Seven Tech ways to make America better this July 4

Seven Tech ways to make America better this July 4

Summary: Something about getting a new neck earlier this spring made me start thinking about how to change my life to make America a better place. Here a few that you can try to make the country better over the Fourth of July weekend:1.


Something about getting a new neck earlier this spring made me start thinking about how to change my life to make America a better place. Here a few that you can try to make the country better over the Fourth of July weekend:

1.) Turn off your computer at night. I've always left my computers on until they need to be restarted. I found that by turning off my three desktop computers, I lowered my power bill by almost $30 a month. While I live in a hydro-electric power region, if you get your electricity from coal, this will also reduce the particulate pollution by pounds a day.

2.) Swear off your car. Not everyone can afford a Tesla electric car, but most of us can afford a scooter. Both my wife and I have abandoned our cars for the summer when making in-town trips. Instead, we ride scooters (we got our scooters here, if you are in the Seattle area). Vespas, the venerable Italian scooters, have always been interesting, but too expensive for me. There are a whole slew of Asian-made scooters that compete favorably on price while providing the quality of a Vespa. At 80 m.p.g. to 90 m.p.g., respectively, we're cutting down our gas bill by at least $100 each month. Get a four-stroke engine to reduce pollution.

3.) Dig up and give away every cell phone in the house. Give them to U.S. troops serving overseas. Visit Cell Phones for Soldiers to learn how to do it. The group, founded by a couple of kids from Massachussets, has delivers thousands of cell phones with pre-paid minutes to troops each month.

4.) Give away your old PC. I've given old PCs with new education software to a couple kids I know whose families couldn't afford them. There are organizations in every city that can use PC donations. Check here for a good primer from Microsoft on donating PCs. Or consider volunteering with GeekCorps, which provides information technology assistance in the developing world. If you don't want to go overseas, just follow this link to Amazon and shop—part of the sale goes to GeekCorps. Everything we do for the world redounds to the credit of our nation.

5.) Start tracking your Congressional representatives' votes. It's not that hard to do and can help the people representing you do a better job, because you'll find you pick up the phone or write about bills that interest you. makes it easy. Visit the site, type in your representative's name and you'll get a complete report. Even better, you can get updates via RSS. Easy and a lot more interesting than you may think.

6.) Get your company to do something for the country. Too often, we leave our homes and drive through the world to an office, where we are insulated from what's going on outside most of the day, then drive home, maybe watch some TV or surf the Net, and sleep. So, see if you can get your company to do something for that world you drive through on the way to work. Perhaps your software company could give a percentage of its sales to a local charity or your Net/telecom company could join Internet for Everyone, which is campaigning for universal Internet access.

7.) Don't throw out your computer or mobile phone, recycle it. Americans trash 50 million computers and 130 cell phones every year. They contain a slew of heavy metals and, in some cases, toxins. Don't just toss this stuff in the trash. Hewlett-Packard will recycle their PCs and ink cartridges, as well as batteries and cell phones; /Dell and Apple will take any PC, if you buy a new computer from them. Here's a list of computer recycling organizations.

These are small things we can do. Individually, they don't make a huge difference, but it all adds up to major changes when we pull together. Come on, America, remember pulling together?

Topics: CXO, Hardware, Mobility, Telcos

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  • Drill Here. Drill Now. Pay Less.

    Get the environazi boot of our neck.
    Build more refineries.
    Reduce government regulations.
    Eliminate the Endangered Species Act.
    Build more dams for flood control.
    Build more highways to relieve traffic congestion.
    Relax nuclear power plant requirements to build more reactors.

    Your mindset is do with less. You have the Jimmy Carter
    Malaise Syndrome: "Our best days are behind us." You think a
    better America is one where you sweat in the summer, freeze
    in the winter and spend your life guilty about enjoying

    My vision of a better America is one of wealth, prosperity,
    growth and achievement.

    One vision looks at its feet and cries out "I am a sinner, I am a

    The other vision looks at the stars and says "That's where I'm

    Most people can figure out what camp you belong to.
    • old thinking

      clearly, you're the one who thinks our best days are behind us. you want to stick with old, fading technologies, but why not look at new energy technologies as a chance to inovate, move america forward, and (gasp) PROFIT while making the planet a better place to live?

      i don't think you really grasp what this is about--you just don't want to change. good luck reaching the stars that way.
      • There are no new energy technologies.

        That's just envirospeak for wind, tidal, solar, and chemical battery
        all of which are crap-can technologies that will never produce any
        kind of respectable energy. And hydrogen? Please. A low-density,
        energy sucking, difficult to store inefficient energy storage

        New technologies are portable fission reactors; gasoline from coal
        and oil shale.
        • uh, ok.

          so you've decided those are the only 3 valid "new" options? you realize there was a time when oil seemed useless, right?
        • Wait a minute....

          You wrote in another comment that you want a nation of
          prosperity and investment, or some variation on the idea
          that we should growing. How, with the attitude you present
          here, do you expect to get more prosperity? You sound
          like an advocate of steam power saying oil is a pipe
          dream. "What do we need with oil when we've got all this
          coal and wood to burn?"

          New technologies evolve. Discarding them because they
          are not immediately optimal is stupid. You'd make more
          sense if you took a coherent position.
          Mitch Ratcliffe
    • Re:

      [i]"Get the environazi boot of our neck."[/i]

      By eliminating opposing points of view, you are the one emulating a nazi. That isn't what America is about.
      Real World
      • I am

        the opposing point of view. Not all viewpoints are equally valid.

        Asinine viewpoints that harm humanity should be shut down and

        The environmentalist movement is directly responsible for
        millions of deaths (malaria, cholera, starvation). It is an evil
        philosophy and ideology designed to destroy human freedom and
    • You're talking public policy

      Mitch was talking about what individuals can do, not about what the government should do or about what people should try to bully their neighbors into doing. Do you have specific objections to any of his suggestions, or do you have alternative ones that most people can actually do?

      Maybe we should replace Zion National Park with Zion Reservoir (not that I'm in favor of such), but that's not really under my control. Nor do I have any reason to believe that there are either petroleum or uranium deposits under my house.
      John L. Ries
      • We are the government

        It's called public policy for a reason.

        And I always find it hilarious when shutting down ideas that limit
        freedom and prosperity is called bullying.

        Bullying is the operative word for the enviromentalist movement.
        • I'm glad you agree

          Too many conservatives and libertarians nowadays act like government is an enemy over which ordinary citizens have no real control.

          "And I always find it hilarious when shutting down ideas that limit freedom and prosperity is called bullying."

          That's not what I meant. I was actually referring to the standard accusation that liberals use social pressure to enforce their version of utopia on the remainder of the population (interestingly enough, the same accusation used to be made against conservatives). Everything that Mitch talked about was about what individuals can do, not about what people should coerce their neighbors into doing.

          Maybe someday you can explain how conspicuous consumption and waste lead to prosperity. All the history I've read suggests the opposite.
          John L. Ries
        • You are confusing a lot of things

          Debate is not shutting down ideas. It is how the public
          arrives at policy. You should get a thicker skin if you think
          saying you're wrong constitutes oppression.

          I made suggestions about what individuals can do to save
          money and reduce pollution. Are you also saying that it is
          inefficient to recycle computers? It is not, and it has the
          benefit of reducing toxic waste. One need not have an
          ideology to think in terms of practical results.

          So, please, take the "environmentalist movement" rhetoric
          somewhere else.
          Mitch Ratcliffe
    • Yeah, that's some pulling together....

      Individuals, the people I was addressing, can't build

      I was not writing from a camp, but from a pragmatic
      perspective about how to do some things that will
      immediately reduce demand for gas, which, in turn, if
      economic laws are still in force, would reduce the price of
      gas. That I emphasize reducing pollution, as well, is simply
      good science. Both will have shorter term results than your

      Do you have any idea how long it takes to bring an oil field
      online and build the infrastructure to transport the oil, not
      to mention the time required to build? We'd see some
      "returns" from this investment in a decade, and in the
      meantime pay more at the pump to support the

      Take the ideology somewhere else.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
    • How many dinosaurs do you thing existed?

      And you wonder why America is disliked throughout the world. There's only so much flora and fauna that went into oil. Even if you offered to be crushed and left for a few million years we'd still be stuffed.

      Try some rational thought instead of mindless ranting. The oil companies know oil has peaked and it's a limited resource. You're like a heroin addict that sees the solution as finding a way to get more heroin. A smart solution for being hooked is trying to get off it. We are going to need our dwindling oil supplies for plastics and other materials rather than carrying your fat butt around in a Hummer.

      So by all means let America be wealthy and prosperous, but do it by trying new ideas rather than sticking your head in the sand.
  • Um...wait a minute...

    "I found that by turning off my three desktop computers, I lowered my power bill by almost $30 a month."

    So...why exactly do you ever need to have all 3 on at once to begin with??? take it one step further...why do you even need 3 desktops??? Geez, if you consider the environmental damage that goes into the plastics and materials in consumer electronics, the worry would quickly shift from 40 mpg vs. 24 mpg, to the question of "why do I need more than one decent computer, and why do I need multiple TVs...etc., etc." Unreal.
    • Welcome to my world

      I run three because I need to for work.
      Mitch Ratcliffe
  • RE: Seven Tech ways to make America better this July 4

    We still need fossil fuels for a couple more decades, until renewable technologies are mature and cost-effective enough to be viable as the main sources for our energy needs. We are seeing that ethanol is clearly not a solution (at least corn-based ethanol, with current tech), as it is dinging our food costs too much. Solar is still far too costly per watt. Wind is a fraction of the cost of solar per watt, but needs infrastructure (transmission lines), and faces the hurdle of public acceptance of the visibility of large numbers of wind turbines on the horizon. Both these two still face the hurdle of consistency - more efficient storage is needed to help with that.

    So for the time being, we still need the fossil fuels. We can drill and produce oil and natural gas cleanly. During the last few big hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, you'll notice there were no real issues with oil rigs. There is probably more risk of spills with shipping oil from foreign fields than from spills at drilling rigs near our own coasts. We need to do this for our near-term need, while *also* working on renewable sources.
    • we don't have 2 more decades

      watch this september.
    • Hurricane damage..

      Boy, if you think there were no real issues with oil rigs and
      spills from Katrina, check this out:


      or how about these pictures of the oil slicks taken [b]from


      or how about this list (from the US Dept of the Interior) of
      pipelines and drilling platforms destroyed by Katrina and
      Rita (113 platforms destroyed):


      or how about this one - an early report showing spills of
      millions of gallons:


      I don't know where you got the idea that 'there were no
      real issues.' A little searching the Web would have shown
      you the opposite.
  • 80 mph to 90 mph?

    "At 80 m.p.h. to 90 m.p.h., respectively, we???re cutting down our gas bill by at least $100 each month."

    Wow! Just think how much fuel you'd save if you rode that scooter at a more stately 25MPH!!! ;-)

    [i]Surely you meant Miles Per GALLON?[/i]
    • nice catch

      corrected. shouldn't write so late at night.
      Mitch Ratcliffe