Exercising Power and Other Notes

While working out at the gym today (a rare occurrence), I was looking around the room, noticing that everyone was stepping, pedaling and treadmilling away. And then it hit me — what if all gyms around the world were all plugged into some sort of global turbine? We’d have a constant source of clean power!

I was then reminded of a stroke of genius I once had somewhere around the 3rd grade. My idea was to install a small hand crank appliance in every home througout Earth. Everyday, your duty as a citizen would be to crank the handle for a set time — nothing strenuous, say… 5 minutes. Perhaps a bonus system could be devised to award those that crank longer than they need too.

Anyway, the general idea was that, by the power of numbers, we’d all be powering the world. Self-sufficiently.

Other Notes

In unrelated news, I’ve moved some things around recently — adding a Publications section to house articles, tips, and other works that aren’t web sites themselves. This is also where the Photos section now lives, in case you miss it from the primary navigation.

I’ve also unceremoniously dubbed the weblog portion of the site “Notebook” (neither exciting, nor out of the ordinary), adding a tab to the navigation that brings you to the archives page for date, keyword or category browsing. Yay for site news.

And in unrelated to the unrelated news, I’m turning 30 tomorrow. Normally, I’d never think to announce my birthday. Everybody has them. Every year. But I suppose it’s a milestone worth pondering. I feel numb to it at the moment — and I think this makes perfect sense. People over 30 will probably tell you that turning 30 is no big deal, perhaps even saying that it’s “great!”. People under 30 will tell you that they don’t want to turn 30 — that it seems “old”.

So here I am stuck in the middle not sure what to think. It’ll work itself out in time though.


  1. Jeremy S. says:

    I always find after I come back from a trip, I feel like reorganizing my site as well. That may have not had anything to do with it, but I thought I’d throw my two cents.
    I like what you have done. =)

  2. Bryan Buchs says:

    30 is no big deal. Unless you make it one. I take the approach that my birthday is just another day, anyways.
    But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy it.

  3. Silus Grok says:

    Happy birthday, Dan… kudos on lasting so long. I’m sure the odds were against you for a good long while (you’re being a little boy for those early years).
    : )

  4. ck says:

    i’m a year away from 30… but i tend to think more about how strange it must be for my parents to have kid turning 30.

  5. daniel says:

    I’ve been a reader for quite some time, yet not a commenter. so i will take this as my chance. the notebook section is awesome. I really like the ease of use and overall organization. This also goes for the publications section.
    About your idea of global power… I wonder if people would be accepting of a small or whatever sized crank in their home. I mean, I’m lazy, and I’m sure other people are too, so I wonder if they would actually do their part so to speak. That is a really good idea nonetheless.

  6. Congratulations.
    Sorry to say I won’t be able to take any advice away from the SimpleBits site any longer. After all, you can’t trust anyone over 30.
    The good news is you’re only 20 years away from that AARP membership. ;)

  7. Happy Birthday! Having recently celebrated my 37th trip around the Sun, I can say that 30 is really no big deal. I did get my first gray hair at 30 though…
    As to the power thing – it’s a good idea. Roundabout Outdoor in South Africa is doing something similar, harnessing kids’ energy to pump water up to a holding tank that stores it for the village. It isn’t generating power, but is a very creative solution to a real problem.

  8. Steve Boyd says:

    I numbed the pain of turning 30 by buying a cool car. It helped a lot.

  9. Kristian says:

    In my core group of 5 friends, one of us is turning 30 every year for the next 5, and I’m first this September. Honestly, the concept of turning 30 doesn’t bother me. However, I’m using their sympathy to make sure I’m richly rewarded for spending 30 years on this rock. :-)

  10. monkeyinabox says:

    I’m turning 30 this year as well. I’m not sure if I’m ready, but it didn’t help a month ago when some guy asked me to join his ‘over 40 basketball league’. Oh brother.

  11. Tom says:

    Dan, I’d love to wish you a happy birthday, but I am late – I need to go crank ;)
    But seriously I love the hand crank idea! Dude – IT COULD WORK!

  12. Bruce says:

    I once had an idea in Physics whilst learning about waves. If waves can be +ve or -ve, why not play the -ve wave back to reduce the noise of something. Not wanting to sound stupid, I kept it to myself. It turns out that one of the major manufacturers was experimenting with this (I can’t remember which), though I don’t know how successful it was!

