Archive for August, 2007

Friday Funday CLXII

Friday Funday brings you some fun and interesting links from my travels around the internet. Funday links will open in a new window.

The Inappropriate Yoga Guy [del.icio.us]

“Ogden creates awkward situations in yoga studios throughout the San Fernando Valley. Dont worry folks he is in the teacher training program.”

That Special Monkey [del.icio.us]

This clever little animation won a student academy award. Via Open Mind

Oshiri kajiri mushi [del.icio.us]

Apparantly, the butt biting bug song is huge in Japan. For some reason, I’m not at all surprised.

The 12 Master Formats of TV Advertising [del.icio.us]

Perhaps this is only interesting to people in the industry, but this video explains the twelve formats of advertising, into which all TV ads fit.

Feed the Head [del.icio.us]

I previously featured Feed the Head in Friday Funday CXLIII. I’m featuring it again because it has been updated to be even more surreal.

BlogDay

Thanks to Nicole for pointing this out to me.

So here’s the deal: Today is BlogDay. The idea is to link to five interesting blogs so that readers can be exposed to other cool blogs.

  1. LG reminds me a lot of my friend AJ. If only a lolatini were a real drink. Hey LG, we have some mixology to get to work on.
  2. The Appreciator is the blog of Jami Dwyer. Her taste in music is bested only by her taste in wine.
  3. Don’t look now, but Meg is Quietly Judging You. She probably drinks too much, but she’s unnecessarily descriptive about her personal life, and that always makes for an entertaining blog.
  4. mcCutcheon has Squishy Thoughts about life, love, and language. Plus, she lives in Vienna. How cool is that?
  5. Nicole’s Blush Response proves she’s not a replicant. Although it would be pretty awesome if she were.

Ads on ALLO

After six years, it’s finally happened. I’ve added advertising to my website.

For a long time, and for various reasons, I was strongly opposed to having ads on my site. However my hobby has been an expensive one, and I’d like it to start paying me back.

There are many professional bloggers, and the freedom of that lifestyle is quite enticing. Coupled with the fact that writing has always been enjoyable for me, the decision to start trying to earn income through my blog was an easy one. The question then became, how do I add advertising to my site in a tasteful, effective way?

Google Ads were an obvious choice. They’ve become ubiquitous on the internet and tend to get included in any online advertising campaign. The rules of having them on my site prohibit me from asking you to click on the ads, but if you do, I certainly won’t be upset (quite the opposite, actually).

The Amazon PayPage was another easy choice, because it’s easy to implement, allows users to donate as much as they want, and ensures the safety of each user’s credit information. I also like the idea that, if you pay me, I become your psuedo-employee and will write about (pretty much) anything you want.

After a small redesign to incorporate the ads, I realized that I needed to blog more. Some of you may have noticed an increase in the number &mdash and length &mdash of blog entries. Hopefully, more posts will translate into increased traffic; both in repeat visits and new readers.

In the future, I’ll be adding a graphical ad with a special ad management system that will allow you to upload your ad and schedule flights. I just have to figure out how to make the cool, but complicated, idea in my head actually work.

I’m interested in getting feedback about the site, so comment and tell me what you think. Since this site is nothing without the users, I’ll take what you say to heart. What do you think about the ads? Have the blog posts been interesting? Would you recommend my site to others?

10 Easy Things You Can Do to Save the Earth

The idea that everyone everywhere should go carbon neutral is unrealistic, but the idea that everyone everywhere could significantly reduce their carbon footprint is both realistic, and something that can be done immediately. Two of the main arguments against attempting to reduce one’s carbon footprint are that the steps to do so will be expensive and will require a large time investment.

With that, I present this list of ten things you can to reduce your carbon footprint, while also saving money, and which don’t require more than a few minutes of your time. Let me know if you like this list and I’ll post more ideas.

1) Use CFLs and LEDs

I know, I know, everyone says this, but it’s true! Compact fluorescent lamps are inexpensive when you consider that they last up to 10 times longer and use about 75% less energy than incandescent light bulbs. Don’t like that bright white color? Most CFLs come in a range of color temperatures, so you can get ones that are more like the bulbs you’re used to.

