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But It’s Haaaard!

May 19, 2015

Oh, geez.

By all rights, California is on the brink of creating a reverse dust-bowl event that will cause a mass exodus from the rural areas, and the state probably won’t even notice.  But the CA government, never one to screw up an opportunity, is trying to make this a time to educate the same populace that seems to keep voting for it on how to further screw things up.

It’s one thing to force 25% of the market to take up the capacity loss (hey, how about starting with the delta smelt and the farmers, and then focus on the high-hanging fruit), but it’s totally another to have that 25% clueless as to how to help.

Californians widely support Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for mandatory water cuts amid the deepening drought, according to a new poll of state residents — but many don’t know if they can pitch in.

The survey results released Tuesday by the San Francisco-based Field Poll show that while nearly two-thirds of respondents agree that water agencies should be forced to reduce consumption by an average of 25 percent, more than 4 in 10 homeowners say they don’t have the ability to cut back much.

There’s a comment in the article about needing to water lawns.  Again, oh, geez.  How about, um, you stop watering it?  Yes, it dies.  If you’re serious about water, then you let stuff die.  Or if you don’t want to do that, you water less, but in the morning before the sun rises.

I’m not saying it’s easy.  I’m saying that you have to be willing to find a solution.  At this point, the biggest concern everyone is having is the one that should have already happened… raise the water rates, which will force people to find ways to conserve.

When I lived in the Bay, I remember that the government had a big initiative to replace all the toilets in the area with low-flow types.  They funded a huge initiative to do that, including incentives… which significantly cut water in the sewer system over the next decade… which actually broke the sewer system because there wasn’t enough water to move the effluent.  So they had to flush the system with… water.

I hope California gets some rain soon.  Otherwise, they’ll start trying to truck it from Oregon.

A Face and Voice Made for Blogging

May 7, 2015

Another quick link… here’s an interview I did in San Diego a couple weeks ago on the Internet of Things.  Or whatever it is that it’ll eventually be called.

Framing Farming in a New Light

May 6, 2015

I was asked to write a guest blog at the Hitachi Data Systems site on some of the new data analytics products in the market.  Here it is.

Engineering fundamentally changes the world.  And technology is emotionless.  It’s the people behind it that make it wonderful or dangerous.

I Need More Money, Thanks

April 22, 2015

In Oregon a while back, there was a proposal to move our road tax system to a full weight-mile tax.  The complaint was that cars were getting too fuel-efficient, and Oregon wasn’t getting enough from gas taxes.  The only reason it failed was that they couldn’t figure out how to implement it without years of lawsuits.

Why did I think of government trying to get money out of people who try to be efficient?  Um, no reason

State energy regulators on Tuesday proposed major changes to the way residents pay for electricity in the biggest overhaul of utility rates since California’s energy crisis more than a decade ago.

The changes may seem counter to the state’s long-standing push for energy efficiency. But, according to the commission’s staff, the most efficient California households currently pay less for electricity than the utilities spend supplying it to them. They are, in effect, subsidized by households in the higher tiers.

Ah, California…

The point is not how much is costs to supply a particular household.  If that were true, you’d charge varying rates based on distance from a grid point.  More distant places need all that power line infrastructure, and have to cover loss.  No, I’d suspect more that it’s the energy companies deciding that people who are supplying their own power are diminishing the value of the actual utility.

Though the article doesn’t mention it, this likely only applies to retail power rates.  If you haven’t played with your own energy production, the utility buys your electricity at wholesale rates, and then charges you varying retail rates if you need more than you produce.  That’s not really part of the discussion above, but it’s worth noting.

To a degree, I’ve been waiting for this to happen.  To some extent, the customers who are using little energy do cost the utility a disproportionate amount, because the infrastructure has to be spread across all the users, and the only way to recoup it is by unit.  So supplying to someone who doesn’t pay you back in proportion is always taxing (pun only partially intended).

But this is what you get.  The utility is still a profit-making company, and people using less of a profit-making company’s stuff really don’t help said company make profits.  And when you also happen to have a near-monopoly approach to business, the little people who are trying to break you, even in subtle ways, just get run over.

