Translate this Blog

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Upside of Utility Deregulation

There is a positive outcome from the deregulation of utilities that as fostered during the Reagan Administration. That deregulation made it possible for competing gas suppliers and traditional electricity suppliers to compete and allegedly lower the cost to consumers. There was a secondary and some say an unintended consequence to that deregulation.

At the time of the changes to laws and regulations no one had ever heard of a commercial-grade solar or wind sourced supplier being able to generate electricity and move it to market.

What the deregulation process created was the ability for a legacy utility company to continue to deliver the commodities and charge a delivery fee separate from the actual commodity. The original idea was that small and competing providers could sell their commodity to the utility and they would blend it in with their own material. Then the idea of selling directly to the consumer took over.

Today, many Americans are able to choose the electricity supplier they want to buy from. Such providers may source some or all of their electricity from the wind or solar sources. Best of all the legacy utility company will deliver for the same fee as they do their own electricity.

A quick search of the Internet using ones zipcode can determine if there is the opportunity to buy electricity from an alternative source. Billing is transparent and seamless so there is no need to get two bills from two different companies. There is no investment to pay for. There are only yearly contracts to adhere to. While the price today may be a bit higher than coal, nuclear or hydro-electric power, the far smaller carbon footprint will make any ecologically sensitive consumer satisfied.

When I chose wind power I agreed to pay 0.5 cents more per kilowatt-hour.  That was a small price to pay for knowing that I was doing something good for the environment. Now I don't fret about leaving the light on.


Every time a consumer chooses to buy electricity from a wind or solar sourced utility provider they make it possible for that company to build more capacity. New alt sources are faster and easier to bring online. Similarly, as the technologies are improved, there is no need to stay stuck with the old tech.

Every time an investor with a conscious thinks about the choice between a legacy power source and a modern alternative source, he, she, they make it possible  to have energy AND a sustainable environment.
"That which brought us through the past century will not sustain us through the next one."

Tweet This Post
Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

WMATA 7000 Series Rail Cars

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) that operated the Metro Rail system in DC always has great intentions in the improvements they plan and implement. However, at the saying goes ""no good deed goes unpunished." Such is the case of the acquisition of the new 7000 series rail cars that will be put into full service on the Blue line on April 14 this year. While the quality of safety and serviceability are not part of the purview of this blog post, there are customer comfort issues that remain open for complaint and possible reconsideration of the basis of the decision to design the interiors in the manner they have.

 "Elements of the car that were influenced by customer feedback include: Interior layout, including placement of hand holds, privacy screens and seat positions." this statement (taken from the WMATA website) neglects the fact that such decision adversely impact certain passengers who are by no means unique on the train cars.

The decision to forego stanchions in the areas of the doors may improve pedestrian flow into and out of the cars, but it does create hazards by their absence. There are two Series of cars that are involved in this decision making. The new 7000 Series cars are lacking in sufficient hand holds and the remodeled 6000 Series cars have the same issues.

As a wheelchair using Metro Rail rider for the past 21 years, I have seen the issues I describe first-hand. The absence of a stanchion somewhere between 12 and 18 inches inside the doorway to pull against to enter the car is a serious hazard. The fact that in practice most MetroRail car floors do not match the platform elevation withing ADA required parameters makes the placement of auxiliary leverage points, i.e. stanchions necessary. Without them boarding is many time foiled and a second "running start" necessary to complete the boarding.

The other aspect of the lack of stanchions inside the doorways is that when the train cars reach Standing Room Only (SRO) and there is a crowd of people standing around my wheelchair they reflexively reach for my hardware to keep from falling either on me or on the floor. I may look like something to grab a hold of, but I am as loose a cannon as are they when the train lurches to a stop or pulls out fast.

A colleague of mine who is not as stable on her feet as she used to be was horrified when she entered a remodeled 6000 series car only to find herself in the midst of a wide open expanse with nothing to hold on to until she could wend her way through a few standees to request a seat as close to yet far from the door.

WMATA has a history of doing what it believes is a good thing for many riders while simultaneously impeding others. Case in point is the placement of these sign stanchions at the bottom of platform escalators. By placing those stanchions precisely as they did, they were about two inches too close to the sidewall for a wheelchair to pass to the right of the escalator and avoid the narrow platform on the left side where people like to congregate in order to board the front cars of the train. All of the focus groups and presentations cannot replace good design thinking in the first place.
Tweet This Post
Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

That Third Cup of Coffee

That Third Cup of Coffee

Coffee drinkers all know the drill. They finish their second cup of coffee and everything is going well. The good feeling prompts you to have another. That is the fatal error. All too soon you have to get up and head to the "facilities." There is an urgency to the mission that just cannot be resisted. For most of us the need to remedy the coffee conundrum doesn't involve flying a plane with a co-pilot that as it turns out is suicidal.

The pilot of the Germanwings Airbus stepped out of the cockpit probably to use the head and was summarily locked out by his co-pilot. No amount of pleading moved him to change his mind after he decided that his suicide needed 149 other deaths to make it worthwhile and memorable.

The anti-hijack protocols enacted internationally require that the cockpit door be closed and locked against intruders during the flight. Once the pilot stepped out and the door was locked, he, the crew and passenger were at the mercy of the only person who could stop the impending disaster. There a method for locked out pilots to regain the cockpit but that system can and must be able to be disabled from inside the cockpit.

On US Domestic flights there is a requirement for a third crew member to occupy the cockpit in the event that one of the pilots needs to step out. This guards against unfortunate disabling of the second pilot but does not guard against malicious intent. If there is foul play that replacement crew member just might be the first to go.

