On getting a new truck and reusing stuff

I totaled my car last week, which is a major bummer to me.  I really loved that car.  It was getting old, no bones about that, and had some issues that were going to need fixing coming up sooner rather then later, but I still loved that car.  It got amazing gas mileage and I could haul a lot of stuff around.  I got an average of 40 mpg….and it cost around $20 for me to fill the tank.

Man, oh man does owning a truck after a car like that turn into major shock at the gas pump.  I got a 2004 Ford ranger xlt.  It’s a nice truck.  Super comfortable, power everything, not too big to drive around.  I get 18mpg.  18.  Bleh. It costs me $40+ to fill it up.  I can’t even go as far on a tank of gas as I could in my car! So not happy about that.  I think I’m in for a lifestyle change about the way I drive around.

I’m having trouble with the halving of my gas mileage, using twice as much gas as I was before.   I’m not even sure if I think this truck can haul any more then my car could.  Using twice as much of a non renewable resource as I was before just does not sit right with me at all.

However…

I was able to respond to an ad on Craigslist for some weathered wood.  A lot of weathered wood.  A whole decks top of wood someone had pulled off to replace and wanted to get rid of.   Non chemically treated weathered wood as far as I can tell.

It’s not any good for a deck anymore, a lot of the ends are rotted and the screws that were left in it are rusted through.  They are mostly 2 x 6’s as far as I can tell of all various lengths mostly over 6 foot.  Most of the screws are gone and I didn’t see any nails.  The boards are solid for the most part if you’d cut off about 2-6 inches off the ends.

Absolutely perfect for my uses.

I am planning on making raised beds in my front yard to hold the dirt I dig out of my new bigger pond project.  The beds will be used to plant various garden crops this spring and in future years.  What doesn’t get used in the front yard will be used in the garden for the same purpose.

I’m got something for free that was someone else’s trash I get to put to a new purpose and it stays out of the landfill.  I got to save money by having the truck to haul it in, it would have never fit in my car at all.  I got to save new lumber from being used for this purpose, saving trees from being cut down needlessly.

Is this one thing worth the environmental hit on halving my gas mileage over all?  Not in my mind.  Not just this one thing.  I hope in the overall ownership of the truck to keep being able to do this kind of thing.  Keep offsetting my overall greater gas useage with an even bigger overall greater ability to reuse various things in my projects going forward.

Balance is an important thing in my life.  I hope to be able to achieve it with this truck.  I think so far with what I’ve done its been a net win, but I will have to be very aware of this in the future to be able to keep it that way.

-Fin

The Folly of Modern Convenience

For over two years now I’ve been comitted to an every other week meat pickup that consists of the trashed meat from a major retail chain.  This is a twice weekly pickup, of which I only participate in twice a month.  The average size of the pickup is in the 1500lb range….every time.

Did you realize that those clean, tidy, non bloody, sterile, styrofoamed bottom plastic wrapped chunks of meat in the grocery store were once a living animal that had to die so you could have the convenience of popping in to your one stop shoping experience so far removed from the place that meat comes from that there are actually people out there that have no idea what meat really is?  I wish I was kidding.

We were a society with a farm on every corner, a garden in every back yard, milk delivered fresh from the cow in glass reusealbe bottles , a society that knew the person who raised their food and the location of where it came from.  These days if you ask somene where food comes from they are likely to say “the store.” When asked where the store gets it from they probably don’t even know. If you ask the store where the food on their shelves comes from they are likely to name off one of only a few conglomerate food distribution companies…and have no knowledge of where those companies get that food from.

Every time I turn around these days it seems like there has been another recall on some form of food that has been tainted in some way or another with bacteria of one sort or another.  Back when I started to keep track of all of this, back when I went vegetarian, it was only meat of one kind or another that was involved in these recalls.  These days it seems to be a little of everything.  Within the last couple of weeks a local man died from tainted cantelope.   Tainted cantelope.  Tainted….cantelope?  This just blows my mind.

I’ve seen first hand in the last 2+ years how much food gets thrown away by just one major retail store here in the metro area.   This is just meat and processed meat products.  From there I can extrapolate easily the amount of fresh produce, bread, dairy and so called shelf stable foods get trashed as well.  Let me tell you that the shear amount of waste that goes on from each and every retail store around the states will absolutely blow your mind.  You truly have to see it to even imagine the scope of it.  This was, before it passed its “use by” date, perfectly edible food for human consumption.  I’m not even talking about the millions of pounds of food included in the recalls for one reason or another that is destroyed.  I’m just talking about the food that was shipped in from all over the globe so the average consumer could have the convenience of one stop shopping.  This is the food that gets too old to be either “pretty” or “safely eaten.”

