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mygif

I’m still waiting for the Flying Car.

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mightybaldking said on August 26th, 2008 at 9:22 am

Let’s scale down the dreams of luxury a bit.

How about 9 hours to Los Angeles?
With bandwidth and a cubicle, it could be just another day at the office.

I don’t need my own cabin, but something as comfortable as a train with a dining car would be just fine with me.

We can keep the jets for Trans Atlantic and Trans Pacific travel. In fact, lets designate Overland travel as the domain of Airships, and over water for jets.

What we really need to do is get the high speed rail in place. There’s no reason why it should take any longer than 2 hours to get from Toronto to Ottawa. Once you add in airport hassles, that just about matches flying time. For Christ’s sake, the French, Japanese and Chinese have all done it. Why can’t we? We need to completely eliminate air travel for short hops.

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Lister Sage said on August 26th, 2008 at 9:45 am

Because someone has to say it: Zeppelin rules!

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mygif

…this had never even occurred to me.

And now I want it. I want this to happen. How can we make it happen?

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mygif

Most overlooked part of the Hindenberg disaster? There were survivors. People jumped clear. Try doing that from a 747.

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mygif

Oh, MGK, you kooky liberal. Everybody knows that a sky full of zeppelins is a clear sign of an alternate timeline where the Nazis won WWII. Must you be so insensitive to the Jewish community?

But, seriously, I think this highlights one of the major issues in global warming… mainly, that the situation favors drawing out current technologies as long as possible. If you enact a law that requires a massive paradigm shift (be it banning certain technologies or setting draconian-but-necessary emission standards that make certain technologies impossible to bring to market), you negate the market advantage of current large manufacturers and distributors (that being patents and facilities for the current technologies). Taking the example of airtravel, this means no single company or group of companies has the market advantage, throwing things into relative chaos, and there will be a period of limited or no airtravel as production builds up to meet demand. Obviously, this can be adverted by setting a future mandate that will force the paradigm shift at a known date, but even then, large companies will fight anything that requires them to make large investments in new facilities and R&D. Indeed, a few them may, arguably, not survive it or will be severely shrunken by it. So it falls on the politicians whose interests dovetail with these companies (some of whom may be on the dole, but some of whom are justifiably concerned with the economic impact on their constituency) to fight these paradigm shifts or draw them out as much as possible.

That has been one of the huge problems of global warming — current technologies confer competitive advantage to long-standing producers. Take those away, make them unusable, and you end up with *gasp* a leveled (although certainly not flat) marketplace! I don’t think any politician worth their Iraq War Vote and subsequent Iraq War Critique wants that.

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mygif

This calls for science, MAD SCIENCE!!!

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mygif

Ack! Research, then post. Most people died BECAUSE the jumped clear – the actualy gondala was so gentle that people who stayed on survived.

I, er, believe this only strengthens my point.

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mygif

The problem I have with groceries on delivery is that as good as it sounds, delivery is NEVER at the most optimal time for your convenience. I’ve ordered a shitload of stuff off the internet from a bunch of different places, and everything always seems to arrive between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the week, which is convenient for no one who works a 9-5 job.

And trading jets for zeppelins? It’ll never happen. The mental leap is way, way too big. You might as well ask people to start ridings skateboards to work.

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mygif

So… Can we have a zeppelin with multiple levels? That way we’d have STAIRWAYS TO HEAVEN!!!

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mygif

Zeppelins is a good word, but personally I prefer dirigibles. Much more rhythmic and fluid, less spittle-filled.

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NCallahan is unfortunately right, so what we need is an eccentric billionaire who hates aeroplanes to pump money into a zeppelin firm during the difficult “establishing zeppelins in the public eye as a viable form of transport while haemorrhaging funds” period. Either that, or an EU project, but EU projects take too long.

Seriously: speaking as a passenger, I really want this to happen. I hate planes and I hate airports. The very idea of a sky traversed by solar-powered zeppelins makes me go all warm and tingly.

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“– But even if their ship’s top speed is only half that, you’ve still got a one-way trip of 35 hours, which while not short is good enough to keep international travel alive and well. –”

Um… no. For leisure travel, 35 hours is simply unacceptable. That expands to 70 hours round trip, which means you spend roughly three days in transit. And that’s just making the jump from NY to London and back again. If I’ve got a one-week vacation, I’m basically toast.

