Matt Brundage

Archive for the 'happenings' category

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Meet Nicolette

The era of internal combustion engines (ICE) is ending.

Nicolette

I had wanted to write about my affinity for electric vehicles for some time now, but, as the owner and operator of a conventionally-powered vehicle, I lacked the moral authority to do so.

I’m proud to reveal that I’m finally walking the walk, or, shall I say, “driving the drive”. On April 11, 2019, I took delivery of a new Tesla Model 3. All black. Standard Range Plus. I waited a month before posting an article, in order to provide more than my first knee-jerk reaction.

The purchase was both planned for years, but also spur-of-the-moment. I had reserved my Model 3 more than two years prior and it was just a matter of time before I pulled the trigger. The impetus happened to be a looming repair bill for my old Saturn Aura. The estimated cost of repairs would have easily exceeded the replacement cost of the vehicle. Continuing to maintain it, therefore, would not have been logical, considering my alternative.

As alluded to earlier, I chose to name her Nicolette. Tesla, Inc. takes its name from Nikola Tesla, the underappreciated inventor, electrical engineer, and mechanical engineer. The feminine form of Nikola (or Nicolas) is Nicole, but that sounded too pedestrian. I went for Nicolette, as it means little Nicole. This is appropriate, as the Model 3 is about 20% smaller than the Model S, the car it’s somewhat based on. This is how my mind works now.

While Nicolette is far and away the most expensive car I’ve ever acquired, I don’t consider the purchase to be extravagant. When considering the total cost of ownership, the Model 3 Standard Range Plus currently compares quite nicely to a new Toyota Camry or Honda Accord.

The numbers are actually better for me, as a Marylander, as I am able to take advantage of the state’s $3,000 Excise Tax Credit for plug-in electric vehicles. This isn’t like the federal tax credit, which is only realized the following year when taxes are filed. Rather, the state of Maryland will just cut me a check, which is essentially a reimbursement for the sales tax.

Considering the above similarities in total cost of ownership, the outrageous value proposition of the Model 3 vs. the Accord or Camry becomes undeniable when considering aspects such as safety, performance, emissions, and noise.

Safety

The Model 3 is the safest car ever tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More specifically, it has the lowest probability of injury from collisions.

That’s if a collision occurs. The following features contribute, in varying degrees, to preventing collisions in the first place: traffic aware cruise control, automated headlights, automated high beams, automated windshield wipers, autosteer, speed limit detection/warning, parallel parking, perpendicular parking, side collision warning, side collision avoidance, forward collision warning, automated emergency braking, automated lane change, lane departure warning, engage AP/TACC at 0 mph, different display icons for different vehicle types, display vehicles in adjacent lanes, and automatic display brightness.

Performance and handling

The Model 3 (Standard Range Plus) has comparable zero-to-60 acceleration to a 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera or a late model BMW 3 Series. The Model 3 (Performance) has comparable acceleration to a McLaren F1, Lamborghini Huracán, or Ferrari Enzo. Mind you, the Tesla is achieving these numbers without the obnoxious noise, vibration, tailpipe emissions, or laughable fuel economy.

For a daily driver, acceleration and responsiveness matter far more than top speed. To wit, Lamborghinis and Ferraris, with higher top speeds. do not give their owners the ability to get to work twice as fast as the other guys.

In the Tesla, I now have the confidence to take any opening. I don’t have to wonder if my car is up for the task of overtaking another vehicle at highway speed, or quickly merging. And while I’ve been putting the car through its paces over the past month with some spirited driving, I still haven’t heard the tires squeal or chirp even once. Blame traction control.

With instant torque at zero RPM, everything about the driving experience becomes precise and responsive, as if I were controlling the car in a video game. And the virtually silent operation means that I can perform maneuvers without annoying or disturbing others with an exhaust note.

