Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Top Autos of 2006

Below are my picks for the best cars and trucks (yes, trucks) of 2006. There are a lot of affordable options available which are fuel efficient and which will effectively get one and one’s cargo where one needs to go. The vehicles are not in particular order.


Sedans-

Honda Civic Sedan- Efficient, affordable and not too bad to look at. The Hybrid tops the 50 mpg mark.

Toyota Prius- Not too roomy, but tops the 60 mpg mark.

Volkswagen Jetta TDI- Very nice to look at, roomy and rated at over 35 mpg.

Toyota Corrolla- 125 hp, 30+ mpg and room for four (comfortably, or five very small men) for under $15,000.


Coupes-

Honda Civic Coupe- 140 hp, 30/40 mpg. Much more comfortable and realistic than the Insight.


Trucks and SUVs-

I’m not a huge fan of trucks and SUVs. But there are times when they are necessary. Unless you are a contractor who regularly hauls heavy equipment, the trucks and SUVs below should fill your needs while being fairly friendly to the environment.

Ford Ranger- With 143 hp, it will pull a boat and handle most home improvement jobs. It doesn’t hit the 30 mpg mark, but if you need a truck this is about as efficient as they come.

Mazda B2300- Again, under 30 mpg, but does the job as efficiently as the Ranger.

Toyota Tacoma- 159 hp gives a little more pull, 26 mpg.

Ford Escape Hybrid- Really a fantastic automobile. Serves the purpose of an SUV (plenty of room and storage) while getting over 30 mpg city and highway. A four wheel drive vehicle with 155 hp, the Escape Hybrid has most of the benefits of a large SUV without the 12 mpg side effects.

Toyota Highlander- Not a four wheel drive, but roomy and packing a 268 hp punch. 33 city and 29 highway make it a friendly option.

World Cup

Disclaimer: I know very little about soccer. I know very little about international sports fans.

What I do know: Don't headbutt people--I learned that in Kindergarten--and Brazil looked like the best team. Even after years of looking upon soccer with scorn, I, a devout fan of Futbol American, have defied the odds and begun to enjoy soccer. I'll be honest--I was injured this summer and forced to spend countless hours medicated in front of the television. World Cup was the only thing on--besides HGTV, and I'm pretty sure I could now 'flip' a house--but back to Soccer.

It's all about looking past the points. They don't score much, so the excitement has to come when they get close to scoring. The lack of scoring also makes scoring much more important. A touchdown rarely clinches a win, but in soccer 1-0 is a fairly common final score.

I've never been one to question why more Americans aren't soccer fans. I'm curious why the rest of the worlds doesn't love American football. But I will say that if more Americans gave soccer a chance they would enjoy the game. Maybe the U.S. needs to get better at it--we like to win...explain, then, the Chicago Cubs.

I'm curious to see if I'll remain a soccer fan over the next couple of years or if I've just been drawn into the drama of the World Cup.

Seven Months of Downtime

Just Thinking... has been placed on the back burners for the past seven months--and the burners were all but turned off. This blog--my blog--was replaced by a group work blog, several literature classes and a healthy dose of summer. I've been fairly busy...and moderately lazy. Now I feel that it is time to dust off my learned skills as a blogger and take advantage of this media. The site will not be 'new and improved,' but it will be slightly altered. My devoted readers will most likely notice a decrease in sports in favor of a broader look at all of pop culture. The focus on energy will remain--and off topic ramblings will increase.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Sports Entertainment

There is a disturbing trend which is taking place in sports today. ESPN2’s new series ESPN Hollywood focuses on what athletes do outside of competition. Not a good idea.

I don’t see a problem with occasionally mentioning aspects of an athlete’s personal life. Perhaps there is an amusing anecdote, or an interesting story attached to a professional athlete. Peyton and Eli Manning are brothers- great- I don’t mind hearing about that. Archie Manning (father) doesn’t know how he would cheer if the two met in the Super Bowl- amusing- now back to the game.

But now athletes are becoming celebrities. Now we’ll get to hear who they are dating, what parties they attend, how nice there houses are and which $200,000 sports car they prefer. Look! Tom Brady is dating a model. It doesn’t change his passer rating. Nothing good can come from taking the focus off of an athlete’s performance and placing it on his (or her) personal life.

This is already a problem in other aspects of entertainment. I hear very little about how convincingly Tom Cruise plays a man fighting off alien invaders- I hear a lot about scientology and Katie Holmes. Did Brad Pitt make it worth my while to spend $8 to see his new movie? What projects is he working on now? What are the themes of the movie? What impact did his performance have socially? Is there a message? I don’t know- but did you hear about him and Gwyneth?

I really liked Shawshank Redemption, but I can’t watch it anymore. I have discovered that Tim Robbins and I have contrasting political views. I spend so much time wishing he would stop talking that I can’t bring myself to listen to him in a movie. Please, no one tell me who Peyton Manning votes for, I don’t want to know. I don’t care who his wife is, either. I’m happy with knowing what he does for three hours a week- after that he’s on his own time.

I would be a bigger movie fan if the media focused more on the movies and less on the personal lives of the people making the movies. I hope I never have to say the same about football or baseball. Hollywood has already made it difficult to appreciate an actor or actress solely for the way they do their job.

Please, dear Reader, don’t watch shows that focus on the personal lives of athletes. The occasional documentary is fine, I suppose, but let’s leave it at that. Sports have a huge role in society. I encourage people to explore the social, economic and political impact of sports and our countries obsession over them- but we need to stay away from lifestyle and dating habits of athletes.

The Weather

Crude-Oil prices depend heavily on the weather. The mild start to winter which is being experienced by the United States is causing oil prices to drop.

That's what we need to do, then. Keep it warm in winter and cool in the summer. That way gas prices won't get out of control. Or, we could do contribute in a way which actually gives us some amount of control- using less fuel.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Kidding Me?

Well, first I blamed it all on T.O. I have to say, now, that the Eagles are part of their own problem.

The Eagles have filed a complaint against Cowboys owner Jimmy Jones for vaguely expressing interest in aquiring Terrell Owens.

Let it die, Philadelphia. You suspended T.O. because he was a distraction and now you're keeping the distracting story alive.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gas Prices Drop

Readers in the Michiana area should consider getting gas soon. Local prices have fallen quite a bit over the past few days.

Gas at the portage Meijer is $2.09. That's the lowest I have seen it. The Phillip's station across the river from campus was $2.14. I should have researched.

Hopefully the prices will stay down as people prepare to travel for the Hollidays.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Hydrogen Power Information

A reader has drawn my attention to an excellent site which provides information about hydrogen as the fuel of the future.

The best aspect of the site is that it debunks some of myths about the negative aspects of using hydrogen power.

It also features a discussion with Chris Borroni-Bird, a leading expert on fuel cells.

Hydrogen seems to be the leading alternative to fossil fuels and is the most likely path that future technology will take. Anyone with an interest in broadening their understanding of the technology and its possibilities should take a look at this site. Thanks, David.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Useful Newsweek (finally)

I'm not usually a big fan, but this week’s Newsweek has a few very good articles on the development of alternative fuel technology, as well as information on how to increase gas mileage and reduce energy consumption in the home.

The highlight of the issue is the list of ten environmentally friendly companies which are working on alternative energy technology. Here are a few I find the most promising-

Hydrogenics: An Ontario company which is working on developing new ways for fuel cells to be used. Increasing demand will eventually lead to an increase in supply.

Vestas Wind Systems: Working on ways to make wind turbines more efficient. The wind is always blowing. The company is based in Denmark, where 20% of the countries energy comes from wind power.

Miasole: Developing new, more efficient ways to capture the energy from the sun. The California company is using technology other than silicone, which is in high demand.

I would suggest picking up a copy of this week’s Newsweek (or going to the local library and reading for free). There are some in depth articles about the companies and the future of energy. I would love to plagiarize the entire article, but unfortunately, I’m ethical. I would also recommend disregarding any political opinions given by Newsweek.

The companies I have listed have very informative web-sites. Just click on their names, above, for more information on the company and the technology it is researching.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Juiced

Baseball has decided to increase the penalty for using steroids. Either it isn’t tough enough, or the penalty for gambling is too tough. I don’t understand how Barry Bonds and Mark McGuire can be considered for the Hall of Fame and Pete Rose cannot.

Pete Rose bet on baseball. He didn’t throw any games. He didn’t cheat. Players who use steroids are cheating. I don’t mind that they are cheating each other. I don’t like them cheating baseball. If Henry Aaron’s home run record is broken, it will mean nothing. Roger Maris still holds the single season home run record as far as I am concerned.

If Barry Bonds had never taken steroids, he would still be one of the best players to ever play the game. Jason Giambi would be selling cars somewhere. Steroids don’t make a bad player good. They can make an average player good. They can make a good player very good. Steroids turn a lot of 390 ft. fly balls into 400 ft. home runs. I could take steroids every day for the rest of life- I still wouldn’t be able to hit a curveball.

I don’t agree with Baseball’s feeling that betting is worse than cheating. It’s worse than lying, but not cheating- ask Palmiero. He’s a liar and a cheater. He would make a good commissioner. I don’t think we need to discuss why football is so popular in our country. Look at baseball. That’s why. That and they don’t call traveling in the NBA. As long as players like T.O. don’t ruin football, I think it is going to stay America’s favorite sport until soccer catches on. I don’t understand soccer, so I hope that takes a while.

Thermal Outback

The Australians are working on a way to harness energy from warm rocks 3 miles underground. I don't think 'warm' is entirely accurate- they are nearly 600 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although this method won't provide enough energy to power the entire country, it does provide a fair amount of what is needed. Thermal energy is a great example of an energy source which hasn't been completely explored. I doubt the core of the earth would raise prices heading into a chilly winter.

This might be something the United States should consider before drilling for oil in Alaska. I don't mind drilling in Alaska, but that oil will run out soon too. I'm not sure the U.S. has the natural resources to do what Australia is doing- but it's a good example of trying to make the most out of what is available.