It is tragic that such an event as the Germanwings flight crash ever happens but that metaphorical "Third Cup of Coffee" would not have meant the end of 150 lives in this incident if the pilot did not have to leave the control to the man who had misplaced trust in him. I suspect that the foreign air carriers will now alter their cockpit protocols to avoid the conditions that allowed such a horrible crash to happen.



Saturday, March 21, 2015

Water Shortage in the Cinema

The conflict over water is not a new one. The battle has raged on for decades. Now in our current times, that struggle only grows larger and more fractious. America has grown multi-billion industries around the plentiful flow of water for their processes. At the same time america has grown its population and therein it need for water for life itself.

Water is so essential that at one point in time oil tankers that millions of barrels of oil TO the United States were beginning to refill their holds with fresh water from the Hudson River and taking it back to the Middle East. This water was on a fast track to the open sea anyway but the Ports Authority of NY/NJ counted it as theft of US resources and wanted paid for the amount of river water thusly conveyed.

Other Middle East fresh water projects included the idea of harnessing massive icebergs in the Antarctic and towing them to a mooring location where they could be harvested for their fresh water.

Las Vegan has proposed spending over $3 billion to construct a 260 mile pipeline to bring water to their city. Even though the city is rapidly depleting its only water source, Lake Mead, the pipeline project has been held up for years in environmental reviews and permitting,

Film producers have not been quiet on the topic of water shortages and water rights issues for a long time. There are some films that are directly involved with water struggles and other merely peripherally. These films are not just examples of US strife but the entire globe.

The Milagro Beanfield War (1988) centered on one man's obsession to plant a beanfield and use water that flowed by it in an open channel. The trouble was there was a wealthy land speculator who wanted all the water for his residential and golf course project in the valley. Therein lay the conflict. The water was all allocated by powerful people who did not care about the indigenous peoples who had been on the land for generations.

Even the Rain (2010) was set in Bolivia where the water and all distribution rights were sold to a private corporation so that the capital city could continue to use water the way it wanted to do. The indigenous peoples were forcibly restrained from gathering and holding "even the rain."

Even the Hollywood movie, Chinatown (1974) was about the intrigues of the Mulholland era water management projects to make living the desert of Los Angeles possible.

As far back as the building of the hydro-electric dams by the Tennessee Valley Authority there has been contentious actions on both side of the issue. The only real argument over water rights can take place where there is water in the first place.

One might wonder what the cinema will say about the droughts that plague the people of the planet Earth 10, 20, 50 years from now. We saw the forced migration of farming families due to the 1930 Dust Bowl and its treatment in literature and film with John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940). There are other books and films that address the trials and tribulations of the shortage of water, but these four are a sampler. We may yet see our future in the recent past.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Water Filter Straws and More

Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.
While researching material for Vulnerable Geometry blog posts, I came across the WATERisLIFE.com website. Their solutions for clean drinking water are so simple. Although simple, they are not free to implement and maintain. They need a sustainable flow of funds that will allow people to avoid the pathogens in their water that Americans take for granted. Even when our tap water is not up to regulation standards, it is still far cleaner and safer than water is in most of the world.

WATERisLIFE.com is leading the way with solutions that we may need in our future if we cannot find the political will to maintain our infrastructure.

The first stage in remediation is to provide filter straws like the one show here for particularly children to use to avoid Typhus, e.Coli, Cholera, and a myriad of parasites and amoebas.Visit their site to read more about how this device works and the follow up projects for establishing safe clean water supplies. Most of all considering donating to the cause. Every dollar helps. The fate of a billion people is heavily influenced by their quality of the water they must use.

Once again read the material at WATERisLIFE.com. They also have a Twitter account at @WaterisLife. Spread their word.


Tweet This Post

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Coal Ash: Then and Now

In the summer of 1979, a group of friends of mine and I forded a back channel of the upper Allegheny River in Warren, Pennsylvania to camp on an island situated adjacent to a coal fired electric generation plant. To get there we had to hike past the ash pit that had accumulated over years of generating electricity.

The pits were being services and the orange-brown effluent was obvious in the low-lying areas. Though the site was ugly, the island was small and uninhabited except for a few birds and snakes that frequented the forested spit of land. The water in the main channel are as cold as the bottom of a reservoir but the back channel was extremely warm "fresh" from cooling the machinery. The Kinzua Dams is only a few miles upstream from this site.

These ash pits were located only a few feet above "normal pool elevation" and would periodically get flooded when the river flow was high.

since that day in 1979 the coal burning plant was closed and the ash pits remediated. Sometime around 1990 the ash was dug up and relocated at a higher elevation. It was still on-site, but it was sealed in an area with an impervious bottom lining and top cover. With the rain kept at bey the amount of run-off has been minimalized. The water that does leak out does so via a drain into a catch basin where it can be removed and treated.

This third image is the aerial view of the site now. Ash storage is in the upper left quadrant. The square catch basin is clearly in the center and the location of the former pits along the river are now grassy fields. There is no coal pile ready to be burned and no smoke and CO2 to foul the air.

Such sites can be rehabilitated, but should only be done so at the expense of the utilities that were for so long allowed to neglect the "externalities" of their business model, i.e. land, air and water pollution.


