Thursday, April 15, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Now, the ideas that have come up are not new. One is to create more public transit, including trains, cable cars, and buses. I call this the "Public Expansion" (or PE) option. The other is the Increased Vehicle Efficiency (or IVE) option. This is one that we are most familiar with, as it pertains to our cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Its the idea keeping the current motor and road system, but adding efficiencies to the existing fuel or vehicle, or by creating new fuels. This is where MPG standards, hybrids, hydrogen fuel, and Biodiesel come in. There is a third option, that is not new, but is not often considered. This would be a hybrid between the two systems, called "Personal Rapid Transit" (or PRT).
This is what wikipedia has on them:
Here is a video with a good explanation.
This is a hanging style that I personally prefer and (though more complex) solves a lot of problems of the other current versions.
Essentially, this hybrid system would be the best of both worlds, and as such would solve a lot of the current and future transportation problems. Although there are a lot of technological and infrastructure hurdles to overcome. It is still a great idea, and one that is being taken more and more seriously over time.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Top 10 List
Dixie Sommers, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, recites a list of the 10 occupations that the BLS expects will provide the greatest number of new jobs over the next decade. These include:
Thursday, January 14, 2010
FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2007
(Picture: Mount Yasur erupting on the south-eastern side of Tanna, Dec 31st 2006. Photo taken from Middlebush)
The Peace Corps Experience is something that I have only just begun, but to share a little of what has happened up until this point, I will try to remember the details and tell them with as much accuracy as my memory allows.
I arrived in Vanuatu on September 23, 2006. After nearly 30 hours of trying to sleep prostrate on cool, ceramic airport tiles, and vertically crammed into seats designed for the men and women of below-average high and weight. At six foot, the high problem was manageable on some of the planes, uncomfortable on most. I mainly feel sorry for anyone taller who might venture to fly today, as the accommodations were invented before their kith and kin had access, or reason to fly. I'm slender, but endowed with shoulders that protrude into the adjoining seats on both sides, making my interaction with neighbors a little tricky. I always try to get an aisle seat, not only because now you have unlimited access to walk about the plane unencumbered, but that way too my shoulders had a place to rest other than on the shoulder of the unfortunate passenger sitting next to me.
On arriving, we are greeted by the staff and a few current PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers), who hand us an open green-coconut, throw a lei over our necks, and take a picture of us. For the next three months, we would be asked to undergo the most well-intentioned drudgery. This was our training period, a time when we were to be turned from pedantic office-dwelling socialites into dirt-loving, bush knife-wielding machines that could hack our way through the toughest jungle to find small children to teach English, science, and math. Hu-ah! We're the Marines of International Volunteers. Well, that's what our imaginations were dreaming about when the plane landed at the beginning of the Vanuatu spring (or rain and hurricane season as we came to know it). We soon found that training was more a routine where we were waiting to get somewhere, waiting to do something (sometimes anything), or eventually engaged in some sort of perfunctory activity that often involved as little interest from the trainer as from the trainee. After a short time, one by one, we were each lost in a vapid and mindless scholasticism that made every moment of freedom a blessing from the god of sand beaches and sunburns.
To be fair, we came to love and adore our trainers and staff. It would take too long to go into all the great stories and moments that we each shared and cherish, but it would also be negligent to ignore the fact that we, as trainees, were slipping. Our trainers anticipated this as best they could, and struggled mightily to counter the effects of the island fever that we all felt in our own way. In the end, you can only do your best, plan your worst, and hope for the best. So, after several months droned by, pockmarked with moments of brilliance, hilarity, camaraderie, and relaxation (losing only one of our group in the process) we became official Peace Corps Volunteers, dun da da Daaaa!
Now, we have all shipped off (some literally) to our assigned homes and work places. They vary from the posh (or flas) to the rustic. An apartment near Vila is on the nice side; with electricity, running water, a gas stove, and proximity to nearly any modern convenience you could want. The rustic and rural areas can be found on ANY island, but each has its own problems. Some volunteers live close to a town, but live in a fully kastom, or traditional house of sticks and leaves. Others get nicer accommodations which usually include a varied combination of cement and tin, sometimes even with Masonite on the inside, and doors and windows varying in quality and age. Some of these nicer accommodations are offset by the problem of proximity or accessibility. For example, you might be assigned to work at a secondary school that is well established and where you have flush toilets, cement walls, and electricity once in a while when they run a generator. However, it might be a $200 flight, a $75 boat ride, and another 2 hour walk to get from your site to the nearest store, post office, bank, or semi-permanent hospital facility. So, it can be a trade off. We each have our own set of difficulties, and sometimes things that seem like a bonus, end up causing problems (say for instance, you have a solar panel and therefore electricity, but no one else does; it might cause tension and integration problems).
