Friday, November 30, 2007

It is possible the music you listen to affects your perception of the wine you drink.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16372623#guide

I've got to try this for myself!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Despite the gratification which comes with receiving a "No misspellings found" message from the spell-checker two posts in a row, I have no confidence in my writing. This primarily comes from my lack of confidence in my ability to properly use commas, semicolons, colons, parentheses, "i.e."s, "ex."s, dashes, hyphens, ellipses, et ceteras, etc.

Oh, and I am humbled after the spellcheck catches my misspelling "primarily" as "primarilly". When will I learn? I routinely make that mistake.

I have made attempts at reducing the usage of contractions from my writing, albeit unnecessary. I'm not a purist of any sort. Also, I have been paying close attention to how I use the words "this" and "that" - mostly the latter. In many instances "that" can be removed without affecting the grammar of a sentence, and in many other instances can be replaced for clarity.

Examples:
"Did I tell you that I went to the store with Nick?"
"Did I tell you I went to the store with Nick?"

"I like the one that has the red stripes."
"I like the one which has the red stripes."

"I believe that this is the only way to live." (Oh God, save us from this grammar!)
"I believe that/this is the only way to live." (Depends upon where/when the description of "the only way to live" occurred.)

I don't think there is anything wrong with the first two examples, but the alternatives are far more pleasing to the eyes & ears. The third is simply disgusting, and I am guilty of using that (proper usage!) construct in conversation.

Forgive me. I have hit the point at which I can no longer think straight. At this (proper usage!) point I should really go to bed. Goodnight.
Forget all this talk of dieting; I have come up with a simpler plan.

I will no longer eat fast food, I will have no more than one 'snack' per day, I will exercise daily and during free time, and I will drink as much water as possible.

This is a plan I know I can stick to, and I won't have to jump through hoops to do so. I want to look good and feel good for Linnea's sake and for my own. I might even pick up some whey protein in order to bulk up in areas other than my belly.

I find it important to note I do not consider myself fat, nor do I have a negative self-image. I simply desire to live healthier and to make better and consistent decisions for my long-term well-being. If I did have a negative self-image I would be a slave to my body; it is vastly more important for my body to be a slave to my will.
A friend of mine has set for himself the very achievable goal of no longer owning a car. In his estimation he only leaves town at most twice per month, and can easily walk, bike, or ride the bus/taxi to run his daily errands.

Cost of owning a car:
Fuel - $50-100/month
Insurance - $50-$100/month (depending up marital status, driving history, type of insurance, age, etc.)
Maintenance - $0-$300/month

Taking a guess for the median, the average monthly cost of car ownership, assuming the car has been paid for in full, is ~$200-$300.

Cost of using alternative transportation and renting when needed:
Fuel - $0-$50/month (refueling rental vehicle given my friend's driving habits)
Insurance - $0/month
Car rental - $0-100/month
Bus - $0/month (students ride for free, but the cost for non-students isn't exactly high)
Taxi - $10-$30/month (students ride for $1-$2 depending upon time of day)
Bike - $0/month
Walking - $0/month

Once again, taking a guess for the median, the average monthly cost of alternative transportation for a student is ~$95/month. I imagine it is in the range of ~$150-$200 for non-students.

That's a ~$100-$200 gap for students, which further widens if the car has not been paid for in full (required full coverage insurance plus monthly car payment). In a single year, that is $1200-$2400. That's a free vacation to the exotic location of your choice.

In Linnea's and my case this simply is not possible: Linnea commutes 60+ miles round-trip every weekday, and if we moved closer to her work I would need to commute every day to school. However, this is a goal worth working towards. In the mean time I'm doing what I can to head off the maintenance costs by performing repairs on my own. We will also be reducing the coverage on the vehicle from full coverage to liability, which should result in significant savings. Linnea is also doing what she can by hooking up with other people for ride-sharing, which helps cover some fuel and maintenance costs.

I strongly encourage everyone to do the math with their driving habits, and to consider the benefits of a less car-dependent lifestyle. We haven't even discussed the environmental, physical, and social benefits, but even the weakest of imaginations should be able to explore the idea further without prompting.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I've begun a new experiment at http://cardumb.blogspot.com.

The idea is this: I'm basically stupid when it comes to cars. I've never changed my own oil, and the most significant thing I've ever done is to swap a blown tire for a spare.

All of that is changing. The rules go like this: I have to fix the problem so long as the tools cost less than the labor to have someone else do it, factoring in my ability to locate replacement parts for lesser cost than the shop charges.

The goal is simple. I intend to learn more about the function of an engine, and the systems which keep a car running smoothly. I also intend to save a metric ton of money on the cost of repairs with the trade-off being my time. Since the knowledge I gain will be of use in the future, the time spent now is well worth it in the long run.

I doubt the blog will ever be popular, but this is not the intent. That would be to document the learning process; to show how simple or difficult it is for a car dunce like myself to become an adequate mechanic, and to determine what resources are helpful as part of that process.