Emissions

When powered from a typical electrical grid, an EV pollutes about half as much as a typical gas car. And as electrical grids continue to increase their proportion of power derived from renewable energy, the gap between the two will widen. That is, EVs are getting cleaner the longer they’re driven.

electricity mix, April 2019

I’m much more concerned about emissions from a local, personal perspective rather than from a global “climate change” perspective. Emissions from passenger vehicles already cause the early deaths of over 50,000 people per year in the U.S. This is not a theoretical projection of future consequences — this is happening right now. Every mile driven in an ICE car is a contribution to that statistic. I’d rather opt out of that.

Noise, vibration, and heat

Perhaps I’m just getting older and progressively more annoyed by aggravating sounds, but my ears seem to have grown attuned to the cacophony of cars, trucks, and motorcycles spewing their noise pollution.

In 2012, Annie and I purchased a house at the edge of suburbia, just west of bucolic Laytonsville MD. I mistakenly thought that it would be quieter, but in fact I thought wrong. Natural-gas powered Ride-On buses roll by and rattle the windows. Mowers, trimmers, and blowers disturb my work nearly every weekday morning. Lumbering trash trucks, droning delivery trucks, Jeepy mail trucks, obnoxious pickup trucks, roaring motorcycles, growling muscle cars, four cylinder ricers. All noisy and seemingly always within earshot. And sometimes it sounds as if my house is situated somewhere inside the Nurburgring, or within an easy walking distance to a drag strip.

Engine noise is the sonic manifestation of the internal combustion engine’s inefficiencies. Every decibel of sound emitted from an exhaust pipe represents wasted horsepower, and wasted potential.

Vibrations are often overlooked, but still merit mention. They originate from the controlled explosions happening in the combustion chamber of the engine. Vibrations stress the engine and other components of the vehicle and I’m sure that they contribute to micro-stresses in humans as well, particularly the driver.

Heat: the one edge that ICE vehicles have over electric vehicles is that they have abundant waste heat that can be repurposed to heat the cabin on cold days. Again, heat is another by-product of the engine’s inefficiencies. While the battery pack and the electric motor do generate waste heat, it is a small fraction of what a typical internal combustion engine produces.

It’s sad to be reminded that around 75% of motor vehicle gasoline will ultimately be used to create noise, vibration, heat, and pollution.

Music enjoyment

This is a new discovery for me: music just sounds so much better without the engine noise providing a competing soundtrack. As a result, I don’t have to set the volume quite as high, and there is a greater clarity when speaking with passengers. Sometimes it’s the little things like this that set a car apart.

Charging

I initially wasn’t even going to mention charging. It’s a non-issue for me. I have a garage with a standard household electrical outlet. I plug it in and I have a full charge every morning. That’s all there is. Sure, charging stations are obviously great for long road trips, but the vast majority of charging is taking place in private garages.

In summary

Good, no compromise electric vehicles are no longer solely the realm of the well-off, or the profligate. If you are in the market for a new car, a conventionally-powered vehicle is looking more and more like an anachronism, and I’m excited to watch the world transition to battery electric vehicles.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Robert Gaudin Greene, June 23, 1924–September 27, 2016

Robert Gaudin Greene

From the beginning, there were strands that once anchored me to my childhood. In government, it was President Ronald Reagan. In faith, Pope John Paul II (now Saint John Paul the Great). In sports, baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. In music, Brian Wilson. And in family, it was my late grandfather, Robert Gaudin Greene. It’s hard to explain, but their continued presence in my life served as a sort of willful suspension of time. In a way, I could keep telling myself, “Time isn’t really passing …” or “The world is just as it was …” as long as my childhood heroes — my strands — were still alive and thriving. As long as Papa was around, I was still but a child, an adolescent. But on Tuesday morning, another strand came loose, as my grandfather passed into eternal life.