So, in the meantime, we are all meeting people, getting used to the accommodations or changes in lifestyle, and getting ready to start working in the next few weeks and months. It is an exciting time, but also an incredibly stressful time, as we don't yet feel settled, and haven't yet started work. For those of us who are ready to get to work, we're feeling the heat of patience breathing down our necks, which is making me sweat as much or more than this tropical sun.
For now, things are going, and are heading in positive directions. I'm happy with my progress, and am hoping (and praying) that everything is going as well or better for the rest of our group.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 21, 2007
(Photo: Village houses in Kumahau, South Tanna)
I've been getting a lot done here in Vila, but expect to be back on Tanna in the coming days... likely within the week, but the exact date of travel is uncertain.
As of now, I will still be stationed on Tanna, but I have the freedom to move around and be involved in whatever projects are happening, or to start whatever projects my mind can dream up. I'm excited about this prospect, at least for the time being, because it allows me to be involved in (hopefully) some pretty far-reaching and effective projects, but, at the same time, allows me access to live (as much or as little as I choose) like the locals. Ideally, I'd like to have a home somewhere remote (like my village) where I live on par with their lifestyles, but to have a second home, of sorts, for work... which would be a 'model home', a structure built either of all local materials, all modern materials, or a very efficient combination which could be used as a training model for building on the island. Since it would be a work home, I would likely not be there much during the day, leaving it open to be used as a model often, AND because it would need to be centrally located near the business and political centers, it would maximize on the number of people on the island and in the province who would be able to see it. The two homes allows me to gain an appreciation and understanding for the living conditions and lifestyle of the more remote villagers, with my first home, and at the same time, allows me to infuse new ideas in design, technique, materials, and maintenance into their current understandings with the second 'model' home. These being separate, I can have both without them overlapping and thereby jeopardizing one or the other.
I am hoping to help identify other projects where "models" or "examples of success" or "improvement" could be identified and used to help train management and propagate successful methods. Some people are already working on things like this in agriculture, but it needs much help, and can easily be expanded to other sectors with equal success.
So, basically, for the time being I've gotten what I want, which is freedom to do, well, whatever I want in terms of projects. That is exciting. As usual, there is way more to do that I should commit to, so in the next few weeks, I will identify what my projects will be, gathering Germaine details along the way, and then finally start work. Looking forward, I can see this being successful if it goes on for two years, but I can also see that if I spend 6 months to a year getting a handle on work on Tanna, and gaining the first hand experience of the people on the ground and their conditions, that I could move to Vila and make a bigger impact with that knowledge. Of course, that would be a good idea for me or anyone else really from PC. It doesn't seem to happen much, and so don't have high expectations for this coming to be. If it doesn't, I expect to be equally satisfied with my productivity on the ground in Tanna as I would be moving to Vila to work on administration, funding, and oversight (assessment of projects and project planning). There's so much to do, I'm just going to be glad to be able to work on one project that will help, but, being still young and ambitious, the more I can accomplish with the same amount of effort, the better. I will work towards that goal while keeping a healthy amount of time reserved for self-sustenance and self-enrichment as well.
So, that's basically it. I hope that settles some anxiety. I know that it has for me, and now I am simply filled with anticipation, and a readiness to begin that I expect the rest of my group is feeling with equal strength.
Today's topic: Life-Work Balance
A great source for the history of the ideas behind Life-Work balance can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Work-life_balance. It used to be that the average work week was 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, totaling 84 hours a week. In comparison, our 40 hour work week doesn't compare, esp. if you take into account that the work we do is much less labor intensive, and much safer. As it happens, American workers often end up working 50-70 hour weeks in the more competitive job markets. They do, however, usually end up with a substantial monetary compensation. One could argue that it is better to work 70 hours a week for 20 years than 40 hours a week for 40. The math is in their favor, but if I am not sure the sacrifice is worth it. I think youth is too important to waste on work. However, if I had to create the perfect work week, it would look like this:
The work week would be 3 days long, and you would work 10 hours a day, totally a 30-hour work week. You would get two breaks, one for lunch and one for dinner. It would make most sense, if you were going to be working this much, to either live really close, or to simply have a place at or near work where you could spend the night. This would save on transportation.
