April 2010

In a Village in India, one masterji is teaching the ‘krishnajanma’ part of Mahabharat Katha to class 6 students.

Masterji: ‘Kansa heard the akashwani that his sister’s 8th child is going to kill him. He was furious. He ordered to put Vasudev n Devki behind the bars. First son is born, and kansa kills him by poisoning… Second one is born n kansa throws him off the mountain peak Third one is born…’

Now Ramu, who is smartest of the lot, puts up his hand. Masterji, I have a doubt (sounding nervous n confused)!

‘Ramu bete, whole india does not have doubt in mahabharata then how come u have one?’

Ramu: Masterji, if Kansa knew that Devaki’s 8th child was going to kill him, WHY  DID HE PUT VASUDEV AND DEVAKI IN THE SAME CELL ?

Masterji fainted…..no answer….


Back when I was growing up I loved to dance but white guys weren’t part of Native American culture then so I joined the Hare Krishnas instead for the dancing.

Here are some powwow videos. FYI, in competition dancing if any part of your costume falls off you are disqualified. If you don’t stop completely on the final beat you are disqualified.

When we lived free on the prairies first the Grass Dancers would come out and smooth the arena:

Men’s Traditional:

The younger guys like Fancy Dancing:

The women also like to dance. Here is a Fancy Shawl Dance:

“But in moments of silence, of meditation, of enlightenment and peace, one learns to live in the atmosphere of solitude even in the midst of crowds. …One opens the inner door of his heart to the infinite silences of the Spirit, out of whose abysses loves wells up without fail and gives itself to all. In His silence, the meaning of every sound is finally clear.”

Thomas Merton. Love and Living. (New York: Harcourt, 1965). p. 21.

“In India there are sacred places where yogis go to meditate in solitude, as prescribed in Bhagavad-gita. Traditionally, yoga cannot be executed in a public place, but insofar as kirtana — mantra-yoga, or the yoga of chanting the Hare Krsna mantra: Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare — is concerned, the more people present, the better. ”

NAM 1.6: In this Age, Chanting of the Holy Name Is the Supreme Form of Yoga

Posted on March 30, 2010 by Alison Wise, National Renewable Energy Lab

There are many experts who feel that the market potential of renewable energy will only be fully realized if smart grid technologies and services are successful. But first, we need to define the smart grid.

In the broadest sense, “smart” refers to a kind of reactive and interactive capability of the energy transmission and distribution infrastructure that is driven both by the generators of electrons and the demands for those electrons.  So, the smart grid is defined as “digital energy” by those that focus on the information and communications technologies that will help build the interactive capability of its promise.

For the utility stakeholders, the smart grid is an “intelligent utility infrastructure.” And because of that, utilities with have to change their business model (and sometimes the regulatory context in which that model functions) as well as make changes to their entire operations to encompass the commodity aspect of energy and step up their customer interactions.

Finally, some refer to it as the “modern grid,” recognizing that this new infrastructure represents a 21st century approach to retrofitting a 19th century understanding of energy flows.

I will be referring to the interaction between technologies and services in this space as the “smart grid,” since it seems that is becoming the dominant way to describe this new system.

Late last year, the DOE awarded $435 million to sixteen different smart grid pilot projects in the U.S.  A map of pilot projects can be found on OpenEI’s Smart Grid Gateway. In addition, the DOE organized a “smart grid task force,” whose activities and resources can be found here.  These projects represent field research on how all the different stakeholders and technologies will combine to expand these projects into a smart grid that will transform our infrastructure.

When awarding these funds, the DOE focused on these critical goals for the grid:

  • Increased reliability
  • Increased security
  • Greater economic efficiency
  • Greater energy efficiency
  • Improvements to the environment
  • Increased safety
  • Utilizing a vision; not randomly implementing technologies

You may note that in this list, better integration of distributed renewable generation is not made distinct, though one could back into it through diversification of energy resources as increasing reliability and security.  Interestingly, just like the many definitions for the smart grid, there are many opinions about the need for renewable energy in the smart grid, with some feeling that renewables are central and others feeling renewables are irrelevant.

