Blogging on vacation - Greetings from Sea Isle City
6/27/2005 10:03:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
The only reason that I don't feel guilty sitting in this internet cafe catching up on the blogosphere and making this post is that it rained this morning. The gray clouds are starting to burn off, and my tab is running high, but there is a lot that I'd like to comment on out there. Alas, I am in the middle of an extended happy hour, listening to live 80-90's coverbands, and lying on the beach reading a conspiracy laden novel about the crash of TWA flight 800. So I will have to put it off for now.

Will be back soon. I feel slightly guilty but I haven't thought of peak oil in the past 48 hours. The beauty of the ocean and a gorgeous shore house will do that. Thanks bro-in-law.

Will post again if it rains, if not, see you next week.
Going on vaca
6/24/2005 05:00:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
See you in a week or so!
Flickr Slideshow of pictures I took when downtown
6/23/2005 01:36:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Click here for the slideshow.

First of all, this is a gorgeous day. The kind of day that can make a city like Syracuse seem like a worldwide destination. The sunlit trees lining the road, the tables set up for lunch outdoors. People catching a smoke break and lingering a little long in the fresh air...

And who knew we had a train station downtown, and what it looked like? I scouted out the Susquehanna Rail Station downtown. Unfortunately, it only runs on weekends, about 5 trips back and forth from SU to Carousel Mall.

The odd looking SCAT thing, is an examply of the proposed Gondola idea. The more I stared at it when I sat and drank my coffee (from Freedom of Esspresso), and ate some fresh bread from Pasta's Daily Bread (manna from heaven I tell you.) the more I thought, "what a stupid, stupid idea." All that money will go into this pod system which will perpetuate Downtown Syracuse's problem. It will keep people off of the street and "hop" them from one place to the other. The idea that it is "green" originally appealed to me, but then this idea came to me... What about a "green" electric streetcar system. That could run on the proposed SU development loop. It would encourage development along the entire route, not just at gondola "landing sites." It could be powered by green power, or from the waste-to-energy power station at OCCRA, so at least or garbage would be powering it.

I headed on home on the bus, reading the Post Standard... A nice morning spent in the city.

UPDATE: This comment deserved to be moved up to the front page.

NYCO said...

The gondola thing is the biggest joke.

I hope they can afford the reams of bulletproof glass it will require.

I also have to give a shout out to Middleman, who inspired me to take my camera with me.
A trip on public transportation in Syracuse
6/23/2005 12:48:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
My wife has accepted a new job downtown, and was interested in taking public transportation to work, as an alternative to driving. So, being the good husband that I am (and the fact that I have the day off on a beautiful morning, still recovering...) I decided to take the bus downtown to figure out the bus route for her.

Here are some pictures...


Our bus stop on the corner of my street.


Initially I thought that the bus route was under-utilized, but after a few more stops the bus filled up.


Picture of the CNG bus that took me downtown.

It was an easy and relaxing ride, which took about 25 mins. Compared with driving, it took me about 13 mins more time to get there, cost only $1.00 each direction. (Parking down town is anywhere from $3.00 to $6.00+/day depending where you park.) Also, I burned no gasoline, as the bus ran on CNG.

The book that I was reading on the way down seemed to fit perfectly with the activity at hand: James Howard Kunstler's Home From Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century (1996). The chapter that I am digesting now has to do with how zoning laws have take the community out of where we live, and how isolated our lives truly are.

Getting on that bus, and watching the afternoon shift workers heading in to the restaurant, the laborer with his tools, 2 older women returning from a morning at the zoo, and a young family heading downtown (or possibly on to the beach) I felt a sense of community that I haven't since moving out of NYC and to upstate. We had very little similar in our daily lives, but at the same time we were all brought together to get to our destination. I saw a perfect stranger (the laborer) help another stranger (the mother of 2 small children) with her double stroller down the steps. Another passenger, moved her seat so a family could sit down together and the mom could keep an eye on her kids. Small and random acts of kindness, people helping each other out for no other reason than to be kind.

How many acts of kindness did you witness on your commute today? I think that I can count more incidents of road rage (myself included), than kindness on the freeways around here on a normal day heading to work.

More on this later. I am wiped out from my first day "out of the house."
prologue: This is a TEXT ONLY version of my essay. The HTML editor I used did not work with blogger, so the full BELLS and WHISTLES [pictures and links] version can be found by clicking the link below, or clicking here. Please post your comments on this post here, as there are no comments available on the full post link.

Why Syracuse, New York is the right place to weather the coming oil shortages
By Steve Balogh

Could lowly Syracuse, New York turn out to be one of the top cities in the nation to weather the coming oil shortages? I believe that a number of converging factors ultimately point to YES. Despite our cold snowy winters, and current lack of a strong industrial base, Syracuse has begun to position itself as a top place to settle for those worried about our foreign dependence on oil and coming price spikes and shortages.


Syracuse History:

Syracuse in the 1800's was a central hub in the trade that flowed along the Erie Canal. The city experienced strong growth in the late 1800's to the early 1900's. The Erie Canal flowed through downtown, along what is now Erie Boulevard.

There were various industries located downtown including candle makers, beer brewers, steel producers and manufacturers of furniture, caskets, bicycles and cars that helped the city to flourish. [1]

Brewing local beer was one of the larger industries in Syracuse. In 1896, Syracuse breweries produced about 300,000 barrels of beer and employed about 400 workers. Up to that time, people mostly drank locally brewed beers, since it took a lot of time and money for a brewery to transport beer. [2]

The status quo ended dramatically in the years following World War II.


The city's population declined as the move to the suburbs began in earnest. New school systems and shopping centers drew from the city's base. Movie houses closed and television took over. Urban renewal resulted in demolition of dozens of downtown blocks. Both good and bad old landmarks, unprotected by law, were victims of the wrecking ball. New buildings arose, including the twin towers of MONY Center, the War Memorial, Civic Center and I.M. Pei's Everson Museum of Art. All added significantly to the area, as did new government buildings, and numbers of high rises dedicated to modern banking, financing, and core city apartment dwelling. [3]

The downtown center of Syracuse remains a shell of it's former self in the 21st century, but has the infrastructure in place to be revived to it's former status. Breweries have again began to produce local beers, although on a much smaller scale. No longer does the canal flow through the streets, but there is momentum behind a revitalization of the downtown area by a Syracuse University expansion into the area, and renewed development of the Clinton, Hanover, and Armory Square areas. The Destiny USA project, both loved and hated by local residents, promises future growth of green technology and the addition of much needed high tech jobs, as well as building and development work. There are strong communities throughout the city and surrounding areas, and an excellent schools.

But why Syracuse in the face of the coming oil crisis?

Community
Central Location - served by rail and canal
Close to supply of nuclear and hydro power
Biodiesel/Ethanol plant to open in Fulton, NY
Community supported agriculture and surrounding farmlands
Climate
Existing public transportation system, and revivable light rail/street car system
Destiny Research Park to promote non-fossil fuel building/heating and alternative energy sources
Proximity to wine country, beer produced locally

click below to continue reading post...


Community

The Central New York area, including Syracuse and the surrounding towns and villages form a web of tight communities, usually centered around the local school district. Most are walkable. Those further out into the country, including many of the newer developments do not have walkable streets and are too far out from grocery stores, places of business and workplaces, and will not be considered in this article. However with prices that reach into the $300-400K range for housing, they will be occupied by those that will possibly be able to afford high gas and oil prices for longer than those in the middle income and low income levels. I do not consider this a long-term sustainable situation, but on the short term I see less of an effect in these areas. For the sustainability of the region that I am speaking of, I will be focused on the smaller tight-knit communities ringing the city of Syracuse, and the local towns and villages that surround a town square or main street.

