My wife and I recently bought a Co-op, and we were astounded by our first electric bill. We have a lot of tech, so I figured that would make it more than our neighbors, but this was just way to much. I decided to invest in a Kill-a-Watt to find out just how much power our stuff uses, both "on" and "off".

I checked all the components hooked up in the entertainment center, at my desk in the office, and the few gadgets in the kitchen. I currently have the Kill-a-Watt hooked up to the refrigerator, and in a couple days I'll check it to find out the average power (it varies a lot depending on whether or not the compressor is running).

I've posted the power of each item (the number in parentheses is when the item is "off") and the total cost to me each month, based on my estimated hours of usage. Check here for a complete rundown.

Oh, we live on Long Island, and we have decided :cough:were forced:cough: to get our electricity from the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) which charges 18¢ per kWh.

The only thing I really discovered is that I should make sure I put my computer in sleep mode or turn it off when I am not using it. I spend about $20 per month to run my computer, but I am only using it a few hours a day.

The question still remains: what are we spending all this money on every month?!?!? There are things that I can't/won't test with the Kill-a-Watt (washer/dryer, dishwasher, water heater, etc), but I don't know if they could make up the difference. Any suggestions in the comments would be appreciated.

ItemPowerCost Per Month
Living Room  
Floor Lamp7.5 (0)0.162
NES10 (4.5)0.5832
MacMini20 (0)0
LaserDisc (Pioneer)22.5 (8)1.0368
N648.5 (0)0
Cable Modem8 (N/A)1.0368
Plasma TV (Samsung)250 (0)6.75
Phone1.5 (N/A)0.1944
Wireless Router2.5 (N/A)0.324
Wii16 (1)0.1296
Xbox 360100 (0)1.08
Cable Box22 (22)2.8512
Computer150 (2)19.44
Monitor25 (0)3.24
Computer (w/sleep)150 (2)3.456
Monitor (w/sleep)25 (0)0.54
Printer7 (0)0.9072
External DVD-R6 (9)0.7776
Speakers11 (6.2)1.4256
Keurig5.4 (3.8)0.69984
Toaster950 (1.7)0.647055
Kitchenaid Stand Mixer90 (0)0.0324
Total Cost (w/o sleep) 41.317695
Total Cost (w/ sleep) 22.633695

Separation of Church & State?

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled on a case regarding the separation of church and state. Here’s a summary of the case straight from the Court’s ruling:

“In 1934, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) placed a Latin cross on federal land in the Mojave National Preserve (Preserve) to honor American soldiers who died in World War I. Claiming to be offended by a religious symbol’s presence on federal land, respondent Buono, a regular visitor to the Preserve, filed this suit alleging a violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and seeking an injunction requiring the Government to remove the cross.”

At some point in the 90’s a Buddhist requested permission to use public land nearby but was denied.

A District Court decided that having the cross up violated the Establishment Clause. While the government’s appeal was pending, the Congress passed “the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2004, §8121(a) of which directed the Secretary of the Interior to transfer the cross and the land on which it stands to the VFW in exchange for privately owned land elsewhere in the Preserve (land transfer statute).”

The District Court ruled that this was disingenuous; that Congress was just circumventing the court’s ruling. The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the District Court was wrong, and that such a land transfer would be an appropriate action.

From the majority opinion of Justice Kennedy:

“…the District Court concentrated solely on the religious aspects of the cross, divorced from its background and context. But a Latin cross is not merely a reaffirmation of Christian beliefs. It is a symbol often used to honor and respect those whose heroic acts, noble contributions, and patient striving help secure an honored place in history for this Nation and its people. Here, one Latin cross in the desert evokes far more than religion. It evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten.”

I understand the sentiment here, and by no means would I disrespect the men who have fought and died for this country, but he main idea that an eight foot tall Latin cross evokes is religion. There are plenty of beautiful, respectful monuments in honor of our troops all over this country that do not display such blatantly religious objects. I pass a very nice, patriotic monument honoring those lost in Vietnam every morning on my way to work. I think it’s great. If I had to drive past a large cross on public property every day I would not be so happy.

