Sunday assorted links

1. The Profanity Embroidery Group.

2. What is the African word you use most frequently?

3. Rail energy storage?

4. The culture and polity that is Swiss.

5. How are the prospects for Irish unification looking these days?  What is the correct underlying model here?

6. “People’s recollections after driving a familiar road were very poor, with most memories involving the bad behavior of other motorists.”  Link here.

7. Witchcraft in the #MeToo era (NYT, satire).


3. I was hoping they were going to say the costs of rail energy storage are now more reasonable, but unfortunately that's not what the article said. Fortunately the cost of new small scale pumped hydro storage seem to be coming in relatively cheap, although this may just be due to the best sites being used first.

Clear good news is the new Concentrating Solar with thermal storage power station to be built in South Australia looks like it will be competitive with using gas to provide load following power, although that does depend on what you think the price of gas will be. But close to the cost of using gas is pretty good and future plants will no doubt be cheaper. So cost effective energy storage there for anywhere with a decent number of sun hours.

Actually, I though that this had already been mentioned here concerning regenerative energy storage, but a quick search comes up empty - 'From Riksgränsen on the national border to the Port of Narvik, the trains use only a fifth of the power they regenerate. The regenerated energy is sufficient to power the empty trains back up to the national border.'

In other words, the trains do not require external energy at all (in the broad sense, of course).

As with so many things in the U.S., something that has been routine in for decades elsewhere is considered to be a breakthrough, with accompanying PR - 'Then there's rail energy storage, which is about to get its grand debut. In April, the Bureau of Land Management approved an ARES—that's Advanced Rail Energy Storage—project, conceived by a Santa Barbara-based energy startup called, well, ARES.'

They could have just called up Malmtrafik, asked a few questions about where to source the locomotives and grid transformers, and been on their way. Which is definitely not the American way to do things, because the U.S. is such an exceptional place.

Particularly considering that returning braking energy from trains to the electrical system is boringly routine throughout Europe. Though apparently not to this guy - 'Ravi Manghani, a senior energy storage analyst at GTM Research, urges a "wait and watch approach." "Any new technology has to go through some big hurdles," he says.'

Unoriginal idea with basically zero requirement to develop any new technology, described this way - 'ARES may not like the term pilot project—it's already built a demonstration track in California—but Pahrump's new $55 million energy storage system has a lot to prove. This first official outing will start small, providing only ancillary services—that is, helping utility companies make relatively minor adjustments in their electricity output and input.'

In all fairness, the parts of the American rail network that are actually electrified tend to be in the fairly flat Northeast, and pretty much only covers passenger trains. 'In 2014 the only electrified lines hauling freight by electricity were three short line coal haulers (mine to power plant) and one switching railroad in Iowa. The total electrified route length of these four railroads is 122 miles (196 km). While some freight trains run on parts of the electrified Northeast Corridor and on part of the adjacent Keystone Corridor, these freight trains use diesel locomotives for traction. The total electrified route length of these two corridors is 559 miles (900 km). '

Now that's just weird that regenerative braking in trains isn't a thing in the US. In some places they will wait until a train is coming downhill before sending one up. They are even starting to put regenerative braking into the trams in Melbourne, which has the world's largest tram system and probably the most inefficient thanks to the high average age of the trams and the formerly dirt cheap electricity. (From burning dirt.)

'Now that's just weird that regenerative braking in trains isn't a thing in the US.'

Especially since, as the article correctly points out, it is 19th century technology. A quick search concerning regenerative braking comes up basically empty for Metrorail, and finds this for the NYC subway at an MTA web site - 'The fleet of New Technologies subway cars (also called New Millennium Trains) has regenerative braking. Braking action feeds energy back into the Third Rail that would otherwise be lost as heat when the train stops.' Hard to imagine, right?

'They are even starting to put regenerative braking into the trams in Melbourne'

Or not, as the case may be.

However, in all fairness to the U.S. and Australia, diesel-electric freight trains do make a lot of sense over long distances with heavy loads (not just dirt made out of carbon, but other types of dirt too). Admittedly, the Russians have been able to electrify the entire Trans-Siberian Railway, but the Russians are not precisely noted for their penny pinching approach to grand national projects - and it took almost 75 years to complete.

