Daylight Savings Time Results in Higher Energy Consumption

I hope someone is listening to this:

Using more than seven million monthly meter readings from Duke Energy Corp., covering nearly all the households in southern Indiana for three years, they were able to compare energy consumption before and after counties began observing daylight-saving time. Readings from counties that had already adopted daylight-saving time provided a control group that helped them to adjust for changes in weather from one year to the next.

Research on the impact of extending daylight-saving time across Indiana found:

  • Residential electricity usage increased between 1 percent and 4 percent, amounting to $8.6 million a year.
  • Social costs from increased emissions were estimated at between $1.6 million and $5.3 million per year.
  • Possible social benefits — enhanced public health and safety and economic growth — were not studied.

Their finding: Having the entire state switch to daylight-saving time each year, rather than stay on standard time, costs Indiana households an additional $8.6 million in electricity bills. They conclude that the reduced cost of lighting in afternoons during daylight-saving time is more than offset by the higher air-conditioning costs on hot afternoons and increased heating costs on cool mornings.

"I’ve never had a paper with such a clear and unambiguous finding as this," says Kotchen, who presented the paper at a National Bureau of Economic Research conference this month.

Digitising Vinyl with an Old Mac

Note: since I originally posted this, the technology has changed.  Now we have rigs to directly convert vinyl to mp3 (although vinyl purists cringe at the thought.)  But I’m not sure these are the best way to go; the turntables and cartridges aren’t always the best.  I still prefer a Mac for this and use a MacBook for the purpose, although the software is available on Linux and Windows.

A recent offshoot of The Ancient Star-Song, the Christian music blog, is http://learntodigitizeyourrecords.blogspot.com/, which is a forum for “tips and tricks” on getting your vinyl (or tape) into a digital format. Having done some of this, I thought I would outline how I get this done on my old, low end Mac. Most this can be accomplished in pretty much the same way on a PC with a few modifications.

The Mac I’m using is a Titanium G4 Powerbook. This laptop has an line audio input (as opposed to a microphone input, which won’t do for this job,) which makes digitising easy. That’s one of the main reasons I bought the Powerbook to start with. The manufacturers’ inclusion of a line audio input on a computer has traditionally been an on-again, off-again proposition, and now it’s almost mandatory to use some kind of USB appliance for line audio input on most computers.

One thing that makes the process considerably faster and less prone to digital skips is to use a high-speed hard drive, like one would use for video production. In this case I have a 7200 rpm, 100 GB hard drive for the job. I’ve used slower hard drives but wouldn’t go back to them.

Recording and Digitising

In any case, I’ve always tried to put the quality up front. To play the records, I use a Goldring G900 SE cartridge with an AR turntable and a Quad 33 preamp. I rigged a special adapter to connect the 5-pin DIN connectors on the Quad to the miniature (that terminology dates me!) jack for the computer. All records are cleaned at least with a Decca record brush, and either Diswasher or Ball Sound Guard if the occasion calls for it (which it will, especially if you’re a true collector.)

The main software to digitise the incoming signal is Audacity, which is free. Audacity generally defaults to a 44 kHz sample rate, which is what you want. My usual procedure is to record the album onto one continuous file, pausing the recording to turn the record over. It’s generally a good idea to also display the level meter in the system settings as well as Audacity, to make sure you’re not overloading the input and producing a great deal of clipping. In the old days, one always had to shoot between too high of an input (which produced analogue clipping, as opposed to digital) and low (which featured the noise too prominently.) It’s always better in both cases to err on the low side, but with digital recording one doesn’t have to worry too much about the noise problem.

Once I’ve done this, I take a look at the sound profile from start to finish. If the pops aren’t too bad, I’ll have the program automatically amplify the file as much as possible. If the pops restrict the amplification, I’ll play around until I find the amplification necessary to avoid clipping the main signal (which is essential for good quality.) Amplifying the signal in this way keeps the relative dynamic range of the songs the same as the original album, and amplifying it as much as possible is a convenience for the listener, who can avoid fooling around with this volume control. (An example of an album that didn’t do this kind of amplification is the otherwise outstanding Outpouring album.)

