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How Good Are Charter Schools For the Public School System?

alexhmit01 Charter Schools and Housing Inflation (715 comments)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote a book 10 years ago, before the housing boom and bust, about how education and safety were killing middle America. In a short summary (to a detailed book):

Prior to women entering the workforce, families were more stable, because in surviving off one income, if the breadwinner was sick, mom could get a job, so you lost some income.

After women entered the workforce, family finances became less stable, because now EITHER parent losing the job was a catastrophe. And two jobs might reduce the likelihood that both are unemployed, but drastically increases the likelihood that EITHER becomes unemployed, and that was destabilizing finances.

The main driver of the middle class squeeze has been housing, and housing is driven by safe neighborhoods and good schools. To live in such a neighborhood has required two incomes, because the two income families bid up prices. This has absolutely killed single income families, because they can't compete.

The neighborhood based schooling encourages families to struggle for neighborhoods with good schools, which amps up the arms race for the housing.

Charter Schools aren't something she advocates, but detaching schooling from housing helps put the breaks on the housing run up.

The fact that you can live in a neighborhood you can afford and send to a good school is a HUGE thing. My kids attend a top rated charter in our city, but a few miles from our home. There are students from all sorts of neighborhoods. But the fact that our school competes with schools in millionaire zones has meant that people don't need to take out obscene mortgages they can't afford to educate their children.

The astronomical cost of private education (as a result of education inflation everywhere) has taken away private schooling from the upper middle class with multiple children. The charter schools has allowed us to have a family size we are happy with, a good education for our children, and stay in a house we can afford instead of needing to trade up.

The kicker, our charter school gets 95% of the funding as a traditional school, and our charter rents its building instead of getting it for free. The taxpayers save, the families get a good school, and the housing pressure for elite neighborhoods is lessoned. Now, our charter isn't a great solution for the truly poor. There is a required volunteer/financial contribution (either/or) per family, the school fundraises for stuff that might be provided in a public school, etc., there is no bussing. But if you are working class and willing to make a real sacrifice, or middle class and willing to give up some luxuries, you get a GREAT education.

But things like art classes are gone, and offered as after school programs, etc. But for many of us, an extra $300-$2500/year/student - depending on add-ons chose - is way more affordable than either private schooling ($15k-$20k/student) or fancier housing, $10k-$15k or more per year. I fail to see the downside.

about 7 months ago
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Zuckerberg: Betting On HTML5 Was Facebook's Biggest Mistake

alexhmit01 Re:Correction... (290 comments)

Google dominating for what, 8 years now?

Our young geeks may NOT remember a time before Google, but there was a time where the "hot" search engine changed every two years, and there were new engines launching all the time.

The Wild West phase of the Internet is over, but we're still on the frontier.

about 2 years ago
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Tackling Open Source's Gender Issues

alexhmit01 Self Selection From Life Realities (589 comments)

A project carrying an "open source" or "free software" license is not necessarily an "open source" project. Plenty of "Cathedral" projects with paid developers with an open source license that may (or may not) get downstream patches kicked up. Those projects are going to look like any other corporate development group. These are really the core projects.

The "open source projects" of people hacking code make up the bulk of developers in open source, and is the hobbyist developers. People that have a lot of time to devote to a hobby are either single, or older empty nesters. Men can hang out in the single realm and start a family @ 40, women cannot. This limits women from engaging in serious time commitments like open source projects.

The pool of women available to do this is pretty small.

That's without dealing with the fact that women tend to have tighter deviations from the norm in various areas, which means that any group that is selected from extreme outliers is going to be disproportionately male. This is true whether you are selecting politicians that reach Federal office, people that are extremely interested in programming to pursue as a hobby, moving to America as a day laboring immigrant, or criminally oriented men to form a gang. The outliers are predominately (but not exclusively) male.

In local politics, where the time commitment is NOT as extreme and the skill set needed to be elected is NOT that extreme, we have a pretty good mix of men and women on city counsels, school boards, mayoral seats, etc. Not 50-50, but a pretty good representation. We have plenty of female mayors, but we've NEVER had a female governor. Outliers in general are predominately male.

more than 2 years ago
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For Mac Developers, Armageddon Comes Tomorrow

alexhmit01 Right, New Shareware Model (429 comments)

The Windows Shareware market died a long time ago... the market filled up with mostly free knock offs, and the quality dropped. There is some try-before-you-buy demoware, and some nagware, but no real "shareware" except a handful of IT Applications that old time IT guys are happy to buy.

