Archive for September, 2008

Energy numbers

Both solar and nuclear are hitting the news with advances in efficiency and utility. CEO of Hyperion Power Generation interviewed about the Uranium Hydride reactor provides some numbers that yield scope and scale in thinking about energy sources.

  • specifically designed to fit on the back of a flatbed truck at about 20 tons weight and a meter and a half wide by 2 tall.
  • reactor life is 8 – 10 years with 70 Mw thermal or 30 Mw electrical output at about $100 million each. That appears to be about a nickel per kWh.
  • certified ‘walk a way’ design does not need continuous operator monitoring or attention
  • expected factory output is 400 reators per year or 10-12 Gw output – that’s like building more than 10 typical major sized power plants every year. The estimated market opportunity is for half a million of these units.
  • “The waste that comes out of our reactor after powering 20,000 homes for 8-10 years is about the size of a football.”

That’s a pre-packaged solution for powering a 20,000 home community for near ten years.

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When a bailout isn’t

Big Lizards has a good explanation of what is going on in the financial sector debacle in Democrats Try to Hijack the So-Called “Bailout”.

This is the crux of the crisis: Back in the cretaceous period, when a bank or S&L issued a mortgage, it held that mortgage until the borrower paid it off. But in the contemporary era, what starts out as a mortgage is typically bundled with other mortgages into a “mortgage-backed securitie” (MBS) — essentially bonds that can be traded on the open market. Bizarrely, in the process, bad debt automagically becomes good investment.

How are MBSs created? Let me quote from an excellent sumary in a newsletter by John Maudlin (free registration required):

What happened is that the mortgage loans got sliced and diced into investment securities and separated from their underlying value base. That meant their actual value was difficult or impossible to determine. When some parts of a sliced and diced investment goes sour, the rating of the investment drops and current laws and regulations may require the investment be sold. The problem is that no one wants to buy because they don’t know what they are buying and what it’s really worth.

It was that uncertainty that caused the mortgage market to collapse. It’s like trying to buy a car when all you can see is a grainy photo in a newspaper: You can’t test-drive it, inspect it, or even kick the tires. You don’t even know whether it contains an engine… how can you possibly make any kind of offer whatsoever?

That is where the government comes in. The idea is to purchase the investments that must be sold at a significant discount.

That’s why the Paulson-Bernanke plan is neither a bailout — the so-called beneficiaries in fact must pay dearly for their folly — nor massively expensive, since it resells most of the securities it bought, and at a profit.

The idea is that the government has the capital ready to hand to purchase these fuzzy investments now and the time and manpower necessary to sort them out and determine actual values. If the discount was properly determined, it should ameliorate or eliminate any net cost to the government.

The rest of the blog post is about how the Democrats in Congress are playing political games by using the need to assist the financial sector as a lever to push some of their political goals. No one disputes the need for assistance but some think it an opportunity to force others to comply with their desires.

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Boomer Weirdness

James Lewis describes the phenmomena at American Thinker in The End of Boomer Weirdness.

“Boomer Weirdness” is the great eruption of irrationality that seized the West three decades ago, when the Boomer Left rose to positions of power. I don’t think the Boom Generation as a whole is any madder than other generations; but the Boomer Left — ah, now we’re talkin’ several curlicues short of a plumbline.

When the Boomer Left “Marched Through the Institutions” (as they called it) in the 1970s and 80s, you could actually see a sudden wild swerve in our news media, our universities and politics.

The Boomer Left even gave its weirdness a pretentious name: Post-Modernism.

The US Constitution was built as a bulwark against untrammeled lust for power. The Founders didn’t know Nancy and Harry in person, but they were pretty sure that power-mad demagogues would show up some time. They had studied history and understood human nature. As we can plainly see, they were right.

Post-Modernism leaves all that rational thinking far behind, like Alice tumbling through the looking-glass. The weirdness of the Left is not an accident; our hebephrenic media folk were taught flashy Po-Mo nonsense in their Ivy League classrooms, and they were dumb enough to fall for it.

Of course, those who are the butt of this allegation of ‘boomer weirdness’ don’t quite see it that way. Both the weird and the non-weird see themselves as having a proper view of things. That is the very essence of post modernism where everyone is OK and there is no reference to use to tell what is proper and what is not.

Lewis seems to think that maybe a referent is getting re-established and we will be deciding that maybe there is a bad and a good, maybe there is a right and a wrong, maybe there is a reality that can be shared, maybe ideas and thoughts can be measured against standards of integrity and honesty.

Maybe.

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The community organizer nerve

It seems that when nominee Palin said that mayors are like community organizers except they have responsibilities, she struck a nerve. Wikipedia describes the role of a community organizer:

“Community organizers act as area-wide coordinators of all the programs of different agencies so as best to meet community needs for health and welfare services. They also facilitate self-help programs initiated by local common-interest groups, for example, by training local leaders to analyze and solve the problems of a community. Community organizers work actively, as do other types of social workers, in community councils of social agencies and in community-action groups. At times the role of community organizers overlaps that of the social planners.”

The nerve may be a bit more than a perceived slight on a political opponent. It may also strike to a fundamental philosophical difference between the political parties. In the conservative or Republican camp, the role of the community organizer is found in the tradition of churches and local social organizations. In the liberal or Democratic camp, the role is provided by the government using its distribution of tax dollars to foster its desires.

This difference touches on matters of control and funding. A mayor is the traditional community organizer and is a very local office with direct accountability, via election, to the community being organized. Funding, for the most part, is raised from within the community. The community organizer does not have local accountability and is usually funded by more distant governmental budgets.

That matter of local versus state or national control and funding  sets the direction for each party’s different approach towards creating solutions to the social and civic problems they see. As illustrated by Palin as mayor and governor, and as used by her opponents to attempt to impugn her behavior, the solution is not clear cut. That is something realized by most of the electorate and leads to yet another position of the candidates, one where, believe it or not, they are essentially in agreement.

Now if only they could accept this commonality as something to stimulate finding actual, realistic, solutions.

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Ebox and the Samba share linked file problem

File sharing services are perhaps one of the most common uses for a network services box. Samba allows sharing files using the Microsoft Windows methods. It does a good job meshing the Linux ideas and Windows ideas – most of the time. Sharing a linked file has a problem, though.

eBox puts its Samba shares in the /home/samba/… and doesn’t allow tinkering with the samba configuration files. This means that, if you have a file or folder somewhere else, you have to use a link to have it appear in your shared files folder.

If you have the Samba Unix Extensions enabled, which they are by default, a Linux client won’t be able to access files on that share through the link as it sees the link as being local. To fix this, you have to disable the Unix Extensions. See the bug report at contribs.org.

The Unix Extensions allow users to set their own file permissions and such things. Since eBox won’t allow tweaking the server configuration file to turn them off, you need to turn them off when you mount the share on the client. The key option to use is ‘nounix’ as in the following example:

sudo mount.cifs //serverIPaddress/sharename localmountpoint -o user=workgroup/userid%password,noperm,file_mode=0666,dir_mode=0777,nounix

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