Sunday, April 30, 2006

Solar & Wind Power

OK. It was a thought. We figured that if it was financially feasible it would be worth investigating. The short answer, after reading 3 books and visiting a local "green store" the following conclusions have been drawn:

1. My preference: a micro turbine mounted on the garage.

Rationale: we live in an area with an annual average of 13.5 mph winds! Needed for operating a turbine: 9 mph annual average.

Downside: Turbines are LOUD and VIBRATE and must be mounted on a tower away from the house. I doubt we could get cleared for that by the zoning board and our neighbors would hate us. Also, we would need to dig another trench (not a big issue) AND (here's the "bite") buy a bank of batteries plus an inverter.

2. Feasible Option (according to our local green store operator): Grid Tied Solar.

Rationale: it is the most cost-effective option as no batteries are needed. The dial spins backwards when the sun shines and you are not using electricity and spins forward when your use exceeds your generation.

Downside: "Feasible" and "cost-effective" are very relative terms it turns out. A 2 kW system (average size) will produce about 1/3 of our annual electricity (optimistically). The cost, in the absence of state subsidies - which are all spent for this fiscal year, would be amortized over 38 years! We would be dead before we got a return on investment and THAT assumes that we didn't sell the house to "downsize" to a smaller house or move to a southern, less expensive location at retirement. With the subsidy the payback time drops to 25 years.

This is so not happening with saving for retirement, still supporting one child in college (Go, Deb!) and with two other children returning to college that we would like to help but simply lack the resources to do very much for them at the present time.

And that is all WITHOUT the battery bank that would keep the power on if the grid goes down.

So much for THAT good idea! This is nothing like our hybrid (Honda Civic 2005) car which has a payback on the hybrid expense of about 3 -5 years and an 8 year warranty on the battery pack.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Another 'First'

Yesterday was another 'first' for me in my new foray as an audio-visual technician at our church. I have run the mixing board (32 channel Midas board) but had never run the visual side. Until this week. I arrived early to help set up the microphones and found that the audio tech was already there working on it. I spent a few minutes identifying which microphones were connected to which channel.

The pastor arrived a few minutes later by which time I had already powered up the church's computer for running the PowerPoint slides for the music. He downloaded the slide set (65 slides) to the computer and asked if I could run the slides for the rehearsal as the tech assigned for yesterday is on that rarely shows up and even less often fulfills his duties for the day. I agreed readily while indicating that this was my first occasion to do so. The pastor gave me a 3 - 5 minute outline of how the set is put together and the manner in which he wanted them advanced. Oh, by the way, there is a baby dedication and there are a few slides for that as well.

We made it through the practice alright with just a few miscues as I figured out the transitions between the songs and how to start the slide show in the middle of the slide set. I know - pretty basic stuff. I was preparing to go down to lead the song service for Sabbath School when the pastor, the pastor's son, and a gentleman I had never met (Carl) who was to be our speaker for the church hour showed up to set things up for he part of the presentation. On their heels came the Sabbath School superintendent withh a DVD containing the Mission Spotlight for me to play during Sabbath School. I told her I couldn't be two places at one - leading song service and immediately afterwards running the Mission Spotlight from the balconey at the other end of the building. I arranged for the pastor's son to run it while assisting Carl with his set up.

After leading the Sabbath School discussion for my class, I made my way belatedly to the balcony after a visit to the WC. The pastor's son met me on the way and inquired if I was running the slides. I indicated that I would if needed. He told me that his dad had said that where I had rehearsed the songs with them, I should do it for the service. That made sense to me. Up we went for me to learn what else lay in store for the service.

Carl indicated that he had:
1. A DVD clip (Ghosts of Rwanda/PBS) at the beginning of the service,

2. Corel Presentations Scripture slides (end of service).

Just a couple things:

A. The laptop (Toshiba Tecra, Pentium II/Win 95) has no battery - if the power cord comes out, the computer will power down (where upon followed the sequence to prevent the diagnostic boot up and procedure for loading Corel Presentations),

B. I would have to switch the monitor from the church desktop to the laptop - quickly, after "muting" the projector to prevent this manuver from distracting the worshippers - and while avoiding the power cord.

The set up to permit this involved me sitting through the service with the laptop sitting astraddle the top of the desktop which was turned sideways between my legs to permit rapid access to the back. With the laptop turned 90 degrees to permit access simultaneously to its back and keyboard, with it's screen raised about 1/3 of the way I would be able to operate the "PG UP" &"PG DN" buttons on the near side of the keyboard. I was completely unable to see the laptop screen but could monitor the flatpanel screen that sent the image to the projector.

With a prayer for God's blessing on the service it went amazingly well with only one small miscue when I misjudged the length of the "Intro" on one song requiring a quick retreat to the previous slide as each slide has transitions built into it with graphics that fade in and out to match the lyrics of the song.

The Scripture slides at the end were to be "loose" - he would stop sometimes and talk and sometimes would just read through the passage and go directly on to the next slide. It was a bit anxious until I learned to read his body language which told me when he was going to stop without waiting for him to say anything. He cued me the first couple slides: "Reading on..." but after he did not need to say anything and we moved together through the slide set without comment.

