Monday, January 28, 2008

Crusty Chicken Uncovered...

It saddens me deeply to report that our friends in the CIA have revealed a massive cover-up over at Chunky Chincken's - alas, it is in connection with her most famous initiative, the drive to establish the Diva Cup as the cutting edge of green femaleness.

You may recall, in the early thoughts she shared with us, she confessed she was worried about... a sneeze.

What we've discovered is, The Sneeze did indeed occur.  And it was, as feared, catastrophic; putting the entire project in grave doubt- which clearly has been the motive behind the ensuing cover-up.

Working together with Chinese Military Intelligence, the CIA (both organizations monitor all communications from the Little House - really) was investigating all the activities on the Chicken's blog, seeking any clue as to the origin of the fierce animosity towards this blog; beyond, of course, her sad failure to dominate the poll she'd intended to illustrate her own moral supremacy in the green-blog wars.  (Notice her own blog is listed first in the poll, rather than using alphabetical order- this is a well known ploy for skewing results...)

Chuppa Chicken afishionadoes may recall THIS highly salacious post- 

Ostensibly regarding the green aspects of elevators, the CMI-CIA team discovered that the photo published there was an extensively photoshopped picture of- the aftermath of  The Sneeze...  captured by the CC in-house pap-arazzi (hoping for good smear material, as always), and recycled for other purposes, as is typical there.

Here is the extensively photoshopped photograph, as published by Chopped Chickkens-

This is indeed a photograph, in spite of the considerable resemblance to commercial semi-soft porn drawings.  PhotoShop is amazing, isn't it?

The Intelligence squad was suspicious of this photo, and discovered on a remote server in Kuuzbeckystan (the border country between Kurd and Uzbek regions) used by Hallibutton Inc to backup all web activity, the original photo: and the steps involved in creating this one.  We know this is shocking; but we feel obliged to make the truth known.

Long-time Chickn minions will be aware that Madame Crinchy has always been sensitive about her appearance, and has often sought to mislead the blog consuming public in that regard.  For months, she claimed this as her personal photo-

even though this is merely a drawing of the obscure robot, Windsy Lagner.  Sad, we think.

  Other photo deceptions were also perpetrated in the early days, but we will not inflict them upon our readers now.

The first clue that all was not as it appeared came when this photo was uncovered, in the Kuuzbecky server backup-

As you can see, an original photo has been blatantly altered, proof of Chunky Chippy's attempt to pass off her current "photo" as reality.  

Digging further, we uncovered the actual, (mostly) UNRETOUCHED photograph below-  revealing, for the first time anywhere, the Madama Crunch's TRUE FACE- covered up eventually with a totally fabricated image.  (SOME retouching HAS gone on in this photo- we do not claim Madam has 4 arms yet; but analysis reveals the face is in fact the original photo image, unaltered.)

AND, as all can clearly see, the true fate of the Diva Cup - following The Sneeze.  The elevator person's shoe was irretrievably damaged, according to our information, and he has not yet been reimbursed.

Sad, and disappointing, but reality so often is.

Likewise, we must report that the alleged "potty-offset" schemes being touted by DC turned out to be- a ploy, alas, to get Hallibutton employees ensconced in the THWASPCO as putative "potty watchers"- but whose real task would have been to spy on the Little Blog's personnel, for purposes of future embarrassment.

No actual payments for offsets were forthcoming- despite DC's effusive promises.  We fear that "DC", in fact, may be mere vaporware from Krunchola; another egg layer of deception.

Faith, it's an uncertain world, altogether.  (Errol Flynn, in Captain Blood).


(PS - We hereby declare the humor contest to be "complete" - and while all the comments in the world are welcome here, we will not be making more revenge oriented posts any time soon.  I've duct taped my dignity back together, and am resuming the cloak, undisirregardless of activities elsewhither.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Just in case anyone missed this friendly and total shredding of the tattered remnants of my dignity...


your time will come, Crancky!  muahahaha.

(yes, and as the Masked Cruncher says, you hafta read the comments, of course.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ship happens.

Read that title carefully, please, wouldn't want any casual quick mistakes...

It says "shiP".  :-)

Having just put up a grouchy post which could seem anti-technology, this may to be a good time to counter that.  I'm not anti; I'm pro "GOOD science", and good technology; well thought out, and well implemented.    That's what I try to do myself, which is possibly why it ticks me off so much when ill-thought out crap gets great press.  I've got two spectacular examples for you here; both potentially  of HUGE environmental significance; both with trials actually in place, and working.

