The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life     
. . . still studying and learning how to live
 
 
Saturday, March 14, 2015
Personal Reflections ... Practical Advice ... Zen ...

At the zendo that I regularly sit at (despite my being something of an internal outcast there), they recently held a “practice circle” discussion regarding a chapter from Suzuki Roshi’s book “Not Always So”. The chapter is entitled “Enjoy Your Life where the good Roshi uses the then upcoming (1969) first manned lunar space mission as a point of departure by which to make his point. He says that “to arrive on the moon may be a great historical event, but if we don’t change our understanding of life, it won’t have much meaning or make much sense”. The Rosh concludes that by practicing zazen (meditation), “you can enjoy your life, perhaps even more than taking a trip to the moon”. At the start of his lecture, Suzuki opines that “Instead of seeking a success in the objective world, we [need] to experience the everyday moments in our lives more deeply”. And yet, he also admits that “I want to speak about the moon trip, but I have not had any time to study it”.

Here’s my question: did the Apollo 11 flight and its follow-up moon-landing missions represent a delusion, a sort of false success within the objective world, one that impairs our ability to know more deeply the value of the everyday moments of our life? In 1969, Roshi Suzuki admitted that he didn’t know too much about the moon-bound straw men that he was setting up. But it’s 46 years later, plenty of time to have studied what happened with the Apollo astronauts and the other people and things that made this endeavor possible. Despite the wise Roshi’s diminution of the Apollo program and its achievements, perhaps it is still possible to see that the astronauts of the Space Race days really did have a lesson for us on how to deeply experience and enjoy our lives.

I offered some comments during the zendo discussion about how the Apollo mission might in fact relate to an appreciation of everyday life. I’m not an expert on it, but as a life-long space enthusiast, I watched a lot of documentaries and read some books and went thru a lot of articles on the United States’ efforts to get to the moon in the 1960s (before the decade was out, as per the mandate from President Kennedy). So I think I can offer a bit more on just what those spaceflights actually entailed.

Basically, they were military exercises. The US manned space program was  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:20 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Food / Drink ... Practical Advice ...

I’ve become a fan of cold-brewed coffee. Not that I go around seeking local coffee shops or bakeries that serve it. I’m talking about producing my own home brew. Thus far I’ve make it in the simplest way possible; I get out an iced tea pitcher, dump in a few cups of ground coffee (decaf, please, I’m a bit oversensitive to caffeine), pour in about 3 to 4 cups of water for every cup of java, stir it up, and into the refrigerator overnight. (Albeit, I have experimented with keeping it at room temperature for 12 hours and then refrigerating it, as to boost up the flavor extraction process a bit; thus, I often go this route). I let the grounds settle and harden, and then just pour out the liquid on top, perhaps straining the final cup for excess sediment. The end result is really good coffee, in my book; a lot smoother and a touch sweeter than the hot-brew.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with coffee; I love the smell of a nice steaming cup of joe, but it usually becomes a different animal in the mouth, with all sorts of intertwining acids and bitter / sour notes competing for attention. Cold brewing seems to leave most of these “foreign” notes behind, and you get something a good bit closer to what the vapors once promised, the first time you ever got near that black potion of the gods. The main trade-off with cold-brewing, interestingly, is the wonderful vapors themselves; cold-brewing leaves behind many of the “voluables” that hot brewing brings out. So even if you heat up a cup of coffee that was produced cold, you won’t get the same wonderful fragrances. If you want the best of both worlds, then, make a cup of hot-brewed coffee and sniff it, then pour a cup of cold-brew for actual drinking!

Cold brewing seems like the better way to go, in my coffee book. However, there’s a problem with the way I’ve been doing it. Coffee has oily elements in it (i.e., “diterpenes”), and one of those is called cafestol. Most of the oil is ok, but cafestrol can raise a person’s harmful cholesterol levels (i.e., LDL’s and triglycerides) and possibly contribute to heart disease over time. If you don’t somehow filter your joe, you’re going to get a pretty good wallop of cafestol (and never even notice it, taste-wise). However, common methods of hot-brewing coffee  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 4:50 pm       Read Comments (5) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Food / Drink ... Personal Reflections ... Practical Advice ...