  13. beto says:

    Is it a coincidence most of us who have been in the web biz for a while are now or are about to be 30? (it just happened to me some months ago).
    We may like to think it is no big deal, but truth be told we cannot longer afford to behave like careless twentysomethings anymore. This “time to get serious” business sucks sometimes.
    Kids telling you are already old hat don’t help much either.

  14. Brad Daily says:

    First of all, Happy Birthday and I love the site, been reading for a while now.
    I have noticed something in the past week about how Safari (and to some extent Firefox) handle your minitabs or any rollover that uses borders. It came to my attention with Alex’s troubles over at CSS Beauty with his side navigation. It appears that if you set your border to the same dimension in the “li a:link” as it will have on the “li a:hover” and give it a transparent value for color, it keeps Safari from hanging a bit on the rollover. Like this:
    #nav a:link, #nav a:visited {
    float: left;
    font-size: 82%;
    line-height: 20px;
    font-weight: bold;
    margin: 4px 10px 0 10px;
    padding-bottom: 2px;
    text-decoration: none;
    border-bottom: 4px solid transparent;
    color: #fff;
    #nav a:link.active, #nav a:visited.active, #nav a:hover {
    border-bottom: 4px solid #fff;
    padding-bottom: 2px;
    color: #fc6;
    I tried this with CSS Beauty and it worked (I have sent it on to Alex) and I am thinking it might work for yours as well. There is just a slight delay when mousing over the mini tabs. Anyone else find this to be true?

  15. rlc says:

    First, happy (day before) birthday. Second, as someone myself who feels a little iffy about the whole aging thing (maturation etc.), sometimes this mind trick works for me. You’re really only a day older than yesterday, not a whole year…

  16. Cam says:

    The crank idea is good, except the rich and powerful in the country would soon hire underlings to do their cranking for them. Also, I think the majority of Americans would be too lazy to do their daily crankings. Have oyu been to the midwest lately? It’s like elephant-world.

  17. ACJ says:

    Happy day (that happens to be the same day you were born, thirty years later), Dan!

  18. Dan, Just stay up all night. Maybe Mother Earth will get confused and not change the date (you could be 29 forever).
    Anyway, Happy birthday (do not read until tomorrow).

    About the power idea – I find myself to have similar ideas. Just the other day I was reading an article about turning heat into energy. Apparently we can get a 7% heat-to-energy conversion.
    Then it struck me. If we install heat-to-energy converters into computers, TV, lights etc. we can save 7% of our energy consumption. Batteries will run longer; TV’s could basically stay on standby without costing extra energy.

  19. Tom DeForest says:

    I turn 30 in November. I’ve been thinking about it for the past few months. Surprisingly, it excites me. Instead of having the expectations of a twenty-something upon me, I have the expectations of a thirty-something. It will help me achieve my potential – people will expect more of me so I will perform accordingly. It’s terrible that it takes a milestone like this to get me moving but…what can ya do…?

  20. Ben says:

    Mate, Happy Birthday from a regular reader (and not-so-regular commenter). Crank up the aquavit.

  21. Dante says:

    I turned 14 in January. You have the same birthday as my great uncle. Visit This Day in History to find out what happened on your birthday (on mine, January 4th, Utah became part of the Union).

  22. David says:

    Hey Dan, you’re only old if you think you’re old, and if you feel old as well. I’m 23 and I played futsal (indoor soccer) yesterday. I woke up aching all over today. That confirms that I’m old. Keep working out and hopefully you’ll keep that at bay for a while. However, with age does come a certain wisdom – which you’re already starting to show in your idea to power the world. Take care man ;o)

  23. Paul says:

    Happy birthday Dan. It only seems like a milestone because of base 10 numbers.
    I like your idea of plugging all the exercise gyms into the power grid. When I was a kid we made an exercise bike that could light up a row of light bulbs. The harder you pedal the more light bulbs lit up, it was really really hard (close to impossible) to light them all!

  24. craig says:

    Happy Birthday Dan! Great pics from the trip!

  25. Mayu says:

    HBD Dan!
    I love birthdays.
    We are glad you’re here with us!