Colin is busy tilting at wind generators today - holding direct conversations with a guy who believes the world has no limits, and everything is going to be fine, if we just invest in new technology.  Personally - there is no way around the fact that the world is FINITE.  Uh - it just IS.  There ARE limits to everything, and pretending otherwise will get you in trouble, every time.  

At the same time, there is no denying that real "breakthroughs" DO happen, from time to time.  There is a chance for a really cool breakthrough technology to happen - but it really is NOT predictable, and not something you want to bet the farm on.  The whole world has been betting that if we just spend another zillion dollars on the cancer research industry, we'll cure cancer soon- for about 40 years now.  In spite of incremental improvements- there's no "cure" in sight; and may never be.  "Investing" in innovation is not a proven pathway to actual results.

Oil burning ships are filthy filthy dirty.  They put out more carbon than the airlines, by quite a bit; and it's way dirtier, to boot.

Since the oil is getting more expensive, it occurred to me to predict (privately alas) that commercial shipping would, in the near future, start going back to sail, and start moving away from oil.  Sure, sail is slower.  So?  Not that hard to put X onto the ship a week earlier.

I predicted, specifically, that the Chinese would be the first- and they'd do it within 3 years.

Wrong, wrong wrong.  It was the Germans- and the ship is on the ocean NOW; hauling containers.   The "sail" doesn't resemble the old clippers - OF COURSE.  I never expected them to go back to square-riggers.  We know quite a few new tricks with wind; I expected a radical system.

It's a kite - not a sail.  It's THREE TIMES more effective than the old sails.  That's huge.

(click on pic for bigger version)

This ain't fantasy; the MV Beluga SkySails is currently at sea; having set out from Bremerhaven, Germany two days ago.  Carrying wind generator parts, to Venezuela.

The SkySail kite on this ship is NOT as big as they intend to make them- it's a little smaller, and flying a little lower, so they can learn, I think; an excellent idea.  They're intending to eventually make them more than 5,000 square meters (!!?? really?); and flying at over 1,000 feet of altitude.  (The numbers I was finding are kind of inconsistent at the moment.)

There is a shipload of wind up there- way stronger, and hugely more consistent than surface winds.  Something to learn and remember- the "power" or force of a flowing fluid (liquid or gas) is not a linear relationship.  Power varies as the CUBE of the speed (or maybe the 4th power, I've been taught at one time) - there's a LOT more available power up there.

The kite is actually a self-inflating "parafoil", which lifts like an airplane wing; generating far more pull than a plain kite - computer controlled and guided for maximizing power.

For the technically inclined, there's quite a bit more info available by googling - but it's kind of disjointed.  This is NEW news- not well digested yet.  

This is a BIG big deal.  This ship uses the kite as an auxiliary power source- it supplies only about 20% of motive force.  I'll bet as the technology matures, and new ships are built specifically to take advantage, (one of the proofs of intelligent design for this system- you can just "bolt on" a SkySail to an existing ship) you'll see that change to 80% - or more.  (Not that I expect all my predictions to come true- but it's fun making them...)

What a fabulously good idea.  Hard to see any downsides to it.  One of the UPsides - any ship relying primarily on sail will be - slower, and just a little unpredictable in its schedule.  Do we need to slow down?  Oh, yeah.  Do we need to be able to wait, for something that's being done right, instead of paying extra for "overnight" instant gratification, extra carbon expended - etc.?  Oh, yeah.  This may open some of those doors, and help generate some of those attitudes.

This technology is far from done developing.  When they get a little more expertise on launching, recovering, managing- I can see - piggybacked sails; more than one on the same rope (that rope has to be darned strong) and  possibly - a sky generator there to provide power for the ship- refrigeration, etc.  All working together.

In case you can't tell- I'm enthusiastic about it all.  Maybe it's just because I used to sail when I could, and I do play with kites a lot still - in any case, we'd better go on to the next possible breakthrough -

NanoSolar photovoltaic panels.  That's their corporate website- there's lots of info there, but quite a bit of it is aimed at engineers; not always accessible to the layman.

They may have a REAL breakthrough here- and they also are not fantasy; they're shipping solar panels now.  No- you can't buy one- 100% of current factory output has been bought by a German utility, to put up a really big solar generator plant.  But they're expanding.