From the dissenting opinion of Justice Stevens:

“The Establishment Clause, if nothing else, prohibits government from ‘specifying details upon which men and women who believe in a benevolent, omnipotent Creator and Ruler of the world are known to differ.’ A Latin cross necessarily symbolizes one of the most important tenets upon which believers in a benevolent Creator, as well as nonbelievers, are known to differ.

I certainly agree that the Nation should memorialize the service of those who fought and died in World War I, but it cannot lawfully do so by continued endorsement of a starkly sectarian message.”

I couldn’t say it better myself. I guess that’s why these people get appointed to the highest court in the land.

By the way, the Court’s rulings were very easy to find and, believe it or not, they are moderately comprehensible for the lay person. Find more here:

Bad Religion Song of the Week: Punk Rock Song

Punk Rock Song
Bad Religion
The Gray Race

Have you been to the desert?
Have you walked with the dead?
There's a hundred thousand children being killed for their bread

And the figures don't lie, they speak of human disease
But we do what we want and we think what we please

Have you lived the experience?
Have you witnessed the plague?
People making babies sometimes just to escape
In this land of competition the compassion is gone
Yet we ignore the needy and we keep pushing on
We keep pushing on

This is just a punk rock song
Written for the people who can see something's wrong
Like ants in a colony we do our share
But there's so many other fuckin' insects out there
And this is just a punk, rock, song!

Have you visited the graveyard?
Have you swam in the shit?
The party conventions and the real politic
The faces always different, the rhetoric the same
But we swallow it all, and we see nothing change
Nothing has changed...

This is just a punk rock song
Written for the people who can see something's wrong
Like workers in a factory we do our share
But there's so many other fuckin' robots out there
And this is just a punk, rock, song!

10 million dollars on a losing campaign
20 million starving and writhing in pain
Big strong people unwilling to give
Small in vision and perspective
One in five kids below the poverty line
One population runnin' out of time, running out of time!

This is just a punk rock song
Written for the people who can see something's wrong
Like ants in a colony we do our share
But there's so many other fuckin' insects out there
And this is just a punk, rock, song!

This is a great song about people's apathy and disregard for the suffering of other humans beings. I'll be honest, the song kinda makes me feel guilty, because I haven't done a whole lot to change the world myself.

From the Archives: April 15

In my local paper, The Long Island Advance, there is a weekly (as is the paper) segment titled From the Archives of the Long Island Advance, in which they present some news clips from 100, 75, and 50 years ago. A lot of the news is so mundane that I find it to be very funny. I hope that you do too.

From 100 years ago:
  • Miss Mae Andrus entertained a dozen of her school girl
    friends with music and games, it being her 12th birthday
  • A curiosity in the shape of a pretty white rat with pink
    eyes was caught in the barn of C.M. Hedges in East Patchogue.
  • Local firemen are discussing the possibilities of securing
    a siren whistle as a fire alarm.
From 50 years ago:
  • The three pupils of the Brookhaven School who took the
    Regents examinations had the following marks: Ruth Ballard,
    arithmetic 100, spelling 88; Elsa Kip, arithmetic 96,
    spelling 88; Elizabeth Kuzmech, arithmetic 93, spelling 88.
  • Miss Marion Byers of Bellport is attending the ice carnival
    at Williams College in Massachusetts.

Top 5 Concerts - Metallica @ Nassau Coliseum

It had been quiet a while since I was excited about a new Metallica album. Actually I had never been excited for one before, since I only started listening to them around the time Reload came out, and I only heard negative things about St. Anger (feel free to disagree in comments). The best thing about a band releasing a new album is that it is almost always followed by a tour.

Sure enough, Metallica was scheduled to play at Nassau Coliseum at the end of January 2009. A friend of mine knew someone who worked at the Coliseum, who thought they could get him in for free, and I was really jealous. I wasn’t sure if anyone else was going, so I didn’t buy a ticket. The day before the concert, my friend finds out he is going for free, and I scrambled to find a ticket. I figured that I could, at least, drive there and back with him. My father-in-law sells merch at the Coliseum, and he offered to buy a ticket for me from the box office since he would be there a few hours early. I’m in.

