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Comment: Fixed deadlines (Score 1) 494

by evought (#45519739) Attached to: and the Gulf Between Planning and Reality

However the problem was there was a Legal Act of Congress saying this is when the website will need to be up and running.

Sure, but there was no law against delivering incremental features early in order to gain experience and have a fallback in case of partial failure. As the article points out, they had (and are having) an incremental roll-out anyway, it's just a lousy incremental roll-out.

Comment: Less risk and more profit from the micro-producers (Score 1) 5

by evought (#43650413) Attached to: Energy Industry Under Attack from Green Terrorists

What happens if a whole bunch of customers start generating their own power and using the grid merely as backup?

EDF published figures years ago that the risk/reward for utilities building new plants to meet demand is not good. If micro-installation alternative energy takes off, then the grid will still be needed for backup power, for new construction, and a lot of other things; it may be less fragile and its profit margins may end up actually being higher with fewer risky capital-intensive investments. So, no, I don't think that is a legitimate worry.

The other side of the coin is that the utilities can hedge that risk by diversifying into sale/installation of push-button PV/micro-wind systems and make money either way.

My uncle recently put in a grid-tie PV system in a rural area. Post-Sandy the grid went down. His utility contract had required him to put in a battery-less system that sent everything to the grid and bought power back (the PV power, being subsidized, went for a slightly higher rate, so it made a small profit besides the excess power). So, now he is sitting there with enough PV to supply his house and no power. He probably could have violated his contract and bridged the circuits, but... it convinced him that the small profit from the grid tie was simply not worth the contract hassle. Easier to put in batteries and cancel his account. Not going grid-tie also means you can get away with a lot less expense in inverters (most utility contracts need 2-phase true-sine to sell to them; you can often get away with single phase and only one true-sine circuit if you aren't tying to the grid). The Xantrex Trace whole-house inverter we are using costs a third of what the local utility would have required and even after adding the true-sine circuit for sensitive electronics, we still save enough that the small profit from grid-tie is just not that exciting.

Comment: Re:Government Operated Plants (Score 1) 259

by evought (#37943136) Attached to: Blow-By-Blow Account of the Fukushima Accident

Typical misconception. Chernobyl was the result of rogue operations. There were many government mandates broken leading to the accident.

In addition to the AC's response, "government mandates" were "broken" because they were mutually contradictory and the Soviets had engendered a system where, because failure was not tolerated and everything was centrally planned, lying was the only way to survive. Because Company A was mandated to complete and ship 10 widgets in a month (whether or not this was physically possible), they had to file paperwork that they were completed on time and shipped to Company B. Company B could not necessarily challenge this--- even though they received only six--- because someday they would need Company A to lie for them. This kind of problem was endemic throughout Soviet Block countries; a unit which had 100 tanks might only have 40 functioning, having to cannibalize one to keep another running. The system collapsed under its own weight.

The thing is, the culture of lies is no different than what naturally develops inside any large bureaucracy, government or private. Bureaucracy is pretty much defined by a system of mutually contradictory rules which must be navigated through exchange of favors (that is, "lies"). There is therefore a point where a level of regulation is helpful in any endeavor, and a point where any gain is rapidly overtaken by the fact that the central planners operate in an absolute fantasy world defined by the lies being told to sustain its daily function. I have seen this in the operation of the Soviet system, in our own military planning, elsewhere in our government, and in big businesses ruled by compliance with ISO-9000, TAFIM, SEI-CMM and other standards. Achieving balance is key, and it is almost never accomplished by simply handing something to the government to control.

Now, that being said, it may be that in certain endeavors, balance is impossible to achieve from where we now stand: deep-water oil extraction and nuclear power perhaps among them. It may not be possible for these industries to be regulated to the point where they do not pose a danger of regional or global disaster. Where this is the case, we need to make a decision as a society as to whether to allow them and take substantial risk or disallow them and suffer the consequences of stifled innovation (or perhaps limiting development to small-scale, isolated experiments which it may be possible to regulate adequately and the potential consequences of which are greatly reduced). But thinking that we just need to tweak the rules a bit or change the letterhead of the organization controlling them is foolish. Government will simply contract the work back out the the same private companies which are screwing things up now and probably with even more cost to taxpayers.

Comment: Re:You mean like 700Mhz? (Score 4, Interesting) 147

by evought (#37393820) Attached to: Jobs Bill Funds Safety Network With Spectrum Sale

Public safety is a transparent excuse.