We’ll see how far this goes, but I bet it gets a lot farther than the weight-mile tax.

You Lose, So I Didn’t Cheat

April 1, 2015

So… I’m juxtaposing two stories.

First, I think everyone has seen the story of “The Pizza Place” in Indiana.  After reporters canvassed the entire state trying to find a spec of bigotry, they came across a small pizza place where the owner said that she’d be willing to serve pizza to anyone, but wouldn’t cater a gay wedding if asked.  If you check the link above, people immediately jumped to erase said pizza place from the face of the earth, and it appears that they may have succeeded.

So far in the battle of Indiana, we’ve seen zero gay marriages stopped because of a law that 20 other states and the feds have on the books.  But we’ve now seen at least one Christian couple forced out of business by the forces of tolerance.

The second case concerns the former head of the Senate, Harry Reid, who says that dissembling on the Senate Floor is just politics, and that’s okay if you’re trying to win.  So, it’s apparently okay to do anything to take out your opponent by any means necessary as long as you successfully take out your opponent.  This is similar to the semi-famous comment from Barack Obama to John McCain not long into his first term: “I won.”

So, for the record, I’m an evangelical Christian.  I believe homosexuality is a sin.  I believe sex outside of marriage is a sin.  I believe looking lustfully at someone is a sin.  I believe that lying is a sin.  I believe that worry is a sin.  There’s a much longer list of things that are sins.  The list of things that aren’t sin pretty much comes down to being Christ-like, and I fail at that most minutes of my waking life.  And yet, I love most (but not all, and that’s a sin, too) sinners.  My actions speak loudly, and they say I’m unworthy.

So… I have no opinion on either of the above that’s relevant to what most people consider the discussion.  The one thing I do want to say is that it appears that there are people that will do anything to win, and the cost to the people on the losing side is irrelevant.  I don’t get that.  But then again, I guess I’m not supposed to.

Oh, You Wanted to Earn MORE?

March 5, 2015

I have at least one family member who says I’m against people making a fair wage.  And that’s not true.  I’m all for the market paying what it can bear, but not so much that the market is upset.

Here’s one case from Oakland.  The city recently enacted a wage hike, and that’s starting to mean that restaurants have to pay the employees more.  In some cases, that’s being passed on in the prices, but here’s an interesting take on things:

At Bocanova, a high-end restaurant in Jack London Square, there’s now no line for tipping on the check. A note on the menu reads: “In lieu of gratuity, a 16% Lift Up Oakland Surcharge & 4% Service Charge will be added to your check beginning March 1st, 2015.”

The 4 percent goes directly to servers. The 16 percent covers the cost of raising other staff salaries.

Owner Rick Hackett is betting on the idea that customers will respond better to a percentage fee than increased prices across the menu.

And hey, this is fair.  Instead of the servers making money on tips, they now just get what’s essentially a flat salary based on business, and that goes the same for the rest of the restaurant workers.  I mean, this is what the people who enacted the measure wanted, right?  It’s perfectly fair to make sure everyone is equal and not open up the opportunity for good service to be rewarded unfairly…

I hope Oakland figures this out.  It’s interesting to see how the real unintended consequences work out.

Incidentally, I’m sure you saw that Walmart recently raised its minimum wage for workers.  Or maybe you didn’t, because all those people who were complaining about still hate Walmart, so they’re not trumpeting the change.  You know what’s going to happen with that?  Walmart workers will get paid more.  And all the other retail businesses around Walmart will be either forced to raise wages or risk losing their best people to Walmart.  It’s not at all surprising to me that the companies that can best afford to raise wages will do so, and that other companies will suffer as a result.

So, glad this push for higher wages is working out so far…

Proof Positive…

February 27, 2015

…that I have a face and a voice made for blogging.  But here I am guesting on a friend’s blog talking about the latest in Enterprise Trends.

Here’s the link.  The video was longer, but the audio was painful enough that we just kept it short.


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