Well at least some trams in Melbourne have regenerative braking. I know this because they have had to upgrade the cathodic protection on the tracks.

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"In other words, the trains do not require external energy at all (in the broad sense, of course)."

In the broad sense it may mean that - but in physical sense, the external power is the weight of the few million tons of ore extracted that puts energy in the system, while flowing down from the mines on the railroad. Still, there's a lots of friction losses and maintenance required, so I doubt it's a worthwhile investment to just toss sh*tloads of tons up on a mountain when we have energy surplus, and let them descend, when we need more electricity. That is unless one can find some pretty valuable and heavy material in high altitude - which should be transported to lower levels in high amounts. Maybe try moving Colorado to fill up the holes in Florida? I've heard they are having a tough fight with rising sea levels.

'In the broad sense it may mean that'

I think you misunderstood me. I meant that the energy from 6,000-8,000 ton trains going down balanced the energy of an empty train returning to the height of the mine, however obviously the rail grid is tied into the larger electric grid. It is not that the electricity generated by a loaded train going to sea level is directly coupled to the electricity used going back uphill.

'Still, there's a lots of friction losses and maintenance required, so I doubt it's a worthwhile investment to just toss sh*tloads of tons up on a mountain when we have energy surplus, and let them descend, when we need more electricity.'

That is not what is happening in Sweden, it merely demonstrates that there is absolutely new nor technically innovative about this idea. Your objections are valid. And at least obliquely noted in the article where it is pointed out that this was the most expensive proposed method to store energy. Its only potential advantage, so to speak, is scale.

"but the Russians are not precisely noted for their penny pinching approach to grand national projects - and it took almost 75 years to complete."

Yeah, it's much cheaper to burn oil because the burned oil can be easily recycled, while the metals used to build thousands of miles of electric rail, plus to build hydropower dams and wind turbines and solar power and power storage are consumed and gone forever after a few years.

Seriously, major obstacles to cheap shipping from the West coast is the bad tunnel designs in the Rockies that did not accommodate double stack cargo containers. The Civil War era tunnels had their floors excavated down a few feet about a century ago. And during the high profit oil train period, railroads were double and quad tracking major lines and boring new tunnels to improve grade which will enable double stack in the future.

On the other hand, allowing double stack makes electrifying trains more costly, and non-standard. Especially given so much is single track in the US, at grade, unlike Europe, where most is double track below or above grade or otherwise restricted allowing safe 100km/hour and above freight. (people get killed by jumping off bridges in front of trains or scaling fences to step in front of trains, in some places the preferred method of suicide, causing ptsd for train drivers.)

The Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel built in 1873 is still in heavy use with only minor changes, and a major bottleneck on the heavily trafficked Northeast Corridor. A year ago after decades of debate and study, a plan has been approved to greatly improve the situation, but now it awaits funding. The funding is not forthcoming because paying workers $4,5 billion costs to much and kills jobs and cuts worker incomes, so workers get more money in their pockets by not being paid to work. Free lunch economics.

After all, paying workers 144 years ago to build the tunnel was all wasted spending. All payments to workers cost too much, is costly wasteful spending that kills jobs. Free lunch economics.

Prior, this is an interesting discussion, but your anti-American framing is rather silly.

First of all, because regenerative braking is not the same as large-scale rail-based energy storage. The latter is what is being claimed as novel here.

Secondly, because regenerative braking was pioneered by Frank Sprague, an American, in the 1880s. And it was used on a major freight railroad in America over 100 years ago (the Milwaukee Road, an electrified transcontinental route that is long defunct).

'because regenerative braking is not the same as large-scale rail-based energy storage'

Somehow, I think a Swedish engineer might disagree, at least in the sense that a freight train could be scheduled today (and I mean literally today, as in right now) to make up a shortfall in the grid to the extent that the freight train generates electricity. The rail network is tied into the larger power grid already, undoubtedly. Though the Swedes probably have no need, they could already run this existing route as a battery by scheduling freight loads appropriately - it isn't as if iron ore is a time critical product in the main. Yes, this would probably work best by using a few more trains to smooth out waiting times - loading a few thousand tons of ore takes a fairly fixed amount of time, for example.

