The Three Stooges

When I started this blog I really wanted to be as respectful as I could in any criticisms I made of political action, to stay away from the people involved and to focus upon the acts themselves. But, since November 2016 that has become very, very difficult. I have frequently failed. One can reduce ignorance by supplying information, but stupidity is something else again. One cannot debate complex issues with a stupid person. Reason will not penetrate the cognitive walls built up around a stupid mind, and now we have a government with two stupid minds leading the congress and one leading the executive. We have actually got a real set of Three Stooges (1) running our country, and we can do nothing about that fact in the short-term. So, that’s about all I can say about Trump, Ryan, and McConnell. If I say any more about these people, it might be considered disrespectful.

This blog is about what we can do, not what we cannot. And, of course, Trump’s Paris Climate Agreement withdrawal is what set me off today. Having, like Elon Musk and Bob Iger (2,3), given up on the idea that Trump, Ryan, and McConnell might only be ignorant, needing only some coaching, there is nothing to do but implement the deal ourselves, by states, localities, companies, and individuals.

California is pressing ahead. As Governor Jerry Brown said (4):

. . . the world is not waiting for Donald Trump. He has given a body blow to the cause of environmental sustainability, but we will take it and we will respond. We’re on the field of battle, and we’re going to overcome. That, I can promise you.

And others (5,6,7,8).

Our family is on the field of battle with Jerry Brown. We have already laid the plans for that in the construction of a new Zero Energy Ready home (9). We are now bumping that up to be off-grid capable upon occupation. After a shakedown period, we want to unplug the house. There is no reason not to. We are buying absolutely no more internal combustion engine vehicles. We’ll keep our 2015 CR-V until the wheels fall off or until we are sure we don’t need it, and replace our 2013 Chevy Volt with a Tesla Model 3 in 2018 (reserved). Tesla’s charging network is an important part of the Volt replacement choice. The Volt, by the way, has delivered well over 1000 miles per gallon since we bought it new due to our driving pattern and the 240 volt rapid charger (wind offset) in the garage.

There is a lot we can do without the Stooges (oops, sorry).

-George-

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Three_Stooges
  2. http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/01/news/elon-musk-resigns-trump-adviser/index.html
  3. http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/paul-ryan-mitch-mcconnell-praise-trumps-move-against-paris-climate-deal/article/2624722
  4. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/gov-jerry-brown-trumps-move-reject-paris-agreement-hurts-america-will-cost-jobs/
  5. http://money.cnn.com/2017/06/02/news/companies/trump-ceo-revolt/index.html
  6. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/obama-musk-other-world-industry-leaders-call-paris-climate-deal-n767296
  7. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/american-cities-climate-standards.html?hp
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXH2ojr7wi4
  9. A Renewable Energy Project

The End Of The Laundry Clones

It’s over, finally. The laundry clones have been driven out. We installed an LG front loading laundry pair and put them to work this morning. These machines bore the same “Assembled In The U.S.A.” labels as did the Maytag equipment. That probably means something. We don’t know what. Maybe the door hinges were oiled with American oil — or something else. We’re done researching this stuff.

We took some measurements with our trusty smartphone sound meter app before Sharon’s trauma-inducing washer and dryer set went to wherever returned clones go and repeated those checks with the new gear. Here is what we found:

  1. Maytag washer in normal washing cycle — 62 dB
  2. Maytag dryer in normal drying cycle — 73 dB
  3. LG washer in normal washing cycle — 55 dB
  4. LG dryer in normal drying cycle — 66 dB

I seem to recall that the logarithmic dB scale doubles or halves power with each 3 dB change, and that a 3 dB difference is the degree of change that a human ear can readily discern. This means that the differences we recorded are not insignificant. And, subjectively, we can confirm that this is so. We did not measure sound levels for things like filling with water, brief spinning, and playing little tunes when done, just for the core function.

Three loads washed. Everthing got wet and clean. Yahoo!

Normality has returned to the laundry room.

-George-

Return Of The Laundry Clones

In my earlier post on this topic (1) I wrote about our experience in buying a top-loading clothes washer to replace our front-loader (dancing mold factory). I related an observation that many of the U.S. made washing machines and dryers on display at our Lowe’s store appeared to be the same. Quick research showed this to be true. Sharon found (May 2) an interesting link to Appliance 411 that expands information about what I am calling appliance cloning (2). Check it out. We find it troubling.