The DOE funded nine demonstration projects to specifically address the issue of renewable integration into the grid.  In these projects, it is looking for a 15% peak load reduction on a distribution feeder through both renewable and efficiency technologies.

Pilot Project in Boulder

Right in NREL’s backyard, a community scale “demonstration” smart grid project is underway in Boulder, CO. The first in the U.S. the Denver smart grid demonstration project preceded those that are now in development as a result of the recent funding from DOE.  This initial experiment has had mixed reviews.

The success of the smart grid depends on the private and public sector’s stakeholder involvement with systemic issues of transparency versus security.  According to many businesses that are building smart grid “solutions,” there are two aspects to the way that energy should be thought of in terms of efficiency.  Adrian Tuck, the CEO of Boulder-based smart grid company Tendril, recently gave testimony to Congress on the matter.

He said,  “Energy efficiency is best measured across at least two dimensions. On the one hand, we can and must focus on improving the throughput efficiency of the electric system and the buildings it serves, including programs to fund improvements in insulation, caulking and replacing appliances. On the other hand, we must also consider the real-time market and environmental information that can drive true transactional and behavior changes. The impacts of these changes can drive tangible energy efficiency and environmental benefits.”

In other words, consumers will (hopefully) make better energy choices if they have access to energy information in their homes and/or businesses.  “Smart” in the smart grid lexicon then also refers to smarter consumer choices.  It is this access to information that has some Boulder residents grumbling; the smart meters exist in their homes, but the information that these meters are collecting in this program is not shared with the homeowner.

The utilities involved in Boulder were not able to provide energy information to the homeowners for a few reasons, most of which stem from their not being equipped to handle the onslaught of customer questions that they feared would come as a result.  In addition, a case can be made that consumer behavior would be even more changed if customers were billed based on time-of-use (TOU) pricing.  Since the utilities involved in this program didn’t have TOU pricing for residential customers in place, it could be argued that customer usage data wouldn’t have much value for the customers anyway.

Building customer information systems that are capable of accepting detailed demand data and displaying it for customers and customer service representatives who accept calls from customers will require massive utility investment.  Investing in and implementing this type of infrastructure and implementing TOU pricing requires approval by utility commissions, which can take years.

The challenge for all of us will be to align the right incentives for existing energy providers with the right mechanisms for sharing energy information with energy users.

Smart Grid and Renewables

Why is the smart grid so important to renewable energy generation, and specifically distributed renewable energy generation?  If smart grid is done correctly, information in the electricity infrastructure will allow the grid to “intelligently” accept more energy from intermittent sources like solar and wind.   Without this intelligence, the existing grid will have difficulty incorporating larger amounts of intermittent renewable energy.

Think of the situation as analogous to the interaction between automobiles, roads and traffic lights.  If we were to introduce ever-increasing numbers of vehicles to our roads with no signals to direct the flow of traffic, the whole system would collapse quickly into accidents and blockages.  It is this “intelligence” – the signals that direct the traffic – that enables vehicles to move through the system relatively seamlessly.  Since the roads need to be accessible by the vehicles being introduced to the system, potentially more roads will need to be built to accommodate these new vehicles from wherever they originate.

Similarly, power generated from sustainable sources like wind and solar pose problems in terms of controlling how and when this power is generated and introduced into the grid.  Energy from these intermittent sources needs to be matched intelligently to the needs of the end user in order to be able to integrate these newer renewable resources as an asset to our energy infrastructure as opposed to a liability.  Without these measures, renewables may never penetrate markets beyond niche applications.

Those of us who have been working in renewables for years  (and my own organization having a 30 year track record), may bristle at the idea that we are “new” but if we are to become the status quo, smart grid may be an important element to how we get there.

For more information about where Smart Meter Pilot Projects are taking place in the U.S. and beyond, check out the Clean Energy Infrastructure section of the Clean Energy Economy, developed by NREL.

