Rain! Rain! Rain!

Rain!
Weathermap

You know that scene in movies where people go running out into the field and dance in the rain after a long drought?  “Our crops are SAVED!”.  Or the scene at the end of Dune (yeah, if you don’t know this spoiler by now….)

I feel like that today.

The 2 storm fronts that came through Berlin over the last few weeks completely missed us.  We’ve been doing some watering to keep the apple trees and strawberries and garden materials going, but the lawns and fields have been suffering.

Now?  A steady, not deluge-rain, cool temperatures, and ahhhhhhhh.!

One Week with the Chevy Volt

So a week ago I traded in my Jeep Wrangler for a Chevy Volt.  It was a hard decision, but made sense on so many levels.  I have a long commute (70 miles round trip), do other road trips, etc.  And while I’ll miss being able to bang around in the woods and romp through the mud, the Volt has been… all things are considered… pretty damned awesome!

chevy volt on charger
My 2015 Chevy Volt plugged in at the office

Lets start with the run down.  In the last week, I’ve driven about 450 miles.  In that time, I’ve burned a grand total of 2 gallons of gas.  And lets be clear, this isn’t because I drive carefully or anything – this thing is fun as heck to drive, and tearing along an on-ramp or powering around someone in traffic is a ton of fun.  This is just using basic energy management.  At night, I plug the Volt into an normal 110v outlet in my garage, which, by morning, means I have a full charge – a battery range of between 40 and 45 miles.  When I get to work, weather permitting and no one is in the parking spot near the outlet, I plug in there as well.  6 hours at work is enough to top off the battery and get me home again.

If I don’t get a chance to plug it in?  That’s okay… when the battery runs out, the Volt functions like a ‘normal’ car and runs on the engine, giving a respectable 40mpg.

That’s the basics.  Now lets get into the cool geeky stuff.

The car doesn’t look like an EV.  It’s not a Prius, it’s not a Leaf, it’s not an Insight, and it’s sure as heck not a Tesla.   On the outside, it just looks like your standard smallish sedan.  On the inside it’s modern as heck, with 2 color displays, schwoopie internal lines, and comfortable details.  I’m 6’6″ tall, and my son is 6’2.  We fit just fine, though if we’re hauling tall kids in the back seats, things can get cramped.  Having said that, even the tall kids find they have enough headroom in the back – it’s usually footspace gets a little tricky.  The trunk is certainly smaller than the Jeep (duh), but the car is a hatchback, and while I wouldn’t want to haul furniture with it, I can carry whatever project I’m working on in the back without much trouble.

Something I hear from other EV car drivers, I’ll pass on here.  If you’ve never driven an EV car, find a friend who has one, and ask to take their car for a quick drive.  There is nothing in my experience that compares with driving a modern, comfortable automobile under electric power.  It is almost silent, the acceleration is smooth and clean (and strong!!).  It’s almost impossible not to smile when pulling this car out of the garage and heading off down the road.  It feels space-age.  We may not have flying cars yet, but this sure feels like we’re getting there.

Too many people think of the Chevy Volt like a Prius or similar.  An extremely practical, un-fun car.  Let me tell you folks, this car is seriously fun to drive.  The acceleration is phenomenal when you ‘drop the hammer’ as they used to say.  According to the interwebz, the 0-60 time is 8.7 seconds, (compared with the plugin Prius at 10.5 seconds.  The Leaf zips at 7.4 seconds – it’s a much lighter car with no engine).  My Wrangler would have done that in 10.4 seconds, and burned half a gallon of gas doing it.

This brings up another point.  When I drive the Volt aggressively, I don’t feel like I’m doing damage to it, or to the environment, or anything.  I’m using more battery power, sure, but unlike a gas engine (which runs less efficiently when heavily loaded, ie burning more hydrocarbons), the Volt just runs the battery down a little more.  You can wildly vary the efficiency of an internal combustion engine based on driving style, and by efficiency I mean “how much crap you blow out your tailpipe”, but the Volt?  The only efficiency you’ll hurt is how long your battery will last until it needs a recharge.

Lets talk about some more geeky things.

onstar app
The OnStar app on my Android phone showing the status of the Volt

The Volt is an EV car.  I spend 95% of my time driving it on batteries only.  As such, I’m always looking for ways to not use the gas engine.  I’ve signed up on the ChargePoint network, which gives me a little RFID card, a mobile app, and a network of Level 2 charging stations where I can top off my battery while having some coffee.  A full Level 2 charge of the Volt takes a few hours (An hour on a level 2 charger adds about 10 miles of range to the battery).  So while electric ‘refueling’ is still a ways off, it’s nice to know I can stop off for lunch somewhere and plug in the Volt for a while while I grab a burger.

