27 May 2008

Interesting Stuff

Okay, so this Memorial Day weekend was kind of a wash with weather being quite on the frigid side, but nevertheless, there were some crazy things that happened this weekend. Nothing personally happened that was noteworthy (other than Ashley and I began looking for a new matress so that we don't have to worry about it when we get married and have our own apartment, or vice versa, whichever comes first), but there was quite a bit of stuff in the news lately that I have found quite interesting.
First off, Mars. The "secrets" that exist on that rusty red neighboring planet of ours are slowly becoming uncovered, and with the recent hugely successful landing of the Phoenix Lander, we hope to uncover some more information about it. Just like when we landed other spacecraft/landers/rovers on the planet and the first Martian pictures captivated our imaginations (and disappointed some of us with the lack of pictures of aliens), the currently-black-and-white images sent back from the Phoenix have been incredible, despite their being quite lifeless and desolate. It is truly representative of our generation's technological progress: in the 60s and 70s we first explored space and even put the first men on the Moon; today we have reached a little bit farther into the stars and have landed, once again, on Mars with hopes that we will soon find ourselves in an era that can claim that humans have finally set foot on a planet other than Earth for the first time. It is quite exciting living to see these things happen, just as it was exciting for my parents and grandparents to see their generations reach the Moon. (On a side note, I made the discovery that when you go to the "raw images" portion of the Phoenix Lander's website, you'll find that the URL is similar to this: http://fawkes4.lpl.arizona.edu/images.php?gID=0&cID=8. I think its kind of coincidental that the name of the host "fawkes4" is similar to the name Fawkes, which was the name given to Professor Dumbledore's pet Phoenix in the Harry Potter series. Just a tidbit of yet another piece of completely useless trivia for you to knaw on).
Secondly, and on a completely unexciting and rather unnerving side of events, I saw, for the first time, gasoline prices peak over $4/gallon. For the last month or so, gas prices have been kissing the $4 mark, getting so close but never actually changing to equal $4.00, but rather hovering around $3.99 or so. This comes as bad news for me, as I commute from Temecula and Hemet all the way down to Oceanside and San Marcos for work and school, respectively. Now with the help of GasPriceWatch.com and GasBuddy.com, I'll be hunting for the best prices for gas. But with gas prices continually soaring, this summer might become a drag, not only for entertainment, but for work and a drag on the economy as people will be less likely to travel anywhere as gas prices continue to climb. In fact, with news about gas thieves like this one, and the continually rising cost of alternatives, companies (and myself included) may want to reconsider telecommuting. Paperless initiatives anyone? Which actually brought me to ponder these questions: a) how many gallons of gasoline, on average, does 1 barrel of crude oil produce, and b) where does the gas acutally come from for different companies? The answers suprised me, as it appears that approximately 19.5 gallons of gas are wroght from each 42 gallon barrel of crude (maybe time to reconsider that SUV and truck, eh?), meaning that for every 2 fillups I put into my car, I use almost an entire barrel of crude oil. And that's on a 10-gallon Scion xA tank! Crazy! The answer to b) is a little more difficult, but still interesting to see, and I do definitely recommend reading it here and here.
Well, as May comes to a close, it is interesting to see what other news we might encounter. Hopefully its something a little more cheery than oil prices...

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