Never pass up a chance to sit down or relieve yourself. -old Apache saying

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vampire Power!

Reducing the Amount of Juice Electronic Gadgets Consume

By DAVID POGUE, New York Times Technology Columnist

"Vampire power" has been bugging me ever since I first heard of it.

It's the juice consumed by electronic gadgets even when they're turned off (also called phantom loads, standby power or leaking electricity). They just sit there, plugged in, sucking electricity, at a cost to you and to the environment. According to the Energy Department, 25 percent of the power used by home electronics is consumed while they are turned off.

Now, these gadgets weren't meant to be evil; they were designed to remain semi-on for good reasons. Lots of them, like TV sets and stereos, have to remain half-awake in case you pick up the remote control and press the On button. Printers, speakers, scanners and other computer gadgets keep one eye open just in case some signal is sent to them from the computer. Hundreds of gadgets remain in standby mode so that their clocks or other status gauges remain up to date.

Nonetheless, vampire power has gone off the rails. Cumulatively, these gadgets cost us, our country and our environment way too much for what they give us.

The eco-magazines cheerfully suggest that we go around our houses unplugging everything every night. That, obviously, is not a suggestion that the masses will be adopting anytime soon.

You can plug certain phantom gadgets into a power strip, of course, and just turn that on or off every night. But that, too, is not a habit most people will stick to for more than about a week.

But come on. If they can put a man on the moon, surely they can come up with an *automatic* solution to phantom power.

APC has taken a healthy step in the right direction with its Power-Saving SurgeArrest surge protector power strip. You plug your computer into the master outlet, and you plug your external gadgets (speakers, printer, external hard drive, scanner, monitor) into the three outlets labeled "Controlled by Master."

You can probably see where this is going: when your computer turns off, the strip cuts power to those secondary outlets as well.

But does that mean that you have to shut your computer down fully every time you walk away from the desk? That would be a little silly.

Fortunately, no. The APC strip detects when your Mac or PC goes to *sleep* (standby mode), too. It actually measures the amount of current being drawn by the master outlet. When it drops below 15 watts, the strip realizes that your computer has gone to sleep, and it cuts power to those slave outlets. It works perfectly on my Mac and my PC.

There are also three non-controlled outlets for things that you'll probably want turned on all the time, like your cable modem or router.

It's extremely magical, and satisfying, to watch this in action. At night, my desk area used to twinkle with an assortment of L.E.D. status lights, a painful reminder that all that stuff was sucking down power and polluting the air for absolutely no reason. Not any more. The lights blink off when the computer sleeps.

The kicker: the SurgeArrest goes for about $28 online. Considering you'll save about $25 per year (the company's estimate), it seems like a no-brainer for anyone who cares about money or the environment.

(Note to Mac fans: The PowerKey Pro USB goes even farther. It has six outlets that can be controlled individually through *software* -- that is, you can press a key on your Mac to turn one on or off, or according to a schedule -- or even by telephone. It's $200 at

The trouble is, of course, that these solutions are just for your computer setup. What the world needs is more smart engineering that cuts power to things like your TV setup, your chargers (iPod, camera, cellphone) and your kitchen appliances when *they* no longer need the juice.

For now, though, I can't recommend the Power-Saving SurgeArrest strongly enough. It's beautifully designed, has surge-protection jacks for your phone and fax machine, comes with a $25,000 lifetime guarantee that surges won't fry your gear and pays for itself in a year. Best of all, it does something about global warming without your actually having to *do* anything. That kind of deal doesn't come along very often.

Original story is here.

Before and After

A nice neighbor who has lived on our street since the 1980's recently gave us some pictures he'd taken over the last 24 months. They show the house that used to sit on this property; the house that was torn down two years ago this month.

We'd heard that the old house had become rundown and was an eyesore. No kidding.

We hear that the old house had become a crack house, a shooting gallery and meth lab. Nice, huh?

I'm sure that most of the neighbors - at least the non-crackheads - were pretty glad to see the old gal go. Our new neighbors even came out to take a series of pics as they were demolishing the place.




And re-birth...

And look at it now...