The other win is the OnStar mobile app.  While I’m skeptical of any of the ‘big manufacturer’ tools, GM’s Onstar stuff is pretty good, and their mobile app is super-handy.  From my phone I can check the status of the car – how the battery is doing, when it’ll be charged, how much gas is in it, heck, even what the tire pressures are.  More excitedly, I can remote start it.  In nasty weather, I can tell the Volt to power up and start warming the cabin.  It’ll do this purely on ‘shore power’ (drawing from the power connector, not the engine), so it’ll be nice and toasty when I’m ready to leave, without sacrificing range.

Conclusions

While I went into this change for purely practical reasons, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying the car.  It’s performance is great, it’s comfortable, and I can’t argue with the cost of operation.  One interesting side effect… I get bothered when I’m running on gasoline.  95%of the time I’m emitting zero pollutants.  No CO2, no hydrocarbons, not even making a lot of noise.  But when that engine starts (which is nearly silent, I notice it mostly because my dashboard changes configuration), I start feeling dirty.  I’m BURNING OIL!!!  I picture a bucket of gas on fire.  Ewwww.  Then I look around at all the other cars on the road and go “They’re all doing this right now.  Why?”

Maybe it’s the shiny… maybe people are afraid of EV cars, or just don’t understand them, but for me, I wonder why there isn’t a while hogged march toward everyone using cars like this.  There are a lot of hybrid cars on the market right now, but they’re in the ‘we use an electric motor to make the gas motor use less gas’ category.  Why isn’t this sort of design more prevalent?

Goodbye Jeep, Hello Volt.

Today I made a hard decision.

8 months ago my venerable VW Passat became unmaintainable. It required a new oil pump, which was going to run around $2000. It had been good for me for 4 years, but with 140,000 miles on it, I was concerned about shoveling more cash into it.

I’d always wanted a Jeep. Heck, what kid didn’t? So I shopped around and eventually bought a 2012 Jeep Sahara Unlimited. It had all the bells and whistles, and I had a blast with it. Romping in the woods, plowing through snow in the winter, it was a big Tonka toy.

Eventually though, that Tonka toy, while still fun, was getting impractical. I drive 70 miles a day for work, on a highway, with longer trips up to NH, RI, and out to the Cape. A big off road vehicle that gets 18mpg is not a commuter car. I was spending too much on gas, too much on the car, and it became apparent it wasn’t the right type of vehicle for my day to day ride. With a heavy heart, I realized it was time to switch.

Continue reading “Goodbye Jeep, Hello Volt.”

The Desktop Mail Client is Dead.

It’s no secret. I’ve been a rabid IMAP user for ages and ages and ages. To the point where I’ll keep shifting mail clients around to stay ‘current’.

Activity monitor showing Thunderbird using more memory than Outlook
Thunderbird was supposed to be more efficient than the bloated Outlook. Alas

My preferred poison for almost 10 years had been Thunderbird. The tool that started out as a potential replacement for Outlook, but in the end never quite had the integration of calendaring and contact management required to take on the 600lb gorilla. I made the hard choice a year ago to switch from Thunderbird to Mail.app on my Macbook, because Thunderbird performance had gotten so bad, and had blown up to such a huge memory hog, it just didn’t make sense anymore.

Continue reading “The Desktop Mail Client is Dead.”

My Vacation in Crawford Notch

Around mid-November of this year, my boss pulled me aside and said “Son… I’m kickin you outta here.” Okay, he really didn’t say that, but he did let me know if I didn’t take some vacation time by the end of the year, he was going to be cranky. Since my company only rolls over 2 weeks of time each year to the next, and I had something like 4 weeks stored up, I needed to skedaddle.

But what to do? I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, but I also REALLY wanted to get away and have some time to myself.

The end result was a week on my own in the White Mountains in New Hampshire…

Continue reading “My Vacation in Crawford Notch”

Soylent – The great experiment begins

2014-09-01 11.23.306-8 months ago I participated in a kickstarter for Soylent – an artificial food mix that is compact, nutritionally complete and storeable. I received my 2 weeks of food on Friday. The cup in this picture contains an entire meal – all the nutrients a body needs to function well.

There are people who have switched to 100% soylent meals, 3 times a day. I probably won’t go that route, at least initially, but this morning’s breakfast consisted of blending the mix, pouring it over ice, and sitting down to write this post. The rest of the blend (I made half a batch) is in the fridge for lunch.

I’m attracted to a bunch of aspects of Soylent. I like that an entire weeks worth of food is $65. I like that it doesn’t go bad (2 year shelf life). I like that prep and cleanup time is almost non existent.

On a social scale, it’s making me look at the food and food delivery industry very closely. Thousands of gallons of fuel burned so I can have a head of lettuce in january? Huge resources burned so I can enjoy a cheeseburger? This seems silly. Is it possible to feed humanity without burning the planet in the process?

Lets find out.

Some notes:
The website for Soylent is http://soylent.me – note that the ‘recipe’ for soylent is open and documented, and there are hordes of people who have made their own soylent mix (DIY). (Best name I’ve heard – People Chow).

What does it taste like? Slightly gritty milk shake. Has a muffin-y smell to it.

Aren’t you going to miss the social / enjoyable experience of eating meals? Dunno. I like gaining another hour or three a day.

