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Gayle asked me to post since we are currently without electricity, and my laptop has 30 minutes of juice left in it … plus the only network connection.

We had a severe thunderstorm move through the area about four hours ago, and now our county has 1000 people in the dark. The next biggest outage is the town just to our north which has 90 people without power.  So I figure we really should be on the priority list.  But there’s no guarantees.  The power company will get to us when it gets to us.

We have wind-up lanterns and what not (and battery powered laptops), so we’re good to go as long as the power doesn’t stay off too much longer.

Gayle’s getting a bit nervous since the zines go live on Friday, and she’s now losing an entire evening’s productivity.  Personally, I’m not worried.  Everything will turn out okay.  I’m in my positive thinking mode.  Maybe we should eat that ice cream before it can melt.  That’s thinking positive, isn’t it?

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While I’m sure this comes as no big question to professional mathematicians, I’ve never come to an understanding of the nature of infinity. The question that came up this evening while sitting at a traffic light was: if the set of integer numbers is infinite, and the set of real numbers is infinite, and integers are a subset of real numbers, then isn’t one infinity larger than the other? Furthermore, if you subtract the integers from the reals, you still have an infinite set left over. Now take the numbers X/10, where X is an integer. There’s an infinite number of them too. And X/100, X/1000, on and on with increasing powers of 10 in the denominator. Obviously, there’s an infinite number of them as well. Plus X/2, X/20, X/200, X/3, X/30, X/300, etc etc etc. No matter how many infinite sets you take out, there’s still an infinite number left. So doesn’t that make the infinitely large set of real numbers infinitely larger than the infinite set of integers?

So, there’s no solution here, no grand philosophy, no rant. Just the simple acknowledgment that I really don’t understand the concept of infinity, and I wonder if anyone really does?

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Nebraska: big, green, flat, and more windmills and cows than Iowa and Ohio.

Today is/was our last day on the road until we head back home on Sunday. We got into Denver about 4PM. The hotel lobby was standing room only with people from three conventions checking in at once. We managed to get our room and find it. We’re in the Tower so you have to go down to the concourse level and then under and around and through and find the elevators for the tower — finally, we’re in our room.Big Blue Bear peering into Denver Convention Center

The convention center is a short walk away — except it was raining slightly; but it felt so good after the hot stuffy weather of the day. The convention center has a huge Blue Bear looking into it’s front windows. Hyperion and I collect bears so this just made us giggle (yes, it was a giggle not a guffaw or laugh — it was a pure joy giggle, I think I’m going to like Denver even more than I previously thought — they have a sense of whimsy here.)

It is now 5:31 and we need to get to the convention registration in the Convention Center, get our badges and get to Opening Ceremonies. We didn’t make it. We got our registration stuff but got to Opening Ceremonies just as they ended. But we did get to the Baryaran Summerfaire, a get to know the authors and fans get-together after Opening Ceremonies. There were some wonderful costumes being worn and we got some photos. Managed to catch up with friends and acquaintances.

We decided to call it a night. Okay, so it was only about 7:30 by then. It’s been a long day (and our bodies are still on Eastern Time, which makes it 9:30). Tomorrow we plan to attend the business meeting and then panels and whatever we can fit in. Hopefully, we’ll update throughout the day but at least at the end of each day.

Hyperion AvatarWhat can I add? Hmmm. I’m not as young as I once was, that’s for sure. I’ve been drinking caffeinated sodas all day long so that I could keep moving. Now my nerves are all fried. Youth is wasted on the young.

Important things learned in the last 24 hours: Be careful how you hold the car remote when you’re trying to unpack the car at a motel around midnight. Otherwise what you think is the trunk release might just be the panic button. Now, I’m not saying that this actually happened, and you can’t prove otherwise! Also make sure you wear shoes with at least a little bit of tread left on them. When it rains, fancy paving stones start acting a lot like ice.

It’s good to finally be here. There looks to be a lot of great talks over the next couple of days on a variety of science topics. So, with any luck, I’ll have more fodder to foist off on you as the week progresses.

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Hyperion Avatar Shortly after posting last night, we pulled in at a rest stop, got one of the coupon books and found a el-cheapo motel (motel 6: It has a locked door and horizontal, slightly padded surface. What more do you need?).  We got about seven hours of sleep and now we’re back on road and making good time.  We stopped for coffee (of course), and other than that we’ve just been driving and driving.  As of now (about 11:00am) we’re just through Toledo and heading for the Indiana border.  Mother Nature seems to have a few plans of her own though.  There’s a big “weather system” just southwest of us and heading towards us.  If we’re lucky, we’ll just skim over the north edge.On the Road, Day 2

Just as a special mention to one of our readers (and you know who you are!), we’re passing 40 miles south of Kalamazoo on Highway 80.  And Mother Nature never did manage to get that “weather system” anywhere near us.  Take that, M.N.

