Thursday, October 25, 2007

Google is Great... New Google Transit "review"

I love Google. In fact, I love it so much I feel like it's going to leave me. I love it so much, I can't live without it. Docs and Reader and Maps and Gmail. On my computer and on my phone... I just don't know what I'd do without it. And I only use probably 25% of what they offer. Please don't make me pay a subscription fee, Google, please.

I'd have to pay it. I'm just being honest.

OK, get all the awkward, uncomfortable laughter out, time to get to the topic at hand. Google Transit. I started this blog entry before I had even used it because I know it's going to be friggen amazing. So, I'm going to walk through it and take you with me.

Link to Google blog entry

Link to Google Transit

Availability: 10 states, 20 cities including San Diego and Seattle (how convenient for me). I'm going to use the San Diego one because I know the system better and I know that Seattle's transit system BLOWS.

Let's get me from my favorite coffeeshop, Twiggs, to Qualcomm Stadium, home of the football team I just can't get myself to care about....

...holy isht, that was easy! Type in your address and destination and in a second, the route appears.

You can switch between taking transit and driving to see the difference in time taken:

Wow, 48 minutes vs 12 minutes. Big difference but this does not include the cost of parking combined with the enormous hassle of parking at and leaving Qualcomm NOT TO MENTION the hassle of trying to drive while you're seeing double, eyes blurry from the tears of defeat, trying to keep it between the lines to avoid a DUI.... if you catch my drift. Subtle, I know.

I say thumbsup on Google Transit. It is super-easy to use and makes taking the public transit as simple as driving your car. The biggest PITA comes from finding the routes and times. With this, problem solved.


I'm google-able!

Maybe I'm a big nerd or maybe I'm just totally full of myself but finding this on the first page of a Google search made my day (ahem... week):

Josh can be googled!
Lessons to come out of this little win:

-> Pay attention to your blog! Write great content about your passion then go do things that relate to your passion and post about it.

-> Describe appropriately! Add photo tags, labels, titles, etc. Blog-illiterate folk have NO idea how much back-end works goes into making these things look right and perform properly for search engines.

-> Don't post just to post! Like this post... don't do that, no reason. There is no need to make yourself try to feel better with some random, ridiculous notion you might have. Also, patting your own back with your blog is SO blase. Who cares? Get over yourself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What are people saying (Part 1)

One of my guilty pleasures on the internet is a car enthusiast forum where I learn about all kinds of cars I can't afford and read arguments between other people who can't afford them about which one is better. It's very entertaining and a little bit addictive. Sometimes I get so riled up, I have to participate!

The best part about the site for me is the discussions that pop up about alternative fuels and CAFE standards and SUVs and so on. There are some bright people with great ideas, there are some bright people who have lost their mind, there are a lot of people who are uninformed, and there are a lot of people (the majority probably) who are just unaffected by it but participate in the discussion. I find it interesting to gauge the general opinion about technologies and innovations that pertain to my industry of interest and passion.

Anyways, I thought I would share a few of the posts in one such thread that started with the first post below. Just as a disclaimer, these are other people's words that I may or may not agree with but simply found interesting. If you are reading these words and wish to claim them, let me know and I will append your name or screen name to them. Otherwise, they remain anonymous.

"People keep talking about how if they jack up the price of gas high enough that Americans will sell their SUVs and everything will be fine. So does that mean that paying $8 gal for gas and getting 40 mpg is somehow better than paying $4 gal for gas and getting 20 mpg? If we use half the gas but pay twice as much for it then we still give the Arabs the same amount of our money. How does that help us or hurt them? I thought the biggest problem is that we are financing the very people who want to wipe us off the face of the Earth?"

I found this post very interesting because it seems foreign to me that you would equate MPG standards with profit in the Arab world. Of course I see the connection but it has always been my assumption that the PROFIT of the oil-holding countries was not the problem. What they do with that profit, our reliance on a foreign resource, and the uncertainty of that area in general are the problems, internationally speaking.
"In general, if prices soar use will drop a little. Smaller more efficient engines simply means less overall fuel used. The real answer is more trains, and public transportation....but people hate that idea. Because of our fascination with automobiles, public transportation is only for a few major cities, and everywhere else it’s simply the transportation method of ROGUES AND BANDITS!"

Hrmmmm... sounds familiar.
"The solution to the oil crisis is simple. Eliminate modern pharmaceuticals and nitrogen fixing."

