Blog Post #381:  Two of my favorite topics – TOGETHER – Tesla and Power


Blog Post #381:  Two of my favorite topics – TOGETHER – Tesla and Power

Taken from:   https://electrek.co/2018/07/04/tesla-powerwalls-save-day-heat-wave-vermont/

I think Elon Musk is a visionary for our times.  Sure, he makes mistakes (and sometimes big ones with SpaceX rockets exploding and Tesla unable to meet production schedules); and sure his ideas are different (using the “Boring” company to dig a high speed tunnel from O’Hare airport to downtown Chicago in minutes); using Solar Power; and electric cars.

Likewise I like looking at energy.  I think renewable energy is a good concept – although it does take a lot of (non-renewable) materials to build wind turbines and solar panels.  I like the concept of cleaner air with less burning of coal and fossil fuels.

Today’s article highlights a recent heat wave in Vermont.   In a heatwave everybody wants to stay cool. Air conditioners are running at their maximum (and using electrical power).  When we lived in South Dakota, our electric utility gave us a small discount if they could take certain appliances (like clothes dryers) off line when electrical peaks were coming.  The choices are fairly simple – cut back on electricity; have to buy electric power at much higher prices (or to ‘fire up’ another generating plant (most likely using coal) when peaks are expected.

Green Mountain Power has partnered with Tesla Powerwalls to have electrical storage.  So, when the heat wave hit, instead of cutting back – or buying power from (say) Canada – or firing up another generator – they just took stored energy from their customers.  

The article says:
“Now they are deploying the Tesla Powerwall 2 to create a sort of “virtual power plant.”

“Under their agreement with the electric utility, homeowners who receive a Powerwall are able to use it for backup power for “$15 a month or a $1,500 one-time fee”, which is significantly less expensive the ~$7,000 cost of the device with installation, but in return, Green Mountain Power is able to access the energy in the pack to support its grid, like a virtual power plant.

“With 500 Powerwalls now, it’s over 5,000 kWh of energy capacity to release during peak demand, like when everyone is running their AC during a heat wave.

“It’s still not a very large capacity, but it is already making a difference for a relatively small utility and it is growing fast as GMP aims to have 2,000 Tesla Powerwalls deployed by the end of the year.

“As the capacity increases, GMP can more easily respond to peak in electricity demand with stored renewable energy instead of more costly and polluting fossil fuels.”

We had a home generator when we lived in Connecticut.  There were two long periods of time when storms had knocked down power lines and we were without power.  The generator used natural gas (a fossil fuel), was very noisy and only provided some basic power (mostly some lights and refrigerator).  Having a Powerwall would have been good – and then being part of a grid and being able to share stored power with others would have been great!!!

 

What do you think?  Is this a long term or short term solution?

 

Bruce

 

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Blog Post #380:  I LOVE technology terms like Kubernetes

Blog Post #380:  I LOVE technology terms like Kubernetes

Taken from:  https://medium.freecodecamp.org/learn-kubernetes-in-under-3-hours-a-detailed-guide-to-orchestrating-containers-114ff420e882

Some computer humor (humour) today!!!

Many, many years ago (when almost everything was from a mainframe computer).  I used my punch cards and Fortran or COBOL and a big IBM system, there was a little ditty that was a paraphrase of Genesis 1:1.  “In the beginning, there was the bit, and the bits became bytes, and bytes become words and confusion covered the face of computing; and IBM looked upon it and said ‘It is profitable’!!”

After those many years, I still am learning (although not quite to the degree I was before).  I’ve learned the ‘blame game’ (not from me, but from others):

Me:  What went wrong with my computer?
Hardware Person:  It was the software faults

Developer/software person:  No it was the hardware faults

Security Person:  No, no no!! It was the network’s fault

… and continuing – something went wrong in the cloud; sunspots; the internet service provider was down; we’re using Unix, but the server is running Microsoft; (and many more)

But, the real mistake was probably an “ID ten T” error (or user error) [“ID10T” as in the user screwed up again]!!  (I was really an expert in ID ten T errors!!!)

