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« Ethanol – Insanity Ensconced | Main | Keachie Again Misreads Rebane »

20 June 2011


Russ Steele

The rate that all companies are leaving California is accelerating, details at NC Media Watch. [Apologies for not inserting the link to NCMW where Russ had posted an earlier piece on the topic that I failed to note earlier. gjr]

S. Rogers

Very interested. Being a member of the moving and relocation industry, I am aways wondering when California movers might be able to tap into some of this technology. Does green automobile technology, as it is currently, imply a lack of power? I guess my question is, can semi-trucks every get to the point of being truly green?

S. Rogers

Sorry, I mean very interestING.

J Cutter

To provide some balance on what I consider to be unrelated issues Mr. Rebane wants folded into the tax debate, I read all the articles, and here is my take:

1. Aptera - DOA without funds. Caught outsourcing in the past, flawed concepts, fired execs, production delays, etc.

2. Calisolar - hardly committed, but spending DOE funds if done, & they are walking into existing space.

3. Fallbrook - failed/stalled IPO, only revenue appears to be via acquisition of a TX company, ten years of what?

4. Sharp Solar - will be sharing the existing campus with its Japanese mothership, employs 35, and maybe less on consolidation - (failing division?)

5. WindStream - A pure start-up, that appears to be working the subsidized lotto.

If these are the best indicators of the crisis, I am not convinced. Many sound like other publicly funded development schemes/scams I have heard (Plasmatronics in Indiana anyone?), and others looking for a fresh start - that may have the potential to succeed, but in this economy are of obvious higher risk.
Beside this, I still say the sweetest is the R&D/incubation phase that has benefited Silicon Valley the most over the years. Production is all $$'s that, like any import/export, is tough for an advanced burden economy to compete.

George Rebane

Good summaries JCutter. To expand, how do you co-mingle the "R&D/incubation phase" of Silicon Valley, funded by private money, with such a phase of green industries funded by the taxpayer and mediated by bureaucrats (who are not in the reward loop and whose smarts are always in question)?

J Cutter

" do you co-mingle the "R&D/incubation phase" of Silicon Valley, funded by private money, with such a phase of green industries funded by the taxpayer and mediated by bureaucrats (who are not in the reward loop and whose smarts are always in question)?"

I don't.
And I take issue with your analysis that Silicon valley was solely funded by private money, as at it's core, companies such as HP, Fairchild, etc. were extensions of the research centered at Stanford & the Naval Air Station (my great uncle worked for Ames), and much of their tech was commissioned.

Though my lay perspective may ring as heresy to the more involved such as yourself, on principle, I am not in favor of public funds being implemented in the private sector to develop tech with more than a highly regulated, but passive role as lender insurer (not unlike the original SBA). I even believe that the beast of gov has grown beyond the point of being a viable source of innovation from within its ranks (as NASA once did); overtaken by the inefficiencies caused in part by those same politicized bureaucrats. I'd rather chum the water with an emphasis on education, by trimming the burden of upper level science and math exposure and accomplishment, support the research done in those same institutions by those enrolled, and seek sensible Federal policies that reduce our dependence upon dated tech/science - which may cause short term pains, but spurs alternative research.

Solving the rest of the puzzle is much more involved, as the concept of subsidizing a private corporation's relocation with public funds is completely understandable in today's system, but opposes my fundamental belief that Government should not be run as a for-profit, revenue seeking endeavor.

George Rebane

JCutter - in my 20+ years as part of the halo of companies that supported defense R&D, I am acutely aware which way technology flowed and how research programs were really directed (including the involvement of private universities and government 'labs').

To be blunt, innovations and new technology had and still have to be secreted into government systems and programs by their civilian contractors. The state's program managers, scientists, and senior technical staff are in the main politically motivated impediments to what needs to be done to give our military the latest.

The standard path to introducing innovation is through the ‘operational types’ – the boat drivers, pilots, tank commanders, … - who then put pressure on the government systems development bureaucracy to deliver what they have been shown by civilian contractors.

To make these remarks concrete I’ll cite just two examples in which I had personal involvement – countless others exist. The cruise missile arrived in our armaments because Ryan Aeronautical (Teledyne Ryan) finally short-circuited the govt’s two competing cruise missile study programs – AF’s Harpoon and Navy’s Tomahawk – by bootlegging the modification of one of its target drones as the ‘Interim-Harpoon’ and using it to sink an old destroyer off San Clemente Island. The success of the demonstration instantly launched both Harpoon and Tomahawk cruise missile developments – study and analysis time was over. BTW, as punishment? Ryan never got a production contract for either missile – c’est la guerre.

