Pic of Anna
12/28/2008 03:25:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

For those who are interested:
Anna Fiducioso Balogh
11/23/2008 08:04:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

11/19/08 @ 4:06 p.m.  6 lb. 10 oz.

Mom and baby are doing well.  We couldn't be happier!

Great Timing for the Carousel Mall Expansion
9/10/2008 08:28:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
Image by Hackintosh (under a CC 2.0)

As the hulking monstrosity that is the Carousel Mall expansion grows from a pile of steel beams to a structure with more discernible features, this article comes out in the NY Times:

A Squeeze on Retailers Leaves Holes at Malls
In larger shopping malls, operators have not yet had to resort to giving away their space to attract tenants, but most landlords are facing mounting challenges these days. Vacancies are up, retail sales have been disappointing, and long established chains like Mervyn’s, Linens ‘n Things, Boscov’s and the Sharper Image have filed for bankruptcy protection, raising the specter of more dark spaces with fewer potential tenants to replace them.

Some 6,500 chain stores are expected to close this year, the largest number since 2001, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, a trade group. When stores close, neighboring stores may be entitled to exit or to have their rent lowered.
Congel has kept tight-lipped about who or what would be going into the expansion space. Which store will anchor it? How many other clothing or specialty retailers are out there? Will a majority of the space sit with plywood covers painted in murals of DestinyUSA dreams? Will Congel figure out a way to attract good restaurants, and keep them profitable?

More from the article:
The vacancy rate for regional malls is 6.3 percent, the highest since 2002. Though mall rents rose by 0.2 percent from the first quarter to the second, all retail rents are down when inflation is taken into account, Mr. Chandan said. New centers that opened in the first half of this year were just 62.8 percent occupied, on average, compared with 72.1 percent for those that opened last year, he said.

(emphasis mine)
I won't spend too long pointing out the obvious - that workers real wages are stagnant while food and energy costs are soaring. Consumer confidence in the economy is poor and keeping people at home. Even the dollar, which is strengthening, is bad news for Carousel. Canadians' reduced purchasing power and high fuel costs may keep them north of the border.

All bode poorly for the new space.

Bob Neidt of the Storefront column and blog at the Post-Standard writes on the same topic. Answering a letter from a reader, he supposes that some of the retailers in cramped spaces may want larger digs in the new expansion (Apple Store, Best Buy, etc.) But he worries about those "holes" too.
We've been so frustrated with the lack of detail about anything new possibly coming to the expansion -- I haven't been calling it "Destiny," either -- we've been dwelling on the potential vast emptiness of the expansion. Maybe focusing a little too much on that...
Will Carousel turn in to a microcosm of the Central NY area? Little to no growth but additional sprawl? Will tenants flee the central (older mall) to the new eastern burbs, like city residents fleeing to Fayetteville/Manlius? Will we see Driscoll and Congel offering redevelopment funds for the vacated core of Carousel?

Surely this is tongue in cheek. But one does have to wonder what the future of Carousel Mall holds.

As long as they get a Ruth's Chris in there, I'll shut up about it. (heh heh)
LeRoi Moore is Dead
8/19/2008 10:08:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
A sad day.  I haven't been to a Dave Matthews Band show in a while, but I have to say some of LeRoi's sick jams were near ecstasy to me.

Here's a fine example from Woodstock 99.  See from about 5 min on.  (We danced our asses off to this one...)

Damn.  I feel slightly nauseous.  The world lost one of its finer musicians today.
Photo of the Day - 8/18/08
8/18/2008 09:32:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

[when you're old]
Photo of the Day - 8/17/08
8/17/2008 09:50:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

[not a redwood - just a tall old growth tulip?]

pic taken at Round Lake in Green Lakes State Park
Photo of the Day - 8/16/08
8/17/2008 09:49:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

[moment of zen]
Photo of the Day - 8/15/08
8/17/2008 09:46:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

[tropical blue-green in good ol' Syracuse]
The Gold Bandwagon
8/15/2008 07:56:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
This is not investment advice, only rambling thoughts from a economic ignoramus.