Tweet This Post

Sunday, March 15, 2015

If I Had a Billion Dollars

If you had 1 billion dollars, your could explore for gas or oil or even open a coal mining operation with your investment. In doing so you would be investing in an 18th century energy source that certainly has a deleterious impact on the environment. Your meager contribution to the warming of the planet may in and of itself be minimal, but with all the other investors doing the same, the effect is cumulative. The Laws of Thermodynamics are absolute. You cannot break them. They will break you. Or brake you.

with your 1 billion dollars you could also invest in a massive wind turbine farm or a PV solar array that generates electricity without adding carbon dioxide to the air or massive amounts of previously stored heat. You would earn your profits with a non-polluting 21st century technology. The decision would be yours to make as the owner of the capital.

Whether or not the activities of 307 million Americans are altering the planet is not as big a deal as the activities of 3 billon people who reside on the India subcontinent and in China. Everyone is adding his small contribution to the alteration of the planet.

"The biggest peril that humans face is not war. It is not hurricanes. It's not a pandemic disease. It's not even sea level rise due to Arctic ice melt. What it is is the change in weather patterns that impact the availability of fresh water and the growing of food crops. The summer of 2012 brought with it a US Heartland drought that decimated the crop yields. The East Coast received more than its share of precipitation as the weather patterns had shifted a thousand miles eastward. So far the world has only been inconvenienced by Supply and Demand price increases. Two or three years of this shifted weather pattern could make the total amount of food produced be too little to feed everyone." Source

Sao Paulo, Brazil has not gotten nearly enough rainfall to maintain reservoir levels in light of the 20 million people who live there and rely on that rain. The Summer of 2015 will be critical for the lives of those people as the water faucets slow to a drip. In a similar vein, Los Angeles and the California farm land are facing the same drought conditions with a Summer 2016 doom-date.

"Let's put Global climate Change in its proper perspective. What ever the causes, whatever the magnitude, we humans need to figure out how we will live in the New Equilibrium." Source

We human beings have the ingenuity and intelligence to solve our environment problems and distribute fresh water to every city and population center on the planet. We have the capacity to design other ways to do what we do without consuming massive amounts of water. We only need the will to do it.

Maybe you groused at my suggestion that "if you had $1 billion to invest." While you and I don't have that level of wealth, there are many people who do. It is they who need to be influenced and convinced to make their profits in way that do not hurt the rest of us (and themselves.)

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Oil Pipeline, Phooey, California Needs WATER pipelines.

Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.
We all argue about the XL pipeline to transport Canadian Tarsand oil to the Gulf of Mexico when we should have been planning and building a WATER pipeline from somewhere there IS water to California where it IS NOT.

California legislators allowed natural gas drillers to both use millions of gallons of water per well AND to allow them to do "deep injection" of waste water into the ground in areas where cities and agriculture needed to draw water out of wells. Now as rain fails and winter snow pack in the Colorado Rockies is too low to sustain river flow, California is facing a mega shortage of water.

Sao Paulo, Brazil is facing its own crises but on a shorter calendar. Estimates are they have about 60 days of water in reserve. Unless the rains replenish the reservoirs they will have 20 million people scrambling for water by Summer.
Tweet This Post

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Joys of Gas Fracking

The Joys of Gas Fracking

Tweet This Post

Here are a few benefits and detriments to having hydraulic fracturing operations in your neighborhood.


How they frack in SW Texas. Each white patch is a well.

* Leaking methane into the air and into the ground water

Once the shale layers are broken by the application of intense water pressure and held open by sand there is additional opportunity for the methane to flow to the desired conduit but it cannot be contained from also leaking into the groundwater and be expressed to the air by other previously drilled and poorly sealed wells in the area. The gas will seek the "path of least resistance" to the surface. If that is a residential or agricultural water well the gas will be dissolved in the water and come out like a carbonated beverage when the bottle is opened.

* Micro seismic activity

All that deep internal pressure in the rock layers will give rise to undesired cracking and that by definition is seismic activity, i.e. an earthquake. Small ones may be a nuisance but cumulative pressurizing of the strata may cause a damaging quake as it has in some heavily fracked regions.

* Toxic chemicals going into the ground and coming back out leak into GW

Fracturing used a cocktail of elements and compounds in the drilling and rock fracturing stages that are highly toxic and dangerous to humans, plant and wildlife. The cutting head of the drill turns the rock into fine particle that emerge as mud. This mud has all the chemicals that were put into the well and all the materials that were previously buried deep in the earth. These elements and compounds contain heavy metals (lead, arsenic, mercury, uranium, et al) and radioactivity. These items also leak into the groundwater causing it to be useless for human use.

* Drill cuttings must be disposed of somewhere

The drill cuttings must be disposed of somewhere. Typically it is stored on-site until the well is completed then it is either abandoned in place or transported off to be "processed". Some unscrupulous operators just truck it away and dump it where ever they want to.

* Drill cuttings have heavy metals and elevated levels of radioactivity

Drill cuttings are highly toxic as discussed above.

* Drill water that comes back out is toxic and must be contained and treated

Drill water and fracking water do not stay in the ground. It comes back out and must be treated else it contaminates the well site and everywhere around it. Treating it is not as simple as treating residential sewage which is primarily a biological process to degrade and remove organic compounds.

* 24/7 diesel generator noise and exhaust

Due to the locations of drill pads they must generate their own electricity to power the drilling equipment, light the place at night, pump water at high pressure. These generators are noisy and smell of diesel exhaust.

* Noise and vibration from high-pressure water pumps

There is a lot of vibration from the high-pressure pumps and the drilling equipment. Time is money when the operation costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per day. 24/7 operations are essential to the operation due to the costs. This nuisance must be borne by the human neighbors of every drill pad.

