Save $200* with the summer discount plan!

Thus screamed a recent mailer from Edison. Here's how it works: In exchange for allowing Edison to shut off my air conditioner during times of electrical crisis, they will rebate me up to $200. If I don't want an unlimited number of interruptions I can choose the "no more than 15 interruptions per summer" plan and receive $100*.

Wait a minute, I don't have air conditioning. Just last summer I installed a passive rooftop ventilation system which dropped my interior temperature by noticeable amounts after sundown, but I didn't install an AC. I didn't get a rebate, nor did I qualify for the 2006 tax credit for my efforts, which amounted to an afternoon and less than $100 of materials. Most of my neighbors don't have AC either. We take advantage of the evening breeze on hot days, and leave the windows open. If one my neighbors did get AC, then the noise might drive me to close my windows and buy an AC unit, but the number of days that require AC is really quite small and fortunately it hasn't come to that yet.

I have to conclude that this is really just a subsidy to live in an area that requires AC, such as the Inland Empire. Apparently the costs of adequate new infrastructure for the large homes favored by the hordes of new buyers in the IE so far exceed the ability to pay for them that we now have an incentive program to try to control usage. Shouldn't the increased demand from the IE be paid for by the IE?

*Edison states that savings are based on a 4.5 ton whole house AC unit. One ton equals 12,000 BTUs/hour-a term derived from the amount of energy required to melt 1 ton of ice in a day. As a point of reference, Home Depot sells a portable 1 ton AC unit for well under $1k. Rounding up to $1k even per ton for initial costs of a 4.5 ton whole-house unit means that the $200 per annum savings represents 4.4% of the initial cost of the unit. Assuming 10 years of rebates, you could expect to recoup 50% of your initial costs in that time.

I think Grace did a better job with this topic.


Bluecoat :(

We have a net nanny at work now, Bluecoat. Leaving aside the right of the net nannies to do as they wish, and the dubious merits of browsing these sites on work time, the filtering categories seems inconsistent and prejudiced at best. The many categories that Bluecoat will filter includes the following, as quoted from the official Bluecoat definitions (emphasis added):

Alternative Spirituality/Occult - Sites that promote and provide information on religions such as Wicca, Witchcraft or Satanism. Occult practices, atheistic views, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism are represented here. Includes sites that endorse or offer methods, means of instruction, or other resources to affect or influence real events through the use of spells, incantations, curses and magic powers. This category includes sites which discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events

"Atheistic views...or any other form of mysticism"???? Isn't it a bit incongruous to lump atheistic sites with the occult?

The net nannies have also chosen to block the following class of sites:

Religion - Sites that promote and provide information on conventional or unconventional religious or quasi-religious subjects, as well as churches, synagogues, or other houses of worship. Does not include sites about alternative religions such as Wicca or witchcraft (Alternative Spirituality/Occult), or atheist beliefs (Political/Activist Groups).

This definition defines atheist beliefs as political or activist (which I also disagree with), not Alternative Spirituality / Occult. But in addition to that internal inconsistency, the obvious and more important question is why are religious sites are allowed, but occult sites are not? Isn't Wicca a religion? Don't Occultists and Wiccans get the same religious access as everyone else? Don't atheists get the same non-religious access? Maybe it's only activist atheists that are otherwise defined, but what of activist ministries? I haven't yet met a Wiccan that I know of, but isn't freedom or religion one of the founding principles of this country?

Should you try to avoid the net nanny, beware, the following class of sites is also prohibited.

Proxy Avoidance - Sites that provide information on how to bypass proxy server/appliance features or gain access to URLs in any way that bypasses the proxy server/appliance. This category includes any service which attempts to allow a person to bypass the Blue Coat filtering system, such as anonymous surfing services.

The following types of sites are blocked

Sexuality/Alternative Lifestyles - Sites that provide information, promote, or cater to gays, lesbians, swingers, other sexual orientations or practices, or a particular fetish. This category does not include sites that are sexually gratuitous in nature which would typically fall under the Pornography category.

It sounds like they are blocking informational sites with the above definition. Why would they do that only for gays and lesbians? I guess straight folks are the only ones that might want to search for occasional sexual health information?

Finally, they've managed to join the uninformed masses and mistake a hack for a crack. Additionally, this definition is broad enough to include many Linux distributions, among other useful tools.

Hacking - Sites that distribute, promote, or provide hacking tools and/or information which may help gain unauthorized access to computer systems and/or computerized communication systems. Hacking encompasses instructions on illegal or questionable tactics, such as creating viruses, distributing cracked or pirated software, or distributing other protected intellectual property.

