Bass on Bass

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

MOVE THAT SNOW!


          Who in the world would choose to have to pour fuel into a piece of yard equipment or repeatedly pull-start it's gas engine at -2 degrees C or colder if they had a workable alternative? For most homeowners, what's the alternative for moving snow with power equipment in the sometimes frozen, snow covered northern half of the good old USA?  Electric power is now the answer. 
        More than ever before, electric snow throwers in various sizes and designs have come onto the market in recent years from makers  of gas powered yard equipment and of assorted electric homeowner tools .

           Sadly, electric snow-throwers in the small manageable 14"- 20" swath range are currently limited to CORDED electric design. This is the size range most of us homeowners need. They're  big enough to quickly clear the snow from our walks and driveways and give us real direction of throw control, yet are small enough to handle with relative ease. 
         Hopefully, makers will soon realize that user removable BATTERY electric design is the 21st century way to go for all power yard equipment in this size range. Many of those same makers have already  released various cordless electric rotary lawn mowers in the size range (14" to 21") most of us need.
        Let's get back to what we have to choose from right now to move snow . 
        What factors make real differences in usability?  
         1) First on my list today is the bane of this type of electric power equipment, the ubiquitous extension cord. Unless the space you have to clear is seriously atypical,  the cord WILL often present you with more work than the moving of the snow! In the cold of winter, it will stiffen up. It will get in the way of the path you need to take to accommodate the wind, the space you're clearing and where you can throw the snow. 
           So what can you do about that? You can pick a snow-thrower that operates on 13 amps or less. Any higher current demand requires a 12 gauge power cord to safely operate at the 100' length most of us will need . Trust me, you don't want to have to deal with constant need to swing that much stiff, heavy cord out of your way every few seconds. At 100' long a 12 gauge cord won't fit on any power cord reel I'm aware of and weighs about as much as the Toro 1800 18" model snow-thrower I bought last year. I love the Toro's  snow moving capacity but HATE the 12 gauge cord it's 15 amp draw requires.



         2) Second on my list is the way the machine ejects the snow. Two options are available. One is a simple set of parallel vanes that tilts as a group to the left or right in a very limited range. The other, as in the machines shown above, is an actual chute that can rotate the entire output to the left or right close to 180 degrees topped with an  output vertical control that can be tilted up or down. Who wouldn't want the vastly better control over where the snow gets thrown that the chute affords? I hate to think of how many times a shift in the wind caused the wide spray of my old, chuteless Toro Powershovel to turn me into a walking snowman.


        Most of the rest of the variations in details are merely a matter of personal preference and value judgement as is immediate  availability of each. 
         Now, get ready to go out there and move some serious snow!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Old Cyclist's Fantasy?


An old cyclist's dream: take a 10 day to 2 week bicycle camping trip across Illinois and Iowa to Omaha. I expect I might get a few stares etc, a 64-65 year  old grey- beard from La Grange Park Illinois riding up to the Olympia Cycle store at 40th and Hamilton in Omaha or anywhere along the way for that matter, with one of these  trailers in-tow. 
      The seed of this rapidly growing idea came from clicking on an ad for these trailers on the right side of my facebook page.  



Following the link to another YouTube video I found this set of ideas on how to make it an exercise in frugality. This guy has what seem to be some really great tips on how not to spend a ton of money on sustenance for bicycle camping trips.

       I wonder just how possible this might actually be. Is it merely a fantasy of an aging would be cycle camper or a goal that's really possible for me to achieve?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crusade For Battery Powered Snow-blowers

Toro Power Curve 1800


     I'm sort of on a personal crusade to convince makers of battery powered lawnmowers, greater than ever before in numbers and offered model options, to get into offering user removable battery powered small snow blowers. 


                              Neuton EM 4.1
This "Crusade" grows out of my 1 year of use of a corded electric Toro 1800 snow-blower, 10 years or so of happy use of my Neuton EM 4.1 cordless electric mower and somewhat extensive research of equipment options in this area. I love the snow-blower's performance but HATE managing and avoiding business end contact with the cord midst use in the cold of winter.
       One need only note the effectiveness of corded electric snow-blowers and the comparable power and capabilities of corded and cordless electric mowers to see there's now no power advantage of corded(AC) motor power over cordless(battery/ DC) power for these functions. My experience shows me that there's no advantage for gas powered like size mowers over (user removable battery) battery electric mowers either.

