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Comment: Re:If people would fight their tickets... (Score 1) 286

by TFloore (#47167031) Attached to: How Open Government Data Saved New Yorkers Thousands On Parking Tickets

I've gotten several speeding tickets in the last 20 years. Only contested one of them, just paid the rest. I *was* speeding, after all.

The one I went to court for? 53 in a 45 mph zone. When I looked down at my speedometer, after seeing the police cruiser, my speedometer read 50. I probably coasted a few mph slower between seeing the cop car, cursing quietly, and looking down, so that's fine.

But the cop wrote up the ticket for an intersection that doesn't exist, a block over and up where the two roads don't actually cross. I'm anal enough, I wanted the ticket corrected before I paid it. So I go in to court, and the officer can't find the certification for his speedometer calibration within the previous 6-month period, required by Florida law at the time for moving-mode radar guns - he was driving past me in the opposite direction. So I sat quietly, didn't say a word, and the judge dismissed the ticket before they ever talked to me.

And I got rewarded for being picky about details. :) Doesn't hapopen very often, but I take my victories where I can.

Comment: Re:sigh (Score 1) 627

by TFloore (#46938627) Attached to: US Climate Report Says Global Warming Impact Already Severe

And you "save" not tax with a 401(k), you just get to defer some. The Roth is the only one that lets you "avoid" tax.

You don't avoid taxes with either of them. Not exactly. You make a guess about your current tax rates versus your future tax rates, and act based on the guess.

For a traditional IRA, or a 401(k), you contribute pre-tax dollars (salary that doesn't count towards income tax). This is generally assumed to be contributed at a time in your life when you are in a higher income tax bracket, and you are contributing dollars that would be taxed at a higher rate, 28%, maybe, and instead will pay tax on it when you withdraw it. The assumption is that, in your retirement, your "income" is lower, therefore your tax rate is lower, maybe only 20%, so you avoid paying 8% income tax by paying the tax later rather than sooner.

A Roth IRA is for people in one of two situations. They have maxed out their traditional IRA contributions (IRS only allows about $15,000/year), and/or they don't have a job-associated 401(k) or 403(b). Basically, a 403(b) is a 401(k) but your employer is a charity. For the Roth IRA, you pay taxes on contributions now, and when you take the money out in retirement, it is tax free because taxes were already paid on contributions. If your tax rate now is lower than you think your tax rate will be in retirement, this is a good option for you.

It's all about minimizing taxes based on expectations of current and future marginal tax rates.

Comment: Re:Peak During the Day? (Score 1) 504

by TFloore (#46812739) Attached to: Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

My point is only that excess residential solar has little value, since it's generated when it's least needed. [Because if it was needed, houses wouldn't be generating extra.]

That's not usually how these kinds of rooftop solar systems are designed. Or, at least, its not the only way they can be designed.

The other way - that causes the grip operator the most trouble - is to spec the rooftop solar system so that it generates, over a year's time frame, the amount of kWh that the house uses. That makes you "net-0" for grid usage. That means that during the day, when you are getting power from the rooftop solar, you are almost *always* generating more than you use. And at night, when you are generating none, you get power from the grid. But over the course of a year, the power you draw from the grid and the power you supply to the grid approximately equal.

Your power bill should be zero, right? Well, not really. Because you're using the grid as a big redundant battery for overnight and cloudy days. And you should pay for that.

This is the situation that most clearly shows the need to separate the grid charges into "plant maintenance" and "electricity production". Plant maintenance covers the cost of the electrical lines, transformers, sub-stations, some reasonable percentage of the cost of the generating system (the coal plant or whatever), and labor for maintenance, plus reasonable overhead. Electricity production covers the cost of the fuel/coal/gas/whatever, the "rest" of the cost for the generating system, maintenance, and again reasonable overhead.

Honest grid operators (contradiction? I hope not) and honest rooftop solar advocates (err...) should both be pushing for this.

Sounds fair, huh? Right, it'll never work.

Comment: Re:The fossil fuel "subsidies" are a lie. (Score 1) 343

by TFloore (#46755521) Attached to: Climate Scientist: Climate Engineering Might Be the Answer To Warming

Fair enough; I will revise my statements in the future.

Hey, this is Slashdot. Changing your opinion based on facts you weren't previously aware of isn't allowed around here. Next thing you know, we'll be having rational discussions.

