The Saving Grace Of Technology


Posted on : 4/09/2011 09:29:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

It is always "too soon to tell"  whenever the cutting edge of science and engineering momentarily intrudes on our world.  However, with petroleum headed upwards from $100 a barrel and petro-dollars fueling terrorism around the globe, the development of a new, high-efficiency engine couldn't be more timely.

Michigan State University Professor Norbert Mueller has been working on the design of a new method for converting gasoline into energy.  His engine is called the "Wave Disc Generator". 

As I understand his explanation, the WDG spins to compress gasoline mixed with air.  The mixture is ignited at high pressures which in turn unleashes the energy stored in the gasoline.  What makes this approach remarkable is that it couples an inexpensive to build motor with very high efficiency.  Current piston styled engines use 15 percent of the fuel they consume for propulsion.  The rest of the fuel's energy is spent as heat.  The WDG uses 60 percent of the fuel for propulsion.  The result is an engine that is 3.5 times as efficient.

As an added benefit, the WDG design also reduces pollutants by as much as 90 percent.

The WDG design is perfect for our currently evolving hybrid vehicles.  The WDG engine operates most efficiently at one particular speed.  Connecting the engine to a generator would provide a highly efficient means of recharging batteries in a hybrid vehicle.

With hybrids reaching 40 mpg, converting those existing designs to use the Wave Disc Generator should result in fuel efficiencies in the 120 to 140 mpg range.

Norbert Mueller and his Wave Disc Generator engine:

The Death Penalty From A Lawyer's Perspective


Posted on : 4/09/2011 04:40:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

David Dow is a law professor.  He is also a lawyer that devotes most of his non-teaching time to defending death row inmates.  Terry Gross' interview of Mr. Dow was recently replayed on NPR.  The page on NPR's site includes a brief passage from his book "The Autobiography Of An Execution".

The audio should be up in the evening of April 8, 2011.  I have no idea when this post will be published at this point.

At one point, Ms. Gross demonstrates why I dislike her show.  Rather than asking Mr. Dow what sort of people he imagined meeting on death row and how did reality square with his preconceptions, she fills in the blanks so that the only thing he has left to say is "yes".  I was really more interested in hearing his thoughts rather than having her spoon feed him during the interview.

An anachronism reared its' ugly head while reading the excerpt from his book.  He writes:

Maybe, I said, we had called something by the wrong name. You might think that when a life is at stake, formal legal rules would not matter so much, but you would be wrong. People die when their lawyers neglect to dot the i's or cross the t's. I decided we would refile what we had already filed, and just call it something different. Because I couldn't think of any other explanation, I convinced myself the problem was with the title. Necessity's eldest child is invention; her second-born is rationalization. Gary's the fastest typist. I asked him to get started working on it.

Yet during the interview, he revealed how judges become sloppy in their execution of the law when it comes to the prosecution of irredeemable defendants.  He perceives that those judges decide that issues regarding the administration of our laws (i.e. evidentiary rules, due process, etc.) simply matter less when someone who is clearly a person of malintent stands before them in court.

Considering that a life hangs in the balance, shouldn't our courts ensure that every lawyer is dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's?  Not just the lawyers for the defendant?  For the one act of punishment that cannot be undone, shouldn't our courts be particularly cautious instead of being more cavalier?

Not unlike other issues, I am conflicted when it comes to the death penalty.  There are some murders where we know that the accused is truly guilty.  In many of those cases, it seems to me that taking the life of the murderer is a just and appropriate punishment.

At the same time, it seems to me that we have too low a standard for prosecutorial conduct when it comes to pursuing the death penalty.  And apparently we have too low of a standard for judicial conduct in such cases as well.  Perhaps their lives should hang in the balance as well.

I do not want to preclude the imposition of justice on the truly worthy.  The death of Timothy McVeigh comes quickly to mind when thinking of the truly worthy.  At the same time, I do not want to see the innocent die, nor do I want to see mitigating circumstances, evidentiary rules, and rules of judicial conduct ignored in a head long rush towards the unjust imposition of capital punishment.

The interview with Mr. Dow is indeed enlightening and interesting.  I hope you will enjoy listening to it.

