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Comment Fiber not expensive? (Score 4, Insightful) 257

Installing fiber isn't that expensive. I live in a semi-rural area several miles outside of the nearest small town, and 25 miles from the nearest big town, ~50 miles from a city, and ~100 miles from a major metro area. And I have three fiber pedestals near my house, from two different cable companies.

Nice anecdote. By the way, have you ever trenched fiber for a local telecom? It's not cheap. Two minutes of Google searching gave me this neat data. A couple installs in Florida ran about $10,000 per mile back in 2013. Let's use that as a base cost. Wikipedia then tells me that Google needed 4,000 miles of fiber to setup in San Antonio. So, $40 million dollars, just for one city. And if there already was one or two other providers there offering services, able to price-cut their services to maintain their subscriber base, that would give me even less reason to start breaking ground.

I've spoken with two different telecoms about their fiber install over the last five years. Both of them say that there's a substantial initial investment, just to develop a core community of subscribers, which then provides the profits necessary to branch out into neighboring territories, especially in rural areas. (Both teleco's said that rural areas don't turn a profit. The urban areas subsidize the costs.)

No, it is expensive.

Comment Reasons (Score 4, Informative) 307

Decades of saltwater intrusion, subsidence and rising sea levels

No, that's not why the delta's disappearing. Here are the reasons why:

1) Levees and flood protections prevent silt from the Mississippi from depositing into the delta to maintain it, and
2) Oil drilling required dredging up the delta to permit pipelines and shipping lanes, destroying wetlands that help capture and build-up the silt.

Comment Very confusing article (Score 5, Insightful) 257

As a technology director for a public K-12 school, I'm very concerned about what I'm reading in the headline. But the "article" is an extremely biased report, citing just as equally biased an article, and neither article really gives me a clue as to what's going on here.

So, let's start at the source: Here is the actual FCC draft order specific to this change. Now, in the course of working on and completing E-Rate filings with the USAC to receive reimbursement for internet and network services for our school district, I've read a few 60-70 page FCC reports before. They're not fun, but they're necessary. That being said, I'm about 20 pages in, and already I'm disturbed. Here's why:

FCC reports that I've read in the past are boring, dry reads, but at least they're factual and unbiased. Not so with this one. Three sentences in, and we get this: "The FCC has historically subjected the provision of business data services by incumbent local exchange carriers (LECs) to price regulations." And the spin continues..."eases the regulatory burdens"; "spur entry, innovation and competition in the vibrant business data services market"; "competition is robust and vigorous in the markets." And this is still just the first page. The draft order is littered with biased political spin, something that has not been present in my reading of previous FCC draft orders. Because of this, I can't even depend on a government document to give me an unbiased report of the rationale behind the decision, nor can I depend on it to help me determine what the consequences of the decision will be. So, I'll have to create my own... here goes.

Local Exchange Carrier (LEC) price regulations have been there historically specifically to protect subscribers from LECs that had monopoly or near-monopoly controls over their service regions. Most regions throughout the United States historically were not served by competitive broadband providers. Recently, this has begun to change, where some communities now have competitive service providers come in, giving subscribers a choice. The FCC began to look into this issue back in 2012, before Trump. According to the report, "In December 2012, the Commission released the Data Collection Order FNPRM, to collect data, analyze how competition, “whether actual or potential, affects prices, controlling for all other factors that affect prices,” and “determine what barriers inhibit investment and delay competition, including regulatory barriers." By not controlling pricing, the FCC claims in its report that LECs will no longer be limited entry into a potential market, where capped rates would not allow for a sufficient recovery of the investment necessary to build into a new market area.

But, here's the flaw in their reasoning: trenching fiber costs a lot of money. A lot. If service provider A already has fiber, service provider B is not going to install fiber if it does not believe that it can earn back their investment in a reasonable amount of time. Even if prices are artificially inflated by provider A, just because they can, if provider B tries to compete and trenches their own fiber network, both A and B know that A can lower its rates to a competitive level to drive out provider B. So, B has no incentive to trench, leaving A with the monopoly.

The easiest solution: make internet a utility. It's silly to think that it's a smart idea to run multiple fiber lines to a building. (I should know; our school has two of them, and both are dark.) It would be just as silly to have multiple electric taps, or multiple water pipes. But, that's not happening anytime in the near future.

And as far as what affect this will have on the cost of internet access for schools? Not a whole lot. Because, with E-Rate, everyone is reimbursing schools for the cost increase. (The reimbursement percentages vary, but our district is at 70% reimbursement rate. So, if rates increase 25%, we only pay 7.5%, and taxpayers pay the rest.)

