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February 28, 2008

A ray of sunshine

Image from

One thing I’ve always wanted to do is disconnect my house from the power grid. It would be so cool if I could generate my own power and heat from nothing but solar and wind energy. There are people who have done this or who have set up a system that is still connected to the power grid. This works such that when the self contained power plant isn’t producing enough electricity for the home, additional electricity can come in through the meter and when the home’s self contained plant is producing too much power, it is sold back to the power company by back feeding through the meter and spinning it backward. This, actually, is probably a better more eco friendly and cost effective approach to what is called “grid independence? as there is no need to invest in a network of batteries or something to store your electricity in. What you don’t use can be used by someone else if you stay physically connected to the grid.
There are quite a few firms on the web that sell solar panels and wind turbines and even a few that are set up specifically for the homeowner that wants to become “grid independent?. There are a few different wattage outputs of solar panels to choose from as well as turbines.
Getting my own home off the power grid might not seem like a very grand save the environment scheme. However, imagine if every middle to upper class home in the country had the capability to generate it’s own green energy. The country could begin shutting down coal and gas fires power plants and phase in a system where the citizens of the society generate their power. What a sense of community that would be!
If we could mandate that every home be roofed with solar panels we could easily accomplish this goal. The initial cost might be a bit off putting at first (about $6000 per home if the mandate was 10 panels per home) but the massive chunk this would take out of the power grid would be well worth it. Even if we could just phase out coal powerplant it would be a big step in the right direction. The huge business this would generate for solar power companies would be great too, new jobs and businesses could spring up form the ashes and revive economically stagnant cities.
Now Tax increases would of course be necessary, but I think... no I KNOW it is well worth the money! Who’s with me?...

Some web sites of interest:
Solar power for your home forum

Wholesale Solar

February 27, 2008

Service day three

Did some more filing and photocopying of scholarships today. Some students were supposed to come in for a guest speaker but no one showed up. The speaker took it very well I thought, considering she had taken the odd hour and a half out of her day to come down to the school. I guess thats how it goes with High school students though.

Service day two

Today I learned where some more things were in the office. I also went through some scholarships to organize and file them. The trip to the school on light rail is actually kind of fun.

February 20, 2008

The South is Red

To be quite honest I don't remember what the exact category was that I signed up for in discussion last monday. However I already had an idea in mind for a development goal that is very important and often overlooked. I think that All humans should have access to at least the most basic amenities to live. These are: Food, clean water, shelter and medical treatment. While it would be great if all humans on earth had access to all these this is simply not the case. Many don't even have but one of the amenities I listed on a consistent basis. I also would rank these 4 amenities in importance and I believe that clean water is the most important of the 4. The main reason for this is that a human can survive for only about 3 days without water. Also many diseases, like malaria, can be transmitted through dirty water. The solution is a campaign to install a proper well in every town lacking in one. Engineers without boarders currently have projects working on this in El Salvador and Ghana and the U.S. Peace corps have projects throughout Africa.

Well now on to the values part. The biggest injustice on the planet is the unbalanced distribution of wealth. I'll be perfectly honest here and admit that I believe that a communist or at least market socialist system is necessary to achieve true equality in the world. Yes this system Failed in the past and it would probably fail again if used however the flaw in every political system is not the system it's self, it is the people who institute the system. The leaders of the soviet union for example became too interested with their own wealth, forgetting the people. They also put so much of their effort and wealth in arming their militaries. If human greed could simply be put aside then all our problems would be solved. However this, of course is impossible.

Well I guess I really answered my own question. World equality will never happen. But those of us who actually have a higher sense of caring can at least try to make life a little bit more tolerable for the poorest in the world by constructing for them things like clean wells.

I will end with a quote that I think sheds light on a crime that society keeps committing without any hint of guilt.

"With a small fraction of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the Iraq war, the US and Australia could ensure every starving, sunken-eyed child on the planet could be well fed, have clean water and sanitation and a local school to go to."
Bob Brown

This (bottom image):
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Not this:
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February 14, 2008

Day one.

Today was my first day of voulnteer work at South high school. I didn't really do any work, they just went over procedures and how to use the career data base they had access to in the center. I am a bit anxious about actually helping students. I don't know that what I know will really be of that much use to them but I can at least try.