His obituary:

On September 27, 2016 Robert Morgan Gaudin Greene, age 92, peacefully passed away in Rockville, MD. He was born on June 23, 1924 in Waco, TX, the 6th of 7 children, the fourth of five sons — the Martlet — of James Floyd Greene and Mary Louise Dupre. At the age of five, his family settled in Birmingham, AL where he attended Lakeview Elementary School, Ramsay High School, Birmingham Southern College, and Howard College (now Samford University). He enlisted in the US Navy in World War II, advancing to the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade. He served on the destroyer U.S.S. Hall, the hospital ship U.S.S. Consolation, and the gasoline tanker U.S.S. Patapsco. After the War, he settled in the Washington D.C. area and received a Mechanical Engineering degree from the Catholic University of America. He married the former Ellen Rowena Deckelman on November 8, 1952.

Robert Gaudin Greene weds Ellen Rowena Deckelman on November 8, 1952

Mr. Greene had a varied career starting as a Mechanical Engineer for the Bureau of Ships Model Basin and then to the U.S. Army Biological Laboratories at Fort Detrick. He served as the Patent Security Officer of the U.S. Army from 1973 until 1980. After 26 years of Army employment, he retired in 1980 as a General Engineer from Headquarters US Army Material Command. He was a life-long Catholic with membership in the Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary and Holy Name Society and was a founding member of St Elizabeth Parish in Rockville, MD. He attended Gaithersburg Community Bible Study for several years. Among his hobbies were fishing, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, antique clock repair, traveling, and being among family. He leaves behind his beloved wife Ellen, and 3 children: Theresa M. Brundage (Geoffrey) of Olney, MD, Paul V. of Rockville, MD and Kevin M. (Amy) of Elmira, NY, 8 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by 1 grandchild in 1998. He is survived by a brother, Edward A. Greene of Chevy Chase, MD.

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “You never have to ask someone if they’re a veteran, because they’ll just tell you. And then they’ll keep reminding you again and again.” However, this saying in no way applied to my grandfather. Very rarely did I hear about his service in the Navy during World War II, or of his employment as a mechanical engineer with the Army during Korea and Vietnam. Papa was always perfectly modest about it, even considering the degree of reverence that society typically bestows upon WWII veterans — the quintessential members of the Greatest Generation.

My only recollection of his time in the Navy comes from his naval enlistment photograph, framed and still hanging in the hallway of his home. I’d pass by that faded photograph from time to time, pausing for just a moment to meditate on the man in the picture. I saw it again recently and it was like peering into a mirror.

Robert Gaudin Greene joins the Navy

From my earliest memories, I witnessed his seemingly unbounded intelligence and curiosity. For instance, he knew the binomial nomenclature of scores of flora and fauna. He restored old clocks and household appliances. For years, he kept his mind sharp by finishing the Washington Post crossword puzzle before breakfast. His copies of the dictionary and the Scrabble players dictionary are ragged and lined with his frequent notes and addenda. Yes, he edited the dictionary!

He retired at age 56, the year I was born. He lived a humble, mostly quiet life in retirement. Even though his lifestyle was never lavish, I still managed to get the impression that he never had to worry about money. As a child, having sleepovers at Grandma and Papa’s house was always a special time, always a calming experience. Papa was, in every sense of the word, a model grandfather.

Deep in my heart — that’s where the knot comes loose.

Robert Gaudin Greene

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Sniff Bun-Bun Brundage, 2007-2016

Sniff Bun-Bun Brundage, spring 2008

April 2008: Sniff, in one of Annie’s favorite pictures

It is with immense sadness that Annie and I announce the death of our first rabbit, Sniff Bun-Bun Brundage. Sniff was born circa June 2007 and died on Friday night, September 2, 2016. He follows his adopted brother, Munch Dallas Brundage into paradise. He is survived by his human sister, Tanya, and his human parents.

We adopted Sniff from a very generous family who was trying to find a new home for their rabbit. We went up to meet them at a nearby mall, and they gave us pretty much everything: cage, food bowl, food, litter, chew toys, and a cute little bunny, wearing a purple vest with a detachable leash. We are forever grateful for their priceless gift. Sniff gave us tremendous joy for nine years.

Sniff Bun-Bun Brundage, September 2007

September 2007: Sniff, a few days after we brought him home.

