Solar Ricardo

Solar Ricardo

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fuck you, Brother! Cheating Printers for Fun and Profit.

I used a red cartridge so it would show up better
"So what if I'm out of yellow ink, you bastard!  I'm printing in black and white.  Like always. Black and FUCKING WHITE!!! Goddam it! Just print, you prick!"

 This is the one-sided conversation I have on a regular basis with my Brother printer. When one ink cartridge gets low, I AM FUCKED.
Look at all that ink in there! Come out, Dammit!

"No printing today, Asshole!" it beeps back at me. "You forgot to buy more yellow, at Staples, 65.5 miles from here. And despite the fact that I clearly show 20% full even on my own sensor, you need to drive 2 hours and replace the 20% full cartridge before you can print your pathetic ramblings."

"Holy Mother of fuck... I want to smash you."

It just winks.
Electrical tape. The great equalizer.

In sullen desperation, I take out the yellow cartridge. I turn it over and over in my hand. I hold it up to my ear and shake it. I hear fluid in there. It pisses yellow ink right in my ear.

Then, I notice something- a little window on the front of the cartridge. When you tip it up you can see the ink in it. Mocking me. Then it comes to me.That little fucker looks in the window. It's not little Brothers fault! It's those fucking engineers that are to blame! 

Fuck you, Brother!
I  grab a roll of black electrical tape, cut out a little square and put it over the window. VIOLA! Brother thinks yellow is full, and prints away, merrily in full color.

Now, I'm assuming that if that goes dry and the head sits without ink in it for a while, it will probably clog up. So, this is only a quick fix. But If I remember to get another yellow cartridge and have it on hand as soon as the old one runs out, everything will be dandy.

The problem is, I won't remember.

Crimethinc. Tour Coming to Iowa City

This Friday evening, an international panel of activists from around the globe will come together to discuss how "To Change Everything ." This touring panel is visiting 50 US cities this fall, and brings together organizers from Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and North America to discuss the significance of anarchist ideas and tactics in the 21st century.  All of the presenters are contributors to a recent Crimethinc. outreach and dialogue project, To Change Everything (TCE), which appeared earlier this year in over twenty languages. A free pdf of the book can be downloaded from the TCE webpage.

The participants will compare experiences from the wave of protests and uprisings that has swept the world since 2010—exploring the role of demand-based politics in both catalyzing and limiting movements, examining a variety of forms of repression, and critically evaluating experiments with direct democracy. They will conclude by assessing the prospects of contemporary struggles for self-determination in an era of globalized capitalism and state control.

Held at Public Space One in Iowa City, this event includes a light dinner- Kalmia's homemade vegan tamales! A suggested donation of $5 goes to pay for travel expenses for the speakers group.  Visit the event facebook page for more details.

CrimethInc., “The Ex-Workers Collective” is a radical anarchist media outlet started in the mid-1990's. They produce high-concept propaganda, including a biannual magazine, Rolling Thunder.  According to their website, it covers “passionate living and creative resistance in all the forms they take: from consensus process to streetfighting, from workplace struggles to graffiti art, from gender mutiny to subversive humor.” They produce a podcast, “The Ex-Worker,” as well as a number of books, posters, stickers and other anarchist media.

Public Space One is an artist-run, nonprofit arts organization that aims to provide an independent, innovative, diverse, and inclusive space for making and presenting art provide cultural educational opportunities, and advocate for the importance of art in everyday life for any and everyone. Public Space One is home to The IC Press Co-op, which offers community access and education in intaglio, relief, and silkscreen printmaking. 

Friday, October 2nd, 7:00 PM
Public Space One
120 N Dubuque St, Iowa City, IA
Contact: Rich Dana, 319.530.6051

Sunday, September 13, 2015

UK Solar Industry Takes a Beating from New Government

What can the US learn from Britain’s Solar About-Face?

In the election of May of this year, England’s Conservative party ( whose members are known commonly in the  media as “Tories”) won a surprise victory and secured enough seats in parliament to form a majority government.  Despite the lack of support for renewables in the conservative platform, solar advocates attempted to remain optimistic.  Leonie Greene of the Solar Trade quoted shortly after the election as stating that,   “I am confident support for solar will remain, the question is whether they will treat it as a sideshow to old centralized technologies or if they will recognise the technology tide is now changing dramatically internationally and that the UK urgently needs to retain and strengthen its position in the booming global solar market.”
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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Meta Shop Class as Soulcraft Book Review and Book Repair How-To

book1I recently picked up a great book from a used bookstore. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford is a fabulous book about what it means to be a person who works with their hands. Ironically, before I was finished, the hardcover edition from Penguin Books began to fall apart. So much for quality construction! A large section came loose in the middle, and then became completely detached from the spine. I’m faced with one of the modern dilemmas that Crawford points out in his book. Do I keep reading the book, letting it slowly fall completely apart? Do I simply throw it away and buy another copy? Or, maybe download an electronic version to my smart phone, perhaps? No, Dammit! I will fix it! [Read more…]

Sanders on Solar

Bernie Sanders presidential campaign is catching fire. What is his plan for solar?