We’ve been playing with our Satellite radio.  We’ve listened to Latin, which is naturally in spanish, which we don’t understand, but at least it has a rhythm, actual music, and words I’d be able to understand, if only I spoke the language.  Question: When did performers decide they didn’t need to enunciate anymore? As Whoopi said in Jumping Jack Flash: Mick, Mick! Speak english Mick!   I’m so sick of “mumble, mumble, curse word, slur, mumble.”  Yeah, yeah, get off my lawn you damn kids!  I know I’m old, I don’t care.

It’s now later (about 5pm).  We’ve been driving and driving, but there’s nothing much that’s exciting to write about.  The only exception would be the bright yellow crop duster we came across.  It zipped and wheeled across the sky, spraying here, spraying there.  And it was a very pretty plane to.  I’d include a picture except: Gayle’s camera is in her purse, which she can’t get to as long as she’s driving.  I can get to my camera easily, but the battery is still in the charger, which is stuffed into the electronics bag in the trunk.  Next stop we’ll rectify that small mistake.

Okay, it’s a bit later in the day.  The camera is by my side, and I’ve even taken a couple of pictures, which I’ve scattered throughout this post.  You might be wondering why Gayle is letting me do these posts.  Wow! That’s a great question.  Thanks for asking.  It’s nice that people pay so much attention here.  Anyway, the simple, unvarnished truth is that Gayle is doing the majority of the driving.  And, superwoman that she is, she finds it a bit difficult to type and stay in her designated lane at the same time.   Why am I not driving?  Man, that’s two great questions in a row.  You people are the greatest!  The reason I’m not driving is because every time I take over (and I have done a fair amount, don’t get me wrong), I start dozing off at the wheel.  No matter how bright the sun is.  And Gayle, rightfully terrified for her very life, has decided that maybe me driving isn’t such a great idea at the moment.  The strange thing is, once I’m in the passenger seat, I perk right up and become a veritable bright-eyed and bushy tailed … well, not squirrel, that would just weird for someone with a cat motif to claim.  And we wouldn’t want that!   But that, in a nutshell (there we go with the rodent stuff again, I just can’t win), is the reason I’m typing this rambling, incoherent missive.  Where are we?  I haven’t got a clue, let me wait for a sign to go by.    …. [time passing] … oh, there we go.  We’re one hour east of Des Moines, Ohio.  We’ve been dodging the weather all day, and our luck is holding so far.  Des Moines just got hit by some heavy rain, but the system broke up and vanished before it could come as far east as we are.  Oh, speaking of strange laws (we weren’t but just play along), did you know that Illinois and Iowa allow you to go 70 mph?

Hey, guess what this is:Mississippi River

That’s right, it’s the mighty Mississippi.  We were driving along and saw this little blue bridge in the distance.  We weren’t thinking that much about it until we came to the sign just before the bridge that tells you what river you’re about to cross.  We got really excited, in that pathetic, geeky way some people do.

And another thing; here we are, driving through the heartland (or maybe, the liverland, since we’re a bit north of center), and we haven’t seen a single windmill anywhere.  Lots and lots of farms, lots of corn fields, silos, cell phone repeater towers, and even a cow or two.  But not one single, solitary, windmill.  Hollywood promised us windmills.  Could Hollywood have lied to us?  They can’t have.  All the movies about the central US have windmills.   The people of Iowa must be hiding them from us.  Maybe painted plaid and hidden behind a somebody-elses-problem field.  Yeah, that makes a lot more sense.  I’m glad we figured that one out.  On the other hand, they do have some nice rest stops with very pleasant picnic areas.First Rest Stop in IowaPicnic Area in Iowa

And you know how traveling America is suppose to be such a broadening experience?  You travel the highways and byways and see all kinds of true American Culture.  Here’s a great example of one we didn’t stop at.  It’s unlike others we didn’t stop at only in that we had absolutely no inclination to stop whatsoever.Worlds Largest Truck Stop