There’s a place I know where the birds swing low,
……And wayward vines go roaming,
Where the lilacs nod, and a marble god
…..Is pale, in scented gloaming.
And at sunset there comes a lady fair
…..Whose eyes are deep with yearning.
By an old, old gate does the lady wait
…..Her own true love’s returning.

But the days go by, and the lilacs die,
…..And trembling birds seek cover;
Yet the lady stands, with her long white hands
…..Held out to greet her lover.
And it’s there she’ll stay till the shadowy day
…..A monument they grave her.
She will always wait by the same old gate, —
…..The gate her true love gave her.

Written by Alan Bellows on 09 February 2006

Birthday Cake

I have never had a very good relationship with Mathematics. I used to think it was me… I thought that perhaps I was just a bit put off by Math’s confident demeanor and superior attitude, and by its tendency to micromanage every tiny detail of my universe. But over time I have come to the realization that I’m not the source of the problem. Math, as it turns out, is out of its bloody mind.

Consider the following example: Assuming for a moment that birthdays are evenly distributed throughout the year, if you’re sitting in a room with forty people in it, what are the chances that two of those people have the same birthday? For simplicity’s sake, we’ll ignore leap years. A reasonable, intelligent person might point out that the odds don’t reach 100% until there are 366 people in the room (the number of days in a year + 1)… and forty is about 11% of 366… so such a person might conclude that the odds of two people in forty sharing a birthday are about 11%. In reality, due to Math’s convoluted reasoning, the odds are about 90%. This phenomenon is known as the Birthday Paradox.

If the set of people is increased to sixty, the odds climb to above 99%. This means that with only sixty people in a room, even though there are 365 possible birthdays, it is almost certain that two people have a birthday on the same day. After making these preposterous assertions, Math then goes on to rationalize its claims by recruiting its bastard offspring: numbers and formulas.

It’s tricky to explain the phenomenon in a way that feels intuitive. You can consider the fact that forty people can be paired up in 780 unique ways, and it follows that there would be a good chance that at least one of those pairs would share a birthday. But that doesn’t really satisfy the question for me, it just feels marginally less screwy. So I did something quite out of character: I crunched the numbers. The values rapidly become unmanageable, but the trend is clear:

# of people Possible combinations of birthdays # of those combinations where at least two birthdays fall on the same day % of combinations where two people have same birthday
1 365 0 0.0%
2 133,225 365 0.2%
3 48,627,125 398,945 0.8%
4 17,748,900,625 290,299,465 1.6%
5 6,478,348,728,125 175,793,709,365 2.7%
6 2,364,597,285,765,625 95,677,479,012,025 4.0%
7 863,078,009,304,453,125 48,535,798,679,910,725 5.6%
8 315,023,473,396,125,390,625 23,417,361,992,539,211,425 7.4%

Only calculating up to eight people, we see that of the three hundred fifteen quintillion possible combinations of birthdays the group has, 7.4% of cases– or about one in thirteen– result in two of them having the same birthday. As each person is added, the odds do not increase linearly, but rather they curve upwards rapidly. This trend continues up to around twenty-three people, where the curve hits 50% odds, and the rate of increase starts going down. It practically flattens out when fifty-seven people are considered, and the odds rest at about 99%. Though it may not be intuitive, the numbers follow the pattern quite faithfully.

So does this mean that you can walk into a math class of forty students, bet them that at least two people in the room share a birthday, and win 90% of the time? Not exactly. In real life, where Math is not particularly welcome, birthdays are not distributed perfectly throughout the year. More people are born in the springtime, which throws the numbers off. Also, as a result of the way that hospitals operate, more babies are born on Mondays and Tuesdays than on weekends, which further complicates the problem. Depending on the group of people and how evenly distributed their birthdays are, the results can vary widely. But most of the time, you’ll still have some very good odds.

Birthday curveBut there is at least one highly practical application for this numerical phenomenon: computer hacking. There is a classic cryptographic computer attack known as the “birthday attack” which exploits the math of the birthday paradox. Using this method, a programmer can store the results of the birthday math in memory to decrease overall processing time when doing certain computationally useful things, such as attempting to crack a digital signature.