The HP-85 was arguably the first successful desktop microcomputer. It ran a graphics-capable form of Basic, sported an attached keyboard, small built-in monitor, and thermal printer along with a removable cassette. In the late seventies optimal control and estimation theory was making large strides, but a typical interval for upgrading shipboard combat system was about seven years from engineer’s inception to becoming operational.

It was relatively simple to program the latest and greatest Kalman and Bayesian target motion analysis ‘filters’ on the HP-85 and demonstrate how they could be used in conjunction with the ‘big iron’ operational combat systems on board attack and missile submarines. The boat drivers loved the improved capability, but the development bureaucracy said no go.

So, with appropriate suggestions from the contractors, the fleet acquired HP-85s for keeping track of such things as ship’s stores and laundry (non-combat systems), and promptly installed them in the ships’ attack centers while the new algorithms were wending their way through the lengthy development cycles for integration into the ships’ operational combat systems. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

As an aside, whenever industry found a ‘live one’ (a civil servant technical staffer) laboring away, usually ignored and unrewarded, in the bowels of a govt development lab, the engineer/scientist/technician soon was the recipient of offers s/he could not refuse. Unabashedly, I have to admit that this practice kept the govt’s aggregate talent pool at its historically acknowledged level. And I do recognize that there have always existed outstanding govt technical types to provide the three-sigma exceptions that underline the rule.

Bottom line, don’t ever underestimate the profit motive for inspiring things that keep us safe and sound and warm and well fed.

Todd Juvinall

Great sidebars George. The world's success is driven by profit. Even in Chad.


Back when the comment section was alive and well, our green nuts would swear up and down about all the green jobs that were going to flock to Ca. and OHHH SOooo many were going to move to good ol' Nevada County. Well, we have yet to see the great Birkenstock stampede. ( unless you would like to count the one leaving the state)
MAN..... The heat I took for calling it like it was. BS!!!
you can add one more "green business" to the gone list.
The "solar on the corner" in good old PV is tits up and a for sale sign is in the parking lot. But I don't think you will hear about that in the Union any time soon. And by the way,, Airhill is still closed.and presumed gone for good.

Russ Steele


Where there is a will there is a way. In the late 70s, I attended a three day lecture given by the Navy for computer systems managers and one of the lectures was given by Grace Brewster Murray Hopper, who is considered by some to be the mother of programing languages, based on her work on COBAL. Very late in her career, she had become a proponent of desk top computing, but senior managers would not approve requests for desk top computers.

Most of Captain Hopper’s presentation was on how to beat the bureaucratic system. She pointed out the while you could not order computers, you could order parts, and make your own from the parts. She had a whole series of strategies on how obtain the needed parts, without raising suspicion from the procurement folks. Part of that strategy included Radio Shack and the petty cash account. When it came to hooking up the computers so you could exchange information she recommended sending the best looking young woman on your staff, with the shortest skirt to find the local telephone installer and have her ask for a roll of telephone cable. She said it worked about 70% of the time, and there was always another installer on another day. We all left the lecture inspired to become skilled at beating “the system” to build a better future.

I have a HP-85 story to share in another post, we used it to beat the big computer guys in to submission.

Michael Anderson

Thanks for the HP-85 stories. Lots of fun.

George Rebane

Since we worshipped at the same altars Russ, I knew I could count on you to add an anecdote or two here.

Douglas Keachie

Beating the system? Want to talk to a real human when calling ATT? When the robot gets done, ""I'll just look that up" followed by the turkey gobble, say "Disconnect phone." You will have an American on an analog voice line immediately. No crappy VOIP from high born offspring in need of a job for me.

Mikey McD

Al Gore, coming in at $300 million 'today' net worth.. Al Gore’s net worth in 2001: $1 million.
Talk about inconvenient truths...


My goodness, where's the complaints about Romney and Trump, two other silver spooners?

George Rebane

TomK 1056am - What would you complain about Romney and Trump, are they also on the stump calling for others not to have a chance to make their wad? But then the Gores all made their money the old fashioned way, in politics.

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