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Teens are notoriously foolish, as are young adults.  Who among us hasn't done some dumb things when we were younger?  I sure did (and it's a long list too.)

But there's a special brand of dumb when you sue your parents after voluntarily moving out of their house because you refuse to live by their rules, trying to force them to give you money anyway even though you walked out -- with the "support" of the so-called "friends" you move in with.

For once the law did the right thing and said "bite me" to that suit.

The impetus behind all of this, by the way, was that Dad didn't like the girl's boyfriend.  Well, sometimes Dad is wrong about such things.  But then again, sometimes Dad remembers what he was like when he was 18, and further, he remembers all the other boys around him with various dispositions -- including some not-very-nice ones.

Rachael Canning, the honor student who sued her parents earlier this year for $650 a week, the remainder of her Catholic school tuition and attorney fees, obtained the order against her beau, Lucas Kitzmiller, 18. He was the teen her parents reportedly asked her to stop seeing at the time of the initial suit.

Canning' father said Kitzmiller choked her early Sunday morning during a heated argument, The Daily Record reported.  

This young man sounds like a nice guy...... (/sarc)

It also sounds like Dad might have been right.

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There are myriad schemes floated here and there about electric usage and means to "conserve" or even "profit."

Some of them are truly bull****, such as virtually all solar installations.  "Net metering" makes solar sound attractive but the facts are that without subsidies from the government it doesn't pencil out over any reasonable time period -- and despite the claims of many, solar cells do wear out.

Anything that requires a subsidy to make work out for you is theft -- you are stealing from either your neighbor or worse, yourself if the government is spending in deficit (gee, the Federal government isn't doing that right now, is it?)

A "subsidy" you simply give back through purchasing power destruction is no subsidy at all any more than you're $20 richer if you take a $20 from your left pocket and put it in your right.

Then there was the "compact fluorescent" craze.  Fluorescent lights are more efficient per lumen of output than incandescent lamps, but there is a problem -- they're also more expensive and when used cyclically (that is, lots of offs and ons) they don't last anywhere near their rated lifetime.  How much less?  A lot; I played with these in a number of places and found that in typical home use instead of the claimed 5-10 years of life I got one or two, which meant the capital cost for the bulbs was five to ten times expectations.  That utterly destroys any claim of "economy" from said bulbs.

Let's add to this -- most homes these days, and those built in the last 30 or so years with various ceiling can fixtures, are grossly over-lit.  You may like it that way, but the idea that there's some argument for blazing showroom levels of illumination in our homes on a broad basis is idiotic.  It's also expensive, by the way.

Ceiling fixtures have another problem -- they leak a lot of air, on purpose.  They have to, because otherwise they can start fires.  The common material above and around them is wood (ceiling joists and such) and we know that burns quite nicely.  They are therefore almost-never sealed entirely, and you can't insulate them as tightly as you otherwise might want to or they will build heat until they either destroy themselves or set something on fire.

Finally, the heat your lighting produces is something you don't want.  In the summer you pay again to remove it from your house with A/C, and while in the winter it "helps" electric resistance heating is expensive on a comparative basis -- as much as 10x that of a heat pump end-to-end, and far more expensive than using natural gas, propane or heating oil on a per-BTU basis for the same purpose.  Never mind that if the heat is in your ceiling it probably gets lost anyway due to the aforementioned intentional leakage in the fixtures, plus more in the form of heated air that escapes.

When I bought my last two homes they were (like most) over-lit on a dramatic scale.  The fix for that is dimmers -- in my case, ones I can control by computer as well as locally from the switch.  This solved the over-lighting problem and also cuts energy expenditure, since I now only use enough power to produce the level of light I want.  However, it's not entirely a free lunch because computer-controlled dimmers have a watt or two of parasitic load themselves that you pay for every hour of every day.  Net-net, including the cost of running the (small) computer to drive them, you don't save much if anything automating your house -- what you gain isn't money, but convenience.

When CFLs that could be dimmed and used in can lights showed up I tried those in the hope of slashing my power bill.  They worked after a fashion but had horrible service life, mirroring my general experience with CFLs -- and thus simply didn't make economic sense.  Nor did they do much for my electric bill, despite the apparent claims made for them.