Kids these days. Geez.

Comment: Re:It followed a few of the plot lines, but ... (Score 1) 726

The crime rate has plummeted in recent decades, you know.

Not the only factor, I know, but...

There's a really interesting 10-15 year lag from the removal of leaded gas from American society, and the drop in the crime rate. It's almost like exposure to lead in early childhood causes developmental problems in the brain related to anger management and impulse control in adults. Maybe there's even some medical studies on the effects of lead in people...

Didn't the Romans have societal problems when they introduced lead-lined aqueducts?

Causation, correlation, and coincidence. Whatever, it's a fun little statistic (not to be confused with useful data).

Comment: Re:Cheap Hydrogen (Score 1) 55

by TFloore (#45017833) Attached to: Japanese Start-up Plans Hydrogen Fuel Cell For 2014

Yeah, this is basically how I interpretted it. Where the hydrogen comes from is outside scope of the sales pitch. I don't care about a portable battery replacement though.

I have a house with "common asphalt shingles" like most home owners in the US. When that house needs to be re-roofed, I'd like to get a set of solar panels, if I can convince myself at the time that it is cost-effective. That will probably be in 10-15 years, as the house was built in the mid-1990s. A large part of the cost of consumer rooftop solar panels is the installation, not the panels. Double the number of panels, installation cost doesn't change that much, use the extra energy to split water into hydrogen, store the hydrogen and use it at night to power the house when the sun doesn't shine. Keep the electric utility connection (and, reasonably, pay some kind of "connection fee" even if I don't use any electricity, probably even if I net provide power instead of consume it) and I have self-sufficient home electrical power for a one-time payment. I can probably tax deduct the interest if I pay for it with a home improvement loan, too.

Now, is it really economically feasible to do that? The rooftop solar panels and DC-AC converters, yeah, they tend to have an okay ROI now, less than 15 years for a system that should last 25-30 years.

Add in a water electrolysis system, hydrogen storage, and a hydrogen fuel cell? Okay, that's harder to make the numbers work out right. I'm still hopeful for 10 years from now, though.

It's hard to convince myself this won't become standard in the southern US in 20 years, if the engineering can get worked out.

Comment: Re:jerk (Score 5, Interesting) 1440

by TFloore (#44937429) Attached to: Georgia Cop Issues 800 Tickets To Drivers Texting At Red Lights

Come on now. If you see a traffic cop, he's not there to "protect and serve." They are the Badged Highwaymen, state-sanctioned assholes whose job it is to flip the lights on behind random people in the universal cop-sign for "stick em up and hand over your wallet, brownie."

Seriously? As an honest reply to this (okay, I admit, I just got trolled) traffic cops are there for several reasons.
A) Revenue collection. I'd be dishonest if I didn't admit that up front.

B) Keeping traffic close to speed limits. Yeah, the definition of "close" varies from cop to cop, and that makes it hard for a driver to drive with a lot of confidence of just how fast you can drive without getting a ticket. I hate that. I'd like an up front admission of "The speed limit is 70, but we won't ticket anyone doing under 82 unless they are otherwise driving unsafely". We'll never see that. Besides, "driving unsafely" is hard to define, but it's easy to give the guy changing lanes unsafely a speeding ticket, and it punishes unsafe behavior about as well (which means, not very) as a reckless driving ticket does, but it takes less to defend in court.

C) Being nearby when there is an accident. A nearby traffic cop is a first-responder for a traffic accident, and that job saves lives. They also do care-and-comfort during and after accidents. You look in any highway patrolman's trunk, and you'll find a teddy bear to be given to the little kid that survived a traffic accident (whose parent maybe didn't).

Most good traffic cops (and almost all Highway Patrol) regard speeding tickets as a way to get traffic to slow down so when there is an accident, there will be fewer deaths. In their job, it's always "when" and not "if" there is an accident. Energy is mass times velocity squared, remember.

Doing A lets the state pay for more cops to be around for C. Can't really tell you if I like that trade-off or not.

And yeah, none of this stops me from being pissed when I get a speeding ticket. Don't they have something better to do than bug me when I'm not hurting anyone?!?! ;)

Comment: Re:Funding isn't automatic now (Score 2, Informative) 522

by TFloore (#43047741) Attached to: How the U.S. Sequester Will Hurt Science and Tech

This is one of those "Lying with facts" things that needs more context to correctly understand.

