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Comment: Re:When will their price be on par with ICE cars? (Score 1) 107

I drive a lot of small, economy cars through travel, probably in the range of a dozen or so per year. Not one of them had anything near the fun of driving the Volt, except for the one time I landed in a Mini Cooper.

Keep in mind that most of those small, economy cars don't cost anywhere near $35,000. With some upgrades that move them closer to that price point, they become more fun to drive, but I don't think even those launch like the Volt did.

Comment: Re:When will their price be on par with ICE cars? (Score 1) 107

Land prices are lower, delivery costs are lower, and taxes are lower. The first is the reason prices are lower in Barstow than LA and the second why prices are lower in LA than in Baker. It's always been a bad idea to fuel up along I-15 at anyplace other than major endpoints, and maybe Barstow/Victorville.

Comment: Re:When will their price be on par with ICE cars? (Score 1) 107

The Volt and that small, economy, ICE vehicle aren't quite the same markets. Having test-driven a Volt, it was a hell of a lot more fun than those smaller cars, with significantly better acceleration and handling. We would have bought it, had my wife (who would have been the primary driver) not had a problem with driver-side visibility, as a cross-bar in the rear driver-side window was right at her eye level when looking over her shoulder.

Comment: Re:Tolls? (Score 1) 825

by Martin Blank (#49739307) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

I'd like to see flat fuel taxes indexed to inflation. A ten-cent per gallon tax that might have been sufficient in 1990 is falling woefully short of that mark in 2015 (it should be about 18 cents per gallon now) and while it wouldn't necessarily obviate the need for per-mile taxes, they might not be seen as so important to consider, at least not yet.

Coincidentally, I read an article this morning about a lab at a Texas university where they can simulate years of road wear in a few weeks. They have an axle capable of replicating the weight of a tractor-trailer (and up to double it) that can do 100,000 passes a week, including variance of up to 18 inches each way to simulate vehicles traveling in different parts of the lane. They use it to test different road structures, and experiments are due to wrap up this summer with papers to follow. Clever contraption, but what caught my eye was the claim that a mere 5% increase in average duration for a road material translates to about $50 million in annual savings for the roadways maintained by the state of Texas. Given the massive shortfall in roadway funding in the state, it would be nice to see something that gets a 25% or greater increase. There are plenty of highways (let alone streets) that are nightmares to drive on in the winter after the ice.

Comment: Re:Tolls? (Score 1) 825

by Martin Blank (#49739159) Attached to: Oregon Testing Pay-Per-Mile Driving Fee To Replace Gas Tax

Depends on the location. Measure M is a half-cent sales tax which raises hundreds of millions of dollars per year in Orange County, CA. It has been extremely popular and has paid for roads and freeways (the 22 freeway widening a few years ago was either largely or completely paid for from Measure M revenues).

Comment: Re:Orion tower concept superior (Score 1) 54

by Martin Blank (#49629821) Attached to: SpaceX Launch Abort Test Successful

We'll find out later this year if it can clear an accelerating stage with the in-flight abort test.

Watching the stream this morning, I couldn't help but feel sorry for any crew who were in the capsule as it tumbled over after separation. That looks like a really uncomfortable ride, but better than exploding on the pad.

Comment: Re: Make me an offer (Score 4, Interesting) 227

by Martin Blank (#49598395) Attached to: Want 30 Job Offers a Month? It's Not As Great As You Think

I had one a couple of years ago for which I expressed interest as I wanted to move to the area anyway. The guy wanted all kinds of info that was already on my resume, but also wanted my SSN, and when I refused to give him that, he wanted the last four digits. I don't know if it was an attempt at identity theft or he was just stupid, but that ended things right there.

Another one went but better at the outset but insisted that the interview had to be done over a video link. I kind of figured, OK, fine, whatever, but when I asked about Skype, he said I had to go to some particular office that was about 40 miles away and use their setup. I couldn't download software and use my camera, because it absolutely had to be done at one of the offices they contracted with, and I was to wear a suit and tie. That really broke it--there was really no need to do that when so many other options for web conferencing were available.

