitely lying for ignoble purposes. The Fox News crowd irritates me by breathing and associated activities (like making electronically propagated sounds while breathing), but that--that irritation--is typically beside the point. When right wingers claim that Clinton lowered the bar, well, I sorta give up, testosterone-wise. I concede that point. It ain't no fun, but when people say that Clinton set in motion all the stuff that brought about accounting scandals, well...

Let's take a look at that. In point of cold fact, I agree, but not because of any agreement with the generic right wing on matters of the etiology. In those, I hold my center-left position without injury.

Clinton's policies were damned near secret at first. Just as implicitly "promised" in the book, The Work of Nations by Harvard economist (gone Labor Secretary), Robert Reich, the brand new Clinton Administration set in place a speculation disincentive that was most effective in equity stock markets. Selling stocks (and puts and calls I suppose too) soon after purchase exposed the investor/speculator to a newly enstated higher tax burden. That tilted the risk/reward scale, and--behold!--the conservative "buy-and-hold" strategy suddenly became more popular than laissez-faire would have otherwise determined. Thereafter, most of all in the context of 401(k) tax incentives of right-tending legislative history--ascribe them largely to Dubya's dad--not only was "buy-and-hold" becoming popular in the early 1990s; so was "buy and buy again." While the supply of equity stock remained relatively stable, the demand--due to de facto "buying automata" of mechanisms in various and nearly innumerable employee benefits packages for many classes of people--increased. That fed itself more than we might otherwise have noticed.

Why buy? Because the price is increasing!

That mentality was exactly the attitude of the Hollanders during the "investment" bubble of (I think) the 17 Century, when tulip bulbs were the way to retire early. (Wink wink.) When people buy only because of the upward trend in prices, they rely on something inherently unsustainable. It has all the moral disaster and weight of a Ponzi scheme but with no perpetrator at the scene of the crime. The mindset was so thoroughly speculative that I remember reading about a situation where a new stock brokerage client said that she wanted her money only in 20%-and-above investment instruments. According to the article, the broker said, "I think you need to come to Jesus now."

The parallels are interesting, most of all considering the conditions wherein those kinds of statements are made. Often the person hearing that is some flavor of profligate--in some cases, dealing with some addictive substance and in a condition of morally weighty matters. The stereotypical image is suitable. You know: the guy is bawling and swears never to drink again and to live a more honorable life, which is gratifying for the tent-revival evangelist to hear as he helps the guy get born again. Yeah. That kind of thing.

The broker was implictly saying that this 1999ish "20% floor" investment-world-view is not the kind of attitude a responsible adult investor should have.

Ok. So the corporate world looked in the second half of the 1990s at Marc Andreeson and his hired CEO grownup and said, "We at XYZ corporation are almost as kewl as Netscape, and we can be as aggressive and growth oriented." Everyone marketed not the products but the trajectory for growth--the stock itself. The next thing you know, bars of soap were peddled and delivered through UPS and the like as if someone would forsake the grocery store in order to play with and utilize the mouse and the Visa card as if toys. Oh yeah. And every name was appended with "dot com."

Meanwhile, the typical investor was still of higher income than the average, ahem, bear. Therefore, this person had to deal with typical income tax rates that nearly doubled the capital gains tax rates. Therefore, yet another stockprice manipulation scheme became essentially mandatory--buying back publicly held shares in order to increase their value instead of issuing dividends which would be taxed as realtime income.

Since the (practically considered) equity market had its own causes and effects a la tulip-hoarding orgy of the 17th Century Netherlands, companies dealt with stock buyers who had not yet "come to Jesus."

Can you blame Ken Lay and the Arthur Anderson crowd for cooking the books to pretend to keep pace? Well, yes you can, but the rhetorical question of blame-placing still meets the mark because this is about cause and effect at least as much as morality per se.

All of this system of cause and effect occurred in an overall context that was sculpted at the margins "by Dubya's dad" (the 401(k)'s tuning/deployment/etc) and by Clinton's tilting of Wall Street incentives toward less short term speculation and toward more of the buy-and-hold strategy.

Did Clinton's "liberal" policies screw up the economy and bring down Enron? Not on your life. Life is far too complicated for that, and furthermore, I think that linkage between the dishonesty of Arthur Anderson and President Clinton, circa 1998, is just too much of a stretch. The "culture of dishonesty" theory (as hung on Bill Clinton) is a fair accusation, but the societal suffering that results by that legitimate hypothesis should be kicking into gear about now. Now is definitely not the time when Arthur Anderson's hired book cookers were assisting Ken Lay in the biggest accounting scandal in history.

This kind of analysis I more comfortably commit to the permanent record. When I look at some news event and then analyze or offer a hey-wait-a-minute-buddy retort on slashdot, well, that's different, way different. My confidence level is different.

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