Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back in Balance

Alright, so my goal this morning was to even out the new/used balance in my purchase record, which I definitely did. And then some. Here's what I found:

A Baby Backpack! It's turquoise, and I was debating it's purchase when several ladies informed me that I'd be kicking myself if I didn't get it when I went to get one in the store in a few months. It also brings out my eyes, I'm told.

SNL: The Best of Christopher Walken on DVD. Christopher Walken is funny without trying.

The brightest, most vibrant, most obnoxious reflective vest in the world, to keep me seen on my bike in the dark mornings ahead.

A CD wallet full of CDs I probably don't need - but how could I turn it down for $1? Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, Pete Seeger, Bette Midler, just to name a few. Kind of an interesting mix don't you think?

Competitive Strategy by Michael Porter which is an absolute classic of business strategy. He's kind of a legend, an impression instilled in me by Dr. Proudfoot, my business strategy prof in University. Unrelated except that it's in the textbook genre, I also bought a Quantum Physics textbook. I'm going to get to the bottom of this Large Hadron Collider business.

I also got some flower pots for free. I'm only going to score the products that saved me from buying something new in the "purchased used" category. The textbooks, CD wallet, and SNL DVD were unnecessary, but fun to get. So I guess the "used" is still lagging behind the "new". Such is life.

Happy Saturday!

*** UPDATE ***
I can't believe I forgot! I typed that whole post on my new (to me) keyboard and completely left it out. I got a great USB keyboard, which I've been after for awhile since the "m" on our laptop is dying a slow death (you know this if you've checked email at our house). But there's MORE! This USB keyboard also came with two additional USB ports built right into the keyboard, solving another problem we had - only one USB port. Our laptop is being ravaged by planned obsolescence. Did I mention the battery no longer works? And the AC adapter power cord only works sporadically?

On the sunny side, new and used purchases are even again.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blog Updates

I've been meaning to update the extra stuff on the fringes of this here blog for awhile, and I finally found time tonight.

Firstly, I added a number of new individuals to the Blog Roll:

Megan H - A good friend of the family's

Katie L - Katie does the typing, but the whole clan is represented. Pat is one of my golfing, fishing, and hockey cohorts.

Rob M - I just discovered Rob's blog today, and I was overjoyed at having found it. Every now and then Rob will send Michelle and I an email, and they're fantastic to read. Who knew a near endless supply of his writing was to be had! His latest post, My Car Makes Me Sin, is extremely entertaining. I highly recommend it.

I also updated my purchase statistics. My goal was to keep new and used purchases at the same level, but it's not working out. Although, I'm going garage sale-ing (I'd like to nominate garage saling as a new English verb. Who do I contact about that?) tomorrow so I might be able to bring things back into balance. Clothing is difficult to buy used, especially professional-type attire. On the other hand, I haven't been to the Goodwill in awhile, so I'm not exactly doing everything I could be doing.

I added Bicycle Commute Statistics because I think it's interesting and because I log the trips at Whatcom Smart Trips anyway, and they do all the hard work. I was actually really surprised at how little money I'm saving; cars are very efficient. On the other hand, I can't believe 68 pounds of carbon dioxide would have been emitted into the atmosphere. That seems like a lot.

That's all.

Political Rant (You've Been Forewarned...)

So I'm leaning Democratic this fall. Here's one reason: long-term energy. Democrat solution: newer, greener technologies. A long-term perspective. Republican solution: drill more.

Pardon the sarcasm, but let me see if I've got this straight: oil and oil-related products are increasing in price, largely because there's a limited supply and an unlimited demand. So our solution is to use up said limited resource at an even faster rate? Seems just a tad short-sighted, doesn't it? And in our mad dash to use up the last of our dwindling resources, why not trash the planet along the way?*

I know the Democrats have been a little light on the details, and some of the suggestions (properly inflated tires?) seem ridiculous in light of the magnitude of the problem - but aren't they at least headed in the right direction: reduced consumption, other sources of energy? Isn't that where we're going to have to end up anyway?

And another thing - I'm a fiscal conservative (smaller government, free markets... if that's not a fiscal conservative, that's what I meant) and I'm sick of one-way conservatives. It's pretty duplicitous to say we believe in free markets, but only if it means consumer prices go down. Oil is getting more scarce and it’s being used more so the free market is dictating that prices go up - simple supply (going down) and demand (going up). The genius of the free market system is that the increased price of oil and oil-related stuff will spur innovation and creativity to find better, cheaper energy sources. Keeping the price of oil down is short-sighted and will only hamper our transition to the next energy supply.