If you don't like this 3-day idea, the alternative would be a 4-day, 32-hour work week, where you would basically keep the same system we have now, but cut out a day. I really do believe that a lot of time gets wasted and most employees don't need to be working more than 30 hours a week. Adding in commute time, you shouldn't be spending more than 40 hours a week total.
With a work schedule like this, what would you do with all your free time?
SUNDAY, AUGUST 03, 2008
THE WORD "PREMISES"
Today in Ridiculous Word Origins
Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know how the word "premises", meaning a tract of land with its buildings and other facilities, has a silly root. Wiki says:
"Premises are land and buildings together considered as a property. This usage arose from property owners finding the word in their title deeds, where it originally correctly meant "the aforementioned; what this document is about", from Latin prae-missus = "placed before".
Some people suppose that since "premises" looks like a plural, a single house or other piece of property must be a "premise"; but the word "premise" is reserved for use as a term in logic meaning something assumed or taken as given in making an argument."
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 02, 2008
These are the results from my most recent Belief-O-Matic test.
The top score on the list below represents the faith that Belief-O-Matic, in its less than infinite wisdom, thinks most closely matches your beliefs. However, even a score of 100% does not mean that your views are all shared by this faith, or vice versa.
Belief-O-Matic then lists another 26 faiths in order of how much they have in common with your professed beliefs. The higher a faith appears on this list, the more closely it aligns with your thinking.
How did the Belief-O-Matic do? Discuss your results on our message boards.
1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (93%)
3. Liberal Quakers (90%)
4. Theravada Buddhism (82%)
5. Jainism (75%)
6. Neo-Pagan (75%)
7. Nontheist (72%)
8. Orthodox Quaker (70%)
9. Mahayana Buddhism (66%)
10. Taoism (63%)
11. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (62%)
12. Bahá'í Faith (56%)
13. Seventh Day Adventist (55%)
14. New Age (53%)
15. Hinduism (46%)
16. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (44%)
17. Reform Judaism (44%)
18. Eastern Orthodox (38%)
19. Islam (38%)
20. Orthodox Judaism (38%)
21. Roman Catholic (38%)
22. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (36%)
23. Sikhism (34%)
24. Jehovah's Witness (24%)
25. Scientology (20%)
26. New Thought (14%)
27. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (9%)
Here is a sample of companies that are standing up and making a difference for our environment and our future. For the complete list, please follow the link below.
The dawn of the hybrid car—not to mention $4-per-gallon gasoline—shows the importance of fuel-saving batteries. At the head of the class is A123. This Watertown, Massachusetts, start-up has a $148 million venture capital war chest that fueled a nanotech breakthrough: a battery that charges faster, holds more power, and is safer than anything out now. A123 is already taking orders for lithium batteries that turn a Toyota Prius into a plug-in machine clocking 100 miles per gallon; and by 2010, they will power GM’s Chevy Volt.
Even as big-money entrants crowd the solar field, Applied stands out as a likely winner. Already a Fortune 500 company producing computer chip–making equipment, Applied has repurposed its nanomanufacturing technology to create the largest thin-film solar cells in the world. Thin-film, which involves layering sunlight-reactive material to mold around a variety of bases, has sky-high potential because of its low cost and flexibility. As Applied works on increasing solar-film efficiency, this technology will likely play a starring role in the clean energy picture.
Big Blue has said it will spend $1 billion in its “Big Green” initiative to make its products more energy efficient (primarily in carbon-chomping corporate data centers). But IBM is also one of the key players in a movement that includes Fortune 500 companies, nimble start-ups, and electric utilities exploring ways to make the entire energy grid smarter. This means putting computer processors into every node so that companies can more accurately meter and charge for energy usage—creating incentives for efficiency unimaginable in the past.
Arup brings to life the cutting-edge eco-dreams of architecture’s stars. This international design and construction consultancy has worked on more than 1,000 green projects in the last ten years, with a portfolio spanning from the new California Academy of Sciences and its living roof, by Renzo Piano, to the eco-city planned for Dongtan, China. Arup also advises clients about marine ecology, human health impacts, and noise pollution, as it brings the latest ideas in sustainability to the built environment.
Bon Appétit Management Company
You don’t need a neighborhood vegan café to boost your low-carbon diet.... more