Tuesday, November 24, 2009

An interesting letter in today's Statesman, from Michael Lueddeke regarding smart meters:

(letter 3)

Smart meters aren't helping consumers

It appears that Idaho Power will be getting paid for these meters three times by their own admission. There was an Oct. 18 article in the Kuna Melba News about the new smart meters being installed by Idaho Power, plus a Statesman article on Oct. 29. I've put them together, and here is what it says:

Kuna Melba News: Meters will pay for themselves in seven years.

Kuna Melba News: Idaho Power got an increase from the PUC for installing the meters.

Statesman: Idaho Power received stimulus money for installing the meters.

How many times does Idaho Power get to be paid for these meters? Won't it be prudent of the Public Utilities Commission (key word is "Public") to truly protect the public and grant the public a rate reduction since Idaho Power is collecting three times for these meters? Call the PUC and complain about this terrible treatment of the consumers.

Does everyone also understand that, once these meters are installed, Idaho Power can change your rates during the day at anytime to increase the fees being charged? One minute you are paying "x" for electricity, and then the next you are paying "y," and all this in the name of helping the consumer.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Another great quote today from Ran Prieur's blog:

"November 17. Thoughtful essay on intellectual property, If you believe in IP, how do you teach others? My position is that property is theft, and intellectual property is theft on stilts. Now Harvard and the University of Texas are actually prohibiting students from sharing what they learn in class. If you take this to its logical conclusion, you can pay for an education, go on to use what you've learned in a job, and if you didn't get the professor's explicit permission to use it, you can go to prison.

The article doesn't stop there, but goes on to explore Ayn Rand's obsession with intellectual property. It never occurred to me that Rand had two distinct ideologies which totally contradict each other. One is basically Nietzsche, or Harrison Bergeron: the exceptional individual, wild and free, weighted down by the mediocrity of the average. The other is Ebenezer Scrooge. Rand's genius was to use the former as a front for the latter: because we are strong and independent and creative, we should never have to give anything to the lazy idiots. She was personally so miserly that she sent Nathaniel Branden to prevent her followers "from using the word Objectivist, to prevent them from using quotes from John Galt, to prevent them even from advertising lectures on the topic by students of her ideas." And "she ended up feeling robbed and looted by everyone who was influenced by her."

When you think about it, the most exceptional people should be the most generous. If you're truly confident in your ability to create things of value, you don't mind losing everything, because you can just make more."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Pink Rabbits and Flying Dreams

Last night, I had a fanciful dream that I was back at my old Virginia house. I haven’t lived there for decades, but recently went on Google Maps and flew around the woodsy neighborhood a bit. Something, I’ve admired about my father, is that whenever he bought a house, it was always adjacent to some woods, giving us young rapscallions a healthy place to run around to release our energy.

In the dream, I awoke on Saturday daybreak and went outside, barefoot in my pajamas to collect a Washington Post from our snowy driveway. In reality, we lived on a sleepy dead end, but in the dream, cars could now connect into the forest. In fact, it was a bustling thoroughfare now; some elaborate racecars were speeding into the woods, as one or two old jalopies were pulling out and returning to civilization. Even though it was snowy, I was excited to be back, and thought I would take an encompassing walk around the backyard, while waiting for the newspaper. Still barefoot, I walked to the side yard, to see several children shouting with squeals of glee, preparing to sled down our hill. It was a magnificent morning for sledding, and I thought I would trudge up the hill a way, to be closer to the enjoyment. Halfway to the pinnacle, the children easily maneuvered around me on their toy-sleds. While I reached the top, I saw there were several more houses. The furthest yard was filled with dozens of other children, enjoying some festive event. The first few modern houses were quiet and dim, but the ancient house was where the action was. As I approached, I saw a great cauldron of stew boiling over a fire in the front yard, as the happy children continued to dart about, every which-way. It was a four-story grey house, and I tried to picture it from my past. I remembered it being an old house, even back when I was young. Then in the hub of activity, I spied the property owner. She was somebody, I knew from decades ago, but she hadn’t aged much. She had some wild grey curly hair around the fringes of her head, and everyone there respected her with high regard. Trying to be polite, I asked in a curious voice, above the merry din, “How old is this house?” She was elusive with her answer, but smiled, and then kindly but sternly, grabbed me around the forearms, saying, “I remember your kind; I had to straighten you and your brother out a few times, from some of the trouble you caused out here in the woods.” I thought that this wasn’t necessarily true, but perhaps there was a small element to what she spoke. We briefly conversed some more, then I asked what her name was. She spoke a name so peculiar that I knew instantly that I would be incapable of remembering it. It was as if she had cast a spell upon her obscure name, rendering it impossible to recollect, although, I do remember her long singular name had four “i’s” in it. She released me and I trotted a little further down the wet Virginia clay trail. As the snow melted in the late morning forest sun, I came to two more houses that I remembered from childhood: the last one an old blue Victorian, facing Rabbit Run creek. I vaguely recalled some sort of strange happenings there too, but couldn’t penetrate the decades-old memories to put my finger on it yet.

