Solar saves water…

Back in 2002, researchers were already warning of the shortage of water, and the possibility that there would be ‘water wars’.

Seriously.

I’ve been going through a set of older notebooks to look up some project design detail, and came across a set of research notes, from 2002, for this slide deck.

Back in 2002, researchers were already warning of the shortage of water, and the possibility that there would be ‘water wars’. This 2016 National Geographic article is a good starter, if you don’t think water wars are a thing.

One of the more well know American “water wars” , are the Tri-State water wars going on between Atlanta, Georgia, and Florida. Lake Laneir, created some 50-years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers when they created the Buford Dam on the Chattahoochee River. It along with Lake Allatoona were created primarily for hydropower. Both lakes feed major river basins that flow from Georgia through to Alabama and Florida. As Atlanta grows, with much higher water needs, the dispute over whose water it is, started

(Clean) Water is becoming a scarce commodity. With the administrations change of how we classify “Clean Water“, the need to conserve water has never been greater. Forget the climate impact and other negative impacts of coal and nuclear power, they are both “water monster” fuels.

The nations thermoeletric power stations use 4x as much water as all US Residencies, and about the same as farms. Nuclear power plants intake water flow rates can range from 13,500 to 52,000 gallons per minute.

Uranium fuel extraction, requires 45-150 gallons of water per megawatt-hour of electricity produced and uranium mining has contaminated surface or ground water sources in at least 14 states (1).

Choices made now  about power sources will be reverberating for decades. Many Americans are still choosing solar, despite the increased cost following the addition of tariffs, Solar installations in the US are remaining stable, year over year.

If you’ve been thinking about installing a residential solar system, this is another great reason to do it, albeit one that doesn’t have a direct financial benefit. Maybe you will end up selling water by the river?

(1). https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power/fact-sheet-water-use.pdf

#TEDxBoulder2017

I got to attend my first TEDx Boulder yesterday, it was a good mix of both motivational speakers, those talking about lessons they’ve learned from personal experience, and some professional development speakers on the topic of CLIMATE and CHANGE. Overall an excellent way to spend an afternoon and early evening.

I’ve curated my tweets from the event into a Twitter Moment. If you have any questions, or feedback on the subjects, feel free to leave a comment or email the usual way.

You get what you want in Texas

The Austin American Statesman today published a frank review of the Texas rules on disclosure of chemical storage “Information scarce on chemical plant blasts — just like Texas wanted“. I wrote about this issue precisely back in “The Texas Freedom Illusion” and after the “West Disaster” report.

In essence, under the veil of “security”, Governor Abbott has effectively just stopped individual Texans from finding out about these storage facilities, and in the same way as you are much more likely to be shot by a gun owning family member, than a jihadi; you are much more likely to get killed, poisoned, or otherwise impacted by a local company than you are by terrorists exploiting the freely available information.

This regulation was alway problematical and is going to bite ordinary Texans until it is repealed. The idea that people have time to go around to each and every high fenced industrial lots within a mile or so of their home and ask what chemicals they are storing is just nonsense, more so in large cities.

 

The machines are coming – 2049?

It is notoriously difficult to predict the future. I lived my life at IBM, following Alan Kays 1982 aphorism

The best way to predict the future is to invent it

In my career I got many things right, and many things wrong. While Amazon was still a small time bookseller, and Youtube for the most part didn’t exist, it was obvious both business models would thrive. While I couldn’t convince IBM to pursue either of these opportunities with ny success, we demonstrated the technology perfectly. My “Wired for Life
Presentation contains some of my wins, and many of my losses.

It was much easier to build on these, especially the societal impact in my 2003 “Trends and Directions” presentation.  Societal impact is much easier to predict as you can demographic data, current trends and it’s pretty easy to extrapolate. Technology adoption is much harder.

Many of these predictions are not useful, after all who needs  a robot to write high school essays? Many though will continue to fundementally change work and life as we know it.

