Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cash-for-Clunkers: Another Tax-and-Spend Fiasco

A bill known as Cash-for-Clunkers is slipping in under the radar of most citizens, but it’s another government giveaway that will cost taxpayers. On the surface it sounds great: $3K to turn in your high-emission vehicle and buy a more fuel-efficient car.

I’ve been researching this bill for an interested organization, but I only write about what interests me on my personal blog. I'm all for fuel-efficient cars, but I do not want to pay for someone else's new Lexus hybrid while all I can afford is what I've got.

Here are some of the most important reasons why taxpayers are suckers – again – if we let Congress spend our money on this.

  • The cost of producing each fuel-efficient vehicle offsets the lower-emissions that will be produced. There is no environmental benefit.
  • The emissions standards are not high enough for the trade-ins.

  • Fuel savings are not great enough to compensate for the new car payment over time.

  • The reimbursement is so low that many people are better off selling their older vehicles privately.

  • Destroying older vehicles drives up used-car and parts prices. Hobbyists who restore classic cars are very concerned and are among those who do not support this bill.

  • Now that gas prices are lower, Americans are returning to their love for bigger cars. A cash or tax incentive is not going to change Americans’ love-affair with their cars.

  • American car manufacturers are not in a position to benefit from a spike in sales; their lower-emission vehicles are not yet available in great numbers.

  • The people who will benefit are those who already have enough money to trade in their older cars for a new one. Of course, this will be financed by ordinary people who are struggling to stay afloat.

One drawback I have not found many considering is what we are going to do with the toxic batteries from hybrid and electric cars. This makes sense because the bill does not require purchase of a hybrid car; most purchases will be fuel-efficient internal combustion engines.

Batteries are another cost of hybrid car ownership that often is not considered against the price of owning a hybrid or electric car; it run to a few thousand dollars to replace the battery/ies.

In summary, Cash-for-Clunkers not an idea whose time has come; it’s an idea that taxpayers do not need to finance.

If you want sources, I’ve got dozens of them.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

McCullough's Hero with Chaos in His
Eyes Disappoints in CodeSpell

CodeSpell is the third entry in Kelley McCullough’s series about Ravirn/Raven, a 23-year-old hacker descended from the gods and goddesses of the Greek Pantheon. The first book, WebMage, is a unique blend of urban fantasy and cyberpunk fiction, seasoned with Greek myth. The series starts with Ravirn, a mortal descendent of the deities with superhuman powers, and an implausible plot about a magical mweb through which the immortals communicate.

By the second novel, Cybermancy, Ravirn has been banished from the House of the Fates, handmaidens to Necessity. Necessity has become the not-so-artificial computer intelligence that runs the universe. The plot is about how Persephone codes a virus into Necessity, The virus secures Persephone’s permanent release from Hades, where she has been unhappily forced to dwell for the six cold months of the year since time immemorial. The virus also knocks out vast portions of the m[agic]web.

The swirling stuff of Chaos appears in his eyes when Ravirn is transformed into the Raven. He is able to transform himself into a large version of that bird and to travel through chaos with greater mastery. He also is now a lord of his own royal house outside of space and time, rather than scion of the Fates.

CodeSpell picks up the story. Ravirn is tasked with rebooting Necessity, down for the count with the Persephone virus. During the time of the reboot, Ravirn and powers competing to get there first will be able to refashion the Universe, should he or they presume to do so.

A secondary plot is Ravirn’s romance with Cerise, another child of the royal Houses of Fate. A true child of order, Cerise is a crack programmer to Ravirn’s rebellious hacker. She is disturbed by the chaos in Ravirn’s eyes. She returns home to the Fates, to work on security programs in face of threats from the broken mweb. This leaves the field open for Tisiphone, one of the three Furies, who lusts for Ravirn.

Winged Tisiphone is naked with fire where strippers usually strategically place sequins. This is too much like an adolescent’s wet dream to be appealing. No doubt this is McCullough’s target readership, not an old babe like me.

CodeSpell is proof that there can be too much of a good thing. WebMage was unique, one of those unexpected finds that appear serendipitously on a library shelf. Cybermancy was a good effort to wrap up some loose ends at the end of book one. Ravirn’s transformation to a character of comic-book proportions and the increasing incredulous plot twists mean that I may not make it to the end of CodeSpell, Ravirn Book 3. I won’t be reading Mythos, which will be released in May.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Night Illusions and The Dawn of Reality

Things that look brilliant or scary at two in the morning often don’t survive in the light of day. Have you ever awoken with a cold sweat, worried about a loved one’s health or your own survival – physical, financial, or emotional? Have you ever had a plan that seemed inspired during those quiet, dead hours and became quite ordinary after the sun rose?

This weekend, I discovered that my little website, Fashion After 50, has quietly been earning a few pennies from Google Adsense over the past few months. Indeed, even this blog followed only by a few dear fellow blog-hers and friends, may have had some click-throughs.

That $7.12 seemed like a fortune. For three days, I visited my Adsense account obsessively. I watched the affiliate marketing earnings mushroom to over $8.50. Watching seven dollars turn to eight-and-a-half, nickel-by-nickel and dime-by-dime, makes watching ice form look downright exciting.

I’ve worked throughout the weekend to revise pages, practice code to wrap copy around ads, and experiment with layout. I’ve updated and added new articles. I worked until nearly 3 a.m., and I was on fire with hope that I could turn Fashion After 50 into a place visitors love for finding fashion for older women.

Then I looked at the Alexa rankings for Fashion After 50. Alexa is the Supreme Court of online website rankings, wrecking sought-after judgments about who is in the coveted top 100,000.

I know that a little bitty affiliate marketing website with less one hundred visitors was not in the top tier. I just wanted to take a peek anyway.

The average time spent at Fashion After 50 by a guest is a half-minute. Thirty seconds!

Some things look so much better when it’s dark outside – like a Christmas tree trimmed with lights and ornaments that glitter and shine. Others look worse, like a darkened alley hiding threat, violence, and decay. Day dawns. The Christmas tree is merely a dying pine that needs water. The alley is simply a bleak cement space that needs cleaning and care. Illusions, for better or for worse, melt away.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Bleak Look of Recession
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 2009

This cement wasteland was a bustling new and used car dealership near the heart of Fort Lauderdale. Cars whisk past on busy Sunrise Boulevard, heading toward the upscale Galleria Mall, just a few blocks away. Strip malls and businesses line this six-lane highway, some starving more quickly than others. These photos depict a panorama. Below, I am looking directly east, toward the Galleria Mall and ocean.

This view also faces east. The vast showrooms, guarded now by chain-link fencing, are a bleak memorial to American's economic distress.

The photo below faces north, directly in front of where I was standing at one-time entrance to the facility.

Facing west, the cement graveyard of the auto industry stretches many blocks in both directions.

This pile of rubble was a decorative island for plantings, on the fancy cobblestone drive into the auto dealership.

It hurts the heart to see the decay, the far-stretching emptiness of an economic boneyard such as this.