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The imminent ban on 40-watt and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs is going to impose a significant cost on our household. This is an interesting case of a somewhat bi-partisan attempt to save energy while imposing what they took to be only a small cost on most households. But it is a cost, and it's cost that poorer households will be more burdened by. So, like New York's recent bottle bill that adds 5 cents to the cost of a larger variety of bottles, people with lower income will be more burdened by it if they continue to buy products in those bottles, while more affluent households will not notice as much of an effect of the increased cost. Our household, however, will be much more burdened by this than most.

The alternatives to incandescent bulbs don't seem to me to be genuine alternatives for our household. LED bulbs really are the best you can get. LED flashlights fail when the flashlight itself fails. It's never the bulbs that are the problem, and the batteries should last a very long time unless you leave them on all the time or never turn it on (in which case the batteries will corrode). But LED bulbs for ordinary household lights are still very expensive. The prices I'm finding for them online are something like $10 per bulb. This might be fine if they last forever and will never need to be replaced, and the energy savings might also help make up for it, but that's for a household where you won't need to replace them except when they fail on their own. We have a child who actively seeks to smash light bulbs whenever people forget to turn the lights on when he's home or when we let our attention turn to deal with anything but him, allowing him to climb on something to reach them. I think we lose a light bulb or two every week, and we can't be spending $10 per bulb at that sort of replacement rate.

Compact fluorescents are not a viable alternative either, for two reasons. Fluorescent bulbs do last longer than incandescent bulbs if you simply measure how many hours they can be left on before breaking, but that's not how most people use them. For businesses that leave the lights on for long stretches of time, they make sense. But if you turn them on and off regularly, they break far, far sooner than incandescent bulbs. They often don't last more than a few months with the kind of use they get in our house. I've seen them last a day or two more than once. They might save energy if you're willing to eat the cost of constantly replacing them, but they're not cost-effective unless you keep them on all day. This is not easy if you have been conscientious enough to develop a muscle-memory habit of turning the lights off when you leave the room, and it's next to impossible if you have children who will turn lights on and off all the time. I have to remind myself constantly not to turn the lights off in my office at work and in the classrooms I teach in, because it will cost the college too much money to keep turning them off and on again and replacing the bulbs regularly. The bulbs in our office are constantly in need of replacement, because people often turn them off when they leave the room, either not knowing of this problem or not thinking about it when they leave. And those are adults. There's really no way to control for what small children or children with autism will do with lights, and we've got both.

Even worse is the health hazard given the amount of mercury inside compact fluorescent bulbs. It's not a huge amount of mercury in a given bulb. It's about the size of a period in standard-size type. But even that amount is not a good idea to have around small children, and the EPA's recommended precautions for cleaning them up are simply not possible in our household. When you add in an autistic child who goes out of his way to unscrew them and smash them on the floor, it's simply not viable to have them in any bulbs he can either reach or stand on something to reach, which means none except in lights with closed cases.

Fortunately, the law doesn't ban incandescents altogether, just ones that are below a certain energy efficiency. The market provided a solution in the first phase of the ban. The light bulb industry managed to produce some 100-watt and 75-watt bulbs that met the standards that the first phase imposed, and we've been buying those bulbs (and will have to buy exclusively those bulbs until the industry produces similarly more-efficient 60-watt and 40-watt bulbs). We're not actually going to see incandescent bulbs disappear. We'll just see more expensive ones. This is an expense we'll have to absorb without seeing as much benefit as most households would get from it, since our the bulbs will have a shorter life than in most households. But it seems to me to be the best alternative for us.

I pay good money for a service contract for our Dell computers, which in my case is provided by Unisys. They used to be pretty good at giving you the next-day service that you pay for, but it seems to be getting very hard to get next-day service recently. Obviously they can't give you next-day service if you call on a Friday night or the day before a holiday, because the technicians aren't working on weekends and holidays. But I'm talking about calling up early in the day in the middle of the week, getting scheduled for the next day, and then getting assigned to a technician who refuses to rearrange her schedule to fit mine, when there's really only about an hour in my day when I can't do it.

I have a 10:00 appointment today. It's going to take me five minutes to get there. It should be about 45 minutes long. It will take about five minutes to get home. Even if it goes long, I should be home well before 11:30. So I was hoping Dell would put me in the 1:30-5:30 slot for service today, and I was expecting to be able to change that when they called to ask me what time would work for me. What's the point of asking me if a time will work if they're unwilling to change it? The service desk person had me talk to the technician, who said it won't fit her schedule, and I'd have to talk to the service desk people again. I did, and they said only the technicians can change it. There's no way even to move me to the later slot. I have to wait until tomorrow, and tomorrow I have the same problem. I need it to be later in the day tomorrow too. At least they let me schedule that.

This could easily have been avoided if they'd asked me when I could be available for the technician to come before they assigned me to a technician and a time slot. I never used to have a problem with this. If the technician scheduled me for a time I couldn't keep, I'd be moved earlier or later in the day, as long as I talked to them when they initially called me to verify the time. If that technician couldn't accommodate me, they could assign it to a different technician as long as they knew before the technician had gone out with the parts. Now they seem to assign a time and a technician, verify it with the customer as a formality, and then move you to the next day in violation of the contract if you can't conform to the schedule they didn't bother to confirm with you before they assigned you. This does not count as next-day service. If it happened one call in ten, I wouldn't be very upset about it, but this seems to happen to me just about every single time. It happened last week, and it had to be delayed two days. I think something like that also happened a little over a month ago.

After three calls to the scheduling desk personnel and two to the technician, I finally got someone to tell me that I can call the number they had me call and influence my schedule before the parts get shipped (i.e. the day before but only once my dispatch has taken place to be in their system). They don't normally even give you that number until you get your first call from Unisys (in the morning), when your time is assigned already. So maybe I now have a way to ensure that my next-day service really is next-day, but the information required to ensure such a thing is hardly available to most people calling in service requests, and I wouldn't have thought such a thing was necessary.

Car seats, originally designed to protect your child from danger, are now actually very, very dangerous, you should now be informed. It turns out over half of car seats have toxic chemicals in them (ht: InstaPundit). Really? Last I knew most car seats were made out of plastic, so I suspect it's close to 100% (allowing for the odd exception made out of some edible material). People who want to panic will find something disastrously worrying about anything, but don't understimate the danger involved if your child accidentally ingests their car seat while you're not looking. It could really cause problems. Thinking it's only true of half of car seats might give you the wrong impression. Toddlers should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to have a car seat in their digestive system.

Dropbox

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I've been using Dropbox to host the sermon files I'm putting online. I'm starting to run out of space, but they increase your disk space if you can get others to sign up under you as a referral.

This is a great site for storing files online that you can then access from another computer, and you can use it to share your files with certain people but not make public, or you can generate public links, as I'm doing with the sermon files, if you prefer that. If you sign up as a referral, you immediately get your first bonus as if you had referred someone, so it's better to sign up as a referral than otherwise.

So if you would find such a site useful, please sign up and install the software, and it will increase my disk space and allow me to store more sermons there. (Or you could even do it just to help me out, if you're so inclined!) The link above should give the referral to me.

There are ironic punishments, but this seems like the crime itself is ironic. What are the odds that a thief would grab someone's cell phone during a demonstration of the ability to track a phone's location in real time?

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