Friday, April 28, 2006

Diesel registrations up

According to the Diesel Technology Forum, the number of light-duty diesel vehicle registrations grew by 31 percent last year, and as we know, like hybrids, diesels offer fuel economy that is 20 to 40 percent better than gasoline-only vehicles.

The DTF quoted an EPA study stating that if one-third of U.S. light duty vehicles were diesel, we would save up to 1.4 million barrels of oil per day, or the amount that we currently import from Saudi Arabia.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Environmentalist Republicans

Some Democrats are up in arms because Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters are endorsing a Republican, Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee. It seems they're more interested in having Democrats elected than protecting the environment. And they call themselves environmentalists?

[Sierra Club Executive Director Carl] Pope rejects the argument that environmentalists must ally themselves with Democrats. "It is absolutely vital that environmentalism be nonpartisan," he said, adding that the focus should be on the long-term goal of breaking down partisan divides on green issues, not sharpening those divides today for near-term gains.

Unsurprisingly, Martha Marks, president of Republicans for Environmental Protection, agrees: "If the environmental community turns its back on Lincoln Chafee, who is one of the strongest environmental leaders of our day -- Democrat or Republican -- then it will have no credibility with any Republicans going forward." She argues that it would be a big mistake for green organizations to alienate moderate Republicans who are trying to steer their party back toward the conservation ethic espoused by leaders from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard Nixon to John Chafee, Lincoln's Senate predecessor and father. "The only time you make any long-term, permanent progress on anything in this country is when you have bipartisan support," she said. (Grist)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ford and indulgences

It looks like Ford may be adding a way to purchase environmental indulgences from their web site.

Ford Motor Co. said it will give consumers concerned about harmful greenhouse emissions an opportunity to invest in clean energy projects via a new Web Site that will calculate suggested investments based on the amount of carbon dioxide produced while driving.

In a program called "Greener Miles," which is expected to be announced on Thursday, consumers can go to the Web Site to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide produced in one year of driving. The Web site will then suggest an investment linked to the cost of producing an amount of clean energy equivalent to the carbon dioxide produced.

Ford is partnering with TerraPass, a group that helps finance solar, wind and methane-driven energy projects, for the project, Niel Golightly, director of Ford's sustainable business strategies, told Reuters in an interview. (Reuters)

I don't suppose Ford will also add carbon emission stats amongst other car information?

Bush suspending environmental rules

President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline, making it easier for refiners to meet demand and possibly dampen prices at the pump.


Easing the environment rules will allow refiners greater flexibility in providing oil supplies since they will not have to use certain additives such as ethanol to meet clean air standards. (Associated Press)

Another example of Americans unwilling to make any kind of sacrifice or lessen their standard of living.

These laws or either good or they're not. If they're not, how about rescinding them permanently, Mr. Bush? Because the problem with rising oil prices is not going to go away. And if all it takes is a 30- or 40-cent rise in gasoline prices to make us roll back environmental regulations, are we in trouble.

Ordinary people

It seems that our entire educational system is designed to scorn the idea of the ordinary -- the idea that, in fact, we are all meant to occupy a modest place, in a family, a community, or a church, a place that is seldom of our own making. But what is wrong with the ordinary? God likes ordinary people; that is why he created so many of us. What is duller than a panoply of primadonnas of the tenth magnitude? The insight of Christianity rather is that there is something wondrous about this rock, that tree, that carpenter over there turning a post on a lathe, or that mother rolling out the dough for something as wildly fantastic as gingerbread.

It all has to do with place, and cheerfully or humbly occupying it.


How many of us scorn the ordinary, and with it -- though we don't want to admit it -- the Ordainer who made us for its duties and its rewards?

Anthony Esolen

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Environmental indulgences for sale

To people who take the threat of global warming personally, driving a car that spews heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere can be a guilt trip.

But to help atone for that environmental sin, some drivers are turning to groups on the Internet that offer pain-free ways to assuage their guilt while promoting clean energy.

It involves buying something known as a carbon offset: a relatively inexpensive way to stimulate the production of clean electricity. Just go to one of several carbon-offset Web sites, calculate the amount of carbon dioxide produced when you drive, fly or otherwise burn fossil fuels, and then buy an offset that pays for an equivalent amount of clean energy.

Of course, emissions could be reduced the old-fashioned way -- by flying less, turning off the air-conditioning or buying a more fuel-efficient car. But that would probably require some sacrifice and perhaps even a change in lifestyle. Instead, carbon-offset programs allow individuals to skip the sacrifice and simply pay for the right to pollute.