All in all I enjoyed it MUCH better than being on the audio board and would prefer to work the visual aids side. The pastor liked it because the slides were advanced properly. The previous week, Easter Program, he told the technician how to advance them and was ignored. Four time the slides were not advanced in a timely fashion causing a momentary pause in the congregational singing each time. I may have found a niche.

My ignorance of some of the details for the audio side showed through: neither I nor this week's audio tech could figure out how to make the 3 new wireless mikes work. We didn't know that they each had a separate radio station that needed to have a powerswitch turned on. Duh. Though this was not obvious as there is a single switch that I had been "told" controlled ALL the AV equipment. Not, as it turns out. We both now know that. There needs to be a "basic operations instruction sheet" typed up. Someday when I have nothing to do, maybe! Until then we are all working "seat of the pants" and using the expertise of the pastor's son and a member who has worked around sound boards and amplifiers for decades with his electric guitars (Fender basses).

Sunday, April 09, 2006

One More Gone, One to Go...

One daughter moved out today into her own apartment. That leaves just one daughter still "living here" though she is away at college most of the year.

Here are a couple photos of the 'remains' of her departure (plus a HUGE pile of unshelved books in her "book nook" in the attic - all of which "MUST GO!" - hopefully, sooner rather than later).

Daughter's Former Room - 1

As you can see, there is trash to be carried downstairs and outside, vacuuming to do, and a general decluttering. Nonetheless, this is huge progress!

Daughter's Former Room - 2

The "next life" for this room is for it, after a thorough cleaning, to become Jean's permanent sewing room and her current sewing room will become an official guest room.

Site of the Recently Departed Media Center

This is the hole left by the "recently departed" 43" Hitachi Wide-Screen (Rear-Projedtion) TV that Beth bought while working as an associate at Sears. Yes, I provided the $$ however, she is the one that spotted it, wanted it, and got a huge (~50%) mark down on it. Jean and I rarely watch TV and we can get by for a while with another one that is still in the house and we believe can be used just fine.

The family room corner needs a good cleaning, just as the former bedroom does. All in good time. We are just bone tired from being kept up until after 11:15 PM by Gram, awaking at our usual time (~ 6 AM) and getting up, ready and on the road before 8 AM and back at our house by 11:15 AM just in time to carry things downstairs at our house, load the (van, car, pick up truck) and then carry everything upstairs into her new apartment.

The "volunteers" took two full sized pick up truck-loads, two long-wheel based mini-van loads and twice her own car went packed to the gills as well. I'm surprised it all fit in, though there are a LOT of boxes on the floor still.

We came home tired. Very tired! We even bought supper! We NEVER do that: Wendy's baked potatoes, cheese, broccoli and Frosties.

Yesterday afternoon we drove down to my Mom's house to pick up a dresser she is giving me which we will put in a bedroom that we are setting up for her to stay in when she comes to visit. Which will not be frequent or soon, it appears. My siblings are making arrangements for her to remain in her home with periodic in home help. But that is another post. The dresser has carved drawer fronts that matches the headboard/footboard of a bed that we have had for many years AND is the dresser that I used growing up.

While down there we loaded up our daughter's belongings to bring back home as she moved out today into her own apartment. The apartment is quite nice and very roomy and bright. We had a total of 5 people working from 11:15 AM to 5:30 PM (or thereabouts) with an extra hand carrying her media center up the stairs.

Her very kind younger sister completely set up her kitchen: cleaning the cupboards, washing the dishes and arranging things in the cupboards and shelves. Her computer table and bed are set up, her dresser is repaired and in place. She even has some art work hung/placed. Beth, her very self, assembled her "chair". Many boxes need sorting and putting away. Things that are lost much be sought: including the power cord and USB cable for her printer. We found the ones that go to her "old" printer which has been donated to the church in NH where Gram attends. They can await a future trip south to meet up with the printer that we simply left there.

We pray for success for her in her new endeavor: she starts at 6:45 AM at her new job - tomorrow morning, as she will have 2 weeks of training on days before starting to work the evening shift which is much more compatible with her life style.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A (Couple) Bad "Apples" In Every Fridge (or Pantry)

Tonight's "liquid" blueberry jam

Remember the post "Lightening Struck Twice"? I wanted to recycle that title.

Last night at the supper table there was a "discussion" as to whether the Welch's Grape Jelly was "bad": I said it was crystalized and my dearly beloved said that it was "fungus". To decide the point I tasted it and found nothing amiss. Actually, I tasted two small amounts. Jean later cleaned off the top of the jelly and to my discomfort it did not really look crystalized - it was just a small layer on the top that really did look like "colony" growth of some microorganism.

Last night I slept poorly: due to stomach pains. Later this morning that resolved after clearing the offending material. Avoiding, I hope, TMI/TGI.

This evening I brought up a brand new jar of blueberry jam to add to my homemade yogurt for my lunch tomorrow. I thought it strange that it seemed to "flow" in the jar when tilted. When I opened it, instead of being leery after last night I "plopped" a heaping spoonful into the yogurt jar only to note a somewhat "off" odor as I did so. I got a clean spoon and took a taste. Definitely a bit off. I tried it again to be sure(Idiot that I am). Jean confirmed my assessment and I went downstairs for another jar which was normal in appearance, odor and texture.

You'd think some people would learn. And explain to me how one ends up with two spoiled jars of fruit jelly/jam/preserves on consecutive nights, and one of them unopened/new?