helblonde: (Default)
Unrelated to anything in my life, I've been thinking a lot about the problems with electric cars. From what I've been read and been told by [livejournal.com profile] moriven, who is significantly more interested in these things, electric cars have a battery life problem. They have a limited distance they can go, and then they have to be plugged in for a really long time to charge back up.

It seems to me that automotive engineers may be stuck in an old way of thinking here. Do cars need to have only one battery? What if they designed a car with a series of smaller removable batteries that were drained in sequence? As the battery cells are used, they could be swapped out for freshly charged ones, either from charging racks at service stations, or at a charging rack at home. This would let people go farther in their cars and charge back up to full without putting the car to rest for a day or so.

For example, say, a car had 6 battery cells. The owner would buy a set of 6 extras and a charging station for the garage. Then the driver could use 4, pop into the garage and swap them out from a rack of charged cells and be back out on the road in minutes. Or they could go to a service station, and pay a fee to swap in 4 fresh ones (like a propane tank exchange). 

Charging stations, no matter how they end up configured, are going to start popping up in more and more places. I'm not sure we're ready for that. Our country needs a massive infrstucture upgrade if we are going to embrace electric cars. Our electric power grid is not set up for another heavy drain. I think of the rolling brownouts in summer on the East Coast and just shake my head. How much worse would they be with another massive drain on the system? Sorry, kids, no TV or AC tonight, Mommy needs to get to work in the morning.

Also, I have a hard time embracing the "greenness" of electric cars when so much of our electricity is generated by non-green means. Is there any real improvement between an electric car powered by a coal-burning power plant and a gasoline powered vehicle? I'm not seeing it. At best, it just moves the point of pollution away from ourselves to the someplace where we don't have to see it or know about it. Electricity is just there in the wall, right?

Now, I'm not saying that all of our power generation across the country is from coal and other nonrenewable sources, but the majority of it is. Which goes back to my infrastructure point. We need more power generation and better transmission lines to be able to support large-scale growth in the electric car industry.
helblonde: (Default)
Dear fungicide manufacturer, 
I like that your anti-fungal spray product has a concentated refill available. However, when the sprayer is 23 oz (or whatever), I don't want the refill instructions to be in gallons. I'm not devoting a gallon bucket to this chemical when I already have a vessel that is contamnated with it and can be used to apply said chemical. I also don't want to do the math in converting down to the sprayer size, especially when the concentrate is measured in freaking teaspoons. I won't devote myself to the imprecision of using empirical measure for this, because I *do* have 1/8 and 1/16 tsp measures. You can be sure, however, that I'm not devoting them to this. How about these for instructions: fill up our spray bottle with water and use this handy dropper to add the concentrate?
Regards, etc.
helblonde: (Licky Kitty)
We went to dinner with my dad and grandparents last night at Roya's Garlic Garden in Lafayette. It was good. I recommend it.

I had lobster-stuffed filet mignon. It was really tender and juicy. It came with a bearnase and marsala sauces. I think next time I would just get the marsala. The entrees were served on wooden planks which added a smoky flavor. I didn't find the garlic to be overpowering in anything.

Roya came out and chatted with us. It was clear she remembered my grandparents. She teased my dad a little and comped me a desert when she found out they were taking me out for my birthday. The chocolate cake with Grand Marnier creme was quite nice, indeed.

The restaurant had a full bar with quite a selection of top-shelf scotches (which we didn't try this time).

helblonde: (anecdote)
All the furor about Icelandic volcanoes and air travel in England and Europe has me shaking my head. It's like people have forgotten that we can cross the ocean in boats.

Sure, it takes longer than it would by plane, but it's only a couple of days across the Atlantic. And it sure beats waiting indefinitely at Heathrow.

It seems like folks still have this picture in their minds that it's still 500 years ago and that it takes months to get to North America. Seriously, people no one is "stuck" in England. Get on a cruise ship. You'll have a lovely time eating good food while not being trapped in your seat and making progress towards your mian destination. It could be a great trip. Then, once you're in New York or Boston or wherever, you fly home.

So, here's my call out to cruise lines: this is a HUGE opportunity. You've got a whole bunch of ships that cruise the fjords, right? Guess where people aren't going to be vacationing for a while because of that huge ash cloud? Redirect those ships to go Portsmouth to NYC,  Liverpool to Boston, Dover to Dover. Show people what it's like to have a comfortable Atlantic crossing. Make deals with airlines. International plane-ticket holders could get [airline-subsidized?], train tickets to a port, discounts on a sea crossing and either a night's stay at a hotel on the other side or a free shuttle ride to the airport. This could be a huge win if you do the leg work.

So, a couple of folks have commented that it would cost more money to sail, and they are absolutely right. My point is that the news media are presenting this as the end of travel in, to, or from England for a while and that is patently untrue. Heck, if people absolutely had to get home, they could take a train to some other part of Europe and catch a flight from there.

To address the greater cost concern, though, I see it that plane ticket home as something that investors and business people call a sunk cost. You will likely not be getting the benefit of that of that money so stop throwing more money after it (hotel rooms and meals cost money, right?) and solve the actual problem: getting home.

