Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Logic and the Path to Electrification

April 2022, Using Tesla Public Supercharger Pilot Programme in France

Something I’ve realised over the years is that people do not actually apply logic in their daily lives. We are typically too busy to consider the full ramifications of each habit and it becomes simpler just to accept that the way we’ve grown accustomed to doing things as individuals or any other level such as society as a whole must just be normal.

Periodically, someone will come and challenge the status quo and offer a different view. This will usually trigger a whole bunch of hand flailing and complaints that the world is being ruined. Conversely, another group may realise our habits and therefore our inaction may be ruining the continued existence of our world.

What usually then happens is that people fall into tribal factions, where the concept of using logic is short-circuited by the efficiency of just confirming what the peers in their group also think, which is often set by vested interests, rather than based an actual net benefit to the community.

In order to further prevent change, conspiracy theories then begin to proliferate. Disinformation campaigns, even completely astroturfing campaigns arise, where paid imaginary people influence laws and public consciousness, either in town halls and legislative arenas or simply on your personal social media, such as Facebook or twitter.

Some issues are understandably difficult to determine where the facts lie, when the concepts underlying them cannot be broken down and misleading information is propagated. For example: it’s difficult to convince people as to how the climate is changing and assuming it is, whether or not any human activity could change that.

What to me is less difficult to understand is the direct impact on the air and water that we breathe from pollution. Additionally, the costs we pay for things like fuel can actually be calculated. These are not up for debate, but most people actually have zero idea how much anything costs until they see a monolithic bill come in the mail.

Right now, I believe we are at a golden moment of opportunity for moving away from fossil fuels, something consumers and investors both stand to benefit from. The only downsides are if you’ve invested heavily in fossil fuel industries.

My decade-old EV charging in Belgium, driven from London

I’ll be discussing my love of electric vehicles here in more detail later, I’ll explain what it’s like to own an EV, what it’s like to own an EV that’s even over 10 years old. If you’ve only read things in tabloids or seen a bunch of worrisome items, where you think, ‘that sounds right, did anyone think of x’, don’t worry—there’s probably an answer for it.

There are some people who will not benefit financially from an EV for now, but I would argue that’s an increasingly smaller minority of people, when you start objectively looking at the data for the air we breathe and the wallet in your pocket. 

You don’t even need to care whether or not the ocean might rise, everyone can understand getting asthma or seeing the Gulf of Mexico covered in crude oil are bad things. Saving hundreds or thousands a year in your bank account is also something that most people would objectively like as well. And if you’ve seen recent articles suggesting you won’t save money? Don’t worry, we’ll discuss that too!

Saturday, February 4, 2023

What is the Meaning of Legacy?

Some of you may have traced your family lineage or have had it done for you. Many would appear to consider this frivolous and yet others become oddly obsessed with the project. If you know a person in your circle who has an interesting ancestor or relative, you've probably felt as though been told too many stories about them at some point. I've often been guilty of too many retellings, but I hope you'll stick with me because I have a few thoughts this all leads to at the end.

George Washington and Christopher Gist crossing the Allegheny River (Museum exhibit, Mount Vernon)

In my family, many of us share the 'Gist' surname as a middle name. My grandmother, aunt, cousins, myself, even my son all have this same middle name. The big reason for this, is our family hero, Christopher Gist. Christopher Gist became friends with George Washington and may have saved his life when Washington was sent to demand the French leave Ohio by Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia. This friendship persisted until Gist's death. 

Author with portrait of Brigadier General Mordecai Gist
Office of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, 2010

What isn't always as well known within the family, is the Gists were involved in plenty of other interesting activities. Whether it was commanding some impressive units in the revolution (Brigadier General Mordecai Gist), starting the civil war (Governor William Henry Gist, South Carolina) or keeping West Virginia in the Union (Joseph Christopher Gist, W.Va. State Senator 1861). There's even the idea that Sequoyah, the man who invented the Cherokee alphabet was also known as George Gist and may be a cousin. Invariably, there are plenty more people who have done interesting things, and a special mention is worth for our cousins the Blairs and the Lees. (Notably, Montgomery Blair was Lincoln's Postmaster General and Blair Lee III was both Lieutenant Governor and Acting Governor of Maryland as well as having served in other offices.) 

Bruce Lee, Justin Gist Preuninger, Robert Lee

I had the privilege of meeting some of the descendants of the Blair/Lee cousins, because when I was working in Silver Spring, it transpired they owned the building I worked in. I like to say the story is that I noticed the street names in the area matched my genealogy and I approached their receptionist to ask about it and instead of rejecting this sort of odd question, she introduced me to Blair Lee IV. 

