Category Archives: Science & Technology

Brood X is Coming!

Photo credit: Baltimore Sun

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

It was spring, 2004, several months after our first grandchild had been born. My wife and I were visiting our daughter and family in Fairfax County. There was a loud, incessant buzzing, almost roar, in the air. Big bugs were everywhere; you could not walk without crunching on them. They were dropping from trees, sometimes on you.

I had heard of periodic cicadas, but had never seen them. It was simply amazing. I was fascinated. And, I thought to myself, when Calvin becomes 17, they will back. That time is now.

Brood X, one of the major 17-year cicada cohorts, is due to emerge in the Northern Virginia suburbs this year  Reportedly, a consistent ground temperature of 64 degrees is their key to emerge. So, May is the month.

They do not pose a danger to humans.  hey do not bite or sting. They don’t even eat the shrubbery. The only potential “problems” will be that some people may feel they are a nuisance — the noise and the omnipresent bugs and their shed husks. On the other hand, the birds will go crazy; it will be feast time for them. I have heard that dogs like to eat them, as well.

This is one of those shows of nature that comes around only every so often.  Enjoy it.

End the Emergency Orders. Now. Every One.

Governor Ralph Northam Signals His Virtue

by Steve Haner

There is no more COVID emergency. Every single emergency order issued by Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam should be lifted immediately. Not relaxed or revised, ended.

For the millions of Virginians now vaccinated, this is all just virtue signaling, “pandemic theater.” For the millions of Virginians who have made conscious decisions not to get the vaccine, my level of concern for them has evaporated. They, their families, and their health care providers are on their own, and, frankly, most will be fine until winter stimulates the virus again.

More Virtue Signaling

By then, more of them will have come to their senses and gotten the shots.

The rules in place are really starting to look stupid.  President Joe Biden, Governor Northam and all the others holding onto and consciously modeling needless restrictions are the real anti-vaxxers now. They are the ones clearly rejecting all the scientific evidence of vaccine effectiveness.  Continue reading

The New Normal

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

We are used to hearing and seeing weather temperatures reported as being some number of degrees above or below normal. The definition of “normal” has changed this year.

The National Weather Service defines “normal” climate conditions as a 30-year average. New Climate Normals are calculated every 10 years. Before this year, the 30-year time frame was 1981-2010. Now, the “normal” time frame is 1991-2020. As a result, “normal” temperatures have shifted upwards.

Because we are in an era in which climate conditions are shifting, the National Weather Service is adjusting its reporting by providing alternative definitions of “normal.” In response to user groups, it is releasing monthly “Supplemental Temperature Normals.” These reports show averages over 5-, 10-,15-, and 20-year periods, in addition to the traditional 30-year normal. They also show “normal” calculated differently from a straight average. These alternative methods are called “Optional Climate Normal” and the “Hinge Fit.”

Therefore, when it gets hot in the coming months and some folks on this blog, who are not overly concerned about climate change, say that temperatures are not that different from the norm, just remember that normal ain’t what it used to be.

Big Brother Has Been Curtailed

Photo credit: New Castle News

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

A recent TV series, Person of Interest, centered on the ability to use large databases of personal information coupled with extensive audio and video surveillance to identify any individual and pull up extensive data on that individual. A small team of good guys used this capability to identify threats to individuals and help the threatened individual escape harm. An extensive network of bad guys seized upon the technology to dominate the world. The good guys, of course, tried to stop the bad guys.

That may sound a little futuristic, but it exists today. The Chinese government has built an extensive facial recognition system which it uses to persecute minority populations and intimidate its general population.

The United States has not gotten to the level of the Chinese, but law-enforcement agencies have made extensive use of face recognition technology. For example, police departments in the state of Florida have been using it for a couple of decades. Continue reading

Centuries of Energy Already Sitting in Cans

“Slightly Used” Nuclear Fuel Storage Casks.

by Steve Haner

First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.

If you are serious about making electricity without carbon emissions and also serious about making enough electricity to run a real economy 24-7-365, the discussion keeps coming back to nuclear energy. It is the obvious choice if you believe we must eliminate natural gas soon.  Continue reading

What Texas’s Crisis Means for Virginia

by Peter Galuszka

The Texas freeze and ensuing energy disaster has clear lessons for Virginia as it sorts out its energy future.

Yet much of the media coverage in Virginia and certainly on Bacon’s Rebellion conveniently leaves out pertinent observations.

