Solar Pioneer Homeland Security 2007-2017

A Decade’s Progress in Retrospect

by Ted Denmark, Ph.D.

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The basic needs that most people have today are for non-polluted and sufficiently oxygenated air, clean non-halogenated water, nourishing non-GMO organically-grown food, adequate protective shelter, electricity (probably both AC and DC), and adequate supplies of solid, liquid and/or gas fuels whether they live in urban, suburban or rural residence. In America our inherited democratic freedoms for lifestyle choice—to the extent they still exist—allow us to pursue a way of life that we feel is desirable and suitable for ourselves, our families and perhaps our friends and business associates. I think one of the main reasons why many Americans still feel so vulnerable is that they (we) are nearly completely dependent for virtually all of these necessities on the complex and possibly fragile interactions of large, distant market-driven corporate or multinational enterprises, supposedly monitored and supervised by often equally distant, unpredictable government bureaucracies⎯this is the post-WWII pattern of fear, uncertainty and occasionally (?) paranoia raised to new heights and fallen to greater depths by various scary circumstances like the 911 Terror Attack conspiracy in the digital “brave new world” that initialized Century 21 and the paralysis of both dominant political parties.[1]

Many lifestyle advantages have accrued from new technologies and the resultant division of labor to exploit those efficiencies since the beginning of the industrial revolution, and the complex sorting and evaluation of these various advantages and disadvantages will continue for the duration of our efforts to survive and prosper if we are able to continue to do so. As a designer, technologist and long-time advocate for as much self-sufficient, independent living as can be made available, I have been engaged for more than three decades in developing an approach to achieve a high quality lifestyle that is both sustainable and as self-sufficient as possible relative to the current level of available appropriate technologies. Today, this topic continues to gain currency as additional puzzle pieces have appeared for integration: advances in utilization of the silicon solar-power cell, newer storage battery technologies (they still need to get better![2]), more trouble-free wind energy turbines, the networked personal computer, the hybrid power train for car/truck transportation, water purification technologies, and many others in rapid development or becoming available such as wide area wireless broadband connectivity and solar-electric powered electrolyzers for hydrogen gas production. The fuel cell will probably have some role to play but probably not as an energy source for cars (too fragile and heavy).[3]

These small-scale enabling technologies have begun a kind of revolutionary decentralization and democratization of energy generation and utilization that will undoubtedly continue to progress as additional technology-driven social, economic and political breakthroughs occur. But we have already come to a point where existing off-the-shelf products have evolved beyond the early-adopter stage to that of general availability and suitability. If you are genuinely interested in what you can do for yourself and your culture that might be helpful as part of the solution for the energy crisis and the mounting threat of global warming, which goes beyond just buying a new Prius—even if that might be a really good idea⎯then it may be time for you to participate in one of the great adventures of the Post-Modern world: becoming a local producer of your own lifestyle necessities on the Solar Homestead as part of your main job description. It would be ok too, if you are very busy and just want to put solar-power panels on your house as a future investment opportunity, installed and maintained by someone else … but it’s not as self-actualizing or as much fun (assuming you are still analog enough to know how to use … more than just virtual button-box devices with small screens)

If we combine the new decentralized energy technologies such as solar and wind power with the appropriate technologies of an earlier era, that of small-scale, yes, organic farming or gardening, then we have what forms the core of a self-sufficient producer lifestyle whose time has come for those who have not fallen completely into the condition of passive consumerism in trade for outside-the-home commuting to full-time or multiple job employment⎯or who want to try to rebound out of this captivity and find something more appealing and ultimately, gratifying in a most appropriately American way: freedom to be yourself.