I wanted to buy in to the gold rush.  I kept reading it on all of the doomer websites, and from other conspiracy theorists.  I just never made the call to my broker or joined an online gold purchasing site.  I pictured having physical gold on hand (for emergencies).

The goldbugs got screwed over the past few weeks.  The market is buying dollars again, after the Euro zone has started to contract.  Some kind of intervention may or may not be taking place. Regardless, this chart gave me pause.

Looks very bubblicious to me!  I am no economist (believe me, other than listening to CNBC on Sirius, and reading Mish, I have absolutely no training in economics), this is not investment advice.  I do know what a "double top" in a market is, and I think that that is a picture perfect version of it.

Like the X-Files, I still want to believe.  Perhaps there is a magic number on that chart that will start to look attractive to me and to other investors.  I'll let you know if I hop on the gold bandwagon.  I just feel bad for the few doomers out there that might have been suckered into dumping a fair bit of their life savings in gold, only to watch 21% of it evaporate since March.
Photo of the Day - 8/14/08
8/14/2008 11:18:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

(new life)

I'll be away from the computer for a few days...  Going camping.
Photo of the Day - 8/13/08
8/13/2008 09:42:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

(you have to give Wegmans kudos for bringing in the fresh local food)
Photo of the Day - 8/12/08
8/13/2008 07:04:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

(summer's day)   
playing around with the new features...
Photo of the Day - 8/11/08
8/13/2008 07:00:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

Photo of the Day - 8/10/08
8/13/2008 06:55:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

"as far as the eye can see"
Photo of the Day - 8/9/08
8/13/2008 06:51:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
UPDATE:  Note to self.  Make sure you don't start a photo of the day prior to going on vacation.  (especially when you can't figure out the "future post" on blogger)

Photo of the Day - 8/8/08
8/08/2008 08:03:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
I bought a new digital camera yesterday.  I love it.  So I'll try to put up a new picture each day (and see how long I can last at it.)  Here's the first.

[black-eyed susans in the front garden]
"The Noise" Has Left Syracuse, Now Finds Its way to Wisconsin
7/23/2008 07:57:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Having been tormented myself by "the noise" in the town of Geddes last winter and into this summer, I feel this couple's pain.  That said, for what ever reason, I haven't heard the noise in weeks.  Perhaps it's vacationing in Green Bay for the summer?

Green-Bay Press:

For two years now, the Ehrfurths have been enduring an annoying, persistent noise in their home — a low, motor-like rumble accompanied by a vibration. They can't figure out what's causing it, and it's been a challenge getting others to believe them because the problem starts and stops.

They've lived in the house at 2048 Mary Queen Road for 42 years, and it's only been the last two years that it's been a problem.

"It's like there's a semi parked right outside with the engine running, but when you look out, there isn't one," said Leona Ehrfurth, 76.

And it quits at the most inconvenient times. Like when they bring city officials, acoustic experts or news reporters into their house to experience the problem.

It all sounds so familiar...  Ehrfurths, does it sound like this (mp3)?
Peak Oil Preparation Revisited: What's Enough?
7/01/2008 10:27:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

As I sit here, taking a break from life, far, far away from home...

The beer tastes cold and crisp, the warm sun being replaced by a cool breeze from off shore, and the birds are circling lazily on the updrafts. All feels well for the time being. But, like a distant rumble of thunder and a flash of light on the horizon, a feeling of uneasiness nags at me - a soft pang of guilt rolls into my subconscious.

"What have I done over the past 3 years to prepare for what approaches over the horizon?"

"What could I have done that would have been 'enough'?"

The answer to those questions appear to be not enough and it's never enough.

So in order to come to grips with those thoughts and emotions, I'll do what I always do to work through overwhelming periods in my life... I'll make a list. What should I do to fulfill my dreams, and to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground? Where should I be now or in the near future?

I should be in a home with a low mortgage payment and taxes, perhaps one I've designed myself, more likely one that I've made changes to, to suit my family's needs. It should be in walking distance to the grocery store, shops, and services. Public transportation should be convenient and my friends and family nearby. I should know my neighbors' names within 3 homes on either side. My plot of land should be manageable and I'd enjoy the bounty of a small productive garden and a range of fruit and nut trees.

