Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why did they sabotage the invention?

The heat pump thermostat

For the technically challenged, the heat pump is the greatest invention ever for heating your house affordably with electricity. For every kilowatt-hour of energy it consumes, it delivers as much as four kilowatt-hours heat equivalent to your home interior. This is because it fetches heat energy from the cooler outdoor environment, raises it’s temperature by a compression process, and delivers it into your home. At the flick of a switch on the thermostat, it reverses itself to become a central air conditioner in the summer months.

The fly in this miraculous ointment is the stupid thermostats that they install with the heat pump. These all have a feature called “emergency” or “auxiliary” heat. This feature turns on an array of cheap energy-hog resistance heating elements to help the heat pump speed heating the house when the temperature setting is raised or in case the heat pump mechanism fails.

Now, I admit some benefit in having emergency back up elements in case your heat pump compressor fails on a frigid night in Fargo. The stupid part of this feature is that the thermostats are designed and default programmed to almost guarantee that the energy-hog emergency heat comes on eagerly all the time when it doesn’t need to. Apparently the vendors, installers, and thermostat manufacturers have a terror of getting complaints that the heat pump does not blow out warm enough air or that it just takes too long to warm up the house after the temperature has been set down for the night or a weekend away. So, your thermostat is configured to bring on the emergency heat when you tweak it up as little as one or two degrees higher than the current house temperature. Then it keeps it on until the house temperature rises to one or two degrees above the set point. Also there is a manual setting for turning on the auxiliary heat any time you want to as well as accidentally whenever you change modes from cooling to heating. Take heart; there is some relief for some thermostats. Check your thermostat manual; you will have to download one from the Internet since you lost it or were never given one. Actually you may have to download the installation instructions, which is often a separate item, intended for the installer. Many models have a well-obscured procedure to increase the difference between the set point and the actual indoor temperature that triggers the automatic energy hog to come on to maybe five or more degrees. Increase this setting to the maximum. Sometimes it is labeled as a choice between “comfort” and “economy”. Choose “economy”. Then when you’ve had the temperature way down because you’ve been away you may still have to raise it back up in increments so you don’t trigger the energy hog. Be patient though. The mass of structure and furnishings in an average house weighs 40,000 pounds, more or less. It takes a lot of energy to reheat it after it has chilled down. That means a whopper cost if you let your auxiliary resistance heat do it.

Finally here's a tipsheet from my former employer that will give you an option if your thermostat can't be adjusted to reduce the eagerness of auxiliary heat.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Why did they uninvent the...

...single blade shaver? I’m talking about the human powered shaver, a.k.a. razor or safety razor, not electric shavers. They used to have one-blade safety razors in a reusable handle that was advertized as well-balanced. Balanced?! Are they afraid you’re gonna hoist it to your chin and stick it up your nose or maybe fall over into the sink? Ha! OK, I diverged into ranting about balance. Pretty soon in modern time this safety razor evolved into the plastic throw-away type that taxes our landfills, but still I’m diverging from my point. After a couple of years, the throw-away plastic shaver started appearing with two closely spaced blades for “closer shaves”. Not to be outdone, competitors came up with the three-blade model and now they are up to five blades or more. Not even one electron of a whisker extends above the skin line after the final swipe until a few seconds later when it has already grown out a micron’s length. STOP the blades! Haven’t they heard that it is now fashionable for the elegant sexy well-dressed man to have day-old to week-old stubble? The worse thing about all these multi-blades is that if you wait more than 24 hours between shaves, as fashionable and lazy men do, the whiskers jam between the blades and clog the stupid multi-blade shavers. You have to stop after every stroke and use your toothbrush to clean them out. OK, single-blade ones are not quite totally uninvented yet. I did manage to find one product at Target that is still single blade, the Bic 12-pack of single blade shavers. The package even says “Single blade for easy cleaning”. Go out and buy these.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Why did they uninvent...

...home economics? OK, so it’s not exactly uninvented, but it has fallen out of popularity. Maybe it needed some modernization but it should not have disappeared from the mainstream of education. I’m not sure why it has nearly disappeared, but I assume it is because it was always considered a girl thing. Guy stuff like changing faucet washers and buying lawn mowers was not included in any significant degree. Then, with the feminist movement and more women validating their self worth in the work place instead of in the home, it lost status. I assert that it is, and probably always has been, more than just learning how to bake a delicious and attractive cake or artfully display Christmas decorations. For example, in Hand Jr. High School, Columbia, SC in 1958, it was a conduit for girls’ sex education. I know this because my seat in social studies class was next to a hole in a new wall to accommodate a radiator that predated the remodel that made two small classrooms from one bigger one. I heard all the stuff they taught the girls about the birds and the bees in the home ec class on the other side of the wall. I got a D in Social Studies. But, there I go diverging into sex again. Lets get back on track.

