SOLAR ENERGY DEVICES
45 years ago, while I was out West visiting my parents during their
winter vacation, we drove down to Tucson one cool morning.
the way, we stopped to see the saguaro cacti at the Arizona-Sonora
Desert Museum, which bears the names of adjacent states in two
nations. In front of the entrance there was an enclosure
containing small desert lizards and large desert rocks.
lizards were basking in the morning sunshine, something like
this. Being cold-blooded, the reptiles couldn't pursue their
prey until their muscles were up to operating temperature, so they
were taking advantage of the sun-warmed black basalt.
like to think extinct creatures like Stegosaurus and Dimetrodon
(below) likewise used solar energy to get moving in the morning.
When they faced north/south, their fins could absorb the
heat of the morning sun. Later in the day, they could face
east/west to reorient those solar panels to radiate excess heat.
might it have been advantageous for large reptiles to have
backplates and sails?
a 35-foot monster gradually evolved into a 44-foot giant, its length
would increase by 26%. According to the square-cube
law, its skin area would increase by 58%, but the volume
of its body would increase by 99% almost doubling!
that much body mass, it would be helpful to have some thin
appendages that could provide extra skin surface for
thermoregulation, as do elephants' ears. Of course, we weren't
there to observe these ancient creatures' behavior. Did they
really turn sideways to the sun?
suggest another purpose for the mysterious features. They
might have been meant to impress a potential mate, like the crests
and tails of their warm-blooded distant descendants the cassowary and
Ohio city of Middletown, population nearly 50,000, was once in line
to get a television studio of its very own.
would be equipped with two CC-500 color cameras! Count 'em, two.
Several other nearby towns would send their leading citizens here to
be on TV. And I would be in charge!
that dream lived and died in a single year, 1973. I tell the
story in a new article called The
Studio That Would Never Be.
26, 2011 WE'RE
NOT THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
America exceptional? The majority likes to think so.
Does everything happen for a reason? The majority likes to
think so. However, many educated people know better.
Brockman of The Edge asked his fellow scientists, What
scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive
toolkit? Minnesota professor PZ Myers responded:
going to recommend the Mediocrity Principle. It's fundamental to
science, and it's also one of the most contentious, difficult
concepts for many people to grasp. And opposition to the
Mediocrity Principle is one of the major linchpins of religion and
creationism and jingoism and failed social policies.
are a lot of cognitive ills that would be neatly wrapped up and
easily disposed of if only everyone understood this one simple
idea. The Mediocrity Principle simply states that YOU AREN'T SPECIAL.
universe does not revolve around you,
planet isn't privileged in any unique way,
country is not the perfect product of divine destiny,
existence isn't the product of directed, intentional fate,
that tuna sandwich you had for lunch was not plotting to give you indigestion.
of what happens in the world is just a consequence of natural,
universal laws laws that apply everywhere and to everything,
with no special exemptions or amplifications for your benefit
given variety by the input of chance.
that you as a human being consider cosmically important is an accident.
of which is to say that life is devoid of purpose and meaning, only
that purpose and meaning are things we create
not things we discover out there in the fundamental
architecture of the world.
world keeps happening, in accordance with its rules; it's up to us
to make sense of it and give it value.
25, 2016 HAVE
WE THE WILL?
been revisiting some old speeches. For example, when President
George H.W. Bush took office, he said in his 1989 inaugural address:
have work to do. There are the homeless, lost and
roaming. There are the children who have nothing, no love, no
normalcy. There are those who cannot free themselves of
enslavement to whatever addiction drugs, welfare, the
demoralization that rules the slums. There is crime to be
conquered, the rough crime of the streets. There are young
women to be helped who are about to become mothers of children they
can't care for and might not love. ...[But] our funds are
low. We have a deficit to bring down. We have more will
I listened to that last line 27 years ago, I immediately
objected. No, Mr. President, its the other way
around! We have more wallet than will!
pretend that we the people are no longer able to keep
our Constitutional promise to promote the general
welfare. America is the richest nation in the world.
Our wallet is bulging. What we lack is the will to open it.
Martin Luther King, after his return from receiving the 1964 Nobel
Peace Prize in Scandanavia, reported: In both Norway and
Sweden, whose economies are literally dwarfed by the size of our
affluence and the extent of our technology, they have no unemployment
and no slums. There, men, women and children have long enjoyed
free medical care and quality education. This contrast to the
limited, halting steps taken by our rich nation deeply troubled me.
about the U.S. government deficit? Increase revenue.
Those of us who can afford it ought to give back more to the commonwealth.
corporate lobbyists have convinced the fearful and angry among us to
contribute tax money for armaments and never-ending wars, but many
tightfisted Americans have no inclination to contribute tax money to
improve their fellow citizens lives.
question is whether America will do it, Dr. King said in
Washington four days before his death. There is nothing
new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the
techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real
question is whether we have the will.
