Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 Year in Review

January 1: Celebrate the new year in Atlanta, GA.
January 5: Fly Phoenix, AZ to Managua, Nicaragua.
January 20 - January 27: Trek around Costa Rica with two friends and a Toyota Yaris.
February - April: Read, finish most Peace Corps projects, read.
April 24 - April 27: Secretly escape Nicaragua for a Bachelor Party weekend in Chicago.
May 22 - May 27: Fly into New York, spend night, take train to Boston. Spend weekend in Boston with friends and family. Watch best friend get married. Take train back to New York, spend one day sight seeing with family. Fly back to Nicaragua.
June 10 - June 12: Poop into small glass jar three times in as many days for Peace Corps to medically "clear" me. Deemed physically healthy with no lingering parasites. Worry about status of mental health.
June 12 - July 4: Almost die from boredom, anticipation of pending close of service, and stomach parasites. Cry in realization that the shame of defecating into a small glass jar and presenting your waste to a doctor was all for naught. Worry that though you've been deemed "healthy," you're still spending some nights in an unlit, roach infested latrine.
July 5: Use unlit, roach infested latrine for the last time. Shower in cold water for the last time. Scrub clothes on concrete block for the last time. Smile.
July 6: Bid farewell to my adopted home of the past two years.
July 8: Officially complete Peace Corps service.
July 9 - July 21: Visit Central America's Caribbean beach towns from Managua, Nicaragua, to Panama City, Panama.
July 22: Fly Panama City, Panama to Houston, TX. Eat Wendy's Baconator. Fly Houston, TX to Phoenix, AZ. Return home triumphant and unemployed.
August 10 - August 14: Road trip with brother from Phoenix, AZ to Van Horn, TX in Pontiac Grand Prix. Road trip from Van Horn, TX to Michigan in 17' foot UHaul, towing a Pontiac Grand Prix.
August 14 - August 22: Relax in Michigan summer bliss.
August 22: Fly Detroit, MI to San Francisco, CA.
August 22 - Sept 1: Tour California's coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles with a convertible.
September 1 - Sept 29: Relax, readjust, and job hunt in Phoenix, AZ.
September 29: Move myself and two suitcases to Chicago, IL.
September 30 - October 29: Job hunt and walk Jake's dog.
October 31: Move myself and two suitcases to new apartment.
November 10: Start life as young professional.
November 23: Buy 40'' flat screen TV.
November 26 - Nov 30: Celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends in Flint, MI. Smile.
December 19 - Dec 21: Give myself an early Christmas gift, spend weekend in Detroit, MI with friends and family.
December 22: Fly Chicago, IL to Phoenix, AZ.
December 22 - Dec 28: Enjoy Christmas without stress of pending return date to the Third World.
December 31: Celebrate the new year in Chicago, IL.

Here's to being privileged! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chevy Volt Now

"The EPA has now preliminarily agreed to a method for testing the Chevy Volt that would lead to at least a 100 mpg estimate." And according to some, the Volt should get a rating of 120 to 200 mpg.

What would that mean to our gas consumption over the course of a year? I don't know. But what if we assume that every new vehicle sold in the United States is a Chevy Volt? How much gas and money would we save? And how much gas and money would we save if we make the same assumption but replace the Chevy Volt with a Toyota Prius?

The first table shows gas consumption and cost in 2007. Assuming each vehicle travels 11,000 miles per year, I used the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard for cars to predict the total gallons of gas used per year. Then, assuming that gas costs $3/gallon, I came up with the total money spent per year on gasoline based on the 16.1 million cars sold in the U.S. last year. In other words, if every car sold last year got 27.5 mpg, traveled 11,000 miles, and gas cost $3/gallon, we would have used 6.4 billion gallons of gas and spent $19.3 billion.

U.S. Vehicle Sales 16,100,000
Average Miles driven/year 11,000
CAFE Standard 27.5
Gallons/Year/Vehicle 400
Total Gallons/Year 6,440,000,000
Cost/Year ($3/gallon) $19,320,000,000

Now, rather than using the CAFE standards of 2007 let's use the conservative estimate of 100mpg rating of the Chevy Volt and the Toyota Prius rating of 46mpg to determine total gas consumption and cost if all of the vehicles sold last year were Volts or Priuses. Using the same assumptions (11,000 miles driven per year, $3/gallon of gas, 16.1 million vehicles sold), the U.S. would consume 1.8 billion gallons and spend $5.3 billion if all vehicles sold were Volts or $3.4 billion gallons and spend $11.5 billion if all vehicles sold were Priuses.