Ideally, my home would be extremely energy efficient and insulated, and require only a small wood stove to keep us warm through the winter and several fans to keep us cool in the hot summer. This 'dream house' would include a small solar array to provide enough power for the lighting in each room, to run a high-efficiency chest freezer, the coffee pot, the computer, a stereo and occasionally a small LCD TV. The grid would supply the remaining electricity to power the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and washing machine1. A solar hot water heater would provide hot water for showers in the summer, and an on-demand hot water heater would do the same in the winter, as well as radiant floor heating for the bedrooms in the winter, for the nights that the wood stove just won't cut it. Homemade insulation inserts would complete the heating (and cooling) system - fitting snugly in the windows. The clothes dryer would be a fading memory, replaced by a clothesline in the summer and a highly efficient centrifuge and drying racks/lines in the winter.

Our basement would contain an extensive pantry with non-perishables, jarred fruit and veggies, cooking oils and vinegar. A cold cellar would hold a large sack of potatoes and squash, as well as a few bushels of apples to last the winter and spring. The cool sanctuary of the basement would also transform from a hibernation den in the winter to a family sleeping area in the hot muggy summer nights. Beds, blankets and sleeping bags would come out on the 90+ degree days, as we took advantage of the geothermal cooling.

Plants in every room of the house would improve air quality, provide medicine, herbs for cooking, and natural air fresheners.

Our garage would be well organized and contain a variety of well cared for and functional tools. Gardening tools would hang on one wall, wood working and assorted electrical and plumbing tools on another. A variety of reclaimed hardwood boards, pipes, clamps, screws and the like, would make emergency trips to the hardware store a thing of the past. Aged wood would sit stacked and dry in its rack. Bins for recycling and reuse would make taking the garbage out a snap. Our trash pick up would consist only of a single 30 gallon trash pail that is taken out once every two weeks2. The remainder would be stacked, sorted, reused and recycled. Paper recycling would be minimized as the flow of junk mail would become a trickle. Cans, plastic containers, and jugs saved to become planters and short term storage of dried non-perishables. No plastic bags would enter our waste stream, due to our diligent use of reusable bags. Food scraps would be more easily composted in our new bin system, which is supplemented by twice weekly pick-ups of used coffee grounds from a local coffee shop.

I would wear three hats at work: a part-time medical provider, a part-time environmental/energy consultant, and a part-time stay at home dad. I enjoy all three jobs, the medical care provides the bulk of our income, the environmental work satisfies my technical and creative side, and having time at home a few days a week with the family is worth the foregone income, and allows my wife to continue working.

We live simply, minimizing non-essential purchases, saving cash for large purchases, camping trips and trips to see the relatives. Our monthly bills are low, and our savings comparatively high. Our small obligations mean our 3 month emergency fund could probably stretch to half a year, and our stocked pantry shelves and freezer protect us from food inflation and any shortages of essential goods. Half the freezer holds vacuum sealed veggies and fruits from the summer months, the other half holds beef and pork from a local farmer cut into small packages. Freezer jam, a stash of chocolate, and homemade pudding pops (yes a necessity) fill in the empty spaces. The refrigerator looks decidedly bare without the usual containers and bottles of processed food. Sure a few bottles of condiments are still on the shelf, but mostly fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses, homemade yogurt, milk and juice - along with some glass left over containers take up the shelf space. This week's pizza dough is making its second cold rise. Now that food is expensive, not a bit goes to waste. Bones and grizzle get turned into stock. Leftover veggies, rice, beans, etc. find their way into the "Saturday night special" - a rich and spicy soup.

In the bathroom, two plastic buckets sit under the counter. Turning a small dial diverts the sink water into the first bucket. The second goes over the shower drain to collect water while the shower water heats up. Natural and biodegradable soap and shampoo sit on the rack. The reuse of greywater compliments the rainwater collected off of the front and back gutter downspouts. The front collector is just a large watering can used to keep the front flower and herb garden watered, and in the back there is a rain barrel with a stopcock and drip hose threaded through the garden. During dry spells the gravity fed system keeps the veggies irrigated. The recent addition of an outdoor shower allows greywater to directly soak through our lawn and into the roots of the fruit trees.

