TaaS: Thinking as a Service

Don Quixote, de la Texas!

Curious Minds… What is the deal with wind mills?

This was not the original question for this week’s newsletter. Yet, the situation in the southern part of the U.S. is very interesting. The original question is not time sensitive and frankly was coming together like dry sand. It can wait.

A winter storm is slamming the south and as most things these days, has also caused a stir among the left and right hives of the political scene. Liberals and Conservatives are a buzz because apparently cold weather in Texas proves that each of “their” sides are right and the “others” are wrong.

Maybe the biggest part of this winter debate: wind mills.

Apparently, wind mills are both amazingly good and devilishly evil at the same time if the news is to be believed. With politics involved, I suspect that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Wind is a renewable resource. It has minimal affects on the environment, wind turbines do not produce emissions and have a small carbon footprint. These are all good things.

However, wind turbines can also negatively impact bird and bat populations, have had incidents of fire and lubricant leakage, can be noisy and unattractive, and are not the most reliable sources of energy.

So, like every other way of generating energy, there are trade offs.

What about the energy a wind turbine produces. Is this efficient and cost effective?

To better understand let’s start with Energy.gov.

Unfortunately, immediately we’ve identified an issue. Consider these two conflicting statements, the first a pro, the second a con from the page:

Wind power is cost-effective. Land-based utility-scale wind is one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today, costing 1–2 cents per kilowatt-hour after the production tax credit. Because the electricity from wind farms is sold at a fixed price over a long period of time (e.g. 20+ years) and its fuel is free, wind energy mitigates the price uncertainty that fuel costs add to traditional sources of energy.

And

Wind power must still compete with conventional generation sources on a cost basis.  Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past several decades, wind projects must be able to compete economically with the lowest-cost source of electricity, and some locations may not be windy enough to be cost competitive.

If I have “something” that is cost effective then competing with other “somethings” on cost should not be a con. Only one of those statements can be true. It’s like a Schrodinger windmill

So lets dig into the costs. First, look at construction costs. A variety of ways to calculate, but the resource tagged below had a good dollar per kilowatt for several types of plants.

Typical cost of building a wind turbine is $1,661 per kw. For contrast, natural gas plants cost $696 per kw while solar cost $2,921/kw. Wind construction is a bit more than double the price for natural gas and almost half the price of solar. A visual breakdown:

Comparatively wind mills don’t do well in the realm of cost construction especially given their variable source of energy. However, we also need to look at operating costs (O & M).

The good news is that on-shore wind is the lowest fixed cost per kilowatt per year at 26.47. Plus the variable cost is 0; because ya know, wind is free. Natural gas has a price of 27.74 plus 5.87 in variable costs.

The bad news is that off-shore wind; larger turbines, more power, and more wind, have costs around 110.56 per kilowatt per year. That sucks.

Uncertainty of wind is another consideration. For something like natural gas, as long as gas is provided to the power-plant (which is failing Texas, frozen pipes and all) energy can be produced. For wind, well wind has to be happening.

The wind average capacity factor, the amount of power actually produced, was 35% in the U.S. Not good. This means that if a turbine is rated for 2MW of production, it actually produces 700k KW.

So, is wind power a worthwhile investment?

Sort of. Texas and math have shown that there won’t be a grove of wind mills producing the nation’s power anytime soon. The cost of installation, variability and lack of effectiveness in extreme conditions do not make it an ideal source of base power.

However, can wind power be a worthwhile component of the overall power generation?

There are many sites touting the 5-8 month payback for a wind turbine based on a mathematical model with some unfortunate flaw assumptions. Wind turbines do not operate at 100% capacity. Their capacity is 35%. Additionally, there are battery systems that have to be in place to store energy produced during high times of wind.

Yet, the costs of operation are such that as a non-primary component of the power grid, wind turbines can be a valuable component of an overall powergrid.

Finally, are wind turbines responsible for the lack of power in Texas? The answer is no, wind turbines are not the raw culprit. However, they are not blameless either. 67 GWs of power should have been available from gas/coal and nuclear sources. 43 GWs weres available, or 65%. That is a 35% failure. Not good. On the other hand, 6 GWs was the expected output of the turbines. Wind experience a 98% failure and only produced 2%, 120MWs.

To blame, no. Worthwhile conversation on the continued subsidies, yes.

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Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

Wow! How much more expensive are bottles of wine that score a 4 on the Vivino rating!