With the file amplified, I save it in WAV format, then use Audacity’s “save selection” feature to select each song and save each as an individual file. Before starting this, create a folder and put each of the songs into the folder as separate WAV files.

File Catalogue and mp3 Conversion

After this, I generally use iTunes to catalogue the files and perform the mp3 conversion. You can use the LAME encoder with Audacity, but I’ve found that iTunes’ results are smoother sounding and have a smaller file size for the same streaming rate. You can import the entire folder in one shot using iTunes, then batch modify the file information to include the artist, album, year, genre, track number, and other information you’d like to include. I set iTunes up to actually import the files rather than use them in place. Once you’ve done all this, create a smart playlist and burn an audio CD of the results. This is for two reasons: a) it enables you to play and review it away from your computer, in your car for example, and b) gives you a digitised archive without any lossy compression, which is important if you ever lose your iTunes library.

Now you’re ready to do the mp3 conversion. The advantage of iTunes is that you can batch convert the files into mp3, then remove the WAV files (make sure you’re trashing the WAV files, iTunes isn’t always clear on which is which!) Although I’ve seen a 320 streaming rate for most of the albums I’ve downloaded, I don’t think it’s necessary for vinyl; 192 is fine, and will result in about a 30-40% smaller archive.

Cover Artwork

Obviously the best way to capture cover artwork is to set the cover up and use a digital camera to photograph it. Use the highest resolution you can, shooting in conditions with good lighting but ones that avoid any glare from light sources on the cover. Use a tripod so you don’t have to use flash; the results are generally better. Once this is done, I import the files into Photoshop, crop them and eliminate perspective distortion, correct the colour, and save them both in their native resolution and in the resolution you’re planning to use on the web.

One common fault I’m seeing with some cover photos is that the camera is too close to the cover, which makes the corners “curl away” from the centre, creating a distortion that’s hard to fix. It’s also a good idea to do both front and back.

Archive Files and Uploading

At this point you’re ready to upload. My situation is different from most others in that I do my own web hosting. In my early postings, I simply uploaded the individual mp3 files and had people right-click on them one at a time. This is generally a pain, although you’ll find your songs will disseminate more profusely. Now I put an album into a single archive file. Most music blogs use the rar archive format. This format is beloved of hackers because search engines have problems seeing what’s inside, which is frequently warez software.

The simple truth is, however, that after you’ve applied a lossy compression method such as mp3 files use, putting a lossless one on top of it with the rar, zip, or gz will shrink the file little, if any. My favourite method of putting an album’s archive files is to use a Unix front end such as CocoaZip and make a tar archive out of them. You can also include the cover art in such as file.

Once you’ve done that, you upload the file where people can access it, link to it, and it’s ready for dissemination. You can take a look  my terms and conditions for examples of dealing with artists’ and other copyright holders’ wishes for their music.

Other Items

  • Some of the Macintosh programs I use can be found here. If you’re still using OS 9, I don’t have a good audio editor for this, but you can still use iTunes for the mp3 conversion and organisation, and Coaster (available here) to actually digitise the analogue signal.
  • There’s another description of the process (more centred on PC’s with a more modern set-up in every way) here.

Now If We Could Only Pump Out the Bilge…

The Ninth Circuit–of all judicial bodies–has ruled that the State (dare I say "People’s Republic?") of California cannot regulate on their own emissions from ships entering California ports:

A federal appeals court Wednesday rejected a state regulation that reduced emissions from ships, dealing a blow to California‘s attempt to combat one of the major sources of smog-forming pollution in the Los Angeles region.

