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Comment: Re:Watch your kneecaps (Score 1) 468

by michael_cain (#48287023) Attached to: Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You
It's a state-level decision, so where do you live? Does your state have citizen-initiated ballot issues? If so, file the paperwork, print off petitions, gather like-minded friends (or more effective, hire staff) and collect signatures. I live in Colorado, which has probably the lowest hurdle in the country for getting citizen initiatives on the ballot. You wouldn't believe some of the proposals that I've been privileged to vote on over the years.

Comment: Re:West Virginia too (Score 1) 468

by michael_cain (#48286973) Attached to: Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You
The problem is that with the US system, you cannot vote blank.

There is no such thing as "the US system." Elections, including all of those for national office, are conducted by the individual states. Western states in particular are returning to paper in the form of mail-in ballots. Oregon and Washington are mail-in only; Colorado sends a mail-in ballot to every registered voter but still allows in-person voting at vote centers (last year, more than 80% of votes cast were cast by mail); Arizona and California have permanent no-excuse absentee ballot lists and both have more than 50% of votes cast being cast by mail.

Comment: Re:This (Score 1) 1007

...seems to only happen in the USA. Why ?

The US (and the colonial areas before it was a country) has experienced at least three religious "Great Awakenings," the first starting circa 1730. These are generally associated with various sorts of social upheaval and/or populist movements, and the rise of new denominations. There are almost as many theories about why they occur as there are sociologists and/or historians who study them. My own (strictly amateur) interpretation for what is happening now is the collapse of rural America and the struggle to hold that off.

Comment: Are liquid-nitrogen superconductors relevant? (Score 1) 350

by michael_cain (#48173117) Attached to: The Physics of Why Cold Fusion Isn't Real
As I recall, only some of the samples prepared by identical methods displayed superconductivity. Eventually fabrication became reliable, but it took considerable time. Granted, superconductivity is a whole lot easier to measure than excess heat on the scale that some LENR experiments claim to produce.

Comment: Re:Short Trip mileage (Score 1) 403

by michael_cain (#48091959) Attached to: Fuel Efficiency Numbers Overstate MPG More For Cars With Small Engines
Americans, by and large, buy cars geared to handle their most extreme trips -- the once-a-year 500-mile drive to Grandma's, the occasional day when you have to drive through a nasty snowstorm to get home from work, one trip a week for a few weeks to haul six little boys with football gear to practice, etc. This was an affordable luxury when gasoline was cheap. In the future, not so much.

Comment: What's the GRE experience been? (Score 1) 95

The Graduate Record Exams have been given on computers for a number of years. That's a serious blessing for the long essay portion of the test, especially for those of us who type faster than we can write longhand (and you can edit!). Do they have a problem with cheating? With students accessing the Internet?

Comment: Re:some renewable techs didn't pan out (Score 2) 198

by michael_cain (#47932409) Attached to: Wave Power Fails To Live Up To Promise
Can't speak to wherever in Australia they were planning, but Oregon is a tough market. Lots of hydro, growing wind segment, and not enough transmission capacity to make sure excess can be shuffled off to other markets. 2011 was a wet year, and oversupply was already somewhat of a problem. The economics for intermittent renewable sources -- wind, solar, wave -- get worse in a hurry if you can't sell all the power you could potentially generate.

Comment: Re:Credit System (Score 1) 444

...but when it is not producing energy from a renewable source it is consuming it from a non-renewable source.

The US doesn't have a single power grid, it has three power grids that are almost completely independent of one another. Asking the renewable vs non-renewable question on a scale larger than the interconnect is inappropriate. And to some extent, asking the question on a scale smaller than the entire interconnect is an accounting fiction. Each of the three interconnects has a very different generating profile. Nevada is part of the Western Interconnect. Generation in the Western Interconnect as a whole runs 40-45% from non-fossil sources over the course of a year. The biggest contributor to that is conventional hydro power, with nuclear second. By 2016 or so, wind will overtake nuclear; sooner than that if any of the six commercial reactors operating in the Western Interconnect have major problems.

There have been a large number of nuts-and-bolts studies for doing low-carbon power in the US. All draw basically the same conclusion. It's straightforward to do in the Western Interconnect because of the available resources and geography. For the rest of the US it's an enormously harder problem.

Comment: Re:COBOL and FORTRAN (Score 1) 387

by michael_cain (#47866559) Attached to: Unpopular Programming Languages That Are Still Lucrative
The reality is, in long-established businesses in highly regulated industries with systems which are literally decades old and not easily replaced...

Too often true in state governments as well. The executive branch struggles with COBOL on a mainframe because the price tag for the replacement system is $50M and the legislature won't pop for that. Often for political reasons -- different parties in control and we'll be damned if we'll cooperate with this Governor. Price tags for government software tend to be quite high because of the large number of obscure add-on requirements that have to be satisfied. For example, the system touches information that is classified by the law as "medical records" at some point -- HIPAA as applied to government agencies rears its ugly head. Incredible amounts of cruft have accumulated over the decades.

Thank goodness I wasn't ever in the position of having to write software under those conditions. But for three years as a legislative staffer I did get to sit in on post-mortem analyses for failed software projects.

Comment: Re:Where there is a wil.. (Score 2) 258

by michael_cain (#47796775) Attached to: Feds Want Nuclear Waste Train, But Don't Know Where It Would Go
When you go back and read the history of how many potential sites were originally proposed by the DoE, and how those sites were eliminated from consideration until only Yucca Mountain was left, it turns out that both sides are anti-nuclear-waste. When the list had been reduced to three by years of deal-making in Congress, it was cut to one in a naked political maneuver involving a Texas conservative and Washington liberal in leadership positions. Following the closed-door committee meeting where the deed was done, reporters asked the chairman what had happened. The quote he gave them was, "We screwed Nevada." The change was attached to a budget reconciliation bill so that it could not be debated in either the House or the Senate.

A bill to restart the work at Yucca Mountain, or other western location, for a disposal site for eastern nuclear waste -- the vast majority of the commercial power reactors in the US are east of the Great Plains -- is one of the few things that would get the western states' Congressional delegations to vote unanimously, regardless of party affiliation. The last time it happened was for the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

Comment: Contagious? (Score 1) 369

Has anyone else said it? Bubonic plague is not particularly contagious, unlike pneumonic plague, and tetracycline stops Y. pestis cold. Plague is endemic in the wild rodent population in the western US. People get it from time to time, but it's pretty big news if a case is fatal.

Comment: Legal... sort of (Score 3, Informative) 178

by michael_cain (#47674179) Attached to: Hemp Fibers Make Better Supercapacitors Than Graphene
"The hemp we use is perfectly legal to grow."

Yeah, if you're properly affiliated with a university or state department of agriculture, are doing it for research purposes, and have agreed to all of the terms and conditions that the feds and your local state require. If you or I try to do it commercially, it's a federal felony.

"No job too big; no fee too big!" -- Dr. Peter Venkman, "Ghost-busters"

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