CFLs for a Buck!

I don't have a filter for "locals," so apologies to my far-flung reader for the irrelevance. However, there's other electrical geekery below that.

I stopped by Tag's in Porter Square last night on the way home, and went by the light bulb section. They are selling CFLs for 99 cents each! I talked to the clerk--they're basically trying to clear out inventory (they got a huge bunch of them). I believe he said the supplier overcharged them recently, so they made up the difference in CFLs, and Tag's is now trying to clear out that inventory.

They are in a cloth bin directly opposite the display of CFLs in the basement. I believe they ran out of 100 W equivalent, but they had a fair number of 75 and 65 W equivalent. Limit was 6 per customer--I think I might try picking up another batch tomorrow morning.

UPDATE: I did stop by Thursday morning to pick up some more bulbs--they must have a good stock of them in back, because all of the bins were refilled.

EDIT: incidentally, as far as I can tell, these are not el-cheapo CFLs--they are name brand GE Energy Smarts. Froogle thinks they go for $5-$14 a piece, which is what made me say, "Wow!" about the clearance price. The price on the shelf is $5-$8. Also, their Color Rendering Index (CRI) is 82 (a good number)--explanation for previous blogging here.

I installed a bunch in the basement--they make it really bright down there now. The spectrum seems fine, if you're ok with CFLs (i.e., I have had the 'daylight bulb my ass' problem with some bulbs in Canada).

Also, speaking of energy geekery, the kitchen table here is now the command center:

Items include:
  • An indoor-outdoor temperature reader (pretty important if you bike to work)
  • A temperature-relative humidity sensor connected to a datalogger I have in the basement. It collects T/RH data in five spots in the house (including the basement), outdoors, and monitors running of the heating and hot water systems
  • A TED (The Energy Detective)--one of the electrical power meters that I blogged about previously. We had a few spares around work, so I borrowed one. It's actually kinda entertaining--you can watch as things turn on and off around the house ("Yep, there's the fridge... and the washing machine is going into spin cycle... and now it's off..."). Actually, JMD and I have been sitting around watching the thing... it gets a bit mesmerizing after a while (it has this green blinking LED).
So, um yeah, as BirdJen would put it, So you're still single, huh? Yeah, point taken.


Leveraging Assets

While I was over at U5 & Rebecca's, I got to check out their selection of bathroom reading magazines--always amusing to see what the selection is in a given household. scuba magazines, Allure, but not the usual Entertainment Weekly or National Geographic. So instead, I started reading a copy of Men's Health--yeah, kinda like Cosmo for guys. FYI, the subscription is Rebecca's, not U5's.

Anyway, while browsing the articles, I came across a sidebar, "You've got skills: We asked 1000 women how various guy skills affect your hotness factor," as shown below.

So considering I have 'playing an instrument,' 'cooking,' and 'carpentry' down cold, and I have passable high school French, all that I can say is that I'm doing a spectacular job at failing to leverage my assets [smile]. (Okay, admittedly, a lot of that is soaked up by working my way out of the short-fat-dork-deficit-factor.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the first time since 2003, I returned to celebrating Thanksgiving at U5 & Rebecca's! It was a great feeling to be back: due to my grad school schedule, I missed it from the fall that I left (2004) through my return to the states in early 2007.

My culinary contribution was my standard recipe of Brussels sprouts with bacon & onions (however, I also made a veggie version). For those of you not familiar with the way that the vegetables grow, you have to check out the startling scary day-of-the-triffids style stalk they come on. The first time I opened a fridge with them in there, jumped back, wondering what lifeform had taken over.

As another aside, a nonstick roasting pan over two burners makes a quite serviceable large skillet:

And as another aside, I've heard you can use your washing machine on 'rinse' cycle as a gigantic salad spinner. Although I worry about picking out miniscule bits of greens out of the holes for the next few weeks.

Anyway, it was a big turnout--U5 & Rebecca, the kids C & B, Rebecca & Schmooz's parents (Tom & Marilyn) and sister+family (Karen, Perry, Caroline, Mitchell), Perlick, JMD, Morton & Sarah, and me.

And as usual, in addition to an oven roasted turkey, we deep fried up a turkey. Oh yeaaah. FYI, this is the rig that U5 & I devised a bunch of years ago to dunk things into the fryolator with some standoff distance. Although it does seem a bit like, "...two people are required to cast the molten metal into an ingot, using the dipper from the cauldron..."

Dinner wrapped up with pie saturation--it worked out to half a pie per person. Nope, we didn't get anywhere near close to finishing.

A fun time, and we didn't get back home until 1 AM. Wonderful friends are something to be thankful for.

Ugh... heading into the office today (albeit quite late)... but at least it's a weekend tomorrow.


