Donating Hair

It takes about 60 days to grow an inch of hair.  This has only mattered in the past when I’ve had a bad hair cut. But recently, after growing my hair out to maintain my alternative lifestyle, I grew enough hair to make a small wig.

I was first alerted to the possibility of donating hair by my dear friend Genevieve who has, multiple times, donated her hair to Locks of Love.  Locks of Love is an organization that turns donated hair into wigs for less fortunate children; other organizations with the same mission include Wigs for Kids and Children with Hair Loss.

The donation process is simple as you might imagine:

1) Wait until you have enough hair 12” in a ponytail for Locks of Love, 8” for Wigs for Kids (480 days).

2) Put your hair in a ponytail or a braid (no loose hair) and have somebody cut it off.

3) Put that hair into a Ziploc bag, then put that bag into a padded envelope and send it in.

Kids can be mean and it’s terrible knowing that sick kids get made fun of and/or feel less comfortable at school because of something they have no control over. As a kid I had the great advantage of getting made fun of for things that were entirely my fault and I hope that that privilege can be extended to more kids.

P.S. As you may have guessed I did not cut off my hair to be in the Marmaduke film, but if somebody is casting a Marmaduke, I am available.

I’ve Been Cast in the New Marmaduke Film!

People who know me in Chicago have been asking why I cut my hair.  Well it’s for a very important reason and I can finally tell everyone… I’ve been cast in the new Marmaduke Movie!

More a reboot than a sequel, I will be playing the part formerly played by Owen Wilson.  It’s a big opportunity and while I’m sad to leave my job and the city I love, I can’t say “no” to the experience or the money. I will update you guys as soon as I have more info, till next time, keep those tails wagging!

A Very Bad Idea from Russian Railways

From an article in this week’s Economist:

A more radical approach to powering trains is that proposed by Russian Railways, which says it is designing a nuclear-powered train in conjunction with Rosatom, the state nuclear giant. Able to generate immense power, such a train could, in theory, move extremely fast or be used to supply power to a remote town or industrial site, using an on-board reactor similar to those found in nuclear submarines. Even if this nuclear-powered train takes to the rails, however, concern about the consequences of a derailment will probably impede widespread adoption.

Woah. That is nuts.

I take a pretty pro-nuclear power stance generally. A more sensible storage policy for waste and the construction of new safer nuclear power plants would make a huge difference in carbon emissions in the US, but this idea is pretty out there.  Imagine the security, and safety issues; there’s a reason we don’t build power plants in the middle of cities. Also, as The Economist notes trains sometimes derail. If  a train had a nuke on it and it hit a truck… that would be bad.

US Electrical Energy Consumption Falling

According to Enerdata, the US consumed 3,798 trillion watt hours of electricity in 2012.  To put that in perspective, we used enough energy for every person on earth to use a 100 watt light bulb for 64 years. More importantly, that’s 64 trillion watt hours (TWh) less than last year, a 1.6% decrease.  In fact, US Energy consumption has fallen every year since 2010 when the economy was recovering from the great recession.

It’s important to remember that this decrease over three years, during which the country grew steadily, making the decrease even greater on a per capita basis.

This decrease in energy consumption hasn’t created a commensurate decrease in energy production in the U.S. Energy production. Last year, the US produced 4,295 TWh which while lower than the previous year is not decreasing at quite as fast as production. Also, world energy consumption (spurred largely by China’s continued growth) continues to grow.

Still, it’s surprising that this trend in US energy consumption isn’t something more widely understood or talked about. I was first tipped off to this phenomenon by a Matthew Yglesias article about American energy use and the wild growth of natural gas, which is indeed striking.  But it lead me to the Wikipedia article he must have found the graphic in, which is itself fascinating.


Finally, if you’re interested at all in electricity production or consumption spend some time on Enerdata’s amazing site.  It’s much more entertaining than any buzz feed map list. The data inside it could create a 100 blog posts like this.

Reading List (of things that aren’t books and mostly can’t be read)

I wish I could write an excellent reading list every week but recently I haven’t been reading the best stuff. So here are other bits of cultural content to be gobbled up in between healthy doses of booky goodness.

George Strait Strait Country – The songs on this album are too reasonable and come from too rational a position to be written by any musician I know. Much less a young country mega-star in the making. It’s not just unpretentious it’s a better reflection of how relationships really are. Most of us aren’t trapped in the closet of another man’s bedroom.  A much more common situation is one of the two partners wants to go out on a Friday night while the other one wants to stay home. He’s not trying to be a wild-eyed rambler, he’s just trying to keep himself and his wife happy.