And if the Swedes thought the idea worthwhile to extend, they could probably build such a system in little time, basically using existing infrastructure and purchasing off the shelf components where necessary.

My mockery was mainly directed to the idea that this is somehow a new, ground breaking idea. It isn't.

'the Milwaukee Road, an electrified transcontinental route that is long defunct'

Your anti-American bias is showing, right?

"My mockery was mainly directed to the idea that this is somehow a new, ground breaking idea. It isn't."

No one was claiming that regenerative braking is a new idea. This series of posts makes you look more foolish than normal.

3. Dear readers have missed the irony: rail, derided as old technology ("trains, who need trains"), serving as the fulcrum to the newest technology, namely energy storage. With the rail cars going up and down the hill, it struck me as Sisyphean. Meanwhile, we can depend on Silicon Valley to produce another personal assistant app and Mr. Musk to produce storage batteries when he's not off to Mars.

It's not so much that rail is an old technology, but that locomotives and rail cars tend to be significantly more durable than highway vehicles and also more costly. Thus the turnover rate (and adoption of new technologies such as regenerative braking) can be glacially slow.

As for Wired Magazine, would it be too much to ask for current and projected cost per kwh of storage, or overall expected efficiency?

And, really, although gravity may be an "abundant natural resource," it can only be utilized for energy storage when it's combined with some gradient. Which can be tough to find (and costly to build) in Kansas, and many other places.

Not that Swiss -- cross border cultural influences matters. The Lausanne authorities reacted exactly along the lines of a recent French precedent:

There must be many other precedents. More important, it is the reaction that we as individuals have when others are introduced to us and they signal their unwillingness to trust us. That now this reaction is informed publicly only shows the idiocy of many fake pro-immigration intellectuals.

" they signal their unwillingness to trust us"

It's not that they don't trust you, they just think you're sexual perverts and have interest in supporting your degenerate lifestyle (all contacts between non-mahram* people of the opposite sex are highly sexualized in Islamic theology.

*roughly "a person you possibly could marry under some circumstances)

And here is another perspective on Irish unification - 'Is Northern Ireland the poison pill of hard Brexit? The visit of the new Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, to Belfast today is remarkable. This is not just for the astonishing sight of a southern politician who believes passionately in gay rights visiting the still conservative north – given how long the south’s reactionary Catholicism has been butt of northern ridicule. The visit is also part of Varadkar’s campaign to exploit Brexit as a tool of unification. The north-south border is one of the three “starter” issues of British EU withdrawal, to be resolved before a post-Brexit deal can be discussed.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists hold two contradictory positions: that hard Brexit is good; and that the border with the south must remain “porous”, for goods and people. They want tighter control on immigration into the UK, but know perfectly well that the border with the south cannot be closed. It is another case of wanting Brexit – “but not for me”.'

6. Research has shown that memories we remember the most often are the least reliable. Why? Because with each remembrance we add details that are false. Memories from long ago aren't reliable not because of the passage of time but of many remembrances that added false details. I often ask my somewhat older only living sibling if my remembrance of some event long ago is a false memory. Being my protective older sibling, she never gives me a direct answer. That way I can preserve my false memory while having the knowledge that it might be. [As for memories of driving, there ought to be an IQ test for obtaining a license since it seems that many drivers are stupid, and in their stupidity risk my life and theirs. Bad behavior among drivers isn't because they are angry, but because they are stupid. I think I will go for a ride.]

#5: How are the prospects for North American unification looking these days? What is the correct underlying model here?

North Americans are lucky. The prospects are as bad as always. There is no need for a model to explore conditions under which the unification would be possible.

Given the prospect of no change in the number (3) of nation-states and their constitutional structure of government, you should look for a model to explore the conditions under which civil and international wars have a very low probability. If you are lucky and find a good model, then try to analyze conditions for limited cooperation among the three nation-states.

6. Drivers that tailgate within inches of a slower car, weave dangerously from lane to lane and exceed speed limits by 20 mph are generally exerting an effort to "save time", as if the few moments that they might conceivably gain on their trip might be stored in some kind of time piggy-bank to be used on a vacation or a night at the saloon. Curiously, the memory of the time "lost" following a blue-haired dowager on her way to the supermarket disappears quite soon. Nobody can remember, even the next day, the time squandered by being held up by another driver. Ergo, this lost time must not be very significant. Aggressive drivers are a pathological by-product of the commodification of time.