Central Location

The city lies in the heart of New York State, close to Lake Ontario, Oneida Lake, the Finger Lake Region. It is 5 hours to the city of New York, and to the harbors in Boston. 3 hours will get you to Toronto, Canada, or 2 1/2 hours to Niagara Falls/Buffalo. All of these times are by car, but public transportation by bus and train is comparable. The city, as previously mentioned, continues to lie on the functioning Erie Canal system, as well as existing rail lines served by Amtrak and CSX (freight).

Close Supply of Nuclear and Hydro Power

Niagara Mohawk, a National Grid Company, provides Central New York with electricity and natural gas delivery. Nine Mile Point Nuclear Reactors are located in Oswego, NY 1 hour away from Syracuse. Niagara Falls produces 4.4 gigawatts of power, enough to power 1.7 million homes (in Canada and US). Nine Mile 1&2, by comparison, produce 12.8 gigawatts of power/year, providing an abundance of power for local businesses and homes.

While not typically thought of as a "green" technology, due to issues with the storage of nuclear waste, and the energy used to mine and refine the uranium used in the reactor, nuclear power has no CO2 emmission.

Hydropower is a renewable source of electrical energy, and smaller generating stations used to line the area’s rivers and streams, providing a source of power to individual communities. These facilities still exist, and while many are off-line currently, they possess the ability to be reactivated if the need arises.


Ethanol/Biodiesel Plant to open in Fulton, NY

The former Miller Brewery in Fulton, NY will be converted to an ethanol and biodiesel producing plant, capable of producing up to 100 million gallons of ethanol per year.

The company will be using a new technology that was developed at Clarkson University. The technology reduces the costs of building and operating a biofuel plant by more than half and is expected to accelerate the growth of the biodiesel industry.

“This will be a pilot project to test the new technology,” Treadwell explained. “If the technology proves to be as successful as expected, it will be able to produce biodiesel and bio-heating fuel much more efficiently and cost competitively.”

Although, currently, the production of ethanol requires more energy in than energy out, advances in technology are narrowing the gap, and by products of food production and other processes show promise in the production of ethanol. Biodiesel can be made from soybean oil and recycled cooking grease.

Both of these fuels will help to supply some of the area’s transportation fuel needs during the transition from cheap foreign oil. Destiny USA has proposed to use biodiesel bulldozers and construction equipment in the future expansion of the current mall and in the Destiny projects. Perhaps this plant in Fulton will provide the supply of biodiesel that Mr. Congel is looking for.


Community Supported Agriculture and Surrounding Farmlands

Statistics from NYS Agriculture Statistics Service:

Number of Farms in Onondaga County = 720 Total Acreage = 156,000
Number of Farms in Oneida County = 1,080 Total Acreage = 220,200
Number of Farms in Oswego County = 675 Total Acreage = 103,100
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
Total farms in Central New York = 2,475 Total Acreage = 479,300

Population statistics from Census.gov (Est. 2004 levels)

Pop of Onondaga County = 459,805
Pop of Oneida County = 234,962
Pop of Oswego County = 123,776
--------------------------------------
Total Population = 818,543

So statistics equate to approximately ½ acre of farmland per person in these three counties.

There are 14 Community Supported Agriculture farms listed in central NY. For more information on CSA click here.

Why buy local?

Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold.

But why wait until we're forced by circumstance to abandon our destructive patterns of consumption? We can start now by buying locally grown food whenever possible. By doing so you'll be helping preserve the environment, and you'll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer.

Community Supported Agriculture is designed to weather any changes in the amount of cheap oil or government subsidized farming. It is grown organically and with sustainable methods. This will be very important as we go forwards, and need to supply food to the local population. Support these farms now.

Local Farmer’s Markets, listed here



Climate

Yes, unbelievably, I think that Syracuse’s climate is a positive feature, despite the cold and snowy winters.

The Home Depot’s Garden Club provides valuable information on local climate. The Central New York area is defined in the “5A” Hardiness zone. Here are selected parts of the regions description:

The Mid-Atlantic region has weather influences dictated by the Atlantic Ocean, Great Lakes and Midwest. [snip] Colder zone 5 winters affect portions of Ohio, New York State and Pennsylvania, often with reliable snow cover. The Great Lakes serve to moderate temperatures somewhat in northern New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, but they add lake effect snow, too

Spring and fall feature mild, pleasant weather great for planting and harvesting punctuated by the occasional late winter snowstorms in April or early frost in September. Just about the only constant across the region is generous precipitation, usually between about 35 and 40 inches evenly distributed throughout the year.

We have a balance of all 4 seasons, with an adequate growing season, capped by snowy winters that help to replenish ground and fresh water supplies. This water keeps fields moist and irrigated, there are fertile river valleys throughout the state. Our summers, while occasionally oppressive, do not require air conditioning to remain ‘livable.’ Our weak spot is our winter heating season, which can extend from early October through the end of April into May. Indeed resources would need to be allocated for the winter months to ensure that we all can stay warm in the winter months. Current methods of building, which include so-called “transitional” style homes, do not lend themselves to our climate. Cathedral ceilings, great rooms, and open air spaces through multiple levels of the home are not energy efficient. Older homes, may need updated insulation and windows to reduce heating costs. These issues, without a doubt, will need to be addressed as the cost of heating oil, and natural gas continue to rise each year.



Existing public transportation system, and revivable light rail/street car system

Syracuse’s public transportation is currently operated by Centro. Centro provides bus service throughout the city of Syracuse and to and from many outlying and regional destinations daily. Statistics posted by CNYRTA show that current ridership is approximately 6% of the population that is served by busses. I actually expected a smaller percentage of riders, given the mostly empty busses that ride past my home, and the suburb mentality of upstate NY where every destination is somewhere to drive to. This obviously leaves plenty of room for improvement and expansion.

Spikes in the cost of gasoline will “drive” more people to use public transportation. I believe that as the number of riders increases, and the area served expands, people will begin to see the benefits of public transportation. I personally loved getting on the subway or bus in the morning with my cup of coffee and the Daily News – a read through the paper, a sip of coffee, my thoughts are cleared and I am ready to start my day.


Syracuse University is looking to expand a bus and walking loop from downtown to SU hill. I believe that this is a positive first step in the future development of Syracuse public transportation.

Two other factors must be taken into consideration if Centro is going to grow in the number of riders and service area. The first is increasing the ease of navigating the bus routes. Bus stop signs at a minimum should have route and expected arrival time information posted. Bus schedules should have increased landmarks and timetables to make it easier which route and time you are best served by. The website needs an immediate upgrade to allow users to punch in a starting point and destination, and be told which routes are available to take. NYC Transit and NJ Transit currently have this technology and have a good demonstration of its use. The second factor is the company must start to take advantage of the higher gas prices in it’s marketing campaign, and start to encourage younger riders that public transportation is a socially and environmentally responsible way to travel. I think that the younger generation of Syracusans has never even stepped on a bus before. They must be encouraged to do so, and that by not taking the car to work they are saving not only money in their pocket, but also reducing effects on the environment and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Streetcars and light rail are other alternatives. A light rail system that connects various hubs on existing rail lines, including along the Rte 81 and Rte 690 corridors would be a progressive idea. Thousands of cars travel daily from the North Country, Baldwinsville and points west and the eastern burbs. NIMBY is an obstacle, but perhaps expensive travel and commuting will encourage the development of this type of system – the tracks are already there.