We get to the show, and I hang out with my friend, hoping I could tag along with them to their seats. But they don’t have regular seats, they will be enjoying the show from an unoccupied luxury box, and they can get me in too. Sweet!

We get up there and they have hot food out (pretzels, hot dogs, burgers) and cold beer in the fridge, all on the house. They even brought more beer later on. The box is like a hotel room, with a bathroom, a kitchen area, and a couch and a couple chairs. This is where the food was and where we hung out during the opening bands.

When Metallica came on we moved down to the seats of the box, and the show was great. Although no one was blocking us, the view wasn’t that great because we were up really high, but it’s about the music, right?

Getting to see one of my favorite bands + free food and beer + not dealing with a crowd + private bathroom = Top 5 Concert.

Religious Respect

Dredged from the depths of Reddit:

(Actually it was on the front page. I usually don't get more than 3-4 pages deep.)

I don't really have much to add to this, but I'll muster something up.

I, personally, haven't been harassed about my atheism (not seriously, anyway) and I know that among my brothers and sisters in less tolerant places in the country/world I am counted lucky. Humor me one example:

As you may have guessed from that title up on the top of the page, I am a teacher. Working in a school means I am often expected to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. Besides the fact that our school children recite this short verse so frequently that it has grown almost completely meaningless, I don't really have too much of a problem with it. I just refuse to say the "under god" part. That's reasonable anyway, since "under god" was not added until 62 years after the pledge was penned. (The original pledge is quoted below)

Whenever I mention my distaste for those eight letters people usually respond in some way that amounts to, at least to me, "Your opinion and feelings don't matter to us because the vast majority of Americans believe in some god so don't make a big deal about it crybaby." Maybe that is just my irrational emotions, but they are backed up by the 1st Amendment of the mother fucking Constitution of the United States.

I have experienced disrespect from Christians, for simply sharing my feelings about something that is important to me, but god forbid anybody criticize their beliefs or religious institutions.

Even when the pope helps pedophiles get away with molesting children.

"I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all."
-Francis Bellamy, 1892

Monkey Prostitution

I just finished listening to Superfreakonomics. It was really good, and I especially liked the epilogue, which was about monkey prostitution. Read that again. Monkey prostitution, that’s right.

This whole thing began as a study to find out if monkeys could adopt an economy. The researchers used something like washers as money, and the first thing they had to do was teach the monkey’s their value. A researcher would hand a monkey a coin and if/when the monkey gave it back the researcher would give the monkey a piece of fruit. Eventually the monkeys learned the value of money, and even learned to handle a fluctuating economy.

One day a male stole the coins from the research room and brought them back to the cage where all the monkeys lived. Sure enough, the male with all the coins gave one to a female and within minutes they were boning down.

Talk about the world’s oldest profession.

Genesis 15-16

Genesis 15

Abram complains to God that he doesn’t have any children, but God reassures him that Abram’s descendents will be “as numerous as the stars.” (Genesis 15:5, NRSV) Abram makes the required sacrifice, and falls into a deep sleep, in which God tells him, “Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred year; but I will being judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” (15:13-15, NRSV)

Obviously this is a foreshadowing, a pretty blatant one, of the Jew’s time in Egypt. Reading this passage raises many questions in my mind about this god. Is he just foretelling the future like a psychic, or will he be the cause of the oppression? If the former, couldn’t he do anything to prevent centuries of oppression of his chosen people? If God can bring judgment on “the nation that they serve” couldn’t he just prevent the whole ordeal? If the latter, why? To prove the Jews are worth being the chosen people?

Genesis 16

Sarai tells Abram that since she could not bear him a child, he should take her handmaiden Hagar as a wife. The son Hagar bears for him would, apparently, be considered the child of Sarai and Abram. Abram agrees to this, either in spite of what God had just told him or because he felt this would fulfill God’s promise. Hagar conceives a child and proceeds to “look with contempt on her mistress.” (Genesis 16:4, NRSV)

I can understand the response, I guess, since I have known some bitchy people. Hagar accomplishes something Sarai could not and looks down on her because of this (even though Sarai is wicked old and her lady parts don’t really work anymore).

