I finished up a couple books since last time I updated the reading list on this blog. I also added another few books to the list.
Being a Christian in Science by Walter R. Hearn
The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough
I started following (via my preferred RSS reader: Google Reader) a blog by John Peltier, of Peltier Technical Services, called PTS Charts and Things. I have been utterly fascinated by a few of his recent posts where he takes on the challenge of producing a chart of a particular form using the features built-in to Excel 2007.
These are not trivial tasks. Consider for example the Clustered Stacked Bar graph (see below). First off, it is a challenge, in and of itself, to create the clustering of stacked bar graphs, since there are clustered bar graphs in Excel and stacked bar graphs in Excel, but no combination of both. On top of that, labeling the axes correctly turns out to be particularly tricky. And yet, John Peltier walks you step by step through his process of developing the graph. I especially enjoy his presentation because it doesn’t just walk through how to do it, but also through the entire trial and error process of getting the desired graph.
Another recent favorite post of mine was his presentation on the Stacked Area Chart Challenge:
He also posted a nice rundown of the Changes to Charting in Excel 2007. Since I personally love the new interface and features in Office 2007 and a colleague of mine at Wayland has expressed his dislike of the new Excel 2007, I enjoyed reading an outside opinion. I stand by my original position but understand a little more of the problems with the new user interface.
The PTS blog also pointed me to a new blog (see below) to which I just subscribed. I’ll follow it for a while, but having already read the first few posts, I think it is going to be a keeper.
This was the top headline in my Google News for the local section in Lubbock, TX. I had to share.
I wish I’d thought of that.
Thanks to a post in LifeHacker, I have set up a few bookmarks in Firefox that will open in the sidebar. I recently discovered the trick of opening links in the sidebar but I did not think to use mobile apps such as the new iphone app in Google Reader.
Some other mobile web apps that I am likely to use include:
If you want more suggestions to things to stick in your sidebar, go straight to apple for some ideas: http://www.apple.com/webapps/index_top.html
The “how to” comes from Mozilla Links
And it’s pretty simple:
- Open the Bookmarks Manager (Bookmarks/Organize Bookmarks…)
- In Firefox 2, in the File menu, select New bookmark… In Firefox 3, press Organize in the toolbar and select New bookmark…
- Enter a name, http://www.google.com/reader/i/ for location, and ensure to check Load this bookmark in the sidebar.
- Press Save Changes and now you can select the bookmark to load Google Reader in the sidebar.
Try it out. It’s handy.
I received an email earlier to day trying to promote some sort of a boycott of Exxon/Mobile Mobil gasoline stations in an effort to force them to lower their gas prices. Recognizing that there are few around my neck of the woods, I didn’t pay much attention to the email. Plus, I pretty much disregard those kinds of efforts anyway.
A follow up email attempted to make the point that we aren’t paying that much more for gasoline considering a significant increase in fuel efficiency over the last 20 – 30 years. The examples cited were anecdotal and encouraged me to do a little research on my own.
I was surprised to see that the increase in fuel economy is a lot less than one might have expected over the last 30 years. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the average gas mileage for new vehicles sold in the United States has gone from 23.1 miles per gallon (mpg) in 1980 to 26.7 mpg in 2007. This represents a paltry increase of 15% over the 27 year period. Even if you limit yourself to domestic passenger cars the increase is from 22.6 mpg in 1980 to 31.3 mpg in 2007.
Even more interesting to me is the fact that we have benefited from a relatively low cost of gasoline for an extended period of time. (see here) Adjusting for inflation we see a steady decline in the cost of gasoline dating all the way back to the 1920s. The only exception is the late 70s, early 80s and the last 5 years. Prices are at their upper limit even with inflation considered. When considering only yearly averages, the highest cost occurred during 1981 at $3.17 (adjusted to 2008 dollars). Through March of 2008, this year’s annual average has been $3.08.
Now back to the original point, on average the cost (in 2008 valuation) per mile was 12.8 cents in 1981 (when gas averaged $3.17 per gallon in 2008 dollars and the average fuel economy was 24.6 miles per gallon) . The average cost per mile, currently, is 13.6 cents (with a current national average of $3.63 per gallon and average fuel economy of 26.7 mpg). In the end, while it seems that we are paying a ghastly amount at the pump we aren’t that far above the historical high, nevertheless we are, in fact, paying more than ever.