Category Archives: Family

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.


Thirty Years Gone – My Old Man

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Eddie Ladd with his bestie, Fred DiBiase

Thirty years ago today my father suffered his fourth, and final, heart attack. It happened while he was undergoing the insertion of a Swan-Ganz catheter to monitor the functioning of his heart subsequent to his third heart attack. He did not survive the procedure. While I don’t have a truly eidetic memory, I am cursed with a reasonably healthy ability to picture things in my head. My memory of that night haunts me to this day.

The last time I saw him, he was being wheeled out of his hospital room toward the catheterization laboratory at the Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Panorama City, CA. The man who had brought me into the world, who had carried me in his arms into my bed when I’d fallen asleep in the car,  who protected me, and who had — despite his disappointment and distress over many a choice I made in my crazy-ass life — stood beside me and sacrificed much for me, was scared. I didn’t like seeing it then and I don’t like remembering him that way now.

My old man was old school. Born in 1924, he would have been ninety on November 7th of this year.  He was the fourth child in his family; the first born in the United States after his mother and three older siblings were finally able to flee from the Ukraine and join my zeyda (grandfather in Yiddish), who had emigrated eight years earlier and finally saved enough money to bring them to Chicago. His name at birth was Isadore Edward Wladovsky and he was raised on the South side of Chicago, where he attended Washington High School.

He did not graduate, choosing instead to join the U.S. Navy when he was in his senior year. He had turned seventeen on November 7, 1941, one month before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. He completed boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. I don’t know a lot about his service, other than he was on at least one Murmansk run; a very dangerous voyage through the North Atlantic bringing supplies to the Russians via the port of Murmansk. He also wrote and drew cartoons for the ship’s news bulletin. I used to have faded, crumbling copies of some of them, but they have either disappeared or are in a box somewhere in my garage. The highest rank he achieved was Radioman 3rd Class. I remember a short vacation in San Diego when I was in my early teens and we went down to the docks to view one of the ships where they were providing tours. We were standing alongside the ship and he was able to use his knowledge of Morse Code to read what one of the Naval vessels was signaling to another.

Arctic Circle Crossing Certificate

This certificate was given to each man aboard the William H. Webb upon crossing the Arctic Circle

Every father has a chance to be a superhero for a while and mine was no exception. When he carried me in his arms as a toddler, I was invincible, and when he tucked me into bed I was safe and secure. He was the strongest man alive as far as I was concerned and he could do just about anything. Once he even convinced me, after demonstrating the fine art of blowing smoke rings (he was a Pall Mall man at the time), that he could create a smoke piano. To this day I swear I saw all 88 keys on that grand piano!

Unfortunately, time burnishes off the luster of perfection and, more likely than not, children realize their parents are — much to their horror and consternation — merely human beings; flawed, imperfect, and capable of making mistakes.

Such was my experience. I’m not sure when it happened, and I’m reasonably certain it had as much to do with my rebelliousness as anything else, but the day inevitably came when I suddenly realized how “stupid” he had grown. After that, we didn’t get along all that well for a long time. Part of the problem, no doubt, was my father’s very conservative upbringing and his propensity to criticize and seldom praise. I was expected to excel and when I didn’t, there was hell to pay.

He had a quick temper and, in today’s world, I’m reasonably certain he would be, at best, a candidate for anger management. He was quick to strike and, when he did, it was frequently with the back of his hand. If I fell to the ground to avoid the blows he wouldn’t actually kick me, but he’d push me around on the floor in frustration. To be fair, it didn’t happen often and I never suffered more than bright red hand marks on my back or – sometimes – my face. My mother often came to my rescue, screaming at him to leave me alone. He once took a swing at by brother, who ducked, and ended up hitting the youngest son of a neighbor of ours. That didn’t go over too well and I think he was so mortified he decided it was time to stop with the corporal punishment.

I also think he was haunted by the many fitful nights he spent aboard ship in the North Atlantic, knowing they were being shadowed by a German Wolf Pack and could be torpedoed and sunk at any time, a fact made evident by the ships around his that suffered such a fate. Survival in those waters was very unlikely and I can’t imagine it was easy to get any real deep sleep. On those occasions my mother would ask me to wake him, I learned very quickly not to be within striking distance, as he came out of his sleep as though General Quarters was sounding.

