Wednesday, February 25, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #13: Recycle Less

If you read my post from January 27, you already know that I'm a big fan of recycling. I think it's our responsibility to try to damage our environment not so much. However, while recycling is a good thing to do with what's already in the cycle, we're even better served if we combine "recycle" with "reduce" and "reuse". I'm pretty lousy about these latter two. (Of course, we also need to be better about buying recycled products using as much post-consumer content as possible. I guess that falls roughly under the "reuse" umbrella.) But I'm going to try to be better. So, here's my 13th New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to try to reduce the amount of junk mail that ends up coming in our door, which eventually ends up going to the recyclers. Specifically, I am going to make an effort to get all of the unwanted catalogs to stop visiting our mailbox.

To that end, next stop: http://www.catalogchoice.org/. I invite you all to play along.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Using Real-World Algebra to Establish a Real-World Delusion

Well, I filled my fuel tank for the second time since replacing the engine. The first fill-up was right after I took delivery, so it really doesn't count. Now that I have driven the new engine around for nearly a week, I finally have my first inkling of how it's doing on fuel economy.

The result? A fantastic 38 mpg!

Well, given how much the repair cost, I've been looking for the bright side, and here's how I found it:

I took the initial mileage with the new engine and compared it to the recent mileage of the old engine, and assumed (falsely, of course) that the difference will be constant. Then I built an algebraic equation to suit my whims, and determined that the new engine will pay for itself. Specifically, if we assume that the average price of gas will be $2 per gallon, it will pay for itself over the course of 194,746 miles. At an average of $3 per gallon, it will pay for itself over the course of 129,831 miles. And if we assume that the average price of a gallon of gas over the next several years will be $4, it will pay for itself in just 97,373 miles.

Hooray for algebra!

In case you're wondering, here's the equation:

price per gallon(x/old mpg)-price per gallon(x/new mpg)=installed price of replacement engine

Solve for x and suddenly I feel like a winner!

So, to all of you who've said "algebra is useless in the real world", I say "HA!"

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #12: Shoot to Kill

A few years ago, Beth got me a fancy Canon digital SLR and some lenses for it. For some reason, she saw me as having the potential to be a pretty good photographer. Well, I really enjoy using my camera, but I tend to be pretty lazy about actually getting it out and shooting. As a result, I don't really take nearly as many photographs as I probably ought to. The downside of that is that the number of especially good images that I produce tends to be pretty small.

For my twelfth New Year's Resolution of 02009, I'm aiming to work on that. (Modestly.)

I resolve to try to produce at least 5 photographs, in the next year, of which I am unjustifiably proud.

Unjustifiable pride is really my only measuring stick. I never have a clue as to whether my pictures are genuinely good or not. All I know is whether I am proud of them. If so, I consider them a success, even if nobody else sees them as worth the effort.

Five in a year may not seem like a lot, but that would be a pretty darned good year for me, photographically.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolution #11: Get Religion (Not Really)

I'm currently in the middle of reading The Troll Circle, By Sigurd Hoel. I have multiple Hoel books in my collection, but I haven't yet read them all. Despite not having read The Troll Circle or Meeting at the Milestone or Sinners in Summertime all the way through even once, I did get around to reading The Road to the World's End for a second time recently. It's really a beautiful book. Beautiful in the way I think of poetry in its most idealized state. Maybe the most beautiful book I've ever read. If you can get your hands on a copy, I highly recommend it.

Anyway, as the receipt that's tucked in the book can attest, I have been in possession of The Troll Circle for over 12 years. I bought it as a special order (with a fairly steep $35 price) on January 13, 01997. And I'm just now getting around to reading it.

I am also rereading The Catcher in the Rye for the first time since high school.

On top of that, I am very lazily making my way through my hardcover copy of Blindness (purchased before Saramago won the Nobel). (I also have several other Saramago novels, long in my possession, just waiting to be read).

Given all of this information, you might guess that my next New Year's Resolution would be something along the lines of "I resolve to buy no more books until I have caught up on those I already own." No such luck.

Instead, I have told you all of the above about what I'm reading merely to establish (a) that I have fallen far behind on my reading list and (b) that I have no objection to reading old books, even when newer ones are available. If something about a book interests me, I'm happy to put it on my list, although I am fully aware that I will die with a large collection if books that I have simply never found the time to read.

So, now you may wonder what my next New Year's Resolution really will be. Well, I'll tell you. My eleventh New Year's Resolution of 02009 is as follows:

I resolve to take a genuine stab at reading Holy Bible, by assorted dead guys.

From what I've seen of it so far (during multiple halfhearted starts and the occasional leafing through), this will not be easy. The thing seems unwieldy and just plain dull as dirt. Nonetheless, I'm really going to make an effort this time. I've owned a copy for a very long time (much longer than I've owned my copy of The Troll Circle), and I figure I might as well try to discover for myself whether it has any literary merit.

I'm not really expecting to get through the whole thing within the next year. But I am, at the very least, aiming to get through the first few books. Let's say from Genesis through Deuteronomy. If I can get even farther, great! And if my King James version proves to be too unpleasant, I'm even willing to commit to switching to a different translation in hopes that it will be more penetrable.

Note: I will begin this little endeavor after I've completed The Troll Circle, not before.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February Hair Photos

As you will recall from previous posts, my 02008 New Year's Resolution was to try my best to resist the urge to cut my hair, with the ultimate goal of donating it to Locks of Love.

With just one week left in the year, my resolve to keep my hair uncut was still intact. However, my attention was brought to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program, with its 8 inch requirement (which is better for me than Locks of Love's 10 inches). I am eager to get rid of the mess on my head. So, I switched allegiance.

Here are the February 2, 02009 photos:

Self portrait, Locks of Love, hair, growth, Pantene, Beautiful Lengths
There should be just a few more of the self portraits before this series reaches its conclusion. I fear that my hair growth may have slowed its pace. Nonetheless, I'm still desperately hoping to be able to get this all chopped off no later than May.

02009 New Year's Resolution #10: Allow You To Steal My Soul

Long, long ago, I used to pay little to no attention to the cameras that were out in the world, stalking unwary souls.

Then one day I came to believe that there was no good reason why my image should be captured for posterity, and I began to shy away from cameras. My strong preference, for quite a lot of years, was to avoid being photographed. When film was in, I was convinced that there were better uses for it than to freeze my ugly mug in time. So, not including surveillance photographs, it's probably true that over the course of the last two decades, more photographs of my hand were taken than were clean shots of my face (as I made a habit of thrusting my hand up in front of my face whenever someone pointed a lens my way for a "candid" shot).

Well, it's a new age. Film is dead and pixels are free. And in my advanced age, I have come to realize that I possess very few photographs of the people who have meant something to me during my life, and suddenly I can appreciate why someone might want to collect images of their loved ones. Jogging the memory of good times, for example.

Do I think there's any particularly strong reason why possessing my image would hold any appeal for someone else? Not really. However, I've had an epiphany: It's really not up to me to determine the value of such things. One man's trash is another man's treasure. So, in response to this epiphany, here's my tenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to stop putting up resistance to having my face photographed.

From now on, if you want to shoot me, all you have to do is to track me down and have a camera ready. I'm no longer going to make efforts to block the sight lines between your camera lens and my face. I don't know whether this will make anyone any happier or not. I kind of doubt it. But if it does, great! I'm a big fan of the idea of increasing the amount of happiness in the world.