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Comment I might support unsubsidized nuclear power? (Score 1) 485

If solar and wind (and storage capacity) were subsidized at the rate nuclear is subsidized, nobody would be interested in building nuclear plants. Better to just remove all subsidies, including the incredible subsidy represented by freedom from liability. Why does a wind-farm operator have to carry liability insurance, while a nuclear plant does not? It makes no sense.

Comment Re:Nuclear power, NOW! (Score 1) 618

Sounds good - just build more nuclear plants and our problems are solved. But it's not so simple. First, nuclear is an option only because it has received orders of magnitude more subsidy over the years that wind and solar could ever use, and it's still heavily subsidized (and let's not forget that fossil fuels are also subsidized in various ways, in the U.S. and in most of the rest of the world). Second, nuclear has essentially the same problem as solar/wind if we want to think of relying on it exclusively - that's because nuclear plants respond far too slowly to follow demand, and so need either substantial storage or large quantities of coal/gas generation to fill out demand peaks. The storage option will require substantial additional investment, the fossil-fuel option is what we are trying to eliminate. But if we are going to invest in storage, the same investment will make solar and wind viable candidates for supplying all our (electrical) energy needs. Also, nuclear and renewables are essentially incompatible for the same reason - nuclear plants cannot be ramped up and down to fill in the "gaps" in solar/wind production. Keep in mind that it's not necessary to meet all our storage requirements with big battery banks. There is substantial storage capacity available all over the landscape, from electric water heaters to cold-storage facilities to large-building air-conditioning systems. Much of this capacity is already in place, because they allow their owners to buy electricity at low "off-peak" rates. Electric vehicle batteries could also play a big part.

Comment Re:Government should not pick winners and losers. (Score 1) 298

As others have pointed out, our government is already picking winners and losers, through a wide range of subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry, including allowing them to externalize much of their cost onto the rest of us. But more importantly, in a place like Las Vegas, solar electricity is worth much more than its wholesale value because of its impact on peak capacity. Much of the cost of delivering energy through the electric grid is the cost of the grid, not the cost of the energy. This is especially true in a place like Las Vegas where much of the power is hydroelectric. The grid and all its components must be sized to handle the highest anticipated demand, which in the southwest occurs on hot, sunny days. But that's very close to when solar output peaks (peak solar output depends on the orientation of the panels, peak demand typically occurs around mid-afternoon). Solar energy goes into the grid close to the point of consumption. From the standpoint of the grid, it effectively reduces overall peak demand. It's common for capacity cost to be higher than energy cost, depending on the regional mix of generating resources. So at a minimum, solar producers should be paid for the service they provide in reducing overall peak demand. That value can easily be double the wholesale price.

Comment Ursula LeGuin tackled this problem some time ago (Score 1) 365

Read "Always Coming Home" - it's exactly this scenario. Some of the high-tech knowledge and history survives, but mostly people are living in small groups with severe limits on energy and transport. The resource scarcity also limits the damage one group can commit against others. You can build an airplane, but you cannot build hundreds of them.

Comment Tried progressives, switched to bifocals (Score 1) 464

I used reading glasses for almost 10 years until I started to develop some astigmatism. So my optometrist also suggested progressives. They drove me crazy, and they were useless for screen work. So I have two pairs of bifocals. One is for general use, the other for screen work. The computer glasses focus at about arm's length in the upper portion, and keyboard distance in the lower portion.

Submission + - Global map of Ganymede published by USGS

Grampa John writes: A group of scientists has produced the first global geologic map of Ganymede, Jupiter’s seventh moon. The map, published by the U. S. Geological Survey, illustrates the varied geologic character of Ganymede’s surface, and is the first complete global geologic map of an icy, outer-planet moon. The geologic map of Ganymede is available for download online.