      The user removable battery design item is much more important with snow-blowers than mowers because of the sensitivity of most types of rechargeable batteries to extreme low and high temperatures. The ability of users to bring charged batteries from the house to the  unheated shed or garage stored snow-blower for use is therefor key to usefully effective battery powered performance. Also, for all like sized battery powered equipment, the spare battery packs become the exact equivalent of the gas can for combustion powered units 
RechargeMower  Ultralite = 35lbs with battery

        Lithium ion battery powered mowers now on the market demonstrate that the user removable battery packs need not be very heavy

Recharge Mower Li-ion 36vdc battery pack



18V Lawncare Center with Charging and Storage Station

MODEL # CCC3000





I envision designs that parallel many makers' current small battery powered yard maintenance equipment lines which share the same model battery pack between all equipment line items. They usually include string trimmer, hedge trimmer, blower and sometimes even small chain-saws /pole saws. The Black & Decker CM1936 mower and their new front tine tiller share the same model of user removable 36vDC battery pack (no snow blower yet) and are a perfect example of that vision. 

36V 19" Self-Propelled Rechargeable Mower with Removable Battery





                    36V Cordless Cultivator/Tiller

36V Battery for CM1936



      With any such set of devices come battery packs for each. If anyone owns 2 of the line's devices, that person has 2 battery packs usable with either to extend the length of the single device's use session. Again, it's just like what that can of gas does for a gas engine powered device. 
       Any makers' ears access you might be able to lend to this "crusade" would be most greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

"Wrong Guy" not "Wronger Guy" Elected President




     Well ... I no longer have reason to fear the "wronger" guy 

being in the White House. I don't believe the "right" guy was 

on the ballot, just wrong and wronger. It's not that I believe 

Obama lacks the right ideas for our future. He just lacks 

some of the other assets necessary to make them reality.

     This is going to sound almost treasonous but Vladimir 

Putin is someone with most of those "other assets" Mr 

Obama appears to lack. He just applies them to service of 

horrendously wrong ideas.


     It's like the last 1 or 2 Illinois gubernatorial elections, one 

of which may actually have had a "right guy" (or gal) on the 

ballot,  just under the wrong "Party Banner" to capture 

enough votes for election.



     My best hope is that Mr Obama will prove my evaluation 

of his access to those "other assets" completely wrong.


        And yes, it appears Mr Romney, my "wronger guy", was 

listening to the wrong voice from which to divine his own 

"destiny" or maybe misinterpreted the message.


     

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Impossible Bike Gets Built

Sometimes it takes one defiant, quirky, brilliant individual to show everybody else just how wrong they are about what's impossible!  Izhar Gafni is just such a guy. 




Now even the 
mainstream media giants like ABC News are picking up on it.

 And he's not the only one. 
There's design student Phil Bridge

of Sheffield Hallam University.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Regional Airlines: programmed for disaster?



     Speaking of "smaller government" per 

the deregulation of the airlines: Pay no 

attention to the airline issuing the 

ticket or with which your regional flight 

aircraft is labeled. You are most likely 

being flown by a contractor 

corporation to that major airline that is 

not required to meet anywhere near 

the same safety regulations as the 

labeled major and is inspected by the 

FAA. The FAA's mission statement has 

always listed safety and aviation 

promotion as equal priorities(until 

recently changed by legislation which 

only moved the statement of their 

equality to later in the law). They 

usually defer conflicts between the 2 to 

the latter priority.

    Most of those regional flights contract airline 

"operators" of major airline labeled smaller planes 

have contracts with those majors that allow payment 

only for completed flights thereby incentivising them 

to fly under less safe conditions. That creates airline 

disaster opportunities which the FAA per lesser 

safety standards by law has no power (or paradigm) 

to prevent. There are pluses I suppose, but such 

laxness by design for both pilot competence and 

aircraft maintenance is not in the society's best 

interest.




Tuesday, July 24, 2012

NIFTY NEW CORDLESS MOWER

video

    Here's a video about the new Ryobi lithium ion battery powered mower. Previously the Rechargemowers 14" model was the only one with lithium ion battery power that my fairly extensive internet searches ever turned up. It looks superior in price and availability.  Here's the video of the Rechargemowers Ultralite.



