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Nov. 18th, 2009


PACE Financing - Everyone Wins!

PACE - Property Assessed Clean Energy financing for home weatherization is like a magic trick. It's one of those situations where everyone wins, as far as I can tell. Is there any downside to this? Any hidden gotchas I'm not seeing?

The only real downside I can see if that it doesn't do anything for renters. I mean, you could try to negotiate with the landlord and try to convince them to take on the increased property tax and recoup it in increased rent, which you can afford becuase your energy costs are lower; but the annual energy cost isn't generally a big selling point for renters. Maybe it should be or could be, but that's an extra layer of risk for the property owner.

I'm really happy to see this program spread. I read about it a year ago when it started in Berkeley, Calif.

More info on PACE...Collapse )

Nov. 17th, 2009


Guinea Pig for CS Educators

I'm tired of being a guinea pig for Computer Science educators. This is now the second introductory Computer Science class I've taken, and it's the second one to have incomplete or brand new course materials.

CS pedagogy rantings...Collapse )

Nov. 16th, 2009


New Laptop Shenanigans

I've been having an interesting experience with my laptop.

I recently sold my 2007 Macbook Pro for an Asus UL-30A. Overall I think it was a good trade, but there are definitely some tradeoffs.

new laptop rantingsCollapse )

Oct. 12th, 2009


Electric vehicle eco-topia... in a Florida retirement town?

I never would have thought to look for an EV-designed community in a Florida retirement town. Maybe I shouldn't be; it sounds like a pristine Disney-style Tomorrowland. It does remind me a little of Kim Robinson's utopian California in Pacific Edge. Just add in a bunch of healthy young loons zooming on the windy paths on bicycles among the old folks and families in their NEVs, and there you have it. Well, from a transportation perspective anyway.

Tricked-Out Golf Carts Swarm Florida Communities

A lot of the same principles could easily apply to a bicycle-designed community, too. I'd also feel safer sharing the road with NEVs and golf carts than with full-size cars and trucks. It takes a certain amount of intestinal fortitude to bike on some of the main streets around here in Boston, and to know I'm within my rights and just forge ahead while keeping a wary eye out.

I wonder if I would actually be safer, though. As long as the carts and NEVs are speed-limited to 20 mph or so, there's no problem. On flat ground I easily go 15 mph or so on my bike. It's the "overclocked" EVs that go up to 40 mph that make me wonder. A rear-end collision at that speed would do some serious damage to a bicyclist (and maybe the EV occupants too!). It's tough to hear them coming, too.

Then again, overtaking crashes are very rare for accidents involving a bicycle. Almost all of them involve either a static object (i.e. - the cyclist ran into a pole or parked car), or happen at intersections (e.g. - cars pull out in front of or turn in front of bicycles that they don't or can't see.)

Aug. 18th, 2009


Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate - NYTimes.com

Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate - NYTimes.com

This is a news article about the "health care cooperatives" under discussion as an alternative to the government-run public plan. I think the whole thing is stupid. We already have co-ops. Most of the Blue Cross Blue Shield plans are non-profit co-ops. All of them started that way, but some have since been bought by private companies or gone public on the stock market. They're practically an arm of the government anyway; they provide Medicare benefits, administer the federal employees' health plan, and most union health plans.

In the article I linked, Rep. Pomeroy, D-ND is quoted as saying “The market here is uncompetitive,” said Mr. Pomeroy, a former state insurance commissioner. “A cooperative could provide an alternative source of insurance and some interesting competition for premium dollars. A co-op could operate at lower costs, in part because it would not need to pay its executives so generously as the local Blue Cross Blue Shield plan.”

Generously? It says right there in the same article that BCBS of North Dakota is already a non-profit member-owned co-op. Their chief exec, Paul von Ebers, is paid $500,000, with the potential for a $250,000 bonus. That might seem like a lot of money, but it's peanuts for executive pay. If he get the bonus, is 15 times what I'm paid. Still, if you consider that the ratio of CEO to average worker pay was 262 to 1 in 2006*, then 15 to 1 seems very reasonable. If Ebers donated his salary back to the company and distributed it to BCBS-ND members, everybody would get $1.75. I don't think his compensation is a problem.

I'd rather see a single-payer system, maybe phased in gradually through expanding Medicare eligibility. Insurance works by pooling risk, and it's tough to get a bigger risk pool than everyone in the country. An organization that size would have even more leverage over providers and drug/equipment companies. Congress and the President would have a strong incentive to keep satisfaction with the system high, or we vote their butts out. I can't possibly imagine it could be more bureaucratic and unwieldy than our current system.