What they are though is a signal in the way the World Economic Forum predicts the technology will develop, and to some degree it’s a self fulfilling prophecy. Watching this and reading many of the “machines are coming” articles that have been published over the past 5-years, it’s easy to become depressed about the rise of automation, AI, and robots. In a year when the sequel for Blade Runner will finally appear on our screens, there are some key things to remember.

  1. There is no magic, no silver bullet – If they can’t explain it, or worse don’t understand it, they have not invented it. Machine learning is great, but the machines can only learn with the machine learning constraints they have.
  2. Listen to the doubters – Doubt is very different to dismissal. People who dismiss possibility out-of-hand either don’t understand the opportunity and the potential, or are afraid of the change. It’s the doubters who have thought things through and understand the problems and the weaknesses.
  3. Don’t fear automation – If you do, you will be left behind. Learn, adapt, change; if possible work to invent the future By all means be a doubter, don’t be a dismisser.
  4. Find a problem, don’t start with a solution – AI, Robotics, Big Data, Machine Learning, Algorithms, Neural Networks are all speciality fields, grabbing onto them and asking how can we use them isn’t useful. The more specific you can be about a problem that needs solving, the easier it will be to identify the correct technology.
  5. Be Human – the more we automate, the more important human interaction becomes. The more empathy you have for someone who has a problem, the more likely you are to be able to understand how to solve it. Empathy, the arts, sports and human interaction are all fields where robotics and automation are least likely to take over.

More Human than Human – Dr Eldon Tyrell, The Tyrell Corporation

What to do if you can’t find eclipse glasses?

It’s like the end of the world is coming, and people want to watch the eclipse to be part of it.

The rush to buy glasses has reached such a fever-pitch that there are news stories about what to do, “What to do if you can’t find eclipse glasses in Northern Colorado“. Amazon has had a mass recall of glasses that are not safe and the locals here are having a meltdown because the stores have, apparently, run out.

My advice

isn’t having very dark safety lenses going to defeat the point of the experience? Kinda like those people who go to live concerts and spend the gig holding up a mobile phone to record video?

Surely we know the moon is going to pass the sun and completely block it; we know the news media is going to be recording it for broadcast, there will be dozens of videos on youtube within an hour you can rewatch it on.

Isn’t the point to find somewhere outdoors where the impact of it becoming dark much more quickly than normal and then becoming light again, much more quickly than normal the main part of the experience?

You don’t have to look directly at the sun to do that, you can sit with your back to the sun and watch all those other weirdos who are missing the fun of watching people stare directly at something that can damage their eyesight for good, while missing the way the birds, animals and quite possibly the traffic goes into meltdown not understanding what’s going on?

Have a nice eclipse y’all…

Trains, horns and taxes

I’ve been  frustrated that my blog has been withering but I just didn’t want to be an endless stream of rants about the #potus45 administration.

So this isn’t about them, at all. While I have in mind a summery I’ll steer clear for now. So, meanwhile back in beautiful Colorado, the natives are getting worked up over a plan to install “quiet zones”  for all the railroad crossings in town.

As much as I can’t envisage enjoying the horn blowing, and we can barely hear them in the night, apparently many can and do like them and have a nostalgia for them.

Well the whole thing went  awry went Rene posted, she said.

If you don’t like the trains, don’t live near the tracks. No body would build within spitting distance of a rail road track if nobody would live there, then no body would be bothered by the noise. All the high density housing along the tracks is ruining my wonderful, small home town. I resent that people come in and then start to try to change it.

Which of course completely misses the point that most of old Town was built around the railroad out of economic necessity, which made people want to live there, rather than people who loved the sound of the horns and built a house there.

Rene, change is not only inevitable but essential.

For the most part the city carries most of its infrastructure on its book as assets, which means they depreciate it over its lifespan, and they have scramble to find ways to replace it.

In essence the only way they have to do that is to raise property and sales tax, or get new residents who make up the difference. Bonds are indirectly taxes.