Let's hear it for gentrification. This is Houston, Texas, after all. We don't go for all that "preservatin'" old stuff, as Bushie might say. One man's dump is another man's palace, or something like that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mark Morford - All The President's Liars

All the president's liars

Fun new game! Which TV news "military expert" is really a whore for the Bush administration? (Hint: all of them)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Did it work? Were you duped?

Were you calmly and methodically and rather nefariously led to believe that maybe, just maybe, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and the rest, right along with tales of soldier suicides and torture and staggering civilian body counts and the utterly disast

rous Bush military policy weren't really all that bad after all?

Did you watch any CNN or Fox News or MSNBC, lo, these past five or six years, listen to the pundits and ponder the wise, informed comments of all the military experts the networks brought on to discuss Iraq policy, then conclude that maybe this war, this appalling invasion might actually be positive, that maybe the surge is working and torture ain't all that bad and the democracy is taking root and America is proud and perky and victorious once again?

Did you believe any of it? Because oh my God, they sure as hell worked us over like a rabid dog works a hunk of gristle.

Who are "they," exactly? Why, they're the newly discovered and rather unexpected fraternity of expert BS artists, a highly specialized group known to gullible Americans as stoic, stern-faced retired generals, colonels, majors, military advisers, former Pentagon officials, the ones you've heard and seen on TV news for years, but who are known to the Bush administration as a delightfully dishonest gaggle of

preferred liars, lackeys, shills, puppets and mouthpieces for Dick Cheney and Donny Rumsfeld and Dubya himself.

The truth is as sad as it is revolting: You have been lied to, again and again, perhaps even more than you imagined, in a rather unexpected way, perhaps like no other time in American history, in a more carefully orchestrated and widespread effort than any presidential administration has managed to attempt in the past.

Here is the New York Times, still managing to do what it does best despite the era of dying newspapers and disrespected journalism, running a simply astonishing piece on all the dishonest "military consultants" who've appeared for the past half decade on every major network — and yes, Fox adores these liars best of all — to discuss Iraq, surges, U.S. military strategy, the works.

Here is the Times revealing, after two years of battling the Defense Department to release the 8,000 pages of incriminating documents by way of instigating lawsuits and leveraging the Freedom of Information Act — and barely even then — that this entire dour fraternity of deceitful military cretins has been in service of BushCo since Sept. 11 — and still is, to this very day.

To clarify: Whenever you've seen one of those dour-faced retired generals discussing details of U.S. war strategy on MSNBC, chances are staggeringly good he was/is in the pocket of Rummy or Cheney. Whenever a wise old colonel has appeared on Fox or CNN or CBS News to say the surge is working or troop morale is strong or that all those suicide bombings aren't really so

bad, chances are overwhelmingly good that he is lying outright and you're hearing exactly what Donald Rumsfeld wanted him to say. Isn't that refreshing?

The Times story is simply astounding. Up and down the line, from major to general to colonel to every sort of expert they have, it's the same story. Over and over again, presented "tens of thousands of times" and totaling countless hundreds of TV and radio hours, it's been a near constant stream of calculated deception and misrepresentation and bogus pro-Iraq spin. Neutrality? Fair analysis of the war? Criticism of Bush? Not a chance.

You may ask: Why would they do such a thing? What's in it for the generals and the colonels to lie outright to the American populace and the embarrassingly blind news networks, to whore their credentials and trash their distinguished reputations in favor of defending a lost war and useless president?

That's easy: Access. Access to the White House, to the corridors of power and influence; access to the perks and the pals and snifters of brandy, the backroom handshakes, the business deals, the hugely lucrative military contracts, the sweet, sweet piles of cash and privilege and power awaiting them if they just toe the line and keep their real opinions to themselves. Also worth mentioning: Many are military men down to the bone. Failed war and inept commander in chief or no, they will defend any U.S. military operation, simply because it's a U.S. military operation. It's just automatic.