The House of Representatives is currently controlled by a Republican majority, 232 (R) vs 200 (D). A simple majority is all that is required to pass any Bill in the House of Representatives, therefore, so long as the Republican caucus can keep its members in line, they can pass anything, no matter how much Democrats hate it, with no thought at all about compromise.

The Senate, on the other hand, has a Democrat majority of 53 Democrats, plus 2 independents that caucus with the Democrats. That's 55 Democrati-caucussed Senators. That's a "Democratic-controlled Senate", true. However.... Functionally, the Senate can't pass much of anything, especially a budget bill, without a 60-vote majority. Therefore, they require at least 5 Republican Senators to agree to a mutually-acceptable Bill. Quoting myself above... "so long as the Republican caucus can keep its members in line"...

For the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass a budget bill, the Republicans and Democrats have to find an acceptable compromise.
For the Republican-controlled House to pass a budget bill, the Republicans don't have to care about an acceptable compromise at all.

The House passes a Budget Bill. The Senate doesn't. Pretending those are equivalent situations is lying with facts.

The larger issue is that neither side seems willing to compromise much at all, so finding an acceptable compromise is much harder that you'd normally think it would be.

Comment: Re:Why? (Score 1) 453

by TFloore (#29931459) Attached to: Chinese To Supply 600 MW Wind Farm In Texas

There are several other people on this thread that are giving similar (unsupported, oops) comments about T. Boone Pickens and his interest in water rights.

Honestly, I mostly admire his business sense. He saw/sees a bunch of related problems, and found a great way to make buckets of money off of providing a solution to the problems.

The problems that he is providing a solution to, in no particular order:
A) Several large Texas cities are going to have to limit growth very soon if they don't get another reliable source of water.
B) Automobiles produce a lot of CO2 as "pollution" in burning gasoline.
C) Coal-fired electricity plants make a "lot" of CO2 pollution also. Society needs more electricity, but people claim to want "green" power. It is possible to build a clean coal plant, but, to my knowledge, it has not been done, and is estimated as being about the same cost to construct as a nuclear plant, but has continuing fuel costs that nuclear pants don't have.

Pickens has found a great solution to these problems, from his point of view.

1) He has a LOT of natural gas that he owns rights to in the US, and he wants to switch cars over to natural gas from the US, instead of oil imported from countries that, frankly, the US should not be sending large amounts of money to. With high oil prices ($140/barrel I think?), natural gas is competitive price-wise.
2) He can, with good financing, build wind turbine power systems that produce reasonable power, though it has the difficulty of all wind systems that it is "surgy". It is not a consistent supply, even averaged across 300,000 acres. He needs high voltage transmission lines to move this power around. My understanding is that Texas already recognizes the need for more high voltage power transmission lines anyway. Pickens wants the right of way for those lines for his companies, rather than someone else's.
3) If he gets right of way for utility services, he can build water pipes alongside those transmission lines to ship water from distant aquifers to those soon-to-be water-starved Texas cities. Strikes me as efficient use of the right of way land.

And he'll make a lot of money providing this solution. Is it a bad solution? Frankly, there are a lot worse ideas. But I have to wonder if Pickens views it as an all-or-nothing affair, or if he is willing to do just pieces of it. My impression so far is that he wants to do the whole thing, and thinks that it is a matter of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". He may even be right.

But from what I've seen, he only advertised the "clean wind energy" part of things heavily. He somewhat advertised the "cars burning natural gas" but I never could decide if he was advertising that as cleaner, or simply as not foreign dependent energy. I never really saw him advertising the water rights piece, but my impression was that it was very important to him and his plan.

How's that for a better explanation of an unsupported conspiracy theory? :)

Comment: Re:How is that sustainable? (Score 1) 453

by TFloore (#29927995) Attached to: Chinese To Supply 600 MW Wind Farm In Texas

To Pickens' credit, he tried hard for years to get financing for this project

The T. Boone Pickens Plan had one little-advertised caveat that most people never heard of, and which is what was really responsible for killing the deal.