The ruling means that the state must seek federal approval before imposing pollution limits on the thousands of cargo ships, cruise ships and other marine vessels that visit its ports.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that California’s new regulation is preempted by federal law. The Clean Air Act allows California to set its own standards for various vehicles and engines if it receives waivers from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The state argued that in this case it didn’t technically need a waiver, but the judges disagreed.

Perhaps this will stave off outsourcing our ports to Mexico.  Perhaps not.

The Explosive Subject of Laptop Batteries on Airplanes

Mike Elgan wonders if the next ban on things taken on a commercial flight are batteries in laptops:

Laptops are the best thing that ever happened to airline travel. They enable you to catch up on your work, play games or watch a movie while you are traveling.

Better still, many airlines are now installing costly equipment that enables you to access the Internet during flights. Most of these systems use your laptop’s built-in Wi-Fi to connect.

Unfortunately, this laptops-in-the-sky nirvana probably won’t last. The problem: Laptop batteries can explode catastrophically. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. It’s only a matter of time before it happens in-flight.

The FAA forbids you to use your iPod during takeoff — do you think it won’t ban laptop batteries?

Another reason to drive, if you can…

LORAN: An Old Method Gets New Life

I was a little surprised to discover that our government has opted to fund LORAN for a little longer.  LORAN, or LOng RAnge Navigation, is a system whereby ships, airplanes or other travelling vehicles or people determine their position by comparing the time difference in receipt of radio signals from multiple sources.  It has been in use for many years; however, GPS has very much displaced LORAN for most navigation, as anyone with OnStar or an iPhone knows.


Above: 1966 chart of South Florida and the northern Bahamas, showing the LORAN grid (the curved green and magenta lines) which navigators could use with the radio signals they received to determine their position.

It’s tempting to dismiss this as another waste of taxpayer’s money, but accurate knowledge of one’s position is critical at sea and in the air.  As the Coast Guard’s Loran-C Handbook reminds us:

Navigators are cautioned never to place total reliance on any single aid to navigation. Because no system is reliable 100% of the time, navigators should use all available navigation information, and be knowledgeable with the capabilities and limitations of each.

GPS, for example, can be taken out of service in time of war, to say nothing of hackers bringing it down.

My father spent much of his World War II service in the Pacific putting up LORAN stations, which proves Coasties’ contention that their job is to bail the Navy out when it gets lost (or to prevent it.)  Ironically we never used it when yachting in the Bahamas; perhaps it would have come in handy in disasters like this and storms as well.

John Edwards: The Wishful Thinking is Over

Greg Cruey was hoping for John Edwards to stick it out:

If Edwards withdraws and the race becomes a two-candidate race, either Hillary or Obama will most definitely win. Personally, I think both of those candidates have electibility issues in the general election. And they look determined to cripple each other before the Democratic Convention.

Let’s hope Edwards hangs on until Denver.

But it’s over.  Edwards is an anachronism and evidently the Democrats sensed that.

Cruey’s right about the electibility issues.  But, in this very volatile year, one can take nothing for granted.  Nothing.

Everybody Needs Heavy Equipment

It’s gratifying to see that a few people are seeing daylight on the issue of the need of heavy equipment after it was used to help the Palestinians escape Gaza.  The whole adventure of boycotting Caterpillar because their equipment was used to construct "the fence" was idiotic to start with.

Construction equipment–and my family spent more than a century producing it–can be used for good or evil.  It was needed to clean up the mess of Hurricane Katrina, and it’s needed to rebuild people’s homes, businesses, churches and roads when the clean-up is done.  The Iranians use it to hang people from every now and then in lieu of the old gallows.

The use of heavy construction equipment, like any other technology, is in our hands.  We as free moral agents use it for good or evil.  Trying to punish manufacturers just because their equipment is used for purposes you don’t happen to like is stupid, and is an attempt to shift responsibility to places where it doesn’t belong.

Right: more Caterpillar equipment in action, from the cover of my recent reprint Laboratory Soils Testing.

