GM Reveals Dismal Volt Sales in January – Technology Review

GM Reveals Dismal Volt Sales in January – Technology Review.

The Volt is a pretty car but it’s just too expensive and too Me-to to gain real share.  The Prius is a Toyota and as such, up scale yuppies don’t feel down class when driving it, they feel virtuous. 

While the Chevy Brand is beloved by many middle class Americans it’s loved for its trucks and muscle cars, edgier yuppies buy Cadillacs.  If the Volt had been a Caddy and a bit more of everything:  bigger, striking, powerful, EXPENSIVE it might have had a better chance.  Yuppies feel dissed in a Chevy, however green, and the Red Staters aren’t going to buy a smaller, slower, more expensive car when they can get one of the quality new generation GMs, Fords or Chryslers for a few pennies more or less.

Autonomous Quadrotor Video, cool to be creepy

This video of swarming Autonomous Quadrotors has made the rounds, I guess I’m just adding my bit to the noise, this isn’t that surprising but it seems to me just one more indication that the world is the cusp of great change.  The article at Wired is short but has some other interesting links.

Sundays always get me down…

Trying to keep up with a busy real job schedule and my desire to get Exotic Contraband ready for the first book to be published on Smashwords so blogging has not been prolific, will at least be home this week, hope to get a few meaty posts done. 

Used to be that Sunday was the day before Monday and I dreaded school…until I got over that and actually started to like it.  Then it was the day before Monday and I had to face the fact that I was just a cog in the gears of my job.  Then I was a manager and I would have to face the folks who worked for me and keep up expectations.  Next I was working for myself and Monday meant having to figure out how I was going to keep it up after the near term mana gave out.  Then I was working for a small company and it meant another week of 12 to 14 hour days, and commutes that really sucked, though I enjoyed what I was doing.  Still the case but now its the realization that I didn’t get to most of the things I’d intended to do over the weekend and the week is going to be clogged… 

But then isn’t that the human condition, never really satisfied, isn’t that what keeps us moving forward?

Sorry edited, used the quick blog button and it made the central paragraph a differen color and unreadable on my blog….had to get into the HTML, I find that WP is a way to learn some HTML…again.

Skynet it’s not yet, but one has to wonder…

Police Drone...
Skynet’s distant ancestor

The fact of the matter is that this, like so many other things, is coming.  I used to laugh at some ‘SciFi-ish’ cartoons for their depiction of flying drone/droid/robo cops, but then I’ve never been any better at predicting the future than most other engineers, we always dive way too deep into the details far too quickly unless we have something keeping our head out of the water long enough to figure out if we are in the ocean, sea, lake, pond, swamp or whirlpool. 

But there is the issue of privacy and the increasing ability of ‘the system’ to keep track of citizens 24/7/365.  Save a few puppies and a kid or so and we’re all for giving up a little bit of something for increased safety.  But at what cost, and have ‘we’ ever considered that we may be being manipulated?…..Anyway….

This post by Babbage at the Economist covers the ground pretty thoroughly, at least for the near term.  I think the killer app here is the comment about replacing choppers which cost a couple of million up to operate along with expensive maintenance and aircrew tails. Smaller police forces will be able to have an air contingent and big forces will have a lot of these things (hopefully replacing most if not all the choppers, which are IMO a waste of taxpayer money.)
 
UAV’s , particularly like the one in the picture have a lot of advantages they :
  • can fly in a wider weather window than crewed craft.
  • are harder to see and hear
  • can land and sit/monitor for long periods
  • could operate 24 hours with rotating crews or units
  • can travel ‘as the crow flies’ instead of around buildings, fences, traffic etc
That’s in the near term, 2-3 years, what about the middle Future (4-7 years)?:
  • Wide area surveillance from solar powered (maybe a SolarSaurs?) high altitude platforms.
  • Add ‘Gorgon’s Stare’ technology, constant surveilance with roll back capability.
  • UAV’s the size of a bird it could follow a perp under cover.
  • UAV’s that can launch a smaller pursuit drone with a TAZER ?…a bit like this
  • What about a humingbird UAV?

And as you add those capabilities my libertarian hackles go up more and more.  None of the above should be given by a free citizenry to a gov’t that is actively growing and actively misusing its powers or taking advantage of congressional stupidity.

…Maybe I’d be happier if…..I had the right to pot one of the little puckers if it was over my property without my permission?  Hey it would create a new market, for home ultra short range anti aircraft systems!  Maybe these guys would have a head start?

The old New VW bug, a VW through and through

I’ve owned more VW’s than any other make of vehicle and I have always enjoyed them. I bought a bright yellow new Beetle as a commuter car in 1999, a safe but fun vehicle with some class. And it remains all of those things. It has been abused one way and another and its stayed good looking, solid feeling and fun to drive.
It now looks like I am about to replace the third battery which is supposedly good though I find it odd since its the only vehicle I’ve ever had to replace a battery more than once. I’ve had the fuel gauge stick once and strand me on the road….out of gas and absolutely clueless as to why the car had stopped running. The passenger side window motor blew in the middle of a Commute around Boston in the middle of a Noreaster once, which was bloody interesting….

Which brings me to my only beef really, they are expensive to have work done on and they are almost impossible to work on yourself these days.  The old New Beetle, is, was, a Rabbit (sorry a Golf) with a swoopy outline, making it hard to work on. I’ve had to replace the headlamps and that’s expensive since you have to take it in to the dealer, there is no what to get at them without removing something  important.  So the shape compounds the problem with upkeep cost.