So I'm happy gas is more expensive; heck, bring on $10/gallon!

Actually, I've been thinking about this for awhile now (time warp - most of the above was written when I was in a more rant-ish type mood; now I'm a little more contemplative) and I think efforts to find a new source of energy are being hindered because we're focused on switching out oil with something new while still maintaining our consumption habits. Consider your personal range; by that I mean the distance you're willing to travel and still consider it 'convenient'. Another way to think of it, what length of trip do you consider significant enough that you block off a whole day for that one trip? What if that distance was drastically reduced? Maybe our culture should shift such that all our day-to-day activities are accessible by bike and foot, and any travel beyond that is done by airplane. What is the airline industry if not a worldwide mass transit system? We'd sure save a lot of oil not making those big long oil-strips we call highways. The infrastructure requirements of long distance air travel are so minimal in comparison to the automobile it's not even funny.

Well, all that aside, I do think that these are just the beginnings of a multi-generational shift in the way humanity views, uses, and consumes energy. The transition hasn't even really begun here; I don't have the data, but I'd hazard a guess that the average cost of fuel and the average commute length in America have charted a similar trajectory over the past 30 years.

Well, thanks for listening. I feel better already. What do you think?

*Editor's Note - that last little jab isn't entirely fair; the oil industry is quite clean in comparison to other natural resource industries. The mining industry, for instance, does hundreds of times more environmental damage than the oil industry. But that's beside the point.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Recent Musings

I've had a few random thought-strings that I thought I'd share.

First off, I've continued to ride my bike to work on occasion and I can't believe how awful exhaust fumes are. I often come to a stop too close to the vehicle ahead of me, and I don't notice at first, but after a few breaths I realize I haven't gotten any oxygen. I don't think automobile exhaust disgusts people nearly as much as it would if it were black instead of colorless. When I'm driving my car, or when you pass other cars on the highway, it's as if there's no toxic fumes at all because there's no visible sign of it. I thought about suggesting a color additive but I guess indifference is better than black soot everywhere.

I'm in the market for a waterbath canner - so if you've got one that your willing to sell, let me know. My first experiment, on borrowed equipment, was making pickles. It was fun, but I over cooked them. They came out the consistency of baby food. A wise grandmother of a friend overheard my plight and suggested relish. I think it might turn out more like a pickle paste, but it's all going to the same place. I might have a good invention on my hands! Jared's Perfect Pickle Paste - great on hot dogs, hamburgers, sandwiches and more! My next canning project is going to be blackberry jam. I was out picking some blackberries tonight. Blackberry picking is not a good activity for arachnophobes. Spiders everywhere.

I got a new book today - Hit the Ground Crawling from It's a book by dads for dads-to-be. Michelle and I got this packet with all kinds of baby information, mostly in pastel pinks and blues, but one handout caught my eye - it was black with this smiling, dirty baby holding a wrench on the cover. I read it, front to back, within a day or so, and it was one of the first things to really connect with me about this whole fatherhood thing. (I'm fairly certain that I've told everyone that Michelle and I are expecting, so this shouldn't be too shocking). Anyway, I've got that to dig in to.

That's probably enough random rambling for one day.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Garden (and Other) Produce

So I've been meaning to post some pictures for a few weeks now. Michelle and I went blueberry picking, and I put them in plastic bags to freeze for the long cold winter ahead. There's something about growing things that I really like. I think it's the fact that you've got something to show for your work when your done (hopefully!). I also really like how practical it is. I enjoyed just running the berries through my fingers. Some of them were still warm from the heat of the sun. I vacuum packed each freezer bag with a straw, and the super smooth bag perfectly molded to each berry made for a really cool feeling texture. Unfortunately I can't help you feel it with pictures, but here's my attempt:

Also a few weeks ago, we pulled about 75% of the carrots from our garden. Here are the long, straight, prize winners:

And here are the mutants:

And here is the finished product:

I've actually already eaten all these carrots. Apparently they all taste the same because they made a great snack at work. I'll have to remember to plant more carrots next year. And not to judge a carrot by it's shape.