Michael Maiello's picture

    Amongst Its Diverse Weaponry Are...

    “A powerful social media network that, with no physical presence, allows it to spew propaganda, claim responsibility for terrorist attacks, and not just inspire attacks but also help plot and execute them remotely.”

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    Trade Policy Reality Check - neither Scrooge nor Sucker

    I've noted this over and over, but maybe this one will get through. Below's a chart showing the largest countries. The 2 largest are down at the bottom with pathetic GDP per capita of China's $10K and maybe $4K for India. China has roughly 5x our population, India 4 1/2x. And while their income is awful, China's rose about 500% from super awful over 25 years, while India's has more than tripled.

    For some reason we're not able to ever think of that as *OUR* success, that rather than sending Bibles and powdered milk, we have found a real way to lift almost 3 billion people out of poverty in just 2 countries, and it certainly doesn't end there.

    Of course much of the credit belongs to them - cutting their birthrates drastically, producing productis and services that are wanted by the rest of the world, steady incremental improvements and attention to obvious areas like infrastructure & education, and less obvious ones like government regulations & judicial reform and various human rights. In the meantime, the last 8-10 years, we've been flat.

    Post-Millennial Bug: NeoJournalism & the New Collusion

    [Recycled Rant to Art Appraiser & Michael Wolraich]

    This new social fact-challenged journalism is not a dissertation, is not your father's evening gazette, is not a bunch of freshman working at the college paper or cub reporter learning the ropes. It's war & politics by other means. It's eat or be eaten, except we're always so close to winning we're lulled into thinking we're almost not losing.

    There are elections being stolen, there are good policies being killed and bad ones being created, and just because we've made a slight dent in righting the record doesn't mean we're terribly succeeding or that the system isn't broke or needs a drastic update to function well in 2017.

    There's a meetup of a rigged media factory, politicians in permanent state of collusion, a bigger influx of money than we ever thought possible, then came a new-found acceptance of blatant lies as both palatable and even a positive to rally behind, and now hacking by a foreign government both stealing and spouting out fake "news" on a broad top-to-bottom scale to make it even worse, yet supposedly we just need to stay grownup and write the truth and we'll prevail. Not even much done on the psychological Kahnemann/NLP/other alternative ways of understanding how we digest (& don't digest) information and are easily deceived.

    Intermezzo - Springtime for Hitler

    Today is my dip into happy land, my safe haven, my respite from the madness. Yesterday was the first sign of spring, still chilly but warm enough to go out with only a suit jacket - time for that springtime optimism.

    They used to say no news is good news, but now we have it 24x7, so let's just talk up the good news for a change. Today I'll be largely untouched by political chaos, except to note the bright sides.

    Play Ball (Better Luck Next Year)

    1) Focus on things that make a difference - ignore the chatter and buzz, the click-bait and easy gotchas - they just chip away at time. Baseball announcers have to fill a lot of dead air, so can talk about anything from root canals and outboard motors and somehow connect it to the game. My mother called it "diarrhea of the mouth", but in baseball circles they call it "a good living" or "Harry Carey", depending.

    2) Time is money, money is time, and we don't have enough of either. Stop the class warfare over money - money largely wins elections and ball games. Everyone says the players are overpaid, but they still buy tickets and fill the stadium. Care about values, cultivate rich ethical friends, fast track the road to wins.

    (Jesus corollary: as the poor will be with us always, so will the rich and glamorous and obnoxious. Deal with it).

    3) Watch Moneyball, take away key points: a) adapt or die, b) you're not out to replace a player - you're out to buy scores and wins, c) the competition will copy your successful techniques if allowed, d) don't trust the polls - do your own analytics.

    PS - argue about candidate values and flaws and street-cred *after* you win the pennant - until then, make lemonade: get up earlier, hustle after grounders, and don't confuse being a player with being a commentator.

    Bayesic Instinct

    Towards the late days of October, Huffpost's lead pollster started releasing polls claiming greater than 90% probability of a win, explicitly challenging Nate Silver of 538 and his "conservativism" or even manipulating the data. One commenter noted, "we'll know after Nov 8". It was all too funny and surreal, like a guy saying he knows all about carpentry and grasping the hammer head and nailing with the handle.

    No, you can't "know" anything from a single outcome, unless you predicted 100% that it wouldn't happen - that your certain hypothesis was refuted. Otherwise, you're simply left with false confidence in 1 data point - unless you bothered to research your outcome.

    As background, I'm pretty awful in probabilityand statistics - having the basics of dice permutations down, and getting the math of certain cross-correlations in dependent events, and doing enough damage in trying to model stochastic processes. But mostly I done forgot.

    But even if I hadn't, it might not matter. Just as the field of linguistics is going through a phase of rough and tumble re-evaluation after 30-40 years of certainty centered around Chomsky, probability and data analysis is getting an upgrade - perhaps not changing the science, but more how people use it as an art.

    In trying to make some sense from this awful year and a half, and draw some usable lessons from it (rather than another set of kneejerk platitudes and I-told-you-soes, I'm digging into both psychology and analytics in the new year to get some different insights - angles I wouldn't have thought of before.