Global Temperature Data


Posted on : 4/09/2011 10:54:00 AM | By : Dann | In :

Ran across this item:

March 2011 ended up as the coolest March globally since March of 1994. The actual global temperature anomaly for the lower troposphere last month was negative 0.026 C.

This is also the first month since June of 2008 that the global temperature anomaly was in the negative.
Which seems important in that last year we started kayaking in early March and this year we haven't yet gotten our boats wet.

Gabriel Iglesias - Fluffy!!


Posted on : 4/08/2011 08:58:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

Love that GPS!!  Uh-huh!  Oh yeah!

Gabriel Iglesias - A Racist???!!??


Posted on : 4/08/2011 12:02:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

 I hate laughing that hard when I know I'm not supposed to laughing at all.

Education By Sound Reasoning.....Or Politics?


Posted on : 4/07/2011 08:01:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

I bet you thought that President Obama's education policies were going to be based on fact, science, efficacy, a similar high minded ideals.  Ummmm......nope.

Fiscal Analogy


Posted on : 4/07/2011 07:38:00 AM | By : Dann | In : , , ,

Most analogies fail at some point.  But sometimes they are quite useful.

As a country, we have a problem with debt and with deficits.  We are in a fiscal hole. Call it a 100 yard deep hole.

Wisconsin's Paul Ryan has presented a plan that is the fiscal equivalent of 80 yards of sturdy rope.

Harry Reid and the Democrats are offering the fiscal equivalent of 30 yards of light twine.  You couldn't start building a sturdy rope with it.

John Boehner are is negotiating for 60 yards of light twine.

You are at the bottom of that 100 yard deep hole.  Which option do you want coming to the rescue?

Death And Taxes.....Well Just Taxes This Time


Posted on : 4/05/2011 05:53:00 PM | By : Dann | In : , ,

My highly esteemed and well read visitors will no doubt have heard the big news in corporate taxation.  General Electric paid $0 in taxes last year!  In fact, they got billions of dollars back!!


At least, so says the ever questionable New York Times.

Megan McArdle has a piece about how the Times reporters screwed things up.  Fortunately this isn't a case of the reporters maliciously misrepresenting the facts.  Instead, it is a case where reporters assigned to report on matters of corporate and tax accounting should have known that those are two very different types of accounting that almost always result in two very different answers.

Ms. McArdle also makes the persuasive case....again....for total elimination of corporate income taxes.

Let's face facts.  Corporations do not pay a single penny in corporate income taxes.  People do.  Investors pay by getting lower returns.  Employees and managers pay by getting less in salary and/or benefits.  Customers pay by paying higher prices.

Given that the corporate income tax only generates a few hundred billion dollars ($191 billion in 2010) in revenue, is it really the most effective method for collecting taxes?  No.

Particularly when so many businesses, including GE, spend so much money on accountants to keep track of the taxes owed, and spend so much time and money getting Congress to tweek the tax code to their advantage. Ever hear of tax credits for wind power?  Care to guess what business (among many) GE is in?

Ms. McArdle's stuff is always a great read.

The Purpose Of A Dog


Posted on : 4/05/2011 05:08:00 PM | By : Dann | In : ,

A friend sent this along via email.  We're having some issues here at the ranch and they are puppy related.

Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa , and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the  family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for  the old dog in their home.

As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane
Might learn something from the experience.

The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting  the old dog for the last time, that I wondered  if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.

The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker's death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. 
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, ''I know why.''

Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me.  I'd never heard a more comforting explanation.  It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, ''People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?''
The Six-year-old continued, Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay as long.''

Live simply.

Love generously.

Care deeply.

Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher you would learn things like:

  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow  the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • Take  naps.
  • Stretch before rising.
  • Run, romp, and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch you.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.
  • On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you're not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Asha is 11+ years young.  Which is a pretty good run for a dog of his size.  We hope to have him around for a few years more because he is always just a joy to be with.

But we are also having to deal with how much we want him to have to deal with in terms of discomfort.  And then there's money.  Vets can almost make dogs live long as your pockets reach down to your socks.

But that little six year old had Asha just right.  He has known how to live from the moment he finally got those oversized paws steadily underneath him.

And he lives that way every day.