Considered musings and random commentary.
Monday, January 28, 2008
rolling forward...
South Carolina is over, and the show rolls on. The pundits are alternately picking and panning the favorite whipping boys on the conservative side. Rudy is down (in the polls) and Fred's dropped a while ago. Mitt and Hucky are sniping. Ron can't get press to save his life -- wonder what that's about... isn't the media supposed to cover news? I guess he's not alive, but I would think that covering a zombie running for president would be a REALLY good story. Unless you didn't want anybody to know about the zombie.
Anyway, just a quick thought on the remaining suspect. McCain. What's not to like? He's running for president, he's a war veteran, hell, he's even a former POW!

Why does that bother me?
OK, let's take more inventory...

He's not quite good on the 1st Amendment

He's not quite good on the 2nd Amendment

He's not really good on ... well, the first two are good enough.

Let me see... why does that BOTHER me so? Something so ... unclean about the idea of him for president. Why? Would he really continue to limit our freedom of speech? Would he really try to weaken and strip us of our Right to Keep and Bear? Why would I be thinking about this?

Oh well, it will come to me if I don't pursue it.

So, what else can we discuss. Oh, seen any good movies? I have not seen the remake, but has anyone seen The Manchurian Candidate? The original, baby. It's about a bunch of guys who were prisoners of war and wound up coming back. Some of them were associated with politics in one way or another, and we find out later -- almost too late, that they had been brainwashed and were actually TOOLS of the bad guys. The evil bad guys were going to use them a sleeper agents and have them sabotage American politics so that ultimately the bad evil guys would take over. If they did a really good job, they would probably have gotten one of the brainwashed guys INTO politics. Wouldn't that have been a real kick if, instead of having one of the brainwashed soldiers assassinate a candidate so his WIFE could get in on a sympathy vote, they actually got one of the brainwashed guys into senate, or even into the PRESIDENCY.

Wow. That would have been a cliff hanger. An edge of the seat ride fearing that a man would become president who would ultimately be supremely detrimental to the United States and the freedoms that we enjoy.

But, it was only a movie, and not in any way am I implying that John McCain, former prisoner of war, returned to the states and gone into politics, could possibly be a sleeper agent, somehow unhinged, and a possible threat to the United States should be be elected through the complicity of the media to prevent voters from learning about about possibly sane, if mainly independent, candidates -- say, like Ron Paul.

Anyway, the next movie review I do will be a heart-worming tail about the wife of the first black president who winds up running against an unknown half-muslim, half-black socialist with Christian black-supremecist ties who is dating a world famous talk-show host. It promises to be the feel-good, slasher/monster mystery event of the year. Tune in!

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Monday, January 14, 2008
More on electic electrics
If you haven't seen "Who Killed the Electric Car", you should. It's a bit too squishey-liberal in spots, and heavy on "the eeevil guvernment", but in other spots, it's not... it has enough techy stuff to keep me reasonably interested past the "let's protest 'til The Man gives in!", "Takin' it to th' people" rhetoric. Parts of it are quite practical and really sane. Sorry about the junky parts tho'.

There's an interesting interview (ok, *I* thought it was interesting) w/ Mssr and Msss Ovshinsky -- the Dad of the solar cell. It feeds the flames a bit -- "I discovered a way to run a car off of salt water, and GM bought the ocean!", but it has it's points.

I really was intrigued about the visit to the car shredder to show how ecologically soundly old iron is handled... right up until I realized they they were shredding several hundred pounds of lead-acid batteries or nickel-cadmium / nickel-metal-hydrid batteries, and turning it all into a nice chemically dust (ok, chunks). Unless you have nano-bots who don't mind chemical analysis and long-term shorting jobs, that is NOT the way to recycle a repossessed electric car. Rubber, nylon, vinyl, lead, copper, silicon, and iron particle sand. Oh, and the hearts and dreams of the previous leasees.

