Saving Birds from Renewable Energy

As electricity-producing wind farms proliferate, more birds die. Researchers have found a simple solution to the birds being killed by flying into wind turbines. Painting one of the three blades black reduces the carnage by seventy percent. One black blade minimizes “motion smear” of the whirling blades, making a turbine more visible.

According to a noted expert, wind turbines are a mortal danger to already-endangered bald eagles. “The windmills are killing hundreds and hundreds of eagles. They’re killing them by the hundreds.” The expert went on to state his credentials: “I know windmills very much, I have studied it better than anybody.”

An actual scientist says about a hundred bald eagles are killed annually by wind turbines. The total of all bird deaths caused by turbine blades is about three-hundred-thousand birds each year.

For some perspective:

  • Various studies estimate that in the United States, cats kill two- or three- billion (with a “B”) birds each year.
  • Flying into windows causes the death of somewhere between four-hundred thousand and a billion birds.
  • Crashing into cell and radio towers claim another seven-million bird lives.

Enough about birds. What about people? According to that same noted expert, wind turbines also cause cancer in humans.

Heating the Planet with Cooling

Good news about the COVID-19 pandemic: it will kill fewer people than will die as a result of the changing climate.

Scientists are sounding alarms that the planet is heating up much faster than predicted. Our environment is changing more quickly than plant and animal species can adapt. The coronavirus affects mostly humans, but a warming planet affects all life.

Fortunately for first-world humans and their pets, air conditioning will protect them from an overheated earth. Or will it?

(Richard M. Nixon liked to have wood crackling in his fireplace. When the room became uncomfortably warm, he cranked up the air conditioning.)

More than 3.6 billion refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioning units are in use around the world, keeping our bodies comfortably cool, our food and beer cold and our pizzas frozen. In days of extreme heat, air conditioning keeps the most vulnerable of us alive. Those that don’t have AC want it and many will get it. Air-conditioning use increases at the rate of ten percent a year.

The problem is that all this cooling contributes to heating up our atmosphere. Cooling units use hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), the replacement for hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), which the Environmental Protection Agency banned in 2010. (Who knows, the current E.P.A. may bring them back.) HFC is not as bad as HCFC, but it’s still a greenhouse gas being diffused into the atmosphere.

Cooling equipment uses electricity, a lot of it, and not very efficiently. Most equipment sold today is only one-half to one-third as efficient as what is available today. And as we know, most methods of electricity production releases greenhouse gases. Clean coal, anyone?

As with most everything, there are no simple solutions.

Another Reason to Not Like Mark Zuckerberg

In its race for world domination, Facebook tried to get ahead of Google, Amazon and Apple by connecting Asia and North America with an undersea fiber-optic cable. The high-speed cable was to emerge from the Pacific Ocean at Tierra del Mar.

Tierra del Mar is a community of about two-hundred homes on the Oregon Coast, about twenty miles south of Tillamook. Homeowners opposed the project from the beginning, saying it would change the area’s character and lead to more non-residential projects.

The cable would connect Facebook’s large server installation in Prineville, a small town in Central Oregon with Japan and the Philippines. Locals were not pleased to see the contractor (a Facebook subsidiary) strip trees, grass and other vegetation from a large lot adjacent to homes and replace it with gravel and concrete and heavy equipment for the project’s staging area.

But now folks are really angry. The project, drilling under the beach and seabed to bring the cable to its landing site onshore, was supposed to take a few weeks. Oops, a drill pipe snapped under the seabed and Facebook closed down the operation. Eleven-hundred feet of pipe, sixty-five-hundred gallons of drilling fluid, drills and other equipment have been abandoned under the seabed.

Facebook waited seven weeks to tell anyone about it. They told the neighbors not to worry, because they did an “environmental assessment” and leaving all that stuff fifty feet below the sea floor is not a problem. Besides, they say they might begin work again sometime next year, maybe January.

What could go wrong?

Auction News

During this time of COVID-19 we’re hesitant to jump on an airplane where social distancing is not possible or be sequestered for days on a cruise ship with a few thousand other people. Now comes an opportunity to travel with family and friends while maintaining proper social distancing.

The Evergreen State, a three-hundred-foot long passenger-and-car ferry may soon be for sale. Built in 1954 and rebuilt in 1988, the vessel carried eighty-seven cars and eight-hundred-fifty passengers as part of the Washington State Ferry System’s fleet. The ferry system decommissioned it in 2017. A purported businessman in Florida purchased it at auction for $300,000.

