February 6th, 2010

#1928: Electricity

The weather forecast was fairly benign: an inch or two of snow, highs in the 20s. Nothing about high winds.

We got the inch or two of snow; we got high winds with it. And the power was going on and off all night long.

The power went off for a minute sometime around 10:30 PM, and came back on; and then it flickered again. The third or fourth time it did this I decided to shut down the computer, including turning off the UPS which powers the DSL modem and router, before the power failed completely.

The first outage was the worst and lasted the longest. I was looking out the windows by the front door and watching the sky light up with man-made lightning. Coincidentally, when the sky lit up, the driveway light went out, and vice-versa.

No, not a coincidence, because the sky was being lit by electrons which should have been lighting the driveway. And the street. And running the furnace. And the refrigerator. In all the houses around ours.

Finally the fuses went and the power stayed off. Having nothing I wanted to do that could be done without electricity, I hit the hay.

I don't know when the power came back on; I didn't bother putting on my glasses so I could see the clock. I shut the light off and went back to sleep.

The power failed again sometime in the night, and came back on again sometime later. I pretty much slept through it, though at some point I got up when the power was on and saw another light show, this time east of town. As I looked out the south window I saw two cop cars go past on the main road, lights and sirens going--perhaps a line fell on a road or something.

Two inches of snow. Cripes.

* * *

Polymer solar cells get a seven-fold boost in efficiency! It's incredible!

...to a total efficiency of--are you ready to be astounded?--1.12 percent!

That's right: these incredible solar cells turn as much as 0.012 of the sunlight striking them in to electricity. That means a square meter of this stuff will put out a whopping 12 watts of power when struck by 1 kW of sunlight!

That means that if I were to cover the south half of the roof of this house with these solar cells, I could...I could...I could run my computer on solar power! While the sun was shining, anyway. For a couple hours around noon. As long as there were no clouds.

Nano-patterning may be a great idea for solar cells and it may not be, but I'm not excited by this article at all. 1.12% is nothing; there's no way polymer solar cells can even begin to compete with conventional cells as long as their efficiency is not comparable--and here we see that scientists are using every trick they can think of just to get them into single-digit efficiencies.

Shut up and work, and let us know when you actually have something important to report.

* * *

What in the fricking hell is wrong with the New York educational system? Arrested for writing on a desk? And this isn't the first time it's happened, either.

* * *

I am going to have to read up on what processor manufacturers are doing these days. The accompanying chart showing Intel's plans shows that they're intent on providing Nehalem-series processors with eight cores each, and which will work in combinations of up to 16 cores total per motherboard. Two processors, 16 cores, all running around 3 GHz. Lordy.

Apparently Intel is also developing a CPU with forty-eight cores.

...I'm starting to wonder what "entry level" is looking like these days. I don't have the wherewithal to upgrade my system, though. *sigh*

* * *

On replacing a hard drive in a Mac iBook. In August of 2008 I tried to fix my niece's laptop, a white iBook she'd gotten through a school program, and found that everything he says here about them is true. If you want to get at the hard drive, you're going to be dealing with a lot of tiny screws.

I don't, however, agree with the rest of his post. But whatev.

* * *

Apparently HG Wells did not like Metropolis. Wells' critique of Metropolis didn't mention politics; Metropolis was, in fact, meant to be a pro-socialism movie. At the time it was made, socialism was the big deal among the intelligentsia, and Fritz Lang was no exception.

While Wells' criticisms don't mention this, they nonetheless point out that the movie completely ignores the laws of economics. It provides the typical leftist/socialist caricature of a capitalist economy: some rich people living lives of luxury on the backs of the myriad of poor people. Wells very neatly disassembles this caricature.

Wells' mistake was thinking this was supposed to be an honest and scientific look at what the world would be like in 2027. Lang wasn't interested in prognostication; he was interested in selling the ideal of socialism as the only way to prevent such a dystopian future. That's why he showed people in a highly industrialized and technological society living under what was clearly a feudal economy.

If Lang had not been trying to show the "superiority" of socialism, he might--as Wells says--have tried looking into what had already been written about economics and societal evolution; and in fact Lang might have tried looking at how capitalism was shaping up in th United States (Henry Ford's efforts, for example). Metropolis would have looked a lot different; but it wouldn't be hailed as a "sci-fi classic" because the people who get to make that determination would have panned it.

* * *

I set the DVD-R to record Smallville last night and slept. For the past several days I had been waking up around 3 AM, being up for 12 hours or so, and then going back to bed. I simply couldn't stay awake any longer and hit the hay yesterday afternoon.

At least the gut malf finally went away.

I had gotten up around nine and had dinner, and was laying in bed and rereading High School Girls; that was when the power started flickering.

So I think my morning is pretty well set: watch the car shows, watch Smallville. I was going to go blow off the driveway--two inches of snow but the high winds made it drift--but a neighborhood kid is an enterprising young lad who is making money via snow removal; he was here at 8:40 and blew it off with his own snow blower. I think he charges Mom $20 to do it.

I have to wonder: did he use a shovel until he had made enough to buy a snowblower? Either way, I'm impressed with his work ethic.

* * *

I used the occasion of installing the new DVD recorder--whenever it was--to replace the too-short S-video cable that had linked the computer with the rest of my entertainment system. I'd had, in fact, a quite long S-video cable on hand, and for months it had been laying atop the DVD recorder (the old one) as I'd intended to replace it for just about ever.

But running cables is somewhere near the bottom of my list of "favored pastimes", particularly when the cable to be run must be snaked through the tangle of wires typical to any home entertainment system. Look: I've got a computer, a 7.1 surround system, two printers, a CD player, a DVD recorder, a satellite receiver, and two lamps all in a volume of about 6x4x5 feet. There are wires everywhere. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon weren't this festooned.

Remember: when I got the all-in-one unit, it took me hours to reposition everything so that I could plug it into the computer. (Okay, okay, yeah, some of that was cleaning--but still!)

But I ran the cable, it works, and now I no longer have to worry about snagging the S-video cable with my knee and popping it out of the computer.

* * *

For once, Washington, D.C. is getting, rather than giving, the snow-job.