Wednesday, April 25, 2012

OPEN LETTER TO HEALTHCARE ADMINISTRATORS


         Just what "industry" are you involved in, or rather what "industry" do you think you're involved in? The entire premise for the allowance of it taking up space in the fabric of society is the second half of the defining word in the title of "Healthcare Industry". It is existent totally resulting from the need of some to CARE for the ills and injuries of the rest of society's individuals and can provide no value to society without that CARING. 
        The entire function of all commercial endeavor in all societies is to provide value in exchange for value. 
        Given the premiss for it's existance, it is obvious that the prime asset of any organization operating as a healthcare institution is the people working within it to provide that caring. All of that increasingly complicated and expensive aparatus and infrastructure in much of that industry today is just it's set of ever changing TOOLS. Those TOOLS are of absolutely zero value to anyone absent caring people applying informed and caring use of them. All value any healthcare institution can trade for value (profit from) arises from the caring and abilities of it's people to use that set of tools for the good of the institution's customers, the injured and infirmed of the communities in which it operates. 
        The industry in which it operates is fully defined as a  people on people enterprise. 
Employees in healthcare don't usually arrive in their jobs by accident. They are, as a whole, caring individuals seeking a caring environment in which to make a life of caring for the ill and injured around them. As such they are extraordinary members of society. Any erosion of your respect, in fact or inferrence, for that reality threatens the ability of your institution to provide it's only marketable product, those individuals' ability and / or  will to provide a quality level of care to the ill and injured of the comunities in which your organization operates. That threatens the institutions'very continued existance. 
  Therefor be wary. Use maintenance of the respect mentioned as a prime criteria for evaluating cost cutting measures, eliminating recognition programs and events or elimination of incentives or oportunities for employees to serve the community to close budget gaps and include affected employees in those decisions' formation whenever possible or you may start down a path toward having no budget to save!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

CORN GLUTEN: MAGIC STUFF?




    As the story goes, decades ago some university agriculture student just happened to notice that along railroad tracks where hopper cars had spilled corn, there were no annual weeds growing! He or she apparently convinced their university faculty to research this phenomenon. The result was the knowledge that the gluten in corn creates a sort of germination barrier on or very near the surface of the soil. Where that barrier exists weed seeds can't germinate into weed plants. Out of this knowledge have sprung a number of "organic" weed control products based on corn gluten. As it so happens the corn gluten is also a very good source of slow release nitrogen. That makes it an excellent lawn fertilizer/ weed control product base. 

    The first product of this kind I'd ever heard of was WOW (for without weeds) sold by Gardens Alive, an online and mail-order seller of organic gardening, household and pet management products. I've been buying and exclusively over-seeding my lawn with their Turf Alive grass seed for as long as I've known about them. Their grasses send roots 4' to 6' deep and carry a grub killer producing beneficial fungus (endophyte) that keeps the lawn pest free as well. I water the lawn maybe once or twice a season on average and it stays green way deeper into drought than anyone else's on my block..
    Well on to what's new! This season I noticed my Ace carrying lawn care products by "Jonathan Green Organics". I have been using a mix of Ringers Lawn Restore, Milornanite, Ironite and limestone pellets exclusively, seasonally adjusting proportions for almost 2 decades. All of which I have been buying at La Grange Park Ace Hardware. This week's flier from them shows Jonathan Green Organic Weed Control plus fertilizer. It is advertised as a corn gluten based product. I'm going to give it a try.
    There are a couple of cautionary notes  to include here. Corn gluten is exclusively a pre-emergence weed control product. That means it won't have any effect on established perennial weed plants.  As an effective pre-emergence product it will interfere with the germination of grass seed you have spread and any grass plant that has has yet to establish itself. I believe it's mechanism is to suppress root development in the soil's surface fraction of an inch where seeds germinate and new plants begin to establish themselves. 
   Well on to the Ace to get some! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Why the scythe?


