Archive for April, 2010

Fun with science!

So my nifty SportyPal app on my new phone, which keeps track of my bike ride home, tells me that I pretty reliably burn about 420 calories during the trip. Because I’m a geek, that got me wondering how much less energy is used while biking versus while driving. I crunched a few numbers, and this is what I came up with.

420 kilocalories (1 kilocalorie = 1 food Calorie, yes, it is confusingly stupid) is about 1.8 million joules of energy. My car gets around 22-23 MPG in mixed driving, so let’s pretend that my trip home uses 0.4 gallons of gasoline. One gallon of gas has around 125 million joules of energy, so my drive home uses 50 million joules. That’s over 25 times as much energy expended as biking, which is needed to move all that extra weight around.

Another fun fact: if it took 50 million joules of energy to bike home, that would require using about 4 pounds of body fat as energy. If our bodies used as much energy traveling as cars, people would have a far easier time losing weight! Considering how much waste heat would be generated in the process, though, we’d have to have huge radiators attached to our bodies somewhere.

Crazing Arizona

Arizona and Oklahoma have been battling it out lately over which state can be the kookiest, but come on, the anti-immigrant law that Arizona has bletcherously vomited onto the national pscyhe definitely wins. It’s got it all: racial profiling, forcing people to do things they have no expertise doing, and opening cities to huge lawsuits from crazed constituents who think that they aren’t doing enough to keep the dark-hued people out. Of course, given the monumental stupidity of the law, it’s being embraced by conservatives around the country and in Minnesota as well.

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Fighting over financial reform

Lately, FrumForum has been the only bastion of fairly reasonable conservative thought. Take, for example, this post in which Peruvian free-market thinker Hernando de Soto Polar lists what he thinks is necessary for effective derivatives regulation. His list is something I wholeheartedly agree with, especially the reminder that the financial system only helps create wealth, it should never be seen as a wealth generator in and of itself. It also, coincidentally, jibes fairly well with the legislation in Congress. No wonder financial reform is seen as an electoral winner.

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Easter photos

I took a few photos on Easter at my brother’s house, they are in my random gallery. Here’s one of his dog Sophia:

My brother's dog Sophia

Conservatives against multi-modal transportation

I’ve noticed a trend lately when it comes to transportation issues: conservative Republicans are doing everything they can to argue against a complete, multi-modal approach to dealing with transportation issues. It’s happening at the national level, where Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (a former Republican Congressman, it should be noted) announced a more bike-friendly transportation policy, prompting one Republican Congressman to wonder if LaHood was on drugs. It’s happening at the state level too, where today some Republicans argued against a bill that would encourage, not require, local units of government to take into consideration all road users (drivers, bikers, pedestrians, bus users, and anybody else) when designing roads.

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Book Review: Too Big To Save?

Finance is pretty fascinating to me, and the recent financial crisis is an incredible study into how financial systems blow up under stress (if only it were a purely academic study and not a disaster for hundreds of millions of people). Probably the best complete rundown of what happened, and what to do about it, is "Too Big to Save? How to Fix the U.S. Financial System", by Robert Pozen. Nothing I have read has been as complete and interesting as this book, and while I don’t agree with 100% of his proposed policy solutions, I agree with probably 98%. This should be mandatory reading for everybody in Congress.

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Another smartphone convert

Despite working in tech, I am not a terribly techy person. I am not an early adopter. I don’t have a lot of gadgets. I may have three monitors on my desktop computer at home, but I’m not one of those people who constantly upgrades to get the most performance. I didn’t have my own cellphone until 2005, and I always believed in getting the cheapest phone I could. Smartphone? No way. But I finally broke down and got one, and color me an instant convert to smartphones.

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