Sunday, November 30, 2008

Psychology Of Water Vapor

Now here's another fascinating tidbit I came across in my cold-adaptation research: Did you know that the "relative" in "relative humidity" is "relative to how much water the air could hold, at the current temperature"? Hot air can hold more moisture than cold air. So if you keep the actual amount (mass) of water in the air the same, higher temperatures give lower relative humidities. And since the relative humidity determines how fast damp objects (such as our bodies) dry out, this is what we perceive. From a human perspective, the absolute amount of water vapor in the air is fairly meaningless, unless you know the temperature.

From the limited data I can find out there, humans seem to feel physically and psychologically best at relative humidities between 40% and 60%. More than that starts to feels "muggy" in hot weather and "dank" in cool weather.

At the other end of the spectrum, people around here often complain that the "air is too dry in the winter", causing dry eyes, chapped lips, etc. But it seems that to at least some degree, this perceived "too dry"ness is primarily indoors, manmade, and a result of (guess what?) artificial heating.

Take this morning, for example. In the Smallish City right now it's cool and cloudy outside. A small sleet-storm is edging its way towards us for later in the day. The temperature is 28F (-2C) and the relative humidity is 78%. Walking around outdoors, you certainly don't feel the air is "too dry". The cold air can't hold much absolute moisture, but it's holding about as much as it can-- so your body isn't drying out quickly. If anything, it borders on feeling "dank" out there. And when the sleet starts, it will surely feel downright wet.

Here in my kitchen, however, I have a space heater running to keep the temperature at a toasty 51F (10.5C). The actual amount of water in the air is about the same as outside. But at this indoor temperature, the air could hold a lot more water vapor. The relative humidity drops to 32%-- feeling just a bit on the dry side, but still fine for me.

I look out at Accordion Neighbor's house, though, and notice that he's got his woodstoves cranking. He probably has it up to 68F (20C) in his house, like "normal" people. At that scorching temperature, the relative humidity in his place right now is a parching 17%. The water is being sucked out of his family's bodies into the hot air. He probably has chapped lips, his kids might have bloody noses and dry throats (indeed, I haven't heard them scream in several days), and they are all probably going through hand-moisturizer at a rapid clip.

A.N. is probably trying to counter this problem with an old trick: keeping a kettles of steaming water on top of the woodstoves to get some extra humidity into the air. (A similar old trick is used around here by those with radiator heat: narrow buckets of water that hang from the radiator, getting warm & evaporating moisture into the air.) This trick isn't necessarily a bad idea, for human comfort-- but from a standpoint of energy-efficiency it's very much a losing battle. In an old house, it won't be long before that water vapor makes its way back outdoors. And, as we learned in a previous thought-experiment, evaporating water costs you temperature, and energy. Every gallon of water you purposefully evaporate costs you a couple pounds of nice firewood, or cup of fuel oil.

So, call me a crackpot, but: one way to keep yourself feeling dried out in winter is to keep your house cooler.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Home For Holiday

6:20 am. Sleeping. I dream of a Klingon tractor beam, boring into my eyes.

I awake to find Favorite And Only Nephew shining a flashlight at my face.

FAON: Grammy said I could wake you up.
Me: She did, huh?
FAON: Yes. You have to open your eyes, so I know you're awake.
Me: Okay. Please turn off the flashlight, though.
FAON: Well, I'm going to turn on the lights then.
Me: Please don't turn on the lights. I'm still waking up. Grown-ups wake up more slowly than kids.
FAON: That's not true. Grammy and Grandpa wake up fast.
Me: Uncles are different.
Me: What are we going to do today?
FAON: I don't know. No one likes to think of such things.

FAON turns on the lights and exits the room.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Physiology Experiment, Part I: A Turbo History of Central Heating in New England

So, over the past few months, I got to thinking, you know, about Peak Oil, and about how-- or even whether-- people are going to live in New England after. We use a crapload of oil (and natural gas) staying warm up here. Everyone talks about how much fossil fuel cars burn up, but that really pales in comparison to what most around here burn up heating our homes (not to mention other buildings). Mid-winter even a small home of average age is likely burning four, six, eight gallons of oil a day or more. Crazy. Some people heed suggestions such as "turn your thermostat down one degree to save up to 3% on your heating bill", but in the big picture that doesn't add up to much.