Sarai doesn’t take this attitude too kindly. “May the wrong done to me be on you!” she yells at Abram. What the fuck!?!? How is Hagar’s attitude his fault? Women…psh. Abram, the ever patient husband tells her that since Hagar is her slave-girl, Sarai should “do with her as you please.” (16:6, NRSV) Sarai gives her what-for and she runs off.

Hagar is out in the wilderness and an angel appears and tells her to go back to Sarai and to submit to her. The angel tells Hagar that he will greatly multiply her offspring, and that she should name her son Ishmael, who will be “a wild ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him.” (16:12, NRSV) What is that all about? This is the Ishmael, mind you, that is considered the ancestor of the Arab people and a prophet of Islam. I don’t get it.

"The Universe"

I recently entered the Reddit WritersGroup Prompt Contest IV. The prompt:

Write a story about a character witnessing some sudden, catastrophic event. It could be a bombing, an auto accident, a random murder, a very public breakup, or something less lame. The event should be sudden and out-of-flow with the character's life, and you should depict an aftermath.

I focused on the "something less lame" part, and I went with the other extreme, the most awesome event - the big bang. I figured I'd try to write something from the perspective of the universe itself, and it ended up being a poem.

Please leave criticism if you like!

"The Universe"

An explosion of
immense proportions.
I am energized. Unlimited
potential. The searing heat fires
my soul. The blinding light stimulates
my mind. The force swells within me. The
force is me. Many forces, but one only. There
is a soup – a boiling, bubbling, delicious soup. I drink
it in. It fills me up, but my capacity is unlimited. I
am growing, growing, growing, More quickly
than you can comprehend. I am Behemoth,
Ziz, Leviathan. Cooling off now, things
start to make sense. Colder still,
and I can see everything.
Can this last forever?
Can I last forever?
I am alone.

Bad Religion Song of the Week: Don't Pray On Me

Don't Pray On Me
Bad Religion
Recipe for Hate

A grizzly scene on my electron beam
Told a story about human rights
So all of king's horses and all of king's men
Had a riot for two days and nights
Well, the city exploded but the gates wouldn't open
So the company asked him to quit
Now everybody's equal
Just don't measure it

Well, Hanson did it to Hester
And Mark David did it to John
And maybe Jack did it to Marilyn
But he did it to South Vietnam
For beauty and glory
For money, love, and country
Now everybody's doing it
Don't do that to me

A bitter debate and a feminine fate
Lie in tandem like two precious babes
While the former gets warmer, it's the latter that matters
Except on the nation's airwaves
And custodians of public opinion state facts
After vainly discussing her rights
Lay hands off her body
It's not your fucking life

Now I don't know what stopped Jesus Christ
From turning every hungry stone into bread
And I don't remember hearing how Moses reacted
When the innocent first born sons lay dead
Well, I guess God was a lot more demonstrative
Back when he flamboyantly parted the sea
Now everybody's praying
Don't pray on me

The first verse references the LA Riots. The King is, of course, Rodney King, whose beating sparked the unrest. “Now everybody’s equal, just don’t measure it.” This line represents the history of the civil rights movement in this country. Technically, legally all citizens are equal under the law. Practically, equal couldn’t be farther from the truth. Minorities suffer the worst schools, lowest paying jobs, and highest incarceration rates, to name a few.

Second verse: Everyone is fucking each other, figuratively or literally. I read that Hanson/Hester is an incorrect allusion to the Scarlett Letter, Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon, JFK boned Marilyn Monroe and fucked up Vietnam. Moral: don’t fuck people over.

Third verse: Blatant protest against pro-lifers.

Fourth verse: Moral inconsistencies in the Bible - examples abound. How could the same god that preaches peace and loving thy enemy allow people to go hungry or cause the death of innocent children?