Never heard that before, actually. Nitrogen fixing, BTW, is how we take nitrogen gas and turn it into ammonium for fertilizer and other stuff. The extent of the use of this process is SHOCKING ("1% of the world's annual energy supply is consumed in the Haber process" -Wiki).
I am of the opinion that even if every American ditched their gas guzzler tomorrow and started driving 40+mpg people movers the price of gas wouldn't move one cent since China and India would happily buy up every drop we don't use (as they do now). "We" don't have the biggest sway in the UAE anymore folks. Now that doesn't mean we should all just give up and drive Tahoes either. Do what's right for you. Don't like the price, change your habits and/or accept it as the cost of living where you live and driving what you drive.

Is doing what is right for you and you alone the way to do things? That's an honest question. Is there any other way to do things besides that? Is it realistic to expect people to live for other people?
"Stable cheap gas prices lulled the population into a false sense that there is absolutely no need to be concerned with energy conservation…Cheap stable gas prices fueled the SUV trend of the 90s. If gas had been 3 to 4 bucks a gallon instead of $1.25 a gallon in the 90s, then we would already have many of those great smaller European vehicles in the US market, including diesels. But the cheap stable gas prices allowed everybody to buy into a very impractical vehicle trend, while also fueling uncontrolled urban sprawl. People saw no need to live close to their work places since gas was cheap. The auto manufacturers just responded to the market demands, and spent more money on designing SUVS than more practical cars. When gas prices finally shot up (arguably where they should already have been based on inflation), we had a large percentage of the population that had made impractical life choices that forced long commutes in vehicles that got poor fuel economy, and those people all shouted "this is unfair", even after several individual energy crisis in the past few decades foreshadowed this happening again and again unless we change out habits. This further proves that unless the price situation forces people to think about conservation, then they just won't. And that is very a strong argument for CAFE."

A very well-thought and important thing to say, IMHO. Also important is the bolded part; automakers simply respond to the limitations applied to them and the demands asked of them. All they do is try to make the most money possible, nothing less nothing more. Even the most altruistic and earth-loving brands only do so because it serves their company.

They are morally neutral, that's the problem.

"I am happily getting what the efficiency Nazi's would call "BAD" gas mileage. I truly hope that we do not go into another underpowered car making fad (see 70's & 80's?). I am a car enthusiast, you cannot tell that from the vehicles I say I own, but if it were feasible for me right now I would be driving a gas wasting speed machine. And lets not make this an us vs. them (middle east) battle. We are in a world of capitalism (capitalism=good), where if I wan't it I will pay the lowest price for it whatever that is, or find another governmental legitimate way of attaining it at a rate I like. This is all my opinion, I am not saying any of you are wrong, but fell free to debate my crazy notions"

And my response on the board:
"Your notions aren't crazy, they're old and stale and boring. You are equating wanton, needless waste with capitalism which isn't necessary (i.e. capitalism does not HAVE to beget waste). It's your "wan't" that is the problem. It's the choices people are making to follow this want and the want itself. What if you're married with kids and want to get with the babysitter? What if you want to punch that guy in the face for whatever reason? What if you want something and can't afford it? What are you going to do to get that want? Capitalism does not make all of your dreams come true (you even said so yourself: "I am a car enthusiast, you cannot tell that from the vehicles I say I own").

I understand that, culturally, you've been talked into wanting BIGMORELOUDFAST but we will reach a point soon where you simply can't have it. Instead of choosing not to, you won't have a choice because it is not feasible. And, eventually, that component will fall out of our culture.

There are many examples... the best one, IMHO, is slave labor. It makes our lives easier, it makes businesses more productive, and it gives the "chosen few" more time to enjoy themselves and bond with their family. But, well, it's horrible and now its not a choice. So we're losing all this "choice" and "productivity" "just" so a race of people can be free. How do you feel about that trade off? Would you trade your right to have an E55 AMG to improve air quality and international relations?

I'm not equating SUV drivers with slave owners at all, I'm equating two practices, one which is antiquated (in our country) and one which will be eventually."

San Diego is burning

This wildfire disaster is proving to be a very strange event to live through. The light has this very light haze to it from the poor quality of the air. It's not like fog or mist at all; it has a yellow hue from far away but more blue when you're looking down the streets. Every 20th person I see has a dust mask or a bandanna on their face... I wonder if I should be doing the same.

I'm not currently affected by evacuations or property damage or anything like that. What I do see, besides the omnipresent particulate, are a lot less people walking around and driving which has been nice. School is also canceled for the rest of the week which provides me with a nice respite.