I found in a discussion group the term “Kubernetes”,  I had no clue what that was, but my friends at WIkipedia helped me out:

Kubernetes (commonly stylized as K8s) is an open-source container-orchestration system for automating deployment, scaling and management of containerized applications. It was originally designed by Google and is now maintained by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. It aims to provide a “platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of application containers across clusters of hosts.” It works with a range of container tools, including Docker.”

And farther down in the Wikipedia link was this:

“ Its development and design are heavily influenced by Google’s Borg system, and many of the top contributors to the project previously worked on Borg. The original codename for Kubernetes within Google was Project Seven, a reference to Star Trek character Seven of Nine that is a ‘friendlier’ Borg. The seven spokes on the wheel of the Kubernetes logo is a nod to that codename.”

That really made it perfectly clear!!!  Of course, it made me want to go back and watch Star Trek and find the character “Seven of Nine” (glad, that is not my name).  I also thought of all those years I ‘wasted’ in the classroom when all I really needed to do was to watch Star Trek!!!

Ah yes, so after all these years, the phrase is almost the same, with one change:  “In the beginning there was the bit, and the bits became bytes, and bytes become words and confusion covered the face of computing, and Google looked upon it and said ‘It is profitable’!!”

The article said I could learn how to orchestrate containers in three hours.  I’m used to orchestrating with instruments – orchestrating with containers might be interesting!!!

Bruce

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Blog Post #381:  Old Technologies in Warfare?  Fun-and-games in Israel

Blog Post #381:  Old Technologies in Warfare?  Fun-and-games in Israel

Taken from:   https://theconversation.com/gazas-fire-kites-and-balloon-bombs-ignite-tensions-99341

Kites?  Balloons?  Old school, right?  After all, Ben Franklin flew a kite with a metal key on it in a storm to see if lightning would hit it.  Balloons? What would a kids birthday party be without them?

(As I write, I picture the Dick van Dyke scene in Mary Poppins – “Let’s go fly a kite”!!)

So, in this article, Palestinians in the Gaza strip (next to Israel) are flying kites across the border into Israel.  But – many have a flaming device attached to them. They might have burning charcoal or oil-soaked rags on fire. Some even have delayed so that the fires will be started sometime in the future after the kites are launched.  So when the wind is right, the kites take off, the kite strings are cut, and the kite flies wherever the wind takes it. Eventually, the kite has to come down. It might be in a farmer’s field, or in a forested area. And (assuming the fire is still burning) they can set the field or forest on fire.  So, an old-school concept in modern warfare.

The article states that the fires are burning fields and forests. The forests are mostly wildlife preserves and are chasing deer, birds and other animals out of their habitat.  

“By mid-June, protesters had launched more than 600 kites and balloons, igniting 412 crop and forest fires. No injuries have been reported. But more than 3,200 hectares (32 square kilometres) of farmland and forests have burned. Agricultural damage is estimated at around US$2 million and firefighting expenses at US$550,000.”

If you stop and think, what does a kite cost?  A few dollars maybe? Through in burning charcoal or a burning oil-soaked rag – and maybe $20 (and probably not that much).  

But there are indirect expenses too.  Tourist numbers are down (I have to ask myself if I was visiting Israel would I want to visit the Gaza strip anyway?).  

So … how do you stop this?   Israeli forces are using remote-controlled quadcopters to ram the kites -and bring them down quickly – or even push them back over the border.

So, in this day-and-age, flying a kite can bring a lot of destruction fairly cheaply.

Bruce

 

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Blog Post #379:  Can I have the next dance Sophia?

Blog Post #379:  Can I have the next dance Sophia?

Taken from: https://www.facebook.com/WTFuture/videos/watch-sophia-the-robot-take/388472918288251/

So here is Sophia – a humanoid robot.  I can beat her in a race (she only goes about 0.6 miles an hour – hey – I can get a mile in about 15 minutes – or 4 miles an hour).  She can do some dance steps – smile (the links says about 60 facial expressions). Her speech is somewhat limited – some scripted responses and some artificial intelligence (AI).  

