Pity Bowl 2022

It’s that time of year – college football bowl season. I’ve been a happy guy since my beloved University of Michigan Wolverines are 13-0 and in the College Football Playoffs as the #2 seed!

But let’s face it… not all bowl games are as prominent or prestigious as the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl, etc. Many bowl games are… Pity Bowls.

When I was growing up watching college football, bowl games felt relatively rare and teams only got to go to bowl games if they did well in their season — if they won. But it doesn’t take much to get invited to a bowl game these days… it’s a pity invite, and the games where these teams play each other are Pity Bowls.

Here’s the 2022 slate of Pity Bowls, where the bowl game just shouldn’t exist.

Pity Bowl gameDateTeamTeam
Bahamas BowlDec 16Blazers (6-6)RedHawks (6-6)
LendingTree BowlDec 17Owls (5-7)Golden Eagles (6-6)
New Mexico BowlDec 17Cougars (7-5)Mustangs (7-5)
Independence BowlDec 23Cougars (7-5)Cajuns (6-6)
Gasparilla BowlDec 23Demon Deacons (7-5)Tigers (6-6)
Hawaii BowlDec 24Blue Raiders (7-5)Aztecs (7-5)
Quick Lane BowlDec 26Aggies (6-6)Falcons (6-6)
Camellia BowlDec 27Bulls (6-6)Sthrn Eagles (6-6)
First Responder BowlDec 27Tigers (6-6)Aggies (6-6)
Guaranteed Rate BowlDec 27Cowboys (7-5)Badgers (6-6)
Liberty BowlDec 28Jayhawks (6-6)Razorbacks (6-6)
(exact schools not listed because it’s not their fault they got invited to a Pity Bowl.)

To be clear, the games that make up the Pity Bowl list are different each year. Sometimes an individual bowl will invite great teams; the games are on the Pity Bowl list above because neither of the teams they invited in 2022 have good records.

And yes, I know why these bowl games exist. TV stations/channels need to fill hours of airtime around the holidays, and live sports draws ratings, which means dollars. So even if two mediocre teams are playing a Pity Bowl, it’ll draw better ratings than a Law & Order re-run from 15 years ago or a re-run of a good bowl game from last year. But… it still sucks because it demeans the bowl games where the teams have actually done well.

So here’s my plea to whomever cares: college football (FBS) doesn’t need 40+ bowl games. Please, for the love of the game, just kill ten of these games so the ones that are left actually mean something.

Clawing back the Senate

The US Senate is a particularly powerful body of the US Congress. The most long-lasting power that the Senate has is to confirm judges to federal courts, including the Supreme Court. If the US has any hope of moderating the current 6-3 very conservative Supreme Court that has started taking existing rights away from American citizens than it’s critical for Democrats to maintain control of the Senate.

The Trump administration did great damage to the judicial system by specifically nominating and confirming a huge number of extraordinarily partisan judges. Only a Democratic-controlled Senate can fix this damage.

The Senate is also unique in that it’s a touch more moderate than members of the House of Representatives. Because Senators are elected state-wide, elections in states that are “purple” (neither far-right nor far-left) can be really competitive.

I’m working to help Democrats maintain and expand their control of the US Senate – and I’d like your help. I’ve created a fundraising page to help channel funds to these critical Senate races and have already raised nearly $300,000. But if you are willing to donate money to the races that have some of the highest policy return for your donation, consider donating today. And if possible set up a recurring donation, which allows the campaigns to plan and make better long-term investments today.

Funds will go to the eight seats with the closest margins that will determine control of the Senate. They are:

Blue states / Democratic incumbents (must HOLD):

Blue states / Republican incumbents (should WIN):

Red states / Republican incumbents (can WIN):

tl;dr

Please donate to some of the most important candidates & races in the 2022 midterm elections. It’s crucial to restore balance to a judicial system that has taken a violent lurch and taken rights away from Americans. We’ve raised nearly $300,000 so far, and hope to hit $500,000 by election day, which is now less than eight weeks away.

