Thursday, September 29, 2022

My Favorite Bit of Opera

I'm taking a break from writing about cars today!

I have eclectic tastes in music. I can listen to most any music except rap/hip-hop and jazz. I can even listen to old country music.

Every now and then I just have to listen to my favorite bit of opera. It's the "Flower Duet" ("Sous le dôme épais") from the opera Lakmé, written by Léo Delibes. The opera was first performed in 1883.

I've never seen the whole opera and I don't really want to. It would be interesting but after the "Flower Duet" in Act 1, I'm sure the rest of the opera would be a let down.

I think it's likely the most beautiful piece of music ever written and performed. 

Judge for yourself here. That is the best performance of it I can find online. 

Even if you hate opera, give it a shot.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Video Game Instrument Panels

Oh, man, I'm writing about cars again!

There's a trend in automobiles, especially high-end ones, that I don't like. I call it the "video game instrument panel." The car industry called it the "digital instrument panel." In any case, I don't like it. It looks cheap to me.

My current car has what I guess could be called a hybrid instrument panel. There is a real tachometer and a real speedometer and between them is a digital display that can show various information. I like this set up. It is classic and it's useful. And it doesn't look cheap.

Maybe digital instrument panels are expensive. I don't know. So maybe that's why car makers think they are cool. And, yes, they are much more versatile than fixed dials. But no matter how expensive they are, they look cheap to me.

But I'm probably stuck with digital "video game" panels because that's what automakers are moving toward. Maybe I don't want to buy a new car soon.

How do you feel about digital instrument panels. Am I making a big deal out of nothing. Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Sip and Stroll in Moses Lake

Tomorrow (the 17th) I will be participating as an artist in the Moses Lake Downtown Association's "Sip and Stroll." (It used to be called the "Wine Walk" until they started bringing in distilled spirits in addition to wine.)

I will be at Skaug Brothers Carpet One Floor & Home, 222 East Third Avenue, selling and signing my exciting urban fantasy and science fiction novels. Hope to see you there! 

Judith Ann McDowell will also be there.

More information on the Sip and Stroll can be found here (scroll down a bit). You can also buy tickets there. VIP tickets get you access early (at noon).

Here's some of the books I'll be selling:

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Electric Cars Actually Put Out Less Carbon

I've written a bit about electric cars on this blog (see herehere, and here). But I've avoided, until now, something I think about electric cars: I believe that for the vast majority of people in the US, electric cars are dumb. But not so much for me.

Let me explain. Where I live, all of our electricity comes from renewable sources (mostly hydroelectric). So if I switched to an electric car, I would significantly cut down on my carbon footprint and other pollutants that internal combustion (ICE) cars emit.

But for most of the U.S., electricity comes from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. Now using an electric car simply moves the tailpipe emissions from the car to a power plant somewhere. The only gain is that electric cars are generally more energy efficient than ICE cars. They have to be. The Tesla Model S Long Range has a 100 kWh (kilowatt hour) battery. That's the equivalent energy of about 2.8 gallons of gasoline. That a car can go almost 300 miles on 2.8 gallons of gas equivalent, is amazing to me. That's the equivalent of 107 miles per gallon.

(A lot of the energy ICE cars produce is lost to heat. In fact, keeping an ICE engine from overheating is a major engineering challenge. That doesn't happen as much in an electric car.)

The problem with electric cars is battery technology hasn't caught up yet. A 100 kWh battery is considered large in electric car terms. But it doesn't hold a lot of energy, relatively. A 15 gallon gas tank holds about 535 kWh of energy. 

Let's take the worst case scenario. Car and Driver magazine said in winter the efficiency of their Tesla Model 3 that they were long-term testing dropped in half. They also said they got 281 miles of range under ideal conditions with a Tesla Model S Long Range. So let's say one full battery gets you 145 miles of range (worst case) with 100 kWhs of electricity. If that electricity came from coal (the worst for carbon dioxide emissions), you will put out 2.23 pounds of carbon dioxide.