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    On Knowing and Not Knowing

    In the beginning, God made us a deal - you chill, I'll do all the heavy lifting.

    Who was this God dude anyway? Didn't matter - the uncertainty was replaced by someone in charge. Our job was to do (and to enjoy), not to know, not to decide. Above our pay grade.

    And thus it continued till some damn woman stuck her nose in and said "hey, I hear there's another way".

    Another way for what? There we were, minding our own business, heading out to the fields every day....

    And then someone says, "How does it work?" OMG, zoots - how *does* it work?

    And suddenly the men are wearing suits and wielding slide rules and carrying briefcases and asking about rules.

    ("Rules?" the bad hombre says to Butch. "First thing is, there are no rules", Butch replies with a kick)

    Rules. How this, how that, what size, for how long, in what stages, what color...

    We got so good at reckoning and lugging stone, building grain pyramids, we started building to the sky - wheeee!!!

    And then it broke. No one knows exactly why, it just done broke.

    All that machinery wasted. So we went back to the fields, got ourselves a few feudal lords. And waited.

    A long time. A *really* long time.

    A Visit from St. Vlad

    'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the site
    Not a blogger was stirring, no postings in sight.
    The comments were lined by the masthead with care
    With hopes for some non-Trump discussion as fare
    While readers rolled restlessly slumped in their beds
    Damning hangover headaches that chastened their heads.
    My alias and I had just poured a nightcap,
    thinking we'd hack out some politically motivated crap.
    When out in the blogosphere there arose such a natter,
    A tweetstorm with fake news that filled it with chatter.
    Off to my Facebook I flew in a rage
    To offer my musings on each open page.

    Doctor Cleveland's picture

    The Other Thing College Is For (and Why It Matters)

    If you ask anyone what colleges and universities are for, they'll give you more or less the same answer: to educate people.  That's a good answer. It's the one I give myself. But it's only half the truth. Colleges and universities actually fulfill two separate roles. We all know about both of them. We only talk about one of them. And because of that, we misunderstand almost everything about how higher education works and how it might be improved.

    Donal's picture

    Piling on the Leaf

    In between following sports and writing haikus, I've noticed that the Leaf can't catch a break. As if temperature management problems in Phoenix weren't enough, the NY Times' Wheels blog and Plugin Cars each report that for eleven Leaf owners, something has gone haywire between the Nissan Leaf and the GE Wattstation, leaving their batteries severely damaged.

    TTAC's Alex Dykes offers a clear explanation of charging an EV or plugin hybrid in the US. Briefly, the EV's onboard system manages the charging as long as the charging station meets the minimum Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE) J1772 standard. What could go wrong? Dykes speculates:

    Assuming there is no design fault inherent in the Wattstation’s “control pilot” design (and we might assume this logically because the issues are limited to Nissan Leaf vehicles only), the most likely possibility is a problem with an underrated or faulty D1 diode in the Leaf’s charger that makes the control pilot circuit more susceptible to transient current and failure. While it does seem fishy that the problems are only reported with the Wattstation and not the popular Leviton and Nissan branded chargers, the issue likely comes down to surge suppression and bad luck. It is likely that Nissan uses a D1 diode with a lower rating (and therefore affording less protection) than the Volt and Prius plug-in. With so few EVs on the road, and little public information on the specifications of electrical components in the chargers it is hard to say for sure.
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    Donal's picture

    Should MyCar be YourCar?

    Last week in Mississippi, strange bedfellows former DNC chair Terry McAuliffe, former RNC chair Haley Barbour and former President Bill Clinton grandly unveiled the MyCar — an EV made in America.

    "Too many people have given up on American manufacturing, saying manufacturing jobs are not coming back. But GTA set out to prove them wrong," said Terry McAuliffe, chairman of GreenTech. "For too long, America has been inventing products here and sending the production jobs overseas. But we're part of a rebirth for American manufacturing. We're proud to bring manufacturing jobs back and prove that the U.S. is still the world leader in technological innovation and manufacturing."
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    Donal's picture

    Interesting times

    We live in interesting times, but everyone seems to be watching TV. Actors Andy Griffith and Ernest Borgnine recently died. Each man proved himself in serious roles, Griffith in A Face in the Crowd and Borgnine in Marty, but they were far better known for long-running comedic roles on television. Don Grady died, too. He was only 68, and was known for playing Robbie on My Three Sons, but apparently he was a serious and devoted musician.

    I wonder how many of us will be better-known for our long-running comedic lives?

    With bike share programs blooming, and so many people biking to work and even enjoying it, articles about automobiles vs cyclists vs pedestrians abound right now. The basic problem is that people are just about as law-abiding on bikes as they are in cars or on foot, and the foolhardy ones get all the attention. In the comment sections are the usual crude threats against cyclists by territorial drivers. I just defriended someone after reading that sort of comment on Facebook.

    William K. Wolfrum's picture

    Web Austerity: It is time for the Internet to feel some pain

    For too long, the Internet has run amok. It has been a free-for-all of freedom of speech and distraction. It has made men billionaires and ruined the lives of others. It has become an all-powerful juggernaut in our lives.

