Archive for April, 2005

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Ten? Celebrating a Decade Since the Birth of Isaac

April 30, 2005

Today, we celebrated Isaac’s birthday with a group of his friends from church and school. We had such a wonderful time with everyone.

Trish D. ever so nicely volunteered to help me with things and brought some supplies with her and her children, Chaz and Pheobe. They arrived early and got busy: Trish with the preparations and the kids helped by playing with our children. After making scores of calls, John (nearly 17 now) managed to arrange to be out of the house for the duration of the party. (I certainly don’t blame him.)

They had a great time, with many loud noises and weird sounds being made. Next to arrive was Meghan C. and her Mom, Laurie, followed by Isaac’s friends Cassie, then Brian, and lastly, Michaela.

The party theme was “Creepy Crawlies”—mostly about bugs. We had giant bugs hanging up as decorations. We put together a “dirt cake” covered and embedded with crushed chocolate graham crackers, chocolate sandwich cookies, gummy worms and spiders. It was awesome and the kids, both the girls and the boys liked it a lot, especially Isaac and David, who helped put the gummy worms on and burrowing through the cake. We also took my corn snake and Isaac’s tarantula out of the cage. The snake was a big hit, and, surprisingly, nearly everyone was willing to pet the tarantula, although not hold it.

We had a few games to play with the kids, including a “bug quiz” (Isaac and Meghan both got perfect scores, although there were rumors of collusion.), a “bug hunt,” and one last one, named “bug toss.”

By the time of the bug toss, pizza had arrived, presents had been opened, and cake eaten, and the kids were in a state of sugar-frenzied, toy overloaded pandemonium. I got everything set up, and announced, “Okay, it’s time for us to play the bug toss game.” What I didn’t notice was that Doug had hooked up a self-contained Star Wars video game Isaac received from Cassie, which was, especially to the party-goers, a waaaaaaaaaay cooler game than the bug toss. No problem;, it give us adults more time to sit and chat, and I really enjoyed that. So thanks to the Dunns, Chalmers, Caslins, Vallerands, and the York family for making Isaac’s celebration so very special.

Of course, no day would be complete without a little friendly competition between the boys and the girls. Isaac, who is very competitive, had a hard time dealing with the boys’ team losing the bug hunt. Ah, the joys of a ten year old … It’s hard to believe he’s already ten.

Michaela, thanks so much for bringing the whoopee cushion. It was definitely fun watching a group of 8–10 year olds enjoying that sound, time and time (and time, and time, and time, and time) again. LOL.

Naomi and David had no trouble fitting in. Naomi reveled in having so many playmates, especially during the light saber and gun battles.

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The Great Gasoline Boycott

April 11, 2005

You may have received an e-mail encouraging you to boycott, for the next year, two major gasoline vendors (click for a sample), to help achieve lower gasoline prices.

It is an interesting idea—certainly better than the “don’t buy gas for one day” e-mails that have gone out—but it can't work, from an economics perspective.

There are two major factors affecting gasoline prices. The first is the price of crude oil. The second is demand on gasoline itself.

Currently, crude oil production worldwide is at or near a maximum, reserves are shrinking, and much of the oil obtained is less desirable (and more expensive) for use in gasoline production. In addition to decreasing supply, the rapid growth of industry and the middle class in China is rapidly increasing demand on crude oil worldwide. Crude oil prices are going to continue to increase until production increases significantly or demand decreases.

Then there is supply-and-demand for gasoline itself. Worldwide, refineries, which convert crude oil into gasoline and other petroleum products are typically operating 24/7. This means that gasoline production is at its maximum. Due to environmental and security issues, few, if any, communities are willing to allow refineries to be built in their areas, and refinery construction can't happen overnight in any case.

Do we really think that gasoline companies are inflating prices by 100%? They are making a profit, to be sure, but certainly not at that margin. (Ironically, considering the e-mail I received, our local Hess station—one company targeted by the boycott—is typically charges 10¢ per gallon less than its competition.)

If we are to reduce the price of gasoline, we must decrease the demand. This can be done via carpooling, using public transportation, and buying hybrid or elecric vehicles. (Another topic is why the hydrogen fuel-cell powered car is a bad idea, but I'll save that for another time.)

It is estimated that gasoline will have to stay consistently over $3.00/gallon before people will stop buying the worst offending SUVs (some of which get as few as 7–8 MPG) and get something more fuel-efficient. (Many SUVs do much better, and the average MPG for an SUV appears to be over 20 MPG. My thanks to Robert Hardman for correcting my original misstatement.) I'm ashamed that our minivan only gets 20 MPG around the city, but our choices were limited by the need for space for our 4 children and personal economics. If we did not have a daily need for a larger vehicle, we would not have bought one.

What we ought to be doing is forcing the government to make its fleet vehicle purchases electric-gasoline hybrids or straight electric, demanding increases in public transportation allocation, subsidizing hybrid vehicle purchases (and other energy-saving projects) through tax breaks, and building more nuclear plants—which the US has a near-perfect safety record in operating, and which do not contribute to global warming or other air pollution—to supplement or replace natural gas-, coal- and oil-fired plants.

Anyway, that's my typical more-than-2¢.

(Thanks to Maryjane Case for the topic suggestion.)