How they frack in Shreveport, LA


* Wells use multiple millions of gallons of water that must be trucked in

Most drill pads need to have water trucked in. Even if they last part of the delivery is by pipe, the entry point for the water usually is trucks. One million gallons of water requires in excess of 100 tank trucks. Typical water use is 5mg or 500 truckloads per site.

* Production wells need long pipe lines to move gas to collection points

Natural gas must be piped away from the wells. The gas be transported to a collection/transfer point.

* Gas collection/transfer points need to compress gas for transmission pipes

Before the gas can be introduced into a transmission line, it must be compressed to the high-pressure level of the transmission line. This requires yet another noisy diesel facility running 24/7.

* Well casings get old and crack over time

Even a new well can have problems with casing leaks but older one will eventually leak due to cracking and aging of the casing materials. Once a well is drilled it may sit, capped and awaiting actual production.

* There never is only one well. They are created in clusters of 5 to 10.

A drill pad is never alone as a single unit. Wells are drilled in clusters to make benefit of the closeness for supply delivery and production piping.

* Hundreds of truckloads of water, diesel fuel and chemicals create traffic

One million gallons of any liquid requires 100 truckloads (when using 10,000 gallon tanks.

* Truck accidents, pavement damage, shoulder damage and tight turns at intersections

10,000 gallons of water and the truck that carries it weight over 80,000 lbs (40 Tons). Road pavement wear is accelerated at those weights. Local bridges and culverts may not be rated for that range of weight. Smaller tanks are lighter but require more deliveries. More tank trucks mean more noise, congestion, opportunities for motor vehicle and pedestrian collisions. Most of the rural roads were not designed for heavy truck use therefore shoulder stability and intersection turning radii may not be adequate.

* Elevated crime levels are collateral with drilling operations.

Many new people in the community coming from all over the country are not "community minded." They are there for the paycheck and work. High levels of excess money from paychecks encourages illicit used for things like drugs and prostitution. While this may be good for drug dealers and prostitutes, it is contrary to the character of the existing community.

* Noise is a nuisance

Industrial land uses are not compatible with residential, tourist and agricultural land uses. The protracted periods of noise generation will be detrimental to the community

* Property values are negatively impacted by proximity to wells and drilling

When there is perceived or actual degradation of the landscape existing land and real estate values fall when located at or near a drilling operation. A study indicates a 5 to 10% in values within 0.9 miles of a drill site.
* Production intervals are usually short leading to shutdowns and abandonment

In takes a year or so to drill a well and prepare it for production. Most wells playout in a few years and may require additional fracturing to boost the output later in its lifecycle. Many times the well is merely shut down and/or abandoned. Bankruptcies are rife in this boom and Bust industry. Every bankruptcy filing seeks to limit the liability of the debtor in order to get out from under its obligations. This includes damage mitigation and remediation/reclamation of the well sites.

* Many out of town workers who are highly experienced in drilling.

Most drill site employees are experienced workers who travel to the well sites and work there until the drilling/fracturing operation is completed. Local talent is usually not employed at these sites.

* Only ancillary jobs for locals.

Restaurants, motels, grocery stores and pharmacies are the main beneficiaries of the drilling industry moving into town. But don't be fooled into expanding existing businesses because the industry packs up and leaves just as fast as it arrives.

The benefits of drilling for gas in your neighborhood.

* A few owners of larger parcels of land will be the ones who can sign a lease

The lot a house sits on is not sufficient in most cases for a drill pad construction. Apartments and condominiums are even less able to host a drill operation. The few large land owners are the ones who can sign a lease and be paid a royalty. They will be profiting at the expense of their neighbors who get little say in what takes place across their mutual property lines.

* County gets a short term boost in property tax revenues

While the county may derive a short term increase in property tax revenues, that doesn't last. Damage to roads and culvert, increases in policing, and other emergency services will easily overwhelm the increases in local revenues.

* People who are the "closers" that get permits approved and leases signed earn commissions

There is no guarantee that the people who "close" the deals will be the people who do the drilling and the production. Many signed leases and drilling permits are resold to make the profit without the company having to do anything.

* Financial incentives to local government can be lucrative.

Financial incentives to local government can be too great to pass up. Some "incentives" are outright bribes while others are promises of the betterment of the community for the sake of the residents.

* Local suppliers who can ramp up to provide goods and services can get new business

Things to remember.

* Keep in mind that there are two sides of the Equal Sign.

This equals That. Where there is a remuneration being paid, there are cost to cover. One must make sure that all he costs are covered or the deal is not a good one.

* The fracking boom is always short lived.

Drilling booms always go bust. They are all short-lived. They are no different that the S&L bust of the 1980s, the Tech-stock bust of the 2000s, the mortgage/housing boom/bust of 2007-9. Many localities are already Gone Bust and are sitting on an industrial wasteland.

* The damage done to the land, and water is an "externality" as far as the corporations are concerned.

That is, they drill for resources. They don't clean up after themselves. That is some other businesses' business.

* Drillers are speculators. They use other peoples' money to fund their drilling operations.

No driller ever cares anything about the land, communities or people who are in their way and constitute an expense and reduction of their profits.

* Producing gas is an "externality" as far as the driller is concerned.

Drillers don't care about production. They have already made their money drilling the hole.

* Many companies that get the permits issued and the leases signed only do so to sell those permits and leases at a profit to someone who will actually drill.

* Someone has to lay pipe lines between the production wells and the collection/transfer points.

