Are Wind Turbines Efficient? They Sure are Ugly!

Are wind turbines efficient?

Are the monstrously ugly wind turbines (windmills) dotting the otherwise beautiful countryside efficient? You can probably tell I don’t approve of them. I am reminded how much I don’t believe in their efficiency or practicality every time I drive to my favourite farm.

That’s because there is an enormous north-south swath of them crossing highway 43 near the intersection of county road 11, the last leg of our trip from Ottawa to the farm in Eastern Ontario.

My last venture in that direction that was no exception. My four year old grandson, my travelling partner that day, summed up my feelings pretty well with a loud “whoa, what the heck is that big thing?” When I explained that it was a windmill, there to gather energy from the wind, he was quick to point out “but it’s not even moving!”

Exactly! During my last visit none of the windmills were operational. I mentioned this to my uncle upon arriving at his farm; apparently they were just installed. This time, a month or so later, maybe fifty percent were in motion. Not exactly a great track record.

How do Windmills Generate Electricity?

This YouTube video posted on Good Energy in the UK explains how well the windmills are working, especially within the north-western corner of Europe where it is almost always windy:

Are Windmills Efficient?

In reducing carbon footprints, these windmills are efficient, actually one of the smallest footprints in current practices of renewable generators. That’s because they do not release emissions of any sort into the atmosphere. However, their actual physical footprint is enormous, taking up huge amounts of land.

Optimal sites for wind farms are in remote locations due to the amount of space they require. The problem with this is that (expensive) transmission lines must be established to get the electricity from the remote locations to the big cities that use the most electricity. This however can be lucrative in the form of extra income for the owners of remote properties since the owners of wind power plants pay rent to the landowners, often farmers or ranchers, for the use of their land.

A windmill or wind turbine is typically only a maximum of 50% efficient when the wind is at a peak level. Wind, however, is typically inconsistent; very few global locations would have consistent winds to maximize the efficiency level.

Theoretically wind power is cost-effective because the electricity generated can be sold at a fixed price over many years, unlike the price of gas and oil which fluctuates like our Canadian weather. Wind turbines are exorbitantly expensive to make, install, and maintain, then only last on average 25 years. The wind is the inexpensive part, as it is a (free) natural resource.

Esthetics and Dangers of Wind Turbines

Not only are wind turbines hideous to look at, but they have also proven to be annoyingly noisy (when they work) as well as harmful, often fatal to birds. Hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are killed annually, in collisions with the massive rotating (and sedentary) arms of the wind turbines.

Conclusions

I like to think I am open-minded as well as a proponent of green energy. Why then, do these wind turbines bother me so much? Probably because I am also a proponent of sensibility, natural beauty, and efficiency, especially cost-efficiency.

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Drug Checking Technology Challenge

drug checking technology challenge winners

Health Canada is putting their money where its mouth is, asking for help with a drug checking technology challenge. Most of us are aware of the opioid crisis here in Canada and around the world. For more information, please check out the detailed article in the link above. It describes the challenge to discover or modify the technology involved in detecting lethal, potent drugs like Fentanyl as well as other toxic substances. The article also contains additional links for those wishing to increase their knowledge of the crisis we are facing as well as one for substance abusers too.

Drug checking technology is out there, it just needs to be improved for increased reliability, accuracy, adaptability, ease of use as well as affordability. Any innovative (for or not-for-profit) Canadian post-secondary institution, company, research, or industry association is eligible to apply, although only the selected semi-finalists will be able to compete for the pilot phase and grand prize.

This challenge was launched on October 2nd, 2018 and the deadline for application is February 1, 2019. That means there is no time to waste! Semi-finalists will be announced in February, finalists in June, and grand prize winners in January 2020. Oh, and the prize is a cool million dollars.

It must be my thirty years of laboratory work; this challenge certainly piqued my interest.

Update: We Have a Winner in the Drug Checking Technology Challenge!

We now have a winner of this challenge. Congratulations to Alexander Boukin and Ari Forman of Skatr in Ontario. Read all about it in the link above.

drug checking technology challenge


Huawei Worries: Are They Warranted?

Huawei logo

Huawei is a HUGE manufacturer of technology components, (reportedly) capable of “invading” the industry globally. The problem is, they are based in China whose government has relationships with the rest of the world on shaky ground these days.

Why Worry?

Morning Brew, my newest addiction, has listed five (potential) reasons (from the MIT Technology Review) in today’s edition:

Kill switches: Huawei builds networks carrying data for power grids, financial markets, etc. And some fear the Chinese government could sneak “back doors” into Huawei’s gear with the ability to weaken or disable networks in foreign countries if a crisis occurred.

Data snooping: Chinese spies could theoretically gain access to Huawei’s networks undetected to extract sensitive info from people and businesses. Another possible avenue for espionage? Smartphones—Huawei’s one of the top manufacturers in the world.