Just to be annoying, we finally found windmills, but only within about 15 miles of the Nebraska border.  Iowa just had to be contrary.  After this thrilling find, we zoomed through Omaha and Lincoln and finally pulled off at a Comfort Inn.  It’s only about $10 a night more than the Motel 6, but it 3 times larger and has a refrigerator and a microwave.  Which would be good to reheat some of the cold food we packed in the freezer bag.  Only problem is that the freezer bag is still in the car because we didn’t think we’d need it.  I could just go out and get it, it’s not that far away.  The problem is that every time you lock the car, the horn beeps.  And, as with most hotels of this kind, we’re pulled up in a space right in front of someones room.  And I accidentally hit the panic button instead of the open trunk button.  So after the panic, plus normally locking the car twice, I really don’t want to subject the poor people in that room to even one more beep.  It’s nearly midnight now.  So, it’s going to be a cold sandwich for dinner, finish off this post and then hit the sack.  We’ll be up at 7:30 tomorrow morning to complete the journey.  The guy at the front desk says it shouldn’t take more than six hours to get to Denver.  That pretty much agrees with my estimates, so I’m inclined to believe him.

More tomorrow!

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Hyperion Avatar It’s time for a report from the cat.  It’s been a long day, and it’s not quite over yet.  This post is being written on the road … literally, we’re doing about 65 miles per hour, and we’re passing though eastern Pittsburgh.  We’re such geeks!  Anyway, we got up this morning, did bills, laundry, errands, cleaning, packing, etc.  Then  we went and got the new rental car.  While we’re there they ask us if we’d like a compact SUV instead, for no additional charge.  We asked them what the mileage was on it.   They looked blank, then looked in the computer, and smiled and told us: 18 miles per gallon.  We said in unison “No way!”.  Sure our own car has a slipping transmission, but it’s full sized AND we get 28 miles to the gallon (which I thought was pretty bad for a road trip to Denver).  So we got a Chrysler Sebring instead.  Not as good mileage as we would have liked, but still better than either the SUV they wanted to give us, or our own car.

Next stop was the dealership, which was suppose to call us two hours before with a time-to-completion estimate on  our car.  But, as usual, they still hadn’t managed to let us know anything.  While we were there, we dropped off the loaner rental car, since we had the new one and didn’t need two.  Then we popped into service to ask in person.  Nobody knew anything.   But when they checked the bay, our car wasn’t there, and it had been earlier.  So they assumed it had been finished and taken out for a test drive.  Lacking critical, need-to-know information, we sat in the waiting room for a half hour until they came to find us and let us know that the car was indeed finally ready.  We went out to pay the bill, and found they had charged us for the rental car, which they swore they weren’t going to do.  At least they the decency to look embarrassed and took the charge off.    But I’m still rather miffed that I had to find it first.

Now with car in hand, we headed back home and finished packing up all the food.  Gayle, of course, had to dither over what knitting projects to bring.  She is such a girl!  In case you’re interested, that’s three sock projects and one sweater.  Plus just a soupcon of fleece to spin with a drop spindle (which she’s now gotten good enough at that she doesn’t drop it anymore).

Okay, finally the car is packed, I’ve run back inside twice for the things we forgot but remembered before we got out of the driveway (we remembered something else, but we were 10 miles away, and I was not going back!).   Next stop was the bank for spend’en cash, and then Starbucks for a caffeine fix.  And finally we were on our way.  Of course that put us on the highway during rush hour traffic.  Fortunately, most of the HOV lanes around here are for two people, which if you stretch your imagination to include me, qualifies us.  So we were a bit delayed, but not as bad as the poor schmucks sitting all alone in their bourgoise-mobiles in the three-lane, glacially creeping, parking lot.

Western Maryland, heading for Pennsylvannia

Late Breaking News:  We just crossed the border into Ohio!  Yeah us!!!!

Ooops, Later Breaking News: Never mind.  We misinterpreted a sign.  It would seem that the elusive Ohio  border is still about an hour away.  Sigh!

Late Late Breaking News:  We just crossed into Ohio!  For real this time.  Seriously!  You couldn’t miss the sign.  It was big enough to have it’s own weather system!

Question:  You’re on the freeway, driving down between little hillocks, only slightly raised, not even taller than the car, and sloping away from the road.   And the road is plastered with signs warning “Beware of falling rocks”.  What’s the deal here?  Asteroid strikes?  Avenging Angels?  Hill Giants?  Tired and slightly off-kiltered minds want to know.

Not much else to talk about.  We’re glad that Starbucks is omnipresent, and so therefore is caffeine.  I’m a strict adherent to the old adage: Better living through chemistry.  But only caffeine.  I may be a radical, but I’m a tame, boring one.