Destiny Research and Development Park

I realize that I could spend pages upon pages debating my feelings to the Syracuse community regarding the Destiny USA project. However, since I am presenting Syracuse as an area to consider relocating to, I will focus on the aspect which I believe will most strongly enhance the viability of Syracuse economically as we head in to a future with diminishing oil supplies. That aspect is the R&D Park for alternative energy and green building techniques and materials. I have serious doubts that the mall or resort of Destiny USA will ever come to fruition. I think that we will see commodity prices and raw materials become increasingly expensive prohibiting the physical completion of the building, and the public will have less and less disposable income which will limit the viability of a giant shopping mall resort complex in the region. (This is aside from whether I believe that that amount of resources should be dedicated to such a project.)

But, (and this is a key but) I do believe that the future of Syracuse lies in the creation of new jobs and new technologies in sustainable energy and sustainable development, which the Destiny project will foster. I believe that this will be more important than the building of the mall itself: attracting bright minds, and preventing the brain drain from the area colleges and universities, encouraging relocation and expansion of businesses, and future production by local factories based on new technologies. These will all provide Syracuse with well paying jobs, exports, and the ability to utilize what is developed and showcase it to the world.


Proximity to Wine Country / Beer produced locally

Given the possibility of gas shortages, sky rocketing prices, and economic recession, it becomes abundantly clear that having a wine-producing region nearby, especially one that produces such great wines as the vineyards of the Finger Lakes, is a huge bonus.

I’d trade a days labor for a case of cabernet sauvignon, any day.

For those of you who prefer the suds, who knows, maybe Syracuse will return to having the breweries it had in its heyday.


In conclusion

I feel a strong attachment to Syracuse, NY, and the central NY region because I grew up here. There are plenty of other reasons why I love Syracuse, including beautiful State Parks and scenery all around – boating, fishing and camping – apple orchards – music, art and food festivals – great nightlife – affordable housing – just to name a few. I wanted to provide some concrete reasons why I believe that Syracuse, and upstate NY in general is a place to consider moving to, especially in the face of peak oil.

Your comments are welcome: baloghblog [at] yahoo.com
My weblog: http://baloghblog.blogspot.com/


[Statement regarding fair use: I have used the above images for educational purposes only, and expect to make no income based on the publication of this material to my weblog. Where able, I have indicated where the material has been used. Any objections and I will readily remove the material.]

A "war on terror" thought
6/22/2005 07:49:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Quick background: I lived in Manhattan during Sept 11th and the aftermath. My wife's best friend and I sat in front of the TV in our apartment, watching everything happen and praying my wife and her husband would return safely. (She worked locally, and I didn't start that day until 11:30).

They both arrived home 5 hours later, thank God, safe and sound.

Worry and unease grew in me in the days that followed. I kept waiting for "the other shoe to drop," and another attack to happen.

We made plans on how we'd meet up, how we'd get out of the city. (I think one of them involved bribing a boat owner in the marina near us with $1000)

I worried the next attack would hit midtown, where my wife worked, while I would be stuck working across the river in North Bergen. I'd chain smoke cigarettes and stare at the skyline, following with my eyes the planes as they flew into Laguardia.

A year passed, my anxiety didn't. Another year passed. I worried slightly less. Another year passed. We moved out of the city. I worried alot less, but still a little.

Let me get to the point. I spent the better part of 3 1/2 years worrying about what was going to happen next. I am still a damn 'breaking news' addict, and my heart still skips a beat when I see the red heading on the bottom of the news cast. I certainly don't want to jinx anything (yes I am superstitious).

But, why, do you suppose that nothing has happened since 9/11? It just seems like it would be so easy to hurt us economically or with death and destruction, that I just can't seem to wrap my brain around why we haven't been attacked again. I just can't credit the FBI/CIA and the federal government for our safety, I still have a level of distrust since the WMD fiasco. But can we really be stopping the Radical Islamic groups that want to harm us from doing anything? Time after time I hear on the nightly news about how this is vulnerable, how this benign thing is going to be the next to be attacked. I've always thought that one suicide bombing in the US would put us into a whole another chapter of life in the US. Thank God it has not happened to date. I hear that the "terrorists" only want to plan something "big" that will "rival 9/11." But disrupting our oil imports, making malls feel unsafe with a small event, large effects would ripple out from it...

Thoughts anyone? I know that it is a grim topic, but sometimes I can't shake the thought.
Recipe Time again: Kev's Beer Butt Chicken
6/22/2005 05:28:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Sorry, veggies, this is a delicious meal. And well worth trying if your a carnivore like me.


This chicken is the juiciest, most mouthwatering bird you'll ever try. I also like the aspect of theater when you cook it, because it looks so damned weird on the grill, people will wonder what brand of crack you switched to.

1 whole chicken
1 tall can o' beer (16 oz. tallboy)
olive oil
4 cloves garlic crushed
salt and black pepper

your favorite beer (for marinating the chef!)

seasoning for chicken (or use a seasoning blend or your own favorites):

4 cloves garlic, crushed
fresh basil
a pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper

Start with a hot grill (coals all white and ready to cook). Drink about 1/4 of that can of beer. Set it aside 3/4 full and have a couple of full ones, real beer this time—no sissy canned stuff.

Get the chicken ready for cookin'. Trim some of the fat, get rid of the giblets (here kitty kitty!). Rub liberally with your favorite meat rub. I prefer olive oil, basil, lots of fresh pressed garlic, salt, and a pinch of cayenne. Some folks like Zartarain's or some such store bought concoction, but whatever.

Get a can opener or some such tool and open up the top of the can and drop in the crushed garlic.

Oil up the can and lower that chicken over top of it. The beer can goes into the chicken's body cavity and allows the bird to stand upright.

Cover your grill and cook the chicken until its wings are loose and the skin turns clear. This is terrific with our garlic and potatoes or roasted corn.

6/21/2005 07:07:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Sup-er Peas! Harvest time for the snow peas, so sweet you can eat the whole pod. Posted by Hello
UPDATE: Peaknik has an extended post about 'hard-core' energy conservation, and if you have more than a passing interest in the subject, this post is worth a read.

It is about a family who did everything they could to reduce energy consumption in the home, and they listed some of the biggest "offenders", and things that turned out to be negligible. My ranting about the TV, and passive energy use seems misdirected now. I should be preaching energy efficiency with drying clothes and the use of the refrigerator. (Damn, I knew there was a reason that my dad yelled at me to shut that fridge door!) Although I don't believe that we'll be reducing our energy use to less than 1 KW/day, we will start to use some of these tips.

FYI, I just grabbed my bill for last month. (includes a "energy star' dehumidifier in the basement, running very often in the spring.) OK, OK, no excuses... We used 375 kWh last month. [shame] The amazing thing is that it only cost us $28.06 for delivery of the energy, and $23.21 for the supply; for a total of $51.27 (taxes incl). We can do better than that though.

I smell a future challenge of the week.

Previous Post Follows below the fold.

Big Gav got me all fired up again about wasting energy when you're not even using your TV and appliances with his post at Peak Energy about the higher energy demand of plasma screen TV's.

This article has a much more eloquent way of making my point, so I'll let it speak for me.

