Archive for the ‘Amusing tales’ Category

General Update

December 2, 2009

December 1st! Coming up: the twelve coldest weeks of the year [on average]. Hard to believe that in just six weeks, it will actually be getting warmer out [on average] and that in twelve it will be no colder than it is now [on average].

I guess it’s hard to believe because we have, so far, had an unusually mild late autumn.

Nonetheless, I just checked, and the warmest it’s been in the warmest part of our house this week was 60.2ºF (lowest, in the warmest part, 50.2º) Right now in here it’s 57º, which has come to feel “warm” to me. We are routinely eating breakfast at about 54º (and hats) without too much trouble.

Still haven’t managed to get the wood stove installed, so thus far we’ve just been heating, to the extent that we are at all, with one space heater, the electric blanket, lights, cooking, dishwashing waste water, crankin’ the stereo, etc.

There was one amusing story recently: A relation of J’s came up for a night last week, from southern New England. She knew about all this barely-heated-house crap and was, I gather, prepared to be miserable. On arrival, she remarked that it was f#*(ing freezing in here (I’m paraphrasing from a second-hand account) and noted that she is no softy, she keeps her thermostat at 62º, but this is just ridiculous. Then J went and found the thermometer and determined that in fact it was 64º inside. She was pretty pleased I think. Anyway, the moral of the story is that at least half the question of comfort is in one’s head, and has as much to do with expectations as with reality.

Toilet Heaters, Personal "Offsets"

November 1, 2009

Back when I first wrote about the heat-wasting properties of toilets, I made a joke about “toilet-tank-water heaters”, a device so inane it could not possibly exist. However, I was later notified that such a device does exist– its purpose is to cure “problem condensation” on the toilet tank in summertime. The idea is that by mixing a percentage of hot water into the toilet tank, you prevent the sides of the tank from becoming cooler than room temperature after a flush, and thence prevent moisture from precipitating, dripping down, and causing problems. (In case you think I’m making this up, here’s an article on how to install one, from This Old House.) Of course, this magic comes at a price: unless you have solar hot water, you’re probably burning some sort of fossil fuel to supply hot water to the toilet tank. In summer.

Of course I was horrified to learn that people do this, doubly horrified when I learned that some of my own friends were already doing it, and triply horrified when I learned that another set of friends are installing the gizmos during their current bathroom remodel. To be fair, these last friends had a real problem. They live in Vermont, where it is fairly humid in the summer, and they do not use air conditioning, so their house is not artificially dehumidified. Moreover they have well water, which is very cold entering the house, and unlike many New Englanders they do not have a cellar– so there is no long stretch of pipe in an unfinished area where the water would warm a bit before entering the toilet. Lastly, they both work from home much of the time, so they use their toilets more than most of us. As a result of all this, their toilet tanks dripped incessantly during the summer. They had damage to their floors, peeling paint behind the toilets, mold and mildew, and other real issues. So, when they set out to remodel the bathrooms this fall, they put in the toilet-hot-water piping.

Needless to say, I gave them some crap. I felt that there were greener ways of solving this problem (e.g., how about a diverter valve for summer use that sends incoming cold water to a short outdoor coil before it goes up to the house for use? Or toilet tank insulation?) I set about number-crunching to find how much fuel they were going to burn making extra hot water for their toilets every summer. After making various reasonable assumptions, I concluded that they will use roughly two gallons of propane more each summer heating their toilet water. Horrifying.

But, my friend pointed out, shouldn’t they get some credit for simultaneously replacing their existing 3 gallon-per-flush toilets with new low-flow dual-flush toilets, which use only 0.9 or 1.6 gpf? I grudgingly conceding this might be true, and again set about data-crunching to determine how much heating fuel they will save in winter by having smaller flushes. And in fact, I found they will save roughly seven gallons of propane per winter. Thus, the net effect of their renovation is an annual savings of five gallons of fuel. And me left with little to poke fun at.