    


      Some of us are entertained by what some may consider the off-beat or maybe even weird. My interest in the scythe probably fits in the former category.  I think of it as akin to some of what drives others to become re-in-actors like my former coworker Ray Fawkes. He, sometimes with his whole family,  has been involved in re-living history of various ages from pre-revolutionary America to the Civil War to WWII. 
      Sitting here at my netbook  at ~2:00 AM awakened by a heartburn episode and waiting for the antacid to do it's thing, I opened a whole new world by Googling "blade peening". I opened the door on what one might call the lifestyle of the scythe. 
     There were links to material on industrial processes for the hardening of things like turbine blades but most were about scythe blade peening, the hand hammering of the edge of scythe blades  to thin and harden them so the edge can be as keen and durable as possible.   Most of the latter were to parts of websites devoted to a whole range of simpler lifestyles incorporating various aspects of the "period" ways from the "age of the scythe", which includes almost the entire pre-industrial  era of human civilization.  
     One must remember that the industrial age wasn't the first time the inventive nature of mankind appeared on earth.  There were a host of tools around prior to then, many of which were of designs that were refined by centuries or even millenia of use experience. 
     The industrial age brought with it the attitude that in every case possible, the old way of doing things must be abandoned in total as if there was nothing about it worth incorporating in today's methods and tools. Personally, I find that just plain stupid. Tools used successfully for centuries were used because they worked by lessening the burden of whatever task they were applied to. In each case there must be some aspect worth examining for reference and application via modern technology. I find the scythe to be just about the  perfect example of that.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Tech World For 2012

     One of the many important technology decisions to make for 2012 relates to the apparently declining reliability of Commonwealth Edison, our electrical energy provider for the Chicago area. One is seriously tempted to invest in a standby natural gas generator given the increase in violent weather that causes power outages over the last few years. The cost is a serious matter. For my little 1000 sq-ft house a system  that costs $2500  PLUS installation would be required. It gives one serious pause. Just how valuable  and vulnerable is continuous access to electrical power?
    On the computing front, There's the business of file sharing that usually involves attaching them to e-mail messages to friends and family. Sending e-mail messages with large attached files which recipients may or may not wish to acquire with my upload speed of  mid level DSL internet service at ~ 430Kbps can be very time consuming. Though not exactly a new product, the Pogoplug has gotten my attention. With a Pogoplug attached to my router with, say, an 8GB flash drive in one of it's 4 USB ports, merely including a link to the Pogoplug location of the file(s) in the message will allow the recipient access to it on the always on Pogoplug whether any computer on my home network is turned on or not. With recent radical price reductions the whole setup could cost less than $50.

   Then there's the issue of clearing the winter snow. I  finally broke down (part way anyway) and purchased a real snow-blower this year. My 6-7 year old  Neuton mower has spoiled me for any gas powered equipment for yard maintenance. The thought of handling that gas and oil is something I can no longer tolerate. I've gone electric. In snow-blowers the options are not quite as many as with mowers. Battery electric ones can't charge in the severe cold of unheated garages in the midst of times when they are most needed. Only 1 battery powered model seems to be on the market, the Ariens Amp 24 . At $1500 to $2000 each, the 2 stage 24" swath self propelled machine is over the top of my budget. My unheated garage would render it almost useless anyway.  I opted for a corded electric model, a 25 lb Toro Electric Power Curve 1800. It was only $299 on line from Ace Hardware, delivered for pickup at my local Ace store.


    I already had a Toro Power Shovel given to me Christmas of 2010. but there are issues with it.


    As you can see, there is virtually no direction given to the ejected snow. Using this into the wind, even obliquely, will make you into a snowman in a hurry.   
   So now all we need some measurable snow. I suppose I should have known that after 30 years of home ownership, as soon as I buy a snow blower the next winter would have little or no snow!

    On to lawn mowing. As I mentioned I have had a Neuton battery electric mower for some years now. I consider it the best dollar for dollar investment in yard care equipment I've ever made. This year there are a huge and growing array of options for anyone else who is fed up with pull starting and handling gas and oil necessary for combustion motor mowers. Amazon.com is a great place to start looking for an electric one. 
    Over the last couple of years I've been toying with an idea for a radical new design for rotary mower blades that should yield up to 20% energy savings and provide a more effective cut especially for battery electric mowers. 
    Charge life is a serious limiter for the applicability of the battery electrics. A lot of lawns are just too big for most such mowers' capacity with current battery technology. The added run time this blade could give could turn the corner for many of those mowers. Gotta get it to market!