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Food Inc. and Energy Anarchy
Jun 22, 2009 by

Last night Jocelyn and I saw this new documentary called Food Inc. http://www.foodincmovie.com/ which explores subject matter revolving around two books, The Omnivore’s Dillemma (by Michael Pollan http://www.michaelpollan.com ) and Fast Food Nation (by Eric Schlosser http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Schlosser and also made into a film directed by Richard Linkletter).  It’s one of those films that you feel like everybody should watch, and if they did, then the world would instantly become a better place.  I knew that there were implications to buying locally made food that involved saving the energy of transport.  But what this film really emphasizes are the less obvious energy inputs that factory farming consumes and which are subsidized by government legislation that is unjustly and exceedingly influenced by the large food processing corporations.  (Of course there’s a huge “health” issue that is really at the heart of the film and which is important, but being an Energy Anarchist I viewed it through the energy lens.)  Why can a fast food hamburger be sold for 99 cents when a pound of brocolli can cost almost 2 dollars?  The answer is the government subsidization of Corn and Soybean crops which prevent the true cost of the energy inputs to be factored in throughout the “fast food chain”.  What does this mean for Americans, particularly those with low incomes who are better able to afford a trip to BK than one to the local supermarket?  Obesity and an extremely high incidence of diabetes.

Overall this film made us feel particularly good about the choice we’ve made to support our new farming friend Christopher Totman, but it’s horrifying to see what our food chain has devolved into.  Energy Anarchists!  We have to eat differently!  It’s another way we can vote with individual actions and effect large and influential outcomes.  Go see this movie and find out why!

Another Great Micro-Energy Source!
Jun 18, 2009 by

I really think the key to developing a healthy and empowered “personal” relationship to power lies in the development of technologies which capture what I like to call “micro energy” sources and which this article refers to as “ambient energy” sources.  In this case the kinetic energy of cars in the parking lot in front of this UK grocery store are captured by “speed bumps” and used to power the cash registers!

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/stories/british-supermarket-chain-powers-store-checkouts-with-modified-speed

Amazing!

Micro Energy Savings from your Plasma TV
Jun 7, 2009 by

Hey!  We all know that properly inflating your tires get you better gas mileage.  But did you know that properly calibrating your plasma TV can improve your set’s energy performance?  I didn’t!  But while I was searching for some technical information about how to connect the aforementioned antenna to my Panasonic TH42pz700U I stumbled across a review on CNET that illustrated the following performance enhancements from “calibrating” the set.  I had no idea that this was possible (nor do I know exactly how to do it do any of you?)  But that’s a significant savings of about 1/3 of the juice!

 

Panasonic TH-42PZ700U Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 464.07 318 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.62 0.42 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.58 0.58 N/A
Cost per year $141.28 $96.92 N/A
Score (considering size) Poor
Score (overall) Poor 

 

 

Did I Say No Sports?
Jun 6, 2009 by

OK.  So it’s not that I’m such a sports head, but I do like the drama of some of the larger events.  And today I was lamenting not being able to watch Roger Federer in the French Open Final tomorrow morning at 9am.  (A little early to hit up a bar don’tcha think?)

Anyway, I rode my bike over to JandR and I bought a 34 dollar “HDTV antenna” made by Terk.  I hooked it up to the TV and now I get all the major networks!  IN HD!  And it looks even better than it used to over cable because apparently it’s not compressed whereas the cable company has to squish down the signal to pump all those channels and signals through that skinny little coax wire.

It’s like WiFi for your TV!  What a concept.  And to think, this is how they did it in the old days.

A really helpful website that I found is called “Antenna Web”  http://www.antennaweb.org .  They have a nifty locator that lets you type in your address and it’ll tell you where all the TV signals are beaming from and will show them on a map.  That way if your antenna isn’t picking up the signal so well, you can point it in the right direction.  (If your antenna’s directional that is, some are omni directional.)  The site also explains a lot about what kind of antenna you need and what labels to look for on an antenna when you’re buying one.  (There’s a colorful pie chart symbol used by the CEA to indicate suitability for different applications.)

Check it out!

Unexpected Energy Savings from Eliminating Cable TV!
Jun 4, 2009 by

Like everybody we’re trying to save some money these days and after much deliberation, Jocelyn and I decided we could do without live sports (or at least we could watch them in public somewhere) and so we decided to get rid of all but high speed internet access from the cable company.  I realize this solution isn’t for everybody, but we had 2 DVRs (living room/bedroom) and a regular box (guest room) and, although this wasn’t a factor in our choice, the biggest surprise was we lowered our baseload electricity usage by about 100/110 watts.  I figured this out using TED our energy monitor. (www.theenergydetective.com)

Our TED Energy Monitor

Our TED Energy Monitor

TED works great for keeping an eye on your baseline average use, and for monitoring peaks in your usage.  I’ve never tried the Kill a Watt (www.p3international.com) but I’m planning to get one to check out individual devices with more accuracy which should be particularly helpful for determining “phantom” power draws of chargers and lamps and things.  The TED only has a 10 watt resolution so it doesn’t register the effect of small things like trickle chargers and LED clocks.

Anyway, I did the math and determined that, only factoring in the base load savings, getting rid of cable will probably save us almost 2 months of electricity at our current usage of just under 400KWH a month.  Not having an “always needs to be on” DVR also allowed me to install a switching power strip to the TV area where the amplifier alone draws a whopping 30 watts when it’s off!

How do we survive without cable TV?  The first crisis came when I came home and realized I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TIME IT WAS!  Yup, that ubiquitous cable box clock provides an atomic accurate time stamp that’s become the standard for BBQ timing and New Years revelry alike!  So first we got a clock and put it in the empty space where the DVR used to be.  Then we hooked up a ROKU box (www.roku.com) and an Apple TV.  The ROKU box streams content from your Netflix account and also allows you to buy or rent off the Amazon website.  The Apple TV let’s you view content from your I-Tunes account as well as buy or rent from the I-Tunes store.  The streamable selections in Netflix are pretty limited but we’ve been watching tons of interesting documentaries (these make great background while we’re preparing our home cooked meals made with farm fresh ingredients from Totman’s CSA!)  We also watched the first two seasons of 30 Rock in a crack-like frenzy when we first hooked ROKU up.  Lately we’ve been watching the new season by buying it on Apple TV but are doling it out an episode a week so as to savor it more.  (We learned our lesson during the bleak couple of weeks we withdrew from the first two seasons of 30 Rock!)  It’s an extra buck for HD so after testing the SD wide screen format vs HD,  we’ve been opting for the SD signal which looks great.  Apple TVs streams and downloads look a LOT better than those you get from Amazon right now, so I’m a big fan of the Apple TV and can’t quite figure out why everybody doesn’t have one.

I also got special cables to connect my MacBook Pro to the TV and we’ve been watching the latest season of CSI on streaming downloads from IMDB for FREE!  These are shown with commercials (hence the free part) but so far they’re only showing one every break.

But the biggest lesson we’ve learned is how much energy we were sucking up 24/7/365 with an accurate time-clock being the only justifiable outcome.  I think even if we went back to Cable again I’d probably put the DVR on a programmable timer so it wouldn’t have to be on all the time.  So hopefully this will encourage you all to think about your energy suckers and dump them or put a switch on them today!

Energy Anarchist Christopher Totman!
Jun 2, 2009 by

Meet our friend Christopher Totman. He was a successful fashion designer with 2 stores here in trendy Nolita neighborhood and one out in East Hampton. He also had his own factory with 600 employees over in India. He always strived to know his suppliers and provide socially conscious manufactured clothing designs. Unfortunately, his business couldn’t survive the latest economic meltdown, but resilient he is. It turns out his family has been farming a piece of land in the Berkshires that was deeded to them by the King (not Elvis) but the one from England back in the 1600s. Through all these generations, they’ve always kept it intact and available to anyone in the family who wanted to farm it and after the clothing business went belly up he’s moved up there and is working a 10 acre plot of his own and learning to keep bees.

Being an industrious and entrepeneurial sort he met all these neighbors who are growing and making amazing organic products and he’s created a pilot CSA program. There’s 16 of us so far. He’s trying to get 20 total and he’s going to drive down to Manhattan every Tuesday afternoon with whatever’s good for harvest that week. We signed up, since eating in is the new eating out and tonight received our first delivery. He drove down in his tiny little Mitsubishi pickup truck with the tailgate full of coolers and hooked us up with all this great stuff pictured below! He’s running way behind schedule because it’s the first time around and he’s chatting way too much with everybody. You could tell he felt pretty excited about being able to introduce his friends with all this great stuff. Check it out!

That’s raw milk yogurt with maple flavoring, some chive encrusted goat cheese, a pound of grass fed free range ground beef some maple syrup that’s the much coveted light amber early tap style and some south river miso that’s grown using only horse drawn farm implements on a farm that exists totally off the grid!

Then we got two rounds of delicious brick oven bread and fresh “vanilla celebration” granola. The bread came out of the oven at 2pm this afternoon.

The Mesculin was hand harvested at 9am this morning as was the spinach. There’s these cool japanese radishes and then tucked behind one of the two heads of red leaf lettuce there’s these really cool looking red radishes that I didn’t get into the picture. The radishes are flanking a nice bundle of arugula.

The red radishes show up in a later picture. A little blurry in the background but I had to also get a shot in of the GIANT 6 inch round, 1 inch thick chocolate cookie that tasted just like a brownie! (We ate this first.)

Christopher’s bounty is helping to support sustainable farmers in his neighborhood and he’s helping us establish a direct connection to our food which we now know comes from less than 200 miles away from our home.  It’s all grown pesticide free, and the Miso farmer is totally off the grid using horse drawn implements.  You’ll see more of Christopher as the blog develops because he has a lot of plans for his new homestead.  For example he had the mirrors in his store cut up and he’s going to build them into a big solar collector to heat water in the treehouse he’s building out of wood recycled from an old barn they took down on the property (which also provided the sideboards for his raised vegetable beds.)

There’s the whole spread. Week one of Farmer Totman’s “better than organic” farm fresh CSA bounty! Now it’s time to plan some meals.

Hope you guys enjoy sharing in the bounty, if only via pictures!  Way to go Totman!  Farmer and Energy Anarchist!

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