He was truly part of our family. Sniff was a mama’s boy. He would hop over to Annie for a petting and then Munch would follow suit. In his younger days, Sniff used to do his corkscrew hops around the family room. When we lived at the townhouse, he would hop over to Annie from the kitchen and he would circle around her feet, and play with her sweater, which was dangling from a chair. We used to take him for walks outside in his purple harness. Once, during the fall, we took him outside and he got scared of a falling leaf. It was hilarious.

Sniff never liked to be held, but he loved to be petted. He would put his head on Annie’s lap, and just curl up on her legs for a petting. Annie would scratch both sides of his cheeks and rub the top of his head. When we moved to the single family home, Sniff and Munch shared a bedroom and they would hop over to the master suite at night and sleep under our bed. That lasted for a while. After Munch died, Sniff had the bunny room all to himself. He would come over to the master bedroom whenever he heard us, such as when we were giving Tanya a bath, or when Tanya was drinking her milk on the bed. In whatever bedroom we’d happen to be in, Sniff would find us and tunnel under the bed. Tanya and Annie would go up to see him during the daytime, and also in the evening time until I get home. On the rare occasion that Tanya would be sick or cry in the middle of the night, Sniff would hop over and inspect the situation. Whenever Annie would go into Sniff’s room to visit him, Sniff would run circles around her, or flop down over her feet, asking for a petting.

Sniff and Munch used to have a little toy elephant hanging from his cage door. The elephant had this little bell attached to it, so we’d know whenever they entered or exited their cage. Sniff also had this other little metal bell toy. Whenever we’d put it in front of him, Sniff would pick it up with his teeth and fling it out of his way.

Sniff, July 2016

July 2016: Sniff, in his last outdoor photo session.

We would give him lettuce, kale, carrots, and dandelion leaves, but his favorite was kale. We decided to almost completely cut out kale, as we were afraid that he’d get kidney stones like his brother. On the rare occasion that Annie would give him kale, Sniff would smell it coming and get excited before it arrived. After Sniff started to have dental problems and had to get one of his incisors extracted, Annie started shaving his carrots, which were easier for him to gnaw. Recently, Tanya would go outside and look for suitable treats for him, such as dandelions, clover, and occasionally, dried leaves. Sniff used to love to eat dried leaves. I’d call them his bunny potato chips.

Sniff slowly turned into an old rabbit, and was actually on arthritis medication, Pepcid, and pain medication. Annie took Sniff to the rabbit emergency room on Friday afternoon, after he appeared listless and didn’t have an appetite. The doctor said that he had stomach ulcers and a low temperature. Sniff died shortly before midnight. We were planning to go see him the next day, and we thought that we’d be able to hold him at least one more time. Annie was even holding out hope that he’d bounce back and recover. It wasn’t meant to be.

On Saturday, we went back to the animal hospital to pick up Sniff’s body. Annie held him in her arms all the way home. We held a funeral in Sniff’s room. I said my Catholic prayers, and Annie said her Buddhist prayers. As before with Munch, we buried Sniff in the backyard, under a new rosebush just a few feet away from his brother.

Annie still goes up to turn the light on in his room when the sun goes down. Most of Sniff’s things are still where they’ve always been. It’s hard to break routine. We still half expect to see him hop over to the master bedroom, or to open his door and see him lying down in his usual spot on the carpet. We told Tanya that Sniff is in bunny heaven, reunited with Munch.

Sniff and Munch, July 2011

July 2011: Sniff and Munch, sniffing each other.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Tanya Alexa Brundage

Tanya Alexa Brundage I am in love.

Tanya greeted the world on March 5, 2013 at 8:17pm. She clocked in at 9 pounds, 11.3 ounces (or 0.004403 metric tons!) and a length of 20.5 inches.

Tanya comes home with us on Friday to begin her life as a full-time baby.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Big-ass salad

The salad, in all its glory. This evening, I took Leo Babauta’s advice and made myself a big-ass salad. I used the biggest serving bowl that Annie could find. You can’t really get the scale from the photos, but the pile of vegetables is about the size of a regulation-size basketball. It was a manly pile of salad and took me close to half an hour of non-stop eating to polish this thing off.

