Sunday, December 28, 2008

A couple more photos from today. I finally fixed the lamp Patsy snatched up at a yard sale around 20 years ago. Actually, it was fine for a while, but has "been in the shop" for around 6 years or so. The other photo may be hard to make out, but it is a smoker. Smokers are a German Christmas craft where you put a small incense cone inside them, then they look like they are smoking. The one we have is a skiing Santa.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

cold storage

It was suggested I mention the new refrigerator we got this summer. We bought a sunfrost refrigerator when our old one died with little notice this summer.

It actually died when we were away traveling In July at son Joe and new daughter in law Kendra's wedding. We got back just in time to cook the meat, and toss the ice cream and fridge leftovers. Anyway, I had wanted to get a very efficient replacement, but not on such short notice. I ordered one immediately. Sunfrost are not stocked in stores, but are made to order, with delivery in 8 weeks.

So, right at the height of vegetable season for the CSA we belong to, we used a cooler for our refrigerator. Yeah, I'm a little nuts. It was tricky, but we got through it. ( I owe Patsy for that one) Sunfrost ships by common carrier, so I had it delivered to work, so I wouldn't have to stay home to receive it. I then rented a Menards truck and hauled it home. These sunfrosts are HEAVY. They are almost as heavy as the ancient fridges that had cast iron bases and heavy gage walls. Made me wish I'd been doing more to keep in shape.

So, we've had it for around three months now, and love it. I guess it goes without saying that they use much less power than other appliances. There are other benefits. Part of its efficiency is derived from no defrost cycle. This means that the humidity stays high in the fridge section, and veggies last a very long time compared to the old one. Also, the freezer and refrigerator have separate compressors and thermostats, so you can dial each one in just right, and neither one works more than it has to. So ice cream is always just right, not melty, and not rock hard. ice cubes freeze clear, don't disappear over time, pop out easily, and don't get that funky freezer taste.

While I would strongly recommend making sure your next fridge is at least energy star rated, these Sunfrosts are pretty expensive, and probably will mostly be bought by people who are really serious about energy saving. They even have 12V models for people living off grid on solar panels.

And here is a shot of the compressors and "coils" on top of the unit.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One more photo from the hiking trip to Big Bend. Big Bend is way off the beaten path, and you have to drive a long way through flat, dry scrub before the mountains slowly come in to view and things get interesting. A group of guys from work have been doing a couple hikes each year for quite a while now, but this is the first one I flew to. It was still a 4 hour drive from Midland TX.
The long haul was worth it, we had good hiking with great scenery, and got a good ranger presentation at the campground. He explained the geology of the area, which it turns out is rather dizzyingly complicated. The trip planner ( we each take turns choosing and planning trips) went all out on the food since we were base camping. We all gained weight, and had my first serving of Paula Deens Low country boil. And my second. Check out her website.
I'm not kidding about the food. Ice cream afficianados may know that Blue Bell ice cream from Texas is top drawer stuff, and cheaper than the boutique national brands. Well, the trip planner/cook brought a cooler full of dry ice and Blue Bell ice cream. Even though the weather was cooler than we might have expected, we all tucked in to the ice cream.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

went skiing today, but didn't take a camera. Here's a shot from last winter.

Yes, those are carharts! how cool is that?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Another photo for you.

This is from a stroll on the beach during Patsy's spring break this past spring. I guess I should mention we went north to Lake Michigan for spring break. A bit cool, but very private. We had the whole beach to ourselves.
I write brief articles for a newsletter. Here is my take on global warming, from an article I wrote earlier this year. Note that my audience for this article are some pretty "green" people.

