Searching for Energy Vampires

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As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I checked out a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor from the public library and I’ve used it to test most of the gadgets around the Root Simple compound. I focused on the stuff that’s plugged in all the time to see if I could discover any hidden energy vampires.

Unsurprisingly, the refrigerator uses the most power and costs around $81.67 a year to operate. At the risk of turning this blog post into an exercise in appliance virtue signalling, that’s not too bad. We keep the freezer full which helps conserve a small amount of power (empty space in the freezer or fridge takes more energy to cool). The fridge is often full of way too many condiments on their way to becoming compost, but this also probably saves a small amount of energy. And it’s a smallish fridge. Joining the radical fridge-free partisans of the homesteading movement would knock the power bill way down but I’m just not in the mood to give up my cushy first world lifestyle.

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The modem/wi-fi router/desktop computer combo that keeps this blog humming consumes around $18.15 a year (with the computer off). I’d love to have a large, theatrical kill switch that would simultaneously save energy and cut off the internet. This would stop the urge to compulsively check Facebook and watch YouTube cat videos. Hit the big red button and you’d have to settle down with a book. But the “internet of things” in our household (a “smart” irrigation controller and a Ring doorbell make this impracticable). The Man always finds a way to keep us connected and dependent!

Our old microwave consumes the next greatest amount of power at $3.88 a year. The microwave should definitely be shut off when not in use. It’s also old and I suspect newer models probably consume less power when not in use.

Speaking of newer gadgets, our ginormous Costo flat screen TV (they give them away when you buy a slice of pizza) doesn’t seem to use measurable power when turned off. And that flat screen has been turned off a lot lately since I’m peeved at another instance of a Hollywood film crew blocking my beloved Sunset Blvd. bike lane. I’ve decided to boycott the film industry again and read books until Hollywood brings us a new Tarkovsky (meaning my boycott will be permanent).

My next, and more mathematically challenged, Kill A Watt project is to compare incandescent and LED lighting. Stay tuned.

What measures have you taken to drive a stake through energy vampires?

Get a Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor From Your Local Public Library!

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I’ve always wanted to geek out with a Kill A Watt electricity usage monitor and see how much power our household devices eat up. But I didn’t want to spend $22 on a gadget I’d only use for a week.

Thankfully, public libraries around the U.S., including our local Los Angeles Public Library, have Kill A Watts you can check out just like a book. I’ve got one right now and I’ve been running around the house checking out our gadgets. Some appliances, such as the refrigerator, that cycle on and off need to be left plugged into the Kill A Watt for at least a day or longer to get an accurate result.

I found the instructions for the Kill A Watt a bit confusing. Naturally, I looked up a YouTube video for a clearer explanation.

I’ll share my findings in a few days but leave you with this unsurprising spoiler alert: looks like LED light bulbs save power and it costs $33 a year to run a water fountain for our privileged indoor cats.

The Call to Create: Marguerite Knutzen 1925-2017

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My mom passed peacefully in her home last week. She was a loving, kind and patient mom. To her I owe my life’s calling: the joys of making, doing and teaching.

My mom taught junior high art, crafts and ceramics before I was born. She took a break to raise me and then went back to teaching as an elementary school aide.

Teaching at the junior high level is no easy task. Schools dump students with academic and home problems into the arts classes just to keep them busy. My mom’s call to be a teacher wasn’t really about how to turn a pot on a wheel.

I’ll let my mom explain. In a stack of her papers I found this note:

As a former teacher of 30 years working with junior high (now called middle school) and elementary students I was always challenged to keep the art activities of crafts, ceramics, drawing and painting “on the move.” This age student is very active and has a spontaneous ability to create and be uninhibited. That is how God created the teenager.

In later years I had the opportunity to work with adults who tend to toss creating aside by saying, “I can’t draw a straight line.” Inhibition sets in. The truth is God created us to be creative and we all have it within us. Our lives are enriched by the activities involved in creativity around us. Not just in the art of drawing but in dance, theater, writing, reading a story to a child, entertaining in our homes, gardening, workshops, singing, playing an instrument and on and on.

People are stimulated when encouraged and often find new abilities they never thought they had.

I will miss my dear mom. But it gives me great comfort to know that she touched so many lives.

Saturday Tweets: Dutch Bicycles, Landscaping and a Ski Sled

Urban Homestead Trademarks Cancelled!

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After six years of legal wrangling, “urban homestead” and “urban homesteading” belong to us all. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has cancelled the trademarks thanks to the hard work of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the law firm of Winston & Strawn. Here’s the press release from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Urban Homesteaders Win Cancellation of Bogus Trademarks
Global Community Had Faced Baseless Legal Claims and Content Removal Threats

San Francisco – Urban homesteaders can speak freely about their global movement for sustainable living, after convincing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to cancel bogus trademarks for the terms “urban homesteading” and “urban homestead.” The authors and activists were represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and law firm of Winston & Strawn.

“This is a victory for free speech and common sense. Threats over this trademark harmed us and the whole urban homesteading community—a group of people who are dedicated to sharing information about sustainable living online and elsewhere,” said Kelly Coyne, co-author with Erik Knutzen of The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City. “We are so pleased to have this issue settled at last, so we can concentrate on making urban life healthier and happier for anyone who wants to participate in this global effort.”

“Urban homesteading” has been used as a generic term for decades, describing activities like growing food, raising livestock, and producing simple food products at home. But a group called the Dervaes Institute managed to register “urban homesteading” and “urban homestead” as trademarks with the USPTO for “educational services” like blogging.

Citing the trademarks, Dervaes got Facebook to take down content about urban homesteading, including pages that helped publicize Coyne and Knutzen’s book, as well as the Facebook page of a Denver farmer’s market. In 2011, EFF and Winston & Strawn petitioned the USPTO on behalf of Coyne, Knutzen, and book publisher Process Media, asking for the trademarks’ cancellation.

“The words and phrases we use every day to describe basic activities should never be the exclusive property of a single person or business,” said EFF Legal Director Corynne McSherry. “It took six years, but we’re proud that this terrible trademark is off the books.”

“You can’t trademark generic terms and force ordinary conversations off the Internet,” said Winston & Strawn attorney Jennifer Golinveaux. “We’re relieved that the urban homesteading community can continue sharing information about their important work without worrying about silly legal threats.”

For the full opinion from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office:
https://www.eff.org/document/opinion-cancelling-trademark

For more on this case:
https://www.eff.org/cases/petition-cancel-urban-homestead-trademark
Contact:
Corynne
McSherry
Legal Director
[email protected]

We’d like to thank the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Winston & Strawn for coming to our aid pro bono. We’d also like to thank Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly, Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing and Jack Spirko of the Survival Podcast for their coverage of the case. If you’re a new reader here at Root Simple here’s a set of previous posts on the trademark dispute.

And please consider making a contribution to the EFF.

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