However, this net savings is largely due to the length of Vermont winters and brevity of Vermont summers. If you are much south of here, you won’t be able to do the same trick. Also, if you already keep your house cold in the winter, the fuel returns on the low-flush toilet start to diminish.

Finally: I am predicting that the smaller-flush toilets alone will cure my friends’ condensation problem, even if they don’t use the hot water mix-in. I am curious to see if this turns out to be true.

This Made Me Happy

January 22, 2009

I had a phone message this morning from the nice guy who supplies my fuel oil. He said, “I noticed on your last delivery that your X-factor has more than doubled since last year. [The x-factor is an estimate they use to predict when you will be running low on oil and need a delivery.] So the computer is telling us to wait almost an extra month before bringing you oil, and I’m worried that it’s a mistake and you might run out of oil. And I’m also worried that if it isn’t a mistake, your furnace isn’t supplying enough heat for you. So, just give me a call and let me know what’s going on.”

I was joking the other day that the oil guys would be surprised, when they came to deliver, by how little it took to fill the tank. But it didn’t occur to me that they’d be so concerned about it that they’d call to ask about it!

EMERGENCY IN FLORIDA

January 20, 2009

My alert family members in South Florida sent over an urgent message issued this morning by the Miami office of the National Weather Service. Here are excerpts (with a bit of emphasis added in spots):

“.. WIND CHILL ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 10 PM THIS EVENING TO 9 AM EST
WEDNESDAY…

THE COLDEST AIRMASS SO FAR THIS WINTER SEASON WILL SPREAD SOUTHWARD ACROSS MAINLAND SOUTH FLORIDA TONIGHT… TEMPERATURES ARE EXPECTED TO FALL INTO THE MID TO UPPER 30S OVER MUCH OF SOUTH FLORIDA… WHEN COUPLED WITH NORTHERLY WINDS IN THE 5 TO 10 MPH RANGE, THESE TEMPERATURES WILL RESULT IN WIND CHILL VALUES
BETWEEN 25 AND 35 DEGREES FOR SEVERAL CONSECUTIVE HOURS OVER MOST OF MAINLAND SOUTH FLORIDA

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

A WIND CHILL ADVISORY MEANS THAT VERY COLD AIR AND STRONG WINDS WILL COMBINE TO GENERATE LOW WIND CHILLS. THIS WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE AND LEAD TO HYPOTHERMIA IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN. IF YOU MUST VENTURE
OUTDOORS
… MAKE SURE YOU WEAR A HAT AND GLOVES.”

Of course this strikes me as hilarious, and again I must suspect the long arm of the fossil-fuel lobby in promoting panic over such weather. I’m not sure if the part about “FOR SEVERAL CONSECUTIVE HOURS” is supposed to be reassuring (i.e., it won’t be like this for several thousand consecutive hours, like up in New England) or frightening (“DON’T THINK IT WILL BE LIKE THIS FOR JUST A FEW MINUTES– IT WILL GO ON FOR HOURS).

Also remarkable as fear-mongering is the assertion that “THIS WILL RESULT IN FROST BITE… IF PRECAUTIONS ARE NOT TAKEN.” This statement is just false. True frostbite requires freezing the water in your body tissue, and that requires a real temperature below freezing (and, realistically, quite a bit below.) WIth temperatures in the “mid to upper 30’s”, you simply won’t be able to get your skin to freeze no matter what you do. Hypothermia, probably, but frostbite, no. In fact, a Science and Operations Officer from the National Weather Service itself says “it is perfectly safe from a frost bite standpoint to go jogging on a windy day in your underwear when it is 35°F”.

But Nordic Tuesday IS Fun…

January 18, 2009

This amusement was sent over by Brushfire.

