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Member since: Sat Mar 29, 2008, 09:11 PM
Number of posts: 45,851

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What a Godlike power to tap into people's webcams and watch them when they think they are in privacy

Every move you make every step you take I'll be watching you

I can read your mind

Get in touch with the people Big Brother

The Experience So Many Will Go Through… That Will Disrupt The Auto Industry


One of our writers, Sandy Dechert, recently sent me an excellent GMO Quarterly Letter—in particular, she sent along a part of it written by Jeremy Grantham regarding the Tesla Model S. I’ll first share this segment of the letter before adding my own commentary:

I recently took a drive in a GMO colleague’s Tesla from New York to Boston. Now, I am about as far from a car freak as you will easily find. I just turned in a 12-year-old Volvo that unfortunately had been sideswiped, for otherwise it was good for years more. But I have to say that my recent Tesla journey was my #1 car experience ever. Three years ago I test drove a Tesla in Boston and it was a tinny, rattly, super-expensive toy. Its battery alone cost $50,000! Last month, its chief engineers suggested its cost today is $22,000. In three years they and other experts are confident that the battery will be less than $15,000 and probably its weight will have fallen also. The Tesla feels like the $75,000 vehicle it is and not simply adjusting for the fact that it is electric, but on its own merit. Many of you will know that this vehicle has a range of 150 to 270 miles depending on battery size and that it received two prestigious car of the year awards2 along with being given the highest crash ratings of any vehicle ever! Consumer Reports gave it the co-equal highest ratings in the magazine’s 77 years! Even more importantly for me, there was this series of what I can only describe as my first iPad moment: “Wow, that’s cool!” And cool it was as the extreme acceleration pushed me back into the passenger seat for the first time in my life, aided, it must be said, by an exuberant new owner at the wheel. We had enough charge to reach Boston easily, but out of curiosity and in need of a coffee break, we stopped to charge the battery at the one and only charging station halfway home. Twenty-five minutes later, we were back on the road, fully charged up. And for free! (Full disclosure: I regrettably have owned no shares in Tesla.)

Okay, “Enough!” you say. But at $10,000 to $15,000 per battery in three years plus some economies of scale, there will probably be a $40,000 vehicle that even die-hard cheapskates like me will have to buy. (Our stop-gap Jetta diesel, which gets an honest 41 miles to the gallon, was $24,000.) One can easily see that in 10 years there could be a new world order in cars…. The idea of “peak oil demand” as opposed to peak oil supply has gone, in my opinion, from being a joke to an idea worth beginning to think about in a single year. Some changes seem to be always around the corner and then at long last they move faster than you expected and you are caught flat-footed.

So, that was a stellar write-up of this Tesla/EV story—perhaps the best I’ve seen outside of what we’ve published on EV Obsession and CleanTechnica. But there are a few key points here that I want to talk about in my own way.

1. Tesla is in a league of its own. As Grantham notes, the Model S in 2012 and 2013 got a Consumer Reports score of 99/100, the best rating the magazine has ever given. That was a full 4 points above 2013′s runner-up. The car is not cheap, but it is the best car on the market. Furthermore, it’s only the second model Tesla has developed, and the first that it has fully designed to take advantage of its electric power source. Tesla is moving down the ladder from super expensive to affordable. It’s not going to make big compromises on quality as it moves down—the downward steps are essentially based on the falling prices of batteries… as well as improvements in Tesla’s manufacturing skills and economies of scale. All of this is why Tesla’s stock is sky high. Many, like me, even think it’s too high for the time being, but if you look at what Tesla is actually aiming to do, maybe not.

2. However, in many respects, Tesla’s secret sauce is available to all the other auto companies out there. An electric car is simply a much better drive, a much more efficient drive, and also a more convenient car. Grantham complained about the Tesla Roadster, but he also noted that he was “about as far from a car freak as you will easily find.” Furthermore, as implied above, the Roadster was Tesla’s first model, and the company wasn’t yet able to build a car completely around the benefits of an electric drive as it did with the Model S. What’s my point with all of this? I have two points, actually. My first point is that, despite its higher value, a sports car isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, as Tesla and electric cars as a whole make it into other market segments, more and more customers will have their “iPad moment” and jump into the electric car era. Furthermore, other auto companies can also create excellent electric cars, if they really try to. GM put a fair amount of effort into the Chevy Volt and also had amazing results in terms of customer satisfaction and product reviews. Nissan aimed for a lower segment of the market right off the bat, sacrificing range for a lower price in order to capture those early adopters who are ready for the electric thrill but don’t have the money for a Model S. The Nissan Leaf is the best-selling electric car in the world and recently passed 100,000 sales—much faster than the highly popular Toyota Prius passed that marker when it was getting started (and with good right, because not only is the Leaf super efficient—much more efficient than the Prius—it’s also a ton of fun to drive). As batteries improve and come down in price, more segments of the market will open up, the Leaf will come with greater range, Tesla will have a more affordable product on the market, and more and more people will come to think, “How did I ever put up with driving a gasmobile?” It’s not Tesla vs everyone, but Tesla + everyone. It’s just a matter of time.


