Friday, September 29, 2006

It wasn't just Tuesday

This week just won't quit. I think I'm going to classify it as The Worst Week Of My Adult Life.

The only good news to come out of this week is that I bought some really cool new music, and today, for the first time ever, I played a 2-turn game of pool: Lewis broke and got 5 balls in, then I ran the entire table. All 7 of my balls and the 8 ball.

But that comes against a backdrop of work, house, and automotive misery. So whoopdedoo.

The Mars Volta is weird. But I like it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Yesterday and the Evil Wicked Horrible Rotten Very Bad Day

Yesterday wasn't much fun.

It began decently enough, with me running late, as usual. I realized quickly, though, that I had an 8:45 appointment, and that I wasn't going to get to work until 8:30. There was a bit of paperwork I needed to get taken care of before the appointment, along with running a process on my computer.

I got the paperwork done, but the process wound up taking almost an hour. Damn. So I canceled the appointment, only to realize it had actually been scheduled for 9:45. I could have made it with time to spare. Grrr...

But when I first got to work, my boss's first words to me were "What did you do to the servers last night?" Great. Good way to start the day. And, of course, she was flanked by one of her peers and her boss. So I'm immediately on the defensive, and of course I had personally done nothing. Come to find out, someone had moved one set of systems to production that had Test GPO's applied. So the production systems got brand new patches in the middle of the night and rebooted, rendering the environment unstable.

That took hours to unravel, and in the meantime, we had users accusing us of insulting them by not freely giving them enough space.

Finally, my boss came to me and told me that I'll be rebuilding systems on Saturday the 14th, not working on Monday the 9th, and that I had disappointed her by not volunteering to rebuild a server last night. I'd had enough, and I went home.

I got home, saw my boy for a while, and decided to go ahead and do my oil change. I was due for one, and with this weekend's drive to the mountains, I wanted to get it done. I got the car up in the air, drained the oil, changed the filter, put it back on the ground, put the new oil in, cleaned the air filter, and added WaterWetter to the coolant. I felt good. I'd accomplished more than I set out to do, and was in a much better mood than I'd been in.

Then I came back to work. On the way, I noticed that my back window was wet. There was no good explanation: I hadn't driven through water; nothing had dripped on the car; there was no rain. I got to work, thought no more of it for the next 3.5 hours, and then drove home. I lost traction getting on the highway, and didn't think that was right, since I hadn't bombed the turn too hard.

Then I ran the rear window wiper and left a huge smear instead of a clean spot. It was oil. I stopped at a service station and cleaned the window off, hoping that it was just some spilled oil that had gotten on the subframe while I was filling the car.

Oil continued to coat my rear window.

I got home, sat sulkily through some TV, and when I got up, my vision went starry for a minute. I felt horrible and went to bed feeling weird and depressed. I was sure I'd cross-threaded the oil-filter housing or somehow cracked the oil pan.

Yesterday sucked.

This morning I went out and pulled the oil-filter housing off. The gasket had been shredded when I put it in. I dug through the trash and found the old one, put it back in, used my remaining 1.5 qts of oil, and went to the car wash. No more leaks, but the back-side of the engine and the entire under-carriage are covered in oil, so my car stinks like burning oil.

I also beat a hasty path to Advance Auto and bought another 3 qts of oil (synthetic, so it ain't cheap). All in all I lost about 3 quarts of oil to that chopped gasket, further proving that multi-thousand-dollar devices are almost invariably taken down by $.05 parts.

All seems to be good now, and with the exception of some possible oil on the right rear tire, I'm ready for this weekend's mountain run!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Nerd alert!

This whole California thing has been bugging the crap out of me, so I started doing some number crunching today.

I went to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics website and started looking for details into how much pollution comes from cars as opposed to other fossil-fuel burning means (agriculture, power plants, shipping, aviation, etc). They had some fascinating numbers for Carbon Monoxide and an array of other pollutants, but none that were easy to find for "greenhouse gases".

For instance, they show that in 2000, we (US or the world? I'm not sure) pumped 109 million short tons of CO into the atmosphere. Sounds like a horrible number, but while it's above the average for the preceding 10 years, it's below the average for the past 30. Of that 109M, 56.06M comes from transportation. The other 53.29M came from industrial processes. 56.06M is the lowest in the entire range of 30 years, and of that, 48.47M came from "on-road transportation".

Unfortunately, that number isn't further broken down, but the key here is that 86% of transportational CO emissions came from cars & trucks. That's just shy of 50% of the total CO released into the atmosphere for the whole year, and it, too, is the lowest in 30 years. It marks only the 2nd time we've dropped below 50M short tons of CO emissions from cars & trucks, and is 10M below the emissions level of 1990, when we commonly assume the era of eco-friendly vehicles to have started.

So the automotive industry has made some pretty big strides over the last 30 years, and they're getting better all the time.

