Sunday, June 17, 2018

Free lunch: an exploration

A friend linked to this story about a Turkish company that makes wind turbines to be installed between lanes of traffic, where they turn the moving air from passing vehicles into electricity. He wondered whether it would just slow down the buses.

My reply turned into something much too long for a Facebook comment, so I put it here.

It sounds like you’re asking a sort of First-Law question: since energy can’t magically come from nowhere, the energy turning these turbines has to come from somewhere. In other words, you’re asking if this is a free lunch, which is always a good question in the face of a proposed source of energy.

I suppose it’s possible that the turbines alter the airflow in the bus lanes in a way that makes it harder for the buses to push through the air. It that’s true, then yes, the bus engines are having to work harder to cover the same distance at the same speed.

I can also imagine it’s possible that the energy contained in the airflow away from the buses is just being dissipated as waste heat, and these turbines are capturing a piece of that and making it useful.

Or maybe there’s some drag on the buses, but not enough offset the energy generated by the turbines.

At any rate, it seems like it would be an interesting study for someone in aerodynamics (on the other hand, maybe someone who actually knows aerodynamics already knows the answer and would consider it a trivial question).

I was, however, taken aback by the video’s reference to “vertical access” turbines, because the term is “vertical AXIS,” which makes a whole lot more sense. Somewhere along the line in producing this video, there was a person who didn’t look at text, but just wrote down spoken language. Maybe it was the original reporter, in which case that person didn’t know enough about the technology to understand what was being described.

Along similar lines, it says, “1 turbine can create one kilowatt of electricity per hour.” This is a confused statement.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Waste not, want not

Iceland is in the World Cup.

The Netherlands are out.

The Czechs are out.

The US is out (no great surprise, though we had made our way in the last several times).

Italy is out.

But Iceland is in.

A country of 334,000 people has played its way into a berth in the World Cup.

An article in this week’s Respekt talked about the background of this surprising success.*

“20 years ago, Iceland used the money from television broadcast rights from international soccer associations for the launch of a massive system of educating trainers. The island now has the densest network of trained soccer coaches in the world.”

“Children as young as 8 or 9 are being coached exclusively by highly trained coaches who support creativity and the development of young boys’ potential.” [This sentence gives the impression that girls aren’t playing soccer much; I don’t know if that’s true, or just an unfortunate phrasing.] “Loud-mouthed hot-heads who assign squats as a punishment for less talented kids or those who make mistakes have disappeared from the coaches’ benches, as have self-taught daddies.”

In other words, they built from the bottom.

And not just figuratively in terms of training up their trainers.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Day 9: Not telling, vs. not knowing

The next installment in my continuing futile efforts to see whether my congressman feels like doing his job. (Links to earlier installments are at the end - I'm counting days by number of work days, not number of days I've called.)
I’m checking in on my question from Monday, as to whether the congressman is working with his colleagues to rein in the trade war the president has launched with our closest allies.
I’m not the staffer who deals with that area, but I’ll be sure to write it down and get it to him. [Takes my name and email.]
I’m also checking in on my question about Mr. Faso’s views on the extent of presidential power. Rudy Giuliani says that the president could kill James Comey, and it would still be impossible to indict him; the only remedy would be impeachment. So I’d like to know how Mr. Faso would respond if the president were indeed to murder a person investigating his possible conspiracy with a foreign power. Would he vote to impeach?
I don’t know the answer to that. I’ll be sure to get the question to him.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Day 6: Don’t got no opinion about that

I had been planning a short call, a follow-up from last week’s questions (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday) about presidential powers. But then the weekend happened, so my planned simple question ended up being a brief coda to a significantly longer call.
I saw that Mr. Faso has issued a press release pointing out the damage that could happen to small businesses in upstate New York as a result of the tariffs the president is pursuing.
Uh, huh.
That’s a fine statement as far as it goes, but I was wondering if he were planning to actually do anything.
I haven’t had a chance to talk with the Congressman about that issue specifically, but if you’d like to share your views, I will pass them along.
OK. Here’s the thing: The tariff decision by itself was bad enough, but this weekend, things went badly off the rails.
The president started a trade war with Canada, and then when Canada defended itself, the president’s advisors had the gall to call the Canadian response a betrayal. And as if it weren’t bad enough that they were acting like spoiled children who aren’t getting their way, they threw in a dangerous anti-Semitic dog-whistle by using the phrase “stab in the back.”
This seems to go beyond merely bad policy. It really looks like he is actively trying to tear apart the fabric of the western alliance that has protected our country since the end of World War II.
And the silence from Republicans is, frankly, deafening. Is Mr. Faso concerned with what the president’s actions are doing to our international security?
I haven’t had a chance to talk with the Congressman about that, but I’ll be sure to let him know your concerns.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Day 5 (no Day 4): Chipper, but no answer

I didn't get around to calling yesterday, but here's my follow-up to my calls from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.
Good morning, I’m calling to ask what Mr. Faso’s response would be if the president were to commit a murder.
Uh, we don’t have a statement on that.
I’m asking, of course, because on Sunday Rudy Giuliani went on TV and said that the president could kill James Comey, and nobody in the government would have the authority to indict him.
Ah-ha [recognition of why on Earth I was asking this question]
The only remedy, in Giuliani’s view, is impeachment and removal, and only then could the president be indicted.
In other words, this isn’t a hypothetical—well, it is a hypothetical, but it’s not something that’s absurd to talk about because the president’s own lawyer brought it up. It seems to be part of his own claim of how far his powers extend.
And that makes it a very relevant question for every member of the House: If the president literally killed a person conducting an investigation into the conduct of the president himself, would Mr. Faso vote to impeach?
I will see that he gets this question.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Day 3: Would Faso impeach for murder?

I called again today (as I did yesterday and Monday).

I laid out the basic pieces of the argument:
  1. The letter from the president’s lawyers arguing he can shut down any investigation at any time, for any reason, explicitly including an investigation into himself.
  2. His own tweet saying he has the power to pardon himself.
  3. Rudy Giuliani’s claim that Trump could literally kill James Comey and he still wouldn’t be subject to indictment—the only remedy is impeachment.
That led to two questions.
Does Mr. Faso oppose these claims of dictatorial power.
I haven’t spoken to the congressman about that, but I’ll be sure to pass along your question.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Day 2: still no position

I was shorter this time than yesterday, and I didn't get into asking the staffer on the phone his own opinion.

I simply asked whether the Congressman (John Faso, NY-19) had yet taken a position on whether the president is above the law.

"There is no statement about that yet."


"Could I get your comment for the Congressman about that?"

"Yes. I want to know what he thinks about the president declaring he has the power to pardon himself, and that he has the power to shut down any investigation at any time, for any reason, including an investigation of himself. That is the essence of dictatorial power, and I'd really like to know the congressman's views on it."


"I plan to call every day until I have an answer."

"OK. Could I have your name?"

Gave him my name, from Oneonta. Didn't bother leaving my email. We'll be talking again tomorrow.

Day 3's conversation is here.