Chevy Volt Toyota Prius
U.S. Vehicle Sales 16,100,000 16,100,000
Average Miles driven/year 11,000 11,000
Estimated MPG 100 46
Gallons/Year/Vehicle 110 239
Total Gallons/Year 1,771,000,000 3,850,000,000
Cost/Year ($3/gallon) $5,313,000,000 $11,550,000,000

With the Volt technology, the U.S. would save 4.7 billion gallons of gas and $14 billion per year. The Prius would save us only 2.6 billion gallons of gas and $7.8 billion per year. The cautious comments of Toyota's national manager of vehicle technology, Bill Reinert, suggest that Toyota is commited to the Prius and skeptical of the Volt technology and market. GM, on the other hand, is fully vested in the Volt and the technology needed to reach its goal of releasing the car in November 2010.

It's clear that this car could drastically change the automobile, blowing away even the most fuel efficient car on the road today and saving us lots of money and gas. So rather than wasting more time talking about the GM of the 20th century, let's start talking about the GM of the 21st century and what we need to do to invest in the most innovative project currently happening in the auto industry. Let's put the Volt on the road today.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


Why do we still have to read articles that state "The real problem is that many people don’t want to buy the cars that Detroit makes" when last year GM sold more cars and trucks worldwide than any other car maker? They managed to do this with less workers than Toyota, Nissan, and Volkswagen. GM's Cheverolet Malibu was named the 2008 North American Car of the Year, beating out the Honda Accord (and it has better fuel economy than the Accord!), and GM's Saturn Aura and Chevy Silverado were named 2007 North American Car and Truck of the Year, beating out the Toyota Camry and Honda Fit.

Why is Thomas Friedman saying "If we miss the chance to win the race for Car 2.0 because we keep mindlessly bailing out Car 1.0, there will be no one to blame more than Detroit’s new shareholders: we the taxpayers," when Detroit, and specifically GM, will release Car 2.0 in November 2010? Why is he willing to tout Japan's "government led electric car project" and yet spit on any effort of the American government to invest in a company developing an electric car that will destroy the fuel economy of a Toyota Prius?

Why, if the domestic auto industry problems are all self created, would a relative start up in Silicon Valley also be asking for government money to continue to develop the automotive technologies of tomorrow?

Why are we not talking about the Chevrolet Volt and what our nation needs to do to get it on the road today? Why are we willing to watch GM fail when the company holds our nation's best chance at lowering our oil consumption?

Why is no one reporting that our nation's highest paid autoworkers work at Toyota's Georgetown, KY and Fremont, CA plants?

In the follow-up memo, Toyota pointed out that workers at Georgetown and at New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. in Fremont, Calif., which Toyota owns with GM, are the highest-paid autoworkers in the United States.

Why didn't anyone remind Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Richard Shelby of Alabama that all of their states have always received more federal funding than they've paid in federal taxes? Before they killed the auto deal, why didn't anyone remind these senators that much of the excess federal money their states receive comes from the workers in the states they've turned their back on?

Why can the American government quickly pass a bill that shells out $700 billion to financial institutions, but can't, over the course of a month, come up with a bill that releases $14 billion to the auto industry?


Friday, December 05, 2008

Free Press Editorial

Dear Members of Congress:

Remember, too, that Detroit helped rescue America as the Arsenal of Democracy in World War II and, through GM's no-interest loans, helped jump-start the battered economy after 9/11. Now, when our automakers and autoworkers need a hand up, will America really turn its back?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Domestic Auto Industry 101

Great coverage on regarding the domestic auto industry and the bridge loans. I hope America reads this, this, this, and this.

"And indeed, we now know what happens when a society runs its industrial systems not to manufacture products but to manufacture cash.

You end up with neither."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Please do your homework, Mr. Friedman

Dear Mr. Friedman,

First of all, I'm from Flint, Michigan, and like so many others from Flint, I come from a GM family. My Grandma worked there, my Dad worked there, most of my friends' parents have worked or work there, and I've worked there too. So though I won't claim that I have an unbiased opinion, I will point out that I'll be the first one to talk intelligently about the domestic auto industry's problems and I try to avoid defending the Big Three if they don't deserve it. They're far from innocent. I will, however, defend Detroit when the industry is written off as "un-inovative" and a column suggests that its far behind/more guilty than any of its foreign rivals.

