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Jonathan Pryor's web log

Where are all the fuel efficient cars?

With my Verizon TV service I get BBC America, which includes the wonderful show Top Gear.

A few weeks ago I saw their endurance race to Blackpool, a 750 mile trip from Basel, Switzerland to Blackpool, UK. (Which is odd, as Google Maps implies that the trip would be 1319km, or 819.5 miles.)

Jeremy Clarkson chose a Jaguar XJ6 TDvi (sorry, no direct link), which gets 32.3mpg, or 8.7 l/100km.

James May chose a Subaru Legacy Diesel (click Economy, then 2.0D R for the mileage), which gets 56.6 mpg, or 5.0 l/100km.

Richard Hammond chose a Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion, which was mentioned as getting 74mpg (though the above site lists 88.3 mpg, or 3.2 l/100km).

Unfortunately, these mileages are using UK gallons, which are larger than US gallons. So, using a handy online calculator, we see that the Jaguar gets ~27mpg US, the Subaru gets ~47mpg US, and the VW gets ~73.5mpg US.

Are there any equivalents to these vehicles in the USA?

Jaguar lists 25 mpg for some models (aside: the US site is far more link friendly than the UK site), which is comparable to the UK Jaguar, so it's covered.

Subaru doesn't offer a diesel engine, so nothing is comparable to the 47mpg that the UK Subaru Legacy gets.

For Volkswagan, the nearest US equivalent appears to be the Jetta TDI, which gets 41mpg, a far cry from the 73.5 of the Bluemotion.

Thus, the question: Why don't we have these cars in USA?

Posted on 12 Apr 2009 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Things I Didn't Know - What Is Obesity?

Ran across this interesting article: Freakonomics Quorum: What is the Right Way to Think About the Obesity ‘Epidemic’?.

For example, under our current definitions, George Bush and Michael Jordan are overweight, while Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mel Gibson are obese.

In short, BMI isn't always an accurate indicator of obesity, and should be avoided.

Posted on 22 Aug 2007 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Entering the Twenty-First Century

As a child (late 1980's/1990's) I remember reading books stating that in the future we'd all have fiber-optic cables going to our houses (Fiber To The Premises, FTTP). I got the impression that fiber optic had been promised since the 1970's.

Last Friday, that nebulous future became reality, as Verizon came by my house to install FiOS, their FTTPH (Fiber To The Home) technology, providing phone, Internet, and TV service. Installation took six hours.

It's 99.999% of my childhood memories of FTTP. With FiOS, the optical fiber terminates outside my house; from there, it's a Coax cable to a Router, which acts as a cable-modem (Coax input, Cat-5e output) that my computer can plug into. (It's missing 0.001% of my memories as the pictures I saw had the optical fiber running directly to the computer in question, and I have ~50' of Coax cable between the Optical Network Terminal outside my house and my computer.)

Installation involved involved drilling a new hole into my laundry room -- the system relies on a battery backup to allow phones to work in the event of a power failure -- and terminating lots of cables. The biggest holdup was transitioning Verizon's network to use the optical network for my telephone instead of using the (no longer used) 12-V phone line. A supposedly 10-minute operation became a 60 minute operation as a part at the tel-co needed replacement, a part that apparently never breaks. (It would break for me, wouldn't it...) The next biggest holdup was setting up the Digital Video Recorder (DVR) -- plug it in, and it starts downloading...something (program guide, etc.), and it takes awhile for it to get downloaded.

Observations/thoughts:

Finally, why did I do this? Largely because of Comcast -- they keep upping the prices of their TV+Internet service, such that it's currently ~$101/month just for "basic" cable (~70 channels) and Internet, and it goes up every year. With FiOS, I'll be getting a slightly slower Internet download speed (5Mbps vs. 6Mbps download, though (1) FiOS has a 2Mbps upload compared to a few hundred kb for Comcast, and (2) the installer mentioned that Verizon will likely bump the low-end download speed to 10Mbps) for over $10/month less. FiOS also provides TV service, which is also cheaper. At present, it looks like I'll be getting Verizon TV + Internet + a DVR for less than Comcast.

