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By: John Shepler

From my hometown, I can see the water vapor plumes from the Byron Nuclear Generating Station some 25 miles away. It’s been a familiar sight on the horizon for over 30 years, as nuclear chain reactions in the two units silently crank out power for Chicago and Northern Illinois. Well, perhaps not for much longer. The Byron plant will shut down in September. Dresden, another nuke in Morris, Ill., will close in November. Then, what?

We Won’t Go Dark, But…

The beauty of the nationwide electrical grid is that If you can’t get power from one generator, you can get it from someplace else. Pull the plug on Byron and the lights stay on. Pull the plug on Dresden and, amazingly, the lights still stay on. …

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In any major disaster, it’s good to have a scapegoat and some sacrificial lambs. Covid-19 is a national disaster, nay an international disaster of major proportions. Some might call it an existential or even extinction event. Get past the histrionics and there is opportunity waiting to be seized for those who would profit at the expense of others. All one needs to do is place one’s bets and get those lambs to the slaughter. And who’s bleats of despair are we going to ignore? It’s you, Grandma and Grandpa.

Bye, Ethyl
It wasn’t meant to provide a blueprint for true evil-doing, but the episode “Hurling Day” in the animated TV series “Dinosaurs” does suggest a possible, albeit humorous, approach to solving the pesky elder problem. The thesis is that when dinosaurs turn 72, it is customary for their families to hurl them off a cliff and into a tar pit so that they will no longer be holding up the pack. …

By: John Shepler

Power lines tower over a dark landscape
Power lines tower over a dark landscape
The Lines are Up, The Power is Off

Millions of Californians scramble to deal with the new reality of life under climate change. The power company is bankrupt and has shut off the electricity in the San Francisco bay area. Was there a massive earthquake? Nuclear attack? Solar flare? Nope. Just a couple of centuries of global warming come home to roost.

We take our 21st century conveniences for granted. My grandparents and all who remember the days of horses, buggies, oil lamps, and outhouses are long departed. The generations alive today were never awed by the coming of steam power. We were born into the electrical world. Flip a switch and things happen. Don’t necessarily know how or even care. Electricity, natural gas, and gasoline. Those power sources are always there for us. …

By: John Shepler

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Enjoying your slice of the 2018 “Tax Cut and Jobs Act”? Throw all that extra cash in a pile and jump in it now. You won’t be drowning in surplus funds for long. The grim tax reaper is coming back and this time he’s dressed in the black cloak of tariffs.

We are getting used to wars where relatively few of us get hurt. We haven’t even had to deal with the inconvenience of major rationing for over 70 years. Trade war? Sounds exciting. Besides, we always win these things, right?

I suggest it won’t be so much fun when the tariff bombs start falling on your house. The first casualties have already occurred. Harley-Davidson, the iconic American motorcycle maker, is picking up and moving overseas to build bikes intended for the European Union. Why? We’re hitting Europe with variety of trade tariffs. They’re hitting Harley back for an extra $2,200 per bike. Made in America? Now only if it is also going to be sold in America. …

By: John Shepler

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I spent hours watching Mark Zuckerberg take a flogging from 44 United States senators over the shocking revelation that Facebook has been gamed by advertisers and at least one foreign government. Rather than pick up a dagger and join the belated Ides of March proceedings, I think maybe it is appropriate to call “time out” and do a little deeper thinking on this subject.

What is it we really want here? Is it the smug satisfaction of compelling the Silicon Valley wunderkind to make a good act of contrition? You might easily think so after watching the political posturing and some of the inane questioning from the tribunal. …

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By: John Shepler

The latest massacre of innocent and unsuspecting youth was meted out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida this week. With stone cold efficiency, an alleged former peer of the 3,100 students herded them into the halls with a false fire alarm and cut down as many as possible with his military-style assault rifle. Fourteen students and three teachers lay dead, giving this event the ignominious title of worst American high school shooting, yet.

Greater America knew better than wait with baited breath for their elected officials to meet in emergency session and pass strong legislation to put an end to this carnage. Those horrified by Columbine in 1999, Virginia Tech in 2007, and Sandy Hook in 2012, are pretty much numb to the announcement of another mass school killing. School shootings in 2018 alone have averaged more than one a week, 170 such incidents since the template for this was created 18 years ago at Columbine, Colorado. The official government response? …

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By: John Shepler

The FCC may have soundly rejected the legal constraint of network neutrality, but that’s not the end of the story. In fact, it’s the beginning of the next chapter that will spur a plethora of new Internet access options and, perhaps, a multiverse of Internets as well.

The Battle Is For The Old Internet
All the friction about who owns and controls the Internet right now is about the old Internet. That’s the Internet born of a cold war research project that was built-out to connect universities and research labs and later released to commercial interests. It’s that Internet that came of age in the 90’s and matured over the last two decades we call “The Internet.” …

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Let’s celebrate the REAL weather forecasters day…. Feb 5

By: John Shepler

Just 3 days after the most watched weather prognostication all year, it’s time to celebrate the real weather forecasters. You know, the people working behind the scenes and in front of the TV cameras to tell us exactly what to expect in the next few hours, days and weeks. While the famous marmot of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and his ilk across the country take the glory, the real celebration of all things meteorological belongs on February 5, not February 2. Happy National Weather Person’s Day!

Why February 5?
National Weather Person’s Day is celebrated every year on February 5 for a special reason. No, it’s not a clever attempt to upstage forecasting Phil and remind everyone who’s really doing the work. It’s actually the birthday of Dr. …

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Super Blue Blood Moon Family ©2018 John E. Shepler

By: John Shepler

The big sky show of 2018 occurred on January 31 with the rare event of a Super Blue Blood Moon. The only Super Blood Moon of 2019 occurred on January 20 & 21, with additional supermoons in February and March. Read on to see what makes these lunar events so impressive.

Super what?
Super Blue Blood Moon, of course. It’s quite a mouthful, but that’s what it takes to describe what is really three lunar events in one. It’s a Super Moon. It’s a Blue Moon. It’s a Blood Moon. Getting all three at the same time is something that happens once in a lifetime, at best. …

By: John Shepler

The Internet has been my life for the last 20 years or so. Oh, it’s been around longer than that. I only got on when they released it to the public commercially in the mid-90’s. Back then it was all dial-up modems and make-your-own websites. One ad that ran at the time sticks vividly in my mind. It said something like “What’s different on the Internet about IBM and a kid with a science fair site about ducks?” The answer: “Nothing.”

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On the Internet, the World is Flat
What didn’t soak in to many of us when we started communicating over computer networks was the inherent democracy, the equality of it all. Distance disappears. At the speed of light, the printer in the next room and the one on the other side of the world are equally close. You can locate team members anywhere and they forget they aren’t all in one big building… co-located, but just too far to walk over for a visit. …

About

John Shepler

With a background in engineering and communications, John Shepler is interested in what's going on in the world and how to make it a better place.

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