Friday, November 14, 2008
More on the smart garage concept here at RMI Move, the folks that developed it.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The new Insight should come on the market around $19,000, which is pretty affordable, especially if there are Federal and State tax incentives in place. Where the original Insight was a perfect commuter car, the new Insight is more practical. It has plenty of room for 5 passengers, and is a hatchback. Honda has launched a blog for the Insight as it moves into production for those who want to keep current on all the happenings. Otherwise check back here and I'll update with bigger news items.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Photosynth is free and takes a short time to download, and you can use it to make your own synths of whatever objects you want. You can download digital images of documented species from the EOL site.
This guy's a nuclear engineer, so he starts talking about nuclear power and how great it is. You could store all the waste of the world's plants on/in the space of 4 football fields. Nuclear power is clean. Many people are against nuclear power but they don't understand the details and just listen to the biased politicians and media. I asked him to elaborate on each of these points, and when he got to "Nuclear power is safe," I sort of pushed that one a bit. After 2 "oh sure it's safe" comments, he gave up and edged a bit closer to me, squinching up his nose a bit, "Look, of course it's not safe. It's not safe. But there are no alternatives." I found this point of view just fascinating. First of all, the guy is a nuclear advocate and has worked in nuke plants for a very long time. Then, after minimal prodding from a stranger, he burps out that nuclear power is not so safe after all.
But then to add that there is "no alternative," well that was too much for me just to smile and agree with everything, so I asked about combinations of wind, solar, conservation, design improvements, etc. Nope, he says, none of that stuff works. Solar is no good. I said that I knew folks - in Washington state, further north than Germany - who were running fully on solar power and solar/wind combinations and selling their excess power back to the grid, and he's like "no." I say, "Yes, it's true. And that's in a cloudy place! Think of what they could do in Vegas, Arizona, Florida, places like that."
And he says, "Well, I really need to get back to my raking," and ends the conversation. Just like that.
The point of that story is simply to share my observation of the discussion. Here's a guy who's career is squarely in the energy field - I would call him an "Energy Professional." And he's either completely ignorant of the performances of various energy forms, or is blatantly lying about them. After saying that nuclear power is misjudged in the media, he promptly agrees (off the record, of course) with what the media charges, then goes on to try to smear alternative forms of energy that are actually being proven to work in the field.
And this, my friends, highlights one of the core problems in human society today. Informed people are taking advantage of uninformed people. And it's like a game where they just keep saying the false message over and over enough times that people who are too busy, lazy, or ignorant to learn about it will eventually say, "Nuclear power is safe and clean, and wind and solar are just pie-in-the-sky technologies and will not work." This tactic of misinformation, in times when the complexity of technology is growing exponentially and everyday people find it harder and harder to keep up with it, is setting up the human race for catastrophe. And we're headed down this path not just in the energy field, but also in terms of climate change, warfare, disease, economics, justice, health care, and just about every major branch of science.
I think we need not just a more educated population in the US and abroad, but we also need more transparency. Above all, we need to start to see that we are all stuck together on the same globe. At some point, competition at all costs will negatively impact humans instead of helping to strengthen the herd.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Thing is, they weren't bothering us in the least. The nest started out as a small attachment that quickly grew to a ball about the size of a soccer ball, but they curved the entrance of the nest away from the front door, and towards the woods, where they would file off throughout the day to find food. They would look at us once in a while but not in the wierd way that a single wasp does when she's guarding her young. These guys were just too busy, fanning the nest in the heat, talking, running to the woods, and entering the nest. So I just let it grow and grow, with the idea that if they drew first blood, they would immediately die a minty death.
But they never bothered us, and since we don't have any bee sting allergies in our house, we let them stay. One day in early September, the nest was quiet and a small hole (visible in photo) seems to show where the queen left to find a spot to overwinter, since they don't winter in the nest. Therefore, I think that with this particular species of wasp (which I have yet to identify), I can let them summer on the house, which is just another small step I can take to make our house more friendly to the native species that we have displaced. This winter I'll go up and carefully cut the nest down to use as a natural history study aid for our son.
Overall, seems like a win/win, where before I was hell-bent on just eliminating the nest when it appeared. This situation is compounded when I read that most if not all bees, wasps, hornets, etc. are overall beneficial to your yard and to the ecosystem in general. The more native species we can keep around the house that don't pose a threat, the less of a negative impact our living has on the land that we've taken from native species. Our goal is to bring/keep as much of the plant and animal life that lived there before we got there living alongside us. This is a small way to maintain biodiversity in whatever area in which you live.