I'm tagging this amusing, but it's only sadly amusing.


The thicket emerges from the meadow

The wildflower meadow has become just a mite overgrown. In fact it probably qualifies as a thicket now.

The swale is hidden by the densely planted (seeded?) 24 inch tall flowers. This wasn't what the vision was all about, but that's OK. Live and learn. Next year it'll be a bit more meadow-like and a bit less thicket-like.


Half bath synchronicity

Neighbor Mike is selling, but his updated and immaculately maintained house is giving him a bit of trouble in this market because it has only one bathroom. That's all they made in 1952.

Friend Warren was commenting yesterday about tankless water heaters and freeing up space in his 1950s-era place for a second bathroom.

"Yes, I know all about tankless water heaters, I'm planning on making some more closet space or maybe even a wet bar out of my water heater cabinet and adjacent linen closet," I said.

"I'm planning on putting my new tankless heater up in the attic," he responded.

It hit me then that I too could carve out a half bath or more from space freed up in my remodel (assuming my heater too went up into the attic). I think I got a bit incoherent with excitement. I'm not sure why I didn't put it together until someone bludgeoned me over the head with it. I've certainly thought about how to graft on a bathroom to the outside of the house enough times. Why not carve out space on the inside instead? Mr. Market says that a second bathroom trumps a wet bar and linen closet any day of the week.

More information and thought on this is required.

More drought

The LA Times has an interesting article which raises the concern that we are in the first year of a multi-year drought. Colorado River Basin water, snow pack, and precipitation have all been at record lows in the past year. The article states that drought conditions here are usually coincident with distinct weather patterns elsewhere, a correlation that has again been observed in the past year. It also states that global warming patterns creating an upwelling of cold water in the eastern Pacific mimic conditions thought to have been present during a mega drought between 1300 and 900 AD:

"Bill Patzert, the climatologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, has said the Pacific is in an "El Niño-repellent" pattern that will favor drought in Southern California for years.

MacDonald said scientists have found that periods of simultaneous drought in Southern California, Northern California's Sacramento River Basin and the Colorado typically have been marked by cold water in the eastern Pacific off the North American coast — a condition that existed this winter."

The article urges calm:

We're watching this. We're not pleased. We're not worried, either," said Jeffrey Kightlinger, general manager of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the region's major water wholesaler. "If it does continue, we have prepared ourselves for a multiple-year drought.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Weekend update

The schools have their hands constantly out and I'm getting sort of tired of it. However, this year I feel that I've set boundaries on school demands and that they weren't unreasonable.

We start off the year with the paper and candy sales - earlier every year as we play the fund raising game of "hit your coworkers up before the other schools do". We did that one. Then came something else. Then came another something else. We said no to them this year. By the way, they don't allow birthday celebrations at school, but if you want to "donate" a book to the library in your child's name then they have a handy supply of books right over here, all you need to do is "buy" the sticker that goes in the book. Oh, and there's box tops for education, grocery store affiliate programs, Office Depot and Staples affiliate programs, and so on. Now another fund raiser for the arts, and I'm willing to bet on at least one more before school ends.

On Saturday I was extorted out of donated $35 to son's school district for an arts program that we have yet to take advantage of. (Another aside - they didn't pretend very hard that they were collecting donations from the community for an arduous 10k or semi-arduous 5k walk. They just expected parents to cut a check for the minimum $35 amount.) There was a short walk (the event was billed as walk around the block) as the "fund raiser activity" followed by a simple carnival which Mr. 8 year old had free run of courtesy of his gold plated $35 wristband. Instead of making himself sick on dance dance revolution or going on the slide until he vomited, he found a friend and they hung around and ate candy. With hot dog lunches and silent auction (I got a framed mirror for $16), I figure it was a $60 day. Musical highlight of the event: The Compromised Principals, a band made up of school administrators who play mostly 80s rock.

We then went over to the Cabrillo Butterfly Garden and weeded and watered. I plan to blog more on the garden later - I installed it (with help) when we attended Juan Cabrillo school last year.

On Sunday we went on a night hike at George F. Canyon on the PV peninsula. We didn't have reservations and it wasn't a problem, but we were told that later in the summer it could be. We saw a Great Horned Owl, city lights views, black widow spiders, and generally had a good time. The hike went pretty late (it started later than the web site advertised), but I thought it was worth it, and so did my eight year old son (the next day, after apologizing for being so crabby the night before).

This blog brought to you today by ill child syndrome.