My brother and I were talking about restaurants the other day, after having a nice dinner at a local restaurant. We agreed that there are basically six kinds of restaurants, arrayed according to a 2 x 3 matrix (to put it mathematically; the matrix arrangement is mine, not my brothers). Along one of the two matrix axises, we have three choices: the new start-up restaurants, where the staff and management (often the owner and his or her family) are very anxious to please and go the extra mile to listen and respond to every customer’s desires and suggestions. The second choice is the restaurant that has been around for a while and is more-or-less doing OK; the owner no longer jumps thru hoops to make each customer happy, but will respond to any complaints as he or she is satisfied that the place is doing OK and wants to continue the whole enterprise.

Then there is the sunset restaurant, where the owner has decided that the place is not going to make it, and keeps the place going as long as possible just to wring out a few extra dollars in revenue as to defray all of the debt obligations that are not going to be fully paid off. The staff probably knows that the place is on the decline, and mostly just go thru the motions. Hopefully the cook will not take too many shortcuts so as to threaten food poisoning, nor let sanitation decline such that insects start showing up on the plate. But you know that some of the food being served is not quite as fresh as it might be in a better place. And you start hearing “oh, we’re out of that today” more often from the waiters.

So that’s one set of choices on the matrix grid. The other dimension holds two basic categories. The first is for restaurants that are more-or-less generic restaurants. The owner has gone around looking at other local restaurants, getting ideas on  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:17 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Food / Drink ... Practical Advice ...

I will soon post a few thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the Stanley Kubrick’s “black comedy” film “Doctor Strangelove”. In this post, I will contest the notion that there was any real comedy in that film at all. At least not to anyone who ever had to consider the real possibility at some point in their life that they could get nuked! Literally!!! T’ain’t so funny then, McGee!!!

But before we launch the B-52’s, let me talk about a more domestic kind of “nuking”, and how I used a little shortcut over the weekend in a bread-baking project. I like to bake my own bread, especially since my own homebaked bread keeps the salt content low (for health reasons – and it tastes fine to me, a little more sweet and grassy than regular salty bread, but still bread). I make it by hand, as I don’t have a bread machine (no room left in my little apartment!).

Up to now I’ve followed standard bread recipes, where you first dissolve the yeast in a cup of hot water and sugar (around 110 degrees, I use a thermometer to get it right) and let it “proof” in the water for maybe 15 minutes. Then you pour that foamy blend into the flour bowl to start the mixing and kneading process. Or, you mix the yeast in with  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:31 pm       Read Comments (3) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Photo ... Practical Advice ...

I read something about the new “microgreen movement” and I had to get on board. There’s nothing that much to it; the idea is to plant some veggie seeds somewhere in your home and let them grow for maybe 10 to 14 days, then wack them and eat the little plants with soup or in a salad. They add a fresh green taste, and they are loaded with vitamins. Pretty simple, right? Sure. Except when it’s not.

I looked up some microgreen instructions and then set up a growing tray near a window. As per the instructions, I got a aluminum food tray (the kind you bring home from restaurants when you don’t finish the meal but it’s too good not to take home — plastic trays are good too), and found a plastic water tray big enough to encircle the growing tray. I punched small holes in the bottom of the metal so that water could seep between the metal and plastic trays, then poured in some potting soil. Then I sprinkled on the seeds that I had bought especially for microgreen growing, sprayed some water over them, placed the clear plastic lid over the tray to keep it warm and moist, and I was in business!

Or so it seemed at first. The sprouts shot up quickly after a day and were soon pushing off the plastic dome. But after 5 or 6 days, something went wrong. The shoots  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 5:22 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Friday, November 15, 2013
Health / Nutrition ... Practical Advice ...

I decided to join the “consumer DNA testing” revolution not long ago, and my results just came in. Yes, I joined the crowds that have went with 23andme.com, currently the most popular consumer DNA testing service (although I might also do business with FamilyTreeDNA in the near future, given the respect they appear to have from the genealogy community). With 23andme, you get a double DNA whammy — you get both a health report AND a genealogy report. All for $109 bucks ($99 plus $10 shipping for the spit sample). Most of the competitors right now focus on one or the other.

I’m going to share some thoughts right now on how to “take” the DNA health results (not on how to “take the test”; that isn’t too hard, although you do need to be careful about getting enough spit in the tube and closing the vial properly before you put it in the shipping box). This is new and weird stuff, i.e. the idea that your body characteristics and your present and future health can be predicted by certain single nucleotide polymorphisms (“snips”) from your genes. It has the potential to be both upsetting and reassuring at the same time. Unless you are really at peace about your life and totally reconciled to whatever your future is (and my hat is off to those of you who have actually attained such a state, whether thru meditation or religious faith, or just-don’t-care-no-mo), there is going to be some stress when you get the results. 23andme even displays a page asking you before you look whether you are ready for this, or do you want to just ditch the whole thing and pretend it didn’t happen (you would still get your genealogy reports, which is really why I got tested anyway).

