Friday, January 28, 2011

Our dirty energy secret

Twenty-one miners were killed in a recent coal mine explosion in Columbia.  As we have depleted most coal and petroleum deposits near the surface, companies have explored even deeper and more dangerous places.

Because of the growing scarcity of these raw materials, these already extremely dangerous jobs are getting even more dangerous.  Unfortunately the people who already have it hard are the ones most endangered by companies ruthlessly trying to improve their bottom line.

This isn't only an environmental concern, it's a human rights and safety issue.

We were also disappointed to find out that Evergreen Solar will be closing it's plant in Massachusetts and laying off those employees.  They will replace the plant with a cheaper one in China.  This move comes as a shocker since Evergreen has always bragged about being a low carbon footprint company.  That footprint is about to get a lot bigger with the fuel used to ship things around the world.  The only way Evergreen could save their reputation at his point would be to engineer their own fleet of solar powered freighters.

The good news is that Sara is back home and we are enjoying our mild winter.  It was another beautiful day in the desert, so we spent most of it outside.  I worked on the bathroom roof and Sara butchered several chickens.

Rain would be nice though. . . .

Saturday, January 22, 2011


moon rise
We are still involved with bio-fuels. Mostly answering questions about construction and operation. So admittedly we are falling behind the curve. We have a few idea ideas up our sleeves for our next designs. We are thinking about less commonly used fuels such as the local greasewood.

Also post or email your experiences with the off brand MPPT controllers. Whats the performance?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Jersey: Where the Weak Are Killed and Eaten

Hello Friends!

As usual, my time in New Jersey has been one of those odd combinations of creeping boredom with a healthy smattering of sensory overload and multi-cultural immersion.

The drive from Philadelphia to my mother's house, for example, was downright frightening.  The lanes are narrow, the traffic is always heavy, and the shoulders were clogged with the snow that had been plowed off the roads.

At one point we found ourselves being squeezed into a concrete barrier by a tractor trailer, and had to take an unplanned exit toward Valley Forge.  After that, I decided to keep my head down and not look at the insanity screaming past us at 70 miles per hour.

Since I flew to the North East instead of driving, I am sadly without motorized transportation.  Though almost anything you could need on a day-to-day basis is within walking distance, the cold, snow, and various psychoses of other residents make one disinclined to wander about on foot.  Something about that metal cage surrounding me makes me feel a little safer.

Unlike in our neck of the woods in Texas, where it seems that nearly all car accidents involve only one car (usually kids joyriding on the dirt roads who eventually succeed in rolling over the vehicle), in New Jersey cars are deadly weapons and even the slightest fender-bender necessitates a police presence and huge insurance claims.

When I haven't been stalking about the house thinking up internet-based tasks for myself, I have been visiting doctors, shopping with my mother, or dining out with my sister and friend.

While waiting to be seated at a table the other night, a throng of people crowded inside the restaurant vestibule.  One young woman turned to my sister and apologized for her closeness, which made me laugh on the inside and say out loud, "This is Jersey -- you're always close to someone." The assembled throng chuckled and agreed, and we all continued our personal space invasion while we waited for the Hostess to call the next party.

Sadly my grandfather fell ill recently and needed to be taken to the hospital, where the doctors discovered his gallbladder was infected.  He will need to have surgery to remove the infected organ, and I hope that your kind thoughts will be with us and him while he is hospitalized.

Thanks for reading, and now I pass the baton back to Casey in Texas for the latest alternative energy news.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New wheels

Well, Sara's replacement flight did leave on time and yes she did arrive safe and sound in NJ. So it's just me a Sprocket on the home front.

In the past weeks we sold our Suzuki no-ground-clearance car and acquired a replacement. Finding a replacement was not easy, because our requirements were that it be a pickup with an extended cab, 4 cylinder engine, 2 wheel drive, standard transmission, and average 25 mpgs or better.  We were looking at maybe a Ford, Mazda, or Nissan (Toyota was just out of our price range).

After ~30 phone calls and an eye-bleeding amount of Craigslist ads we found two.  It seems everyone got the V6 engine that gets 18 mpg, and I guess that's good for them. We found a 1999 Ford Ranger that fit the bill in Kyle, TX -- just south of Austin and 500 miles away from us. So knowing there were no other options we left that night and got there at 9 am the next day.

We meet our seller Armando at a Conoco station. The truck looked and drove as represented and with 130 K on the clock she's just broken in! We struck a deal for $550 less than asking price, and viola! We headed back happy as clams.

99 Ford Ranger The new pickup should serve us well and I am currently going throught it and servicing everything. Pretty amazing condition overall; it looks like someone kept this one out of the TX sun.

Must get some sleep; thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso ...

Well we're stuck in El Paso, waiting for the airport in Philadelphia to reopen. 

Currently my flight is rescheduled for tomorrow ... any bets on whether it will be canceled again or not?