John Scalzi: Tax Frenzies and How to Hose Them Down


A question in e-mail based on all the recent “rich people feeling not rich” nonsense, and the associated commentary online:

Why is it that the people freaking out the most about taxes on the rich are the ones who don’t seem to know how the tax code works?

The answer is in the question: Because they don’t know how the tax code works. The major failing seems to be an incomprehension regarding marginal tax rates, but people also seem to fall down on the matter of taxable income vs. gross income (i.e. how deductions can work for you!), how to apply tax credits, and other various and fairly basic aspects of the tax code here in the US.

If you don’t know that stuff — if you basically wander through your life thinking the government taxes all of your income based on the highest possible percentage — then I suppose it’s no wonder you freak out. But it also kind of makes you the financial equivalent of the people who think that Darwin said we are all descended from monkeys, or that the Bible says “God helps those who help themselves.” In short, it means you’re a bit ignorant. You should stop being that. It’s easily correctable. In any event, at some point in time, real live grown-ups should understand the concept of marginal rates. It’s not that difficult to grasp.

There is another answer as well, which can be paired with the above or stand on its own, and it’s that there’s a certain sort of person who believes that all taxation (or all taxation outside of one or two very specific things of which they approve) is theft. Naturally that sort of person will fly to the defense of any who bleat about their taxes being too high, even if in point of fact, the wealthy in the US are currently being taxed at historically low rates (“but they’re still too high!”).

I really don’t know what you do about the “taxes are theft” crowd, except possibly enter a gambling pool regarding just how long after their no-tax utopia comes true that their generally white, generally entitled, generally soft and pudgy asses are turned into thin strips of Objectivist Jerky by the sort of pitiless sociopath who is actually prepped and ready to live in the world that logically follows these people’s fondest desires. Sorry, guys. I know you all thought you were going to be one of those paying a nickel for your cigarettes in Galt Gulch. That’ll be a fine last thought for you as the starving remnants of the society of takers closes in with their flensing tools.


John Scalzi: The 10 least successful holiday specials of all time

Do not miss Ayn Rand's A Selfish Christmas, A Muppet Christmas with Zbigniew Brzezinski or Noam Chomsky: Deconstructing Christmas at the link for more fun and frolic



The Mercury Theater of the Air Presents the Assassination of Saint Nicholas (1939)

Listeners of radio’s Columbia Broadcasting System who tuned in to hear a Christmas Eve rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol were shocked when they heard what appeared to be a newscast from the north pole, reporting that Santa’s Workshop had been overrun in a blitzkrieg by Finnish proxies of the Nazi German government. The newscast, a hoax created by 20-something wunderkind Orson Wells as a seasonal allegory about the spread of Fascism in Europe, was so successful that few listeners stayed to listen until the end, when St. Nick emerged from the smoking ruins of his workshop to deliver a rousing call to action against the authoritarian tide and to urge peace on Earth, good will toward men and expound on the joys of a hot cup of Mercury Theater of Air’s sponsor Campbell’s soup. Instead, tens of thousands of New York City children mobbed the Macy’s Department Store on 34th, long presumed to be Santa’s New York embassy, and sang Christmas carols in wee, sobbing tones. Only a midnight appearance of New York mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in full Santa getup quelled the agitated tykes. Welles, now a hunted man on the Eastern seaboard, decamped for Hollywood shortly thereafter.


The Lost Star Trek Christmas Episode: “A Most Illogical Holiday” (1968)

Mr. Spock, with his pointy ears, is hailed as a messiah on a wintry world where elves toil for a mysterious master, revealed to be Santa just prior to the first commercial break. Santa, enraged, kills Ensign Jones and attacks the Enterprise in his sleigh. As Scotty works to keep the power flowing to the shields, Kirk and Bones infiltrate Santa’s headquarters. With the help of the comely and lonely Mrs. Claus, Kirk is led to the heart of the workshop, where he learns the truth: Santa is himself a pawn to a master computer, whose initial program is based on an ancient book of children’s Christmas tales. Kirk engages the master computer in a battle of wits, demanding the computer explain how it is physically possible for Santa to deliver gifts to all the children in the universe in a single night. The master computer, confronted with this computational anomaly, self-destructs; Santa, freed from mental enslavement, releases the elves and begins a new, democratic society. Back on the ship, Bones and Spock bicker about the meaning of Christmas, an argument which ends when Scotty appears on the bridge with egg nog made with Romulan Ale.