(Do watch the video – it is about a minute long).

Sure this is a prototype = but how soon before we get C3PO?  (R2D2 wouldn’t be quite as interesting).

Do you want a robotic helper around the house?  Is this the future?

Hmmm … I’m guessing my wife might like a robot better than me – doesn’t eat anything, just plug the robot in at night, give simple directions, doesn’t sleep, obeys directives, doesn’t argue – hey I can be replaced!!!

What do you think?

Bruce

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Blog Post #378:  Amazing Grace: I once was blind, but now I see

Blog Post #378:  Amazing Grace: I once was blind, but now I see

Taken from: http://theconversation.com/curing-blindness-with-stem-cells-heres-the-latest-science-92412

How about that – the blind can see; the deaf can hear; the lame can walk!!  Okay, this article is about being blind – and the hope of using stem cells. Two comments first – it is not immediate; and it will probably be expensive (at least at first).

The article says:

“In 2006, Nature published a paper describing how stem cells could be used to restore sight in blind mice. This study, and similar subsequent studies, created a lot of excitement about the potential of stem cells to cure blindness in humans. Fast forward 12 years and we still don’t seem to be quite there – one notable human clinical trial in Japan was stopped in 2015 due to a risk of tumour development in a patient’s eye. So are we any closer to using stem cell therapies to treat blindness, or will we always be “ten years away”?

The retina is an important tissue at the back of the eye that senses light and sends visual information to the brain. Eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration are characterised by damage to retina cells, which can eventually lead to vision loss and blindness. Scientists hope to find a way to replace or preserve damaged retina cells in order to treat these eye diseases.”

“Stem cells might be useful for this because they can be triggered to turn into any type of cell. In 2010 scientists successfully guided stem cells into becoming retina cells in a laboratory. It is hoped that these cells could later be delivered into the diseased eye to replace or preserve damaged retina cells.”

So, good news – although not quite today.  There are risks of rejection. The best risks are from stem cells from the individual; but that might not be possible – and stem cells from donors require additional medications to handle possible rejection.

But – it still is exciting!!!

Bruce

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Blog Post #377:  55 Hours without Coal!!

Blog Post #377:  55 Hours without Coal!!

Taken from: https://www.cnet.com/news/uk-goes-55-hours-without-coal-power-breaks-historical-record/

I have written about our use of fossil fuel (including coal).  This article says that England (aka the United Kingdom) set a new record of 55 hours without using coal power.  

The article states: “The UK is becoming a force to be reckoned with in sustainable energy use, and currently ranks sixth on the World Bank’s sustainable energy scorecard (behind Denmark, Canada, the US, Netherlands and Germany).

The UK’s renewable energy mix consists largely of wind and solar generation — in 2017, Britain’s wind farms generated more electricity than coal power plants for more than 75 percent of the year. According to recent government figures (PDF), the reduction in coal use was responsible for a 3 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions compared to 2016.”

Scientists tell us there is a link between fossil fuel usage and global warming.  That global warming is affected by greenhouse gas emissions (so less coal usage, less emissions).  

If the UK can reduce coal usage (to even a new record of over 2 days without coal; others countries can do the same.  Can the United States do this? Can we use more wind, solar, renewable fuels (like ethanol); hydro power?

Growth in wind power is up in the United States; solar power is up; but political factors can affect energy usage as well.  

Bruce

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Blog Post #376:  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Blog Post #376:  Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness

On July 4th, 1776 the Constitutional Congress officially approved the “Declaration of Independence”.  This was a daring assertion on the part of thirteen very different colonies across an ocean from the ‘home’ country that they should be independent – free of the political constraints of that mother country.  

