mm500: Blast from the Past! No. 54 – Edison vs. Tesla

September 22, 2008
© Kandasamy M  | Dreamstime.com

© Kandasamy M | Dreamstime.com

First day back at work after a bereavement leave, and we’re still not ready for the world of blogging.

Nevertheless, we’re all about doing the right thing here at Left-Handed Complement, and in that spirit we’re recycling some of our favorite electrons. And with over 470 fresh daily posts in the past 16+ months, there’s lots to choose from.

I hereby stop apologizing for resuming our observance of the prime directive of blogging: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

And I’m guessing that most of you weren’t here nine months ago. As one of my favorite paper publications used to say as they flogged unsold back issues: “If you haven’t read it yet, it’s new for you!”

lhc76019043_thumb24_thumb2_thumb2_th

Blast from the Past!

A post we really, really loved to write, and read, and re-read…

Originally posted November 16, 2007, titled “mm195: Edison gets the glory — Tesla won the war.”

MUDGE’S Musings

Every schoolchild, at least of MUDGE‘s generation, knew the name of Thomas Edison, America’s genius inventor. Not nearly so well known today is the reputation of Nikola Tesla, whose alternating current technology offered stiff competition to Edison’s direct current at the time when the nascent electric utilities were battling for the privilege of revolutionizing civilization.

That first battle ground, New York City, finally just yesterday, November 14 2007, after 125 years of service, converted the last direct current electricity service to alternating current.

Can you imagine any industrial artifact built today still being around in the year 2132, 125 years from now? We just don’t think that way any more. Ask the survivors and grieving families of those lost when the I-35 bridge at Minneapolis collapsed this past summer, at the youthful age of 40.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm476: The next Windy City?

August 22, 2008
© David Davis | Dreamstime.com

© David Davis | Dreamstime.com

MUDGE’s Musings

Two recurring themes on this site converge this week, as alternative energy, mainly windmills, and New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, not a presidential candidate, occupy the same NYTimes story.

nytimes[3]

Bloomberg Offers Windmill Power Plan

By MICHAEL BARBARO | Published: August 19, 2008

In a plan that would drastically remake New York City’s skyline and shores, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is seeking to put wind turbines on the city’s bridges and skyscrapers and in its waters as part of a wide-ranging push to develop renewable energy.

The plan, while still in its early stages, appears to be the boldest environmental proposal to date from the mayor, who has made energy efficiency a cornerstone of his administration.

Mr. Bloomberg said he would ask private companies and investors to study how windmills can be built across the city, with the aim of weaning it off the nation’s overtaxed power grid, which has produced several crippling blackouts in New York over the last decade.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm381: Crime’s up. Economy’s down. Next question?

May 16, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Driving earlier this evening to pick up take out for dinner, found myself listening to radio news. Never do that, if I can help it. But this story sprang out at me.

It’s a crime story. Not usually a staple of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere©. And it’s our next installment in a ever-lengthening series.

“May you live in interesting times”

mm380: The return of cheap gasoline
mm370: How can you tell our president is lying?
mm347: It’s official, we’re depressed — er, recessed
mm344: Welcome to interesting times
mm337: Dare we trust the guys who got us into this mess?
mm335: Are you prepared for interesting times?
mm334: Rearranging deck chairs
mm333: “Great people shouldn’t have a resume”
mm331: Obama at Cooper Union: Lincoln?
mm328: Today’s economics lesson: Depression 101
mm309: The news Bush really hates you to hear
mm289: Recession: Paying the price for our power
mm285: Mayor Mike tells some hard truths
mm263: This man -so- wants to pull the trigger…
mm257: The R-Word – Not that racy television show
mm256: I don’t hate big corporations, either

“Hold on, Mudge,” I hear faithful reader protesting. “What the devil does crime have to do with our deepening recession.”

Just about everything.

chitrib

City crime statistics show increased violence

Violent crime is up 6% in first four months of the year compared with 2007, police say

By Angela Rozas | Tribune reporter |

4:52 PM CDT, May 16, 2008

Homicides in Chicago rose by almost 9 percent, while violent crime was up more than 6 percent in the first four months of 2008, compared with the same period last year, Police Supt. Jody Weis said Friday.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm340: Decline and fall: America’s midlife crisis

April 6, 2008

MUDGE’s Musings

Cleveland. Philadelphia. New York City. Chicago. Most egregiously, Detroit.