Comment Dear Nintendo (Score 1) 104

I don't own an NES classic, but I grew up playing these games, and I love them dearly. Playing them periodically is a joy, both for myself and my young son. Shall I...

A) Enjoy my favorite NES games illegally on a PC emulator?


B) Enjoy my favorite NES games legally on an NES Classic Edition?

I look forward to your reply. Thank you.

Comment And this comes as a surprise? (Score 1) 55

When I was in college between '99 and '03, the "jocks dorm" as it was called (next to the football field, kitty-corner from the athletic center, and never a morning without empty bottles in the dumpster) got its cable shut off by the police back in 2001. The local cable company knew there were more watchers than subscribers, and with the cooperation of the college, went room-to-room to see how many illegal splices there were. For what I believe was 112 rooms with cable, only 8 had paid subscriptions.

And now 34% have paid subscriptions to Netflix? They should consider themselves lucky.

Comment And after the first year? (Score 2) 82

How much after the first year, Axon? It's a good strategy...offer the cameras for free, then making departments dependent on for cloud storage. (Because what business would give away cameras for free that could work with alternative cloud services, or local department servers?)

That makes as much sense as departments agreeing with GM to get free Impala cruisers up front, but also agreeing to buy all gasoline from Chevy at $10 / gallon.

Comment A general question for the community (Score 3, Interesting) 167

When I first started to buy SSD's for my school, I tried to do some research and quickly became confused about the differences between TLC, MLC, and SLC. I found various sites like this one that gave a good overview, but I didn't find very many that really analyzed the performance differences.

I settled on the Kingston V300 series of disks, an MLC unit that seemed to get decent reviews. It's been treating us well, but I always wonder whether the MLC was worth the extra money over the UV400, a slightly cheaper TLC variant.

Has anyone ever used both MLC and TLC drives and care to comment about whether the differences in performance justify the cost?

Comment Oh dear (Score 3, Interesting) 516

Attempting to analyze the causes and effects of war on Economies would require a rhetorical eloquence no less than those that authored the Federalist Papers, and, at the very least, the same volume of words. Fudging it all down to something as small as your typical The Atlantic commentary read is proportionally equal to asking a five year old to draft their own theories of government.

But, let's at least have a little fun with this, and perhaps attempt at sharing something of insight. Here goes:

A brief study of the history of the United States economy would generally yield a result looking no different in approximation than an increasing sine wave, generally increasing at an exponential rate. While there are upward trends and downward trends, of more-or-less of equal duration of time, the economy has been trending upwards since its inception. As for why it's continually trending upwards, no matter how complex the argument, it generally boils down to one simple word:


Our country maintains a relative balance between free market and regulation; between public and private sector; between state and federal governments; between taxable income and disposable income...and so on and so forth.

Naturally, given the general liberties our citizens possess, we from time to time will express our displeasure with the existing status quo. Displeasure among a proportion of the populace is inevitable. We all come from different walks of life and form opinions and biases preferring a bias against the balance in the direction of some extremism. As passionate citizens, we may attempt to swing the pendulum hard in a particular direction, as others naturally try to swing it in the opposite. We exercise this through electing representatives who share our views, posting our views online, speaking out at public meetings, attending rallies, drafting petitions, etc, etc. While these motions are a natural result of the state of government that presently exists, they generally do not threaten the state of government itself.

But, occasionally, it does. And it does, because factions within our society generate enough power among the citizens to disrupt the balance in favor of their zealous points of view. Thankfully, the founding fathers created a system of government that generally impedes factions. (To see a much more thorough and more eloquent analysis of this argument, please see Federalist Papers 9 & 10.)

I'm concerned that we may be living in one of those times. Our country is very unbalanced in its political view right now, and the inflammatory rhetoric from a zealous self-righteous minority faction is pouring fuel onto the fire. To make matters worse, one of those zealots is none other than our president. But, I digress.

When it comes to tax policies, balance is key. The United States economy fared very well following both wars, because both wars were funded by high income taxes. The United States economy also fared very well in the 20's, in the 90's, and before 2008, because income tax rates were very low, freeing up vast amounts of investment capital. And then the economies after all these booms crashed hard, much in part due to deregulation and poor investing. My point being this: Creating economic policies that directly reflect the present conditions with the intention of returning to a balanced economy are the keys to success. A zealous application of a tax policy for the sake of the tax policy alone will not contribute to economic success.

Comment Happened to humans also (Score 5, Interesting) 171

Well, not so much the cannibalism part, but the dementia part.

