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July 13th, 2008

still more gas math, well, analysis

Okay, it's not math. But it's analysis or commentary, or something. R. got his undergrad from MIT and he gets the Technology Review. Within that is The Tech and within the edition that showed up in the mail recently is an article which quotes (hopefully out of context) a mech-e prof named Tim Gutowski. I should note that I wholeheartedly agree with Gutowski's conclusion ("it's a systemic problem that requires more than individual action. It requires adjustments at the policy level, in society as a whole") and don't think he's a bad, silly or foolish person.

Having gotten that out of the way, I will now mock specific quotes, after outlining the general idea. People in the US emit 20 metric tons CO2 each on average; even homeless people (if you cost out services across everyone) come in at about 8.5 metric tons, compared to a world average (including the us) of 4 metric tons. "Lifestyle adjustments" can bring that down by 30 percent at most, which put me on alert. Here is a summary of lifestyle adjustments, NOT directly attributed to Gutowski (author of piece is Sara Shay): "driving fewer miles per eyear, using a fuel-efficient car, and turning the thermostat down a few degrees during the winter".

So. Alert justified. To cut more "than 30% would require more drastic changes" (Shay again). Such as? "such as moving closer to work, going vegetarian, and dropping the thermostat to 60 degrees." Nothing about hot weather climates and adjusting the thermostat up in the summer. Because, remember, center of the universe and in fact the _entire_ universe is New England. Oops. Never mind that now. Okay, so there's a massive continuum between whatever people eat on average now and "going vegetarian" -- it's not like flipping a switch. And I'm a little startled that moving closer to work is regarded as drastic. It only took 4ish years of high and rising gas to get most people putting that on their list when they had to move anyway. Not Drastic. But whatever. That's not Gutowski's fault. Is it?

"People are aware of the problem, but they don't want to be martyrs." That's Gutowski. What, precisely, he's referring to is open to debate, like I said, I'm _hoping_ he's being quoted out of context, because otherwise, Gutowski just said that _going vegetarian is being a martyr_. Moving closer to work? _Being a martyr_. He further notes, "It will take a generation." Again, antecedent not entirely clear.

Well, let's just think about this. There was a time, within my lifetime and I'm young enough to be pregnant without technological assistance, when some people in the Mideast decided they ought to have more say in what got charged for what came out of their land. Not a wholly unreasonable proposition, but everyone got very excited for a few years and there were shortages and where _I_ lived, the vacation home properties east of the mountains fell precipitously in value (never really did recover) and people sold their cars within a year or so and bought ones which got much better gas mileage. We also bonded a nuke plant or two which, as it quickly suffered massive cost overruns and as conservation efforts turned out to be massively successful in reducing demand wasn't needed anyway, wound up mothballed very expensively before it ever got turned on. In elementary school, WPPSS was just a big joke and I mean, really, with an acronym like that? So asking for it.

So. Between when I started elementary school and when I moved up to junior high, conservation efforts rendered completely unnecessary a projected absolute need for huge new power plants. That's one _short_ generation. And it's not like Western Washington's experience was unique.

I don't quite understand _why_ it's so easy for people to start riding the bus, trade in their guzzler for something that does at least a bit better, move closer when they have to move, carpool, etc. -- and so _hard_ for the policy folk to see that people are quite capable of adapting really quickly to a changed environment.

Perhaps someone has a simple, clear explanation that even I can understand.

DCU pre-approval process online

R. really likes the DCU (the Digital Federal Credit Union) and has for a long, long time. We have accounts there. His original mortgage was from elsewhere but his refi was from them. Having checked their rates (and knowing that they don't resell their mortgages to any degree which insulates them somewhat from the wackitude that is the mortgage market these days), it was kind of a nobrainer that we'd definitely use them for a pre-qual and presumably for the mortgage as well.

After discussing this on and off for weeks, I went over to have a look at their rate chart to see if the wackitude had affected them (not-so-much), and noticed they had an online pre-approval process. Well, of course they do; everyone probably does, right? You can even read (or not read, and claim you read them) all the legally required disclosures online, if your browser cooperates (Firefox on the Mac did, which is not the no-brainer you might hope it would be).

I figured that after submitting it, there'd be a, hey, it's after 11 p.m. on a Sunday. You can just freaking _wait_ for a response until next business day. But no, that wait up to two minutes while we process your request? Actually apparently _does_ collect your credit score.

Yeah, so that's _way_ too easy.

We had a little discussion abut 15 year fixed rate vs. 30 year, and about no points vs no points no cost. Not wanting to Do All That Math (and since we weren't entirely certain off-hand how to do the math), we ignored the NPNC option, concluded that both the rates were good (a half point apart) and debated the merits of the respective payments. R. was all set to go with the 15 year until I pointed out the implications of our probable property tax bill worked out monthly. And we can, of course, change our mind.