If there is some road, building or other city or state asset you’ve been using since you arrived here, that hasn’t been rebuilt or replaced, then you have been subsidized by either earlier generations or the new residents. This is especially true for water, sewage, and roads.

As has been previously articulated here, essentially the quiet zones are really doing no more than returning the crossings to pre-2005 safety and horns for post 2015 traffic volumes.

It’s not the new residents that are to blame, I’m one of them. If anyone is to blame its the people that have lived here for 25+ years.

They’ve not been accounting for city resources as liabilities, not taxing enough to support those liabilities, and then selling property off to developers to make a buck for themselves.

Unfortunately development in America, not just Louisville has been a ponzy scheme for 100 years. You either keep growing or you’ll wither and die, or become Boulder. Louisville is headed for the latter since it’s mostly built out.

Edit:8/02/17 12:40 – Add links, change @potus45 > #potus45 and correct typos.

Dystopian Future it is then

In his acceptance speech, President elect Trump said, among other things:

We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.

This from a man, who tweeted:

I’ve no idea what to expect now from the Trump Presidency, but it’s an amazing  coincidence that the original Blade Runner film was set in In Los Angeles in November 2019, just two years from now.

Hopefully Blade Runner isn’t a metaphor for a Trump Presidency; the weather and the blade runners, especially Gaff, do not foreshadow Trumps Immigration cops; and hopefully the Los Angeles in the film, nothing like the real LA in 2019; and the replicants not an extreme of the automation I wrote about yesterday.

blade-runner

What we don’t know is how Trump will do this. Just running up the deficit doesn’t seem likely given he’s from the GOP/Republican party. Taking much of what he’s said, closing tax loopholes, defunding Nato, closing overseas bases in place like Germany, Japan and more won’t likely save enough money. Your move President Trump.

The appearance of impropriety [Boulder Weekly]

It’s still hard to imagine the whole Donald Trump Presidential run is serious, but it is. At the same many other communities are fighting, or trying to fight the Oil & Gas Industry over fracking; at the same time  a record-tying 5.6 magnitude earthquake took place in Oklahoma early Saturday morning and state officials have ordered the shutdown of 37 disposal wells used for fracking. Meanwhile, in Colorado, voters were unable to get meaningful measures to protect Colorado from the results of fracking.

What do these three have in common? Little on the face of it! In the current Boulder Weekly, before the Oklahoma earthquake, Joel Dyer writing an OpEd, captures in one article I think the dissatisfaction people feel with the current political system, but have been unable to express.

wreckball_590_476[1]If you take time to read the piece, don’t read about Colorado, don’t read about the failed fracking measure, read about the about the political system where everyone is an insider; and because of the way big money works, there is little difference between the people, the parties are just labels.That’s the frustration that I think most people feel.

Our state government has a very real credibility problem and it doesn’t matter if it is the result of impropriety or simply the appearance of impropriety, because both are equally destructive when it comes to the political process.

whatever you think of Clintons campaign, or Clinton personally it does matter if you believe what’s said about her, what matters is the appearance of impropriety. The opposite seems to be true of Trump, no matter how much he lies, because he is not seen as an insider, they are prepared to cut him some slack.

It doesn’t matter if you are a Boulder fractivist, a gun-rights proponent from Grand Junction, a religious conservative in Colorado Springs, an environmentalist in Durango or a fifth-generation farmer from the San Luis Valley, as long as the oil and gas industry and its millionaire backers are deciding who gets elected in this state, you lose.

This is bigger than any one issue. This is about whether we are going to choose to restore our democracy or continue to be governed by a handful of the state’s wealthiest individuals and corporations. And it’s our choice not theirs. So follow the money before you check that box on your ballot. It may be the most important thing you’ll do this year.