Messing In Our Own Box

It’s indicative of the sad state of what is conventionally termed Christianity (but I have my doubts) when an avowed atheist calls our bluff, as Brendan O’Neill does in his article Mankind is more than the janitor of planet Earth:

In his Christmas sermon, delivered at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Williams finally completed his journey from old-world Christianity to trendy New Ageism. His sermon was indistinguishable from those delivered (not just at Christmas but for life) by the heads of Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth. Williams did not speak about Christian morality; in fact, he didn’t utter the m-word at all. He said little about men’s responsibility to love one another and God, the two Commandments Jesus Christ said we should live by. Instead he talked about our role as janitors on planet Earth, who must stop plundering the ‘warehouse of natural resources’ and ensure that we clean up after ourselves…

Christian teaching was once concerned with man, meaning and morality, with questions of free will, inner life and human destiny. As it happens, atheists, at least progressive ones, were concerned with exactly the same things. The chasm-sized difference between atheists and Christians occurred over the question of whether the moral meaning of man came from within or without; whether, as some atheists believed, the purpose of humanity was to be found within humanity itself; or, as Christians believed, humanity achieved meaning only through an external deity, God…

The cult of environmentalism embraced by the Christian churches does away with morality altogether. Some sceptics claim that environmentalism is a new form of moralistic hectoring; it is better to see it as amoralistic hectoring. In judging everything by how much CO2 or pollution it creates, environmentalism dispenses with questions of moral worth and judgement. So a flight to visit a newborn nephew in Australia (5.61 tonnes of CO2) is as wicked as taking a flight to Barbados to lounge in the sun; and the transportation of delicious food from Africa to Britain is as unforgivable as the transportation of weapons and drugs from Latin America to Los Angeles: after all, both involve exploiting the ‘warehouse of resources’ and upsetting the ‘fragile balance of species and environments’, as Williams put it (5). When human actions are judged by their levels of pollution alone, the issue of meaning – of why we do things, who we do them for, and how we might do them better – is implicitly downgraded.

This last comment has a parallel with one I made about Islam:

And that leads to the next problem–what works are acceptable?  As an example, one of the pillars of Islam is the haj, the trip to Mecca.  They believe this is good.  For the environmentalist, however, all this does is add to global warming.  That kind of problem is why works salvation doesn’t cut it.

If this were the entire province of liberals, that would be one thing.  But there are Evangelical leaders who are going down the same road.

So whatever happened to the following:

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26-28, KJV.

Dominion.  That grant was the beginning of the Christian concept of stewardship.  Now stewardship in Christian churches is almost exclusively understood in regard to lay people giving money to the church.  But stewardship is more than that: it is the active, intelligent and productive management of the resources that God has given us.  He gave us this planet, and the intelligence (that’s the created in his image and likeness business) to productively manage and develop these resources so that they will continue to sustain life.  That implies more than just cutting back or making us feel like we’re rubbish; that means getting busy and creative to solve our problems.

My father (who hated environmentalists and environmentalism with a passion) nevertheless observed that man was the only animal who “crapped in his own box.”  Our cat (shown in a previously unreleased photograph) addressed this problem by always squatting near the edge of his, which meant that the result occasionally ended up in the floor.  The solutions that are tendered by environmentalists and their New Atheist and Christian sympathisers alike don’t show much more imagination than the cat did.  It’s time that Christian leaders wake up and take a really Biblical position on this subject, one that shows that our Creator’s confidence in us was not entirely misplaced.

Ten Years of a Companion Site: vulcanhammer.net

Ten years ago today, I went online, logged onto my new GeoCities site, and uploaded the first page and images of “The Wave Equation Page for Piling,” my first website.  That website—which is still a part of the companion site vulcanhammer.net—was the beginning of a long odyssey which led to the site as it is today.

