31 July 2007

New domain name

So for anyone that has visited this blog before you may have noticed a new domain name. I am still not sure why I decided to register for a domain name other than it was cheap and that I had the "Trigger Hippie" idea floating around in my head after hearing it in a song the other night. It stems from a certain duality that I find in my life stemming from a devotion to my military career and subsequently my little family within the military that means so much to me combined with my passion for our natural world. I have been pondering a set of tatoos on my calves and have been stuck on the idea of a tree of life on one calf and a fallen soldiers memorial on the other. So since I am sort of a nerd, I ended up with a domain as an attempt to hold off on blowing my money on a tat. Check out GoDaddy for cheap domains if you are looking to disguise your frugality and want to get some flair for your blog and your e-mail.

Rockin New Shirt

So normally I don't sport shirts displaying my non-meat eating preferences as to avoid being accosted by those attempting to justify why they chose to adhere to certain dietary patterns in a seeming effort to compensate for some feelings of guilt.

I am not judging. Trust me. I find myself very defensive of any action that I feel guilty about (i.e. needlessly driving my car) and at times I find that guilt compels me into an almost offensive state.

Like I have mentioned in earlier posts, I am working on re-gaining my vegan footing after a rather extensive hiatus. I am vegan for a variety of reasons, mostly for environmental reasons, but also because I have issues regarding needlessly depriving something of life. Anyway, back to the shirt. I found it. I thought it was fun. AND it was on clearance. Here's a picture. If you like it, I suggest you visit the site soon as they are closing down the e-commerce site soon.

Down with plastic bags! And paper too!

I know most everyone out there understands the evils of the plastic bag, but this video from GOOD Magazine provides some figures to shock you into remembering your reusable tote bags.

24 July 2007

More Details on Carbon Neutral PC

In February, PC World announced that they were working on a carbon neutral PC. Since then, there has been little news. Last week when the Independent ran a story on it with some new information, which CNet has summarized nicely.

read more | digg story

21 July 2007

On Vacation in Savannah

Well, no interesting things to post at the moment as I am on a short vacation to Savannah, GA. If anyone wants to see some examples of how transit, open space, and just a generally liveable downtown can be done correctly this is the place to visit. An interesting trivia fact is that Savannah managed to escape the wrath of the Civil War so it has a surprising amount of its original architecture still intact. The worst part about the trip has been trying to find vegan-friendly foods. I have to say as far as the vegeterian options on the menu, this is no Asheville,NC.

18 July 2007

Google Earth... Now more than just seeing your house from space

There has been incredible development in the types of models created for Google Earth. Now you can visualize not only the earth but all of the components of our solar system (including the sun) in the correct spatial scale.

read more | digg story

17 July 2007

A Random Conglomeration of Green Things

First off there has been a decent amount of press on the net about attempts to get a "bike sharing" project of the ground in NYC. I guess that's the downside of living in the southeast... we have to wait until all the progressive ideas to migrate from up North and out West. Check out the program details here.

The Google Earth Blog showed off some more of the capabilities of the Google Earth platform. As web developers and businesses get behind the application, more and more ways of porting large and complex datasets are starting to surface. The blog features information about an GE overlay filled with power production locations for the western United States.

Headway came up with an interesting idea in terms of increasing transit ridership. Create your own signage and spread the gospel of transit guerrilla style. Rather than depending on your local transit authority to provide route schedules on each individual sign (my relatively small town of ~100,000 people has 900+ officially registered stops), find the schedule for the stops that you use most often and take responsibility for maintaining a route schedule (replacing it when it weathers and keeping it up to date). Also on Headway more on the iPhone and its transit uses as programs such as "MuniTime" make real-time transit information available showing when a bus or train will arrive at a particular stop.