Ideally our transportation would consist of a fancy new electric car, with an on board recharger for longer trips. However, I'd be very happy with a small gas-sipping car that is little used. I'd really like an electric assist bike to navigate the hills around our house. The bike would have range enough to make it to the store, and would have an attached cart to haul the kids or supplies.

We've made (or have started to make) many of the changes listed above. However, many things remain on the to-do list. Some cost more money than we have at our disposal right now. Most, however, require just time and dedication to complete.

It's my goal to list our projects publicly on my blog. One - to show others what we're working on and two - to give myself a bit of motivation.

I'd welcome your thoughts and ideas on this issue. What did I forget? What else are you working on? Please leave me a comment, or contact me at steve AT groovygreen * com.

1 It is my belief that the number of years to a disruption of the power grid are measured in decades. Even if power were to become "inconvenient" I believe that the appliances mentioned could be used intermittently, or worked around.

2 As the price of fuel continues to climb, twice weekly trash pickups may become the norm.
RIP - George Carlin
6/23/2008 07:35:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

A sad day. The loss of a great comedian/philosopher.

I bought a car yesterday
6/13/2008 05:29:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Nope, it's not a hybrid.

Nope it's not the Chevy Volt I wanted.

I bought this beauty for what I think is a good price. A good solid reliable car.

She's (aren't all cars shes? Oh wait, maybe that's just ships) a 2007 Toyota Corolla. 24K miles. Rated at 27/35 mpg. But I figure the way I've been squeaking mileage out of the Forester, I can get 40+ out of her.

The Subaru will be retained for shorter trips to the park and ride, and snowy winter days. That car has treated us really well, but you know that it's time for a new car when you can't trust Bessie to get you from point A to B on a vacation trip. Plus we will save $85+ bucks a month in gas.

We are happy with the decision. Not ecstatic, but with the economy the way it is these days, I think that practical is the way to go.

If you were wondering, the Honda Civic Hybrid was $23.5K, the Prius $24k+, with a 4 month waiting period. No test drive available. (Man, that's faith - to buy a car without test driving it!)
You Load Sixteen Tons, What Do Ya Get?
6/12/2008 11:47:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
On the Erie Canal? 8.7x more fuel efficiency!

Cross-posted at Groovy Green

erie canal map

Falling out of favor after the interstate highway system was built, the Erie Canal is still an appealing option for transporting large loads. With diesel prices at the $5 per gallon mark in New York, the canal is looking more appealing for smaller loads too. Of course it has a large competitor to overcome. It is tough to forsake the convenience and speed of delivery by tractor-trailer. However, if you can afford to wait, you can afford to ship a higher weight.

Syracuse Post-Standard:
According to the federal transportation department, shipping by water is far more energy-efficient.

In a tractor-trailer, one gallon of fuel is needed to transport one ton of freight 59 miles. On a barge, the same load will go 514 miles on a gallon of fuel.


Today the canal is used mainly as a recreational waterway.

But the tide may be turning for the canal's commercial use, said Carmella Mantello, director of the state's Canal Corp.

"The canal is slower, but it's fuel-efficient and it's greener," Mantello said. "One barge can carry the equivalent of 60 tractor-trailers."

"Hopefully, we're beginning to see a trend," Mantello said.

Last year several large tanks, bound for the Northeast Biofuels plant in Volney, were shipped from Virginia to Fulton along the canal.

"All forms of transportation are essential for the success of the biofuel plant, but the canal is definitely energy-efficient and has a small carbon footprint," said Stewart Hancock, speaking for the ethanol plant.
(emphasis mine)

Again, time is money and I don't believe in this "gotta have it now" age, that the Erie Canal will be booming again in the near future. However, having kept the barge system maintained all these years in the face of declining use, may have been one of the state's saving graces as we begin to feel the effects of peak oil.

[pic found here]
The numbers don't lie! Hypermiling works!
6/10/2008 03:12:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
UPDATE: signed up here for a cool way to track mileage after a fill-up. Here’s my badge:


Here's some recent stats from my attempt at hypermiling.


