Link Log for November 25-28

Although I’m scheduling some content to appear on Blogjob over the holidays, I don’t plan to be live online again this week, so here’s the final Link Log. Categories: Books, Food (Yuck), Phenology, Politics, Technology. (The Food links are yucky but they might help you save someone’s life.)


Maria Popova reviews an American classic, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey:

This one is specifically for Catholics, but Protestants might want to check it out too–How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice by Kathryn Lopez. (The link that came in the e-mail may be for a newer edition than the Amazon link.)

Civil Rights 

Feds beware…the Hammonds have ever so much more potential popular appeal than David Koresh, Rodney King, or Randy Weaver. And the young seem much more restless than my generation were back then…maybe because the Welfare State hadn’t totally destroyed the economy, back then, so nearly all of us were focussed on doing our jobs!

Food (Yuck) 

As if you hadn’t already read enough reasons to avoid anything containing corn or rice, now that so many corn and rice products, even Success Brown Rice, contain enough “Roundup-Ready” (GMO) rice to make me feel sick and send some people to the hospital…

Are any farmers reading this? Y’might want to invest in another mule!

Is there a cure for the damage glyphosate has done? Jeffrey Smith has a hope…


Y’know…I think the whole idea of trying to measure global temperatures may be flawed. It’s just too weird to read that an El Nino (Spanish: lower-case, would mean “the little boy”; upper-case, means “weird weather”) year, in which my part of the world set records for cold winter weather, for heavy snow sticking on the ground for weeks and deep freezes and mass deaths-from-freezing of wildlife that normally survive our winters, followed by a very long and mellow spring and a very mild summer and a mild, slow autumn, was “the hottest on record.” Mercy, Maud, I want to shout, where were you? 1986 was a hot year. 1987 was a hot year. 2015 was a cool year…where I was. Even if the cheaper kind of mercury-based thermometers were literally blowing their tops if placed on sidewalks in Baghdad.

Steve Milloy shared this NYTimes link (you’re warned; sorry if it crashes your browser) as a joke, with the suggestion that certain “researchers” are planning to fabricate the weather reports that’ll make 2016 seem even hotter than 2015. Well…if you crunch honest numbers in certain ways, you get any kind of statistical results you want. That’s not exactly news. To the extent that El Nino is a weather pattern, it seems to be followed by a backlash some call La Nina…this web site will know that that’s true if we’re cooking on the sidewalks of Kingsport next summer, while Baghdadis parade around in long-sleeved shirts in July.

And La Nina may be approaching. Here it is the day before Thanksgiving, and although I have turned on the heater in the office room, I left it turned off when I headed out in the T-shirt-dress I’m wearing now. The ground froze last night and the night before, but thawed into squidginess in the afternoon sun–it’s squidgy outside by now, and not uncomfortable if you step outside without a coat and move briskly.


But the convoluted reasoning ascribed to the President here…

…makes him sound either less intelligent or more un-American than he is, which, I believe, is really trop fort. It is convoluted, and unlikely enough to remain hypothetical, but, for young Twits who haven’t been following the issue…ISIS is part of the general craziness in the Middle East, as was Al-Qaeda, as was the P.L.O. The craziness in the Middle East is caused by too many people wanting to own land that contains oil, even though it doesn’t contain enough water for all of them to live on or near it. Reducing the global demand for oil would (a) reduce these people’s desire to live in the same place and (b) reduce their ability to amass lethal weapons to fight over it. (See Bill Maher‘s When You Ride Alone You Ride with Bin Laden, although that was meant to be controversial entertainment too.) In theory, if we all wanted to get serious about using less petroleum, it would dampen all the craziness in the Middle East. Maybe even dampen the land and give people living there access to a decent quantity and quality of water. That is, of course, postulating that if you or I walk to the post office somebody else won’t drive to the post office, drive back, and then insist on offering us a lift to the post office, thereby doubling his petroleum consumption and offsetting our reduction of the same. Anyway, the President wasn’t saying that solar panels will stop bombs. They won’t. He knows that. All people our age know what he meant. He simply expected that youall had heard all of this explained over the past fifty years, too.

(Yes…for those who wonder…not only can people who Twitter be called Twits, with the capital T, but some controversial organizations and high-profile celebrities now demand that those following them on Twitter confirm that we’re Real Twits.)

For U.S. readers, here’s a post by Publius Huldah:


More about the “bugs” in the emerging technology of electric cars…(Apologies for the NYTimes link, but it behaved fairly well on this fairly old, fairly small laptop, so it’ll probably work for most readers. Sort of.)

Non-book-review cat, also from Morguefile:


Can Solar Energy Save You Money?

Here’s an article I wrote for someone who didn’t give a very specific description of what he wanted to publish. Six hours after I’d written it, he replied with a more specific description of how he wanted it to be different. Specifically, his audience already know most of this information. Many people in my part of the world do not already have this information, so here, for the lurkers, is why youall should consider investing in solar energy at this stage of its development. Stealth entrepreneurial and investment tips follow:

We’ve been hearing about solar energy technology for years. We’ve been waiting for the technology to reach the point where switching to solar will actually save people money. Has that time come? And, do new buzzwords like “solar power purchase agreements” (SPPA) and “solar leases” mean that using solar energy can be as low-hassle as using conventional electric energy?

Why is interest in solar energy growing?

Solar panels basically run on sunshine. When sunshine hits a semiconductor, like a sliver of silicon, inside a photovoltaic cell, electrons are jolted out of place in the semiconductor material, generating an electric charge. This charge can be harnessed to power heaters, air conditioners, refrigerators, computers, even batteries for electric-powered cars.