Web sites like,, and focus on automobile emissions because drivers can become aware of their carbon footprint every time they fill up. (NY Times)

Something that involves money but no self-sacrifice or change in lifestyle -- the American way!

Calling all green Christian conservatives

For too long, conservatives have ceded political efforts to care for creation to liberals. We Christian conservatives are finally recognizing that conservation is a matter of moral and spiritual integrity. And we're learning that the challenge facing humankind from climate change dwarfs the narcissism of the usual left-right politics.

Politics, however, is the primary way to address a challenge to the commons this massive -- and politics won't shift until our paradigm for thinking and talking about the environment does. The responsibility for that lies with open-minded and imaginative folks from both the liberal and conservative camps -- men and women who care more about conserving the natural world and the human civilization dependent on it than they do about protecting their political purity and fundraising base.

Rod Dreher

Life's tragedies

Driving back from the Dallas airport this past weekend, I heard a segment on "This American Life" about an American civilian who worked in the Pentagon picking out bomb sites in Iraq and helping figure out how to hit them to reduce civilian casualties. I thought that this was an impressively humane way to wage war (which is an insane thought, but still...). The guy talked about how sitting in the Pentagon, he saw video from a drone aircraft show bombs dropped on a site where they thought Chemical Ali was hiding. The video showed body parts flying everywhere, and the Pentagon boys were thrilled. Some time later, this same man was in Iraq, standing in the crater, listening to an old Iraqi man sob over how the blast had killed 17 members of his family. This got to the American. It got to me.

Life is so tragic, and we Americans, we seem to have no comprehension of the tragic sense. Father Alexander Schmemann observed in his diaries that that seems to be characteristic of the middle-class mentality. Maybe so. (Rod Dreher)

If you're in a middle-class cocoon, poke your head out every once in a while and look for the tragedies around you. They may be half-way around the world or right next door. See what you can do to help.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Gasoline prices by county

Check out gas prices by county. As of the above snapshot, California and New York have it bad; Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah have it (relatively) good.

Cellphone rip-off

If you've been reading this blog long enough, you know I'm cheap when it comes to cell phones. Still, it boggles me that people so blatently pay for functionality they don't use.

Cellphone companies, especially Sprint and Verizon Wireless, have been aggressively promoting mobile video services, which cost an average of $10.70 a month for access to sports, news and weather clips. More than a quarter of cellphones now in use can play such videos. But only 1 percent of wireless subscribers are using their phones to watch them, according to a recent survey by the NPD Group, a market research firm. (NY Times)

Kudos to the people who don't see the need to pay $10.70 for cellular video. But why did you buy a phone with the functionality if you're not going to use it? If my math is correct, at least 24% of current owners are doing this.

But, you say, I got my phone for free! (Or heavily discounted.) I see. What kind of contract did you sign with your "free" phone? Do you really having a phone that can receive and play video clips doesn't cost anything?

Lawn mowers & pollution

Gasoline lawn mowers are big polluters.

Gallon for gallon -- or, given the size of lawnmower tanks, quart for quart -- the 2006 lawn mower engines contribute 93 times more smog-forming emissions than 2006 cars, according to the California Air Resources Board. In California, lawn mowers provided more than 2 percent of the smog-forming pollution from all engines. (NY Times)

Adding a golf-ball-sized catalytic converter would drastically cut emissions and add, maybe, $20-25 to the cost of a mower. In California this would be like taking 800,000 cars off the road. But manufacturers are opposed. Why?

Briggs and some other American equipment makers argue that the converters could add a dangerous amount of heat to already hot engines, creating a fire hazard.

The opinions on this is mixed. And it's the same argument used against adding converters to automobiles, yet we've somehow worked around the fire hazard there.

tightening small-engine standards nationally would take 1,750 jobs from [Wisconsin] and send them to China.

Nonsense. Everyone selling machines in this country would have to comply, including the Chinese. It would be a level playing field.

Of course, given America's problem with obesity and importing foreign oil, perhaps this would be a good time to plug old-fashioned push reel mowers?

Christians and cremation

I am surprised by how often Christians are stunned to hear me say that cremation is not a Christian act. Previous generations of Christians would have understood exactly, but today an anti-cremation stance seems at best Luddite and at worst carnal. People will ask, "Can't God raise a cremated Christian just as he can raise a decomposed buried Christian?"

Our eschatology has everything to do then with how we "dispose" of the "remains" of our dead loved ones. Since we believe in the resurrection of the body, we don't see a corpse as "garbage." From the time of our earliest ancestors in the faith, we have buried our dead, committing them to the earth from which they came with the conviction that they will one day be summoned from it once more.


