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Comment AdWords, not search! (Score 2) 315

I can't believe all y'all're missing the point so spectacularly.

Yes, searching on Google is free. So what? Over-the-air TV is free. That doesn't mean a broadcaster can't have a monopoly.

Google's not a searching company any more than they're a Webmail company or a YouTube company or whatever.

They're an advertising company. Their customers are those who pay them to run ads, and the product they sell to their customers is the eyeballs of those who see the ads.

And they are very much a monopoly in that arena.

Sheesh. It's like everybody else who's posting on this thread needs to turn in their Geek cards. I thought y'all knew this already...?



Comment Re:Public Transit (Score 3, Interesting) 938

Feel free to check all my figures.

$30,000 is reported multiple places as the average new car purchase price, and ten years is the typical lifetime of a car. That's $3,000 / year.

The average car loan is 70 months -- call it 6 years. A six-year $30,000 loan at 6% will cost you almost $6,000 in interest; that's $600 / year over the life of the car ($1000 / year during the loan, nothing after it's paid off).

10,000 miles / year @ 30 mpg @ $3 / gallon = $1,000 / year.

Insurance varies, but it's about $1,000 / year.

We're at $5,600 already and I haven't added in maintenance, registration, emissions testing -- or, for that matter, the cost of real estate to park the thing.

If anything, my $6,000 / car / year figure is probably conservative.

Yes, it's possible to spend less -- much less. I drive a '68 VW Camper that's been paid for since before I was old enough to drive and only put a few thousand miles on it per year. I doubt I spend $1,000 / year. But if we're going to consider el cheapo anomalies like you and me, we also need to consider all those driving around in BMWs that they trade out every year -- and the carless are equally offset by those with Lamborghinis. And those who only buy used vehicles are offset by those who only buy new ones.



Comment Re:Public Transit (Score 1) 938

I don't dispute that public transit as it exists today sucks.

My problem is that people argue against public transit even in principle.

Imagine busses running down all arterial streets at a frequency enough to account for 70% - 80% of the current vehicular capacity -- it'd be a bus every minute or two. No need to worry about schedules or routes; just wait about as long as you currently do for a single traffic light and a bus will be along. When it stops going the direction you want, hop off and get on the bus that's going your way.

Add high-speed trains down the center of the freeways, as I already mentioned. And neighborhood circulators to get you from the middle of your subdivision to the arterials, and suddenly you've got a complete transportation system that works for 70% - 80% of personal travel (with grocery shopping, vacation, etc., making up the rest) and costs *far* less.

Would it be expensive? Well, compared to what?

Figure $30,000 for the average new car purchase price, double that for expenses (fuel, insurance, debt service, licensing, etc.) for the life of the car (ten years), double it again for the typical two-car family, and you're looking at $12,000 / year / family in transportation costs. Now, multiply that by a half-million families for a moderate-sized metropolis, and you're talking about $6 billion / year.

Getting rid of cars would be a bad idea, but with good public transit, a family would only need one car instead of two -- and that one car would get far fewer miles put on it and therefore cost far less.

So, imagine cutting the average personal transportation budget in half, spending the remainder on public transit, and personally pocketing the efficiency savings. We're left with $3 billion / city / year to spend on public transit.

Do you have any idea what kind of a public transportation system you could build for that kind of money? I don't think the whole Phoenix metropolitan area spends even a hundred million a year on public transit. Spending three thousand times as much on public transit would easily get you the fantasy system I described above -- and probably more than your fair share of flying unicorn ponies to boot.

Still think public transit is a bad idea in principle?



Comment Public Transit (Score 5, Insightful) 938

I'm amazed that people are still so passionate about driving themselves to work and so vehemently opposed to public transit. Don't all y'all realize that you could spend your commute time texting and Tweeting and talking and what-not with reckless abandon if you let a professional handle the driving for you?

On top of it, a transit system done right is faster, far cheaper, and much more efficient than one in which single-occupancy multi-passenger vehicles are the norm. Instead of sitting in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway for an hour, you could be in a train doing 100 mph down the median of that same freeway...if only such a train existed.

Don't get me worng. Cars are awesome, and a vital part of any modern transportation system. But the balance of the American transportation system is skewed so far in favor of cars that it's become the most expensive, slowest, most dangerous, most inconvenient, most inefficient transportation system you could design.