* There are already tens-of-thousands of capped non-producing and unfinished well in the country.

* Many drilling/finishing enterprises file for bankruptcy and walk away from the sites when they get in over their heads.

* Profit is privatized. Loses are socialized. Expect to file lengthy lawsuits to get the drill sites remediated when they fail.

In the end, this nation needs natural gas to heat homes, run industries, generate electricity, drive some converted motor vehicles. Not all of that gas needs to come from every possible parcel of land in the country. There is a need for most things sometime, but not everything all of the time. Planned developments work far better than a haphazard development of anything anywhere. This is why we created land use zoning in the first place.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

How Rider Behaviors Impact MetroRail Experience

Anyone who is a daily commuter on the Nation's Metro Rail system knows, it doesn't take much to bog down the timely trip to work and home. One person standing on the left on any escalator will evoke the ire of the people behind him/her. One lane of people could be getting in or out of the station a minute faster if EVERYONE adhered to that commuter etiquette. And a minute is a long time when you are "in a hurry." Just keep in mind that it took the Personal Computer to make 3 seconds into an unbearably long time.

Another behavior that slows down the flow is when a person, with a wheelie bag or not, stands about halfway between the platform edge and the back wall to wait for the next train. That position creates maximum impedance to the flow of people both in front of and behind that person. Rushing the open door before everyone who wants to get out has gotten out is yet another rider behavior that cascades failures all the way back up the line for several stations. That behavior leads to the biggest disruption of all.

One of the most common disruptions to the daily commute is the Door Jammer. He or she feels that one more person actually can get on that train and not wait for the next one. Granted is that Metro Rail Car Door mechanism have aged and are easy to knock out of alignment. Granted is that they can fail to close even when nobody has his elbow or her bag in the doorway. But most of the causes of disabled train are due to door jams and subsequent complete failures. Too many people trying to push in to the car and feeling completely justified in doing so because they have been waiting for two or three trains to get on. They have been late before and "Darn it, not today again."

No amount of maintenance and repair or even complete car replacement will correct for the anxious passenger who just has to get on this train, Now. The Red Line in particular is a very heavily used rail line. It will continue to experience breakdown blamed on numerous factors, not the least of which is rider behavior.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Here are six exquisite films about the actions and plight of Man and his short-sighted ways.


Tweet This Post
Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ruminations on Ants And Beer

I had just returned from a week long interval on the road doing the job I have come really enjoy providing some of my years of experience to small transit providers in some of the most out of the way places left in America. This is not to say that they are insignificant or lacking in importance. What it is to say is that the smallest transit companies are extra lean on management and that makes them cost efficient but lacking in the opportunities to address the big picture because they are addressing the immediate picture. The managers of such operations can imagine the larger horizon but do not have the luxury of spare time to pursue activities that do not yield immediate satisfaction.

My morning consisted of sleeping in to compensate for the long days on the road and the lack of contiguous hours of uninterrupted sleep that so often accompanies business travel to places in strange time zones where the sun is not where it is supposed to be when you are starting out the day or finishing one up. The mundane chores of dumping a week’s load of dirty laundry in the machine and catching up on the groceries filled the remainder of the morning.

Most of the afternoon was consumed furthering the progress on my house project to replace the soffits. Waiting for the afternoon sun to cast the work area in shadow is the most intelligent approach to getting this summer-long project completed without reaching the point of exhaustion before the job is done. Of course the interruptions by work travel makes this project longer than if the task was worked on a little bit each day.

Fortunately the heat of the day had moderated and the humidity was not so oppressive that one did not wish to venture out of doors. I put in my Saturday hours demolishing the old soffits on the east end of the house and decided that the presence of wasps entering and leaving the corner of the house signaled my time to break for the day.

After blowing all the dust and debris off my clothing and skin with the compressed air chuck I settled into evening recovery mode. I keyed up a CD of ethereal Native American music called “Burning Sky” and leaned back with a bottle of Newcastle beer. The bottle cap flipped through the air on its way to the glass table top before bouncing and landing on the weathered wooden deck a few feet from mine.

The sky above was mostly blue with a few clumps of cloud chasing each other along on an easterly bearing. My backyard sky is just a small piece of the whole and is constrained by the close horizon that makes my world there very small and comforting. In South Dakota, from where I just returned, the sky way very big. The anvil of land made the horizon quite far indeed. The world is much larger out there but being so close to the surface makes people see so much less of it. One must be able to get above the topography to see farther.

Near my feet a few tiny ants scurried about in their ant-pursuits. These were not the typical brown ants that usually populate your kitchen floor. They were only about one-fourth that size. Midgets in a world of dwarfs, with all due respect to people of small stature.

I realized that they were so small that even if they could ponder their existence and the why and wherefores, they would be blind to my presence towering over them. One philosopher-ant might dare to postulate the existence of a superior being or a loving god who watches over each and every one of them only to be scorned by the nay-sayers who refuse to accept such existences without irrefutable evidence. A human being is so different from them that they might not even recognize me as a living thing at all. I might merely be another terrestrial surface upon which they tread seeking access to food and hospitable habitat.

Just as they are miniscule as compare to me, so might I be to such a being that I too cannot fathom. I know that even in their sub-millimeter stature, that there are dust mites that live under the scales of their insect exo-skeletons.

As I look to the celestial regions, my planet may only be an electron to a galactic nucleus and all galaxies may be atoms in the molecules of a far greater DNA than anyone has ever dared imagine.