In winter, here, we run from warm place to warm place. We keep our homes somewhere between 65˚ and 72˚F, maybe turning it down to 58˚ or 60˚ just before we dive under the warm bed covers. Our offices, malls, supermarkets, and other enormous buildings are kept on the warm side of the range. In our cars, where the heat is "free", we tend to really blast it. Many people even have remote car-starters so the car can be run for several minutes before they leave the house, avoiding those few moments of cold driving before the heater kicks in. We grudgingly tolerate bits of cold between racing from house to car and car to office, but generally (with the exception, for some, of weekend outdoor recreation) we makes no bones about avoiding cold as much as possible. Most people with means take a mid-winter trip south to "warm up". Even the words "warm" and "cold" have clear positive and negative connotations in our language.

But the reality is, this is not a remotely sustainable way to live in this climate. The ongoing (increasing) population of this region is attributable, mostly, to good fortune in heating-fuel developments. Let's review the history:

When Europeans first arrived here, there was plenty of wood to burn. There were huge trees everywhere, and not many people. In the 17th century, massive, inefficient fireplaces burned massive quantities of wood to keep homes barely warm. Burn all you want, they made more. Slowly, though, there were more people, and fewer trees. The remaining trees were increasingly far from the population centers, and it was not so practical to transport wood (which is very bulky, for its energy content) over increasingly long distances. For a while, the wood-heat economy was sustained by 18th-century improvements in technology, particularly the Franklin stove and Rumford fireplace, which burned wood more efficiently.

These innovations only staved off the inevitable. By the 1840's, the majority of land in every New England state (with the exception of remote parts of Maine) had been cleared of trees. Widely-dispersed rural citizens still had enough enough nearby trees to heat their own homes and villages, but acquiring firewood wood in urban areas became increasingly difficult to untenable.

Luckily, about this time, along coal and railroads. Coal has far more BTU's per pound than wood, and the railroads were more efficient than ox-carts for transporting heavy loads. And the supply was plentiful. In addition, it was more convenient: coal was so compact that an entire winter's worth could easily be stored in the cellar. And a coal fire could be "banked" before bed to provide heat all through the night without re-loading. In response to these pressures and advantages, metropolitan areas rapidly switched over to coal heat.

Initially, coal heat came from coal stoves which provided local heat in the house, much like their wood-stove predecessors. Later, a crude sort of "central heat" was employed in which a massive coal stove in the cellar sat under a grating in the floor above. Heat rose up through the grating to the first floor of the house, where daytime living took place. A second floor was likely to contain the bedrooms, which received only residual heat, either through a second set of grates or, more likely, just an open staircase. Warmth in bed depended on quilts, pets, spouses and (shocking) siblings.

This system was not especially efficient, however. The basement must've been the warmest place in the house. And upstairs, some rooms would've been much warmer than others. The next advance was steam heat. In this scheme, you still have a big coal furnace in the cellar. But instead of heating the air, it boils water to produce steam. The steam is led by a system of pipes to radiators throughout the house, where it condenses, releases its heat, and flows back as water to the boiler. Radiators and pipes could be sized and located in such a fashion as to produce "balanced heat"-- every room roughly the same temperature, and even each part of each room roughly the same temperature. All the homeowner had to do, when he wanted to warm up the house, was go down cellar and throw a shovel-full of coal into the furnace. The rest was more or less automatic. As an additional benefit, the precision with which steam could be moved upwards allowed houses to reach up to more than two floors, while keeping all the heat-stoking machinery in the basement. This, I'm sure, was one factor which led to the boom of New England triple-decker construction starting in the 1870's.

The advantages of central steam heat, it seems, were so compelling that all new construction employed it, and everyone else retro-fitted it. Growing up in Major Metropolitan Area in the 1970's, steam was still by far the most prevalent method of residential heating. Hundred-year-old steam radiators are still at work in the Turbopalace, in my parents' house, and in millions more homes. The disadvantages-- primarily, the habit of the pipes to bang and clank-- were sufficiently minor as to still be tolerated today.

But coal as the source of the heat to provide the steam was not to last. In spite of its improvements over wood, coal had several detractions: it was dirty to handle, it was dirty to burn, and it could not easily by fed into furnaces by automatic machinery, Perhaps most importantly, you could not readily turn a coal fire on and off-- you could crudely control the heat upstairs by shoveling more or less coal under the boiler, but that was about the limit of thermostatic adjustment.