A typical home--that is, one equipped with two TVs, one VCR, and a cable box--will consume more than 500 kWh per year. That can easily equal 5% of a typical home's average electricity use (based on 10,000 kWh per year). Energy use is higher in homes with more than one TV and/or VCR because, although overall household TV viewing hours may be the same, the extra TVs and VCRs that are not being watched are still consuming standby power. For example, in a home with five TVs, two VCRs, and two set-top boxes, video electricity consumption probably accounts for 10% of the home's total. This is right up there with refrigerators and other major appliances.
Ugghh. Well, gotta go watch some more TV...
A Side Note: The Baby Name Voyager
6/20/2005 09:03:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
This is a cool program/site (?) that I found thru Yglesias that charts the popularity of baby names.


Looks like I am on the way out. Posted by Hello
Coming soon...
6/19/2005 11:50:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I will post an essay/article[?] on why I believe that Syracuse and Upstate New York is an ideal place to weather the coming oil crisis.

I am preparing the background and links now. Will post after I get all my thoughts together.
Sometimes I think that I am actually not paranoid
6/18/2005 11:16:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Oil hits $58.60/barrel on Friday trading. The highest in dollar amount to date.

I sometimes think, gee maybe I am just paranoid. Other times, I think "damn, we might really be in trouble sooner than I thought."

I think that the next two things that will raise public conciousness of coming problems are $60/barrel oil, and $2.50/gal gas. That will start to make the top of the hour news.

Back to my original points about preparation:
Make upgrades to conserve energy, Save and pay off debt, Acquire knowledge about self-sustainability, and spread the word to friends and family so they can do the same.

UPDATE: OIL HITS $59/barrel.
Surgery went well
6/18/2005 10:49:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Entering phase two of movie marathoning, and attempting to stare at a computer screen and read blogs. Thank you to all the well wishers.

I Can’t Drive 55!
6/15/2005 02:21:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Challenge of the Week #2

Yes you can… It’s my second “Challenge of the Week”. Cars made for use in North America are designed to operate optimally at 55-59 miles per hour. The EPA bases their highway MPG based on tests at this speed under minimal acceleration. That is why there is a push to reform how that number makes it on to the sticker on your new car to “reflect more accurately” the true MPG under “normal” conditions.

However, my challenge is this: For one week, or at least one fill up of your gas tank, we are going to [gasp] drive the speed limit.

Here are the details:

  1. Go to the local gas station and fill your tank all of the way up. Write down your starting mileage on your gas receipt and save in the glove box.
  2. For the rest of the week, or until refueling (at approx ¼ tank), you are going to be a transformed driver. [I am hypnotizing you now…] You will not treat the speed limit signs as a suggestion. You will ignore the fact that the local police will give you 8-10 mph over the speed limit before pulling you over. You will stop at all stop signs, and accelerate slowly from all traffic lights. You will drive 55-65 mph on highways with your cruise control on (as conditions permit.) You are not getting sleepy. You will reawaken more aware of how fast you are traveling, and will cease “peeling out” from a dead stop.
  3. Why? Doing all of the above actions, and some others suggested below, you may increase your cars mileage by 10-20%. What does that add up to? Several gallons of gas per fill up saved, and several gallons of gasoline that doesn’t have to be refined and/or imported.
  4. At the end of the week and at the completion of your “Driving with Awareness”, fill up your tank completely again and write down your mileage on your second receipt.
  5. Take your receipts home, and take out your abacus or adding machine of choice, and find out your mileage for the week. The way to do that is:

Mileage at 2nd fill up

-Mileage at 1st fill up
_______________

= total miles driven

total miles driven (divided by) # of gallons on 2nd fill up receipt = MPG for the week.

Now go here and compare your mileage to what the EPA believes that your car/truck/SUV should be getting. Post your comparison in the comments section, include the model and year of your car. Don’t be ashamed if you drive a Chevy Suburban or van, post anyways. You will have the highest ability to save gasoline.

I’ll post the most improved on the front page, along with the other results. Remember, it’s not the total MPG that I am most concerned with for this exercise. It is to show how much you can increase your mileage by driving conscientiously and obeying the speed limits. Kudos if you already drive a vegetable-oil bio-diesel 82 VW Rabbit. More kudos to you if your ’98 pickup used to get 250 miles to a fill up and now you get 310.

Other tips:

Purchase a tire pressure checker, and properly inflate all your tires at each fill up if needed (correct pressure found inside driver’s side open door on frame of car, usually). DO NOT IDLE. Turn car off. Don’t “drive thru” get your butt out of the car and walk in, every time. Leave 10 mins early to each destination, you will be much less likely to speed if you are not running late. Follow your cars recommended service schedule – if you missed an oil change, go get one. Run AC only as needed.

This challenge will take plenty of patience, and be prepared for a few dirty looks. (and if you find yourself on the LIE or Belt Pkwy, you get dispensation from not speeding – for your safety sake!) Try to change your mentality regarding driving this upcoming week. Think of driving as a privilege. Get yourself out of the rat-race mentality. You are not Jeff Gordon (he is the only race car driver I know, sorry I didn’t pick someone cooler.) Get a good CD out, or a good book on tape, sit back, take a deep breath and relax.

Ahem, but Baloghblog, “I live in X (big city) and I don’t drive. What is my challenge?”

Well, if you truly take public transportation everywhere (no taxi’s, gypsy cabs, etc.) Congrats, you are contributing much less to America’s oil dependency.

Your challenge will be to write a paper letter to your congressional representatives encouraging higher mileage standards for new vehicles*. Sure you could email, but to have a better chance of human eyes taking the time to read it, buy a stamp and mail your letter to your local office of your politician.

Good luck and let me know how it’s going, any anecdotes as the week goes on.

* or any topic of your choice along those lines

In the meantime
6/14/2005 11:18:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
go read this post at Mobjectivist, and think about how many things that we buy that this applies to.

and, Jeff is back from vaca at sustainablog with some new posts.
busy week this week
6/14/2005 10:56:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Have a super busy schedule at work, and am preparing to have a surgery this weekend. Hope to post more tomorrow. (aside: by "preparing", I mean hooking up a new wireless router and installing a wireless PC card in my old laptop, so I can still check up on things when I am laid up. It only took me about 3 hours to get Win 98 SE recognize the damn PC card, but I freaking did it!)

I have two ideas floating around in my head. The first (and a preview of my next essay) is the approaching disconnect between a decreasing ability to physically travel places due to expensive oil, but a continuing increase in the ability to communicate with people around the world in real time. What will be the social and political ramifications of this? Will the internet or future forms of it satisfy our wanderlust, or will it only stoke an unattainable standard that only the extremely wealthy will be able to participate in.

The second is going to be my second "Challenge of the Week", so check back soon for that. It will be more directly related to oil consumption than the last challenge, and will require a fair amount of patience.

Lastly I am heading to the library and video store on Thursday night, any suggestions for a weekend full of reading and zoning out on pills? Speaking of zoning out on pills... Come on, no reaction? Not a sigh of relief? OK, OK, I know, let's keep it on topic here!
Band of the week: Say Hi to Your Mom
6/13/2005 09:31:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Love this band! Caught them at a side stage at the Taste of Syracuse, and bought their CD, Ferocious Mopes for 10 bucks. It was well worth it.

My favorite song is The Twenty-Second Century, you can listen to a clip here, but they cut off that the refrain which is my favorite part of the song.