The newest craze, LED lighting, has recently become available, and a few months ago there was a sale on can light retrofits that had a decent CRI (color rendering index) and "warm white" color temperature.  Both are important; the "cold" light given off by daylight-temperature bulbs is not what most people (including myself) want in our homes, and CRIs under 85 or thereabouts tend to leave quite-ugly hues on things -- including people.  (An incandescent lamp or daylight has a CRI of 100; many CFL lamps have a CRI under 80, which is quite bad.)

(Note that CRI only correlates well with human perception; expecting it to translate into photographic use can lead to some rather interesting and unexpected results!  Yes, that's from first-hand experience....)

The retrofit units are interesting; you remove the spacer in the can and detach the socket for the bulb, then screw that into the LED module, extend the wings and press it into place in the can.  It locks by friction -- and seals the can against the ceiling, substantially cutting the amount of air that leaks through the can.

When these retrofits were $50-60 each they didn't work economically in residences, but when you can buy them for half that or less the back-of-the-envelope looks much better.  In addition you can now get "common" light bulb replacements for right near $10, making replacement of the common dollar incandescent bulb look reasonably attractive, provided they actually last.

So between those and a bunch of vanity lamps in the bathrooms (that I found on sale) I basically retrofit the entire house.

It cost me about $500 to do, which sounds like a hell of a lot of money.  And it was -- on the come, this might have wound up being a white elephant.

When I first put these in the first bill shocked me -- in a good way.  But I have often said "one month is interesting, two makes you take notice, three you can safely call a trend."  I thus avoided writing about this at the time because I simply didn't have the data to back up what I believe had occurred -- yet.

But now the results of several months of use are in, and I will say this: This is one "energy saving" move you can make right now that absolutely, at least in my case, works.

I have more than 10 years of usage history here and it's been remarkably consistent year-over-year.  In January of this year, for example (prior to the retrofit) I was within 2.5% of last year's same-month electrical consumption.  That's pretty damn close.

See if you can tell when I did the retrofit; this is a year-over-year (same month) comparison of kilowatt-hours consumed:

Oh, and June is an outlier in that last year we were gone for a good part of the month (the better part of two weeks) so our usage was below normal as the house was in "away" mode.  This year June was "normal"; we were home the entire time.

My days-home-adjusted reduction in electrical energy consumption from this retrofit is roughly 26%!

Now here's the fun part -- I'm a fairly serious energy pig, so in dollar terms this is a very sizable change.  In addition I have electric hot water, which is one of the worst offenders in terms of electrical consumption in most homes.  No small part of my energy "piggishness" is due to the server that runs this place, which is on 24x7 and pulls a nasty chunk of power out of the wall just to keep it online.  Even when I ran the Ticker on a colo'd server I still maintained the infrastructure here that I have now as a backup, so my energy profile in that regard hasn't changed.

So what's my payback period on these lights, in the end analysis?  Just under 12 months, or better than double what I would judge as "worth it" in terms of cost:benefit.

There is one downside I discovered.  Some (many?) LED lamps have problems with some dimmers.  Certain Toshiba brand lamps, for example, get into a nasty oscillation mode with the dimmer's circuitry when used with them unless there's a conventional lamp on the same load as well to stabilize the circuit.  This shows up as the lamps flashing when dimmed instead of dimming.  Needless to say unless you're after a strobe effect this is utterly unacceptable so make sure whatever you buy you can return if you run into compatibility problems.

There is another interesting point -- at extremely low dimmer settings (like 1%!) these lamps put out an amazing amount of light -- maybe too much if you think you can have a "night light" effect with them dimmed down. Indeed, with my porch lights that use the little candelabra bulbs the parasitic current used to provide neutral sense for the dimmer circuit is enough to light them substantially -- meaning that I get a "mood lighting" element overnight for zero cost over the parasitic requirement to run the dimmer itself.  This is undoubtedly responsible for a large part of the savings in that when I adjusted for equal-lumen illumination in my control software I wound up with evening-time dimmer settings in most parts of the house for lighting that are radically lower than the ~50% or so required for conventional lamps to obtain the lighting level I desired.

In effect I'm using about 1-2 watts of power to get what I was obtaining from 30 watts ("half" power) before.

That's not 1/5th the energy use as you'd expect -- it's 1/15th - 1/30th, or damn close to zero!

The CFL thing looked promising years ago but in fact doesn't pay in money terms.  The LED thing, on the other hand, provided I don't run into failures of the modules that destroy the economic argument for doing the retrofit, is a slam-dunk win.

One final note: Expect to have to rebalance your duct settings for heat and A/C if you do this.  The change in parasitic heating is enough to create significant temperature differentials between different rooms in the house and require you to go back and reset the register dampers.

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In Leverage (see at right) along with a series of articles here over the years I've made what I believe is a decent case for LFTR technology -- nuclear fission using thorium as the fertile fuel dissolved in molten salt.

Why?  Several reasons, chief among them:

  • The fuel is (relatively) plentiful, about as common as lead in the environment.  It is also specifically found in coal, which happens to be very convenient for one means of exploiting this technology.

  • Carbon (in any form) can be turned into liquid hydrocarbons (gasoline and diesel, to name two.)  The Germans figured this out in WWII and it is currently used in production in South Africa, among a few other places.  In other words, we know how to do that.

  • The LFTR runs at ~600-650C, which conveniently is a temperature that works well for direct use in the Fischer-Tropsch reaction to convert said carbon to liquid fuels.

  • We have ~400 years, more or less, of coal at reasonably-conservative energy use growth rates (e.g. approximately equal to our expected population growth), so we have both the Thorium and coal to do this.

  • Finally, there is a monstrous surplus of energy produced from the thorium found naturally in coal (~13x) compared to just burning the coal.

These points means we can replace the electricity we generate today by burning coal, use the coal to make synfuel and thus completely replace all foreign sources of oil for the next 400 years.  The back-of-the-envelope math says we can do this using approximately the same amount of coal we use today -- but in a fashion that processes it first so as to remove the sulfur and other nasty compounds from what goes into the air.  This will also cut CO2 emissions markedly because while the land and air fuel will remain liquid (and for other thermodynamic reasons I believe they will in the main for a long time to come, the fad-car pontifications notwithstanding) the use of oil for that fuel will go to an effective zero while the coal consumption will not increase.  While I personally do not believe in the global scaremongering climate nonsense if you happen to this makes a further reason to support such a path.

The laws of thermodynamics are not suggestions folks; they are laws.  Any solution we wish to put forward to our energy challenges must comport with those laws, and most of the ones that the greenies want to embrace simply do not.  If you want to live in a cave then most of those "other ways" are fine, but few of us are happy to live in a cave.

China has decided to not live in a cave.

One final point:

Energy is the key to GDP and both economic and personal prosperity; we had damn well better get off our asses or we're going to get run over from the East.

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So what is "limited" and "prudent" about the growth in debt over the last 30 years -- which is what Liesman seems to think has occurred and is occurring.  I'd love an explanation -- with references to this chart, of course.

Just sayin'.....

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How can you look at the graphics of what Herbalife has done and admitted in their own documentation, as Ackman has laid forth, and not come to the conclusion that this is a pyramid scheme and thus must collapse?

How can regulators not immediately shut this crap down?

It's rather simple, but Bill doesn't appear to get it: If that door opens the all of the existing "growth" claims and projections may be laid upon the table as equally fraudulent.

The reality is quite simple: All compound, that is, exponential, growth claims without a terminal date and point stated are by definition frauds.

They're frauds because as soon as your put forward the idea that an infinite compounded series of growth can exist you're lying.  You are promoting a mathematical impossibility.

I ask that you read once again my Ticker from 2011.

Note that when the "penetration" into a given market is just 12.5% you are ten such "growth periods" in.  That's a good long time, right, and yet it appears you have virtually unlimited growth ahead of you!

The fact is that you are also three such periods away from certain catastrophic collapse, and likely less, because collapse almost always comes before the finality of actual resource exhaustion occurs due to rapidly-increasing costs of accessing the remaining resources.

So why is Herbalife's stock up 13% as I write this, even though Ackman has (again) put forward hard evidence that their "growth" is nothing more than trying to find new ways to play with exponents and they even market it this way to their "partners"?

That's simple -- to admit this widely and publicly would be to collapse the markets.


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