But on the whole I have no regrets and I notice a lot of ‘bugs’ around these days.  They maintain their ‘fun’ a lot longer than other cars and they really are good commuter cars and a fun but safe first cars for the kids (having a certain panzerlike ruggedness.)

 

First Post of 2012

So I haven’t made any New Years resolutions and I have actually had a reasonably good track record of at least making progress most years.

My Blogging New Years resolution is to average more than one post a day.  I also want to somehow clean up my tags and categories.  Categories should be one of a pretty small class and the tags the larger number but not overwhelming.  It appears that managing tags and categories is not an option at this level of WP tools though.

I had made a promise to myself to blog at least once a day (after I started back in the dingy past of September) by dropping the ball the past two days…and a few other days in the meantime.  But I have averaged somewhat more than one a day, so that’s what my target is going forward.

I also plan on loosing at least 30 lbs (unfortunately not a big percentage at my current weight) and getting back in reasonable shape.  There were various excuses for the fall this year, but now I am apparently healthy again I need to get back the good habits I had for a year and more three years ago….

At least three of my ‘back stock’ of sci fi published and a couple of new ones written and published.  (Figure out if I’m always only going to be a freebie or if there is something I can do to get over the hump….)

Build two home computers one for the son, one as a family server.

DoD Buzz | The Iran problem

DoD Buzz | The Iran problem.

The problem with Iran is that there is nothing we can do about it as the article below points out.  Short of all out war we are not going to make the situation any better proliferation wise and almost any other option at least leaves open the opportunity for long termsolutions.

The article points to a think tank paper arguing (rightly I think) that Deterrence like that used vs. the USSR is the most realistic option but it requires constant vigilance and a very credible threat on our side.  Maintaining such a credible threat is not cheap, has to be part of the grand strategy and force structure of the US.  The issue is, is the current administration up to the job of planning that grand strategy? Is the US up to sustaining another deterrent axis and the costs associated,  the article highlights the (largely artificial) stresses even the limited missile shield for Europe is causing with Russia.

One interesting thing about this is that all the Wests attempts to halt proliferation have in the end come to nought, the worst of the worst are going to get the nuc’s, unless we provide an almost blanket assurance that we will avenge any first use then at least one more tier of nuc powers will emerge.

It’s also of some ironic interest that it was the US’s perfection of smart weapons and limited war tactics that could be seen as driving this nuc arms race.  We should remember that at one time or another we saw nucs as the cheap counter weapon to the Russian horde .  These smallish countries now see nuc’s as the cheap counter to folks with deep pockets and smarter magazines.

Space and entropy

Hubble Photo

A Hubble picture I think its looking into the hot hydrogen spectrum

Just some writing therapy other than Elgin, struggling a bit with Elgin in New York. I think having that deadline in front of me was effective even after I’d gotten over the base line. But that’s the way it is.

Spent too much time today reading articles and blogs on the current state of the world. Things are starting to look up in the US and yet most of the pundits are saying it’s going to be a flash in the pan, especially if the Euro resumes its crash into the toilet. And Oh, even if the Europeans pull it out, the Chinese are probably going to implode. And if the Chinese don’t implode then we need start worrying about their hegemonic intentions in the far east.

And then you have the Arab spring, all of which are now turning out to be pro Islamists of one stripe or another….well duh! Of course they are, the secular piece of the population almost has to be small be definition and they were rebelling against various levels of despotism that was supported at least partly by secular and pro-Israel US/Europe. The reaction is going to blow back. One just has to hope that the more liberal (reasonable set of rights and open economy) arms of the Islamists remain in control because the majority realize that the hardliner conservatives will keep them in at least a deep a hole as they have been for the last fifty years.

As to space and entropy…

space

1. the unlimited or incalculably great three-dimensional realm or expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur.
2. the portion or extent of this in a given instance; extent or room in three dimensions: the space occupied by a body.
3. extent or area in two dimensions; a particular extent of surface: to fill out blank spaces in a document.
4. Fine Arts
a. the designed and structured surface of a picture: In Mondrian’s later work he organized space in highly complex rhythms.
b. the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface.
5. outer space

en·tro·py

1.Thermodynamics .
a. (on a macroscopic scale) a function of thermodynamic variables, as temperature, pressure, or composition, that is a measure of the energy that is not available for work during a thermodynamic process. A closed system evolves toward a state of maximum entropy.
b. (in statistical mechanics) a measure of the randomness of the microscopic constituents of a thermodynamic system.
2. (in data transmission and information theory) a measure of the loss of information in a transmitted signal or message.
3. (in cosmology) a hypothetical tendency for the universe to attain a state of maximum homogeneity in which all matter is at a uniform temperature (heat death).
4. a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration.

This is a very clear explanation of what went wrong with the US Housing market over a very long time.

Big problems rarely appear from nowhere….this piece from the American Interest  jives with many other articles, puts it in a longer context.

Fannie, Freddie and the House of Cards

By Mary Martell

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (collectively the two largest “GSEs”, or government-sponsored enterprises) have engaged in a broad range of residential mortgage activities for many years.1 The economic disaster of recent times has drawn considerable attention to Freddie and Fannie, which is not surprising considering the role that the mortgage sector of the U.S. banking system played in that debacle. Together the two institutions hold or pool about $5 trillion worth of mortgages, and so sketchy were their operations that in September 2008 the U.S. government had to bail them out and place them in conservatorship to keep the entire mortgage market from imploding. While the U.S. government has by now been made whole by TARP-assisted banks, it is not clear whether the billions of dollars provided to keep Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac afloat will ever be returned to the U.S. Treasury.”

Read the whole thing