It was a shadow of what we have today.  These thirteen colonies send representatives to Philadelphia to draft some sort of resolution.  They didn’t take Amtrak, or fly into PHL. They didn’t drive their cars. They rode horses – or in carriages pulled by horses.  They came from the north – as far as New Hampshire, Boston, upstate New York; and the south – as far as Georgia and South Carolina.  From Boston to Philadelphia is over 300 miles. A traveler might make forty miles a day (walking speed of about 4 miles an hour for 10 hours).  So such a trip might take eight days – eight days on a horse – in rain, cold, heat.  

Back to Declaration of Independence – it states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. “

Let’s think of those three words:

Life – we have the right to life.  We should be able to live – without fear of government involvement.  

Liberty – we have the right to be free.  We should be able to move around the country; to take jobs wherever we can be hired.  (My friend and colleague from one of the former Soviet Belarus doesn’t not have this freedom.  He can’t move from City A to City B within his country (not quite right – he can move from A to B – but at his expense.  If he stays in A, he gets an apartment, a salary and a job. In B, it is all out of his pocket (and unaffordable).

The Pursuit of Happiness.  Note – this isn’t a guarantee of ‘happiness’ – but to pursue happiness.  To me, happiness is a mental thing. We can decide to be happy or not. We get to choose happiness.  

Philippians 4: 4-7 says “ Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Let us not be anxious about anything – but adjust your attitude – and allow the peace of God to surround us!!!

So, let us have life, liberty – and pursue that choice that leads to happiness this July 4th.

Bruce

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Blog Post #375:  Be careful this July 4th

Blog Post #375:  Be careful this July 4th

Taken from: https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/By-topic/Seasonal-fires/Fireworks

I’m writing this on July 3rd.  Tomorrow is the big American Holiday – Independence Day – The Fourth of July!!  It is summer, it will be hot (or hotter) in most parts of the United States. Communities and organizations will shoot off fireworks.  And … people will also shoot off fireworks.

(Aside – joke- Q:  Does Canada have the fourth of July?  A: No. Their calendars go from the third to the fifth!!)

In Central Texas shooting off most fireworks in cities and towns is illegal.  Small items like snakes / glowworms; smoke ‘bombs’; wire sparkler and trick noisemakers are listed as accepted on my city’s website: https://www.leandertx.gov/fire/page/fireworks-leander

But, outside the city limits there are numerous places that sell fireworks (limited season in Texas and some other states); and they are legal to shoot off outside of city boundaries.

The article / website says:

  • Fireworks start an average of 18,500 fires per year, including 1,300 structure fires, 300 vehicle fires, and 16,900 outside and other fires. These fires caused an average of three deaths, 40 civilian injuries, and an average of $43 million in direct property damage.  
  • In 2017, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 12,900 people for fireworks related injuries; 54% of those injuries were to the extremities and 36% were to the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for more than one-third (36%) of the estimated 2017 injuries. These injury estimates were obtained or derived from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2015 Fireworks Annual Report by Yongling Tu.

Growing up, we had sparklers and went someplace to see fireworks. The local baseball team had fireworks after their evening baseball game.  Later in the summer when the area regional fair was held, there were fireworks at that location. (I remember parking and watching the fireworks when the wind took the ashes away and on to our car).  But even then, this wasn’t perfect. Also from the National Fire Prevention Association is the information that wire sparklers can reach 1,200 degrees!! (That is HOT).

 

So, be safe this Independence Day – remember how our country got started but follow the rules and regulations for your area – and enjoy this All-American Holiday!!

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Blog Post #374:  One more in the Amazon tool kit

Blog Post #374:  One more in the Amazon tool kit

Taken from: https://www.axios.com/amazon-acquire-pillpack-health-care-startup-prescriptions-ba3e1eae-57f3-4971-98e3-02e90e0c34db.html

The retail world as we knew it – has changed.  While malls are still important; Walmart and big box stores are important.  And, online shopping has changed the landscape even more.

Of course, Amazon – is the big dog in the online area.

This article says:

“Amazon has agreed to acquire Boston-based online pharmacy PillPack, which had previously been in takeover talks with Walmart.

