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Comment: Re:Classic pricing problem (Score 1) 314

by kenwd0elq (#48615073) Attached to: 11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed To End California Drought

Weather is inherently unpredictable; Sacramento, CA (where I live) has already had more rainfall since December 1 than all of last year. El Nino events are even less predictable than "average" weather is. Meteorologists are only beginning to understand the underlying patterns of an El Nino. Is this going to be an El Nino year? I wouldn't place bets either way. The Japanese have a word, "modoki", which means "the same, only different". At least one prediction is for an "El Nino Modoki".

The NASA report today (based on data collected earlier in the year) says that California would need 11 TRILLION gallons of rain to make up for the drought. Entirely coincidentally, there was a bit (on the generally-unreliable TV news weather) yesterday that said that this year's rainstorms dropped 10 trillion gallons on the state so far this month. Not all in the right places, of course; parts of Napa County were getting an inch an hour, which is nearly Philippines style rain. The ski resorts in the mountains are rejoicing in a couple of FEET of new snow.

Comment: Re:Classic pricing problem (Score 2) 314

by kenwd0elq (#48614917) Attached to: 11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed To End California Drought

I'm all in favor of increasing water storage, but there are too many Greens in San Francisco who want to tear down what we already have. For example, there's a great place on the North Fork of the American River near Auburn, CA, and they were about a third of the way into preparing for a dam, when the eco-freaks decided that since California is earthquake country (true enough, but not near Auburn) that we shouldn't build any dams. Then they wanted to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and tear down the dam - despite the fact that most of San Francisco's water comes from Hetch Hetchy!

I guess they thought that unicorns would fly into SF with magical water spigots. Which wouldn't be the strangest thing that they believe....

Comment: Re:Classic pricing problem (Score 3, Insightful) 314

by kenwd0elq (#48614391) Attached to: 11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed To End California Drought

Certainly, flat-rate water has been a major factor in wastage of water in California. We only got water meters installed here in Sacramento about 4 years ago, which has resulted in a tripling of our water rates - and quadrupling of the pay to the bureaucrats who get sinecures on the various water boards.

But California is a boom-and-bust state when it comes to water. We have 3-5 year drought periods that alternate with floods, such as the floods of 1986 and 1997. If this actually turns into an El Nino year (the forecasts for this are mixed, but generally unreliable either way) this may be another flood year. Folsom Lake and Lake Shasta were at historic lows 3 weeks ago, and have been at least partially refilled since December 1. And it's raining right now, with more rain predicted to continue through Friday.

Comment: How Coincidental! (Score 1) 314

by kenwd0elq (#48614345) Attached to: 11 Trillion Gallons of Water Needed To End California Drought

How ENTIRELY coincidental is it that the weatherman here in Sacramento, CA reported yesterday that the storms since December 1 have dumped 10 trillion gallons of water on the Golden State!

Granted, only about 10% of that has fallen in catchment areas that feed into our many reservoirs and lakes, and rainfall doesn't percolate into the ground water for years - but this is a STUNNING example of the AlGore Effect.

I'm an agnostic Jew; I'm not certain that God exists. But I _AM_ certain that He has a great sense of humor, and delights in confounding pompous braggarts.

Comment: Well, yes, back THEN.... (Score 1) 307

by kenwd0elq (#48453957) Attached to: Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of All Galaxies

We're pretty sure that most large galaxies have a supermassive black hole in the center. We know that some very-VERY-far away astronomical objects are very active in radio and X-ray output; we call these "quasi-stellar radio objects" or "quasars".

Is it not at least remotely possible that these facts are related? My physics degree is 30 years old and I have only sort-of kept up with the news, but it seems at least possible that those gamma ray bursts and quasars are symptoms of the formation or expansion of those black holes. Nearby galaxies seem quiescent by comparison, so since our observations of the very distant objects are also views back in time, I think it likely that those gamma ray bursts are more like childish temper tantrums, and that our own Milky Way has grown up and matured and is now ready to create new life of its own.