For overland travel, the Europeans have a fantastic little system set up using a little thing called trains. The infrastructure is more expensive, but operation and maintenance is orders of magnitude cheaper. Trains have the potential to be just as spacious and ergonomic as their airborn counterparts. And, with mag-lev rails and other tech-savy features, they can get you where you need to go while moving in the 200-300 mph range.

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Lister Sage said on August 26th, 2008 at 10:35 am

NCallanhan: Or Cybermen and we don’t want that. Ok, I do want that, but I can see that most people wouldn’t.

Your right about how business will fight to keep anything not under their control out of the public eye. Look at the electric car or not look at it as the case my be. So, I guess surfs up.

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Warphammer said on August 26th, 2008 at 10:41 am

It’s very very hard to get people to accept Hydrogen-powered cars because they go AHHH AHHH NO, HINDENBURG! …and you think they’d be willing to just up and accept getting on something that looks like it? Unfortunately they’re a paranoid lot.

…and at some point they would probably be filled with Hydrogen, if for no other reason than we’re having helium supply issues. The stuff has a nasty tendency to leave the planet after it escapes.

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mygif

Zeppelins died out because a) they were freakishly labor intensive compared to planes of that era, and b) they tended to twist into animal shapes in bad weather. The Hindenburg was but the after-dinner mint to the Monty Python sketch.

I ran some numbers a while back based on designs from the last round of zeppelin interest, and they weren’t competitive in terms of fuel costs, even if prices went to people-are-growing-soybeans-on-the-front-lawn-for-easy-cash levels, because zeppelin cargo capacity was so much smaller. Didn’t have data on emissions, and I can certainly believe that jetliners are worse — but I’m not sure whether they would be substantially worse. If you’re replacing one jetliner with ten zeppelins, it’s probably not going to favor the zeppelins.

Finally, I wouldn’t rely on Monbiot as a source for anything. The most charitable interpretation is that he’s excitable and sloppy. If he has references, check them.

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mygif

The problem I have with groceries on delivery is that as good as it sounds, delivery is NEVER at the most optimal time for your convenience. I’ve ordered a shitload of stuff off the internet from a bunch of different places, and everything always seems to arrive between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the week, which is convenient for no one who works a 9-5 job.

Obviously, grocery delivery services maintain their own fleets, so they aren’t bound by a mail carrier’s or courier’s delivery schedule. Fresh Direct (the biggest NYC grocery delivery service) lets you specify a two-hour block of time for delivery, and there are plenty of early-morning, late-evening and weekend slots available. You can even reserve a particular timeslot to guarantee that it is available every time you order. It’s really not a problem — at least, not in a densely populated area like NYC. Obviously, groceries-on-delivery isn’t going to work as well in sprawling suburbs or rural areas, but for cities, it’s great.

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mygif

Gah. First graf above should be in quotes.

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Of course, it was just last week that it was revealed the U.S. Bureau of Land Management recently inked a 15-year deal with a private helium refiner that pretty much screws everyone except the refiners.

http://news.google.com/news?&tab=wn&ncl=1238939814&hl=en

(If I comprehend the news reports correctly, the deal requires that it be renewed as is when it’s up, which would take us right up to that 2030 time range.)

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mygif

I hate to burst your bubble, but the helium supply is dwindling about as fast the the fuel supply – estimates put us at running out in 40 years. It’s the second most common element in the universe, but it doesn’t exactly hang out ’round these parts. On Earth, virtually all of it was produced by radioactive decay over millions of years – which is still going on, but not contributing all that much. We collect it from natural gas fields – basically by taking the gas emitted and cooling that until the only thing that is still a gas is helium. Many natural gas suppliers don’t bother to capture the helium, since they’re making their money on the natural gas.

Demand is already out-pacing supply due to its industrial and scientific applications and . For example, 96 tonnes of liquid hydrogen is used to cool the CERN Large Hadron Collider. This is before we start replacing the world’s air fleet with giant containers of the stuff, of course. And unfortunately, helium diffuses through solids relatively easily, so containers of helium gas is not a great way to hold on to it.