The original purpose of the site was to present a broader view of the whole subject of the wave equation as it is applied to piling, a view that was inspired in part by two decades in the pile driving equipment industry and in part by the recently completed thesis Closed Form Solution of the Wave Equation for Piles.  There were other personal factors as well.  Eight months before, our family had let go of Vulcan Iron Works after 144 years of ownership.  The future in the deep foundations industry looked problematic; the website was one attempt to remedy that.

Having a site on pre-Yahoo GeoCities was an interesting experience.  GeoCities was divided into communities with community leaders.  The sites were free but ads were inserted which usually had nothing to do with the content of the site.  GeoCities could be slow too; one community leader likened a T1 connection in those days to be like driving a Formula One racer on a Los Angeles freeway at 1600.  The site did well in spite of its clumsy URL; the community didn’t do much for it but it didn’t hurt either, and there were other geotechnical sites out there too.  Some of the earliest articles are still with us, such as A Short History of the Wave Equation for Piles and Efficiency and Energy Transfer in Pile Driving Systems.

Although the wave equation is what got things started, two additional factors led to the growth of the site.

The first was Vulcan’s complete lack of web presence, even to them allowing the vulcanhammer.com domain name to lapse in January 2000. Even before that, in May 1998 I began to offer some materials related to Vulcan on the site such as field service manuals and the Offshore Tips.  The construction industry was slow in warming up to the Internet, but the potential of having product information online was irresistible even in the late 1990’s.  Picking up the domain name drove moving the site to paid hosting, which helped the site’s visibility (and definitely its speed!) greatly.

The second factor was the addition of downloadable geotechnical documents to the site.  These in turn were an outgrowth of the free computer software offered such as WEAP87, MICROWAVE and SPILE.  No change wrought such an instant upsurge in traffic as the addition of such documents as NAVFAC DM 7.1 and 7.2 and other similar materials.  In many ways this formed the long-term vision for the site as a place where engineers, students and others could freely access such information without having to spend money for it (except to print it out!)  They transformed the site from an overspecialised spot on the web to a regular stop for those both in research and in the field.

The new decade saw a steady stream of new documents and other pieces of information, recitation of which would be a long business.  Some of the highlights are as follows:

  1. Use of the site for the geotechnical courses I taught at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in 2001, 2002 and 2005 led to the creation of an entire section of the site to hold the course materials, accessible to students and teachers alike around the world.  Both the use of PowerPoint and posting them on the Internet were pioneering in 2001.
  2. Acquisition of the vulcanhammer.com domain name by IHC/Vulcan Foundation Equipment in 2001 made vulcanhammer.net the main domain name for the site.
  3. Vulcan related items have been added on a regular basis.  They include Vulcan: The Offshore Experience in 2003, The First Hundred Years in 2004, and many other articles on the subject. They led in part to the 2006 appearance on The History Channel.
  4. This year documents have been added that weren’t in data format previously, such as Lysmer’s classic dissertation on soil dynamics and Soviet documents such as Vibro-Engineering and the Technology of Piling and Boring Work.

And the future?  If we think about how much the world has changed in the last decade, we understand how difficult it is to predict what might happen next.  The first purpose of vulcanhammer.net is to provide free information on geotechnical and marine engineering, and as long as Divine providence will allow it, it will be done.

Without a doubt the greatest jolt in the road in the last ten years has been 11 September 2001 and the events that have followed it.  When the geotechnical documents first went up, the idea was to provide free information so that those who could not afford it—students, engineers in Third World countries whose company/agency could not afford it (or those elsewhere whose employers were too cheap!) and the like could have access to important information necessary in the construction of civil works of all kinds.  No field of human endeavour has brought more benefit to daily life and human health at less cost than civil engineering and the water, sewer and transportation systems that have followed.  A world where everyone has a reasonable chance is one where this knowledge is widely disseminated and used, and experience at Vulcan demonstrated that the best way to accomplish this was to put the necessary tools in the hands of those who would benefit the most.