My grandmother, aunt, and uncle returned to America after World War II on this ship.

All of this is a short history of some of the highlights, but frankly the stories go on and on. As I explore the journey that my ancestors and our relatives took, we've been on both sides of many great conflicts. There have been many thinkers and intellectuals such as my grandfather who had a doctorate in German language; even my father did his masters in German language, but ended up working in the aviation industry instead of academia, which actually was incredibly educational to my upbringing because I was able to travel internationally nearly every year growing up.

Champollion 200 Year Anniversary Exhibit
Louvre, Lens (France) 2022

When I consider all of this, I think it's something that has helped me to connect with history, but also appreciate my place in history. It's also sometimes a bit confusing how some people react to bits and pieces. I'm also a French citizen, through my mother, and speak fluent French. Recently I was in France, at the Louvre in Lens (an extension of the Paris museum) for the 200 year anniversary Champollion exhibit regarding decipherment of hieroglyphics and I was having a conversation with a woman in the children's media area whilst our children were doing activities. What was interesting, is as much pride as I have in the history I come from, I think we are all human and we all have our own choices and path to make. And when I suggested that anything is possible, she responded and said that I could only have that attitude because I came from a 'great family'. 

And this is the point I wanted to make here. Legacy can inform the future from the past, but it cannot take the place of our own initiative. It provides the inspiration and perhaps the encouragement for great things... but it cannot be everything. We cannot simply accept that because our family and our ancestors were interesting, or even on the contrary might have been boring, that our life must be limited to a particular path. We should not say, because of the actions of our ancestors, our choices are limited or that we no longer need to put effort into our own story.

It's also something I think about even more clearly with the recent deaths of several family members, both close relatives and cousins that makes me think about my everyday actions. In so much of life, my experience is that I am waiting for something to get better... a relationship, my bank account, a job situation, etc. And whilst I am waiting, my life is escaping me. As the scripture says, in Ephesians 5:15, we must be "redeeming the time, because the days are evil." (KJV) 

Somewhere I recently saw a meme that said tradition is, 'listening to peer pressure from dead people,' and I think this is also an angle to consider. Our ancestors likely did not become great by being simply average; if they distinguished themselves beyond their family, it is because they took risks. But as a parent, it's also a question of how I live out my story and how I impart the legacy to inspire the next generations. I want my children to look at my passions and interests and find what brings them joy and what helps their community--much how I've looked at my father's lessons on discovering how machines and technology work and how to identify the best value for my money. Or even how I've wanted to be a peacemaker because of his desire to find a path forward, but also a debater from my mother's energy. To me, the inspiration is clear and it's had a direct impact on my life. I hope that the love of learning that I gained as a child is something my children will also absorb and take to adulthood.

And this is where I want to set out my path for future generations. I want there to be descendants in the distant future who can come back and think on the fact that we paved a path for them to have the confidence to make their own way, to take their own risks, to show what love means to the people they are close to, and for them to be able to do the same going forward. To do great things in the context of the world they will live in, a world which may not resemble the one that I, my parents, or our ancestors grew up in. There will be new technologies and different politics, different fashions--but fundamentally humans with hopes, desires, frustrations, and dreams.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

It's been way too long!

Hello friends of the blog!

It's been over 8 years since my last update. Shocking.

A lot has happened during this time and much is still to come.

I'm going to look to re-organise the content here and focus on the viewpoints that I've come to thanks to the life experience I've gained during the intervening time.

In addition to traditional blogging, which hopefully I will start up again soon, I'm looking to launch a website focused on being a repository of useful, actionable information that can help you be more successful in your projects. This will cover fashion (obviously), but also travel, green energy, technology, immigration, and other topics that may or may not be niche but should serve to help you enrich your life.

Additionally, I am going to be launching a website to unofficially represent Maryland interests in the United Kingdom--this site will contain information about recipes that are designed with ingredients and measurements appropriate to the UK to create Maryland favourites, information on commonly asked questions, as well as resources designed to enhance collaboration in both tourism and trade for both private individuals and businesses. If you have ideas and suggestions for this project, please submit them here!

In short, whilst the last several years with the pandemic have been a bit chaotic, now is the time to really gear up and start launching our potential going forward.

I hope you'll join me in these adventures and I look forward to being in touch with all of you!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Major Update: Just got Married!

Editors Note: As of 2022, the marriage is being dissolved. 

Dear readers, I know I have been way behind with this blog, but it is partly because my life has been particularly interesting and busy this last year! One of the things that has had me most busy recently was getting married at the beginning of July! 

