Sunday, December 31, 2006

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle -- Bitritus Solution

The New York Times on Sunday had a great article on how some individuals are buying refurbished technology gear in an effort to be more eco-friendly. It definitely was a thought when i bought the refurb that I'm writing this post on right now. It's an attractive option especially for computers which feel they have a shelf life approaching that of milk that you can save a few dollars and be green too.

The interesting thing is you can only buy recent models of computers, and there really is no resale market of old computers. I picked up a second generation grape iMac for $1 recently and it works, but I don't know what to use it for. That old Bitritus sneaking up again.

With the advent of the new Vista Operating System from Microsoft, the same old upgrade cycle is going to happen again. It'd be nice if we could properly recycle these devices. That's the idea behind Cradle to Cradle design where the materials can be used again as the raw material for new products that William McDonough and Michael Braungart advocate. There must be some cradle to cradle mechanism for the ...

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Through efforts completely predictable, I failed to get off of my lazy ass and ended up missing seeing my friends who were visiting from China in Las Vegas. So as penance, I've been spending my time cleaning out my apartment and I've come on to another enemy of a carbon free life, and that is electronics digital technology, the very stuff that pays my salary.

A real concern for historians is that more and more information is becoming digitized and they are worried that in the future that people will be unable to recover what records our lives because it'll be trapped on little plastic plates that no one can read, or worse yet they will no longer be readable. The 10,000 year life predicted for CDs turns out to be a lot less. They have a term for this -- it's called "bit rot", well I have another term to introduce which is the opposite and I call it "bitritus" and that's the old digital data that accumulates in your life. In part of my clean up, I've been going through all these old CD-ROMs containing programs that are no longer interesting, or no longer run on any current operating system.

I'm struggling with what to, since software generally costs a lot more than a magazine, so it seems so wrong to throw it away. Not to mention that there is no easy way recycle them. As I go through the software, it's interesting is that all the really cool graphics games seem boring, but those classic games like Bridge, Scrabble and Tetris remain forever fun. Thankfully they still run on the new hardware. Though awkwardly in some cases such as Scrabble on my Mac which runs in "Classic" mode. Some things are truly timeless. So now I struggle with these old CD-ROMs, I've been trying to see if anyone wants this old software: (Answer: in most cases no, except for the games). I still try enforce my rule that any old piece of technology that is replaced in my house by a newer piece, the old one gets sold. But software just lingers. To be fair, things are getting better, I just picked up a new iPod Shuffle, and it no longer comes with a CD notifying you to download it from Apple. No CD to get rid of, but I have plenty of old iTunes CDs in the house.

It's amazing how much that technology is meant to go to the dumpster. There are old pieces of hardware for lack of driver die a premature death, and there is lots of software that will run on new hardware that has been made obsolete. It got me thinking about what lasts and what doesn't -- and the answer is low tech endures.

At the risk of dooming myself to singlehood, I still use plates that I used in college for my evening meals. It's just plastic and porcelain, but it still works great. I never felt a need to upgrade. I've burned (literally) through some pots and pans, and in most cases silverware still endures. My daily coffee mug is almost 14 years old. It's still the perfect size and microwave safe. My family still plays with a mah jongg set that is almost as old as I am.

So right now, my old plates still function, and my digital life accumulates a bitritus weighing on my shelves and conscience about what to do with them.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Drowning in Packaging....

It's the holidays and I'm finishing up cleaning up the place. I have been a bit of a buying spree lately, blame Google Checkout for that, there were just too many good deals, and I hate to say it the consumerist in me can't pass a good deal, I mean a really good deal like a video tuner card for free (except tax or shipping so about $5) and this really cool bluetooth wireless stereo broadcast system that plays music across the room from my ipod to my speakers (like $12, it should have been cheaper but I accidentally paid for shipping). Don't like a song, I just change it on my iPod. Very very addictive these savings. Unfortunatelt, it's also very un-carbon free. I am absolutely flummoxed by the amount of boxes, inserts, adverts, and plastic balloony things that replaced packing peanuts (I miss the biodegradable corn stuff of the past).

No I do an occasional ebay or amazon marketplace thing, so I keep a lot of packaging. But how much do we need. Standardized packaging has led to an incredible amount of efficency in the supply chain and delivery, at the risk of inefficient waste.

And even packaged foods are the same way, I like Trader Joe's Microwaveable Indian treats (quick dinner) and there is a box and a aluminum baggie inside.

Convenience is really inconvenient if try not to mindless throw stuff away (don't get me started, I looked in the garbage today and there were recyclables in there, and the recycle bins are right beside the dumpster!)

I don't want to live like a hermit, an ascetic but I don't want to live like an eco-monster. What to do, what to do. I keep canvas bags in the car. I try to reuse plastic bags for veggies. So what else can I do, what else can I do?

A return to form...

Merry Christmas everyone, and I mean everyone. Anytime there is an excuse for joy in life take it.

On Friday, I had the day off which was absolutely fantastic. I took the time to work on some individual projects, get a little shopping down and spend some time exploring the world by foot as I so enjoy.

I took the train up to San Francisco to visit the California Academy of Sciences and the SFMOMA. CAS has a traveling exhibit from the American Museum of Natural History on new Dinosaur discoveries. It's a nice exhibit except that I already saw it New York City last year, oh well, if traveling wasn't so much fun how can one complain. It got me thinking, we're relying on dino juice now, what are going to be the sources of dino juice millions of years from now?

There is something amazing about traveling by train and that the escape you can get few other places, people tune into their iPods and read. Or more commonly now, bring either a cell phone or laptop computer and get some work done, though I did see a few games of minesweeper going on. I've been reading Bill Buford's "Heat" which is very much like Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" in feel. The kitchen is a brutal but honest place.

I really would love to live somewhere with mass transit out my door. Just as I found the original Dino exhibit in NYC, I wonder if there is the ability export their wonderful mass transit elsewhere?

Happy Holidays everyone, I'm off to sleep.


Monday, December 18, 2006

A change in title....

This blog has been mostly about being Car free, but I decided that there is another challenge facing us in this age and that's our carbon consumption. Cars are just one part of the Carbon equation, so I thought I would transform this blog into reducing one's carbon footprint, especially during the cold of the season.

Today's post comes from Jason Fry of the Wall Street Journal who explores his electricity use coming to the conclusion that much our electricity consumption comes from lights and heat, not new fangled computers.

As we get more and more efficient, will it make more sense except for archival purposes to never make a DVD or CD again? Maybe not a lot of carbon, but then think about when was the last time you got an AOL CD?

This holiday season we don't give stuff, we save up for trips and experiences...

File under Duh!!!

There was an interesting article from Reuters about how kids and (adults as found in a previous study) are more likely to be obese if they live in the suburbs. I think a lot of it also happens to be that if there is nothing to do close by, you'll just sit home and watch TV. Maybe the Nintendo's Wii will save our waistlines. From the report.

"The findings echo those of a 2003 study by the same researchers that
focused on U.S. adults. The researchers believe the same factors may be
driving the link between suburban living and teenagers' weight -- the
major one being reliance on cars."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


A healthy amount of self reflection is a good thing, the key descriptor being healthy amount. When it gets unhealthy, well in a blog it just gets BORING. And there are few crimes of blogging worse than being BORING, it's even worse than being made up.

Well this blog has started bordering on boring, I'm avoiding the capital status but I'm skirting on the edge and that just scares me. I accept second rate crap at work, well because it's work and when you are surrounded by those who think second rate is first rate are beyond hope and best to be avoided. But when it starts coming into your personal life, you can't avoid yourself can you? Well this blog is rapidly descending into second ratehood in slow painful steps. The weather has gotten too cold, I've returned to my old habit of going on dates with women from the East Bay (I just don't know they seem to be more real, and oh they are cute too) and I'm not really interested in getting killed riding my bike in the dark. So the fuel for the carfree fire is a little lacking.

So the reasons are varied in quality and reality, but on that note "Car(e)free in California" is going on winter hiatus. There may be an occasional post as I experiment with riding cold.

On a separate note, blogging does speak to those who love to write, and oh do I love to write. When the words whip off in wild aplomb and overactive alliteration, a smile does come to my face. Returning to writing, has made me realize how much I miss it. So this has been great, who knows maybe "Jobfree in California" is coming soon.