The juxtaposition of my nice, quiet days off with the pain others must be going through by being displaced or losing their house weighs on me like an uneven load across my shoulders. It is hard to be thankful for something that others are just trying to survive. I'm sure I don't count as a silver lining to their cloud. If they knew how grateful I was for some extra time off, a stay of execution on a P-chem exam, and some extra hours to work, do you think it might help a little?

I've had snow days and power-outs in Washington, now a fire day in San Diego. I'm slowly experiencing the world I guess.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Santa Monica Alt Fuel Car Expo

I drove up to Santa Monica with the girly yesterday for the Alt Car Expo and had a great time walking around the exhibit. This was certainly a lot better than the San Diego one I volunteered for at Balboa Park (thankfully... a 2 hour drive to see 8 cars would not have made me happy). It was also pretty sweet sitting in traffic on a Saturday afternoon for absolutely no reason.

BTW: If you're thinking about hosting an alt fuel event in the San Diego area, I would love to help out and always have great ideas! About everything! Constantly!


Josh driving a smart fortwo turbo
If these things came to the US with the 1.3L turbo that I drove, I would be on the list for sure. I think you can buy them gray market but I'm not totally sold on the idea of a car with no product support and no mechanics willing to touch it. This thing feels surprisingly roomy inside; I fit without a problem and had room to spare. The "trunk" wasn't even that bad. I wouldn't help anyone move in it but you could take a week-long trip no prob. Maybe. At the very least, it was comfortable and quick too!

That's me driving in case you were wondering if I had put on a bunch of weight and changed my hair color. The answer is no.

Mercedes Benz F-Cell hydrogen vehicle
Here is the Mercedes Benz F-Cell prototype. It's a prototype because the car actually exists (the platform that is... it's an A-type, sold in Europe) but the hydrogen fuel cell drivetrain is not commercially available. I like the looks of these quite a bit. Unfortunately I was not able to get behind the wheel of this one.

Biodiesel truck
This was a private vehicle that some guy converted to biodiesel. It was a very well done and had really neat custom badging on the back ("veg powered" on the left and "biodiesel" on the left). It also had an alien badge back there which, combined with the owner's overly serene attitude, made me wonder if he was from Mars... or Venice Beach.

Pimp My Ride/ biodiesel Mercedes Benz... fastest in the world!

Pimp My Ride/ biodiesel Mercedes Benz... fastest in the world!
This big-pimpin' Benzo was an attention-getter for the Earth Friendly Moving company. I met the owner, Spencer Brown, who explained how they take opaque plastic from recyclers and turn it into these tough, plastic containers which they then rent out and deliver to people who are moving (like, from home to home or biz to biz). You pay a low rate, they drop a bunch off, you use them and then they pick them up! No need to drive around looking for boxes or deal with cardboard that falls apart! Spencer was a great guy to talk to so big plug for him:

Cool ride too... built by Pimp My Ride, it broke a biodiesel speed record!

EV all-electric Porsche 911

EV all-electric Porsche 911

EV all-electric Porsche 911
I loved this car... an all-electric converted Porsche 911. It looked like it had some odd 959 kit on it but all the work was very well done. It was great to see such an iconic car with a plug coming out of it!

I wish I had gathered a little more information on this one but it is an all-electric drag race car. More info (and better pictures) here.

All electric chopper
Same deal here.. not a lot of information to give you. I believe it is an all-electric chopper. It had a lot of presence in person though it does seem awkward in the picture.

Electrum spyder

Electrum spyder

Electrum spyder
Tesla roadster competition I would assume... very neat looking car in person. Lighting was terrible in this airplane hanger so it does look a little awkward as well. Car has attitude in person, for sure. Interior is just awesome in person; Recaro seats, DVD player, the whole nine. 250 mile range with the battery upgrade, top speed over 100, 0-60 in 7 seconds. More info here

The star of Who Killed the Electric Car in the, uh, flesh.

I liked the looks of this little guy... insect-looking, 3-wheel, one-person EV.

All-electric Scion xB

Zenn EV - all-electric vehicle

Xebra all-electric vehicle
An electric-converted Scion xB (that's its powertrain in the foreground), a Zenn EV commercially available electric vehicle, and a Xebra 3-wheel EV you can buy and register as a motorcycle. These are all totally available to buy and use right now. Good stuff!

That about does it for my coverage... I will remain forever impressed by the power of human ingenuity and, likely, forever disappointed by the motivation behind the vast majority of its products. This was definitely the minority. Keep fighting the good fight out there! More commentary to come...

BTW: It was great to see you Bridget! Good luck with everything at Fearless Records.