The 5G rollout: The next generation of wireless networks is arriving fast…and the last thing the U.S. wants is for Huawei to connect the world with 5G. As the authors note, “This will dramatically expand the number of connected devices—and the chaos that can be caused if the networks supporting them are hacked.”

Defying U.S. trade rules: Huawei’s CFO is accused of tricking American banks into doing business with Iran, which would be a violation of U.S. sanctions. More of that activity could happen.

Chinese government influence: The U.S. and allies suspect Huawei’s execs are cozy with the Chinese government, which is the reason they’ve taken such a hard stance. 

Making headlines around the world last week, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who just happens to be the daughter of the founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei, was arrested in Canada for reason #4 above.  After all, Canada is one of the USA’s allies and is (should be) equally concerned for the same list of reasons.

What do you think?

 

Irrigation Systems: Should you Install one?

Like anything else, there are pros and cons to installing irrigation systems in yards.  The biggest advantage is quite obvious.  Your garden and/or lawns are automatically watered on a regular schedule that you select.   The largest disadvantage is the cost involved to install such a system. Of course, the cost will depend on the size of the yard to be irrigated.

This summer the pros appear to outweigh the cons.  If your lawn is as burnt as mine is you will know just what I mean.

irrigation systems

I have come across many irrigation systems in the gardens (and yards) I look after. Some have sprinkler heads, others have a copper piping drip system, others have a combination of both.  Which is better?  That depends on what you want to keep hydrated and how much you want to spend.  The experts contracted to install irrigation systems will advise you better than I can.

Soaker Hoses Create Inexpensive Irrigation Systems

Soaker hoses are simply hoses with tiny holes in them. Like regular hoses, you can connect many to fit the area you wish to irrigate. Wind the hoses throughout your garden in a snake-like fashion and hook the end up to your tap. When you turn the tap on, the water seeps out of the holes in the hoses onto your soil.

These soaker hoses are a great way to ensure the moisture gets to the soil and roots of the plants instead of being wasted on the foliage where it might evaporate before benefiting the roots. It is especially beneficial if you turn the taps on in the early morning before the heat of the day evaporates the water from the hoses faster than it can water your plants.

It is also much easier to manipulate soaker hoses (rather than pipes of an expensive system) to fit around plantings that need more water and avoid those that are more drought tolerant.

I have such a soaker system in my back gardens to keep them looking good, but my front lawn has to rely on rainfall which we have none of for weeks.

All I can say is that I can certainly tell the lawns and gardens that do have the luxury of irrigation systems of some sort.

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones will break your bones,  but names will never hurt you.  That’s what I was always taught as a youngster, but times have changed.  It is now obvious that those names do and have done more damage than we gave them credit for.  It is now referred to as bullying.  Names do hurt, the damage is just buried deep and not as visible.

I don’t think of myself as oversensitive, but I do admit I can remember every mean thing ever said to me.  For example, I remember a boy taunting me at the age of 12 because I was wearing a training bra.  I was an obvious late bloomer and very self-conscious about it. Did the insensitive comment ruin my life?  No, but it did hurt enough for me to remember it 45 years later.  I have never been at the (intentional) receiving end of the proverbial sticks and stones, so cannot compare the two hurts.

Bullying is rampant in today’s society.  Suicide rates are skyrocketing with bullying the leading cause.  With the availability and popularity of so many forms of social media, bullies can strike anywhere, anytime, without ever having to meet their victim in person, face to face.

When social media first came to be my eldest son was ten years old.  That was in 1999, the year AOL, Yahoo, and MSN all released their own messenger services.  All of a sudden it became very easy to (bully) say hurtful things to classmates, (former) friends, acquaintances, even strangers.  His teacher was so concerned about the hurtful comments that were going around she organized a parent meeting to warn parents and curb the bullying behaviour.   I remember telling my son then “you should never message someone things that you do not have the nerve to say to their face”

That was before every child over the age of six had their own cell phone, in fact, many parents did not yet have one.  Most of the messages sent, both good and bad, were done on a home computer.  Parents had some control over what and when their children were communicating and who they were communicating with.

Today our teens and preteens (and many adults) are glued to their cell phones, with access to everyone and everything, anywhere.  The advances in technology make it easier to do just about anything on a cell phone.

Everything except communicate face to face.

Surprise Birthday Party

A few posts back I wrote about my brother’s fast approaching sixtieth birthday. Well, his birthday is this coming Thursday (30th), but the surprise birthday party was last night.  It took lots of scheming and coercing, (did I tell you my brother is stubborn?) but we did manage to surprise him at his own home.