Anyway, that’s not really the point here. Our new top-loading washer/dryer set is being returned. Good enough turned out not to be good enough. The top-loading washing machine was fine, except that it could not wash clothes, well, small loads of clothes, and that’s what we do every few days. Thanks to the see-through top, we could watch a red striped dish towel staying in place throughout the entire wash cycle, red stripe smiling cheerfully above the water, unmoving. The agitator performed no function whatsoever given the small amount of water in the tub. The dryer was simply too noisy to run in our small house.

Sharon was in tears over the disappointment and the stress of anticipating the return of expensive large appliances. That’s something we have never done, to the point of living with such mistakes. But not this time. Lowe’s is fine with the return (kudos), and that helped get emotions in check.

All contemporary top-loading washers seem to have the traits of the one we chose, so we gave up. It’s back to a front-loading washing machine that does not dance. We will just learn how to keep the mold under control. The new machine and its matching (quiet) dryer will come from a real company that affixes its own badge to its own well-designed and carefully made products. Sadly, because clones are all the same, you know, that probably won’t be a U.S. made product. Fool me once. . . .

-George-

  1. Battle Of The Laundry Clones
  2. http://www.appliance411.com/purchase/make.shtml

The Pay Grade Problem

Sharon and I went to Sam’s Club yesterday. On the way into the store we stopped  to look at their parking lot-based plant display. Sharon squeaked out a long and feeble “hheeellllpp, waaaatteerrr” as we approached the area. Several of the larger plants had blown over and all of them were dry as bones. Leaves were shriveling and the potting soil had shrunk away from the pot walls.

Help Plants

As we entered the store, I told the greeter of the situation outside. He said he would tell the manager. As we walked on by, I noted that the greeter was more interested in staring into space than in the crumbling plant inventory, so I walked over to the service desk to speak to a young lady who was engaged in some vitally important texting exchange on a smartphone (or store device?). She never looked up at me. After a minute or two, I gave up there and we went on to get our items, checked out, and went to the exit door to have out receipt highlighted by the receipt highlighter person. There, I tried once more. He said, “I know . . . mumble mumble . . . but that’s above my pay grade.” Seriously. Wow.

I went by Sam’s this morning on another errand to see if the manager had gotten the word and done his/her job. The prone trees had been put back on their feet, but sadly, no water had been spared. Someone was there unwrapping new hostas (sorry hostas). I took a picture, the one above, and went about my business thinking that one way to assure that one does not push that pay grade up too far is to exhibit the level of concern we saw yesterday.

Anyway, it’s supposed to rain day after tomorrow. Maybe that will help the plants that do not spontaneously combust before then.

-George-

Battle Of The Laundry Clones

Sharon and I went to Lowe’s to buy a top-loading washing machine and dryer yesterday afternoon. We’d had it with the mold jungle growing just inside the door of our front-loader, and it tended to wander out of its assigned space into the lane of traffic in our small washroom.  Our sales person was busy with another customer when we arrived, so we killed time by  comparing the marques on the floor.

The Samsungs and LGs were very different from familiar American names and from each other. Their engineering folks had clearly been at work trying to innovate (over-innovate?). One LG washer had its controls on the front, but the tub was so deep that a smaller person would not be able to retrieve that loose sock at the bottom without entering a set of random commands on those very convenient buttons as they slid over them on the way down into the machine’s maw. I’m guessing the commands would be ignored with the lid up and the operator standing on their head in the tub. Hope so. LG also had a machine with a second mini washing machine underneath the main machine at toy poodle level. That should enable one to start training the kids to do their own laundry at a very early age. Samsung had a washing machine with a pre-wash sink in the lid. Very cool. I wonder if I could clean my paint brushes there? Probably once. But, kudos for trying Samsung and LG, really.

There was a surprise with the American brands. The ones we looked at were not different. Very much not different. In fact, except for tweaks in their rather simple skins and, sometimes, control panels, they appeared to be built from the same parts bins and by the same robots. We noted striking similarities (clone-arities) in visible components from door hinges and latches, detergent and softener trays, filters, and tubs in Maytag, Roper, and Whirlpool washing machines and dryers. Was there anything different deeper inside? Didn’t know. Were they all built in the same factory? One thing is for sure, the American marques did not have controls on the front or mini washing machines underneath. Innovation must take a back seat to cost control in a very long bus where these machines were designed.

