chris_gerrib: (Pirates of Mars)
Thought #1 - my car's GPS

When I bought my car, it came with a GPS system via the XM Radio. I really don't want to become one of those people who can't get to the grocery store without using the GPS, so I resisted using it. I have slowly started to warm to the system, largely because I found a display mode that shows me not just the next turn but the next three turns.

Thought #2 - car sunroof

Also when I bought my car, it came with a sunroof. I didn't look for that feature, it just happened to be on the vehicle that otherwise had the features I wanted. I have also found this useful, in that on a warm day one can pop the roof and get a breeze in the vehicle.

Thought #3 - other drivers

I've noticed a lot more rude drivers the past few days. For example, the "older" (my age) guy driving a Corvette who stood on his horn the instant the light turned green. Or the two (2) (!!) drivers who cut me off this AM. I blame it on Trump.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)

I now have a fully-operational Death Star garage door opener. Go me! (No traps, I promise.)


A) Evangelical Experts Oppose Trump’s Plan to Ban Refugees.

B) Paranoia is not just for poor people any more: Doomsday prepping for the super rich.

C) Peter Nowak: Why you will enjoy the open road more in self-driving cars.


I wouldn't swear these numbers are 100% accurate, but they are in the ballpark.
You know what...
Take my $1.37... I want my PBS.
Take my $.46... I am all for federal funding of art programs.
Take my $.46... I love my museums, colleges, and libraries.
Take my $.11... I support developing minority businesses.
Take my $.66... I am for entrepreneurship and innovation.
Take my $1.60... I want us to export more goods overseas.
Take my $0.43... I would like to see more American manufacturing.
Take my $0.88... I think community policing needs vast improvement.
Take my $1.48... I support programs for women.
Take my $1.55... I believe in due process for all.
Take my $0.48... We need a civil rights division in the justice department.
Take my $0.38... I think we need to defend our Mother Earth.
Take my $0.03... I know more work needs to be done for climate change.
Take my $8.95... because we need more sustainable energy.
Take my $2.71... we should reduce our carbon footprint.
If saving these programs means I'm out $22.36 a year, I'm good with contributing my $.07 a day to save these federal programs.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I apologize for yesterday's radio silence. In the AM I was busy doing disaster recovery testing at work, and in the afternoon I cranked out 1500 words on a short story. Here, in order to fill some space, some lessons learned.

1) I no longer need a tire air pressure gauge - my car has tire air pressure sensors.

2) Meat thermometers only work if you take the meat being tested out of the oven.

3) A five-pound boneless rib roast for five adults yields at least a pound of leftovers. (Good thing I like rib roast.)

4) If you have a 41-inch waist, you need to buy 40-inch pants with expandable waistlines. They don't make 41-inch waists, and 42s fall off.

5) the cocktail whiskey old fashioned is a dangerously mild-tasting drink.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I need to clean out some links, so here - now they're your problem!

A) This fascinating site promises to tell you how many people have your last name and where they live. According to the site, only 26 people in the world are named "Gerrib." I suspect that's actually high, as our name is an Anglicized version of an uncommon Lithuanian name.

B) Here's an interesting video about how difficult it is to drive a Model T. Hint - you have three pedals on the floor, none of which control the gas.

C) Of interest to those who've gone down to the sea: This massive, out-of-control cargo ship is about to crash into the coast of France.

D) A very powerful and simple explanation of how slate voting in awards is bad and how to fix it.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
There's a wonderful piece of dialog which I thought was in the movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Wikipedia tells me the movie starred (and thus the dialog was delivered by) Gert Frobe, I could have sworn it was Curt Jurgens.

In any event, in the movie, set in 1910, Gert, in full Prussian aristocrat mode, walks into a meeting and he apologizes for being late. It seems a horse died in the middle of the street and was blocking traffic. With a straight face, Gert then says "traffic will flow so much better when it's all motorized."

I was reminded of that movie today while driving to work. It snowed here in Chicago, a light and fluffy dusting of maybe half an inch. I was amazed at how cluelessly people drove. For example:

1) Spending 4 blocks sitting in the blind spot of a bus.
2) Driving down a dry road at 15 MPH.
3) Cutting in front of two lanes of left-turn-only traffic to make a left turn. (People, if you miss your turn, go to the next light and make a U-turn!)
4) Pulling out from in a street parking spot, cutting in front of me so you could do a 180 and proceed the opposite way.