Suddenly, as I spun around in the wet mud, I realized that I was able to fly again. I was flying feet-first with my bare feet sticking out straight ahead of me. Remarkably, the fact that I was able to fly felt quite natural, as it usually does with such flying dreams. This incubated a thought that I would like to turn my body around and fly like Superman to show the Virginians what their prodigal son had learned, while living twenty years in Idaho woods. They will love this! -I thought in a powerful inner celebration, and they will talk about it for decades! My plan was to fly slow motion past the children’s clamor and their holiday cauldron, giving them the broadest smile I could possibly manage. However, when I tried to spin about, to fly face-first like Superman, there was something off with my inner gyroscope. It led me to a higher altitude, and suddenly I was soaring fast, directly behind four space pilots and four astronauts. Those high-flyers were all relying on spacesuits and other backup technologies, so I laughed at them, as I was flying on mind-power alone. It all felt quite fearless, but for some reason, I was unable to switch my inner gears back down to earth, no matter how hard I tried.

Awakening to present day reality, I lay there motionless for several minutes, lightly buzzing about the powerful flying dream. Then, as the dream partially melted away, it occurred to me that those uncanny houses in the woods were never actually there, but rather had been places imagn’d in my childhood dreams. Vivid places I occasionally revisited over the decades, where many events had taken shape and form – enough to record a small history deep in my subconscious. This made me wonder if this all was merely in my mind, or are our minds potentially much more powerful than what my instructors taught, in our Virginia school of thought? Do we somehow mysteriously connect to otherworldly dimensions, where ongoing ethereal events persist in parallel fashions?

Then I realized that I had been sleeping on a sofa brought home recently as a gift from a friend. The sofa is emblazoned with some cute animals, the most notable of which are some pink rabbits dancing on the pillow, which had been pressing against my dreamy head…

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Smarter than smart grid

Smarter than smart-grid?

Suddenly, we are under a push to switch over to “smart-grid” power metering. On the surface, this technology holds vast potential: It could inspire many of us to conserve precious energy; and some Idaho communities are already doing this. However, we would be to wise to ensure that these smart systems are highly-hacker resistant, before wider-scale implementation. For instance, imagine an enemy, breaking into the grid to shut down the full configuration, and potentially causing long-term damage to power lines, substations and home electrical systems. This is not farfetched, as nefarious hackers have already infected various financial intuitions, global security systems and millions of personal computers. Smart-grid meters are equally susceptible to these types of online attacks.

As we use them more broadly, smart-grid power systems will likely edge up higher on the list of hacker targets. As this happens, leading members of our Idaho Public Utilities Commission would do well, to take their oversight roles seriously on this important issue. It would be refreshing to hear our utility commissioners require Idaho Power to pass a wide array of ongoing security tests, before granting statewide approval.

Otherwise, our too-clever-by-half, super-reliance on technology, might reveal that the wisest owls in Idaho are those who thrive, way up yonder in the piney-wood, in smart-looking cabins, simply chopping firewood and carrying water, utterly off the wavering grid.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fresh Healing Angles

Five summers ago, at the little Idaho hideaway cabin where I lived, I pruned back a sugar maple branch, to affix a small suet feeder, six feet off the ground. The maple was adjacent to some cottonwoods by a trickling creek. The brook was a lifeline for birds, especially magpies, kingfishers and the occasional mysterious owl. After attaching the birdfeeder, I found that we needed to refresh the suet, around twice a month. I usually remembered to do this on time. However, toward the end of summer, I realized that I had forgotten to check it for a while, walked over and found it full of some unidentifiable black goo. At first, I thought that the suet had turned rancid, but then, while prying the object out, I realized there were black feathers attached and something sadder had happened – a poor blackbird had become stuck inside the feeder and was unable to extract itself, leading to its untimely death.

