Personal Log  #262

April 14, 2006  -  April 23, 2006

Last Updated: Weds. 5/02/2007

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More Flash.  This next animated creation turned out really nice.  I was able to try out a number of special-effect features while gaining some experience coordinating several simultaneous timelines.  I think you'll find it entertaining...  flash: Dance


Earth Day.  I wasn't disappointed today.  The expectation was that President Bush would spread propaganda for the fuelish pursuit of hydrogen powered vehicles.  And... he did.  How exactly is that helping with our addiction to oil?  For a fuel-cell vehicle to be cleaner, efficient, affordable, and practical we've still got well over a decade of work to do.  Reduction of emissions & consumption is needed now.  So focusing entirely on a potential makes no sense.  Hybrids already offer a solution today.  Yet, we have only got a token gesture from him so far.  Today, we there was literally nothing.  He provided quotes like this: "It (hydrogen) has the potential -- a vast potential to dramatically cut our dependence on foreign oil." and "Hydrogen is clean, hydrogen is domestically produced and hydrogen is the way of the future."  It's the same old greenwashing.  Yes, hydrogen itself is clean, but the process to extract it from water for use as fuel certainly is not yet.  And that act is rather silly.  Why use electricity to create hydrogen when you can just use the electricity itself directly in a plug-in hybrid?  Adding that extra process and the need for an entirely new infrastructure to support it is counter-productive.  Isn't the goal to use less energy and reduce overhead costs?  Fortunately, I wasn't the only person to complain.  Governor Schwarzenegger sent a strongly worded letter to the president demanding help with the CARB efforts to reduce emissions.  So thankfully, the fact that he isn't addressing our needs for today are not going unnoticed.  Unfortunately, if he doesn't deliver anything at an important time like Earth Day, then he is likely to never do it.


$75.17 per barrel.  Week after week, we see an above $70 closing-price on Friday for oil.  There is nothing in place to reduce demand at all.  In fact, it continues to rise.  So the value of the limited supply will obviously not drop.  How can it? The answer is that it can't, not without artificial help anyway.  Today, that obviously wasn't the case.  The price hit the highest level ever!


The "full" hybrid thing.  That hasn't been mentioned for quite awhile.  Today the claim was made the Ford created that terminology as a marketing strategy, to highlight that their design is more capable than Honda's.  It is actually a very common misconception.  In reality, the term of "full" hybrid has existed from the beginning, back when the rollout of hybrids here first began in 2000... long before any of the domestic automakers cared.  It was how we identified the different hybrid technologies.  Owners used "assist" for the IMA system, exactly as Honda wanted it to be used.  The term "full" was to indicate completeness, having even more than stealth.  It's the ability to both create & consume electricity that really gives the "full" hybrid an advantage.  The "assist" design is at the mercy of the battery-pack, which has limited opportunities to be recharged as well as when and how much the motor can be used for power to the wheels.  The "full" design doesn't even need the battery-pack for electric drive.  A motor for creating electricity is very active and the second motor is always available to provide power.  Both motors can vary the RPM at which they operate too, independent of the engine. The "assist" only has one motor that must always rotate at the same RPM as the engine.  In other words, the "full" is a far more flexible design.  So no matter what the impression is about Honda now tweaking their system to compete, they can never come close to what a "full" already does.  The physical components inside simply cannot operate the same way; they are way too different.  They were not designed to function in that manner.  It is most definitely not a marketing strategy.  The "full" hybrid thing is real.


More than just Bluetooth.  Some of us seeking convenient new technology are willing to test it.  That's definitely me (obviously).  This time it was a new use for the cell-phone.  I gave the "unlimited data connect" feature (pay by the month, with no annual commitment, but tied to a specific cell-phone) a try.  After 5 weeks, I'm delighted.  The speed is just dial-up.  But the convenience is absolutely fantastic.  Being able to connect anywhere is what I've been looking forward to for years.  High-Speed access is quite limiting when you only have it at home.  This is available anywhere I wander... and I have definitely taken advantage of that.  It should be interesting to see what comes next.  Faster access through the phone will supposedly be available in the not-too-distant future.  But for now, my testing has proven fruitful.  So I thought I'd share what I learned.  After all, the cell-phone Bluetooth connectivity for Prius is an extremely popular discussion topic.


Hybrid Haters.  It was only a matter of time.  People have been disobeying the speed limit for so long that they have lost perspective.  As the years went by, they amount they exceed the maximum has increased.  So reading this statement printed in a newspaper today came as no surprise: "Go with the flow or get the heck out of the way."  It was a negative sentiment expressed toward hybrid drivers that are showing respect for the law.  When the sign says 70 MPH, that's all the faster I drive.  After all, slower is better for both MPG and safety.  It will save you an awful lot of money too.  My state has begun ticketing people for being just a few MPH over the limit.  The tolerance has been dropped, especially now that not speeding is understood as an obvious solution to reducing gas consumption.  Imagine using that money to pay a speeding ticket being used for gas instead.


Cheap Hybrids.  There's an awful lot of talk lately about GM's plans for small hybrids.  Their approach has been praised by some as "an important step toward making the technology truly mainstream".  Since when is the lowest cost solution always the best one?  How is their "assist" design any different from Honda's?  The response "you get what you pay for" is what I find most fitting... especially when you wonder how low the price of gas has to remain before people are willing to pay more for a hybrid system that delivers higher MPG.


$71.35 per barrel.  At this point, even just under $50 could be considered the good old days.  The pattern of just above $70 has become common.  Will consumers become complacent?  The concern seems to be fading, despite the fact that it is making the economic potential for recovery of the drowning-in-debt automakers even worse.  We'll see.  The driving season should be very interesting.


