October 27, 2013
Geek Gushes Over Tesla Model S
An ArsTechnica reviewer drives a Tesla S from Houston almost to Austin and back and loves it even though it required four recharge stops.
Fair Political Practices Commission Levies Million Dollar Fine
Californians will recall Prop 30 (increased personal taxes to fund education, approved 55% to 45%) and Prop 32 (would have made it more challenging for unions to raise money for political purposes, lost 56% to 44%) in 2012. The FPPC investigated over $15-million in contributions to two committees that worked to oppose Prop 30 and support Prop 32. California law requires the original source of these funds to be identified. The FPPC determined that the original source was the Center to Protect Patient Rights which the FPPC calls "part of the 'Koch Brothers' Network' of dark money political nonprofit corporations."
The FPPC has fined CPPR and Americans for Responsible Leadership (the FPPC calls ARL the "intermediary," which I think means they tried to launder the money) $1-million. They also require the $15-million to be "disgorged." I don't know what that actually means, technically, but it probably does not mean they will have to literally vomit the money out on the ground in Sacramento...which is what it sounds like.
Final Toast Of The Doolittle Raiders
November 9, 2013, at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, the surviving members of the Doolittle raid on Tokyo will make their final toast to their fallen comrades. The museum is at Wright-Patterson AFB, near Dayton, Ohio.
The toast will be a private affair, but the public is invited to line the museum's entrance drive for their grand entry at 1 PM. There will also be a wreath laying ceremony and a B-25 flyover.
Arrive early that day and you can see a free screening of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo beginning at 9 AM in the Air Force Museum Theatre.
Wikipedia on the Doolittle raid, in case your history is rusty.
Rolling Stone is reporting his death today from causes not yet released. He had a liver transplant earlier this year.
This is not Facebook hoax from last week.
Google's got a barge floating off of Treasure Island with shipping crates stacked high on it, wrapped with black netting. There is speculation that they want to pull it up to the waterfront of mainland San Francisco. And then there's a lot of handwringing about how Google doesn't have the proper permits for such a thing, and such a thing would not be legal anyway, oh my, oh my.
I don't know why no one is guessing the obvious: this is a Google data center that they are going to float into international waters to escape the intrusiveness of the U.S. government. Google needs data centers that the other nations of the world will trust. All they need to do is anchor this thing and bring alongside another ship to provide power. I think Google has the resources to buy a used nuclear-powered boat from some nation. They also need a very broadband connection up to a satellite. Or maybe they hook it into a cable running to a country that respects privacy and freedom of information, like Mexico or Canada.
UPDATE: CNet discusses the possibility that it will be a floating data center. They say at least some of the contents of the barge were constructed in Hangar 3 on Treasure Island. The legal owner of the barge and the tenant of Hangar 3 is By And Large LLC.
Bal0010 is 249.6 feet in length, which is far longer than the average for all Freight Barges. It is 16 feet in depth, which is significantly deeper than the average for all Freight Barges.
Bal0010's gross tonnage is 2,164, which is 183% larger than the average for all Freight Barges. It's net tonnage is 649, which is 15% smaller than the average for all Freight Barges.
Desert Sun Endorses Bowman and Wright
In the past four years, the board has cut staff by 20 percent and reduced its annual operating budget by $1 million. Wright has served on the board for 24 years, which is reflected by her expertise in the complicated issues that face a water district director.
The Desert Sun endorsed Bowman as a challenger four years ago. We were impressed by how thoroughly he learned the issues as an outsider and by his pledge to be a watchdog for the public. We believe he has fulfilled that promise.
McLean admits he has attended only one board meeting. Bowman says that explains why he doesn’t understand how far the board has gone in cutting expenses and benefits for employees. McLean’s pledge to roll back rates “would mean to roll us into insolvency as a district,” Bowman said.
Sanchez-Fulton did not attend The Desert Sun editorial board endorsement interview or submit a campaign statement to us. However, it is questionable whether she can serve on the college board and the water board at the same time. The Riverside County election handbook says a water district director and a school district trustee having territory in common is incompatible.