Reminds me, in a depressing sort of way, of that gaggle of Big Tobacco CEOs who banded together not long ago in a hilarious attempt to convince the nation — and the courts — that cigarettes aren't all that bad and there's little evidence smoking causes cancer or impotence or death, and in fact small children really love secondhand smoke and so do puppies and flowers and Jesus, and if you want to have fun sometime, walk into a hospital nursery and fire up a fresh Marlboro and blow that yummy smoke straight into the faces of the newborns. Watch them squirm with delight!

Except wait, no, it's not like that at all. One major difference: Big Tobacco execs are professional liars, de facto and a priori and understood. It's what they do. Not even the m

ost ardent smoking advocate would trust one those jackals as far as he could throw him into a vat of chemotherapy drugs.

Different, at least in theory, with these high-grade military men. They have a potent aura of trustworthiness, fairness, decency. They are f—ing generals, for chrissakes, and hence we like to think of them as straight-talking, no-BS working men whose word is solid and whose authority unquestionable and therefore no wimp-assed monkey-faced president or scabrous Defense secretary could make them say something they didn't actually believe.

Wrong. Oh, how horribly wrong.

So I ask again, did it work? Was America duped? Well, yes and no. There's little doubt that this insidious, sustained PR attack — and make no mistake, it was/is an attack on the American people; such calculated "psychological operations" aimed at U.S. citizens are actually very illegal, though it's enormously difficult to prove so in court — swayed millions of Americans, gave fuel to the preemptive attack argument, inflamed (and still inflames) the warmongering right, scammed the media, fanned the pro-war fires for years before the public recoil finally kicked in.

But oh, kick in it did. This is the fascinating thing. Even all those high-ranking military experts lying like well-decorated dogs in one of the most impressive, appalling PR campaigns in American history could not keep Bush from collapsing, could not prevent Americans from learning the real facts of the failed war and toxic presidency — eventually.

And maybe this is a good thing. Because now, given the scope of the Bush administration's lies — the true scale of which we may never fully know — the recoil is even more forceful than it ever might've been, the anti-neocon, anti-Bush revolt is potent and heartening and enormously helpful to the Democratic cause, perhaps far more than if Bush and his cronies had told the truth in the first place.

Then again, if they had been the slightest bit honest, if Bush had even a hint of integrity, we'd never have launched this staggeringly botched, futile war in the first place, and maybe we wouldn't be where we are now, with the American experiment under Bush far less of an experiment and far more of a cyanide tablet.

Read the original here.


Good book. Good website.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Phase 2 Yard Redo Complete

This is some fascinating stuff, I know.

Had a long conversation with our next-door neighbor a couple of days ago and we got to talking about my plans to pull up all the grass in my yard and replace it with a garden of shrubs, flowers, and edible plants.

We will basically have two gardens: one up on the roof for us; and the other in the front yard will serve as a sort of community garden, with herbs, edible flowers, a lemon tree, lime tree, and goodness knows what else.

Phase one of the plan was carving out a 7'x3' garden right up against the house, as noted in the April Gardening Report below.

Speaking of which, the plumbago on the roof has gone mad...

And the nicotiana (poisonous) is just moments away...

Phase Two became laying down stones adjacent to the neighbors driveway to, in effect, extend the driveway. These same neighbors had already laid stones down on the OTHER side of their driveway - the part that was absolutely "in their yard." I mentioned to her that we'd like to put the same kind of stone down on OUR side of their driveway, and she promptly volunteered to do it herself. Sure enough, the very next day, she was out there with her son, laying in sand, stone and rocks. Now THAT'S action.

She put in 1'x2' stones, surrounded by rocks. Did a good job too.

Took only five stones to complete.

I have no idea what Phase 3 will be. We're open to suggestion.

Say Hello To My Little Friend

My new Buddy!! This one is mine!

We picked it (Genuine Sccoter Company's "Buddy 125") up today from
Scootersmith in Houston. Thanks to the pain that a lot of the country is experiencing due to high gasoline prices, Steve at Scootersmith is likely to be very, very busy and make a nice pile of dough. Just goes to show: one man's ceiling is another man's floor.

Here are a few of Buddy's buddies, lined up outside Scootersmith. RIDE ME!

Wow, the odometer shows 1/2 mile. Brand-spanking new.