Our subject here is complex with many side issues, but giving a short account of my own modest personal effort would likely add some particular detail to make the picture clearer. I have an off-the-grid solar home that I’ve been working on building for nearly 20 years, which I call a Solar Homestead, Mini-Farm or Solar Farmette; it’s located just below 4,000 feet on about 6 moderately steep acres with a small orchard of about 30 trees (apple, pear, cherry, persimmon, peach, and a few odd nut trees, berries and grapes), a 2500 square foot garden with plans for an eventual green house attachment that I’m getting much closer to building now that the house itself is nearing completion (with one more needed addition for it … a closed-in garage).[4]  It is all-organic, making the quality of the fruit and produce as good as any I’ve ever eaten. I’m in a very scenic area of the California Motherlode in a little banana belt just inside the river canyon of the middle fork of the Stanislaus River near Big Trees State Park with views of the high ski ridges, a short distance from the towns of Murphys and Arnold.  The pride of the property, in addition to more than fifty of the most beautiful oaks I’ve ever seen, is a year round spring that produces about 500 gallons of water a day which gets solar slow-pumped up the hill to a storage tank that gravity feeds both domestic and irrigation water coming back down. It is a virtual earthly paradise of a kind not in overly abundant supply at any price, and I often realize I’m very lucky to have found such a place after an earlier longish dedicated search.

East Elevation North Elevation

In early childhood I grew up mostly on a small family farm in central Oklahoma, so I got the green-thumb basics early from my hard-working grandparents and have attempted to apply it here on a smaller scale to reach a compromise between growing something oneself that is both valuable enough to justify the effort and also suitable to the bio-region (tree farming on steep terrain) but yet not becoming a slave to full agricultural production with large animals and tilled crops the way my grandfather was⎯all on a small residential scale for couple, family or small community group. I wouldn’t mind having the raw milk and cream of those dairy cattle we had on our OK farm, but, oh, the sacrifice required of the dairyman … It could be that a community level of co-operative work-sharing might apply to get dairy production, but this could turn out to be tricky to organize, even among motivated friends. Fortunately, raw dairy is still legal in California if somewhat expensive, and we have a near-local supplier of raw dairy products from grass-fed cattle⎯the story of the value of raw dairy is itself an interesting one but would be too great a detour here …

South Elevation

We have plenty of sun here in our heavily-forested Central Sierra foothill area (even if the commercial clear cutting loggers with tacit government assistance are legally decimating the area at a rapid pace[5]) so my solar-electric power panel array with passive solar space heating and wood stove backup works out fairly well (yes, I’m aware of the woodstove pollution problem, but we can still tolerate it out here in our low density area, though there may be a pellet stove in my future …). The soil, though shallow and thin like typical mountain soils, is reasonably fertile with some needed soil amendments to make the organic turkey manure, available locally, drive the production, so it’s a fair game (we have wild turkeys in the area too) to keep up with essential soil building while limiting erosion.  Altogether, this is a rather more productive place providing its own water, electrical power, some food and recycled sewage and compost, than the ordinary urban/ suburban house⎯or rural ranch house⎯but also relatively comfortable with the usual amenities (with plans for including an eventual dance, music and/or video production studio)[6] and the usual communications suspects: land-line telephone, cell phone, radio, television and satellite Internet with Wimax (long distance radio frequency Wifi) broadband as an eventual option.

I’m still holding out on satellite television because I get good-enough broadcast reception from my amplified hilltop antenna from the Sacramento PBS and ABC networks and the Monterrey NBC transmitter, even though they are all more than a hundred miles away (!). I probably wouldn’t have time or really want to spend more than a couple hours a day watching television anyway. I was still in the dialup ghetto a few years ago, which was good enough except for video and large file transfers, and video may yet be best sent as high-density disks via the paper mail trail (like Netflix), unless you are a working video producer (one of my ambitions)[7]. The two buried telephone lines were the essential starters already in place when I arrived to purchase this property … that will probably always be off the grid, though the power poles are less than a mile away⎯evidently the cost of bridging even this short distance would run to investment sums for the power company too great for the number of residents who will ever be living here. I wouldn’t mind if an eventually larger local community wanted to ante up and pay the additional cost of power grid connectivity; it would be a good option as long as it is there, and I sincerely hope it will not be targeted and disrupted by terrorists of any kind⎯one of the probably most subliminally feared things today—or before the power grid coming up from the valley really does become obsolete because of fire dangers, greenhouse gas pollution and its inherent through-put inefficiencies and large-scale losses.[8]