Next, there’s another blood pressure raiser: for certain conditions, including the BRCA gene, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinsons Disease, your results are initially  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:11 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Personal Reflections ... Practical Advice ...

Today I’m going to take a break from my usual attempts to grasp at issues of cosmic significance [mostly unsuccessfully]. I’m going to get down to some nitty gritty, for a change. Today I’m going to talk about fruit flies, and what to do when they infest your home. I’ve been dealing with these nasty little buggers for the past 3 or 4 years now, without much luck in reducing their hordes. In the winter they slack off somewhat, but summer is a halcyon time for the fruit fly nation. Once they take root in your home, you can look forward to constantly seeing them buzzing around you, oblivious to your futile swats (they are amazingly fast and agile fliers). And even if you do get lucky and managed to squash one, there are hundreds or thousands left out there, all working towards the ultimate fruit fly destiny of world domination. (What was especially unsettling was when I would look at the ceiling above my bed just before I turned out the light; it was often speckled with waiting fruit flies, obviously lying in wait as to make a meal out of my own flesh and blood!) I was ready to give in to despair, as I didn’t want to take radical measures like smogging my apartment with some really noxious poison spray, or paying an exterminating service to do that.

But over the past few months I’ve made progress in at least keeping this vermin community under control. It’s almost mid-July and we’re into the hottest part of summer; and yet, I’ve only been seeing a handful of these critters lately (and I haven’t seen the nocturnal ceiling congregation so far this year). So here’s what I can tell you about fruit flies and keeping them in check.

There seem to be web sites dedicated to almost everything these days, and fruit files are no exception. Not surprisingly, the fruit fly site is called www.fruitflies.org. It is a good place to start, in order to get to know your enemy. Fruit files are sexual creatures, as they  »  continue reading …

◊   posted by Jim G @ 3:25 pm       Read Comment (1) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Personal Reflections ... Practical Advice ...

Just before Christmas, I got a card from a guy who I worked with at my first professional job after graduating from college. That was way back in the 1970s. The guy in question, Charlie Spencer, was quite a bit older than me. Actually, he was the same age as my mother. And he came from the back woods of Pennsylvania, quite different from the urbanized realms of northern New Jersey from which I hailed. And yet, despite the age and cultural differences, we got along quite well during the time we worked together.

Charlie and I teamed up on a number of productivity improvement projects, and during the breaks we talked a lot about our lives and interests and viewpoints. We were actually friends. Despite being as old as my own parents, and having a son of his own, Charlie never treated me “like a son”. And that was a good thing, in my book. I didn’t need another parent; but as an introvert living in a new town, I did need another friend. And Charlie was able to do that; he was able to put his own age on hold, and also the realization that he knew more than I did about life and how things really work. (Now that I’m just about the age that Charlie was when we met, I realize that I know a lot more about life and how things actually work than any 24 year old does; and I also know that in another 30 years, those 24 year olds will figure this out for themselves). In working with Charlie, I started to see that he had something that I didn’t – i.e., this wisdom of old age. He just knew how to get things done with people, even though he didn’t have a college degree like I did. So I learned to respect him and just watch and pick up some tricks from him.

After two and a half years out in the working world, I was able to get into law school back home in New Jersey. So Charlie and I bid each other adieu. Oh, we promised to get together again; I said that I would come down and visit, maybe stay over with him and his wife. But of course I never did. The years went by, the 1980s and the 1990s zoomed along, and Charlie and I pretty much forgot about each other.

But actually, Charlie didn’t forget about me. Sometime in 2000, out of the blue, he called me up. It was good to hear from him. He had retired and was living down in Florida. So we swapped e-mail addresses and he invited me down to Florida for a visit. Unfortunately, my own mother was beginning to falter and would need more and more financial support for her home care. So the years went by and I kept telling Charlie that I hoped to get down to see him; but again it never happened. My brother and I had pretty much agreed that neither of us would make any road trips given my mother’s increasingly frail and unpredictable state; we agreed to respond to anything within an hour or so. Still, I kept Charlie and his Florida home on my list of places to go after my mother passes.