The new owner had several declared possible plans for the ferry, but ended up selling it on eBay for $205,100. The deal fell through when the seller could not provide the buyer with documentation—including proof of ownership .

The Evergreen State has been docked at the Port of Olympia all this time, to whom the owner has not been paying rent. The Port, owed back rent of $32,000, has declared it abandoned property and is preparing to put it up for auction.

You likely have seen DUCK amphibious vehicles lumbering around Seattle or other cities, carrying cheering passengers. The twenty-five-passenger jitneys are converted military transport vehicles from the Second World War era. (“Duck” comes from army nomenclature: DUKW.) Duck sightseeing tours travel on roads and water and are popular tourist attractions wherever they operate except, until recently, Seattle.

A Ride the Ducks vehicle crashed into a bus on Seattle’s busy Aurora Avenue Bridge—Highway 99—in 2015. Five people died, more than sixty injured. In 2019, a jury awarded a total of $123 million to the victims. The Seattle Ride the Ducks could not recover and has filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidation.
The remaining nineteen ducks will soon be available by auction. You will definitely attract attention cruising along in your duck.

You are many eons late for your very own pet dinosaur. Not to worry, though. An auction house in Vancouver, British Columbia is readying for sale a menagerie of animatronic prehistoric animals. Lifelike in appearance but filled with gears and electric motors, the beasts can be controlled by a human operator. Many have motion sensors and spring to action when someone gets too close. Imagine the fun you could have with trick-or-treaters.

A small apatosaurus can be yours for a couple-hundred bucks. A brontosaurus will cost you a few thousand. The auction house has not disclosed the source, but speculation is they’re from a bankrupt manufacturer or touring exhibition operator. The auction company says they have had inquiries from a liquor store and other retail businesses, zoos, restaurants, and private individuals who want to entertain their neighbors or grandkids.

Elk Lives Matter

These are hard times for monuments. Confederate statues have been coming down. Renaming places and institutions identified with racists and traitors has become a blazing controversy. The current occupant of the White House is, as one would expect, opposed to relabeling military installations that bear names of persons who took up arms against the United States.

Oregon Pioneer

Christopher Columbus has been a target for years. Revisionist history depicts him not as an heroic discoverer of America but as a brutal imperialist who initiated the near extinction of indigenous populations.

Pioneer Mother

The current-day attacks on monuments to imperialists and racists include the Pioneer statues at the University of Oregon. The Pioneer was pulled off its pedestal and dragged to the entrance of the U of O administration building. The companion Pioneer Mother statue, seated in repose at a serene corner of the campus, was also pulled down.

Continue reading “Elk Lives Matter”

Science Marches Onward

COVID-19, protests in the streets, deployment of secret federal paramilitary personnel into our streets and the general idiocy of the current occupant of the White House and his GOP toadies… well, really important news can be overlooked.

After much study, researchers have finally determined how many hot dogs a human person can possibly eat in ten minutes. Years of gathering data from Nathan’s Famous’s famous annual fourth-of-July hot-dog-eating contest, have produced the definitive answer: eighty-three.

This is good news. We now know that it’s possible the current record can be broken. Thirteen-time champion Joey Chestnut bested his own world record this year by consuming seventy-five hot dogs—with buns—in the allotted time. Miki Sudo set the women’s record, forty-eight and-a-half hot dogs, for her seventh consecutive win.

To provide some perspective, scientists calculated other animals’ capacity, with adjustment for body mass. Grizzly bears can eat eight hot dogs per minute, but only are able to last six minutes, so can’t match Mr. Chestnut’s record. A gray wolf, however, is capable of consuming eleven per minute. Researchers did not reveal how they were able to measure bears’ and wolves’ hot dog eating talents.

The key facility for speed-eating success is the stomach’s ability to stretch. Winners have stomachs that are able to stretch and increase volume to take in more food. Also-ran competitors, on the other hand, have stomachs that don’t stretch. When capacity is reached, the stomach must pass contents into the intestines before it can take in more. The intestines, well, you know… Joey Chestnut apparently has been able to increase his stomach’s stretchiness and thus surpass his previously-set records. Maybe someday he will confound science and eat eighty-four hot dogs in ten minutes.