Here's the thing- current price for solar panels averages around $5/watt for small consumers; $4/watt if you're a big customer.  NanoSolar says they can sell panels for $1/watt- and still make a profit.  Wow.  As Crunchita was noting a day or so ago, solar still gets listed as "too expensive" (though life span isn't included in those cavils) - but $1/watt is scary cheap.

And they say the panels are not inferior.  They give a 25 year warranty, just like the best single-crystal silicon panels.  Here's the breakthrough- NanoSolar panels aren't silicon.  They're based on a different semiconductor, long considered very promising, known as CIGS - copper-indium-gallium-selenide.  And they don't grow crystals - they PRINT the cells, as ink.  On copper sheets, eliminating one whole conductor connecting process.

Very seriously cool- not widely publicized at the moment, because you can't actually buy any - but people are paying attention; they've raised over $100 million in capital for building production plants.

And- again, this technology is not mature- there's a good deal of room for incremental improvements on what is already a major breakthrough.  If it really holds up.  (It looks good, but the track record is short.)

Breakthroughs in technology CAN happen- and do.  But they're not predictable- and they're subject to easy distortion; like the whole biofuels nonsense.  Biofuels like ethanol were always an obviously bad idea- but the promoters managed to con a huge number of farmers and politicians by selling HOPE - not facts.  (I've talked about that before here- like the current fantasy of cellulosic ethanol...)

We just have to be very very hardnosed about requiring facts before we start doing a lot of hoping.  

And meanwhile- we can't count on breakthroughs.  We have to do what we can; where we are; with what we have.  (Teddy Roosevelt, I think.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New! Improved! Green! - oh, yeah, and dead children.

Sorry for my high post rate here, hopefully we won't reach overload on either end.  Hadn't intended to post at all today, give things a chance to sink in- but-

There's a story today on the NYT that just made me see red.  This is another "WHY can't we do Science right???" post.  And why can't it be reported right?

Wow, sounds great huh?

Maybe, maybe not.  One of the things I've studied in detail is the process of innovation- start to finished installation of new idea/technology.  (Why?  Because humans need to do a lot of changing- and we're lousy at it.  The history of innovation might be good to know about.)

First thing you ask about a "new" idea - has somebody else already done/tried this?

No indication in this article they bothered with that.  Just - "gosh, I was choking on the air inside!  Must be awful to have to live with!"  Never mind that they DO LIVE with it, and have for millennia.   Don't bother to guess that they have ways of moving, sitting, and managing so they avoid the smoke most of the time.  Don't ask.

Yes, dozens of inventors have looked at 3rd world cooking/cookstoves and come up with much "better" ways to do it; ways that use less wood, or make less smoke.  Very few of them work out well.  Would be a good idea to ask if it's been tried before around here.

Guess what?  It has.

The critical quote from this German peer reviewed study: 

In terms of cooking practices, use of an improved stove was associated with an increase in the risk of severe malaria (OR=3.39, p=0.004, 95%CL=1.49-7.75) as was an average cooking time less than three hours per day (OR=2.18, p=0.02, 95%CL=1.14-4.18).

What?  Yeah, turns out that nasty smoke is the only thing keeping the mosquitoes out of the house.  Guess who suffers?  It's the children.  They die.  Big improvement.

No mention of this possibility in this lovely piece of PR for Shell, of course.

This ticks me off.  This is not my area of expertise; I just read the science news- and even I knew about this connection.  As far as we can tell, neither the scientist at the Shell Foundation, nor the journalist with the rosy reporting, bothered to ask  question #1 - "has this been tried before?"

And will anybody notice this post, when the New Improved Regan-Bush Depression is getting underway today?


Monday, January 21, 2008

sigh. Mel Brooks found out, too.

Mel made his first movie, The Producers; won an Oscar for Best Screenplay, and earned a little money at it.  Everybody's heard of that one these days, particularly since it was beautifully recycled into a wildly successful Broadway play version a few years ago.

What did he do with his earnings?  He made his next movie, of course.  Which flopped; totally.  Nobody I know has ever heard of it (until I tell them.)  It's quite possibly my absolute favorite movie (and I don't DO "favorites").  Brilliant.  Beautiful.  Chaplinesque humor, mixed with hard social commentary and primal human pathos.  Intelligent.  Moving.  Mel himself has a minor role as well as directs (spectacularly well) - and his line "Master?..." - gets me every time.  He can act.