While we’ve forgotten home economics, we have gone ape over global economics. This is the great disaster of everybody on the planet trading with or hiring everybody else, especially on the opposite side of the planet. You can read more about why this only works on a micro scale. This global economy thing is showing itself to be unstable and able to turn some former winners into losers because there is little regulation of global markets and finance. As we all end up unemployed or underemployed, or at least way underpaid from this monster genie being let out of the lamp, we need to do some rethinking. As individuals there is little we can do to stuff the genie back in the lamp or teach him some manners. However, we can reduce the power he has over us if we get smarter on home economics, the economics of our household and the households of our friends and family. This doesn’t necessarily mean baking tastier cakes. The 21st century home ec should be more like what its name says. It might cover stuff like getting the most nutritious greens and beans to feed our loved ones with the meager twenty bucks in our pocket. We need to reinvent home economics for the 21st century and teach it in school. We need to cover diverse things like:
• What to eat and drink because it’s good for us and what not to eat and drink because it will kill us or bankrupt us.
• What we need and don’t need in a house and how to finance the house we need.
• How to shop for and buy stuff to outfit and care for the house and yard that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, break down prematurely, poke our eyes out, or drive us nuts with superfluous features.
• How to make stuff we need instead of buying it.
• How to get the best deal on a credit card and how we should never carry over a balance month to month.
• How to find a mate to share the shelter and expenses, how to bring joy to the mate and keep him/her forever, and (above all) how to have a good time with the mate without making more babies than you can feed.
• How to get an employer and keep him/her happy no matter what our skills are.
• How to create or at least participate constructively in neighborhood and community associations.
• (Last but absolutely not least) Become media literate.

I need to elaborate on this media literacy thing. Defining it properly would take up more than I want to put in this post but you can Google it. Start with the Wikipedia description. Basically it pertains to learning not to be so freakin’ gullible to all the media conduits that the genie uses to turn us into zombie slaves. The “poster child” of media illiteracy is probably the sticker you see on so many products and ads in magazines and catalogs, “As Seen on TV”. Do you know what that means? It means the majority of cabbage brains out there believe the stupid television is actually credible, that it furnishes valid and reliable information. God help us.

Maybe there is some hope. We seem to be figuring out finally that nearly all politicians and people in the finance industry (a.k.a. Wall Street) are lying sorry sacks of slug slime. The problem is (although the Tea Party might disagree) we can’t just get rid of these characters and expect things to gravitate to harmonious prosperity. We do need to select leaders for ourselves. We have to educate ourselves in how to detect their lies, unmask their lies, and hold them painfully accountable for their lies. That’s where media literacy comes in. It’s all about recognizing and rejecting lies that come to us in an overwhelming barrage of mostly electronic media. Let’s reinvent home economics for the 21st century with a good chunk of media literacy education.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why did they uninvent the... absorbing car bumper. We had ‘em in the late 70’s and early 80’s by federal regulation until a sweet old president with dementia decided to excuse the car manufacturers from this requirement. I had great ones on my ’80 Civic. They were mounted on shock absorbers and covered with scratch resistant black rubber. The current car bumpers should be called the senile Republican bumper in honor of the president who allowed the manufacturers to make painted plastic bumpers that cost $500 to $1000 or more for repair or replacement after one’s wife has a 1 mph contact with a concrete post in a parking garage.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why do we need a better mousetrap...literally?

We’ve had fine mousetraps all my life. Aside from a pesky little habit of sometimes snapping your finger when you set them, they did the job, executing the little rodent painlessly in about a millisecond. But now we have the sticky mouse paper inspired, no doubt, by fly paper. With the sticky paper, the poor little sentient beings (What does sentient mean anyway?) get stuck, trapped in terror for hours until you find them. Then, what do you do? They’re still alive, looking up at you with pleading little beady eyes, hoping you’ll at least drive them across town to your insurance adjuster’s house and set them free. You can’t peel the paper off so you’d have to cut around their little feet leaving them little paper slippers for the rest of their mousy life. But no, you’re too busy so you have to drown them in the toilet while they struggle in agony as if they were being water-boarded by Dick Cheney, or worse yet, you just toss them in the garbage can to agonize for hours while ants eat their eyes out. Yep the original was much better.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why did they uninvent the...

...ordinary toothpaste cap. The ordinary toothpaste tube nozzle and cap were perfected at least as far back as when I was a small child and Dodos and Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers filled the forests. You just unscrewed the cap, squeezed out the paste and screwed the cap back on. But, they couldn’t leave it alone. They had to devise nozzles that dispensed different colors of paste through little sub nozzles. You’re supposed to believe these different colors are actual different ingredients (like epoxy glue) that can’t be mixed until they’re about to enter your gaping maw. They also had to add a flip up cap that won’t stay closed and copiously ejaculated toothpaste into your travel bag on air flights until toothpaste on flights was finally made illegal. The flip up caps usually break off before the last of the toothpaste is used up too. Bring back the ordinary toothpaste tube and screw-on cap.