Idea Channel – This PBS YouTube channel embodies all the best parts of nerdiness. Idea Channel brings a thoughtfulness that only a truly committed fan can employ in a discussion of cartoon dogs. It’s intelligent about things we might usually be stupid about. Best of all it’s funny enough and accessible enough to make those discussions engaging.Fiona Staples

Saga – This is the prettiest, strangest take on Romeo and Juliet I have ever read.  In this comic book, the Capulets have horns and the Montiques have wings, and in the midst of their interstellar war a baby is born with one parent from either side. Brian K Vaughn who writes the story has written a lot of critically acclaimed comic books and some episodes of the show Lost, he’s funny, and he keeps the story humming along. Fiona Staples was a relative newcomer to comics when the series started, she is now a star. Her characters have expressive faces, and her worlds are strange and pretty when they’re not gross.  This book is pretty.  Did I say that already, just the color of the covers make the comic books lovely to have in your hand.

Also, there’s a great talking-cat sidekick.  If you like sidekicks or talking cats, you should pick this up.

Manhattan Projects Volume 1 – This is the first collection of the ambitious and twisted stories of the imagined rivalries and conspiracies of history’s greatest geniuses. It’s scary and well put together and the story is big, big.  The second volume has actually come out already, but I think it may be starting to come off the rails. With luck, the third volume can make me look like an idiot for ever doubting. But for now I say, read the first book, if you like it enough you can try the subsequent chapters (some people even like Children of Dune).

The Economist Videos – If you like to keep up with world events, but hate to read (how did you find this blog?), you may enjoy these free videos from the Economist. They cover a wide swath of material, from current fiction to upcoming elections. Also, you get to see the crazy facial hair that dudes who edit the Economist rock.  I can just see these weird mutton chop dudes grilling the titans of commerce on their plans and policies.

Vi Hart – These are the personal and fascinating musings of a math genius who hates math class.  For instance, a strange and divergent discussion of Fibonacci numbers and what they have to do with the asymmetry of pineapples and the inaccuracies of Sponge Bob Square Pants. Vi makes videos that cover the parts of math I never even got next to in the course of an education that only the privileged classes get a crack at. And that makes it fascinating.  It’s not easy stuff but it’s beguiling enough that it pulls in your attention. Vi Hart exemplifies the best aspects of the medium of YouTube and that is the ability to communicate, unencumbered by collaborators or expense.

Adventure TimeAdventure Time – Sweet, silly and short. This is the kind of show where they periodically change the genders of the principle characters.  What? That’s not a kind of show. Shows don’t do that. Oh, I guess that means Adventure Time is the Bee’s Knees.

Craphound – Cory Doctrow is good at talking and thinking.  The last reading list had one of his books on it. He gives talks a lot and I never get to go to them, but most of them end up as podcasts on his excellent blog 


More Bikes not Enough Helmets

Cyclists are infamous for not obeying traffic laws and having little regard for their own safety or the safety of others. Whether or not that perspective is fair, it’s pervasive. Bikes and bikers are often thought of as dangerous.*

It’s terrible that that point of view is so common and, as someone who bikes to work, I often find myself arguing with people who think bikers are insane. One of the reasons that perspective is so common is because so few people regularly bike.  My thinking was, the more people bike the safer biking becomes.  Because with more bikers on the road, motorists would get in the habit of being more aware of bikers. The other, more important, reason biking might become safer is because if more people bike from a broader cross-section of the population more law-abiding risk-averse people would bike. Right now the people who bike are disproportionately male and young, and this is a population notoriously bad at avoiding risk.  That’s my segment of the population, I know it well.

Basically I want more people to ride bikes, because I think it would make the roads safer for bikers and drivers.**

So, when I heard about a bike sharing program coming to Chicago I was excited. The program, Divvy Bikes, is definitely going to put more people on bikes. So I thought that couldn’t be a bad thing for bikers, and bike/car relations. Until I found out they won’t provide helmets.  Let me rephrase that, they don’t even offer helmets.

Mayor on Bike

Rahm Emanuel with no helmet, also he’s going to get grease on those pants.

If bikers are going to be safer and less stigmatized they’re going to need to take some responsibility for their own safety.

I’m happy we have a bike sharing program in Chicago and if you ride a Divvy Bike you should definitely bring a helmet. But when are you in a situation where you have a helmet but no bike?


*I think the health benefits of riding a bike out weigh the possible dangers.  This crazy man agrees with me and he’s done some back of the envelope math about it.

**I’d also like it if more people biked so that they would feel less alienated from this group of commuters.