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Comment Re: Don't hold your breath (Score 1) 201

I owned a '99 Accord V6 from 1999 to 2007 which was really bulletproof. I think EGR valve and the alternator went out, but both were replaced under some special extended warranty.

I expected the tranny to go out on that car, but I sold it to a guy who drove it for a year and then sold it to someone he knew who was still driving it as of a year or two ago, no tranny issues.

I also owned a 2003 CR-V for about two years -- no problems with that vehicle, but it got sold when we upgraded to a 2005 Pilot. The Pilot was equally reliable, but I think some part of the front end drive system got worked on -- it was my wife's car, so I don't remember the details. We sold it for decent money last summer when she bought an Acura MDX.

Honda actually settled a class action lawsuit regarding oil consumption --

I know a guy who owned two VWs with quart-a-month oil consumption, told by the dealer that was normal. How that's normal for anything that's not two cycle I'll never know.

Comment Re: Don't hold your breath (Score 1) 201

I think US car quality went into decline with emissions standards and ever-escalating UAW labor costs that forced them to cut engineering quality to maintain margins. There was also probably something of a monopoly mindset where foreign brands by and large were a lot less available and not desirable by American standards (small, slow, etc).

It's funny, but I've heard horror stories about Mercedes reliability and few positive things about Audi. BMW I hear mixed bag stories -- expensive to maintain, but not completely unreliable, either. My wife and I owned a VW Jetta 20 years ago that was junk.

We've had excellent luck with Honda, but my understanding is they've had their own problems -- "a quart of oil a month is normal" and Toyota has had its sludge problems.

Comment Re:Don't hold your breath (Score 2) 201

But hasn't BMW a long track record of relatively more advanced engineering in their cars which has more or less always accounted for some of their price premium? Do you think the relative-to-other-cars increases in sophisticated engineering has increased or stayed constant?

I also wonder if BMW pricing (especially for higher-end models like the 6 series) hasn't increased merely to defend its position as a status item? If their market demographic has seen an increase in income, BMW raises their price to both extract more of that income from its customers as well as maintain its status position and exclusivity.

Comment Re:Not on the list: time for getting new client (Score 2) 137

In my experience, flat-rate projects succeed or fail by the contract terms. The deliverables have to be fixed and the project completion has to be extremely well-defined so you can declare it complete when the deliverables are complete. Scheduling should also be part of the contract so that client delays can't sap momentum and drag the project out. All change orders should be time and materials at a rate significantly higher than the flat rate average to discourage scope creep.

I usually see the problem with flat rates as being lack of client acceptance (using troubleshooting or whatever as an excuse) and delays as the main problem and vague deliverables contributing to both.

Overall, you have to be hard negotiator AND willing to tell the client "the deliverables are completed as specified, I'm not working anymore". Few businesses are willing to do this and even fewer individuals, which is why T&M is always the safer play.

Comment Re:How much of "college" is really necessary? (Score 1) 223

The student housing is pretty astonishing anymore.

When I was in college (in the 80s), even the new dorms were spartan -- small, box rooms with a desk, a closet and a bed. I thought I scored huge when I snagged a room in a somewhat renovated dorm that had carpet and hotel-style HVAC units (which only let you control the airflow; the heat and A/C were steam-derived, so the system did heat until they switched the loop over to cooling, which always seemed to happen about two weeks too late).

At the University I attended, I'm pretty private dorms now outstrip the University dorms by at least 3:1 -- I don't even recognize the near-campus neighborhood anymore because of the vast student housing blocks. My guess is that Universities are taking an MBA-style view of their housing and figuring that they need $X/sq ft revenue from their dorm buildings to justify the land use and are trying to compete with the private dorms just off campus, which means they need the kinds of amenities the off campus units have.

I'm actually surprised the older dorms haven't been razed and replaced, since structurally they can't accommodate the en-suite bathrooms or private bedrooms of double rooms.

My sense is that as tuition has increased, student loan borrowing has increased, leading students to a sense of false affluence, causing them to increase their living standards. My guess is that the tuition increases are the main driver and if tuition had risen only at the rate of inflation there would be less student loan borrowing overall and less borrowing available for luxury accommodations.

Comment Hitting all the checklist items (Score 1, Insightful) 403

* Young -- because you can't trust anyone over 15
* Hip-hop savvy -- shows your street cred
* Long hair -- because personal grooming is political
* Unpronounceable name -- you have to be ethnic to be taken seriously
* Filed a lawsuit -- This shows you mean business and are willing to take the law into someone else's hands
* Coloradan -- Dude, you can hook people up, ya know.

I'm sure he's a total hero with his brave, hip-hop flavored anti-authority, not to mention probably getting more dewy-eyed hippie chicks than even a 15 year can handle.

Comment Re:You really want cheap? (Score 1) 197

Is there a central way to do this versus "the surplus depot" or FleaBay? The only way I've ever seen to get anything useful surplus is to know somebody inside. In my experience, the reasonable used hardware get re-purposed at least once internally before it gets turned loose as surplus, and when it does it's often so old as to be handicapped by old hardware standards which make performance fairly useless.

I bought a used Cisco 2960G two years ago for $200, which is still a low price even by recent Ebay standards, but I knew the guy and got the bare-minimum price the money people needed to make their books balance.

Comment Re:Translation: People are Getting Desperate (Score 1) 247

I went into consulting with the idea that I could go freelance once I had some exposure to it. The company I work for was small at the time, so it seemed ideal.

