Maximizing Savings While Minimizing Eco-Footprint

Yesterday, I noticed the check engine light of my Prius came on for the first time in its ~134,000 miles of reliable service to my travel whimsy.

This is not to say my 2001 Prius hasn't had some issues. I successfully navigated my way through a hybrid battery issue and associated Toyota dealership charlatanry last year, saving myself nearly $2,200 on unnecessary repairs (long story short, the dealership wanted to replace my entire hybrid battery because the computer was throwing a couple of error codes on the hybrid battery system, but when I simply Googled said codes, I found out it was nothing more than a bad sensor wire. Never trust dealerships!). But in general, the car is pretty reliable and has never once left me stranded by the side of the road. Note: One other thing about hybrids is that because of the regenerative braking system, they will wear out tires faster. Hint: Always get tires with a mileage warranty for hybrids, so you can save a few bucks.

I am planning to get an oil change on Friday, as which time I will ask my favored, non-dealership-affiliated local mechanic Terry to run the computer codes on the check engine light (which he does for FREE, vs. the $60-$100 fee charged by various area dealerships).

Whatever is perturbing the computerized nerve center of my humble little car, it does not seem to be hurting my gas mileage. In fact, the last few days it has been improved. Since my last re-fuel (I can't remember when it was...gotta love hybrids), I have been getting 52.2 MPG on average. I usually get somewhere between 46-50 MPG depending on driving conditions and weather (in the winter, running heat eats a little more gas. And if I throw my bike rack on the back, the wind resistance reduces my car to basically the Toyota Corolla it was framed on, at about ~35 MPG.).

Commuting to work is by far the bulk of my mileage during the week, accounting for about 335 miles if I work 5 days in a week. This should go down once my boss gets us all dockable laptops that we can take home and use to telecommute sometimes, but that's another ecological footprint-shrinking variable that is beyond the scope of this post.

I also carpool with a coworker about 4 out of 5 days each week. Assuming ~50 MPG with my Prius, since we alternate driving days, I am averaging 100 MPG on the 4 days that we carpool and 50 MPG on the day we don't. Taking an average then - ([4x100] + [50])/5 = 90 - I am getting about 90 MPG for my commute.

Actually, that's incorrect math, if you think about it. In actuality, I am effectively driving to work 3 days a week and averaging 100 MPG on 2 of those days and 50 MPG on one of those days - ([2x100] + [50])/3 = ~83 MPG.

Another way to look at it is that I am traveling 335 miles to work each week, but only putting 201 miles on my odometer. 335/201 = 1.67 miles per mile. I know that sounds weird, but basically it's a correction factor and thus it has to be unitless (miles cancel miles). So taking my car's 50 MPG x 1.67 = ~83 MPG.

This validates the fact that the second calculation above is correct.

Point being, being GREEN can be economically viable.

But it all starts with YOU. You have to be proactive. No one is going to save the world for you. Only you can do that by acting on your local environment.

A Breakfast Burger for Lunch


Today we went out for a team lunch at work to celebrate the quasi-promotions of a couple of my co-workers. Since I am pursuing the 4 Hour Body lifestyle change diet, as part of a wager with my mom to lose 25 pounds by Labor Day (next Monday...good heavens!), I can't eat much high glycemic food. But I can eat protein and vegetables.

So I ordered a breakfast burger with no bun and a side of asparagus. The burger had an egg and bacon on it. It was tasty, and totally on my diet.

That said, I am trying to eat more vegetarian food and stay away from commercial eggs grown in factory farms, which the egg on this burger probably was. A guy at work has access to some local free range eggs that I get a dozen of every week for $2.

When I go out to eat, my options are limited. This diet allows pure protein and most veggies. So the breakfast burger seemed like a good choice.

Of course, every time I eat meat, my ecological footprint swells to about 10 times its size.

That I do not like. But it was a yummie burger.

The Gutsy Tumblers at Waterhouse

I am at the Waterhouse Cafe in Lake Mills WI, eating, drinking, and chilling to the mellow sounds of my friends' band, the Gutsy Tumblers.

The battery on this thing is about to die, so if you aren't reading it right now, that is probably what happened.

You Are the Problem

Are you one of those people who blames the government and other people for all the world's problems?

I have news for you.


Change starts with you. You can't change other people. You can't change the government. You can't change the world.

But you can change yourself and your part of the world. Don't worry if no one else joins you. Just remind them that THEY are the problem.

If you are driving a gas guzzling SUV all over the place, buying your food and goods from all parts of the globe, patronizing and investing in charlatan businesses that profit at the expense of the earth and people, not voting, etc...then you really are the problem, and you have no right to blame anyone else.

Figure that out and then you can focus on changing yourself and your small piece of the universe.

You need to use reason and educate yourself to make the right choices.

Do that and you can change the world.

But do me a favor, quit blaming everyone else for the world's problems.

Change yourself. That's where it begins.

Home Refinancing

This morning, I will hopefully refinance my house to a low low rate of 4.125%. Maybe lower if they will let me buy down the rate, but that seems unlikely when they are already about as low as they can go.

Right now I am at 5.25% and thanks to my idiot township raising property taxes and all my neighbors fraudulently claiming hail damage to get their roofs redone at insurance company expense, the lower rate should just about cancel my ever increasing escrow costs.

Wish me luck.

An Apiaric Moment

Heading out for a walk at lunch today, we saw this butterfly taking a water break at work.

We don't know how it made it through all the security doors, air locks, and decontamination chambers.

However, it was unphased by our gawking.

A Fun Trip to Colorado

I am at the Denver airport waiting to go home to Wisconsin after a fun long weekend visiting my sister, niece, and nephew in Manitou Springs CO, a suburb of Colorado Springs.