Close-up of my Buddy. Normally people seem to call their machines "her" or "she." This Buddy is a dude. A somewhat...slow....dude. But a good guy.

The drive home from Sccotersmith put six miles on the scooter. That six miles will probably be THE longest I will drive Buddy, period. My commute to/from work is about three miles. Doing the math - averaging 90 miles/gallon, three miles round-trip, that's about 30 round-trips for the price of one gallon of gas. Let's just say $3.50/gallon, and that comes out to about $0.12 per round-trip. 6 cents of gas to get to work.

Indeed, when I filled Buddy up (the tank holds only 6.4 liters), it took about six SQUIRTS of gas from the pump. Such a small tank,
you can't just squeeze the pump handle, lock it, and look away. Just a squirt here. Another squirt. One more squirt oughta do it. Hahaha. I'm getting to work on a squirt of gas. Literally. I'm ready for $10/gallon gas. If it goes up that high, my round-trip would cost me about $0.30. Ouch. Here is a rare pic of yours truly with his new Buddy.

Sorry suburbanites. I'm not trying to be rude. (Just comes naturally!) We were out there for 20 years, so we know what it's like. So we're a little slow. We finally came to our senses.

One more, from the rear. Oh dear!

Learn more about the Genuine Buddy here.

Home At Last

Home at last for a contingent of Marines. But for how long? No telling if, or more likely WHEN, they return to Iraq, and these families will have to go through this all over again.

Imagine the suffering. The wounds. The death. The fear. The tears. The wailing. The absurdity of the whole adventure. Unless you're an oil man. Then it's "Mission Accomplished." But you know it's never enough.

I hear the Pentagon is "preparing" for Iran. Are you ready for $10/gallon of gas?

Or here

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gardening report for April

The month of April is almost gone, but the garden is going gangbusters. Just tonight we cut down the entire container of bok choy and sauteed it for dinner. Yum! (Many of these pics were taken with a high resolution, so clicking on a pic might make it quite a bit larger.)

We tossed in several leaves of Swiss chard for good measure. The color on that plant is just amazing.

We even took five green beans (FIVE!) off of our two Blue Lake plants and they were REALLY sweet and delicious! This growing your own food thing is pretty cool. Especially when they're tasty.

Our Mesclun mix is ready to give us a decent salad, perhaps tomorrow. (It's much bigger than this pic taken a few days ago.

And what is that odd-looking thing below? Why, it's a cucumber! A mere fetus of a cucumber, perhaps, but there are about ten more of these on our three cucumber plants.

And then there are the flowers....
The nasturtiums are finally blooming, and it's a neon orange. I think that some of these pictures are not all that accurate in color. Think I'll have to look into that.

You just can't kill the mums....

As long as I'm talking blooms....the neighbors have about one billion jasmine flowers blooming right now, and the fragrance is just wafting over the entire neighborhood. We were thinking about planting some too, but, hey, why bother?

Our iris's by the front door are continuing to bloom and bloom and bloom...

The nicotiana is threatening to burst forth any day now. I just learned that every part of this plant is poisonous. You'd think that the people who sold us the seeds might have told us about that, but no....

The recently-planted plumbago is already flowering a gorgeous blue flower, but the wind has prevented good pictures of the whole end of the plant is covered in blue, but my camera is low in juice!

On our recent trip to Arkansas to visit my folks, the dogwood trees were in full bloom. Just beautiful...

Ma'am, your Bridal Bouquet is ready...

My father made us take home a few plants. He gave us a large clump of ajuga, which we have since learned is a fast-growing, invasive groundcover. We put some in the front yard and a couple up on the roof.

Pansies, pansies, pansies everywhere...

We also recently planted a gardenia shrub...

and camellia shrub in the front yard....

I dug up a 3 foot x 7 foot patch of grass and turned it into a garden. The gardenia, camellia, the four-nerve daisy....

...and some mums are in the ground there. Oh, and a few ajuga, which we will have to keep an eye on. That's 21 sq ft dug up. I plan on ripping up ALL the grass in the front yard and replacing it with plants and mulch and rocks and plants and mulch, etc. Now, only about 150 sq ft more to go!

Politics? What's that??