The first working photovoltaic module was built by Bell Laboratories in 1954, but was too expensive for mass marketing. Tiny photovoltaic (PV) modules have been powering solar-powered watches, calculators, etc., since the 1980s and, as anyone who had a solar watch in the 1980s knows, the technology has improved dramatically. Bigger and better arrays of multiple PV modules can now turn rooftops into generators.

People are saving money by going solar.

In Arizona, where there’s plenty of sun, little other potential for roof damage, and a huge need for air conditioning, businesses that have invested in a lot of solar panels are raving over their savings. If you glance at a web page titled “Solar ROI,” you’ll probably need to remind yourself that (a) these are good-sized businesses with room for lots of solar panels, and (b) there’s more solar energy to be harvested in Arizona than there is in Oregon.

How much you can save depends on where you are.

Rachel Bennett calculates that a typical homeowner saves about $50 per month. That’s a national average. Obviously, the more sunshine you get, the more each solar panel can do. The more roof space you have, especially if it gets a southern exposure, the more solar panels you can install. Some solar panels are rated more efficient than others. Solar panels can be vulnerable to stormy weather; if you get a lot of rain, snow, hail, and wind, you might want to put your solar panels over the pool or garage area rather than above places where people live or work.

(Don’t have a roof over your pool or garage? Why not take advantage of the tax incentives and add that luxury now? You already knew a roof could save you money on pool and vehicle maintenance. Now it can save you money on electricity as well.)

Simple arithmetic.

Solar panels are rated according to how many watts of electricity they’re designed to harvest in a typical year: 240, 320, etc. Companies multiply the number of watts per panel by the number of panels to be installed, then subtract that from the number of watts your actual electric bill shows that you use, to estimate how much you “ought to be” able to save by installing solar panels. In the Southwestern States this estimate is quite reliable.

Become a producer, not just a consumer.

It’s possible for solar panels to collect more electricity than you actually need. In fact, if the panels are installed on a building whose peak use is not in the middle of the day, you can plan on collecting more electricity than you need.

You could go off the grid, but for those of us who are not electrical engineers, it’s simpler to let the electric company “buy” this surplus electricity, then “sell” it back as credit for the times when you use more energy than the solar panels produce. “You buy low and sell high!” a California company assures.

Electric companies are planning to jack up prices.

Even if your electricity consumption declines in the next few years, your bills could still increase. However, if solar panels make you an electricity producer, you should see rewards on every monthly bill.

Solar panel maintenance can be, almost literally, a breeze.

In a dry climate, about all you have to do is dust off the solar panels every year or so. The photovoltaic cells are designed to last for twenty years.

What if the climate isn’t dry?

Many ecologically concerned homeowners have heard horror stories about older style solar panels damaging roofs. In the Eastern States, storm damage to roofs is a fact of life anyway. Some companies claim that new, improved solar panels can actually protect the roof. In any case most Easterners own a roof that’s pretty much a luxury, and panels installed above the garage can still save money for a home or business.

Cloudy, misty Buffalo, New York, has invested in solar energy in a big way. M.I.T. reviewer David Rotman worries that this investment may not pay off well for Buffalo, but expects it to pay off for individual Easterners…especially if they need the tax break they’ll get in 2015 or 2016.

Tax incentives to go solar are scheduled to drop after 2016.

You might call it government’s reward for helping develop this technology. In 2015 or 2016, 30% of the cost of installing solar panels can be deducted from your federal taxes. In 2017, that 30% is scheduled to drop to 10%.

There may be more, depending on where you live and what you do. States like New Mexico, with lots of sunshine and not much water, offer page after page of potential rewards for participating in the switch to solar energy.

Going solar feels so right.

At the same time that going solar reduces your carbon footprint, it helps send displaced coal and steel workers back to work. It can increase your property value, too. And, depending on how many buildings are involved, it can give a noticeable boost to the local economy.

So why aren’t more people switching already?

Once solar panels are assembled and installed, they cost nothing. Buying and installing solar panels is not cheap. Companies are coming up with creative financing options to help more people find out whether solar energy is for them.

A Solar Power Purchase Agreement (SPPA) allows an investor company to own solar panels they store on their customers’ property. A city or town, such as Pendleton, Oregon, may be the “solar service provider.” Customers then pay the company for the electricity they use, while the company retains ownership of the panels, collects the tax benefits, and, if necessary, reclaims and relocates the panels. Benefits to the customer can include a positive cash flow “from day one” with little or no initial investment.

A solar lease allows customers to pay a fixed monthly fee for the use of electricity from solar panels stored on their property. The company that installs the panels retains ownership of the panels. The fee offers a substantial reduction in monthly energy cost, so many homeowners in places where solar leases have been offered, like California, have chosen solar leases.


Solar energy technology has reached the point where it’s safe and affordable for your home or business to switch to solar. If you can’t afford to buy and install solar panels, you may be able to save money with a Solar PPA or solar lease.


Semiconductors: NASA Science News,

“Solar ROI”:

Bennett, Rachel. “Can I Really Save Money by Putting Solar Panels on My Roof?”

“Buy low and sell high”:

Buffalo, New York: Schlager, Eric, in Buffalo News,

Rotman, David. “Paying for Solar Power.”

New Mexico:

Pendleton, Oregon:

California homeowners choose solar lease:

Morguefile’s Charlesa46741 illustrates how to go solar with zero risk to the roof ( ) (I want this):

solar final