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PS: The only estimate I’ve seen put it at 40 years – it’s running out, but slower than that may entirely be possible.

Diffusing through solids is still very slow; its just something that needs to be kept in mind. In all likelihood, more gas would be lost when one of the zeppelins would become damaged and the gas runs off into space through a hole than through diffusion.

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mygif

Too bad we can’t practically use nitrogen gas by itself to lift zeppelins, as there’s certainly plenty of THAT around…

Maybe we can use cowboys with lasers to round up a bunch of politicians and harness the hot air they generate?

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mygif

ANY solution that involves- you know what, forget it. We’re screwed.

I think the planet WANTS those four grades, so it can get rid off some billions of us.

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mygif

we’re so boned.

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Would having fleets of delivery vehicles and trucks be better than supermarkets? Have people crunched numbers on it?

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I second Zifnab, trains are the best way to travel. I only wish that the US had a modern train system.

Delivery poses a serious problem, as mentioned above. Many people don’t have a big window to recieve perishables. If the delivery gets an order wrong, there’s no fixing it for days (and the delivery infrastructure to deliver to nearly every household multiple times a week would be massive). Plus, it would take away from the many marketing techniques that supermarkets use in order to get people to buy things they didn’t want when they came into the store, and I really don’t think they’ll settle for food spam. Plus, I live in the middle of farmland central, and delivery is simply a non-option.

I’d love for there to be a reasonable alternative to supermarkets, mostly due to the massive amount of waste they produce, but I don’t see a feasible solution. Combined with the helium shortage mentioned above, I’m thinking our best bet is to start working on ways to survive the coming Kevin Costner world, ’cause it’s a coming, like it or not.

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Illuyankas said on August 26th, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Obviously, we can fuel these zeppelins with the helium produced by all the nuclear fusion plants that will be soon be popping up around the world. I am clearly an extremely talented physicist with an excellent understanding of the subject, and I also typed that with a straight face.

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mygif

The reason that the US doesn’t have a ‘modern’ train system like the UK, EU, or Japan is simple. It’s the same reason that bus service in small towns sucks. For it to be convenient enough to be useful, you have to run fairly often, more often than there is actually demand for year-round. that means nearly empty trains sometimes. this means that ticket prices go up and routes get cut because running empty trains makes no money, which makes trains less convenient, more expensive, and they slowly die.

The USA (and china) is too big and the population is too spread out for trains to be a viable national transportation strategy. They could be made to work better, sure. Both coasts would be well served by a stable train network, Vancouver-Seattle-Portland-SanFran-LA-SanDiego would be a great route. You could do even better on the east coast. It’s filling in the middle that’s trickier.

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mygif

I have a question, though this may get me slapped with a ‘kook’ label, MGK, while climate change is serious, and I don’t know about other greenhouse gasses, I do know that the totality of human carbon emissions since the industrial revolution is tiny compared to the amounts produced naturally (volcanoes, cows, etc.). now, without getting into the blame game, as it doesn’t really matter if it’s our fault or not, climate change is happening. but given that, does it really even make sense to be worrying about our carbon emissions, and not other, more harmful greenhouse gasses, or trying to find ways to reverse what’s apparently a natural cycle of the earth’s atmosphere that’s just bad for us cause we were dumb enough to live on the coast?

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mygif

On the one hand, I am still hoping to move to Great Britain sometime soon, and I’ll need some form of travel (hopefully faster than a tramp freighter.)

However, it does seem that commercial air travel is not at a very sustainable point anyway. Airlines continue to operate with razor-thin margins and try to save money by cutting down on frills like “room to sit.” There are probably less comfortable means of long distance travel (see above), but the system seems sort of ramshackle right now.

Exar: It’s a question of balance, mostly. The amount we add tips the scales so that there’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere, and an excess of any one gas is a problem.

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mygif

Would having fleets of delivery vehicles and trucks be better than supermarkets?

Yes.

Most people drive to the supermarket. Lots of people driving in lots of separate cars is much less efficient than a single delivery truck making multiple deliveries. Supermarkets require a large fleet of vehicles to deliver from the depot to the supermarket — if you can instead deliver from the depot straight to the consumer, you’ve saved energy (provided you have enough consumers in a relatively dense population area).

