Thursday, 22 March 2012

Off the grid

My current computer in my home office
The other side of my home office

Today was the hottest day in 74 years for this date with the temperature in Toronto reaching 24.5 degrees Celsius (76 F)at 2 p.m. and only 1.1 degrees  cooler than the all time record for March which was recorded on March 28, 1945. Maybe there is something to global warming and last summer was the hottest one in a long time with a maximum temperature of 38 C in downtown Toronto. I’ve been off the grid for a month since my home computer died due to a malfunctioning mother board and my car became immobilised by a dead starter motor. I decided to test a simpler life without a computer or a car but not as an OTG purist, foraging the neighbourhood for nuts and berries while tapping maple trees for syrup and trapping urban rodents. Taking the public transit makes me realise the bubble in which I live separated from the diverse population of this very cosmopolitan city. Sharing a confined space with the global village makes me appreciate the variety of my home town with many languages from Urdu to Mandarin spoken as I hung from the bus straps. I also tried out the new local bike trails which are separate from the road system and have special bike crossing signals when you have to cross the roads. Fortunately my hard drive was fine so it retained all the accumulated data but the Sony repair center had to order a new mother board from Japan so it took a month to fix. Below is a infographic on internet usage. My non computer time usage enabled the notable accomplishment of tasks on my “things to do” list such as house work, research, the videos which my children gave me for Christmas, deciding on a model of car as well as purchasing it, etc.:

Browse more Computer infographics.
My current computer which I bought three years ago is Sony LT “all in one” model with a 22” screen, 2.4 GHz Intel cpu,4 GB memory, 1 TB hard drive, wireless keyboard, blue ray drive with burner, NVIDA  graphics card and a TV tuner which can save programs to the hard drive. I looked at the latest Sony LT model with a 24” touch screen, 3D capable with glasses, more memory and a bigger hard drive but feel that I want to wait for the next generation in a year or so before I upgrade.  I found the 3D a bit over the top with no current applications except games and I’m not a gamer although I went through that phase many years ago. Maybe after they start to release 3D movies, it might be more interesting. Going to the local mall, I checked out the new iPad at the apple shop and was quite impressed but it did seem to be very warm for my taste.
My old car - lots of room for the bike but poor fuel efficiency
I also decided to buy a new car since my Dodge grand caravan didn’t like to pass too many gas stations and the price of gas in Toronto is twice the price of only ten years ago. My requirements were 1) better fuel consumption, 2) air conditioning, 3) automatic transmission, 4) reliable, 5) good safety record and 6) most of all - I could get my bike in the back of the vehicle. My final choice was a Honda FIT LX which is half the size of the old vehicle and I’m quite happy with the car although my current bike which doesn’t have quick release tires is a tight fit. The smart idea is to fit the bike to the car so I’m thinking about a new lighter bike with quick release tires or a folding bike. My preference is for a regular bike so I did do some exploring of the local bike retailers and an acceptable one costs about $500 (CD) plus 13% HST. For those of you who aren’t Canadian, HST stands for harmonized sales tax and is a composite provincial and federal value added sales tax. The sales taxes used to be separate but reason prevailed and they were combined not too long ago ;however, the downside was that the composite tax now was levied not just on goods but also on services. There is an offset where people whose taxable income on their annual income tax return is below a certain point get a refund for the HST tax by mail or by direct deposit in their bank account. Some items such as food don’t have the tax so you can get strange situation such as buying five doughnuts at Tim Horton’s and paying sales tax because it’s a restaurant service; however, if you buy six doughnuts then you don’t pay tax because the half dozen counts as food.
My Honda FIT LX
My bike just fits
The Honda FIT had a fuel economy of 28 mpg while the Dodge Grand Caravan had 20 mpg so I got an increase in fuel economy of 40% and with an increase in fuel cost of 100% in the last ten years, this represents a large savings in my fuel expenses. Although there have been ups and downs in the price of gas with a large drop in the 2008 recession, the trend is definitively up with a high correlation over time in a linear regression of the data from 2002 to 2012 with an outlier during the recession being deleted from the data set. You can see from the infographic below that as soon as the price of gas declines, the public goes back to buying low fuel economy cars.

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