Sunday, March 6, 2011

Electric Cars: Costly, but a Step Toward Progress

Whether we pay close enough attention to the automobile industry to know each and every change that’s taking place, it’s hard to ignore the debate on electric cars. There are documentaries made on the subject and advertisements streaming online. The truth is, there are already a few that are being manufactured and sold, per reservation, to the people who are environmentally-zealous, or wealthy enough to supply this idea with the support it needs to take off within the next year. I think this is exactly what we need to get the ball rolling in the right direction toward progress.

Here are a few of the pros and cons involved in the potential shift from using gas-powered cars to living the life depicted in a sci-fi novel. Should we go electric?

Electric cars are convenient.

Electric cars save us money in the long run, as pricey as they are at initial retail value. You may pay about the same for a new Nissan LEAF as you would for a new BMW, but the difference is that you won’t be buying gas each time your tank is low, and with the price of gas rising steadily, who doesn’t want to find an alternative?

It only costs about $1.1 to charge the Chevy Volt to full capacity, $1.51 for the Nissan LEAF and $3.53 for the Tesla Roadster, these are three of the first fully-electric cars to be put on the market.

The mileage varies on these vehicles, but in general, you can drive 35-245 miles on a single charge, for less than $5. And you can charge your electric car via a complementary ChargePoint station installed in your garage wall, so you won’t have to inconvenience yourself by stopping by a gas-station ever again.

“It’s great for Osceola county,” Osceola-Polk Bureau Chief Mark Pino said. “There’s places nearby that’ll take advantage of it. The residents will come to the restaurants and stores with charge stations and it’ll boost the economy.”

Are they sustainable?

One of the downfalls of the electric car is that ChargePoint stations are few and far between, as of this date, while if you run out of juice in your gas-powered car, you can stop in and fuel up wherever you are, often 24 hours a day.

So, while the likelihood of finding a ChargePoint station is pretty slim, now, when you actually do run out of power in your new green machine, we can expect for more stations to pop up by the time the market catches up with the manufacturing of these cars.

“There are three to 500 ChargePoint stations due to come in, by the end of the year,” said Tim Leijedal, during the debut of the new charge stations at Kissimmee’s Buffalo Wild Wings in February. Leijedal is the spokesman for Progress Energy Florida, Inc.

“This is what we’ve been waiting for for the last five years.”

Now, you may say to yourself that we’re only switching from one energy medium to the next, while consuming the same amount of fossil fuels, whether it comes from a transistor on a pole or it’s siphoned out of an enormous pool of gas beneath the nearest 7/11.

What you might not know, could change your mind. A few of the electric companies in Orlando, such as Palmer Electric and Progress Energy, have their separate mixtures of fuel, featuring a combination of natural gas, coal, and less than 2 percent fossil fuel. When you charge up an electric car, using electricity at home, you aren’t using straight fossil fuel. This is what we’re after, right? Decreasing our dependence on oil--specifically, foreign oil?

Consequences we face in converting to electric cars:

While we may become weaned off of oil over time, it takes an awful lot of lithium to comprise one battery pack for an electric car, and the U.S. doesn’t exactly sit on a gold-mine of the stuff.

Countries like Zimbabwe and Chile support our new addiction to cellphones, laptops, and any electrical device employing the “use, recharge, re-use, recharge” cycle. With our reliance of oil, we’re digging ourselves a deeper hole in foreign dependence and taking advantage of these people, in my opinion. Of course, the technologically-impaired nations of the world may not know what treasures hide up their sleeve, as they surely don’t use lithium-ion batteries to fuel their limited bus transportation system in Zimbabwe.

Electric cars mean progress.

Regardless of who’s been taken advantage of by whom, I’d say putting our faith in the electric car would be a step in the right direction, though we’re a little late in making the change.

Novels by Aldous Huxley and films like Back to the Future II gave us the idea that people in the late ‘80s and even the early ‘30s envisioned a future where private transportation by flight and hovercraft would be made possible by now.

Although the electric car may not be our best bet, past and current references to these topics keep the idea of a cleaner future on the tips of tongues throughout the world, and this is a plus. The popularity of these new vehicles brings awareness to more pressing issues, such as decreasing our air and water pollution and keeping an eye on overall energy consumption.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Court Reporters Maintain Job Security

With the tide of inclement economy washing over the nation, though getting better in select states, it's hard to maintain a steady job in the U.S. Out of all of the writing positions out there, court reporters are one of the few groups of professionals who can allay their fears of an impending lay-off, the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests.

“Employment of court reporters is projected to grow 18 percent, faster than average, for all occupations between 2008 and 2018."

Court reporter, Richard Castillo has been in the field for over 30 years and pursues his contracts on a freelance basis. He says there is always steady work for people in the field, because "when two people don't agree, they come to court."

"If you’ve ever heard of anyone, I’ve probably covered their deposition. I've seen timeshare magnates, all the politicians..."

For one deposition, he traveled to Hong Kong because they needed the services of an experienced court reporter for one criminal case between a state senator for New York and the president of a steel company in Brazil.

At the time, they only used monitors to record the sights and sounds of depositions in Hong Kong, and they wanted a more private and efficient way to contain the information produced.

While computers may take the place of a few data entry positions, this is not one of them. The increasing development in technology is only propagating the productivity of court reporters, with no threat to relinquish them of their duties any time in the near future.

"It’s easier to do it yourself," Castillo says, "because there is a high chance for computer error when translating. You still need to teach the program, train it."

He uses official court reporting software, shorthand software, and audio recording tools, as well. To be able to type as fast as possible and take everything down, verbatim, as well as speaker identification - what he or she is wearing - or if the telephone rings, he has taught the software to produce entire phrases in exchange for a few words of input. He types the word "yard" to signify that someone has said "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "warmz" is translated to "within a reasonable degree." These are two of the phrases most often-heard in a court room.

In order to be a court reporter, you might spend 18-48 months in court reporting school, but it's more of a physical skill, Castillo says. It took him about three years to become good enough "to actually get down what they're saying."

He says it's a difficult job, but he likes the challenge of it, and it definitely has its perks.

“I like going places I normally walk by, places I would never go in - and actually having a reason to - through the requirements of my job,” he says.

The demand for this brand of rapid recording is on a steady incline, due to an increase in closed captioning for both English and Spanish television shows and in translating for the deaf or hard of hearing.

Currently, there are more job openings than there are job seekers in this field, according to and