Traffic will flow so much better when it's all automated. (said with a smile.)
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Over the Columbus Day weekend, I celebrated by purchasing a GMC Terrain SUV. My 2007 Saturn Vue was getting a bit long in the tooth. So now I've got to re-program the radio, set up IPass, and figure out how the GPS system works.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Have some links:

A) Hundreds of thousands of German POWs were held in Texas during WWII. Conditions there were so good that one wrote “I am a German former war prisoner and was a reader of your newspaper….Texas became my first tranquil home after harsh years of war….I want back in old Texas and I can work. Who can help me?”

B) Pictures of the Battle of Britain in color.

C) For science-fiction types: Questions about driverless cars.

D) How publishers made decisions about what book to buy the book P & L statement. Remember, writing is an art and publishing is a business.

E) The non-planets all shown to scale.


Jun. 5th, 2015 10:05 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I am currently driving a 2008 Saturn Vue. It is a compact SUV, which means it fits anywhere *I* fit, and yet I sit up higher for better comfort and visibility. I have the mild hybrid version, which is a 4-cylinder gas engine paired with an electric motor for acceleration. The vehicle is thus at least as peppy as the V-6 version with better gas mileage. Lastly, my car is mechanically sound and paid for.

Alas, it is seven year old, and showing the various minor dings and wear of a seven-year-old vehicle that's driven every day. So I've started looking, and as typical of my profession and generation, that meant via the Internet. I've been a fan from afar of the Chevy Volt, but I'm not sure the vehicle would meet my needs or desires. I would like to test-drive one, if just for kicks.

I really like SUVs - all but two of my vehicles (both bought decades ago) were SUVs, so I'm adjusted to them. But I'm not a fan of large SUVs. They suck gas and don't fit in parking spots. I've had a selection of 4-wheel drive vehicles, but since off-road for me is an occasional gravel parking lot most of the time I don't need that feature.

As mentioned above, I've been doing my shopping so far on the Internet, and have used Kelly Blue Book to compare models. What looks like the right vehicle so far is the GMC Terrain. It's only a few inches longer than my Vue, and I think comes with the appropriate goodies to make me happy. The standard engine is a four-banger, which I suspect will be too doggy for my driving style, but if I order one I should be able to get the V-6.

Now to find the time to actually drive said vehicles and see if the rubber really meets the road...
chris_gerrib: (Me)

My car is in the shop again. They wanted to look and see if I had a slow Freon leak (I don't), but while waiting for that I noticed a loud whine and some vibration when the car was moving. This proved to be a bad bearing in my right front wheel. They are trying to get the bearing assembly disassembled (if so, a $500 fix) if not, a $800 fix. In the meantime I'm driving a loaner car.

Various Thought #1: Debates

It's hard to have a debate on astronomy if one of the parties says "the Earth is flat and anybody who says otherwise is a lying liar who lies!" (Related thought.)

Various Thought #2: Book Review

I just finished reading the wonderful novel Defenders by Will McIntosh last night. I highly recommend it. Basically, humanity is getting our collective asses kicked by telepathic aliens, so we genetically-engineer humanoid "defenders" to reverse the ass-kicking. The good news is this works, the bad news is the Defenders have ideas of their own.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
First, this week's beg for our wonderful Hadley Rille Books fundraiser, now with no totebags!

Second, links!

1) Independent bookstores start a new chapter: Growth. Their numbers are up, along with their sales, as e-book novelty wears off and human interaction becomes a top priority.

2) Krugman on global warming. Tl;dr = a) the "war on coal" is BS - coal mining jobs are being lost to stripmining, not environmentalists, and b) if you believe in Ayn Rand, the only response to global warming can be angry denial.

3) An interesting article about the economics of developing self-driving cars.

4) Not news to my readers, but the US missile defense system is utterly broken.