#3 prospects for reunification are extremely low.

Most models are mistaken, since they effective consider the transfer of a territory for one nation state to another. In actuality, it is better to model NI as a largely independent state considering shifting emphasis from one union to another. The practical effect would be minimal, since in effect Northern Ireland is, and would remain, effectively part of *both* the UK and Ireland.

For example:
- all people born in NI can claim both Irish and British citizenship
- all Irish and British people have unrestricted reciprocal rights to live, work, vote etc in each other's territories (yes, this agreement predated their membership of the EU and has been confirmed to continue after Brexit)
- British fast air protection extends to Ireland, and in general, Irish national security (of the Cold War variety) is secured by the British Army.
- NI has a large degree of legislative freedom, and power-sharing (representation of all major political parties in the executive) is mandated and politically necessary
- the Republic and the North field a joint rugby team

Are we past Peak Marginal Revolution? Seems like the comments are way down and the posts are becoming cliched.

MR has become complacent and, even worse, so average.

After the great Tyler comment shutdown of 2018, things have toned down a bit. It may be somewhat more civil but the more interesting, insightful, risky and risque conversation has taken a backseat to the brain dead complacency that has set in since.

I know the blog has become at least 60% less interesting to me since they started randomly turning off comments for some posts.

For me it's only 57% less interesting.

Good. The right approach to study unification focuses on benefits and costs for the absolute majority of the population because formal or informally there will be a sort of referendum. Once you identify and prepare gross estimates of benefits and costs, most likely the conclusion is that the net benefits are small or even negative. This is the reason why most attempts to secession fail --look at Spain-- but the political reaction is different: in cases of unification the political group pressing for it most likely will abandon the project once it is known that the net benefits may be small or negative, but in cases of secession the political group pressing for it most likely will launch a strong campaign based on appeals to fake history and emotions.

Sorry. This was a comment on Matthew Moore's comment.

Soon or later, the caudillian Castillian invader will have to leave Catalonia. Homage to Catalonia!

7. So basically the same as regular witchcraft then?

There actually an article to be written by someone sometime about how homophobic and transphobic Gardnerian Wicca is. Sex between a biological male and a biological female is at the center of the entire religion.

Right? What is satirical about pointing out the connection between Wicca and modern feminism? It's just a bunch of fat feminists ranting about the patriarchy.

The fatness of many pagans is kind of weird. They claim to worship a nature based religion, so you would think they would be out hiking gruelling trecks and holding their rites in the middle of deep wilderness . But no. The portrayal.of satanism on Silicon Valley is sadly accurate.

#1: I’ve noticed that in the last few years the usage of the f-word has increased so much that it is almost no longer swearing. (Perhaps there is a statistic on this?) Especially among women, as featured in this tweet. It struck me as ironic when the “nasty women” showed they were cruder than the man they were demonstrating against, but this change seems to predate that. Lenny Bruce would be so proud.

I think you and I have very different definitions of the word "crude."

#2 - muthafahka

Does the filter not like "mmmhmmm" as a one word post?

Consider it this site's way of keeping anyone from becoming complacent. The various filters are fascinating to discover. For example, most of wikipedia is always available for linking - unless the wiki article involves a famous movie that caused a lot of feminist and Christian reaction in terms of free speech. However, link to wiki concerning the actress named Linda Susan Boreman, and basically the same information is provided and possible to post here.

Unseemly Seams--I've been stitching naughtiness for years. There's something so delightful in combining the irreverent with the formal.
I once embroidered the aphorisms of one of my GED writing students, who would begin her 5-paragraph essays with preposterously gutsy premises, such as, "The best thing about not having a face would be not being a racist." Or, "Food, can you imagine if there were no food?"

#2 was disappointing. The actual linguists in the article didn't back up the initial claim (about "mhmm" being of african origin) and no other useful example was given ("goober", really, as a common word?).

Very impressive content. Keep up the good work and thanks for posting.

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