Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Pennsylvania Free - story opening

Pennsylvania Free - A Public Domain Collaboratively Written Novel

How you can participate in writing this novel.

Pennsylvania Free

David Keeman was a brilliant inventor who achieved remarkable success in his home state of Pennsylvania. As he neared retirement, David considered various fun projects that could engage him creatively while giving back to the state of Pennsylvania.

One night, right before falling asleep, he hit upon an idea. He would set up a way for cars traveling across Pennsylvania to travel across the state for free. This project would combine his interests in wind energy, hybrid cars and organized engineering -- the emerging field of socially organized use of natural resources.

In a few minutes he was able to track down various web sites that described the latest research in wind energy. Setting up windmills for power generation is still not cheap. Each windmill costs about million dollars to set up. David Keeman had savings from his inventions that allowed him to set aside $5 million for this project. This would let him set up 5 power generating windmills in the mountainous section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike -- not far from West Virginia. Hybrid cars entering Pennsylvania from West Virginia could stop by David Keeman's house to pick up charged batteries that could assist them in traveling across the state. The batteries would not cover all the energy costs of driving across Pennsylvania, but they would cover a substantial amount of the costs.

Electric/gasoline hybrid cars became popular in the early years of the 21st century, popularized by such companies as Toyota and Honda. These cars achieve remarkable fuel efficiency by recovering the energy usually lost when a car brakes. In a hybrid car, that energy is recovered as the car generates electricity during the braking process. Fuel efficiencies as high as 60 miles per gallon are possible in city driving. Hybrid cars have a fuel efficiency of about 42 miles per gallon on the highway, which is also not shabby.

One of the fun parts about the Pennsylvania Free project was that David Keeman would regularly meet interesting people who stopped by his place to pick up free energy. People who drive hybrid cars are an interesting breed. They tend to be more creative and more visionary than plain old gasoline car drivers. These are exactly the types of people David Keeman enjoyed having breakfast with each day.

Before setting up Pennsylvania Free, David needed to calculate how many cars he could send across Pennsylvania each day. Could his 5 windmills generate enough electricity for 25 cars per day? 50 cars per day? 200 cars per day?

The quantity of power that the windmills could generate would naturally depend on the quantity of wind that blew over the mountainous area where the windmills were located. Luckily, wind in that area of Pennsylvania is both reliable and strong. Chances are the 5 windmills could generate enough electricity for at least 50 cars per day. David didn't really want more than 50 cars per day stopping by his house. Would you want more than 50 cars per day stopping by your house to get free electricity to drive across Pennsylvania?

50 cars per day adds up to 18,250 cars per year -- which is not a small number, by any means.

To encourage energy conservation, the cars receiving the electric power from the windmills would need to follow a few simple guidelines. First, they would have to drive at no more than 50 miles per hour. Driving at 15 miles below the speed limit would reduce the wind resistance, thereby further increasing the efficiency of their vehicle.

Cars receiving the batteries would also receive an aerodynamic wind faring -- made out of fiberglass, it would be mounted to the front of the car to reduce wind resistance. The wind faring would be v-shaped with a small wheel supporting it's weight. After the cars reached eastern Pennsylvania, they would send the batteries and wind faring back to David's house to be re-used.

Excited by the plan for Pennsylvania Free, David called some of his friends to brainstorm the specifics of the plan. The first friend he called sounded amused at the plan. "You do realize that the weight of those batteries will reduce the efficiency of the cars you're trying to help?"

David listened carefully, because friends sometimes are more honest than strangers and the only way you can learn something is to listen carefully to what people are telling you.

Another friend commented that having 50 people stop by per day would grow to be a nuisance quite rapidly. David agreed with these observations and decided that his idea needed more research before it could be rolled out. Even as an experiment, he wanted to make sure that his plan had a good chance of being successful.

Pennsylvania Free

Chpt. 1: Prologue
David Keeman has an idea for a fun project to fill his time in retirement.

Chpt. 2: Hope
David explains about the project to his wife, Hope. She thinks it’s too fanciful.

Chpt. 3: Ranie
David recruits his daughter Ranie to do field research in exchange for a new laptop.

Chpt. 4: Technical Solutions
How to retrieve used batteries?
What motel near David’s house can participants stay in?
How to negotiate with neighbors about windmill noise?

Chpt. 5: Hope Negotiates
Hope points out to David that wind powered batteries would void warranties on hybrid cars. She works to convince the hybrid manufacturers to be more flexible.

Chpt. 6: Recruitment
David invites hybrid car owners to participate in PennFree. Swamped with responses, David chooses participants.

Chpt. 7: Ranie and the Motel Owners
Ranie investigates local motels as potential project partners, and discovers a hidden talent for interviewing and listening.

Chpt. 8: Overwhelmed
David becomes overwhelmed with the physical demands of the project. Hope convinces him to hire an assistant, someone who has become suddenly unemployed and needs a new vision.

Chpt. 9: Snowballing
The project expands to include more people and address other social situations.

Chpt. 10: Meeting the Participants
An Amish mother uses PennFree to get a Shoe Fly Pie to her daughter at Swarthmore College. A Pittsburgh resident wants to use PennFree for a weekly commute to Philadelphia. Carefree college students use PennFree as part of their summer adventure.

Chpt. 11: Contracts Fulfilled
Participants of PennFree share their stories and songs around the breakfast table.

Chpt. 12: Guacamole
(What does guacamole have to do with the story? We don’t know, but maybe you do.)

Chpt. 13: Hope Changes Her Mind
Hope talks to David about the participants they met, and decides to become more involved in the project.

Chpt. 14: Ranie Matures
After hearing a story of hope, Ranie donates the most cherished item in her life, her laptop, to a family in need.

Chpt. 15: Montana Free
The project spreads.

Pennsylvania Free is a public domain group writing project initiated by Phil Shapiro and the Benson Family of Bethesda, Maryland.

Other stories I've submitted to Digg can be found here.

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