Last week we discussed correlation not being equal to causation. Its one of those little gotchas in the world of statistics. Just the other day I heard someone stick correlation 3 times into a discussion where he meant to say causation. Apparently it happens both ways.

The graph above is an example of another sneaky little trick hobbitses and statisticians use. Most humans are acutely aware of visual depictions and comparisons. It is why charts and visuals are so powerful, they convey significantly more information than the equivalent words. Additionally, many people process visual imagery better than tabular data. So what is wrong with the graph above?

Got it yet?

Check out the y-axis on the graph above. I’ve set the y coordinate starting point to 15. These are average prices. Prices should start at 0 on a graph like this, because then the relative price change between scores is visually accurate. By setting the y coordinate starting point to 15 I’ve reduced the 3.6 score’s relative size as compared to the other scores.

After all, 17.99 (3.7 rating) is not 4 times more than 15.66 (3.6 rating).

This is a popular tool of many media companies that employ info-graphics and quick visuals. Adjustment of the x or y axis can easily support a narrative thread in a way that the data doesn’t…

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Let’s Get Visual

The internet rabbit hole. Its a weird and strange phenomena that can lead to bizarre areas of culture and human thought. Can you believe that the actual wine prices from above had to traverse through cannibalism among other topics to make it into this newsletter?

A simple google of interesting data sets led to average cannibal incidents per year. This led to a national geographic story on Cannibalism and its surprisingly common occurrence. This led to Silence of the Lambs, which in turn led to Chianti and ultimately to average wine prices per year.

Well, this whole week’s newsletter could not have happened without the Internet Rabbit Hole. As I thought about the above example of statistics, a thought occurred to me; this is some nerdy behavior to be writing about. However, another thought occurred, is it geeky behavior and not nerdy. Thankfully the IRH had me covered.

Enter the visual of the week. Nerdy vs Geeky!

Using Tweets and math, engineer Burr Settles and now all of us, can determine if our activity is indeed more nerdy or more geeky based on the group-think above.

Turns out, my initial thought was correct, my behavior was more nerdy than geeky.

Man, what CAN’T math do!

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PSA

This may be going out to a small subset of newsletter readers but apparently, definitely do not get into a situation where you are alone with Joss Whedon. This news has been trending for the last week but this just keeps getting worse and worse. If the allegations are true this dude needs to some serious help.

Not only has the Ray Fisher story been gaining support but now the entire cast of Buffy has come out to support Charisma Carpenter’s claims that this unprofessional behavior has been going on for 20+ years.

However, this does lead us to the second PSA of the week (lucky, you get two this week). Be very careful when walking on ice. Why do you ask?

Well, if you aren’t careful walking on ice and you slip and fall, you could end up like Nicholas Brendon, an actor from Buffy who explained, during his support of Charisma Carpenter, that his fall caused:

the spinal injury has left his anus and penis 'kinda paralyzed,' which, along with incessant nausea, has made him 'miserable' in recent days.

'My anus is kinda paralyzed and so is my penis, which is weird. I gotta sit down to p**s because I don't know if I'm s**tting or p**sing,' said the star, adding: 'It's crazy. Good times is what I say.'

So everyone in Texas, be on the lookout for black ice…


The World of AI

I don’t know how much of what is occurring in this weeks topic is AI, but I thought this was the best section for helicopters on Mars. That’s right, this is the final section being written for this week’s newsletter and it comes on the heels of the U.S. landing their latest rover, Perseverance on Mars.

Complete with a drone touting a 55 megapixel camera. A drone called Ingenuity. Hell yeah it is.

How exciting is it that humankind has landed the first flying device on another planet!

I highly recommend checking this out. Ingenuity


TwitterPool

What’s interesting about the TwitterPool is that the same behavior goes on within the other social media public forums, but it is just harder to quantify. This past week saw the essence of TwitterPool reach across to other channels, creating some sort of FrankenPool. Three things happened on Feb 10th & 11th but all with very different out comes.

First, one of twitter’s highest trending topics was “KidHitler”. At midday on the 10th, the topic had 179k posts referring to Senator Josh Hawley as “KidHitler”. Other popular nicknames were Hitler Jr., Hawtler, and SS-Untersturmfuhrer.

Second, another top trend was FireGinaCarano. Gina Carano is an actress on Disney’s Mandalorian TV show and according to twitter, Gina made anti-Semitic comments on Instagram comparing conservatives to the Jewish holocaust.