Posted on 30 Apr 2007 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

The Return of Patriarchy

Via Instapundit, an article discussing the probable return of patriarchy. Why? Cultural evolution.

The 17.4 percent of baby boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children. These circumstances are leading to the emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm. These values include an adherence to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one’s own folk or nation.

It's a "survival of the fittest" scenario: conservative, patriarchal families have more children than non-conservative families, so the next generation leans more conservative than the previous generation. Repeat for a few genrations, and things "naturally" become more conservative.

Interesting article, pointing out the causes of patriarchy, the causes for the decline of patriarchy thoughout history (men want to do things other than raise children, like party all night), and the causes for a probable resurgance.

Posted on 01 Mar 2006 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Taxes

Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.
   -- Benjamin Franklin

I did taxes this weekend. Beyond the knowledge that filling out the entire IRS 1040 form sucks (necessary for itemized deductions), one other interesting thing is apparent: the IRS exists to benefit tax professionals.

In particular, the Free File options are only for those with an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) of $50,000 or less. This wasn't the case last year. Further, if you read the IRS e-file page, most of the e-File Partners for Taxpayers listed do not provide a free service.

Fortunately, there is one that does provide free filing for the Federal return: TaxACT Online. It complains about my browser (Epiphany 1.6.5), but I was still able to file my federal return. The one downside is that their submission system keeps referring to their for-pay software, which is annoying, but it doesn't hinder anything.

Fortunately, Virginia State Taxes are significantly easier. Instead of referring everyone to private companies, Virginia handles taxes itself -- you just need a password, and you can fill out all the forms and file entirely online. This is what the IRS should be like, but can't, as (conjecture) it would cut into the profits of private tax businesses.

Posted on 12 Feb 2006 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Profiling and its Problems

Via Schneier on Security, What pit pulls can teach us about profiling.

In short, generalizations are useful, except when they're bad, and they can be bad very easily. You can't profile pit bulls, because the human-killing behavior we hate isn't intrinsic to the species, it's intrinsic to the individual. You can't profile terrorists, because terrorists aren't restricted to any particular race, and even if they were they'd still be a minority of that race. Profiling based on race can't work, you need to "profile" something more useful, such as "suspicious behavior," and even that can be problematic.

It doesn't work to generalize about a relationship between a category and a trait when that relationship isn't stable—or when the act of generalizing may itself change the basis of the generalization.

As for dog attackes, the breed has much less to do than other factors, such as gender (6.2x more likely to be male), neutered (2.6x more likely if not neutered), whether the dog is chained (2.8x more likely if chained), and whether the owner was previously involved in illegal fighting.

So generalizations (profiling) can be useful. The devil is in the details, determining what to look for, as it's frequently not obvious.

Posted on 07 Feb 2006 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

1968 Liberal Ideology

Via Instapundit, Stuck on 1968, how liberal ideology hasn't withstood the test of time (that time being the last 30+ years). What is the liberal dogma which doesn't hold up?

It ties nicely in with the creation of liberal media bias -- liberals place more trust into the government, conservatives don't.

Unrelated is how government trust varies on the subject. Take domestic wiretaps, for example, in particular this comment. Conservatives seem to be willing to trust the government, forgetting decades of history in which the FBI spied on Americans without any real reason. Liberals seem rational, distrusting the government, but that's probably more because they dislike President Bush than for any other reason.

Posted on 27 Jan 2006 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Creation of Liberal Media Bias

With additional studies showing media bias (via Instapundit), it might be interesting to know how the liberal media evolved, through simple economics (via Instapundit).

Summary: cities require a working government to operate (for sewers, water, trash, etc.), while the countryside doesn't (septic tanks, wells, and burning trash as equivalents that cities can't use, though pollution of various forms can make wells and burning trash impractical). Since people in cities have a more favorable view of the government, any newspapers based in cities will also have a more favorable view of government. Since it's easier to sell papers in big cities, newspapers & other media in cities grow larger and more powerful compared to more newspapers in rural areas.

Interesting read.