October 26, 2013
Google Glass at Burning Man
Didn't I predict Google Glass videos from Burning Man this year? The first one comes from DJ Paul Oakenfold.
Good News, Tecopa Fans
Delight's Hot Springs Resort in Tecopa has gotten a T-1 line and is providing Wi-fi so now you can indulge all your internet addictions while soaking in hot water way out in the middle of almost nowhere.
October 25, 2013
It's A Manly Hat, So There
Stars and Stripes explains that the hat the Marines are considering is called the "Dan Daly cap," and a manly cap it is. Here is proof: "Sgt. Maj. Dan Daly, a two-time Medal of Honor recipient who yelled, 'Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?' as he led Marines into the fight at Belleau Wood during World War I, wore a cap similar to the option proposed by the survey."
They might let lady Marines wear one too.
To Lighten This Election Campaign
Pierson Plaza Groundbreaking
Construction will start very soon. The first building that must be completed will be the county building on the south part of the parcel. They will also build one of the buildings planned for the north part. They have letters of intent from two future occupants - but no names for public release yet.
Mary Jane Sanchez Fulton
In the October 23, 2013, issue of Desert Star Weekly there are statements from the four candidates for the Mission Springs Water District Board of Directors. The statement from Mary Jane Sanchez Fulton is such a trainwreck I thought it needed to be addressed.
- She says that MSWD "received the money to complete the sewers." This is a complete falsehood. Over the years MSWD has received some money to help with the completion of some of the sewers. The most recent has been $12 million. The property owners are responsible for an assessment that also pays for the sewers. There has never been a grant to pay for the entire sewer system.
- She says MSWD publicly stated that sewers are not a priority. Well, MSWD is a water district, not a person. It doesn't have a mouth. She doesn't identify the person who she thinks made this statement, but it's certainly out of context. What she probably misheard was a statement that the district didn't believe that the residents of Mission Lakes Country Club considered sewers to be a priority, because in the past they made that position very clear. Sewers are a high priority for the district, and it seems the opinion of residents of Mission Lakes has shifted towards favoring them as well.
- She says all of us throughout the city [she fails to distinguish between the city and the district - the district covers a much larger area than the city] are paying a "sewer assessment tax" for sewers not constructed. Another complete falsehood. Fortunately, it's that time of year when we've all got our tax bills, so take yours out and look at it. No sewer assessment tax...but if you've had a sewer put in front of your property there may be an assessment to pay for that. I'm on sewer and my tax bill includes only these items:
- Flood control stormwater
- CSA 152 stormwater
- City of DHS Lighting & Maintenance district
- Public safety tax
- Vector Control RIFA
- She says the board was "indecisive" about solar power at a "recent meeting." This is the only specific action of the board that she talks about because it was the only board meeting this year that I wrote up for Ron's Log. She has never attended a board meeting. I would like to think that any candidate for office thinks he or she will win. Even though she and Mr. McLean have not been attending board meetings, I thought they might show up during election season so they could hit the ground running in the event of being elected to the board. I thought wrong.
Here is my report on the meeting of August 19, 2013. Mary Jane Sanchez Fulton says the board was indecisive. Maybe she doesn't know what "indecisive" means. The engineer laid out for the board a few options for how to work with the AQMD grant for solar power. The graph in my post will show you that there was not a large difference between the various proposals. The board chose the most conservative one which would require no debt to be incurred. The vote to approve it was 4-0 (one board member being absent). I don't know how the board could have been any more decisive than that. One meeting. A unanimous vote.
- She says that televising board meetings will make the board more decisive. Televising public meetings is done so that the public can more easily be informed. I don't know how she thinks it will encourage decisiveness. In any case, in all of the board meetings I've attended (which is 100% more than Mary Jane Sanchez Fulton has attended), it has never seemed to me that the board is indecisive. In all cases I've seen matters considered with appropriate deliberation and then decided on a timely basis. FYI, the city's contract with Awesome Dude Video (the low bidder) is for $1,250 per month which covers two meetings regardless of length.