This was The Twelve Chairs, easily available now on DVD from NetFlix etc.; but a few years ago, almost the only way you could get a copy was by begging- Mel, himself, to run you off a VHS copy.  He'd do it.  He knew how good it was, and was delighted when someone else knew.  But you DO have to have a measurable IQ to enjoy it.  Ergo - commercial flop.  Watch it if you possibly can- nobody I've ever talked into it has been disappointed.

Then (I imagine) Mel said to himself, "Ok, you don't want class, you want cheap commercial humor??  Fine, it's fart jokes and potty humor for you!"   And Blazing Saddles was born - and Mel made LOTS of money.  Bless him.

So, having given you my brilliant, original, and highly intelligent analysis of why we as a species cannot afford to design and build our world for perfect constant comfort- the primary response so far is a) silence, or b) a request for the "prurient" details of frigid potty function!  (apart from BillyM and Heather- bless you).

Ok.  As Milton Berle (or someone) always said - "If you're losing your audience; just drop your pants.  Works every time."  (or something like that).

Ok, you want prurient details?  Fine, I'll drop my pants.

Rule 1 - WAIT, until you REALLY have to go, onesies or twosies.  This will make the process faster, a good idea.
For #1, as in, pee.  In Farbelowzero weather, we still try to pee outside, when reasonable.  Usually that depends on the wind, more than the temperature.  15mph winds at -20 can lead to serious discomfort, pretty quick; when the mere air temperature would be unnoticeable otherwise.

As mentioned in the previous Potty House Posts, (and pics) pee is one of the biggest problems in composting toilet design- there's a lot of it, too much for a PDORS (poop digester of reasonable size) to hold.  You have to do something to evaporate it; like heat everything and run a fan.  Lots of energy used there.  Or- just don't pee much in the composting toilet.

The world would use far far less water, pipe, and energy if we could just get everyone to pee on a tree, whenever possible.  The trees love it, and then you don't have to flush, or pipe, or process, or dispose of.  Granted, this is not a reasonable option inside a city.  Alas.  But it's pretty reasonable for us.

#1 outside is easy for me, pretty much regardless of the conditions.  Just don't pee into the wind.  It's more trouble for ladies, of course.  We do go so far as to keep an area away from the house swept clear of snow, so ladies in residence can squat without dipping their nether regions into snowbanks.  It can be done.  If it's REALLY cold and windy, then ladies are welcome to pee in the THWASPCO; a little pee is no problem.

And it's probably good to remind visitors that "don't eat the yellow snow" is not a joke.
To go, or not to go?  (hike out, that is)

It's a relative question.  The thing is, a chamber pot of any kind is extra work.  And stinky, and messy.  So far, the people living here have quickly come to the conclusion that they can stand a LOT of cold, before it's so cold they want a chamber pot.  Personally, the only time I've used one is when I'm really ill.  Otherwise- in Minus 40; I'll still walk out to the Potty House.

If you read the comments on the original posts, Spice left this: "I was pregnant in the winter, delivered Smidgen in Feburary. I had to troop out to the potty house on average of 10 times a day in January. It can be done, and it wasn't all that bad. In fact it kept me in better shape for labor!"  It's not that bad. 
re: #2, as in poop-

I don't drop my pants all the way down.  Now you know, Chrunch, for your visualization pleasure.  (I do figure I owe you there, for all my own fun visualizing your well described gyrations...)

If it's a mere 20 below, I'll just drop trou, sit on the cherry seat, get well situated, then pull the pants back up to cover whatever can be covered.  Yes, I'm wearing a jacket, and a hat.  Bare hands, for dexterity, tucked inside the pants legs while waiting for critical operations.  I know, this sounds clumsy for folks used to doing these operations virtually unclothed- but it's not a big deal, and way more comfy to stay warm.  It can be surprisingly comfy; the THWASPCO is well supplied with good reading material, and even below zero, I can find myself so involved in some reading that I quit paying attention to the cold.  Until it reminds me.

On sunny days in late winter, when the potty house may be quite warm inside, we may indeed just skip putting on the coat- it's cozy in there.

If it's colder than that; like 30 below (coldest I've been here is -42°F, not including wind chill- coldest including wind was -102°F) - I'll probably lift the lid, and sit on the seat with my pants ON for about 30 seconds- to warm the seat- then proceed to drop.