May. 19th, 2014 01:43 pm
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Today I had an unusual errand. I had to go to a dealership and pick up a car that used to belong to another bank but now belongs to us. I had all sorts of paperwork ready to go, but when I said "I'm here to pick up car X" the dealership said "okay" and gave me the keys, no questions asked. A reminder, if one was needed, that much of society runs on trust.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
A) No, Virginia, the Russians can't just roll through NATO. According to data gathered by, Russian troop levels have declined since 1990 from 1.5 million to 321,000. Over the same period, tank divisions have been slashed from 46 to five, artillery divisions from 19 to five, motorized rifle divisions from 142 to 19, and so it goes across the ranks. Whats worse is that most Russian soldiers are conscripts on one-year terms and they all enlisted last April! So their enlistments expire this month and a new class of recruits will show up.

B) Seasteading is a libertarian idea which involves creating your own nation in international waters somewhere. As this guy points out, that's much easier said than done. Logistics - it's not just for breakfast any more.

C) An interesting if long article on how Americans went from blaming cars to pedestrians for accidents.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
For various reasons, the social impact of self-driving cars has been on my mind lately. Herewith, in stream-of-consciousness order, are my thoughts.

1) We will always have traffic jams. Cars are mechanical things and will break down, roads will need to be maintained (ask me about my commute today!), ice, snow and rain will affect all vehicles, and there can only be so many cars on a given amount of road. When all cars are automated, traffic will flow better, but it won't be perfect.

2) I've heard people offer the idea that, in the self-driving car era, people will be willing to live a long way from work, because they can sleep in their cars on the way in. Really? You're going to get up, get dressed, eat breakfast, climb into the car and take a nap on the way into work? A few hardy souls may, but most people won't.

3) I expect that there will be a lot fewer two-car families. In many families, one car is used to take somebody to work, where it sits in the parking lot for eight hours and is driven home. In the self-driving era, that car can be sent home and used during the day for other purposes.

4) With "taxis" being replaced by self-driving rental cars that can come and pick you up then take themselves back to the shop, there will be a lot of one-car and no-car families. However, there will still be people who need their own car. People with sales or repair jobs, for example, use their cars as storage / portable offices. For those people, having their own car will be even more important.

5) The ability to manually drive a car, at least in low-speed parking lot situations, will still be useful. People are going to want to go shopping, park their car in a space of their choosing, run into the store and come back out.

6) Harried parents are going to want to use their cars to send their children places as opposed to drive them there. Because of point #1, there will be arguments about how young a child can be and be left alone in a vehicle, and from time to time, some poor kid will come to grief due to a bad decision on somebody's part.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
From [ profile] baron_waste I get this article which claims that solar panels could destroy US utilities. Basically, the argument is:

1) Solar panels will eliminate peak load requirements - the most expensive electrical power.
2) People will convert to battery systems, providing 24/7 off-grid power, much like they ditched land telephone lines.
3) This reduction in demand will result in higher prices for the non-converting customer, forcing us to convert or demand that regulated utilities reduce prices.

To which I say, most politely, bullshit. Here's why:

First, unlike telephone lines, solar power requires construction and will always be a capital project for the average homeowner. Second, the battery technology needed to go off-grid remains way too pricey for all but the way-out-in-the-wilderness crowd, and there's no indication that will change soon. But even if it does, re-engineering the average US house will take time and money, resulting in a long and slow adoption curve. Also, somebody's got to maintain those systems, so there's a market for service contracts.

But there's another fallacy here - the idea that peak power is the most profitable form of electrical power. It's not - which is why Com Ed will pay you for the right to shut your AC off. Peak power is actually the least profitable form of power, because it requires building expensive plants designed to start up quickly. These plants have to be staffed 24/7, but don't run all the time. The most profitable power is base-load power.

Lastly, not every building can generate enough solar power to meet their needs. There's only so much roof area a building has, and many buildings (most commercial buildings, high-rises) consume more power than they could generate. Not only that, but as more Americans drive battery-powered cars like the Chevy Volt, electrical power demand will go up, especially at night, as those cars are recharged.

In short, utilities will have plenty of time to adapt and plenty of customers to serve.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
They say three things make a post, so:

1) John J. Lumpkin's eagerly-awaited (by me, at least) second book, The Desert of Stars, is now available on Amazon.


2) Some German engineers have created a free-piston engine. Its immediate use would be to generate electricity for extending the range of electric cars.