Some minor waves have surfaced in legislative circles over the past few weeks concerning the concept of hot gas. R-Squared Energy Blog has done a couple of interesting write-ups to despute media claims (which for the most part have stated that due to the chemical properties of gasoline, consumers are being sold less energy per gallon of gas during hot summer days because gas expands in volume when it is heated). I have to wonder that if the media claims hold any water, aren't gas stations purchasing hot gas (since I don't think that gas tankers are regrigorated) and then turning around and selling that gas to consumers? In fact isn't everyone in the gas industry exposed to the higher temperatures? Maybe the summer price of gas should be higher as the cost of storage and transportation goes up for the sales side of the industry.

WorldChanging found a program in India that helps its customers eliminate waste. Consumers apparently pick a container for waste to use within their home or office and the service helps to sort the waste (i.e. recycling, composting, etc.) in order to help the customer to understand how to reduce their "trash".

I'll try to do another run down of items I have "starred" in my Google Reader (a terrific program for staying on top of the current events or blogs that you find of particular interest) within the next couple of days. Please feel free to leave comments on any items that you would like to see me cover more often.

World Wide Wind Turbine Shortage

"A worldwide shortage of wind-turbines has been caused by a sudden surge in demand and the frenzied industrial growth of China creating delivery delays that could take years to rectify.

read more | digg story

16 July 2007

The economic and political foolishness of paying for carbon reduction

Consistently saying that we have to pay to reduce carbon (or the inverse, that we can't afford not to reduce carbon) may be morally appealing, but it is politically -- and environmentally -- toxic, because it reinforces precisely those beliefs that are preventing us from implementing laws that would actually start to reduce carbon emissions.

read more | digg story

More Note on Being Vegan...

As I am I running through the blogs I frequent. I am realizing how often I find inspiration from the blogs of my fellow vegans for menu ideas. Even if you're not vegan and your just looking for exciting new meal ideas, blogs provide a wonderful opportunity to get an idea of what normal people cook and how those recipes that you've always been afraid to attempt actually turn out. Here's a few of my top links:
  1. What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway
  2. Walking the Vegan Line
  3. Urban Vegan
  4. Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen
  5. Eat Air - A Vegan Food Log
  6. Don't Get Mad, Get Vegan!
I am sorry if I left anyone out and please feel free to leave comments with your favorite vegan site or blog. So far I have been able to "toe the line" of veganism and haven't caught myself trying to cheat. The only problem I have had is that I keep ending up with vanilla soy milk rather than regular, which results in some interesting variations on recipes.

15 July 2007

Bob Geldof Slams Live Earth

Sir Bob Geldof is ragging on Al Gore. The Irish musician, who organized the Live Aid and Live 8 multi-venue rock concerts for famine and debt relief in 1985 and 2005, respectively—is apparently "furious" to be linked to Gore's Live Earth event, calling it a "waste of time."

read more | digg story

13 July 2007

Quote of the Week

"Only religious fanatics and totalitarian states equate morality with legality," Linus Torvalds (Mastermind behind Linux)

11 July 2007

Free transit for everyone

I ran across this post on TreeHugger and couldn't help but agree with it completely. Although I currently receive free bus fare through my employer (and former school), I would love to see some relief on those that can't afford another option other than mass transit as well as those who chose to act more responsibly in their transportation choices. Get the full text of the article here, but a few of my favorite suggestions for improvement of the transit system were:
  • a barrier-free transportation option to every member of the community (no more worries about exact change, expiring transfers, or embarrassment about how to pay)
  • reducing, and in some cases eliminating, the need for private motorized vehicle parking
  • contributing significantly to the local economy by keeping our money in our communities
  • allowing all bus doors to be used to load passengers, making service faster and more efficient
  • giving operators more time to answer questions

10 July 2007

The Redemption of the iPhone

With all the hype about the iPhone, I have to say that I have been more than skeptical. I have never been a fan of Apple's tendency toward an overly proprietary platform or the way that they strong-armed the use of particular applications (Safari for the iPhone's browser and iTunes for managing your iPod's music). While there are many arguments to be had about Microsoft's practices of strong-arming its users, Microsoft users remain jaded about the limitations and evils behind their choice of operating system where Apple users seem to be a bit more loyalist.