Friday, September 5, 2008
Not sure what the formal title for making walls and roofs with plants on them, but it includes green roofing. This is a subject I'm just starting to learn about, but this building is particularly interesting both architecturally and sustainably, so makes a good example.
This structure is a store in Seoul, Korea for clothing designer Ann Demeulemeester. It was designed by Mass Studies and more pics can be seen here. I can't find too much detailed information on it as far as maintenance or numbers, etc.
The exterior on the sides shown are comprised of a geotextile that supports soft, green stemmed (not woody) perennials. In a cold climate these plants will die back in winter but return each spring.
More on this to come.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Okay, maybe not the most exciting entry, but it's the little things that add up dammit. Smart design is the best way to squeeze out efficiencies in a system, in this case, milk in the refrigerated supply chain. If you shop at Costco or Sam's Club you've seen these already.
The new design eliminates plastic milk crates, which is a huge materials and shipping weight/space savings off the bat. (If the crates go away, I'm not sure what kids will use to build shelves out of, but there's always cinder blocks.) Since the new jugs stack relatively flat, they can be stacked up on a pallet and shipped with simple wrapping procedures.
Costco estimates the new design cuts water use in half and has a large impact on shipping fuel costs. For example, 224 gallons of milk can now be stored in a space that used to only be able to hold 80 gallons. This means more milk stored in less refrigerated space on a truck or in a warehouse or store, further saving on energy used in each store and coolants used with each refrigeration system in the supply chain.
What I find surprising is how much people are whining about these things. I agree, the first time you see them you're like "What is that?" Then, you buy it, take it home, and you try to pour it, and you spill a bunch on the counter. Frustrating, yes. But, being primates that learn very quickly, all one has to do is try to pour it again, using a different method, and Bammo! you find that you can pour it. Just takes a little change in technique. Consumer confusion and anger is so great that Sams' is actually giving CLASSES on how to pour milk from the new jug, the method of which is simply to leave the bottom of the container on the counter when you start pouring from a new jug. I mean, you could print that on the dang label.
A lot of the folks complaining sort of illustrate the problem we humans face as we grapple with ever-speeding technologies. You hear things like "I know they're doing it because they're easier to stack and it's more convenient, but these are hard to pour and I like the old jugs." So, they not only misunderstand the implications of why the new design exists (lower water use, fuel use, plastic requirements, labor, reduced energy consumption, etc.) but they just don't like change either. I was shocked by all the blogs that go on and on about these jugs, making comparisons to Borg spacecraft and whatever else, and worried to death that children won't be able to pour milk from them. Look, if children can learn to shoot an AK-47, or operate a video game at age 4, they can learn to pour some milk from a new-fangled jug. Ya know? You'd think we'd have bigger fish to fry. Let's just accept the new design, and get on with our lives.
It's no wonder global warming, nuclear war, starvation, disease, biodiversity, and a host of other issues are so elusive to so many of us - we have folks in the herd struggling with a new milk jug. But I'm not making fun of the people (too much), because ultimately people have to adopt change in the free market, or things won't change.
The overall point is that these are the types of non-glamorous design improvements that, little by little, add up to improved efficiencies. All of the small improvements then make things like hyrbid tractor trailers, which Wal-Mart is working on, provide larger returns on investment, which makes their costs come down towards profit margins higher than existing technologies, which means the free market will use them to compete better.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Since I have an Insight and people ask about it, I thought I'd post some general information about our experience so far. I got this car in 2000, recieving state and federal tax breaks, and it currently has 175,000 miles on it. The vehicle is a 2-seater that weighs 1,887 lbs. We have maintained larger cars for family requirements, so this has been used as a commuter in the Balt/DC, western PA, and WA state areas.
Miliage varies depending on terrain and maintenance. The lowest has been 49 mpg, the highest average 62 mpg. I was getting 49 mpg in western PA where the terrain is very hilly, there's a lot of snow, and where I needed to repair an O2 sensor and some other items that were bringing miliage down. The overall average has been between 59 and 62 mpg. I have a heavy foot as well, but if a driver follows speed limits, for example, then miliage goes up just like with any vehicle.