Unfortunately, that trip isn’t going to happen. In his card, Charlie said “send me some e-mail”. Actually, I was swapping e-mails with him back around 2002 and 2003, but he started swamping me with those unfortunate “pass this on to everyone you know” e-mails, some of which contained questionable attachments (dangerous to your computer). I started deleting his e-mails and stopped sending my own personal ones because of this, and we lost touch again — other than the annual Christmas cards. But hey, I thought, let me start the e-mail thing again. Charlie had lost his wife back in 2005, and said that he was lonely. So sure, I attached some pix of myself and my mother and brother and shot them down to him. About 10 days later, I saw a reply from his address. But instead of what I expected (“thanks for the pictures, glad to see what you look like today, etc.”), the message said “this is from Charlie’s son and his computer teacher Steve; sorry, but the bad news is that Charlie passed away on New Years Eve. He took a nap during the afternoon and never woke up …”

Now I feel an emptiness, and I’m sad about not putting more energy into staying in touch with Charlie. I don’t even have a picture of him. With certain people, they come and go through your life and you take it in stride. But with a special few, it’s like an iceberg; their significance to you is very real but is well hidden. You’re not fully conscious of what they mean to your life until they’re gone. As with my late Uncle Bruno. And as much as I respect her, I don’t stay up nights thinking about my ex-wife; but I’m still a bit hung up on the memory of a girl in high school who tried to get past my Asperger’s-like barriers to make contact with the super-nerdy kid that I was (and still am, in various respects). Well, she never did get past my immature suspicions and fears, and I haven’t seen nor heard any references to her in the 37 years since I graduated from high school (not even Google or classmates.com have helped; but that’s probably just as well). Even now, though, I still think of her. As with Uncle Bruno. And now, Charlie Spencer.

So watch out for those “iceberg” people in your life. Do what the Titanic did, even though it shouldn’t have; get close to them and keep close. Real icebergs will sink ships, but relationship icebergs are good for the soul.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:39 pm       Read Comments (2) / Leave a Comment
 
 
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Personal Reflections ... Practical Advice ...

Many years ago, my ex-wife and I went our own ways after an earnest but star-crossed attempt to “build a life together”. During the process, she gave me a farewell present of sorts. It was a little acrylic birdfeeder meant to be attached to the outside of a glass window. My ex was a pro-nature, “Mother Earth” kind of person, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. I graciously accepted her gift, but being the mechanical kind of guy that I am (you can see why we really weren’t meant for each other), I was rather dubious about its utility. Sure, it would be nice to see wild birds at a window every day. But I doubted if its small suction cups would hold the thing up for more than a few hours. One blue jay, or even a starling, would bring it down. It was another idea that was just like our marriage: idealistic but unable to survive in this rough-and-tumble world of ours.

Being a pack-rat, however, I never threw the thing out. It sat in a box gathering dust in some corner of my apartment since the late 1980’s. This past spring, I came across it again, and I had an idea. I have an exterior air conditioner mounted in a window in my living room. Maybe with a piece of wood and some duct tape, I could attach the thing to the window and yet provide vertical support from the air conditioner. One Saturday afternoon I started experimenting, and voila, I came up with a reasonably sturdy support arrangement for the birdfeeder. I bought a small bag of cheap feed mix from the supermarket, loaded up the thing, and waited.

Finally, after a week or so, a couple of sparrows acknowledged my generosity. Then came a mourning dove or two. Then a blue jay stopped by, and of course some starlings followed. But then I saw a tufted titmouse making occasional forays from a tree across the driveway. And then came the cardinal couple, recently arrived from the south. Seeing the shocking-red male cardinal with his black mask just outside my window, along with his brown-feathered mate, got me hooked. Before long I started fiddling with different kinds of feed, including old bread, black sunflower seed, and dried corn. It was all good fun.

But you bird feeding enthusiasts out there know what came next. One day I heard an unusual amount of noise coming from the top of the air conditioner; of course, it was from a squirrel gobbling up the day’s bounty. I made some noises and managed to chase the thing away. But the next day he was back, and the next, and the next. He would still jump back down to the driveway whenever I arrived at the window making threatening sounds. But a half-hour later he was back, finishing off what I had hoped would be enjoyed by the cardinals and their more dowdy-winged companions. The birds still managed to get a few nibbles in, but given how fast the food was disappearing each day, I was obviously doing more to support the local squirrel population than anything else.

If you do an internet search on squirrels and bird feeders, you can read a wide variety of opinions and approaches to the problem. Some people just give in and try to enjoy the natural charms (?) of the grey squirrel. Others totally give up; birds don’t really need people to feed them, as they know how to get by on grass seed and wild berries. Others try to appease the squirrels, setting up a feeding area just for them at the other end of the property. And then there are those red-blooded bird-lovers who see this strategy as a replay of Chamberlain at Munich in 1938.

