Posted by David Brooks | Tuesday, August 4, 2015
My Telegraph column this week ends on a note of interest to this blog, and since few people read to the end of any newspaper piece I'll bet it was largely overlooked:
Speaking of complications, this column will be on hiatus for a few weeks during a vacation and will see some changes when September arrives. I'll be posting occasionally at the Granite Geek blog, at granitegeek.org, if you want to stay tuned.
What changes? After 28 years I am leaving The Nashua Telegraph. Tomorrow (Aug. 5) is my last day.
I'm taking a couple weeks off and then starting as a reporter at The Concord Monitor, taking the GraniteGeek column and blog with me. I hope that the column will continue to run in The Telegraph, where it has appeared since 1991 - I've written more than 1,200 of them, which is a sobering thought - but that depends on discussions above my pay grade.
I'm making the move for personal reasons. I will hit a significant birthday this year (oh all right: 60) and wanted to see if I was still capable of making a change. I'm lucky that New Hampshire still has enough decent newspapers that a change was possible without moving to a new town - the way the newspaper business is imploding that's something of a luxury.
What about this blog? These archives will stay at The Telegraph at www.nashuatelegraph.com/granitegeek, but the column will be born anew at the Concord Monitor site when I start there in the last week of August. I'm not sure what the URL will be - but you will be able to check it out by going to www.granitegeek.org, a URL that will redirect to the Monitor site when I've made the switch.
Most of my blog readers hate to leave comments via Facebook, the only method allowed here. If you want to send me a note you can use my personal email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or twitter account (@Granitegeek).
Posted by David Brooks | Monday, August 3, 2015
The only team sport really embraced by geeks has long been Ultimate Frisbee (now known as Ultimate Disk or just Ultimate, after Wham-O cracked down on its trademark). I'm not sure why; I have speculated in the past that it's a holdover from Frisbee's origins as a free-spirited activity embraced by P.E.-class-hating geeks who balked at the regimentation of high school football et. al. But that's just a guess.
Whatever the reason, if you go on a college campus and see a group of folks playing basketball and a group of folks playing Ultimate, I guarantee there will be a lot more hard-science majors in the latter than the former.
So the news that the International Olympic Committee has recognized "flying disc sports", putting them on the short list of possible inclusion in future Olympics, should have lots of geeks excited. Finally, there will be something to watch other than synchronized swimming! (BBC story here, although it's a bit on the skimpy side.)
Actually, the news will probably feed an ongoing dispute about how to maintain Ultimate's egalitarian roots in the face of professionalism and growth.
The creation of Major League Ultimate two years ago shocked some people because it included - gasp - referees! The ethos of Ultimate has always involved people calling their own fouls; consider it crowd-sourced refereeing. If Ultimate gets wrapped up in the nationalism of the Olympics, it will be even harder to keep it old-timey.
Posted by David Brooks | Saturday, August 1, 2015
The CTO of Vecna, a Cambridge, Mass. robot and medical-technology firm (which we in Nashua know because it recently bought the robot company VGo) bought a 1967 VW Camper, swapped out the engine for an electric motor, and put a massive solar panel on the roof that he says provides all the power it needs.
Here's a Boston Magazine article about it, which is light on details. I can't find anything that gives any specifications. I am surprised that a solar panel, even one as big as this one, could provide enough consistent electricity to make a useful vehicle.
Posted by David Brooks | Friday, July 31, 2015
Our acid rain is getting less acidic, and lakes and ponds are slowly getting their pH back to natural levels, reports the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
You can read the report here in PDF form, or check out the press release:
Over 1,500 precipitation events have been monitored since the program’s initiation in 1972. An analysis of these data document that the pH of precipitation has significantly increased (become less acidic) while sulfate and nitrate concentrations, both acidifying compounds, have significantly decreased.
These findings correspond with reductions in atmospheric emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides over the same time period. “We are seeing, on a local and national level, the very positive long term benefits of the federal Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and our own state laws to reduce sulfate and nitrate precursors emitted into the air.
"Since 1994, our in-state emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxides from our industrial sources have decreased by 95% and 88%, respectively” said Tom Burack, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
National estimates indicate similar reductions in atmospheric emissions of the compounds known to result in acid rain. Results of annual water samples from the state’s lakes and ponds collected since the early 1980’s indicate that sulfate and nitrate concentrations significantly decreased in most all waterbodies, and pH and ANC have either improved (become less acidic) or remained stable.
These conclusions are based on analysis of nearly 2,000 water samples. These results are consistent with research funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Hubbard Brook Research Foundation that also reported significant declines in sulfate and nitrate concentrations in the Northeast, with moderate improvements or stable pH and ANC levels.