Meanwhile, the Mac Shareware market has been doing alright. Versiontracker.com was THE source for Mac Shareware applications, but now it is as distributed and messy as the Windows one. The funny thing is, I have bought a couple of $20 - $40 utilities on my Mac, and small sized applications, and the process is annoying.

As a result, lots of shareware level software for the Mac has sold through Apple resellers and now the Apple store in boxed format. If you ever go to a Staples/Office Depot/Office Max, you'll see rows of that for the PC, the market still exists, we just ignore it because it doesn't cater to techies.

If I can setup a simple account with Apple - or use the one I use at home for ordering prints of the kids for great grandparents, etc., then I might buy a bunch of $1 - $10 utilities.

And that's great for the Mac ecosystem.

Will prices drop, probably.

When I see a program in an Apple Store for $50 (also available on their website for $50, probably contractual obligation), how much of that goes to the actual developer? $15-$20? (guessing retail + distribution channel grabs a lot).

If the developer puts it on the App Store for $30, he probably gets the same $20, and sells a lot more units because the price is lower.

This is going to be a HUGE boon for Apple developers.

more than 3 years ago
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4 Cores? 6 Cores? Do You Care?

alexhmit01 Re:I couldn't care less (661 comments)

Agreed. My office development environment is now a Mac Mini... I used to use them as the entry level workstations, but the new ones do dual-monitor, so who cares. The monitors were wall mounted a while ago, and aren't being upgraded anytime soon, so there you go. Setup with 4GB RAM and it's fast enough for whatever I throw at it.

The iPad looks cool as a floating system.

I should get Parallels, only thing I'd want though is Excel (Excel for Mac blows), everything else is great.

Price/Performance, who cares at this point? The price on all this stuff might as well be free, hardware is dirt cheap unless it's bleeding edge.

Sure, the servers still run money, but that's only when you need multi-terrabyte RAID 10 arrays for databases, everything else might as well be at the dollar store for how much the price affects the bottom line.

about 4 years ago
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iPad Is Destroying Netbook Sales

alexhmit01 Re:Why do people buy an iPad? (911 comments)

Bingo. My home office computer is a Mac, I love it. Built in BSD tools if I need to do work that uses them, great editing tools for what I do, and I LOVE the iLife suite. For plugging in my camera, grabbing family photos, sending them off to print, uploading to Facebook, etc., is all really easy. Editing videos is easy, etc.

The fact that this stuff just works is important to me.

Could I crunch some of the big spreadsheets I do in Excel on Excel for Mac... not without a lot of pain. But can I knock off a letter, edit an image, crop something from a website to send (Preview is a killer app, opens nearly instantaneously without the aggravation of Adobe reader), etc. It's easy and stays out of my way.

And the sleep actually works, I can pop into the office, do something for 10 minutes, and leave to go back to my life, without my work flow being interrupted.

I know that Windows added their version of Fast User Switching, and maybe Windows 7 got it right, but nothing seemed as seamless as on OS X.

I use a Blackberry as my business connectivity Smart Phone, and I like the keyboard, but if it wasn't a business tool, I'd be all over an iPhone. I don't need more time wasting equipment or I'd look at an iPad, just doesn't fit my life, but I appreciate what it does.

Office work, yeah, the Mac is second fiddle, but Quickbooks online is "enough" for me, don't want to switch back to Quickbooks, mostly because I can check into thinks from home or the office, which is pretty nice without hauling a laptop around.

Apple makes cool products for people that benefit from them. That isn't everybody, but they have a decent sized customer base because upper income professionals with families and limited free time happens to be a lucrative market. Good for them, they build a better mousetrap.

more than 4 years ago
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Son Sues Mother Over Facebook Posts

alexhmit01 Re:How about he just leaves facebook. (428 comments)

She had access to his account because he left it logged in. She then proceeded to change the password on the Facebook account, and the password on the email account so he couldn't get a new password sent. She then proceeded to post messages that the county prosecutor agreed constituted harassment. So no, he can't "change his password," she locked the whole thing.

She didn't post on his wall, she impersonated him and sent messages out.