I shuddered slightly and immediately looked at it as a bad omen. To me the bird augury was powerful enough that I decided to keep it a secret from my housemate, so as not to frighten her. I didn’t think much more about the matter, until a few weeks later: While winterizing the grounds, I placed a large tarp over a tent next to the maple. As I made a broad swooping motion with the tarp, the same sharp branch I had pruned earlier, speared through my ear and into the side of my head. It was a Tuesday afternoon and almost five o-clock. After standing there stunned for a few seconds, trying to figure out what had hit me, I realized the severity of the situation. I was alone and bleeding profusely from the left side of my head. Hastily, I rounded up the dog, grabbed a small towel, to press against the wound and drove 2 & 1/2 miles to our local emergency room.

It’s a small hospital, but well-staffed. As I arrived, something deep inside, switched my gears into survival mode, and helped to rally me through the surgery. I cracked a few jokes about my dilemma to the physician and his assistant, hoping this would put all three of us more at ease. (I truly believe that there are cases where if you act like a jerk, your level of quality service is apt to diminish.) This seemed to help, but while examining the complexity of damage, the young doctor expressed hesitation as to whether he could stitch my ear back together properly, and suggested that I may need to transfer to a Boise hospital. That was going to be a long expensive haul and I was not looking forward to seeing a specialist three hours away.

However, right then, a visiting plastic surgeon *just happened by* our emergency room to see the problem. He encouraged the attending physician to try a specific stitching method and even made some animated motions of how to do this. After the physician made a few careful stitches with the newly suggested method, he soon gained more confidence. The visiting plastic surgeon saw the doctor was getting it right, so he left us alone. Soon all was well and I was back at work the next afternoon. However, a few weeks later, my housemate broke me the bad news that the developer, who bought our tiny tumbledown shack, would soon be smashing it to smithereens and we would have to move.

(One of the new property owners speculated that they would try to save the maple, because such trees are rare in this climate and its vibrancy would enhance the property. However, the maple is gone and we’re not sure what happened.)

Meanwhile, the Near Death Experience trauma from the sweet sugar maple seeded something new into me. It forced me to reflect hard about the haphazard direction of my life and slowed me down enough to dedicate some quiet time to writing. In the five years since the incident, I’ve had a small measure of success at this. I feel strongly that writing about items of a meaningful nature is something I should be dedicated to for several hours each week.

Until now, I have shared this personal tale with only a handful of friends. Yesterday evening I recounted it to a new friend. She is a professional Hypnotherapist, recently transplanted to Idaho from Africa, and I am helping her with her Bio. While getting to know her, she has earned my trust in her powers of intuition and yesterday she expressed a new viewpoint of what happened that evening in the emergency room. When I told her that I never caught the name of the professional plastic surgeon that walked by at that synchronistic moment, she suggested that I have not yet fathomed the extent of what actually occurred. She claims that even if I tried hard, I would not be able to discover the Good Samaritan’s name, because he is not a human being. Rather she believes he is a guardian angel, who sensed that my time here on earth five years ago, was not yet finished, and that I still had some good work to give.

Monday, November 02, 2009

HEADLINE: "D.C. Police are "cracking" down on speeders. For the first offense, they give you two Redskins tickets. (If you get stopped a second
time, they give you two Nationals tickets.)"

Q. What do you call 47 millionaires sitting around a TV watching the Super Bowl?
A. The Washington Redskins.

Q. What do the Redskins and Billy Graham have in common?
A. They both can make 70,000 people stand up and yell "Jesus Christ".

Q. How do you keep the Redskins out of your yard?
A. Put up a goal post.

Q. Where do you go in D.C. in case of a tornado?
A. To FedEx Field - they never have a touchdown there!

Q. What do you call a Redskin with a Super Bowl ring?
A. Senior Citizen

Q. How many Redskins does it take to win a Super Bowl?
A. We may never find out in the 21st century.

Q. What do the Redskins and opossums have in common?
A. Both play dead at home and get killed on the road.

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