In the interest of full-disclosure, I want to point out two drawbacks to CFLs. First of all, some of them do not work on dimmers. Many do, however, and the distinction will be made on the packaging. Second, CFLs contain mercury, which is hazardous to the environment. As such, CFLs must be disposed of properly. Contact your local waste management facility to find out what’s available in your area (or find out using this website).

LED lamps are relatively new and still fairly expensive. However, in the long run, they’re far less expensive than even CFLs. LED lamps use very little electricity and last 6 times longer than CFLs! LED technology is constantly getting better, and they’re being used everywhere these days. Unless something better suddenly appears, you can expect LEDs to become the de facto source of light in most applications. True, they aren’t right in every situation, but for most things, they’re perfect.

2) Turn off your lights

Now that you have light bulbs that use less electricity, turn them off. People seem to turn on lights completely unconsciously. It amazes me that people have such a hard time turning lights off, or leaving lights off, even when they aren’t needed.

For example: The break room where I work has a big window that lets in a lot of light. Despite this, the lights are almost always on, even when no one is in the break room. Why? When I go into the break room and the lights are off, I can see perfectly well. I can understand if someone can’t see well enough and actually needs the extra light, but turn it off when you’re done! Even in the middle of the night, the lights in the break room stay on. Considering that the break room is empty over 90% of the (24 hour) day, why are they on almost 100% of the time?

A classic argument against turning lights on and off all day is that it wears down the life of the bulb. The MythBusters tested this, and busted it.

The savings of turning off your lights are substantial. If you have a bulb that uses 60 watts per hour, and you turn it off for one extra hour per day, you could conserve nearly 22,000 watts of energy per year!

3) Stop drinking bottled water

Before you roll your eyes and skip this one, read what I have to say.

The production and delivery of a single 1 liter bottle of Fiji Water requires 6.74 times as much water as is in the bottle. Does that make sense? I like to pick on Fiji Water, because it’s the most popular, but the fact of the matter is that all bottled water suffers from the same problem. It’s unimaginably bad for the environment.

The main argument in favor of bottled water is that it’s cleaner than tap water. This isn’t necessarily true. Since the FDA doesn’t regulate bottled water very heavily, the standards of what’s allowed to be in it are very low. In fact, the FDA doesn’t even require that bottled water be bottled in sanitary conditions! The municipal water supply, on the other hand, is regulated by the EPA, which has very stringent standards. Moreover, almost 25% of the bottled water that people drink is nothing but tap water that has been bottled! That’s not to say that it’s unsafe, just that it could be.

A lot of sources say to buy a Nalgene bottle, but I’m not a fan of them (no good reason why, I’ve just never liked them). I buy a bottle Fiji Water every once in a great while, then re-use the bottle until it’s no good anymore. That way, I can look “trendy” without killing the planet (as much).

4) Adjust the thermostat on your water heater

The current advice is to set it to 120 degrees. That’s where mine is set, and I’m never disappointed with the temperature of the water. The only drawback is that Morah and I have to plan our showers a little more carefully to ensure that there will be enough hot water for both of us, but Morah usually showers at night, and I usually shower in the morning, so it’s working out well for us.

Also, keeping it at 120° is a good idea, because anything hotter could scald you (even 120° is pretty damn hot).

5) Adjust the thermostat on your heating/cooling system

Raise it two degrees in the summer and lower it two degrees in the winter. This has the potential to stop 2,000 pounds of CO2 pollutants from entering the atmosphere each year. That having been said, if you absolutely need the extra two degrees, go for it. Just take a moment to think if there’s another, more Earth-friendly option (like putting on or taking off clothes).

Better yet, get a programmable thermostat. When no one is home, or when everyone is asleep, let the house be uncomfortably warm in the summer and cold in the winter. Just don’t forget about indoor pets!

6) Conserve water

A faucet that drips at the rate of one drop per second will end up wasting 2,700 gallons of water annually! A leaky toilet could waste 200 gallons every day! Fixing these leaks is often simple and inexpensive; the cost to fix it will be more than made up on your water bill.

Plants and grass also suck up a lot of water. Try to landscape using plants that are native to where you live; these plants will be used to the amount of water found in the area naturally. Over watering is a common and costly problem. Your grass may not even need to be watered! Your grass doesn’t need to be watered every day; watering your grass deeply and infrequently is the best plan. When you water your grass, do it in the morning or evening. Direct sunlight will evaporate much of the water.

We’ve all heard the old adage, “if it’s yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down.” But that’s pretty gross, so instead, try putting a brick in your toilet tank to use less water (you could buy a low-flow toilet, but this list is supposed to save you money while saving the planet. Plus, have you ever installed a toilet? It’s not as easy as it seems).

7) Drive the speed limit

Not only is it much safer, but you’ll have lower carbon emissions and you’ll save money — both by improving your fuel economy and by not getting a speeding ticket.

8) Bag the bags!

The case against plastic bags is fast becoming a hot issue, and it’s no surprise when you consider the facts. Plastic bags have been choking our planet for 30 years, both during the manufacturing process and after they’re thrown away.

Here are some easy and inexpensive ideas to help reduce the number of plastic bags you use:

  • Reduce whenever possible. I recently bought a jar of mustard from a local farm and the woman said, “Let me put that in a bag for you.” I quickly grabbed the jar and said, “That’s okay, I don’t need one.” And it’s true, I didn’t need one. Next time you’re buying something, stop and think whether or not you really need it in a bag.
  • Reuse plastic bags whenever you can. Ziploc bags are particularly useful, but also surprisingly durable. I personally reuse Ziploc bags as many times as I can before disposing of them. I bring crackers with me to work almost every day, and I can reuse the same bag for weeks before it needs to be replaced.
  • When you buy groceries, bring your own bags to the grocery store. Reusing the plastic bags they give you, while possible, probably isn’t a good idea since they’re so flimsy. Instead, invest in some cloth bags. Most super markets sell them near the checkout counters. At my grocery store, the bags only cost 99 cents each, and every time I use them, I earn a 5 cent rebate (per bag!).
  • You could combine both of the two above ideas into one. A girl I used to work with would bring her snacks to work in a wax paper bag, which she would reuse.

9) Don’t eat fast food

I was thinking about this recently and I realized that fast food is absolutely awful for the environment.

Before I explain why, let me just point out that I don’t know exactly how the distribution of fast food works, so this is all just conjecture. Also, keep in mind that each chain will have its own methods, which may differ from other restaurants.

Most likely, the food you get at a fast food restaurant came from somewhere many miles from where you live (possibly even another country). It’s shipped to a processing center, where it undergoes a factory process. It is then shipped to at least one distribution center, where it gets sent out to your local restaurant. Don’t forget that all of the packaging also goes through this process. So before you even order it, your food and its packaging has been shipped at least six times (three times each for the food and packaging) and gone through at least two factory processes (one each for the food and packaging). By the time you order your food, its carbon footprint is huge.

After you order it, the food is cooked (which required energy, thereby expending more carbon) and you throw the packaging away (and we all know what happens to the garbage).

Again, this is all just what I assume happens based on what I’ve learned over the years about agriculture, processing, and shipping. For some hard numbers, check out Jamais Cascio’s great article, the cheeseburger footprint.

The bottom line: Not only does fast food clog your arteries with cholesterol, but it also clogs landfills with garbage and the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses. Plus, it’s more expensive to eat at most fast food restaurants than it is to eat something from home.

10) Walk or ride your bike whenever you can

Over half of our CO2 comes from vehicles, and for each mile you eliminate, you save one pound of CO2.

I’ll admit that this one might not save you time (unless finding parking takes a long time), but it will save you a lot of money and it’s very healthy for you. You want to know the real reason why French people stay thin? It’s because they walk everywhere. Where I live, the public transportation isn’t the greatest, which makes it kind of hard, but I do walk to and from work when I can.

The Global Warming Debate Cannot be Ignored

A small debate as to the validity of the claims that global warming makes has, unsurprisingly, broken out in the comments section of my post, Ignoring the Global Warming Debate. There’s some good stuff in there, so instead of letting it stay hidden in the comments, I’ve decided to post some of the comments here, along with some new comments.

Kris: This is not why I’m posting a comment, but I have never heard a respectable climate scientist disagree with the basic tenets of “Global Warming” – ever. I have heard people debate it, certainly, but they’ve never had any credentials to back it up.

Thomas: In The Great Global Warming Swindle, the experts are definitely credible scientists (although one of them claims his statements were misconstrued through editing). Yes, expert scientists are telling us that carbon dioxide is a problem and that humans are to blame for the excess. But don’t forget that they were paid to reach that conclusion.

Kris: I haven’t seen the film, so feel free to correct me, but I think it is far more likely that people were paid to reach the conclusion that global warming is not of human cause, then to say that it is.

Thomas: They could have been, but if you look through the list of experts in TGGWS, many of them are university professors; people whose jobs wouldn’t necessarily be dependent on reaching a certain conclusion. If anything, you would expect a university to want their research faculty to reach the right conclusion.

Kris: There is a lot more money to be in oil, fuel, deforestation and pollution (insofar as large corporations can save money by disposing of waste improperly) then there is off of the “green lifestyle.”

Thomas: True, there’s a lot of money in cutting corners, but the “green lifestyle” industry generates billions in consumer revenue every year. There are climate scientists whose jobs rely on being able to get funding to study climate change, so if there isn’t a problem, then they’re out of a job. Media outlets know that news about the entire human race being in peril gets higher ratings than unicorns and lollipops, and higher ratings directly translates into more money. More and more businesses (big and small) are learning that simple “green” changes can not only save the companies millions of dollars annually, but endear the companies to a global warming fearing public. So you can’t honestly tell me that the “green lifestyle” isn’t extremely profitable.

Kris: “Scientific American” put it best when they outlined what the effects of extreme climate change will look like in the next 10, 20, 50 years if the rate of carbon emissions continues unfettered; while there may not be enough physical evidence for some people right now, there most certainly will be within a few decades (but, of course, by that point attempting to undo what has happened will be exponentially more difficult).

Thomas: I’m not saying that carbon dioxide isn’t causing the global temperature to rise, or that humans aren’t to blame. I’m just saying that listening to what one group of people is saying without listening to what the other group is saying is a bad idea.

From one atheist to another, don’t be religious about this. Don’t have faith that what some experts tell you is correct, simply because they’re experts.

Watch The Great Global Warming Swindle (video link), watch the episode of Penn & Teller’s Bullshit that deals with Global Warming Hysteria, read articles that offer counter evidence, then decide for yourself what’s true.

Don’t forget that back in the 1970s, credible climate scientists (“the experts”) were predicting a global cooling trend that would plunge us into another ice age. They got it wrong then and they could be getting it wrong now. There’s still a lot we don’t know about our environment, and changing even one tiny variable can change the entire outcome of the computer models.

Kris: I got in an argument with my dad once, because he had just read some book that attempted to debunk global warming. I had to end the argument by simply saying, “there is no debate, Dad. You cannot show me an actual scientist who thinks there’s nothing wrong with our current level of pollution, climate change or toxic emissions into both the ground and atmosphere, because such a person does not exist.”

Thomas: Now you’re talking about two different things. Of course there is no scientist in the world who believes that there’s nothing wrong with our current level of pollution. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who honestly thinks there’s nothing wrong with our current level of pollution. But you’re assuming that our carbon output is directly responsible for climate change, even though there are credible climate scientists saying it’s not (and they’re using the exact same data as the ones who are saying we’re to blame). So I disagree, I think there is a debate, and I think it’s a good one to have. As scientists, or at least, as people who believe in logic and reason, we should strive toward both the truth and the betterment of mankind. If it turns out that the truth is man isn’t to blame for climate change, that doesn’t mean that we should continue to pollute.

Kris: Like you alluded to, there’s more to this than the warming of our planet. Say what you will about naturally occurring fluctuations in the earth’s temperature, or the accuracy of measurement equipment a century ago; but that’s hardly the point. We need to correct our behavior. We need to be friendlier to this planet. We need to consume less and produce less pollution of every kind. Not because the poles are going to melt (although I subscribe to the belief that they are/will), but because it is simply not healthy for either the human population or the earth itself.

Everyone agrees that we need less chemical and artificial additives in our food, why not in our air, our water, our parks or our soil? So, long story short: yes! We can (or at least, we should) all agree that pumping toxins into the atmosphere is a bad idea, no matter what lobby group is paying you. 🙂

Thomas: I’m not saying we shouldn’t live green. You know as well as anyone else that I’m fanatical about taking care of our planet and reducing our consumption and waste (and that I have been for most of my life). I just don’t think anyone benefits from wide-spread panic and fear.

At this point, my mind is open to any possibility. If it turns out that carbon dioxide is the problem and humans are to blame, then I’ll feel good knowing that I’m already doing what I can to reduce my carbon footprint. If it turns out that carbon dioxide isn’t the problems and humans aren’t to blame, then I’ll still feel good knowing that I’m doing what I can to help protect the planet in other ways.

Most of all, no matter what the outcome of the global warming debate is, I don’t intend to stop living green. Like they say, do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do.

Secular Sunday IV – The 50 Least Religious Countries

Sweden tops the list of the 50 least religious countries with up to 85% of the population identifying themselves as atheist, agnostic, or non-believer in God (Sweden’s population is almost 9 million).

The United States is number 44 on the list, with a paltry 3-9% atheist, agnostic, or non-believer (our population is almost 300 million).

It was also interesting to note the conclusions made by this study:

Based on a careful assessment of the most recent survey data available, we find that somewhere between 500,000,000 and 750,000,000 humans currently do not believe in God.

Given the above estimates, we can deduce that there are approximately 58 times as many atheists as there are Mormons, 41 times as many atheists as there are Jews, 35 times as many atheists as there are Sikhs, and twice as many atheists as there are Buddhists. Finally, nonbelievers in God as a group come in fourth place after Christianity (2 billion), Islam (1.2 billion), and Hinduism (900 million) in terms of global ranking of commonly-held belief systems.

Seriously? Fourth most commenly-held belief system? That really changes things! I think we (non-theists) have grown slightly hopeless as of late, especially in this country. All of the reports I’ve read lately suggest that atheism, although it’s gaining traction, doesn’t have the numbers to affect much change. But if this study is true, then atheists have an even better chance at affecting change than even the Mormons!

Looks like there’s some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel. The two things we need to do now are: Convince all atheists, agnostics, and non-believers to proclaim their non-faith (many are still afraid to do so); and begin converting theists to atheists in the United States.

Door to door seems to work for the Mormons, so grab your best friend and a copy of The Origin of Species and start knocking on doors.

Antibacterial Soap vs. Regular Soap

The first sentence of this article is all you need to know: Antibacterial soaps are no more effective than plain soap and water for killing disease-causing germs.

Morah wanted me point out that the above statement is true as long as you wash your hands properly.

Friday Funday CLXI

Friday Funday brings you some fun and interesting links from my travels around the internet. Funday links will open in a new window.

Who Says Hip Hop Is Dead? [del.icio.us]

It’s slow to get going, but by the end I was laughing out loud because this video nails exactly how the internet works.

5 Reasons Why a ‘Thundercats’ Movie is a Must [del.icio.us]

Do I honestly have to write a description for this?

Screwdriver Warning [del.icio.us]

Not to be inserted into… WHERE?!

Pillage the Village [del.icio.us]

This game, which portends to be the prequel to Defend Your Castle, has kept my attention for the past three days.

What Teachers Make [del.icio.us]

Taylor Mali tells it like it is.

