DNA Lounge: Wherein we're gonna get Pucced.

Lemme tell you about a construction-related joy called the PUC, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

Let's say you're expanding your business, and putting in a bathroom, a bar, a kitchen, whatever. Part of this interminable process is that at some point, your plans land on the desk of someone at the PUC, and they take the list of all the gear you're installing -- every toilet, every sink, every floor drain, every refrigerator -- plug those into some mysterious equation, and then they say, "Now you owe us $40,000 please. Or you can't have your construction permit."

The purported reason for this is that your business is placing "additional load" on the water and electrical systems, and so they get to bill you for it.

But, it's funny, because I get a bill every month for the water and electricity that I use that charges me for exactly the additional load that I have placed.

So this is actually a "paying the taxman" tax. You have to pay this bill for the privilege of paying future bills.

Having heard me rail against the anti-business stupidity of our local governmental bureaucracy, you might get the impression that I'm against taxes, or government in general, but that's far from the case. I'm not some Libertarian who thinks that roads are things that just magically happen during the night. What I'm against is stupidity, which we have in abundance. We have a system that is overwhelmingly optimized for the wrong things.

Taxes don't exist just for revenue generation for some nebulous, parasitic entity called "The Government". They exist so that people pay their share of the commons from which we all benefit, directly or indirectly; and also, they are a form of social engineering. You raise taxes on things you want to discourage, and lower them on things you want to encourage.

So what's this discouraging? What's the market pressure they're trying to exert here? Is it conservation? "We'd like you to use less water, so we'll discourage you from installing sinks." Well, no, for two reasons. First, if you want people to use less water, you raise their monthly water bill (or you make the bill progressive, so that the rate is higher when water consumption passes what you consider a "reasonable" level). Who cares whether they have a sink if it's never turned on. But second, it's not like I have any choice about these sinks! I can't say, "Hey, you know what, let's do our part for Mother Earth and just put in one sink instead of two." All of this is mandated by the Health Department: a bar has to have a 3-pot sink, a hand-washing sink, an ice well, a floor drain, etc. If your capacity is X, you must have Y toilets. There's basically zero discretion here.

So what they're actually discouraging by charging an enormous fee for merely owning a sink is not "wasting water", but is instead, "doing business in San Francisco". They're saying, "We'd rather you not expand your business. We'd rather you not increase the number of people you employ, or the number of visitors you bring to town. We think those things are bad, so we'd like to make it less likely for you to be able to afford to stay open."

It's the "We will have to confiscate your ice cream cones" thing all over again.


Javascript MESS needs testers, smurfs

Javascript Hero

Let me state the goal again: take the MESS project, which is a massive open-sourced effort to emulate every possible computer system and console that exists, and make it run in a window in a browser. In doing so, allow anyone with a web browser of reasonable power the ability to experience, in great convenience, many of the aspects of any previously made software in human history. This is a very lofty goal.

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Festo ExoHand

Force-feedback waldo. Getting closer to being able to punch someone through the internet.

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