Category Archives: Family

Damn The Contradictions! Giving Feels Good.

Last night my Rotary Club of Simi Sunrise led a community effort to assemble the bicycles we had raised money for and purchased to distribute to children in our community whose families could not otherwise afford to get them one this year. We planned on buying, assembling, and distributing 300 bikes, but were only able to get 272, because there just weren’t any more available.

Bikes

A sample of the 272 bicycles assembled for community gifting.

Above is a pic showing some of these bikes. They were all assembled, put through a final quality check to ensure everything was done correctly, and loaded into trucks for distribution to the various groups and agencies who were participating in this event in approximately 2.5 hours. Kudos to everyone involved. It really was an amazing event, topped off by free pizza from The Junkyard, which was delicious.


PS – The title I used for this post reflects my knowledge that things like philanthropy and volunteerism (especially the former) can be indications of a failure in our society to meet the basic needs of many of our citizens. While I recognize there is, indeed, a problem of economic justice inherent in the ways we distribute goods and services, I also recognize there remains a real need regardless of the theories and concepts we can develop to describe and explain them. I therefore wish to opt for doing what I can (and Rotary seems an excellent avenue with which to do it) to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by the imbalance. 


Giving Thanks is a Year-Round Affair

Senior Center at Thanksgiving

Some carving, some cooking, and the calm before the storm.

Last night’s dinner at the Simi Valley Senior Center, organized by my Rotary Club, and for which I was a co-Chair, was a resounding success. There were a few less people than the past couple of years, but we still fed around 350 – 400 seniors, plus a ton of volunteers. It is so gratifying to see so many people come together to make something happen like this and, truthfully, it is all the Thanksgiving I need.

Today will be a lagniappe; a little something extra; a little more than I need or have any reason to expect.

I have so much to be grateful for. My family and, especially, the two beautiful girls without whom my life would be so much poorer (though I’m having some doubts about the 13 y/o ;) ). My wife, Linda, who puts up with my volatility, especially since I retired from the job I expected to work at until I dropped dead at my desk. My life after retirement, which is slowly resolving into something considerably different than I thought it would, but that I’m settling into rather comfortably. The wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from. My numerous friends, both irl and virtual, whose sharing, comfort, and kindness have kept me from despondency and buoyed my spirits when things weren’t looking all that good, and who have also helped me continue to grow as a human being.

I’m also grateful for the ability to think critically and the strength to seek out the truth and accept its lessons, no matter how challenging or harsh they may be, without losing faith or diminishing the love I feel for the human race and this beautiful world we live in.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Be well, be strong, be faithful to the truth. Much love and respect to you all.


Our Switch to Solar Saves Thousands

Solar Panels

The Finished System – 38 Panels – 9.5 Kilowatts

Just received our latest electricity bill from Southern California Edison. Our total charges for delivery are $1.77, which is applied to a current credit balance of just over $200.00. Now that we’ve returned to bundled service from SCE, which means we are totally on a net energy metering account, we are consistently producing more energy than we’re consuming. I have been keeping close track of our total expenses since we had net metering fully enabled and I’m projecting we will save approximately $2,000 over last year’s bill. Think about that. This includes the amount we pay each month on the lease of the solar panels which, since we use a lot of energy, is a large system and is more than some people we know ever spend on a month’s worth of energy.

Some of our savings can be attributed to our being a bit more proactive in cooling the house in the evening and morning by opening up the windows and doors, and using an inexpensive box fan to pump the cooler outside air into the house before buttoning up as the temperature rises. Also, we’ve set our thermostat a bit higher in the Summer months, and have learned to be comfortable with an occasional high temp of 78 or even 80 degrees in the house.

Our two biggest expenses in terms of energy consumption are the pump for the swimming pool filter and our old, not terribly efficient air conditioner. We can’t do much about the pool, as we kind of would like to keep it and there’s nothing we can do to change the need to filter and circulate the water. So the pump remains a drain. I have tweaked the timing so it turns on after the Sun has reached an elevation that generates enough electricity to nevertheless keep our meter running backward, and turns off when the Sun is too low to be of much effect.

SCE Bill

A Portion of our October Bill, Showing Net Production.

Actually, during the Summer I experimented with different settings on our thermostat, which ran the gamut from cooling the house early in the day to take advantage of the abundance of solar energy our system was generating, and waiting until the inside temperature reached 78 degrees before switching on the A/C. Thanks to SCE’s online tools, I was able to track performance on an hourly basis and, by paying attention to the vagaries of the weather as well, I was able to fairly accurately determine what settings made the most sense in terms of production and conservation.