Admittedly, this attempt at a more energy-independent, self-sufficient lifestyle has been a lot more work than most people would want or could manage, but the physical exercise gained has been of some significant value for me compared to ordinary sedentary urban/ suburban day job occupations like office work with a need for “going to the gym” to maintain fitness (of course you might meet someone interesting there, but … it’s only about as likely as at the grocery store {;-). But on those days when I find out that the electrical power grid is down and out in the local Highway 4 corridor⎯which usually happens at least a few times every winter—I am able to feel a bit more justification for those times I had to go out to sweep snow off my panels in wintertime (they are tipped down to be normal to the low Winter Sun and shed snow as a freebie, but there is often some frozen residue that sticks).[9] I’ve never had an in-house power outage at my place in all the time I’ve been here, even though I didn’t have quite enough of the best quality power in the early days when I was still building up my system of panels and equipment.

One of my finest moments as a solar pioneer occurred when I upgraded my original “square wave” power inverter to a “smart” sine wave four-kilowatt power plant (Trace SW4024) with in-house remote control⎯all the radios, TVs, stereos and electric motors gratefully stopped their subliminal sixty-cycle hum that my sensitive ears had suffered from the beginning. And I can turn this power system completely off at night or as I need to during the powerful lightning storms we sometimes have in our area (this could be another unexpected side effect of global warming/ climate change as well).

Main AC power closet panel View into Solarium from dining room

This arrangement does have its own kind of learning curve and is probably more suitable for someone who is sufficiently mechanical and technically savvy while managing home-based employment for essential cash income, but in maturity I am close enough to a small local job market to take various small outside jobs as they arise.[10]   I still feel much too dependent on gasoline for our car and two trucks, but the availability of plug-in hybrid transportation appears to be getting closer (Toyota admits to be working on this as a priority).[11] When it does arrive, it will be just a matter of adding enough solar panels to the two kilowatts I currently have on line to charge the additional batteries.[12] Since we don’t usually drive more than 50 miles on a typical day, unless we go to the San Francisco Bay Area on a shopping/ mini-vacation trip, an eventual stable of two plug-in hybrids and maybe one old four cylinder “gas sipper” as backup would be optimal.

I haven’t yet gotten involved with bio-diesel fuels (there aren’t many fast-food places out here in the sticks to get the deep-fry discard oil) and for the time being, will leave that for Willy Nelson to trouble-shoot. And there is the always-enticing possibility of electrolyzing water into hydrogen and oxygen and re-burning them with no residue except … more water. Whoever finds the magic catalytic process that works better for low-power sustainable cracking of the water molecule than we now have, will become a major hero in his own time⎯if he can come to market amidst the gnarly established industrial titans.

I have been collecting glass from fogged sliding glass doors and windows for several years now with an eye to eventually cobbling them together into a near year-round food and heat producing greenhouse adjoining the eastern and/or southern sides of the main house.[13] In fact this has been the driving force of my expectation almost from the beginning. When I am feeling temperamentally impatient, it is this lack that seems the most in need of assuaging. Such a solarium/ greenhouse (which I had built early in the cycle of my first solar owner/builder house in the Colorado mountains during the 1970’s), in addition to being of great utility, is also a magical environment to just experience in the middle of a bed of leafy salad greens on a cold but sunny winter day (and, of course, also another work project). Sitting at the dining room table in the comfort of bright morning sun for breakfast after a cold winter night is not too bad either, not to mention not having to start a fire in the woodstove till the Sun goes behind the hill in late afternoon of the coldest days.[14] However, seeing a real fire through the glass doors of the upstairs living room wood stove in winter provides a warmth that ducted central heating will never begin to match (probably not video games or a screen saver showing a burning video fire either).