The ants were not fussing about at random. There was purpose in their movements. They were converging on the upturned beer bottle cap that landed in their world a few minutes earlier. Manna from Heaven perchance. I wondered if their anxious masses had prayed for deliverance from a famine and draught. Each of these little bodies were smaller than the hairs on my forearms. Each of those hairs had more mass that any one of those ants. Yet the ant-mass had mobility, intent and proclivities that are lacking in the hairs of my arm. It was then that I felt compelled to retrieve my tablet and pen. I always write better when first putting pen to paper than hacking away at a keyboard.

Within the circular world of the bottle cap with its corrugated boundary was a gram or two of the beer that adhered to the cap surface as my cap lifter pried it loose and sent it tumbling through space and landing on the wide plane of the backyard deck. They found it quite rapidly.

Soon there was a colony of ants sipping at the Nectar of the Gods. I wondered if the alcohol made them drunk. Did they sing their way home after neglecting their assigned duties too long? Do any of them become morose and sardonic when partaking of the brew? Does anyone become belligerent and boorish with too much of a good thing? Will they be chastised for being less than virtuous? Will any of them say, “shut up, Bitch, I’m not that drunk. And if I am, it’s none of your business?” Will they even know what hit them?

I only know that 24 oz. of the stuff compared to my body size is quite ample to wax me philosophic. The beer and the music and the absolutely perfect evening have converged to make me not care if I am part of something bigger or not, although they are not enough to make me stop thinking that I am. A light breeze blows from the east across the expanse of the deck and makes the trees gently sway allowing the rays of the sun through the leaves to occasionally find my face.

More on Swirl Theory

Swirl Theory

Ever wonder why it is that you never heard of something and then suddenly you hear and see several references to that very thing in the next few days? Do you ever not see an old friend for years and when someone mentions him/her you cross paths in the oddest location? Have you watched a movie and be impressed by an actor/actress who you never heard of and the next movie or two later, there he/she is again? Well there is Swirl Theory to explain what is going on.

The cause and effect relationship applies to events that are in direct proximity to each other. When one billiard ball strikes another the striking ball changes direction and speed. It imparts direction and speed to the target ball and it rolls away from its original position or changes its speed and direction if it too was already in motion. Sir Isaac Newton described this relationship with the equation Force=Mass times Acceleration (F=Ma) . This relationship between the two billiard balls is wholly predictable and replicable. What is less apparent is that two objects can pass near to each other and exhibit a cause and effect relationship.

This lesser obvious relationship is also wholly measurable and understood by physicists as a Gravitational, Electrical, or Magnetic interaction defined by the equation: F=c(M1 x M2/d2) . You don’t need to understand the mathematics but simply, there is a force between any two objects that acts at a distance and is smaller the further away the two object are.

Even lesser known and understood is how events that take place in similar places at similar times can shape each other and manifest divergent outcomes. How GEM (gravitational, electric, magnetic) forces act across a distance is conceptualized by considering a field of force that act with a uniform effect until something comes along and disturbs the uniformity. Picture a tightly stretched trampoline. It is essentially a flat uniform surface. If you put a small glass marble on it the marble will sit there and wait until something comes along to disturb the uniformity of the trampoline surface. Now carefully place a bowling ball anywhere on the stretched surface. Two things will happen. The bowling ball will migrate to the middle of the trampoline because it deflected the surface downward due to gravity. The second thing that will happen is the small marble will roll toward the bowling ball and stick to it. The marble is only following the bent surface of the trampoline created by the bowling ball.

Two magnets will attract each other across the distance between them. A positive and negative electrical charge will do the same.

All around us are these GEM fields that are constantly interacting with each other. There is an inter-relationship between these three types of force fields. Each force acts in its own characteristic manner on objects that are within its reach. Mathematically it can be shown that every two particle of matter exert a G force on ever other particle in the Universe, no matter how small that forge might be. Every electron and proton impacts every other one in the Universe. Again the same for every magnetism source.

Just as trillions of trillions of electrons create an electro-magnetic field that surrounds us, everything and everyone around each of us creates a field of possibilities any of which could be the next effect to a cause. All the mass in the Universe is moving around in a semi-random way that while it may appear chaotic and random, it is in fact governed by those two equations stated earlier and a couple more that are too complicated for this discussion. Although we can’t see it, our bodies are acting and reacting in the same manner as the marble on the trampoline or an electron floating in space. Our bodies are composed of mass that has gravity, contains iron that is magnetic and is electrically active and actually has an electrical field emanating from it, although it is quite weak. From a cosmic point of view, our bodies are indistinguishable from the air around us and the Earth beneath our feet. Indeed, we are composed of the air around us and the Earth beneath our feet. It is just that the matter of our bodies is more highly patterned than is the dirt and the gas of the air.

Our human bodies are highly patterned fields of energy that are far from uniform and which are deformed, deflected and warped by everything around us. The spinning of a magnet in an electrical field will induce electricity in wires that are around it. The moving magnet creates swirls and eddies in the previously uniform electrical field. Those swirls and eddies form currents that move by wave motion. The magnet doesn't have to go anywhere to be felt because the magnetism flows toward or away from the magnet on a wave in the field.

To understand wave movement just drop a pebble in a pond. The circular ripples are a wave of energy that moves through the water without the water going anywhere. Two pebbles dropped in the pond will make two sets of circular waves that meet and interact with each other. If one wave is at a high point and the other at its low point, the result will be calm water at that location. If both are at their high or low points, the result will be a place in the water where the level is twice as high or twice as low. Many thousands of pebbles will make a highly chaotic-looking water surface, but each set of circular waves are independent of each other.