[A]theists and "freethinkers" in America pioneered the practice [of cremation] in America precisely because they denied the resurrection of the flesh.

Russell D. Moore

Sacred meals

Father Finley said the goal, through the church's feasts and fasts, is for families to realize that the meals they share together are also sacred. Thus, the altar table and the family table are linked. Both are "manifestations of the ways that God feeds us throughout our lives," he said.

It's hard to grasp this in an age in which food is surrounded by golden arches and plastic toys more often than golden vestments, incense and icons.

"There's no room for fellowship in a McDonald's culture," he said. "Every now and then people realize this. They feel isolated and rushed and cheated. They know something is wrong."

Terry Mattingly

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Hunting and gathering in the supermarket

Out in nature, if you're a creature looking for something to eat, you might see some attractive looking red berries and think to yourself, "I wonder if I can eat those without getting sick? And what about those mushrooms?" Well, the same thing is happening in the supermarket. There are many tasty things, some of which can kill you. Trans fats, for example, or all the sugar we're eating.

So we're back where we were once upon a time, trying to navigate a treacherous food landscape -- full of attractive things, but some of which are liable to shorten our lives.

Michael Pollan

Yahoo Mail spam

Yahoo Mail recently added technology that supposedly authenticates a sender is sending from the address in the header. The problem is that they often get it wrong! I've gotten plenty of spam that, when sent to Spamcop, is found to be from a completely different domain.

So what is my main beef with this? When Yahoo Mail thinks it's successfully authenticated the source of the mail, that mail lands in my Inbox instead of the spam folder. So while I may not be getting more spam, it's more bothersome. And the real kicker? All of this new spam in my Inbox says it's being sent from "". And Yahoo Mail says it's verified that it's from ""! Something is wrong when an email provider can't even correctly verify that it sent an email.

So what is the solution? I set up a filter that removes anything sent (supposed or real) from "" from my Inbox. Problem solved! Every single piece of email I get from "" is spam. Kind of sad, eh?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Why stars name babies Moxie, Moses and Apple

"Everyone I know with an unusual name loves it," [Penn Jillette] wrote. "It's only the losers named Dave that think having an unusual name is bad, and who cares what they think. They're named Dave."

NY Times

Firefox & Safari browers gain market share

AppleInsider is reporting that both the Firefox and Safari (for Mac) browsers have gained market share.

Although it maintains its standing as the No. 3 browser on the Internet, a recent market share report by Net Applications shows Apple's WebKit-based Safari to have garnered a 3.19 percent share in March, an increase of 1.81 percent from last year.

During the same time period, Microsoft's Internet Explorer saw its market share slip over 3 percent, from 88 percent down to 84.70 percent. FireFox -- the only other browser to succeed Safari in the rankings -- appears to have benefitted the greatest from Explorer's slump, posting a near 3 percent gain to 10.05 percent market share, up from 7.38 percent a year ago.

It should not be too surprising to hear that the Seventh Leper readership is even more progressive. Recent browser marketshare on this blog:

IE 6.0: 66%
Firefox: 18%
Safari: 14%
Mozilla/Netscape: 2%
Konquerer: 1%

A Democrat I can vote for

Facing their best opportunity to control both branches of state government in 40 years, Colorado Democrats are coming to terms with the fact that their candidate for governor, Bill Ritter, opposes abortion.


Local abortion rights activists are despondent. "Do you want to run for governor?" Kathryn Wittneben, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, asked a reporter. "Are you pro-choice? If you're pro-choice, you could run."

Ritter joins the party's candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, Bob Casey Jr., and the highest-ranking Democratic politician in the country, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, as prominent examples of anti-abortion Democrats.


With that goal in sight, Democrats have increasingly rallied behind Ritter. Some of his supporters do not hide their frustration at the belated support.

"It's a testament to how out of touch the leadership of the Democratic Party in Colorado is," said Susan Barnes-Gelt, a former Denver City Council member with a long history of working for the state party. "The Democrats have made a huge mistake letting themselves be identified as a single-issue party, and that issue is choice."

LA Times

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Ten US Cities best prepared for an oil crisis

From SustainLane.

1. New York City
2. Boston
3. San Francisco
4. Chicago
5. Philadelphia
6. Portland
7. Honolulu
8. Seattle
9. Baltimore
10. Oakland

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Colorado governor vetoes school junk food law

Speaking of school junk food, Colorado's governor, Bill Owens, just vetoed legislation that would have required "at least half of a school vending machine be stocked with nutritious choices".