This week, in our continuing coverage of the candidates vying for the presidency in the 2016 election and their record on solar issues, Solar Tribune look at Senator Bernie Sanders. The curmudgeonly Independent from Vermont may seem an unlikely front-runner for the Democratic Party, but recent polls show that he is rapidly closing the gap with presumed shoe-in Hillary Clinton. With all of the buzz surrounding the Sanders campaign, let’s look at what a Sanders presidency would mean for the solar industry.
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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Dymaxion House: The Tiny House of the Future, circa 1930

Buckminster Fuller understood the need for a move to tiny houses. Unfortunately for Fuller (and the rest of us), he was 80 years ahead of his time.

In the past 10 years, tiny houses have become extremely trendy, and not without good reason. The real estate market has proven to be turbulent, to say the least. Down-sizing to live within your means is a concept that is increasingly popular not only among millennials, but with their aging baby boomer parents as well.

Tiny houses – compact, single family dwellings under 400 square feet– stand in stark contrast to the American trend toward larger and larger homes that started in the 1970’s and peaked in the early 2000’s. The current fad in tiny houses utilizes highly designed, compact interior spaces that include most, if not all of the modern conveniences, while maintaining a very traditional, cute cottage exterior appearance that makes them more enticing to tiny house newbies. Despite their small footprint, tiny houses retain a warm, cozy feel, which is key to their appeal.

This charm factor, or more precisely the lack of perceived charm, may have lead to the demise of an early 20th century precursor to the tiny house movement of today. In 1930, visionary architect R. Buckminster Fuller designed the Dymaxion House, an 1,100 square foot cylindrical aluminum yurt-like dwelling that is as radical today as it was in the last century.
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Solar and the Stock Market

As of this writing, the global economy is on an insane roller coaster and US stocks have lost $2.1 Trillion in the last week. Do we have any idea what this means for solar?

trina-solar-limited-adr-tsl-reports-strong-earnings-stock-up-244The recent problems began with news of a cooling Chinese economy, and this is important to solar watchers for a number of reasons. Although no one can say for sure how long the stock sell-off will last, some solar market watchers are looking at the implications for the solar industry in both the near and long term. Many investors are watching companies like Trina solar, who are being dragged down with the rest of the market, as good opportunities to buy and hold. Professional investors at Seeking Alpha believe that Trina, Junko and other Chinese solar manufacturers that have sound financial fundamentals and are showing growth may be looking at a strong rebound when the market finishes its correction.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Detroit Maker Faire – Motor City Mayhem!

Detroit! The Motor City! Despite having fallen on some hard times, Detroit is still my favorite American city, and the 2015 Detroit Maker Faire was a perfect example of why I love the place. Great people with great ideas are making it happen against the odds. Garage entrepreneurs rolled out their latest 3D printers and laser cutters, right next to teams of school kids exhibiting amazing DIY robots. Traditional fiber artists and woodworkers hob-nob with hackers. If the Maker Faire is any indicator of what’s ahead for the Motor City, Detroit’s best years are still ahead of it!

Kids of all ages learning to solder!Each July, Maker Media (the publishers of Make Magazine) partner with The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Michigan to “host two days of unconventional ingenuity, unbridled creativity and a whole lot of forward thinking.” I’ve been wanting to get to this event for the last several years, and this summer I finally made it. And it didn’t disappoint!

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Airports Are Going Solar

Airports need lots of flat, open, unobstructed land surrounding them. Why not fill that open space with solar panels? Several large airports have done just that.

shutterstock_184455989This week, Cochin International Airport Limited in Kochi, Kerala (India) inaugurated a 50 acre, 12 MW solar PV plant, making it the first airport in the world to offset 100% of its usage through the use of solar. The airport also has another 1 MW solar PV plant in addition to a smaller grid-connected 100 kW rooftop system, both of which were installed two years ago. Also in India, the Indira Gandhi International Airport near Delhi installed a 2.14 MW plant last year.