True. The muti-state "public safety network" here is 6m; Storm-chasers and fire watch is 2m. That's what ARES is for. It's simple, reliable technology and there are good volunteers to run it. Our local Sheriff recently remarked that the feds are trying to shove narrow band digital radios down the counties' throats. The proffered radios are expensive, overwhelmingly benefit one corp, and perform poorly in this terrain (the digital radios tend to be all or nothing; in much of rural MO, you can get a poor but comprehensible analog signal further, at least with current equipment). Switching will either hurt strained county budgets or the strained federal deficit (if subsidized) and will mean other services don't happen.

Comment: Wood as green (Score 1) 694

by evought (#37287616) Attached to: Solar Company Folds After $0.5B In Subsidies

The whole population can't scrap the entire housing infrastructure and rebuild their entire lives out of totally new-design housing. Tighter insulation means less air circulation. That means an unhealthy habitat.

It means tighter control over the airflow of that habitat. There is nothing preventing someone from opening a window selectively. That's most of how we cool during the summer: close the house up during the day to keep it from heating up and open it up at night to cool it down. Wallah! Airflow and energy savings.

You're burning wood and calling it a green energy source? Really????

Yup. You know it even looks green? (While on the tree anyway.) We get wood from our own wood lot which replenishes itself every year pulling the CO2 we emit right back out of the air. We burn dead-fall and cullings from managing the wood lot. Our stove is most efficient with small bits of wood, so we burn mostly sticks and twigs. Given that, we very seldom have to use the chainsaw and expend fossil fuel. We have probably between 1/3 and 1/2 of our season's wood put up right now and have not used the chainsaw once. The only time we even fired it up this year is when we went to help with Joplin's disaster relief.

You know what would happen if we did not burn it? It would sit on the ground and rot or build up until there was a wildfire and the same gases would get released anyway. We use the heat of the wood stove to cook in the cold months and reuse the ash first to leech for potash for soap making (and leavening) and then as soil amendment in the garden. We're in the middle of building a wood-fired mass oven in the backyard to do a lot of baking efficiently, with renewable energy, and outside the house in the warm months so the heat does not contribute to cooling costs. So, yes, wood is a "a green energy source". Perhaps not for everyone or the way everyone does it, but it just goes to show that people have options for doing things effectively if they don't get caught up in irrational dogma about what's "green" or "not green". Green energy is in the process and the life-cycle, not the choice of technology.

Comment: Re:Stop (Score 2) 694

by evought (#37282590) Attached to: Solar Company Folds After $0.5B In Subsidies

A typical home uses about 30 KWH/Day.

That is the first problem. Ours is 2-3 kwh for the whole farm. The folks down the road from us whom we are helping set up an alternative energy system is about 9 for the whole (larger) farm. You did a sensible thing and moved into a better insulated home to reduce your needs rather than trying to replace your needs with PV. Most people are not sensible. Reducing first opens up a lot of options to provide that power with a much more modest system, in our case, an 850 watt wind turbine and a few hundred watts in panels (and some wood and some passive techs by time we are done, propane for a last-ditch backup for some systems) at an overall favorable cost per watt and a bit more reliability than our grid out here. We have a ways to go before our system is finished, but the wiring sucked in this place and would have had to go anyway.

Of course, there is also the problem that most people are stuck on the idea that solar==PV. Our whole business is effectively solar since we grow plants which sheep go around and eat. Wind is solar energy but is, for well-sited small installations, considerably cheaper. Passive solar is low-tech, cheap, and effective. Wood is carbon-neutral solar power, and cheaper than PV (if you have it readily available and do it right). There are a lot of options for being a better care-taker of the land than running your big entertainment system off of an acre of solar panels.

Comment: Loss of Evergreen (Score 1) 694

by evought (#37282428) Attached to: Solar Company Folds After $0.5B In Subsidies

I consider Evergreen to be a great loss. As my wife just reminded me, they came up with innovative ways to cut silicon wafers with less energy and waste. They also developed a strategy for producing solar panels using renewables in their own process. They seemed to be energetic, innovative, and relatively responsible. But your point is taken: instead of subsidizing failing businesses, we need to change the politico-economic climate which is causing them to fail, most of which is self-inflicted.

Comment: Internalizing the Costs (Score 1) 694

by evought (#37282382) Attached to: Solar Company Folds After $0.5B In Subsidies

NONE of the costs of which are factored into the price of coal? That's A-OK?...One way is to subsidize green tech.

In theory, internalizing the costs is a good idea. In practice, it is very hard to do correctly and government is no better at it than the multinationals. Just because a venture has "solar" in the prospectus does not mean that the idea is feasible, will ever be economical, or even is particularly "green". Subsidizing one alternative technology does not just run the risk of wasting taxpayer money (which is the bread and butter of Congress anyway), but of foreclosing better alternatives, such as squiggly light bulbs with mercury versus domestic LEDs or improvements on incandescents or ... something we haven't thought of yet. Similarly, taxing coal might drive people to use more solar, or it might drive them to use something even worse which doesn't happen to be taxed. IPP laws in the US seem to have driven the market for natural gas turbines rather than the renewable energies the law was intended to promote.

