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EVs and Unintended Consequences

An environmental realist who spoke at PIE a few years ago commented on politicians who got all hot and bothered about the latest environmental fad and then for whatever reason allowed their excitement to go fallow when they were out of office, indicating that they were simply riding a wave, and had no real skin in the game.

Today we have states like California mandating EV only sales within 15 years and considering outlawing any new fossil fuel filling stations within 5 years. Folks aren’t lining up to buy EVs but that’s ok, we will force them to do so.

The pesky little law of unintended consequences is kicking in, and the Golden State is having brown outs due to lack of electrical generating capacity. Seems that replacing power plants with solar and wind isn’t cutting it. And that’s with less than 2 percent of our vehicle fleet EV.

There have been no plans for increasing generating capacity, rebuilding the power grid, or anything like that to deal with electrical demand when all those electron guzzling cars show up in a decade or so. We have seen no proposals, no plans, no activity in this area, zero zip.

Its easy to pass laws. But how do you deal with the consequences of those laws. Our governor here in California has signed executive orders to allow power generation (from ICE engines in mothballed ships) to help fill the void caused by lack of wind and solar power.  Hmmm If we were so smart in passing laws to curtail nuclear and gas fired power generation, where were the folks who were those voices in the wilderness talking about brown outs and the like.

California Governor Newsom has skin in this game. He is being recalled and I’m guessing he doesn’t want his supporters voting in the dark.

But back to EVs. First of all, they appear to be an environmental disaster. The minerals required to make the batteries for the suckers come from China. They are available here, but our green brothers and sisters have fought for laws to prevent the mining, which they say destroys the environment. However, forever NIMBY, these folks seem to think that destroying the environment in China is OK.  You know China,  that environmentally cogent country that is building coal fired power plants by the hundreds to keep its population in electricity.

From an article posted at Parknews.biz in autoverdict.com:

According to KPMG, there are 31,753 public EV charging facilities in the United States but only 4,325 of these have DC fast chargers with 17,409 outlets. These are compared to 168,000 gas stations, which usually have at least eight pumps per station. Estimates are that it would cost more than $2 billion just to set up homes and workplaces with enough charges to meet the needs anticipated in 2025 in the top 100 metropolitan areas; and exponentially more to match the nation’s current gasoline distribution network.

These are not simple problems. People who live in low income areas, who don’t have garages, who park on the street, or maybe in apartment buildings, won’t easily have access to EV charging stations. Since most people will charge their cars overnight, that means that those folks will be out of luck. Or at least greatly inconvenienced. Remember, at best, charging your car with the fastest charger, takes about 30 minutes, vs what, five minutes at a filling station.

As is usually the case, its our less advantaged citizens who get it in the neck.

Wouldn’t it be better to simply let the marketplace do its job? Why do we have to have a binary solution, all or nothing?  Let folks who want EVs buy them, allow the power companies to slowly fill the need for charging power as required, and get on with our lives. It seems to me that mandating an impossible solution to a problem isn’t the answer. All it does is allow my favorite law, that of unintended consequences, to kick in.

Of course, all this may just fade away, like the California Bullet Train, when reality kicks in and politicians have another pony to ride.

Just sayin.


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But I Like the Taste of Coke, Now and Then

I know politics do tend to creep into this blog from time to time. I readily admit it is difficult to keep them out, particularly if you are passionate about one thing or another. However let it be said that I offer you, dear reader, the ability to answer anything you find offending as long as it can be read in a family setting.

That having been said, I have been musing on major corporations’ leadership holding forth on political issues. It seems to be happening more and more these days. Whether its Coke, or Delta Airlines, or Nike, or My Pillow, or any one of the social media gazillionaires, or Chic-fil-et, or the head of Amazon, they just can’t seem to keep their political opinions to themselves.

But, you say, they are individuals and should be free to say what they will. Yes, I say, but they also have a responsibility to their brand, and those who buy it, to their fans, so to speak, to represent them on the world stage, all of them.

Most probably live in a bubble west of the 405, in Silicon Valley, in Seattle, Boston, the upper East Side, or within the beltway, and all their friends believe as they do so naturally, they believe that everyone believes believe the same. But as we learn in elections, fully half of the people don’t. Sad but true.

We went to dinner years ago with a friend and his wife in a trendy restaurant in Brentwood. I looked up and noticed Jane Fonda was sitting nearby. My friend, whose politics could best be described as somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, glanced at her and said, “I can’t stand her politics, but won’t miss any of her movies. She is a great actress.”

I was a little surprised by his reaction. I had listened to him bemoan politicians of all stripes and their failings and the like. But then I realized that the politicians he disliked were politicians, not actors, or heads of corporations, or entrepreneurs, or smart folks who provided stuff I like. Politicians deserved his rancor, from his point of view, because they actually acted on their beliefs and those acts affected him.

That same friend told me the other day that he thought Jeff Bezos should be elected King. All because of the wonders of Amazon. He feels that the online store is one of the greatest things on the internet. He, a software engineer, believes that the company can do no wrong, and is reshaping how we do business. I’m sure he also feels that Bezos’ politics are anathema. But he looks as Bezos through a lens as to what he has accomplished, not his belief system.

Its true that large corporations give to all sides in political fundraising. They want to be on the side of the winner no matter who it is. Boycotting one company or another because some bozo is for or against your bozo is, for me, a nonstarter. It has taken me a lifetime to figure it out, but I like the taste of a cool Coke now and then, think Delta is a great airline, enjoy my Nikes, love to follow Linkedin, and even Twitter now and then, and live daily on Amazon. I have never tasted a Chic-fil-et, but that’s because I’m not a chicken fan.

I would prefer if these CEOs kept their politics to themselves, but frankly, my response has become, “so what.” Pass the coke, its hot outside.


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I had to laugh…

Columnist Nicholas Goldberg, writing in the LA Times, has opined that we are seeing a rash of folks running for office that have no previous political experience. He blames this on the previous administration’s influx of ‘citizen’ politicians and seems horrified that this will bring our government to its knees with all these amateurs running around loose in statehouses and in Washington DC.

The problem with professional politicians is just that, they are professional. They are doing the job to make a living but there is no seeming recourse if they fail. You can list hundreds of politicians of all parties that have been in office for years and the problems that they came into office to fix are not only still in place, but are worse.

It isn’t that they are incompetent, but that they have, after a couple of years, tasted power and love it. They want to retain that power and to do so they must raise money, a lot of money. That comes from people who are attempting to buy favors and often do. Then decisions which should be common sense are replaced with decisions that mean money in the campaign coffers of the folks making those decisions.

I wish I could be like Nicholas and point the finger at one group or another and wring my hands ‘if only’ the electorate were smarter and elected those that believe or vote like I do, all would be right with the world. But dammit, I can’t. Both sides are equally bad. And the electorate is smarter than you think.

If that wasn’t the case, why does the political pendulum swing back and forth so often. We elect folks from one side of the political spectrum and then just four or eight years later we vote the bastards out and the pendulum swings back to the other side. One year we elect Ronald Reagan, a few years later Bill Clinton, then George Bush, then Barack Obama, then Donald Trump and then Joe Biden. The voters moved back and forth. Usually electing a congress of the other party to ensure that no one gets carried away.

Nick thinks that folks should start out in school boards and city councils and get some experience at a ‘low level’ before jumping into state legislatures and the congress. I look at things from the opposite point of view. I think that school boards and city councils may be the most important with the value of the position decreasing as the office gets further and further away from home.

Schools, police, streets and parks, fire protection, hospitals, delivering electricity and water, ensuring building codes are met, all seem to me to be more important to the average person than mandating the kind of car you can drive or spending trillions on programs that have proven to have no measurable effect on anything. But that’s just me.

Nicholas Goldberg picked half a dozen examples of amateurs that are running for office including Matthew McConaughey, Andrew Yang, Caitlyn Jenner, Andrew Guiliani, and spent half the column bemoaning Guiliani’s (he’s Rudy’s son) running for Governor of New York. I’m guessing there are hundreds if not thousands running for office who have the vast experience of Andrew (mostly on the golf course) and would probably be OK.

I realize that high powered columnists for the main stream media know more than backwater bloggers like me and are probably right in their opinions. But I I can’t get past the William F. Buckley quote when he said that he would “rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” Smart guy, Bill.


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I wonder

Just how many owners/operators feel they don’t need to audit once they have installed a high tech PARCS system.

How auditors are going to know just how many cars enter and leave a facility using a ticketless system

How many technology suppliers believe their system cannot be hacked?

How many parking organizations use “Big Data” to help them meet their customer’s needs?

How many EV Charging stations are blocked by cars left there after finishing their charging?

What percentage of parkers make a parking reservation?

What drivers do when the LPR doesn’t work?

How many garage managers know how to open an excel spread sheet?

How many monthly parkers park in the same unreserved spot every day?

Who was the guy who said parking cars is easy?

Why the LPR system in our building works on my car 95 times out of 100 when nothing changes?

Do you wonder about parking stuff?  Let me know and I’ll update the list



Common Sense

When Thomas Paine wrote his famous pamphlet in 1775 (published in 1776 it became an immediate success. This was due as much to his marketing campaign as to its content. He sat forth clearly his ideas concerning separating from England and created a text that was read and reread during the revolutionary period. It was also controversial, with some more conservative revolutionary leaders, such and John Adams called it “so democratical, without any restraint or even an attempt at any equilibrium or counter poise, that it must produce confusion and every evil work.”

Nevertheless, according to Wikipedia, it “was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history.[3] As of 2006, it remains the all-time best-selling American title and is still in print today.”

The textbook description of “common sense” is: “common sense refers to having sound judgment, not necessarily based on specialized knowledge.”

An example might be the news we have received about the pandemic, from day one. Virtually everything that has been said about Covid-19, one way or another, has been proven incorrect. Scientists, politicians, government officials, all have made statements that have been changed, retracted, or proven to be outright wrong. They have flown in the face of simple common sense.

Oh, you might say, as more information became available, the dialogue changed to fit that information. Perhaps, but in fact, those with basic common sense, looking at the situation could see through the actions. For example, the arrest of a surfer off the coast using the resources of half a dozen police and boats. It flies in the face of common sense.

Another example might be people riding alone in cars with masks, or riding a bicycle, or jogging. Where is basic common sense. Why was it OK to go to Costco, or Home Depot, but not the local bodega. Why were liquor stores allowed to stay open but clothing stores were not. Why did one have to wear masks when driving through a Jack in the Box to pick up a burger (they were behind plexiglass and you were in the car.) Common Sense.

I know I’m treading on this ice here, but I have not been able to get my mind around allowing boys who say they are girls to participate in girls’ sports or use girl’s locker rooms. Can’t anyone use come common sense.

Defund the police is another one. The majority of crime takes place in minority communities. The police are the only thing that stands between the average person living there and the gangsters. Removing the police would only hurt those people. Common Sense.

Increase unemployment insurance to more than a person could make working 8 to 5. Businesses cannot get enough staff to run their concerns properly. Remove the unemployment insurance increase. Businesses now have a pool of potential workers to call upon. Common Sense.

I could go on but you get the point. We have lost our ability to trust our common sense. How do we get that back?

Believe what you see, and not what you hear. Stop listening to the media (it is wrong virtually every time.) Live your   life based on common sense. I say you will not go wrong.


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What Would Happen if there was a Specific Goal?

I have always been suspect of grants given by the Feds for programs that seem to be an experiment, with no real goal in life. A good example of that is SF Park. The city got $20 million from the federal government with the goal of monitoring parking meters, understanding occupancy, and instituting a variable pricing program, block by block in the city.

Now the program has ended, the sensors monitoring the occupancy has been turned off, and the variable pricing is set based on statistical historic data. Studies of SF Park have concluded that the result of the program has had little actual impact on the on street parking in the city.

In other words, the 20 mil is spent, the technology purchased is no longer in use and the goals set through the use of that technology has gone by the wayside. The program has had tremendous PR, but what, in reality, did it accomplish. For further information I commend to you a study done by Vanderbilt University: Understanding the Block-Level Price Elasticity of On-Street Parking Demand: A Case Study of San Francisco’s SFpark Project, 2016.

This brings us to and article in “Tech Crunch” about Columbus, OH, and the Smart City Project. SF Park was a piker compared to the 50 million received by Columbus to smarten up its commuter and transportation system. The city won the grant (40 million from the Feds, 10 from the Paul Allen foundation). They proceeded to spend the money on a multi user app (from a startup), 1.5 million; an open source database, 15.9 million; smart mobility hubs, a pr program, 1.3 million; a connected vehicle program to reduce traffic accidents, 11.3 million; an autonomous shuttle program that cost 2.3 million and ran two weeks; a prenatal health app, which ran 1.3 million; and a 1.3 million program through ParkMobile which is still running and strangely enough, seems to be the only truly successful program of any on the list. That totals 34.9 million. An unspecified amount of the Paul Allen 10 million has gone to the local utility to help incentivize local drivers to purchase and use EVs.

Five years ago the money was funded. It’s spent. And just what is the result. Is transportation in Columbus smarter? Is traffic moving safer? Are EVs flying out of the showrooms? Are local transportation groups making use of the database? Is the Multi-user app helping folks get around in central Ohio? The Autonomous Shuttle seems to be at the side of the road. Have Traffic accidents been reduced? The parking app is working with over 30,000 locals downloading the app. It apparently will continue after the funding for the others runs out. Read all about it on Parknews.biz.

I don’t mean to criticize Columbus. These federal grants can be seductive. But it seems to me that the money is gifted, and then spent, without any long term project or goal in mind. It’s like a way to give ideas a chance without any particular recourse in the event of failure or even an understanding what constitutes failure.

This one was surrounded by buzz words.

The U.S. Department of Transportation launched a Smart City Challenge in 2015, which asked mid-sized cities across the country to come up with ideas for novel smart transportation systems that would use data and tech to improve mobility.

In mid-June, the program ended, but Columbus said the city would continue to work as a “collaborative innovation lab,” using city funds to integrate technology to address societal problems.

We really focus on not just demonstrating technology for technology’s sake, but to look at the challenges we are facing in our city around mobility and transportation and use our award to focus on some of those challenges,” Mandy Bishop, Smart Columbus program manager, told TechCrunch.

Wow! I wonder what would happen if specific goals were set up and if they weren’t reached, the city had to refund the grant. Right! As if that would happen.



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I think our glass is half full

The airport parking area in my building is completely full. I’m told that shopping centers around LA were jammed this weekend. Traffic is becoming more and more difficult. The 405 is back to normal. I chatted with an operator in upstate New York and was told that his locations were filling up quite nicely, thank you very much.  News reports are that parking at airports such as Atlanta is chaotic. Service is slow at many restaurants as customers overwhelm waitstaff. I’m flying to DFW this week and note that except for a few middle seats, the plane is full. Valet operations are booming as hospitals are accepting non emergency procedures and hotels and restaurants are “open for business.”

I’m actually running into people in our building (I hadn’t seen a living soul for months) and most weren’t wearing masks.

I don’t want to be taken as a cockeyed optimist, but it seems to me that business is back to normal, sooner rather than later. Reports I’m getting tell me that the biggest problem operators have now is finding employees to fill vacancies.

The first day of summer was yesterday and let’s face it, people are ready to get out there and work and play like as if covid never happened.


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My Father

My father wanted to be a lawyer, but left high school to support his family so his brother could go to college. His father, my grandfather, had abandoned his family early on. My father never went back to school but he was the most educated man I have ever met.

He read everything he could get his hands on, he worked hard, he ended up editing a newspaper in a small town in California.

My earliest memories of my father were working with him in the newspaper’s printing plant. I would sit on a tall stool and he would teach me how to hand set type, reading it upside down and backwards. He wasn’t one to leave his son at home and go out with his friends. When he went to the races (he loved Santa Anita and Hollywood Park) he would take me with him. He showed me how to handicap the horses and would place a small bet for me. Once he won “big”, maybe $100. But that was a lot in those days.

He took the money and bought lumber to build a hot house for plants around the side of our home. I ‘helped’ every step of the way.

He was, with my mom, at every school event in which I participated.

There was one incident that taught me more about life than any other.

It was a Friday night and I was told to be home by midnight. Of course I stretched the time a bit and at 1215 the police came in to the local hangout and told me to come with them. They took me home. I was incensed. My own father called the cops on me for being 15 minutes late. He looked at me and said “when you didn’t call, I assumed the worst.” It had to do with honor and respecting the feelings of others. I have never forgotten the look on his face. I had let him down.

It was a small town and my father knew all the policemen and it was no problem for him to make that call.

My father wasn’t religious, but as soon as I was old enough to go to church, he, with my mother, joined the local Episcopal church and made sure I was involved in every aspect. He became best friends with the priest. He was on the church board. A few weeks after I left for college, he began to back off and within a year was out of the church. I realized he did it not for himself, but for me.

He was a printer. He ran the machines that published the paper and the small presses that did the job printing for the businesses in town. But he also edited the paper and published a weekly column that he set directly on the Linotype. Frankly with just that bit of mechanization, the printing was little different than Gutenberg did 500 years before.

He knew we must keep up with the times and changed from ‘hot metal’ to offset printing, and at age 60, learned everything there was about it.

He was a photographer. We had a darkroom in our house. He and I learned how to print and develop pictures together. He was a gardener and we had prize winning roses. He barbequed on a grill that he sat on two bricks in a wheelbarrow. My father took me fishing. We didn’t catch much, but it was fun.

He bought an old Model A Ford and we took the engine apart and then ground the valves and then put it back together. There is no bigger thrill than starting an engine you helped to build.

When he helped me with my homework, I was really bad in French, it turned out he learned more of the language than I did.

I always wondered if all those things he did, photography, fishing, barbequing, gardening, auto repair, horse racing, and the rest were for him, or for me. I think I know that answer.

My father was 15 before he saw his first airplane. He lived through two world wars (too young for the first, too old for the second) and saw men walk on the moon. He was never wealthy, in a money sense, but I never felt that we wanted for anything.

When he was in his 70s and 80s, he would play bridge with other seniors in the complex where my parents retired. One day he told me he couldn’t follow the cards anymore. “If this is what its like to get old,” he said, “I really don’t want to go on.” He died about six months later.

As I reread the piece above, I noticed that I used the term “father” to describe him. Probably because today is Father’s Day. But in reality, he was my ‘dad.’

Brice W. Van Horn, 1905-1987

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Guess who Just Turned 40

Can you believe it. Raiders of the Lost Arc, Steven Spielberg’s and George Lucas’ blockbuster adventure opened in theaters 40 years ago this past weekend. How does that make you feel?

There can be no question that this movie changed the scope of adventure flics as Indy and Co romped around the globe, fighting Nazis and discovering great treasure. For those of you living in a cave for the last four decades, the story revolves around archeologist Indiana Jones and his race to find the Arc of the Covenant before it is taken from the sands of Egypt by the Nazis and turned over to Hitler. It takes place in 1935.

From the moment the famous Paramount Logo Mountain morphs into a landscape in Peru this movie grabs you and doesn’t let go for the next two hours. Whether he is battling Nazis, a bear chested behemoth, snakes, aboriginal natives, snakes, an evil opponent, snakes, the Egyptian desert, spies, Arab swordsmen, or even the odd left hook from his girlfriend, Marian, Indy never gives up, besting them all in one of the greatest chase scenes of all time, only to have the Arc snatched from his grasp by his own government. By the way, Indy does not like snakes.

Unlike the rest of us, Raiders doesn’t get old. Seeing it again brings back fond memories of swashbuckling and derring-do. Check it out – you can download from Amazon, or practically anywhere else.

Oh, and you Big Bang nuts that believe the story would have come out the same without Indy. So What!


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People Who Pay No Price for Being Wrong

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decision than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

…..Thomas Sowell

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