Posted on 21 Dec 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Intelligent Design & Atheism - Combined

The Dilbert Blog, in arguing that Intelligence is Overrated, shows that if you choose your definitions carefully, you can prove anything. In this case, he redefines the intelligence of God to be identical to the behavior of the laws of Physics, therefore God is Reality, and we just need to adjust our definition of "design" to cope with an omnipotent deity.

In short, Intelligent Design exists through Evolutionary theory.

It's hard to argue against this perspective without disagreeing with the definitions chosen. Rather entertaining.

Posted on 13 Dec 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Peak Oil? We don't need no stinkin' Peak Oil!

OK, maybe we want cheap oil. Maybe some industries need cheap oil (the airlines, for example). But will the disappearance of cheap oil cause the collapse of modern civilization? Not likely.

There are alternatives, which haven't been used yet because they cost more than cheap oil. As the price of oil increases, the alternatives become more cost-effective. For example, there is a process to convert agricultural waste into oil. It isn't cost effective yet, as it costs ~$80/barrel. When oil is $40/barrel, that's insane, but with oil currently over $60/barrel (and no end in sight to the rising prices), the alternatives become viable.

The end of the world? No. It just requires a change in priorities.

See also Instapundit's take and the Steven Levitt's take (of Freakonomics).

Posted on 22 Aug 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

It's Not All About Us

Via Instapundit.com, the behavior of terrorists is not solely in reaction to American occupation. It's about a great deal more.

Posted on 12 Aug 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Psychological theories for Terrorists and their Apologists

From Instapundit, an interesting comparison of the terrorist/liberal-apologist relationship to that of sadomasochistic symbiosis.

The liberal apologists assume that the world is rational place, and that if we merely change our behavior the terrorists will stop committing acts of terror. The truth is that the world is anything but rational, and are perfectly willing to use the logic put forth by the apologists to further their own goals...

Posted on 08 Aug 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Raising Children

As a new parent, I'm finding the various perspectives on what's "wrong" with American education and children to be fascinating subjects.

slashdot.org discussed what's wrong with science education in america recently; the impression I'm left with is that Americans don't emphasize science and other intellectual accomplishments enough, preferring instead to emphasize sports and other physical accomplishments. The result is that sports and acting (TV, movies) become the way to Get Rich And Famous, instead of inventing, writing, research, or any number of other areas.

Is this a problem? Given how additional education is important for more and more areas of society, the neglect of the mind certainly isn't helping.

Perhaps meditation is the answer. :-)

In a related miracle, I'm finding myself agreeing with an article on -- gasp -- FOXNews: straight talk on teen sex and media hype. This shouldn't be too surprising, given that it's written by Glen Reynolds of Instapundit fame.

Doubly interesting is The Voice of Hedonism.

It's amazing how people seem to think that modern times will alter millenia of human behavior. Of course teenagers will have sex. They have for millenia, and will continue to do so. The reasons are myriad, but it will happen; adults shouldn't throw a hissie fit every time it happens, it's embarassing.

Posted on 28 Jul 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

Evolution: What Controversy?

From The New York Times is a wonderful article showing that there is no controversy in evolution.

For example, the bastion of conservatives, the Roman Catholic Church, believes in evolution. As do athiests. This is because evolution is a scientific theory that explains what is, but not why something happens. The Church can provide one reason for why -- God is "the cause of causes" -- while athiests can believe that evolution doesn't require a God. Evolution itself isn't under contention.

Posted on 17 May 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

How Capitalism Destroyed Slavery

From Ashishi's Niti, Capitialism and Slavery, and why they don't co-exist.

One point I'm surprised the author doesn't make is that slaves, being slaves, have minimal income, and thus can't buy anything. This reduces the market size, reduces the amount of money that can potentially be made, and slows down the normal capitalist cycle (you make stuff to sell stuff to make stuff to sell stuff... to get rich!).

Posted on 18 Feb 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink

360° Panorama Workflow

From Planet Gnome, a 360° panorama image workflow.

There is also some software to use with The Gimp which may help...

Posted on 03 Feb 2005 | Path: /etc/ | Permalink