Archive for October 2009
Sometimes you get a head of garlic and pop off a nice-sized clove of garlic only to discover that it’s made of a couple of dozen nano-cloves. Highly annoying. I just throw those away as too small to bother with.
Chicken is going into the oven…
The guest blogger today is the Nobel prize-winning Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, by way of HuffPost. As you’ll see, he’s the mirror image of Bush’s Energy Secretary (see “Bodman as Orwell: DOE erases ‘most successful’ weatherization program from website“).
I’ve always been a bit of an energy efficiency nut.
I’ve made it my mission to cut the utility bills at every home we’ve owned. Long before I learned about the risks of climate change, I was fanatical about energy efficiency because I’m cheap.
Whenever my wife and I move into a new home, I check the attic for adequate insulation. I look for leaks around doors and windows and install a programmable thermostat if needed. In our latest home, I’ve also insulated our water pipes with inexpensive foam from our local hardware store and painted mastic sealant on the seams of the air ducts. When our hot water heater needed replacement, we installed a tank-less water heater which decreased our summer-time gas use by 50%. In the summer, we found that setting the thermostat at 77 – 78 degrees and a gentle breeze from a fan was all that is required to be comfortable.
So far, we are on track to cut our utility bills by about half compared to the previous owner, but we are doing more. Our home has two large skylights that funnel too much heat out in the winter and let too much heat in the summer. We intend to replace these older windows with modern widows with five times the efficiency.
Taking these steps is called “weatherization.” I would rather call it “saving money by saving energy.” Over the next several years, we want to help millions of American families seize the same opportunity to cut their utility bills by making their homes and appliances more energy efficient while increasing comfort.
We are making a major down payment on this effort through the President’s economic recovery plan.
First, the Recovery Act expanded tax credits for energy efficiency upgrades to your home. If you purchase and install certain energy-efficient windows, insulation, doors, roofs, or heating and cooling equipment, you can receive a tax credit for 30% of the cost, up to $1,500. For example, if insulating your attic costs around $1,600, you’ll receive a $480 tax credit, and you could save up to $200 on your utility bill each year.
Second, we are launching an innovative new effort called “Retrofit Ramp Up” that will simplify and reduce the cost of home retrofits by funding pioneering programs that reach whole neighborhoods and towns. If we can energy audit and retrofit a reasonable fraction of the homes in any given residential block, the cost will be greatly reduced. Programs such as these will decrease barriers to saving money: inconvenience, inertia, and inadequate information. We want to make home energy efficiency upgrades irresistible and a social norm for homeowners.
This effort could offer homeowners innovative ways to finance the upfront investments they can’t afford on their own. For example, homeowners might receive a loan for an energy improvement and pay back the principal and interest over time via an assessment on their property tax bill. The homeowners might pay an extra $400 per year on their property tax bill but save $500 a year on their utility bill. Since the financing would be attached to the property tax bill, both the savings and the loan payments stay with the house if the owners decide to sell.
What’s 4 Dinner Solutions has a very tasty sounding set of recipes:
I know this sounds like a crazy recipe, but the Garlic, Garlic Chicken is a keeper. The garlic roasts to a nice, nutty, sweet flavor, perfect with a slice of bread. Friends made this for me and after the first bite, I was sold, I couldn’t believe how good it was. The Sliced Pepper Salad came about because I was at the store last week and they had a huge sale on peppers of every color. Each one has a different flavor, so I didn’t want to do much too overwhelm that, but you can add sliced onion if it appeals to you. Get a really good Artisan bread and you’ve got a dinner that takes less than 20 minutes to prep.
On the board tonight:
- Garlic, Garlic Chicken
- Loaf of a good crusty Artisan bread
- Sliced Pepper Salad
- Hot Apple Cider with Ginger Snaps
Continue reading for the recipes of the items in bold. Sounds easy—and I’m going to do it!
UPDATE. Man, from 45 minutes on the fragrance of the roasting chicken/garlic is tantalizing. Still have 15 minutes to go. I can’t stand it.
Although the GOP is still talking about "death panels" in their efforts to kill healthcare reform, they’re also getting ready to attack Net Neutrality—again, relying heavily on distortions and lies since they seem unable to come up with any reasonable basis for their opposition (just as with healthcare reform). Amanda Terkel at ThinkProgress:
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission voted to move forward with regulations to preserve the open architecture of the Internet. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is trying to make our current system’s “net neutrality” official by ensuring that broadband providers “cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications” and are “transparent about their network management practices.” That same day, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced legislation to block the FCC, inexplicably arguing that preserving net neutrality would be a “government takeover of the Internet.”
Yesterday, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) held a conference call with bloggers to discuss net neutrality. He and Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA) have introduced legislation — which currently has seven co-sponsors — to “establish overarching national broadband policy and ensures an open and consumer oriented Internet.” Markey stressed the importance of fighting “misinformation,” invoking death panels and the other red herrings the right wing slung into this summer’s health care debate:
As you all know, a lot is being written and said about what open Internet requirements would mean for broadband investment innovation and consumers. [...]
It’s almost as though some people want to have their own equivalent of “death panels” that we had in the health care debate back in August. That was a red herring that took us off the main point of providing health care to everyone, for a month or six weeks. Now we’ve got that straightened out, but we have to battle hard to make sure the misinformation is responded and responded to in a very brief period of time.
Fox News host Glenn Beck has been fear-mongering on net neutrality for weeks, saying that the Obama administration is trying to shut down freedom of speech. “You have a freedom of speech or the government,” said Beck last week. “You can’t really have both.” He’s been getting his talking points from Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity, who also fueled Beck’s campaign against former Obama adviser Van Jones. Some telecom companies — which, along with the cable industry, is driving opposition to an open Internet — have begun astroturfing efforts as well.