I am that kind of bird lover. With Churchillian resolve, I vowed to fight squirrels on the driveway, fight them on the garbage cans, fight them on the house shingles, fight them on the air conditioner — and never surrender! But being an apartment renter in a twit-town (Montclair, NJ), I would have to stay within certain boundaries. I.e., no permanent attachments to the house, no traps, nothing that smacked of animal cruelty. OK, I was ready for the challenge.

First off, I cut some pieces of wood and taped them to the sides of the feeder (which was otherwise open on three sides). This cut off the preferred attack route of the enemy, but still allowed birds to fly and perch on the front edge of the feeder (slightly over the front of the air conditioner). I also re-arranged the garbage cans below my window, as to make the jump up to the air conditioner more difficult. This seemed to work for a few days. But one fine Saturday morning, there was that furry tail in the window again. The local squirrels adapted to the side panels by learning to perch atop the feeder, craning their necks like a vacuum cleaner hose down into the feed bin. This was a classic case of attack, response, and counter-response. My ex-wife would smugly proclaim the victory of Nature at this point, and advise me to just learn to live with the furry little critters.

But, as the web site discussions on this point clearly indicate, there are thousands of humans out there who see the struggle to feed birds without rodent interference as their privilege and destiny. So I got my tool kit out again and fashioned some further additions to the feeder. These included a small “porch” meant to push the birds back an inch or so from the feeding tray (so as to minimize the volume of seed falling down on to the driveway, otherwise attracting the attention of all critters in the area); and a 4-inch high “stage front” over the top edge of the feeder, meant to keep squirrels from perching atop the feeder. I also put some wood pieces into an alcove along the side of the air conditioner, after observing the squirrel invasion tactics (i.e., jump from the garbage can or adjacent window screen into the alcove, then jump from there onto the top of the AC).

Well, the first line of this new defense worked for a few days. But the enemy soon learned how to grab on to the wood in the alcove, and lurch themselves up from there. As to my second line of defense — the “front” over the top edge of the feeder — they soon figured out a way to anchor their feet on to it and lower their shoulders down into the feed bin. Most interesting. What was also interesting was their reticence to just cram themselves into the bin, tail and all, and suck up the food all around them. I saw them do this a couple of times; but each time, they would only stay for a moment or two, then get out. Most interesting once again — squirrels obviously don’t like to go into a walled-off area; they must have an instinct against becoming trapped.

OK, the squirrels had made another tactical adaptation; but this inspired a further response on my own part. I fashioned a higher “front”, and glued a small dowel stick, which protruded down into the entrance area. It would hardly affect the birds, but would require squirrels to enter the feeder perpendicularly, with their tails exposed to the public. If they had an anti-trapping instinct, they would certainly not favor this arrangement. So, after an hour or two of cutting hardboard and gluing and taping some wooden support pieces, I upped the ante for my opponents.

A day or two later, I watched with both alarm and fascination as a squirrel hopped onto the feeder, jumped to the top of the new edge front, and hung himself downward into the feed tray. I could see what he did in order to access the feed; basically, he had to twist his head a full 180 degrees. Amazing. But even more amazing was when he gave up after a minute or two! What? Did I finally find the limit of what even a squirrel can endure in its relentless search for food? Was this the end of the beginning, if not yet the beginning of the end?

Hah! The next day I came home, only to find that my super edge-front had been torn off and sent down to the driveway macadam. I realized what was being said: “we ain’t playing no more”. I was a bit shaken given the level of force involved, but I took the hardboard edge-front back into the house and pondered the situation. I was almost ready to give in, but the web site discussions on the squirrel-bird feeder war renewed my faith in the power of the human race. First off, there were things I could do to structurally reinforce the edge front; I had previously relied on a rather lame version of duct tape, which was colored green to appease the environmental notions of my neighbors. Second, there were more things that could help to block the access route — e.g., covering the alcove area with slippery plastic. Third, and most important, I could make the reward less rewarding. There are several approaches here. First off, squirrels like big, chunky food like corn bits and sunflower seeds. They don’t like the smaller milo and millet seeds (although they will certainly eat them in a pinch). They dislike safflower seeds even more. So I went to Home Depot and got some safflower seeds, which are a bit expensive relative to basic bird food (but on the other side of the coin, cardinals are said to love this kind of seed).