The statewide freeze in Texas completely fouled up the entire energy infrastructure as natural gas pipelines and oil wells stopped working, coal at generating plants iced over and wind turbines stopped working.

Making matters much worse, Texas opted not to have power links with other states. Its “free market” system of purchasing power meant utilities skimped on maintenance and adding weather-relative preventive measures such as making sure key generation components were weatherproof.

The result? Scores dead and millions without electricity. Here are more points worth considering in Virginia:

Climate Change is For Real

It is a shame that so much comment in Bacon’s Rebellion is propaganda from people who are or were paid, either directly or indirectly, by the fossil fuel industry. Thus, the blog diminishes the importance of dealing with climate change in a progressive way.  Continue reading

Is It Time to Say Goodbye to Virginia Coal Exports??

Norfolk Southern’s coal loading terminal at Lambert’s Point in Norfolk

By Peter Galuszka

Oilprice.com, a petroleum trade newsletter, has a story that could spell more bad news for the faltering Virginia coal industry.

For many years, the most valuable product from Virginia’s coal fields was coking or metallurgical coal that is exported to other countries for use in steel making.

China has been a crucial buyer of Virginia coal but recent pronouncements from the Communist Party leadership indicate that coal is on its way out after leader Xi Jinping outlined a far-reaching program that set a peak of carbon emissions in 2030 followed by net zero policy by 2060.

Correspondingly, steel companies are also setting net zero carbon goals including the world’s biggest steel makers ArcelorMittal of Europe, Baowu Steel of China and Nippon Steel of Japan.

The moves could erase Virginia’s coal experts because the demand for the steam coal used to generate electricity has already been undercut by the remarkable growth of renewable energy sources like solar and wind in China and India. As they expand, their costs go down – below those of coal.

Coking coal exports from Hampton Roads could get slammed as global steelmakers experiment with new manufacturing processes. Continue reading

Mark Zuckerberg, Call Your Lawyer

by James C. Sherlock

“You don’t need a Weatherman To know which way the wind blows.” — Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Consider this:

“Facebook was hit with twin lawsuits by the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general from dozens of states on Wednesday, in one of the most serious challenges ever to the Silicon Valley giant. The cases could potentially result in Facebook being broken up.

Here’s what you need to know.

The FTC and the states accuse Facebook of abusing its dominance in the digital marketplace and engaging in anti-competitive behavior.

“Facebook’s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition,” Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement. “Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive.”

And that story was dated Dec. 11, 2020. 

Maybe last week was not the best time for Facebook to kick that hornets’ nest with another potential antitrust violation. Continue reading

The Learn-What-You-Need-When-You-Need-It Education Model

by James A. Bacon

I stumbled across an ad on the Washington Post website that attracted my attention. AWS (Amazon Web Services) was advertising its cybersecurity certification training.

Click on the ad and you land on an extensive website promoting the company’s cybersecurity curriculum. “Start your security training journey,” proclaims the header.

Explore the paths to building security skills with this introduction to AWS Training and Certification. … Discover on-demand digital and live classroom training opportunities for all skill levels or roles. … Learn more about the comprehensive security curriculum designed by AWS experts.

The goal of AWS, the cloud subsidiary of Amazon, is to develop a cadre of IT professionals certified to use the AWS platform. What particularly intrigues me is how the training curriculum differs from conventional courses in Virginia’s community colleges and four-year institutions. The fact that classes are delivered in both digital and in-person classroom formats is the most obvious but least interesting difference. Continue reading

Virginians Are Loading the COVIDWISE App. Does It Make a Difference?

by James A. Bacon

Virginia leads the nation in the percentage of citizens who have downloaded the COVIDWISE smart phone app that alerts users when they might have been exposed to the virus, reports Virginia Business.

The state has spent $1.5 million promoting sign-ups. Jeff Stover, executive adviser to the health commissioner, says that downloads have been averaging 2,000 to 5,000 per day. Nearly 900,000 people, 10% of the population, how have the app.

Stover cites a model by Google, Stanford University and Oxford University that predicts if a locality has a 15% app adoption rate, infections can be reduced by about 8% and deaths by 6%.

Could COVIDWISE partially explain the lower rate of spread in Virginia, even as the virus induces panic in other states? According to Statista, Virginia had the 8th lowest rate — 3,303 confirmed cases per 100,000 population — among the 52 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Continue reading

EPA: PM 2.5 At Current Levels is No Threat

Source: EPA Website.  Click to expand.