We’re looking for Highway 80 heading west.  That’s our ending goal for the day.  Once we find that, we’ll look for cheap accommodations and call it a night.   Back tomorrow, same cat time, same cat channel!

 On the road again!  I can’t wait to get on the road again!  Although the wind make my fur stand up on end!  I still can’t wait to get on the road again!

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May Coffee CupIt took me much longer than I thought to find a cup that said “May. I’m the May cup. Over here.” I looked at a good number of cups until I found this one. The big leaves and bright orange flower just reminded me of May flowers — so, it’s now my May cup. While searching, I found a number of sunflower cups but sunflowers somehow seem fall-ish to me so I picked one up and declared it to be October’s cup and put it in the depths of a drawer until Fall. (Now if I can remember it’s there everything will be fine.)

It’s been raining the last few days. Not constantly but in those on again off again spurts that mean you can’t work in the garden because it’s just muddy glop. So, I’m happy to announce that the tomato plants I started have begun to sprout. One variety is already up with one set of leaves. The second variety just poked 3 sprouts out today. No leaves of course, just the first hint that the seeds are sprouting. I brought pots and trays in a few days ago fearing rain, so hopefully tomorrow I can start some more seeds.

We have a Meyer lemon tree. This is its third year. The first year we got one lemon. The second year we got two. This year there were tons of buds (at least 25). The entire house smelled wonderful as the blooms opened up. Some are now dropping the flowers and we hope to have a lot of fruit buds soon. We keep the tree in the house during the winter near the sliding glass doors on the deck so it can get sunshine. As soon as the temps stay up during the night, we’ll put it out on the deck. It seems to really like it there. I’m hoping for much more fruit this year.

A big limb fell off one of the trees in the driveway during the night last night. Luckily, it landed between the rose bush, the car port, and the azalea. So no damage. Once things dry out a bit, we’ll haul it over to the pile of downed limbs to be cut up and stacked for firewood. It seems that every time it rains limbs just drop off here and there. At least this time they didn’t land in the driveway or the road.

So, it’s still raining. I can hear it softly spattering on the windows, the deck, and the skylight. Think I’ll go cuddle up with a cuppa tea and a book.

Hyperion AvatarHyperion here: We did get a good sized limb down in the driveway. I went out first thing and hauled all the various fragments (it was probably 10′ long and 4 inches thick before it hit the ground) to the wood pile. The good news is that most of them are already small enough to fit in the wood stove, so in the minute or so it took to haul them to the racks I gained nearly a full days supply of firewood with no cutting, chopping, or splitting. It works for me.

On the other hand, all this rain is really getting in the way of getting the yard cleaned up. During our last dry spell, we managed to get all the leaves cleared out of the garden area and to get all the leaves beside the carport raked up into piles. Usually I get one of our really large tarps and rake all the leaves on to it. Then it’s just a matter of folding it up like a fajita and hauling it out into the woods and dumping it. Of course, now all those nice piles I had prepared are 75% water by weight. I need at least three dry days to turn them over a few times and dry them out before I’ll be able to do anything with them.

Such is life in the land where trees rule with an iron limb.

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Hyperion AvatarI was thinking about the latest breakthroughs that have been made in solar technology, wave-energy extraction, cargo carrying dirigibles, and using sails to improve fuel efficiency of ships (from my previous post). I was also thinking about all the nay-saying going on about these same technologies. The problem is that people want solutions that are either ‘This’ or ‘That’. They complain solar isn’t good enough to remove the average home from the grid, and that the sail isn’t good without the wind, so you’ll still need the engines. That is exactly the philosophy that we (the human race) needs to get past. The reason for the ship-pulling kite isn’t to replace the engines, but to supplement them. The purpose of the cargo dirigible isn’t to replace airplanes and trains, but to add another option for when it makes sense to use it. So what if solar energy technology isn’t good enough to fully supply an average American home? If we put solar on every roof in America, and that provided even 10% of the power the home used, think of the total reduction in energy generation that would represent. How many power plants that wouldn’t need to be built. It doesn’t have to replace the current system, as long as it makes a useful contribution towards the whole. And any kind of large scale use of any technology is only going to spur more research and better and better versions of that technology.

