Air-O flight one has been cancelled

Your attention please … Air-O flight one has been cancelled, due to weather.
 
well, the ITT was cancelled, due to weather.  I poured from about 5:45-6:15, which flooded the former runways at Floyd Bennet field, leaving them unusable for the race.
 
I managed to do a few laps with the semi-aero setup (didn’t bother with the TT helmet, no sense roasting myself unnecessarily) for kicks, before checking out the Concorde which is parked there for safekeeping while the Intrepid is refurbished – and checked out the control tower building.
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draft the bird

Jose’s Coronthica Cyclery logo features a time trialist drafting a bird.  That was me today, really.
 
In anticipation of Sunday’s time trial at Floyd Bennet Field, I busted out the aero equipment to make sure everything works right, leaving enough time to reglue the disc or fix anything that might break, and headed over to SUNY old Westbury.  It’s a 3 mile rolling loop, not great but it’ll do for a TT course.
 
The Poor Man’s Time Trial bike (PMTT bike) was in good form, with the clip on aerobars, tri saddle, and now Jose’s craigslist special Hed Disc – and hopefully an 808 will arrive tomorrow.  I figure this rig is almost as efficient as a real TT bike, for a total investment of $250 (the wheels are Jose’s).  But i’m still holding out for a Zipp 2001 or 3001 (small frame, small beam 700c please, although s/s/650c will do)
 
I also brought out the TT helmet that Swan had on sale for $20 (retail price $125).  I love that man…  MIT’s wind tunnnel says the helmet is the biggest chunk of time that can be shaved off with equipment, and I believe it.  and besides, TT helmet looks pretty cool.
Unfortunately, the lack of ventilation caused some trouble: sweat was pouring off my head and into my eyes, and I could barely see- and it’s hard to wipe your face when there’s a polycarbonate shield in front of your eyes.  The halo is necessary with the TT helmet. I now know why Glenn put that one on sale! – but it’s still good for me.
 
so, as I was riding some laps at good speed, a big bird (hawk?) swooped down and made like the Coronthica logo for a few seconds.  It was really impressive, i wish I could have gotten it on film for Jose – it would have made his day.
 
Hopefully the ultimate weapon 808 will arrive tomorrow so I can glue up the tubular by sunday, and hopefully the winds will be calm allowing for effective use of the disc and deep dish wheel.  getting blown into jamaica bay would be bad.

Since when was America a Can’t Do place?

Op Ed Piece: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/19/opinion/19herbert.html?ex=1374206400&en=74d94e8d32c652d4&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

analysis of Gore’s speech: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/18/washington/18gorecnd.html?ex=1374033600&en=ee808b90c1bace5b&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

Today is the 39th anniversary of the seminal human achievement, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong’s landing on the surface of the moon.  Kennedy wanted it done, and 450 billion dollars and 9 years later, Neil popped the hatch on the LM and stepped off the ladder and into the history books. 

Al Gore, 8 years late, finally grew some balls and has put forth an even more ambitious goal: 100% of America’s electricity needs provided from non-fossil fuel sources, in 10 years.  Can it be done?  Only one way to find out!

The great thing about that kind of plan is that it can be revised.  Both US and Soviet space programs suffered enormous setbacks (Apollo 1 fire, Nedelin catastrophe and failure of the N-1), which pushed back timetables.  Had NASA not been able to make the deadline of December 31st, 1969, they would have been able to land on the moon in 1970 … or 1971.  With real physical limits, you can’t push the deadline.  When Ghawar starts to run dry, or the sea reclaims Battery Park, that’s a geological limit.  You can’t stand before Congress and say "we need more time, and get it."

The United States has historically been known as the can-do place.  Unlock the secrets of the atom?  4 years.  Need to get men to the moon and back?  10 years.  World’s most expansive road network, the Eisenhower Interstate System?  look for the red, white, and blue shield–go in any direction and you’ll find one soon enough.

Unfortunately, sometime in the Era of Malaise (to use Carter’s term), American culture changed.  we’re not biting off the same kind of ambitious goals.  But it’s time to tackle the most important one–the future of humanity depends on it.

I think the conversion to sustainable sources of energy can be done.  To even move in that direction, enormous investments in infrastructure and research will be necessary.  Tax dollars, and tuition dollars, and private funds, at work!