Corn cell walls separated mostly by Hemicellulose, and breaking down this tough molecule is necessary to access the nutritional compounds found within, including niacin. Humans can't do it very easily. Mesoamericans figured out the way a long, long time ago how to break apart hemicellulose by mixing a little ash into the water used to boil the maize kernels, breaking apart the hemicellulose and freeing up the niacin, a process called nixtamalization.

When Europeans landed in the 15th and 16th centuries, they took corn back to Europe, but not the nixtamalization process. As a sort of crude justice for all the pain and suffering Europeans inflicted on the natives, the European cultures that adopted corn as their cereal crop suffered greatly from pellagra, a disease brought about from the absence of niacin. A disease which includes among its symptoms dementia.

What's happening with these hamsters sounds eerily similar.

Comment Re:Washing & reusing Ziploc baggies (Score 3, Interesting) 128

I'm one of those thrifty bastards...almost.

I have a Sanyo Katana LX, purchased in January 2009. It still makes phone calls, it still sends and receives texts, and its battery lasts a week with the light use I give it.

I avoid upgrading for four reasons: 1) It's no longer subsidized by the major players. 2) Even a new flip phone costs a minimum of $100. 3) Both my wife and my brother-in-law gave me their old phones, so if mine is lost or broken, I have spares. and 4) I dislike the disposable culture of today, given that we cannot infinitely replace old electronics with a finite supply of building materials.

Comment Makes me curious to know... (Score 1) 350

I wonder what other contracts the government has with Google...

This lawsuit lists only one, the GSA's "Advertising and Integrated Marketing Solutions Contract", number GS07F227BA. Since it gives a contract number, we can actually reference it on a few different websites. I guess we can use the FPDS website to search for more contracts awarded to Google. ...

There's a million dollar contract for Google AdWords for the FDA, $250K awarded by the State Department for marketing its "Programs and Products", A lot of contracts by the BBG (who administers the "Voice of America" program)...Neat stuff!

Granted, I know that Google is the digital nexus of advertising online, but it still just feels a little disappointing how much of our tax money is going directly to them. (I suppose it pails in comparison, though, to other contractors like Lockheed Martin. Doing some more Googling (how ironic) seems to indicate that Google isn't even in the top 100. So I guess it's water under the bridge.

I wonder if I can find any contracts by the NSA...

Comment And this is why (Score 2) 295

I'm a fan of the USPS.

They make sure the package gets in your hands. If you're not home, they leave a ticket in your mailbox to pickup the package at the office, which is far less inconvenient then having a package stolen.

And if it's small enough to fit in a mailbox, sure, someone might take it. But it's a federal offense. And it's far less likely to happen when potential thieves can't see what's inside, as opposed to an inviting box sitting on one's doorstep.

Seriously, why did this even become a thing? Twenty years ago, I remember when a package that came by UPS or Fedex always had to be signed for and was never left on a doorstep.

Comment I understand your argument (Score 1) 533

You're saying that the value of a job isn't as important of the purchasing power created from its wages. And as I said, I generally agree that we have more purchasing power. You don't need to justify that point any further or defend it with an Economics 101 lesson. (While I'm not an economist, I am a mathematician, who, as such, is inclined to tell you that "you and ten people" is eleven people total, though your math indicates a labor pool of ten. Try not to fail mathematics when you argue mathematics.) Arguing about purchasing power being up when median income isn't is like a patient telling his doctor that he's not worried about his cholesterol levels because he exercises everyday and feels fit. In both cases, there are indications that things aren't as healthy as they seem.

I disagree that purchasing power alone, apart from job value, is the only metric worth evaluating. And you already gave the reason why: The existence of capital induces demand for products, which induces a demand for labor. Median income measures the strength salaries have to pay for products and services, which induces job creation. It matters significantly. So when lower-wage jobs replace higher-pay jobs*, when existing jobs producing the same product pay less to laborers, and when jobs move to overseas markets where labor is cheaper, less demand for labor is induced. Less demand for labor creates less demand for work, restricting access to capital among laborers, which restricts their access to goods and services, decreasing quality of life. All this happens, even if our purchasing power has risen relative to median income.

Also, I found your labor force statistics fascinating. Honestly. Though I'd like to know their source.

Finally, I don't disagree people want security, but they want it through a job. People find value in work. If you don't believe me, visit with some blue-collar workers, and listen to Mike Rowe's take on it.

* For example, manufacturing jobs are down, while Leisure and Hospitality jobs are up. It doesn't take an economist to tell you that they don't pay the same. And this is happening in labor pools across the country.

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