*In the interest of fairness, here's an article with a different perspective on that ratio number.

Aug. 17th, 2009


Editorial - Intel’s Human Rights - NYTimes.com

Editorial - Intel’s Human Rights - NYTimes.com

I find it bitterly amusing that a huge company like Intel is claiming to have "human rights". However, the antitrust proceedings are basically worthless because Intel is on its way out anyway. The huge growth market right now is mobile devices, including smartphones, where Intel has very little penetration. Almost all smart phones use ARM, TI, or Qualcomm processors; very few manufacturers use Intel chipsets in mobile devices.

The rapid pace of innovation in the tech market is what will kill Intel, not antitrust judgements. The court and regulatory system is just too slow to keep up with tech markets.

Aug. 16th, 2009


Anywhere Internets

I have some things I'd like to give away or sell. First-come, first-served. Leave a comment if anything interests you. We can figure out shipping and all that jazz later.

HP Laserjet 1100 - black and white laser printer, parallel-port only. It's discontinued, but Windows Vista includes drivers for it. It could use a new roller and toner cartridge, but works like a charm otherwise.

Option GT Ultra Expresscard with AT&T contract. This is a laptop cellular modem for high-speed wide area wireless access. Works great; I just can't really afford it. The contract is through November, 2010. I'd rather transfer the account to someone for $11 than cancel it for $175 and be stuck with the hardware. The plans range from $30 (10 MiB/mo.) to $60 (5 GiB/mo.). I don't see the $30 plan listed, but it's what I currently have.

WD2000JS 200 GB SATA hard drive

D-Link DWL-G510 PCI card wireless-G adapter for desktops

Asus WL-107G Wireless LAN Cardbus Adapter. This is a WiFi card for a laptop with a PCMCIA or Cardbus slot. I got it for trying to fix Renee's old laptop, but came to find out the Cardbus slot on her laptop was broken, not the WiFi card.

2x 1 GiB 200-pin SO-DIMM DDR2 laptop memory, came with my Macbook Pro and was replaced (Samsung M470T2953EZ3-CE6)

Box full of Star Wars books. 18.5" x 11.5" x 10" and packed full of paperbacks, so it's quite heavy. I can open it up and list them if you want, but it's an all-or-nothing deal.

...more to come?

Aug. 15th, 2009


What Bruce Sterling Actually Said About Web 2.0 at Webstock 09 | Beyond The Beyond

What Bruce Sterling Actually Said About Web 2.0 at Webstock 09 | Beyond The Beyond

I love this essay. I've read it before and I just read it again because it's so great. Here's a few excellent excerpts:

"You can’t build a “platform” on a “cloud!” That is a wildly mixed metaphor! A cloud is insubstantial, while a platform is a solid foundation! The platform falls through the cloud and is smashed to earth like a plummeting stock price!"


"The World Wide Web sits on top of a turtle, and then below that is an older turtle, and that sits on the older turtle. You don’t have to feel fretful about that situation — because it’s turtles all the way down."


"What I have to wonder is: how much of Javascript’s great power is based on an attitude that Javascript is up to the job? Duct-taping the turtles all the way down."

Samaritans Walk

My darling lady love, Renee, volunteers for an organization called the Samaritans that runs a 24-7 suicide prevention helpline. This fall, she's participating in a fundraising run/walk for the organization and is asking for donations in honor of a friend of hers who committed suicide four years ago.

I can't wrap my mind around the idea of suicide, which I suppose is a good thing, but it makes it hard to empathize with people who might be feeling suicidal. I'm glad there are people in the world like Renee and the other folks at the Samaritans who can do what I can't, and reach out and offer emotional support to those in need.

If you're moved at all by her story about Carl, please give what you can, any amount helps. Thank you!

Aug. 12th, 2009


Pushing cucumber inside.

A piece of spam made it into my gmail inbox today, a rare occurrence and generally an annoyance. The subject of the message was "Pushing cucumber inside." Now, I know what you're thinking, and I thought the same thing too, but I clicked through out of morbid curiosity.

Instead of links to porn sites, though, the link was to anytimegrocery.com (which I'm not visiting or linking on purpose. Come to find out it's a grocery delivery service in India. I guess they're pushing cucumbers inside your front door?), and an oddly poignant little story. Here it is, for your enjoyment and puzzlement:

A new and sharper pang struck him; he felt for his wallet. He opened the door and listened.

He opened his eyes to look into the face of the Kaiark Rianlle. Gersen displayed the newspaper articles dealing with the event.

I intend that the facts will speak for themselves. She gave an embarrassed laugh.

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