Friday, August 11, 2017

This is how we treat nerds in Canada

The new Tesla Model 3 - good or meh?

Tesla revealed the new Model 3 all-electric car to the world at the end of July. This car was touted to be the electric car for the masses, priced at US$35,000. This would make it more attractive to non-luxury car buyers.

But there are, as always, two sides to a story, and the same goes for this new wonder car.


First off, US$35,000 only gets you the basic black model. It also only gets the smallest battery (and consequently a lower range), slower top speed and acceleration, and no auto pilot. There are no power seats, and no powered or heated mirrors. If you want a fully loaded Model 3, you're looking at closer to US$57,000. Not so much in the range of the average consumer.

Adding more range, from 220 miles to 310 (or 354 km to 500 km) costs $9000. Adding enhanced autopilot adds $5000, full self-driving adds another $3000. The Premium package adds $5000.

The US federal tax credits won't be available once Tesla delivers 200,000 Model 3 cars.

It's not a hatchback.


The long range Model 3 has the cheapest price per mile of range of any production electric car.

You get access to the ever growing Supercharger network, which is doubling in during 2017.

The long range Model 3 can recharge at 170 miles (273 km) per 30 minutes of supercharger time.

The long range model is pretty quick - zero to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Top speed of 140 mph.

15" touchscreen display for all functions.

An incredibly large panoramic glass roof.

This car, with the self-driving option, will eventually have the software upgrade to drive itself with no human intervention. With this option, your car could be in downtown Vancouver, and you could summon it to White Rock to come and get you.

So, could you buy a cheaper all-electric car? Yes. Will it go as far as a Tesla? Maybe. Will it have as many recharging options? No. Will it drive itself someday. No. Will it be as cool or as ground-breaking? Nope. So your options are clear, pay for the future or settle for the present.

Small things - 11 Aug

"Anybody here named "Jeff?"
Jeff: "Yes."
Geoff: "Yeos."

  • I would like the press to provide news representative of the bad AND good in the world. If you read every article in a paper, or online news site, count how many stories are reports of bad things or negativity or criticisms of things or people. Is this all that the world is made of? Are there no positive, uplifting stories to tell? I know we have sites like Upworthy, but good news should be part of all major media output.
  • Thank goodness there was no Facebook when I was younger and decided to try dying my hair with henna.
  • When everyone has a 3D printer, we'll all lament how at one time, we had printers that, when you supplied them with paper, just produced sheets of paper with ink on them....
  • I wonder how driving statistics would change if horns were removed from all vehicles. Are we still using them for what they were designed for? Or are they now just an electronic yelling or bird flipping device?
  • Just remember you younguns, who poke fun at older folks who can't use technology.... one day you'll be old and there'll be a new thing you can't master either.
  • Your birthday. The only day in your life when your mother smiled when you cried.

Yes you are!!

Things I learned lately - 11 Aug

  • David Letterman is currently working on a new interview series for Netflix. "I feel excited and lucky to be working on this project for Netflix. Here's what I have learned, if you retire to spend more time with your family, check with your family first. Thanks for watching, drive safely."
  • Bill Burr, the author of the industry standard password guidelines, first published in 2003 — suggested that to optimize security, passwords must be reset every 90 days, and contain a mix of an uppercase letter, number, and special character. Now the National Institute of Standards and Technology has set new guidelines. Passwords should be long and easy-to-remember, and only need to be changed when there is sign of a breach. Long pass phrases work better because they can be super long and still easy to memorize. So goodbye 'Qx3!hNM8%boe', hello 'mothermakeschililikelava'.
  • They play Jai Alai professionally in Florida. The speed record for a jai alai ball is 328 km/h.
  • There are still Blockbuster video rental outlets in Alaska. Their days are numbered, but.... they still exist.
  • Surnames weren't introduced until the year 1066.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

The rock 'n' roll weather map

Small things - 5 Aug

  • You know that 0.1% of bacteria your soap didn't kill? They are so pissed at you right now. You killed all their friends.
  • Imagine what kind of transportation system we would have, if all the money spent on personal vehicles, maintenance, insurance and gas instead was invested into modern, efficient mass transit.
  • If you tell everyone at work that you have an identical twin, you probably won't have to talk to co-workers if you run into them outside of work.
  • The next time someone says "We should hang out sometime", just say, "I'm ready to hang out right now"...
  • The biggest way drone quadcopters (with cameras) will change the world is that they will stealthily reveal secrets that some people don't want you to see.

Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel

A few months back, the Energy Efficiency Advisory Panel in Alberta asked people to speak to their concerns, vision and priorities for Alberta energy initiatives going forward.

This was my submission:

The best way for me to address this issue is to highlight for me, what seem to be the areas we seem to be falling short, or falling behind, in the various areas of energy efficiency.