Pickens wanted the government to impose a Right-Of-Way for his company to provide "utility services" to the major cities in Texas. Selling wind power was a oh-by-the-way to putting some great big huge wells and pumps on the Texas Aquifer, great big water pipes next to the electricity transmission lines, and selling water to the major cities. He would have made boatloads of money from that.

The utility right of way was not agreed to, so Pickens lost his chance to sell water, the thing he was really interested in, and the deal was dropped.

Now, the big cities still have water source problems, so Pickens will probably get what he wants, he'll just have to make a few more campaign contributions first.

Comment: Re:Micro (Score 1) 234

by TFloore (#29508291) Attached to: Micropayments For News — Holy Grail Or Delusion?

As technology improves and ads become more targeted, they will be increasingly effective and less annoying.

Nope. There's a major problem with this viewpoint.

Privacy is the opposite of targeted advertising. For targeted advertising to work, you cannot have any privacy.

Targeted advertising is more than just "You read articles about computers, so we'll show you computer advertisements".

It is "Your car needs an oil change, we'll show you ads about your local QuickLube". It is "Your kid got in a fight at school, we'll show you ads for self defense classes and team sports". It is "Your marriage is going to crap, we'll show you ads for divorce attorneys".

Are you really comfortable with that idea? Because that is what targeted advertising is really about.

Comment: Re:Sounds good... (Score 1) 451

by TFloore (#28211361) Attached to: Download Taxes As a Weapon Against File-Sharing

First, sales tax is owed by the seller, not the buyer.


When giving a state-specific answer, please also say the state your answer applies to.

For example, in Florida where I live, if you buy something by mailorder (including internet purchases of real physical items) and the vendor does not charge you sales tax, you are required by state law to file and pay proper sales tax at the end of the calendar year.

If you wish to change your answer to "But no one pays attention to the law that says the buyer must pay sales tax" then that is a completely different argument. That tends to decay into a discussion about laws that are selectively enforced, and only used to punish... whoever the prosecutor wants to punish.

Comment: Re:Ethanol is just stupid (Score 1) 894

by TFloore (#28093743) Attached to: The Great Ethanol Scam

You know, I agree that regulated capitalistic markets are the "best" way to run an economy, but I'm going to comment on what seems an internal contradiction here anyway.

New industries might start out competitive but once they get to a certain size, they start bending the rules in their own favor. Using unfair practices to freeze out competition, getting sweetheart legislation pushed through Congress, buying influence.

You free market preachers are just naive. The only free markets are also fair markets.

You seem to assume here that business grow until they can unbalance the system by exerting undue influence on the government, at which point you get a non-free market with government-enforced barriers to entry and monopolies or oligopolies.

The solution to this is to have the government properly regulated markets to promote fairness, remove artificial barriers to entry, and increase transparency to give small consumers and small businesses more power against large suppliers.

I agree with that.

Now, the problem I have with that, the way you say it, and the way I think about it, is this:
In the quote from you above, a major problem is that governments are easily bribed and influenced.
For our "fair market" preference, a basic requirement is that government NOT be easily bribed and influenced.

But it's the same government.

We appear to have some implementation difficulties that were not adequately covered in the design. :)

Comment: Re:Oh gosh. (Score 2) 823

by TFloore (#26918097) Attached to: Arctic Ice Extent Understated Because of "Sensor Drift"

There are good arguments for environmental policy that do not depend on the risk of global climate change, and the environmental movement is doing itself no good by linking policy and science together they way they have, so that people think "if there is no risk of global climate change then driving my SUV must be ok."

This tends to reflect my feelings on the matter too.

I want more fuel efficient vehicles. There are several reasons for this, and, frankly, global climate change doesn't make the top 10. Reducing my out-of-pocket driving expenses (gas) does. Reducing my country's (USA) exporting of wealth to nations that fund religious extremists does.

I want cleaner production methods, and better enforcement of environmental regulations. I like breathing air that doesn't make my lungs and eyes burn. I like camping and hiking, and not finding industrial sludge on the banks of rivers. I like scuba diving, and not seeing coral reefs covered in red algae from sewage waste disposal pipes (West Palm Beach, I'm looking at you.).

Simple, solid, personal-self-interest reasons to support better efficiency and good environmental stewardship. I don't need doom prophecies to support that. Clear rational open science.

I like work; it fascinates me; I can sit and look at it for hours.