SIX MINUTES LEFT
I was a young football fan, stadium scoreboards merely approximated
the time remaining in a quarter. This one was at San
Francisco's Kezar Stadium. Both the 49ers, SF, and
the Oakland Raiders, O, called Kezar their home field
during the first part of the 1960 season.
a member of the upstart American Football League, the Raiders did
use the scoreboard clock for official time, though the National
Football League wouldn't follow suit until the 1970 merger.
Until then, television announcers kept reminding us that the official
time was being kept by an official on the field. It had always
been done that way, for all levels of football.
high school, I recall our superintendent Richard Fetter wearing a
tan raincoat during home games and standing on the field of play
about five yards behind the referee. He had been entrusted with
the responsibility of starting and stopping a handheld clock like
this darkroom timer. When it reached zero, a starter's pistol
was fired. There's the gun! It's all over!
in those days the NFL's scoreboard clock was inexact, it might
mislead the coaches. Therefore, when the official time got down
to two minutes left in the half, the referee would halt the game and
run over to first one bench and then the other to inform them of that fact.
now you know the origin of pro football's two-minute
warning, an ancient custom that is still observed. These
days it's a marker that certain special rules are now in effect, plus
an extra commercial break to build suspense if the score is close.
course, in almost every modern stadium even at the high school
level, the original reason for the warning no longer applies.
An official clock operator in the press box now controls digital
displays on the various scoreboards and TV screens.
20, 2011 THIS
IS MY LIFE
year, the Social Security Administration prepares us for retirement
by mailing us a lifetime summary of our annual earnings. Out of
curiosity, I graphed my numbers (blue line). I also adjusted
them for inflation based on what a dollar was worth in 1983; the
following discussion refers to these constant dollars
was employed for an entire year for the first time in 1971.
The next year, Marion CATV paid me $20,647 in constant dollars.
But then overtime was curtailed. Although I continued working
in local cable TV for the next decade, I never topped $20,000 again,
and there was a dip in earnings in 1980 when I was between jobs for
1982, as local origination job opportunities were fading
away, I moved on to regional sports remote telecasts, the next level
(yellow tint). Ive been fortunate to be employed in this
line of work ever since. My earnings peaked at $28,663 in 1988,
the first year that I worked full-time as a freelancer.
When first posted in 2011, this graph didn't include the green and
purple line segments. I added them after my 2020 retirement.
earnings in 1983 dollars over 50 years: $1,867,448.
to 2021 dollars: $3,146,819.
didnt reach the third level of income (green tint) until the
second half of the 1990s. Thats when I traveled a lot for
Fox Sports Nets national telecasts, making $43,820 in 2000.
2002 Ive been working mostly around Pittsburgh (no tint).
The only year I approached the 2000 earnings record was 2006, when I
traveled with the Pirates for ten weeks of nonstop baseball.
theres my 40-year career in one graph. What does it all
mean? Well, if I retire a couple of years from now, Social
Security will send me monthly checks totaling $24,000 per year (blue
star), which will be worth about $11,000 in 1983 dollars (red
star). Until they run out of money, that is.
ON DAY ONE
on the campaign trail traditionally promise to act as soon as
possible on their highest-priority policy issues. They tell us
what they'll do immediately, on their first day in office.
President-Elect Joe Biden has a list of about a dozen executive
actions planned for Wednesday.
years ago, what were Donald Trump's top priorities for January 20,
2017? A website
lists his promises, including the following excerpts from speeches:
one of my administration, we're getting all of the criminals
out. Day one, my first hour in office, those people are gone!
will immediately suspend the admission of Syrian refugees.
will get rid of gun-free zones in schools. My first day it
gets signed. My first day.
every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum, and order
issued by President Obama. Believe me, they're gonna be
unsigned so fast, they'll be unsigned the first hour I'm in office.
may not be surprised to learn that not all of that happened.
Trump's real top priority was himself, of course specifically,
staying in office as long as possible. One thing he did
accomplish on Day One was to file a form with the Federal Election
Commission declaring that he qualified as a candidate for re-election
on Day 30, nine thousand supporters attended a Keep America
Great event in Florida.
incumbent president had ever held a re-election campaign rally that
early in his term. It almost worked.
most respects, daily life is easier now than when I was growing
up. But dealing with packaged products has become more difficult.
all started in 1982
when some evil person bought bottles of Tylenol acetaminophen, opened
the capsules, inserted cyanide, then replaced the bottles on store
shelves. Random purchasers died. Johnson & Johnson
had to recall 31 million bottles, discontinue capsules in favor of
one-piece caplets, and protect their bottles with
tamper-evident safety seals.
bought some macadamias the other day. In olden days, I might
have scooped the nuts from an open barrel and dumped them into a
paper bag, but since the Tylenol incident, precautions have been
added. The nuts were sealed inside a plastic tub.
bringing them home, I needed to remove the lid from the tub.