According to
“The Airport Authority of India (AAI), which operates 125 airports across the country, including the Cochin and Kolkata airports, has decided to build solar power plants at about 30 of its airports.
AAI has plans to install 50 MW capacity plants in the first phase (by 2016), which would be enhanced to 150 MW over a period of time.
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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lasagna Gardening – Compostilicious!

Patricia Lanza wrote the book on Lasagna Gardening.Last year, I posted an article about double-digging, and how to turn some problem soil rapidly into a healthy garden that you could plant right away. Well, summer has flown by, and although I double-dug a new strawberry patch large enough for 100 strawberry plants (which are doing great, by the way) there is another old patch of garden that I started several years ago, and then abandoned because the soil was just hard clay, and I planned to amend it “next year.” Well, yes, another next year has come and is rapidly going, and I managed to keep the weeds down before they went to seed, but there were just too many other projects that took priority over that old garden. This time, I pledged to make a preemptive strike! I am going to start a large-scale sheet composting operation and make the garden a lovely warm winter meal of lasagna!

Sheet mulching is a permaculture technique that utilizes alternating layers of different types of compost materials. By alternating your “greens” (nitrogen-rich, fresh plant material like grass clippings and kitchen peelings) and “browns” (older, dry material like leaves or straw) you can create compost right on top of the garden, where it is needed.
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Monday, August 10, 2015

Where Does Trump Stand on Solar?

What would a Trump presidency mean to the US solar industry?

Since Solar Tribune published the “Solar Scorecard” of 2016 presidential contenders in January, The Republican field has grown even larger, while the field has narrowed on the Democrat’s side of the race. In fact, the Republican side is becoming so crowded that it takes not one, but a series of debates to get them all on stage. Similarly, it will take a series of articles to cover the solar stances of all of the candidates.

As of this writing, Donald Trump continues to be the frontrunner in the Republican race. The bombastic billionaire media-hound continues to make headlines with his condemnation of big government and the status quo, and those headlines are keeping his poll numbers high. Most political reporters agree, though, Mr. Trump’s campaign to date has been light on substance, and his position on energy policy remains unclear. Can we look at “The Donald’s” past statement and extrapolate anything about what a Trump presidency might mean to the US solar industry?

On January 25th, 2012, @realDonaldTrump tweeted, “After Solyndra, @BarackObama is stil (sic) intent on wasting our tax dollars on unproven technologies and risky companies. He must be accountable.”
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Friday, August 7, 2015

3D printers – Next Big Thing, or High-Dollar Techie Toy?

There is a whole lotta buzz out there about 3D printers right now. Folks are saying that 3D printing could be heralding in an era of “desktop manufacturing” echoing the major successes of desktop publishing in the 80’s, and desktop video in the 90’s. But is this fuhreals? Can the 3D printer unleash a new era of good ol’ American ingenuity?
A finished print– A cover for a Raspberry Pi computer.

I’ve had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with a couple of 3D printers lately at the Iowa Innovation Learning Center in Hiawatha, Iowa. I got the chance to develop and print my own original designs, as well as open source designs from sites like I gotta say, this technology is serious FUN. Is it ready to save America’s manufacturing economy from the onslaught of CCC (Cheap Chinese Crap)? Honestly, probably not, but I do think that this scrappy upstart tech has some serious potential.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Solar in Space: Powering Earth and Beyond

Ever since the United States launched the Vanguard 1 satellite into space on March 17, 1958, solar panels have been an integral part of nearly every satellite, orbiter and space station. Now, after decades of lackluster development, both technologies– solar and space flight– are “taking off.” For many of us who grew up in the last century, our first awareness of photovoltaic (PV) panels was seeing photos of the futuristic blue wings that powered the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, or the American Skylab space station, or the plethora of communications satellites that were being launched into orbit. It wasn’t until a little later that PV panels began to spring up as power plants for remote outposts, and finally, for off-grid homes.
Skylab photo:wikipedia

Now, solar arrays are becoming ubiquitous here on earth, and after a long period of stalled funding and conflicted priorities at NASA, privately-funded space travel is finally becoming a reality as well. This exponential growth in both areas, solar and space travel, bodes well for a future of collaborative development that could help bootstrap both technologies to the next level.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Will Low PV Prices Kill Small Wind?

With solar photovoltaic (PV) panel prices going lower and lower, solar arrays are quickly taking the place of small wind power projects and residential turbines. Is this the beginning of the end for small wind?