Another aspect of our particular situation is where our house sits relative to the path of the Sun. I don’t think we could have planned it any better if we could have picked the entire house up and planted it facing the perfect angle. Prior to installation of our panels, I’m pretty sure our house heated up far more quickly because of its placement. Now, not only do we have the maximum amount of energy produced by the two sets of panels, but I’m reasonably convinced we benefit as well from the fact the panels also shade the roof and absorb a fair amount of the heat energy as well, meaning the house heats up far slower than it used to.

I have to give kudos here to the company that designed and installed our system. They took into consideration our historical usage and the location of the house and the angle of the rooftops relative to the path of the Sun, and designed a system to provide the bulk of our energy needs. In fact, the system is efficient enough to offset whatever energy we use when the Sun is down, e.g. lights (most of which are CFLs, LEDs, and other fluorescents), TV, computers, etc. That company is Real Goods Solar, one of the first to enter the business and one that is local here in SoCal.

All things considered, I’ve concluded this was a very wise choice for us. Not only do we get to play a role in conserving energy, but we also save a rather substantial sum over what we had been paying for our overall electricity costs. I recommend you consider whether your overall energy consumption, coupled with the amount your house can produce based on its location and conditions, warrants the installation of a system. Not every home will benefit, but I’ll wager a considerable number will find the savings worthwhile. I seriously urge you to consider the alternatives.


Boy Are Your Pipes Wasting Water!

Down the Drain

The Cost of Wasted Water Waiting for it to Heat

So . . . I finished taking out the trash, garbage, and recycling materials to the curb and, as is my wont, I took to the kitchen sink to wash my hands. Because I’m far more acutely aware of our water use due to the drought, I ended up washing them with cold water; I just didn’t want to let the water run long enough to get hot.

That got me wondering about how much water could be saved if we had instant water heating. I did a little research into tankless water heaters and quickly found out how little the technology seems to have progressed in the last 10 years or so. Most articles I came across suggested the break-even point for installing one that was reasonably efficient/effective would probably exceed your lifespan.

In the process, I came across figures for the number of gallons of water an average household runs down the drain while waiting for the hot water to push out the cold that’s in the pipes between the sink/tub/shower where it’s going to be used. The figure I came across is 26 – 29 gallons. I also looked at the US Census to see how many households there are in California. The number of housing units listed, as of 2013, is 13,790,495.

So, taking the number of households and multiplying by the more conservative number of 25 gallons per day down the drain, I determined the following. If we could find a way to heat water directly at the point of use, thereby not wasting that 25 gallons per day, the State of California would save 125,838,266,875 gallons of water per year. As it turns out, that’s a third of one percent of the water in Lake Tahoe. Drop in the bucket, or significant savings? Probably doesn’t matter, unless you’ve got an idea for how to provide on-demand, on-location hot water . . . cheap.


Did You Know Medicare Doesn’t Cover Dental?

Oral & Heart Health

Be Good to Your Teeth and They’ll Never be False to You.
~ Soupy Sales

Are you aware of just how important your dental health is to your overall health? The two are far more closely related than you may realize. It’s been almost 10 years since my mother’s death, but her oral health played a major role in what brought her life to a close. She had been admitted to the hospital and was awaiting a triple bypass. Coronary bypass surgery has become pretty routine nowadays and the operation she was facing wasn’t all that dangerous, although at her age (81) recovery would have been somewhat lengthy.

However, the real problem was her teeth. The surgeons would not operate before she had eleven teeth pulled. My mother was not one who faced pain all that stoically and she had neglected her oral health. This was, of course, exacerbated by an inability to afford good, useful dental insurance. She was on Medicare, through Kaiser Permanente, and there is no dental coverage offered as part of the overall plan. The reason they wanted to pull her teeth is the very real danger of Endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). According to the Mayo Clinic, “Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.”

I will never forget the look on her face when she told me about their plans. She made an expression I had come to recognize over the years that said “I don’t like it, but I have no control so I’m giving up.” Give up is what she did. Within two days she lost consciousness and quickly died. I can still see her expression and it breaks my heart.

Yesterday, I created a petition at “We the People“, a part of Whitehouse.gov. As someone who is currently on Medicare and who has a difficult time affording a good dental plan, and as someone who recognizes the importance of good dental health to overall health (not to mention someone who does need a little work) I am appalled that Medicare doesn’t cover — at the very least — routine examinations and bi-annual cleaning. I know of no studies, but I have a feeling offering such coverage might actually bring down the overall cost of Medicare.