Things we probably need:

  1. high-temperature superconductors
    – to move electricity from remote windfarms, geothermal plants, and solar installations to populated areas
  2. low-cost photovoltaics (preferably the spray-on kind)
  3. new power electronics, distributed generation models, and energy trading models
    – the eventual goal would be to make distributed generation with PVs or other technologies ubiquitous.  generate power on the roof, use it in the building, or the neighboorhood.  It’s not ethical or efficient to build a power plant somewhere where the residents don’t have the political clout to oppose it, then move the electricity to the city, at a 40% loss.
  4. energy storage systems
    – for cars, and homes way out there, there need to be better energy storage systems than batteries and ultracapacitors.  If only GM hadn’t abandoned the EV1, they’d be cornering the market, rather than teetering on the edge of insolvency.
  5. generation IV nuclear technology (keep on truckin’ Mike Short)
    – for the time being, nuclear does offer the advantage of not using increasingly scarce fossil fuels, nor does it release greenhouse gases.  It’s not a perfect solution, but one that has to be kept on the table for now.  the power density is quite high, and people have a lot of experience with boiling water and generating electricity.
  6. right of ways for windfarms
    – they gave railroads and highways right-of-ways, windfarms could use a governmental boost as well
  7. increasingly stringent efficiency standards
    – put the market system to work.  set the standards, or use taxes to encourage innovation.
  8. new way of thinking about energy

Last year our bike and build group stopped in West Virginia on the way across the country.  A very nice man was volunteering at the church, helping out with our stay.  A prosthetic leg was visible beneath his bermuda shorts, and he told me he lost his leg in a coal mine accident.  He said working in the mine was a great job–the pay was decent and they set him up with a prosthetic leg and a disability pension.  Personally, I’d rather assemble inverters or pack bearings for wind turbines than knock the tops off mountains, spoil the natural landscape, and lose my leg in the process.  Heck, I’d even take a pay cut, provided it paid a living wage, rather than paying well while there’s coal in the ground, then having the local economy completely dry up.

A concerted effort on the part of the government to enter a new era would provide many new good jobs, and set the US up for long term prosperity.  With energy costs no longer as closely tied to fuel costs, which will only rise, the economy can prosper, and the people won’t be poisoned or displaced by rising sea levels.  We would finally achieve the conditions necessary for the economic model under which we have been erroneously been operating for the last 150 years.

 

Had Gore proposed this plan in august of 2000, he probably would have been laughed off the stage, or assassinated.  Now, considering we’re in a much different place, culturally, economically, and in a different election cycle, let’s hope it goes.  Kennedy said in "we desire to go to the moon and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."  Let’s get that prairie plowing, rocket building spirit back.

hearts and minds

On my way across Massachussets with Bike and Build, I had the chance to meet a most fascinating man: Neal Anderson.  An upstandanding Cornell Alum (noted by his humming the Alma Mater when I mentioned the name of that illustrious institution); expert climber; noted biologist and sports scientist; and professor at Fitchburg State, he was helping out with our stay in Fitchburg’s Unitarian Universalist church.  After dinner, we got to talking and he mentioned the book Three Cups of Tea.  I haven’t read it, but the synopsis is:  Greg Mortenson was making an ascent on K2, which was aborted due to weather and illness.  Staggering downhill, he was taken in by some locals and nursed back to health.  He promised them a school, and made good on his promise… and kept building schools in locations we see on TV as ‘hotbeds of anti-american sentiment’.  And now the state department, and Nicholas Kristof have noticed that hearts and minds are what we’re really after.  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/13/opinion/13kristof.html?ex=1373601600&en=b894f30f19a85acc&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink
 
Walter Lafeber wrote a book a few years ago about how American culture has spread across the world, but it’s not a universally thick layer, and certainly not everyone likes the Buy n Large vision of the future.  Some people really don’t like western culture, and, well, blow things up to protest its spread.  Here and now isn’t the place to pontificate about the West, so it will suffice to quote Churchill: "No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. " -speech to the House of Commons, 11/11/1947
 
So, this Greg Mortenson has done more to further Western values, defeat the Taliban, and win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world than all the bombs and rockets of the United States Military.  Why?  he went directly for the children, and their parents.  Building a school is crafty, insidious, and effective.  If women are empowered, their sons will listen to their mommas and not go off to the Jihad.  If people have real skills (like reading, writing, and arithmetic) they can do productive things, rather than sit around smoking in caves and blowing stuff up.
 
I salute you mr. Mortenson, and I shall now go read your book.  And to George Bush or whoever wins the election in November: put tax dollars to work: invest in the peace corps, not the war corps.

July 4 weekend in DC

Nate flew in from Santa Barbara and I drove down from NY for a weekend of fun with Dave Mollitor, who’s working in DC for Geico.  it’s been off the hook!
 
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Mollitor’s apartment is hooked up: pool table, and Versus on the TV!
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on the roof with some of Nate’s friends for the 4th
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DC Metro … looks like Space Mountain!
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Spy Museum … awesome.  we did the interactive be a spy game, then toured the museum.  it takes a while, budget 5 hours for the whole thing (1h for the game, then another 4+ for the collection, which is well laid out.
 

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the national gallery:  a great collection for an afernoon tour
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had some delicious Gelato downtown, not as good as Grom, but it had real mint in it.  as in flakes of mint leaves.  tasty and refreshing