Ingredients

Red-leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, Chinese broccoli, raw mushrooms, mushrooms An alternate view of the salad. marinated in red wine vinegar and minced garlic, a carrot, an orange bell pepper, a roma tomato, a handful of cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes marinated in olive oil and Italian spices, non-marinated sun-dried tomatoes, green olive tapenade, pistachio nutmeats, shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and toasted corn kernels. Tomato juice to wash it down.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The Grand Canyon and Sedona

Annie sitting pretty Eariler this month, Annie, two of her three sisters, and I went out to Arizona for a week.

I have to admit: I was a bad tourist. I did virtually no preparation before the trip — I didn’t even look at a map of the general area, the hotel, amenities, et cetera. I couldn’t have even given you a ballpark estimate of how far away we would be staying from the canyon rim. I hadn’t planned a thing. Perhaps my inactivity was due to my general feeling of apathy toward the whole trip. Until we touched down in Flagstaff, I approached the trip as just another situation to slog through — just something that I had to do. Naturally, my expectations weren’t very high. Even Annie admitted that she didn’t expect us to fill up the whole week with touring and exploring.

How wrong we were. Our six-day stay turned out to be the perfect amount of time. Every day was eventful and we remained active. So active, in fact, that we were usually sound asleep by 9 or 10pm. And we’d wake up before the alarm — usually around 6am. Ideal. Arizona was good for our circadian rhythms.

Matt looking out Arriving in Flagstaff on the first day, I made a spur-of-the-moment good decision — one that I was frequently grateful of as the week progressed. I was torn between hiring a taxi or renting a car. In another “bad tourist” move, I had failed to reserve a rental car ahead of time. I simply walked up to the counter at the airport and asked what types of cars they had. I probably paid a premium for this, but as I found out later, it was worth it. I drove that Chevrolet Malibu (The car you can’t ignore) everywhere; we even took a day trip to Sedona. I must tell you, every mile of that trip was scenic. (It would have been ideal to have some John Denver or Glen Campbell CDs with me, but I digress…) The car came in handy at the Grand Canyon as well, as our hotel was a good five or more miles from the canyon rim. Yeah, not renting a car would have been a serious mistake.

Hiking was very gratifying and enjoyable, even with the prospect that, in the event of a false step, I could be instantly impaled, maimed, or suffer blunt force trauma. I spent a good ten hours (spread out over two days) hiking the winding trails down into the canyon. Obviously, the views were beautiful and serene, but it was also unexpectedly quiet. The silence enveloped me. It was akin to being underwater — the sheer vastness and stillness of it all almost seemed to press in on me. It was very surreal – especially when the only sound I’d hear would be the wings of a huge raven, hovering and soaring overhead; or the occasional whisper of wind funneling itself up the canyon walls; or the clip-clomp of a line of pack mules, laboring their way down the trail.

Photos from the trip

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Mid-month roundup

…This is how I know that I’m a bad blogger: Last week, Annie, her two eldest sisters, and I spent a week out west, conquering the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the open road, yet I have no blog post to show for it! During our stay, we averaged about 100 photos per day. An unwieldy photo gallery is forthcoming, I promise. And, perhaps, some quality commentary.

…Warren Buffett has given us the green light to start investing again; I’m hopeful that next week will be another solid rebuilding week for the Dow. I’ve sufficiently rationalized my “losses” thus far; I’m truly no longer affected by them. It’s all play money until you have to use it. As I focus the bulk of my investments in retirement accounts, a decreasing percentage of my portfolio hinges on the day-to-day rise and fall of stocks.

