Sunday, March 07, 2010

Tesla S vs BYD e6

So there's full-on 4-door electric vehicle being manufactured by BYD, their e6. It was exhibited at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show.  Says here they've been building them for domestic (China) sale for about two years now.

The obvious question follows: what's the price? Ooo, this is not good. A Wikipedia posting indicates that it'll be $40,000. Ya know, a Tesla S is "only" $49,900.  I think I'll keep saving my pennies and get a Tesla. It won't be avaiable until 2014, but I can wait.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Journalism vs Reality

I can't yet think of a proper lede for this one, but let's proceed anyway.

Jack Kelly's column today ("Globull warming") mocks one journalist after another for making peculiar or incorrect statements about global warming. Regrettably he's a journalist too, and either has a blind spot or thinks his readers are easily spun.
It doesn't matter a whit whether one journalist or a thousand says something dumb about the phenomenon. Their ability to get it not-quite-right is legendary.

What does matter is the data, and the repeated scientific analysis of that data, overwhelmingly pointing toward a man-made effect on climate. Jack quotes Joy Behar, "every scientist at every note believes in it". So, sorry Jack! Your column reads like intentional and flawed misdirection, no takers here!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

iPhones and Box Gutters

Well, friends, I dodged an expensive bullet today. Two words that will surely raise the hair on yer neck.  "Wet iPhone".

Our house, built in 1870, has box gutters and some craptastic aluminum soffit and fascia installed circa 1960. When "icicle" conditions prevail, we can have problems. Sometimes it's water leaching through the double layer of bricks that are our walls. (Correct, no insulation.) It's caused by melt water backing up from the downspouts, to the inside of the soffits, and down the outside of the brick wall, where it re-freezes (on good days), or finds a way inside (on really bad days).

Something demonic happened last night. I left my iPhone lying face down on the windowsill at the top of the steps. It's the kind of spot that tends to accumulate things that need to go downstairs in the morning.  We've had snow for four days, ice around the downspout for three. Elements have remained where they belong, outside.

Knowing that Pitt was going to be closed again today, I slept in. (Good use of time in weather like this.)  Get up, blearily make my way to the top of the stairs and saw a towel on the windowsill, and my phone on the floor. Uh-oh.  It seems that barefooted Maggie detected water on the carpet this AM, and Liz noted that the windowsill was awash in snowmelt.  I picked up the phone. A little wet on the outside. Hmm, it's dripping. I gave it a good shake, and water comes out. Many shakes. Mucho water, reminding me of a wet dog coming indoors. EEEK! I press the button, the boot-time apple symbol appears, flickers, and goes out. Double EEEK!

Now, old houses commonly have one good feature, and that is floor-mounted heating vent.  We have one near the front door. Great place for drying gloves. Resting the phone there for half produces a change status: moisture fogging up the inside face of the display. This is NOT encouraging. Time for deeper intervention.

So, back upstairs, pick up my screwdrivers and browse my way over to , making my first visit down the iPhone take-apart section of their site. Half an hour later, (20 minutes spent looking for an appropriately sized suction cup,) and I have it broken down into 5 parts. Display, battery, logic board, plastic case, and carefully stowed microscopic screws.  Back to the heating vent everything goes. All day I fight the urge to reassemble it too soon.  Would give "half baked" a whole new meaning.  The windowsill is dry again: I actually never saw the water. It came, it sogged, it conquered.

Five hours pass, parts (and gloves) are now dry and warm. Back together, wishing I had smaller fingers. Press boot buttons, wait, gee this takes a long time to boot. But YAY, at long last the familiar wallpaper appears. Oh, happy day.

Another lesson learned, one for the book, in the category of Avoidable Risks. Repairing laptops for Goodwill has already shown me the wisdom of "never put your laptop where anyone one MIGHT sit. Never ever". Now we have another: "never leave your iPhone in a spot that gets wet one one day out of every two or three thousand."

Marty (adrenaline rush now complete)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Culture has Consequences

David Brooks makes a lot of sense in his January 14th column in the New York Times.  The Times titled it "The Underlying Tragedy".  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it "Haiti was destroyed by People, not Nature".  Me, I'd call it "Culture Has Consequences".

Without a doubt, the situation in Haiti is enormously tragic. And I agree that the populace had no immediate means to fix things, before or after. But I agree with the cold logic of his argument. A culture or society that allows ineffective leadership to persist over time will be poorly prepared to cope with an unusual event.