I have little to no sympathy or patience for the talk I hear about people starving either here in the states or around the world.  It’s not that I’m not a compasionate person, that’s not it at all. My heart goes out, it truly does.  However let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that there isn’t enough food in this world to go around.  I’m not even including the food each and every one of us lets go bad in our pantry, freezer, or fridge here.  I’m sure that adds up as well.  I’m simply talking about the food that every day ends up in the landfills feeding no one due to our cultures insistance upon “convenience.”

So, for the last 2+ years, I’ve been picking through the meat only garbage of a typical major retailer for food for my cats and dogs.  99% of this food is either on the day of expiration or only 1 day past it.  Perfectly edible for even human consumption.  Yet, its trash.  Don’t talk to me about people starving in this country, I’ve seen the reason.

This meat pickup that I’ve been doing for 2+ years is at an end, I won’t be seeing the folly of modern convenience anymore going forward but you better believe that I will never forget it.

– Fin

There are reasons I'm a vegetarian

I like to think I’m not the preachy kind of vegetarian. You can eat a burger in front of me and I usually don’t say anything unless I’m offered a bite and then my only response will generally be “No thank you, I’m a vegetarian.” Those preachy, rabid, “meat is murder” vegetarians really kinda piss me off actually. After all, you win more flies with honey then you do vinegar, now don’t you?

Fate has his reason’s he’s vegetarian, I have mine. They are different, but have some similarities. He can post about his sometime….but here’s mine:

Safeway Beef Recall In Arizona And New Mexico

You say: “What? That happens all the time! Its no big deal, its just a recall and the FDA is keeping us safe”

Um, yeah. Lets do the math:

Meat recalled: 22,723-lbs

Average yield from a dressed beef carcass: 569lbs

Assuming they turned all that meat into hamburger…..

Average number of cows that had to die to produce recalled beef:

22,723 lbs of beef / 569 avg cow weight =

39.9349736

40 cows died.

Okay, so what happens to beef that is recalled? It gets destroyed.

Thrown away.

Wasted.

And this is one of the smaller recalls

What about pork (that’d be pigs ya know)….

or chicken

These are living things that had to die in order to produce meat for human consumption. I don’t have a problem with that, at all, its the circle of life. I DO have a real problem with life being wasted. This is life wasted, and gross negligence on humanity’s part in being care takers of this worlds life.

I am vegetarian as a form of silent protest against the waste of life that is going on in the meat industry. There is waste everywhere in the world, in every part of things, however, this is the only part I can think of where living beings have to die for no reason at all.

–Fin

Single Serving World

We are a single serving society. Everywhere you look you see single serving products:

Individual water bottles, “lunch sized” bags of chips, cans of soda, boxes of juice, lunchables, Styrofoam cups for coffee, individual sugar packets and creamers, tv dinners, single serving candy, yogurt, paper plates, plastic silverware, travel sized beauty products…….and this is just off the top of my head!

Almost every day for lunch I send Fate with leftovers for lunch. I send them packaged individually in *reusable* containers. He brings them home (mostly every day) and I wash them and they get used over and over again. I need to start remembering to send him with silverware too, I’m just afraid I’ll run out of forks when he forgets to bring them back!

The point here is that its not enough to just recycle, and as a matter if fact most people don’t even do that one little thing. Even if they recycle at home, I have to wonder if that extends to work? In the building I clean on a daily basis I dump trash and it really hits home how much people don’t recycle, or for that matter even think about reducing their trash output. I see trash cans full of single use products all day long around here.

If people would just change their habits in one or two little ways it would make such a difference on their trash output:

Bring a reusable water bottle and fill up from the sink when it gets empty

Bring silverware to work and wash it when your done

Bring leftovers in reusable containers, take them back home and wash them

Buy in bulk and split stuff into reusable containers instead of single serving packages of items

Bring your own coffee mug and reuse it

We do as much composting and recycling as we can possibly can at home, and I do as well at my business location. As of now we put out *one small bag* of trash about once a month for the trash man to take. One small bag! How much do you dump into the landfills weekly?

My goal: by the end of the year be able to cancel my trash service because we are not using it

What do you do to reduce your footprint on the earth?

— Fin

Recycling Center in Overland Park

Overland Park has a pretty awesome recycling center! Its easy to find, basically you go down 119th street heading west, go past metcalf a bit and turn left at hardy st, it goes right in to it. Its by the Time Warner cable center there in OP.

Here are a bunch of pictures I took the first time I was there, they kind of looked at me funny…..

















I’ve gone twice now to drop off my glass and a couple other things. They take just about everything. I can truly say that between composting and recycling we have about a bag of trash a week these days. I am trying to get it down to having NO trash at all, but I’m not sure that’s going to be possible, I’m working on it though!

Something else I’m working on is looking for bags that are biodegradable. I am considering using paper bags but curious if there is a plastic trash bag out there that would work…..

–Fin

One Reason Why Computers Suck

Fate’s theory on computers: there is no consumer computing device which actually works.

Everything you see at BestBuy, the lines of laptops from HP and Apple – all of them – are broken in some fundamental way. I don’t care how awesome your home PC is, give me five or ten minutes with it, and I’ll figure out something you “should” be able to do that causes it to spit up all over itself. Funny enough, there are a good number of people out there actually paid to do that. That certain talent, is the reason why I’m involved with the computing industry, and simultaneously also, technology incompatible.
Now, in my profession, I see a lot of computer equipment, and generally deal with it on a far more detailed level than most people. Floating in my head are a great number of random facts about how various pieces of computer hardware work. What amazes me though, is that when it comes right down to it, computers don’t.
If you’re reading this blog, you’ll likely know the difference between Hardware and Software. Driver software makes the hardware tick. An outsider might expect that driver software would be developed alongside with the hardware directly – when the hardware is done, so is the driver software. Looking at the problem in detail though, it’s obvious you’ve got something of a chicken and an egg here – how do you develop software for non-existent hardware? I’ll spare the gritty details of how that works, and jump straight to the results.
And that result, is generally with either you – the consumer – or the OEM (big box PC makers like HP and Apple.) On a modern Windows PC, you’ve probably noticed “Windows Update”, asking on a regular basis if you’d like to ruin…er…. update parts of the software on your computer. Depending on your level of technical sophistication / bravery / stupidity / intelligence, you may have chosen to install / ignore / install randomly these updates. For today, we’ll focus on the Driver updates.
Now, let’s say I’m an up and coming competitor to ATI and nVidia, and have developed the new wizz-bang awesome 3d video card which has 10 spanking new features, including the ability to render photorealistic boobies realtime. Gamers the world over drool (understandably) over this new piece of computing excellence. The announcement is made, and the new Wank-O-Matic 5000 video card hits shelves. Immediately, my competitors begin discussing how their next version of video card will render even better photorealistic boobies realtime in their next generation of cards. That, however, doesn’t stop Gamers from lining up overnight to purchase the Wank-O-Matic 5000.
On buying it however, they take it home, and discover that only 8 of the ten new features work well, and the other 2 don’t work well at all. Sad and dismayed, gamers announce it’s a good video card, but the major selling point is overrated. Not to be stopped, I now promise every gamer – but wait, it’ll be fixed in an update! As time goes on, the major issues with the new creation are fixed, and at long last, the Wank-O-Matic 5000 does everything as advertised. The only thing is, noone is using it anymore, it’s now been obseleted by the Wank-O-Matic 6000, and the new up and coming Wanktastic 8G.
Which brings me to the heart of the matter – all of the computer hardware in existence today, is not fully utilized. Indeed, any computer purchased within the last year or so will have a shiney new 64 bit chip in it – being used to run a 32 bit operating system. And, this isn’t something created recently. The first 32 bit processor was introduced in 1985. It wasn’t, however, until 10 years later, that consumers could take full advantage of that.
I know it’s difficult, but, at some point, I just have to start to wonder. The personal computing industry is now over 30 years old. At what point do we stop saying “computers are new” and start expecting everything to work as advertised when we buy it? When do we begin expecting hardware vendors to not simply say “fix it later” when the product can’t even be used anymore from being so out of date?
Thinking about it, the answer is obvious to me: people are happy with mediocre. Computers crash, things occasionally just don’t work. Part of me hopes, one day that will change – people will begin to expect that this sort of technology shouldn’t crash or be difficult to use. Another part of me though, I must admit, is happy we techies can half-ass solutions. Cause really, as long as it’s good enough, it works right?

Recycling and Farmers Markets

So, I called my trash company Thursday to get both my broken trash barrel replaced (the wheels are falling off and the lid is broken) and to set up recycling. Turns out recycling is $18 for three months. I was paying 10.50 for 3 months for just the trash barrel and didn’t really want to pay an extra $18 for recycling so I canceled the trash barrel and added recycling. Next project is to get a compost heap set up. I bet we have almost no actual trash after that happens. Supposedly they are going to drop off the recycling thing and pick up the trash barrel on Tuesday. We shall see considering they were supposed to replace the trash barrel like six months ago.

We went to the Farmers Community Market at Brookside and the farmers market in Overland Park. The market in Brookside is a totally organic market, the market in Overland Park is not.

Prices at the Farmers Community Market at Brookside were on par to slightly more expensive then shopping at Whole Foods. It is a pretty small farmers market, I ment to get some pictures but I forgot, I’ll have to do that next week if I remember. We had Puddin’ Head Coffee and Fate had a breakfast burrito, I had spinach and cheese quiche. I bought some tri color beans, spring mix (thats very spicy!), some tomatoes, scallions, peppers, tomotillos and a couple other things I don’t remember. I had some of the spring mix for lunch, it was very good.

The farmers market in Overland Park is a much bigger market. There was quite a few people there when we arrived around 10 am. They have a big pavillion hall type thing set up that is a permenate structure and everyone pulls up to that and sells out on tables and in some cases out of the back of trucks. You walk down an isle of vendors and basically stop at each one and get what you want from them.

There are quite a few smallish local farmers that come as well as a couple that I recognized as being resellers. Basically people that go and buy from big vendors like Sysco or American Food Service and redistribute to the public at these kinds of things. Most of The City Market is people like this if you go durning the week. I think on the weekends the actual farmers come out. That’s a market I’ve been to during the week and the prices are extremely cheap…but the produce is mostly on line with the prices from what I saw.

We got a cantelope, corn, onions, peaches, an eggplant, and I believe a few othere things at the farmers market in Overland Park. We’ll be eating very fresh this week!

–Fin

Reduce, reuse……recycle?

We are a disposable society.

Seems like kind of a trite statement, now doesn’t it? Political commentary best left to the media…..except I see it every single day on my job.

I’m a janitor. Yeah, I’m one of those people that most people ignore. That’s what I do, not who I am. But I digress.

One of the jobs that I do on a regular basis is empty trash at a very large office building. Its interesting to me what people throw away. I have more then one blog post I plan on writing that has been spawned just simply by the act of dumping peoples trash.

For today’s post I plan on focusing on soda pop cans. You know the ones….you put in your quarter (or fifty sense, or dollar…depending on where you are) and get out your Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or whatever your poison of choice is (and I really do mean poison….have you ever looked at the ingredients in that stuff???)and drink it down. Now….what do you do with the can?

Its been my experience lately that people fall into one of just a couple categories on this:

1) throw it in their trash can
2) take it to the break room and throw it in the trash can
3) take it to the break room and throw it in the recycling bin
4) save it for the janitor as they come by and give it to them to put in the recycling bin

Weird, huh?

Not weird to you? Well, the way I see it….why just throw the can away? Why *not* recycle? Why in the world would someone put their empty aluminum can in the trash can when a recycling bin sits right next to the trash can? Why would someone put the cans in their trash can at their desk when the janitor is more then willing to take their can to the recycling bin for them if they were to just save them?

The only thing I can come up with is people just truly don’t pay attention. Otherwise…why would they pick the trash can instead of the recycling bin when they are right next to another? Also…why would they throw their regular trash into the recycling bin?

In a broader sense, why do more people not recycle? Overseas its the norm, and expected. Trash service usually only allows *one* bag of actual trash to be put out weekly. All the rest of the trash that is produced is recycling. A bin is provided, recycling is placed in it and hauled away. (The process for separating it is facinating, by the way) Its easy and simple.

So why don’t more people do it?

I have to confess that I don’t….yet. I plan on calling my trash company tomorrow and getting a recycling bin so I can start actually doing it.

Oh….I’m Fin by the way 🙂 I’m not as verbose as Fate….but I do have more opinions!

–Fin