Out of Towners

Woo hoo! U-Boat and Christy came to visit from out of town on Saturday night:

Uboat and I will blow through town for less than 24 hours next weekend, and would love to see you!

(We'll be coming in on the 6pm Amtrak from NY, so hopefully this is enough of a time buffer; RSVPs will also enable us to call if the train derails.)

They picked up dinner from India Samraat, and brought it over to tEp.

I made the trek over via Red Line--however, they were doing maintenance from Kendall to Park Street, and were using connecting buses. I decided to just walk it from Kendall--I hadn't been over the Longfellow Bridge by foot in a while. It was a nice opportunity to see whether my new camera could hack for nighttime shots--much better than my old one (would have just been a big blur), but not great:

I got to hang out for a little while telling stories to the undergrads--the usual drooler activity, but hey, they were interested (I actually got two instances of, "Oh you're Batman?!?").

In addition to Christy and U-Boat, other droolers included Linder & Ara, Rugs & Lindsay, Qwidjibo, Rawhide & Terri (and baby Alexander), Sloan, and a bunch of the young'uns. Incidentally, Rawhide pointed out that Alexander actually did drool on the carpet--well on his way to tEpdom, eh?

Christy & U-Boat kindly hung out with me waiting for the #1 bus, so we got to catch up for a while in the night Boston air. Also, one of the undergrads (Tim) took the bus as well--he had just switched from Course XIII to Music (21M), so we geeked out about some music. After a bit of chatting, I asked, "...so, bass or bari?" "Low bass... way low," and started describing the chorus director's pleading for him to stay to hit the low notes. "So you can hit the 'Koyaanisqatsi' note?" "Oh yeah, it's just a low D." Too cool.

Man, I really need to host some random alumni event sometime soon. Well, probably after the holidays.


Robert Fripp & The League of Crafty Guitarists

It's nice to be reminded that I live in a cool town: with minimal planning, I bailed out of work, wandered over to the Somerville Theater (Davis Square, a short walk from my office), bought tickets at the box office, and caught a concert--Robert Fripp & The League of Crafty Guitarists. I doubt this will matter to most of you non-prog-rock-geeks out there, but Fripp is the heart and soul of King Crimson (as well as the only constant member, over its 30+ year history). Fripp started a guitar school known as Guitar Craft back in 1985, and as the website puts it, The League of Crafty Guitarists [is] the performance wing of Guitar Craft. Huh... that language sounds an awful lot like describing Sinn Fein's relation to the IRA.

Anyway, the group itself is ten guitarists (from countries all over the world) plus Fripp, playing in a large circle on stage. They were very entertaining both to watch, as well as to hear--they would have interludes where they would "pass" notes from one end of the stage to the other and back. The music itself was wonderfully dense, sounding at times a bit like Steve Reich, with a throbbing ostinato minimalism. The sound of ten guitars together was pretty neat--not something I'm used to.

One odd habit of Fripp is that he stays pathologically (perhaps amusingly) away from the spotlight. When I saw him play with King Crimson a few years ago, he was set up in a darkened corner of the stage, so you could barely see him, while the others were in full view. At this concert, he walked onto stage, bowed to the applauding audience, and then took a seat completely hidden behind an amp stack. I think that he has some deeply seated feelings about performance being about the music rather than showmanship or appearance, but I'm too lazy to try to dig up a reference.

Some of the recognizable tunes from the concert were the Beatles "Flying" (from Magical Mystery Tour), the Mission: Impossible Theme, and the big crowdpleaser for the audience, King Crimson's "VROOOM."

Grr... looking for an online review for other comments, but haven't found one yet.

Modern Architecture [Chortle]

I assume most of you have heard the news, but the story in today's Boston Globe made me grin--MIT sues Gehry, citing leaks in $300m complex--Blames famed architect for flaws at Stata Center. Heh. Quite amusing, in light of various architecture rants that I've done in the past.

Incidentally, the Stata Center has provided endless amounts of fun on previous visits. For instance, when my advisor & chief grad student were in town in 2004, we wandered around to look for the leaks and fixes--we basically had a case study on how to do lots of details wrong:

Ouija, Drea, and I stopped by Crusher's office back in 2006--it was great--you look out the window, and see dumb details!

Huh... I wonder what those white streaks are...

Huh.. maybe this might have to do with the fact that you're using brick as a FLAT ROOF, and BRICK LEAKS. Oh wait... looks like you have weep holes all right. Except no kickout flashing, so it just drools down the face of the building. Swell.

On a more serious note, what browns me off is this paragraph of the article:

An executive at Skanska's Boston office yesterday blamed Gehry for problems with the project and said Gehry ignored warnings from Skanska and a consulting company prior to construction that there were flaws in his design of the amphitheater.

"This is not a construction issue, never has been," said Paul Hewins, executive vice president and area general manager of Skanska USA. He said Gehry rejected Skanska's formal request to create a design that included soft joints and a drainage system in the amphitheater, and "we were told to proceed with the original design."