Our climate here in the California Motherlode is relatively mild, particularly since the advent of “global warming,” and has gotten noticeably warmer in the last seven years.[15] Mostly gone are the days of windy blizzards and heavy snows that predominated when I first arrived sixteen years ago. This Winter [2007] has been most unusual with the warmest, driest January since records have been kept and the coldest spell in February in fifteen years and the most snow in ten. Most local folk that I know like the short-term milder weather, but realize that the long-term results may be the greatest challenge that all of us will have to face. For example, the hottest day I ever witnessed in the area occurred last summer with a reading of 106 dF (a record 116 in the Big Valley in Modesto⎯not unlike the Arabian peninsula!). In previous years it had only reached near 100 degrees here on a few of the hottest days. The solar-powered swamp cooler will probably be just as important in Summer for minimal comfort[16] as the Sierra snow pack declines, just like the solar space heating/ woodstove combo in Winter. I believe that the advantages of essential energy and food production are inherently valuable, but if there is an additional benefit of environmental preservation, then it becomes that much more desirable for early “solar pioneers” like myself to try to demonstrate the viability of such an arrangement.

I have also been enamored of wind power, and purchased a small wattage “wind genie” with built-in charge controller to put atop a long steel pipe anchored in a big chunk of concrete, and though an admirable piece of kinetic sculpture above the vineyard just uphill from the house that does make me happy whenever I see and hear it spinning up in a windstorm, the amount of power produced by the prevailing light southerly breezes is usually negligible. Larger scale wind power on my hilltop would probably be feasible but the difficulty of raising a tower at a distance of about three hundred yards uphill from the house with the resulting need for AC power conversion transmission back down is still too costly and complex for serious consideration.

Even though these modest “stepping stone” technologies such as flat-plate silicon solar panels and the small wind turbine, are currently worth implementing in many locations with sufficient hours of sun and wind, eventually there will appear more efficient panels[17] and optically enhanced devices, making for smaller sized arrays, and marginally more efficient wind turbines. But beyond that I feel confident that we can look forward to a number of radically new technologies that will go far beyond these early practical inventions. It’s already a vast worldwide effort, mostly still secretive, to produce power with novel physical effects like permanent magnet and capacitive discharge motors up to truly exotic cold fusion and superconductivity spin-offs that leverage a small direct current voltage such as that produced by a solar panel or wind genie, to provide a continuous power stream ten times greater in return. It is only a matter of time before some of these demonstrated laboratory effects of quantum energy phenomena and the like, become available for experimentation and eventual commercialization.[18]

Naturally, the powerful commercial/ industrial/ governmental complex does not want to see these potentially revolutionary technologies competing fairly for dollars in energy markets with their mega-investments in existing energy infrastructure, so the prospects for implementation will remain dicey for some time yet. Home-based electrical power production that runs the utility meter backwards in competition with established regional utilities remains a political hot-button issue as California’s recently re-invented superhero Governor Brown now attempts to blaze a new trail with solar power subsidies obviously at variance with the corporate lobbyist dominated Washington political power structure.[19] The worldwide demand for solar panels continues to increase so the prices are not coming down either as earlier hoped while Germany and Japan purchase the lion’s share of the current production along with California and the sunny Southwest.[20]

But in the meantime the needed experience to be gained from this preliminary decentralization of power and food production will allow for the start of a number of forces acting in favor of increased autonomy and democratization of cultures around the world—this might be termed the Age of Disintermediation. In a similar way early space exploration with missiles using chemical rockets have allowed the needed early infrastructure of novel engineering technologies to gain the necessary foothold for initial exotic materials development, satellite communications, space medicine, etc. in preparation for future propulsion technologies, which, though invented as we know in some cases, have also not yet officially arrived.[21]