303.8 miles on 12.93 gal = 23.5 mpg (a little lead footed...)


272.7 miles on 10.15 gal = 26.9 mpg (getting better...)


330.0 miles on 11.57 gal = 28.5 mpg (best mpg to date!)


294.4 miles on 12.47 gal = 23.61 mpg (what happened!?!)


Total 1200.9 miles on 47.12 gallons = 25.5 mpg Average

Some thoughts/experiences: Using the A/C makes a big difference. Also, on hot days, I notice that the cooling fan is running nearly constantly - that must use a bit more gas than normal. I imagine that I could squeak out a few more miles by going 55 instead of 57 mph, but for some reason - my right foot is a Sammy Hagar fan. The boxy shape of the Forester + drafting behind tractor trailers and busses = a jostled ride. Don't know if drafting is helping much. Much harder not to idle when the temperature is 95 and above. I have to admit cheating a little on that one.

I got an oil change last week and put in a new air filter which should help things. What's not helping things right now is a sticky caliper on the front left disc brake. It's on the to-do list to fix. I imagine that it is reducing my mpg by 2-5 as it is an intermittent drag on acceleration.


For those wondering, here are the EPA estimates for the 2000 Forester (Revised lower this year):

forester stats
Gas Price Chart - Up 3x in 6 years
6/05/2008 11:59:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

Click for larger image
(via gasbuddy.com)
Garden 2008 Pics
6/02/2008 10:25:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
It's that time of year again. My dad and I put in the rest of the veggies on this glorious Monday.

There's nothing like working in the garden with my dad. I look forward to it every year.
A smattering of gas prices in the area
6/02/2008 09:30:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Just because it's been a while, I figured I'd throw up some recent gas prices

($4.05 is with carwash)

click here for a blast from the past (2 years ago)
Hey Syracusans, Time to Pick Up the Rock Ourselves
6/02/2008 07:41:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

This Sean Kirst column is the best metaphor that I've seen for the inaction in the Syracuse area.  Go read it.

Funny to think that the problem was solved not by a driver who bothered to pull over and take time to pick it up, but people who regularly walk "everywhere" and don't drive.

[image via Flickr static416]
Coming Soon to a Gas Station Near You: Half Gallon Pricing!
5/29/2008 08:31:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
I posted this at Groovy Green, but for those of you that only come here...

A sign of the times.

New York state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced that gas stations with non-digital fuel dispensers can apply for half gallon pricing, since older equipment cannot compute prices in excess of $3.999.

Signs advertising fuel prices must still advertise the price for a full gallon of fuel, but the price displayed on the pump would be half the per-gallon price.
Amazing to think that the manufacturers of those fuel pumps couldn't imagine a world where gasoline cost more than $3.999.

Coming soon?:

coming soon?

[This is a badly photoshopped picture of a gas station sign that I took when I thought that gas at $2.25/gal was expensive. And no, it wasn't $2.25 per 1/2 gal of ice cream, heh heh]
New Chariots of Fire..
5/16/2008 11:02:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

This is one of the coolest stories I've read in a while.  Being in a certain profession in the medical field, I just think that it is great that this athlete will be allowed to compete in the Olympic games.

A ban on Pistorius, 21, competing against able-bodied athletes, because it was feared that he might gain an advantage from running on his carbon-fibre blades, was thrown out by an historic legal decision that marked the end of a long quest for acceptance by the South African.

It is ludicrous to have thought that this man would have an advantage against able-bodied runners. 

I am so happy for Oscar, and will be rooting for him this summer.
Hypermiling in My Old Subaru (or "Life in the Slow Lane")
5/13/2008 10:48:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
gas prices 4
Well the price of gas has hit the magic $4/gal mark for regular in Syracuse, well, $3.999 to be exact. After the last fill up, I decided that I was sick of getting about 20 mpg or about 260 miles per fill up out of my old Subaru (a 2000 Forester). I decided to start trying out some basic techniques - I wouldn't let the engine rev above 2000 rpm if I could help it. I would maintain a speed of no more than 3 miles over the speed limit, and no more than 60 mph. I wouldn't accelerate into red lights, and would not idle the engine (except at traffic lights).

I've traveled 245 miles since my last fill up, and the results so far are promising. I still have a 1/4 tank to go! Normally about 250 I had to seriously consider which gas station I was headed towards. I'd say that the techniques that I described above have increased my mpg (city + hwy) from ~20 to up around 24. This means that I am getting about 20% better gas mileage! I'll know for sure, if I can squeeze the (13 gal x 24 mpg) 312 miles out of this tank. Pretty amazing results, if you think about it. 20% fuel economy improvement equals a free tank of gas out of every 5 regularly scheduled fill ups. This week I have some maintenance scheduled that should help boost the mpg even further, as there is a problem with the vacuum line in the fuel system (Damn "Check Engine" light!).

To recap, here Balogh's rules of the (expensive) road:
  • Don't let the engine rev above 2000 rpm, if you can help it. (You can pick your own number depending on make and model.)

  • Maintain the speed limit, or no more than 3 mph above. Top speed of 60 mph. (This is tougher than it seems...)

  • Do not accelerate into red lights or stop signs. (I do a lot of coasting now.)

  • Do not allow car to idle (except at stop lights).
I challenge my readers to go out and give it a shot. Let me know how you do. For those who do not have a fancy onboard computer that figures out mileage, here's how you do it:
Mark down miles on odometer upon fill up. You have to fill tank the entire way for this to work. The next time you get gas, fill the tank up completely again and note the new number on your odometer. Save your receipt from the gas station. Now you're ready to compute mpg:

(newest odometer reading [minus] old odometer reading) e.g. 109,635 - 109,392 = 243 miles.

Divide this by the number of gallons on the last fill up, e.g. 243 miles [divided by] 12.2 gal = 19.9 mpg.
Back Yard Nature in Syracuse
5/11/2008 12:37:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
woodchuckThere's nothing like seeing a wild animal in real life. Nature shows are great, and the footage available is impressive (see the Planet Earth series for example). However, I prefer the rarer "close encounters" with animals off the screen.

This spring, I've have the luck of being in the right place at the right time, right outside my front door. Several weeks ago, just after midnight, I ran out to my car to get something. As I stepped out the door, I noticed a deer out of the corner of my eye, slowly walking towards the road. At the same time I heard a car coming up the street (don't worry, this story has a happy ending...) Instead of the car barreling down the street and reducing the deer population by one, it saw the deer and slowed down. The deer froze in my front yard. The driver made a few noises like he was calling his cat, and the deer nonchalantly walked away from the car - and right towards me. I stood motionless, thinking "I can't believe how big this animal really is." The deer passed right on the other side of the bush in front of me - stopping when it caught my scent. I was less than five feet away. Time slowed to a stand still, and my heart was racing. I was eye to eye with a glorious looking doe. After one hour 15 seconds - the jig was up. The deer saw me and did its best imitation of a cartoon character, spinning its legs in place before barreling out of there.

A week or so after that while locking up, I noticed another doe walking up from the side of my house. I stepped out and watched one deer after another come around the side of the house and head for the woods across the street. Six does passed by - this time at a stones throw. Funny thing was each one stopped - and looked both ways(!) - before crossing the road. The big mommas and the little babies all knew to check both ways before venturing over the blacktop. Pretty incredible to see adaptation in action.

The last little encounter might not be much to write home about, but it was still a wonderful break in my day. Around dusk, I headed out side and heard a little commotion on the side of the house. I saw a plump little brown body scurry under the garage. I waited and watched as a beady little head popped up out of the hole - a woodchuck. He and I entered a staring contest of sorts. He trying to figure out if I were there to do him harm, and myself thinking "I can't believe that that little bugger lives under my garage!"

All of these little glimpses of nature have stuck with me. They made me feel alive.

Appreciating the scope and diversity of the animal life on this planet is important. I'll be sure that my children have access to nature videos, books, and the like. However, just as importantly, I'll take them out in the yard, and show them how wonderful our local "critters" are.