So, any effort at internalizing external costs has to be approached very carefully, and for the most part, they are not. Instead we make bad decisions for political gain and thereby encourage more bad decisions for economic gain.

Comment: Re:No more tossing sheep..... (Score 5, Funny) 97

by evought (#37238166) Attached to: 'Superpoke' To Be No More, Thanks To Google

What the heck is this sheep-tossing thing anyway? We raise sheep, and if there is an alternative market for our product...

For that matter, we raise Shetlands, which are fairly small sheep: easier to throw and potentially concealable (need a big coat). Also, they have fine wool, so they might not chafe as much when concealed...

Comment: Re:Science vs Religion: Contradictions? (Score 1) 1014

by evought (#37181146) Attached to: Evangelical Scientists Debate Creation Story

You won't find any professor in the biology, physics, chemistry - or even religion - departments who would claim that the earth was actually created in six days.

If you assume for the sake of argument that Genesis was written by a divine being, then it should be obvious that He is describing a process beyond our understanding then and slightly less beyond our understanding now. Further, He would be describing what *He thinks* is important about the process rather than what we can plainly see from the inside. Many people have tried mutating the literal account to make it work, including the whole 1 day as a 1,000 years thing, but it does not work. It is quite possible, however, for it to both be literal and easily reconciled with science: it's just a production sketch.

If I write a program, the time it took me to write the program has no relation to its run time. If I shoot a film, the time it took me to film has no relation to the run time of the film. I can also write parts of the software or shoot sequences of the film in whatever order is convenient, regardless of how it actually plays out. I can do the dialogue on the first day, the action sequence on the second day, then go back and film the opening sequence. When I do the opening sequence, which covers the billions of years before the beginning of the story of interest, it fills about twenty seconds of reel time. Similarly, when stars spring into existence in the creation account, so does light already millions of years in transit and all of the laws which guide their motion. That's more or less how I tend to look at it.

We tend to create the divine in our own image, forgetting that we are linear and He likely is not. YHWH presumably created what we experience as time itself and lines of history, perhaps even multiple lines of history, all at once and that is not easy for us to envision. So, given the assumption that the account is divine, then it becomes a matter of why the divine gave us that account and what He thought we should take away from it. Certainly not the age of the universe or the behavior of galaxies--- as that is something we can see for ourselves. Rather that He spoke the world into existence, the categories of things he felt were important to the [our] story, and that we were given a specific task in that story: tend My garden, be steward over and name the beasts, the origin and importance of the sabbath (both the weekly cycle for people and the seven-year cycle for fallowing land). We're absentee landlords and beholden to our boss when we do it badly. He gave us some instructions for how to go about the task. At some point (from our linear point of view) He is going to check on our performance and we know that the owner's son is willing to intervene on our behalf to reduce the punishment due for much of our idiocy. That's really what scripture is about. The rest is gravy.

I therefore don't tend to bother too much about the exact age of the earth or other details. It's interesting to speculate about, the science can be fascinating, but it is not directly relevant to my task--- one way or the other--- so it just isn't that critically important. We can never prove history one way or another since, for non-divine beings, history is not an experimental science.

If you don't buy the assumption--- that Bereshet/Genesis is of divine origin--- then I can't help you on that much. That's a very different argument.

Comment: Re:"Lost irrevocably"? Yes. (Score 1) 469

by evought (#37162992) Attached to: Former Wikileaks Spokesman Destroyed Documents

Surely those "unknown informants" still have copies of the documents.

Many times it is dangerous for an informant to keep copies of leaked documents because if they are caught with them, or caught with them somewhere they were not supposed to be, they would be compromised. Manning, for instance, carried a CD-RW into secure facilities with music and wrote files to them during the work day. He was then able to access a non-sequestered network on his off-time and send the documents. Good spy-craft would require getting rid of such data and removing all traces of it as quickly as possible. If someone had discovered him in possession of these files outside the SIF (or on improperly-labelled/controlled media inside the facility) that would have been enough for him to get in serious trouble even if the transfer were accidental.

Comment: Re:Did they pay it back? (Score 1) 499

by evought (#36842078) Attached to: Fed Audit's Initial Report Reveals Trillions in Secret Loans

OK, so they loaned out a truly epic amount of money.

Not just an "epic" amount but a destabilizing amount. Privileged insiders having access to gobs of money--- even as a loan--- can allow one to destroy competitors, manipulate markets, and control commodities. It's not really about the money; it's about power and corruption.

One good reason why computers can do more work than people is that they never have to stop and answer the phone.