Little boxes in the Lowe’s store,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes in the Lowe’s store,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a white one and a gray one
And a blue one and a black one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

Sorry, couldn’t help it. (1)

So, I started trying to find out what the scoop was on this apparent washing machine and dryer clone thing. The first thing I noted was that Whirlpool has a link on the Maytag website. A clue? Yep. Maytag and Roper are Whirlpool brands. (2) So is Kenmore, but we did not go to Sears on our machine quest. Sears is another story. All three brands are built in Ohio out of mostly American-made parts. Don’t know about the same robots.

As strange as the washing machine story seems, Whirlpool may have done its marketing homework fairly well. Suspecting all this, although we had not done research yet, we still bought a Maytag. Ticky tacky or good enough was OK in this case. We did not really need a mini washer and we lose enough socks as it is.

-George-

  1. https://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/MALVINA/mr094.htm
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whirlpool_Corporation

A Renewable Energy Project

Fortune reported in January (1) that U.S. solar workers now outnumber coal miners by a factor of two, and that good jobs in solar are growing rapidly. That’s good news, and probably a good sign that Trump’s promise to put coal miners back to work is not going to amount to much more than a little hot air. Literally. Because of market forces. If I were a miner, I think I’d happily trade my hole in the ground (2) (3) for a bright sunny day. The Fortune article points out that solar is still a small piece of the energy pie in this country, but also relates how some forward-thinking fossil fuel energy companies are beginning to move into solar as economics improve, as they should. The handwriting is on the wall – er, on the roof.

ktownsolar

The picture above was taken during a walk in Kaiserslautern, Germany in late January. You can see our shadows at the bottom. It’s hard to find a roof in the frame that is not covered with solar photo-voltaic panels. This area is primarily industrial, but on the left are apartments and their garages. On the train rides we took in Germany, we noted widespread deployment of solar on private residences and businesses. We saw many wind turbine installations, as well. According to The Guardian (4),nearly 90% of the European energy sources added in 2016 were renewable. Over half of those were from wind, but that’s still a lot of solar.

In the United States we don’t have the government policies to encourage development of renewable energy sources as the Europeans do. But we do have common sense, and as individuals we can do what some utilities are doing, as Sharon and I are doing.

Sharon and I are presently designing a Zero Energy Ready (5) rated house for construction in a “New Urbanism” community (6). Our architect calls it the Ecohouse. We call it our Legacy House. It will be solar photo-voltaic and grid, with no fossil fuel on the lot. The grid connection will be wind offset, as it is at our present house. Construction should start in June. It is the right thing to do for us, our family, and our community. It should be a lot of fun. There will be more about the project here as the real work begins. Much to do.

-George-

  1. http://fortune.com/2015/01/16/solar-jobs-report-2014/
  2. A figure of speech. Most coal mining in the United States is surface mining.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal_mining
  3. (Added in edit 01/05/2017)
    http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/05/news/economy/donald-trump-coal-jobs/index.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/feb/09/new-energy-europe-renewable-sources-2016
  5. https://energy.gov/eere/buildings/zero-energy-ready-home
  6. http://www.evansfarmliving.com

Kaffeerösterei

coffeeshop1

There is a delightful Kaffeerösterei in Kaiserslautern (1). Of all the places we went on our recent trip, it will be one of our favorite memories. Our apartment was just across the street on the second floor. We could look down into the shop and the happy scene within.

The Kaffeerösterei is a simple, authentic, and cozy neighborhood coffee shop with a bustling local clientele. They serve great German coffee and delicious pastries. I could live on the banana kuchen. The photo in this post shows an apfel kuchen. We tried to get there every day when in “K-town”.

It is important to quality of life to have peaceful community gathering places where ideas, news, and smiles can be exchanged, where hands can be held, and where local business can be nurtured. Starbucks, with no offense, is not the Kaffeerösterei. It lacks the authentic neighborhood feel. It’s plastic, loud, and rushed, and your coffee and pastry do not arrive at your table of friends on a tray carried by someone who knows who you are. Now that we are at home, it is going to be one of our tasks to find (or recreate) that experience.

-George-

http://www.kaffeeroesterei-kaiserslautern.de/