Tag Archives: electricity

CA Prop 16: Are You Serious?

There are several things about Proposition 16 (on tomorrow’s California ballot) that just make me say, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

1. The ad campaign is horribly misleading. They’re promoting it as “Your Right To Vote,” but it has nothing to do with your right to vote. I guess “Making it hard for local governments to get into or expand the electricity business” isn’t snappy enough, but that’s what it actually does: it requires governments to hold additional elections (or piggyback on already-scheduled elections) if they want to get into the electricity business.

Whether it passes or not, your voting rights aren’t affected at all.

2. It’s oddly specific. If you look past the main slogan, you’ll see them talk about making sure governments don’t spend large amounts of money without voter approval.* But it only applies to the power industry. And it’s sponsored by Pacific Gas & Electric, the largest power company in the state.

That’s sort of like deciding that theft is a problem, but only making it illegal to steal from your house. If the problem is governments spending huge amounts of money, why focus only on one industry?

The whole thing comes off as being very self-serving, like Microsoft sponsoring an initiative to require a popular vote if a city wants to switch from Microsoft Office to Google Docs or OpenOffice.org.

*Of course, when you think about it, we approved the people making the decision when we voted them into office.

Powerless at the Mall

How an outdoor mall dealt with a lunchtime power outage. And some Apple observations.

  • Power’s out at mall. No teriyaki bowl for me. Subway it is! (Hmm, and no iced coffee either. *sigh*) #
  • Near as I can tell, the Apple store is just completely shut down. Hazards of making checkout depend on computer network, I guess. #
  • For contrast, Subway just dug out a pad of paper credit card slips & did texture rubbings w/ a pen. #
  • Odd: muzak is so omnipresent I didn’t notice it was still playing. Speakers must be on another circuit from the stores. #
  • Turns out only some buildings have lost power. Including all the coffee except Starbucks. But Jamba Juice has power! #
  • Was weird walking through mall at lunch seeing lighted stores on right & dark on left. Some stayed open, some closed, some adapted. #
  • Coffee Bean mostly closed during the power outage, but set an employee out front with 2 urns of coffee. No ice, though. #

Vote Earth?

Tomorrow night (March 28) is “Earth Hour” — a campaign to raise awareness of global warming by turning off your lights for one hour, from 8:30-9:00 PM local time.

It’s an interesting idea, but a weird one. For one thing, global warming seems an odd fit. Yeah, there’s a connection, but it seems more directly tied to pollution and simple conservation of finite resources. For another, it really reminds me of those campaigns to protest gasoline prices by not buying gas on a particular day, without changing your driving habits.

Then there’s the fact that it’s presented as a “global election between Earth and global warming.” Not only is this silly, it’s also the kind of black-and-white with-us-or-against us thinking that just polarizes people — and indeed there are a bunch of jackasses running around shouting about how they’re going to turn on every single light in their house during that hour just to piss off the “treehuggers.” (Apparently these people have money to burn even in this economy, and enjoy breathing smog.)

And of course, there’s the question of what to do with that hour.

Does it count if you leave the house? Chances are you’d be turning the lights off anyway.

How about non-electric lighting? A candlelit dinner, perhaps? You’re still consuming resources to produce light. A flashlight would have the same problem: you’re using power that was put into a battery.

So that cuts out things like reading, or playing cards, or board games.

TVs and computer monitors produce light. Music players use electricity. A stove uses either electricity or gas. If you turn off the lights and turn on the TV, that’s not really much of a savings, is it?

So really, you have one hour at home in the dark, at an hour earlier than you’re likely to sleep, and you can’t use anything with light or electricity. That really cuts back on available activities. You’re pretty much down to conversation. Maybe stargazing. A few other things that don’t require light.

Actually, I guess it would be an interesting experiment/reminder of what night is like without artificial lighting — sort of a voluntary power outage without candles and flashlights.

The more lasting impact will be to simply not waste energy. Turn off lights when you’re not using them. Turn off your computer when you’re not using it (or at least put it to sleep). Unplug appliances that have standby modes when you’re out of town. Don’t run your heater or air conditioner when you’re not home, unless you’ve got it on a timer to get the place ready for when you arrive.

You’ll save money on your electric bill. The power company will use less fuel. They’ll pump out less pollution, and reserves will last longer. Everyone wins.

(Found while surfing Blogexplosion.)

Lightning Symphony

I was looking up the proper term for a plasma lamp and stumbled upon the Wikipedia entry for the Zeusaphone.

It’s a Tesla Coil that’s set up to modulate its discharges so that they produce specific notes. In other words, it’s a Tesla Coil that plays music using lightning!

Seriously… how can you turn down a description like that?

It’s also been called a “thoremin,” — another lightning-god-based pun, this one on the theramin,

The company that makes them has a couple of video clips on their website, but sadly they’re a little underwhelming on a 200-pixel window with computer speakers. I imagine they’d be seriously impressive in person.

Photo by Dracoswinsauer. Used per Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.