If I were a business consultant in the travel industry right now, these would be m suggestions:
I would recommend that the airlines offer travel vouchers to their passengers to get them out of the airport while they wait.
For rewards passengers, I'd offer a discount on rail travel to another airport and a booking on a flight out of there.
I would tell cruise lines not to jack up the prices. This is their opportunity to showcase their style and comfort. Their goal should be to build a feeling of value for money in the eyes of the consumer with an eye towards repeat business.
helblonde: (Just B)
I'm going to start this book report off with a rant. No, wait, I have more than one rant.

Why is it that book publishers no longer put the number that book is in a series (e.g., Book 17 in the Milking the Cash Cow saga) on the cover or in the introductory pages? That is really starting to tick me off. If I pick up a book in a series, I want to start with the first. If I like it and return to the bookstore for the sequel, I want to know that I'm then picking up the second in the series. Not the third, not the fifth, the second.

I want this information to be easy to find. Putting the number on the cover is best. Including a list of "other books by the author" in the first couple of pages is almost sufficient, as long as you publish the titles of the series in order. Making me guess by including reviews of other books by the author (a practice I consider self-congratulatory masturbation) is not adequate for communicating this vital information. 

Labeling the books with the order would also mean that we could skip the paragraphs or pages of background information, which is, let's face it, boring as hell. Of course, if more authors (and publishers) could find it in their creative hearts to just write single stories instead of making everything into a trilogy or cash-cow series, then this would be a moot point. It has been a long time since I've found a sci-fi, fantasy, or mystery novel that was a stand-alone book. More authors should try them.

Speaking of boredom (and, incidentally, going back to the topic of self-congratulation), I really hate to see authors who have written good stuff get so full of themselves that they forget to listen to their editors. For instance, I think this is where David Weber is screwing up. His early works are pretty darn good. His recent stuff needs a good editor to pare out the extraneous crap.

When I skip ahead in a book out of boredom, I know that the author has not been listening to his editor. The last few Weber books I haven't just skipped ahead a couple of paragraphs. I've skipped chapters. This is not the mark of an engaging writer. This is the sign of a writer who doesn't consider his editor to be an ally in creating the best possible book. That's a real shame.

Finally, I think I may be done with Robin Hobb as an author. She is an incredibly talented writer (which I realize would normally be a reason to continue reading her works), but I've gotten tired of the way she always screws over the protagonists in her stories. I don't read fantasy for that. Gritty unpleasantness is what mysteries are for. I like fantasy to be a little shinier. Now, Hobb is no Terry Goodkind, who should have skipped the writing and just gotten therapy, but I just can't swing another screw-the-hero book. (I'm looking at you, too, George R. R. Martin.)
helblonde: (ursine frown)
The farmers' market which was 2 blocks from my house has moved another quarter-mile away. I heartily disapprove of the change. Let me count the reasons why.

1) The new location is right outside our local cemetery, which is not the most appropriate location, I think. Plus, it has to make the cemetery's weekend business a little harder.
2) The vendors are no longer able to park behind their stalls. I'm against things that make it harder on the vendors.
3) It's no longer near the minimall, which means there's only on-street parking for folks too lazy or too disabled to make the walk. Traffic was horrible because people were being morons about the parking.
4) The new location is no longer visible from the main drag, nor is is visible from the previous location. If people don't know it's there, the vendors are going to lose a lot of business. I saw a lot of unsure people trying to figure out whether there was even a farmers' market going on.
5) It's farther than my back says that I can walk. I don't think I'll be able to go for a while because of the change. Boo.

I hope they change back soon.
helblonde: (oak and acorn)
First, the complement:

I love Raymond's Quiet Press. I really respect Raymond now that I've had to contact him about the mistake in what he shipped me. It is totally refreshing to contact a vendor and have him say some variant of "I'm sorry about the mistake. I'll make it right." I contacted Raymond on Friday and the shiny bit was here Monday. That's customer service.

Then the complaints:

Why don't I ever get the voter information packets before I get my absentee ballot? I know it's a stretch, but I'd like to actually read the propositions before I vote on them. I could maybe think about them, too.

Also, someone near here is doing something with heavy equipment. Unfortunately it's something that sounds like an industrial-sized dental drill.
helblonde: (Shadayim)
I was looing around today and found a website that made me think of you, [livejournal.com profile] callistotoni . It's the Pink Superstore! http://www.pinksuperstore.com/

Then, in looking around I saw all sort of things my friends might like. For instance, who doesn't need a pink Pittsburgh Steelers coffee mug? Or a pink Supergirl address book? Or the set of twelve pink shoe-shaped candles?
helblonde: (Cowbell!)
Yesterday my Bejeebus was skairt plain out of me.

I was making breakfast and as soon as I set the egg carton down on the counter the smoke alarm upstairs went off. I scampered upstairs to pull the battery out thinking a mix of:
"WTF?" and
"Oh, come ON! I haven't even turned on the stove yet."

