Friday, September 07, 2007

List update

I think I am going to make a few changes to the big list.

46. Print off favorite digital pictures taken to continue making photo albums
I think this one is kind of unnecessary and wasteful. I guess I imagine showing off all of these photo albums I have collected over the years to future kids or friends, but it's probably more likely that everyone will just see them on the web instead.

I now regret getting the cheap photo printer from Best Buy last Christmas. It's essentially junk and the photo quality is ok at best. I initially got it with the thought of saving money versus going to a pharmacy to print off pictures. However, it's quite more expensive because the pictures that a toner cartridge can actually print is much less than advertised. So I am going to replace it with whitewater rafting instead.

10. Apply for graduate school in Computer Engineering
I think I have finally decided against going back to school for pretty much anything. It would just be too much of a time commitment to go to school and work at the same time. I would like to be able to have a life and have fun for the next 4 years instead.

I also don't think it would help me in my career path right now anyway. I would eventually like to become a manager at the patent office, but getting a master's degree in computer engineering does nothing to help achieve that goal. So it's getting replaced with seeing 8 concerts.

I think the biggest goals I have trouble with are the ones that require constant attention. I still have yet to actually get myself to go volunteer somewhere. I am planning on volunteering at a Green Festival in DC, but that's on October 7th. I think I am just barely making the quota of blogging once a month. I just need more motivation to do these things I guess. It's probably a good thing I have a list, or otherwise some things I would never end up doing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Virginia driving fines, it's all the rage around here

Wow, everyone around here is sure up in arms about the new driving fines in Virginia. The new fines range in the thousands for going 20 mph over the speed limit and drunk driving. The fines only apply to Virginia residents and not people passing through. This little fact has already been ruled unconstitutional by a few courts, and is facing more challenges. However, the law makers are planning a fix to apply the fines to all who drive on the commonwealth's roads. There's also a lot of grassroots pressure being brought onto the Governor and state politicians to repeal the law. At least 150,000 people have signed petitions to have to fines repealed. The main justification for the law is safety, but also to bring in another $65 million a year for road construction.

At face value, I don't think that such massive fines are all that bad of an idea. What's wrong with having laws that heavily discourage drivers from going 20+ MPH over the speed limit? Not much from what I'm thinking. The main highway around here, the Beltway, is crazy. The speed limit is 55 and you have to go 70 to keep up with traffic. The only problem I see with the fines are that they are horribly regressive.

A more progressive fine I think would work much better to act as discouragement for drivers to fly by on the highways getting home from work. Instead of applying a set fine against all drivers, a more effective way would be to set the fine according to the relative wealth of the individual. How about 2.5% of the driver's salary for the year for going 20 MPH over the speed limit as the maximum. Maybe add a few percentage points for drunk driving. Thus, there will be plenty of incentive not to speed for all individuals, not just the middle class and the poor. I mean honestly, does anyone really think $2,000 fine is enough disincentive to go fast for anyone raking in $500k flying by in there Lexus or Mercedes?

Of course, judges should be given some amount of discretion to lower the fines for some individuals due to extreme hardship. People shouldn't be losing houses over something like this. But at least this way the government's argument over safety would be ingenuous.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Time to start blogging again and lists

Wow, it's been so long since I have actually written a blog entry. I have gotten pretty far on my green action plan for the year. The only ones that I haven't really done too much with are items 6 and 7. I just got a bill from Pepco, who provides wind energy to our apartment now, for $80.46. It's probably about a 60% increase on our electric bill overall.

I also copied everyone doing the lists and did one like Candy did, 50 things to do in the next two years. I have already crossed one off today, which is talking to our landlord about getting some big recycling bins at our apartment complex. Hopefully he will do it soon, since the city requires him to provide recycling.

I have a good number of active items on my list. I don't think limiting myself to eating meat 5 or fewer times will be too hard. I probably do it now, but don't really keep track. I also want to talk to my brother more so than I do now. I usually only talk to him a little bit while at home. I am also going to start blogging at least once a month. So, it should start being updated more often than every 7 months.

