Economist alt energy issue

I read the Economist’s alternative energy special. It made the case that a post fossil fuel future is sooner than one might think, and had good stats on overall market size, growth rate, and competitive costs.
The big weakness was in the way it handled energy efficiency. The article pooh-poohed notions of energy conservation, identifying it with dour do-goodism. The economist doesn’t have trouble with other sorts of efficiency driven by technology price/performance, or reducing labor. But somehow, if you can get comparable results with less energy, that’s not worth considering.

Mountain Charlie Challenge

I went to Scotts Valley today to pick up my bike, and headed over to a local bike shop for some ride recommendations, since it’s rumored to be fine biking territory.
I was thinking about maybe heading toward the coast and riding 25 miles or so. For the month or so before the Danskin triathlon I’d been focusing on shorter, somewhat flatter rides followed by runs, so I hadn’t been doing lots of hills.
I asked the friendly bike store guy what he recommended. He got out a map, and drew a magic marker route from central Scotts Valley up Mountain Charlie Road. He said it was about 20 miles. Now, he looked at me, and looked at my bike, and made the recommendation. I figured that if he thought I could do it, I ought to be able to do it.
So I had some lunch at Scotts Valley Falafel, changed, and headed uphill. The ride was absolutely gorgeous through redwood forest, with spectacular views on both sides of the road. When I got home I mapped it. The hill had about 1500 feet of elevation gain over 4 miles. The steepest parts had a grade of 17, most of the ride was about 5.
When I got to the Bay Area, I was pretty out of shape. Wherever I went, I would look up at the hills and wonder if I’d be able to ever climb them on a bike. Being able to reach a miscellaneous Santa Cruz range summit is a pretty big thrill.

Earthshatteringly bad service from Earthlink

It took over 5 hours to recover from an expired domain name. The experience with Earthlink was one of the worst customer experiences I’ve had in my life, and I can’t remember the other ones.
The domain had been my primary web and email address for 10 years. It took me a few days to realize that the problem was the domain, not just an email delivery problem. Once I realized the problem was with the domain, I looked up the domain on whois and saw that it was registered at
Then came a comedy of redirection. I called Register, who sent me to their partner division, who sent to Earthlink, who sent me back to Register, who sent me back to Earthlink again. Each of these episodes involved long waits on hold. The last Register clerk who sent me to Earthlink a second time was extremely patient and volunteered to stay on the line while I talked to the Earthlink folk who denied I was registered through them.
This time the Earthlink clerk recognized the registration. But she was unwilling to give me any information about the account unless I provided her with the credit card number I used to register the account a decade ago. I don’t know about you but I save financial information for 7 years, which is the recommendation for tax purposes. Finally she referred me to another number. She wouldn’t explain why, or what the other number was. I stayed on hold at that number for 30 minutes, then gave up and tried Earthlink chat.
Finally, the chat clerk explained what the problem was. The number was a collections agency. Apparently I had owed money to Earthlink (even though my records showed that I had been paying them regularly). Another side trip to the billing department at Earthlink who confirmed that I was paid up. A re-visit to Earthlink chat. Now, the clerk identified that there were *two* accounts, one of which was delinquent (I hadn’t gotten any notices that I remembered). But he couldn’t give me any more help unless I remembered the decade-old credit card. He was about to invoke a supervisor confirmation procedure that would take another day to verify my identity.
But then I had an epiphany. to the rescue!!! I realized that I’d been buying stuff from Amazon for a decade. I looked up the history of my Amazon account. Lo and behold, there were the 10 year old credit card numbers. At this point, Earthlink’s computer system went down and I needed to call back 30 minutes later. Finally, they were able to look up my account, and sent me to the collections people with instructions to get a confirmation number once I had paid my bill.
By this time, the collections office was really closed (they hadn’t picked up the phone earlier when they were supposedly open). I tried them in the morning, the first minute they opened, and someone answered the phone. They confirmed that my account was paid up. They couldn’t give me a confirmation number, since I didn’t owe any money. To get out of the catch 22, I offered to pay them just to get a confirmation number. The supervisor discovered a fee of $50 (real or fictional, I’m not sure), and I used this to ransom the confirmation number.
Then I called back Earthlink, gave them the number, and was ready to renew the domain. Ok, in order to renew your domain, you need to transfer the hosting to us, said the clerk. Oh, no I don’t. It took a few steps of back and forth to cause them to renew my domain name without getting their hosting services which I very definitively did not want. I gave them a new credit card, and paid $30, which is $20 more than the going rate.
A couple of hours later, was back in service. But that wasn’t even the end. I got an email from them, saying that my credit card had been rejected. They hadn’t used the new credit card number I gave them, but the 10 year old number that had been expired for years. I gave them the current credit card number, again.
I think I registered the domain with Mindspring, back in the day, when they were good. Earthlink bought mindspring and went through years of turmoil and decline. Now they have acheived a level of customer service that is dramatically awful.
In 30 days, I can transfer the domain to some other registrar and be rid of Earthlink forever.