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Comment: Re:Travel time maxes out (Score 1) 314

by Al Dimond (#34735420) Attached to: Has the Industrialized World Reached Peak Travel?

I moved to Seattle pretty recently. I've lived in Chicago for longer. Chicago has many "crosstown" bus routes, going north-south along major streets like Ashland, Damen, Western, etc, and not through downtown. So you can get from, say, Pilsen to Wicker Park really easily. You can also get east-west in straightforward ways.

Seattle's situation is totally different, though. The hills and waterways have a major influence on how major roads are laid out. Even in a car most cross-town trips take you on 5 or 99, either near or through downtown. There's already a minor cross-town type route on 23rd/24th Ave. It's not super-long like the Chicago ones, but those aren't necessarily all that useful -- often it's faster to take the L and transfer downtown than ride the Western Ave bus for 10 miles (I used to do this every so often and timed it out at different times of day). I don't think you'll find a place where it's the norm to make long cross-town trips on mass transit without transfers.

Comment: This is sort of a lousy article posting. (Score 1) 276

by Al Dimond (#34384018) Attached to: Peter Sunde Wants To Create Alternative To ICANN

The link on the text "lost a domain" points to Mr. Sunde's Twitter feed, providing me with one sentence in his own words stating exactly what the summary did. That's pointless. The whole reason I'd click a link is to get more information about the situation described, preferably from a neutral source (or one that acknowledges its bias). Similarly, a link on the text "suspicious of ICANN for a long time" suggests a resource indicative of that long time, not one stupid tweet.

I actually sort of like Twitter, but you're using it wrong, /. blurb writers!

Comment: Re:The "enhanced" procedures are useless (Score 5, Insightful) 609

by Al Dimond (#34325890) Attached to: TSA Saw My Junk, Missed Razor Blades, Says Adam Savage

I have a feeling bombing a store on Black Friday wouldn't stop people from shopping. At the Wal-Mart in suburban New York where the doors were literally "busted" and people trampled to death (this was Black Friday 2008 IIRC) the shoppers just kept shopping. The police tried to clear the store for an investigation and were unable to do it. Not one of humanity's brighter moments.

Point being, if one of those crowds was bombed it probably wouldn't even stop people from shopping at that store. Enterprising family members of the dead would be out in the parking lot auctioning off their newly-unneeded vehicles. Black Friday is a scourge more evil, and more powerful, than terrorism.

Comment: Re:LINUX rounds numbers fine (Score 1) 764

by Al Dimond (#33177852) Attached to: Microsoft Losing Big To Apple On Campus

Modern Linux desktops have no problem with WPA. But instead of actually showing people the connection settings they need they tell them to log onto some unencrypted network and then run some binary blob, then tell them (incorrectly) they can't connect with OSes the blob doesn't run on. In this particular case you can't blame Linux. It offers a perfectly reasonable way to enter the parameters but the admins won't tell you the parameters.

Comment: Re:Taxing Nerves (Score 1) 589

by Al Dimond (#33106028) Attached to: Electric Car Subsidies As Handouts For the Rich

Let's see exactly how much gas that is. $12k buys you about 4,000 gallons of gas where I live today (Seattle). That's probably about 120,000 miles in a Civic (it's about what I get in my 2000 Focus). And that's about a vehicle-lifetime.

If the electric vehicle had no fuel-related costs then the two vehicles would have about equal total costs. Now clearly grid power does cost something (this varies place to place), and today's electrics may require more costly maintenance over their lives, and they have various disadvantages -- lots of space taken up by battery packs, limited range, long charging times. So currently in the US market gas cars are a better deal.

But, you know what, given the relative maturity of the technologies, I've got to give the electric vehicles some credit -- they're getting pretty close. Hybrids are already a straight-up good deal for some people. Just imagine if our economy didn't suck at dealing with externalities. We'd all (we being people in the market for new cars) be looking pretty seriously at electrics. And these are the first mass-market vehicles. So although electric cars can never be a total solution to any real problem, I think they're already more than just a statement, and I'm pretty impressed with that.

Comment: Re:Go Costner! Boo on BP! (Score 1) 289

by Al Dimond (#33066218) Attached to: IEEE Looks At Kevin Costner's Oil Cleanup Machines

I agree. We need to be better at preventing this sort of thing. But it has done us some good. BP's financial strength has meant that instead of going bankrupt and leaving the government with the whole cleanup bill it's actually covering some of the costs. It probably won't cover them all. But it will do better than a smaller company would have done.

Comment: Re:The leaf is not a hybrid (Score 2, Insightful) 384

by Al Dimond (#33065854) Attached to: Chevy Volt Not Green Enough For California

Obsolete? The engine can still pollute more on a cold start, and the Volt is likely to have to cold-start often. It's hard to determine what overall emissions of the Volt will be, and that's really what CARB is concerned with.

And, really, that's as it should be. The air is the public good they're concerned with. The societal costs of energy production ought to be baked directly into energy costs.

Comment: Re:Read the article comments (Score 1) 422

by Al Dimond (#33025336) Attached to: Frustration and Unhappiness In the Games Industry

Problem: in game design you get to ignore all sorts of real-world constraints you can't ignore in the design of an economy.

For example, yeah, it's incredibly hard to get a business started. If, in an RPG, to get a character past level 1, you had to out-compete all the established characters, a lot of people would fail in the early stages. It's hard to find a fair way around that in the real world. Things like economies of scale and interest weren't designed into the economy. They developed for good reasons and have helped us become more prosperous and use resources more efficiently.

It's true that there are some cheaters, people that use their powerful position to influence the admins and change the rules. And there are some rules that hurt small businesses beyond what's necessary. Employer-based health insurance, for example, benefits large employers over small ones to a stupid degree. But I think you could fix all the problems that can really be fixed, and even simplify some laws, and it would still be hard to start a business.