The appearance of oil (and later, natural gas) solved all these problems. With oil, you never have to see, let alone touch, the fuel that will heat your home. Instead of a dusty coal bin in the cellar, you have a sealed oil tank. Instead of shoveling the coal into the furnace by hand, it flows through a pipe to the burner. The burner runs on electricity, has a powerful blower, and can be controlled by a thermostat upstairs. The only remaining tasks for the resident are selecting a preferred temperature, setting the thermostat, and paying the oil bill. Truly miraculous. Sometime around WWII, virtually everyone retrofitted their steam systems to run on oil burners instead of coal. [The suddenness of this seems to have been a bit Pompeii-esque, and has left considerable evidence of the earlier era. Often the old, disconnected coal boiler was left in place for decades next to the modern oil one. And often a partial-season's worth of coal was left in the cellar. I remember as a kid that there was still a coal shoot, and some lumps of coal, in our basement. V., over at Life In The Slow Lane, reports the house she bought a few years ago has a pile of coal downstairs to this day.]

In theory, this has been "progress", and everything has gotten more efficient, wasting less and less of the heat contained in our fuels. But, in typical American fashion, that efficiency has been tapped more to increase comfort and convenience than to reduce fuel use. This seems, to me, directly related to the increasing physical and psychic distance we have from the fuel. We've gone from being able to count the trees out back, to having coal rolling across the landscape from West Virginia in open hopper cars, to having oil delivered from Saudi Arabia in tankers and pipelines that are largely unseen. We've gone from having every member of the family handling pieces of firewood throughout the house all day long, to one person handling coal in the cellar once or twice a day, to never touching or even seeing it. We've lost direct connection to our heating fuel, and that makes us much much more likely to waste it.

In my opinion, our current trajectory and attitude is wholly unsustainable. All else being equal, if oil goes up to $6 a gallon, or OPEC clamps down the supply, people will not feel it's worth living here. I envision New England rapidly depopulating.

If we could burn fuel with the efficiency of today, but with the habits of yesteryear, we'd be in much better shape. In my parents' older house, and my grandparents' even older one, there has never been a source of heat in the bedrooms. The only heater on the top floor of the house is a small radiator in the bathroom-- and that, I surmise, only as a necessity to keep the water pipes from freezing. When my parents bought their house in 1972, there weren't even ventilation grates to the heated floor below. Bedtime was cold time. Sometimes really, fucking, bone-chillingly cold. I well remember when, some years later, my parents caved in (slightly) to the modern concept of warm bedrooms and had some small gratings cut in the floors, to let a speck of heat upstairs. That was a big luxury. But the other day I was researching what the definition of a "bedroom" is (for property-tax purposes) and found that in many modern jurisdictions a "bedroom" is required to have heat. Things have changed.

There is no doubt about it: People here in New England used to be colder all winter. And yet they didn't move away. Even before the softy Europeans discussed above, Native Americans somehow found winter here tolerable-- and they didn't even have the benefit of metal tools to cut trees, or stoves to burn them in. How can it be that the Abenaki and Penobscot and Wampanoag made it through hundreds of winters here? How can it be that the Pilgrims didn't abandon the region as uninhabitable, after the first winter?

The only good explanation I can think of is that people in the past used to adapt to cold, while people of today just avoid it. I am on a bit of a quest to discover whether this might be true.

A Song I Can Get Behind

"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing
To work for a world without fear, without war
Unite all our people, bring peace to every nation
We pledge ourselves in fellowship firmly to stand."

These, anyway, were the lyrics sung at the Shady Grove School, in my youth, and still sung to this day on Thanksgiving by the Turbo Family (sometimes, even, in public.)

Only just now, researching the hymn on the web, did I learn that these are not the usual lyrics. In fact, as far as Google is concerned, this version of the lyrics don't seem to exist at all, outside of any fading purple-mimeographed copies which may still be filed in the long-lost binders of my grade-school classmates. Probably, the lyrics above were penned by one of our barely-ex-hippie music teachers, quite possibly in a cloud of cannabis smoke. The standard lyrics, while still reasonably pleasant, are considerably less world-peace-and-happiness. The lean considerably more towards God-is-on-our-side-and-will-bust-the-other-guys.

In fact, I was somewhat distressed to learn, the original lyrics were written in 16th-century Holland to celebrate a Dutch military victory over Spain. Granted, it seems that the campaign was one of self-defense/liberation for the Dutch-- but still, this was not the origin I had in mind for what I've always thought of a most peaceful song.

And speaking of lack of peace-- if you do see the Turbo Family preparing to perform this in public, I advise you run and/or apply earplugs immediately. It's going to be disturbingly off-key.