The events of our lives act in a similar fashion. Events travel on wave fronts that propagate away from the point where they originate. These event-waves interact with other event-waves to create that which we see around us. They are subject to the same forces that shape the movement of other types of waves. The strength of the force between events and event-waves can also be described by the GEM equation: F=c(M1 x M2/d2). This equation demonstrates that there is a force between events that is inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. In simple terms, the force diminished greatly as the distance increases. The ‘distance ‘ parameter has two dimensions, one of space and the other of time. Therefore, two events may occur on the same spot but 4 decades apart in time but still have an impact on each other. Yes, an event can have an impact on the other even though the one is in the past.

Such retro-active effects are not readily seen and understood, but there is an explanation based in the wave nature of events. Instead of dropping two pebbles in a pond change that to a deep water stream. The surface is relatively smooth so you can see the ripples clearly. The stream water is moving left to right past you on the bank. The pebble that is dropped into the moving water downstream of your position creates ripples that travel upstream toward you. From your point of view the ripples are coming out of the past toward you. A pebble dropped in the water up stream of your position makes ripples that move faster than the flow of the stream and come at you out of the future. This example would be more obvious if it were tiny floating boats that cause the ripples. On one hand, you would see the ripples arriving before the boat floats by, on the other you would see the ripples of the boat that was dropped in down stream where you could not see it. These two boats create waves of energy that interact with each other, one from the past and one from the future.

Flow in a stream is rarely uniform and consistent. There are currents in the fluid that may not be obvious to an observer who is standing on the bank enjoying the beauty of the stream and how the sky and the horizon reflect on the placid surface. Big currents will warp the surface. Rocks on the stream bed divert the water as will variations along the banks. The water constitutes a field of energy that acts both on other parts of itself and on the stream banks and bottom. Waves travel in this turbulent field and are shaped and reshaped by the flow and the other waves in the field.

Two bits of floating detritus can enter a river miles apart, days, weeks or months apart on the calendar and end up in the same backwater location trapped behind a log or washed up on the bank just above the pool elevation. Each bit will have traveled a different path from a different starting point only to end its journey having met in that same still water location. One cannot assure that the tossing of two and only two objects will end in their meeting in the same still water, but with the tossing of thousands of objects there will be a propensity for them to eventually arrive there. The swirling turbulence is not random in nature but has an guiding impact on events.

The lives of human beings are likewise guided and channeled by the flow of events in which they exist. Event-waves travel within other event-waves and combine with them to create that which we see as our times and our histories. The swirls sweep us in similar directions that carry us to common locations. Those swirls also carry others to their locations and sometimes into ours.

Marketing designers strive to create event-waves that predictably place their ‘products’ in the still waters where many people will interact with them and spend their money to continue that interaction.

Artistic performers work to get themselves seen and heard so that later more people will see them and hear them and they will become famous and wealthy in their pursuits.

Entrepreneurs strive to discover or create the Next Big Thing. They try to figure out where that next still water is that is the endpoint for all the turbulent movement that makes predictions difficult. Some people seem to know how the currents move and where they will carry the bits that are moving in those currents.

Personal event-waves

Every person is a point source for the propagation of event-waves. We do not see these waves but perceive only the portion of them that intersect with ourselves or our own event-waves. This is why we can be so wrong in our interpretation of the nature of a person. It is also why we can believe that what someone has done was good and that exact same action is considered bad by someone else. The event-wave that hits us and resulted in a favorable outcome might actually kill someone else. Indeed, the favorable outcome might have required that death. Consider how many suspected serial-murder cases go forever unsolved because the killing stopped. The killer may have been himself killed in an unrelated event. Maybe an automobile collision. Undoubtedly, there are people alive today who would have been the serial-killer’s victim if he had not died in the collision.

On just the opposite side of that previous example there is the tragic outcome. “There is a killer on the road, his brain is squirming like a toad, if you give this man a ride, sweet Emily will die…” (as sung by Jim Morrison) describes that intersection of event-waves. We usually only think about the intersection of the killer and the victim and not about the cloud of potential events and outcomes that constitute the event-waves that ultimately intersect. The swirl of event-waves brings all the victims to the killer (or the killer to all the victims) and scatters everyone else away to relative safety, at least from that killer. One person might be pushed away from the killer by the energy of his event-wave front only to be destroyed in another tragic event.

The driver in an automobile speeding along the highway with a faulty tire may make it home today, but he/she is moving along with an event-wave that could manifest itself in tragic consequences at any moment. Today he arrives home safely. Tomorrow a truck driver who has not slept enough to be driving this particular highway at this particular time will swerve in front of the car with the faulty tire. The driver swerves and misses a collision, but the tire ruptures and the car spins out of control and collides with the minivan with the soccer team…

Mom and the kids set out as usual that morning as they always do on Saturdays in the summer. The car driver normally relaxes on Saturday mornings, but his employer asked him to work on this Saturday. Had the truck driver stopped to sleep and be rested, he would have still been 400 miles away from the tragedy that unfolded on that Saturday morning when the major event-waves intersected. To be fair here, if any of the three drivers had started out a minute sooner or later, driven a mile per hour faster or slower, this outcome of the event-waves would have been completely different.