Comment Re:Nothing - or is that $15K? (Score 1) 216

If you pay taxes in the United States, then, at the very least, the Federal government will pay you 30% of the installed cost. There might be states that don't offer additional incentives on top of that, but I'm not aware of any. I'd also be quite surprised to find a utility that didn't offer any incentives. You might check to see if they have any regulatory requirements to produce a certain amount of their power from renewables; if so, offer to sell them the rights to claim your installation as part of their quota.

There's also nothing at all that says you have to offset 100% of your usage. The sweet spot in my neighborhood is a 5 kW system plus solar hot water; SRP's rebates are capped at that, though the Federal rebates aren't capped at all. Few people would get a 100% offset with a 5 kW system, but the financial return on investment would easily exceed 10% annually. As I've written, I had other reasons for going with a larger system, well worth for me the additional capial and reduced rate of return.

Lastly, it's worth noting that there's not that big a difference across the continental US as far as suitabily for solar goes -- it's all of a factor of two between the best, the Mojave desert, and the worst, the Olympic peninsula. That means that, assuming comparable local incentives, there really isn't anywhere in the US where your PV array will pay you less annually on your investment than the rate you probably pay your bank on your mortgage. And if 4% - 5% is good enough for banks to let you stay in your house, why shouldn't getting that much in your pocket be good enough for you to not have an electric bill?




Comment Re:Nothing! (Score 4, Informative) 216

Your deranged rantings are...not even worng. Even the utilities and the petrochemical corps don’t spread this bizarre flavor of FUD you’re spewing, so I have no idea where you’re getting it from.

You seem to be suffering from two basic misconceptions: first, that utilities are too stupid to know how to properly price their services so as to recover all expenses and remain profitable, and, second, that the grid lacks sufficient overnight baseload capacity.

The first I already explained above. SRP, my own local utility, charges $15 / month as a “basic connection fee.” They charge this of all customers, regular and PV alike. Their own literature consistently and repeatedly describes this fee as being for the costs to deliver energy, and that it inludes transmission costs, maintenance, admisitration, and the like.

Secondly, it’s commonly a problem for the utilities that their base generators output too much during off-peak hours. i don’t know what it’s like where you live, but here in the Southwest where all the personal solar installations are going up, the peak hours that the utilities sweat over are most emphatically not after sundown — they instead coincide perfectly with the peak output from solar arrays.

You know, there’s a reason SRP, the local utility, paid me several thousand dollars to put this array on my roof. Even as it is, it’s a fantastic deal — for them. In effect, at a time when they’d normally have to pay probably over 10 / kWh themselves to spool up a diesel generator, I not only am not using any electricity (and thus they don’t have to spool up the generator on my behalf), but I’m actually selling them back electricity at all of 3.5 / kWh that they can then turn around and sell to my neighbors for almost three times as much. And they get to claim my facility towards their own green production credits as well!

If ever there were a win-win-win scenario, this is it. I’m getting an effective 8%+ return on my financial investment, not only guaranteed, but guaranteed to only get better with inflation (and especially energy inflation). I also get the peace of mind of knowng that not only will I never have to pay another dime for electricity, I’ll never have to worry about the power getting shut off for nonpayment. The utility wins because of all the financial reasons I’ve already outlined and because they don’t have to spend future capital on generating capacity on my behalf. And society as a whole wins because I’m neither polluting the planet nor using up a finite and rapidly-dwindling precious resource.

Really, anybody who has any sense at all should be jumping on the solar bandwagon right now. The financial deal has never been better. Even if you can’t afford to finance the capital yourself, get a loan. Think of your bank as your power utility for the duration of the loan. Your loan payments will be significantly less than your current utility bills, and you’ll have free energy after it’s paid off. Depending on how you size your system and the particular local incentives involved, even with the extra cost of servicing the loan, you should still make anywhere from 4% - 7% on your investment, and I can’t imagine any financial advisor who would tell you to turn down an opportunity like that in this environment.



Comment Re:Nothing! (Score 4, Insightful) 216

If you had ever bothered to look at your electricity bill, you might have noticed more than just per-kWh usage fees. All SRP customers, for example, including net-metered solar, pay $15 / month in connection fees, along with at least a dollar or two in taxes.

You don't *really* think the utilities are dumb enough to give stuff away for free at a loss to themselves, do you?

At least here in Arizona, home solar is an amazing sweetheat deal for the utilities. They get extra on-peak summer capacity, the most expensive kind possible, not only without having to build more power plants or spin up the standby ones they already have, but they at worst only have to pay nuclear wholesale average prices for it.

It'll be a looooooooong time before enough customers have solar for any sorts of baseload imbalances start to be a problem for the utilities, and long before it *does* become a problem, they'll be in the business of storing their own excess PV daytime capacity for nighttime loads.