I may have overly enjoyed telling people that because it was on the 4th of July that 'there would be fireworks', but it always had such a good ring to it. (no liberty bell pun intended)

Lisa and I were married at All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, Maryland

To our satisfaction, the weather was about as good as one can hope for in Maryland!

 Wedding party with Father Tom!

The reception was a few blocks away at the Courtyard Mariott:

For the first dance we used 'Miracles Happen' performed by Jonny Blu, as featured in 'The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement'

My best man, Kevin gave a great toast!

Lisa's sister Kelley, the maid of honor, gave a lovely toast as well!

And now we are on to many more adventures! 

Thank you to all our friends and family who have helped us become the people we are today. Whether it is by helping us through various parts of our lives and careers or introducing trials which have required us to rise to the occasion, you have been invaluable to us.

I'm going to see about doing another post to cover the fashion and design aspects!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I'm Back From Europe Again!

So I ended up going back to France for the second set of exams and then I went to Bath and relaxed at the Jane Austen Festival!

I have so many things to post from this summer and my two trips to Europe this year. Now that the exams are over, I should have more time soon to catch up again!

Here's a teaser:

Cat, Ali, and Me after the Promenade at the Jane Austen Festival!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

And I'm back!

Dear Readers,

So many things have happened lately! I don't even know where to begin!

I've spent almost three weeks in France and England a few weeks ago studying for and taking exams at the Sorbonne, made so many new friends, and had a lot of fairly life-changing revelations and good conversations.

Due to the stress and the craziness that hasn't yet completely settled down, I have been quite delayed and remiss in my blog writing.

Very shortly I plan to write blog posts on:

  • Travel stories from England
  • Travel stories and French family reunion in France... including visiting Lille and running into a protest
  • Exams and awesome classmates I met while at the Sorbonne in Paris

Here are a couple pictures from my trip from DC to London to get us started:

This is a sculpture in the American Airlines terminal at JFK

If you look closely you will see the world's only MasterCard airport lounge! Apparently all you have to do is show your MasterCard and they will let you use their wifi and sofas. Staff are really friendly too!
You can barely see it: the TSA agent is excited about a drone that Brookstone is selling... (look closely between the salesman and the TSA agent). I was amused at the irony.

Panoramic shot during the flight... got to see some really beautiful sunset/sunrises 

And I arrived at Heathrow!
I also plan to catch up on the last 10 months of events I haven't yet gotten to writing about, while potentially interspersing more details about my previous European adventure in 2011. 

I also happen to get my grades on Tuesday, so either there will be lots of celebration or travel planning for another visit to Paris in September! 

Stay tuned!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Life Updates: 2013 Edition

Dear readers,

I want to update you on a number of developments as of late that are exciting in the last few months! I know that of late I've been very busy and haven't been keeping this as up to date as I would like to.

First, I've started a really interesting law program with the Sorbonne in France. Their law program actually starts in undergrad, so to get an LLM, I will end up doing about 5 years worth of classes. Conveniently, I managed to navigate the French educational bureaucracy and not only properly apply for the program but also get accepted. What I can tell you is that this isn't exactly a simple task. FYI, if anyone needs help understanding how the French system works, please shoot me a message... with enough research it's usually possible to sort out anything and figure out what they want. (My strategy is to always go for overkill and send them more stuff than they probably actually need.)

Some of you are probably wondering how I can study in France if I'm still living in Maryland. I'm taking classes offered by the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne by way of their distance law program called CAVEJ (Le Centre Audiovisuel d'Etudes Juridiques). More confusingly, I'm actually doing that program through the national distance learning administration (CNED... Centre national d'enseignement à distance).

To register for this was a multiple step process:

