Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 23,769
Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 23,769
I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing.
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The cheapest methanol is made from natural gas. The first attempt by ARCO (now owned by BP) to supplant gasoline with a natural gas product was MTBE. That was a disaster, MTBE got into lakes, rivers, and groundwater.
The oil companies are now using hydrogen derived from inexpensive gas, and electricity generated in coal fired plants, to transform heavier oils (like the Canadian tar sand crap) into gasoline and diesel fuels for conventional cars and trucks, distributed through conventional channels. There's no reason to use methanol or ethanol for anything. There's no economic reason to replace existing underground tanks certified for gasoline, gasoline- ethanol blends, or diesel with methanol certified tanks.
Gasoline and diesel fuel can also be synthesized from gas or coal. This is done on a very large scale in some places. The U.S. Navy has developed a process that uses electricity from the nuclear power plant on an aircraft carrier to extract carbon dioxide from ocean water to make fuel for both it's jets and accompanying fuel oil powered vessels.
Methanol is corrosive stuff, and its vapors do not play well with traditional lubricants and sealants. Experiments with the fuel in the 'seventies and 'eighties did not end well. Those problem has largely been solved by modern material science.
If you are looking at alternative fuels, my favorite is dimethyl ether (DME). DME is handled like liquid propane, and works as a fuel in very efficient, high compression diesel engines, and as a home heating and cooking gas, producing no troublesome particulates as ordinary diesel and gasoline powered vehicles do. DME can be made from cheap fracked gas, coal, or agricultural "wastes." A DME diesel plug-in electric hybrid vehicle might compete favorably with a Prius if the fuel was widely available.
But personally I'm sick of the fueled automobile age and would like to end it in favor of walkable cities, slow 35mph electric vehicles, and a massive expansion of electric powered railroads.
Every community could have a large railroad station at it's heart, handling both cargo and people.
People would walk, ride bicycles, of drive urban electric cars to places they worked and shopped. Electric cars parked and charged underneath solar roofs is an ideal arrangement. Employee and customer cars don't get cooked in the sun, and they are refueled as they are parked.
Still, it's better to work at home or walk to work.
A larger community might have just a single fuel station for people who still have reason to use dangerous, polluting, and obsolete forms of transportation. The sound of internal combustion engines or gas turbines is not music to my ears.
I hate my car. It's a nice comfortable car that cost $800 and has a salvage title. There's an analog fuel injection computer in this car that's lasted over 300,000 miles without a fault. I'll never buy a new car, especially a new car with all the systems computerized, cell phone network connectivity, and copy protected spyware installed as standard equipment.
Posted by hunter | Tue Aug 18, 2015, 10:01 PM (0 replies)
Dogs are clearly intelligent, sentient, and social beings very much like ourselves.
I think one of the major innovation of humans (and speculatively cetaceans such as orcas too) was story-telling.
Then later, when we humans started writing down our stories, entirely new levels of social complexity were achieved.
Are stories an important aspect of "intelligence?"
I don't know.
Looking at any ant-colony as a single organism it's very clear that the colony has a sort of intelligence in the way it responds to it's environment.
One can attribute similar sorts of intelligence to fungal colonies and plants. We are just now learning that plants, even across species boundaries, communicate in various ways, and even more fascinating, sometimes using fungal intermediaries.
What we humans call intelligence is simply a large box of tools. What we recognize as "intelligence" is measured against our own human toolbox.
Underlying intelligence it's all just chemistry. Nothing "woo" here. No religion, no mysticism. Not even any "emergent" properties. From my perspective any theory that "consciousness is an emergent property of the brain" is just more human mysticism.
Personally I'm not a big fan of human exceptionalism. It's blinded us to most of what's going on in the minds of species we share the planet with, even blinding us to even recognizing broad classes of intelligent behavior. For all our talk of "pattern recognition" we are blind and stupid, defining intelligence as the patterns we humans tend to recognize, but clueless about the rest.