Happy Thanksgiving to all the locals. And to those elsewhere: give us a little time, we're trying to catch up.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things I Like (Winter Version)

Apples cooking, any sort
Brown paper packages, tied up with strings
Christmas Wrapping
Dreaming of sailing
Fire, any
Frozen ponds whooping
Hissing radiators (eventually)
Hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps
Hot tubs
Sauna / Snow / Sauna / Snow
Simmering soup
Ski wax
Sleeping bags
Smallish City's Whacky Xmas Lights
Snuggly cat

[Concept credit: Life In The Slow Lane]

Friday, November 21, 2008

Factual Data

My estimate of 1.5 gallons of residual water in a load of wet laundry was slightly high. I did an average-size load of darks yesterday (including two towels) and took measurements:

Weight before washing: 13.5 lbs
Weight after washing: 22.0 lbs
Weight of residual water: 8.5 lbs
Volume of residual water: 1.06 gallons

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No Free Thermodynamic Lunch

Just an addendum to the last post, with regard to comments suggesting air-drying clothes as an eco-friendly alternative to using the electric dryer:

Air-drying is great for outdoors. And maybe even indoors in the summer. But is it really "free"/super-eco-friendly to dry things indoors in winter? My data says, no. It says that drying clothes in your house cools your house down, and not insubstantially.

Consider: turning liquid water to water vapo(u)r takes energy, and a lot of it, no matter how it's done. If you've ever tended the fire in a maple-syrup evaporator you know how much firewood it takes to boil 10 gallons of sap down to a one gallon of syrup. Similarly, if you've ever stood outside on a cold day getting hypothermic in wet cotton clothing you have a sense much energy water evaporation sucks out of you. And, just as in melting ice to water, the vast majority of that energy is not to make the water warmer, but to change its phase from liquid to gas.

So-- maybe you want numbers. Well, the first question is: how much residual water is left in a big load of wet laundry, when it comes out of the washer? I am going to determine this when next I do laundry, using a bathroom scale-- but for now let's guess maybe 1.5gal = 6litres? Which doesn't seem like that much... until you do the thermodynamic math*, and find that it takes 3.76 kWh = 3,234 kcal to dry up that much water.

Perhaps you don't have a sense of how much heat 3.76kWh is. It's about 3.4lbs / 1.5 kg of nice, dry maple firewood, if you have an efficient woodstove. It's about 1/2 a liter of gasoline, burned efficiently. It's 125 sixty-watt lightbulbs, left on for half an hour. It's the energy my particular electric dryer uses if you run it for 40 minutes.

And unfortunately, when you rack-dry clothes in a house that you're trying to keep warm, that energy doesn't come from the kcal-fairy. It has to come from your furnace, or woodstove, or space-heater, or whatever fuel you're using to keep your house warm, running longer or hotter. Really. Disbelieve? Close off one room & try covering the radiator there with wet towels... see what happens.

But I have no contest with the argument that line-drying is better for your clothes.

(* Johanna: I will send you the math, if you insist.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Heat Reclamation

You may be saying to yourself, "I wonder what kind of whack-o schemes and projects that wing-nut Turbo has been up to lately?" Well, I'm glad you asked.

For one thing I (and some hardy friends!) have been trying to see far into the season we can go without turning on the central heat in our homes. This is based on several motivations, including an interest in human physiology, and the fact that the price of heating oil was over $4/gallon when I thought up the idea. But that's all for a different post. Anyway, I'm aiming now for December 1st, and so far, doing quite well-- right now it is 32F (0C) outside, 51F (11C) inside, and I'm typing quite comfortably. We're allowed to use space heaters, judiciously, but for the most part I haven't needed to. I have noticed that my house is forming icicles sooner than my neighbors'. Good sign!

So, as part of my overall strategy to reduce oil use, I decided to fashion my kitchen into a winter-bunker. It's a large kitchen, and already has the sofa, DVD player, etc. in it-- not to mention all the food-- so I really could just spend the winter in this one room. I made a insulated curtain for one kitchen doorway from a thick quilt, and have bought an old salvage door which I am working on installing in the other doorway. When done, I'll be able to seal off the bunker from the rest of the house, and, I hope, just stay warm with a space heater. Cool, no?

In the process of all this I got to thinking about the clothes dryer, which is right under the kitchen and vents outdoors right next to the window. In past winters I've enjoyed watching the dragon-breath of steam wafting up past the window, and admired the snow-free zone which was kept cleared around the vent all winter. The other day I looked at the dryer to see how much energy, exactly, it uses in doing its thing. Guess what? 5,600 WATTS! Yeah... that's a lot! Also I got to thinking about the huge VOLUME of air the dryer sucks out of the cellar, which is being replaced by frigid outdoor-temp air rushing in through all the gaps in our cellar windows, etc. Terrible!