003 – ALLO: There’s green and crazy hippy green. I’m not crazy hippy green.

Kermit was wrong; it's easy being green.

Ignoring the Global Warming Debate

I’m getting a little sick of hearing all these differing viewpoints on global warming. For as many people as say that it’s a real phenomenon that we have to deal with immediately, there are just as many people who claim that there’s nothing to worry about.

I recently watched two documentaries about global warming: An Inconvenient Truth and The Great Global Warming Swindle. In case you haven’t seen them, let me sum them up for you:

An Inconvenient Truth: Global warming is real and humans are to blame! We’re pumping way too much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and it’s causing the temperature to rise, which is causing weather abnormalities, and if left unchecked, will eventually kill us all!

The Great Global Warming Swindle: Al Gore is a liar! Global warming has been blown way out of proportion. Yes, carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, but there isn’t very much of it in the atmosphere, and the percentage of it caused by humans is very small. The temperature of the planet has always fluctuated. It’s been much hotter and much colder than it is now.

AIT: You slanderous liar! Humans are to blame for everything that’s wrong with this planet! My really big graph shows that as the level of carbon dioxide rises, the temperature also rises!

TGGWS: You dolt, you’re looking at the data the wrong way. Rises in temperature cause the rise in carbon dioxide, not the other way around.

AIT: What about the melting glaciers? Have you seen how much ice is falling off of Greenland?

TGGWS: That much ice always falls off of Greenland. The only difference is that now, we have camera crews there to video tape it. Besides, humans don’t affect the climate, magic space rays do!

AIT: What? Magic space rays? What the hell are you talking about?

TGGWS: You know, magic space rays from super novae. They cause clouds, but sometimes the solar winds from the sun push them away from Earth and clouds don’t form. That’s the real cause of global warming. By the way, that big graph was pretty cool, how did you make it?

AIT: Oh, I did the whole thing in Keynote on my Mac.

TGGWS: Wait, by yourself?

AIT: Yeah, Keynote is really easy to use. You should get a Mac.

TGGWS: Okay, I’ll look into it. Thanks!

Anyway, you get the idea.

So here we have two films that present completely opposing viewpoints and support those viewpoints with what appears to be credible evidence. Both films are strongly supported by reliable sources, many of whom are climate scientists. But when the foremost experts on climate change don’t agree, what is the public supposed to think?

Both films made one point that was exactly the same: If someone is paid to reach a particular conclusion, he’ll reach that conclusion.

Personally, my beliefs about global warming are somewhere in the middle. I believe that our climate is changing, but I’m not convinced that carbon dioxide is responsible, and I’m not convinced that humans are directly responsible. That having been said, I do think that we should attempt to reduce our carbon emissions — because there’s an awful lot of carbon dioxide in the air without us adding more — and we should attempt to limit the amount of waste we create.

People will always disagree on pretty much every topic, but here’s something we should all be able to agree on: pollution is bad. Period. Even if it isn’t affecting the planet in as dramatic a way as global warming proponents claim it is, we can all agree that pumping toxins into the environment is not a good idea, right?

That’s really the message that both sides need to send. Life will exist on this planet for a long time to come, and it’s our responsibility to ensure that we don’t pollute the planet to a point where it negatively impacts future life. Even if we aren’t the cause of global warming, we are polluting the planet and (literally) burning through all of our non-renewable resources. Is it a bad idea to research and utilize renewable resources? No, of course not. Doing so ensures that, 100 trillion barrels of oil from now, we’ll still be able to drive our cars, fly our airplanes, and power our cities. And the beneficial side-effect is that we pump fewer toxins into the environment in the mean time.

Living green isn’t as hard as people think. It also costs a lot less than people think (in most cases, you can actually save money with green alternatives). In an effort to inspire people to pursue green living, I’m going to post some ideas and articles from time to time that deal with environmental issues. As I mentioned before, I’ll have an entry outlining ten easy things you can do to save the Earth. And yes, they’re all easy and inexpensive. Keep an eye out for it next week!

So what’s your stance on global warming?

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