Nail In Tire.  That was the last thing I wanted to see.  With the spare tire buried under 3 bikes and a bunch of cargo, the thought of dealing with a flat along the side of a Northern Minnesota highway was very troubling.  But the potential was starring back at me, an obvious problem that required immediate attention.  Arrgh!  Oh well.  It could have happened at a much worse time, rather than at my mid-vacation stop.  The nail was shockingly large (perhaps 3 inches) and punched deep into the rubber.  But these very tough high-traction tires appeared to have deflected it, seemingly causing lateral damage rather than a hole all the way through.  So, I drove into town to find out if the steel belts inside did indeed prevent a disaster.  And to my delight, they did!  When they yanked the nail out, there was just a long hole in rubber.  No leak!!!  What a relief.  This is yet another endorsement for these fantastic tires.  The real-world beating I'm giving them is proving their resilience.  I sure am glad I took that upgrade gamble years ago.


Only Around Town.  How many times will that lie be spread?  Today's published claim was that the battery-pack is worthless on the highway, with the implication that it quickly got exhausted and never contributed anymore after that so only city driving provided a benefit.  Arrgh!  The writers of automobile magazines are getting pretty bold now, making claims that can easily be proven wrong with a simple test drive.  But they know most of their audience will never actually do that.  So they go on unchallenged.  That's just outright dishonesty.  At 70 MPH using E10 with 2 bikes hanging on the back last weekend, I averaged about 42 MPG.  So even the claim of "only around town" is incorrect, an that fuel I uses isn't as efficient as pure gas no less.  As for the nonsense about exhausting the battery-pack, it is a very good example of how the anti-hybrid supporters like to mislead.  They make an efficiency mode appear to be a shortcoming.  It gives the impression that electricity could never be used on the highway, even though that is quite different from what actually happens.  Of course, a vague reference to Corolla makes it seem like they know what they are talking about.  So always look for that as a clue to help reveal their true purpose.  But watch out, they are usually ambiguous enough to keep suspicion from getting raised.  And naturally, they never ever address the topic of smog-related emissions.  Placing attention on global warming instead confuses most people.  In summary, do the research for yourself.  Don't trust claims like "only around town".  Hybrids like Prius are far more dynamic than those resistant to change want you to know.


Seeing Pink.  I mention the green from time to time, but not the pink.  That's because I rarely ever see it.  And when the charge-level on the battery-indicator gets down to pink (2 bars), it's no big deal.  But most new owners have no idea what that actually means.  So they inevitably experience some type of anxiety... a consequence of being empowered with new data without having the necessary knowledge to understand it.  The most common response is panic, thinking they have to do something preventative to avoid damage.  So they shut off the A/C and start driving odd, attempting to get blue (at least 3 bars) to return.  But Prius sometimes doesn't respond.  The system is perfectly content at that level, since the charge-level really isn't as low as it looks.  The Multi-Display actually only shows you the most common, the middle.  The upper & lower extremes are not included.  Needless to say, don't bother.  Keep using the Prius the way you normally do, letting the system control electricity use for you.  No interaction on your part is needed to properly maintain the battery-pack charge-level.  It's all done automatically, regardless of how much you have turned on or if the car is even moving.


70 F Degree Green.  I've been wondering for months if the green (7 bars) on the Multi-Display would be achievable during the warm weather too.  They hadn't originally.  Now that the temperature is approaching the early Summer level, I finally got my answer.  There, as plain as day, was confirmation that the system had indeed changed.  It could take ages to actually find out why.  Is it the aging of the vehicle, a software update, both, neither, or some other contributing factor I have yet to figure.  Whatever the case, it is more dynamic now.  Seeing the switch between blue & green will please even those of us with lots of miles already.  After all, MPG above 50 all throughout the warm season can be pretty boring... he said, sarcastically and with a rather smug smile.


More Nonsense From Detroit.  This quote published today really troubled me: "Toyota Motor Corporation is racing to meet demand for its Prius vehicle, which converts the heat generated by braking into electricity that later helps the car accelerate.  Honda Motor Co. has introduced rival models."  Are the writers there really that stupid?  There is no heat used in the electricity creation process.  A motor captures excess kinetic energy and converts it.  Normally, that energy would be lost by friction, which the brakes use to cause deceleration.  The by-product of that is heat.  Apparently, some people are under the impression that the resulting heat is somehow used now rather than being lost.  What a bizarre concept!  That leads them to believe that brake pads and/or shoes are required to create electricity.  But in reality, they are not involved in that process in any way.  Strange.  I would have never thought of something that odd, and clearly incorrect.  To make matters worse, regenerative braking plays only a minor role in electricity creation.  In fact, the amount in trivial in comparison to what the generator creates while just driving (not braking).  Do these writers in Detroit have any clue how a hybrid actually works?


Recumbent Bikes.  I had no idea just how big the Prius was until this latest endeavor.  I needed to transport 2 recumbent bikes at the same time with my Prius, along with a traditional 12-speed bike.  That's quite a bit of oddly shaped metal.  But believe it or not, the task wasn't much of a challenge.  The 3-Wheel recumbent fit inside just fine (handle-bars and bike-seat folded down), with space still available for other cargo too.  I didn't even have to sacrifice much seating space either.  To my surprise, there was still enough room to fit 3 people in the Prius!  The 2-Wheel recumbent fit outside, with space available on the rack to carry another bike.  Yeah!  That is very impressive, so much so that I made digital proof...  photo album 108


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