For more than 30 years, the overwhelming impression has taken hold that the old, big cities, the engines of the industrial might of this country for more than 150 years, are hollowed out shells.

Their manufacturing jobs fled first, to the suburbs and exurbs, then the non-union South and West (before fleeing totally offshore). Their office jobs disappeared as the bureaucracy supporting those factories inevitably shifted: first to the suburbs, then the exurbs, then South and West (soon, Mumbai and Bengaluru?).

So, accepted wisdom: big Eastern and Midwestern cities: in steep decline.

Now, Michael Gecan is here to alert us that, as far as he can see, the suburbs and exurbs that became the refuge of those who could flee their declining city homes, are built on sand and are about to experience their own fall.

Read the rest of this entry »


mm208: Overdue — a Bloomberg post

November 29, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

During the past long, hot summer of an impossibly early 2008 election season, this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© developed an interest in the potential presidential candidacy of the current mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.

For example, you might wish to refresh your memory here, here or here.

In contrast to a certain Republican candidate, Bloomberg is the mayor who walks the talk, whose reputation is built on six years of outstanding accomplishment, not just one horrible day, and has no indicted close friends.

But it’s been quiet for a long time on the Bloomberg front. Perhaps it’s because he keeps denying he’s a candidate.

Why let reality stand in the way of such an intriguing possibility?

bloomberg

Bloomberg’s Latest Itinerary Lists China and Indonesia

By DIANE CARDWELL

As Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg again prepares to trot around the world with a gaggle of cameras behind him, a question is emerging: Is he traveling so much for the city? Or for much-denied presidential aspirations?

The mayor — whose official trips this year have taken him to Mexico, Paris and London as well as New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Seattle and St. Louis — will fly to China and Indonesia the week of Dec. 9.

He is taking along Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, who has been promoting Mr. Bloomberg’s presidential prospects almost since the mayor was re-elected in 2005. The mayor is also bringing his companion, Diana Taylor.

Assorted other aides — including, perhaps, Daniel L. Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development — will make the trip, too. A mayoral spokesman said yesterday that the list had not been set.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Bloomberg’s Latest Itinerary Lists China and Indonesia – New York Times

As a non-resident of NYC, I have no problem with its mayor’s global junkets.

And were he actually running for president, his junketeering would more than likely take him to Bennington (New Hampshire) not Beijing; Shenandoah (Iowa) not Shanghai; maybe even Indiana not Indonesia.

But in a field of windbags and executive pygmies, of discredited Republican religious loonies and Democrats with imaginations so limited that they’ve spent an entire year of congressional leadership dithering to no effect, Bloomberg certainly stands out as a person, self-made and accomplished, seemingly capable of governing on a national scale.

Run, Mike Bloomberg!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm195: Edison gets the glory — Tesla won the war

November 15, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Every schoolchild, at least of MUDGE‘s generation, knew the name of Thomas Edison, America’s genius inventor. Not nearly so well known today is the reputation of Nikola Tesla, whose alternating current technology offered stiff competition to Edison’s direct current at the time when the nascent electric utilities were battling for the privilege of revolutionizing civilization.

That first battle ground, New York City, finally just yesterday, November 14 2007, after 125 years of service, converted the last direct current electricity service to alternating current.

Can you imagine any industrial artifact built today still being around in the year 2132, 125 years from now? We just don’t think that way any more. Ask the survivors and grieving families of those lost when the I-35 bridge at Minneapolis collapsed this past summer, at the youthful age of 40.

Back to New York:

By Jennifer 8. Lee

Consolidated EdisonCon Edison’s original power plant on Pearl Street. (Illustration: Consolidated Edison)

Today, Con Edison will end 125 years of direct current electricity service that began when Thomas Edison opened his Pearl Street power station on Sept. 4, 1882. Con Ed will now only provide alternating current, in a final, vestigial triumph by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, Mr. Edison’s rivals who were the main proponents of alternating current in the AC/DC debates of the turn of the 20th century.

New York, more than most of our old Atlantic coastline cities, is this mesmerizing blend of the state of the art and trendy, and the downright obsolete. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that direct current is still in use in pockets of the city — not economically viable to install new today (or even 80 years ago!), but installations like the one retired yesterday weren’t broken, so weren’t fixed.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Off Goes the Power Current Started by Thomas Edison – City Room – Metro – New York Times Blog

The really fascinating part of the story, beyond the implications noted above of industrial artifacts usefully lasting 95 years beyond a conservative depreciation schedule, is the mention of Tesla. The story actually links to this Wikipedia article, worthy of one’s attention.