My impression (still) is that succeeding as a pure IT freelancer is difficult -- there's all the overhead work that's tough to get any compensation for, a fairly unfriendly tax system, healthcare costs and so on.

And then there's most clients who want IT support but don't want to rely on a single person and prefer a company. Some of the clients I worked with left one-man shops for this very reason.

I think it might be viable for some narrow types of IT work -- software development or certain types of infrastructure projects that demand one-time-only high skill sets.

My wife worked marketing freelance for about 5-6 years. She was really only able to build up a pretty small recurring business portfolio, the bulk of her income came from essentially infill and project work.

Comment How much of "college" is really necessary? (Score 2) 223

FWIW, I think people are better off with the eponymous well-rounded education, but I also think they're better off with 5 years of global travel, too, but that isn't the kind of hoop-jumping social standard (yet) that a 4 year college degree currently is.

So much of "going to college" isn't about the well-rounded part for probably 90% of the students -- it's about achieving some vocational credential that employers want before they will hire someone. In many cases, the vocational education really has no bearing on the actual vocation. A degree in marketing doesn't actually provide you with the specific education to do any specific marketing job.

And even where this is some kind of specific vocational skill being learned (engineering, medicine, etc), how much of even those educational experiences are spent on classroom instruction that's actually vocationally beneficial? Could we train civil engineers in 3 years instead of 4 by cutting out the crap? Could we train doctors in 6 years or even 5 if we cut out the nonsense? Is it REALLY vocationally beneficial for a doctor to have a semester or year of organic chemistry?

There's so much hand-wringing about the cost of college but almost never does anyone question the underlying assumption that the college experience as we know it is actually beneficial. Much of it seems to be a way of socializing the costs of corporate HR screening and training, much of which would be better for the corporations to do themselves, so they can focus on the specific attributes and skills they want.

And if you think about it, it doesn't even socialize those costs well -- the in-demand jobs demand higher salaries, so where there is demand for workers the corporation is paying some of the inflated educational costs themselves. It all seems to be a giant pork barrel for Universities, who manage to jack of tuition relentlessly without ever reforming a sclerotic educational system that doesn't really produce well-rounded graduates anyway.

Comment Re:Probably (Score 1) 203

Income inequality in the USA has increased since 1970 but is far below historically normal levels. The poorest in America are demonstrably better off today than their grandparents ever were. This is true based on housing, sanitation, health care, education, life expectancy, nutrition, entertainment, transportation, clothing, and safety from crime, natural disaster, or accident.

Kind of a mixed bag, isn't it? Historically worse income inequality suggests that whatever present gains we have made are likely to slide back to more historical norms. Given the likely trends in automation globally and trends toward outsourcing to low income nations (which may be an aggregate benefit for global growth, but in the short term tends to undermine gains in developed economies), income inequality is likely to get worse.

And there is some scholarship ( that suggests inequality is as bad as it's ever been -- it's estimated that even ancient Rome had a better GINI coefficient than modern day America.

I've heard economists make similar arguments about *qualitative* improvements that measurements of relative inequality don't represent. Much of material life even for poor people is better than it was 100 years ago -- housing, clothing, food, transportation, are all better made and more durable than they were. Foods that were expensive luxury items even when I was little in the 1970s are commonplace and inexpensive, and compared to 100 years ago it's like a dream -- fresh fruits and vegetables available year round, meat safe, cheap and abundant, including items exotic and unobtainable in many places, like fresh seafood.

Comment Is the news cycle the only explanation? (Score 1, Interesting) 203

Or are there other interpretations that explain why it *seems* bad?

Enduring and worsening (I don't know about the worsening part) income inequality, with automation and globalization likely to make income inequality even worse, and automation predicated by many to lead to widespread under/unemployment?

The environment getting much worse -- mass deforestation, global warming, declining fresh water supplies, much of it abetted by ever-spiraling population growth?

While it's true we don't actually worry about a US/Soviet nuclear exchange every day, the number of states with nuclear weapons has increased and the newer states that have them or are working on having them are less stable or have chaotic or messianic motivations.

The nature of some of our conflicts seems more intractable due to the lack of state actors involved and in some cases leaving states that are marginally viable or stateless altogether (Libya, parts of subsaharan Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria).

It seems too simple to just dismiss a sense of pessamism as human nature and media styles.

Comment Re:How do they measure the dosing? (Score 1) 443

Because a "tab" is a known quantity?

Back in the day you kept track of the picture on the blotter because experience suggested that it might take 3 hits of "globe" to get the job done but if it was "orange sunshine" you really only needed one. And that windowpane? You either got nothing or you lost track of the next 36 hours completely.

Fixed dilution makes sense if you know what you're starting with, but my experience was you didn't really until you had sampled the batch a few times to figure it out.

I read of guys into powdered drugs with good lab skills who test and refine everything they buy so they can get the dose right, but that's almost practical with stuff dosed in the 10-20 mg range. At the microgram range? You'd need a decent starting quantity and a mass spectrometer.

Comment Re: Isn't this why computers are great (Score 1) 246

Journalism, as originally implemented in this country, and listed in this definition "writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation" no longer exists. The opposite is taught in universities, reinforced through advertising revenues and page hit models, and is all but required by the manages and execs in our media outlets.

So, journalism did exist before there were online comments sections. It just doesn't anymore.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer