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Blog This!

The official blog of Ian S. Lindsay

Elon and the Electric Everything

I was at Dell World this year, working a boot in the Dell Software area of the Expo Area of the show.  One of the main speakers for the events kickoff was Elon Musk of PayPal, Tesla and Space X fame.  There is a related story about his talk on Information Week, here.

One comment that Elon made really made me wish there was a Q&A session with him so that I could ask a few questions.  The comment that Elon made was "Everything but rockets are going to go to electric."   This quote got me thinking about a few things.

First, the range on the electric cars today is about 300 miles.  Probably good enough for most driving around town that most people do.  However, when I think about some of the driving that I have to do for my job, a trip out of town for me can easily rack up over 600 miles in a trip.  I drive into and through rural Ohio most of the time.  Sure I drive mostly on interstate highways, but I have not seen any electric recharging stations on any of them yet.  Nor have I seen any place to recharge at any of the hotels either.

So how does this scenario get solved, Elon?  I see two ways that it could work.  First, the cars range could be improved.  But that is probably only a part of the solution.  At sometime, someone is going to need to drive further then the current range of the car.  So you will need recharging stations.  Sure, Tesla is installing some now.  However, they are going to have to be as common and easy to use as gas stations.  Which probably means that all cars will have to have the same connections for hook up, like they all have the same opening for a gas pump.  Until that happens, there is no way electric cars are going to go mainstream.

The issues around cars get magnified when you look at all the trucks on the road or cargo ships on the seas.  And if you are doing this to be “green”, this is where the real carbon reductions will come from, not the average car on the road.  I have not seen anyone working on an all electric Mac Truck.  Is anyone?  Is it even practical to build an electric truck or cargo ship to haul heavy loads with todays technology?  I have no idea.  I hope it is and someone is working on it.  But it sure looks a long way off right now.

The other question I have for Elon is about the current power grid and the plants that supply it.  Right now, most people admit that the existing power grid needs to be updated.  If we suddenly add all these verticals that need to attach to the grid to charge, can the grid handle it?  Or will I cause a rolling blackout in California when I plug in my car to charge?

Along with the grid, do we have the supply capabilities to handle the additional demand?  I do not believe that we do.  There has not been a new power plant built for some time in the US.  I also do not believe that wind and solar are the answers either.  Neither is reliable enough or generates enough power. 

The good news is that we have a solution here for power generation.  Nuclear Power.  It is the cleanest, zero carbon emissions and the new plants generate almost no waste.  France has been doing this for years.  So Elon, what is your position on nuclear energy?  I think it is the only way the dream will happen.

I like the vision, and I hope it happens.  But I worry that the entire “big picture” is not being thought about.  Too often, people don’t seem to think about the unintended consequences, just their piece of the pie.  Hopefully some one out there is thinking of these things.

The Pittsburgh Marathon

Pittsburgh Marathon LogoOK.  So after an all too long hiatus from running, I have decided to whip my self into what passes as shape and run the Pittsburgh Marathon.  OK, I’m not really going to run the entire marathon.  I will be participating in one of 3 teams that the Microsoft Pittsburgh Office is putting in the race.  My team will be made up of my boss, Luke Sossi and his son Kyle as well as Jeff Morris, our Mobility Specialist and lead singer of Any Way You Want It.

So here is your chance to force me into exercising, dropping a few pounds and hitting the streets of Pittsburgh.  Please consider sponsoring our team via this link:

Our goal is to raise $1500 for Genre’s Kids With Cancer Fund.

Genre’s Kids with Cancer Fund supplies laptops, tablets and XBOXes to Children’s hospitals to make sure that every kid as something to help them get through the day.  So far we’ve outfitted every room on 2 floors of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh with an XBOX.

If you want to learn more about Genre, you can watch the video below.

Please consider any donation that you can!

Again, the donation site is already active and you can find it at -

Happy Holidays!

OK.  Just in case I forgot to send you a Christmas / Holiday card.  Here it is!

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

Hope you had a wonderful holiday season and here’s to looking forward to an awesome new year!

Sprinkler Systems: Don’t do it!

Well, don’t do it may be a little harsh.  Here is some context.  When we bought our house ~6+ years ago, it game with a sprinkler system already installed.  I spent the first year trying to get it up an running again.   I mapped out all of the locations of the sprinkler heads for each zone and got it running again.

Every year, there was always something small wrong that needed to be fixed.  A head froze and broke here, a valve wore out there.  Always something.

Well, the last three years were just too much fun.  First, we had the lawn reseeded.  Along with this, we had all the flower beds edges.  So, what’s the problem you ask?  Well, this was the year that we found out that the previous owners cheeped out when they installed the system.  They did not bury the pipes as deep as they should have,  so when the edging was done, it cut the lines.  Leak number 1.

Next, FIOS decided to come to our neighborhood.  All utilities in our neighborhood are buried.  Which is actually a good thing, it protects them during storms, etc.  So the new fiber was buried in the yards.   We knew when they were coming to our street based on when the yards were marked for all the utilities.  So I went out and marked all of the sprinkler heads with little flags.  No matter, they managed to cut the lines anyway when digging to install the utility box in the yard.

Of course the guys digging did not have a clue that they broke the line.  After I checked it, they came over and looked into the hole.  “Oh, that’s what that was.”  At least Verizon fixed it when I called to report it.

That brings us to this year.  Last year, Comcast finally admitted (after 6 years) that our problems with cable, phone and internet were because the line to our house needed to be replaced.  (Long story for another time.)

Of course, since all our utilities are underground, Comcast needed to dig up our yard to pull a new line.  The other utility companies marked all their runs.  I marked all the sprinkler heads again.  And I also talked with the guys pulling the new cable before they began any work.  As I watched, the dug by hand any time the were close to anything.

All good, right?  Well, I thought so.  That was until I went to get the sprinkler system started up this year.  Despite all the markings and digging by hand, Comcast managed to rip the sprinkler pipes anyway.  Multiple calls to Comcast, still no one has returned my calls to see about fixing the system.  Comcast actually blew their last chance with us on this one.  One more issue and we switch to something else.

So, to wrap up, if you are thinking of getting a sprinkler system, first make sure you get someone that knows what the heck they are doing to install it.  (The lowest bid is not always the best bid!)  Second, make sure that you get a map, pictures, or some kind of reference of where everything runs.  You will end up breaking your system at some point if you don’t!