There is a big discussion on the forum of one of the local television affiliates over there, where she is posting all sorts of terrible things about her son while asking others to realize that she "has hope" for him.

Further, she hasn't had custody of her son in 5 years, he was visiting her, not living with her.

This isn't she posted an annoying comment on his wall, this is identity theft.

There is a story going on about a middle school girl who was beaten into a coma by a high schoolers. Apparently her friend borrowed her phone, send a few TXTs to the high schooler, some taunts about a dead brother, and the high schooler found the friend that actually sent the TXTs, had her point out the girl who owned the phone (that the perp thought sent the TXT), and beat her and stomped on her head with steel towed boots. The mentally unstable birth mother with a history of mental illness (her own statements) and probable/possible heavy drug use was posting messages on Facebook, and has since spread them all over the news to make her son look bad... Impersonating someone in middle school/high school and sending electronic messages on their behalf isn't simply a joke, it is a serious part of their social life.

Apparently his mother's online messages were causing him grief at school as she was posting embarrassing and/or slanderous messages, and she has proceeded to defame her son to the media, the message boards, etc.

The boy got abandoned by his mother, and she has decided to tell the world what a lousy kid he has an making sure that he is nationally known for his behavior problems.

I think he has a right to a life without his birth mother, who hasn't been his parent/guardian since he was 11 years old.

more than 4 years ago
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Programming the Commodore 64: the Definitive Guide

alexhmit01 End at the End of the Computer Era (245 comments)

This is the end of the computer era. We're still using them because nobody has come up with anything new, but it's an exception. Computer desktops are becoming more streamlined, easier to lock down, and focused on a handful of applications. The web browser and browser-apps is replacing the little "one off" freeware apps. Sure you may need a local office suite for heavy processing, but you can get by with far fewer applications installed than 10 years ago.

10 years ago, I'd have Finger, Whois, Telnet, Ping, Traceroute, FTP, etc. clients on a Windows desktop. Now if I'm on OS X or Linux, I have them, if I'm on Windows at the office, I run them web based if I need them.

For home computing, I don't even have a "home computer" anymore. I have one in the home office, but it's purpose is primarily working from home, not "general computer." Between the Blackberry, iPad, iPhone, etc., all these different components take over our computing needs as inexpensive special purpose machines.

Remember, in the early microprocessing days, it was exciting to get a computer for $2000, probably $10k in today's dollars 25 years later. For that kind of money, it was important to do EVERYTHING. Now we buy a platform for 2%-4% of a 286 computer (in real terms), so who cares if it does everything or just runs apps from the Apple store. I could buy 25 computing devices and have less money invested than I would have to have a Mac AND an "IBM Compatible."

more than 4 years ago
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The US Economy Needs More "Cool" Nerds

alexhmit01 IT Department is obsolete (453 comments)

50 years ago, companies had a secretarial pool of young women that could be assigned where ever was needed to type things up for easier duplication. 25 years ago, every executive had a secretary as that skill became critical to operations and moved throughout the company. Today, executives might have an assistant to handle clerical tasks (at the point of the business usage), but typing and communication is a critical business skill and everyone emails and most carry a Blackberry or other mobile communication device.

20 years ago, an IT Department made sense, it was "new" technology, with the server room being similar to the mainframe with central control. At this point, Network Support and Help Desk can be centralized and outsourced, just like office supplies are ordered from a centralized location, but Technology as a strategic resource? No department should be without technology in the department.

In 10 years, serious spreadsheet crunching should be the purview of everyone, as should basic database querying. Needing an analyst to gather your spreadsheet is like needing a secretary to type your emails.

more than 4 years ago
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MPAA Asks Again For Control Of TV Analog Ports

alexhmit01 It's probably not a conspiracy... (466 comments)

It's probably the fact that the people who decide what to do with the government, and the people who research piracy and its effects on markets, don't really talk to each other, or even like each other for that matter. Some 25 drone in marketing is compiling the stats in spreadsheets that nobody looks at. By the time it moves up the line, the story seen at the C-level isn't "most piracy occurs pre-release," the story is "we need to work on pre-release security, but only the FCC can plug the analog hole."

