Channeling Excess Energy

Before I say this, I am not referring to some sort of new age aura or anything like that, but rather using our nervous and pent-up energy for good things, instead of just being nervous or aimless, etc.

I have been reading some books on public speaking recently (maybe more on this later), and they give some tips on how to take excess energy (much of which could be nervous or undirected) and focus the energy to something positive, namely the current intellectual, spiritual, or athletic performance. One idea some authors recommend is to focus on something positive, e.g. a happy moment or person. This is based on research that people are literally physically stronger when they think of something positive than when they think of something negative. I tend to think of two things to channel my energy to increase my performance: the photo of my niece grace smiling and running outside on a hot summer day. Today, while I was running (inside), I noticed that not only did I feel a burst of energy when thinking of niece, but I always smiled at the thought of her smiling in that photo. Another technique I have read about is to make yourself taller, which means standing proud to exude confidence. I tried this today, and I did it by pretending that my head and shoulders were attached to a string hanging from something very high in the air…it was actually quite easy to do when I was imagining that. Again, I felt an improvement in my energy levels. I am experimenting with ways of my own, and will let you know about these in the future.

I Just Paid 1.67 for Gas

It is hard to believe, but I paid $1.67 for gas a few days ago, and the same station is selling gas for $1.57 today. I haven’t paid this little for gasoline since 2002, when I remember gas rising to 1.70, at the time, I thought it an outrageously high price. Today, it seems like a much-needed bargain.

The reason gas is falling is that demand is falling, mainly because of the economy. I think this highlights the importance of conserving energy. If we reduce demand, prices go down. We can blame the speculators, OPEC, oil companies, etc, but what is causing this drop is a lack of demand. I hope we don’t let these “low” prices make us complacent. We still need to conserve and promote alternatives to keep these prices low. I don’t know about you, but I like having an extra 20 dollars a fill up in *my* pocket, and not in the pocket of an oil company of foreign country.

Some Good Economic News…Some Not So Good

Good News: Oil prices have dipped dramatically lately. I have followed energy prices at the futures level since 2002 when I became upset that gas was skyrocketing to the insanely high price of $1.70. These days, $1.70 seems cheap. While I don’t think we will see $1.70 gas again, I do think a price around $1.99 is possible in many areas by December. Some people have said prices are going down because “an election is near.” Nope. It is because our economy is weak and getting weaker, and demand is down in developed countries, like the U.S. Thus businesses are using a lot less fuel, and so are consumers. Part of the price drop is that Americans have finally wised up, and have started conserving energy.

This is an example of why it is important to conserve energy. Using less fuel lowers prices. That is basic capitalism. If you want to lower a price you do one of two things. You either increase supply or reduce demand. Right now, the oil market is well-supplied because there is a lot of supply and weakening demand. It is a shame that it took a near economic collapse to lower oil prices, but there is at least a little good news amidst the doom-and-gloom. I just hope we don’t forget about $4.00/gallon gas, and that we keep conserving, and keep developing alternatives, or we will be back at $4.00 very soon.

Farmer’s Almanac: Cold Winter on the Way

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, a cold winter is coming for most of the U.S. With many families struggling with energy costs this could be problematic. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing some of the ways we reduce energy consumption in the home (yes, our families are used to hearing “put on a sweater” in the winter!). I also have to admit that I dislike winter more and more each year, especially after Christmas is over. The colder the winter, the worse it is, it seems. We’ll try to address ways to survive the winter blahs as well. Keep posted.

Some Friendly Advice: Buy Gas Now

Oil and Gasoline futures shot up big time today (the dollar weakened and speculators jumped back in the market). I have a feeling the local stations will bump up their prices soon, probably tomorrow or possibly not until Monday. I bought gas for 3.43/gallon today for this reason.

I could be wrong, but usually this is a big predictor that a jump is coming.

UPDATE: As of today 8-22-2008, oil has fallen the largest amount for one day since 1991. Wow is the oil market ever volatile. However, oil rose by about the same amount yesterday, when I gave the above advice, so you can understand my warning. For those who are getting $3.43/gallon, I still suggest taking it!

A “Staycation” to Save Money

A lot of people are talking about “staycations” as opposed to vacations these days. A staycation is having fun locally as opposed to taking an expensive vacation. Many Americans are strapped for cash because of high gas prices, and don’t have the extra money for a huge vacation that involves a lot of driving. My wife and I are two such Americans.

Last year, my brother, his wife, and my then fiancee went to Mount Airy, North Carolina for a three day getaway. It was fun. It is about 400 miles to Mount Airy from my residence, so the round trip is 800 miles. Since I get around 25 mpg on average (city and highway averaged), that would be a little over 32 gallons of gas, which is 128 dollars just to get there and back. Local driving probably would add an extra 50 dollars or more.  Food would run about 30 dollars a day. A hotel room for two costs about 100 per night. So to repeat that vacation this year (which was the original plan) would cost about 600 dollars.

This year, we have decided to just visit my brother and his family for a week, four days longer than our more traditional vacation last year. Since my brother is working at his school this summer, and there is a nearly newborn baby in the family, he really couldn’t have gone on a vacation anyway, so it just makes sense. He lives about 300 miles round trip away from me, shorter than just one leg of the Mount Airy Trip. Room-and-board is free. While we will eat out a few meals, many of them will be cooked at his home. They will be good, healthy, and cheap. Since we are viewing this as a vacation, all of us will get a chance to check out local beaches, bike paths, state parks, festivals, etc, things that we may not have ever visited before, even though they are only a few miles from my brother’s residence. In other words, this is a real vacation. And, despite saving money, we are still going to get to do what matters: have fun, see family, and relax.

So, let’s compare:

Longer, traditional vacation: 3 days, $600

Shorter, money-saving, vacation: 7 days, about $200

Image taken at a bike path near my brother’s home.

Savings Tip: Hold the AC

Rising energy costs drive most of us crazy. Energy costs are going up while incomes stagnate. It makes it worse when temperatures skyrocket into the 90s. I have a little personal challenge, and that is to use the Air Conditioning as little as possible. I become proud when I hear my neighbors’ Air conditioning units kick on, and I know I don’t have to use mine. Here are my tips to save money on the Air Conditioning:

Sweat it out a little – You’re sitting in your house in jeans, shirt, and socks, and 74 is just too hot? Well, put on shorts and flip-flops (or even less…just make sure the windows are closed!), and you might not be as hot. I have found that I can generally tolerate about 78 degrees comfortably.

Open A Window or Three – I have found that when I open the door and a few windows, it creates suction, sending a nice breeze through the house. It won’t provide the same feeling as AC, but it will cool the house down a few degrees and make you feel cooler.

Use a Fan to Take Advantage of Cool Nights – During the hot parts of Spring, Fall, and some of summer, we get a lot of cooler nights (cooler than the day at least). One trick I have learned is to wait until the temperature drops for the night, put a fan in the window, turn it on high, and blow in air that is cooler than the house. My house usually holds in heat from the day, and this quickly cools it.

Challenge Yourself – See how many days you can avoid the AC. How many times does your AC kick on when you actually feel fine? Examine your AC usage, and challenge your family to reduce your AC usage, and see lower energy bills.

This photo is from the winter. Maybe it will make you feel a little cooler.