It's really true, you just don't feel the cold in your behinder parts.  Good thing.  Likewise, however, gentlemen; your winky does not have extensive cold sensing capabilities.  I've never had this problem myself, but I had a friend in grad school who reported minor frostbite there when he was peeing outside during some really extreme weather- windchill of -60 or so.  He didn't realize it was happening- it's not sensitive.  To cold.  So be aware.  There's no windchill inside the Potty House, of course.

When it's time for the TP - (water is SO not going to work here) the pants go all the way down again, for easy access.  No big deal.

Typical follow-up on re-entering the actual Little House- jacket comes off, and you spend a minute or two backed up close to the woodstove, re-warming the fanny area, and hands.  Nice.

There is another inobvious aspect to winter outhouse technique- coping with the poopsicle.

See- if it's really cold, the pit freezes.  So successive depositions of "material" will result in an ever-growing poop stalagmite, known here as the poopsicle.  Some foresight is required- if you wait too long, it can grow right up to... where you don't want it to be.

Hence, we have an old broken axhandle handy; and once every 2 weeks or so, I'll take that, reach it down the hole, and gently whack the frozen poopsicle sideways.  It'll crack off pretty easily (not a lot of tensile strength there) and just fall over, alleviating the problem for another couple weeks, or more, if the weather warms.  But you don't want to forget.

The path to the Potty House we keep open not by shoveling, but by sweeping with a push-broom.  It's not a matter of removing the snow, but collapsing its structure- in a matter of 6 hours or so, its structure rearranges after being disturbed and it freezes very hard, and makes a good, non-slippery path.  In spring, the hard snow stays longer than the adjacent unpacked snow, and provides us a clean path through the spring mud- until it's too far gone, then the adjacent areas are usually past the mud phase, and can be walked on just fine until the main path is dry.

In case of very heavy snowfall, we'll likely walk to the potty house with snowshoes on a couple times, before sweeping.  That'll pack it down and firm the snow.  No shoveling.

So.  What else do you want to know?  :-)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The THWASPCO/Potty House in Winter-

That's "Three-Hole Wind And Solar Powered Composting Outhouse", in case you missed that earlier.

Some time ago, I made a comment over at NoImpactMan, to the effect that "everybody going back to mud huts" IS indeed an "option".  

It took me quite a while to realize some of the participants there did not understand what I meant by that.  It's not that universal mud huts is an option we would CHOOSE, as a society.

It's that we could all to easily find ourselves living that way- if we don't fix some of the problems facing us.  The potential for societal collapse is that big.  We won't choose it- the universe will enforce it, if we continue to ignore physics.

Seemed obvious to me- pretty dumb (of ME), huh?

Wherever humans live, there are seasons; either cold/warm, or wet/dry, or light/dark, or calm/windy - etc.

One of the factors contributing to planetary overload is the increasing assumption that whatever dwelling/city you build; it should be built to serve your needs perfectly - 100% of the time.

I think we probably cannot afford it.  And I can tell you from long personal experience- it won't kill you to be hot, cold, wet, or dry, some of the time.

We look, for example, at the country farmer housing/village in China/India/Brazil- and the more sheltered among us are appalled.  My gosh, the houses are made out of... mud.  (Literally; or adobe, or rammed earth, or thatch...)  The streets aren't paved.  They use outhouses.  Each house has one lightbulb.  It's horrifying that humans should be forced to live this way!  We think.

They frequently don't think so, until they get a satellite tv link, and start watching re-runs of Dallas.

Then, since this is what the whole world tells them, they start to "need" paving, highways, indoor plumbing, refrigerators, and prefab plywood houses.  It's a disaster.  They have no recognizable "cash-flow" to pay for all this, of course; so they tend to abandon their 8,000 year old sustainable agriculture/polyculture pathways, and plant a "cash-crop" - like cotton, or opium.  So they can buy Spam, bagged rice from California...  etc.  One crop failure of the new cash crop and - they starve.

Sitting cosy in our Chicago condo, it's hard to realize- about HALF of all the humans on the planet still live this way.   World Bank data.

As far as I can decipher the bureaucratese, a mere 25% or so of the world lives on $1US (one dollar) per day; or less.  What's a little harder to discover is that another 25% or so lives on - TWICE that.  That is - $2US/day (two dollars) - or less.  Rich folks.

Life in the mud-hut world is far from bucolic; it entails occasional hunger, frequent lack of basic medicine, total lack of advanced medicine; short lives and too much hard work.  