"Keeping your eye on the ball
Global warming- What a big distraction. There, I’ve said it. This is an enormously contentious topic right now, and very much in the news, with Al Gore getting accolades and attention, various government entities from cities to the U. N. struggling with what to do, and all the rest of us wondering how bad it might be.
I submit that we are getting sucked in to a major distraction from what is really more important. I happen to think that the world, and especially the U.S., needs to learn how to transition to a sustainable economy. The conversion and utilization of energy is at the heart of any culture’s day to day activities. Reliance on fossil fuels is a dead end addiction, which we must solve. However, if all our efforts are focused on reducing global warming, we may not be solving the real problem. That is, coming up with a renewable source of energy sufficient to keep us from repeating the dark ages.
What if burning fossil fuels did not cause global warming? What if our scientists came up with a way to sequester carbon, or counteract the CO2 greenhouse effect? In fact, as I write this, it was just announced the Futuregen Alliance will be building their new technology coal fired plant in Mattoon, Il, and hope to figure out how to inject the CO2 back under the Illinois prairies when they are done with it. So when the coal is gone, We will still be confronted with the problem of facing the “end of cheap fossil fuel” cliff without a parachute. The strategies that might be proposed to reduce global warming ( or to learn how to live with it) may not solve our future energy needs, but if we begin the immediate, methodical steps of weaning ourselves from fossil fuels, we will be taking the best step toward avoiding further climate impact.
One could argue that doing the right thing for the wrong reason is still OK, but what if we end up doing the wrong thing because we have chosen to fix a symptom instead of the central problem? To be clear, I’m not saying I don’t think warming is happening, or that it is not a problem. I just think that solving the upcoming energy crunch is the real crux.
Maybe it is time for another major transition in human culture. Similar to the way humans figured out agriculture, we need to move from the hunter gatherer mode of energy use. Currently, we drill for oil, suck the field dry, and move on to the next one. The future could be one of a harvesting mode, where we collect sunlight and wind energy. Even if our population stabilizes soon , we are already using more than a planet’s worth of annual output to maintain our standard of living. We are already literally burning through the principal of our planet’s natural savings account, instead of learning to live on the interest.
Ironically, we are going to transition to an economy that does not run on fossil fuels in the next 50-100 years regardless. I prefer that we start a planned, smooth transition to sustainability, instead of an uncontrolled, abrupt one. One could wax apocalyptic here, but I intend to be optimistic. Eating local, starting little green habits each day, connecting with and encouraging others, educating myself all the while, are all independent of the political process. That’s what I plan to do. Keep my eye on the ball."

Well, there I've done it. Put an opinion out there. If anyone wants to comment, feel free.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday cheer

Here is a shot of the department Christmas dinner. We had good food and an open bar, so there was plenty of Christmas cheer. I guess I should explain that engineering is still rather old school, so there is not a single woman in our group. All the women in the photo are spouses/friends.

Lot's of "experience" in this group. For many years, and not that long ago, my nick name was "young steven". Good group of guys, and many are close to retirement. I have 30 years, and most have more. This is not the normal employer-employee arrangement anymore. The company is changing before our eyes, and a lot of knowledge will be walking out the door soon. Of course, with the recent nose dive in financial matters, I suspect many retirement plans are being modified as I write.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Took a couple photos at work. This one from the break room just struck me as corporate sign overkill. We are after all, professionals.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thanksgiving in Indiana

Here are a few photos from the Thanksgiving at the Helms house. Sis sent them to me.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

where is this heading?

I just wanted to get set up with a way to share photos and maybe chat with relatives, but who knows what else might happen. Here are a few more random photos from the archives.

This is a photo of Patsy from her birthday a couple years ago.

And here is one of the elementary school Patsy and I went to in Knightstown, IN. I think it is now senior housing of some sort.

If others want to share photos, you could e-mail them to me, then I could post them.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

picture of the blogger

Going to the obligatory office Christmas party this evening. Actually, it's just our department, and these are all nice guys, old timers like myself, so should be just a nice dinner and home to bed early.

Here is another photo, from back when we visited my son Joe in San Francisco. This is in front of the exploratorium, an AWESOME place for science geeks to visit.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Saturday snow, and posting photos

Snow today, Christmas shopping, and relaxing. Let's try a bigger photo. A couple friends who dropped by a few weeks ago.

Friday, December 5, 2008

ok, so it's Friday evening mellow, get a photo up and call it good for now. Here is shot of sunset from campsite in Chisos mountains in Big Bend National Park. Got cold and windy that night, made me thankful fo the snug 15deg. bag I was in.