However, the big gun is hot pepper. Birds just don’t taste it, but squirrels do. Even the most legitimate biology science web sites agree about this. There are some anti-animal cruelty sites that urge bird feeders not to add pepper flakes to the mix, because of the unpleasantry it causes to squirrels. But that said to me that it probably works! And excuse me, animal activists, but squirrels are extremely tough creatures; a little bit of ragin’ Cajun cuisine isn’t going to harm them, although it might send them looking for milder fare.

So I got out the pepper flakes and mixed them into the safflower and milo. The feeder was still “naked” of its front-edge defense, quite open to the hungry squirrel. The next day, I watched as the big tail popped up outside the window; I couldn’t believe my eyes. The dang thing stuck its nose into the feed, and immediately withdrew it. It walked away. And yet the birds kept on gobbling the stuff down, oblivious to the seasoning.

But that didn’t deter me from pursing the other upgrades to the defense system, i.e. the sheet of plexi-glass over the alcove and the beefed-up structure supporting the re-installed edge-front, along with a parallel “middle front” to keep the critters from finding a comfortable position with which to attack the edge panel. My brother also gave me some anti-critter pepper granules made by “Havaheart”, meant to deter ground approach. It seems like a pretty good system overall, one with various layers (kind-of like the American anti-ballistic missile system). But only time will tell how it will all work, especially once winter comes and squirrels get really hungry.

Actually, I don’t intend to take the battle any further; otherwise I’d have to buy a portable generator and a mask, and learn to arc-weld plate steel inside my apartment. (Not to mention that favorite squirrel solution out in the heartlands, i.e. the rifle and the skillet; the web has plenty of squirrel recipes!) At some point, even I will give in; I’d throw whatever feed I had left into the backyard and let nature take its course without my further interference. I’d go back to enjoying the antics of the local avian population from a distance. Including their fights and other nasty behavior.

But still, it will be good to know that with the help of human resources such as the Internet and Home Depot, I gave the critters a good run for the money — but I also know when to stop. My ex-wife couldn’t appreciate this, but it is important for humans to do their thinking and tinkering and researching and engineering. But admittedly, it’s also important for us to play within the rules. Squirrels can’t do research, can’t share ideas, can’t engineer solutions, and can’t make up and honor rules of fair play. I might make them climb and twist a bit, and give them a hot mouthful or two, but I’m not crippling or killing them. Whatever happens, I can still say that this is my finest hour.

(Or pretty good, anyway).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 8:01 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Personal Reflections ... Practical Advice ...

I’ve read about the relatively new mini-fluorescent light bulbs on the market, and how they hold great potential to cut our nation’s overall power consumption, improve the environment, and help forestall the upcoming calamity of global warming. Well, not wanting to be left out in such a noble cause, I decided on my last visit to Home Depot to invest in such a bulb. I bought a 30 watt bulb advertised as holding the equivalent illumination of an incandescent 120 W bulb. It sounded perfect for the lamp next to my reading chair, which presently uses a 100 W bulb. So I shelled out the $9 or so for the high-tech bulb and felt all warm and fuzzy about cutting power consumption, improving the earth and maybe even helping my own eyes.

Alas, the bulb turned out to not be the panacea that was promised. First off, the bulb was not good for reading. It just isn’t as bright as a regular 100 W bulb, despite the advertising claims. In fact, it’s noticeably less bright than a regular bulb. Second off, it’s rather large. It doesn’t fit in a lot of places where a 100 W or 60 W bulb can now be used. (However, the 60 W equivalents do fit fairly well into existing bulb spaces). In fact, aside from my reading lamp, I could only find one other place in my house where this bulb could be used (and it’s an out-of-the-way place where I only occasionally turn on the light). Third, the mini-fluorescent has mercury in it. Thus, it says on the package that you can’t just throw it out when it finally burns out. You need some sort of special environmentally approved program to get rid of it (hopefully your town has a hazardous waste pickup day). People say that this is not really a problem, since the average mini-fluorescent will last 7 to 9 years, and makes up for its environmental downside by saving a lot of electricity (and thus carbon emissions).

Personally, I found the thing disappointing. There are places in the home where the larger mini-fluorescents would work well – maybe ceiling lights or porch lights. But they are not good for reading purposes, and they have an environmental downside (aside from being a pain in the neck to properly dispose of – and how many people are going to go looking for a mercury disposal program versus just tossing them in with last night’s dinner scraps?). So I’m going to hold off until a truly and greener better light bulb is invented. (In the interim, I will spend a few bits more for the longer lasting incandescents.)

◊   posted by Jim G @ 9:08 pm       No Comments Yet / Leave a Comment
 
 
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