The last decade of the 20th Century may have lulled us into believing that an inevitable abundant technological future lay just a few years ahead for our nation—if not so soon for the world at large—on a continuous path of rational decision making towards increasing efficiency and wealth. Today we are much more likely to be aware of the unexpected irrationalities and dangers of world conflict generated by competition for existing non-renewable energy resources, particularly oil and gas.[22] If anything, this awareness should probably accelerate the keenness of our move towards renewable energy resources such as solar and wind that can be managed⎯on an individual residential basis⎯as a major lifestyle issue. Of course not everyone (probably not even very many as we have observed) can become “solar pioneer food and energy producers” in the short term, but a cultural bias towards independence and self-sufficiency will induce more Americans, and indeed people all over the world, to explore this approach … in some cases out of necessity.

The many millions of people who are now able to make use of cell phone communications without a need to pay for installation and maintenance of copper wire to their residences, will also see the advantages of producing their own electric power locally, also without having to pay for the additional copper wire transmission infrastructure above or below ground⎯not to mention paying for more centralized power plants with their deadly pollution from nuclear or fossil fuels. This goes over again for local food production when it comes time to pay the increasing costs of distant transport.[23] There are even problems with centralized hydroelectric power, which surprised me at first blush, too, though it still retains a major cost advantage in the Pacific Northwest region (witness the location of the new Google mega-server farm beside the Columbia in rural eastern Oregon).

The marriage of newer and older appropriate technologies together in this idea of a Solar Homestead has been a viable option since the enthusiastic expectations of the late Sixties and early Seventies, though progress has been slower than most of us thought would likely occur. For a while it looked as if it could be a possible resuscitation for the long-failing family farm and the consequent rise of agribusiness with rural to urban population flight across the country and around the world. One of the more notably depressing observations I can remember when I first arrived in California in the early Sixties, was that nearly all the agricultural workers appeared to be Hispanic⎯including many Mexican immigrants⎯the dominant class of non-Hispanic white European-Americans no longer did food production farm work even on the world’s most valuable and productive farm land! We must be grateful for these hard-working immigrants, but the loss of socio-economic status for food production work, whether because of the dangers of widespread pesticide use in the fields or just the hardship of dusty repetitive work all day in the hot sun compared to the air-conditioned office, leading to the consequent production of an easily-identified underclass, seemed ominous for our future. But pioneers of any generation have to pay the dues of early-adopter status somewhere just as early wagon-train and seafaring pioneers did.[24]

As usual, most things turn out to be more complicated than anyone could have imagined, and there is no telling if we will remain on this slow transition plateau, as we have been, for very many additional years or whether new technologies will continue to appear to compete with the older more familiar deliverables—making the delay an advantage in some ways, after all. Or whether anyone, particularly the younger generations who will soon be in charge when the Boomers retire, will even be interested enough to take time from their entertainment agendas if it doesn’t garner obvious double-digit short-term profitability (I am confident they will find their niche if only by necessity). It may take $100 a barrel oil to finally shock us into a realization that unless the American military can guarantee the continued flow of cheap oil they use to try to police the world as well as for the multinational conglomerates and retail consumers⎯now increasingly in question⎯they, and we, will have to make some serious lifestyle choices that mainstream American “exceptionalism” has so far been able to avoid realizing. It was only last year [2006 election] that a congressional leader from Oklahoma was able to openly maintain that global warming was a “hoax” before his defeat in the fall midterm elections.

