Saturday, April 29, 2006

Are gas prices driving you to drink?

I guess that's ok as long as you're not driving, right? But maybe, like me, you like to keep your options open. Then this is for you. Make your own ethanol with a still, or stay at home and use it for, um, other purposes.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Green houses

In some of the north side burbs of Chicago I saw some modest homes with some immodest prices. I was told that they were "teardowns", and the price was actually lower because of the presence of the modest house. And in the less-than-year's time I've been near the area, I've seen existing homes razed and new, huge homes erected on the spots. I guess that means that people really like living there.

I won't be doing anything like that soon, but if I did, I'd take a close look at this. Check it out and follow links from there.

Certainly some will argue that the resulting house isn't "green" enough. No doubt there is more room for improvement yet. But these improvements usually face stiff appearance, cost and convenience barriers, and we shouldn't let the best be the enemy of the good.

Most of us will probably be backfitting older homes, where there's much less flexibility in the design. But you can always put in more insulation, tighter windows, better hot water heaters or even tankless varieties, attic fans, better weatherstripping, awnings, better drapes, etc.

Check out Hot Air

That's right - Even *I* can remember that one. Anyway, with Michelle Malkin and Bryan Preston involved, it's already terrific and they're just getting started.

If nothing else, take a look at this post. You could be podcasting interviews with people around the world rapidly and cheaply. Sheesh, I may even try it myself. (Don't expect any video of me though - I won't be responsible for any subsequent monitor damage.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Watt todo

There are spectacular ways to get fat or go broke, but most of us do it slowly. Imperceptibly almost - a gizmo here, a candy bar there, an upgrade here, a sliver of that there... Keep at it and you can become poor. Next thing you know you have a country with the world's fattest poor people.

The same thing is happening with energy. We didn't achieve this energy obesity overnight, and we won't get rid of it that way either.

Yet here we go swinging for the fences. Yeah, let's call Congress!

Alright, we have a problem - let's fix it *Right Now!*.

Fat chance. Some things just take so much time and that's it. (That's less true of your finances, but I wouldn't plan on, say, striking oil anytime soon.) If you want to score against energy consumption or obesity, you'd don't swing for the fences - you have to hit for average.

Fine - so how do we reduce our fat electric bills? The leftist way of course is to moan about how someone, somewhere might be making an extra dime and propose that the govt take that dime. Millions for protest, but not one cent for technology! And they're persistent - they'll drive their SUVs to Washington as often as it takes to force the rest of us to conserve energy.

But for the saner part of the population - those of us who *do* things rather than expecting someone else to do it for them - we can resort to both technology and conservation.

Technology? Sure. It's getting to be summertime (I'm in Chicago), and you probably have a houseful of old incandescent light bulbs. These heat the air, which you will then cool again with your air conditioner. Double your money - replace those incandescents with compact flourescents. They look funny, they're expensive, and they get much dimmer if you use them outside in the cold. But they last much longer, they give you more light per unit of electricity, and produce less heat in doing so. And some offer light that is qualitatively different - it's more like sunlight than ordinary incandescent lights. So get to work! 50 watts here, 100 watts there - it adds up.

Of course a gas or charcoal grill isn't the only thing you can cook outside with. For instance if you must eat something steamy like pasta in the summertime, cook it outdoors. With a heavy gauge extension cord and a cheapo hotplate you can avoid heating and humidifying your house at the peak of cooling season.

I won't recommend that you cut back on showers or other hygiene, but you can turn on the bathroom fan while you're showering to blow the steam out of the house/apartment/motel room/whatever. Then shut it back off so you don't blow your cool air back outside.

Your doctor may already be fussing at you to drink more water, especially if you're older. Do it - it'll keep you cooler and make sure you have something to sweat if necessary (and you're always losing some moisture, even in the summer).

I'm willing to bet that we have a lot of kids nowadays who don't know what a clothesline is. You might well be somewhere where they are verboten or impractical, but if not, how about using some free solar and wind power instead of that noisy, hot dryer?

And how about wearing lighter and/or fewer clothes? Or maybe shutting off the TV when you're not around (it uses more power than you think - if you need a companion, the radio is cheaper and cooler). Or if you *must* have a heater in the bathroom, put it on a timer with a manual override (<$10 at Walmart) so it can be toasty warm when you get up without wasting power.

Or how about getting up earlier to use more of that free sunlight? Put shades in your car windows so it doesn't get so hot. Eat more cool stuff like salads and sandwiches....

The list goes on. Any given one might be trivial, but then multiply it by a few million other Americans and we'll have something.

For instance, do you think that we can all reduce our consumption by, say, 300 watt hours per day? You'd get that by switching one 100 watt incandescent bulb that you run for 4 hours per day to its illumination-equivalent 25 watt compact fluorescent. 300M Americans later and you have 90 GWh, which is on the order of 30 nuclear power units' production. Hmm - I wonder if the last batch of antinuke protesters shut off all the lights at home before having their little exhibitions?

Really now, take a look at compact fluorescents. They're getting cheaper, and few things ever saved so much power for so little effort.

Fuelish behavior

No, this blog isn't really "Instapundit Digest". I'm just grabbing something he pointed to for the gazillionth time, that's all. This time it's Lynne Kiesling's post on last year's energy bill and how it's biting us today with higher gas prices.

I'm sure my buddies downstate who grow corn or work for ADM or Staley love the extra, otherwise artificial demand for ethanol, just like they love the sugar price supports that drive so much demand for corn sweetener. I suppose that next year's project is to force everyone to eat some sweet corn with every meal.

Yes, it's really happening - I'm blaming the Republicans! But then I can't be sure that the Dems wouldn't have done something even worse. Intelligence and responsibility are a lot to ask of a party that has nominated Al Gore? and John F. Kerry? for President.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Once I heard a story that went something like this. People would receive notices that they had won free tickets to a professional football game. When they went to pick them up they were arrested. Why?

Because the cops had picked the recipients, who were all wanted by the law for one thing or another. The notices were sent to their last known addresses, or those of relatives. Ha!

And now on May 1 we're gonna have a whole bunch of illegal aliens self-identify. Imagine the next day. "Good morning everyone. All of you who were absent yesterday, please get on this bus..."

But I'll settle for broadcasting a message like the following - if you fools would put the same amount of effort into replacing that mafia you call a govt in Mexico, maybe you wouldn't have to come up here.

Yeah, yeah, not all illegals are Mexicans, but similar logic applies to the rest.

Question - how much would the price of lettuce increase without illegals to pick it?

Monday, April 24, 2006

You might be a lefty...

...if you think that it's OK for CIA employees to declassify information at will, but it's not OK if the President does it.

Extra points if you say that it's partisan if the President does it, but not if it's done by someone who has donated thousands to the opposition party on a bureaucrat's salary.

Let's see Mary McCarthy on TV. Do you suppose she'll get the same fashion "critique" that Linda Tripp did?