Alternative Energy Still Being Oversold

You have surely noticed, if you’ve been checking in on my blog, that I have been absent for quite a while. My age, abetted by my normal laziness, along with some minor health problems, are to be blamed. Maybe I just needed a special message to spur me to “get back to work.” The post below is such. Some of you may know that I worked in alternative energy for five years at GE just after the OPEC oil embargo in 1973 and have posted a number of comments on the subject in my blog. 

Finally, many of the utopian programs in wind and solar energy are bearing bitter fruit, resulting in more objective opinions of the area such as the one below by Lonborg. He is excellent in considering the total picture and I have included it in its entirety.

COPENHAGEN– One of the world’s biggest green-energy public-policy experiments is coming to a bitter end in Germany, with important lessons for policymakers elsewhere. Germany once prided itself on being the “photovoltaic world champion”, doling out generous subsidies – totaling more than $130 billion, according to research from Germany’s Ruhr University– to citizens to invest in solar energy. But now the German government is vowing to cut the subsidies sooner than planned, and to phase out support over the next five years. What went wrong? Continue reading


Memories No. 8: Cactus Needles and A String of Pearls

It was in the summer of 1942 that I bought my very first record, a 10 inch, 78 rpm vinyl recording of Glenn Miller’s famous hit, “A String of Pearls.” I paid 73 cents, more than twice my hourly wage of 32 cents. That was my favorite song then and I love it still. It’s on my iPod.


I bought it at a record shop, the kind that had listening booths in which you could play a record before you bought it. The shop was somewhere near the Loews theatre in downtown Dayton, OH, the top theatre then. I think it has disappeared now. And there you could see a movie and a stage show on one admission. I remember movies like “DuBarry Was a Lady” with Lucille Ball, followed by a live stage show such as the band of Ozzie Nelson with his singer Harriet Hilliard (Ozzie’s wife who used her maiden name), the stars of the long-running TV series.

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Memories No. 7: “— But Its Bread and Butter to Us!”

In most large organizations, like GE, engineering managers may be put in charge of a variety of operations. Once you are promoted for the second time you find yourself managing some unfamiliar work. Your first promotion was to be manager of the group you worked in and helped build. You were, therefore, quite knowledgeable of the work and the people.

The next promotion would be to manage about seven such groups, almost always including the one you just ran. The other groups were doing work you were aware of but certainly not an expert in. You would have to learn each group’s work as best you could and, most importantly, determine the real technical leaders of the work, probably but not always, including the manager, and rely on their ideas and suggestions.

In the aerospace industry at GE our major customer was the US Government which often was a “moving target” in that they had uncertain/changeable budgets which sometimes had us in whiplash from stops, starts, sudden budget changes, etc. As a result many reorganizations occurred in our divisions resulting in layoffs and hiring, sometimes at the same time because a new contract may need “brain surgeons” while we had too many “plastic surgeons”.

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Who Said the Following, and When?

“The budget should be balanced, the treasury should be refilled, public debt should  be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance of foreign lands should be curtailed lest the Republic become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.”

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Some Such Scientists Are Among Us?

The scientist was in his laboratory experimenting with flies. He was interested in the reaction time of a fly responding to a sharp noise.

He placed a fly on the table, turned on his automatic test equipment that would start very precise timing the moment he clapped his hands, and was ready. He stood behind the fly, clapped his hands and the fly took off in about 0.1 seconds, one fourth of a human’s reaction time. He then tried different angles of his hands and other combinations for position and noise; still 0.1 seconds. He dutifully recorded his findings.

Next he pulled off a leg, then two legs, etc. and still the fly would take off as quickly.

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Memories No. 6: Do You Buy New or Used Cars?

That was the first question my new boss asked me. It was late summer of 1953 at the General Electric Jet Engine Plant in Evendale, Ohio just outside Cincinnati. I had arrived as an employee in early June 1953, hired to do controls analysis and design, the subject I had been teaching at Brooklyn Poly. So a few months after I arrived a few development groups were transferred to the new boss. He was to choose part of us to stay with him and part to form a more advanced work team. Welcome to big business – where you can count on change!

So who was this new boss who asked about used cars, and what was to be the goal of the re-organization?

The new boss was Gerhard Neumann, who later was to lead GE to become the largest jet engine manufacturer in the world. He is pictured below in the mid-nineties, not long before he died from leukemia in 1997.
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Renewable(?) Energy

The following is a post taken entirely from one done by Matt Ridley. Ridley was educated at Eton College and then completed a BA and a PhD at Oxford in zoology. He is author of a number of successful books on science. (will1be)

What does the word “renewable” mean?

Last week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a thousand-page report on the future of renewable energy, which it defined as solar, hydro, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal and biomass. These energy sources, said the IPCC, generate about 13.8% of our energy and, if encouraged to grow, could eventually displace most fossil fuel use.

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Jacaranda Time in San Diego

May is, indeed, Jacaranda time in San Diego. The beautiful blooms of the Jacaranda tree begin to show in early May and the full explosion of blue/purple/violet color continues throughout the month, after which the green growth takes over from the fallen blossoms that make a temporary carpet under the tree. The tree’s “leaves” are reminiscent of the mimosa which has a similar shade of green and shape.

The picture above is very much like the tree in the small park near our home and where dog-walkers, including me and my dog Genji, gather during the late afternoon walks. Continue reading

Memories No. 5: I Joined the Vermont Militia

In the spring of 1950 I was looking for a teaching job in electrical engineering while I completed my MSEE thesis for scheduled UK graduation in summer 1951. One day a professor in the EE Department gave me an ad for an assistant professorship at Norwich University starting in September. I went to the library and read what I could find about Norwich. It is a military school in Vermont, near the capitol, Montpelier, and was founded in 1819. It’s enrollment averaged around 2000. There were only two colleges: Collegeof Arts and Sciences and the Engineering College which had: Electrical, Civil and Mechanical Engineering Departments. Only West Point is an older military school. Continue reading

Random Memories No. 4: “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

It was a clear, cool, sunny Wednesday that October 3, 1951 as I walked along Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn on my way back to the YMCA on Hanover Place. I had reserved a room there as a convenient place to stay until I found an apartment. I had been given a “classy room” with a single bed, wooden desk, straight back wooden chair, no phone, and shared showers and toilets at the end of the hall. But the price was right. 

Both pedestrian and vehicle traffic along Livingston Street were at low ebb as I walked along since rush hour had not started. 

About half way along my six block walk I saw a group of people standing around a news stand up ahead in the middle of the block, and as I got closer I realized that they were listening to the New York Giants – Brooklyn Dodgers baseball game, the deciding game of a three game playoff to see who would be in the World Series against the Yankees who had already clinched the American League top spot. The much-loved Red Barber, the “voice of the Dodgers” was calling the game. Most of the passing pedestrians would stop, at least for awhile before moving on, and many stayed, causing the crowd to grow.                        Continue reading