World population has been able to accelerate to its current level of around six billion largely because of abundant cheap oil, and it is likely that it will increase a good deal more before it begins to stabilize (if it ever does). If we are close to the historical peak of oil production as many believe, then we must begin to counter the irresponsible pattern of waste and greed now afflicting the privileged, decision-making classes in all countries. The alternative, now in evidence in some marginal economies and conflicted societies (Rwanda, Bosnia, Somalia, Haiti, Darfur, Israel/Palestine, Lebanon), appears to be genocide perpetrated on the weak and unarmed have-nots by the aggressively armed and anxious haves. This human wolf pack mentality, whether in individuals or accumulated to a national level, has already shown its fanged teeth in the new incivility at home as well as in agonizing bloodshed abroad.[25]

The truth is that at the present time there is not even enough awareness or interest on the part of the majority of American consumers to make the transition from the 19th Century technology of inexpensive but short-lived disposable tungsten filament light bulbs to the initially expensive but long-lived and very efficient compact fluorescents. If we could only convert our obsolescent lighting to this more energy efficient type at a reasonable pace⎯not to mention LED lights which go the next step to ultra-efficiency⎯we would not be forced to continually bring new central power plants online.[26] The light bulb situation is a possible good example of a beneficial delay of technology transition since not only are the LED lights much more energy efficient than the compact fluorescents, they eliminate the problem of hazardous mercury contamination in disposal with the latter.

We used to have a national government without an energy policy; now we have one with an energy policy overtly blocking conservation (did they used to call themselves conservatives?) and favoring increased production of combustible fuels at any cost for rapid uncontrolled growth insuring continuing short-term financial profits. It is the strategy of the feeding frenzy of mutated cancer cells ravishing their host into oblivion. Can the pitiful helpless giant apply the brakes before driving at full speed over the cliff? We will undoubtedly learn the essential aspects of this response decision in the next decade.[27] Changes of a fundamental or revolutionary nature can probably not be delayed much longer, and we will see many unavoidable consequences of action and inaction, with the usual manifold of unintended consequences. I don’t know anyone who is optimistic that it will be a solution we, or the real hardworking pioneers, our American forefathers and mothers, can or could be completely proud of … yet.

It may just be that it is still too early in the evolution of humankind from homo lupus to homo faber to expect rational decision making on an appropriate event/ time horizon, but I’m afraid it may also be a while before the needed DNA upgrade, spiritual realization or whatever is required, might become more generally available. The old-fashioned feedback loop of pain and suffering may continue to rule in the human-animal kingdom until we can decode the many virtual in-box messages. In the meantime it will surely and securely behoove us to find our own place in the sun, cultivating our solar-powered kitchen gardens on the home front while watching the world wag by on our big screen (LED!) TVs⎯if the revolution is indeed televised, contrary to some early hippie luddites⎯or at least see our wind genies spinning in the breeze. This is real self-empowerment rather than just a self-help metaphor. Let us hope we can continue to use it to draw sufficient peace of mind that we can do something that will help us muddle through … just in time … or even a little sooner.

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Dowds Hill at Avery, CA

[Original text, 3/7/ 2007; final edits 10/9/2017]

  1. Ok, it is still good enough in many ways about which we should be grateful, but one cannot help but think how much better things could have been if the public treasury had not been looted of the trillions of dollars over many decades by the MIC (military/ industrial complex)—probably the greatest theft in world history.

  2. And are (!), according to many technology watchers, though many of the breakthroughs are highly proprietary (like Musk’s big Tesla dream factory), but according to reliable sources the breakthrough for a better-than lithium-ion battery technology has already occurred (doesn’t catch fire and charges more rapidly) … invented by the now centenarian who invented the original lithium-ion battery.

  3. Though it might work for trucks, viz. General Motors new heavy truck platform powered by fuel cells

  4. The house finally tops out at 2500 ft2 as well with the new south addition.

  5. This was written pre-drought (2011-2016), post 100 million dead-tree bug-kill massacre, but the lack of even reasonably minimal forest management only made it worse.

  6. Now finally getting finished (!) [2017]

  7. Dialup Internet was too much of a limiting bottleneck, as it turned out, and the property was too far from the telephone building in Arnold, so DSL was never an option. Hughes Satellite has been able to provide a good substitute for DSL with the entry-level service just short of being able to supply fulltime HD video on demand.

  8. This may sound unlikely, but the nearly total destruction of Puerto Rico’s antiquated power grid by hurricanes [2017] will probably mean that the existing infrastructure will never be rebuilt, but instead will be replaced by decentralized solar panel arrays.