I start with awareness. Although I’ve been following green anything for at least a decade with excitement, I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken to who aren’t aware of the technology advances and strides made in the last few years. Or how many people have bought into the myths about sustainability that have been debunked, but the masses still buy into them. If I had access to the financial resources, I would travel the globe and produce evidence to Albertans (and really, why stop there?) of the myriad ways other jurisdictions have moved far beyond us in becoming more efficient and sustainable.

Next up are the utilities, the energy providers. I remember when they said to Albertans, “We can’t rely on more than 15% of renewable connected to the grid.” This was the most short-sighted and now completely false statement a utility can make, and does nothing to promote the idea of efficiency and sustainability. On 8 May 2016, on a particularly sunny and windy day, 95% of the 57.8 gigawatts of electricity that Germany was using was being produced by renewable energy. Solar power produced 45.2%, wind 36%, biomass 8.9% and hydro 4.8% of the total. Power prices actually went negative for several hours.

There are several islands around the world that have begun phasing out their reliance on fossil fuels by leveraging wind power on the island ridges to not only feed the grid, but the surplus is used to pump sea water to higher altitude reservoirs, which, once the wind stops, become instant hydro-electric plants as the water is allowed to fall back into the ocean.
Europe has found a way to store energy as cold. Cold storage warehouses are allowed to continue dropping in temperature, powered by wind, which blows all night, but has no typical demand use on the grid. This can allow the cooling system to be turned off first thing in the morning, allowing power they would have used to be used by the rest of the grid while the warehouse slowly rises back to the nominal temperature.

Many solar installations have been designed with the ability to store energy as heat, which depending on the solution used and the storage method, can keep the energy trapped for later use from hours to months.

In an example of how we already have the means of storing energy for when it is needed, Vermont’ electrical utilities will make it cheaper to install solar panels and storage batteries on the condition that when the grid can’t quite match momentary demand, the grid can draw some power from the collective capacity of everyone’s home battery.
I am not witnessing any motivation by local utilities to move people toward installing renewable energy and it is my understanding that consumers need permission to do these installations. In worse case scenarios like in some US states, consumers are actually charged a fee if they decide to produce any of their own energy. I recall our own utilities complain that we’re putting too much pressure on our grid, but they seem less than apathetic toward the decentralization of power generation via community generation and storage.

Then we get to the efficiency of the energy users themselves. We consume a lot of energy to heat our homes, yet other jurisdictions have proven on a mass scale that zero energy homes are not only attainable, but not much of a premium over status quo construction methods and materials. When a home can either produce more energy than it uses, or at the very least be able to maintain comfort using one small heater, I’m baffled why new developments aren’t all building these kinds of homes. That’s not to suggest that there are no green developments being built here. But shouldn’t they be the norm, rather than the exception?

Finally, I think it’s going to take some brave new ideas to leverage what we have a lot of to help deal with what we are lacking. For example, we should be converting farms in southern Alberta (and elsewhere). Right now, they're big, there's not enough water to go around (which will likely get worse over time), and crops are always at risk of hail damage. Our growing season is short. But one thing we have in abundance, is sunshine. Even in winter.

Farms in southern Alberta should build giant solar arrays. These arrays could generate electricity, some of which could be sold to the grid. I think an even better option is to build some of the array of the type that generates heat. The heat would be stored underground. I would go for solar arrays covering 50-66% of the original arable land. But first, remove the remaining topsoil and put it aside.

On the remaining property, build greenhouses, with material that can withstand hail. Fill those greenhouses with the topsoil. Then heat and light the greenhouses whenever heat and light are lacking, powered by the electrical array and all that heat energy you stored all summer long. Greenhouses would help conserve water too, because there's less surface area to cover, and the evaporating water used to irrigate the indoor crops doesn't escape much to the outside. It becomes part of the internal ecosystem.

This idea is smart not only because of the growing impracticality of farming in our ever dryer Alberta environment, but it allows us to grow stuff we would normally depend on places like California and BC to provide. This saves on transportation costs and protects us from currency fluctuations. It also leverages the one thing we have in even more abundance than oil and gas. Sunshine.
There is so much more to discuss, but I think this is a good start.

Peanut puree and fruit confiture topped with pain blanc

That would be the fancy restaurant name for PB&J.

Things I learned lately - 5 Aug

  • Google Drive now hosts more than 2,000,000,000,000 files (trillion).
  • Statistically, people who swear are more honest.
  • You can buy jeans at Nordstom's that look like you've been working a real dirty job. They're called Barracudas and they'll set you back $425. There's a matching jacket too. A costume for wealthy people who see work as ironic.
  • Robot security guards are a thing now.
  • Most of the top executives of oil companies around the world expect the demand for oil to peak anywhere from 2020 to sometime in the late 2020s, thanks to the expected proclivity of electric car sales. After that, oil demand should decline and that spells trouble for the industry. 
  • India plans to shift to all electric cars by 2030.