July 2013

For Home solar, times have certainly changed

Jay Oyster's picture

Creative Commons license. Solar panel installation at an information center adjacent to Ögii Lake Source= Chinneeb Date=2010-08-06In a recent article on NBC.com, which is copied from her New York Times article, Dianne Cardwell documents how U.S. electricity companies are ramping up their efforts against residential solar.  You see, the issue is, and the power companies are sort of not really prepared for this . . . but after several decades of predictions that Solar power would finally become competitive, it actually now is competitive. People putting solar panels on their rooftops was fine with the power company executives for many years because, you know, it didn't really MATTER. It was sort of cute, really. All those naive environmentally minded citizens thinking they could get along with the grid. 

Over the years, laws have been put in place to promote home solar. Many states have tax rebates or credits to help a homeowner buy a solar panel system for their house. I've wanted to do this for several decades, so I've been following the trends. Home Power magazine is THE source for people who want to install solar on their homeI read Home Power Magazine for a long time before home solar became a real thing . . .  you know, serious and less fun.  Back in the 80s, a full solar array for a home with the supporting electronics and cabling could run $50,000 or more. Most home systems are around 2.5kW, which is enough to run basically everything except the two big things; home heating and home air conditioning. A typical home roof isn't big enough for a system to run everything, and most people don't have a spare acre or two on which to ground mount enough panels to do that. Plus, having a full 10kW of solar panels is pretty inefficient since you only need it about 20% of the time in most locations, so the extra power generated would be wasted. So homeowners who wanted to go solar had a choice, either cut back on comfort in the form of heating and air conditioning, go to some other old-school method like wood stoves and fans, spend a lot more money for another system like a ground temperature cooling system, or figure out a way to have both solar and regular grid power.

Proposed science education standards in Kentucky bring out the Know Nothings

Jay Oyster's picture

Kentucky StatehouseSo . . . Kentucky is attempting to adopt an evidence-based broadly accepted educational standard for teaching science in public schools, and during public comments, religious groups oppose it as oppressive and promoting socialism.   The quote from a Baptist minister is, perhaps, typical, but still appalling, "Outsiders are telling public school families that we must follow the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution, that we no longer have what the Kentucky Constitution says is the right to worship almighty God."

The quote comes from a Huffington Post article about the controversy, but there is much more detail about the nuances of the debate over at The Spectrum. (I gather that the latter is an AP story.)

It's all projection with these people, isn't it? (Along with an inability to sense irony.)

Tear down, sanding, and feet

Jay Oyster's picture

I've made some good progress on Adri's cabinet over the past two weeks. I started by taking the dry-fit assembly apart so I can do final sanding, finishing and glue up of those parts. Aside from finishing up a couple of tool fixtures for my wall-hanging tool cabinet, I managed to keep my focus solely on the cabinet for a change. So the plan was: take it apart, sand, and work on the legs so they'll be ready to accept a finish. I haven't quite finished the feet details, but that's almost done. Then I'll need to do a couple more hours of sanding before applying the finishes. I'm hoping to get to the case glue-up within the next couple of weeks. 

The boring bits

Jay Oyster's picture

I don't have any photos of this, but I have been making progress on my wife's cabinet. When last we left the story, I had dry-fit the case, legs and webframe. So now I've torn down the whole thing and begun prepping it for glue up. The extra complication is that I want to keep the QS sycamore as white as possible, but it will be right up next to cherry and maple parts. So I've decided to finish the case and webframe together as soon as I get it assembled, and finish the legs and other parts separately.

I did have a lot of tear-out in the sycamore when planing it, probably because I need new knives in my old Ridgid power planer. So now I'm paying the price 

Book review: Radical Abundance by K. Eric Drexler

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Radical Abundance, or How a Revolution in Nanotechnology will Change Civilization by K. Eric DrexlerReview of "Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology will Change Civilization" by K. Eric Drexler. Reviewed on July 8th, 2013. 

Back in the 1980s, Eric Drexler coined the term and popularized the concept of what we now call 'nanotechnology'.  This book is a sort of 'So where are we now?' update on the state of the art and the concepts. I found the book alternatingly mind-blowing and tedious.  That's somewhat hard to do, yet that was my experience with Radical Abundance.

I think the reason for that reaction is that the author's intent in writing this books is somewhat schyzophrenic.  He wants to popularize his ideas, but he saw what happened to them back in the 90s and early 2000s, and is afraid that that will happen again. He sees in the history of this technology that it went wildly awry from his intentions, but for political reasons dealing with human nature rather than anything technical. He wants us to be excited, but not overly excited.  That latter part is where the tedium comes in. He attempts to undermine the 'gee-whiz' aspects of the ideas as much as he can, because he doesn't want accolytes. He wants thinking engineers to make it come true.  But this dual focus can cause him to be a bit repetitive and a bit of a worrywart.