Wir wollen freiheit für die LRT!

I think It's pretty safe to say that Public transportation has always been a social-design issue in this city. It's a social issue because everyone needs to get around, yet not everyone has the money for a car. It's a design issue because well, someone has to design the infrastructure. I would argue that there simply isn't enough public transportation infrastructure in the city, particularly in the suburbs surrounding the city. This wasn't always a problem for the city. At one time Minneapolis used to have an extensive system of Street cars Running all over downtown and as far out from the city as Hopkins and lake Minnetonka. Sadly some of the longer distance lines were abandoned due to pressures from the great depression and other factors. The entire downtown system slowly met it's demise beginning when a New York investor, Charles Green, gained control of it and began syphoning off funds. Green did meet some legal consequences for his actions but he had already set in motion the phasing out of the Streetcar lines in favor of busses. General Motors and Firestone also stood to gain from the streetcar's demise. By 1954 just about every street car had been replaced with a bus or abandoned altogether. Image from: While there is an extensive bus system in the city today, just think how effective our transit system could have been if we had kept the streetcars and built on them with more lines and busses. it is still woeful when compared to just about any city in Europe. Many republicans, such as former Minnesota senator Dick Day, will argue that we should be investing tax payer dollars in roads since traffic congestion is becoming a growing problem in the Twin Cities. This, however, is a very short sighted and unfair use of our money. Not only can many people not or barely afford a car, but putting transportation dollars toward roads as opposed to more public transport also thrusts us further into the crisis of global warming. To really begin to work to solve out environmental woes, we need to get as many Automobiles off the road as possible and to do this we need to invest in a truly all-encompassing transit system. This will not only get cars off the roads but also make transportation more available to the less fortunate. Now heres where I tie in the bit about street cars. I believe that busses are necessary to provide an all encompassing transit system given our existing infrastructure of roads, however busses are slow and inefficient when compared to a rail line. That is why I strongly support the expansion of the LRT system. It may be much more expensive in the short term, but in the long run it will save money, and more importantly, carbon emissions. Now I realize that Light rail is not emissionless. The electricity that runs it has to be generated by burning something, however, Electricity to motion is much more efficient then combustion to motion. Also, not only is much of the energy in a combustion engine lost to heat but the frictional coefficient of tires on pavement is much higher than steel wheels on steel tracks. Image from: What I would ultimately like to see is Light rail lines coming in to the city and running between all major suburbs of the Twin cities area. This might seem like a very ambitious project, however it is absolutely vital if we are to have any hope of reducing our carbon emissions and eliminating the need for many people to own a car. The gaps where the light rail lines don't run could then be filled with busses branching out like the veins in a leaf. Also existing tracks could be used in conjunction with diesel electric trollies to reduce some of the initial cost of the project which could perhaps later be phased out when sufficient funds exist to build overhead lines and convert to fully electric trollies. Transit fares would obviously have to be subsidized to give all classes the ability and incentive to ride the system. This would most likely mean higher taxes which would have every republican in the state crying foul but can we not think about the bottom line for once? An all encompassing transit system would give everyone the freedom to travel around the city and huge initiatives like this are necessary to get the ball rolling on the long road toward curbing this country's obscene waste. Informational Sources: 1. 2.

February 3, 2008

Blog Prompt 1

I see the flow of energy in the city as the flow of traffic, at least in an artistic sense. I'm not just thinking of the flow of Automotive traffic but the flow of pedestrian traffic as well through the streets and buildings. If you were to view the paths created by this movement in the traditional down town city, it would be a seres of varying size squares. The Blocks of roads, the sidewalks running along the roads and around the buildings, the hallways within the buildings and so on. The bigger square paths of energy would be bright and heavily congested and the further in and smaller you got the less bright and congested the paths would get. Like how hallways in a sky scraper just have the occasional person walking down them, while the streets below have a constant flow of traffic. To put a verbal image to this imagine a square that is very bright on the outside edges that gradually dims as you progress toward the center.
Heres kind of a representation of how I think this "flow" would look except imagine that the color is vivid, bright, light colors on the outside of the squares and it fades to a dimmer darker color on the inside.

Image from:

This is what the flow of energy would look like in the city. This seems a bit out there to me, to say the least, but hey, I'm trying my best to think outside the box (no pun intended.)