The one thing on the list I can't wait to cross off is completing all of the post wedding stuff. Still about 20 thank you's I personally have to write. They'll be done this week though by doing 5 a night, any more in one sitting is too much.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Green resolutions

After watching An Inconvenient Truth and the book, I decided to try and make some changes to help reduce my carbon footprint. Thus, I looked into making a list of resolutions, since it's just about the new year after all. Here's the list:

1. Make a better effort at turning the lights off when I leave a room. Even though our landlord has installed the more efficient bulbs, it's still a waste of energy to leave them on in the bathroom or bedroom if no one is in there.

2. Ask our landlord to install a low flow shower head. I remember Clifford saying something about previously have a low flow shower head and that the lady before us must have changed it. Since Clifford pays for the water use, I would guess that he would be happy to put one in.

3. Install the surge protectors in a more accessible place to cut the power to plugged in devices when not in use. This will also cut down on energy use because most everything that's plugged in still uses power when not on. Turning the surge protector off will cut off the source of power to the six devices plugged in.

4. Look into switching to Renewable energy through Dominion Power. I believe that most utilities by law have to buy energy from renewable power if produced and that there are many providers that we could buy solar and wind energy from instead of coal fired energy.

5. Buy reusable grocery bags for shopping at the store. This one Candy has already done the last time we were at Whole Foods. We just have to remember to take them with us.

6. Buy off setting emissions through renewable energy sources. By purchasing off-setting emissions, you can cancel out carbon emissions from car and plane travel through funds used to set up more renewable energy plants.

7. Use plastic mugs to get pop at 711 instead of buying the plastic bottles.

Anyone else have other suggestions or other things they have done to help reduce their carbon footprint?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Who killed the electric car?

We saw this movie a few days ago and it was quite interesting to hear about the whole electric car program in California. In the early 90's, California required that a few percent of vehicles sold has to be zero emissions vehicles, which essentially meant that they had to be electric cars. All of the motor companies were able to make and lease these cars to individuals, but were later taken back when California dropped the requirement of zero emission cars when it was determined that there wasn't a market for them.

Now, all of the research seems to be heading towards a hydrogen economy where we would eventually use fuel cell vehicles instead of our current vehicles. However, below is a chart that shows that this may not be nearly as efficient as using electric cars that are able to recharge into the electricity grid.


The actual article has some shortcomings, as mentioned by many comments on the story, that it only mentions a single way of generating hydrogen, which is through electrolysis. Regardless, the electric vehicle has a much higher efficiency rating compared to the hydrogen options.

In the movie, the problems that were stated with the electric car is that the batteries only would get you about 100 miles in a single charge at the time the auto maker cars were available. However, the battery technology has improved and at the end of the movie it stated that the batteries could last 300 miles and recharge in about an hour. For actual road trips, you could make a hybrid car that could have a small motor that either runs on gas or a fuel cell. And that solves your problem.

The only problem that needs to be solved is to force the automakers kicking and screaming to do it, like how they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to add seatbelts, airbags, increase mileage standards, etc. The other problem that needs to be added is to create tax breaks to allow these cars to be competitive with gas cars so that they are economically viable to the end consumer. However, that's asking quite a bit these days for the federal government to implement. Maybe California will change its mind.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

DC Improv

We went and saw some comedy for the first time in a while in DC. It seems like it's pretty usual for the comedy clubs to have a two drink minimum for events per person, but when I was looking for something to drink, I was shocked to see that they had Leinies on tap. I have never seen any Wisconsin beers out here and figured none of them made it out this far. So I had two Leinies for my drinks. I would bet that $4.95 is the most I will ever pay for a pint of Leinies.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


About 3 blocks away from our apartment, there are two gas stations on one side of the street on opposing corners of the intersection. One of the gas stations is Hess and the other is Exxon. I am pretty sure that I have never walked by these two gas stations and seen the price at the Exxon station to be cheaper than the Hess station. For instance, today driving back from a day of shopping at this mega mall called Tyson's Corner, Hess was $2.18 and Exxon was $2.36 (or $2.34). I am always surprised to see people pumping gas at this Exxon station when gas is usually a good 10 cents more expensive at this station when compared with the station another 100 feet north. I almost feel like doing a documentary type video with my camera and going up and asking people why there are pumping gas at the more expensive station, when there's a cheaper station within eyesight. I am sure it would get some interesting remarks.