The other thing is, FreshDirect, at least, tends to focus more on locally-grown food. Trucking in perishables from the other side of the country (let alone the other side of the world) is incredibly wasteful.

If we could encourage higher density living and roll back suburban sprawl, build high-speed commuter rail and better public transportation, make people less dependent on cars and keep pushing people to eat locally produced food, all of these things are synergistic with grocery delivery. It’s like a green feedback loop.

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mygif

Hey, if we started with just high speed trains along the major cities on the coasts, it’d be a great start (plus, yknow, I live in the Seattle/Portland corridor without a car and man would that be convenient for me)

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mygif

“– Would having fleets of delivery vehicles and trucks be better than supermarkets? Have people crunched numbers on it? –”

We already have fleets of delivery vehicles and trucks going to supermarkets to stock them in the first place. What’s more, we all hop into our little gas guzzlers to make the weekly / bi-weekly / monthly grocery runs on our own. I can’t see how having our groceries Fed-Ex’d on a regular basis would be worse than the current setup. Having a single milk man deliver every second Monday seems far more efficient than having the 20 people on your block (or the 100 people in your apartment complex) take the commute individually.

“– Delivery poses a serious problem, as mentioned above. Many people don’t have a big window to recieve perishables. If the delivery gets an order wrong, there’s no fixing it for days (and the delivery infrastructure to deliver to nearly every household multiple times a week would be massive). Plus, it would take away from the many marketing techniques that supermarkets use in order to get people to buy things they didn’t want when they came into the store, and I really don’t think they’ll settle for food spam. Plus, I live in the middle of farmland central, and delivery is simply a non-option. –”

Ideally, you wouldn’t have deliveries to every person on every day. Again, think of the 50s-era milk man. You’d place your order via phone or internet and expect a shipment every week or every other week or what have you. Getting food would be like having your trash picked up. Just expect a delivery crate on your doorstep on Tuesday.

Grocery stores might lose money on impulse buys assuming they didn’t cram their ordering websites with banner ads and discount buttons, but they’d make it up by conserving on the amount of food they toss out due to waste. You don’t need twenty pounds of oranges sitting in a big bin in the hot air when you know that there’s only an order in for ten. The only real issue is a matter of quality. People like going to the grocery store because food is one of those things you can’t exactly send back when you don’t like it. If the grocery delivery service sends you a sack of moldy oranges, what do you do? If a grocery chain gets hammered by complaints, how do they handle unsatisfied customers? These would definitely be problems to tackle.

As for folks living out in the boonies, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re a minority, for starters, so you’re not on the top of the priority list.

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mygif

The only real issue is a matter of quality.

Delivery services like FreshDirect build their whole brand on quality. The idea is that all their perishables are hand-selected, so they never stock or ship the substandard crap you’d pass on if you saw it in the supermarket. The extent to which this scales is an open question — Starbucks used to serve much better coffee than it currently does, too.

If the grocery delivery service sends you a sack of moldy oranges, what do you do?

Call and complain and any delivery service that wants to stay in business will issue you a credit for your next order. It’s not rocket science.

If a grocery chain gets hammered by complaints, how do they handle unsatisfied customers?

If they are doing a shitty job, they will go under, like any other business.

One very positive potential upside for grocery delivery services is that there are a lot of urban neighborhoods that don’t have any quality local grocery stores, so people in those neighborhoods end up eating a lot of convenience store junk food. Unfortunately, most delivery services require a computer and internet access, which poor people don’t always have access to. There’s also a perceived “luxury” to having your groceries delivered that deters people in poor neighborhoods from using them, even if the food is better and the overall cost is lower than what’s otherwise available.

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mygif

Blake, I hope the “food spam” pun was intentional.

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mygif

“–If the grocery delivery service sends you a sack of moldy oranges, what do you do?

Call and complain and any delivery service that wants to stay in business will issue you a credit for your next order. It’s not rocket science.

If a grocery chain gets hammered by complaints, how do they handle unsatisfied customers?

If they are doing a shitty job, they will go under, like any other business. –”

Ideally, yes. But if you start seeing conglomeration in the industry, with five name-brand stores getting glommed into one super-mega-market enterprise, they’ll send you your moldy oranges and you can sit on a pin because they’re the only game in town.

