Thursday, February 19, 2009

FutureFright: The Good, The Bad, and the Internet

The digital world. It's all around us, primarily because it's what we're both in right now (you are reading a blog, right?). Like Casper, the internet is a friendly ghost that's around for adventures when you need it, but leaves few traces on the material world (aside from slime, a la Ghostbusters). However, the digital world is founded not upon magical tidbits of ghostly love from an ancient cult headed by Gozar, but computer servers, which create more heat than a cockerspaniel on her rut. Not only consuming energy to be powered, these servers have to be cooled, purportedly consuming as much energy as it takes to boil a kettle of water over the course of two Google searches. It's enough to make a Luddite like myself consider going back to print.

But hold on there, my unhappy stone-aged camper! Compared to reading the traditional print version of the New York Times, a PDA user reading the same content sourced from the internet uses around 2-3% of the energy, according to a UC Berkeley study. It makes logical sense; the amount of resources required to create and distribute most traditional media are extravagant compared to the energy required to make and run the computers which you and the server farms use. That said, it is a good call to awareness for IT companies to develop more efficient electronics and for users to spend less time on YouTube and more time enjoying...well, whatever there is outside the internet. Just do a Google search to find out (and don't worry too much about that boiling water).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Retro Reboot: The Sims (Original!)

"This grow is frenshnay!"

Words of wisdom from our Sim brethren. Yes, yours truly was once a devoted video gamer back in that netherworld of the late 90s/early 00s, and yes, I did adore the virtual voyeurism that we know and love as The Sims. While the series has gone through more expansion packs than there are Byzantine dynasties and has since bequeathed an updated sequel (with the innovative title of The Sims 2), the original Sims has surprising staying power. With the entire hoard of old video games that I have laying around unvanquished and forgotten it will be years before I need to buy a new game. Plus, running only old games, even my first generation MacBook Pro looks like...well, a pro. Ah, the benefits of flipping the bird to the obsolescence curve.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

FutureFright: The Electric Car

As both a neo-luddite and a pseudo-environmentalist, it's difficult to discern where I should stand on certain issues. Case in point: the electric car. Sure, it promises to replace the pollution-spewing combustion engine with a more efficient and (at least not directly) polluting electric one, but what secrets is it hiding? The question of where the power sow for this fleet of suckling electric piglets will come from, not to mention issues surrounding the material required to make these cars in the first place (particularly in regards to the battery) makes me wonder about their wisdom. Plus, I totally can't hear them when I'm out on a run.

To make me feel a bit better, here's an awesome video of some Norwegians trying this little Think! car out. Mostly, look for how funny the Norwegians are. Also note the discussion of the Think! car's capabilities as a bower of love at 3:00, the explanation of its safety features at 3:30 ("you would think, 'oh, if I crash I will die'": they address the concerns, at least of my grandmother), and it doing doughnuts in the snow at 6:00. If the future has to look like that, well...I'll think about it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Trashcapades: Dumpster Diving Food Porn

Ah, chicken soup for the dumpster diver's soul. This blog has some drool-worthy photos of freegan excursions in an unnamed city. As anyone that has found a good dumpster knows, nirvana is possible in these miniature Shangri-las filled with bread, pastries, and veggies.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


"You'll shoot your eye out!" The perennial warning against BB gun ownership is translated for potential hitchhikers as, roughly, "You'll get your head cut off!" Indeed, in a world in which all the news reports is people being dismembered on Greyhound, one has to question the wisdom of travel beyond the confines of an automobile cabin.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. While your hippy-ass father had to stick out his thumb and risk recreating the ending sequence to Easy Rider, today we have technology to hook us up with safe and cost-effective travel options. Craigslist Rideshare makes sure you won't end up as a billowing cloud of smoke drifting over the credits to your life.

Unlike hitchhiking, Rideshare allows you the option of talking to your potential travelmate and browsing their personal pages (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) to judge whether they belong to the (admittedly over hyped) realm of sanity and are not, in fact, an axe murderer. I will admit that I had a fair bit of trepidation on my first Rideshare, but quickly found out something that many other travelers who trust themselves to the wiles of our fellow man have already discovered. We Americans, by and large, aren't half as bad as we think we are. Particularly the kind of folks who willingly post their travel plans on the Internet in the hopes to find conversation and, perhaps most importantly, gas money. All the people that I have given/taken rides from have been twenty-somethings, conversational and extremely amiable. There is no better way to fill up an eight-hour car ride than by telling stories with another person, who, if just because they are unfamiliar, are probably more interesting than you are.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Peanut Butter: or, Breakup Tips with Plastic

Plastic. Love it? Hate it? Indifferent? Even though I have to admit that we're not on a speaking basis right now, plastic and I have had a good relationship in the past. It's light, can be used for a variety of applications, and is (relatively) sturdy. The problem with plastic is that it just wouldn't go away. Whenever I wanted to be alone, plastic decided to tag along. I mean, can't plastic have its friends and I have my own? The relationship was getting a bit stressed.

Like any good ex-, I now indulge in an elaborate dance to avoid awkward meetings with plastic on the street. One way I get out of her routine path is to make some of my own consumables from bulk foods, the most notable (and easiest) being peanut butter. It ain't rocket science, folks. Just take a fair amount of peanuts, throw them in a food processor (I use a Magic Bullet), add salt and sugar to taste, and puree to your heart's content. It can sometimes help to add a little canola oil to, uhum, lubricate the situation with your new companion, but before you know it you'll be having meaningful relationships with all sorts of alternative packaging materials that are sexier and smarter to boot. There's nothing better than talking for hours with a reused glass jar about your shared convictions of thriftiness and environmental responsibility. Oh, and peanut butter.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


There are some things that are sacrosanct in our society. We treat a select group of products as if they were holy water handed down from on high, material that is intended to be integral and not altered by human hands. For myself, toothpaste was one of these items. The folkloric wisdom of my forefathers warned that to alter the traditional mystic components of this magic paste would rend the earth (or my teeth) apart, invariably bringing down the riders of the apocalypse and gingivitis (which, if anyone has watched Crest commercials, apparently belongs in the hellish pantheon alongside plague and pestilence. You know, God brushes like a dentist.)

Fortunately, there are alternatives. For several months now I have been making my own toothpaste using baking soda, mint extract, and glycerin. Baking soda acts as a deodorizer and cleansing agent, while mint extract adds flavor and glycerin provides a pasty consistency. In all honesty the home-brew toothpaste still tastes a bit like baking soda, but it provides the same clean feel as store-bought paste and avoids the personal health quandaries of fluoride. Plus, it can save you a couple of bucks. Try the recipe below, or just eye it; this isn't an exact science.

1 TBS Baking Soda
1-2 tsp Glycerin (This can be found at many grocery stores and pharmacy-type outlets)
1/2 tsp Mint Extract (Commonly found in spice/cooking isles of grocery stores)