If, by some unlikely circumstance this existing civilization doesn't entirely collapse in the manner typical of any innovative species experienceing exponential population growth, then "intelligence" in machines will continue to be an incremental process, just as it was in the evolution of natural life on earth.
My preferred answer to the Fermi Paradox is that the earth and universe are teaming with intelligent life. We are simply too dim and unintelligent to see it. We won't even recognize what intelligent life there is here on earth, creatures we share common ancestors with.
Posted by hunter | Fri Jul 31, 2015, 01:56 PM (0 replies)
... I was expecting the automobile culture would be dead by now.
I've never liked automobiles, especially the gasoline or diesel sort. They are stinky noisy expensive things that kill and maim people.
Nevertheless, when I was younger I did more than my fair share of driving.
My wife and I were Los Angeles commuters when we met, but we've avoided that lifestyle, most especially once we had children, who are all now 21+ adults. When our kids were infants and toddlers we were able to manage our work schedules so one of us was always home. We never did daycare. I'd also take our babies to my wife's work so they could nurse.
One of our kids now commutes (in a Prius...), an adaption to California's impossible Bay Area housing costs, where wages seem high until you look at the rents.
I drive a mid-eighties $800 car with a salvage title. I also have the mechanical skills to keep it going, barring any major engine failure. I have less than zero interest in cars. If someone gave me a new car, no matter how wonderful, I'd give it away as fast as I could.
Personally I don't care if the Interstate Highway system rots.
In my Utopia the maximum speed limit for anything but emergency vehicles is 35 miles per hour, including airplanes. Passengers and freight are moved long distances by ambling electric trains, and vacations are long enough to enjoy the ride.
Everyone is in too much of a hurry, and for what? We're all racing along the highway to hell, faster, faster, faster...
What our economists call "productivity" is a direct measure of the damage we are doing to the earth's natural environment and our own human spirit.
Posted by hunter | Thu Jul 30, 2015, 09:41 AM (0 replies)
We need to build communities where automobiles -- private, taxi, or otherwise -- are of little or no use to the "average" person.
I ought to be able to walk to the grocery store, post office/bank, pharmacy/general store, pub, and restaurants fast-food-and-otherwise, no automobile required.
Automobiles are tools of fascism, and they always have been. Who the hell cares what flavor of fascism it is?
Posted by hunter | Thu Jul 23, 2015, 05:22 PM (3 replies)
... as a high school teacher in under-served-mean-street communities.
It doesn't matter the teaching subject really. Home room, detention, basic words and numbers literacy, raw "health" classes of sexual diseases, condoms, and birth control... lunch litter pickup, or sorting the recycling with the most deviant misfits...
I was frequently a lunch litter pickup deviant in school, and later as an urban school teacher, supervisor of such deviants. I met my wife teaching. Later she was accepted, following her dreams, to graduate school in another state.
The skills required to deal non-violently, without escalation, with over-crowded situations of hungry hormonally challenged teenage students in difficult environments, all are directly transferable to police work.
Ideally cops would be accomplished teachers who only rarely arrested anyone, and then always in the most polite and civilized way possible.
Arresting people for trivial things would make a cop subject of official scorn and derision.
A ticket for a burned out turn signal instead of a friendly fix-it? WTF is wrong with you dude? Two more like this and you'll be fired.
If you can't break up a fight between people bigger than you without a gun, if you can't deal with a teenager questioning your manhood or womanhood, if you can't suffer an occasional bloody nose or black eye or personal insult in the "line of duty," if you ever need a gun to feel secure, then you are simply not qualified to be a cop.
I've never been qualified to be a cop because I hate handguns. I'd probably rather be shot than shoot someone, but always I'd rather not find myself in that situation.
Posted by hunter | Thu Jul 23, 2015, 04:20 PM (0 replies)
"Mother Nature" (no, I'm not any kind of pagan, it's just a nice short description) is going to pound this international economy and civilization into the sand, possibly quite literally as the oceans rise and storms become more intense.