I'm considering some type of clothes line for the summer (though my yard is awfully small and shady), but in the winter line-drying isn't a good option at the Palace. So, for this season, I started to think of ways to reclaim the heat from the dryer, rather than dumping it outside. First idea: just undo the vent hose from the exit hole, and redirect the warm air back into the cellar. E-Z, and stops the air-sucking-out problem, but it seems no good to be humidifying the very air you're trying to use to dry things. Plus, what good, really, does warm air in the basement do?

So I thought next about instead running the hose up to the kitchen, where the warmth would be useful, and even the humidity might be desirable (in the winter). But as I pictured the amount of humidity involved, and envisioned the dank, dripping windows, etc., as well as the pleasant-only-in-small-quantities aroma of dryer exhaust air, I decided against this as well.

Third incarnation, I thought about sourcing a surplus old iron radiator (Smallish State is littered with such), putting it in the kitchen, running the dryer house in one end of it, another hose out the other, and thence to the outdoors. Thus some of the heat would get transferred from the dryer air to the radiator, warming the kitchen, but the moisture would still get blown outside (some water might condense inside the radiator, but that's okay.) However, I still pictured half or more of the heat escaping outdoors, which bothered me. And the problem of cold-air-suck remains, because you're blowing the exhaust outside.

So, for Theoretical Version 4.0, I mentally added a condensing coil of copper tubing to the hose after it leaves the house. Then, another hose at the bottom of the coil returns back inside, downhill all the way, before turning up at the end. A small hole at the low point of the "U" is made, with a bucket below. Water in the humid air leaving the house condenses running through the cold coil, runs down the exit hose, falls into the bucket. The air, now cooler and drier (but still warmer than ambient outside temperature) is returned to the cellar. Voila! Maybe. Suggestions?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ain't Seen The Sunshine Since-- I Don't Know When

Yeah. Apparently, it's the time of year where we shouldn't expect to see the sun in the Smallish City. Well, fine. But this persistent foggy drizzle is starting to get me down. Just makes a person want to get back in bed.

Nice Things Patients Have Said This Week, 3

At the private practice, from a client who runs a multi-million dollar enterprise:

"You know, 'psychiatrist' has such a stigma attached to it. I don't think of you as just a psychiatrist. I think of you as my life-coach."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Not My Most Socialist Rant

I was just reading an article from the New York Times online, entitled "Negotiating Better Terms For Your Mortgage". The article appealed to me because (a) I have a mortgage, (b) I spend a lot of money on it (mostly interest), and (c) I've been an excellent customer, never late with a payment, so I figured my bank is happy with me and would be as willing to negotiate with me as with anyone.

Whoa. So wrong.

The first line of the article reads, "You don’t need to be behind on your mortgage payments to ask for a better deal from your bank. Surprised?" Um-- yes. When I took out my mortgage, having a good credit history was what got one a better deal-- now being behind on your payments is helpful?? Apparently so.

But the article went on to explain that, crazy as it sounds, you don't necessarily have to be three months behind on your payments to get a new, better interest rate. Some people who are foolishly making payments on time might still be eligible for renegotiation to more favorable terms. "There are several prerequisites to consider", the author writes. "if you’re a borrower who is paying on time and wants some kind of a break." For example, the house must be your primary residence.

Ultimately, however, "the big question will be how financially strained you are." The author cites several scenarios in which one might have become "financially strained", including this one: "Or, maybe you lied about how much money you were making when you applied for a mortgage back in 2006 when nobody bothered checking." For real?? Calling up the bank and saying you lied to them on your mortgage application is a strategy for getting a break?

The author gives some guidelines to help the homeowner judge whether the bank is likely to give an improved interest rate. If you were judicious when you bought your house, choosing something relatively modest so that your monthly payments would be a relatively small percentage of your income-- well, that will count against you: "Don’t bother trying to get a better deal if your [mortgage payment:monthly income] percentage is down near 25 percent." The author summarizes that "very few people current on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will get a better deal."

In the old days, telling the truth on your mortgage application was considering essential. In the old days, taking out a 15- or 30-year fixed mortgage was considered the responsible, fiscally admirable,-- dare I even say, patriotic?-- thing to do. In the old days, a bank might turn you down for favorable mortgage treatment due to limited savings or income. Now, as the author straightforwardly notes, "a bank may turn you down because you’re not struggling enough." This is a strange, new world.