I am glad that Pittsburgh is not in a seismically active area. Our own abode is 140 years old, and the load-bearing walls are two layers of brick set with old, old, old mortar. If we got a magnitude 7 shake here, it would definitely come down.

Building codes are a good thing, and they come from governmental or pseudo-governmental organizations. Rebar: it's not just a good idea: it's the law. Even the Haitian Government yielded to geophysical reality.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Art and Entrepeneurship redux: Have It Your Way

JAN 2010 UPDATE - Well, mhUniques did not stand the test of time. Web site is gone, and although an Etsy storefront remains, it has zero items. 

Here's another artist / entrepreneur who gets the Three Forces of the Long Tail. ("Make it, Get it Out There, and Help Me Find It".) He's even added a Hamburger Corollary: "...and have it your way".

Michael Herzog is a designer, "tool user, and experimenter by nature." He has come up with some interesting approaches for creating lamps. Not just any lamps, and not just any approach, Michael uses at mhUniques to present his work to three complementary market niches.
  • Completed objects for the "I'd like to have that, please" crowd
  • Free detailed instructions for the DIY and crafty crowd
  • Parts Kits for the in-betweeners who can and want to make it
These are three interesting and complementary niches. The first crowd knows what they like when they see it, and they are able, willing and ready to pay for it on the spot. Even though they are presented with completely free instructions for making these items, for them "time is money". Or perhaps they did not inherit the make-it gene, the lack of which turns an ordinary screwdriver into a sure visit to the band-aid box. (Let's not even talk about hot glue guns.)

The DIY folks are completely a fun lot. The "crafty" lot are perfectly able to take the instructions and run with the idea. Boom - Done. Some Artistic crafties will take the idea even farther than Michael imagined, evolving his idea into something even more beautiful.

The "in-betweeners" are an interesting lot in their own right. They get the idea, and their favorite saying is "I want to make that someday. A parts kit? Cool, give me two." Mr. Herzog stands by with the product; ready, able, and willing to help those folks scratch their itch. Whether the kit gets built or not is a side issue at the moment this transaction occurs. These folks (and I am one) will go for the head start in a heartbeat, because it's cheaper than ready-made and easier than gathering parts yourself. (My own affliction is model railroading. Don't ask how many unbuilt kits I have on the shelf.)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Art and Enrepreneurship

Most folks would not look to Mary Englebreight's Home Companion for entrepreneurial enlightenment, but the Jun 2006 issue includes some advice from an artist who walks the talk. Mind you, this is jewelry handmade in the good old USA. You can outsource some tasks some of the time, but you can't outsource creativity or smarts all of the time.

Holly Anne Mitchell,

The Art of Business

1) "Never price your work based on your own pocketbook. Check the market. Just because you may not be able to afford it, doesn't mean that anyone else can't!"

2) "Pay yourself first, and always remember you earned it and deserve it. Keep your business and personal finances separate as much as possible."

3) "Make sure you select [a marketplace] where the crowds are there to buy artwork, not just to stroll around and browse. Remember, you're there to make money and create a name for yourself."

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Fueled by Rocks:
The Coming of the Plug-In Car

So! Tired of paying $2.50 a gallon at the pump? Want to have efficiency that would make a Prius owner blush? Forty-four MPG? We don't need no stinkin' gallons! How about Fueled by Rocks?

Let's put a few ideas together and see what happens.

1) Half of the homes in America contain two or more cars. (Make magazine vol 5, p.6) It'd be more interesting to know the number of cars owned per household, given that many homes don't have garages. ;) One of those cars is used primarily for local trips. We can build a nifty all-electric plug-in car to serve that need! For cheap!

2) Get yourself a nice high-mileage used car, for cheap. How about a New Beetle? Easily had on Ebay Motors for $5000. Who cares about the worn motor, we're gonna scrap that.

3) Let's keep things German. How about a nice Siemens AC-motor motor package? $7000, ten year warranty.

4) Batteries? Let's see, we have LOTS of choices here. Conventional lead-acid batteries for $2000. Off-the-shelf Ni-Cads are now available on the used market. Or then there are these nifty lithium-ion cells from A123 Systems. (Wired, March 2006, p. 034)

So what we end up with is a car for around $14,000 that will run for 10 years and turn its back on the gas station and middle eastern oil. Yes, we use electricity from a (probably) coal-fueled power plant. That route is still more efficient and less polluting than that 4-cylinder power plant we were using.

Nifty, eh? Where's my wrench....?