In your most recent column, "How to Fix a Flat," you suggested that the most recent $25 billion in loan guarantees to the domestic auto industry was a U.S. taxpayer bribe to innovate. In fact, in 2007 GM spent only slightly less than Toyota on research and development and was the second highest spender in the world (Ford was 6th). As a percentage of sales, GM and Ford both outspent Toyota, and since 2006 GM has increased its research and development budget by almost 23%.

I think we can agree that the most radical innovations in the car industry over the past several years have been the emergence of hybrid engines and the improvements in fuel efficiency. Therefore, I'd like to point out that though Detroit came to the hybrid game a little late, GM and Ford now offer more hybrid models than Honda or Nissan and will have more hitting dealers in 2009. GM also offers more models that have 30mpg or better than any other car company. The $25 billion in loan guarantees aren't bribes, but rather money that will be invested in companies that lead the world in innovation and in many cases are leading foreign rivals in new technologies.

And please, Mr. Friedman, spare me the easy to find headlines that make the foreign companies look like the only ones currently investing in new plants fitted to meet the growing demand of fuel efficient models. A few weeks before your headline ran in, a similar one ran on "GM to invest $370 mln to build new engine plant." This larger investment than the Honda investment you touted will help GM offer a four cylinder engine in a third of its models and is in line with the drastic measures GM has taken to realign its product lineup.

Now that I have that off my chest, I'd like to remind you that you conveniently forgot to mention the foreign car companies that were every bit as guilty in blocking efforts to raise fuel economy standards. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers was a major player in lobbying efforts and includes, Toyota, BMW, and Mercedes Benz. These are the same companies that have all recently invested heavily in large pickups and SUVs, although GM, Ford, and Chrysler all offer a full-size pickup with better fuel economy than Toyota's equivalent.

Lastly, I hope we keep Silicon Valley away from Detroit. Detroit has major problems that aren't being addressed quickly enough, but the current crisis is largely due to the global economic slowdown and the freezing up of credit. The current crisis and the ongoing problems won't be solved by Steve Jobs. Silicon Valley can build a cool iPod, but it's apparently not that good at building cars.

David Anderson

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I finished the Peace Corps on July 8. Tomorrow, November 10, is my first day of work. That means I've spent a third of the year, unemployed/traveling/hanging out/enjoying no responsibilities. I'm excited and ready to start working, but the past four months "readjusting" were a lot of fun. Now if I could figure out a way to get paid while "readjusting" I will have found my "career."

In the meantime, me a young professional.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Joe Dumars is a Genius

Thanks for the link, Doug. This sounds like a pretty legitimate argument; especially when a rival GM says, "Damn it, I am afraid Joe has this whole thing wired. He’s got everything in place to pull this off."

When will the Lions wise up and hire Duuuuuuumars as their GM?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm Done!!

Only time will tell if my thoughts on my service will fulfill Peace Corps's motto, "The toughest job you'll ever love," but right now I'm just happy to be an unemployed Returned Peace Corps Volunteer.

Here's to Nicaragua.
Here's to Palacaguina.
Here's to being done!
Here's to being home!

I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Reflections on Retirement

In an essay for my Peace Corps application I was asked to write about my expectations. I wrote:

I expect my service will start with feelings of overwhelming excitement and optimism. As I adjust to my new life and language, the novelty will wear thin and the reality of two years of service will stare me down like an endless abyss. Frustration, loneliness, and worthlessness, will show up throughout the two years, but will always be trumped by satisfaction and success. I look forward to periods of high highs and low lows, both of which will grow areas of myself I never knew existed. My service will be mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging, but I will love the good and the bad.

As I was recently rereading that essay, I was shocked at how well it captured my thoughts as I end my service. Although it’s probably hard to believe given the title of this blog, “A two year retirement,” and my jokes since day one that this was a two year vacation, I joined Peace Corps and came down to Nicaragua with excitement, motivation, and optimism. I didn’t simply join Peace Corps to delay the “real world.” For a variety of personal and professional reasons, I was ready to lend my time, intelligence, and effort to try to do something more important than what I was doing at the time, formatting Excel spreadsheets and getting drunk with friends. I was ready to actively help with things that I had always passively agreed with. A few months later I found myself in Nicaragua, optimistic, excited, and motivated.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that’s talked to me for more than a few minutes during my time here that my initial optimistic feelings were quickly replaced by “frustration, loneliness, and worthlessness.” So I was correct in predicting those feelings throughout my two years, but what I didn’t understand, as I naively wrote that essay from the comfort of an Ann Arbor apartment, was the upper limit (and in some cases the very definition) of those feelings. (I’m not going to try to describe those feelings. I’ve found that unpleasant honesty often gives the wrong impression to people at home and they just end up asking me why I’m still here or if I regret my decision to join, or they tell me that a few years down the road I’ll appreciate my service, implying that I hate it now. These questions or comments normally just make me more frustrated.)