What was it about the 19th Century that spawned so many giants? That by itself is the subject of a Ph.D. dissertation, so you’re not likely to find the answer in this space! But Nikola Tesla was undoubtedly one of those giants, a scientist and inventor who

… contributed in varying degrees to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics. In 1943, the Supreme Court of the United States credited him as being the inventor of the radio.

What an amazing man, setting a very high bar for future men of science, practical inventors and eccentric personalities.

I hope that future school children will learn his name — perhaps the new electric car named, one guesses, to commemorate his amazing contributions to the science and engineering of electricity, will help.

teslaroadster

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm110: Grading Mayoral Control – City Journal

August 21, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s a Michael Bloomberg post!

Tying together two of MUDGE’s persistent interests, education (I’ve got a kid in the biz, donchaknow) and the national aspirations of Michael Bloomberg, is this report from a new source for this observer, City Journal.

cityjournal

Lauded in the press, Bloomberg’s education reforms are proving more spin than substance. Parents are losing patience.

Sol Stern
Summer 2007

Mayoral control, the hot new trend in urban school reform, began in Boston and Chicago in the 1990s. Now it’s the New York City school system, under the authority of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that’s become the beacon for education-mayor wannabes like Adrian Fenty of Washington, D.C., and Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles. Influential philanthropic foundations, such as the Los Angeles–based Broad Foundation (headed by Bloomberg friend and fellow billionaire Eli Broad) and the Gates Foundation, are investing in Bloomberg as the model big-city mayor who uses his new executive powers over the schools to advance a daring reform agenda. Meanwhile, the national media’s positive coverage of mayoral control in Gotham is adding to the luster of a possible Bloomberg presidential run.

For New Yorkers, though, the original appeal of mayoral control was entirely parochial. The old Board of Education—with seven members, appointed by six elected city officials—offered a case study of the paralysis that sets in when fragmented political authority tries to direct a dysfunctional bureaucracy. New Yorkers arrived at a consensus that there was not much hope of lifting student achievement substantially under such a regime. The newly elected Bloomberg made an offer that they couldn’t refuse: Give me the authority to improve the schools, and then hold me accountable for the results.

So on June 12, 2002, Bloomberg appeared at the mayoral-control bill-signing ceremony alongside Governor George Pataki. The bill would “give the school system the one thing it fundamentally needs: accountability,” said Bloomberg. The new governance system won enthusiastic support across the political spectrum, from conservative think tanks to the New York Times and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), whose members got a huge pay raise.

Just five years later, that consensus has fractured. Some state legislators representing the city, including influential Assembly education-committee chair Catherine Nolan, promise a tough review process when reauthorization of mayoral control comes up in 2008. There’s also a significant demographic divide on the benefits of the reform. Business leaders, editorial boards, and many education experts remain enthusiastic. Constituents at the grass roots, however, feel increasingly frustrated. More than two dozen parent groups and district education councils have passed resolutions opposing Schools Chancellor Joel Klein’s latest school reorganization plans. According to the Quinnipiac poll of city residents, Klein’s favorability rating has fallen to just 37 percent, and a majority of New Yorkers want something like an independent board of education or a commission with oversight powers.

Gigantic urban school systems present a ferocious challenge. Chicago, Los Angeles (whose new supe is well known to Older Son, who worked directly for him in their prior lives), and NYC all face entrenched bureaucrats, intractable unions, and what may be the most dangerous of all, a generation of immigrant parents who, for the first time, don’t consider education their children’s highest priority.

That said, it always boils down to test scores, doesn’t it?

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

City Journal

And of course, basing evaluations of school success on test scores all too often results only in the success of those who learn how to game the system, at the classroom, school, and district levels, leaving our children no better off.

Not trying to make excuses for Bloomberg, I’ve seen similar problems with mayoral control in Chicago, where one trusted Daley technocrat after another has foundered on the shoals itemized above. And watch out, Adm. Brewer of L.A., the aggressive new mayor is grasping after your turf, too.

No child left behind — is there an emptier, sadder symbol of the fruitlessness of the past 6½ years of George III’s reign? But, the good news, we can still afford to borrow from the Chinese the $10billion per month it’s taking to lose in Iraq!

Urban schools didn’t go bad in one generation — I’m afraid it’s going to take at least one if not more to fix them, if we have the will to do so.

And, Michael Bloomberg, is your vaunted education success another Potemkin Village? Independent minded Americans want to know!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE