Gasoline is an addiction

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The first gas crisis happened before I was born but cars today are less fuel efficient than they were in the 70’s. I usually try not to curse on my blog but seriously what the fuck?! We as a nation have done a lot of amazing things: put a man on the moon with less computer memory (64k) than is in your current mobile phone, invented the Internet, sequenced the human genome – I can go on and on – but some how a fuel efficient car escapes us. Seriously?
Ten years ago in 1998, I lived in England and gas was the equivalent of $8 a gallon. Some of my classmates had cars and their response wasn’t a huge public outcry. They simply made sure that they bought smaller, more fuel efficient cars! Whoa. A mind shattering idea, right? Since i got back, I have been in the minority in believing that gas should cost more that it does now. I had a car from 1999 – 2000 and felt that way when I was paying $1.20 a gallon even though I was a poor college student. I am not Casandra but the handwriting on this wall was pretty clear to me then and it still is now: the problem we have isn’t with the price of gas. The problem is gas, period.
As Thomas Friedman puts it in his recent op-ed piece, “When a person is addicted to crack cocaine, his problem is not that the price of crack is going up.His problem is what that crack addiction is doing to his whole body. The cure is not cheaper crack, which would only perpetuate the addiction and all the problems it is creating. The cure is to break the addiction.
To that I say “Amen!” I wrote about this topic in 2005 and so did Mr. Friedman but 3 years later we are still in the same stupid place: buying oil from dictators and/or Russia with no better plan in place. What a lovely situation to be in.
Sure, you may say that as a walker, subway and train rider and cab passenger living in Manhattan I never have known what it was like to own and operate a car. Well, I just joined the car class – I have an 09 Matrix that gets 21 city and 29 highway which still isn’t good enough for me but unfortunately, a hybrid is super expensive and leasing one really isn’t an option.
To be honest, I wish I was paying $6 – $8 a gallon for gas as it would be better for the planet that my daughter is inheriting from me one day.


50 Ways To Fix Your Life

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The Dec, 2004 U.S. News & World Reports issue had a feature titled “50 Ways To Fix Your Life” which I’ve been keeping around for the past few years because so many of the suggestions were really, really, really good. I’m not kidding. Some of them are totally common sense but it helps to refresh your memory that you should be doing them. Some of them though are slightly “out-of-the-box” and definitely worth shared. As I’m trying to save space in my apartment these days, I figured why don’t I post this great advice and recycle the mag. I would have just linked to the suggestions but for some reason the links are broken so I’ve decided to take my own time and chronicle the best parts of what I read verbatim (thanks US N&WR). After the jump are 50 ways to fix your life (that is if your life could use some fixing and let’s face it, whose couldn’t?)

    Simplify: 1 – 10 – the greatest journey may begin with a single step, but before you put your shoes on, you need to know where you’re headed. If you’re too busy, it can be hard to choose that path – or to figure out that you’ve already set yourself on the wrong road. Cut back. You’ll be amazed what you learn.

