Categories
Climate change Imagine A World Someday

Planning for a Heat Pump Furnace in Michigan

Our gas furnace has been loud for a while, and getting louder. We got a furnace check-up this fall and the technician said, that noise is your inducer motor. They fail often on these furnaces and your furnace is old. Sounds like yours is on its way out.

I started researching electric replacements for gas furnaces, i.e., heat pumps. That picked up in early January, when my friend George sent me the hot-off-the-press guide from Rewiring America, Electrify Everything In Your Home.

The day after I started reading it, I woke up to a chilly home. The inducer motor had failed.

Categories
Someday Writing

Let’s write a novel this November

For the longest time, I wanted to write a book. My “bucket list” evolved over my teenage years and adulthood, but this item stayed constant. Eventually, I removed it, for two reasons. I didn’t feel I had material worth writing about and even if I did, my prose would fall short.

This year, I finally had an idea for a story worth telling. The smallest seed for it was planted a few years ago, as a book someone should write. I kept turning the idea over, growing it slowly. Then I had a breakthrough this summer during a chat with my ten-year-old – we settled on the main character’s quest and her path to victory. The plot is genuinely compelling (in my eyes) and while it’s not my personal story, it’s a mix of settings that I have a bit of familiarity with.

Soon I had my eye on National Novel Writing Month, “NaNoWriMo,” which begins in a month. The timing was great: I could sit with my story in September and October and see whether I lose interest or stick with it and keep plotting the story and characters. So far it’s been the latter. So I’m signed up and planning to give it my best shot! The goal is 50,000 words in 30 days. I’m not sure how long my story might get once I unspool it, but my guess is that 50k words could be enough to tell it all. I have read a few books of ~200 pages this year and it’s a nice snappy length, so that’s my current vision.

I would love to talk NaNoWriMo with others as it approaches and gets underway. Anyone out there want to take the plunge with me this year? Everyone else: if I stick with this you might see less from me as I put my extra energy into the book.

I’m still not sure my writing will be any good – I’m a rank amateur. But I’ll have fun telling the story I’ve dreamt up so even if the result is lousy, I’ll have enjoyed myself and the experience of taking on this challenge. And I can check it off my list.

The biggest challenge I foresee right now is not editing. The idea with NaNoWriMo is to pump out a draft as fast as possible and hit the word count. Then you go back and edit it in future months. When I write here and professionally, I spend more time editing (on the fly and afterward) than I do writing. I’m not sure it always improves my writing, and it slows my blogging down considerably. So perhaps if I can embrace the NaNoWriMo mode of write-without-editing, it’ll lead to more blog posts in the future. Time for me to stop re-reading and publish this post!

Categories
ruminations Someday

Halfway to a keg of blood

I’ve been donating blood since I was in high school. My dad is a long-time blood donor, so I started giving because he did. Turns out he donates because his dad, my Grandpa Bill, was a long-time blood donor.

In my early 20s I set a goal to donate the largest feasible volume that was meaningful to me as a homebrewer: a keg. A standard half-barrel keg is half of a barrel (31 gallons), so 15.5 gallons or 124 pints of beer. Or blood.

I donated blood yesterday and checked my stats: 53 units with the Red Cross, plus 10 that I donated with LifeSource during the periods I lived in Chicago. That puts me one unit into the second half of my keg.

Categories
Biking ruminations Someday

Growing adoption of e-bikes, cargo bikes in Ann Arbor

I don’t have hard data on this. Ann Arbor should collect this kind of data – Portland, OR has being doing bike counts since 1991. But I feel confident that the number of electric-assist bikes and cargo bikes on the road in Ann Arbor is growing rapidly.

Yesterday I parked in the excellent covered bike parking in the 4th and Washington structure and when I returned saw five e-bikes parked there:

Contrary to what you might think, not all e-cargo bikes are green.

Ann Arbor is a good town for an e-bike. It has some serious hills, which many people can’t or don’t wish to ride up while commuting. It has people with disposable income and environmental leanings who can be the early adopters. And we have two great stores for e-Bikes, Human Electric Hybrids and the newer Urban Rider (same ownership).

(Regarding one particular hill: the William Street Bikeway is slated to open this fall. This will be a veritable sales pitch for e-bikes, offering a safe and pleasant way to get to campus and downtown … to those riders who can surmount the steep, short climb up William from First to Ashley. Increase your assist level!)

Electric-assist bikes will grow in popularity here, becoming a critical part of how we move around in a world without abundant gasoline. (Even in a world with cheap gas they’re gaining steam, since they’re more fun, healthier, and cheaper than cars). E-bikes are already hugely popular in Europe and China, and while America has been slower to catch on, sales have nearly doubled annually in recent years. They’re the future.

I chatted with the owner of the Sondors bike (pictured above) as he locked up. He said he had been close to buying a moped but a friend talked him into buying an e-bike instead. He’s happy he did.

It’s a pleasure to watch e-bike numbers grow here in these early years of adoption.

Categories
How-to ruminations Someday

What I care about vs. what I write about

I’m disappointed with the misalignment between what’s important to me and what I write about here.  Here, I acknowledge and explore that.

What I care about: meaningful, exciting, or useful ideas

I have a list of substantial, interesting topics I’ve meant to write about.  Some are still relevant, others have drifted behind me as missed opportunities (e.g., I meant to discuss the August 2018 Ann Arbor Democratic primary elections).  Some are years old, others freshly sparked from recently conversations.

Some of these topics are explored in abandoned drafts.  Others manifest on paper as just a single bullet point, albeit with hours of associated reflection and many references ready to go in my head.

These more meaningful topics demand focus and time, which I have in only limited supply.  Such posts are also probably better when well-researched, which requires more time – though I’m growing suspicious that the burden of assembling links may not be worth it if it paralyzes me.  And I question whether it’s my place to write on them. Is my opinion valid? Do I know what I’m talking about?

What I then write about: trivial, dull matters.

Meanwhile, as these ideas languish, look at some of the blog posts I did manage to write in 2018.  I ranted against the TrailKeg, a thneed.  I wondered if old yard sign frames could be welded into a Papasan chair.  I wrote a how-to based on what I learned when configuring a specific model of solar panel monitoring gateway.

Categories
Making Someday

Upcycling yard sign frames into a papasan chair?

Filed under “ideas I’d pursue if I had infinite time:” could I weld the metal wickets from old political yard signs into the bowl of a papasan chair?  There are tons of signs rendered useless each election when a candidate loses or a proposal is decided.  These are free or nearly-free, and indeed many are left by the side of the road to rust.

The thin metal rods bend well.  I imagine giving them the proper curve, then welding a grid of them into a bowl shape.  Welding is on my long-term to-learn list, perhaps in 2019.  Would this be an easy trial project or a foolishly hard one?  It would at least be low stakes.

I’m not sure what material the rods are.  Galvanized steel?  I’ve seen some of them rust.  If galvanized, I gather additional safety precautions may be in order from zinc fumes that off-gas during welding.

Someday, perhaps.  I wonder if it’s been tried, or what else people have made from this source of free metal rods.