Thank heavens for Facebook and its event planner feature.  The whole party was arranged, staged, and organized by creating the event on Facebook.  With his daughter in Barrie, me in Ottawa, the birthday boy, and other friends and family members in Ingleside, social media (FB) came to the rescue, keeping us all connected.  I created the event, adding key individuals as cohosts so we could each send out invitations from our own contact lists.  Keeping the surprise birthday party a private event ( an option when creating the event) ensured my brother would not find out as only invited guests could access the details.

From the moment the event was created up to the moment of surprise, we were able to communicate as a group.  Except for the birthday boy, of course, he was excluded from the group. Jobs such as purchasing the party essentials, organizing the potluck food contributions, decorating the venue, and even distracting the birthday boy (definitely the toughest job) were all delegated on Facebook.

It was the easiest party to organize, ever.  Judging by the turnout of all the guests and the delicious food, it was a great success!

Breastfeeding or Bottle-Feeding, Which is Best?

Is breastfeeding better or easier than bottle-feeding your baby?  Over the years I don’t think it has ever been disputed that breastfeeding is far healthier, but bottles are certainly very convenient, especially for fathers wanting (or needing) to feed their babies.

Advantages for Breastfed Babies

The health advantages of breast milk include:

  • contains antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria
  • contains all the essential minerals and vitamins needed in the first 6 months
  • lowers the risk of asthma and allergies in children
  • lowers the chance of diarrhea and ear infections
  • breastfeeding helps moms get back to pre-pregnancy weight faster

The History of Breastfeeding

When my mother was feeding me and my siblings, (in the late 50’s and early 60’s) breastfeeding was not as popular as it is today.  Why that was I am not sure.  Moms were still predominantly “stay at home” and breastfeeding was (and still is) certainly the more economical way to go.  Maybe because of the larger families and the time commitment involved in breastfeeding.  It would be hard to concentrate on breastfeeding with a few other munchkins running around.  I have heard too that breastfeeding was considered to be an uncultured or low-class practice, an opinion that started in the early 20th century and extended almost to the 21st century.

When I was feeding my own babies (in the 90’s) breastfeeding was the thing to do.  I found it very convenient and relaxing, with no complications.  No sterilizing bottles and no filling bottles in the middle of the night.  I do know several women that had difficulties though, with low milk production or trouble with babies latching on properly.  I always said that was the advantage I had in having large babies; (my first was 10 pounds!) they had no trouble latching on and draining me every feeding.

Today, there appears to be mixed feelings about breastfeeding.  It has been making a comeback due to the increased interest in pursuing healthy, more natural lifestyles.   However, although no one can really dispute the health advantages, some modern women still feel tied down and men feel left out when choosing to breastfeed their babies.

The smart choice (in my opinion) is to do both.  Reap the health benefits for mom and baby, but make it more convenient.  Modern technology has produced very efficient (although the electric ones are costly) breast pumps and bottles with colic reducing nipples shaped like breast nipples so the baby does not get confused with different sucking procedures going back and forth.

I have seen my daughter-in-law pump two 5 ounce bottles in ten minutes, something that would have taken me hours to do by hand years ago.  Below are a few of the newest products out there for breastfeeding moms on the go; they are all greatly admired by this grandma.

The bottom line? The decision to breastfeed or bottle-feed is a personal one, best left to the mother to make.

Another Scam

money

Right after I posted about SCAMS I received this email.  I just saw it today because it was filtered into my JUNK file where it belongs…

This is to inform you that after the evaluation and conclusion of our meeting with the board of directors and special representatives from BANK PLC BURKINA FASO on how to disburse and remit your funds to you.
 
BANK PLC and WESTERN UNION have collaborated in other to remit your total fund of $2.5M us dollar, via western union by transferring $8,500 usd to you everyday via western union until we conclude the remittance of your funds.
 
So please confirm your interest by providing the below details to enable us begin the payment of your funds and start to transfer your funds via western union.
 
1 . Your full names
2. Your contact address
3. Your country
4. Your occupation
5. Your contact lines
6. A copy of your id documentary or international passport
7. Personal email address
 
Upon receiving this details, we shall start the transfer of your funds via western union as stated transferring your funds to you in badges of $8,500 usd per day.

Please kindly contact our representative MR GABBERT PARKER with the details for your transfer of your fund.

Sincerely,
Yours Faithfully.
Manager(Operations) MR GABBERT PARKER
Chief Operating Officer, Financing & Portfolio
Money Transfer | International Money Transfer | Western Union
www.westernunion.com

 

Lucky me!

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Scams: Be Alert, Know How to Detect Them

money

I received two more scams today by email.  The first one was from someone claiming to be “checking my Netflix account.”  They (in broken English and poor spelling) wanted me to click on a link to verify my account information with a threat that my family’s access to Netflix would be cut off if I did not follow the instructions.