I appreciate your concern for the poor defenseless electric utilities, but they're doing just fine, thankyouverymuch.



Comment Re:Nothing! (Score 4, Interesting) 216

Oh, I knew up front that I was getting an oversized system. As I wrote, the excess capacity should be enough for me to run an electric vehicle for free, as well as provide for the system's slow decline to 80% of its current capacity in a couple decades as well as perhaps a bit of electrical extravagance now and again.

The money may be "wasted" in that sense, but it still, even if I never get an EV, works out to a 7% - 8% annual rate of return. You can't get anywhere near that kind of return on any other (safe) investment in this market, so I have no regrets whatsoever.

And SRP *does* pay for the excess...once per year, at the end of the April billing cycle, at a wholesale rate of about $0.035 / kWh. Not really enough to notice, but one might hope that, at some point in the future as solar takes off, the regulators will force them to pay retail. Not that I'll ever get rich off of it, but it could pay the rest of my utilities...or, if the plan works out, all of my (modest) transportation energy usage.



Comment Nothing! (Score 5, Interesting) 216

A few months ago the local utility finally commissioned my PV array. Since then, there hasn't been a day that I've used more than I've generated. They do net metering and carry over the excesses from month to month, so my electric consumption since then has been entirely negative -- nearly a megawatt-hour in total, in fact.

(I sized the array to meet my annual demands and added a solar hot water system on top of it. Some back-of-the-envelope math suggested the excess capacity of the SHW would pretty much equal the electricity required by an electric vehicle of some sort which I've yet to buy. In the mean time, it's nothing but surpluses.)




Submission + - Theologian attempts censorship after losing public ( 3

RockDoctor writes: Theologian John Haught publicly debated prominent evolutionary scientist and atheist Jerry Coyne at the University of Kentucky back in October. Before the debate, both parties agreed to the debate being video-taped. Coyne is of the opinion that he convincingly won the debate over Haught. But we'll never know, because Haught, with the assistance of staff at University of Kentucky who sponsored the debate, is banning publication of the video of the event. They are even refusing to release the half of the debate containing Coyne's comments and questions, which is his intellectual property. And that latter is theft, plain and simple, in addition to Haught's cowardice.

Comment Where's Jesus? (Score 4, Interesting) 585

It's worth noting that the Scrolls are the original pieces of paper, penned by Jews living in Jerusalem before, during, and after the time that Jesus is said to have done all those amazing things.

Yet you won't find even a hint of an oblique reference to anything that could possibly be mistraken for Jesus or the events of the Gospels.

Nor will you find anything in the collected works of Philo. Philo was the brother-in-law of King Herod Agrippa, who was king during Jesus's alleged ministry. Philo was the Jewish philosopher who first integrated the Hellenistic Logos into Judaism -- that would be the "Word" of John 1:1. He was a prolific author who mentioned a great many of his contemporaries. His last work was his first-hand account of his participation in an embassy to Rome to petition Caligula about the mistreatment of Jews at the hands of the Romans; this was in the mid 40s, well after the latest possible date for the Crucifixion.

Also silent are all other contemporaries, including Pliny the Elder (who was fascinated with all things supernatural) and the Roman Satirists (whose stock in trade was the humiliation Jesus was said to have heaped upon the Roman and Jewish authorities in Jerusalem).

Indeed, the oldest record of Jesus comes from the author of the Pauline epistles, writing decades after the "fact," and who made a point to record that all his experiences of Jesus were spiritual and that he never saw Jesus in the flesh. Those responsible for the Crucifixion were "the Princes of that age." And that's the closest record we have of Jesus.



Comment Go generic (Score 2) 282

Go to your favorite store that sells knapsacks for hikers and students. REI is great if you don't mind the price premium.

Bring all your gear.

Load all your gear into each and every pack they have, and put the pack on your back. Include the packs which you're sure wouldn't work.

You should be able to find something that comfortably fits everything and which doesn't scream, "Mug me! I'm carrying around thousands of dollars of easily-fencable equipment!" Instead, you're going after the "I'm a poor student lugging around waaay too many textbooks" look.

If you don't have cases for the individual items, you can get padded cloths with velcro to wrap them in; your local pro camera shop should have some. Winter socks also work great for lenses. The goal here is just something that'll keep stuff from scratching as it rubs against each other plus a very little bit of shock protection. No backpack will provide more than that, so there's no point in pretending. If that's what you really need, get a Pelican case and a custom foam insert -- and forget about carrying it on your back.



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