May 24, 2007

The PB&J Campaign

I can't remember now where I found this, but The PB&J Campaign encourages people to have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (or other plant-based food) for lunch to help the environment:

A PB&J will slow global warming.

Next time you have one you'll reduce your carbon footprint by saving the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets.

That's about forty percent of what you'd save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan.

If you were going to have a ham sandwich or a hamburger, you save the equivalent almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

A PB&J will also save water.

That's about 280 gallons of water over the hamburger. To put this in perspective, three PB&Js a month instead of hamburgers will save about as much water as switching to a low-flow showerhead.

A PB&J will save land.

Have a PB&J and save 12 to 50 square feet of land from deforestation, over-grazing, and pesticide and fertilizer pollution.

It's interesting to me that, although I try to go vegetarian one day each week, I've never thought too much about the environmental benefits of doing so. Seeing them made explicit is eye-opening.

One of the suggestions on the site is to start a PB&J club at the office. I'm talking about it with a colleague here -- a day where we all brown-bag vegetarian lunches.

October 29, 2006

"I Need Fuel"

For my second Michael J. Fox-related entry in two days, from AutoblogGreen:

New Technology Turns Food Leftovers Into Electricity, Vehicle Fuels

The University of California - Davis has started up a new renewable energy demonstration facility. They will be trying to capture the energy that diners leave behind on their plates when they eat out at restaurants in the Bay area. The new Biogas Energy Project is the first large scale demonstration of an anaerobic phased solids digester. This concept was developed at UC-Davis by professor Ruihong Zhang specifically to process a wide range of waste products.

Food scraps will be collected from some of the finest restaurants in the area and processed at the new facility. Initially they will digest about eight tons of food a week eventually ramping up to eight tons a day. Leftovers like melon rinds, broccoli spears and fish bones will be turned into both hydrogen and methane, both of which can be used as energy sources.

Haven't we seen this before?

Doc: Marty! You've gotta come back with me!

Marty: Where?

Doc: Back to the future.

Marty: Wait a minute, what are you doing, Doc?

Doc: I need fuel.

June 26, 2006

Greenland's Melting Ice Sheet

Via Boing Boing, a Los Angeles Times story on how, as also noted in the film An Inconvenient Truth (which, by the way, I highly recommend), the ice sheet covering Greenland is detiorating more quickly than in the past. Were it to melt entirely, the world's oceans would rise by 21 feet.

The Greenland ice sheet -- two miles thick and broad enough to blanket an area the size of Mexico -- shapes the world's weather...

Should all of the ice sheet ever thaw, the meltwater could raise sea level 21 feet and swamp the world's coastal cities, home to a billion people. It would cause higher tides, generate more powerful storm surges and, by altering ocean currents, drastically disrupt the global climate.

Climate experts have started to worry that the ice cap is disappearing in ways that computer models had not predicted.

By all accounts, the glaciers of Greenland are melting twice as fast as they were five years ago, even as the ice sheets of Antarctica -- the world's largest reservoir of fresh water -- also are shrinking.

This graphic included with the article, showing the extent of Greenland's seasonal "melt zone", is sobering:

Solid to Liquid
The changes seen in the graphic have taken place in a single decade.

For more on what a 21-foot sea level rise would mean, see here, here, and here.

June 16, 2006

Oregon Has a Bad Idea

Oregon is experimenting with a new road tax system, and it's a bad idea:

Oregon's 24 cents-a-gallon gas tax, which is used to fund roads, has not increased since 1993. Some at the state Department of Transportation say the money could dry up in future years as hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars become more popular. So the state is investigating other alternatives to pay for roads.

The mileage-fee project was designed by engineers at Oregon State University. The system works by using a Global Positioning System in a car to determine the number of miles traveled inside and outside of Oregon and at what times, which could lead to peak-driving-time fees. When the car pulls into a service station, a radio transmitter sends the data to a reader in a gas pump. The mileage fee is added to the bill, and the gas tax is subtracted...

The cost would be about $33 million to install the equipment in all state service stations, and about $1.6 million a year to collect the taxes, [Jim] Whitty [who is overseeing the project for the transportation department] said.

This is a bad idea in any number of ways:

  • An infrastructure for collecting gas taxes already exists. This would require a new infrastructure to be built, at a cost of $33 million (and who knows what the final bill would be).
  • It would only apply to new cars with GPS systems, meaning that two parallel systems of tax collection would be required for many, many years to come -- unless Oregon were to mandate installation of GPS receivers on older cars, which would be hugely expensive.
  • The opportunities for the invasion of one's privacy are nearly limitless. Every time an Oregonian pulled into a service station, government officials -- whatever their promises, whatever their denials -- would have the opportunity to see exactly that where person had driven, and when.
  • Most seriously, switching from a per-gallon to a per-mile gas tax is exactly what we don't want to do if we're trying to encourage people to buy more fuel-efficient cars. Presuming the per-mile tax were implemented in a revenue-neutral manner, it would be a net tax decrease for owners of Hummers and a net tax increase for owners of Priuses. What are they thinking?
If Oregon's gas tax receipts are going down because people are buying more efficient automobiles, the solution is incredibly simple: raise the gas tax. The impact will be the greatest on those driving the largest, most inefficient vehicles -- which is precisely what we want to be doing.

May 30, 2006

You've bought a TerraPass, offsetting your car's carbon emissions.

You've seen, or signed the pledge to see, An Inconvenient Truth.

What now?

How about joining

January 18, 2006


My TerraPass should be arriving any day now, and I'm definitely looking forward to putting it on my rear window (and I'm not a bumper sticker- or window decal-kind of person).

If you're not familiar with TerraPass, the idea is simple:
  1. Each year, the average car emits about 10,000 lbs (three times its weight!) in carbon dioxide pollution -- a leading cause of global warming.
  2. You buy a TerraPass.
  3. TerraPass funds clean energy projects that reduce industrial carbon dioxide emissions.
  4. Your TerraPass is third-party certified to reduce the equivalent of your car's carbon dioxide pollution.
The TerraPass runs from $29.95 (for hybrids) to $79.95 (for large SUVs and sports cars). Mine was $49.95 -- a small price to pay, it seems to me, to know that my car's CO2 emissions have been offset.

August 17, 2004

Sperm Whales

What a staggeringly beautiful photo from a New York Times story on the future of whaling.

Posted by fboosman from Flickr.


April 16, 2004

Fuel Cells Reexamined

NPR's All Things Considered today featured an interview (audio only) with journalist Matt Wald, "author of an article questioning the optimistic vision of the so-called "hydrogen economy" published in the May 2004 issue of Scientific American. Wald talks about the shortcomings of fuel-cell technology, and why some experts say the technology may not meet expectations."

Matt Wald: The catch is hydrogen is very difficult to make, and it turns out while hydrogen is very clean, the process for making it lets off lots of pollution. In addition, the fuel cell is extremely expensive. If you took the same amount of money and put it into less high-tech technologies, you could end up cleaning up a lot better.

Robert Siegel: Now you present in the Scientific American article the concept of "wells to wheels" efficiency.

Wald: Right.

Siegel: Not just figuring out how efficient is it to put that stuff in the car and make the car run, but what about creating that source of energy in the first place?

Wald: Right. If you think about gasoline, it's not a natural product. You've gotta find oil, drill it, pull it out of the ground, send it to a refinery, clean it up, truck it to a gas station, put it in your car, and then burn it, and you lose a littel bit of energy every step of the way, like a bucket brigade., and you let off a little bit of pollution every step of the way. The nice thing about the fuel cell is in the last step, it's very clean and very efficient, but all the steps leading up to it are dirty, so you've gotta find either natural gas, which you then take and strip out the carbon portion so you're left with hydrogen, or you take coal from a mine, you burn it in a power plant, you make electricity, and you use that to make hydrogen with the electricity. Whatever process you use, it's a long chain, and it loses something every step of the way...

Siegel: So if you analyze this entire process -- and you cite scientists and economists who do this -- from the point of getting the source of the energy through to the vehicle and what it uses when it drives, what is more efficient? What is cleaner than a fuel cell car?

Wald: At the moment, if you go out and buy a new hybrid automobile, which uses an internal combustion engine and uses a battery -- so it soaks up the extra energy and the battery gives it back when you need it -- that is approximately as clean as a fuel cell car...

Siegel: You've described both the expense and also the pollution created by creating hydrogen, but if there were actually more of a hydrogen fuel cell economy, isn't it conceivable that there would be developed cleaner or more efficient ways of generating hydrogen?

Wald: Yes, absolutely, and you can already make hydrogen completely cleanly using solar cells and using windmills. The question, though, is those are both extremely expensive, and if you had a fixed quantity of windmills, what would be the best thing to do with them? It turns out from the point of view of pollution and the greenhouse, that you should use the wind energy turned into electricity to substitute for the dirtiest fuel now in use. The dirtiest fuel now in use is not gasoline; gasoline's pretty clean. The dirtiest fuel now in use is coal. You'd be better off to use that electricity to displace coal rather than to make hydrogen and thus displace gasoline.

September 14, 2003

Kristof on the ANWR

The New York Times Nicholas Kristof has completed a week in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- the pristine wilderness coveted by oil companies -- and has come away with a reasoned opinion:

I would endorse drilling in the Arctic refuge if it were part of a mega-environmental package that also addressed global warming, an environmental challenge where we have even more at stake than in the Arctic.

Daniel Esty, a Yale scholar of the environment, proposes such a deal -- with trepidation -- in the interest of breaking the national deadlock on environmental policy.

The package could include careful oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (exploratory drilling could be done in winter without permanent damage) and, if it turned out to be the oil lake that proponents claim, commercial drilling as well.

In exchange, the right would accept a beyond-Kyoto framework to control carbon emissions, with tighter standards but a longer time frame. The deal would include $1 billion in additional financing for solar, wind and hydrogen energy, and significant increases in vehicle mileage standards to promote conservation.

This is the kind of pragmatism, the give-and-take, the willingness to see both sides that we're going to need -- and that has been so sadly lacking in American politics of late.

Kristof concludes:

Yet President Bush's push to open the Arctic refuge is not part of such a bold and thoughtful package to break the stalemate on the environment. Rather it is simply a lunge for oil. Without trying to conserve oil, Mr. Bush would gobble up a national treasure, the birthright of our descendants, as a first resort.

The argument that I find most compelling is that this primordial wilderness, a part of our national inheritance that is roughly the same as it was a thousand years ago, would be irretrievably lost if we drilled. The Bush administration's proposal to drill is therefore not just bad policy but also shameful, for it would casually rob our descendants forever of the chance to savor this magical coastal plain...

By actually visiting the ANWR and writing about his experiences, Nicholas helped me make up my mind on the issue -- no drilling except as part of a broad, pro-conservation energy measure -- and for that I'm grateful.

August 24, 2003

My Next Car

I've been watching closely news on the 2004 Prius, the redesign of Toyota's successful hybrid automobile.


Now the New York Times has a review of what I think will be my next car:

[T]he redesigned Prius goes on sale in mid-October at $19,995 -- a price that has not changed since the first version was introduced in the United States in 2000...

Having grown five inches in length, the new Prius is closer in size to the compact Corolla, yet it has more rear legroom than the midsize Camry. It is also more powerful and more fuel-efficient than the old Prius, Toyota says, and its emissions have been cut by nearly 30 percent.

With its larger cabin, the Prius is now classified as a midsize car by the Environmental Protection Agency, albeit at the lower end of the midsize range. The interior looks classier; it manages to be both elegant and a bit futuristic...

The car runs on Toyota's second-generation hybrid-drive system and its third generation of hybrid-battery technology...

Toyota has improved its system so that the Prius can operate more often on electricity only, in stop-and-go city driving. (Hence the gains in gas mileage and emissions.) But you have to keep a very light foot on the throttle to keep the gas engine from cutting in.

Because the Prius relies more on the electric motor around town, and the gas engine at speed, its fuel economy figures are higher for city driving than for the highway - the opposite of most cars. The Environmental Protection Agency's preliminary fuel economy ratings for the Prius -- which comes only with a continuously variable automatic transmission -- are 59 m.p.g. in town and 51 m.p.g. on the highway. The '03 Prius was rated at 52 in town and 45 on the highway.

Although the 1.5-liter engine was carried over from the old model, it is a bit more powerful, with 76 horsepower (at 5,000 r.p.m.), up from 70. The electric motor is also more powerful, producing 67 horsepower from 1,200 to 1,540 r.p.m. and peak torque of 295 pounds-feet from zero to 1,200 r.p.m. That compares with 44 horsepower and 258 pounds-feet for the previous model.

While this doesn't seem like a lot, the 2,890-pound Prius is hardly underpowered, even when merging into fast-moving California freeway traffic. It takes 10 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 m.p.g., Toyota says, a reduction of 2.7 seconds.

59 miles/gallon on the highway and 51 miles/gallon in city driving? Incredibly low emissions? Plenty of interior space? Cool styling? DVD navigation system? Built-in Bluetooth? Excellent.

This is the car for environmental geeks and geeky environmentalists.

August 06, 2003

Energy Innnovations

The last time Discover magazine covered an inventive new alternative energy source, it led to 286 comments (as of this writing) on a single blog entry of mine.

Now Discover is running a story on an Idealab company, Energy Innovations, attempting to create a low-cost, heat-based solar electricity generator. Sadly, only an abstract of the article is available online, but you can learn more by going to the company's Website:


The Sunflower 250 is a work in progress toward our goal of one day making electricity that is cost-competitive with the grid. Today, while we are not there yet, we have a design prototype that we believe can get us there. Our design is somewhat radical, because it is not based on photovoltaic (PV) cells and has moving parts. But we believe that we can make this design much more cost-effectively than a PV-based system because it is simpler, more suitable for mass production, and uses significantly less energy in the actual production processes of the product.

Our product concentrates sunlight to a high temperature using very inexpensive and lightweight aluminized plastic petals that are each moved by $1 microprocessor-based servo motors, enabling them to independently track and reflect the sun. This allows us to place a compact heat engine at the focus of these petals that generates both hot water and electricity and yet contain it all in a stationary, low-profile enclosure...

At the heart of our mission is our drive to make renewable energy affordable and cost-effective. Even though there are enormous benefits to renewable energy that go beyond saving money on your electric bill, for a product to become widely adopted by consumers and businesses, it must make economic sense as well. When we release the Sunflower 250 into distribution in 2004, we anticipate that it will be priced at about half that of comparably rated PV-based systems. In addition, because we track the sun and can therefore gather sunlight for more hours of the day than solar cells, we believe we can be about 3 to 4 times more cost-effective. The combination of these factors will mean that payback periods will be dramatically shortened compared with existing PV systems, significantly increasing interest in installing renewable energy systems.

Sunflower 250 will be ready for distribution in late 2004 to installers serving the commercial and industrial markets in the United States. Expansion to the residential market and to markets outside the US will begin in 2005.

If my memory of the article is correct, the Sunflower 250 is intended to generate peak electricity of 250 watts, with an end-user price of $250. Assuming 2,000 watts for a typical house, that would mean it would cost -- in sunny regions -- $2,000 to forgo electricity bills once and for all. (Yes, one would have to buy electricity at night, but presuming lower energy usage during the day, when people are away, then surplus electicity would be available for sale to the grid, which might offset nighttime costs. I believe that in many or even all states, power companies are required to buy the electricity that their customers generate.)

June 19, 2003

The Ministry of Truth on Global Warming

The New York Times reports on an EPA document watered down by the Bush administration:

The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs...

The editing eliminated references to many studies concluding that warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems.

Among the deletions were conclusions about the likely human contribution to warming from a 2001 report on climate by the National Research Council that the White House had commissioned and that President Bush had endorsed in speeches that year. White House officials also deleted a reference to a 1999 study showing that global temperatures had risen sharply in the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion...

[P]rivate environmental groups sharply criticized the changes when they heard of them.

"Political staff are becoming increasingly bold in forcing agency officials to endorse junk science," said Jeremy Symons, a climate policy expert at the National Wildlife Federation. "This is like the White House directing the secretary of labor to alter unemployment data to paint a rosy economic picture."

Symons has nailed it on the head. The White House is altering scientific reports to suit its political purposes. This isn't just like altering unemployment data, it's exactly like altering unemployment data.

Here's how I think about global warming: While we have a scientific consensus on its causes and probable effects, it's true that this consensus is not unanimous. Consider, though, the four possible scenarios:

  1. If we take steps to limit global warming, and the consensus is correct, then we will have averted disaster.
  2. If we don't take steps to limit global warming, and the consensus is correct, then we face disaster.
  3. If we take steps to limit global warming, and the consensus is incorrect, then future generations will say of us, "They did their best to fight a problem they thought would exist in our time. Along the way, their efforts benefited the environment."
  4. If we don't take steps to limit global warming, and the consensus is incorrect, then we dodge another crisis and get to continue flooding our environment with carbons.
Think about this using game theory. If we take steps to limit global warming (scenarios 1 and 3), the best possible outcome is that we save most island nations and half the state of Florida from sinking beneath the ocean, while the worst possible outcome is that future generations look kindly on us. If, though, we, we don't take steps to limit global warming (scenarios 2 and 4), then the best possible outcome is that we scrape by yet again and get to keep polluting, while the worst possible outcome is that Papeete and Miami are gone.

May 07, 2003

Hummer = IQ Test

GM's smash hit, the Hummer H2 starts at $48,000, gets less than 11 miles to the gallon, and now has been ranked dead last among cars sold in the US in J. D. Power & Associates' initial quality survey:

To conduct the survey, J. D. Power asked 52,000 people who bought or leased a vehicle if any of 135 potential problems emerged in the first 90 days after delivery...

The auto industry's market research generally ranks fuel economy far down on buyers' priority list, but it seems to have registered after customers bought their vehicles, as the level of fuel consumption complaints doubled.

That did not make for an auspicious debut for the Hummer in the survey, though the brand's new H2 sport utility has certainly sold well. Even though H2 starts just under $50,000, it is the only G.M. vehicle that sells well without huge incentives. But the jaws of some buyers apparently dropped when they filled their 32-gallon gas tanks. They ranked Hummer in last place among 36 brands, reporting 225 problems per 100 Hummers over all, compared with an industry average of 133.

The Hummer H2 is an IQ test. If you buy one, you fail it. It's that simple.

April 27, 2003

More on Thermal Depolymerization

My entry on thermal depolymerization has engendered more comments than any other entry of mine to date -- 23 as of this writing. There seems to be fairly serious disagreement about the practicality of the technology and whether the claims made for it are entirely true.

The company behind this version of thermal depolymerization is Changing World Technologies of West Hempstead, New York. I couldn't find any technical information their site more detailed than what was in the Discover article, but one story on their site mentioned "scientist Paul Baskis." A USPTO search turned up the following patents for Paul T. Baskis:

6,109,123 Rotational inertial motor
5,825,839 Method and apparatus for converting radioactive materials to electrical energy
5,543,061 Reforming process and apparatus
5,360,553 Process for reforming materials into useful products and apparatus
5,269,947 Thermal depolymerizing reforming process and apparatus
The first patent, 5,269,947, would seem to be the critical one:
I'm not a chemist by any stretch of the imagination, so I'm hoping that others more knowledgeable than me will investigate these patents and report back on what they find.

April 23, 2003

Good News and Bad News from Ford

There was good news and bad news from Ford on the environmental front last week. First the good news: a formal announcement of their Escape Hybrid SUV, and a pre-announcement of their Futura mid-size sedan, which will be available with a hybrid engine:

Ford Motor Company is highlighting its commitment to hybrid vehicles at this week’s New York International Auto Show. The company is showing the Escape Hybrid SUV -- which will begin low-volume fleet production at year’s end and retail production in the second half of 2004 -- as well as announcing that the all-new 2006 Ford Futura mid-size car will be the company’s next hybrid vehicle.
Ah, but now the bad news: backing down from a prior environmental pledge:
Executives of the Ford Motor Company yesterday backed away from a pledge to increase the fuel economy of its sport utility vehicles by 25 percent by 2005...

Ford is not abandoning the pledge entirely, said one Ford executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, but rather is indicating that it does not know whether it can meet the original timetable.

"Are we still trying to get there? Absolutely," this executive said. "Will we get there by that deadline? It's unclear."

More on hybrid cars soon..

April 19, 2003

Thermal Depolymerization

Via boing boing comes a story from Discover on a truly revolutionary new technology:

In an industrial park in Philadelphia sits a new machine that can change almost anything into oil.


"This is a solution to three of the biggest problems facing mankind," says Brian Appel, chairman and CEO of Changing World Technologies, the company that built this pilot plant... "This process can deal with the world's waste. It can supplement our dwindling supplies of oil. And it can slow down global warming."

Pardon me, says a reporter... but that sounds too good to be true.

"Everybody says that," says Appel. He is a tall, affable entrepreneur who has assembled a team... to develop and sell what he calls the thermal depolymerization process, or TDP. The process is designed to handle almost any waste product imaginable, including turkey offal, tires, plastic bottles, harbor-dredged muck, old computers, municipal garbage, cornstalks, paper-pulp effluent, infectious medical waste, oil-refinery residues, even biological weapons such as anthrax spores. According to Appel, waste goes in one end and comes out the other as three products, all valuable and environmentally benign: high-quality oil, clean-burning gas, and purified minerals that can be used as fuels, fertilizers, or specialty chemicals for manufacturing.

Unlike other solid-to-liquid-fuel processes such as cornstarch into ethanol, this one will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock. If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water...

[A] large chunk of the world's agricultural, industrial, and municipal waste may someday go into thermal depolymerization machines scattered all over the globe. If the process works as well as its creators claim, not only would most toxic waste problems become history, so would imported oil. Just converting all the U.S. agricultural waste into oil and gas would yield the energy equivalent of 4 billion barrels of oil annually. In 2001 the United States imported 4.2 billion barrels of oil. Referring to U.S. dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East, R. James Woolsey, former CIA director and an adviser to Changing World Technologies, says, "This technology offers a beginning of a way away from this."


Like the reporter, I can't help but think that this sounds too good to be true... but if it is true, it will be revolutionary in the true sense of the word.

I've wondered if and when future generations would not only recycle their own waste, but go back and clean up the messes left by previous generations (including ours). Could thermal depolymerization be a first step toward the repair of our planet?

February 13, 2003

Water-Skiing in Alaska

An article from this week's issue of the Economist:

Alaska's Iditarod sled-race has not changed its 1,150-mile course in its 30-year history. This year's race will start as usual in Anchorage on March 1st. But that will only be for show: the mushers and their dogs will then be ferried to a course starting in Fairbanks, far to the north of the usual route. The reason? No snow...

In early December a few people water-skied on a lake, north of Anchorage, that is normally frozen solid. Trees have budded. Grass peeks out of patchy snow. Rather than the normal January temperatures of -30°C or colder, thermometers have lingered at 0°C or above...

To some extent, the near-tropical weather is an aberration. El Niño... is partly responsible for a frigid New York City and a slushy Anchorage. But Alaska has grown warmer in the past 20 years for other reasons too: normal climate variation plus a dollop of global warming...

In early February a classic snow-machine race, the 2,000-mile Iron Dog, was cancelled for the first time in its 20-year history. Elsewhere, small villages that rely on frozen streams for transport are stranded by flowing water. Native American villagers have had difficulty reaching winter hunting grounds that are usually approached across the ice. Snow-machine dealers have no customers. Even a few mosquitoes, normally a plague in May and June, have buzzed in...

Warm winters also strike at the Alaskan psyche, shaped in large part by brutal cold. Many Alaskans revel in the biting air and the pure white of the winter landscape, not to mention the skiing, ice-climbing and snow machine-riding. This winter Alaska seems more like Seattle: soggy and grey. According to Sue Libenson, who works for a green group near Anchorage, "Alaska without the cold just isn't any fun."

All those claiming global warming is bad science, you're assigned to stay after class, to write "They're water-skiing in Alaska in December" 100 times on the chalkboard. All others are excused to grab their water skis and hit the lake.