  26. Karl W says:

    With regards to your navigation: Do you pull your navigation in with an include? I just wondered.
    I was devistated when I reached 30 but when I reached 40 (now 41) it was no big deal. Strange when you always here that 40 is the big one.
    All the best

  27. Happy Birthday! Turning to the Big Three Oh was mixed for me. You can’t go around being twenty-something anymore – that made me a little sad – but on the upside , the older I get, the more I’m enjoying EVERYTHING life thows my way.
    Also, this means your only three years from 33 (that’s my age) which is the coming-of-age for Hobbits.

  28. Mike P. says:

    Happy birthday Dan!

  29. Mark Cadman says:

    Loving the self-powering idea, and thanks for putting those photo’s of sweden up, fascinating stuff.
    Slightly more OT, I’m turning 20 on Tuesday, and as someone still deciding whether he wants to enter ‘this business’ or not, I’m having the same kind of reservations about crossing this milestone.
    Anyway, as its now 9:10 GMT, Happy Birthday!, and thanks for always being an interesting read.

  30. Joop says:

    I gave up smoking for life when I turned 30 – it is a good age to make some radical….. or at least significant changes in your life.
    Happy birthday, man!

  31. Andyk says:

    Happy Birthday! That gym idea is brilliant… I can’t believe the gyms for electricity when they have these people pounding away for them all day long!

  32. justin says:

    The idea (individuals contributing to the society) is a great one, I’m sure here in the states it would be misinterpreted as both:
    a) Big brother intruding on our privacy.
    b) Involving the citizens in something they needn’t be concerned with.
    Maybe in Europe (nudge nudge, wink wink) the idea would actually take ground?
    Happy b-day, I’m coming around the bend and approaching the ol’ triple decade mark myself. Salud Dave!

  33. justin says:

    By Dave, I meant Dan. This isn’t mezzoblue is it? ;)

  34. Happy Birthday!
    You’ll have to let me know how good 30 is. My 30th birthday is just 2 days away (yay Gemini!). :)

  35. Josh Bryant says:

    Happy Birthday Dan!

  36. shaky says:

    Turning 30 isn’t the bad one. Turning 31 however is quite a shock, suddenly you are a “thirtysomething” – a demographic that seemed a loooong way off when I was watching the TV series of the same name when I was 15!

  37. Todd says:

    Long time reader, second time poster:
    Happy Birthday Dan

  38. Eduardo says:

    I dont think the power thing work. Think about it:
    How many member does your house has? take 4.
    Do you think that 20 mins cranking would be enought to power your house? I dont think so

  39. Chuck says:

    Happy Birthday dude! I think the thing about thirty is that it isn’t a milestone and most think it should be. At other ages, such as 16, 18 and 21 we earn new freedoms. By age 30 most people have a career and have been out of the college “party ’til 4:00AM and the go to class at 8:00″ stage for a few years. They are looking for the what is next and will only find that life just continues. It’s just another year man! Enjoy it! ;)

  40. Yannick says:

    I like your idea on global power.
    Congrats on 30 years. I’m not there yet or as close as others but congrats to you anyways. Have a wonderful day.

  41. wah says:

    Nice, I’m another one of those turning 30 this year folks. I also need to be one of those ‘quit smoking about when I turned 30′ folks.
    Also, as the the power idea, something similar occurred to me a while back when thinking about what aliens would think if they came to our planet and saw hundreds of people a day doing ‘work’ for what seems like work’s sake, i.e. ‘working out’.
    This ‘work’ surely has some energy potential right? Well, kinda. One of the big problems with energy is storing it. You have to use it or it wanders off. Transmitting it is also a problem. Converting ‘work’ to raw energy is also a problem. You might burn enough calories riding the bike to power a small light to read by or slightly charge a AAA battery, but you aren’t going to be able to recharge your Prius at the gym.
    Not to be a downer, there are still good uses for kinetic energy (said Prius is one), and people are getting more creative about using it. Still a long way off. The suits the Fremen use in Dune (body breathing powers pumps and purifiers) is another example…in science fiction.
    Good day.