They are out of Brooklyn. (What? Syracuse attracted a cool band out of Brooklyn to come up and play? Unheard of.)

There are three members in the band currently, a reserved, but funny lead singer/guitarist, a rocking chick keyboardist who plays on a tiny, but heavily synthed keyboard, and a talented drummer. I had to give them a link, check them out.

Other links to full MP3's on their site:
Dimensions And Verticals
The Forest Scares The Hell Out Of Me
Yeah, I'm In Love With An Android

CD's are 12 bucks on-line through paypal.
Desert of the week: Hershey's Syrup Snacking Brownies
6/13/2005 09:30:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
HERSHEY'S Syrup Snacking Brownies

Ingredients:

* . 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
* . 1 cup sugar
* . 1-1/2 cups (16-oz. can) HERSHEY'S Syrup
* . 4 eggs
* . 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
* . 1 cup HERSHEY'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips


Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

2. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl. Add syrup, eggs and flour; beat well. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. About 36 brownies.


Review to follow...

I know, I should change my avatar to
Challenge of the week #1 - REPOST
6/13/2005 07:43:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
UPDATE: I wanted to keep this post on the front page, now that there is more traffic (thanks to Ianqui and Prof Goose)

I am glad so many are heeding my humble advice.

Original post here.

Buy a single fluorescent lightbulb and put in the light that you use the most or leave on the longest in your house.

CFL bulbs also provide a benefit to the environment based on their energy savings over a regular incandescent light bulb. According to the U.S. government's Energy Star website, if every household in the United States replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL bulb, it would have an environmental impact equivalent to removing one million cars from the American roads. [1]

This is this week's challenge. Check back soon for next week's.

(sub challenge: tell one person about this blog)
Another reader meets the challenge
6/12/2005 10:50:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
See Ianqui's post, and check out some of her other entries.



She adds some more info on CFL bulbs:

It turns out we got the wrong kind of bulb, in that we got a cool light bulb instead of a warm light bulb, which is more appropriate for homes (see also the Wikipedia entry on color temperature). So we may move this out of the lamp next to my desk and into a less conspicuous lamp, and get warmer bulbs for the heavy-use lamps. BTW--it turns out that it's a lot cheaper to buy these bulbs online than in a store (confirmed by a quick check at bulbs.com), so if you're going to do this, I'd say buy online.
This article appeared in the Sunday Syracuse Post Standard. I couldn't, unfortunately, find a link to the article on the Syracuse.com website.

It even freaked out baloghblog's mother a little, as she brought it up at a family BBQ today, having known that I was interested in the topic and had shared my essay with her.
John D. Rockefeller's refineries launched the Oil Age.

A superhighway in China may end it.

Cheap, plentiful crude powered cars, molded plastics, birthed the suburbs and greased the path to a prosperous American century.

Much of today's world slides along that same path to industrialization. A 52,000-mile superhighway system is under construction in China. Millions of prospering Chinese browse auto showrooms looking for a new lifestyle based on crude.

But recent spikes at gas pumps worldwide hint that, for the first time, oil will not come cheap. Analysts and traders alike suspect we are on the verge of demanding more oil than we can produce.
It is a fairly coherently written article that asks more questions than it answers, but at least it tackles the tough subject that most news outlets have shied away from.
How will we cope when gas prices permanently zoom beyond $2.50 a gallon? When food costs rise because of expensive fertilizer and diesel? When plastics become precious?

When the time comes, will we be ready to live with less oil?
I don't think that anyone has the answers to those questions yet. But thanks for bringing them up Chris Seper and John Funk.

UPDATE: this story was posted over at the Energy Bulletin as well.
RAGE... RAGE... RAGE... AGAINST THE SPELLCHECK!!!
6/12/2005 08:13:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

RAGE... RAGE... RAGE... AGAINST THE SPELLCHECK!!! Posted by Hello
I followed the crowd and got Flickr
6/12/2005 12:11:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I really think that it is a cool way to share photos, so I have uploaded a smattering of pictures from over the past 2 years to my account. Click on any photo in the black flickr bar, and you can see the rest.

Or click here for a random slideshow.
Sub-challenge for Week #1
6/12/2005 12:35:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Update: Liz Logan has proof she completed the first challenge!


How many bloggers does it take to change a lightbulb?
and Romehater also got in on the action: I put a CFL in the laundry room when I found I could make up the cost of the bulb in 2 months. No pictures, though. No digital camera.

I have received good feedback from visitors to the site and from my friends and family. Many of them have let me know that they have already begun to incorporate CFL bulbs into their home lighting. Some have stated that they will start to consider their use for more of the lighting in their home.

I am still waiting for someone to let me know that they've put in their first bulb, if your out there let me know if you do.

Since there is still a bunch of time remaining in the week, here is a "sub-challenge" for you:

#1(a): GARBAGE

read and post your local recycling rules (printable here) near your garbage. Recycle every single thing that you can on the list. Do NOT be lazy, do NOT throw out the soup can because you don't want to rinse it, do NOT pass go. Check what cannot be recycled, and then store any item that has a possible re-use. Think future storage containers for food. Save yogurt cups, margarine tubs, and egg cartons, and donate to your local school's elementary art department for projects. Check locally for ways to recycle the "non-recyclable" items on the list. If you are suburban or rural, start a compost for any non-meat, non-oily organic material. [for Ianqui, and composting in NYC: click here, here, or here)

from Full Account Cost of Garbage:
Municipalities try to reduce these costs of garbage. Reducing the amount of garbage flowing into the dump is fundamental to reducing costs. If taxpayers do not remove organic waste, such as food wastes and garden clippings, and compost or bury them, then these organic wastes increase the garbage flowing into the dump by 30% to 50%. If the organic wastes are removed, up to 30% of the remaining garbage still does not need to go into the dump. It can be recycled to recover the useful resources in it.
From Keep America Beautiful:
This is the make up of our garbage:

Paper/paperboard 35.7%
Yard Trimmings 12.2%
Food 11.4%
Plastics 11.1%
Metals 7.9%
Rubber, Latex, Textiles 7.1%
Wood 5.7%
Glass 5.5%
Other 3.4%
You can see the amount of Paper/Paperboard that is 1/3 of all garbage. In our house, the paper recycling portion is nearly 50% of what is brought to the curb. Recycle that paper! Shred it if you have to, but get that junk mail out of the garbage.

How does GARBAGE go hand in hand with peak oil? Think of all of the diesel fuel that is burned to transport your waste to the local landfill. In the case of major metro areas, garbage is sometimes shipped out of state, such as in NYC. All of that oil used up to take your dirty paper towels hundreds of miles away. Also, recycling materials and donating used items to charity, means that additional materials will not have to be produced.

Recycling is key in sustainability. Take this week to reflect on the garbage that you produce, that goes out onto the curb each week. As far as I can tell, garbage should contain only non-recyclable items that are damaged beyond repair, fatty and meat wastes and packaging, minimal to no amounts of paper products, minimal plastics, and those blown lightbulbs that you replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs! Good luck, and remember, no cheating!
6/11/2005 11:37:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

Poppy-blogging Posted by Hello
Off Topic - Is Napolean Dynamite Dead?
6/11/2005 10:26:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Rumor, via snopes:
Origins: Beginning in January 2005, rumors circulated nationwide that Jon Heder, the 26-year-old star of the film Napoleon Dynamite, had died in tragic fashion. Some people heard he'd arrived at his final destination via an automobile accident that snapped his neck; others heard the Grim Reaper came to him in the form of a drug overdose, most commonly cocaine or crack cocaine.
The answer? No!
We're happy to report the young man is still very much alive. Postdating the rumors of his demise was his appearance as a guest on The Tonight Show on 2 February 2005. He is currently working on two other films, Just Like Heaven and Moving McAllister. In a 21 March news article about the rumor of his death, Heder said "Yeah, and apparently it's not true."