On the other hand, seriously handicapping large enterprises in some industries might have awesome consequences. I'm thinking agriculture and mining here, with the consequences being more local agriculture and more efficient use of the land that's currently wasted on exurban subdivisions.

Comment: Re:Go Costner! Boo on BP! (Score 4, Interesting) 289

by Al Dimond (#32947534) Attached to: IEEE Looks At Kevin Costner's Oil Cleanup Machines

Typically you guard against this by instituting a capitalization requirement, ensuring that companies involved in drilling have the money and/or the insurance necessary to pay likely claims in case of an accident. This is, in fact, practiced in the oil industry. As far as BP is concerned, it passes this test with flying colors. It has been and will be substantially hurt by the spill (its stock price has lost half its value and it's had to suspend dividend payments -- that's an indication of the magnitude, although I think the market has overreacted, I don't think BP's lost nearly half its value over this incident).

Comment: Re:Kindra Arnesen's speech (Score 1) 264

by Al Dimond (#32700846) Attached to: BP Robot Seriously Hampers Oil Spill Containment

I agree that seizing BP is the wrong approach. I do think that BP the corporation must be held financially responsible for the damage. That's the only way for the market to correctly price in the cost of disasters.

For what it's worth, BP is a massive company that makes a ludicrous amount of money every year. I've heard estimates that the total economic impact of the spill will be on the order of $100 billion. The spill *should* wind up costing BP more than this, because there are non-economic impacts that can't be recovered through the legal system that also need to be baked into the risk calculus. It won't, but that's another story. BP's market cap before the spill was $200 billion. But it will pay out claims, fines, and damages gradually, and it will continue to profit elsewhere in the meantime. The spill will seriously impact the company and its shareholders but it won't kill it. And that's fine.

Comment: Re:34% totally clean? (Score 1) 957

by Al Dimond (#32687280) Attached to: The worst I've ever been in trouble w/ the law ...

I got a ticket for that, too. I even tried to wait for the light, but my bike wasn't tripping the sensor, so I waited through several cycles of "cross traffic goes, then oncoming traffic has green and left arrow" before realizing I'd have to dart through during the oncoming left arrow after the turners had gone through. Cop riding a moped got me. That was in Santa Clara, CA.

I feel I'm likely to be ticketed for jaywalking here in Seattle. Apparently there's some kind of jaywalking crackdown. I'm a long-distance runner from Chicago -- I can't just not jaywalk. And, frankly, I cross streets illegally more safely than most Seattleites cross them legally.

Comment: Re:in other news, cementing the BP CEO has started (Score 2, Insightful) 611

by Al Dimond (#32365052) Attached to: Gulf Oil Leak Plugged?

It is almost impossible to have your hands "clean of oil". Food production and transportation uses lots of fossil fuels. Especially meat.

But it is possible, as a society, for us to decide we don't want offshore drilling. In fact, I suspect that if oil companies were made to pay fair damages to everyone affected by accidents, and pay real penalties to governments (Federal, a handful of states, and possibly countries like Mexico and Cuba) for ecological damages, they would not find offshore drilling worth the risk. Instead, just watch as lawsuits against BP don't come close to making the affected parties whole. The court system will protect BP as long as they've followed some basic safety regulations. As if the damage sustained by all these other parties was akin to an "act of god".

My point is that it's absurd to say that nobody can oppose offshore drilling if they participate in the economy in any way. You just have to be willing to live with consequences of stopping it (a somewhat reduced standard of living across the board due to higher prices on just about everything; less economic activity in the Gulf region; more oil importing and less oil exporting; but also less pollution everywhere; more economic incentive for energy efficiency; less sprawl).

Comment: Re:Just so you all know. (Score 1) 359

by Al Dimond (#32314446) Attached to: Oil Arrives In Louisiana; Defense Booms Inadequate

That sort of holds them responsible. It doesn't do anything to raise money to pay for the disaster. It leaves the owners of BP holding a lot of equipment and buildings they can't use, so they'll sell the company to a liquidation type company that will sell all that stuff to other oil companies.

As far as I can tell BP didn't do anything illegal or unusual in setting up their offshore well, and offshore drilling was and is legal. So legislating a corporate death penalty would be a pretty arbitrary form of punishment. Now that the disaster has occurred the only thing left to do to BP is make sure that litigation against them has a fair chance of success. That includes litigation from affected large businesses, from classes of affected people and small businesses, from the Federal EPA, state EPAs, and probably from Mexican and Cuban concerns as well. If BP can survive fair payouts to all these parties it lives -- if not, it goes the way of SCO.

If BP can't survive fair payouts to all affected parties then it was not sufficiently capitalized and/or insured to undertake offshore drilling. So we'd do well to increase the requirements for capitalization and insurance for offshore drilling to a level ensuring they could probably make fair payouts.

This sounds like common sense. Parties harmed by another party's actions should be compensated, and capitalization/insurance requirements should be sufficient to ensure that this is possible. That's the basic theory behind corporations and limited liability (shareholders are protected personally against litigation and in exchange the corporation must be sufficiently capitalized or insured to handle litigation it might reasonably expect to face). But actually following that would be a radical change from what our government does. How can we know this? Because lately we've seen so many businesses having to be bailed out by the government because they weren't sufficiently capitalized to handle the risk. Even the US automakers, under their bankruptcy settlements, got to essentially write off billions in liability, and they didn't even cause a catastrophic disaster (other than the rise of the American car culture, that is). *Unwilling* creditors were left behind so the *willing* creditors on Wall Street could be paid. To be sure, doing the basic and obvious right thing would send shockwaves through the market. How did we get here?

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