[photo via Wikipedia]
Gratuitous Asparagus Shots
4/23/2008 08:51:00 AM | Author: baloghblog
From the last post:

Earth Day Wrap-up
4/23/2008 08:45:00 AM | Author: baloghblog

I guess I am supposed to spout the obligatory quote that “every day is Earth Day” in my household. But for those who are interested, here’s what we did in the Balogh household yesterday:

  • Filled up the compost bin with the grass and leaves from the spring clean-up. (This year they’re shredded, so I expect a quicker composting period.)
  • Experimented (and succeeded) in making homemade organic hot oatmeal. Not too hard actually. I guess that I can stop buying the pre-packaged stuff now.
  • Walked from campus instead of taking the bus.
  • Gazed admiringly at my asparagus rising tall in my garden. (Does this count? Maybe under meditation…)
  • Attended Earth Day festivities on campus.
  • Spent time with my parents. Planted the first of my family veggie garden with my dad - peas, beans, kale, luffa (what the heck, why not!)
  • Tried to solve Costa Rica’s food security challenges with a urban agriculture program a la Cuba (Term paper #1)
  • Tried to find solutions to China’s sky rocketing demand for automobiles, and oil by exploring a car-sharing program (Term paper #2)
  • Brought my wife some flowers out of the garden.

Not that impressive of a list, but I plan on expanding it this weekend with a group clean up of trash in our neighborhood with my friends, and hitting the farmer’s market this Saturday.

I am officially not an "upstate blogger" anymore
4/21/2008 08:50:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

Yes, it's my own damn fault for neglecting this blog and neglecting my hometown. But I have to admit that I was a little bummed not to see my blog listed in the Post-Standard's aggregated feed of local bloggers.

With my limited time on the computer (not doing school work, that is) I've tended to be more of an avid blog-reader than a blog-ger. There's been many things worth commenting on, if only I had a few more hours in the day. Their all old news now, and not worth revisiting.

A topic worth writing about is what transplants and college students think of Syracuse. I've had the pleasure of meeting a wide variety of people who, for whatever reason, have made their way to Syracuse to get their college degrees. I've made friends and acquaintances from far away places - Pakistan, Kenya, Jamaica, Dominica, India, Korea, France, and beyond. Yeah, they complain about the cold. Yes, the snow too. But it's hearing the things they do like about the area that is the thing that makes me happy to have grown up here. They rave about the scenery. They like our many local parks, lakes, waterfalls, and natural places. The endless (well, nearly endless) supply of fresh clean water. The inexpensive homes on comparatively large plots of land. The local schools. Access to brilliant minds and speakers.

They bring with them their strong ambition, and their work ethic. They take the bus, bike, or walk to school. They bring a piece of their home countries with them, meeting for tea, taking in foreign films, raving about how great their home town is. I find myself raving about Syracuse too. I want to sell them on living here.

I want to add their cosmopolitan and world-traveled voices to Syracuse. I want their enthusiasm and zeal to wear off on other Syracusans. I want my children to have wonderful conversations about foreign lands, and other ways of life. I want them to appreciate the wonderful gift of abundant fresh water, by speaking to someone who grew up with little of it. I want them to know that Islamabad is not just a place on a map, or a news item, but a real place where a chain-smoking, tea-slugging, dry-humored Fulbright Scholar comes from.

Mostly, I just want my friends to stick around for a little longer.

Its been an amazing experience going back to school. I've learned a lot about the world, and a bit about a corner of the city that I never really frequented other than basketball games. I've also learned a lot about myself, and my hometown, in the process.

damn, it feels good to write again...
Empty Pep Boys Building Finally Finds a New Tenant
4/21/2008 08:25:00 PM | Author: baloghblog

This one has a local flavor, but is a big deal in our little corner of the world. Bob Niedt reports that the long empty Pep Boys in Westvale Plaza has found a new tenant.

Here's some of my thoughts on it from the Geddesblog:
Don't even get me started about what used to occupy this space prior to the Pep Boys Automotive that was in and out of their faster than one of their oil changes. I loved the old Genesee Theater, and still can remember the sticky feeling on my shoes to this day. China Pavillion was in the rear of the theater, and dinner and a movie were always a good date. (Hey I was in high school, chinese food and a cheapie movie were a big deal back in those days!) Yeah it was cold in the winter, and the movies were a few weeks past their prime, but the place had character. All you have to do is look to the newly renovated Palace Theatre in Eastwood to see what the Genesee could have become too.