    Donal's picture

    Is Arizona's Heat Wilting the Leaf?


    In response to a The Truth About Cars article on the Volt, one commenter, then two, claimed that Leaf sales have fallen flat while the Volt is selling comparatively well. To my eyes, the Leaf is as sound a car as the Volt, so I wondered if range anxiety was keeping buyers away from the EV.

    On Father's Day, a Bloomberg headline read, Nissan Sees Leaf Sales Doubling as Factory Begins Production, which would seem to contradict the TTAC commenters, but once past the headline, I read:

    Leaf sales have dropped the past two months, trailing General Motors Co. (GM)’s rechargeable Chevrolet Volt and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s plug-in Prius in May. Volt deliveries more than tripled to 1,680 units in May, while Leaf sales fell 55 percent to 510. The Leaf is made in a single plant in Japan.

    “We’ve had to fulfill demand from one plant globally,” Krueger said. “Once we localize it in December, the second half of the fiscal year is when we’ll see most of the supply, demand be available.”
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    Donal's picture

    Romney Won't Force You To Drive An EV

    With the same quote as Detroit News, HybridCars also suspects that Mitt Romney would be no friend to EVs:

    The Obama administration has also been a major champion for plug-in electric vehicles and hybrids. It has pushed for even higher plug-in vehicle subsidies and incentives on the supply side and consumer demand side of the equation to get the fledgling industry flying on its own. Those plus CAFE requirements – not to mention European legislation beyond the purview of the American president – are expected to be key motivation in developing more electrified automotive solutions in coming years, but Romney said he sees failure written on the EV wall already.

    The Obama-led government is, Romney said, trying to "to force a market to adopt a technology that people aren't interested in."
    Donal's picture

    Diesels: So Bad?

    My mama didn't hate them, but I never knew much about diesels. During the late 70s fuel scare, one of my many bosses bought an Olds diesel, probably with the 350cc engine, to try to get better economy without buying a small car. He complained about it constantly, and the 350 is now considered one of the worst engines of all time. I drove my aunt's big Mercedes turbo-diesel a few times, but never, ever considered buying a diesel myself. But diesel keeps cropping up in articles, and clean diesels regularly figure in green car competitions. If you've got a pile of cash, you can buy the world green car of 2012, the Mercedes Benz S 250 CDI Blue Efficiency (below) for under $70,000, except that it doesn't seem to be sold in the US.

    Donal's picture

    Solar & Wind Expo


    On Saturday, I attended a Solar & Wind Expo, which was held about three stops away on light rail. At the Timonium Fair Grounds stop, there was no sign that anything was happening. I walked past the empty entrance kiosks, and saw a truck with a horse trailer backing up to the mostly empty livestock sheds. I continued past the empty cow palace, and eventually saw some balloons tied to two tiny cars in front of a nondescript concrete block building. The cars were Think City EVs. A small banner announced that the expo was inside.

    I was a bit early and when I tried to pay the $10 entry fee with my debit card, one of the cashiers went to a table and pulled a cardswipe machine out of a box. She fiddled with it and asked, "Do you have any cash?" I had eight dollars, so she took that and let me in. That worked out about right because I was supposed to get two dollars off for arriving by light rail.

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    Donal's picture

    Luxury Electric Motor Bikes



    Along with their hybrids and EVs, luxury automakers have been developing prototype e-bikes, like the Audi Wörthersee above. These aren't full-fledged motorcycles, like the Brammo or Zero, but they aren't just bicycles either:

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    Donal's picture

    Tesla and the Uncertain Middle Class

    Tesla is about to release its Model S sedan. Despite operating at a loss, despite never having turned a profit, despite being the recipient of government loans (which the right wing hates about the Volt), despite its stock price dropping due to perceived competition from the Toyota RAV4 EV, some Wall Street pundits are still bullish on Tesla.

    Why? Well it promises decent range:

    Tesla: The Time Has Come

    The Tesla Model S will give you significantly more range than a Nissan LEAF or any other practical all-electric car to date. The Nissan is EPA-certified at 73 miles on average. Tesla claims 160 miles for the base version of the Model S. ...

    Tesla will also sell you an alleged 230-mile and a 300-mile version of the Model S. Each step up is $10,000 more.
    Donal's picture

    The Hydrogen Dog and the Quadrium Cat


    The public reputation of nuclear power plummeted after the Fukushima meltdowns, but many in the energy sector still see nuclear fission as the only way to keep the lights on and stave off climate change. No private entities, and vanishingly few governments, though, want to spend billions to build new plants, so at least one manufacturer is offering smaller pre-packaged units. Will, The Stars Align for Small Nuclear Reactors?

    The Westinghouse Electric Company has lined up Ameren, a St. Louis-based electric company, as a partner for its small modular reactor project. Getting a strong indication of commercial interest is critical because the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can review only a few of the many proposed reactor designs and gives priority in the licensing process to those with a stronger chance of getting built.

    Some utility analysts have argued that small reactors would be good “drop-in replacements” for 1950s and 1960s-era coal plants that are now being retired, given that that their generating capacity would be about the same.
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