  • Logged in online to the Sesame site and started the registration.
  • Printed the copy of the Sesame documents and mailed in translated copies of my high school diploma and college transcripts, French legal papers, passport/ID card, etc.
  • Waited for their response... which happily was that I was accepted!
  • Then I had to complete the Administrative registration with the University of Paris.
  • Once I sent in documents relating to my acceptance and a photo of myself, I received a student ID card and various related resources.
  • To register for classes, I registered with the CNED, my proxy for dealing with the CAVEJ, which provides the distance learning classes.
    • Why use CNED? When using CNED, you can do everything remotely, including signing up for classes (CAVEJ normally requires students to attend orientation in Paris) and you get more flexibility on turning in homework.
    • In order to register with CNED, I needed to include the proof of acceptance at the the University of Paris and payment in Euros.
  • I also had to fill out my report card with my information and mail it back to France along with stapled pictures and copies of all the acceptance documents again.
  • To accomplish the classwork, I have a DVD of MP3 lectures, books that contain the handouts for the classes, and a reading list of background reference materials. Additionally, the CAVEJ has an online site with recordings of student seminars and additional materials from the professors and forums to discuss the subjects.
  • The biggest difference from the US educational model I've been used to, is that the only grades that count are the final exams. The homework is merely a tool for you to practice, not something that is held against you. 
  • In order to take the exams, I actually have to travel to Paris for the time of the exams. I will have to report back later to let you know how they are. There are 3 hour written exams on the main subjects (Things like Constitutional Law, Civil Code, etc.) and 1 hour oral exams on most of the other materials.
  • Because I tend to be busy with all the things going on, I have a pattern of spending way too much on FedEx for priority international shipments... I've probably spent at least $250 in shipping stuff to France now... but I just recently discovered that as a USAA member, I can get a discount on this of potentially up to 36% on international shipping!
  • You'll be annoyed to know that after spending all this money on shipping, red tape, books from Amazon.fr, and flying to Paris to take exams... I will probably still be spending less than the amount of money for a semester at a community college here in the US.
Anyhow, I'm fairly excited about this! As disorganized as I am, I'm listening to the lectures and I keep learning all sorts of random interesting tidbits about French and European law. Some of these include such things as:

  • The third French republic was designed to be possibly turned into a monarchy, and as a result the President had fairly broad powers. (Actually, there wasn't even really a constitution... but that's a whole other topic.)
  • There are a plethora of different levels of laws and regulations in the EU and France and an equal number of different types of courts. (Civil, Penal, Administrative, Business, Constitutional Council, EU treaty, EU Human Rights, etc.)
  • France doesn't have one supreme court like the USA... it's actually got at least 3, depending on the subject of the dispute.
  • The appeals process is completely weird. 
    • Every person has the right to have their case judged a second time if they don't like the outcome.
    • You can also appeal the judgment.
    • If it's possible that the judge misinterpreted the law, the case can be referred to the Cour de cassation... they are the closest thing to a Supreme Court. However, they only rule on the interpretation of the law. If they disagree with the previous court's interpretation, they issue their own interpretation and refer the case to another lower court. That court doesn't have to follow the opinion of the Cour de cassation... so if you don't like their ruling, you can go back to the Cour de cassation and see if they disagree with the other court. If they do, they'll issue another opinion and refer the case to yet another lower court, which this time is required to follow the opinion of the Cour de cassation.
  • Personal privacy is a core right and publishing personal details or even taking a picture of a person could land you in serious hot water if you don't have proper permission.
    • For example: if a magazine gets an interview with a person, we can presume that they have permission to post details based on that interview and a picture of the individual. However, let's say they wish to do an article five years from now... they can't reuse previously published material from that first interview without fresh consent from the individual in question.
    • If they don't, they can be fined (even punitively), the magazines could be confiscated, or the judge could require them to print a statement in a future issue based on a court order.
These are just a few things I can think of off the top of my head (and many of them are as a result, loose approximations). Honestly, I come up with something new and intriguing every time I listen to the lectures. A lot of the time my head is spinning because of the amount of exceptions or peculiarities to each subject. Apparently, it's not just me though... France actually has a court that exists to settle jurisdiction disputes between the civil and administrative courts. However, thankfully, the more I'm listening to courses, the more things are starting to turn into a system that makes sense and I'm looking forward to having a more complete knowledge in the next few months and years as the classes continue to progress.

The second piece of exciting news, is that I've started working for a really cool web design firm. I don't do anything coding or art related, but I help make sure that computers are running smoothly. I've been extremely busy since the day I walked in, because there is always something to do and it seems there is a new project every direction I look. I'm really enjoying being surrounded by art and design creatives, because to me that means a breath of life and fresh air. Also, there are many people who understand fashion and find it interesting. (In case you can't tell, I'm rather happy about this whole thing!)

Third, I'm continuing to grow as a person and have really been appreciating the efforts of my peers who grew up under similar fundamentalist backgrounds in helping me realize lies that I've believed for a long time and working on sorting out the truth from the pernicious legalism that seeks to make life a prison. I'll probably be blogging more on this and potentially doing some activism to help make sure the next generation has a better experience! I want to give a special shoutout to my friends Rachel L., Hännah, Caleigh, etc. whose blogs and personal conversations off the record have been extremely meaningful and enlightening to me. Also, my girlfriend has some very balanced perspectives, as she grew up outside the crazy bubble. While my experience was fairly non-extreme compared to many, a lot of similarities exist and I'm only now fully realizing how bizarre my sense of 'normal' has been warped with the proper comparison to common sense. I find that I'm also meeting all sorts of exciting new people and running into other blogs that are really brilliant!