So why DID several major manufacturers lease out and then cancel the leases on these interesting cars whose owners (leasers?) were well willing to buy-out, flat-out, without regard for liability, maintenance, warranty, or guarantee? It's like having a house that you can practically grow from a magic seed, run off the sun, expand or contract at will, and maybe sail around the world in..., and you can make them for... a magic seed. Do you make 'em and charge a fair price for them, or do you consider all of the industry buy-ins you have from lumber companies, carpenters (union carpenters, no doubt), electric companies, etc. -- all of which you have investments in? Do you put some out of these wonderful magic houses out of the market, where millions of people will see them and want to grow their own magic houses, or do you hold out, because you know you've cornered the market on wood, concrete, wire, and paint? If you put the magic houses on the market, you can make a pretty good profit, and lots of people will want them. Or do you remove the magic houses from the market, you can make a TON of money selling the old-style houses.

At least until the wood and paint and metal etc are all used up, where-upon you can market the magic houses and still get that TON of money.

Greed... corporate greed.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not against greed. Greed is what made America great. Or at least the profit motive and the free market. But when it comes to corporations, there is no free market (not at that macro of a level).

If Tom Smith comes up with a way to do a half-way passable magic house -- say a magic cottage -- you can always petition congress to pass safety laws stating that unless magic cottages comply with the 350 pound OSHA manual for Magic Cottages, they aren't safe and can't be built. At least until some major builder is ready. Remove the individual attempts at filling the market need by corporate and legal posturing. Hey, don't be surprised, it's been done before.

Remember "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" -- cute kids/adults cartoonish movie with a silly premise of car manufacturers buying up and dismantling the street car franchises. Ha ha! Funny! Except that there are records showing that it happened. Who'da thunk it? The only thing sadder was that I had the hots for Jessica Rabbit... who wasn't really bad, just drawn that way. Hubba hubba.

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Self-driving cars? No thanks...
On the 6th, GM announced that we could have "Self-driving cars" within 10 years -- If we're lucky.

OK, what's wrong with this picture? (Skip the old sci-fi plot of humans being fined for driving themselves instead of letting the safer computer drive it) Instead of getting a self-driving car, why don't they give us a good plug-in electric car?

I am not a conspiracy buff, but I will dip my toes in the water: How many industries suffer if GM (or any other major car manufacturer) turns out a worthy electric car?

Automakers? "No," you say, "they'll sell more cars." -- but they'll lose a bazillion bux in the plants, equipment, training, inventory, etc. that they already have invested. Of course, they would get the love and respect of every eco-minded (or cheap... that's where I come in) human in the US. Other manufacturers would hate them, and their product would quickly be eclipsed by cheap foreign products (which Americans would buy, cutting their own throats in the bargain).

Unions. How many $ would be lost during re-tooling, re-training? Do you think that the automobile manufacturers would pass up the opportunity to shrug off a bloated parasite? I know that the American consumer wouldn't hesitate to shrug off Detroit, so I'm sure that Detroit would gladly do the same to the current workforce.

Part manufacturers. Not that there are many AMERICAN manufacturers left -- or more precisely, Not that there are many American companies that sell auto parts -- even tho' they're selling cheap Chinese crap. Did I say cheap, I meant "bought for nothing (figuratively) and marked up disgracefully." I'm all for making a buck, but if your product costs you 3 cents to buy, and you sell it at $2.50, when does "high" become "obscene"? Damn, I sound like some liberal, union-puke.

Parts distributors.

Fuel manufacturers (Exxon, BP, etc.).

Fuel distributors (Sheetz, East Coast, 7/11, etc..)

Marketers (Stop in for that coffee, donut, hot dog, newspaper, etc.)

Why all those? The electric cars that the leading manufacturers test-marketed were just a little too dependable... Needing less of everything is bad for the (stock) market, eh?

That gallon of gas you bought for $2.92 would buy you 35 kWH of spark if you did a one-off comparison. If you live within 25 miles of work, your two gallons of gas per day would net 70 kWH...

Now, it's been a while since engineering school, so my numbers might be fuzzy... 11 Hp to push the old bucket at 55 mph, less any lights, a/c, 200 W of stereo mp3s, etc. (actually, figures show 65 mph for the 11 hp, and 55 mph for about 7 hp, but you get the picture). So, 11 hp is about 8.2 kW, or... if my calculations don't totally choke, about 67 cents for that hour's cruising.