 

Source: When it comes to the Secretary of State’s office, the appearance of impropriety is a big deal – Boulder Weekly

The Greatest Social Challenge of our Generation — Strong Towns

This is one of the best blogs of many on the Strong Towns blog. American suburbia is only viable with heavy government subsidy and planning — It would be unaffordable otherwise.

As we see the Growth Ponzi Scheme unwinding and the first decades of what journalist Alan Ehrenhalt has called The Great Inversion, Americans are experiencing a return to normal living conditions. In many ways, it’s a traumatic transition; who-moved-my-cheese on a continental economic scale.

Source: The Greatest Social Challenge of our Generation — Strong Towns

I don’t want to sit here

*The inspiration for this post and the words and comments came from the excellent Strongtowns blog, and a post written by Gracen Johnson.

One of the more interesting challenges of living somewhere that is a high development area, is not the density, construction, or traffic, it is trying to ensure that in the rush to build, there is more than a hat-tip to quality of life.

Boulder and surrounds are synonymous with open space, and trails. All the developments adjacent to my neighborhood has trails and reasonably close access to open space, usually via trails. However, in a development with more than 120 single family homes, our developer has provided nothing to build or foster community, a far as I’m aware not a single swing or slide has been added.

Immediately adjacent to our development, North End Phase II/III, the same developer is applying to build another 78-dwellings, including single family, duplex and triplex homes. The development will for sure attract families.

I reviewed the plans, and there it was, adjacent to the power line trail, a lonely out-crop of the development, and almost immediately under overhead power lines, a “covered picnic area and table”. I thought this would be a good opportunity to challenge the developer and Lafayette Planning Commision to provide something better.

This is especially relevant, as the developer is seeking reduced lot sizes, and higher density. Meaning the back yards will be smaller, with less room for children to play.

Using pictures of what the developer has done on our development, I spoke before the planning commision last Tuesday (May 24th).
“Mr Chairman, Vice Chairman, and Commissioners, thank you for taking time to let me speak tonight. I’m Mark Cathcart, a new resident of Louisville CO. I live in the North End Phase II Development, just 250 yards immediately west of the proposed Blue Sage development.

As you know, North End and Blue Sage are from the same developer. At least in the North End Phase II development, the Public open space and community assets are disappointing.

While I’m sure the developer would argue otherwise, realistically I doubt any of the residents would. Not a single swing or slide has been added, we have Hecla Lake, which would have otherwise been difficult to develop, mostly due to the adjacent power lines. We have a drainage ditch that masquerades as an open space, and a pocket park, similar I would guess, to the one being proposed for the Blue Sage development.

Slide2The question is why would you want to sit here? Would you let your toddlers and young children play on the Boulders, helpfully surrounded by bark to break their fall?

I admit, this isn’t finished, the pictures were taken this afternoon. There is no allocated public parking, and no play area, it is adjacent to the water pumping station and to North End Phase III, and what are likely to be the 10-most expensive houses, I would guess over a million dollars each, in the entire North End development.

Allowing pocket parks like this stay under HOA control, limits almost any future improvement.

In some circles, this would be called defensive architecture, deliberately unappealing.

Slide3The top picture is from Blue Star Lane, south west of the Blue Sage development, looking into the open space to be developed.

We (often) demand developers throw some cash toward green space or public amenities in order to get approval for construction. You see it all the time in subdivisions with exquisite landscaping, pocket parks, and benches that are only appreciated from behind a car window or on the planning application.

The bottom picture is taken from the north west of the open space, looking south east to South Boulder Rd. We should spend our time obsessing why there are no people here, rather than what they might do wrong if they showed up.

Yes, Waneka Lake Park is just over a mile away from the development via the trails, but how much parking does it have and how many children can the play area take?

I’d ask you to reject the current proposal for reduced lot sizes, and increased lot coverage and ask the developer to produce a more useful community based amenity open space.”

Although the sketch plan proposal was approved, enough members of the planning commision asked for a better park that the developer will be expected to make some changes. We’ll have to wait and see what they come up with.