3) Sometimes the best truths come from humorists. Today's example from - 5 Ways Statistics Are Used to Lie to You Every Day. Well worth the read.
chris_gerrib: (Me)
Two cool things "borrowed" from [ profile] jaylake:

Cool Thing #1

I give you The Law of the Tongue, a "treaty" between men and killer whales.

Cool Thing #2

Apparently, as late as 500 million years ago, massive floods were still happening on Mars. It sure looks like there'd be lots of water on Mars today, just buried underground.


Jason Kuznicki at The League of Ordinary Gentlemen makes some interesting predictions. I think he's overly-optimistic about some of them (solar and genetic engineering) and right on about others (driverless cars). Two that I want to discuss briefly are the "Great Filter" and a physics paradigm shift.

I've discussed the great filter before, and suffice it to say I don't believe it exists. I do think there are a lot of small filters (we dodged one of them by avoiding a nuclear war with the USSR) but the great filter doesn't exist. The real reason we haven't discovered intelligent life in other planets is simple - space is big and we've only been looking a few decades. I also don't think intelligent life is an inevitable result of evolution nor is it the apex of evolution. There could have been intelligent dinosaurs. In fact, if an intelligent species of dinosaur had existed but been at a Stone-Age level when the rock hit, would we be able to recognize it now?

The physics paradigm shift is more of an observation. Much of modern astrophysics hinges on things like "dark matter" - stuff that we can't detect. As Kuznicki puts it - "the invocation of epicycles is a standard sign that your model is missing something really big." If this is true, then part of why we haven't seen aliens is we're waiting for them to send us a telegraph - a technology they abandoned long ago.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Like the label on the tin says:

1) A reminder that A. C. Crispin has re-released her wonderful Starbridge novels as ebooks. I read and enjoyed the lead-off book, which is available here.

2) The blogger at Gin and Tacos asks a question I've always wondered, namely how many of the people caught in FBI terrorist stings were ever a real threat?

3) Self-driving cars would completely reshape the auto industry. For example, lots of people buy trucks because they occasionally haul stuff in them. Well, if you could rent a truck that would show up in your driveway and get itself back to the rental place on its own, would they need to buy a truck?

4) Churchill's favorite spy. She may have been the inspiration for the first Bond girl, Vesper Lynd.

5) The real problem with Romney's "budget" proposal isn't Big Bird, it's the Snuffleupagus.

6) Consulates are not Embassies and Other Musings on Benghazi…
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Tomorrow, I have to be at the Ottawa, IL Rotary Club at 07:15 hours. Since Ottawa is a good hour-and-a-half from my house, that means I'll be on the road by 06:00 hours, and probably not back in Oak Brook until 10:30. Ergo, blogging tomorrow is doubtful.

In anticipation of my lack of blogging, have some links:

1) California has legalized self-driving cars.

2) A bit hyperbolic, but this fellow's meeting with an Internet troll was interesting.

3) An interesting pictorial on how to hide an aircraft factory.

4) A reminder that all American presidential elections are choice between two evils. I would argue that all or nearly all votes in an election are choices between two evils. After all, unless you're voting for yourself, you simply can't agree with every political position held by your favorite candidate.

5) I can't remember if I blogged about this before, but as a reminder of how our Republican politicians define "supporting the troops" Republican Senators block veterans jobs bill.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Let's get right to it, then.

1) An evergreen article, con etiquette. (From [ profile] jaylake)

2) America's most under-appreciated author, Charles Sheehan-Miles, has a kickstarter campaign for his new novel. You should go and throw some money in the basket.

3) From Rolling Stone magazine, the government bailout that saved Mitt Romney. Glad to see that this "self-made man" did it his way.

4) General Motors announces its best sales month ever for the Chevy Volt. I've also started to see TV ads for the Volt.

5) An interesting reflection on the Tea Party and their obsession with so-called 'voter fraud'. (Found via Steve Buchheit.

6) No, Virginia, Rachel Carson did not kill millions by banning DDT. In fact, in her book she wrote "It is not my contention that chemical insecticides must never be used." She merely called for understanding of the risks of chemical pesticides.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
From the service writer, "Saturns are good cars but they eat keys."

I caught mine before it ate another one.


chris_gerrib: (Default)

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