Of course, if all the local food chains go the same way, you get the same problems. But the difference is that if I don’t like my oranges at HEB, I can drive across the street to grab a sack from Krogers or Randalls or Safeway or whatever. If I get a bad sack of oranges by delivery, I’ve got to cut my registry to Whole Foods or Walmart and I won’t see a good orange for another week.

It’s not catastrophic, but its annoying. And people will continue to hop in their cars and do the driving themselves if they believe its worth the extra $10-$20 in gas they shell out every month.

Now, what they really need to do is have groceries delivered by Zepplin. That idea has some potential.

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mygif

“f I get a bad sack of oranges by delivery, I’ve got to cut my registry to Whole Foods or Walmart and I won’t see a good orange for another week.”

Okay, seriously, people who are interested in how this is working so far in the real world should look at the FreshDirect website. I don’t know where you’re getting this “registry” and “another week” stuff, but I can place an order for oranges with FreshDirect at any time up until 11:00 PM tonight and they will bring them to my door tomorrow, sometime within a 2-hour timeslot of my choosing. And if I want to use another delivery service the day after (PathMark, or whatever), instead of FreshDirect, there is absolutely nothing stopping me from doing so.

Yeah, there are a lot of things that could go wrong with grocery delivery. There are a lot of ways companies could do it badly. There are legitmate concerns about how the FreshDirect model woud scale to other markets. But these are all, for the moment, purely theoretical concerns. Non-supermarket based, direct-to-consumer grocery servcies are already working extremely well in NYC. It would be insanity to not at least try them in other places, based solely on fears that things that aren’t currently going wrong might one day go wrong.

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mygif

You lost me in the beginning there, but by god, did you ever get me back.

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mygif

“– Okay, seriously, people who are interested in how this is working so far in the real world should look at the FreshDirect website. I don’t know where you’re getting this “registry” and “another week” stuff, but I can place an order for oranges with FreshDirect at any time up until 11:00 PM tonight and they will bring them to my door tomorrow, sometime within a 2-hour timeslot of my choosing. –”

Ok, touche. I was going with a model akin to the PeaPod program that my local grocery store put out about five years back. It bombed because the premiums were too high, the delivery times were too long, and the general consensus was that food delivered to your door wasn’t as good as the food you could pick up yourself.

“– Yeah, there are a lot of things that could go wrong with grocery delivery. There are a lot of ways companies could do it badly. There are legitmate concerns about how the FreshDirect model woud scale to other markets. But these are all, for the moment, purely theoretical concerns. –”

Purely theoretical concerns are a rather big deal when you want to raise capital for a business project. And since this is a purely theoretical discussion – unless anyone has a few million in spare cash sitting around to invest – I’m just saying what I’m saying.

A new delivery model of groceries doesn’t just have to work. It has to be so much better than the current system that people will voluntarily give up the weekly commute. That’s the hurdle you have to make it over in order to succeed. So all these problem – theoretical or otherwise – are, in fact, a big deal.

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[...] Christopher Bird on Zeppelins as the solution to global warming. [...]

mygif

It has to be so much better than the current system that people will voluntarily give up the weekly commute. That’s the hurdle you have to make it over in order to succeed.

Yes, but what I am saying is that this hurdle has already been cleared — at least in New York. FreshDirect is extremely popular and successful. All of the local brick-and-mortar grocery stores are scrambling to offer comparable service. So there is an actual working model that you can point to and say, “Okay, here’s what works — let’s do it like this.”

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mygif

Railroads, transportation conglomerates and governmental bodies all over North America will come to regret the rail lines that have been torn from the ground willy-nilly in favour of more-profitable-in-the-short-term road bound alternatives over the past few decades. This is especially glaringly visible out here in BC.

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mygif

Finally, no offense, but that Turtle Airship website is a complete piece of crap. They want $3 billion in start-up capital and they can’t afford good HTML? Yeah, I’m just not seeing it.

The concept is intriguing and the theory is inspiring, but the folks launching this thing look like guys operating out of their parents’ basement. When Boeing or Airbus gives this a serious look, we might be in business. For now, I just don’t think you realize the level of technical expertise required to make a real reliable flying machine.