“Our thought bubble, via Axios tech editor Scott Rosenberg: Amazon’s entry into the prescription market is a natural follow-on to its move (with Warren Buffett and JP Morgan Chase) into the broader healthcare field. But while that high-profile effort seems to be aimed, at least for now, at its own workforce, this acquisition is more likely to make big waves sooner in the competitive and huge drug market.

“The deal with PillPack could disrupt the U.S. drugstore business. The online pharmacy offers pre-sorted doses of medications precisely timed with home delivery.

The details:

“Pillpack had raised over $110 million in funding, most recently at around a $360 million valuation, from firms like Accel, Accomplice, CRV, Pillar Cos, Astral Capital and Sherpa Capital.

“Not surprisingly, shares of Walgreens and CVS are plunging with the news.

“The transaction will be complete by the end of 2018.”

 

So, here we are – Amazon moving into the online pharmacy; Amazon buying Whole Foods; moving into advanced delivery methods.  Yes, the retail world is changing!!!

What else will happen?

Bruce

 

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Blog Post #373:  Hmmm – how do we teach this?

Blog Post #373:  Hmmm – how do we teach this?

Taken from: https://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/blockchains-next-disruption-business-school-programs/87586

We are rapidly going down the road to electronic currency and crytocurrencies.  The concept of blockchain and bitcoin has gotten a lot of attention recently.

To help out (or not), the definition of bitcoin is: “a type of digital currency in which encryption techniques are used to regulate the generation of units of currency and verify the transfer of funds, operating independently of a central bank.”  WOW – digital currency; encryption; transfer – and without a central bank.

It seems to be one of the disruptive technologies of the future – and of great interest to me as a Business School Professor for 38 years.  Where do we teach cryptocurrencies? And … what do we teach and how do we teach it? Is it finance, accounting, IT? Interdisciplinary?

To me, that question has an obvious answer – in the MIS / CIS / IT area.  After all this is a technology. Of course, the finance people think that this topic is a financial one.  Accounting wants in on the topic as well. How do you put 2,000 bitcoins on your balance statement and income statement?

Let’s look at the article:

“Business schools and universities are rushing to launch courses on cryptocurrencies and blockchain, as demand for greater understanding of the technologies grows after the crypto boom. But what exactly should be taught and who should teach it? As academics take stock, debate is growing over where the future of cryptocurrency education lies.
Demand from professionals for teaching about cryptocurrencies and the blockchain technology that underpins them has increased steadily. More recently, however, there has been an explosion of interest amid turbulent changes in the price of bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, and the hype around it.”

“Business schools and universities are racing to train students in a specialism once seen as inhabiting the nerdy fringes of finance and technology but which has been propelled into the mainstream. It is not just banks, central banks and governments assessing how to use the technologies; other sectors, from logistics to mining, want to understand what it means for them.”

“This is moving much faster than people expected. Business schools will have no choice but to update curricula,” says David Yermack, professor of finance and business transformation at the New York University Stern School of Business. “


Business professors over the years have jumped from old technologies to new ones.  For example, the old pen and pencil general ledgers died years ago as we went to electronic ledgers and electronic accounting.  These are built on databases – so, the IT people say “that is in our area”.

Some have even suggested specialized master’s programs in Blockchain.  In the article we have: ““It wouldn’t surprise me to see some turf wars break out over who owns the blockchain curriculum at business schools.”

And this:

“Academics describe the difficulties of keeping pace with a fast-evolving field. In his latest course, Yermack had to adjust his curriculum to add lessons on the creation of new versions of cryptocurrency known as hard forks, as well as on ICOs. “These topics were all but unheard of a year ago,” he says. “This is much more difficult than teaching a course out of a textbook.”

The author (who only has a basic knowledge of the technology, but who has been working with the ICCP to create a certification exam in blockchain) thinks that this looks too important to miss out on.  So, for only 5 Bitcoins, you can take his 10 hour introductory class into Bitcoin and blockchain technologies!!! (by-the-way – when I was writing this, 5 Bitcoins were worth $29,646.38 USD!!!) Even with one student, I’d come out ahead!!!

Are you ready?

(I’m not quite there)

Bruce

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