Despite our troubled, angry, and frustrating relationship we loved each other and, thankfully, in the two or three years prior to his death we were enjoying a growing closeness — even a budding friendship. We had worked together in the business he started, which transformed from Ladd Meats to Edward Ladd & Sons, my brother having joined it years earlier.

He took up golf late in life and became a scratch golfer. He wanted me to golf as well, but the grief he gave me over being left-handed (I tried to learn right-handed, but just couldn’t get comfortable with it) and the proximity of the ocean, where I had learned to surf, doomed that venture to failure. I didn’t come back to golf until I was 46, nearly a decade after his death. I have few regrets in my life, but one of them is never having played a round of golf with the old man. I drove him around in a golf cart many times, but never played back then. Shortly after I started playing, I went to Porter Valley Country Club, where he had been President of the Men’s Club one year, and had played there a couple times a week for many years. They still had his picture on the wall and gave me a cart to drive around the course, which I did, trying to imagine him playing each hole.

We buried him in his favorite golf clothes, clutching his favorite putter, which we believe he would have liked. I’ve been told the groundskeeper at Porter Valley lowered the flag at the Club to half staff when he learned my father  had died. I think it choked me up more than any reaction I heard about.

Eddie Ladd

The Old Man at About 50

After he died, I can’t recall how many times something good would happen to me and I wanted to let him know, sure he would be proud or excited for me. Anyone who has smoked and quit knows the feeling of absentmindedly reaching in one’s pocket for a pack of cigarettes, only to discover there’s nothing there; then remembering you’d stopped smoking. That’s how it felt – only worse – when I wanted to share something with my dad, and the realization he was gone would hit me. The hole in my heart dropped down to my stomach and it took a few minutes to shake off the hollow feeling it brought.

About two or three years after his death, I dreamed I ran into him on a cliff overlooking a beach. I don’t know where the beach was, but in the dream we spent the entire day together, exploring caves, sharing a meal, and talking. We talked about my life and he assured me he was fine and happy to see I was doing well. I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t believe I was really talking to my father. However, I do believe I was putting a few “ghosts” to rest by dealing with some of the unfinished business from my perspective; some of the things we never got to do together. It was the best dream I’ve ever had and I remember it to this day. Not in great detail, but definitely in terms of how it made me feel.

He left little of material value, save a moderate life insurance payment that went to sustain the family business, which provided for our mother and our sister who was, I believe, just entering her last year of High School or who had just graduated and was still living at home. I got a piece of jewelry and some clothing, some of which I kept for many years afterward. I still have the pendant, which was custom made for him by an old friend of mine. One of the non-material things he left me was an ability to recognize absurdity and the willingness to comment on or satirize it. He also had lots of silly sayings the family still refers to as “Eddieisms”.

He was a hard worker who was able to move from behind the counter of a small deli in the Grand Central Market, to owning a small truck with which he would purchase and transport distressed merchandise to some of the poorer markets and butcher shops in and around L.A. He was a peddler, once the “broken hot dog king” of the City. He had a wonderful singing voice and many times, during the shows our temple, Valley Beth Israel, would put on for the congregation, people swore he was lip-syncing to Sinatra. He wasn’t. Most everybody he knew loved him and, true to the stormy nature of our relationship, I many times referred to hm as a “lovable asshole”.

To say I miss him would be both an exaggeration and an understatement. I don’t think about him every day. It serves no good purpose and I have a life, a wife, and two young children who still depend on me being with them every day in many ways. Nevertheless, he will always be a part of my life and there are numerous times when I think of him. I would give anything to be able to tell him how much I love him and how much he remains a big part of my life and who I’ve become.


Reflecting on a Deep Personal Loss

The middle of next month will be the 30th anniversary (is that a good word for it?) of my father’s death. While 30 years is a long time and I’m quite used to his absence, I find certain little things are affecting me in ways they normally don’t. Some stories and videos on Facebook, as well as some of the dramas I like to no-brain out on with television, are having a disturbing effect on me.

I’ve been thinking about the blog post I want to write to commemorate his passing and to share a little bit of the joy and pathos that was our relationship. It was a loving and stormy one, I’ll tell you that. I suppose thinking about it has been making me a bit melancholy. I used to be able to talk to my mother about him, but she’s been gone almost nine and half years and my brother and sister and I just don’t talk about him that much. Thirty years! Hard to believe.


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