Owens, a confessed McDonald's junkie, said he's not anti-apple. He just "cannot support legislation that micromanages school districts and their policies," he wrote in the veto letter released Wednesday.

Responded Democratic House Majority Leader Alice Madden of Boulder, the sponsor of House Bill 1056: "It's interesting the author of CSAPs is worried about local control." She was referring to the mandatory Colorado Student Assessment Program tests.


In his veto letter, Owens pointed out that the Capitol's vending machines contained only three snacks that "might be considered 'healthy."' That led his spokesman to say the bill was "hypocritical." (Denver Post)

Wow. If the guidance we give to kids is to be limited by our "hypocrisy", what are we doing telling them anything?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Windows security

Last week, a Microsoft data security guru suggested at a conference that corporate and government users would be wise to come up with automated processes to wipe clean hard drives and reinstall operating systems and applications periodically as a way to deal with malware infestations. What Microsoft is talking about is a utility from SysInternals, a company that makes simply awesome tools.

The crying shame of this whole story is that Microsoft has given up on Windows security. They have no internal expertise to solve this problem among their 60,000-plus employees, and they apparently have no interest in looking outside for help. I know any number of experts who could give Microsoft some very good guidance on what is needed to fix and secure Windows. There are very good developers Microsoft could call upon to help them. But no, their answer is to rebuild your system every few days and start over.

Robert X. Cringely

NY Times: thumbs up on Fit & Yaris

The NY Times has a review today of the new Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris. It liked them both, but the Fit came out slightly ahead because of its four doors and innovative back seats (allowing more storage).

I like the look of the Yaris better, and this little detail made me like it even better.

The base price of the Yaris hatchback is $11,530 with a manual transmission (and a quaint throwback, crank windows, which provide a great upper-body workout).

Did you see that? Crank windows? Cool!

That said, having a family, I'd probably need the four doors and increased storage.

Virtualization on Intel Mac

An article on virtualization (e.g., running Windows and MacOS simultaneously on an Intel-based Mac) is in today's Wired News.

Parallels' Rudolph said dual-booting systems are not in tune with the way people work. Having to shut down OS X to boot into Windows wastes time, he said, adding that a Mac running Parallels' virtualization software is almost as fast as a dedicated Windows box.

"If a native Windows machine runs at 100 out of 100 on speed, our version of virtualization runs at a 90 or 95," he said. "It's very fast and very stable."

I agree. The exception being game playing, since you want 100% of your CPU and virtualized 3D doesn't appear to be fully supported yet.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Attack of the emaciated clones

I've got two daughters who will have to make their way in this skinny-obsessed world, and it worries me, because I don't want them to be empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones; I'd rather they were independent, interesting, idealistic, kind, opinionated, original, funny, a thousand things before "thin".

JK Rowling

Thursday, April 06, 2006

School junk food

The days when children consume two orders of French fries in the school cafeteria and call it lunch may be numbered. A bipartisan group in Congress plans to introduce legislation today that would prohibit the sale in school not only of French fries but also of other fatty or sugary foods, including soft drinks.


Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat who has been pushing such a bill since 1994, said: "Congress is finally catching up with what parents have believed for a long time. Members of Congress are hearing from their constituents and recognizing this has become a national problem. I think finally members of Congress are asking, 'Why do we have soft drink vending machines in our schools?'" (NY Times)

I'll tell you why: because schools have sold out to the soft drink industry. Give the schools a couple hundred thousand dollars and they'll let you fatten and poison their students.

And what does the soft drink industry have to say about this?

The American Beverage Association, a trade group, said the legislation was unnecessary because since last August members of the association have limited sales of full-calorie soft drinks to 50 percent of offerings in high schools.

Thanks ABA! I knew we should have trusted you from the beginning.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Mitsubishi i-car

Mitsubishi, eager to expand its U.S. lineup, is testing a small car in California.

Two i cars arrived in March and will be driven in the Los Angeles area. The i car is sold in Japan.

"We will drive it to get customers' comments," says Hiroshi Harunari, the new boss of Mitsubishi Motors North America Inc. "We will study things like which size engine is suitable for the U.S." (Automotive News)

The i-car is based on the smart fortwo and gets around 40 mpg.

Apple and Windows

Apple now has an official (if beta) way to install Windows on their new Intel-based Macs. All the hobbiests that have been creating hacks to do this can stop now.

I have to say, however, that the idea of a dual-boot Mac is completely uninteresting to me. If I had some must-run Windows software, I'd much rather be able to run it within a window in Mac OS. Such a virtual Windows environment would be safer and there wouldn't be the inconvenience of having to reboot. It'll come eventually.