I know there are some issues with whether or not this kind of thing works, or if the Obama administration is either taking it seriously or paying much attention at all. However, I’m bound and determined to do what I can to bring attention to this problem. It only takes a moment of your time to sign and I think it’s worth raising awareness.

Below is the text of the petition. Please take a moment and sign it. Here’s the link. If you have a moment, you can also share through the Facebook and Twitter buttons just below it. Surely you have family who may benefit from this expansion of coverage and, whether you like it or not, you’re going to get old yourself. Will you be able to afford a dental plan? In the long run, I’m in favor of universal health care. However, in the meantime, let’s ensure our older population has the means to remain as healthy as possible. Maybe we’ll all die of less expensive diseases. ;)

“Recognizing the role oral health plays in the overall health of our citizens, as pointed out by such organizations as The Mayo Clinic, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health promotion, and the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, we believe it is prudent and economically imperative to provide coverage for Dental Services to all recipients of Medicare. Many of those who have reached the age of eligibility are healthy and desirous of continuing to contribute to our country’s well-being. Ensuring their dental health is important to ensuring their overall health as well. Many people who have reached the age of eligibility for Medicare are unable to afford separate coverage for dental health. We ask the administration to work toward achieving this goal.”

Thanks from the bottom of my heart . . . and my mouth.


Why Do They Grow Up? Because.

Love it when they feed themselves in the morning.

Love it when they feed themselves in the morning.

There’s a large part of me that doesn’t want my children to grow up. I miss my three-year-olds and the ability I had to pick them up and hug, kiss, or tickle them. I miss the intimacy and the feeling I was enjoying the most important love affairs of my life.

Then there’s the other part that can’t wait until I don’t have to take anyone to school and pick them up every day. I’m also glad they can finally make their own breakfast. Aimee even makes pancakes sometimes on the weekend, though Alyssa is just figuring out how to use the toaster oven.


I had a good time today watching my 10-year-old bowl with her friends and classmates

NB – This post was written using Dave Winer’s “Little Facebook Editor”, which currently posts to both Facebook and WordPress. It also allows for editing and updating to both sites, concurrently. If I continue using it, I’m hopeful I can remember it uses the entire first paragraph for the title. He’s trying to get Facebook to allow for some kind of textual formatting, which would then provide headline capability within Facebook as well. I edited this one to be only the first sentence.


Kid Bowling

Assuming the Position!

One of the boys in her class was celebrating his 10th birthday at a local bowling alley. I think this was the first time I’ve been to one where the entire building was given over to birthday parties for kids.

This is a large building, by the way. I didn’t count the lanes, but I did count (well, almost to the end) the large-screen TVs that were lined, almost end-to-end, from the first to the last lane and there were no less than fifty. Content was staggered, as you moved down the line, from one screen showing a music video, then two screens for keeping score of the games, then one screen showing a sporting event, and two screens for scoring again . . . rinse and repeat.

When we arrived, I had to check out the bowling balls. They couldn’t have weighed more than 6 pounds, which works really good for the kids. Might be the perfect weight for adults to bowl . . . overhand. When the kids are bowling – at least the younger ones – there are no gutter balls, because the gutters are filled with lane-length bumpers. Without them, the vast majority of balls would end up in the gutters. That’s not a lot of fun for the kids.

Watching the balls bounce off the bumpers, I envisioned a scaled-up version of a pool table, with the balls being the same size as bowling balls, and imagined playing pool or billiards in the same manner one bowls, the rules following those of standard billiards or pool games. I just did some quick research and calculate the playing field/table would be 34′ x 17′. It would appear such a game would include a de facto dodge ball component.

They had three breaks for the kids to dance, all managed by the man behind the curtain and facilitated by the servers/party guides. The dances included the Chicken dance, YMCA, and the Hokey Pokey, plus some Cha Cha line dance I can’t recall the name of. The organization and precision of the whole thing was simultaneously admirable and eerie. There was an assembly line, automaton feel to some of it.

There were soft drinks and the kind of pizza that kids will devour with no complaint, while adults would likely find fault with. I had three pieces. I was told they close down the bar, so I wasn’t able to quaff a brew or two.

Toward the end, Alyssa was anxious to get home, but she had one more frame, the tenth, to complete. I told her she had to finish, as she was on a team and her teammates were depending on her. She bowled the first strike of her short life, without using the bumpers, then went on to knock down nine pins and pick up the spare. She was so excited she forgot she wanted to leave and joined in on another game.

However, as I said, the precision of the event(s) was near perfect and, precisely at 1:30 (it began at 11:15) everybody had to leave. No doubt they clean up, then either open up for public bowling or begin the birthday assembly line once again. I’m pretty sure we had a good time.


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