And, yes, I'm ignoring the oil and coal that goes into manufacturing an electric car. And disposal of the battery/car.

If you drive 145 miles in a car that gets, say, 25 mpg, you'll burn 5.8 gallons. A gallon of gas puts out 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide when burned*. So that's 113.9 pounds. Or 51.1 times as much as the EV will put out. Or, you'd have to drive an ICE car that gets a whopping 1,277 miles per gallon to only put out as much carbon as a coal-powered EV under the worst circumstances (for the EV).

So there are significant savings in carbon dioxide output using an electric car. I just convinced myself that EVs aren't as dumb as I thought.

Do you agree with me or think I'm nuts. Let me know in the comments below.

*A gallon of gas weighs only 6.3 pounds. So how does burning one put out 19.64 pounds of carbon dioxide? The carbon in the gasoline combines with oxygen from the air to makes carbon dioxide. And there's two oxygen atoms per carbon atom (thus the name, carbon dioxide). So after combustion, gasoline puts out more carbon dioxide than it weighs. 

This is part of the study of stoichiometry in chemistry. Gasoline is a mixture of all sorts of things, so let's simplify and use natural gas which is (almost all) methane. One pound of methane (one carbon and four hydrogens) burns with 3.9 pounds of oxygen molecules (two oxygen atoms each) to make 2.74 pounds of carbon dioxide (and 2.24 pounds of water).

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Electric Cars Can Be Practical

Nissan Leaf
When I said "no" to electric cars, I did so because they can't meet my needs. I live in an isolated small town. I drive 200 miles round trip to see my eye doctor. Most of my wife's relatives live 180 miles away. My grandson lives 300 miles away. I need a car that can easily handle those distances without spending a lot of time charging the car. And right now, electric cars can't.

But there is one (at least) application that electric cars would be perfect for: driving around town. If you're not going to go very far, maybe just to work and back and run errands around town, an electric car would work great. But this would mean owning two cars in my case: one with an internal combustion engine for long distances and one electric for around town. But I own two cars now, my sedan and my wife's compact (she likes small cars). A lot of people can't afford having two cars. They'd need one car that could do both.

You wouldn't have to buy a car with a huge battery (which is what makes electric cars expensive) because you might just need 50 miles of range, not 300, which is rare in the EV world. According to Car and Driver, the Lucid Air Grand Touring went 410 miles on their 75-mph freeway test. However, the Lucid Air Grand Touring starts at $154,000 which is quite a chunk of money. And you can assume in winter that'll cut down to about 205 miles if it gets cold where you live.

The Chevrolet Bolt or the Nissan Leaf might be perfect (although the Bolt has had some issues and the Leaf has been discontinued). 

What do you think about small, shorter range electric cars? Are they practical? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

University of Washington Huskies Football Starts Saturday

The University of Washington Huskies start their 2022 season on Saturday. They will be playing Kent State in Husky Stadium in Seattle. The game starts at 7:30PM and will be shown on FS1. The Kent State Golden Flashes (okay, that's a silly name if you ask me) are an FBS team from Ohio. So, I don't know how tough they are going to be.

The Huskies have had four coaches in as many years. Three since Chris Petersen resigned if you count last year's interim head coach Bob Gregory (who went 0-3). This year we're starting with a new coach, Kalen DeBoer, who came from Fresno State where he supposedly did great things. We'll  have to see how he does with the glare of the spotlight in the Pac-1210.* 

I have no feelings good or bad about this season. I'm not expecting a season like 2016 when the Huskies went to the college football playoffs with a 12-2 record. But I'm not expecting a season like last year when we were 4-8. Since this is Deboer's first season, I'm assuming it will be a rebuilding year. I just hope we don't start building in the cellar.

I did hear a sportscaster predict the Huskies will start 4-0. That means beating Michigan State on September 17th (4:30 PM Pacific time on ABC). 

Are you looking forward to college football starting. Or could you not care less? Let me know in the comments below.

*USC and UCLA have both asked to leave the Pac-12 for the Big10, which already has 14 schools. So why isn't it the Big14? I don't know.