Saturday, May 31, 2008

Connor on You Tube

I'll solve the energy problem in a bit.

But first, Connor in a (silent) You Tube video.

Student ID

He's the one with the sideburns and the blue sweater...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Clean Coal All Over My TV Screen

We've been watching more CNN in the primary season, and one thing I've noticed is the ads for "Clean Coal" are 24 x 7. This pisses me off.

No matter how you clean it up, coal is 60% to 91% carbon. High grade coal basicly is carbon. Burning it takes oxygen out of the air, binds it with the carbon, and produces carbon dioxide (or worse), the biggest greenhouse gas.

And in 100% of the power plants on earth, that carbon goes into the air, trapping heat, and changing the climate. The ads mention carbon sequestering, capturing it before it goes into the air. But that has never, ever, been done in a commercial power plant. Maybe someday.

But right now, coal use is climbing world wide. Why? It's cheap, old tech, easy to build, easy to run. And the world wants more electricity.

What are the choices?
  • Conservation: We could be a lot more efficient, so we could get more use with less electricity. In any plan, this has to happen. However, this won't be enough. Around the world people are getting their first refrigerators. People want a decent life, and are going to get one, coal or no coal.
  • Oil: Oil has less carbon than coal, about 40% in gasoline, with the rest as hydrogen. That's still a lot of carbon, and it's way more expensive than coal.
  • Natural gas: The cleanest of the fossil fuels is about 20% carbon and the rest is hydrogen. The infrastructure for natural gas is similar (but easier) to what pure hydrogen would need. Where I live in Oregon, the Sierra Club, (I am a member) has been lobbying against building a port to import natural gas by sea. In my mind this is counter productive, and will result in more coal power.
  • Hydrogen. 0% carbon, all hydrogen. Expensive (now), and will leak out of the tiniest holes. Burning hydrogen creates water. It can also generate electricity in fuel cell. The infrastructure is not built yet. It would be like the natural gas infrastructure. Pipelines and tanker ships.
  • Nuclear fission. Produces 0% carbon. Expensive and very toxic wastes. The US gets 20% of its electricity from nuclear power, and most of the reactors are nearing the end of their lifetime. The cheapest replacement for them is more coal plants.
  • Solar. 0% carbon. Tiny but growing. Expensive, and requires a back up (coal?) plant for when the sun is not shinning.
  • Wind. 0% carbon. Bigger and less expensive than Solar, but still tiny. Shares the same need of a back up plant, which could be coal, for when the winds die down.
  • Hydroelectric. 0% carbon. Requires big dams that flood large areas and disturb fisheries and habitats. Most of the good (as in they make a lot of electricity) dam sites already have dams on them.
Next. What to do?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The End of Publishing?

Last night, at a dinner with Mary Rosenblum and others from the Other Worlds Book Club, we talked about the future of publishing. Or the lack of one.

Today, the big publishers are all operating on razor thin profits, and are cutting back to only celebrity authors and best sellers. The bookstores only carry books by the big, New York, publishers.

This is not just a problem for authors. Where do readers go to find new books? It used to be if it was on the shelf at a big bookstore, it had a good chance of being a decent read. After all, a big publisher put it out. But if the shelves are full only of celebrity mommy books and best sellers the reader has already read, what then? Where do they find their new favorite author?

Random searching for your favorite genre on Amazon will yield a sea of titles. Many of them self-published, most of them awful.

So, from the readers point of view, what is the future of book finding? Mary thought that quality small presses could be come a brand that readers would use. Many were not so sure. Who notices the publisher? We talked about favorite book review blogs. If a blog gained your trust, you would try a new book it recommended. Or both. The reader might not know a "quality" small press from a "publish anything that gets submitted on" but the blogger might.

Whatever happens, interesting times ahead.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


My friend Garth Upshaw has a story in the current (May 2008) Clarkesworld. Check out Birdwatcher.

I critiqued an early version of this story, and while I can't claim any credit for the Garth's work, I do feel a slight sense of being there at the genesis. And this is Garth's first professional sale. Go Garth!