How did we GET to this place? And, if we're going to have socialism in this country-- and I think we should-- why can't we do it in a rational, proactive way, rather than birthing it as a grotesque bastard child of capitalism run amok?

P.S. I'd venture a guess that many people who are having trouble with mortgage payments also have a spare room that they're using for a guest room, "home-theatre" room, ping-pong room, exercise room, or some such. And I'd venture that most of these could easily manage their payments if they took on a housemate for some extra income. I have not seen this simple idea suggested anywhere as a strategy to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. Why? Because the idea of sharing your home with a person you aren't related to is abhorrently un-American, possibly even smacking of Communism?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Apparently, when someone goes to Smallish City Hall applying for a permit to do something really loud and annoying outdoors, they are directed to do their activity in a particular patch of public space just outside my office.

Last winter it was the mind-numbing bell-ringing.

Over the summer it was bongo drums, and (until he got arrested on unrelated drug charges) a man who stood with a guitar screaming songs with lyrics such as "FUCK FUCK FUUUUUCK! YOU GODAMN FUUUUCK!"

Now, it's this:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Interesting Sights On My Walk To Work, Part II

Sight: A rather rough-and-tumble looking large man, walking down the sidewalk, carrying a kitten, who was wearing a Harley Davidson jacket. The kitten was wearing the jacket. It was kitten-size.

You think I make this stuff up, but I don't.

Out Of Bed

Last night I rode the scooter home through the dark streets of Smallish City shortly before midnight. Along every block of downtown, block after block, youngish people were pouring out into the streets, laughing, hooting, howling, jumping up and down. It looked, pretty much, as if the Red Sox had just won the World Series-- except that instead of screaming "Red Sox, #1!", they were screaming "Obama won! Obama is our next president!". Several of them approached me at stop lights to shout the news, in case I hadn't heard. One fellow jumped off the sidewalk and held up his hand to give me a flying high-five as I sped by. It was quite a scene.

I'm proud that young people, minority people, unwealthy people, female people-- in short, the previously disenfranchised people-- of this country turned out to elect this man. I am proud, and hopeful, and excited. I got out of bed (yes, I had already voted) and I'm not moving to Canada (quite yet.)

But when I look at the breakdown in the voting statistics (and you know I can't resist such things), I get uneasy and feel alienated. If this election had been left to people in any one way visibly like me-- Caucasian, or over 40, or male, or in my tax bracket* (let alone all of those combined), Obama would have been handily defeated. This makes me feel ever more the oddity-- a person who doesn't resemble the crowd he supports, and doesn't agree with the crowd he resembles. Sometimes I wonder if this is just a stupid personality trait of mine, this refusal to go with the flow, to do what I'm supposed to. I don't know.

I console myself with thinking that if anyone collected data on the presidential preference of "People from households with one or more cats", that might show a different pattern. Also of some consolation is that the income bracket above me actually voted for Obama. There is some hope.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

...And A Rare Political Statement.

I'm considering refusing to get out of bed until Obama wins this election.


The turnout for the poll was a little light, here, but these are the results:

Margin of error +/- 38%

Monday, November 03, 2008


I've just bumped this project ahead of building an infrared sauna. Does anyone have an old 17" LCD screen (or two) you could donate?

Most Excellent Hot Chocolate

Put 1/2 square of unsweetened baking chocolate in a double boiler. Melt. Add three teaspoons turbinado sugar, pinch of cinnamon, 1/2 pinch of cayenne pepper. Stir until dissolved. Wisk in 1/4 cup hot water. Stir until hot. Gradually whisk in 1 1/2 cups milk. When steaming, add three drops vanilla extract. Try not to drink in one gulp.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Past 36 Hours

In the past 36 hours, here in the Smallish State:

- Poked around the cellar of a 19th century house under renovation and admired the foundation of mortarless stone.
- Went to a salvage place and bought an old door with glass panes to put in my kitchen doorway, even though it's too big, and then spent quite a while thinking about how this is going to work.
- Saw a bald eagle in a tree by a cow pasture.
- Ate leftover apple pie sitting on the grass in the autumn sun while throwing a stick for a dog.
- Learned how to shoot a .22 and found that I'm actually a tolerably good shot, considering.
- Watched remarkable mini-seiches forming on some long, perfectly-oriented mud puddles along a dirt road in a stiff wind.
= Paddled an old canoe up a twisty creek and talked to deer hunters.
- Made a fire.
- Saw wild turkeys.