Wait, that can't be right, can it? 25 miles to work, 25 mpg, 1 gallon of gas each way, or $5.84 a day in gas. At 55 mph, it takes 11 hp, so that's 8.2 kW. It takes 30 minutes each way, or 1 hr total drive time (ignoring traffic). That's 8.2 kWH at 8.2 cents per kWH for a total of 67 cents.

Granted, this is all just guess and golly, but even if I'm off by a factor of 2... which would you rather pay... $117 / month in gas or $27 / month in electricity?

Next, I'll play some games with charging rates (times) and long distance travel.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Happy New Year? Too much to catch up on...
There's just so much stuff that has gone on in the last year and a half, that I could take a year (and a half) to catch up and comment on it. Instead, I'm still being bombarded by little spittle droplets of idiocy from the real world. Just now, we had a couple of very nice commercials in a row, that encourage people to re-re-re-finance.

Dang it, when will either people learn or finance companies get some decency and encourage people NOT to continue to extend themselves? Are they hoping for an increase in forclosures? It makes a good sound bite.

I don't think that there is a huge wave as described in the media... there is an increase, and of course, anything can be spun -- but an increase in WHAT? "Forclosure rates the highest that they've been in 10 years!" -- OK, what COULD that mean? It could mean that forclosure rates dropped for 8 years and then sky-rocketed (that's not really a measurement, now is it?) for the last two... you have to know the numbers and the trends.

An interesting example is, DC (Washington DC, for the un-hip) experienced a 300 percent increase in 2006! That was 10 foreclosures in the first quarter up to 155 foreclosures in the 4th quarter. Those numbers include multiple stages of foreclosure including stages that might not result in final foreclosure: Pre-foreclosure, Notice of Default, Lis Pendens (what?); foreclosures, Notice of Trustee Sale and Notice of Foreclosure Sale; and REO properties.

Now, personally, I don't understand all of the accounting. If I miss a payment, I'll get a friendly call. If I miss a couple I'll get a really un-friendly call. If I miss enough, I'll get a Notice of Default, and a little token gets slid across a string in a billiard room somewhere. If I keep missing payments and don't make any effort to pull chestnuts out of the fire, I'll keep progressing through the different stages. Does that mean that a potential foreclosure could show up 4 or 5 times in one year? If I get the NOD and I beg, borrow, or steal some money to fix it, does the NoD get removed from the foreclosure counts? Who knows. Either way, would the press have any interest in checking it out and reporting it accurately, or would they go for the glorious disaster report? I would bet that it's the latter.

When the media reports that "the Dow PLUNGED today!" when there was a One Half of One Percent drop, how much confidence can you put in the media? It's not the media we have to have confidence in, but in the market and it's ability to move, advance, adjust, ease, recover, advance... But, the market responds as people react. I hear acquaintences note that "the market is down!" and they actually have that little exclaimation mark in their voice. It was up 300 points in the last 4 days, and it dropped 150 in one day. Net result? It's up 150 points.

So, now we have commercials encouraging people to take out larger loans to pay off what they shouldn't be buying on credit, commerials for credit cards encouraging people to do that daring thing, fly to France and propose, buy that diamond bracelet, and don't worry, but XYZ card is THERE for you!

NOW, we've got an advertised push in Virginia to "don't let the government take your "right" to a Pay-Day loan away!"

1) You don't have a "right" to a Pay-Day loan,

b) Pay-Day loans are userious (30%+), and

iii) Pay-Day loans are for people who are despirate, or foolish -- in either case, they shouldn't be borrowing money w/ out a guardian.

I was surprised (and disgusted) when Virginia elected to allow Pay-Day loans in the first place. But what can you expect when politicians are... politicians. The only time they do something that is "good for the people" is if it benefits a special interest group. Instead of allowing these financial vampires to charge a good 9% up front, I think that they should either severely limit the interest that the predators can charge, or give the state, churchs, public schools, etc., the same chance. Think of the amount of money that they could raise WHILE "helping" people? And, of course, the interest would then be tax-deductible -- consider it a donation or a pre-tax-payment.

I am not a fan of government involvement in individual matters -- but this goes beyond matters between individuals. The valid purpose of government is to prevent individuals from harming one-another, or to protect the individual from force. In this case, the force is from the lenders. Why can't the politicians get ANYTHING right?

Ultimately, the best thing *I* can do (at least for my general irritation level) is to turn the TV off.

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