  1. Set your priorities. We spend a lot of time on things that are important but not urgent so we end up running out of time to do everything we want. Try to start each day with a list of the day’s tasks and rank them according to what can wait and what can’t. Mark them A, B, or C and then tear up the B’s and C’s. If you get all of the A’s done, you’ll feel great and have a successful day. The B’s and C’s either move up the list as they become more urgent or they drop off. What most of us do is not make the choice. We just plug along, and then we get frustrated when we run out of time. One way to make sure you don’t run out of time is to slow down, not speed up. You’ll enjoy the things you do more and do them better.
  2. Learn to meditate. Regular meditation can offset many of the effects of stress, it can boost the immune system and help treat symptoms and pain associated with chronic illnesses. Whether its yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or repetitive prayer,, the basic science is the same: stress bring forth a “fight or flight” reaction in the body, releasing epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream, which increase blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension. It can be challenging to get started meditating though. One way it to do an exercise called “fill your cup.” You reflective over the coffee every morning for five minutes, savoring each sip and concentrating on “drinking in” the qualities you’ll need to get through the day, like strength or endurance. Then, in the afternoon if possible, try to lie down for 10-15 minutes, rest your eyes and concentrate on slowly inhaling and exhaling while envisioning a favorite spot. Even if other thoughts intrude, don’t feel like a failure, just try to return to the image even if it takes awhile. “Everyone thinks they are bad at meditation – that they’re not disciplined enough, that they can’t make their mind blank – but its is an innate human skill,” says Lorin Roche, author of Meditation Made Easy.
  3. Clean your closets. If you haven’t worn something in two years, either donate it or throw it out.
  4. Donate your phone. Non-profits will take your old cellphones. Help a brother out.
  5. Save your snapshots. Get old photos out of boxes and into albums. They’ll last longer that way and you’ll be able to enjoy them.
  6. Store by season. If things are rationally together, your closets will make more sense.
  7. Bag it. Shoebags can a lot more than shoes and hang off of the back of any door.
  8. Move to Bismarck. This isn’t for me but many publications think that the North Dakota capital is a fantastic place to live, work and raise a family. You won’t find me there anytime soon but for some, the mix of shorter commutes, less violent crime and better graduation rates than any other state is tough to pass up.
  9. Stop doing housework. American women spend 358 hours a year cleaning up. Be a little less neurotic and you’ll have more time to enjoy the things you care about.
  10. Quit your job. Quitting can be one of the most empowering and active decisions that a person ever can make. All things must come to an end, and by choosing when to quit a job, a relationship, a philosophy or a bad habit, quitter direct their own destiny. For one thing, companies are not loyal to employees anymore. Nobody blames you anymore and asks why you didn’t stick with things. If you are feeling a lot of stress and anxiety or you’re not sleeping, it’s important to pull back. Take 20 minutes in the morning and ask how you can be the person you want to be. Sometimes it can be scary to listen to your inner voice because the implication is that you have to make changes. Don’t quit because someone discouraged you. Don’t quit out of fear and don’t quit because you lack focus and before you quit, try out your new interests to see if you really are suited for it. Sticking with something you hate may take hard work but knowing when to quit takes wisdom.
  11. Stimulate:11 – 16 – a tired mind isn’t a happy mind. What can you do to recharge your batteries on a daily basis? Using different parts of your brain in unexpected ways can help, whether it’s digging in your garden, reading a challenging book, rocking out to your new MP3 player – or just tossing a ball.

  12. Use your gray matter. We know know adult brains can grow and change. The brain needs both physical and mental exercise. For starters, people who exercise do better on cognitive tests than their less fit peers. You are never too old to start a crossword puzzle, read some serious literature or even play billiards. In the end, because physical activity, mental challenges and strong social ties all appear to be good for the brain, those interested in keeping their brains honed to a keen edge might ant to combine social and aerobic activities and choose thought-provoking social events.
  13. Grow a plant
  14. Time to play
  15. Listen to new music
  16. Read more books. Don’t read because it will improve the inner working so your brain, nor because it will make you seem more cultured to other people. Don’t read just because it will give you a greater understanding of the world outside your immediate experience. Read because it is one of life’s great pleasures.
  17. Have more sex
  18. Organize: 17 -25 – Not everyone is born with the neatness gene. But i can be a learned behavior, and the result is more time, space, and energy to devote to the important things in life. Getting your finances under control, maintaining better files, kicking the clutter habit for good – these are hard steps to take, but the rewards are enormous.

  19. Fix your finances
  20. Cut back on the fees. Don’t use ATMs from other banks, reduce your brokers fees and try no-load funds.
  21. Re-balance investments. Take some of your winnings and reinvest in an under-performing asset.
  22. Freeze your credit cards. Literally: put your plastic in a bag, then freeze it in a container of water. IF you get the urge to splurge, at least you’ll have to wait for it to thaw.
  23. Plan for the worst. Set aside 3 – 6 month’s worth of expenses – in a money market account, where you won’t be tempted to spend it.
  24. Re-figure your FICO. Get credit card balances down, pay all bills on time, and don’t seek more credit than you absolutely need.
  25. Make an emergency plan
  26. Master your data
  27. Learn to file really well
  28. Get Well: 26 – 46 – In the end, they say, your health is all you have. If that’s true, too many people are still squandering their most precious resources. Still, it’s not too late to change. Whether it’s eating better food, getting enough sleep, or finally tossing the smokes, you can feel better (and maybe even live longer)

  29. Exercise, a little
  30. Quit Smoking
  31. Eating better:

  32. Try greener greens. Swap spinach for iceberg.
  33. Consider cantaloupe. A single medium-sized cantaloupe has more vitamin A andCC than an apple, orange and banana combined – and fewer calories to boot.
  34. Wipe out white. White foods contain calorie-heavy, nutrient-light refined carbohydrates.
  35. Toss the can. Americans drinks about 15 billions gallons of soda a year and all that sugar adds extra pounds.
  36. Treat yourself. When you do splurge, spring for the real thing but in moderation.
  37. Get married
  38. Eat your vegetables. Recent studies show veggies combat cardiovascular disease, obesity, even asthma. So just do it.
  39. Wear your bike helmet. About 67,000 cyclists end up in emergency rooms with head injuries each year; wearing a helmet cuts the risk of injury by at least 45 percent.
  40. Watch out for deer. Collisions with these critters kill some 150 people a year. Studies say deer whistles don’t work; paying attention – especially at dusk and dawn – does.
  41. Install a carbon monoxide detector. Fumes from faulty fuel-burning appliances can kill. You can’t see or smell the gas, so it’s impossible to detect by yourself.
  42. Get a paper shredder. Unsolicited credit card offers can give identity thieves all the info they need to open an account in your name. Shred ’em before you pitch ’em.
  43. Peer in the dark corners. Especially during winter when insects are usually dormant, check the attic, basement, and garage for signs of bees and other potentially perilous bugs.
  44. Become a birder
  45. Living healthy:

  46. Floss your teeth. ‘Nuff said.
  47. Stretch regularly. Even if you don’t have time to exercise, make sure to stretch – gently. You’ll keep muscles limber, ease joint pain and improve circulation and boost energy.
  48. Wear the right shoe size. Most of use don’t believe it or not and a bad fit can cause bad back problems.
  49. Breathe. Relaxing improves physical and mental health; 10 deep breaths will do.
  50. Take vitamins – the right vitamins. Most people are fine with just a multivitamin and taking too much of a lot of different supplements can hurt the body and the wallet.
  51. *MISSING*
  52. Take Stock: 47 – 50 – Is this the life you want? And if it isn’t, how can you tell? It’s easy to get so wrapped up in daily stresses that you forget to take a step back and reassess. Sometimes this stock taking means giving more to others; other times it requires tough self-examination. Either way, it is a very good idea.

  53. Take up philosophy.
  54. Volunteer. It doesn’t just help people on the receiving end; it drastically improves the health and happiness of the giver, too. Elderly volunteers demonstrate a decrease in depression and an increase in overall physical health – and they live longer than their non volunteering peers, according to a 2002 U of Michigan study. Child psychologists say that volunteer work helps adolescents and teens build valuable self-esteem and socialization skills. If you can’t avoid an office job at a non-profit, join up with an organization that will allow you to play a more dynamic roles. For the elderly and the retired, experts recommend 15 hours a week of volunteer work. For younger volunteers, it may be important to choose an activity that won’t create stress by gobbling up time in an already strained scheduled. Volunteering increases a person’s sense of responsibility and strengthens our political culture.
  55. Get a new look. Updating your wardrobe can came a world of difference.
  56. Forgive. Major world religions have long considered forgiveness one of the most important human virtues. Jesus’s radical forgiveness is the foundation of a Christianity; Judaism’s high holy days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, are focused on atonement; Buddhism calls for ceaseless empathy and compassion towards all beings, especially enemies; in the Koran, the angel Gabriel tells Mohammad to set aside vengeful anger and from the Bhagavad Gita, a classic Hindu test: “If you want t o see the brave, look for those who can forgive. If you want to see the heroic, look at those who can love in return for hatred.” Indeed, there may be trespasses that are too vast to forgive. “Some people see forgiveness as a panacea, and that everyone is obligated to forgive every injury or crime. Real forgiveness is an inner transformation, and it takes a lot of work on the part of both the victim and perpetrator. To ask a victim for radical forgiveness can be unrealistic and morally unjustifiable. For those who do decide to forgive, researchers stress that it’s important to begin by acknowledging that you’ve been hurt. Then try to empathize with e person who hurt you. Look beyond your personal experience, and place the hurt in context with world events. Finally, decide to let go of the weight and stress of your anger for your own benefit. Forgiveness is an ongoing process; the anger will very likely come back. “It’ll just be weaker and weaker until it loses the intensity, and that’s where you find freedom.

