Monthly Archives: October 2012

“Just the freedom was better than breathing they said”

“Just the freedom was better than breathing they said”
Lupe Fiasco, “Kick/Push”

This is totally out of context of course (a rap song remixed by Bassnectar) but when L started (out of the blue) at Sudbury Valley School back in June (Mid-June, why not!), I could just tell that the freedom was *very* *very* important to him and his decision that NOW he was ready for SVS to be HIS school too. Now 6 months later, he is still a very little guy, so even though he goes to SVS 4 days a week, he still also really loves the cozier scene once in a while (once every week roughly) over at the neighborhood daycare he was previously at more regularly. Anyway, it’s his choice and I feel privileged to be able to provide it to him, and to just let him do HIS thing. Go L!

I am almost embarrassed that his quick transition to wanting to go to SVS surprised me, but it did. I mean, forget the terrible twos, I think ages 3-5 is an amazing and difficult and dynamic part of childhood because kids are growing in independence so quickly yet still needing/wanting the parental attention and attachment. Anyway, each kid is different… A and L certainly are, but it is a joy (usually ūüėČ to spend time with them and get to know them!

I should also note: this song is also appropriate because there is a lot of skateboarding and longboarding going on at SVS lately. An all-ages affair of course.

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Filed under attachment parenting, freedom, sports and outdoors, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

Sorry legos, magnatiles are still the best toy ever

BELOW IS MY FOLLOW-UP REVIEW… we’ve had magna-tiles, motorized dexlue duplo trains, and magformers for at least 3 or 4 years now. So I know what I am talking about! (At least with my kids! ūüėČ

Sorry Lego, Magna-tiles are better. They just are… better than legos! (Sacrilege! I know!)

At least if:

– You have multiple kids including a toddler who you don’t want eating or chewing legos or pulling off ALL the arms off minifigs. (And I do mean all.)

– You want to build a structure of some sort QUICKLY that will be playable with other toys (like dolls, stuffed animals, little cars, planes, etc)

– And Dad has fun too! IMPORTANT!

One can also do pretty well if you buy a TON of Duplo (Sorry again Lego, Duplo is totally interesting to kids MUCH older than 5, the age you put on the packages).

– Not quite as easy to get big/tall creations going. (It still takes a long time with duplos)
– And not as easy for the little ones. The magnets work magic (and don’t worry… it’s safe… they are embedded in the big plastic pieces so no risk)

That said… You will be amazed at the stuff your 7 year old will build if given a mountain of duplo. And his little siblings won’t choke on the pieces.

Amazon has some big sets, but is an invaluable resource for gettings lots of long/bigger pieces that are in short supply in some of the standard sets one can buy thru normal stores.

So, for instance, our 8 year old and 4 year old can play together with our huge electric motorized lego duplo train collection for quite a long time. I bought a bunch of extra switches, and a bridge, and along with all the generic big/long duplo pieces, they can build some pretty cool tunnels and layouts.

Magformers are very good too. But I see that more as fun for older kids (and parents) interested in building buckyballs and Archimedian solids and other 3-d shapes. The issue being that they are a little “mushier” in terms of how their magnets hold and they are hollow (both useful for building shapes, but not for building playable structures).

What set? We have 2 of the “Magna-Tiles Clear Colors 100 Piece Set”. That’s really the way to go. Then with 2+ kids there will be limited frustration.

OK, photos to come!

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Filed under contrarian, lego, magnatiles / magformers, reviews

Stuck on writing

Some of us adults are a bit stuck on writing. Don’t get me wrong, writing of all types in the 21st century is still tremendously important. But there are some other forms of communication most schooling seems to have forgotten about. Well, not exactly forgotten… more likely in more cases not feeling up to the challenge.

– Audio (Radio Programs, Music, Internet: podcast only productions)
– Video (Movies, Shorts, Commercials, Internet: Video blogs/reviews/youtube)
– Videogames

Cheap computing power and the interwebs have brought tools of creation, collaboration and distribution to the 99% that would have been unthinkable to even the “professionals” of only just half a generation ago working in expensive studios.

And of course, being able to organize one’s thoughts OR produce a creative or compelling product is still what it is all about. That’s no different than with writing — all have in common the ability to sit down and collect one thoughts to put together something a little different than live performance or “face-to-face” (or Facetime) communication.