Although the NHDES results are encouraging, recovery is occurring at a slow pace. Continued monitoring will allow NHDES to document additional water quality improvements and recovery in future years, while preserving the robustness of these long-term data sets.
Posted by David Brooks | Thursday, July 30, 2015
A study by British researchers of hundreds of cities and towns that have turned off or reduced streetlights - usually to save electricity costs - found no related increase in crime or vehicle accidents. Here's the studyt and here's an amusing article about it from Astronomy magazine, which you could put in the anti-streetlight camp.
There was no evidence that any street lighting adaptation strategy was associated with a change in collisions at night. ... Overall, there was no evidence for an association between the aggregate count of crime and switch off
I mostly hate streetlights as a form of useless light pollution that doesn't do what we think it does, although at the occasional intersection I like them while driving. Society's default assumption has long been "more light at night is better" so battling them is tough. (Exhibit A: A scoffing Telegraph editorial when the state DOT wanted to turn off 3,000 unnecessary streetlights)
This study will, I imagine, convince few of the keep-them-on crowd, but you never know.
Spotted via good old Slashdot.
Posted by David Brooks | Thursday, July 30, 2015
Field-testing the radar in concert with Agency of Transportation has its advantages. A below-road-grade survey in advance of a reconstruction project is a data gold mine.
"In those cases they're coming back a couple of weeks later and digging stuff up," Huston said; "we compare it to our data. It's what we call 'ground-truthing.'"
It's a pretty good story, with one excellent quote: "The electronics could fit into a cigar box although no one knows what a cigar box anymore," he said.
Posted by David Brooks | Wednesday, July 29, 2015
There is a potent response to anybody who argues that cougars live in New Hampshire woods: Where are the pictures? Because these days, the woods are full of cameras.
Seven Days, the Vermont alt-weekly, has a piece about the subject that was prodded by that manhunt for prison escapees. It talks about these remotely accessible cameras - they can automatically email pictures to your phone - being used to spot burglars, smugglers, errant ATV users (my local conservation commission has them at some vandal-targeted trailheads) ... and, of course, animals.
Vermonters frequently send game-camera photos to Fish & Wildlife. Many of the images are purported to be catamounts — the infamous big cat species whose renewed presence in Vermont has not been officially confirmed, despite some ardent believers. Most of those animals turn out to be bobcats.
Chadwick said he knows people in Vermont who deploy 25 game cameras on their property. He has four.
Another selling point: Many people have turned the cameras into security devices, he said. Not only are they cheaper than security systems, but "they're portable. You can put them in the woods one day, and if you want to put it in your front yard the next day, you're ready to go."
Big Brother is here. Big Brother is us.
Posted by David Brooks | Wednesday, July 29, 2015
I've gotten a week off in my newspaper-vs-radio schedule, so this week's discussion with NH Public Radio concerned last week's column about The Open Compute Project, in which Fidelity Investment and other firms band together to develop standards for things like switches, servers, data storage - even cables and server racks.
Posted by David Brooks | Tuesday, July 28, 2015
It seems like solar power for small businesses - convenience stores, car washes, pet stores, restaurants, barbershops etc. - would make more sense than solar power for homes. The businesses use more electricity, so they'll benefit more from the downstream cost savings, and they often have access to loans or lines of credit.
But that's not the case, apparently, juding from the to-do over SolarCity's announcement that it is targeting small businesses for solar power because the market is ripe for plucking, as reported in the LA Times.
The trouble is that it generally has cost too much to develop and install a solar array on the roofs of small businesses. The solar companies had to spend time customizing the system, which created design costs and legal fees. And with installation of the panels farmed out to subcontractors, the deal never made economic sense.
"It's the same work to get a 1,000-kilowatt system as a 50-kilowatt system," Rive said. "The work proportional to the profit doesn't make sense."
SolarCity expects to keep costs down by using the company's own installers and employing a simple panel design that has reduced installation to as little as two days from two to three weeks. SolarCity also will tap Property Assessed Clean Energy financing programs, which attach the solar lease agreement to the property where the panels are installed and allow repayment of upfront costs over 20 years as part of the property tax bill.
SolarCity entered New Hampshire this year, so perhaps we'll see some of this locally.
Posted by David Brooks | Monday, July 27, 2015
The Cinemagic movie theater in Londonderry is among hundreds around the country that on Tuesday will show Cast Party, "a stage show simulcast to cinemas, celebrating the emergence of podcasting as a powerhouse medium with millions of obsessed fans. Like, the Lollapalooza of podcasts."
The stars of this show will be the two guys who do the podcast Radiolab, whose names I can't spell. I love Radiolab, which is pretty much what this blog would be if it could be a well-produced podcast. But I must admit the idea of watching a movie about podcasting seems a little unexciting. Still, who am I to say?
The show starts at 8 p.m. on July 28. Find out more here.