Never-the-less, the Genesee closed it's doors on Sept 16th, 1996. Pep Boys did the same 3 years later in 1999. Can you believe this building has sat here for 6 years without a tenant? Pep Boys should be sued, and as a repayment for the community, have to dig up every brick and sticky floor tile from the landfill and rebuild that theater. (on second thought, maybe someone should just redevelop that area - heh heh)
Well, it's now sat empty for 9 years, but will be empty no longer...
...the new Solvay store, in Westvale Plaza, will carry name-brand items -- Sony, Eddie Bauer, Ralph Lauren, for example -- discounted at least 30 percent to 35 percent off standard retail prices.

Everything in the store is new, but discounted because the manufacturer pulled them from retail chains for newer models, different packaging or the items didn't sell well. Stock runs from clothing and household items to consumer electronics, sports equipment, outdoor furniture and more.

Oneida Indian Nation spokesman Mark Emery said the store is expected to open in early June and will employ up to 25 people.
Well, its no sticky floored cheapy theater, but it seems like a good business. Hopefully she'll stick around a few more years than the Pep Boys did.

At least we don't have to see that damn eternal light bulb burning anymore.
2/16/2008 11:09:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Don't know where it came from, but here's where I got it.

Reform vs. Revolution
2/15/2008 01:17:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
This topic deserves more than one measly blog post, so I hope to expand on the idea over time. Right now, it's just a way to sort out the thoughts in my head that have been swirling around since I returned to college to study environmental policy.

The idea of reform vs. revolution comes up frequently in contemporary discussion about environmental concerns. The typical "image" of a environmentalist in the 1970-1980's would have mostly likely been described as a Greenpeace activist chasing off a Japanese whaling ship, or a radical ecologist chaining themselves to a tree to prevent deforestation or destruction of a endangered species habitat. How would you describe today's environmentalist "image"? I guess that the idea conjures up a Prius driving (or a bike-riding), organic and local food eater, working to become more sustainable and "off the grid", who may or may not write a passionate blog, disgorging his soul out over the keyboard to his "community" of like minded readers.

Perhaps the image is different to you. (if so please comment on what you believe the image to be. Please base it on action, not ideals.)

The question raised in reform vs. revolution, is what is the best means to achieve our goal of "saving the environment"?
  • Should we attempt to reform the system that we live in? (In my case the capitalist, representative political system.)
  • Would we be best served by changing the habits of consumers to make them more sustainable?
Reformist argue, there is no sense in fighting the system we live in, we'd be better off in compromising some of our principles to achieve changes in the habits of our fellow citizens currently unaware or uninterested in environmental issues. Many would describe themselves as "realists".

  • Capitalism is the root of many of the environmental damages inflicted over the past 200 years. The government in its current form is ineffective in dealing with these problems. Why should we attempt to reform these corrupt systems when they are a major reason that we are in this mess in the first place?
  • Is our goal to become "more sustainable" yet still not truly sustainable? Can we really grow our way into sustainability?
Today, many "revolutionary" environmentalists espouse going "off the grid", or dropping out of society. Anti-consumerism permeates the mission: frugality, strict conservation, 100 mile diets, no new purchases for a year, etc.

At this point in the discussion, we are not going to choose sides or make judgments.

I'll close with a few mental exercises. Compare the following:

a) Someone who sells their car, and walks, bikes, and takes public transportation everywhere they need to go.

b) Someone who drives a hybrid 30 mins each way to work, to a government think tank job which helped write the law that improved mileage standards by several mpg over the next 10 years.


a) Someone who puts up solar panels, and changes to LED lighting and minimal use of electricity in order to get off the grid.

b) The Walmart executive that made getting consumers to switch to CFL's from incandescent bulbs a top environmental policy.


a) The person that votes for a Green Party candidate

b) The person that votes for the candidate judged "more environmentally friendly" in the main two political parties.

Thoughts are welcome.

UPDATE: It's amazing how ideas or memes spread through the internet. I was sent this post randomly today. It's asking questions along the same lines that I proposed: