Passive Solar: Is Passive Lunar the Next Big Thing?

Daniel Chang emailed me a few days ago with some cynical observations about the state of passive solar in Austin and in the country today. “Maybe passive lunar contemplation will lead to something,” he says.

As we all know, active solar and solar panels get all the hype while passive solar design is often invisible to the untrained eye. To most people, “solar energy” is active solar. But passive solar is still a reality, just like the thermal properties of stone, earth, and wood are an enduring reality.

A quick survey of information about passive solar shows that, although architects and builders in parts of the country are using passive solar concepts, there’s no discernable trend toward increased use of passive strategies. So although passive solar is effectively free (can you imagine a national TV campaign for free passive solar?!?) there’s still plenty of room for improvement — and for increased energy and utility bill savings. For a lot of homeowners and commercial property managers, this is money on the table just waiting to be taken, but these savings have to be realized well before the construction stage.

Our key discovery was a report entitled Energy Policy by Kelly Kruzner, Kristin Cox, Brian Machmer, and Leidy Klotz. In it, the authors performed a satellite image inventory of 1000 homes across the country and evaluated the homes for their orientation to prevailing sun, roof color, and sun/shade exposure. They found that home orientation in some parts of the country is trending toward conforming with passive solar strategy — but at the same time roof color in many areas of the country is counter to passive principles. And as mentioned earlier, there’s no trend overall toward better passive solar design.

Here’s hoping passive solar becomes more well-known. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be.

Austin Targeted by North Korean Nukes – And Propped by Jon Stewart

Kim Jong-un. Nukes. CNN. Second-Most Viewed Daily Show Clip Ever. And Austin. Huh?

Fellow Austinites, you might not know it, but 2.8 million Chinese people got a chuckle out of a Daily Show joke centered around Austin and South by Southwest. And, oh, by the way, South Korea wants to nuke the crap out of us.

Skip to 1:45 in the clip! “There’s a chart marked US MAINLAND STRIKE PLAN with missile trails aiming at Hawaii, California, DC, and for some reason… Austin, Texas.”

Okay, from the beginning: Kim Jong-un released a video threatening China and the U.S. Sharp-eyed analysts sussed out North Korea’s potential targets by looking at the map on the wall of their war room. (“You can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”) Jon Stewart hoisted up the video for ridicule on the Daily Show, and Chinese viewers made it viral.

Here’s the Reddit thread and the CNN video talking about the 2.8 million hits that Jon Stewart scored from the other side of the world.

Not Enough Sunlight? Try Gympact to Stay Fit

not enough sunlight

A Followup on Gympact

A little while ago we wrote about the new company Gym-Pact. It’s a program that pays you when you work out according to the schedule you choose… and charges your credit card when you don’t!

Devious but effective, Gympact simulates the incentive process that keeps us going to work, but this time you’re working to meet your own fitness goals. You don’t have to be a fitness monster, either. You can sign up to work out as little as once a week, and a maximum of once per day. The site monitors your activity via a smartphone app.

Now Connected with Runkeeper

I personally have been using it and am quite impressed. The system works well (although the app is a bit glitchy, because it doesn’t detect when you are on vacation), and it provides a good incentive to get out there and move. You don’t even have to move fast — a normal walking pace is sufficient. But if you move too fast, Runkeeper knows you’re in a car and will not count your activity.In the past, Gympact was only good for people with gym memberships. The app would use the GPS on your phone to figure out if you were actually at the gym. (Yes, it’s clear that people try to cheat on their own fitness goals!) However, Gympact has upped their game considerably by partnering with the smartphone app Runkeeper. Now you can walk, run, or cycle for 30 minutes using Runkeeper, and when you finish your activity, it logs to Gympact and counts as a workout. If you need to take a break or vacation, just hit the website and change your status.

As you would expect, the charges for missing your goals are higher than the rewards for making them. Hey, Gympact has to make it work somehow! In my experience, you earn about $.40 per workout, and you lose a minimum of $5 for missing a workout. If you’ve made a new year’s resolution to get in shape, check it out.