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mygif

There’s a “restaurant” here in Florida called Dinners2U (www.dinners2U.com) That will let you order a complete cooked meal for two over the phone or ‘net, and bring it to you, at reasonable price.

They seem to be doing ok, as I see deliveries made by their vehicles about as often as I see pizza deliveries (this is a middle class* neighborhood….)

If a prepared foods business can make a go of it, I wonder if a food delivery service would fly**…

Something to invest my future lottery winnings in***.

*real middle class (approx $50K income, not McCain “Middle Class” of $3 milllion)
**Fly by ZEPPELIN!
*** Probably a money loser, like most new businesses, but better than the traditional Florida Lottery winner investment plan of strippers and booze.

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@Exar:
It’s not just the human carbon emissions that’s a problem, it’s also the wholesale destruction by humans of one of the earth’s primary carbon-absorbtion systems, namely forests. Those two human activities combine with or greatly exacerbate other factors to grossly upset the natural balance of Earth’s carbon emission-absorbtion cycle (which normally involves a LOT of carbon being constantly emitted and absorbed).

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mygif

Something just occured to me concerning the delivery-schedule problem for food. Couldn’t part of this be solved just with bigger mailboxes ? If a good proportion of buildings had an easy to use system of big lockers that have something like a oneway door through which you can put a big packet, but only get it out with a key, you could easily order non-perishable food and just pick it up in the evening. Taking that further, you could think about lockers that are refrigerated, and to stop packet spam or vandalism, you could have something like single-use passkey to open them – just give them out when ordering something.
In fact, I’d find this useful even without a food-ordering joint here – whenever I order something, I end up needing to get it from the post office a day later because of course I’m not home when the mailman comes around.

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Andrew Jeanes said on August 28th, 2008 at 2:25 am

I walked past a little Sobeys on Bloor Street tonight. It’s in a former Blockbuster Video store, so it’s small. They probably still do all the wasteful things like blasting the heating and cooling systems at the same time, but at least it’s not in the middle of a suburban power centre surrounded by acres of parking, you know? People can walk to it.

On the other hand, I just got back from a major conference with municipal politicians from all over Ontario, and I am fairly certain most of them either don’t believe in global climate change or won’t allow themselves to change their behaviour because of it. They are still approving crazy development that makes car-dependency inevitable, even if it hurts them in more direct ways than GCC (like the massive infrastructure maintenance costs they are paying out). A lot of people in the provincial government are just as bad (“a 4-lane divided highway from Ottawa all the way to Kenora, that’s what this province really needs”) and I can’t even start with the feds.

We need to start with basic upgrades to rail service to make it practical for more intercity trips within the continent. We don’t even need real high speed rail; 200 kph with reliable service would start changing things, and that’s doable with existing fixed infrastructure (the next person who says “mag-lev” gets horsewhipped). Air travel on trips of 600 km or less has to end, period.

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Mark Temporis said on August 28th, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Another problem with delivery-only is that providers may not be willing to deliver to poorer, more crime-ridden neighborhoods. Personally, I can’t do e-commerce since my credit is bad and I can’t even qualify for a debit card.

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DensityDuck said on August 30th, 2008 at 12:39 pm

So we’re going to replace my trip, from my place to the supermarket and back, with a truck that drives from the supermarket to my place and back. Where’s the fuel savings?

Unless I’m just supposed to schedule my life around the convenience of the food delivery service. “Sorry boss I can’t come in to work today, I have to sit at home because my food is going to be delivered sometime between 8 AM and 8 PM.”

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mygif

So we’re going to replace my trip, from my place to the supermarket and back, with a truck that drives from the supermarket to my place and back. Where’s the fuel savings?

One car making ten stops on one delivery trip is massively more efficient than ten cars making one stop on one pickup trip, plus under the delivery model there’s no need for a supermarket in the first place – all deliveries can be made directly from the warehouse, rather than using the supermarket as an intermediary point between business and consumer.

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mygif

Crimson Skies anyone? Personally, I would love for zeppelins to cruise the skies, so I could shoot em’ down in my six-winged, prop-powered, hot rod plane.

/Gonna go play that game now.

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