However, I discovered, first I had to remove a safety ring protecting
its perimeter. Using the scissors I always keep handy in the
kitchen, I cut a slit into the plastic ring so I could grab a little
bit of it and peel it all away. Now the lid was unlocked and I
could snap it off. But could I reach the nuts? No
way. There was a sheet of plastic film glued across the top of
the tub, with a little flap for pulling it off. I did so, only
to discover there was a second layer of clear plastic underneath,
this time with no tab. I stabbed it with my scissors, reached
into the slit, and peeled it off as well.
time: about two minutes. (Total time to create this
illustration, grumbling: about forty minutes.) Was all
this necessary? Well, I suppose so; the macadamias were
delicious, and no one had poisoned them. On the other hand,
opening a six-ounce box of raspberries required no special procedures
LET'S SPEND ANOTHER $900,000,000
two long months, donors from across the nation poured their
hard-earned dollars into an effort to influence Senate elections in a single
state. And they may have succeeded, because the U.S.
Senate will now be under the control of a different party.
my new article titled Slow-Ripening
I tell how segregationist legislation in 1963 led to this year's
runoffs. Also, I explain how a procedure called RCV could have
ascertained the winners much more quickly and economically.
PART OF THE PLAN
are a couple of photos I took today, only five miles from my apartment.
Marcellus shale natural gas well has recently been drilled on a
hillside farm overlooking the Pittsburgh Mills shopping mall.
The fracking process has been completed, gas is flowing, and now the
wellhead is being flared.
Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them
the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go
by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by
day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.
ominously over the shopping mall is a brilliant pillar of fire.
By night, it illuminates the parking lots with its flickering orange
glow, which can be seen from many parts of the valley. Gases
escaping at high speed produce a constant roar like a taxiing jet
aircraft. But were told its all under control.
local newspaper explains that flaring is a safe way of burning off
the initial gases rather than letting them vent into the atmosphere.
should be complete in another day or so, they tell us. Then
theyll start collecting the natural gas for use, rather than
just letting it escape, and local shoppers will no longer cower in
fear beneath the Olympic-size flame.
MARRYING? ARE YOU CRAZY?
grew up in Ohio's Union County. From a January 8, 1945,
article in my old hometown's newspaper, the Richwood Gazette:
The annual report of Probate Judge John W. Dailey, forwarded
to the state departments, shows that an even 100 marriage licenses
were issued during the year. Six were committed to the state
hospitals for insane.
LOSING THE EARLY LEAD
been nine contentious weeks since the Presidential election.
Long before that, Donald Trump was complaining about the way
television was going to report the results. Sure enough, he
seemed to be winning on Election Night, largely on the basis of
in-person voting. But then it came time to tally the mail-in
and absentee ballots. After millions of Joe Biden votes had
been added illegally, Trump's supporters claim Biden
was declared the winner.
I was broadcasting election returns when a similar situation
developed. Conservative precincts were reported first, but I
warned my radio listeners that the ranking of those partial totals
could change as the evening went on. Sure enough, the
late-reporting radical enclaves dramatically turned the
tide. Was this scenario the result of manipulation? Who's
referring, of course, to the 1968 Oberlin College Student Senate
elections. The story is this month's 100 Moons article.
THE RICH GET RICHER
the Standard & Poor's 500 stock market index
fluctuates up and down from day to day. When the market
plunges, should they get out? Certainly not, writes Sam Ro in
the Yahoo Finance Morning Brief. Panicking is a horrible
investment strategy that results in missing out on much of what's
historically been an upward trending market.
the longer view as charted on the right, in some years (red) the
S&P closes lower than it did the year before, but in most (green)
it closes higher. Since 1928, two out of three years have been green.
the end of the extraordinary year just ended, the S&P was up
more than 16%, having recovered more than 60% since its March 23
low. Why? Investors see brighter days ahead for
corporate profits, writes Myles Udland.
amazed by the graph on the left from Deutsche Bank strategist Jim
Reid. It smooshes the years all together. The blue line
consists of 365 points. The leftmost point represents the
average S&P 500 on New Year's Day, averaged over the last nine
decades. The next point is for January 2nd, the third January 3rd,
and so on.
to Ro, on average, stocks start the year at a level and embark
on a bumpy path only to end the year much higher. To be
precise, 12% higher on average. In 20 of the last 90 years (as
shown on the first graph), at least 25% higher.
one can try to time the market for individual stocks,
but for broad-based funds, buy low and hold! That's what I
do. If some components of the fund are underperforming, the
fund's managers will replace them.
I'm almost ashamed to admit that, as the only child of a successful
businessman without dependents of my own, I've been able to
comfortably invest in the market while so many of my fellow Americans
can't afford it. Many are jobless. Many are having to
burn through whatever savings they may have had.
top 1 + 9
= 10 percent of us, by income, have cornered all but 7%
of the market, by share value. And according
to the Washington Post,
45 of the 50 biggest U.S. corporations have actually turned a profit
since the pandemic began (largely by cutting staff) and have given
the bulk of that profit to whom else? shareholders like me.
a more equitable distribution of wealth. As former Secretary
of Labor Robert Reich tweeted recently:
stock market is not the economy. There is no longer one
American economy. There are two.
and professionals who work from home.and
have invested in the stock market.
in free fall.
families hit the highest rate of hunger in 22 years.
capitalism is totally off the rails. From
now on, all policies must be judged by how well they help 2.