I was also naive in believing that those feelings would always be trumped by “satisfaction and success.” I definitely had months where frustration and worthlessness far outpaced any satisfaction or success I was feeling, but as my upper limit on frustration changed, so too did my definitions of success and satisfaction. In the traditional sense of the word, I haven’t had much success down here. Most of the projects I tried ending up failing and most of my students, I can confidently say, didn’t really learn much from my class. But I think that if you’re ambitious enough and you spend your time trying to solve or improve hard problems, you’re bound to fail some of the time, meaning your definition of success becomes a bit more humbled. I’ve learned to find success in the simplest and smallest forms, and my satisfaction hasn’t come from succeeding, it’s come from simply trying. In the end, these small successes and the satisfaction of trying (not necessarily succeeding) has been enough to trump the feelings of frustration and worthlessness.

So with the clarity of hindsight I would have to change some of the words or at least better define frustration, loneliness, worthlessness, success, and satisfaction. But if I wrote a reflection on my service after 24 months (I guess that’s what I’m doing!), I wouldn’t change a thing in the last two sentences of my initial thoughts. In a number of ways I’ve changed down here and I believe, now more than ever, that to change or to grow as a person you have to put yourself in uncomfortable, challenging positions. You have to test your upper limit on frustration, for example. The low lows and bad times are what make an experience significant. These two years in Nicaragua have been incredibly difficult and therefore, these two years have been very meaningful and worthwhile (at least personally). It has been “mentally, physically, and emotionally challenging,” but I did love and appreciate the good and the bad.

I’m just glad it’s all over! I’m not sure I ever again want to experience anything nearly as hard. At least not before a nice, long, comfortable break with hot showers, artificially controlled climates, trash meals, DTV, close friends, and family. USA, here I come!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Head Exploding

I nearly passed out after seeing this commercial, are we really that smart?

Where you live:

Where I live:

My head is exploding.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nicaragua Wins

After two years I still plan meetings knowing that I'll be the only one to show up. I convince myself that it'll be different this time. I cancel weekend trips, I leave friends' houses early, I Inconvenience myself to plan an agenda, to show up on time, to wait an extra fifteen minutes after waiting for thirty. You think I'd learn, but I haven't. No one shows up and I take another punch in the face. I lose. Nicaragua wins.

In this video, I'm the cheerleader and Nicaragua is the basketball.
In this video, I'm the unsuspecting spectator and Nicaragua is the sprinter.
In this video, I'm the McDonald's customer and Nicaragua is Ronald McDonald.

Nicaragua-1,000,103 vs. David-2

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Peace Corps Resume

I’ve been working on my resume and have a few different versions to explain my Peace Corps service. Let me know what you think.

Small Business Development Volunteer
May 06 – July 08

•Implemented entrepreneurship, business management course in conjunction with Ministry of Education, teaching 320 high school students and resulting in 38 temporary, profitable micro businesses.
•Created community bank offering an informal savings and loan program to 37 members who traditionally fell outside of formal banking environment. Loaned more than $2000 and promoted the creation of small businesses through micro-credit.
•Organized a local and regional business plan competition, coordinating with government officials, Ministry of Education, and local small businesses. Locally raised $100 to support competitions and strengthened relationships among public/private organizations.
•Provided consulting services to local businesses, improving accounting, inventory management, customer service, and marketing.
•Trained and evaluated 3 secondary school teachers in the instruction of small business course.

Small Business Development Volunteer
May 06 – July 08

•Completed more than 50 books (fiction and nonfiction), increasing reading output to more than 2 books per month. Read and studied more than 5 Pulitzer Prize winning novels.
•Acquired no less than 5 cases of acute diarrhea, defecting in a small, plastic receptacle 2 times to examine and identify contributing factors such as local worms and parasites.
•Eliminated 10 pounds of needed body weight in a 12 hour period with as many visits to a large hole in the ground which also doubled as a toilet.
•Banged my head against a large concrete wall in frustration, boredom, and craziness once a month for 24 months.

Small Business Development Volunteer
May 06 – July 08

•Humbled by a 27 month Nicaraguan, third world bitch-slapping.