The car drives and maintains like any gas car. It has a 3 cylinder gas engine and an electric engine that pulls energy from a battery. The battery is powered by friction/heat energy captured from the front axle when the car slows down in gear, so the electric is all free power that is otherwise wasted as friction/heat. Maintenance can go every 7,000 miles, but I take it in every 3,500 or so. Oil change costs the same as other cars, and it uses synthetic oil.
As far as speed, I can merge into traffic with ease since the Insight accelerates very rapidly, and I can cruise smoothly at high rates of speed. I’ve driven tens of thousands of miles on the Baltimore and DC beltways, up and down I-95 on the east coast, and on I-5 in WA, and have excellent performance at speeds up to and exceeding 85 mph. Many small cars shimmy and sway over a certain speed and I’ve not found that with the Insight.
After 175,000 miles, I’ve had one major repair on the Insight, the replacement of the large battery above the rear wheels. To Honda’s credit and my pleasant surprise, the manufacturer replaced this battery free of charge. The replacement came when the vehicle was at 130,000 miles. Many critics site battery replacement as a major hurtle to buying a hybrid, however at 130,000 miles this car had already outlived my three previous vehicles. Therefore, even if I had chosen not to repair the battery, the Insight would still have beaten the best of my previous three cars by over 25,000 miles. On all three previous cars, engines eventually died and were either replaced or the car was scrapped. So, a person has the option of simply trading the car in or scrapping it when the battery fails, or repairing it like they would a transmission, engine, or other major problem that so many cars have as they approach/exceed 100,000 miles.
Complaints are mostly directed at the interior. The seats are nothing like, say a VW Passat's, and they can hurt your back on long rides or day after day. Also, the interior is a bit on the cheap side. But that's about it. Overall, I'm glad I bought and will drive it as long as I can or until I can afford something that performs better.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Read the press release here and think about supporting these guys if you need a new drive.
Friday, July 25, 2008
They have launched two new web sites to communicate information, one for transportation, called MOVE, located here http://move.rmi.org/
and another one called Built Environment Team (BET) that I have to research before I post on, but it's here http://bet.rmi.org/
More on both later.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
So I remember hearing that platic bags are harmul a number of years back and thought, "Whatever," because what the hell can you do? Well, I still don't know what to do, but I'm thinking about it for a few reasons.
One is the numbers. 5 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually, and they end up everywhere. They're also filling up landfills. That tied in with this PPT that I'm sure many of you have seen, that I got from my sister last week, located here: http://www.mobilebaynep.com/site/Forefront/TheDangersofPlasticBags.pdf
After I viewed that, I remembered that, in the Pacific Ocean, there is a floating island of plastic and trash that is estimated to be twice the size of Texas. That's frickin' big. Texas takes a long time to drive across going 80 mph. Imagine that times two, floating around in the damn ocean. I can barely imagine it. More on that here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch and another good article here http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2007/10/19/SS6JS8RH0.DTL&type=politics The crazy thing is that nobody has photographed this thing, or at least I can't find any pics easily.
So, all those things added up in my head, and now I'm going to look for, select, and implement and substitute for disposable food shopping bags. Then I'll post an update here.
Folks are switching back to paper because that recycles better, so for now that's a start, but I'm wondering about bags you take to the store and use over and over. I think I'll start by looking at hemp bags.
The other side says oil is $4/gallon and rising, and we need to explore alternative sources of energy. There is not a lot of substance on this side of the argument either, but it has this general flavor to it of some sort of new direction.
One thing that’s interesting is that, no matter which side you’re on, you can see there is not much in favor of oil. At one time, it was a great energy source, back when it was cheap and plentiful and safe to acquire. Now, it’s expensive and getting more so, it threatens U.S. national security on multiple levels, it’s damaging our environment, and on top of that the supply is running out. Also, an oil economy keeps new jobs stagnated, except any created for new offshore oil rigs.
But it seems to me that the debate, like so many debates in this country, is about the wrong aspect of the problem. The question to me seems to be “Do we want more oil?” and based on what I can see, we really don’t. What’s the point? Since supply is limited, we’ll be here again X years from now. And it’s obvious that we’re throwing money away when it comes to oil security spending, and in fact are spending billions to chip away at our nations’ security over the course of decades, and of course speeding up with the latest Iraq war.
The debate should really be about effective transportation that provides more benefit than loss. It should be about increasing national security instead of eroding it. It should be about creating new jobs, new technologies, and a new international competitive edge for the U.S., instead of continuing to retard that growth.
I’ll post more on this topic as far as solutions.