Archive for August, 2008

Hummer

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

GM is looking to sell its Hummer brand and I think this is a huge mistake. Certainly the Hummer H1, H2, and H3 are obscene and their sale must come to an end. The Hummer name can undergo a transformation. Have you every heard an electric car? Hummer is the perfect name to associate with the sound they make. It is a marketing match made in heaven. GM should also use its Hummer name to manufacture and sell wind turbines. Again the marketing options are huge! We sell the electric cars and the windmills that power them. If GM sells the Hummer brand they deserve to go bankrupt.

Compact Fluorescent Lights

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008
Alternative to a CFL flood

Flood alternative

Last weekend I did a survey of my light fixtures at home and bought enough compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) to change nearly all of them over from incandescent. I’ve had a few CFLs in the house for a while and learned early on that paying for the good name brands results in lamps that last much longer and is worth the extra cost. I bought the GE brand because of the wide range of shapes, wattage, and colors available. I learned a few things this time around. You can get a lot more light out of that bedroom ceiling fixture with CFLs than you can with incandescent while not exceeding the power rating of the fixture and still use less energy. Some of the squatty globe style ceiling fixtures may require a smaller CFL form factor than you would like to use. The good news is that when you break a 23W CFL trying to make it fit, all of the glass and mercury is caught by the globe. I have a lot of X-10 switching in the house. It seems that the 3-wire X-10 equipment has no problem with the RF interference from CFLs. The two-wire switches can be a problem though. I have only one circuit, in the garage, that is problematic and I’ll follow up when I have a found a solution. The so called full spectrum (5700K) lamps are pretty blue and the warm white (2700K) lamps are very yellow at the lower wattage. The high wattage warm whites are much less yellow. Finally, I have yet to find a CFL spot or flood lamp that comes on bright when first turned on. They start out very dim and take a minute or more to approach full brightness. This can be good or bad depending upon what you need. In the master bath, I turn one of those on first in order to let my eyes adapt slowly. I like that a lot and I don’t need a lot of light when I am er… umm… sitting down for a while, however, in the kitchen I want those spots to be bright immediately. I found one lamp that is made of a conical spiral tube that works better as a flood.

Hypermiling

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

I wonder how many folks are practicing some form of hypermiling without knowing it. For the past several weeks I’ve been employing a few of the most elementary tricks while in my 1998 Caravan. Things like accelerating slowly, not (being caught) stopping fully when possible, and doing the speed limit. I’ve been keeping detailed records of my gas usage and mileage since I bought the Caravan new and it appears that just these simplest things have increased my gas mileage by at least 10%. The thing is (and in some contrast to my post on civility) quite a few folks don’t seem to mind and are often found to be doing the same thing I am. I suspect the high price of gas has changed attitudes on the road as well as those in the automobile showroom.

Civilization without Civility

Friday, August 1st, 2008

August is National Win with Civility month, “stressing the benefits of being civil and courteous to each other in all aspects of life.”

Can a Civilization without civility exist? The root of both words pertains to the behavior of social groups acting with common laws, values, and objectives. The interaction of individuals for the common good of most (if not all) to make things better, for themselves as well, is the core of this (after all a rising tide raises all boats). Civility seems to be disappearing and being replaced with something decidedly less civil. ‘Me too’ has been replaced by ‘me first’. I see this shift almost everywhere now including my own mirror. Do civilizations ultimately reach the point where the expectations of the civilians within it focus solely on self(ish) interests? Is this the natural progression of things? Is it inevitable? Is this why, to date, all great civilizations have collapsed? I don’t know for certain. Is the tide now ebbing?

I’m not the first, or likely the last, to note that civil behavior is waning. Just drive around town at almost anytime of day and you will encounter folks obviously acting solely for their own perceived benefit. I call it a perceived benefit because often times it could very well result in their own loss. Case in point: on the way home from work tonight, I was first in line in the leftmost lane of a dual lane left turn signal. There were four cars behind me and no one in the turn lane next to me. There is a good reason for that. Shortly after the turn that other turn lane becomes a right turn only and quickly ends. There is no merge lane afterward. Before the light changes a BMW pulled up along side me. The light changed and we all began to make the left turn. The BMW kept pace and was able to signal and merge in behind me comfortably before his lane ended. Out of nowhere (but probably from behind the BMW) a motorcycle zoomed by cutting closely in front of me and narrowly avoiding running out of road in the right lane. He then looked at me in his mirror with obvious disgust that I had not given him more room between me and the car now close in front of me (it had come from the other direction just before the light changed). I really never saw the motorcycle until I heard it roaring along side me while passing. The motorcyclist had a passenger riding on the back. I think that was what made me notice the reckless behavior. That passenger had absolutely no input into what might have occurred. I have yet to see a case of car vs motorcycle where the motorcycle won (or even tied). This was clearly a case of someone only thinking about themselves. Perhaps not the most obvious case of uncivilized behavior I could cite, but it is the one that triggered my thoughts here.

I’m sure you or I could cite many recent examples of this type of (non-)thinking behavior or even more overt uncivilized actions that fall just short of actual crimes. Please feel free to add your own examples. I do not know what triggered the beginning of the loss of civility or when it began. Where does the justification for all of the self righteous indignation come from when people are caught acting selfishly. I thought one of the founding premises of our civilization was that you are free to act as you wish as long as those actions do not infringe the the rights of others to do the same. I guess that includes being allowed to act like an ass as long as I retain my right to call it such. I’d rather spend my time on other matters though. There are many manifestations of the loss of civility, some of them can be found in the way our government acts (or fails to act). The evolution of societies and civilizations is a fascinating subject I hope to return to here from time to time.