Category Archives: Uncategorized

For People of a Certain Age

In the Washinton Post yesterday, this article by Shankar Vedamtan reports that doing short brain exercises has a profound effect on cognition years after the exercises are performed.

“The researchers divided the volunteers into four groups, including a control group that received no training. A second group was trained in reasoning skills — being asked to spot the pattern in the sequence “a, c, e, g, i,” for example — every other letter of the alphabet. A third group was taught memory skills, which involved remembering word lists and using visualizations and associations as memory aids. A fourth group was given exercises to speed up mental processing — being asked to identify an object flashed briefly on a computer screen while fighting off distractions.

Each of the groups being trained had 10 sessions, each lasting an hour to 75 minutes, and each session presented progressively more challenging problems. Compared with the control group, those who got memory training did 75 percent better on memory tasks five years later, those who got the reasoning training did 40 percent better on reasoning tasks, and those who got the speed training did 300 percent better than the control group.”

An article last year from NewScientist.com details many other things we can do to prevent senior moments from evolving into… umm, oh yeah — it is a beautiful cloudless evening, no no, wait, oh yes, of course, time for lunch!!

Sun on the Bay

Treasure Island, a man-made chunk of real estate floating enviably in the middle of San Francisco Bay, had been home to a derelict U.S. Navy base but is now being rehabbed into “a model environmentally sustainable urban community.” Amongst a whole bunch of good design elements is this:

“Building design will incorporate optimum energy efficiency and the street plan will maximize the potential for solar power. It is anticipated that during peak solar radiation periods, excess electricity generated by photovoltaic units on Treasure Island’s buildings will actually flow back into the grid to help power San Francisco.” (from this article in sfgate.com)

My fantasy is being made real… With the combination of available state and federal tax credits and rebates/incentives/energy buybacks from their utility, I wonder how much net each homeowner will have to pay? The federal tax credit for solar home installations is 30%, up to a maximum of $4000 ($2k for photovoltaics plus $2k for solar hot water).

Sad to say, this credit is offered only for 2006 and 2007 — this is one tax credit that should be made permanent, and it should include upgrades of existing solar/pv systems — currently, only new installations qualify. To encourage development and marketing of new technology, wouldn’t you want to encourage homeowners to upgrade, i.e., create ongoing demand?

Breaking into Wind in the U.K.

I have this fantasy of super efficient micro turbines on my roof, whirring away at the slightest breeze, allowing me to jack the electric company for monthly checks made out to me.  I envision tiny little turbines in cylindrical housings, exquisitely sensitive to even the most wafting of air currents, spinning at stirrings of air that you or I would barely feel soaking wet.  Combined with my (imagined) photovoltaic roof shingles and windows, I would be totally energy self-sufficient — no, more — I would be energy productive, feeding the grid, a man and citizen in whole.

But I wish for my neighbors to also be fully energy enfranchised, and the whole neighborhood, the city, the state, yes, the entire blessed country.  Every home its own energy source — that’s my dream.

So what brought this to mind was this in the Christian Science Monitor.  I am surprised that England has so few rooftop wind turbines, only 650 in the whole country.  You would think the border country and Scotland had wind enough to make even today’s primitive turbines cost effective.

What I find really interesting, however, is the U.K’s 30% tax credit for wind turbines and 50% credit for solar.  In the states, tax credits produced a solar boom in the 1970’s — and, unfortunately, a boom in fraudulent self-styled “solar contractors” as well. They behaved so badly, and were so ubiquitous,  that the solar industry is just now regaining respectability. I hope the U.K. avoids that experience.

Thank you for your concern and kind words Officer, but I’m gonna do as I damn well please

Idaho Fish and Game Enforcement Officers’ “Creed”

“CONSERVATION ENFORCEMENT CREED
The Commission has established as policy that, relative to the enforcement of fish and game laws, rules, and proclamations, the official philosophy, guideline and creed of Department personnel shall always be:
To assist the public in their compliance with regulations;
To save unfortunate offenders from unnecessary humiliation, inconvenience and distress;
To have no compromise for crime and to resolutely seek the violator, but with judgment charitable toward the minor
offender;
• Never to cite if a warning would be better;

Never to scold or reprimand, but rather to respect and inform.
Please establish this policy firmly in your mind and use it as a guide in your enforcement activities.”

You don’t know Border issues

and neither do I, though I lived within an hour of it for twenty years. The best and truest writing about the border and the people who inhabit it, cross it, or are obsessed with it is by Charles Bowden. The border is its own animal with its own peculiar behaviors, and Mr. Bowden is about half border animal himself, well and intimately acquainted with his subject. You won’t read anything as real and informed as his take on it.

There are a lot of cultural conservatives in love with the West, the American West, and in particular they love the cowboy and the rugged individualism that the cowboy symbolizes. They fret that the Latino hordes will dilute or otherwise besmirch our fine, clean western spirit. Never mind that the first meeting and melding of Latin and Anglo cultures in the southwest is what produced cowboys and the cowboy culture that conservatives so cherish.

The first Euro-Americans to work cattle were fresh Irish, German and Slavic immigrants who learned from and emulated the Mexican vaqueros and the Black cowboys who had quit the cattle plantations of Florida and the Carolinas after Emancipation. Listen to cowboy words — lasso, lariat, pinto, ranch, mustang, bronco, palomino, rodeo, loco, burro, latigo, remuda — cowboys, it would seem, spoke Spanish. And rugged individualism has more than a passing resemblance to machismo…

First post — a caveat for sure

Like nobody else, I have my reasons for wanting to scribble my thoughts where just anybody can observe them.  Everybody else has their reasons too, I suppose.  But reason can be fatuous or profound, or actually one while seeming the other, and I am not going to tip you off as to which extreme I am anchored to by explaining my motivations here and now. Because anyway, I really don’t know for sure.