I swear I heard that he had died in a car accident, and I swore that I heard it on either CNN or MSNBC on TV.

Mrs. Baloghblog spotted him at the MTV Movie awards, and clued me in on this.
Garden update
6/09/2005 07:27:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Update of my garden. Never mind the invasion of the maple "helicopters". Carrots in the front row, tall peas on the trellis, cuke to the left, and potatoes visible in back right. Tomatoes hiding behind peas. Posted by Hello
another side note...
6/09/2005 07:23:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Great photo-blog on the forgotten sights of NY. There are some great pictures here, check it out.
Preparation for the Future (Thoughts for 30-somethings) - REPOST
6/09/2005 04:09:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
This is my original thoughts regarding peak oil, and sustainability. It dropped off the front page, so I wanted to repost it for the new visitors to my blog.

Original link

Well, I have been digesting The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler. It is a bleak vision of the future of America, with declining oil supplies. I, like the author, would not live to see many of the changes that he describes in his idea of the future, but I do believe that there are many things that people in our generation could do to prepare to face any eventual hardship. I will lay out what I plan to do personally to get myself, my finances, my family and my home more self sustaining, and ready for whatever may come our way.I, and others my age have grown up in a time of plenty. Most of us are used to an abundant opportunity of education and employment, compared to any time in our nations history. Born after Vietnam, witnessing the end of the cold war, seeing decisive victories in the first Gulf War, no causalities in the Bosnian conflict, we have seen little in the way of war growing up. (No disrespect for those who have lost their lives fighting for our country during our developmental years.) Our battles were fought in our imagination with sticks and toy guns, or against aliens on video games. The Dow Jones Industrials were at 703.69 on Jan 1st 1975, and as I type the Dow closed at 10,471.91 this past Friday. This is a 1,448% gain in my lifetime. Energy prices, unemployment and interest rates fell. Home ownership, investment in the stock market and personal wealth increased.

Luckily, our generation can still remember a time without cable TV, with rotary phones, playing outdoors and biking through the neighborhood without a care in the world. Computers entered the home in our youth but were items of mystery and functionality vs. items of necessity. We had sketchpads to fill with our art; we had endless sheets of loose-leaf paper to write our stories on. We read books. We read more books, until the words on the pages turned into beautiful and profound worlds in our minds. We listened to the Top 40 countdown on our new AM/FM Walkman silently in the backseat, while our parents enjoyed a moment of silence in the front seat. (Or, sometimes we’d sing loudly and badly, as if everyone should be hearing the song we were experiencing larger than life between those two orange foam pad earphones.) It was a wondrous time to grow up. I seldom take the time to think about it now, in the hectic grown up world that we live in now. But we do have that time somewhere back in our memory, I fear for the generation of kids who do not.

We would be foolish to believe that the time of plenty could go on indefinitely. Ignoring history would be irrational, as written in the words of George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” There were times of need just prior to us entering the world and seemingly every 25 years before that. Those who lived through the Great Depression, the First and Second World Wars are passing away. Lost with them are the ideas of frugality, self-sufficiency and savings. Shoes, socks, clothing, appliances, and electronic equipment were to be repaired when damaged or broken, not replaced. Our economy is becoming solely dependent on the extension of credit and the purchasing of items made mostly far far away. We produce less and less real goods, in this “service” economy. We depend more and more on others to perform tasks and the creation of goods for us. I’d love to see a chart of the number of women who could knit or use a sewing machine as a percent of the population, and equally so, how many men could tune up their cars engine, or perform basic carpentry. I am sure you’d see a steep decline in the past 30 years or so.

After reading The Long Emergency, I am still not convinced that Peak Oil will happen in the next year or two, or that our economy is a dead man walking, but I do realize the possibility that I could be very wrong about that. I see the decline of cheap oil as a tremendous burden that at this stage our country will not be able to stomach. 5-10 years from now we could be looking at a very different financial and societal picture. Already $2.20/gal gasoline is starting to look “cheap.” It happened in a blink of an eye, that we went above $2/gal gas, with little fanfare in the press, other than, “boy Wolf, gas sure is getting expensive isn’t it? Yes, Judy, we’ll have more after the break. Will gas prices keep going up? Geez I sure hope not, heh heh…” Our government uses increasing gas prices as a way to promote an energy policy that will give tax cuts to the big oil companies, during a time where they are reaping record profits from us. Like I said, we are not prepared as a government or as individuals for this.

So I have been thinking, what should I be doing about it? The first is to educate my friends and family about this short-term possibility, I guess. I figure those who I care about the most should have the information available. And, shit, I don’t want to be the only one worrying about this happening! I digress though… I came up with some ideas that we will be working on in our home, and figured that along with the bad news, I would share some of the “bright ideas” that I have. Most are not novel; most are not difficult or expensive. All are things that we can start thinking about now.

The main ideas that my preparation for the future revolve around are:

Conservation
Home Improvements and Increased Energy Efficiency
Gardening/Food Production and Storage
Reducing Waste
Financial Preparation
Improving Health and Well Being
And Modestly “Filling the Cupboards”

Conservation:

My idea of conservation is more a self-centered approach to conserving energy. Not for the greater good, although its effects would no-doubt help the national consumption of energy. This idea of this conservation is to reduce energy use bills, and allow us to save even greater amounts of money when energy prices increase.

- Return to working locally, vs. in the adjacent county. I drive hundreds of wasted miles a month to visit my clients in the neighboring county instead of the Syracuse area. I would save gallons of gas and conserve hours of my time working locally.
- Carpooling. We decided that we would start to car pool when gas hit $2.50/gallon, but we are considering starting to carpool on a limited basis to conserve gas.
- Put TV/Stereo/Computer on power strips, and turn to off position when not in use. This saves up to 12% of your electricity portion of your utility bill. All of those great electronic devices that we have suck up power to sit in “standby” mode.
- Turn things off when not in use. Sounds simple, but how many times do you find that you’ve left the light on, or computer on overnight. Can’t you just hear your dad “reminding you gently” to turn off the light when you were done in room.
- Replace bulbs with fluorescent compact bulbs when blown. Buy those in bulk to save money. They last longer, and use much less energy.
- Circulate cool air from basement to upstairs during summer months vs. running central air conditioner.

Home Improvements/Increased Energy Efficiency:

Related to the idea of energy conservation, we plan on making some energy efficient upgrades to our home.

- Install energy efficient windows. Our 1956 home has the original windows, single pane with a storm window. You can feel the cold air come down off of them like a waterfall in the winter. Replacement windows will quickly pay for themselves in the cold Syracuse winters. (And cool spring for that matter!)
- Replace any appliances with energy efficient Energy Star appliances, when they reach the end of their useful lifetime.
- Update insulation. NYS offers a Home Performance Evaluation that can help determine ways to make your home more energy efficient. We plan on doing this in 2006.
- Wood burning stove insert for fireplace, capturing the heat that travels straight up the chimney.