For many years, renewable energy enthusiasts in the northern areas of the United States favored small wind turbines, or a combination of wind and solar PV to produce electricity. Until recently, the installed cost of small wind turbines (100kW or under) was cheaper than that of PV However, the small turbine business has been plagued with problems since its inception. Many small turbines have been overhyped and under-performing. New machines have hit the market only to disappear at an alarming rate, leaving heart-broken consumers and red-faced dealers.

In a decade that has seen very few technical advancements in small wind systems, PV has shown huge advancements in technology, like micro-inverters, power-point tracking and increased efficiency. At the same time, Chinese PV manufacturers have driven solar panel prices down from $4 per watt in 2005 to less than $1 in 2015- in some cases under 50 cents (under 3 dollars per watt with all installation costs added.) Small wind turbine prices vary widely, with installed costs from $3- $6 per watt. Solar has the inherent advantage of being a solid-state technology, unlike wind turbines, which have a lot of moving mechanical parts. When parts move, they break, and all but a few wind turbines on the market have pretty dismal maintenance records, compared to PV.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Makers” and the Future of Sustainable Industry

In the coming year, the MUM Sustainable Living department will be launching a new class that will introduce students to the “Maker” movement and the growing culture of DIY (do it yourself) technology. Some might ask, “how do electronics, robotics and 3D printing fit into the concept of sustainability?”

When thinking about “sustainable living,” many of us visualize organic farming, natural building and solar energy. However, unlike the “back to the land” movement of the 1970s, the new generation of “tiny house” dwellers and organic farmers depend heavily on...

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Warren Buffett Loves Solar…As Long As He Owns It

This week, NV Energy, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to buy electricity from the 100 MW Playa Solar 2 power plant in Nevada at a jaw-droppingly low price of $0.0387 per kWh. Meanwhile, NV Energy’s lobbyists are doing all they can to make it more expensive for Nevada residents to produce their own solar power. Nevada-Solar-1-solar-power-farmIt would seem that Mr. Buffett loves to sell solar to his customers, but he does not like the idea of his customers making their own power. From a strictly business perspective, this is not surprising– after all, why buy rooftop solar from your homeowners or businesses at retail rate, when you can make and sell your own for a tiny fraction of the price?

The problem is, as in most of the United States, utilities in Nevada are government regulated, and operate in government-sanctioned monopoly service territories. This means that residents and businesses in NV Energy’s territory do not have a choice of who they buy their electricity from, and they have no other options as to who they can sell their solar power to. This means that it is up to the Nevada Legislature and the Nevada Utilities Commission to decide what is fair to both parties.

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Why the Solar Impulse Matters


How can a huge, slow, single-seat plane change the world?

One day before the United States pauses to celebrate the 239th anniversary of its Declaration of Independence, the Solar Impulse 2 solar airplane completed its record-breaking 4,000 mile flight from Japan to Hawaii, taking another small step in the world’s quest to declare independence from fossil fuels.

The Adventure Begins

For those who haven’t been following the Solar Impulse adventure, here’s a little background: Solar Impulse is privately financed project with the goal of flying a solar-powered plane around the world. Based in Switzerland, the project is led by two adventurous aeronauts– Swiss businessman AndrĂ© Borschberg and adventurer Bertrand Piccard (Piccard gained fame for co-piloting Breitling Orbiter 3, the first balloon to circle the world non-stop.) Solar Impulse is funded by a consortium of international businesses including Omega SA, Solvay, ABB, Bayer MaterialScience, Swisscom, Swiss Re , Toyota and FMB Energie. The Solar cells are provided by European solar manufacturer SunPower.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Biomimicry: Using Nature's Solar Technology

The concept of imitating natural systems in the built environment is known as “Biomimicry,” and it holds great promise for advancements in many areas of technology, including solar. Several new, cutting edge research project are looking at biomimetic solutions to solar’s nagging problems.

Plastic Solar Panels Imitate Photosynthesis

A UCLA press release this week announced chemists there have developed a new solar cell design that is inspired by the way that plants generate energy through photosynthesis. The team’s full report, entitled Long-lived photoinduced polaron formation in conjugated polyelectrolyte-fullerene assemblies is available at the website of the journal Science.
photo: UCLA
photo: UCLA

“Biology does a very good job of creating energy from sunlight,” said Sarah Tolbert, a UCLA professor of chemistry and one of the senior authors of the research. “Plants do this through photosynthesis with extremely high efficiency.”