Are you going to stop eating ‘normal’ food? Not at all, I’ll enjoy grillings, dinners out, common meals, whatever. But that dosn’t mean I need to do that every day.

#soylent #food

Today, I tried to read a book.

I tried. I really did try.

Books books books
Books books books

The book is “The Republic of Thieves” by Scott Lynch, third in the Gentlemen Bastards series. A neighbor had a copy here, and he loaned it to me.

I’ve been reading books on my phone for years now. This is the first time I only had a physical copy for quite some time… and a hardcover to boot.

“Heck, why not”, I thought. “It’s been a while, and people go on about how reading digital books just ain’t the same. Lets give it a whirl.”

Except… it wouldn’t fit in my backpack, so I couldn’t have it with me at work, where I usually sit and read during lunch. It stayed at home.   When I had some spare time at skating, it wasn’t there.  Didn’t have it with me when I went out for a burger tonight… so nope, not then. The only time I had access to it is at home, maybe just before I go to sleep, when I usually check my mail, do my last gaming, and spend some time with my sweetie.

But through all those times, I did have my phone with me.

I returned the book to my neighbor, and bought a digital version on Amazon.

Now I’ll get to read it.

23andMe – A Scientific Look into Myself

European.  Whoddathunkit?
My genetic backround

A couple months ago, a friend pointed me to the website 23andMe.com.   Their mission statement is pretty straightforward.  “23andMe’s mission is to be the world’s trusted source of personal genetic information.”

Here’s how it works.

After signing up online and coughing over my $100, 23andme sent me a small kit.  Inside the kit is a little plastic tube.  All you need to do is fill part of the tube with saliva, seal it up, and mail it back to them.  It’s all postage paid, so it’s just a matter of dropping the box in the mail.

About 4 weeks later, you’ll get a piece of email saying your results are ready to be viewed.  And then things get interesting.

Continue reading “23andMe – A Scientific Look into Myself”

My bosses are audiophiles.

It’s interesting working for a music distribution company – our upper management tends to the audiophile / retro-geek crew.
Witness our CEO’s office:
CEO Rig
And the CTO’s office:
CTO Rig
I do wonder at the massive old-skool speaker stacks and tube amps… in a 15×15 standard drywall office, but it does look sorta neat.

The Blog is Resurrected… for now.

Well that was no fun.
For a while, I was in a funk because the Planet-Geek.com site was not posting ANY of my articles. And when I logged into the maintenance pages, I couldn’t see any of my articles for the last year.
Now, the site has something like 1600 articles on it. I was pretty cranky at the possibility of losing all my content. But the database itself seemed okay, and I could see entries in it. Just new content was not showing up.
Tonight I decided to sit down and figure out WTF was wrong with it.. It took about half an hour to determine the root of the problem…
I was logging into the wrong site.
We migrated the blogs off msb to msb2 a year or so ago, but I never a) removed the old bookmark in my shortcuts, and b) never updated the maintenance page to point to the correct toolset.
So I was editing the old site.
Boy do I feel like a dork.

The Ten Commandments from IT / Sysadmins…

Thou shalt not release software to production on the eve of a weekend or a holiday.
Thou shalt not use corporate email servers to distribute full page pictures of your kitten, or your child, or your horse, or your hamster.
Thou shalt not browse porn from your work computer or laptop. Ever.
Thou shalt use corporate / IT mandated applications for corporate related work, regardless of whether you think RandomFinancialTool is better.
Thou shalt choose Microsoft products ONLY when all alternatives have been thoroughly reviewed and considered objectively, and using the criteria of “But it’s not compatible with Microsoft products” is usually a red herring.
Thou shalt not rely exclusively on the ‘genius’ or ‘vast experience’ of a single person within the company or organization. They might be wrong. How would you know?
Thou shalt consider a laptop expendable and subject to imminent destruction.
Thou shalt understand that IT and sysadmin staff are employed to HELP the users do their job. We may know what we’re talking about.
Thou shalt not page a sysadmin at 2am because you’ve forgotten your password. Next time be more careful.
And last but not least…..
Thou shalt respect us. We’re people too.

Vox is Dead. Long live Vox!

As little as 5 years ago, Six Apart was the undisputed gold leader of blogging platforms. Movable Type was the largest and best known blogging platform, and corporate entities were making moves to acquire competing services.
During this time, SixApart launched Vox. The idea was to blend blogging with social networking. Shared questions and trends, bring the whole blogger community together into one big happy family.
It never worked.
Bloggers are individuals. They want their own sandbox, their own domains, their own content. Not only from an individualistic stance, but also when it comes to money. It’s hard to make a buck when your blog is buried in with a thousands other bloggers.
Vox lurched along for a few years, but never got any traction. Perhaps due to its muddled target audience. Were they targeting bloggers? Facebook folks? The then-dominant MySpace crew? It wasn’t clear.
I had a Vox account, and I posted perhaps 3-4 things on it, and lost interest. There was no draw or anchor. I never went back.