When I am bored or traveling, I write the 21-Word Review part of this blog. While this is entertaining for me, it may be obnoxious and/or tedious for my reader(s). If you would like to view this blog with no reviews or other trivia, click here. If you would like altogether better content, allow me to recommend the Google "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.


Saturday, June 24, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Beauty and the Beast (Delta In-Flight)

Dickens pioneered the concept of selling the same story multiple times. Disney has picked up the mantle. Not that I'm complaining.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The 21-Word Review: John Wick Chapter 2 (Delta In-Flight)

I love it when a movie creates a universe and does not need to spend half of the plot in explanations.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Logan (Delta In-Flight)

I'm used to dark movies on a plane, but usually that refers to the lighting not the plot. Holy %&#$*@ cow!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The 21-Word Review: All the President's Men (Amazon On Demand)

APUSH movie summer continues. A very interesting movie to re-watch in today's political environment. The arguments against publishing rumors are quaint.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The 21-Word Review: The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel

The movie didn't really come close, but the movie moved a bit faster. And Italy was in a second, non-movie book.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The 21-Word Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude by by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I finished reading this book just before the author died. It's not what I expected, but it's strange and strangely beautiful.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Bridge of Spies (Vudu On Demand)

APUSH summer movies continue. We had to figure out how to make Vudu work, but it accepted our WalMart gift card.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Suburban 5-4-and-a-door solar: We have electrical hookups!

As of this week, we have electrical hookups to our solar panels. Nothing's turned on yet, as we are awaiting approval from the city inspectors, but at least all of the hardware installation is now complete.

Here's what we have in place. It's not at all intrusive.

First, there are the solar panels themselves. Feel free to stop by and take a look at them. You honestly wouldn't notice them if you weren't looking - they show up much more prominently in this picture because it was taken from a drone. There's a tree in the front yard that hides them from most passers-by. Not that we're ashamed of them. We kind of like the way they look.

The outside of our house used to just have that one meter on the right - the typical spinny-wheel thing. Now we have two additional boxes, one that combines the sources and one that is an emergency shutoff / breaker specifically for the solar circuit.

Inside the box on the left are the combined connections and a cool internet-enabled meter that is purported to have an associated app that will allow us to see how much power we're pulling from the grid and how much we're pulling from the solar panels. It's purported because we aren't allowed to turn it on until after inspection completed.

The box on the right has some very large fuses and a big on/off switch straight out of Dr. Frankenstein's lab. We assume that this is used to shut off power from the solar panels when service need to be done on the house. We will confirm that before turning on the system - and we will find out if we need to keep large fuses in stock, just in case.

Inside the house, all of the wiring was very expertly run inside conduit like these, carefully attached to floor joists. The power feed from the panels on the roof was run down a utility chase from the attic to the fuse panel in the basement. It took a little while to get everything run, but the results look great and there are no wires on the outside of the house.

On the breaker panel are warnings that there is a photovolatic (i.e. solar) power source on the house. Again, this is for safety since turning off power from the grid no longer means turning off power to the house. (Not that we can actually use power when the grid is off. For safety reasons, we don't want to be generating power back into a downed wire so the system is designed to shut off when the grid goes down.)

There are more warnings inside the breaker box. We were actually tapped out on the breaker box, but the installer was able to put in some half-sized breakers and expand the capacity without installing a new box.

Overall, we are very happy with the results so far and are eager to get the system running! It's starting to get hot out there.


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The 21-Word Review: The Debaters (Amazon On Demand)

APUSH summer movies continue with yet another lesson in how badly white Americans treated other, usually darker Americans throughout US History.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Iron Jawed Angels (YouTube)

The AP History movie summer continues, this time on YouTube. Thanks to School House Rock, I knew the ending in advance.

Monday, June 12, 2017

The 21-Word Review: The Tuskegee Airmen (Amazon On Demand)

Is this the fifth or sixth AP history assigned movie of the summer? They're starting to run together. Uplifting at least.

Friday, June 09, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (Amazon On Demand)

AP History Movie #4: Not surprised Wes Studi has been in two. More surprised Anna Paquin was in the same two.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Wonder Woman

We took a break from assigned movies to watch this historical drama about the Great War. I learned quite a lot.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Amistad (Amazon On Demand)

The third historical summer assigned movie. I don't ever want to have to see a clearer depiction of the Middle Passage.