All this aside, I have developed a bit of respect for the iPod as I see its potential as a platform for on-the-fly transit information (such as that available through Google Transit). This is not something entirely new as Google mobile has made such applications available for web-enabled phones and PDAs for quite a while. The unique spin that the iPhone provides however is Apple's potential to make web-enabled phones an everyday device. Until the advent of the iPod, portable MP3 players were somewhat of a luxury item reserved largely for techies or those with excess funds. The iPhone stands to make accessing realtime information the standard and will probably push content providers to produce more information catered specifically for the format.

Headway has a pretty interesting summary of accessing transit information on the iPhone. I anxiously await further development in this arena and I also like that such mobile computing formats eliminate the need for devices that utilize more energy (i.e. laptops and desktops). I won't be purchasing an iPhone within the near future and will probably hold out to see if the rumors of the iPhone Nano pan out to be true (and hope that it branches out beyond ATT).

Progress on my re-Vegan experiment

So things have been going well in my experiment to re-vegan myself. I can't say that I have completely avoided animal products as I have yet to purge my food stocks of all non-vegan foods. I decided that I was not going to waste food in the process, but would instead transition into a vegan diet. It seemed a bit hypocritical to throw away perfectly good food in order to adopt which is intended to lessen environmental impacts. I have enjoyed re-engineering recipes and creating new foods and I think I am headed along a better path as far as keeping nutritional value and cost in check than I was the last time.

Anyway I ran across this vegan food pyramid on a webpage of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and thought it worth reposting as it gives a pretty good framework for beginner vegans. It definitely helps show that my habit of chowing down on vegan cupcakes is still not nutritious.

09 July 2007

An example of what happens when governments intervene in gas pricing

APA-Harare (Zimbabwe) Long fuel queues have resurfaced in Zimbabwe as filling stations ran out of petrol following a government directive to reduce prices by up to 60 percent, APA observed here.

read more | digg story

New York Crime Dropped Because of Decreased Lead Exposure, Not Giuliani

An economist has linked already known evidence about the connection between childhood lead exposure and later criminal activity with crime rate fluctuations and environmental policies.

read more | digg story


Putting our own house in order is a good first first step in the long path towards sustainability, so it was great to hear that the U.S. House of Representatives has unveiled a plan to become carbon neutral by the end of its current term.

read more | digg story

08 July 2007

The Wind makes a friend

Now don't you feel bad about not embracing alternative energy. I can't wait to see the rebuttals with a dejected coal or crude oil.

Glamming up cycling

Another well put together cycling promotion video.

Break down difficult topics with WikiMindMap

So I am a huge Wikipedia fan, but I find that sometimes some of the articles can be a little heady for me to understand. I ran accross the site WikiMindMap which will allow you to visualize how your topic relates to other topics. Although it might not grant you the understanding that you seek, it does help provide visual hints.

I find the Mind Map format to be useful when attempting to flesh out a thought. You can pick up FreeMind, an open source version of mind mapping software. The software is capable of exporting to a variety of formats including CAD.

Sorry I realize this has nothing to do with my blog, but its hard for me to stay on topic. I was going to draw out a mind map of my mind put there were far to many squiggles and loops.

07 July 2007

Another worthwhile cartoon

I couldn't avoid posting this cartoon as I find it to be an excellent summation of the current rush of consumerism toward any thing "eco" or "green".

BOEING DREAMLINER: A More Sustainable Aircraft

Air travel can be the bane of any well-meaning environmentalist. One flight can spew tons of carbon and other pollution into the air, but let’s face it, there are few reasonable alternatives for jetsetters. So it’s great to hear that when Boeing set out to design their new airplane, the 787 Dreamliner they had a more sustainable focus in mind.

read more | digg story

05 July 2007

China: Food Versus Fuel Wars Just Beginning

As everyone in China knows, food prices have risen sharply over the past year. If it gives any comfort to anyone, China is not the only country. Rising food prices are a worldwide phenomenon.As a consequence of cheap oil, the society that developed was based on the internal combustion engine - the motor car.

read more | digg story

The rise of the bike "kitchen"

National ridership figures may be down, but grassroots collectives are thriving.

read more | digg story

New and Improved LEED Rating System Underway

The U.S. Green Building Council will tweak the rating system to align LEED credits across the board and allow for greater adaptability overall.

read more | digg story

More on My Google Transit Ideas

Just a quick PowerPoint of my proposed ideas for porting my city's transit information into Google services.

04 July 2007

Going vegan again... I hope.

So after a considerable thought and a little inspiration from Jufran Banana Sauce, I have decided to attempt being vegan again. I originally stopped being vegan after venturing out into the world on my own and quickly finding that I was unable to afford faux-foods (such as soy cheese). I was vegan for about 2 years for my first stint and have been a vegetarian since (aside from time spent on Army deployments where its more or less impossible to be vegetarian).

I have decided this time to rely on a wider range of international foods and hope to not get stuck with the American idea that every meal some how requires meat, cheese, butter, or some type of dairy product (or the appropriate substitute in the case of vegans). So hopefully I can post some good recipes in the coming days.

In case you were wondering, I am vegetarian/hopefully vegan for a variety of reasons.
  1. Animal products cause considerably higher levels of energy to produce (popular belief holds that 1000 calories of an animal product would require 10,000 calories of plant products as foods). I feel that a lot of arable land could be better used to meet worldwide food demands in a sustainable manner rather than for meat production.
  2. I have issues with the idea of raising an animal solely for the purpose of slaughtering and eating them. I manage to maintain a feeling that animals have some knowledge of their own existence as they attempt to avoid death.

Two really good books on the subject are The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal Liberation (I swear it's not as leftist as it sounds). More to come about my attempt to kick the egg and dairy habit in the coming weeks. Oh and in case you want to see what vegan food looks like check out Urban Vegan and Eat Air - A Vegan Food Log.

03 July 2007

Funny Stuff

Baldo 2-Dec-2006

I ran across this comic and felt obligated to post it. Also for those interested in hybrids and the "greening" of the automotive industry cruise on over to http://hybridblog.typepad.com/.

Just Random Thoughts...

So I attended a discussion/presentation today about transportation and planning in the Asheville area, the dialog that took place was rather interesting and a few of the key things I took away were:
  1. Asheville needs to take steps to rid itself of its pedestrian hostility (being someone who bikes or walks for large portion of my transportation needs, I have long felt that pedestrians are treated as lesser citizens to those who utilize automobiles).
  2. Infrastructure needs to be implaced to decrease automobile usage and to make made multi-modal transportation methods feasible (in Asheville this is somewhat difficult due to an aging transportation network).
  3. Attention needs to be devoted to ridership demographics and focus needs to be directed toward attracting a more diverse socio-economic crowd in order to make mass-transit "cool" again.
  4. Options such as park-to-ride lots need to be implemented to decrease the amount of parking space and traffic utilized in the city center.
  5. Efforts can be directed toward the entire greater Asheville area and its more problematic corridors rather than just the city center.
  6. Proper planning will require efforts from a number of organizations included NGOs, government entities, business interests, and true citizen involvement.
Some of these conclusions were derived from direct statements within the talk and others were pieced together from the discussion. I believe that much of the dialog today can be extended to other cities and I learned that quite a number of other cities have technologies and ideas that Asheville needs to examine.

02 July 2007

Hawth's Tools

So this is probably not new and exciting to everyone else, but I recently ran across the Hawth's Analysis Tool Set available at http://www.spatialecology.com/. This is an extremely useful set of tools for anyone doing any type of ecology work with ArcMap as it expands Arc's functionality in this area.