…Lately, I’ve been enamored by the work of one J.D. Roth, owner and writer of both Get Rich Slowly and Get Fit Slowly. Every day, I’m in awe at the consistent quality of his work. He’s introduced me to a number of related financial sites. With the wealth of good, free financial information available, it’s a wonder why anyone would choose to hire a financial advisor — unless, of course, one dislikes dealing with his financial situation. As for me, I revel in it. At times, I worry that I worry too much about money. I seriously wouldn’t mind getting randomly audited by the IRS. It would be a pleasant experience for me.

On a related note, sometimes I wish that I had significant consumer debt, only because it would be personally gratifying to pay it off. I’m intrigued by stories of people in debt, and the methods they use to overcome their debt and their bad habits. It would be an incredible feeling of accomplishment to eliminate, say, massive credit card debt. The source of your problems is literally subtracted out of existence.

…I was recently bestowed with a couple of quality “seasoned” laptops that my company had long since abandoned: a four-year-old IBM ThinkPad and a slightly older Dell Inspiron 8100. Both are steps up from my current notebook, a Windows 2000-era Dell that makes a grating grinding sound whenever it’s turned on. Oh, and the touchpad frustratingly registers false clicks at random.

…Some of my coworkers and I have just moved into a swing space, as our office area is being renovated. The problem is that it’s four floors below street level, in a secluded, bomb-proof room with no air flow — conditioned or otherwise. I keep telling myself that at least I’m not working in a uranium mine in Novosibirsk, Russia. I’m entertaining the idea of not shaving or otherwise grooming myself for the duration of our stay in the dungeon, as a quiet protest.

…I’m off to the Maryland Renaissance Festival later today, so I suppose that I will take in a couple of turkey legs and a significant amount of jerky. (Annie cannot resist the jerky vendor.) It will be good to be a part of such a large gathering of geeks. No swords allowed. :-(

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Munch Dallas Brundage

Annie writes about Munch:

Munch, July 2008 Meet the youngest member of our family, Munch Dallas Brundage. We adopted Munch, formerly known as Dallas, from a family in Taneytown, MD last Friday. Munch is a playful nine-week-old Holland lop. He looks nearly identical to Sniff, but is currently a third of his size.

They both live rent-free in the storage room adjacent to the kitchen :-) Their spaces are divided by a wire barrier and they both have free run of the kitchen. They can see and sniff each other but do not have full contact unless they are being supervised in the living room/dining room.

On Munch’s first day home, the two weren’t formally introduced until after nine hours of curiously sniffing each other through the wire barrier. Most of the time, Sniff ignores Munch unless Munch tries to snuggle his belly. Sniff — not having had any contact with other bunnies (except for wild bunnies from afar) and is normally afraid of things such as falling leaves — probably gets scared and attacks. Although Munch is only a third of his size, he doesn’t always let Sniffie win. He’s a little fireball! Munch takes every opportunity to snuggle up to Sniffie, however, with the same results.

The only time that they don’t fight is when Sniff snuggles up to my feet for a petting. Munch follows suit and snuggles up next to him to get a simultaneous petting. I turn their noses toward each other and continue petting them. This always goes well and is a good sign.

Most of the time, Munch — being true to his name — munches away on various veggies and goodies. He has an extremely healthy appetite for such a little guy. He’s very curious, playful, and friendly. He’s also a “lap lop.” Even Matt, who could never once hold Sniffie is his lap, manages to snuggle with Munch. This one is definitely Daddy’s little boy.

-Annie Brundage

FYI, Munch is named in honor of the rabbit belonging to Firefox evangelist Asa Dotzler.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Emiko and Garin

Miko and Garin A week ago, Annie and I took a trip down to Miami, and from there, the Bahamas, to witness the wedding of our friends Emiko and Garin. Despite the bountiful food 24/7 on the cruise ship to Nassau, Annie and I both managed to lose weight — it must have been the numerous walks from our hotel in Miami Beach to South Beach. We’d walk for hours at a time, but we didn’t mind it because of the scenery. Many thanks to Miko and Garin for being the perfect couple and for giving us an excuse to travel the world. Many years of health and happiness to you both.

View photos from the wedding and of our separate trip to Miami after the cruise.