The Impact of Power Conservation in the Suburban 5-4-and-a-Door

In preparation for a solar panel installation, it is important to understand your current electricity usage so that the panels can be scaled appropriated and the expected return on investment (ROI) can be calculated. As we are getting panels installed on our home now, I requested as many back bills from the power company as they could provide. In my case that turned out to be about 4 years' worth of bills. We scaled our installation based on our recent power use, but the total data was entertaining for a numbers-oriented person to analyze.

The ROI calculations will come later, once we have the electrical hooked up and have been running it for a while. What was interesting even before hooking up the solar array is the obvious impact we found from our multi-year electrical conservation efforts. You always wonder if the little things that you're doing actually make a difference. In this case, they certainly have.

When we first moved into our home, we replaced a lot of the incandescent bulbs with compact florescents that we moved from our old home. Compact florescents don't work in a lot of fixtures and have their own problems, but  they were the only efficient options at the time. However, in the last few years LED lighting has really come into its own, and we started slowly replacing all of the lighting in our home with LEDs. At this point, nearly all of our lighting is LED-based inside the house, including the can lights in the basement and kitchen where the lights stay on the most.

We also made a few other changes, including putting in a clothesline for use in the months where pollen isn't terrible and/or rain isn't an issue. There are likely are other factors contributing, but the weather was generally the same for these years and we didn't spend any extra time with all of the power turned off. Which is to say, this isn't intended as a scientific analysis of the impact of any particular method, just an encouraging note to anyone who might be trying to save electricity and the associated costs.

Here's the graph that matters. This is the amount of energy (kWh) used in a year, graphed by the last date in that year. Usage peaked around 19,500kWh in the year ending August 1, 2015. Since that time, usage has steadily decreased. For the most recent year (ending May, 2017), usage was down about 20% from the peak. That's pretty good return for some minor changes. There was some worry that the amount spent would not have a similar drop, since a portion of the bill is fixed and does not change with usage. However, the amount spent reduced just a bit more than usage (21% versus 20%), probably due to fluctuations in power pricing.


If anyone is interested in the numbers behind the graph, here are the daily power usage numbers pulled from those 4 years of bills. For most months, the usage dropped year-over-year, as the graph above would suggest. There are exceptions (I have no idea what happened in August, 2013), but the trend is obvious. Our usage is consistently down, year-over-year.


Unfortunately, the savings is going to impact the solar panel ROI since ROI will be based on what we were spending originally and our spending is down. We'll see how those numbers come out starting sometime next month, hopefully.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

The 21-Word Review: 1776 (Amazon On Demand)

The second of the boy's historical movie selection. I liked it, but some of the songs have not aged very well.

Monday, June 05, 2017

The 21-Word Review: The Last of the Mohicans (Amazon On Demand)

The boy has an assignment to watch 11 or 12 historical movies over the summer. This was a very nice start.

Friday, May 05, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Our Kind of Traitor by Jean le Carre

They turned this into a movie? When did that happen? I just found out from Amazon search. Guess I'll rent it.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The 21-Word Review: La La Land (Delta In-Flight)

A good movie turned into a great movie in the last ten minutes. It didn't turn into the best movie, apparently.

The 21-Word Review: Absolutely Fabulous (Delta In-Flight Movie)

Not quite as absolutely fabulous as the series, but the series was a product of its times. Still almost absolutely fabulous.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Florence Foster Jenkins (Delta In-Flight Movie)

What an overrated actress Meryl Streep is. A fabulous, mesmerizing, talented, Oscar worthy, entrancing, entertaining, nearly perfect, not nearly overrated actress.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Secret Life of Pets (Delta In-Flight Movie)

Yes, I liked it. Yes it’s a movie marketed to kids. Yes, my kids are now teenagers. What is your point?

Monday, May 01, 2017

The 21-Word Review: The Babadook (Netflix)

We're still debating as a family what was really going on. It's interesting to assume it was all her fevered creation.

Friday, April 07, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Jason Bourne (Delta In-Flight Movie)

I like Matt, but I just don’t see the appeal. Not a bad pastime movie, but nothing really justifying these sequels.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

The 21-Word Review: Magnificent 7 Remake (Delta In-Flight Movie)

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. No.