  42. Frederick says:

    I have always been a fan of yours. You do amazing work and a great way to give back by sharing your knowledge.
    I am having a lil birthday myself, check me out: http://www.fredclef.com/birthday

  43. Kim Siever says:

    I ran in the last civic election for a seat on the city council. I was 27 at the time (turned 28 before votes actually occurred). One of the most FAQs offered to me was, “Aren’t you too young for city council”. None of the candidates 30 or higher ever got that question. I looked forward with great anticipation to being in my 30s.
    Now, when people find out my age, they don’t say something assumedly witty like, “Oh, you’re still a baby”. Well, the elderly ones still do. ;-)

  44. web says:

    Happy Birthday.
    Were you in the gym because you were tired, or because you broke your hip in a shuffleboard accident? (some young whippa-snapper had to take the jab)
    I’ll hoist a glass for you at Harpoon’s Beerstock in Boston this weekend.
    Enjoy 30, Cheers Buddy.

  45. eric says:

    Happy birthday! Here’s hoping the next thirty are just as good as your first thirty. Or better!

  46. Paul G says:

    You’ve got to be kidding! June 4th is your birthday? I just turned 24 today. Small world, eh?
    However, given that the pigeonhole principal of discrete mathmatics dictates that in a group of 366 people, at least 2 will have the same birthday, it’s really not that uncommon to find someone with the same birthday as you. Somehow, that doesn’t make it any less strange to find out I have the same birthday as Dan…

  47. Jeff says:

    Dan -
    30 is nothing. Wait until you get to 800. When I turned 800, that’s when I knew I was old.

  48. David says:

    Happy Birthday Dan. I turned 30 last year … the trick to not feeling bad about it is to have a wife who’s 7 years older (although any figure above 0 would also work).
    I took a fiction writing class at NYU a couple of years back – one of my stories, ‘Battery’, focused on ‘social slavery’ in which teams of immigrants were ‘recruited’ to work at The Factory – basically a battery comprising of hundreds of treadmills all generating power for the electricity-starved masses of California.
    If there are any publishers out there – I still have copies … ;)

  49. Simon Jessey says:

    Happy Birthday, Dan. Start checking yourself over every morning, in case things start to fall off.

  50. Keith says:

    Happy birthday bro! 30 isn’t such a big deal. I did it, no problem…ahem, sorry, coughed up a lung there….

  51. Gambit says:

    Hey all, about your idea on power, a South African inventor made the merry go round at a small village a turbine that provided power when the kids played on it.

  52. Paul G says:

    Oh geez, I completely forgot earlier:
    Happy B-day, Dan!

  53. Bruce says:

    Dan, how about we trade. I’m 18 on 17th June. I’ll swap you your age and experience and standing in the design community for my youth and, if I may say so myself, my dashing good looks. We got a deal?

  54. Jimmy Cerra says:

    First of all: Happy Birthday. Secondly, I don’t think most people here understand why your innovative idea probably wouldn’t work. You see, any electricity transmitted via some kind of classically conducting circuit must loose at least a half of the total power generated! It’s a consequence of the physics. For this idea to work, you need to transmit the power from each house into a storage unit and back out of the unit to the load. Assuming perfect conditions, only a theoretical maximum of fourth of the net power is received by the load! The rest is lost into the transmission lines. Could help those applications where there are no other choices; however, it won’t be useful in the well developed parts of the world.

  55. Brad Daily says:

    Tries to follow Jimmy’s post…power to a storage unit back to the load, perfect conditions, fourth of the net power…*head explodes*
    I think I will stick to web development….

  56. Thomas Williams says:

    Not quite powering the grid by exercising, but a similar idea to use commonplace activities: pumping water in Africa by kids’ roundabouts.

  57. Thanks for all the well wishes. Very kind. Had a great birthday — and the luck of having it fall on a Friday, which turns it into a “birthday weekend” of sorts.

  58. jeton says:

    Happy birthday Dan.
    With hope of great health, wisdom, and sharing that wisdom with us in the future :)

  59. Sadish says:

    Happy Birthday Sir.
    May God Bless you with his choicest blessings !

  60. The 30′s is the best decade. I can assure you that. :)
    Well, yeah I’m over 30. No complaints though.

  61. I have been loving my thirties. I’ve found myself less likely to take paths that will lead me to unhappiness, more likely to be accepting of both the good & bad about myself, and better able to steer my life towards where I want to be.
    From what I can see as they come into sight on the horizon, my forties will be even better.
    Enjoy your time. Aging is a good thing. Think single-malt, not lettuce.

  62. Heath says:

    Happy belated birthday, Dan!

  63. Brian Tully says:

    great idea!
    the ironic part is that all of these treadmills, steppers, ellipticals, etc. require electricity to even function. and a Ph.D. to learn how to use the electronics.