So Gehry--you actually had adult supervision involved here, who knew how to put together buildings where it RAINS (say, unlike Southern California, where your offices are), and when they warned you to change some dumb details, you IGNORED them?? I can easily imagine the meeting: "We'd like to implement your solution, but that adds a shadow line to the parapet, and that's just unacceptable to this signature design." I'm just hoping that they get as nailed as possible in the lawsuit.

Perhaps you can paint me as a Philistine, but in general, artistes gone wild (and into their own world, ignoring their audience) truly annoy me. Literature should have, somewhere in there, characters and a story that I find interesting. Music should be listenable, instead of a complex intellectual exercise that is ultimately unlistenable ("Goddammit, didn't we get this motherfuckin' Pierre Boulez Marteau sans Maitre-style bullshit out of our systems already?") (apologies for the foul language, but twelve-tone music really does that to me). And buildings should, ultimately, functional as shelter, without leaking, without being a maintenance nightmare, and without being an energy sieve.


Two Items for Your Amusement

Two screenshots that I'm hoping will give you all a chuckle. First, TV Guide's context ads get it wrong:

I like the mental image, though, of various countries getting together to have an 'intervention.' Actually, that might be needed for this country:

EU: Y'know, U, you've been hitting it pretty hard recently...
US: Shudthefugup..
EU: I mean... you're up over 20 million barrels a day...
US: I can quit anytime I want...
EU: Look, all of the rest of us are really concerned...
US: Go 'way... pisshoff...
EU: And they're just gonna jack the price of oil, now that you're hooked...

Second, I noticed my Wikipedia search history recently, and was amused by the odd collection of articles:

First of all, this was around World Series time, so I was a bit curious, "Hideki Matsui and Kazuo Matsui--any relation?" (Nope).

As for Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla, Hideki Matsui had a cameo in that movie, according to the Wikipedia article. So I had to click the link and find out about it. Godzilla movies on a Saturday were a huge part of my childhood, and I have a lot of affection for the dudes in the big green suits stomping on miniature Tokyo. I didn't realize they remade it so many times: there's the 1974 original, the 1975 sequel, the 1993 version AND the 2002 version!. Oh, good grief...

The Sacramento reference was due to my recent trip--I stayed at the hotel at Sacramento airport, and I thought it was classically and strikingly 1960's, and wondered if there was some background info on it. It hadn't been redone in ages--it almost felt like a movie set. Unfortunately, my Google-Fu didn't reveal anything on that front. Also, alas, they are going to turn SMF into yet another glass box swoopy roof airport.

Portland was due to another recent visit--looking up the Time & Temperature Building.

Port Wine and Wine Terms come from hanging out drinking port with Bird & Jen--exactly how do they stop the fermentation process, to keep it sweet? (by fortifying it with distilled alcohol, they kill off the yeasties). So word of the day: "must" is the unfermented grape juice.

As for 30 Rock, they are showing NBC sitcoms and dramas on United, so I actually watched an episode, and it was amusing enough that I thought I'd look up the background info. Maybe I'll check it out once in a while.

Ok... yeah... I'll admit it... it's also that I that think Tina Fey is hot. So busted. To paraphrase Ms. Parker, I'd rather make passes at girls who wear glasses... ahem... not that I really gotten to put this into action or anything. Speaking of the subject, this Salon article on the topic amused me greatly, in its delighfully lascivious detail.


Sometimes, It's Ok...

There are, to be honest, some days at work that are better and worse. However, this was a good one: a colleague and I got to spend a day putting finishing touches on the wall mockup at the company office that we built in August. So we basically spent a day getting out our tool belts and gear, and working outside on a nice autumn day. I was very happy that I finally got to try out my miter saw stand (it's at the left in the picture)--I've owned it since before I left for grad school, and it has been languishing in my parents' basement for years.

I had not done carpentry with this coworker before, so it was nice to learn that we work together pretty well. Like me, he spent some time supporting himself by being a carpenter, doing the odd kitchen remodel; he also spent time on various crews, doing everything from framing to lumping materials around the jobsite. He came equipped with a set of tools as complete as mine, so it was nice doing a job without the step of stopping, swapping tools, getting them back, etc.

Although it was cloudy all day as we were working, I kept yelling, "Don't rain!" at the sky, and it actually only started to drizzle down as we were packing up. Nice.

Yeah, I know it looks like we're putting an addition on to the house in this photo.

It was a good reminder that I miss doing this type of work. I think about my ideal retirement plan (load up a truck with my tools and drive around the country fixing up the houses of my friends), and wonder if I should perhaps put this plan into action sooner than later. I can't imagine my body will get better-suited to hauling planks up and down a scaffold with time.