The uber-wealthy are going to end standing on the pavement pounding on their cellphones wondering why they can't buy fuel for their private, jets, cars, and yachts, just before their phones stop working, as their bodyguards desert them, and the pitchforks and torches crowd arrives to burn down their palaces.
The hard working invisible people living in poverty, will as a class survive, they usually do, but for no other reason than that there are so many of them.
That's generally how life on earth has always worked, for billions of years. Exponential population growth always ends badly, not only for the dead, but for the survivors too until something new comes along.
Our current economic system, as others have noted, "is dumber than a vat of yeast." Fossil fuels powered our population's exponential growth, and thus this economy is doomed.
Meanwhile, we are all free to walk our own paths, and always have been.
Some of paths individuals find themselves walking are difficult, and some are easy. But not everyone gets to leave this world peacefully, checking out in old age without pain surrounded by friends and family. Nor is that "ideal" end everyone chooses. Base jumpers in their wing suits, monster wave surfers, people who race big motorcycles along twisy mountain roads, people who challenge bloody "authority," they know there is some great risk they will end crushed on the rocks.
It's common human nature to reject the advice of others who tell us what we "should" or shouldn't do, especially when that advice comes wrapped in some sort of threat.
We should quit fossil fuels because of climate change!
We should quit nuclear power because of nuclear waste, Fukushima, and Chernobyl!
I hate automobiles with a passion, even electric automobiles. If somebody gave me a Tesla I'd toss it away like a hot potato. But I'm also a hypocrite who doesn't want to suffer the inconvenience of not owning a car in this automobile-centric society. My protest is to drive an $800 piece of shit car that I never wash, except for the windows, and drive as little as "possible." I cheer the floodwaters that recently took out the bridges on Interstate 10 here in California, disconnecting us in some small way from Arizona, and the only people I really feel sorry for are independent truckers who had to eat the costs of delays and detours.
Fuck you, automobile culture!
If I was emperor of this planet earth then the maximum speed limit for anyone in motorized wheeled vehicles, boats, and planes, all but for paramedics, would be 50kph.
But mine are shallow gestures.
My own philosophy is born of my inclinations as an amateur evolutionary biologist and paleontologist. I've got the college education documenting that interest, plenty of coursework and fieldwork, and have been a science teacher at various times.
In a million years none of this shit matters. Our civilization is an interesting layer of trash in the geologic record.
In ten thousand years nuclear waste doesn't matter.
In a hundred years or less, most of the work we busy humans are so concerned with today simply doesn't matter. I've installed tile and stonework (my brother is a tile contractor), built with exquisite craftsmanship to last centuries, that has been ripped out and replaced on the whim of trophy wives of wealthy men. (Don't accuse me of sexism... one bully who used to torment me almost daily in middle and high school ended up as the boy-toy of a wealthy older woman, and she very proudly introduced me to him, at which point both of us, as proud adult men, decided instantly to pretend we'd never met.)
I've also been a hermit, and I'm sort of living that way now. Our animal shelter rescue dogs probably think I'm one of them, useful in our pack for magically procuring food, opening doors, and filling their water dishes whenever the lids to the toilets are inexplicably closed. Dingo is fairly certain she ranks above me in the pack hierarchy. Mostly I'm okay with that.
My own philosophy has a lot of Ursula K. LeGuin in it.
Picking a short story and a novel, I'd say, The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas and Always Coming Home.
Posted by hunter | Thu Jul 23, 2015, 12:48 PM (0 replies)
GMO may or may not be rotten, but the herbicide-resistant, the bee-and-butterfly-killing, the small-farmers-can't-trade-seeds, the does-not-play-well-with-others-and-is-represented-by-aggressive-lawyers, the designed-to-sell-more-patent-poisons... those GMO crops sure as hell are rotten.
Fucking Brawdo would be selling seeds that required Brawndo to thrive, but I'm guessing drinking Brawndo turned everyone into idiots before amoral Brawndo scientists and management could perfect their evil scheme. Nature bats last. 100,000 years from now our descendants may be one of the lesser apes. Fast food for wolves and eagles, silly apes who can't be trusted not to injure themselves with a pointy stick.