I was a bit more prepared for the shock when the #$&! thing went off again today as I was getting dressed. A new battery is on the shopping list and we'll just have to live dangerously until then.
helblonde: (12th Night)
I've been jonesing for new clothes, especially jeans. But, I'm unemployed, and, while I am getting Unemployment, it's not what we call generous compared to what I make when I'm working. Heh. Not by a long shot.

So, I have a different take with the Stash Challenge. I'm making new everyday clothes for myself out of fabric from my stash. Ordinarily, I find this to be a chore, but I'm really getting into it this time. I went out a couple of days ago and bought myself a couple of new Burda paterns (always 40% off at JoAnne's) and have since been modifying the patterns to suit my shape. I'm having a blast!

Big plug for Burda patterns: I love Burda because they are really accurate to their measurements AND they tell you what the measurements are that they base their pattern sizes on. For instance, in my size they base their sleeve patterns on a 13" bicep. I have a 17" bicep (and an aversion to store-bought plain woven shirts, since they never make them with sleeves large enough for my giant muscles *grr*). Since I know what they're basing their sizing on, I know to add at least 4" to the width of all their sleeves (sometimes more to keep the sleeve proportional to the rest of the garment). I love that.
helblonde: (Shadayim)
Vegas was awesome! We saw a couple of great shows, but this trip was really all about the food. Oh! the food!

We stayed in a suite at the Monte Carlo. It was really nice. I've never stayed in a hotel room with one and a half baths before. There were a few quirks to the room, though - the sink got hot water straight away, but the shower took forever to warm up, for instance.

Sunday night we went to B&B at the Venetiian. It's Mario Batale's restaurant. It was soooo good. The citrus sampler dessert was sublime. I had Grand Marnier 150 with it. My sinuses still tingle with orange fire.

We saw Wayne Brady after dinner. He was funny, but his show focused more on music than comedy. Still, he does an excellent Tina Turner impression. His dancers were spectacular.

Monday night we had dinner at the Nob Hill Tavern at the MGM Grand. Again, excellent food. The signature drink at the Nob Hill is made in a martini glass with a sugar rim that's been candied using a torch. After the glazing, it's dipped in cinnamon. yum. They must be a bitch to clean because the sugar lasted through the whole drink.

We saw the early show of the Folies Bergiere. It's been running for 50 years straight. I'd have thought they'd be better. For a show that bills itself as "sexier than ever", I don't think an all-male, fully clothed dance number was the way to start. The performers were skilled, but failed at sexy for the most part.

After that we saw the Cirque show Zumanity. It was spectacular: circus acts with kissing and toplessness. What's not to love? The clowns were spectacular. They did a great job warming up the audience before the show (we got singled out to kiss - Aw). "Oh, she is shy... let us give her the clap."

Tuesday was spa day in the morning - yay! My massage was not spectcular, but the hot tub was divine. That night we went to the Luxor steakhouse, Tender. The charcuterie plate was wonderful and subtle: the duck ham was firm and not too salty; the elk jerky, not too peppery... ah. Filet Mignon...mmm... After we saw the Cirque/Criss Angel show Believe. The magic was good. The cirque performers were excellent - tap dancing white rabbit head FTW! Unfortunately, the show was hapered by Criss. He broke the illusion by talking about his show too often. 


May. 28th, 2008 10:03 am
helblonde: (Default)
Over the weekend, I picked up this scratchy throat which I attributed to going from the smoke from the SantaCruz fire to an only nominally smoke-free hotel room. However, I had a decent fever yesterday, so I'm thinking that it is not just a smoke reaction.


I was really looking forward to going up to B&Y's tonight.


At least I have been able to work from home. Telecommuting is the best computer innovation ever. [profile] morivenhas liked getting to drive to work, too. 

I think BART is really missing the ball right now. They had a really bad (and mostly unpublicized) fire in their contol tower on the Fremont line, which means that they've doubled the commute time right when people are feeling the pinch of gas prices. They are really losing a lot of customers right when folks are most likely to want to give them a try. That is, as they say, bad for business.

Also bad for business is the train operators' lack of customer service skills. To wit, if they are at a transfer station - Bayfair, for instance, it behooves them to stay at the platform so that customers from the other train can make the transfer to their train. Pulling away whilst people are crossing between trains is a crappy thing to do.

And, after all that, it is still cheaper for moriven to drive to work in the truck than it is to take BART.
helblonde: (Tongue)

So I get home and moriven says to me "Aww, we're getting crowns together...just not the right kind."
helblonde: (Default)

Yesterday, we finally got the sofa put back together. Thank god that's over with. Today, with the help of moriven, I got my dressform through its final fitting and all put together (thanks also to g0atface who got the bugger started). Then I modified the pattern I'm going to use for the dress I'm making for my cousin's wedding (oooh, next choice: silkcrepe, georgette, or charmeuse?), so I just have to buy the fabric and I'm good to go.

Here's a bit of a review of the Uniquely You dressform.

cut! )


helblonde: (Default)

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