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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Houston is HOT

In the past few days I have been to Dallas, San Antonio, Galveston and Houston. We have 3 projects starting up this week - installing either clear or solar security film on houses, businesses and schools.

Dallas and S.A. were 105 degrees. It felt like xrays to walk around outside. Right now I am in a small commercial building owned by the former mayor of Pasadena - we are putting 8 mil solar security film on the windows.

The installer has a "BTU" meter to measure heat transfer. With the sun directly hitting the window it was reading 111-113 BTU - but when the film was placed in front of it the reading dropped to 34 - a 70% drop in solar heat! Amazing.

I'm on the run. More later...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dolly Dumps on Us

Surprisingly, we are getting our rain from DOLLY today instead of yesterday. Bands have been moving in since early this morning. It hit Brownsville as a CAT 2 and 375 miles away we are getting much needed rain, but not much wind.

It should be a wake up call to people. Got to go - it's a FULL day ahead.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hurricane Dolly - Our Technology Needs Updating

Mapquest says that where I live near Houston is 375 miles from Brownsville where DOLLY is moving in - and yet we are still getting rain bands and thunderstorms from it.

AMAZING, how BIG these monsters are. We are lucky; we are on the "wet" side and are getting some much needed rain, but without the threat of any flooding. Flooding will be an issue for poor Brownsville, which may get lucky if DOLLY comes in just a few miles north of town. That would keep it on the "dry" side - where the winds come in from the land side instead of the "wet" side where they are coming in from the ocean side - with the tidal surge that goes with it.

We found out with RITA in 2005 that being a few miles on the "dry" side makes all the difference. Houston was spared major damage, and really didn't get any rain--unlike Beaumont and areas 50 to 100 miles east of here, including Louisiana, that got beaten up by it right after KATRINA did her thing.

I still see little real preparation here for a major storm. Officials are still touting old technology like plywood in an age where people could/should have 24/7 protection with (Miami-Dade certified) security window film that replaces shutters and plywood--and you don't have to be home (putting them on) for it to work. Plus it saves energy, which neither shutters nor plywood do (unless you keep them closed all the time so you can't see outside!)

But if you wait until it is too late--like today in Brownsville, and maybe next week somewhere else on the Texas/U.S. coast, then trying to nail plywood on a second story in 60 mile an hour winds is the only choice left. Try to avoid that.

Someone emailed and asked me to advertise. I told him that was the last thing I need right now--our installers are booked until the first of August--and then they have several projects that fill up August. Both commercial and residential. I don't need to have thousands of people calling me and then being frustrated because they can't get it "today."

Security window film isn't something that some Bubba can slap up on his own (and look nice). It takes trained, experienced professionals. We are going carefully so that the work is done right the first time.

Maybe DOLLY will wake up those officials that keep insisting people put a bunch of plywood in their garage. There it can sit and take up space so that the bugs can eat it -- until you try to put it on in a future storm, and end up sailing downwind on it in a stiff breeze. "Joe was last seen flying out of the neighborhood on a piece of plywood."

We live in "Space city" and high-tech America. We also live in a known hurricane zone. Let's upgrade our technology to be better prepared for future DOLLY's who come our way...

I'm riding out this storm in my condo on Clear Lake - behind Miami Dade certified Security Window Film, which is also screening out 99% of harmful UV rays and cutting my energy bill!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Engineers Without Borders & NASA

Over 1 billion people in the world lack access to clean drinking water. Every eight seconds, a young child dies from lack of water or a waterborne disease. That's the same as a 747 jetliner full of kids going down every hour. Clean water is so unusual that some people have to acquire a taste for it.

At the Seabrook (TX) Rotary breakfast last week I heard how High-tech NASA has some engineers volunteering to bring clean water to people who have only dirty water available, using low-tech technology and local materials. But the system does rely on a single high-tech part – one UV bulb.

And it works. It’s called “Bring Your Own Water.” It’s ingenious. Using local materials like gravel and sand, they went to a village in Rwanda and built a short PVC line from a water source, which runs through two boxes that they fill with gravel and sand. They attach to it a small metal box with small switches and a UV bulb – which kills any organisms in the water that survived the filtering. The UV bulb runs off a small solar panel – no electricity required. The result: clean water.

They did another project in a small village in Mexico that had only polluted surface water sources. It had salt water underground – but the engineers say removing salt requires much more equipment than the local economy could handle. It’s easier to clean dirty water than remove salt. In Mexico, they had electricity and higher needs, so a small pump was installed. The villagers formed an association, elected a leader and spread the cost among the entire village. Until they had clean water, kids were getting sick twice a week and adults were sick constantly.