Plants do like toilet water, good soil, sunshine, poop, pee, and compost.
My wife and I rely on birds, spiders, predatory insects, and other beasties to control invertebrate pests in our garden and in our house.
If you use insecticides you'll end up with insecticide-resistant cockroaches, ants, fleas, and other nasty pests. The only pests we have occasional trouble with is ticks. Two of our dogs are not especially good at social grooming. They'll ignore dirt, stink, and grape sized ticks in places they can't reach. Lyme disease is not a big problem in our part of the world because tick nymphs spend time on lizards. Lizards have ancestral antibodies that kill Lyme disease.
Our Dingo is the only dog who thinks good grooming is important. However filthy Dingo gets she'll always be clean before bedtime. If she notices a tick in a place she can't reach she'll tell someone right away. Her pack mates would probably jump up onto the bed two minutes after chasing ducks across a sewage pond and rolling in bullshit to dry off, no complaints about fleas, ticks, or leaches. The worst dog we ever had would find a putrid dead animal to roll in, usually just before we went on a long car trip to visit our more rural parents. I think that was her way of preparing for the hunt.
We've had two pig hunting dogs but we didn't know that about them when we adopted them from the animal shelter.
Related in a similar way, Microsoft and Apple are what happens when you hand computer science over to big business, or banking over to the want-to-be-physicists and spread-sheet-obsessives.
Posted by hunter | Mon Jul 13, 2015, 09:34 PM (1 replies)
Nobody should be so wealthy that they can buy and control our democracy.
Taxes should be near zero at minimum living wages and near 100% on income some multiple of that minimum living wage; I would propose a multiple of less than twenty. If minimum wage is $100 a day than maximum possible income is $2000 a day. If minimum wealth is fully owning a $50,000 house and a small hunting cabin by the time you retire, than maximum wealth might be owning a million dollar house and a fancy beach condo somewhere.
The wealthiest people would live in the same neighborhoods as their employees, and send their kids to the same schools. They'd have a stake in the world as they've made it; they would not be insulated from the damage they do to society.
That's right, a Bill Gates might have the biggest house in town, the fanciest cars, maybe a couple of vacation homes, but the guy who cleans the corporate bathrooms has a pretty comfortable home too and his kids attend the same schools, colleges, and universities, and everyone shops in the same places.
Posted by hunter | Wed Jun 24, 2015, 03:25 PM (0 replies)
... and sometimes a parent or teacher thinks it would much easier on everyone if they just punched a hole in the wall or threw a wastebasket.
I know I have.
The difficult part isn't telling people what they "should" do; anyone can do that since everyone has opinions how to best get along in this world. The difficult part is simply listening, even as you are being eviscerated by angry words.
Privileged white males in the U.S.A. have a bad habit of telling everyone else what they "should" do. Cops in the U.S.A. are even worse.
If I was emperor of this nation I'd fire three-quarters of the cops and completely disarm three-quarters of those remaining. Let them solve problems with their words, and leave the weapons to those few saintly individuals who would sooner take a bullet than kill someone.
Posted by hunter | Tue Apr 28, 2015, 05:15 PM (1 replies)
... I learned some valuable skills along the way.
I later got jobs fixing up crappy student housing that had been abused by other angry and lost young people.
However this turns out in rough Baltimore, it's probably not going to end up creating jobs or educational opportunities in the local community. The repair and cleanup work will go to well-connected outsiders, just as the police jobs do, emphasizing once again to the people of the community that the more powerful "polite" society considers them both useless and dangerous.
"Please, sir, may I have another bowl of your shit?"
There's plenty of work to be done in the U.S.A.. If the private sector cannot provide good jobs for people, our governments must. And if government wants to know what kind of work and what kind of educational opportunities a community desperately needs, then the experts are the people who actually live in a community, not some self-righteous asshole living in an entirely different universe, fully insulated from many rougher realities of life.
Posted by hunter | Tue Apr 28, 2015, 11:23 AM (1 replies)