Monthly Archives: January 2015

BPA free receipts — stores in Massachusetts

If anyone knows off-hand that a store in MA uses BPA-free paper for their receipts, please email me at the address at the link in my ABOUT page and I will list them here.

A while back I stopped taking receipts at gas-station self-serve kiosks.

I think I will stop pretty much with any receipt now. I mean, why bother?


“The receipt for a McDonald’s Happy Meal™ purchased in Clinton, Conn. on April 21, 2010 had an estimated 13 milligrams of BPA. That equals the amount of BPA in 126 cans of Chef Boyardee Overstuffed Beef Ravioli in Hearty Tomato & Meat Sauce, one of the products with the highest concentrations of BPA in EWG’s 2007 tests of canned foods (EWG 2007)”
(EWG also publishes a helpful guide to cosmetics & sunscreen safety. Last I looked, this (by Beyond Coastal) was one of the top sunscreens that is chemical, not physical.)

“In a groundbreaking study, researchers have shown why a chemical once thought to be a safe alternative to bisphenol-A, which was abandoned by manufacturers of baby bottles and sippy cups after a public outcry, might itself be more harmful than BPA.”

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You want joy? You want freedom. You want freedom? You want SVS!

Joy: A Subject Schools Lack
Becoming educated should not require giving up pleasure.

“The traditional view of such moments [of joy in kids] is that they constitute a charming but irrelevant byproduct of youth—something to be pushed aside to make room for more important qualities, like perseverance, obligation, and practicality. Yet moments like this one are just the kind of intense absorption and pleasure adults spend the rest of their lives seeking.”


You want joy? You want freedom. You want freedom? You want SVS! I can hardly peel my 7 year old away when I come to pick him up at his sudbury school. “Can you come back in an hour?” is the typical request. Of course the joy just continues at home though. So we’re good.

Not that Sudbury Schools necessarily have the market on “joy-based education”. And not that freedom isn’t a lot of work. It’s that too. But to see the amount of happiness that is possible is reassuring.

Meanwhile it seems most people are busy blaming themselves for being depressed or stupid (or you name it) and not seeing that a large part of it (or sometimes 100%!) is their school and their school’s impact (via homework, grades, competition) on their home lives as well. It’s crazy-making. But it’s a structural problem — their educational institution is insane. Not them.

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Just depends…

4 Reasons You Should Not Send Your Child to College


An aside: Everything I’ve heard on college “yes/no” or college “which one?”

1. Incomes are correlated not caused by people who get into fancy schools
2. Incomes are correlated with STEM sorts of careers
3. Happiness is not caused by incomes, beyond a certain base level which is needed to not be poor
4. This base level for income might be affected SERIOUSLY by student loans.
5. Lots of careers which pay well have nothing to do with college
6. Many careers which do pay well also have other entry points (programming/software engineers)
7. For jobs requiring certification, all the employers typically care about is the cert (not the school). And sometimes state schools are favored.
8. Not everyone is a “book smarts” kind of person. Who the heck cares. There are about a million types of smarts in the world.

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On lectures

Why do we give lectures? Why does anyone attend them?

He has a point. In college (both grad and undergrad) I personally got very little out of lectures because Electrical Engineering was very very hard and to Learn Anything one really had to work on it directly. I suppose a tiny bit sunk in during lectures, but often it was simply copying the scribblings of mad scientists (the professors) for future reference. In other words, most learning was when I later read the textbook (and lecture notes) at my own speed and worked on problems and example problems. Some people liked to do this with other people, and I did this a little too, but for me personally I worked best on my own. (At least initially when working on something new. Only when I was getting good at something new would it be useful to talk things thru with fellow students or professors.)

But lectures? Yeah, not so hot.

I could imagine that in some other disciplines it could work if a “lecture” was really a socratic dialogue (as sometimes used in law schools or “classroom response systems” (clickers used in large lectures for aggregate feedback on questions to promote dialogue).

And I should say, I certainly gain value from youtube videos I watch of my choosing which are essentially lectures. Or sometimes new programs discussing topics. But these are within the context of a very high-level, surfacey depth of exploration of whatever subject it is. So maybe that’s a difference. It can spark me to look deeper, but this deeper look is never with a lecture.


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What can a 10 year old do?

Did you hear about the 10-year-old who rode his bike across the George Washington Bridge to New York City?!
He says he, “pedaled twenty miles down unfamiliar roads and busy streets, past neighbors and strangers, out into the unknown….I didn’t need help form anyone. It took me all day, but I found the way and did it myself.”
Later on, this independence seems to have served him well.
He went to the moon.
His name is Buzz Aldrin, and that’s a passage from the autobiography he wrote to inspire kids.
Better not inspire them too much.

“When I was almost fifteen, my best friend… and I decided that we wanted to take a tramp steamer to Europe. So after using this threat for several weeks to kind of soften up our parents, we kind of reduced the threat to flying to England on a charter flight and spending six weeks traveling in England in youth hostels.”

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This is incredibly depressing… no actual freedom! Or reality! Scripts, cue-cards, 20-minutes, boring! Lame-zania!

When I Grow Up
The theme-park chain where children pretend to be adults.
Children at KidZania spend the day role-playing at various careers. Among the simulated jobs are pilot, dentist, and judge.
New Yorker, Jan 19, 2015

“In KidZania, adults determine the content of activities in advance, and Zupervisors follow scripts that offer children little room for ingenuity or deviation.”

“The activities last, on average, about twenty minutes—and are far from open-ended or exploratory. Even artistry is directed. I passed by the art studio, where small children sat before easels, coloring in preprinted cartoon images of Urbano or Chika.”

“KidZania is a proudly mundane municipality: children can work on a car assembly line, or move furniture, or put out a fake fire with real water.”

“Another girl sat behind a central desk, playing the part of the judge, faced by two other children representing the lawyers. All dutifully followed along with their own cue cards, interjecting a line or two when necessary.”

“The children seemed engaged by the machines, though the hands-on part of the activity might not have been very challenging to a child half their age.”

“The ideal location for a KidZania is a place where there is a high disposable income and an ethos of spending prevails; where children are sophisticated consumers of popular culture and users of digital media, and expect novelty and stimulation; and where there are few cultural or historical attractions, and little else to do in the way of entertainment. ”


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air-source mini-split heat pump capacity ratings explained

From the comments here:

“66. I’m going back to post #38 about minisplit capacity and dewpoint. The information in that post contradicted what I understood to be correct, so I checked in with my engineering contact at Mitsubishi. Here’s what he wrote:
“The only relevant factor in determining the available heating capacity is the outdoor wet bulb temperature. This graph below represents guaranteed heating capacities at various wet bulb temperatures.”
This graph shows that the Hyperheat models FE09 and FE18 produce 100% of their nominal capacity down to about 3F wet bulb, and the FE12 down to about 12F wet bulb (I’m eyeballing this graph). In the case of the FE18, I take this to be the capacity they publish at 47F dry bulb, 21,600 BTU/hour, which they show as the maximum capacity in their submittal sheet at 5F dry bulb as well. This graph states that it includes the correction for defrost.
He goes on to say:
“Rated capacity is the capacity as the equipment was tested in a lab setting to obtain the published efficiency values, maximum capacity is the actual capacity that the unit is capable of producing as it operates in the field, you should always use maximum capacity when selecting/sizing equipment for an application.”
So I don’t believe people need to be concerned about dewpoint of the outdoor air when sizing the Mitsubishi Hyperheats. Of course, at temperatures approaching 0F, the wet bulb and the dewpoint get closer together than they do at higher temperatures.”

I would also add my 2 cents to the comments at the article about heating a house solely with minisplits:

Issues which are being compounded:
1 – point source heating
2 – point source cooling
3 – ventilation/fresh air — intake vs exhaust in bedrooms
4 – ventilation — cost of options
5 – heating bedrooms
6 – cooling bedrooms
7 – window sizes effect
8 – low low temp performance
9 – reliability concerns
10 – supplementing w/ wood vs small gas heaters vs electric-resistance heat
11 – the effects of attachment parenting (young kids sleeping in the same room as parents) and/or dogs sleeping in the room

Commments (as someone who lived in such a house in MA for 3 years):

Point source heating works is fine. You can really compare minisplits to a wood stove, because there is almsot 0 temperature differential, which is frustrating because one can’t cozy up to a minisplit, or dry soaking wet clothes after sledding, or keep one room warmer or cooler than others.

Point source cooling is a bigger problem especially if you are co-sleeping and have 4 people in one room because that’s a lot of body heat and if you don’t have a minisplit right in the room it’s less than ideal in the summer even with the door open. 1 or 2 people was fine, even better if one switched the HRV direction I bet! Good idea.

… I like the idea of doing exhaust for ERV/HRV from bedrooms. That would probably be a good idea. Luckily it’s also easy to reroute the supply/exhaust ducts so an easy retro-project.