A friend did recruiting for a while. He's transitioned to a technical role now because he can't compete with the resume mills. I don't know what it will take to get past them and get some decent recruiters back into the fray, but it can't come soon enough.

Comment: Re:What's the point ? (Score 4, Informative) 76

by Martin Blank (#49595447) Attached to: Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Launches Its First Rocket

The additional engines allow for engine-out orbital capability, as has already happened on CRS-1, allowing the primary payload to reach orbit (the secondary payload failed, however). The failures of the N1 (which actually had 30 engines, not 27) weren't so much due to the number of engines as to the general complexity of operating a launch vehicle of that size. Each of the four failures varied in cause, and in only one case was the issue tied to an engine. Other failures were a pogo-induced line break (which might have been survivable had the computer not cut the engines), an uncontrolled roll due to eddies in a fuel tank, and a hydraulic shock wave from a planned shutdown of six of the engines bursting the fuel lines.

Comment: Re:Sure would be nice (Score 2) 174

I correct the McDonalds case more often than I should have to. One of the things that I try to do is add context to discussions. Most recently, this has centered on attacks on Obama and Democrats in general, but I did the same thing when Bush was in office. I especially focus on Supreme Court decisions (and sometimes just oral arguments, which seem to be the recent topic with the same-sex marriage arguments just the other day) which sometimes seem to fly in the face of common sense but which, when read, show that they generally have come to a thoughtful decision, even if I disagree with it. (One exception is the eminent domain case from a few years back--that was just badly flawed from start to finish, as even most seasoned observers noted. If anything gets a constitutional amendment next, I expect it will be that one after a few particularly egregious examples. But I digress.)

Going somewhat non-partisan, those who attack a president for "taking a vacation" really don't understand what it means to be president. That's four years per term of never once having a day off. They have daily briefings, conduct necessary phone calls, make decisions small and large, and most of the other things they do on a daily basis from the White House. The only difference is that they're in an area that's largely off-limits to the press, and they get a few hours to do what they want to do at a leisurely pace, whether it's Obama golfing or Bush ranching or whatever.

Comment: Re:2kW isn't enough power for a home (Score 1) 514

by Martin Blank (#49594821) Attached to: Tesla Announces Home Battery System

It generally costs more over time, but that's not the same as being less affordable. Affordable is when something can fit into a budget, and leasing provides that option. You compare it to renting, but that only undermines your argument. Most people can afford to rent a home; fewer can afford to buy a home, and far fewer still can afford to do so in cash.

Especially if Tesla wants to make this a game-changer the world over, it will be necessary to have that as an option. A ten-year warranty (with optional ten-year extension) means whatever replacements will be necessary are already being factored into the cost.

Comment: Re:The announcement we expected (Score 2) 514

by Martin Blank (#49593075) Attached to: Tesla Announces Home Battery System

They have a different product for utilities that will have longer service life and be available in much larger blocks of 100kWh that can be tied together. They wouldn't be used to replace pumped-storage or the like, but to help smooth out power. One of the constant complaints of those against wind and solar (which can include the power companies themselves) is that the varying input from short-term fluctuations is too hard to handle. With banks of batteries like this, it alleviates much of that problem.

Comment: Re:Sure would be nice (Score 5, Insightful) 174

by Martin Blank (#49590455) Attached to: FBI Slammed On Capitol Hill For "Stupid" Ideas About Encryption

I despise people of any political persuasion making fun of any other side. I have Republican friends who have quoted the same line, and I call them on it whenever they do. I also have Democratic friends who refer to the other side by various names such as "Republitards" and I call them on it as well.

We cannot have any kind of discussion as long as we're hurling insults at each other. We can disagree--even vehemently--but the moment we start telling the other side that they suck is the point where we start closing off discussion based on basic human emotional response.

Maternity pay? Now every Tom, Dick and Harry will get pregnant. -- Malcolm Smith