April, 2016 Archives

Celebrating 100 Years

April 27th, 2016

Oh the things she’s seen, the places she’s gone.

My grandfather used to say that before 1916, the world was ruthless. My grandmother, Ruth Harris Adams, was born in 1916. If the world was ruthless before that date, I can only guess that afterwards it was ruthmore, ruthful? Ol’ granddad passed on before completing his silly pun. Grandma Ruth lives on.

She’s 100 now.

Think about that for a moment. She not only witnessed both World Wars, Lindbergh and Armstrong (Neal AND Louie), experienced The Great Depression, The Great Gatsby, The Greatest Generation and simply The Greatest in the guise of Mohammed Ali. Civil War soldiers were alive and well in her lifetime, as were warriors from all the wars in Afghanistan, 1878 to present.

It’s hard to fully fathom the scope and landscape of Western and Eastern civilization that she’s seen from the sidelines or actively taken part in. She’s lived in Beirut, Lebanon; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia;  Seoul, South Korea and has traveled almost everywhere else extensively. Her home bases have been Philadelphia, West Virginia, Arizona and her native New York City. And even though an unhealthy portion of her mind has forgotten much of what she once knew, she is a living, breathing historical marker of the 20th and 21st centuries. And we honor her for that.

Grandma was a female doctor in a profession dominated by men. She originally wanted to fight polio, but since that cure also happened in her lifetime, she changed her focus to pediatric liver disease, receiving her degree from Columbia University. Her daughters also graduated from the school decades later. This fall, her great granddaughter begins her graduate work there as well. We are all lucky to live in a family of amazingly strong, bright, courageous women.

A large contingent of family members flew out to Arizona in order to reverently shower her with love and well-wishes. At first, only a few of us planned on making the pilgrimage. Then it became a groundswell, finally a movement. A great grand who works miracles with the elderly signed on for the fun of it all. Another great grand asked for an extension from her professor in order to attend: final paper be damned. We kind of felt bad for my aunt and uncle on site and on the spot who had to cope with our invasion for three days. It was all for a good cause, family re-unioning and meeting new members who — in contrast to Grandma — are barely 100 days old. One wonders what wonders these newest born will witness in their lifetime?

Instead of major wars, will they bask in a worldwide outbreak of peace? Like their great great grandmother, will they see devilish diseases defeated? The technology, the revolutionary advances to come, nothing short of a planet and humanity-saving epoch is within their reach.

Sure, eventually the world will be ruthless again and we will all be sad for a time. But the world is already Wyattfull, Russellmore and packed with a whole bunch of other great great kids readily accepting Ruth’s torch, her baton, her legacy.

The Power of Solar

April 10th, 2016

If politicians tell you solar power doesn’t work in Michigan, feel free to tell them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine!

For about the price of an average used car, we’ve decided to install solar panels on our garage roof.

I’ve heard many, many times that solar power just doesn’t work in Michigan. It’s too gray, it’s too cold, it’s too fill in the blank.

But if you can grow gladiolas, you can go solar. Putting it a little differently, Germany leads the world in solar production. Yet they get about the same amount of sunshine as Seattle, Portland and the Pacific Northwest — long perceived as America’s cloudiest climes. In fact, last July, Germany set a record by hitting 78% of their day’s electricity demands by using renewable energy alone.

Not to put too fine a point on it, as I wrote in an article a few years back, “Just how effective can energy from the sun be in the Great Lake State? Incredibly effective. To offer a comparison, Detroit has roughly 2,375 hours of sunshine per year. Sun City Center in Florida has about 2,927 hours. Those thousands of hours warm the state like a cozy mitten in winter and offer a tremendous source of free energy all year long.”

Over the years, as we’ve watched the planet get warmer and have seen the disastrous effects of climate change, we have wanted to go solar. But there have been obstacles set up in our path. Large energy corporations, coal and oil producers, rich, old, white men and their political allies have done their best to throw shade on solar power.

But our tulips have been blooming now about a month ahead of normal. And a storm is dumping inches of snow atop them and their daffodil sisters out front. At the risk of sounding too righteous, we wanted to do something about it. If there’s some small part we can play, we’re gonna play.

A federal incentive allows home owners to slice 30% off their income taxes as a solar energy credit. Plus, our electric company will give us credit for the energy we produce; it should take roughly a dozen years for the system to pay for itself.

Though we are convinced that very soon, all power companies will be forced to provide more incentives for alternative energy. They will also have to supply more green electricity. When our electricity supplier (DTE) briefly did that a couple years ago, they gave large incentives to individual customers to produce electricity. That program (Solar Currents) will definitely come back, but it will just be icing on the cake for us. If you live where Consumer’s Energy supplies electricity, they are currently running a solar incentive program for their customers. We think things will make even more economic sense very, very soon, though we aren’t calculating on that happening.

The best way to think about our panels right now is like this: we are just a tiny substation, generating electricity for DTE. The electrons we produce on our roof, shoot right back to DTE and the grid, for now. But only for now. There are whole home batteries being produced as we speak. Once the price of these batteries come down a bit, we will snap one up quicker than you can say Nicola Tesla. Estimates tell us that for $3,000 – $4,000 installed, these batteries will charge up during the day, then run our home at night. Any additional electricity we need will still be supplied by the grid. But in essence, we’ll be making our own electricity, then using our own electricity.

Yes, in the long run we’ll eventually save money. But for now, it’s an ethical/moral decision. I know it makes us sound like silly, high-minded liberals. But I guess we kind of are. I’ve repeated the fact over and over again that if only 1/4 of the world’s structures had solar panels, they would power the other 3/4 of the planet. When you think of it that way, saving the planet is a lot easier to envision.

I’ll end my proselytizing with a few more fun facts: