Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wait, Watt?

Two facts of life have recently collided in Mr Brain and produced some speculation on events that can only end, in my opinion, one way.

Fact One: Everyone is going bugnuts over the prospect of electric cars for all. Everyone knows1 it's only a matter of time before the hated, smelly, inefficient, ungreen, socialist-medicine supporting, abortionist internal combustion engine is a thing of the past and people embrace clean, quiet, ecologically sound2, capitalist, insurance lobby friendly, life-protecting electric tractive power.

Fact Two: Everyone actually really does know from bitter experience that neither Con Ed3 nor LIPA 4 is able to supply the current (ha!) demand for electricity at the height of summer, nor keep it flowing reliably during the dead of winter. Both of these august bodies have reaped their share of August bodies as people succomb to the heat and humidity without the benefit of the air conditioner they bought because the juice wasn't flowing that day. In technical terms there is a shorfall in generating capacity during periods of peak demand. They run public service ads to the effect that if you don't stop using their product they will stop providing it, which is a pretty odd model for a capitalist business to adopt I think you'll agree.

So my question is: Where in Azathoth's name is the power to charge the battery5 of the family car going to come from?

Ten years from now LIPA will probably be running public service ads to an audience of angry and immobile people suggesting they switch to convenient, cheap and portable gasoline as an alternative to the fabled electricity rumored to flow through the wires on odd occasions when no-one is checking.

  1. I've already pontificated on the value of stuff "everyone knows" here and elsewhere
  2. If we don't talk about the environmental "footprint" of the electronics industry needed to support this venture, or question the environmental impact of the batteries required to make it happen
  3. Who supply electricity to New York City
  4. Who supply electricity to Long Island
  5. Yes, only one. If you connect two batteries together they form one battery. Add another and you still have one battery. Technical terminology is difficult for people who don't know how science works which is why they screw it up so often. Not only that, I can confirm after opening one that the majority of "D" cells are, in fact, "D" batteries, being formed from several disc-shaped cells stacked inside the case. Unless you put them end to end, of course. Then they would all be "D" battery. Funnily enough, I remember prising apart an Ever Ready "U2" (old UK name for "D") battery, only to find it was, in fact, a single, long U2 cell. If the manufacturers cannot get it right it's no wonder everyone else has trouble

Monday, March 02, 2009

Weather Report

Snow. Lots of it. Inches deep, drifting to a couple of feet in places, most of them inconvenient.

Salt. None I could detect. Not so much as a grain twixt road and tire.

Result: I ♥ my Traction Control Subsystem. The Steviemobile rules the slippyness! If it won't go it is because both wheels are spinning equally easily, and that only lasts for a second or so. Yes, it is so slippery out there that it isn't possible to pull away without wheelslip even in low gear.

Normally I would have simply taken one look at the conditions and gone back to bed but I've had so much time off of late that I really can't do that on a whim any more.

The Long Island Rail Road was suprisingly unaffected. Claiming 20 minutes backlog, it was actually more like 5 by the time I got into Jamaica - late, owing to my having to widen the Stevieling's kind attempt at driveway snow clearance so I could actually exit the driveway. She had dug an exit and in the process piled up two mighty ramparts across the drive with only the sally port open. Sadly, she had not judged the dimensions of the car quite correctly and so I was effectively walled in.

I eyed the defensive snow-works with a jaundiced eye and came to the reluctant conclusion that it would require the ultimate in snow clearance toolfoolery to correct the problem. I would also get rid of the bits the Stevieling had decided were not worth shovelling while I was at it, since we might need the space and the snow appeared to be of optimum consistency and depth for the rotating muncher of Troll, The Snowblower of Supreme Spiffiness.

Of course, the Stevieling had decided that the path from the gate to the garage door was one of the bits not worth shovelling, so I had to battle the forces of nature in a World Gone Mad just to get the bally garage door open, but once I had, it was all over for the snow.

Each winter I carefully top off the fuel tank, check the oil and fire up Troll's engine to avoid any cold weather shenanigans not essential for snow removal. I gave a running commentary on how important each of these was as I instructed the Stevieling to connect an extension cord to the power supply so I could fire up Troll. I emphasised how forethought in even the most obscure minutiae of engine maintenance and regular starting to circulate lubricants and prime the carburretor would pay dividends in such freezing weather.

It would have all been much more impressive, of course, if this year I had thought to turn Troll around so the whirly bit pointed outwards.

As it was I was forced to back Troll out into calf-deep snow (which naturally entailed my wading through it first) while vouchsafing the most potent Words of Power I could summon first thing in the morning. It turned out that even at the slowest speed Troll's ability to move through deep snow outpaced my own by a mile per hour or so, causing it to push me over in an amusing fashion1 eight or nine times before I had the wretched machine liberated and oriented for snow removal.

Once pointed in the right direction though it was the matter of only a few minutes to widen the hole in the glacis of Fort Steviemanse and to pass on to ancillary snow removal. Fortunately there were no frozen newspapers or fragments of truck tire hidden in the Stevieling's mighty ramparts of snow2, and the muncher made short work of them without busting a shear pin.

The rest of the snow was about nine inches deep and slightly damp, just about perfect for snowblowing, and in no time the neighbours were gaping in awe at the twenty-foot arc of white powdery goodness shooting out of our driveway and all over theirs. Mr Singh indicated with a wave of his hand that I was Number One in his estimation, and I don't blame him. How he must have struggled to shovel his drive at six thirty this morning. Now, with consumate ease, I was showing him a better way. I suspect he was also impressed by my howls of manly triumph as hectares3 of white inconvenience were made Someone Else's Problem.

All too soon there was no more snow in the drive and I was forced to cease and desist from snow removal and recommence commuting. It is truly mind-blowing how time-saving the snowblower is when the flakes are down. It's also the best fun you can have outside on your own with your clothes on4.

Thank Azathoth for Troll, The Snowblower of Supreme Spiffiness.

  1. to judge by the noises coming from the Stevieling
  2. Papers are a frequent hazard. For some reason a person or persons unknown keep throwing them onto our driveway so they will get soaked and freeze solid to the concrete
  3. Well, square yards at the very least
  4. After the nocturnal activities I partook of at the onset of Domestic Flood Xena, the subject of Outdoor Home Maintenance While In State Of Dishabile is one of heated debate in our area. There are basically two schools of thought on the subject: I say that when events dictate it, and sometimes even when they don't, clothing is optional if donning it would impede damage control operations or just not feel as nice. Mrs Stevie, the local Homeowners Association, The Deer Park Chamber of Commerce and representatives of the local Police Precinct say it isn't