Monday, October 19, 2015

Commute to SF from Vegas?

Randal O'Toole writes this:

Someone has calculated that it would be less expensive for San Francisco workers to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Las Vegas and commute by air than to rent a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. They reasoned that a one-bedroom in San Francisco is about $3,100 a month while a two-bedroom in Las Vegas is about $1,000 a month, and four-day-a-week airfares would be about $1,100 a month. Even with local transport, Las Vegas is less expensive than San Francisco. While most responses focus on the quality of life in Las Vegas vs. San Francisco, the point is that the latter is so terribly overpriced that some software engineers are actually living out of their cars.

Some skeptics respond to O'Toole in the comments to his post.

Why not just move to Las Vegas? A comment to the post that inspired O'Toole:

As someone who has lived/worked in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and now Las Vegas, I can tell you, living in Las Vegas has raised our quality of life tremendously. I'm not sure what your friend is telling you, but we have NO traffic here, which means not spending an hour at an intersection trying to get on a bridge that you have to pay $14 to cross. Many of our "everyday" businesses (grocery stores, restaurants, Walmarts etc.) are open 24 hours, we have In-N-Out, and there is an unlimited amount of entertainment options that at anytime are about 15 minutes away. Additionally, we have a fairly large number of flights going to just about anywhere, out of an airport that is roughly 10-20 minute drive from most places in town (compared to SFO's outlying location). Gas is cheap(er) than L.A. and San Fran, and lunch/dinner at a local's casino buffet is often cheaper than a "Value Meal" at McDonald's. Las Vegas does have it's crime here and there, but honestly it doesn't seem any worse than in San Francisco, and certainly better than the East Bay. I've been here for a number of years, and I have yet to be surrounded by vagrants wanting money while I pump my gas, as I have in San Francisco. Las Vegas does have intense heat, which San Francisco doesn't have, but it's a small price to pay for all of the positive attributes.


High-speed rail boondoggle update

Spain's system has problems

From an L.A. Times story (California bullet train project is attracting interest — but not fundingon the high-speed rail project earlier this month:

...A solicitation issued to potential partners this year drew 36 responses from rail, construction and engineering firms around the world, offering what California High-Speed Rail Authority officials say are encouraging ideas and feedback that will aid future planning. But the companies didn't signal a readiness to invest their money, according to the rail authority staff and board members...

With slim near-term prospects for additional state or federal funding, the project needs billions of dollars in private investment to supplement government funding as it tries to complete its first passenger-carrying segment.

Rail authority Chairman Dan Richard said the companies generally want either a revenue guarantee or a record of financially successful operations. A state-backed operating revenue guarantee would be a "nonstarter" under voter-approved financial protections placed on the project, said Michael Rossi, a retired Bank of America vice chairman and a rail board financial expert.The companies that responded to the state solicitation left the door open to forming partnerships and making investments, but under terms that could be problematic for high-speed rail officials. "There is no proposal, there is no commitment to do anything" in the responses, Rossi said at a board meeting this week. "We need to be very, very careful."

...The state has about $15 billion in funding: $9 billion in bond proceeds approved by voters in 2008 and $3.2 billion in federal grants. Another $2.5 billion is expected to come from [cap and trade]fees paid by businesses for generating greenhouse gases. But the cost of the initial 300-mile operating system from Burbank to Merced is an estimated $31 billion. "We still have a funding gap," Richard acknowledged. "We need that other piece that is new money"...

Elizabeth Alexis, a co-founder of a Bay Area group[Californians Advocating Responsible Rail Design] critical of the rail authority's planning, said the results of the solicitation are a setback. She predicted there will be "some serious soul searching on the next step"...

Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability wonder who's paying for a junket to Spain.

Speaking of Spain, Tim Sheehan wrote in the Fresno Bee about how poorly that system was conceived.

Last week the Palo Alto City Council blasted high-speed rail plans for the Peninsula:

"I think what they are planning to do is a prescription for failure," [Councilman Pat]Burt said of the rail authority. "It is the sort of process that resulted in the horrendous backlash on the Peninsula previously."

The Community Coalition on High-Speed Rail's critique of the October high-speed rail meeting on the Peninsula: "High Speed Rail is rearing its ugly head again on the Peninsula."

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"She kills people from 7,850 miles away"

From the Daily Beast:

..."Sparkle" started as an imagery analyst, scouring satellite images for signs of militant activity. Then she got transferred to the remotely piloted aircraft program. She earned the call sign because her headset has bedazzled jewels running along the headband and earpieces. “I use it to emasculate the enemy in the afterlife,” Sparkle said. “Many radical jihadists believe that being killed by a woman means they will not enter heaven. Considering how they treat their women, I’m OK with rubbing salt in the wound.”

...The whole shot was choreographed down to the second. They knew from watching him for weeks that it took the man 12 seconds to get on his motorbike and drive to the edge of his compound. The plan was to hit him on a barren stretch of road between his compound and the cemetery... 

“By collecting all that information, we can make sure that it is a legal target and we minimize collateral damage,” he said, using military jargon for civilian casualties. “We wanted to shoot him between Point A and B so there was no collateral damage. There was no way anyone good can get hurt and the bad guy dies.”

...It is not unheard of for crews to track a target for two to three months. The constant surveillance creates an intimacy other fighter pilots and even soldiers don’t have with the target. The crews get to know the target’s family. They know the family’s mosque, the kid’s school.

“I understand there is an intimacy you get with your target,” Sparkle said. “However, you’re a bad guy and you’re doing bad things to the people I am here to support. We just don’t go out there and shoot stuff. There is a reason. They are always associated with some part of hurting our friendly forces. At the end of the day, when you boil it down to that one point, the rest of it goes out the window”...