The people talking to people in Washington are hired guns, and the person doing the hiring couldn't be further in the organization than the drone crunching the numbers.

more than 4 years ago
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How Hardware Makers Come to Violate Free Software Licenses

alexhmit01 There is a UNIQUE GPL Aspect (186 comments)

If I contract Company X to provide me with component Y, and I go about my business, all is fine. If Company X stole Y from a third party Z, Z sues myself and X. In all likelihood, some degree of damages gets awarded (ignoring that if Z is small, we simply run out their legal budget and then sue them for a frivolous case), and X has to pay for their damages, and I have to pay. Very rarely will an injunction be issued to stop me from doing business, as the courts will assume that compensation will work. In the case of a patent, they get the injunction, and we probably pay 3 times "fair value" for it to go away, but life moves on.

In the case of GPL, there are ZERO monetary damages, combined with possible multiple owners and statutory violations. The distribution without a license means I either comply or get sued for violation, but there is likely nobody to negotiate or settle with.

In the case I outlined, Company X screwed up, an employee there took a short cut and supplied me with Y, and Y is critical to my business. Perhaps through no fault of my own, I now have a tainted product. There are no monetary damages to award, because the GPL'd product is "free." There is no single IP owner to work out a license with, because it's a convoluted mess. This means that the only remedy is an injunction that stops my business, or my complying with the license, which might be prevented by other components.

Innocent Company me gets caught in the cross hairs. While you are right that I derived benefit, because we are in the world of injunctions and not compensation, even my indemnification is worthless. If I get sued for $500,000 for non-compliance, and I'm indemnified by X, I can claim from X, but there is no solution other than stop.

That's why the GPL and similar licenses are terrifying and viral. If the component stole proprietary code, there would still be damages, but the damages would be worked out by the courts in financial terms while we all conduct business, so we can sell our widgets without concern, we just have an open ended liability. That is MUCH less scary than an injunction with no ability to resolve.

more than 4 years ago
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Getting a Classic PC Working After 25 Years?

alexhmit01 Re:You already know where to go for disks.... (533 comments)

Ah, I used a less than sign... you had to use an IRQ less than 8, because 0-7 was the XT, and 8-15 was in the AT spec, with the 2-9 being bridged or something similar. Slashdot ate that as HTML text...

about 5 years ago
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Why Game Developers Should Shut Up About Used Games

alexhmit01 Re:Developers need to do the math (590 comments)

Right, the people that sell used games always sell them, and people that don't bother... don't bother...

Wondering weather to lease a car or buy one? Dirty little (public) secret: fair lease price is

Price of Car today - NPV(expected value of car at end of lease)
Convert that to a amortized loan at the "interest rate" used by the lease company, and you have your lease payment. You are "borrowing" the expected decline in value of the car over the life of your lease plus the interest. On the leasing agent's books, that's how it is treated, each payment is split between the interest rate and the pay-down of principle so after the full length of the lease, there is no principle on their books.

Reason leases are "cheaper?" When you finance a car, you finance the full value of it, then you sell it when you are done. When you lease a car, you are only paying for the 40%-60% that it will depreciate over the life of your lease. If your "trade-in" plus down payment was more than the NPV of the car at the end of the lease, you'd pay less.

For someone that buys a game and leaves the box on the shelf, they are paying full value. For someone that trades it in, they have the trade in value in mind.

Of the universe of people willing to pay $60/game, some are willing to pay it regardless of resale. Some plan to resell for $20, and will only buy @ $60 if they can resell for $20, and some would buy at $60 whether they could resell at $20, but prefer to resell.

For gamers, there are plenty of 20-30 year old single men with disposable income who don't care, but may trade it if it is available. The companies could grab that $30 sale by offering it discounted, which they will do in time, but not as fast as the secondary market does it.

Do they "lose" potential revenue? Absolutely, remove the secondary market and they will sell more... because then they get 100% of the $60 sales, 100% of the $50 sales, 100% of the $40 sales, etc. The initial sales at $60 would drop somewhat, because the people only willing to buy for $40 - $59 disappear (they can buy now because they can resell for $20), but conceivably you pick those people up @ $55, $50, $45, and $40 as the price drops. So if the price point for his buy @ $60 sell @ $20 guy is $50, then they lose "$10" on the first sale (they pick him up at $50), but make at least $30 when the secondary buyer buys at $30.

about 5 years ago
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Getting a Classic PC Working After 25 Years?

alexhmit01 Re:You already know where to go for disks.... (533 comments)

