Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why I Want to Live Off the Grid - Introduction

I was talking with my buddy Will today. Will said that he read an interview with an Amish guy who was 100% content with his life. Will hypothesized that amongst other things, the Amish live a simpler lifestyle more focused on the arts and the human situation. In other words the Amish are kind of like conservative hippies that are sticking it to the Man by living off the grid.
Hearing about the independent and apparently content Amish reinvigorated my dream of finally getting off the grid. After I read this article on water/fog harvesting at I was nearly ready to get Malia and move out to the mountains. (Note good water is one of the more difficult things to obtain when living off grid...but thanks to these guys not only can you get inexpensive clean water...but so can millions of poor people around the world .... it's as easy as putting up a net and catching water from the air...really!)

So what would it take to live an "off the grid" or nearly "off the grid" lifestyle?

First, what is "off the grid" living? Living off the grid is here defined as living an everyday lifestyle such that:

a.) Public Utilities such as electricity, gas and water are only optionally used as a backup.
b.) Supermarkets, and other food supplies are only optionally used for scarce or non-local food items.
c.) Clothing, tools and utensils have no restrictions; however, they must fit within the energy usage confines of a.) , thus hand tools and handmade blankets/furniture are ideal. If you can't make it, then ideally you buy/barter it from a local craftsman/woman.
d.) No Television (actually if you just want to get rid of your television and disregard a, b and c I will still consider you a half-gridder, or at least a brave hippie)

In short there is one simple question that sifts the "gridders" for the "non-gridders"....Would your lifestyle significantly change given that a mass epidemic wipes out 3/4 of the world's population leaving you and all your friends alive? If you answer no, then you are definitely a non-gridder.

I think that off the grid living is predominantly a mentality, attitude and mindset more than it is a set of rules or ecological ideology. For more information on the mentality of a non-gridder read "Walden" by Henry David Thorough or "Sailing Along Around the World" by Joshua Slocum. In essence, off the grid living is marked by independence, a courageous spirit and a desire to have a constant adventure with the wild. Also sticking it to the Man is a chief concern for non-gridders.

Throughout the next couple of posts I would like to not only share how one might get off the grid...but also take a historical look at the American people who have only recently begun living an on-grid lifestyle. It is this independence that has chiefly characterized the American, an independence which seems to be slowly fading into an urban/Big Business led dependent lifestyle. Let's hope for the sake of the environment, our minds, our children's future and our own that this trend doesn't continue.

Friday, March 23, 2007

What you can do with a Math Degree

Many times throughout my studies in Mathematics the question has been posed, "What are you gonna do with a Math Degree...teach?". Being prideful I always said that I was going to use the right side of my brain to make a million dollars in the stock market. But in the case that one chooses to be a professional mathematician and has no passion to make millions on the stock market, here are a few more career paths. Note: engineers are mathematicians with a much more practical guise. An engineer with a formal mathematics training is usually in much higher demand, just ask my friend Derrick at Ball Aerospace!

Graduate degrees that would be much easier by being a Mathematician in undergraduate studies:

Any kind of engineering degree that requires computational simulations (Chemical, Structural, Electrical, Mechanical...etc)
Computer Science that is computationally oriented (Artificial Intelligence, Computational Science, Machine Learning...etc)
Cognitive Science/Cognitive Philosophy (computational simulations of the brain are the way to go these days, but Statistics will also play a large part in any research)
Statistics/Probability - past the introductory level, Statistics is more mathematical in its approach to proving undergraduate level concepts.
Operations Research/Industrial Engineering
Financial Engineering/Finance
Medical Science - From M.D. to Ph.D., Statistics and Math are heavily used

Jobs that Mathematicians can do well, even though most employers may not know it:

Programmers - Mathematicians have developed symbolic and representational language skills, in other words we think in terms of algorithms.
Flash/Multimedia - Most Mathematicians are not only good at programming, but given a few art classes, their appreciation for the beautiful world of math can easily translate into a great all around Flash/multimedia developer!
Optimization - nothing irks Mathematicians more than inefficiency. No matter what the task, if a Mathematician can produce a quicker faster solution he/she will. Most know quite a few ways to utilize computers to their full extent to produce the optimal solution to many many tasks.
Stock Analyst - Who better to crunch numbers, analyze trends, and make predictions than one has has trained their whole life to do so?
Business Analyst - Again, who better to carry out the needed statistics, probability, financial analysis, and optimization of assets than someone who has been trained in that language? Give him an MBA or a little business training and you've got a guy who can really break down your odds of succeeding in the business world.
Small Applications Developers - Mathematicians love problems, and love solving them, and then love moving on to another problem.
Renewable Energy - Mathematicians love free stuff - thus Mathematicians love renewable energy.
Aerospace - Nothing says solve me to a Mathematician like an outer space problem.
Audio Software Developer - lots of audio processing algorithms rely on a mathematical understanding of sampling, efficient processing, and digitization of analog signals. For instance how do you turn the noise from a guitar into sound stored on your hard drive? Easy! Take 96,000 samples per second of the audio signal and turn each audio sample into a 32 bit integer. Make sure you have a large hard drive!
Insurance - One of the largest money makers and potentially largest money losers in the event of a large natural disaster...who's going to figure out the rates to charge the customers?
Computation and Computer Simulation -This is a fairly obvious job for a Mathematician, but what's not obvious is that most of the worlds computer and business systems rely on fast algorithms to get the data they need to keep infrastructure up and running. For instance today's computers with yesterdays computational algorithms would accomplish less than half of the amount of data processing. Most companies and institutions also run simulations of their projects using mathematically based models to get an idea of how well they will succeed with their venture.
Google/Web Search Developer - Google utilizes very heavy mathematical technology to get you the search results that you need and want. Any email or Internet spam detection algorithm is developed by Mathematicians/Computer Scientists.
Astronaut - Driving in outer space requires that one have a great knowledge of Math and all of the Physical sciences. Just watch Apollo 13! They sure did a lot of hand computations when those computers went out!
Epidemiologist - The center for disease control employs many people gifted in Math to make predictions on disease rates and uses those predictions to help curb infections and diseases.
Video Game Maker - it's true, how else would they make 3d looking games without the power of Linear Algebra?

There are hundreds of other opportunities to employ the brains of the brightest and best Mathematicians, just take a look around. Any real life problem can be formulated in terms of an equation (even if they are generalized). Mathematicians love equations. Why not give them a crack at it? And if your chosen Mathematician is sociable, then you've got a real ally on your side! While it's true that Math can't solve problems like loneliness or your cat running away, it is useful for many things, in addition to teaching (though teaching is a great profession, and most Mathematicians love it)!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reasons Why

I have started this blog for a few reasons. I hope that my posts are useful and productive for myself and anyone else who stumbles across them. Hopefully I will have at least one post a week on one of the following topics:

1.) Green Technology - all things that give us free energy, or help to conserve energy without making my life a drag.

2.) Math, Statistics, Machine Learning and the Stock Market - I'm currently joining the ranks of modern day alchemists and trying to predict the stock market on a day to day basis. I agree that if successful I will eventually defeat myself because I will sway the market one way or the other. But a boy can still dream

3.) Philosophy - any philosophical musings and ideas. The nature of the mind. Psychology and all of the "soft" sciences.

4.) Entrepreneurship - I'm excited about getting into the business world. I'm trying to focus on non-pie-in-the-sky million dollar eyes and instead focus on how to take a non-sexy idea and make a profit from it.