One surprise: After drinking dirty water, some people have to “acquire” a taste for clean water. Villagers did not like the bottled water that came from the store. Yet they did like the taste of filtered water. The NASA engineer said that in Rwanda, the water system meant that the girls could go to school instead of carrying water all day. Yet, due to the poverty, they had less community interest –since each family is trying to find enough food to eat daily -- than in Mexico where there is more money.

“Engineers Without Borders” is doing great things to make the world a better place. Their work puts a human face on Americans and enhances our image in these forgotten places. We need more people doing the same.

Thank you NASA and engineers everywhere who are volunteering to bring appropriate technology solutions to the world.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Taken at Tookie's

Saturday, the day after July 4th, had lunch at Tookie's in Seabrook. Big mistake! Came out 30 minutes later and found that someone had broken the passenger window and stolen my TomTom GPS. In broad daylight. The police said it was only the 3rd time in 10 years.

Today the Tookie's manager called and said their insurance wouldn't cover it --and neither would the owner. They really care about their customers, yeah. Park at Tookie's at your own risk. It wasn't worth it -- $200 to replace the window plus $150 for the TomTom.

Next time I'll eat at the Classic Cafe instead!

The guy in Kingwood would replaced my window said they get a lot of calls for broken windows - people stealing laptops, purses, GPS's, etc.

As soon as possible, I am getting my own security film installed on my car. They will stop the next creep who tries to break in the car...

Friday, July 04, 2008

July 4th 2008 - Time for an Innovative America

It’s obvious that America is in crisis, financially and technically. The only way out of it is for Americans to become innovative again.

Most of our problems were caused by neglect, a failure to plan ahead, and incompetence. They are solvable, but it will take Americans doing a lot of “new” to pull out of this financial mess –like launching a domestic “Marshall Plan” for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

GM, General Motors, stands on the edge of bankruptcy for one simple reason – poor leadership and failure to advance their technology. While it has been obvious from Toyota’s success for years with its hybrid, GM refused to develop similar technology. In short, our smart guys were stupid. It’s been obvious for years that energy was getting short worldwide as India and China have taken off. But no one looked at the horizon to see the threat coming and prepare for it. They put profits from big trucks over upgrading their own technology. Had they done so, a hybrid F-250 would get substantially better mileage and might even still be selling. Because GM had no Prius, they lost. Now they have to play “catch up” as is America. That is not a good thing.

America can only get out of this financial hole by embracing innovation and strategic thinking --by all of us, especially our leadership. Whoever gets elected needs to have a GLOBAL STRATEGIC plan for our future – balancing Iraq, oil, trade, financial, real estate, medical care, etc. Blocking free trade in the 30’s caused the Great Depression. Giving the top 2% all the tax breaks has cause the current financial black hole. Failing to oversee risky financial practices did the same, at the cost of hundreds of billions.

To tackle the biggest problem –the energy crisis-- we need incentives for energy efficiency that make sense. Tax credits or deductions for making homes and buildings more energy efficient w is something the government can do TODAY. Americans individually can do it by putting solar/security film on their windows – which would cut their energy bill. We will need to build mass transit too. In Houston, our population will double in 20 years. Roads won’t. Without rail, it will be gridlock. The same goes for the rest of America. We need smart action now or things will get worse, not better. A good example is how the Colombian government just rescued hostages without a shot, by clever intelligence. Mission accomplished and no one died.

Our government needs to switch our ethanol strategy away from our food chain (corn) and towards more efficient, abundant sources like sugar, which is 4-5 times more efficient than corn. That would increase both our fuels and food inventories! And cut costs. And buying sugar from developing country farmers also puts money in their pockets – a win-win.

To do it means allowing sugar imports instead of allowing the “sugar lobby” to bar imports, thereby keeping lower cost sugar fuel sources away from Americans. These lobbies cause you to pay more for anything that has sugar in it, from cereal to candy bars. They are keeping your costs high.

Huge borrowing by the federal government to pay for a two-front war while our government and companies like GM failed to implement energy diversification and efficiency have put us in a perilous period. Our financial base is melting down.

With China and India’s growth, energy prices are always going to be at a premium until we maximize our energy alternatives, from free solar and wind, to new sources such as hydrogen, etc. We could develop fusion reactors, which would be safer than today’s nuclear plants and do not produce weapons material or radioactive waste.

It will take a new America dedicated to innovation and new technology to get us back into super power status. We need to pick people for positions based on competence, not family connection or how cute they might be. We need to pick a President who has a plan and a new global vision for America. We must develop new technologies from NASA to Main Street.

Success will take each American thinking outside the box from here on out. Our ship of state has been heavily damaged. It will take innovative action from all of us, from Main Street to Wall Street, to rebuild the roads and rail of tomorrow, the value of our dollar and our country’s financial and technical base. I know we Americans can do it. Our future depends on it. Happy 4th.