WOW #12

The Word Of this Week is

green-collar

Definitions for green-collar

noting or pertaining to workers, jobs, or businesses that are involved in protecting the environment or solving environmental problems.

a green-collar worker. Also, green collar.

Origin of green-collar

1990-1995

Green-collar entered English in the early 1990s. It’s based on the model of blue-collar and white-collar, with the green element coming from the sense “environmentally sound or beneficial.”

See also; boondoggle, porkbarreling, social engineering, featherbedding,

While most of the words in the English language are hundreds, or thousands of years old, it is interesting to see technology cause the invention of new ones within our lifetimes.

I am all for green energy, and saving the planet – BUT….let the politicians get their hands on it, and we’re all fu….bar-ed.  About 5 years ago, I wrote of having to pay for the privilege of being one of the first users in Ontario to have a time-of-usage, smart electrical meter installed.

Ontario was having brown-outs. We were right at the edge, between generation capacity and usage.  We were told not to do laundry, or run our dishwashers during the day.  Wait till night-time, when industrial usage goes down, pay less per KwH, and Conserve, Conserve, Conserve!

We conserved….and the total income of Ontario Hydro went down, and the big bosses’ pay and bonuses were in jeopardy, so they raised the rates. With higher rates, we learned to use even less….and the total income dropped, so they raised the rates again, and ended the time-of-use difference.

A couple of nuclear stations, and hydro plants like Niagara were being upgraded. With reduced cash flow, soon a large debt built up.  The bosses added a ‘debt reduction charge’ to our bills.  I pay an extra $10/mo.  It was ‘temporary,’ like that 100-year-old temporary Income Tax.  5 years later, the debt is retired, but still we pay.  To cover the costs of their own inefficiency, the bosses added a ‘power distribution charge’ to our bills.  I pay another, extra $30/mo. whether electricity flows, or not, as owners of cottages and cabins which are closed-up for six months have found.

Wind Turbine

Desperate to look like they were solving a problem, the Provincial Government signed 25 year contracts for Green Energy. The wind turbines and fields full of solar panels that I also wrote about 5 years ago, were just the beginning.

Since then, the Government has forced the towers into dozens of locations where they are not wanted – and may be dangerous. Often placed so close to housing subdivisions or farm buildings that, if they fell, they’d just miss houses or barns, they continue to grind on.  They produce ground-conducted sub-sonic vibrations which cause headaches, nausea, and vertigo in many people and animals.

Ignoring the wasteful bureaucratic administration costs, nukes can produce power at about 4 cents/KwH. Water can do it for about 5 cents.  Solar and wind power costs us almost 25 cents/KwH.  The nukes and Niagara are back, running at increased capacity.  We are now awash in a sea of abundant electricity.  Having learned to conserve, we now have so much unused electric power that we sell off the excess, including the expensive green, to Quebec and the US for 3.5 cents/KwH!

In the last ten years, the cost of electricity in Ontario has risen by 50%, bankrupting or closing many small businesses, and causing larger ones to move where power is cheaper. It was a strong deciding factor which caused the closing of my last employer.  Gee, thanks politicians – not!

Going Green may be the way to save the planet, but if it’s happening near you, keep one hand on your wallet, and the other on your ballot. Keep the Pols away from it.  I know that private corporations have to make money, but too many Governments waste, lose or just throw our money away.

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Screw You

SDC10824 SDC10822

This is another in the series of ‘Old Shit I Own.’ Do any of you know what this thing is, or what it was used for?  It’s another piece of long-lost memorabilia I discovered in the protracted Autumn Housecleaning.

The younger ones in my readership may find this hard to believe but, there was a time, not that long ago, when homes were not provided with numerous electrical outlets – or power points, or even wireless recharging of all those indispensible electronic gadgets.

This is a screw plug. It was used in rooms of homes where there might not be even one wall-socket electrical outlet.  You unscrewed the light bulb from an overhead fixture, screwed this in instead, and had a place to plug in things like my Mother’s washing machine, which rolled out to the middle of the room on little wheels.

Double socket

The problem then was, all work had to be done during the day, or the room would be dark. That problem was quickly solved by the development of the above little gadget.  You could screw the bulb back in to see what you were doing, and insert the socket on the other side of the Y.  I used one of them for a while, until I managed to install a light fixture over my basement workbench.

I know I am truly older than dirt, and born and raised out on the frontiers of the universe. I was too young to do so, but I have seen people using telephones which were a big box on the wall, with a speaking funnel on the front, and an earpiece dangling from the hang-up hook on one side.  You picked up the earpiece and turned a little crank on the other side, which attracted the attention of a real, live, operator.

CFL Bulb

Edison’s incandescent light bulbs, with an output of 60 watts or more, have been outlawed in Ontario, and replaced with CFL Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs, or now the LED style which produces more light and less heat, and save power. The only thing more ancient than incandescent, may be wall sconces with flaming torches – and you can’t plug a radio into one of those.

Flash Fiction #62

Storage

PHOTO PROMPT – © Claire Fuller

COMPUTER STORE

Welcome to the Computer Museum. Nothing in Man’s development has changed as much, as fast, as computing.

This is ENIAC’s grandson. In 1955, a crew of 9 men took almost a month to solder together 37,000 tubes. A large Montreal company used it mostly for payroll. My pocket calculator will do more than what they paid $2.5 million for.

Moore’s law says that speed doubles every 2 years, while size halves. You see that here in data storage also, rows of cabinets of tape reels, rolled by triskele arms for reduced space. School kids’ flash drives now hold this much.

***

In 1976, an erstwhile co-worker told me of being the design engineer in charge of the installation of Ferranti-Packard’s ENIAC successor, in a hall as big as 8 bowling lanes. Fortunately, Carrier had invented the air-conditioner, or all those tubes throwing off heat could have baked bread in the room. Dot-matrix tractor-printers had to be properly grounded, or the static electricity they generated could wipe the core.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple  site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

#498

In The Dark

On August 14th, Southern Ontario and hunks of Eastern United States, celebrated (?) the tenth anniversary of a giant blackout.  Locally, we did better than many areas; the power was back on in about four hours.  As with so many other things, like jet-stream cold fronts, 9/11 terrorists, and Justin Bieber, Americans blamed Canada.

Local stories range from being five from the front at a giant waterslide, and having to turn around, and follow 150 other disappointed people back down the stairs, because the water pumps shut off, to the canoeist/camper in a National Park, who pulled in the next day, without knowing or noticing that anything had occurred.

I was at work, on a 3 to 11 shift, when we went dark, at about 8:00 PM.  The plant had already started its death spiral.  The General Manager who lied to the Big Three during contract negotiations, had been forced out.  His internal replacement/promotion lasted only six months before getting a good look at the oncoming train, and taking a different track.  The external hire, who thought he was going to helm a healthy company, bailed after only three months.  And so, we got Bill.

Already cynical, I kept an eye on him.  He was touted as the man who would turn things around, but his management style and abilities did not bode well for that.  The first week he was there, he held a town-hall meeting with each of the shifts.  Not in the boardroom – heaven forbid the peons’ sandals leave marks on the carpet, rather, in the Quality Assurance/Packing area.  He looked us all in the eye and said, “My name is Bill Rheem.”  Those first four words were a lie….and it went downhill from there.

He was not a Germanic Rheem (ream), he was a French-Canadian Rheaume (ray ome).  He had worked for Ford in Windsor, but had left to start his own small company.  My suspicious little whiskers were already vibrating.  He might have been an entrepreneur, or maybe, just a guy who did not play well with others.  If he had had his own company, why was he here running ours?  Did his workforce grab torches and pitchforks and riot, or did the company go public and shareholders force him out?

We worked with a cyanide-based isocyanate.  One day a forklift hit a supply pipe, and leaked a couple of gallons on the floor.  Too important to go around, while two hazmat-suited workers cleaned it up, he ripped down the yellow HAZARD tape, and escorted three guys from head-office right through the middle.