I once got a bunch of 286-XTs (don't ask, horrible idea that someone put the 286 on the XT system instead of the AT system) with 8 bit slots. We had a collection of 8-bit Ethernet cards... The catch, you had to use an IRQ VESA LB, pre-PCI era of hardware.

about 5 years ago
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Should Undergraduates Be Taught Fortran?

alexhmit01 Fortran is also REALLY simple (794 comments)

For a Freshman seminar (now 12 years ago), we used Fortran 77 because that was the last version that GNU had (at the time) a compiler for. We were doing really simple modeling, and the limitations of a then 20 year old language weren't a problem, we weren't building UIs, just crunching numbers. Fortran 90 cleaned up most of the Syntax and made it as friendly as Pascal, which is probably the cleanest teaching language for it's simplicity. Later version supposedly added object oriented and other modern niceties.

Wrapping Fortran in Python seems simple enough, the languages are all fundamentally the same. But if you leave your logic in Fortran for sciences, where you have 40 years of libraries, you can certainly use Python to build a simple enough UI, but why NOT learn Fortran, it's damned simple, works, and teaches the basics. All the modern syntactic sugar pulls away from the basics of programming.

more than 5 years ago
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Obama Proposes High-Speed Rail System For the US

alexhmit01 Re:Some spokes would help... (1385 comments)

Why is everything replace. Getting rid of the Fort Lauderdale -> Tampa and Orlando flights would free up airports for more long haul flights, where air travel excels. Intercity travel isn't a bit problem, but it's part of your sprawl problem. To fix sprawl, you need mass transit, which only really works in a hub and spoke model. When everyone worked downtown, mass transit worked to get people there, as we built cities around the car, we move out of expensive downtown areas, which broke mass transit, and brought us sprawl.

Intercity travel helps regional business, making it more practical to conduct with easy travel. Because trains are inside the city, that enhances the downtown (downtown Miami is now connected to Fort Lauderdale through West Palm via Tri Rail, plus Orlando, Tampa and other cities via high speed rail. That enhances the Miami downtown, which helps make mass transit MORE viable by making downtown office space more valuable. The more you enhance the hub, the more valuable it is to be on a spoke.

If 50% of Dade County worked in downtown Miami, mass transit is an easy solution. When people are spread out, you can't really do mass transit, just buses, and buses suck (slower than car because of stops, stuck with traffic with cars). Enhance the downtown cities and you will see more businesses there.

Older suburbs were established around a downtown with a train station into the major city. Modern suburbs become sprawling exurbs, where people don't enter the city.

If you want suburb -> city commutes resolved, you need to get the businesses back into a downtown area, which this helps. It's an extra reason to be in Miami if you are easy to reach for business if you can quickly come in from Naples/Tampa/Orlando.

more than 5 years ago
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Obama Proposes High-Speed Rail System For the US

alexhmit01 Some spokes would help... (1385 comments)

Look, South Florida is a weird exception because it's economically tied to the Northeast Corridor while geographically isolated. However, even in Florida, a bunch of areas would work. We used to drive to Orlando (4 hours @ 55 MPH), instead of fly (1 hr) because by the time you got to the airport, boarded, flew, landed, and got a rental car, it was a wash. Replace that with a high speed rail line that you arrive at 20 minutes early, not an hour, and you have a 2.5 hour trip by rail that ought to be cheaper than flying. Combined with shuttles to the Theme Parks (like all the hotels run in Vegas) or cabs, and you could take a bunch of vacation travel off the turn pike.

How about a Fort Lauderdale -> Naples high speed line, connected to Miami-West Palm Beach via Tri-rail. I live 10 minutes from 595 and it took me two hours to get to the business park district outside of town. We've done plenty of meetings in Naples where a quick rail line into downtown and back would save time, gas, and aggravation... you can't do anything while driving, you can read a book, work, etc., on a plane.

South Florida is only connectable via Rail to Naples/Fort Meyers/Sarasota and Key West (if we wanted to modernize the keys economically, they need a real connection, I don't know that we do, however), and Orlando/Gainsville. Maybe a line up to Jacksonville and Tallahassee would be helpful as well. You're never going to beat air travel to go from South Florida to the rest of the country, but we are WAY more connected to the rest of Florida than we were 30 years ago.