Here's what I'm trying to get around to- the capital investment in our "modern" city/suburb infrastructure is utterly incomprehensible to anyone living on $2/day.  And a disproportionately large chunk of it goes to make our modern world "100%" functional, 100% of the year.

Highways are not a really good example to work with here; since a lot of the "frills" associated with fancy highways are also for safety - hard to argue against.  But the numbers are more easily accessible than most; and for most of us- the costs are surprising.  From GAO - (slide 16)

WSDOT found:
– Reported costs ranged from about $1 million to $8.5 million
per lane mile.
– The median reported cost was about $1.6 million per lane
– Five states reported costs significantly higher than other
states—ranging between about $3.1 million and $8.5 million
per lane mile. (See fig. 1.)

So- when your town builds one mile of 2 lane road- it tends to cost around $3.2 Million.  More if it's mountainous, or swampy.

You have any idea what a mud village could do with $3.2M?  Build a hospital?  (mud would be fine)  Educate 3 doctors?

Are all the roads in your neighborhood NECESSARY?  How many are there so people can get to work 10 minutes faster?  Or because there's one house way at the end of the road?

Staggering amounts of money are spent by us on infrastructure that is useful - for a small percentage of time; or a few people.  This is mostly unnoticed- and I think is not being discussed as a possible source of "saved" energy and resources.  Of COURSE it's my right to have an all weather road to my door!

Quite a few thinkers believe that one of the "answers" in the coming centuries to humanity's problems has to include a more even access to resources - water, fuel, money.  Besides the airy-fairy nonsense about fairness or justice - it's just practical.  Those damn poor people eventually get cranky, when they have nothing left to lose- and start banding together, and burning cities, and stuff.  (take a look at history, please)

3 billion people now live on less than $2/day.  How much more do they have to lose?

Analysis will show, I am quite confident, that the cost of providing services  "100%/24/7/52" -is usually about TWICE the cost of providing services "92%/23/7/46".  That's huge; and those resources are desperately needed elsewhere.

Would you be willing to put on a sweater for a couple weeks - so a village in India could have a doctor?  That's what it could come down to, in the centuries ahead.

SO - where the heck is the THWASPCO in all this blather?

Well.  It's a sanitation service that makes many people recoil in horror.  "I COULDN'T live like that!"  they'll say- and the most astonishing part to me; they believe it.  Never mind that a) all your great grandparents lived this way, and b) more than half the people on the planet still do.  Yes, you COULD.  You just don't know it.

Why do we have one?  

A) we couldn't afford a "normal" sanitation system- which would have cost about 6-8 times more. (Freeing resources for much more critical needs.) 

 B) once we got into the needs and design aspects- this system actually does an environmentally superior job of handling waste- by a long shot.

Oh, yah, and C)  luckily for us all, your tushy just doesn't have many "cold" sensors in it.  Sitting on a below-zero seat is like jumping into 50°F water- seems chilly for a couple moments, then you're used to it.  NO BIGGIE.

Basically, the THWASPCO provides perfectly comfortable services about 8 months of the year.  It's got substantial solar heat gain when the leaves are off- making spring and autumn pretty cozy.  It MAY get too hot for a few days in mid summer.  In midwinter- yeah, you notice it's not cozy.

So?  Cope.

And how, precisely does one use an outhouse in -20° weather?

Very, very quickly.

More tomorrow.  :-)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

there and back again.

Ok, so she wasn't generating chaos ALL the time.  Smidgen's hair got just long enough to gather into a ponytail a few days before the trip.

There is just something about a sleeping baby that is irresistible. I've got zillions of pics like this; of all 3 kids. Alas, the first 2 are on film, not digital.

But, I can catch them now.  Beelar came along on this trip, thank goodness; and cheerfully carried his little sister- more than I did, I confess.  She seems pretty content.

Then we got home- to this.

Yeeha.  This was the in-out thermometer this morning; 42°F INSIDE; -18° below Zero Outside (-28°C).

Looks like getting colder tonight.  In light of all the interest in our potty habits, I'm thinking of doing a detailed post on how, exactly, one uses an outhouse in really chilly weather...  :-)

  Crunchy has this ongoing thing about freezing one's behind off... and I now have a rep to maintain for advanced nuttiness, thanks to her...


Friday, January 18, 2008

Jiggety jig.

As in "home again, home again."  Which was, indeed, a pretty jiggety process.

Yes, our visit to my father involved airplanes.  And long distances.  And keeping a 2.9 year-old at least moderately quiet in her seat, for hours and hours.  And, in case you haven't had the joy; Hell wreaks no chaos like a jet-lagged toddler.