The combination of the continuing inequity of the various parts of our world suggests that the need for vulcanhammer.net.  But there are those on its “home front” that might take exception to such things being so freely available.  The course of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan provides a good example.  We know that the information is used by the U.S. military (they put most of it out to start with,) sometimes from the site.  We also know that many in the surrounding countries visit the site.  Is this dangerous?  Geotechnical engineering, while employing many computerised advantages today, is not considered “high tech.”  But no structure on earth can be built without a foundation.

Experience in the engineering profession teaches that knowledge cannot be kept locked up indefinitely.  The geotechnical and marine engineering communities, while relatively small, are worldwide and diverse.  Engineers, more than those in the pure sciences, are painfully aware that they and the decision makers for the technology seldom overlap.  The responsible use of technology is generally the province of others.  Linked to that responsible use is a reasonably rational economic and political system, without which technology doesn’t get put into use well if at all.  In other words, really crazy systems tend to get in their own way.  Those who want their destiny to be better need to take the proper decisions to make that happen, one way or another.

And that leads to the last point.  We mentioned that vulcanhammer.net continues by “Divine providence.”  There are those who would brutally separate the scientific from the spiritual to the end that the latter would wither away.  But there are many people of faith who visit vulcanhammer.net as well: Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and many others, and that faith animates their lives and their work.  The spiritual will not wither away any more than the state withered away under Marxism.

Although there are many of what we call “general humanitarians,” as mentioned elsewhere vulcanhammer.net is ultimately a Christian endeavour, driven by the belief that humans are created in God’s image and likeness with the dignity and potential the goes with it.  If the information here goes to those who don’t share this conviction, so be it.  Secularists want to construct a society based on purely “scientific” considerations, but there’s nothing scientific about wanting to redress the inequities in our world, or even wanting to improve it.  Some environmentalists have been telling us for many years that there are too many of us here, but problems are made to be solved, and solving them constructively is always the best.  Whether you agree with these ideas or not, without an external impulse there would have never been a vulcanhammer.net.

So we thank you for visiting our site, for supporting us by your encouragement and visiting our advertisers from time to time, and don’t forget to come back and visit again.

Create Your Own Anglican Communion Network

A little over a week ago, we called for a new "instrument of unity" by suggeting that the orthodox Anglican groups put together a "new" prayer book for their own use.  In the interest of balance, this week we’re going to look a an "instrument of division" by showing how you can create your own Anglican communion network in such a way that the original one can’t do a whole lot about it.

To accomplish this, it’s best to start with a wireless router, such as an Airport (for Apple fanatics) or the like.  Most wireless routers have a control panel which enables the user to adjust various settings of the router, such as the signal strength, channel, security and the like.  The setting you need to change is the service set identifier (SSID,) which is for practical purposes the name of the network.  Depending upon the configuration of your router, you can name this "Anglican Communion" or "anglican_communion" (some routers won’t allow spaces in their SSID’s.) This is best done with the computer connected to the router in a wired way, because, once you reboot the router, any computer connected to your router wirelessly will lose their connection until it’s re-established.

Once you’ve done this, reconnect your computer to the network.  Below we show an example of what results when you’ve done this, using a program for the Mac called Mac Stumbler (Windows has a control panel to do the same thing.)

Note that your computer can pick up more than your own router.  This works both ways, and illustrates our next point: you need to set up your wireless network with whatever security you can manage, otherwise a TEC revisionist (who will be angered when they see your "Anglican communion network" in their own backyard) or other hacker could easily get into your network and create a mess or download things that you would expect a TEC revisionist to enjoy.

Note: if you are unfamiliar with using your router’s control panel, you probably don’t have any business trying this.  However, since wireless security is important,
you may want to consult with someone that does, and they should be able to deal with the SSID issue as well.

The result of all of this is that you have created your own "Anglican communion network" for you to enjoy and your neighbours to admire (well, let’s hope they admire it.)