Comment Re:They can get someone younger for much less pay. (Score 1) 629

True, but one key is to differentiate yourself from the young-uns. I am over 65 and "officially" retired, but I can get as much business as I want. My philosophy is that if someone wants me to write code, my rate is not high enough. Instead, I offer myself as a mentor, or for technical due-diligence, or to help evaluate tech adoptions or architectural choices, or as an expert witness. I am still a productive programmer, but all my programming is now volunteer, open-source work, just for fun. When someone is paying me, I expect leverage. My personal productivity is much higher in mentoring and leadership roles. YMMV, of course.

Comment Re:Screening your calls (Score 5, Informative) 497

We had a similar problem a few years ago. Although it was not a debt-collection scam, some sort of bot was calling many times/day and all through the night. Really annoying. So we talked to our provider (the local cable company) and they set up an interception service that forces callers to affirm that the call is legitimate by hitting a couple of numbers before the call comes through to us. We have not had a robocall since then. We can whitelist numbers so they don't get challenged, but have not done much of that. We pay perhaps a dollar/month for the service.

Comment Re:A cobbler should stick to his last (Score 2) 776

IAAESS also. There is clearly enough wind and solar energy available in the U.S. to meet our needs. It could be scaled up to completely replace coal-burning in much shorter time than it would take to build a new generation of nuclear plants, and with much less public subsidy. But that's not the real problem with nuclear. The bigger problem is that baseload resources are basically incompatible with renewable resources like wind and solar, because they cannot respond quickly enough to "fill in the gaps" when the wind stops blowing or the sun goes down. A large nuclear plant can take three days to start up, and a coal plant can take 8 hours or more. If you want really expensive electric power, build a new nuclear plant or a large coal plant in a place that already has high penetration of renewables, like Denmark or Germany or Spain, or even California. If you are lucky, you can run it about 10% of the time, so the cost has to be recovered with a fraction of the design output. For a nice description of what's happening to baseload plants in Europe, see a recent article in the Economist: http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21587782-europes-electricity-providers-face-existential-threat-how-lose-half-trillion-euros. There's a much cheaper way and less risky way to go if cutting CO2 is the goal: renewables plus storage and demand response. It's happening in California already.

Comment Re:Go for it (Score 5, Insightful) 314

I made the transition at about age 40, 25 years ago, and it was an excellent career move. But I also spent some time taking CSci courses as a part-time student. There are important issues you should understand that are not in any programming-language handbook or website. These include the problems of concurrency (race conditions, deadlocks), complexity of algorithms, and the basic data structures. Good luck to you!

Comment Re:Consulting (Score 1) 306

I am 65 and trying to retire, but I have one client now plus my previous employer wanting me to help out. I could probably get as much consulting work as I want, at a rate significantly higher than I could get when I was 50. I doubt anyone would hire me for full-time work, but I don't really want that. And I'm not programming for hire - I do that for fun. I expect more leverage than that. I figure if someone wants me to write code, I'm not charging enough. You need to find ways to sell your experience.

Comment Re:We could make it work (Score 1) 452

We could easily gain back much more than the "lost" 34% by cutting our meat consumption. If you are really concerned about your personal impact on the planet, you can do more by cutting out the meat - all of it - than by buying cfl bulbs or a high-mileage car or whatever. There's a nice little book published back in the early 70s called "Diet for a Small Planet". It's more relevant now than it was back then.

Comment Re:Rule #1 (Score 1) 480

I waited until my kids were grown up and out of the house. But seriously, the biggest problem I often have is knowing when to quit for the day and when to take a day off. You can easily get into a 7X12 or more work situation if you are not careful. If the weather is good, I try to get outdoors for an hour or so every day. If it's really good, it may be four hours, which I then have to make up in the evening.

Comment I have never seen this (Score 1) 107

I am an author and an editor of a journal that could use a higher impact factor to get noticed. But I have never been "encouraged" to add a reference that was not clearly missing (there have been one or two of those, due to inadequate research on my part), and as an editor I have never asked for additional references except in cases where there was clearly prior work that the authors should have been aware of and should have cited, usually because the missing references actually showed the results the authors were claiming as new contributions. So I think this is a case of extreme self-selection, and perhaps a particular field or journal where some practices need to be examined. I just don't see it in Computer Science, Economics, or related fields where I read and publish.

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