But now let's analyze the greenhouse gas emissions of today. Wikipedia has a great entry on greenhouse gases, and it states that the number 1 greenhouse gas is water vapor, which is not affected by human activity, except on very small, local scales. Water vapor accounts for as much as 70% of all greenhouse gases (or as little as 35%, depending on the "expert"). Carbon Dioxide is a distant second, running anywhere from 9 to 26%, followed by methane (4 - 9%) and nitrous oxide (?%).

Since our two biggest contributions come in CO2 and methane, they're probably where we as humans can make the greatest impact into the phenomenon we've termed global warming.

CO2 levels have remained fairly consistent over the last 10K years: around 260 - 280ppm. Since industrialization, they've risen to approximately 365ppm: an increase of 31%. However, wikipedia shows a wonderful chart breaking down the sources of pollution by pollutant, and we see that transportation accounts for 19.2% of CO2.

Calculating our man-made contribution to this is fairly simple: multiply the increase (31%) by the contribution factors: 9 to 26%. We show a contribution-factor increase of CO2 somewhere between 1.65 and 4.77%. That's not much, and when we multiply that by the percentage which is attributed to transportation (19.2%), we get a range from 0.32 to 0.92%. All the transportation in the world accounts for less than 1% rise in atmospheric CO2. If we can even begin to assume the numbers for CO to have any relevance to CO2, then we can multiply that finding by 86%, revealing on-road transportation to have contributed anywhere from 0.28 to 0.79% of CO2 increases, and that's before you discount trucking.

The math is even easier for methane: the wikipedia entry shows absolutely no contribution from automobiles. None. So man has pumped that in through other means, principally agricultural.

So let's assume an absolute worst-case scenario: cars account for 0.92% of the increase in greenhouse gases that are supposedly raising the temperature of our world.

(And for the naysayers, the Wiki entry is a pro-global-warming page. They fully support the argument that man is destroying the environment with cars & trucks, but their numbers directly contradict the claim.)

California claims to have spent millions on this research. It took me a few minutes on the Bureau of Transportation Statistics website and a quick trip over to Wikipedia. Maybe Califoria residents should sue their legislators.

Here's another tidbit I just found. The BTS has another page on gas wasted due to congestion. In 2000, 1.188 billion gallons of gas were wasted due to congestion in Los Angeles, CA. The next closest metropolitan area was NY/NJ, at 658M. LA consistently shows over 1 billion gallons of gas wasted due to congestion for all but one year since 1990. By comparison, Richmond, VA wasted 11 million gallons.

1 billion gallons of gas. Per year. In one city. And they're suing the auto makers?

More to come. But in the meantime, consider that the man who brought this suit is running for Treasurer in California this November.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Take California

So California is suing the auto industry. They're going after Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan for "past and ongoing" contributions to global warming.

Allow me to rephrase that: California is going after broke companies for a phenomenon that hasn't been proven to exist. Along this line of logic, I've decided to sue my cube-mate for the possibility of aliens.

I think it's high time we cut our losses and force California to incorporate itself as a free-standing nation. Though they are the 8th largest economy in the world, they are a constant burden on our nation, our citizens, and the corporations that make our economy function.

California passed a law last year demanding that automakers cut emissions by 25%. From what I understand, it's a do-it-now kind of law. Automakers don't just have magic parts-bins with 25% emissions-cutters lying around, so improvements take time, research, and most importantly: money. Lots and lots of money.

Research isn't free; technology isn't free. But California wants immediate results, dammit. You can have it good, fast or cheap: pick any two. CA wants it good and fast, so that means the price of these new, efficient cars will be astronomical.

A ar that cost $15K last year could quickly become a $35K car next year. Typically, when the initial buy-in cost of a new technology is that prohibitive, the automaker will absorb some of that cost to help infiltrate the market and create a demand. Honda did this with the Insight. Each Insight cost Honda close to $70K to build, but they were sold for less than half that price. Honda knew that there was a market, but not a luxury-class market. They bit the bullet and absorbed a huge loss, spreading that loss across the rest of their product line.

But California says one model isn't enough, and again: they want it right now. With no means to absorb the costs of revamping entire product lines, the automakers tried to stall. There is no way people are going to pay the price for all this new crap just so one little piddly state can strong arm an industry.

So they're all getting sued.

First of all, why sue Honda? They're probably the greenest car company on the planet, and they've been working feverishly to make the best line of efficient cars for over 30 years, starting with the initial introduction of the Civic in 1972. I think the answer lies in the other green: Honda is tremendously successful as a company.

But why then sue Ford and GM? Is the point just to push them out of business? These two companies are so beleaguered that they even talked of merging earlier this year. GM has been in (and out of) talks with Nissan and other foreign investors, desperately trying to pump some capital into their dying veins. These companies are in deep trouble, and trying to pump them for "tens or hundreds of millions" will accomplish nothing more than placing tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans into the unemployment line.