Even R-5 windows are cool in the winter if you have a small room and you a sitting or sleeping right next to one.

we never had problems with 0F heating even though our minisplits were only rated for 5F.

On the topic of back-up heat, I would probably go for a wood stove and off-grid/hybrid/grid tie solar PVs if I were still in the house. An all-electric house is kinda frustrating when the power goes out and it’s bright and sunny after the storm and your grid-tie PVs can’t do anything. 🙂 Those little honda generators seem nice but I hate changing oil/maintaining stuff. But honestly, a $50 inverter attached to a car battery ran the fridge just enough to keep things over a 4 day outage. So how much money does one really want to throw at a minimal problem? A cooler in the car would have worked fine too since it was winter, and it’s not bear country.

Parts can take a little while with a minisplit (control boards), but luckily things rarely happen. Our residential mitsu model was difficult to debug I guess (commercial models might have better troubleshooting tools?) so it was one easier to just replace a whole compressor unit.

Was minorly annoyed I couldn’t set back our mitu system below 59F I think it was for when we were occasionally away. Not that lower would have added up to much in $.

OK, other than that… minisplits in a superinsulated house were fine. Silent (as I sit here and listen to my current noisy forced-hot air system). Comfortable. Cheap/almost non-existent bills.

OK that’s it. Just wanted to chime in a little with little pros and cons.

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personal action vs legal action / living by example vs working toward effecting societal change

The Hidden Life of Garbage is a two year old interview packed with great insights on the politics of waste, including this shocker: When we think about being “green,” reducing waste and so on, we almost always think in terms of stuff that we can do as individuals, and we almost never think about regulating manufacturing. Imagine: instead of making 50 million people feel guilty for using disposable cups at Starbucks, we could just pass a law prohibiting the manufacture of disposable cups. The reason we don’t is that in 1953 Vermont passed a law that banned disposable bottles, and polluting industries formed an organization called Keep America Beautiful, which has been working ever since to block that kind of law, and generally to make us think of waste “as an individual responsibility, and not one connected to the production process.” … the famous anti-litter commercial with the crying Indian…. It turns out that Keep America Beautiful made that ad!”
— Ran Prieur LINK


Going Green but Getting Nowhere
Published: September 7, 2011
Gernot Wagner is an economist at the Environmental Defense Fund and the author of the forthcoming “But Will the Planet Notice?”
(Commenter at amazon: Interesting book and easy to read. Author made one important point; the public will only nominally cooperate with environmental initiatives until doing so is in their best interest as individuals. If we want them to not spew carbon into the air there has to be a cost to doing so. Makes sense to me, but he could have said it in one chapter.)



– China vs US environmentalism: China’s Coal, etc.

– HANS ROSLING’s The magic washing machine

“I believe in the American system, and totally reject the idea that your vote doesn’t matter. You think it doesn’t matter because you haven’t discovered what it means. If you had a little faith in it, if 25 percent more people had more faith, it would work a lot better than you have imagined. Because given enough time, no matter how much they lie, we figure it out. Change will come slowly but it will come. But don’t tell me it can’t change if you haven’t even tried.”

“[Are you trying to do something] that your dead great grandfather, in the grave, can do better than you. You’re using fewer resources? Your great grandfather is using no resources, and if he could talk to you, he might say, “Stop doing stuff that a dead person can do. You’re alive — do something that an alive person can do.”

– Framing: Positive goals vs negative goals

– Shopping local vs the big store

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Filed under erik-green, legal action, local, personal action vs movements, vote

Competition and climate change

“Our programming has led us to where we are. Evolution, survival of the fittest, competitiveness. All this was good for the first 99 percent of human existence. But now we need a new kind of mind, one that does not view the self as all-important. It’s such a foreign idea, so hard to explain in words, precisely because our minds were designed to reject the idea of personal sacrifice. Our goal, which was a good one from an evolution standpoint, was to suck up as much resources as we can, so our offspring will have a better chance when fighting with nature, and competing against the other people’s offspring. This can no longer be the way we do things.”

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Ice trumps movie

The word from SVS is that the movie-filming schedule took a hit today due to a variety of not-completely-understood-by-me factors but one of them being the fact that that the pond is finally skateable for the first time this winter.

The boys brought their skates today and Ansel announced that “I skated pretty much all day. Best day ever! Except the picnic.” (Except the picnic, which I glean is awesome because it involves unlimited yummy food and ultimate/frisbee pretty much all day)

Sudbury Valley School for the win.

Here’s a great ice day from winter 2014:

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Filed under outdoors, play, seasons, sports, Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School