Filmed during the series’ run, this episode was never shown on network television and was offered in syndication only once, in 1975. Star Trek fans hint the episode was later personally destroyed by Gene Roddenberry. Rumor suggests Harlan Ellison may have written the original script; asked about the episode at 1978’s IgunaCon II science fiction convention, however, Ellison described the episode as “a quiescently glistening cherem of pus.”


Christmas with the Nuge (2002)

Spurred by the success of The Osbournes on sister network MTV, cable network VH1 contracted zany hard rocker Ted Nugent to help create a “reality” Christmas special. Nugent responded with a special that features the Motor City Madman bowhunting, and then making jerky from, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree, all specially flown in to Nugent’s Michigan compound for the occasion. In the second half of the hour-long special, Nugent heckles vegetarian Night Ranger/Damn Yankees bassist Jack Blades into consuming three strips of dove jerky. Fearing the inevitable PETA protest, and boycotts from Moby and Pam Anderson, VH1 never aired the special, which is available solely by special order at the Nuge Store on TedNugent.com.

Posted without comment

Except for

10 most dangerous (and safest) countries for driving


There are lots ways to die. There are also lots of people on Planet Earth tracking when and how people die. Two of those people -- Michael Sivak and Brandon Schoettle -- have compiled much of that data to show us where folks are most prone to die on the road.

The study is called Mortality from Road Crashes in 193 Countries: A Comparison with Other Leading Causes of Death (PDF). To compile their report, Sivak and Schoettle, who head up the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, pored over fatality statistics published by the World Health Organization in 2008. Though the two were keenly interested in traffic-related deaths, they also took note of fatalities from three other causes: heart disease, malignant neoplasms (shorthand: cancer), and cerebrovascular disease (shorthand: strokes). Then, they mapped that data, calculating the highest and lowest fatality rates associated with each illness, the fatality rates associated with auto accidents, and how the former and latter overlapped.


1. Namibia (45)
2. Thailand (44)
3. Iran (38)
4. Sudan (36)
5. Swaziland (36)
6. Venezuela (35)
7. Congo (34)
8. Malawi (32)
9. Dominican Republic (32)
10. Iraq (32)

And the lowest fatality rates from auto accidents. Again, there's little overlap, other than Maldives:

184. Switzerland (5)
185. Netherlands (4)
186. Antigua and Barbuda (4)
187. Tonga (4)
188. Israel (4)
189. Marshall Islands (4)
190. Fiji (4)
191. Malta (3)
192. Tajikistan (3)
193. Maldives (2)

39% of unmarried women eligible to vote have not registered


39 percent of unmarried women who are eligible are not registered, representing 28 percent of all unregistered citizens
51 percent of young people between 18 and 29 who are eligible are not registered, representing 31 percent of all unregistered citizens
37 percent of African Americans who are eligible are not registered, representing 12 percent of all unregistered citizens
48 percent of Latinos who are eligible are not registered, representing 12 percent of all unregistered citizens.

Chevy Volt owner surprised to see electric bill go down after getting his Volt, but also knows why


You'd think that your electric bill would go up after buying a car that charges using electricity, right? However, that's not always the case. One new Chevy Volt owner recently expressed great surprise over on a Chevy Volt forum after getting his Volt and then receiving an electric bill that was considerably lower than his normal bill. In this case, there seems to be one key reason why this happened, but there are several key changes that could result in essentially the same thing.

First, here's this new Volt owner's comment:

I purchased my Volt with the expectation that my gas savings would more than offset any increase in my electric bill. Weird thing is my electric bill has gone down and not up.

I never quantified how much changing all my lights to CFL would save, but apparently my lighting upgrades have more than offset charging the Volt every night. I’ve never gotten a good feeling from an electric bill before.

Chevy Volt; the gift that keeps on giving.

So, in this case, simply installing CFLs (which aren't even as efficient as LEDs) in place of all of the owner's outdated incandescents more than offset the electricity he was using to charge his Volt. That offers a bit of perspective about the electricity use of lights (probably greater than many of us think) and also about the electricity use of electric cars (probably less than many of us think). For some perspective, one forum member noted that his Volt consumes electricity "like a small bar fridge."

However, changing out your light bulbs isn't the only way to end up with a lower electricity bill after purchasing an electric car, as several other GM-Volt.com forum members commented.

Sun Tours: Solar powered or solar assisted bicycle touring



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