So far the features that I have found most useful and the biggest time savers are the ability to generate random points and the ability to create evenly spaced grid shapefiles. It also has other features which I have yet to exploit including animal movement simulation.

Perhaps the most attractive part of this tool is that it is completely free and it easily installs and integrates with the Arc products. Please don't let me limited review deter you, this is definitely something worth checking out.

Google Maps API for Asheville Transit System

I just wanted to make a quick post to show a API I am working on to port the Asheville City (North Carolina) transit system into a Google Map API. Hopefully I will continue work on this project to include detailed information on all routes. The overlay works as a link to an existing Google map I have created and will be updated as I make updates to the maps. I believe that this provides map information to users in a more tangible and easily accessible format. The long term goals I envision for this project will include detailed information on each route stop including bus arrival times and a picture of the stop in case users are unfamiliar with the area.

I believe that if resources are invested to expand the information about the Asheville transit into existing more trendy technologies, ridership demographics will also expand.

This format also lends to make the information available on portable technologies such as mobile phones and PDAs. Public Transit needs to be made to look and feel cool in order for it to shed the stigma that currently plagues it.

01 July 2007

More Points for Linux

Well to add even more "cool" points to Ubuntu and Linux as a whole, I discovered recordMyDesktop today. With this easily installed program you can create live screen captures of your desktop as a video. This is especially useful for say recording a specific process you would like to show as an instructional piece, porting a "PowerPoint" to video, or in my case creating a time lapse effect for GIS applications. Below you'll find a simple screen capture example.

For those Linux users who would like to check the software out, simply enter this command into Terminal.
sudo apt-get install recordmydesktop gtk-recordmydesktop

For more specifics check out http://recordmydesktop.sourceforge.net/.

OpenSource Software and the Environment

While their is an increasing focus on the need for computer hardware manufacturers to "green" the design of their products, it seems that we already have an infrastructure present for sustainability in the software market.

Recently I switched one of my home computers over to the Ubuntu operating system just as an experiment. The only actual media necessary for the conversion was a single CD-R which came from a bulk packaged spindle (and to be quite honest I could have installed the entire package from a thumbdrive). Though software installation on this machine is an ongoing process, I still have used only a single CD-R to make this a functional machine catered to what I intend to use it for. I have yet to find a task that I wasn't able to find software suited for on my Ubuntu box. The software packages so far include:
  • OpenOffice (Office Productivity software, parallels MS Office)
  • Quantum GIS (Offers minor GIS functionality)
  • Automatix (Automated software update and install features)
  • GIMP (Photo-manipulation software, parallels Adobe Photoshop)
  • Firefox (of course)
  • Various utilities
If I were trying to assemble such a software suite based on mass-market software packages, I believe the associated media and packaging materials would be considerably more expansive. Not to mention negative environmental implications associated with my having to earn all of the money to purchase those products.

I will try to get into more specifics in later posts, but their are several positive aspects of open source software based on the fact that its infrastructure for support and distribution is based less on warehouse-type operations and is to a certain degree spread across its user base and existing academic institutions.

Open source software can also be catered to rescue hardware that would be considered obsolete by more conventional terms. I am successfully running Ubuntu on a Gateway 733mhz machine with 384mb of RAM that was previously considered to be trash. Instead of tossing our old machines to the landfills or running them through "recycling" programs, computers can be redeemed and can contribute to meeting the informational needs of developing countries.

Although this post is a glowing endorsement of the Ubuntu Linux distribution, there are several other packages that are worth checking out (I also like the Slax distribution as it can easily be ported to a thumbdrive and can become your computer independent operating system). Suse and Freespire are also fun to play with. I'll add more in the coming weeks on useful open source software. Computing can play an extremely powerful role in mitigating developing environmental problems as they provide a flexible venue for processing and disseminating information. After all, remember that GI Joe taught us all that "...knowing is half the battle."