I’m running the Marine Corps Marathon for SemperK9

The pandemic has been a primary cause for major life shifts for many friends and family. For me, going from an hour commute to work (each way) and back home to just working from home freed up a lot of time. It also made me more than a bit stir-crazy… so I got into running.

While I ran cross-country in high school, I was — to put it bluntly — not fast. But in the pandemic I really grew to like running (thanks to Coach Bennett and the guided runs with Nike Run Club!) and really loved getting my fitness back. I eventually signed up to run the virtual UMich Big House 5k, and then ran two half-marathons in 2021. And I’ve already signed up to run many more 5k to half-marathon distance races in 2022. But…

Me – after finishing the San Francisco Half-Marathon in 2021

2022 is going to be the year where I finally run my first full marathon. And I’m happy to say that I found a great opportunity – I’ll be running the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC for a fantastic charity – SemperK9!

SemperK9 is one of the most heart-warming charities I’ve ever come across. They rescue dogs from shelters (and take donated dogs), train them to be service dogs – both for psychiatric alert and mobility challenges, and provide them free of charge to military veterans. (The cost of training a service dog can reach up to $20,000) The organization was founded by Christopher Baity, who was a Military Working Dog handler in the Marine Corps and who had numerous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He himself struggled with PTSD but founded SemperK9 with his wife in 2014 to use his unique dog training/handling skills and train service dogs for veterans.

(Side note – there’s a great video featuring SemperK9 with Mike Rowe in his series “Returning the Favor” on Facebook.)

I would appreciate your sponsorship and support in this goal of running the Marine Corps Marathon. Head to http://bit.ly/JedMCM22 and donate whatever you’re comfortable donating. My goal is to raise $1000 or more – all of which will go to training shelter dogs into service dogs for military veterans.

One final note – there are a bunch of reasons I wanted to run the Marine Corps Marathon. It’s in Washington, DC and runs through Georgetown, the National Mall, the monuments, etc. It’s run by the Marine Corps, so it’s got a reputation for impeccable organization. But it also ends at the legendary Marine Corps Monument in Arlington, Virginia, which is a statue of the iconic WWII photograph “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima”.

I was lucky enough to have been acquainted with one of the men from that Marine Corps company: Sgt Joe Rodriguez. When I was in the Navy ROTC unit at the University of Michigan Sgt Rodriguez was a frequent honored (and treasured) guest of our unit at various events – he lived for many years in the Ann Arbor area. While he wasn’t in the famed photo himself, he was there when it happened. (Specifically, there are multiple “takes” of the photo – he was part of a group trying to gather rocks to better anchor the flagpole when the final photo was taken.) He can be found in other photographs in front of the flag that day.

While Sgt Rodriguez has long since passed, it’s special to me that I’ll finish my first marathon at a world-famous monument to a group of Marines – one of whom I was fortunate enough to know.

Going solar – my experience and how to do it for yourself

I’ve had… extensive experience with solar power, dating to my years building and racing solar powered cars with the University of Michigan Solar Car Team. One of the great things about having a home in Northern California is that I was able to take advantage of the weather to install solar panels and get to net zero energy use from the grid. This post is my story, and I strongly encourage you to check out switching to solar power for yourself. (Some of the details may be different in different states.)

Why consider solar power?

In short — why not? Solar energy is getting to your roof anyway – if the cost of panel installation (divided by the number of years they’re useful, generally 20+) is less than what you pay for electricity, then it makes sense.

More importantly, going solar means that (on net) you’re NOT taking electricity from the grid, which means you’re not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. That way by far my biggest motivation in going solar.

Federal tax incentives are also key to making solar power very affordable for many homes – because if your system is installed this year, you get 26% of the cost of your entire system back as a federal tax credit. (If you wait until 2021, it goes to 22% and then 10% permanently after that, unless rules change.)

Will solar work for me?

The quickest way to find out if solar power will work for you is to use Google’s Project Sunroof website. You’ll need just two things: your address, and a rough estimate of your monthly electricity bill.

Google takes a look at your roof, the trees around your home, and historical weather to figure out how much sunlight actually reaches your roof, and how much roof area is available for solar panels. What you’ll see (in addition to a heatmap of where sun hits your roof) is something like this:

You can see that 100% of this home’s electricity can be generated by solar power (upper-right box), and going solar is the equivalent of stopping 2.9 metric tons of CO2 emissions.

