Monthly Archives: September 2009

Installment 1 of the subtle (and usually not so subtle) mentions of how school is not fun, not supposed to be fun, and everyone knows it and that’s just how it is and has to be


1. A 30 sec(?) NPR promo (heard summer and fall 2009, at ~8am) for “All Things Considered” is drawing an analogy between ATC and school (because you can learn all sorts of things.) It ends simply with “Like school…. but fun”. Nice. Not.

2. In the trailer for the movie “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” (2009) A giant pancake falls on a school and smashes it.
A crowd of onlooking kids jumps for joy yelling “No School!!!!” trailer here at amazon

OK, that’s enough for today.

UPDATE: I’m collecting ones that I find on youtube here at this playlist (7 so far):

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Filed under alternative education, contrarian, education, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, systemic problems vs personal problems

networks vs community

Sorry, I have probably posted on this topic before (John Taylor Gatto writes on this topic in his essay “We need less school, not more”) … also in one of his books.

Here is someone else that I stumbled upon in the “Bowling Alone” article that later became a book:

“As Wuthnow emphasizes,

Small groups may not be fostering community as effectively as many of their proponents would like. Some small groups merely provide occasions for individuals to focus on themselves in the presence of others. The social contract binding members together asserts only the weakest of obligations. Come if you have time. Talk if you feel like it. Respect everyone’s opinion. Never criticize. Leave quietly if you become dissatisfied. . . . We can imagine that [these small groups] really substitute for families, neighborhoods, and broader community attachments that may demand lifelong commitments, when, in fact, they do not.LINK

And more recently, here’s a related blog post from a site normally talking about house building. It begins… “Movie theaters have moved into the home, and with the help of Netflix and streaming video, one doesn’t even need to go to a video store.”
Isolation and the Deterioration of Socialization . . . Oh My

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heat pump hot water heaters

Some claim COPs of 3 or 4 depending on the temperature of the air it’s sitting in, but don’t forget, if you are using electricity, even if it’s electricity from your own PVs, that’s electricity which could be put to use doing something else! And there are better ways to heat hot water! Like the sun! And it would be just as good to use a simple propane or natural gas hot water heater directly, since the efficiency of electric power plants is about 33%. Let’s compare.
$500 propane hot water heater
$2800 heat pump hot water heater (like the Stiebel Eltron ACCELERA 300 which I’ve heard is well received)

And nothing’s keeping you from having just as many PVs. Maybe you’ll have some electricity left over for your neighbors, or for charging your electric car.


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Filed under contrarian, erik-green, solar

If you were me…

I mean, if you were me… and trying to decide how to heat your hot water… what would you do?
I mean… solar yes. But in MA they** say you can only get to a 60% solar fraction. Should I believe them? I say no. Gary at gets 95%+ in MT. OK, so how does one do that! Most people claim you shouldn’t do drainback, but I’ve been reading, and Tom Lane’s excellent guide to solar hot water systems says they are actually the way to go. So that’s that. We’re doing it. (Now to find someone to actually do it.)

**they as in… Google around, and you will find it’s quite typical. But I think this is partially because people 1) use non-drainback systems and 2) design such systems to provide ~60% (undersized, not a steep angle for keeping up in the winter and reducing temps in the summer, etc).

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Filed under erik-green, house, solar

Obama’s Green House In Chicago

Barack Obama “owns a 14-room, 6500 square foot house in Chicago (using fossil fuels to heat 6500 square feet for a family of four in one of the coldest parts of the U.S. is apparently a demonstration of one’s commitment to reversing global warming) that presumably sits vacant nearly all year.” — Philip Greenspun

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free the rebel or ???

“If you have two children, and only *one* of them will be set free to learn on his own, my tendency is to free the “youth who enjoy and are motivated by the traditional instruction environment” *before* freeing the rebel.”

from the comments section at… LINK

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Filed under education, school

We live in networks, not communities

“We live in networks, not communities. Everyone I know is lonely because of that.”
John Taylor Gatto

(more from Gatto on Networks vs Community in his essay “We Need Less School Not More”) also here: a review and a LONG response to the review from gatto

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Filed under education, school, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

On Sudbury Valley School…

“Because of the spectacular appearance of the campus of Sudbury I wish he [Daniel Greenberg] could see it in his heart to make an enormous photo blowup of the place Grand Central size to set on stage. Its grandeur underlines the low cost of admission and would bring a gasp from any audience that wasn’t dead.” — John Taylor Gatto, 1991

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net zero vs passive house

There is a lot here that is similar. The main difference is that passive-house uses more insulation and might not have on-site wind or solar PVs to offset heating, cooling and electricity usage. But the house that gets built might otherwise be similar. Though as noted, passive-house will likely have more expensive insulation and energy detailing since the house is trying to meet a certain heating load for certification, whereas the net-zero house is probably trying to keep initial costs low (meaning $ sooner gets spent on PVs rather than insulation). Which house is cheaper in a cash-flow sense with a 30-year mortgage? Which house will be cheaper over an even longer time frame? hard to say. Both PV arrays (net zero) and expensive very-insulated windows (passive house) will need to be replaced eventually.

I’d use BeOpt if one can to figure out where to spend limited dollars to save the planet and the pocketbook.

It might be on a “used” house, and/or a hybrid or electric car, not on PVs or insulation or windows!

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Filed under car, contrarian, erik-green, house, passive house, solar

“physics trumps chemistry”

1. (Michael Chandler discussing why the Zip System is problematic around doors and windows…) LINK

2. (Various folks discussing …why drainback solar hot water systems (ala Tom Lane) are actually better in all climates than glycol-mixed systems) LINK

The most important thing to note here is that it seems to be the case (from what I have read recently) is that the claim that drainback systems are problematic in freezing weather is incorrect. The reality is that… built correctly, unpressurized drainback systems, even in New England and other freezing climates are LESS problematic — easier to acheive a high solar fraction, less maintenance, and more resistant to components failing causing catastrophic system failures/damage. At least that’s what I gather detailed information published by the below names:

Countless counter-examples include: Tom Lane in FL (, Gary Reysa in MT (, and Alan Rushforth in PA (, and Tom Gocze in ME. (Google will lead you to the truth!)

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Filed under erik-green, house, solar