I initially looked into solar and wind energy production, but given the weather in upstate NY, the solar panels didn’t seem to be a prudent purchase, and although reducing energy costs, would take decades to recoup the cost. Perhaps in your neck of the woods, this could be an option. As far as wind goes, we sure have plenty here, but given our small plot of land, and the aesthetics of the home and the neighborhood, it doesn’t seem feasible. Perhaps when the mills get more compact, (as they apparently are) I will re-consider it. Again this might be something that works for you.

Gardening/Food Production and Storage:

I have always loved to have a garden. My Dad instilled that in me in a young age, as he planted his small garden in the backyard. I find it meditative and very rewarding to tend a garden and harvest my efforts. Others may find it annoying to weed, and fruitless when the cost of vegetables is many times less at the local grocery store. In the future, there may not be an endless supply of grapes from Chile, apples from Australia, and salad from California. Home grown food, without its pesticides, manufactured oil based fertilizers, and who knows what else sprayed or spliced into them to make them travel better, not only tastes better, but is better for you. Here are some of my ideas to increase food production on my meager yard, as Kunstler predicts that food production locally will be the focus on much of our lives.

- Increase size of my garden plot. Cutting back the maple branches overhanging our lawn to let the sun shine in. Also to use raised beds to control the soil that is used for growing and to limit the weeding.
- Plant fruit trees. I personally love apples and cherries, and know that they do well in our climate, so those are what I am looking to purchase and plant. For you flower lovers, they also bloom brilliantly in the spring.
- Plant raspberry bushes. Don’t know much about the care and growing of these plants yet, but I know they grow wildly in the woods around me, so must do well in central NY.
- Plant grape vines. My grandfather used to make Hungarian Fruit wines that were delicious (and then distill those into a mean moonshine.) I would love to be able to make my own wine, so I plan on planting a few grape vines to begin maturing, while I take the time to learn how to make homemade wine.
- Plant herbs, garlic and onions. We buy these all the time, so it makes sense to have them self propagating at home.
- Learn the old school ways of making Italian tomato sauce. (I am Hungarian, so I refuse to call it “gravy.”) My wife’s Gram and Dad can pass the secrets of making and canning the sauce to us, to be able to enjoy it all winter long.
- Learn how to dry and store herbs.
- Learn how to make jams and jelly from my Gram.
- Learn how to can/jar food, make pickles, how to keep a root cellar.
- Create a functioning compost pile; get a pitchfork to turn. Then we’ll have a great source of nutrients for our plants and garden.
- Replace gutters, and create rainwater collection.

Reducing Waste:

The nice little old lady across the street only puts out a Wegman’s sized grocery bag out to the curb on garbage day. We seem to put out 5 times that amount. This costs us indirectly in increased municipal costs and taxes, more gas is consumed trucking it to the landfill. Not to mention filling up our landfills more quickly.

- Comply with all recycling rules, and use as much as possible.
- Increase re-use of items. Substituting plastic containers for sandwich bags when packing a lunch. Save food containers for re-use in food storage, or other uses including starting seedlings, storage of supplies, etc.
- Increase use of compost to all materials that are appropriate.
- Garbage only containing non-recyclable paper and plastics, fat/meat, dirt/dust, etc.

Financial Preparation:

I think that the area of finances is the area that 30-somethings can affect most to improve their future preparedness. The level of unsecured debt that we carry can make it seem like it will be impossible to pay off. Student Loans make up the bulk of my debt, followed by credit cards. The “secured” debt that we carry could also become an issue, if the value of our homes and the cars that we drive depreciate, so it too shouldn’t be overlooked. We have begun an adventure into paying down first our unsecured debt, and then we’ll consider extra payments to the house. We have begun to add to our balanced retirement accounts after neglecting them with our move last year. Another area of financial stability we have begun to consider, is the saving of hard assets and tangible goods, along with a small stash of cash. Didn’t you ever notice how your grandparents always seemed to have some cash stashed away in the house? That’s because one day their parents went to the bank and there wasn’t any money to take out. They never forgot that, and never fully trusted the ATM card. I think that it would be prudent to take a page out of their book, especially in this debit card/no cash in the pocket area. Some blogs out there subscribe to having gold and silver coin on hand. I don’t think that we are at that point personally, but if you have all of your other financial ducks in a row, then maybe that would be right for you. I’ll stick to paying off the Visa, and Uncle Sam’s student loans.

- We read Suze Orman’s book, Young Fabulous and Broke, and got some good tips from that. There are a million and one financial advice books out there, find the one that is right for you.
- We have a debt reduction plan that is as basic as this: We have a set amount of money that we put towards our debt each month. Currently that money is completely dedicated to our credit cards. When the credit card is paid off, we will take that money, as well as the payment we’d been making and apply it to our next target, a small student loan. After that is paid off, we will take the sum of the original credit card payment, the money allocated to debt and the student loan monthly payment amount and will apply that to the missus’ car, along with it’s payment. Each month the amount dedicated to paying off debt will remain the same and manageable, but will be applied to a progressively decreasing number of outstanding debts.
- Increased percentage saved towards retirement. Ours is currently at 10%, but we hope to increase it with a Roth IRA to a total nearing 15% of income. I am not for any changes to social security, but you have to realize that you need to take care of #1 in an uncertain retirement future, and have no one but yourself to blame if you had the opportunity to save and haven’t.


Improving Health and Well Being:

Self explanatory. Improve health, physical strength, and well being. Cut down on TV and Computer time (yes, blogs too…) Increase intake of fresh veggies and fruits that are in season and local. Walk to the grocery store or corner store for food. Read more. Don’t stop learning. Just because we are out of college doesn’t mean that we should sit back and rest on what we’ve learned so far. We should be striving to learn more, and better ourselves. Remember, our kids will expect us to know everything!

Wilco - Wishful Thinking
Fill up your mind with all it can knowDon't forget that your body will let it all goFill up your mind with all it can knowWhat would we be without wishful thinking?


Modestly “Filling the Cupboards”:

Filing this under the “things you never knew before”, Kunstler tells us that the Mormons as part of their faith are required to keep one years worth of supplies on hand in their house. I don’t plan on going that far, and I like the author am not a “survivalist”. But when you think about things that you’d want to make sure that you’d always have, doesn’t toilet paper come to your mind? I plan on slowly stocking the pantry with some non-perishables, which I should have anyways. The other items on the short list are:

Ball jars and Mason jars, PB&J, Soup, canned fruit and veggies, bottled water, velvetta, cereal, oatmeal, soap, shampoo, paper towels, razors, batteries, flashlights, firewood, pack of butane lighters/matches, second sleeping bag, mess kit, and extra propane tank for the grill and small tanks for the camping lantern and stove.

I am sure that there are other things that should be on there, and many different things on other people’s lists, but just some food for thought.


Final thoughts: These thoughts are my response to a thought-provoking book, and the current geo-political state of affairs. I think that learning to conserve and to be more self-sufficient is something that I should be striving for anyways. I know that I’ll think twice about the next time I throw something out. I will try to glean as much information from our grandparents and elders as possible. I’ll learn how to make wine, and jar freshly made sauce.

Sometimes as you try to get you act together, don't forget to sit back and smell the roses... meaning, don't take for granted all of the great conveniences we have today. I still love driving my car with my windows down and the music on, ripping down the open highway. When I think about a time I may not be able to do that anymore, I appreciate it even more…
Weekly Challenge #1 completed, now your turn!
6/08/2005 04:06:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Click here for original challenge.