We had had a hot, muggy summer, prior to the power outage.  We normally got two air-conditioned breaks in our eight-hour shifts of working with hot vinyl, but every previous manager had agreed to a third, when the weather got bad.  Not Bill!  No F**kin’ way!  A contract’s a contract!  Union executive contacted the Labor Board, who showed up with books of Government regs.  It was so hot and sticky that we had the legal right to a ten-minute break every hour….and Bill had to ensure it was given, and documented.

Eight PM on an August evening is not dark.  When the power died, we did what we could to prevent fires, and other problems, then trickled outside to sit on benches and picnic tables.  We’d been out there for about a half-hour, when our fearless leader showed up.  He checked that protocols had been followed, and gave us what information he had, and a little pep-talk about getting right back to work, as soon as the power came back on.

He took a couple of cell phone calls, and another half-hour later announced, “Well, I guess the power’s not coming back on.  You guys all go home.”  Somebody said, “Well, at least we get paid for the whole shift.” And Grumpy Smurf lashed out again.  “No F**kin’ way!  It’s not my fault the plant can’t run!  You don’t work, you don’t get paid!”

The next day, the union president visited him and showed him a copy of the contract, with a Short Workweek clause, which guaranteed that we would be paid from a special, slowly increasing fund.

I carefully drove 5 Km. home, through a city with neither traffic lights, nor streetlights.  I joined a wife and son in a living room well-stocked with candles, and indulged in more conversation than since the invention of TV.  Well after midnight, just as we were thinking of pulling out a board game, and playing Yahtzee or Monopoly by candlelight, civilization returned in a rush.

When the axe finally fell on me a year later, I tried to access the above fund, to top up my unemployment benefits but, being one of the last to go, I found it empty and plundered by those who had preceded me.  I needed to find a job, fast!

Bill was perhaps, the most ineffectual, adversarial Plant Manager I’d ever worked with.  The Peter Principle had allowed him to bob up to the level of his incompetence several times.  It didn’t take a power stoppage to show that he was uninformed, and poorly trained for his position.  He was in the dark, even before the lights went out, and he kept those around him in the same condition.

Previous corporate decisions and policies had already doomed my plant and my job, but Billy-boy didn’t do them any extra favors.

Where were you when the lights went out?  In a part of the country or the world where you didn’t even notice?  Did you, or someone you know, have a baby nine months later?  A lot of folks did!  No Yahtzee boards or candles, I guess.

Segway

I’ve recently read no less than three articles where the word segue was incorrectly used/spelled, because a writer, trying to appear erudite, had no idea what he was writing.  The word, pronounced, Seg – Way, reminded me of the Segway scooter, the two-wheeled person mover, which balances on its tiptoes, by means of gyroscopes.  The company is located near H. E. Ellis’ pile of tires in New Hampster.

On their website, the company brags about being green because Segways produce no emissions, and shows a picture of a wind turbine, but most people plug it in to recharge from an electrical outlet supplied by a sulphur-laced coal-burning power plant.  They also list Segway racing.  I wondered how you hop up a Segway, until I found that they were sponsoring BMX motorcycle races.

When these things first appeared, almost 11 years ago, there were people who touted them as a game changer.  They were to completely revolutionise the personal transportation scene.  These cheerleader types were what I like to refer to as seriously demented.  These things cost almost $4,000.  For that kind of money, you can get a decent-sized second-hand automobile which will carry four people at sixty MPH, enclosed and protected from the weather.

The only places where they are bought and used, is at companies with large, sprawling buildings, and malls.  If you’ve seen Kevin James, in Paul Blart – Mall Cop, you have my sympathy and pity.  If you send me a stamped, self-addressed postcard, I will send you, absolutely free, your choice of either two tickets to his new movie, Zookeeper, or enough IQ points to get you up to being able to watch Lethal Weapon or Rush Hour movies.

The automotive Big Three try to bully their suppliers into using single-floor plants.  It obviates many potential problems of moving parts from floor to floor in case of power failure, or other emergencies.  My company’s Plant II, which they sold, was one floor.  Despite the Jeep plant in Toledo being five stories high, Chrysler urged our management to move to a single-floor facility.

Plants like that often use golf carts for management to get around.  They cost about as much as a Segway, but again, will carry up to four people and/or freight, move faster, and you ride sitting down.  Some buildings are so crowded with machinery or stored goods that golf carts are not useful.

I did two weeks of Monday to Friday, midnight security in a building where furniture for Electrohome was made, stereo and TV cabinets, as well as easy chairs and footstools.  They had a boiler in the plant which required a 24/7 rotation of Stationary Engineers, but for the two-week summer shut-down period, the place was empty, therefore, security guards.

To make the hourly security patrol around the vast, winding pedestrian walkway on foot would have taken almost an hour, and then it would be time to do it again, with no-one to answer the phone or watch the doors.  For the supervisors, they provided three or four pony-bikes.  Remember them?  Small bikes, banana seats, back wheel larger than the front, protruding, chopper-style steering!  I suppose it would have been possible to roll Segways around the twisty, narrow walkways, if they’d been available back then.  I did it with the pony bike.

My then teen-age son accompanied me for a couple of midnight shifts.  Like the big kids we both were, we brought along water pistols, and rode around trying to hit different targets on the fly.  We each earned a compliment from the other.  I have taken almost 350 hours of gun handling/safety training.  Despite playing with “only water-pistols” I controlled the muzzle, and never pointed it at anything I didn’t intend to shoot.  The son lauded me for that, and I returned the praise for having noticed, and learning to do the same.

The furniture moved from department to department on roller conveyors, 30 inches off the floor, some of them powered.  In the shipping department there was a roller ramp, where the pallets/boxes rolled down to the floor.  The second night the son came with me, I rolled into the shipping department on my little pony bike, with him right behind me.  I saw that roller ramp, and silliness ensued.  I rode my bike right up the ramp, and onto the conveyor system, and he followed me.

Soon, we were making the security rounds by riding on the rollers.  The bikes were short enough that any balance problems could be immediately solved, just by putting feet on the conveyor side rails, but that never happened.  You had to maintain modest, steady acceleration.  A sudden powerful push on the pedals produced a short stretch of wildly spinning rollers. I bet you can’t do that with a Segway.

You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever.  A big part of security work is boredom, and how to combat it.  The employer hopes that as much energy and attention as possible is directed toward actual security of the facility, but, ya gotta have a little fun sometimes.  My son also accompanied me on a Friday night shift in a small-town, where they had an arena full of expensive boats for a weekend boat-show, and a broken lock on the back door.

For obvious reasons they didn’t give us the key to the refreshment stand area, but there were chairs inside, as well as paper cups and ice we wished to use for soft drinks we brought along.  Two curious monkeys investigated the stand.  I found one way in at the same time the son found a different way.  When two of the organizers staggered walked in around 2 AM, after closing a bar, we immediately waved to them.

After being asked, we pointed out the soft spots.  One could be fixed by having personnel reminded to lock the steel roll-down.  The other was a hole in a concrete wall, where they had inserted an easily moved popcorn machine.  Not so easily remedied.  Fix the damned lock on the back door!

An Analog Curmudgeon In A Digital World

The new world of communications is owned by the young.  The younger the person, the more and better they are connected to the rest of the world.  I value my peace and solitude.  To a large degree I do not wish the rest of the world to be connected to me.

I suppose, like many other things, I’m communicatively in the middle.  Unlike people like my brother, I own and use a computer, and have for years.  Unlike some of you young whipper-snappers out there, I don’t Face Book, I twit people, but I don’t Tweet, I don’t Pinterest, I don’t pingback.  I don’t include photos with my posts, although I’m on the slow train to learning how.  The wife is trying to learn how to embed videos, and when she figures it out, she might get the whip and chair, and train me.

The younger the more likely but, what many of you have learned about computers and other electronics, almost by osmosis, continues to elude me.  I’m a light-switch kind of guy in a serial-thinking world.  I can do 1/0 easily, but 1011010011100101100 makes me work for it.

Continuing with the light-switch analogy, (see, I told you I was analog.) I remember twist light-switches, before the up/down, on/off version became standard.  If I want a light on, I flip the switch up.  If I want the light off, I go flip the switch down.  Simple, easy!  Even light-switches are becoming “computerised”.

I had a new garage door installed recently.  If I push the button to raise or lower the door, the light on the motor comes on….and stays on for a minute, after the door is up or down.  I could (maybe) reprogram it down to 30 seconds, if I just climb up on a ladder and remove the housing.  I probably won’t go broke paying for a minute’s electricity, but my cheap Scottish OCD wants that damned light off when I’m done.

To turn the light off, I have to push the light button.  Not an ON button, or an OFF button, just a light button.  The light’s already on, but I have to *turn it on.*  I push the button, and wait two seconds for it to recognize.  Now the light knows it’s on, so I push the same button that I just pushed to turn it on, to turn it off, and wait two seconds.  If all goes well, the garage goes dark.  If all does not go well, the neighbor kid learns some new words.

Speaking of lights, these new twisty fluorescents that they’re pushing us to replace our incandescents with, are not an unmixed blessing.  Oh, they do save money by using less power, and they will give the equivalent amount of light….if you wait for them to warm up.  All you have to do is go into a dark room five minutes before you need light, and turn them on.  The ones outside the front door and garage take forever in the winter.

In our garage, we have our garbage pail, a blue recycling bin, and a heavy-duty paper bag for kitchen waste.  I open the door/step out a half-dozen times a day.  All four cats are fascinated.  Two have learned to squirt out for a look, as I drop stuff in the pail.  One has been squeezed by the rapidly closing door a few times, but still makes the run whenever he can get away with it.  Oh well, the light’s out, let him stay out there in the dark for five minutes.   As the weather gets colder, he’ll stay warm inside more.

I stepped out a couple of weeks ago and pushed the up-door button….and it didn’t.  Great!  A brand-new closer, and it won’t work.  It took me a week to figure out why.  The old door went up and down!  If there was something under it on the way down, too bad, guillotine!  The new door has an infra-red sender/receiver combo mounted 6 inches off the floor.  If they don’t talk to each other, the door don’t work.

One time, when the cat was prowling around in the dark, he must have stepped on the receiver unit, and popped it off the rail.  I snapped it back into place and, Viola, the door works fine, finally.  I only learned a couple of years ago about drag-up and drag-down menus on computer screens.  Actually, they’re not on the screen.  If I can’t see them, how in Hell do I even know they’re there?!

We bought a new stereo receiver a couple of years ago.  The demo model in the store worked fine.  I took mine home and connected the Gordian Knot to the back of it and turned it on to AM.  Nothing!  Switched to FM.  Nothing!  Switched to CD.  Nothing!  Back to AM.  Nothing, nothing, nothing!  I took it back to the store and said it was defective.  The little sales clerk, who was younger than my socks, soon had it working perfectly.  Apparently, this unit has a five-second recognition span, and I didn’t have a five-second patience span before I changed functions.  Duh, never mind.

I’m learning new things and getting more proficient with the computer all the time.  With my attention-span and crappy memory it’s a struggle.  Just when I get barely competent, version 7 of some program comes out, and I start learning all over again.  Click on this icon.  Open option box, choose and enter option.  Pull up currently invisible menu, activate function initialize.  Choose desired function, place cursor on box and right-click twice, while holding a piece of Edam cheese between your upper lip and nose.  Perform all these actions with a hand with Parkinson-like tics, and three cats crawling all over the computer desk.

I don’t want to have to train the computer.  I want one that’s already smarter and has a better memory than me.  That’s the whole point.  Shouldn’t be that hard; the light-switch and his friend the doorknob can already outwit me.  I’d go back to the Freddy Flintstone sheet of slate, with hammer and chisel version, but it’s no longer compatible!  Aaggh!  Insanity, version 3.0.  Failure is not an option.  It comes pre-installed.