To Be Batman

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In preparation for the hotly anticipated “The Dark Knight,” it seems that everyone is talking about, as the Joker puts it, “The Batman.” While he may be “at home, washing his tights” (okay, that would never happen, Alfred would handle that chore) it is precisely that that idea which so endears Bruce Wayne’s alter ego to the public. Unlike other superheros, Batman is normal. What I mean is that he (in many ways) is a just an incredibly above average man – he does not have any special powers, period. He is like you and me, in our dreams.
Scientific America has an interview with E. Paul Zehr, associate professor of kinesiology and neuroscience at the University of Victoria in British Columbia and a 26-year practitioner of Chito-Ryu karate-do who happens to have a book titled “Becoming Batman: The Possibility of a Superhero” coming out.
After further analysis, it’s true: it would be very, very hard but it could be done. If all the stars in the sky are in alignment, I could be Batman.
Via Steve.


From the "I Thought Of This 2 Years Ago!" Department

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It finally has happened and truly, it was only a matter of time: someone has made a “Knight Rider” themed GPS device. As the Gray Lady puts it, Generation X nostalgia and modern technology have come together like peanut butter and jelly. I for one cannot believe that two years have passed since I thought of the idea and it is only now coming to market.
I spent the first week of July, 2006 on the West Coast and borrowed a TomTom GPS device to get myself, my friends and my rental car around. On July 1, I flew to San Diego, watched England lose in penalty kicks to Portugal in the quarterfinals of the World Cup at the San Diego airport while waiting for my friend Steve’s flight to arrive from Las Vegas, and then spent 4 days in S.D. before driving up the coast to spend 3 days in La-La Land before heading home on the July 8.
While down South, I drove to the border but not across (we parked in a motel’s parking lot and walked into Mexico for tacos in Tijuana), tooled around many different parts of Diego and while in LA I drove from one theme park to the next, mixing in a Dodger game and the Getty museum in between, while making my base at a family residence in Brentwood (near the Ralph’s off of Wilshire for those that care). I hit up In-and-Out Burger. I hit up The Cat and the Fiddle. It was tons of fun and I got around flawlessly.
While the device had a number of different voices that could bark out lefts and rights, none of them satisfied me. I was in a car, a computer was giving me directions and that could mean only one thing: I was Michael Knight and the GPS was KITT. The closest that TomTom came was an Englishman’s voice which while being sort of close was sincerely no cigar.
I used to spend lazy Saturday afternoons (like today) watching “Knight Rider” at 3 and “The A-Team” at 4 on On WWOR Channel 9. For a time they replace “Knight Rider” with “Airwolf” which sucked – a super charged talking car was one thing but a dudeflying around in his own attack helicoptor? Someone can only suspend disbelief so far!
Anyway, during the CA vacation, I talked endlessly about how they should have a “Knight Rider” voice option and sure enough, now Mio has made my dream come true. In case you were wondering, MythBusters proved that you really could drive up the ramp of a Knight Foundation big rig.
Two last closing points just for shits and giggles. One is that I spent many a Friday night at the Harvest Diner while in Junior and Senior High School performing the “Knight Rider” theme acapella in 4 parts with my friends. The way to perform it is you have one person go “DUH duh, DUH duh, DUH duh Duh duh, Duh duh.” Another goes “Shwoo shwoo, shwoo shwoo.” The third person goes “munnah munnah munnah munnah, munnah munnah munnah munnah, munnah munnah munnah munnah, munnah munnah munnah munnah” and the last then goes “Dum dah dah dum….dum dah dah dum….dum dah dah dum dum Dum!” Try it sometime. Its hard to do.
Second, below is a clip I found on YouTube of Regis introducing a Knight Rider themed act on America’s Got Talent. Watch and enjoy!


The Lego Vault

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I love Legos. A lot of people love Legos. One of my favorite blogs Gizmodo loves Legos. Not only did they post about the best Lego sets in history but they recently paid a visit to Denmark and found out in the process that Lego keeps a (sort of) secret corporate vault that contains every Lego set ever made – 4,720 in total. “Great Googly Moogly!” and”Holy Mary Mother of God!” immediately come to mind.
I could not wait to take a fun trip down memory lane and started to look at some of the photos. Only a few pics into the stroll I immediately froze, like the proverbial deer in headlights, when I saw the set below:
I had that one and still have it – the bricks and hopefully the blueprint are in my Mom’s attic somewhere.
In terms of the various Legoland themes, I was always a Lego Space guy. My grandfather and father instilled in me a love of the cosmos and in very “chicken and the egg” type situation, I’m not sure if my love of space is due to Legos or if my love of Legos is due to the space theme of the bricks I played with as a wee lad. I never had any Legoland Castle or Town sets – only Space. I had about half to three quarters of the sets in the Legoland Space part of Gizmodo’s “Best Lego Sets In History” photo collection and loved every single one of them.
In terms of time, I must have spent months – not days nor weeks but months – during my formative years stooped over hundreds of bricks that were spilled out on my carpet, hunting for the exact brick that I needed in order to either complete the Lego provided blueprint or the one that I dreamt up that day. I remember my back hurting on many of an occasion due to the hours that I sat Indian style, hunched over looking for these specific bricks. I remember when Don Mattingly first developed back problems, I thought to myself, “It must be like he’s looking for Legos…”
I’m acutely aware of my own childhood now that I see another one unfolding right before my eyes. I never want to force anything upon my daughter, I want all of her loves to be genuine, but I do hope that she enjoys playing with Legos as much as I did. Then again, Mega Blocks seem pretty cool too these days…
Via Neu


From the "You've Got To Be Kidding Me" Department

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One thing that really bothered me about Hilary’s campaign was how time and time again it did not pay for the goods and services it used from very same people it supposedly was “fighting for” – small business owners. Here is just one example:

Dakota Pizza, a restaurant owned by Stephen Bledsoe in Wynnewood, PA, fed Clinton, her campaign and the press corps that traveled with her more than $11,000 worth of grilled shrimp, sandwiches, “hand-crafted” pizza and salads leading up to the April 22 primary. He received a partial payment, but is still owned $5,933. “I can’t believe that someone of her stature will not have the ability to repay what they owe,” he said.

I have been following this trail of unpaid bills all over the country and always figured that Bill would just have to give a weeks worth of speeches once she dropped out to handle the damage. Therefore, I almost spit up the coffee I was drinking when I read an email from the Clinton campaign which featured the subject line, “Keeping my promise.” In this missive, Hilary had, to borrow one of Obama’s words, the audacity to ask and expect her supporters to help her resolve her campaign debts. I mean, for fuck’s sake she raised $237 million (!) yet still had more than $22.5 million in debts as of the end of May. That includes $12 million that the New York senator loaned her campaign.
Is this the person we want trying to balance the budget?! If anyone has a debt after raising almost $240 million, it because of one simple reason: grossly negligent financial management. I for one never reward anyone for that type of behavior, least of all a former first lady and current U.S. Senator.
If you you think I’m kidding unfortunately I am not – please see the image below that I grabbed from the email:


After getting sufficiently angry, I have started to think differently about this situation and have sort of come full circle because Hilary has truly inspired me in my approach towards my household finances. I think I’m going to send an email to all my friends and family asking them to help me “retire my debt” (aka pay off my mortgage) so that “we can keep fighting together” (whatever the hell that means – it sure does sound good though). In fact, I might actually carry a balance forward on my credit cards starting now. Who cares that I’ll get hit with 22% a month in finance charges: I can just get my “supporters” to retire my debt for me! Thanks for the swell idea HRC!