- She says that "outsiders" are motivated to take over our district because of (1) "indecisiveness" and (2) their wells are going dry. Since she refers to wells, I assume these "outsiders" are other water agencies. CVWD and DWA will be very surprised to learn that their wells are going dry. Earlier in her campaign she suggested that it was the residents of Indian Wells, specifically, who wanted to take our water. The first meet-and-greet of hers that I went to was, ironically, in Indian Wells. She held several fundraisers outside of the district before she ventured to organize anything here. No one at the Indian Wells meet-and-greet gave any indication of wanting to steal our water or take over our district. But maybe that was all a ruse to lull me into a false sense of security. When I asked her for more explanation of who would be stealing our water and how, she told me that the water bottling plant up in the pass had wells drilled into the Mission Springs aquifer! To do such a thing, the bottling plant would have to drill a well that goes sideways for about 10 miles and pass through a major branch of the San Andreas fault to reach the Mission Springs aquifer. I don't think the price of bottled water has gotten high enough to justify the extremely large capital investment that this would require.
- She says she will "completely solar MSWD" because the sun is free. The sun may be free, but solar panels and land are not. Solar panels are making sense for water districts and other public agencies now because someone else is paying for the upfront capital investment. The solar panels that MSWD will be installing will be paid for by a grant from AQMD and they will be placed on land the district already owns. They will generate a bit under 1½ megawatts. To build solar facilities sufficient to power the district 100% would take a very large capital investment that could rival the cost of sewers. This expense would be borne by the customers of the district over time as the bonds are paid off. Even if the district could achieve 100% solar coverage, what happens at night? Shut off the pumps? Tell people not to use any water or flush any toilets? The district cannot eliminate its electric bill, but only reduce it. Ms. Sanchez Fulton says we should not have to pay Edison one dime. That could be done if the district also invested in wind turbines and a natural-gas powered plant to generate electricity for those times when the sun isn't shining and the wind isn't blowing. Such an extraordinarily large capital investment for a fairly small district with a high percentage of low-income residents would mean some painful water bills to pay for it all.
- She says "don't believe my competitors will lower your water rates." None of her competitors are promising to lower water rates. They only promise to hold back the inevitable increases for as long as possible. The happy day when your water (and sewer) rates go down will be that happy day when the price of electricity goes down, when copper, cement, gasoline and diesel become cheaper, when California has finally dealt with its pension debacle. IOW, never, or maybe in time for your grandkids and great-grandkids, if they are very fortunate.
- She says the cost of winning the Verjil decision was $1 million. The actual cost was more like $300,000; and it was an unexpected cost imposed on the district by irresponsible parties who wrote an unconstitutional initiative that would have bankrupted the district. The board has the responsibility under California law for the solvent operation of the district in perpetuity. The choice was to fight the initiative or violate their oath of office.
- Mary Jane Sanchez Fulton is the only candidate who is now expressing support for the unconstitutional initiative that would have brought about bankruptcy. If bankruptcy is her goal, then a seat on the board would give her some advantage, but she would be only one vote out of five. Earlier in her campaign when I asked her opinion on the water rates she hedged, saying she didn't want the district to go bankrupt, but she wouldn't express an opinion on the current rates.
- She wants the district to offer extended payments to those who use more water than they can pay for. If such a program came into being, it would mean that those of us who pay our bills in full would be subsidizing those who can't until they got their accounts squared. The district is trying to move away from its past practices that allow one group of customers to subsidize another, and move toward a fee structure where each customer pays for the services he receives, no more or less. Ms. Sanchez Fulton would know that if she attended board meetings.
- Earlier in her campaign she was saying that more charities should be lined up to help needy customers over an extended period of time. She no longer mentions that, but that's the sort of thing anyone can work to put together. You don't need to be a board member to work with charities and coordinate a plan like that.
- Finally, she claims that she is endorsed by Assemblyman Manual Perez. Others have gotten the word directly from Mr. Perez that this is not true. When I asked Ms. Sanchez Fulton for some evidence of this endorsement she hedged, hemmed and hawed, finally saying she would get me "something." I'm still waiting for that "something." An endorsement from an Assemblyman isn't going to come as just "something," but should be a nice signed letter that the endorsed candidate should be proud to show to any voter who asks. Her lack of proof may be the reason she didn't show up this week when the Desert Sun interviewed the MSWD candidates. It's my understanding that the Desert Sun insists on seeing proof of any claimed endorsement.
"You suck, sir."
Grade 11 Student: "Sir, if you didn't have cell phones when you were our age, how did you talk to friends on the phone, especially girls?"
Me: "We rarely talked too long on the phone back then because everyone's parents would answer the phone first. Plus, everyone had only one line to share with the whole family, so no one could hog the line."
Her: "That sounds horrible."
Me: "I just realized this is my generation's walked-barefoot-to-school-in-the-snow story."
New Photography Stuff
Some interesting new things from PhotoPlus 2013.
- The Nikon 1 AW1, a waterproof, shock-resistant mirrorless camera. They say it's the first waterproof, shock-resistant camera with interchangeable lenses. (There should probably be an asterisk on that claim.) Get it from B&H for just a hair less than $800. Comes in white, silver or black. You can buy a silicone jacket for $37 in orange, khaki, or black.
- Steel-plated SD cards! A 32GB, Class 10 card is $90. I've never had an SD card break on me, but I've never done war photography, and who knows what could happen there. To go along with those cards, a steel-plated SD and CF card reader for $50 because we all know how often a card reader gets crushed. Like, pretty much never. I wonder if having all that steel increases the chance of static electricity - a real threat to the data on your SD card.
- Hyperjuice battery packs for MacBook, iPad or iPhone. It's a lithium-ion battery and the rep says there is a selection of sizes ranging from the smallest which will power a MacBook for 10 hours, up to the biggest which they claim will run a MacBook for 40 hours. He doesn't say whether MacBook Air or Pro, or what size, which I would think would make a difference. I hadn't realized that the MacBook's battery is like an iPod battery now: not user replaceable. B&H has one model which they say will handle a MacBook for 34 hours: $250.
October 24, 2013
Funniest Thing I Have Seen In Months
I hope they put this on a big screen in front of the State House! I'd never heard of Pingryville. BTW the structure identified as "City Hall" was never City Hall. It's the Old State House. The "new" State House (still in use) was built in 1798.
Hey, remember that pepper-spraying incident at UC Davis?
UC Davis officer John Pike, who did the spraying on the seated, non-resisting victims, will get a $38,000 worker's comp settlement for the incident. This is more than his victims who will get $30,000 each. Officer Davis "claimed to have 'suffered depression and anxiety over the way he was treated in the wake of the incident.'"
It is he who knocks
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department provides this photo of an example of hazardous wiring at an illegal marijuana grow facility. This one was in Eastvale, and the operator had bypassed the electric meter so he could steal an estimated $4,000 worth of electricity a month.
Residential Architecture Of Black Rock City
That was the camp diagonal across the intersection from us this year. The reason you don't see a proper street sign is because these guys stole it on the first Sunday! Common decency requires Burners to wait until the last day or two to steal the street signs. I never saw these guys until the last Sunday, when I got a brief hello and a wave. Their generator was running almost continuously. They had some vehicles under that shade, along with almost everything else that made up their camp. You can see they had a shower tent set up. Those are not too popular at Burning Man because they're just another thing for the wind to blow down. It's easier just to take your showers in the wide open.
October 23, 2013
GoPro Hero3 Black Only $330
While I was at the Apple Store today I saw that they are selling the GoPro Hero3 Black for only $330. This is not the latest model, the GoPro Hero3 Black+ which goes for $400.