Another thing that I discovered in my research is that a one followed by fifty-one zeros is called one sexdecillion. I knew those mathematician guys were hiding something in those big numbers.

As much as Math would like us to think that it is an advocate for structure and intuition, every once in a while it churns up something dastardly and unintuitive like the Birthday Paradox, the Monty Hall problem or Benford’s Law. And we have no choice but to obey these fickle whims of the great control freak. But every once in a while, I like to divide by zero, just to show Math that I’m not powerless to retaliate.

To those who would claim that only a fool would fall prey to the Birthday Paradox, and that the true nature of the odds is perfectly intuitive, I ask this of your Rainman-like grasp of numbers… why is it that all of the totals in this article’s first chart (aside from zero) end in the digit five? That outcome surprised me, but I currently lack the conviction to pursue the matter. I now see that numbers represent all that is soulless and wrong.

Further reading:
Wikipedia article on the Birthday Attack
MathWorld description of the Birthday Problem

Planting. Weeding. Harvesting greens, radish, asparagus and rhubarb. Trellising. Applying compost. Watering. Building cages around newly planted  fruit and nut trees. Cutting and stacking firewood and posts. Working on a gourd scrubber.

Changing my email. If you didn’t get a notice from me with my new email address, email me at my old one and I will respond with the new one. Great, now only 40-50 websites to change the email address I am registered with.

Took a day off where other than opening my cold frames in the morning because it was a  sunny day and closing them in the evening, I did nothing at home. didn’t even turn on my computer.  We went to an annual consignment auction at Captina Produce, an Amish run facility.

About half the attendees were Amish, which was a great relief from living in Consumerloka. They have clear eyes and a true humility rooted in direct connection with the earth and a strong work ethic.  A refreshing vibe and ambiance.

I bought some hand tools, including a draw knife for $1, and got 7 and a half rolls of 5′ (1.5m) by 100′ (30.5m) thick flexible plastic snow fence for $50.  We also got some real red oak tongue and groove prefinished flooring 190 sq ft (35 square m) for $70., a fraction of new cost.

I was losing bidder on two oxen yokes and a home scale stainless steel sap evaporator unit, and a lot of other stuff.

Oh yeah, and Vidya bought a 12′ by 20 ‘ (3.7m x 6m) Amish built cabin on skids that was delivered yesterday. Got a good enough price on it, not much more than the cost of materials as I guesstimate, that the auctioneer after he knocked down the sale said, “That was legalized theft without a gun.”

We are going to put a single basin sink in it with a garden hose hookup for cold water and eventually get a solar panel and a battery and put some 12 V lighting in it and use it as a guest house.  It is only about 40 steps from a bathroom in the house so they can use that one.

It will also inevitably serve as a storage place for gourds, as everywhere else does here.

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – School lunches have been called many things, but a group of retired military officers is giving them a new label: national security threat.

That’s not a reference to the mystery meat served up in the cafeteria line either. The retired officers are saying that school lunches have helped make the nation’s young people so fat that fewer of them can meet the military’s physical fitness standards, and recruitment is in jeopardy.

A new report being released Tuesday says more than 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. Now, the officers are advocating for passage of a wide-ranging nutrition bill that aims to make the nation’s school lunches healthier.

The officers’ group, Mission: Readiness, was appearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday with Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The military group acknowledges that other things keep young adults out of the armed services, such as a criminal record or the lack of a high school diploma. But weight problems that have worsened over the past 15 years are now the leading medical reason that recruits are rejected.

Although all branches of the military now meet or exceed recruitment goals, retired Navy Rear Adm. James Barnett Jr., a member of the officers group, says the obesity trend could affect that.

“When over a quarter of young adults are too fat to fight, we need to take notice,” Barnett said. He noted that national security in the year 2030 is “absolutely dependent” on reversing child obesity rates.

Recruitment isn’t the only problem posed by obesity. According to the report, the government spends tens of millions of dollars every year to train replacements for service members discharged because of weight problems.

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