The telecom and cable industries are the ones interested in controlling access to information on the Internet. What the FCC’s regulations on net neutrality would do are ensure that the Internet remains an open, non-discriminatory marketplace of ideas, rather than a pay-for-play system where broadband providers could make certain companies’ sites run faster if they’re willing to dole out large sums of money.
Net neutrality is essential to free speech, which both the Christian Coalition and the Gun Owners of America have acknowledged. From a 2008 testimony by Michele Combs, the Christian Coalition’s vice president of communications:
Consequently, the reason the Christian Coalition supports Net Neutrality is simple. We believe that organizations such as the Christian Coalition should be able to continue to use the Internet to communicate with our members and with a worldwide audience without a phone or cable company snooping in on our communications and deciding whether to allow a particular communication to proceed, slow it down, or offer to speed it up if the author pays extra to be on the “fast lane.”
Trent Hamm reflects on the most important lessons he’s learned since starting The Simple Dollar. He begins:
Over the past three years, I’ve had countless opportunities to reflect not only on my own personal finance and life journey, but that of thousands of readers who have contacted me over the years with questions and stories.
Along the way, quite a few principles for personal and financial success began to appear. These same features pop up again and again in people’s stories and comments – and I find them to be deeply true in my own life as well.
The single most important part of personal finance is truly knowing yourself.
Why do you buy the things that you do? Why are you worried about this situation? Why do you feel this way about this product? Why do you respond to guilt in this way?
The answer to all of these questions lies with introspection. The answer to all of these questions is also a tremendous boost when it comes to personal finance. If you understand fully the internal reasons why you desire something, you can work through those reasons, validate them or throw them aside, and then make a clear, enlightened, and rational decision about whether to acquire it.
The more introspection you do, the more naturally the true answers to those questions become and the easier it becomes to recognize your more dangerous and frivolous impulses for what they are. This leads not only to tremendous financial success, but great personal success as well.
The second most important part of personal finance is …
Useful post by Michael Grabell and Jennifer LaFleur and Amanda Michel and Christopher Flavelle at ProPublica. It begins:
When the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package passed in February, President Obama pledged that American taxpayers would be able to track every dime. Today, the government released its first comprehensive look—a trove of data on 121,000 stimulus reports worth about $159 billion. Democrats and Republicans are already using the new data to support claims that the stimulus triumphed or flopped. But how much can you reliably conclude from the data? Here is ProPublica’s guide to what’s new, what’s missing and what to watch for:
Of all the stimulus data released today, the most-watched figure is likely to be 640,329 – the number of jobs reported to be created or saved. Counting jobs might sound easy, but it’s a lot more complicated than it seems. And there are a number of important caveats to keep in mind.
First, the number is not an actual headcount but a calculation of full-time equivalents. The White House instructed recipients to measure the number of hours worked on stimulus projects and divide it by the number of hours in a full-time schedule for the quarter. So a construction worker on a one-month paving project would count only as a third of a job. The upshot: More people could have been employed, but the data doesn’t tell you if their job lasted two days or will last two years.
The $159 billion detailed in today’s release represents less than half of total money made available to date. It doesn’t include more than $100 billion in …
Dear Mr. Levitt,
The problem of global warming is so big that solving it will require creative thinking from many disciplines. Economists have much to contribute to this effort, particularly with regard to the question of how various means of putting a price on carbon emissions may alter human behavior. Some of the lines of thinking in your first book, Freakonomics, could well have had a bearing on this issue, if brought to bear on the carbon emissions problem. I have very much enjoyed and benefited from the growing collaborations between Geosciences and the Economics department here at the University of Chicago, and had hoped someday to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance. It is more in disappointment than anger that I am writing to you now.
I am addressing this to you rather than your journalist-coauthor because one has become all too accustomed to tendentious screeds from media personalities (think Glenn Beck) with a reckless disregard for the truth. However, if it has come to pass that we can’t expect the William B. Ogden Distinguished Service Professor (and Clark Medalist to boot) at a top-rated department of a respected university to think clearly and honestly with numbers, we are indeed in a sad way.
By now there have been many detailed dissections of everything that is wrong with the treatment of climate in Superfreakonomics, but what has been lost amidst all that extensive discussion is how really simple it would have been to get this stuff right. The problem wasn’t necessarily that you talked to the wrong experts or talked to too few of them. The problem was that you failed to do the most elementary thinking needed to see if what they were saying (or what you thought they were saying) in fact made any sense. If you were stupid, it wouldn’t be so bad to have messed up such elementary reasoning, but I don’t by any means think you are stupid. That makes the failure to do the thinking all the more disappointing. I will take Nathan Myhrvold’s claim about solar cells, which you quoted prominently in your book, as an example.
As quoted by you, Mr. Myhrvold claimed, in effect, that it was pointless to try to solve global warming by building solar cells, because they are black and absorb all the solar energy that hits them, but convert only some 12% to electricity while radiating the rest as heat, warming the planet. Now, maybe you were dazzled by Mr Myhrvold’s brilliance, but don’t we try to teach our students to think for themselves? Let’s go through the arithmetic step by step and see how it comes out. It’s not hard.
Let’s do the thought experiment of building a solar array to generate the entire world’s present electricity consumption, and see what the extra absorption of sunlight by the array does to climate. First we need to find the electricity consumption. Just do a Google search on “World electricity consumption” and here you are: …