That’s the real question… what do you want to say?

So get to it people (I include myself of course…) Writing isn’t everything. It’s just one way. I would say it’s “just the beginning” except that I don’t think the order is clearcut either as it’s now possible to use things like an $150 iPod Touch to film, edit and publish videos before one is even able to write well or much (or at all). A and his friends can do this. And sure, there is still expensive editing equipment and methods one can maybe learn best from someone who is doing it. But don’t underestimate what one can do with 10,000 hours of one’s own time and a FINAL CUT PRO FOR DUMMIES type of book and explanatory youtube walkthrus and tutorials.

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Filed under contrarian, creativity, future, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School, work

Crank the tunes! I gotsta get some work done!

“Eysenck‚Äôs hypothesis that introverts have higher cortical arousal than extraverts, and therefore require less stimulation from the environment to achieve their optimum level of arousal is cited and supported by Stenberg et al (1990). They found higher levels of blood flow into the temporal lobe in introverts than extroverts.”
Will Background Music Improve Your Concentration?

So does that mean I am an “I” or an “E”? (An “outgoing introvert” I like to say…)

But keep reading: “Performance was best in the silent condition and worst in the familiar music condition”

Figures. Still, I find that music (headphones… I have 20 year old Sony MDR-V6’s going strong) helps when I am doing more routine sorts of work perhaps as a sort of consolation prize… at least I can listen to some music?

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Filed under contrarian, evidence-based, motivation, programming, responsibility, science, work

Some day houses for sale will have MPG stickers on them

There is sorta such a thing today. ¬†It’s called HERS. ¬†100 is a “normal” house. ¬†0 is a “net zero energy” house. ¬†And negative means you have even more PVs than you need. ¬†Nice. ¬†Someday websites like,, etc. will let you search on such things.

The best house I’ve seen is this -33 HERS¬†of Carolyn and Kyle Cave in Hadley, MA. ¬†¬†It’s also nice to know what a house is pre-PV to get an idea of how efficient the house and it’s occupants are. ¬†Oh, and a house in Maynard MA is -8 HERS.

Anyway, good work Caves! ¬†Your house follows the important rule of thumb I now encourage people to use — Build (or pick) ¬†your house with a lot of good roof space for PVs. ¬†Small footprint houses like ours are a little more efficient, but we don’t have nearly as much room for PVs. ¬†Dumb.

(Oh, and our house is nearly 0 HERS. ¬†I am not exactly sure what — I forgot to ask for the pre-PV score and if I recall correctly the PV offset used the wrong KW total.)

(Oh, and read about the limitations of HERS at the link at top…)

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green, passive house, solar, zero energy home

To figure out how much electricity/energy we use each month…

Like many/most people who have grid-tied PV solar panels…. to figure out how much electricity/energy we use each month I have to do some math. ¬†That’s because the smart meter doesn’t know how much electricity we use directly from the panels. ¬†Some electrons never even hits the electric co’s meter, which can only show numbers for 2 things: (1) the extra KWh flowing out and (2) the extra KWh we need that is coming in (at nights, clouds and cold cold weather)

That’s not enough. ¬†I also have to read (3) the total produced by our PV solar panels. ¬†And then do some math. ¬†The pain in this is that since one’s electricity bill is usually not calendar month, and our smart meter isn’t being read automatically by any device, I have to remember to “read the meter” near the beginning/end of the month. ¬†I can’t use numbers on my electricity bill.


The basic idea:  IN KWh = OUT KWh


Solve for X and I’ve got it.

Additionally I think it makes sense to divide by the number of occupants in your house before comparing with your friends.  And maybe adjust by things like HDD and CDD (heating degree days and cooling degree days) if they live in a different part of the Earth.

So that’s KWh used per person per month. ¬† We have averaged under 800 KWh per month year round on average for 28 months. ¬†And we have 4 people here. ¬†With 8 living with us for 10(?) months in 2011.

So under 200 KWh per person per month.  For everything, including heating and AC, cooking, lawn mowing and 2 home offices.

It’s hard to compare to most people in the northeast because most people don’t know their grand total since almost no one heats their house with electricity (geothermal or air-source heat pumps) like we do. ¬†So they’d need to add up their gas/propane/wood/oil BTUs used and convert to KWhs.

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Filed under energy, energy-efficiency, erik-green, solar, zero energy home