Deep Freeze

January 17, 2009

Well, New England’s been right chilly the past few days. In particular Maine has been on the nippy side. The Governor, in fact, declared a “state of emergency” due to the temperature (this move, apparently, allows fuel-truck drivers to drive more hours per day than normally is considered safe.) To their credit, many locals left comments at the bottom of the news article about the “emergency” along the lines of, “It’s Maine. It’s winter. It’s cold. Since when is this a f#*%#ing emergency??”

In response to the emergency, I’ve had my heat & hot water off altogether for the past 24 hours (my housemate went away for the weekend, so no one is being harmed.)

Oil Lobby Fear-mongering?

January 15, 2009

A tip from the U.S. National Institutes of Health website:

“To prevent hypothermia, make sure your home is warm enough. Set your thermostat to at least 68° to 70° [20-21C]. Even mildly cool homes with temperatures from 60° to 65° [16-18C] can trigger hypothermia.”

Do they also advise not going outdoors when it is below 65º outside??

Winter Virgin

December 12, 2008

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2008

My current temporary housemate is a native of a warm state, descended from parents of even warmer nationality, and attended medical school in a tropical foreign country. In short, he’s had no experience whatsoever with “winter” (which he believes has already arrived in the Smallish State) and is completely fascinated by the whole idea.

Almost daily, he comes up with new questions for me about winter. During his first week, he was very interested in Turbopalace heating system, and I got to tell him all about steam radiators, boilers, etc. Later I overhead him on the phone with his wife, saying “… and they burn oil to heat the houses, so every house has some sort of big tank to hold the oil in the cellar… I don’t know how the oil gets into the tank…”

Later, he was curious about “how you get the snow out of the driveway”. He asked how many days it is, following a snow storm, that people generally don’t go to work. He was particularly interested in my collection of ice brushes/scrapers for the car; he found it hard to believe these would be necessary (“Can’t you just turn on the defroster?”), and also thought they’d work better if made of steel, rather than plastic (probably true.)

This morning he noticed a couple of ice-axe pick guards I’d left on a chair while tidying the gear-storage area, and asked what they were. I explained, but his puzzled look never really went away.

Last night it was about 40F out. Housemate came in from parking his car wearing a look of half-excitement, half-terror, and stated “It is fucking COLD out there!!”, in a volume and tone of voice that locals reserve for times when the temperature is in the vicinity –15F range. “You can SEE YOUR BREATH!”, he added, for emphasis.

I don’t think he knows yet about snow tires. I’m thinking that if I use Tom Sawyer techniques, I might be able to get him interested enough in that topic that he will do the labor of putting them my car, while I supervise.

6 COMMENTS:

Rach said…
Where DO you find these temporary housemates anyways?

10/23/08 10:08 PM
Megan said…
Dear god.

I don’t understand either.

10/24/08 12:25 AM
marcia said…
Uhm… yeah, about using steel to scrape your windows. The reason it’s not better than plastic is because it actually scratches the window glass. Permanently.

Too bad no one uses chains on their tires anymore; you could have a lot of fun teaching your new housemate how to put them on and take them off.

10/24/08 9:32 AM
Novalis said…
Have you told him that if he thinks this is bad, he should have experienced winter pre-greenhouse, 20+ years ago?

10/24/08 10:59 AM
The MSILF said…
Do not mock us. I did that three month stint in New York and it almost killed me. Seriously, the first day I was there, which was before the REAL cold hit, I walked into a clothing store to buy all that shit that I had never heard of (long underwear? layers? sweaters? scarves? who the hell actually owns a scarf?) and the shopwomen took one look at me and said, “Where did you COME from?” and then, “We’ll help you.”

Even when I ski, it’s usually at least 75 degrees out.

Of course now I have all that gear and nothing to do with it, as I plan on never setting foot in such a cold place ever again. Unless I do this
http://www.expeditionsail.com/

But I probably won’t, because it’s too fucking cold.

10/24/08 11:59 AM
Pop said…
I think he may really find shoveling your driveway very interesting when the time comes. Make sure he has good boots.

10/24/08 10:35 PM