  9. There has been almost no snow during winters of the last seven years; the last winter with snow in 2010 was a record-setting douzy, however.

  10. As we have progressed much further into the Internet Age, it also becomes likely that many more people will be able to live remotely, managing work assignments or small self-employment jobs from home via online communications.

  11. Toyota has been the pioneer of e-vehicles, but additionally there has been a big breakthrough in electrical vehicle production during the intervening years: General Motors has promised no fewer than 17 electrical models over the next couple of years. Small trucks and SUV plugin hybrids, however, are still awaiting development [2017].

  12. The additional power panels have already been installed on the roof of the new south addition [2017].

  13. Once again, the solarium is now completed and in use, producing about ¾ of the house heat in the winter with its tiled floor and usable as a very pleasant adjunct summer living room, but it looks like the food-producing greenhouse adjunct will remain on the wish list, and I’ve stopped gardening in recent years.

  14. Which are also far less common during this “climate change” era, for better or worse. The fan loop extracting heat off the solarium tile floor runs automatically until about 7 o’clock in the evening.

  15. Now more euphemistically “climate change,” a trend that continues in 2017 with new record highs all over Northern California this past summer.

  16. With a new one installed for the downstairs with the power upgrade [2017]!

  17. This was prophetic for the short term since this year [2017] I was able to purchase (for $100 each–$0.33/ watt!) and install on the roof of the new large south-addition room, 6 large 300 watt (6 x 300 = 1800 watts), exquisitely-finished Chinese panels weighing only about 60 pounds each. It’s quite a lot more power than I’m currently using, but allows me to bring in a full-size refrigerator and retire my old propane gas Servel that costs almost $2.50 per day to operate.

  18. Still top secret, and we will have to wait and see what happens in the next decade.

  19. And now we have Calexit, too!

  20. Mostly wrong (see previous note). The Chinese have ramped up production beyond what would have seemed possible; however, there is also a current push for U.S. legislation to protect domestic solar equipment producers from this powerful low-ball Chinese marketing juggernaut.

  21. Stay tuned for further developments in the discovery process of the Secret Space Program, known to have gravity-control space craft …

  22. Another fascinating development here is the advent of the electric car! Already it is clear that the fabled internal combustion gasoline engine’s days are numbered, led by Toyota, Tesla and even General Motors and Ford. The end of the overbearing dominance of the petroleum industry is already at hand. Naturally, one would want extra home-based electric power production for charging one’s new plug-in hybrid SUV—just like solar pioneer Amory Lovins forecast.

  23. The times … they keep changing … to wit: the most up-to-date breakthroughs with self-driving electric-powered 18-wheeler highway rigs, soon to appear on the Interstate highway system. This one caught me completely by surprise.

  24. In the case of the undocumented immigrant farmworkers, it will probably earn them their rights of citizenship and legitimate rights of residency … eventually.

  25. I didn’t bring in the Terrorism theme here specifically, but clearly the fight for US petroleum dollar and pipeline supremacy (diplomatic lies and spy-agency strategies by another geopolitical name) continue to drive the militarist policy of “Full-Spectrum Dominance.” Will it be changed by drop in demand for gas and oil when largely replaced by electric-powered conveyance?

  26. Interestingly, the tungsten bulb has now nearly made its exit as very similar-looking (but much more expensive) LED bulbs in a range of sizes and brightness, have appeared on store shelves in quantity. The problem, sadly as noted, is that fluorescents use mercury inside the evacuated tube, and the LEDs are micro-transmitters of RF frequencies.

  27. It is the Trump era now, an obviously generally dysfunctional time in which anything could happen, going beyond even the Bush-Cheney Disaster Decade. But, of course, many exciting things could also eventuate from the political confusion and deadlock, as Rahm Emmanuel has famously said, “Don’t let any crisis go to waste.”