Third, another top trend was Pedro Pascal. Pedro is an actor on Disney’s Mandalorian TV show and according to twitter compared the United States to Nazi Germany in 2018 due to the U.S./Mexico border and a photo of kids in cages.

The obvious problem out the gate is there is an extreme and disgusting overuse of Nazi and holocaust comparisons. I don’t know if confusion about the gravity of the holocaust is to blame but the holocaust is an abhorrent part of the history of our planet and the Nazi philosophy is an abomination of how people should treat each other.

So let’s stop with the shotgun application of Nazi comparisons unless warranted. For example, the cultural genocide of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Province happening now. Concentration camps, check. Mass surveillance of a racial or religious group, check. Mass murder and mass sterilization, check.

Josh Hawley

While I know Twitter is known for its impeccable accuracy (dripping with sarcasm), I did a little digging for additional context. Josh Hawley’s “Kid Hitler” appears to stem from a comment President Joe Biden made, “They’re part of the big lie, Goebbels and the great lie. You keep repeating the lie, repeating the lie.” referencing Josh Hawley’s raised objection during Congress’s counting of Electoral College votes on Jan. 6th.

“I cannot vote to certify the electoral college results on January 6 without raising the fact that some states, particularly Pennsylvania, failed to follow their own state election laws," - Josh Hawley

Take-aways.

  • The 12th Amendment of the Constitution and the Electoral Act of 1877 govern certification of electoral votes. The framework for this proceeding and the certification on Jan. 6th 2021 appear to be inline.

  • Objections have been raised in prior elections. 1876 & 2000.

  • Over 300 lawsuits were filed regarding the presidential election in 2020. Here & Here

  • Given that individuals are found guilty of voter fraud, voter fraud does occur. However there is no evidence in any court indicating voter fraud occurs at any level that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Here

It appears Josh Hawley was not fully informed regarding his position but his actions were certainly inline with constitutional process. The “Kid Hitler” moniker seems pointedly ridiculous.

Gina Carano

Digging into the Gina Carano trend, most stories indicate this is what she wrote:

Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?

Again, I am baffled by the liberal usage of Nazi and Holocaust analogies in social media. However, the first sentence of this statement is historically accurate. Nazi propaganda from 1933 to 1938 was heavily aimed at demonizing the Jewish population and creating a climate of hostility between the general populace and the Jewish community. Kristallnacht was only the first of many state sponsored events of violence that the general population took part in.

I don’t think there is a direct corollary between the propaganda of Nazi Germany and the current political divide in the United States, however, it isn’t hard to see how someone could make the connection especially if they are feeling persecuted. What’s obvious is that this is clearly NOT an anti-Semitic quote.

What isn’t obvious is that upon some digging, you can discover that this statement is not what she wrote, it is what she quoted. She posted a quote from someone (I’ve not found the original author) and made a far reaching comparison between the political culture today and the anti-Semitic culture of Nazi Germany. Again, not the most accurate comparison she could have made.

She probably would have been better comparing the current cancel culture theme to something along the lines of McCarthyism.

Pedro Pascal

Pedro Pascal, our final angle of this weird Nazi triangle, trended because he apparently is also a fan of making Nazi comparisons. In 2018, Pedro posted on Twitter a picture of Jews in a concentration camp titled Germany, 1944 and underneath a picture of kids behind bars, titled America, 2018. Added a hashtag of #ThisisAmerica.

Except, the reason Pedro’s 2018 tweet is in the news, other than it being another Nazi comparison, is that the tweet is an outright lie. The picture titled America, 2018 is actually from 2010.

And it is a picture of a Palestinian soup kitchen. For those of us not Geography majors, I did look this up and verify… Palestine is not in America.

So Pedro is an outright liar.

What comes next?

What really sparked interest in this story was the repercussions.

Josh Hawley is being doxed and threatened.

Gina Carano was fired by Disney and her talent agency.

Pedro Pascal kept his job with Disney and was hired for a new role in The Last of Us on HBO.

Something seems wrong with this set of outcomes.


Quote of the Week

When you’re hitting a wall, focus on one brick.”

— Tyler May


This was a hard week. Busy work, busy home life and unlike the last few weeks, I just could not get into a flow. Certainly an eye opener for what professional writers can go through. Lack of feeling creative and imposter syndrome were the themes of the week. Thanks for being here!

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