There are concentrated hubs where city-to-city travel makes sense. The old NYC-Boston shuttle (pre 9/11) rocked because you showed up 3 minutes before your flight... there was a flight every hour. 9/11 security didn't destroy the shuttle, but it made it WAY less convenient and isolated Boston from a major city... A Boston->NYC high speed rail that could take you from downtown Boston to downtown NYC in two hours would really re-connect Boston to NYC... since getting to Logan, the 1 hour shuttle, plus getting downtown from Laguardia was about 2 hours anyway. You could also connect Hartford to both cities, etc.

Those are plenty of routes that get frequent business travel that might move from driving to the train, since two hours on the train can include 90 minutes of billable work, and you could include high speed internet on the train... that compares favorable to driving and possibly air travel.

The Interstate system created TREMENDOUS economic growth in the US... these are the types of infrastructure projects that can produce wealth... Far better than bigger and bigger Amtrak subsidies that do nothing but indirectly subsidize the shipping companies that own the rail.

more than 5 years ago
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College Police Think Using Linux Is Suspicious Behavior

alexhmit01 Massachusetts Law (1079 comments)

I graduated in 2001, so this MAY have changed, but back then, the law was:
Campus Police have municipal powers in buildings owned by the college/university. So that covered the buildings, but not the public roads. To get around this, the CPs were deputized by the County they were in as Sheriff Deputies, which gave them legal authority throughout the county, with a tacit agreement with the normal police to only use it on the campus, or related buildings (basically the Fraternity houses were privately owned, this gave them responsibility). During the city harassment of MIT fraternities (a pledge at one died, the licensing board started threatening licenses of all the independent houses over minor infractions, pretty much continued until 9/11 when people forgot about it), the MIT CPs had a problem...

The had municipal authority in dorms... they had Sheriff powers in Cambridge Fraternities as Middlesex Sheriff Deputies. But they couldn't do anything in the Boston fraternities. After heavy lobbying, they also were deputized in Suffolk County, so they could patrol there. As fraternity risk manager, this was a GREAT thing, because while the city was harassing us, the school nominally supported us (they did a poor job, but tried), so we'd call the CPs at the first sign of trouble, and usually Boston PD wouldn't bother us because the CPs were on the scene.

The utter irony... neither Middlesex County nor Suffolk County really exist anymore... they counties exist as regional designation, there is no county-level government, everything is either unified with the city or administered by the state. So while they were deputized as Sheriff's deputies, I'm pretty sure we didn't have a Sheriff or a Sheriff's department... all of Suffolk County Sheriff Deputies appeared to be CPs of Boston schools.

more than 5 years ago
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Tesla CEO Says Gov't Loan Is 99% Sure and Deserved

alexhmit01 Dual car families (652 comments)

Most families with children have two cars. One spouse drives the family car, one has a car for commuting... the latter is frequently the husband with a small coupe or sedan, while the former is a mini-van, SUV, or large sedan, sizes depend on family size.

If we simply got those commuter cars replaced with electric cars, we'd get a lot of carbon emissions off the road, since frequently the larger car is driven fewer miles on a daily basis, plus long hauls.

I see driveways with Corvettes and Escalades all day... swap out the Vette with a Tesla car, and you've done something... the Vette isn't driving more than 200 miles/day.

more than 5 years ago
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NASA In Colbert Conundrum Over Space Station

alexhmit01 South lost do to lack of early coordination on gun (398 comments)

The North won the war of attrition by dragging out the conflict until their superior manufacturing gave them more guns. They also held the Navy, which provided the ability to blockade and keep the South from fully trading with Europe and arming itself.

The South started with more soldiers, officers, and munitions, because southerners were disproportionately represented in the military then to (when the "standing army" was basically an officer corp that you conscripted soldiers for).

Each southern state confiscated the Federal weapons caches in their territory, and held it for their defense. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia did most of the fighting, with the deep south states providing limited troops to the border. Had Lee had all the munitions and troops at his disposal and went on the offensive, the war would have ended quickly with a southern victory. If DC and Maryland fell to CSA control, Tennessee held, and Kentucky captured, you'd have likely had a quick resolution.

Instead the south hoped that the north would grow tired of its war of conquest, and in time, the superior population and manufacturing base gave the northern army the ability to persevere.

more than 5 years ago

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