The same can be said of the remaining 3: only the North American arms of these companies are in the CA scopes, so only American jobs stand to be affected.

Now to change the argument around just a bit: Why isn't California suing the shipping industry? Plenty of goods come in through California's shores, and sea-ships are horribly inefficient. What regulations keep their greenhouse gases down? There are more boats in the water than cars on shore, and hardly any restrictions on the output of their engines. California has one of the largest coastlines in this country, too. So why only car makers?

Not to mention power companies. Though heavily regulated, coal plants still put a lot more crap into the atmosphere than any car. Heck: probably more than any fleet of cars. But there's a secret here, and it's one that makes me think we need to expunge this canker from our great nation.

That secret is California's deplorable lack of resources, at least in relation to its power as an economic force. California constantly has water shortages, and "rolling blackouts" are a part of everyday life there. The other states of this nation sell California water and power every day, and we're thanked with car prices that are unnaturally elevated, cocky over-paid actors who don't pay taxes, and constant reports of illegal aliens mandating changes to our nation's education system.

Screw 'em. Force them out of the union and tax them for wine imports. Make them produce their own water and power, or sell it at a huge premium (or tax the companies that sell it to them with export tariffs). Take away their 49 electoral votes and make them fend for themselves. They can have their artificially inflated housing market, all the auto laws they want, and live peacefully on the West Coast, becoming a popular vacation destination.

That way, when they want to levy huge fines at companies doing business in California, those companies can simply exit the market and let the people decide what's really in their best interests.

The people of California can ride Segways to work, they can drink only the finest imported water, they can make solar sails to generate power, and we as a nation can point all illegal aliens to the left.

People live in fear of a world controlled by corporations: we ought to live in fear of local governments "acting in our best interests" and punishing us for having nice things.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I feel like such a bone-head

I've put things in motion to make next Saturday (the 30th) miserable, or at least tedious.

I've been trying for a couple of months to organize a fun, relaxed drive to the mountains. I coordinated for the 26th of August, but then family interfered with that plan, so I had to reschedule. I put a poll out, and folks agreed that September 30 seemed like a great time to go canyon carving.

So we're going. It will be fun: we'll set out from Richmond around 9:30am, get to the twisties around 11, and then pick up some lunch in C'ville around 12:30. We should be back in Richmond some time between 2 and 2:30. Great, huh?

Except I just got a reminder that our company cruise is that evening, departing from Norfolk at 7pm.

That means leaving Richmond around 5pm. We'll probably drive back that night, too, since I forgot about it and failed to arrange for babysitting. So that puts me in the car for 9 hours on Saturday. Ugh.

I've already canceled the MINI drive once; I don't believe folks will tolerate another cancellation. I committed to the cruise several months ago, and for some stupid reason just didn't put it on my calendar. Now I find myself in an unworkable scenario, and I have to piss someone off. Fun.

Options include:
1. Me (and probably Amanda, too): go to both
2. RiverCityMINIs: cancel the drive
3. Eiden Systems Corp: cancel my spot on the cruise

Vote for your favorite today!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Really diggin' iTunes 7

I just discovered iTunes radio. Whoa. How is it that I work in this industry and just totally miss the greatest things that happen to it? Sheesh.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Must've had the high-test

'cause I'm feelin' a little crazy right now!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

PKD for Free!

Yesterday MINI Takes the States came through VA, on their long, winding trail from Monterey, CA. The plan was for hundreds and hundreds of MINIs to caravan across the nation, showing off the new JCW GP MINI Cooper S. I don't know how the crux of the plan worked out, but not too many made the trek to King's Dominion.

Evidently there was a choice of either playing at the amusement park all day (and, presumably, riding the new Italian Job turbocoaster, featuring the MINI) or taking Skyline Drive north to DC. I'm guessing a bunch of folks chose the latter, because there were only 63 cars that I'm aware of. That number was provided by a gentleman at the top of PKD's 1/3 scale Eiffel Tower, and did not include one that I had seen leave earlier.

Anyway, shock of shocks: we got in free! And, bigger shock: there was nobody at the park. At least two times we were able to walk right up and get on rides. No waiting, no nothin'. We were able to ride something like 8 different rides (including the new go-kart track) and eat lunch in 3 hours flat.

We rode the Italian Job turbocoaster twice, Volcano, Tomb Raider FireFall, the go-karts, the Rebel Yell, Hypersonic XLC, and went up the Eiffel Tower. I don't recommend the Tomb Raider ride. The G forces kind of messed me up, and when we went straight from there to the Italian Job, I nearly blacked out in the first turn. The world filled up with gray dots, and I had to fight very hard to keep my consciousness.

After that, I was done. We went to the new Starbucks (?!) inside King's Dominion, got a treat, and headed home. There were a bunch of MINIs coming out behind us, and we waved all friendly-like.

It was a great time, and the best part was that I didn't feel like I needed to stay all day to get my money's worth.