We got home to a very cold Little House, of course - no fire in it for 12 days, in January, in Minnesota...  priority one is, of course, come on baby, light my fire.

That was not too difficult; after 30 odd years, it's easy to remember to put kindling next to the stove, BEFORE you leave for anyplace that's likely to have you returning to a dead fire.  Dry, handy- not too hard to crinkle up some newspaper, lay the kindling, and light the match.  

A dead-cold stove-pipe, however, is a barrier - it doesn't "draw", on the contrary, it "squashes" your fire, with the weight of non-moving freezing cold dense air.  The stove is going to smoke for a bit before physics wakes up and you win the battle of heated air displacing and moving cold air.  Once it all catches- off she goes.

Next barrier- a frozen house.  It's one thing to warm up the ceiling beams from their over-night norm of 55°F or so- it's another to get them warmed up from 25°F.  You can crank up the woodstove for a long time, and it seems like it's not making a dent in the cold.

Knew that, not surprised- left my jacket on, and had Spice and Smidgen drive in to pick up the mail while I was dealing with smoke and ice- and the chimney fire.

If you heat with wood, you're going to have chimney fires.  Probably.  So- when I had the stove cranking at "super-pizza-hot" levels, it didn't surprise me to hear the roar in the chimney, and certainly didn't scare me, though chimney fires DO cause a lot of houses to burn down.  If you catch it quick, and deal with it, it shouldn't be a problem.

I TRY to have a chimney fire once a month or so- kind of the "controlled burn" philosophy; keep them frequent, and small, and it won't kill you; it's the huge ones with too much chimney creosote that get out of hand.

So, I shut off the air to the stove (fire can't burn with no oxygen!  surprise!  a good thing to remember in these cases) - and shifted into "chimney fire mode" - open the doors and windows (because it makes the chimney smoke and stink) - and constantly move upstairs, and down, watching for glowing red hot-spots in the chimney - and get the fire extinguisher ready/handy.  If just shutting off the air doesn't do it (it might not; stoves leak air, ya know) then shooting the fire extinguisher into the firebox pretty definitely will.  Nasty mess to clean up, though.

The fire slowed, and quit burning in the chimney.  Relief.  Any chimney fire means you're going to have to get out the stove-cleaning stuff, though, and clean the insides of the stove out- chunks of creosote will have fallen down into the air passages, clogging it up, making it impossible for the stove to draw properly.  In this case, though- after getting the stove cleaned out- it STILL wouldn't draw.  Had to get up on the roof, and sweep the chimney- and ... aha, our first proof of the year, our gremlins do NOT pay attention to the Gregorian calendar, and are still hanging around.  For the first time in 30 years, the chimney stayed blocked- I had to rig a novel sweeping method to knock out blockage below the flue damper valve- an area that normall runs so hot it never blocks.

Hey, a welcome home, from our resident gremlins!  Whee.

Took two days to get the stove completely cleaned and working.  BOY is it clean now- and crazy efficient when it's so clean- which is good, because we're headed into real winter.

Then- catching my breath, and looking into getting back to this blog- I run into THIS...

Well, I read it, cracked up of course, VOTED FOR SHARON, OF COURSE - then checked the results- and was, I have to admit, actually surprised to find I was out in front- by a good bit.
Enough that Sharon complained I was "kicking her behind" - (since then, she's gained on me).

By now I was pretty close to "ROTFLMAO", a bit of netspeak I learned years ago (rolling on the floor laughing my ahem off) - but also, you understand, deeply honored- and deeply puzzled.


I DO appreciate all the comments pointing out that most folks don't think I'm actually bonkers- just - really - "out there", as Chrunchita puts it.  Puzzled, because- really, truly, I don't think living this way is crazy, silly, or nutty at all.  Really!  I don't!  I think I'm kind of normal.  ish.  (well, as long as I don't leave the farm- then the differences do kind of surface.)

NOW, I'm worried- when I first noticed the poll, I was ahead at like 48% to Sharon's 32 - (HA!) - but she's been gaining on me.  So if you feel like joining in, and voting for me- I'd be delighted.  Who knows, it may turn out to be useful when Good Morning America finally notices...


Anyway.  Shouldn't be too long before some substantive posts here; frankly part of the problem for me is WAY too much stuff in the news and on other blogs that is getting me stimulated.  Where does one start!?