My sis Kate's relatively new house is in the foothils of the mountains that lead up to Pike's Peak. And when I say foothills, I am talking soles of the feet. But it is far enough out of the human cesspool of CS that it feels rustic. Her subdivision is on a hillside accessible by only one steep road, and that makes it seem relatively secure from the freaks that live down in the city, mainly Focus on the Family religious extremists and those driven mad by a failure to conform to their draconian interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. But I shouldn't stereotype. There are a lot of good people in Colorado Springs, and Colorado College, where sissie works, has a world famous hockey team. So there you go.

Perhaps because of its isolation, Kate's neighborhood has a high per capita lesbian population. That's gratifying. As you might guess, lesbians aren't too safe in FOTF territory, even though the Bible doesn't expressly forbid girl on girl loving, only guy on guy and sodomy (difficult, but not impossible for lesbians, with the correct assortment of autoerotic devices, I am told...). But I digress.

Colorado is awesome. It is incredibly dry and as a result of the elevation and thin atmosphere, it can be really scorching hot in the sun, but quite chilly in the shade.

Weather is also wonderfully dynamic on the front range of the Rockies. Driving my rental car back to Denver this afternoon, an insane torrential rain storm whipped down off the moutains and across I25. Being from WI, it was not much of an issue for me, but Colorado drivers, used to mostly dry conditions most of the year (even snow sublimates in winter, rather than melting, due to solar radiation), are reduced to white-knuckled, frightened babies behind the wheels of their cars. Snow? No problem. Rain? Armageddon.

I rented a car to go to and from Manitou Springs from Denver. But I didn't drive it at all while I was there. Next time, I will see about maybe flying into CS directly or taking the shuttlebus from Denver. The bus is $100 round trip vs. the $171 I paid for the car. A flight into CS of $409 would have been a wash on flight to Denver plus car. I expect I could find a flight for $409 or less and avoid the 90 minute drive and traffic around Denver. I also spent about $25 or so dollars on gas, so really a $434 flight into CS would be a break even.

I also don't like rental carplaces. They seem like charlatans and hire illegal immigrants. I liked the guy from Liberia who met me when I returned the car, but the girl from an uncertain central American nation who took my money and the angry Somalian who opened the exit gate, I could have done without. I also think the driver of the shuttle bus back to the airport might have been nipping the bottle, although the alcohol breath could have been coming from one of the nearby passengers on the bus. Neither option is comforting, but I will give the driver the benefit of the doubt in this case.

Anyway, a fun and relaxing trip.

Air Travel Isn't What it Used to Be

When I travel by air these days, I don't even bother booking a connecting flight with anything less than a 3 hour layover because you know that the delays can easily approach this kind of time suck.

Case in point, my flight from Milwaukee to Omaha today. It was supposed to leave at 2 PM. It is now 3:30 and I am still in Milwaukee, thankfully now back in the terminal after over an hour sitting motionless on the tarmac.

The issue in this case was a huge band of thunderstorms to the west, blocking the flight paths for Milwaukee and Chicago. Apparently, Chicago air traffic trumps all, because many Chicago flights were routed to Milwaukee, to the TSOL of the rest of us.

I know bad weather is more common now because of global climate change. But I never in my life remember it sucking this bad. Can't planes fly OVER clouds? I would like to swear off flying forever.

The TSA Sucks - Please Comment

I don't mind airport security, honestly.

But the TSA sucks. They are unhelpful, surly, invasive, and generally a bunch of sorry sad sacks. At least, this is the case at Milwaukee International Airport.

Now, I know this is because they are underpaid and have to spend hours exploring the sickly and disgusting humanity that is our modern world, inside and out. I don't envy their pathetic lot.

I mean, what kind of karmic screw up do you have to commit in a prior life to end up as a TSA agent in this one?

I don't know. But I think the TSA should go on strike and demand better wages, as well as the decommissioning of these retarded x-ray machines. They are protecting the slovenly pale obese underbelly of the overfed, undernourished American populace, that is barely worthy of salvation from the almost non-existent threat of terrorism.

They should get paid A LOT for that, and get free air fare and 8 weeks of vacation to futily try and cleanse their thoughts of the disgusting passengers they have to scan day in and day out.

Please comment.

I Am Brain Numb Tired, But Still Going

I haven't had a day with so little sleep the night before in a long while. That probably doesn't make any grammatical sense because I am brain numbingly sleep deprived.

I'm not exhausted though. In fact, right now I am at the Sprecher's brewpub in Middleton WI listening to music colleague Paul Stiegler perform a solo acoustic show on guitar.

I am however so brain dead that I have done away with all social conventions. Not really knowing enough people in Maddy to get to go out and socialize after work on a school night and not willing to miss seeing Paul on account of that and not wanting or needing or even allowed to consume brewpub food and drink, due to my lifestyle change wager with my mom, I just grabbed a chair and sat by myself near the stage. Quite nice and F all the lemming conformist conventional people at their tables with their social cliques. But I digress.

Why the fatigue you ask?

Last night after work, I drove down to Savanna IL. It was a 2.5 hour drive to visit Caitlin and her family. She flew off to Augusta GA today for a 2 year degree program in Medical Illustration and I wanted to see her off.

Unfortunately, said seeing off was at 5 AM in Rockford IL. So I was up at 3 AM after going to bed not before 11 PM.

However, I did win big at Rummy, going out first about 6 consecutive times and impressing/annoying Caitlin's family.

It Was a Decent Week

My work was cut out for me at work this week. So that was nice. Nothing particularly hard, just time sensitive and focused.