The second scam was an email from someone claiming to be from Canada Post telling me I had a package that they tried to deliver but no one was home.  Again, they asked me to click on a link to verify my information and find out where to pick up my package.

How the Scammers get Your Money

Both are scams, looking to get information on unsuspecting individuals.  Popular services (such as Netflix and Canada Post) are being targeted because many people use and rely on them.  Clicking on the link provided will introduce a virus into your computer which will track personal information including banking details.

Clicking on the link provided in these scams will introduce a virus into your computer which will track personal information including banking details.  Instead of clicking on the link, delete the suspicious email immediately.

Clues to Detect Scams

Here are a few clues that should make you suspect an emailed scam:

  • poor grammar and spelling in the content
  • telling you about something you did not order (packages)  Canada Post would never email you if they stop by and no one is home, they leave a notice at your door.
  • offers of refunds or money for nothing or ways to help you save.  If it sounds too good to be true, it is!
  • emails from someone you know that do not make sense, are very vague (i think you might be interested in this)  or contain a link you know nothing about
  • emails asking for information the (fake) sender (eg. CRA, bank etc) would already have on file
  • they are providing a service you did not request.  For example, they are telling you something is wrong with your computer and want you to log in so they can “help you fix the problem”
  • miracle cures of any sort (skin care, weight loss, etc etc) go under the “too good to be true” category
  • reputable companies do NOT ask for updated personal information via email

Other Forms of Scams

A PREVIOUS POST talked about scams you might encounter when shopping online. Remember and be aware that perpetrators can find innocent, unsuspecting victims by email, phone, regular mail and even at your front door.  With modern technology, the world is becoming a much smaller place.  Scams, especially ones through email, can and do come from anywhere in the world today.

Be Suspicious, Do Some Research

If you are even the least bit suspicious, google the company represented to see if there are any known scams associated with that company.  Use information available online to educate and protect yourself and others.  For example, I googled Netflix scam, and guess what, a whole list of results turned up.  This particular scam has been going on across Canada for a while now.   Remember, the company is not at fault, they are being used too.  The scammers are relying on these reputable, trusted and popular companies to get your attention.

Delete, Share the Knowledge, and Report the Scam

After you delete the offending email, share the knowledge and warn your friends, family members, and neighbours.  The RCMP has a website for you to report SCAMS  and other fraudulent activity.

Be scam savvy!

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Online Shopping and Scams

Online Shopping and Scams

Online shopping is very common today due to its convenience and our hectic schedules.  The problem is, there are lots of companies out there just waiting for busy and unsuspecting people like you and I to fall for their scams.  These are companies that offer a “free trial” of a product for just the cost of shipping, often charge you for the full price of the product (megabucks) if you do not cancel within a few days of ordering.  Not a few days from receiving the product and giving it a try, but a few days after ordering, often before you even receive the product to try.  They count on that discrepancy in the time factor, hoping you won’t have time or forget to cancel.  If you do not cancel within the specified time frame, you will not have much luck getting your money back.

Other companies keep renewing your order automatically whether you need more products or not. Again, this should have been spelled out in the fine print of the original offer.  Beware, it can be difficult to cancel the order completely or control when the products are shipped.

I had an incident last week where I had tried to book my son’s drivers test online.  I went through the whole process, prepaid for his test with my visa, then received an email saying it could not be booked online.  I was advised I would be refunded the payment.  Three business days later I received a refund, but was charged ten dollars for a “cancellation fee.”

This list contains tips to (hopefully) prevent you from getting scammed when making online purchases:

  • read the fine print of any offer.  The details of the repeated/monthly payments are usually not visible front and center.
  • if an offer seems too good to be true, it generally is
  • consider a prepaid credit card for online purchases; refill it in small increments or just when you order something.   This is easy to do online.  That way the company you are purchasing from does not have your regular credit card number to make unauthorized, often repeated, transactions.
  • keep a close eye on your credit card statement.  This is easy to do these days with online accounts.  This is especially important since companies often have different names for payments on credit cards, making it difficult to keep track of your purchases and payments.
  • set up alerts on your credit card so you know immediately when they are used.  This can easily be done online as well.  Phone the fraud department of the credit card you use if you do not recognize a transaction.  They are generally pretty good at giving you details of the transaction, but more importantly, will cancel your card if you suspect fraud.
  • do your research before you purchase a product from a company you are unfamiliar with.  Thankfully modern technology has supplied us with access to complaints, scams, and other information about companies.
  • order from companies you know about or have heard about.  Some companies, like Rodan & Fields, for example, have consultants/team members to purchase from.  That way  you have recourse if something goes wrong with your order or your payment.

Online shopping is certainly convenient, but be aware of who you are dealing with.  Let me know of any tips you may have for online shopping safety.

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