The larger aspect of Swirl Theory is that in the larger field of energy that is acted upon by hundreds of millions of individual event-waves creates conditions where people and events are swept in the same direction. The combined wave peak that manifests when many waves constructively add together makes a huge wave front that carries many people to the same destination. Impending events like a war or Woodstock push and pull people to specific location by the thousands for either a horrific end or “three days of love and music.” Each man and woman, boy and girl who trekked the distance to Woodstock in the Summer if ’69 made a singular decision that was far from independent of everyone else. The combined event-wave grew larger as fewer days remained until the opening act. People were swept into the current and swirls that deposited them on the farm in the rain and in the mud. And like the oceanic tsunami, this combined event-wave took on a life of its own pulling everyone along even against better judgment (if there had been any) to be swept up and deposited at the concert or be waylaid on the way, never to actually get there.

Sometimes the combined event-wave is clearly visible as in the run-up to an election, or the Super Bowl game. Other times the combined event-wave goes unnoticed or ignored until it splashed on the shore as with the ’65 race riot in Watts, and the August 1992 Los Angeles riot. It was not the beating of Rodney King or the acquittal of the four officers that caused the 1992 riot, it was years of dissatisfaction, inequality, subjugation and lack of financial resources in the African-American groups and the perception that everyone else has more and is taking it from them. Individual people living is South Central LA could see their poverty, see the brutal suppression enacted upon themselves, see that the Korean-American culture dominated the small retail market located in the African-American neighborhoods. Wealthy customers would not object to Koreans running the 7-11, hiring their friends and family, and take the profits out of the neighborhood. But the poor customers see it and yet another way to keep them down – no jobs, and a drain of the money that IS in the neighborhood. It was a mini-scale version of globalization, right there in their faces. They rebelled. Burned and looted the neighborhoods. Targeted the Korean communities.

This event-wave combination that creates huge wave amplitudes was seen before. It has been seen since. It will be seen again. As long as the underlying causes are not remedied but only suppressed, there will be future eruptions of violence and destruction. Individual people will be swept in the same direction to the same destiny.

Even when the light of reason fails and fires burn in the cities, good people get caught up in the swirl and accomplish great fetes. The lone man standing in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 199? Was unlikely to have planned such a stand. He did what he felt he must do.

Reginald Denny was a white truck driver who was dragged from his truck and beaten by a mob of African-Americans while a news station helicopter televised it from overhead. He was rescued by an unarmed, African American civilian named Bobby Green Jr. who rushed to the scene and drove Denny to the hospital. Green was swept up in the national events and has returned to relative obscurity since. He never would have said, “if I see an white man being assaulted by a mob during a race riot, I will jump in and save him.” He just did it.

Fidel Lopez, a Guatemalan immigrant, was pulled from his truck and beaten by a mob that included the same assailant, Damian Williams, who had earlier beaten Mr. Denny. Rev. Bennie Newton, an African-American minister, prevented others from beating Lopez by placing himself between Lopez and his attackers and shouting "Kill him and you have to kill me, too". Both he and Bobby Green Jr. risked their lives to save someone who was being swept along in the turbulent swirling events of those few days.

The national televising of the events did spark additional yet smaller riots in other cities, but it also alerted people to the turmoil and allowed them to take positive actions.

Damian Williams, a single person created an event-wave around himself whose ripples are still being felt these 18 years later. They will ripple for many years to come. Rodney King in his fear of being returned to prison on parole violations, sparked a riot that left 35 people dead. His resistance to arrest was fueled by that fear. The resultant police actions were deemed excessive by a civil rights jury after a criminal case jury decided it was not excessive.

In every case, the affects of the event-waves combine in ways that increase the height (amplitude) of the wave or in ways the cancel the amplitude. Consider the biblical admonition to turn the other cheek, or the phrase that discretion is the better part of valor. When insulted a man can strike back or can “consider the source” and walk away. If he walks away his and the other event-waves meet in such a way that one at the highpoint meet the other at the low point resulting in no fight, no injury, no collateral damage. But if he strikes back because he has already taken enough crap from the transgressor, or from any number of other people, the results can be huge. Blood feuds have been fought by families, clans, tribes, nations, and even religions where one transgression follows another in revanchist folly. These battles can last for generations. Each new generation is swept into the stream and the swirl carries them to the same place. Gang turf wars have event-waves too that draws in young members who are so unprepared to swim in the flow that the flow carries them far downstream and into that place where the detritus all collects.

On a more happy note, two solitary people can live their lives in the absence of each other not knowing of the existence of the other. The events of their lives and the world around them each add an increment of wave energy to the churning swirling events of their days and bring them together in a small eddy where they remain long enough together to meet and get to know each other. In there they form a new pattern of event-wave that contains the two of them. Then they can re-enter the stream and flow along as one.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Quantum Outcomes

"Yesterday evening while I was headed to the far end of the subway platform in the DC subway, I spotted a capped plastic water bottle about 24 inches from the edge of the tracks. I picked it up and tossed it in the waste can. In a Quantum Universe somewhere a person with low-vision has stepped on the bottle and stumbled onto the tracks, while in another his white cane hit it and IT fell onto the tracks."
This message is one I posted to my Quantum Universe page on Facebook. While QU is a humorous blog, it also is thought provoking and to the point on some very serious social issues. The idea that if one removes a hazardous item from the walking path of people that person creates a "nothing happened" perception. Well something did happen. No one was hurt. When we think ahead and foresee the possible consequences of an action or inaction, we are using the brain that distinguished humans from all other species on the Earth.
Tweet This Post
Author's Note: The book cover images in the side margins of this blog are my own publications of eBooks available at both Amazon and B&N. Please take a moment and go to the sites and read about them. Then if you like it, buy one or two.