Project Sunroof also gives you an early indication of the savings and payoff period for your investment. They offer options for Buy, Lease or Loan. And here’s the kind of savings a random home in Northern California might expect:

Buy

Loan

So installing solar on this sample house means you could save $12k-$22k over 20 years, in addition to being a very positive benefit for the environment.

How to get started with solar for your home

So there are a ton of different ways to get started, but I’ll recommend two: PickMySolar, and direct with Sunpower.

PickMySolar / Solar.com – PickMySolar / Solar.com is a portal that makes the whole solar process easy. Instead of having parallel conversations with a number of different installer companies, they help you define the exact system you want, and then the installers bid (compete) for your business. (Note, the link there is a referral link, but by using it you should save $250 on any system you install!) I know some people who have had great experiences with them.

Sunpower – Sunpower designs and manufactures their own solar panels, and has a network of installers in the US they work with. I’m partial to Sunpower because they were very supportive of solar car teams back when I was racing in university. (The link there is also a referral link – I’m not sure if there are any savings with it, though.) They build very high-quality panels, and also use an architecture (inverters on every panel) that have some advantages.

In the end, we ended up going through Sunpower to design and install our system. It’s a long story, but our house has a complicated set of roof panels and only Sunpower could design a system that met 100% of our home’s energy needs, that was within building/fire code, and at a cost that meant that meant we were still saving money. The exact installation company we used was All Bay Solar, who did a great job. (You can also just contact them directly.)

How to pay for solar

We only really considered two options for solar: Buy vs Loan. Leasing can get a bit complicated if you ever sell your home, and I personally prefer owning assets like this.

We ended up going with a loan, mainly to avoid a big cash payment, but we do plan on paying it off well ahead of time. And even though our solar installation was about as complicated (aka expensive) as it can get on a home, our loan payment is about the same or less than our average electricity bill. More importantly, that loan payment is locked in while electricity rates may very well increase a fair bit in the next 10-20 years. (And once the loan is paid off, electricity is essentially free.)

For those curious about these things, the loan is completely separate from our mortgage. The solar loan is backed up by the panels/inverters/etc. themselves. So if we ever stopped paying, they have the right to repossess the panels, but that’s it.

Living with solar

There’s basically no difference to life with solar power, other than an extra box or two near our electric panel. When you install solar, you change your contract with PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric) and go to a Net Energy Metering (NEM) agreement. Instead of getting a bill every month, PG&E looks at your energy use across the entire year.

If at the end of the year you’ve taken more from the grid than you’ve put in, you pay the difference. If at the end of the year you’ve contributed more from the grid than you’ve taken out, PG&E pays you. (PG&E does calculate peak/non-peak rates separately.) That said, you’ll owe PG&E roughly 21 cents per kWh if you owe them, but if they owe you they are only required to pay 2-4 cents per kWh. They give you a running estimate of what your bill will be at the end of the year.

But where I definitely see a difference is when I log into pge.com. Here are a couple of screenshots of what we see now:

Monthly view

Even on some of the hottest days (while running air conditioning) we’re a net contributor to the grid
June has been pretty hot so far, and even with air conditioning we’re still generating more than we use.

Daily view

Distribution of power over the course of a day
This was a much hotter day (see the 90-degrees in purple?) – so more evening A/C use

Sunpower app

Sunpower has an app where you can see live and historical data for your home. (I believe other systems can do this – I’m just familiar with Sunpower.) I’ve essentially become an amateur tracker since I can directly see how clouds affect the power being generated by our system!

Today’s power – still generating at 8pm!

The other interesting effect I’ve seen is that I’ve become much more conscious of our electricity use at home. I’m much more militant about turning lights off, opening windows to get a cool breeze instead of using air conditioning, and more.

Summary

If you own a home – anywhere in the US – you owe it to yourself to at least check out Google’s Project Sunroof and see if solar is an option for you. And if there’s a chance to both save money and help save the environment at the same time – please take it!