This is the place for my rants, raves, reviews and just general "stuff". May you be amused, enlightened, and perhaps even a little pissed off.


Another Natural Law Discovered!

As I go about my daily life I try to be observant. Thinking a little more deeply about things, I sometimes find some patterns, or that what I have observed fits in with some other patterns. Some of those patterns can be loosely described as "Natural Laws". Not the laws of man, or synthesized by science, but truisms that just sort of work.

I found one such Natural Law on friday. Our Son had participated in the local science fair and did a very good job. I was sitting around at the end waiting for the thing to end and one of the parents was getting into a heated discussion about the results of his childs project. From what I could gather he had a second grader and was about to come unglued because of what one or more of the judges expressed in their grading. He was having this fit in the middle of the room and people were kinda looking funny at what was going on. The sad thing is that he was doing this in front of the child, but thats another matter entirely. Anyways, there were lots of comments about how this was going to destroy the enthusiasm of the child and that they would never come back. Blah blah blah. Perhaps it was the parent ranting and raving that would do that for them. But there was a problem with his argument. He was standing there, having his fit, with a plate that contained a potato with some wires sticking out of it. I found it very very hard to take him seriously while he was holding a wired potato. Think about how history would have been changed by this. If Patrick Henry would have been holding a wire potato, would his "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" speech have been as powerful? Martin Luther King was not wired potato equipped and was thusly very successful in his "I Have A Dream" speech.

So the Natural Law that you should take away from this is that if you wish to be taken seriously, don't stand there with any sort of wired tuber. It need not be just a potato, as I suspect that any wired form of radish, onion, or carrot will be just as problematic. It's not just a good idea, ITS THE LAW!


Saving Energy: Part 1

With the current spike in nearly all forms of energy, it seems like a good portion of conversations had among familiars seems to either be bitching about utility/fuel/heating bills or on how to save energy. I thought that perhaps I could throw in some simple ideas that we have used in the past to save energy.
  1. Replace incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. As I have mentioned in mentioned in past entries, the new compact fluorescent (CF) bulbs can save you a great deal of money when you replace normal bulbs that you frequently use. Outdoor floodlights are a great place to use them because the CF bulbs typically use a quarter of the energy and have a great number of lumens. Outdoor lights are a good place to start because the quality of light requirements typically aren't as stringent as you would have for say task lighting. In one case, a single bulb switch saves us over $20 per year. Imagine that savings times the number of bulbs you have around the house, give or take. In my previous entry, I replaced 22 bulbs with CF and save roughly 200kwh per month, or about $185 per year in energy costs.
  2. Partial Dry. One of the biggest consumer of power in the home is the clothes dryer. I hadn't really looked at the usage on them, but I was startled to find that they are rated at 5000 watts. Thus if you dry your clothes for 45 minutes, each load takes about 3.75kwh. For even small families it doesn't take much to do 10 loads of laundry weekly, so (4 weeks * 10 loads * 3.75kwh) = 150kwh per month. According to a news report that I saw tonite, that accounts for roughly 10% of a standard households usage. At rate of $0.08 per kwh, thats about $12 and that assumes 45 minutes to dry a load, which is probably a low estimate. To save money in drying your clothes, use good old mother nature. Rather than put up a clothes line, we pounded nails into the exposed overhead joists so that we could hang clothes to dry. This works particularly well in the winter, as the clothes dry much faster in the low humidity and the drying clothes contribute to the humidity of the house. Clearly it doesn't make sense to air dry all your clothes, as the fiddling with things like socks would be time prohibitive for people who are at all busy. We also let our clothes tumble around a bit in the dryer before hanging them up to dry, as it gets some of the wrinkles out and softens them up. We mostly do the partial dry for jeans, flannel shirts, and fine shirts, but air drying things like towels would be a great idea, as they typically take quite a while to dry. Hang a clothes line if you have to, or use pants hangers to hang towels to dry.
  3. Don't wash with hot water. We wash all our clothing in warm water, with a cold rinse, and they are no worse for wear. That isn't strictly true, as we do one bleach load, of basically socks, in hot water and warm rinse, every other week. At the 10 loads per week figure, that would have the heating of a great deal of water.
  4. Turn down your water heater. Most people have their water heaters turned up way to high. It's not only an energy waster, but also a safety issue if you have small children. Max heated water can seriously scald a child that isn't as dexterious as they should be with a single control faucet. With ours, I had to fiddle with it over a few days to get it just right. Initially I turned it way down, basically to a point where the fully hot water wasn't painful, but I found that the hot water wouldn't last for an entire shower at the temperature that I preferred. From there I incrementally moved it upwards until I wouldn't run out during a shower.
  5. Look at your appliances and furnace. If your furnace is over like ten years old, you should evaluate whether it would be cost effective to replace it with a newer, high-efficiency unit. When we bought our house, it had two furnaces, one for each floor. They were old units and in fact were probably used when the guy who built the house installed them. At one point we were getting them inspected and one of them had a cracked heat exchanger and it was blowing carbon monoxide into the basement. Oh joy. Suddenly we were presented with the need to replace a furnace. Instead of just replacing the broken furnace, we took the opportunity to replace both furnaces with a single higher capacity and much higher efficiency model. Think of how much furnace technology has improved in the intervening 40 years. There are almost too many benefits to count. First, a phenomenal jump in efficiency, something like 50% to 94%. Secondly, we consolidated the duct work and regained some height in the central hallway of our basement. Thirdly, the new unit is considerably quieter. No more jets taking off in the basement. Fourthly, the big energy hog fans to circulate the air were replaced by a high efficiency fan. Our natural gas bill went down dramatically and there was a signficant savings in electricity due to the fans. The furnace is a biggy, but you should also check your major appliances, such as hot water heaters, refrigerators, dishwasher, washers, and dryers. Huge strides in energy efficiency have been made in all those areas and you can certainly benefit from them. Some of the new front loading washers and dryers have taken energy efficiency to new lofty heights. One model of clothes washers that we looked at used significantly less water and spun out at some absurdly high rate to dramatically lower drying times. Something like one of those washers might be a good place to start.
Okay that gives a few ideas and stuff for you to consider. I will post more when they occur to me.


Working Out: First 31 Days

I thought I would give an update on my new years resolution to workout more. I can happily say that I have worked out 15 times in 31 days. Since I was actually out of town for a few days during the months, that means I had a greater than 50% workout rate, which is slightly less than I expected to do, but very good compared to my previous rate. A more hopeful sign is actually more of what I was doing, rather than how many times I did it. Throughout the month I doubled the number of stations that I do in my standard workout. For many of the stations I upped the weight by as much as 30% over the month, which is a truly hopeful sign that I am actually progressing in the process of getting in shape. Happily the process of adding new stations does not cause the morning after pain that I would expect. I am ecstatic to say that my trips are now under $20 per visit and I am well on my way to the sub-$10 figure that I am targeting by August.