It's entirely possible that life on Earth arose about as early as it could have, and that we may be among the "senior" intelligent lifeforms around. Or, perhaps we're entirely alone, which carries with it its own philosophical baggage. It's interesting to speculate, but it's foolish to make definitive statements when we are 99.9% ignorant of what's actually out there.

Comment: Re:RTG (Score 1) 523

by kenwd0elq (#48423833) Attached to: What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

An additional 5 pounds in mass at launch would have required many times that much in additional fuel. Ounces are important in spacecraft design, especially when you're planning on a 10-15 year timeline. The ESA probably made the best decisions that they could, and second-guessing is idle speculation.

Any of my "it's too bad that..." sentiments have to be balanced with the extraordinary achievement of launching the Rosetta probe, of getting it to the comet, of actually LANDING on the thing, and getting any pictures at all from it. And if it finally spins back into the sunlight, we may still get stuff from it. Especially since the harpoons apparently didn't function, and that it has an effective weight on the order of grams, and that comets do generally release gas and dust into space. Philae could easily be carried back into space with any puff of gas. It probably won't happen, but ..... Who knows?

Comment: RTG (Score 1) 523

by kenwd0elq (#48423451) Attached to: What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

One downside to RTG (Radio-isotope Thermal Generators) is that radioactive elements decay, and this causes the power output to fall off slowly but continuously. And the probe wasn't deployed for 11 years after launch; it's not something that we can activate on deployment. IF the thing had landed properly, in the sunlight, the solar power would have been fine. It's too bad that it couldn't have carried both, but that would have been a hefty weight penalty at launch.

Comment: Re: Split Comcast in two (Score 3, Informative) 135

by kenwd0elq (#48397125) Attached to: Can the US Actually Cultivate Local Competition in Broadband?

This is only practical where there are local or regional monopolies MANDATED by local governments. Cities, towns and counties have allowed, even encouraged, sweetheart deals between the regulators and the regulated. Eliminate cable and telephone monopoly powers, and allow other players into the market, and we might get internet service that's as good as South Korea's.

Comment: Wikipedia is Broken (Score 0) 140

by kenwd0elq (#48322883) Attached to: Meet the 36 People Who Run Wikipedia

Wikipedia is tolerable for old or static or uncontroversial information. For example, I'm sure that the data on the masses of the 50 nearest stars is reliable.

For anything political or controversial, the Wikipedia "stewards" are hard-left. I would NEVER trust them with anything important.

If I were a teacher, I would inform every student that Wikipedia can NEVER be cited as a reference, and that doing so would be an instant F on any paper.

Comment: Re: Marked Paper Ballots FTW (Score 4, Insightful) 388

by kenwd0elq (#48314857) Attached to: Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches

Yeah, I guess having electronic voting machines AND working printers is an invitation to failure, especially when a few dozen Sharpie pens is ... what, fifty bucks?

I realize this is heresy, but even though I've been working with PCs on a daily basis for THIRTY YEARS, not everything needs to be computerized.

Comment: Re: Marked Paper Ballots FTW (Score 5, Interesting) 388

by kenwd0elq (#48314603) Attached to: Another Election, Another Slew of Voting Machine Glitches

AND, paper ballots allow one to recover from gross errors. Electronic ballots do not.

The only kind of "electronic voting" that I would support would be one that allowed the voter to fill in his ballot on the computer terminal and then PRINT the ballot. The voter then reviews the PRINTED ballot, and then drops it into the ballot box. Immediate results, which is what the BigMediaMoguls want, to do breathless "breaking news" bulletins, AND a scanable paper ballot which would be the OFFICIAL ballot.

Comment: Re:On Abstaining (Score 1) 468

by kenwd0elq (#48286029) Attached to: Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You

True statement! When everything is data-mined after the election, one of the things that the election "consultants" (and there are no more vile people like "election consultants, whether of the Carville or Rove variety, they're still evil) analyze is the "no vote" ballots; how many total ballots were submitted, and how many had no vote for EITHER candidate.

Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.