Challenge #1 completed! Posted by Hello


total cost $18.02 for 5 5-year bulbs. Posted by Hello


Basement light used in laundry area. (Unfortunately the most "left-on" light in the house.) Posted by Hello

First one to send me proof they did it too will get posted.
Why we should do it anyways...
6/08/2005 03:24:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
This article by Kurt Cobb was found on the energy bulletin. It is a cogent and concise essay that contains possible answers to peak-oil, and the reasons that we should be doing these things anyways.

His intro:
There are economists who "know" that the world will come up with a cheap, effective, and widely available substitute for oil before we run short of it. And so, it follows that "getting ready" for a permanent oil shortage through concerted civic and governmental action is a "waste of resources." But even if they are right about the miraculous and timely appearance of oil substitutes, are they right that the things we would do as a global society to prepare for world peak oil production are a "waste of resources?" To address that issue I've prepared a Peak Oil "To Do" List. (I don't claim it to be exhaustive.)
Useful Ideas from our neighbors to the north...
6/08/2005 08:08:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
I found these websites from Canada through Treehugger. They have two interesting concepts that should be approached in the U.S.

#1: Reduce greenhouse emmisions by 1 ton / year per household.

The One-Tonne Challenge asks you to reduce your annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by one tonne.

How? Use less energy. Conserve water and resources. Reduce waste.

Fewer emissions means protecting our climate and having cleaner air and healthier communities for all Canadians. And saving energy puts more money in your pocket.


#2: Join up with people at work for a Commuter Challenge to reduce greenhouse emmisions.

During Environment Week (June 5 to 11, 2005) and Clean Air Day (June 8, 2005) try a new and sustainable way to get to work! If you already use a sustainable mode of transportation, get others on board and register for the Commuter Challenge yourself to help your community win! Once registered, simply login at the left of this page to submit your results.

When you walk, cycle, carpool, take transit or telework, you take steps towards meeting the Government of Canada's One-Tonne Challenge. You can play a significant role in reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, both of these would help reduce the amount of fuel used in the home and on our commutes.
An idea that I forgot to mention...
6/07/2005 09:21:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Romehater reminded me on something important that I wanted to mention.

I don't think that what I am talking about is a liberal idea. I think that this is an American idea. To be self-sufficient, and not to be dependent on foreign nations is patriotic. So when I post about sustainability, I am not posting as a liberal (although I am), I am posting as an american.

The Government, (Bush, Kerry, libs, neo-cons, the whole lot of them) missed the boat after 9-11. During WWII people sacrificed. They gave things up for the good of the nation and for the soldiers fighting for us. Don't give me the BS about it being Bush's fault. I didn't hear Kerry saying much about ending our foreign dependence on oil during the presidential race. If he did? He certainly didn't say it loud enough.

People want to support our troops. They want to see them come home. They want peace and protection. Conservation and sustainability will help ease our dependence on foreign oil. F--- putting a yellow ribbon on your Suburban. That isn't patriotic. Start making smart choices about how you use energy, and about what you can do to help support our nation.


via majikthise via ianqui Posted by Hello
challenge of the week #1
6/07/2005 08:49:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Buy a single fluorescent lightbulb and put in the light that you use the most or leave on the longest in your house.

CFL bulbs also provide a benefit to the environment based on their energy savings over a regular incandescent light bulb. According to the U.S. government's Energy Star website, if every household in the United States replaced just one incandescent bulb with a CFL bulb, it would have an environmental impact equivalent to removing one million cars from the American roads. [1]

This is this week's challenge. Check back soon for next week's.

(sub challenge: tell one person about this blog)
Next Project: Next Step
6/07/2005 08:18:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

I posted earlier that I would be delving into ideas for "collective" community activism and solutions. I have been chewing it over for the last week or so, and have been brainstorming and researching into local efforts along the same lines. I didn't want to duplicate the work of others. My goals were: 1) to provide both a place that locals in the Central NY area could come to for information on sustainability and peak oil, 2) set an example for others to follow on a more broad scale, 3) share what others are doing to better their communities across this nation. (Sustainablog is doing a good job of this for the St. Louis area.)

I also want to challenge local citizens to get involved in these issues, and offer some challenges to people, maybe on a weekly or monthly basis. Something tangible that others could do to get involved in their community, and help shape public policy. Letter writing campaigns; op-ed pieces; meet your neighbor; tell one person about "topic A", etc.

My personal challenge will be to raise the awareness of my blog, to practice what I preach, and to stay focused on writing for the long haul. I love my community, and want only the best for the Upstate NY. I know that I don't have all that it takes, so in the future I hope to have local people writing in their own suggestions, ideas, and thoughts, and posting them to this blog as well. Hopefully friends and acquaintances will be up to the task as well.

Other goals that I pursuing include: adding a sustainability section to this blog, or creating a sister site (I am not that talented with blogger) listing the following info-

  • Community groups
  • Co-ops
  • Gardening info and tips
  • Carpooling
  • Public transportation
  • Farmer’s Markets
  • Supporting Local vs. Global businesses
  • Energy efficiency in the home
  • Green building and energy options
  • State parks
A local co-op worth mentioning
6/07/2005 08:13:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
I found this website while searching for "sustainability + Syracuse" on google. I have never been there, but plan on checking it out this weekend.

Check it out: The Syracuse Real Food Co-op
The Mother of all Sustainability websites
6/02/2005 08:27:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
This family gave me the nod as well, and I appreciate it. This website has a ton of info on living a sustainable life style, and many of the things that I strive for. Grab a cup of coffee, and head on over for a good read.

They have done so much and have plans for many more things to come.
Thru sustainablog, I found Steve in Stockholm's blog Inventing for the sustainable planet. Have only read a few entries but I like some of what I hear so far. Only a few posts make the front page so you have to look back in the archives on the right.

Let me know what you think. I like his 10,000 steps a day...

and his concise lists, this one about why localism will be more important than globalism. (I make tons of lists too, so he is right up my alley.)
A side note
6/01/2005 10:02:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
do any of you remember playing Castle Wolfenstein growing up, on the Apple II or Commodore 64? Anyways, it was a "text adventure" game, where you entered commands and told the computer what to do. My cousins and I would play it for hours. (Never could beat the damn wherewolf at the end, right Matt?)

teevee.org has an interesting take on Lost. You should check it out if you have any idea what I am talking about.

(via Fresh Hell)
Next project
6/01/2005 07:13:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
I think that Professor Goose puts my feelings into words perfectly:
So, it seems to me that, if anything, this should awaken this generation of the peak oil community to the fact that now, we have to start thinking about the inevitable next phase: policymaking and political involvement.
So, I am now entering that next phase, myself. After posting what I thought we could do individually, I will now be turning my thoughts what we can do collectively, and will post my essay on that when complete. I know that this starts to cross into political territory, and I will (for once) attempt to tread lightly. This problem is bigger than party lines, and will require both political parties to stop bickering. Not only the bickering between the pols we see on tv, but in our circles of friends and neighbors as well.

Another thing that I am sure at this point that I will be focusing on is the local local local level. This is not to say, however, that the state and national level should be ignored.

Find your local goverment offices here.

Thoughts or ideas that you have on the issue, or that you want to be sure I include can be posted on the comments section, or can be emailed to baloghblog{at}yahoo{dot}com <-- to thwart off spammers.

Thanks, and I will post again soon.

Update: I guess that The Oil Drum affected others as well, as sustainablog hit upon the same topic.