By Steve Haner

“Everything is a poison, nothing is a poison. It is the dose that makes the poison” – Paracelsus (1493-1541 AD)

A micron is a tiny thing. A grain of beach sand is about 90 microns, and a human hair 50 to 70 microns in diameter. In the coming session of the General Assembly, you are about to hear that micron-sized particles are sickening and killing you. Do not believe it.    Continue reading

Northam Administration Information Technology Failures Continue

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Help! WJLA is reporting that the State of Virginia is using a 35-year-old computer system to process unemployment checks. The system has buckled, leaving 70,000 Virginians without their unemployment benefits.  In a stunning admission, Bill Walker, Director of Unemployment Insurance with the Virginia Employment Commission says, “We are right at the first of July now” when asked how far behind the process stands.

It seems obvious that ineffective processing of unemployment claims disproportionately impacts less affluent and minority Virginians. Yet this issue has been missing from the Ralph Northam COVID-19 updates I have watched.  Those press conferences have included discussions of the presidential election and a description of court cases involving Confederate statues but nothing about the real pain that the ineptitude of the Northam Administration is visiting on 70,000 Virginians, including many people of color. Continue reading

Shellenberger’s “Apocalypse Never” Lessons for VA

HarperCollins, 2020

“Climate change is real but it’s not the end of the world.  It is not even our most serious environmental problem.”

By Steve Haner

That statement opens the dust jacket summary for “Apocalypse Never:  Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” by Michael Shellenberger, once named “Hero of the Environment” by Time magazine. It remains the number one best-seller in Amazon’s Climate or Environmental Policy category, competing with alarmist sermons such as “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells and “How To Avoid A Climate Disaster” by Bill Gates. Anybody interested in the topic should seek it out.

The themes of the book also align well with views previously featured from a 2019 newspaper column by retired University of Richmond biology professor, R. Dean Decker. Both are totally at odds with the wild predictions of Climate Armageddon that drive the Virginia Clean Economy Act, the upcoming Virginia debate over the Transportation and Climate Initiative carbon tax, and just about every Democratic political campaign in the Virginia and the U.S.

Shellenberger’s book is particularly important for the debate over carbon taxes such as the TCI compact, and the VCEA’s energy cost inflation, because with his worldwide experience and perspective he has seen the interrelationship of income poverty, energy poverty and damaging environmental exploitation. Saving the Earth and its flora and fauna require energy sufficiency – from more than just renewables – and energy-intensive modern agriculture.  It requires wealth and economic growth.  Continue reading

Does Northam Have a Plan to Battle a COVID Resurgence in Virginia?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

by DJ Rippert

The second (or third) time around. America’s polarized political situation has all eyes on the upcoming presidential election. Millions are voting early and millions more will vote by mail. There is a good chance that the final results will not be known on the morning after Election Day. If true, America’s attention will be riveted on the election through November and quite possibly into December. Meanwhile, COVID cases are surging in the U.S. and parts of Europe. Yesterday, the U.S. recorded 906 COVID-related deaths. That number had been averaging between 700 and 800 since early autumn. Virginia’s record in managing COVID has been mediocre to date. Not terrible but not great either. The state ranks 30th in per capita COVID-related deaths. Over the last seven days Virginia has recorded the 21st most cases of COVID among U.S. states. As evidence of a resurgence of COVID mounts, Virginians ought to wonder whether the state is ready to react to such a resurgence if it occurs.

Continue reading

Our Technology Future: SkyNet… or the Stone Age?

I’m having a bad day. First I couldn’t figure out how to auto-post Bacon’s Rebellion posts to Facebook. OK, I’m technically challenged, so I’ll hire someone to do it. Then I updated WordPress, which I do know how to do, but all the comments disappeared. I didn’t know how to fix that but, thankfully, my Internet host provider did.

Now my iPhone battery has died.

It’s the old Can’t-fix-A-because-of-B, and Can’t-fix-B-because-of-C problem.

To get a new battery installed, I went online to set up an appointment at the Richmond Apple Store. To set up an Apple store appointment, I needed to schedule an appointment online. When I tried to schedule an appointment, Apple asked for my username and password. I provided those. Then Apple required a double authentication. It wanted to send me a verification code to my iPhone. My iPhone was dead, so I couldn’t get the code.

Apple offered these three alternatives: Continue reading