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Wood Chip Mulch – Free Friend or Fungusy Foe?

mulch3Wood chip mulch. Some people love it, others fear it! Wood chip mulch can be purchased for less than two bucks a bag at many home centers. Fancier, colored chips can be had for a little extra moolah. In many towns, wood chips from tree trimming and brush clearing are free for the taking at the local landfill or compost facility. Wood chips are really effective as mulch for suppressing weeds and retaining moisture, as well as adding carbon to compost piles… so what’s not to like about wood chip mulch? I mean, we are talking FREE here!! [Read more…]

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Travelers Cross the Country in “Green Machine”

A young couple from Portland, Oregon recently stopped by the Sustainable Living Department on their cross country adventure that has taken them down the West coast, across the Southwest to New Orleans, up to Pennsylvania and New York, and back across the Midwest on their way home. Although Tom Walther and April Cummins drove a 1986 Ford Van, they did not burn fossil fuel on their journey. They made the entire trip fueled by waste vegetable oil.
IMG_20150605_101550This summer, the MUM Sustainable Living Department (SL) is in the process of moving our biodiesel brewing operation into a new facility. During the downtime, we have collected a backlog of waste vegetable oil (WVO) that we use to manufacture biodiesel for the SL vehicles. We placed an ad on Craigslist to get rid of some of the extra oil, and Tom responded.  “Craigslist is a great resource for finding oil,” April explained, saying that they had gotten oil in numerous ways, including online contacts and face-to-face meetings with friendly strangers. “In New Orleans, we just went around to local restaurants, and they were happy to share.”

Thin Film Makes Solar Headlines

Thin film solar cells have been used in small-scale applications since the 1970’s for consumer electronics beginning with calculators, and more recently appearing on solar yard lights, emergency radios and cell phone chargers. Thin film technology has been scaling up to larger applications, now competing with conventional crystalline silicon (c-Si) panels. Commercially available thin film panels are made of cadmium telluride (CdTe), copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS), and amorphous and other thin-film silicon, unlike conventional solar c-Si cells. Thin film panels are cheaper and flexible, making them more versatile than their rigid c-Si competitors, but the big stumbling block is their lower efficiency. This means that it take a larger area to produce the same energy as a c-Si panel.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

CSP: PV Not the Only Game in Town

With the price of photovoltaic (PV) panels plummeting and the advent of the era of PV “solar farms,” large scale solar thermal projects have not been getting much love lately, at least not in the USA. Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) is a workhorse technology for large-scale solar power generation. So why aren’t we hearing more about it?

 What is CSP? According the the Solar Energy Industry Association’s Website: “Concentrating solar power (CSP) plants use mirrors to concentrate the energy from the sun to drive traditional steam turbines or engines that create electricity. The thermal energy concentrated in a CSP plant can be stored and used to produce electricity when it is needed, day or night. Today, over 1,400 MW of CSP plants operate in the United States, and another 390 MW will be placed in service in the next year.” Built-in storage. That’s the holy grail of solar, right? Why are we not all over this?

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Lithium Batteries and Solar: Where are We Headed?

Tesla, the electric car giant led by entrepreneur and futurist Elon Musk recently rolled out their new “Powerwall” system to much fanfare. Hot on their heels is Trina, the Chinese solar giant, who announced one week later that they, too will be  rolling out a new RBS with a soft launch in Australia this summer. Bosch, GE, LG, Sony and Samsung are all close to releasing similar products.

Both the Tesla and the Trina systems, although very different, are built on a backbone of Lithium Ion batteries. Up until recently, Lead Acid batteries were the only realistic option for RBS because of the high cost of Lithium Ion technology. Now, it would appear that Lithium Ion is ready for prime time in the RBS world. The question is, are Lithium Ion batteries a game changer for solar, or just a stepping stone to the next energy storage technology?

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Manly Art of Sewing – Chapter 1

sewing6There is not a power tool that I am afraid to conquer!! Including… a sewing machine? Yes, it is true! Clothing construction is not that different from furniture construction, home construction, or any other type of construction. I am putting together something that everyone needs to use. I know how to measure, layout, cut and join materials. Sewing requires a great deal of technical proficiency and craftsmanship. The question is, why do so many men, even now, in the 21st century, still consider sewing “women’s work?” [Read more…]

Friday, May 29, 2015

What's Going On With Chinese Solar Stocks?

CNN reported today that as Hanergy Thin Film’s stock collapsed last week, Li Hejun, the company’s CEO, was joking with listeners at a renewable energy conference. In the time it took him to give his presentation, his personal fortune had dropped by $15 billion, and his corporation lay in ruins.
Empty Hanergy plant. photo:Bronte Capital

The Hanergy crash was just one of several high profile Chinese solar companies that have made headlines recently…and not in a good way. Recently, in its annual filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Chinese solar PV manufacturer Yingli Green Energy Holding Co. Ltd. said, “There is substantial doubt as to our ability to continue as a going concern.” Shortly after the report, Yingli stock fell to an all-time low of $0.72 after closing at $1.49 the previous day.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

18V Ridgid Gen5X Combo Kit Rocks!

For some reason, as I unpack the new Ridgid “Gen5X” tools, I started humming an old song by the 1970s punk rock band Generation X called “Your Generation.” Their vocalist (a young fella known as Billy Idol) snarled:
ridgid 2
There ain’t no time for substitutes
There ain’t no time for idle threats
Actions are rather hard to place
Cause what you give is what you get

Okay, so it may be a bit of a stretch, but as far as cordless power tools go, Ridgid’s new 18 volt Gen5X lines are pretty punk rock! They are a little futuristic looking, but they combine both older and newer cordless technology. Above all, they perform with A LOT of power. Also, like Billy Idol, they seem to go forever! [Read more…]

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Little Utility That Could

Warren McKenna of FEC
Warren McKenna of FEC  

After a full day of presentations from state and local leaders on solar energy at the Iowa Solar Installers Summit in 2009, McKenna presented on a panel along with representatives of investor-owned and municipal utilities. When McKenna took to the podium, he smiled, cleared his throat and said, “Well, I don’t have a powerpoint presentation. But I DO have a feed-in tariff!” The crowd roared with approval.

Since 2008, Farmers Electric Coop (FEC) has been a national model for utilization of solar. The tiny, 650 person cooperative electric utility serves customers in the heart of Amish country and is the states oldest electric utility, but despite its long history, FEC is leading the way into the future. McKenna’s savvy, cost-effective approach to providing clean, locally produced power has caught the attention of much larger utilities across the country, and his start-small, pay-as-you-go business plan has proven to be a hit with co-op members as well as the solar industry.

read the entire article at

Friday, May 8, 2015

Fixing a Book About Fixing Things

I recently picked up a great book from a used bookstore. Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work by Matthew B. Crawford is a fabulous book about what it means to be a person who works with their hands. Ironically, before I was finished, the hardcover edition from Penguin Books began to fall apart. So much for quality construction! A large section came loose in the middle, and then became completely detached from the spine. I’m faced with one of the modern dilemmas that Crawford points out in his book. Do I keep reading the book, letting it slowly fall completely apart? Do I simply throw it away and buy another copy? Or, maybe download an electronic version to my smart phone, perhaps? No, Dammit! I will fix it!

Read the entire article at

Thursday, April 16, 2015

“Cavedigger” Creates Breathtaking Beauty

68-year old Ra Paulette spends his days alone with his dog, deep inside a cave, carving the walls into abstract shapes. When he gets paid, he charges $12 an hour. He uses no power tools… only basic hand tools. And he says he is having “…the time of my life.” So… he’s crazy, right? In the words of the great Jimi Hendrix, “You have to go crazy and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven.” Crazy or not, for 25 years, Paulette has made it his life’s mission to encourage “spiritual renewal and personal well being” through the transformation of solitary caves into temples of beauty and environmental consciousness. In the sandstone caves of the New Mexico desert, the self-taught sculptor and architect carves amazing, transcendent spaces, full of light and the celebration of life on earth.

read the entire article at

Monday, March 9, 2015

Turn Your Yard into a Food Forest

Fred Meyer in his own "Food Forest."Thankfully, spring is approaching. It’s time to start thinking about your yard!! This year, consider this. Would you like to mow less? Water less? Use less expensive and potentially dangerous chemicals? How about going out in the yard and picking fresh food any time you want? Try Permaculture!! What exactly IS Permaculture, you ask? Although “Permaculture” would be a great name for a reggae band, it is actually a term coined by two Aussies, Bill Mollison and David Holmgren back in the 70’s from the combination of the two words, “permanent agriculture.” Permaculture looks at a given area, like your yard, as a whole system made up of lots of interconnected parts. Patterning designs on a natural system like a forest or a prairie, “Permies” (as Permaculture fans refer to themselves) aim to create a personal environment that mimics nature. They combine plants that are beneficial to other plants and beneficial to the local environment, including the inhabitants, like birds, butterflies, bees, and even humans! Like a forest or a prairie, once a permaculture garden or yard is established, it is self sustaining, with very little maintenance. [Read more…]