This in turn got me thinking about cars. There’s a fierce debate going on as to whether we should keep using gasoline cars, or go diesel, or go ethanol, or go all electric, or go electric-gasoline hybrid. The last is the one that makes the most sense, but even then it’s too limited for my taste in its current form. It’s basically a very complex system that runs on electricity, electricity and gasoline, or just gasoline depending on circumstances. But the batteries in these system are charged either via the gasoline engine or regenerative breaking. It’s all nifty, but it’s a closed system. There are some new versions now being developed that allow you to charge a much larger battery with household power and then drive up to 150 miles before switching over to gasoline, but these tend to keep the two systems separate. It’s either all electric, or all gasoline. Now, since I work about 25 miles from my home, this would be ideal for me. Charge it up overnight and then go to work and even stop and do a few errands, all on pure electric power. Only when I had to travel a longer than normal distance would I actually burn gasoline. But this could still be improved. Why can’t we make the roof/hood/whatever of the car out of photovoltaic material. Then, while I’m sitting at work, the battery would recharge from the sunshine. Maybe it would only charge 5%, but that would be 5% I wouldn’t need to pull off the national power grid. Add the regenerative breaking to this mode and you could grab a few more percent. Hell, put a little fan in the radiator grill and grab another 1% from that darn icy wind that’s alway in my face trying to walk from the parking lot to the building.

The point is, instead of thinking either/or, think, how can I pack it all in and get the best of all worlds? And yes, I’d want the systems separate so the failure of one won’t kill the whole car. But that’s just engineering, and we do have some of the best engineers in the world. So how about we hook our homes up to Solar, Wind, Wave-energy, geothermal sinks, and the national grid? Or at least which ever combination of those makes sense for where ever you are. We don’t need to have a silver bullet technology that will free us forever from the evils of petroleum. That may be the ultimate goal, but let’s grab the present with both hands and see what we can make of it.

If computers could evolve from the TRS-80 Model 1, running at a whopping 1 MHz, to what we have today in a matter of only 20 years, what could solar cells and batteries do if we actually decided make them the focus of national attention? With a little bit of thought and a little more experimentation, we might be able to brew up a stew of possibilities that nobody alive today could possibly predict, and yet in twenty years, nobody could live without.

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Hyperion AvatarAn article on slashdot.org the other day got me thinking about the past. This particular article concerns the SkySails company’s plans to retrofit a ship owned by partner company Beluga with a kite. Well, not just any old kite, but a 320m2 sail-like kite connected to a 15 meter tall mast on the bow. With the kite flying about 300 meters in the air, the company figures that under favorable conditions, fuel costs could be reduced by about 20% ($1600/day is what’s quoted in the article). The company also claims that later versions of the kite (basically bigger models) will save even more (perhaps as high as 50%). So basically what we have here is a return to the days of sailing. Sure the technology’s been updated, and the application is somewhat different, but all in all, the idea is to take what nature gives for free and make use of it.

Sail power was eliminated back in the day when steam/diesel/gasoline/whatever power became cheap. If it takes a couple of dozen people to work the sails, but only a half-dozen to run the engines, and oil is dirt cheap to boot, it makes good economic sense to ditch the sails and just power your way through the waves. But now fuel costs are rising and computers can control things faster and more easily than people. Now, suddenly, the free power of the wind makes economic sense again.

This then reminded me of the German company Cargolifter (original company currently in bankruptcy, new version just starting to get off the ground but hampered by that old bankruptcy snafu). Basically they want to build a dirigible capable of carrying 160 tons of cargo. Filled with helium, this massive airship would float over rivers, mountains, and what have you and be able to deliver large and combersome deliveries to precisely where they are needed. Hydrogen would be even better, but the tragedy of the Hindenburg won’t die in people’s minds, even though we now know it wasn’t the hydrogen that was the problem. Moving at a speed of about 50 miles/hour, they wouldn’t be fast, but it could still cross the U.S. from coast to coast in about three days. And since trains run at roughly the same speed (slower inside of cities), they show great potential. The problem is that everyone “knows” that dirigibles are dangerous, and expensive, and just plain won’t work. That tends to make funding them difficult and, since they are expensive, cash flow issues tend to lead to bankruptcy for anyone trying to bring them back (see the first sentence in this paragraph). I think one of the most dangerous things to true progress in this world is all the facts that are “known”, but are not actually true.

While reading up on both these concepts, the thing that struck me most about the objections were things like: What if the wind isn’t blowing? Everyone is quick to jump up and list reasons why things won’t work, but most of them are specific objections for specific circumstances. The answer to that particular questions is: You use the engines. Are there problems with these technologies? Sure. But what happens when your car breaks down? What happens if you run out of gas? These are problems we face every day, but somehow we’ve learned to deal with them. New technologies will also have problems and we’ll just learn to deal with them too.

Perhaps the past still has something to offer the future, provided we’re willing to stop looking down our noses at it and accept the possibilities.

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