flipping the switch

The story of Roddy the Cement Mixer teaches that with patience one’s project will reach its desired outcome. That happened for us today. Around 7:30 this morning our doorbell rang. It was PG&E, our electric utility. They were here to install our two-way meter so we could turn on our solar power system. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. we were outside for the small ceremony we had planned from the start of the project. Terry flipped the switch and the system came to life.

And so the journey we began at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in July reached the outcome we’ve been so long anticipating.

I have to give a shout out to all the good folks at The Solar Company. Von, our sales consultant; Mike, the inside sales guy; the fellow whose name I’ve forgotten who made two visits to make sure he had the measurements right; Felicia, customer project liaison extraordinaire, who kept us current and updated every step of the way; and Kenny, the installation crew chief who saw to it that the entire installation process was complete in one day. There were others with whom I only had contact once, and no doubt still more behind the scenes. All of them top-notch professionals.

Now we look forward to helping the environment just a bit and saving some big money on our electric bill.

Please forgive the fact that Terry is blurred. This is the actual moment that she switched on the system.


The display panel on our inverter


Our new two-way meter


The view from the roof, as taken by Kenny

Even on a dark, cloudy, overcast day, the system is generating power!


The door card from PG&E telling us that we can turn on our system

The Graduate

When the movie The Graduate was new, I remember my sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Kent, a practicing Catholic, telling our class that she “objected” to the movie because “half of it was spent in bed.”

It’s only within the last ten years that I actually got around to seeing The Graduate and I observed a couple of things.

  1. To say that half of the movie was spent in bed was an exaggeration. And those scenes where Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman were in bed were not in the least bit sexy, erotic, or titillating.
  2. The lyrics to the song Mrs. Robinson that we know so well have nothing to do with the movie. Unlike the Mrs. Robinson in the song, the Anne Bancroft character in the movie remains firm, resolute, and unyielding to the end. But then I believe the story is that Simon and Garfunkel didn’t get around to writing the lyrics for the verses until they learned the song had been nominated for an Academy Award. (You’ll recall that you only hear the chorus in the movie.)

But what really struck me was that no one was happy in the movie. No one. Ever.

There was no happiness in the affair between Bancroft and Hoffman. And at the end, there was no joy in the Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross characters running off together. In the final scene they are sitting at the back of the bus, both of them looking forward, not at each other. And both of them look confused and lost, not happy.

The movie was a reflection of the nihilistic existentialism of a certain element of the intellectual and artistic community of the time. And it is a reminder of a view I wish to avoid. I want to live with a perspective of joy and hope, no matter how gloomy the world and national scene. I can’t say I always succeed, but it is what I aspire too.

cholesterol, diet, and choices

I have said for a couple years now that I am morally, ethically, and emotionally a vegetarian ~ but my taste buds are complete carnivore. —Boston Pobble

I often joke that I only eat meat because it generally comes to me in a way that bears no reminder of the animals themselves. —Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

I am envious of people who can thrive on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Wish it were me! I Love all things veggie, and only eat meat to feel better. —Lea Ann Savage, the Vitamix Lady, writing about metabolic types

  • My friend Lynn lost a lot of weight after joining an Overeaters Anonymous group that advocates the elimination of all refined flour and refined sugar from one’s diet and by diligently following that regimen.  She eats beef and chicken, even though her husband is a vegetarian for ethical reasons.
  • Mollie Katzen, the famed writer of vegetarian cookbooks, admits that she eats meat because her metabolism requires it.

When I had my physical in late August, my doctor, who loves to brag about being a pescatarian with ideal cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, made the point that if you do choose to eat meat, it doesn’t really make any difference if it’s chicken, beef, or pork. There’s no virtue in choosing chicken over beef, he said. And if you look at it from a strictly cholesterol perspective, that’s true. You really have to look at the individual cut of meat. There are some cuts of beef that have lower cholesterol than some cuts of chicken.

Here’s a more or less random sampling from the USDA database.

food cholesterol per 3 oz serving
Beef, flank, steak, separable lean only, trimmed to 0″ fat, choice, cooked, braised 60
Pork, fresh, loin, whole, separable lean only, cooked, braised 67
Pork, fresh, loin, tenderloin, separable lean and fat, cooked, broiled 80
Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, skinless, boneless, meat only, enhanced, raw 50
Chicken, broilers or fryers, breast, meat only, cooked, roasted 72

Now there are other considerations. From a Frances Moore Lappé Diet for a Small Planet perspective, it takes a lot more grain to make an ounce of protein in a cow than it does in a chicken. But still, I have to admit that I think my doctor has a point and that there is no real virtue in eating chicken rather than beef. And Lappé’s point, after all, is not that you should eat chicken rather than beef, but rather that you should eliminate meat from your diet altogether.

There’s no general agreement as to whether everyone could be a vegetarian if they put their mind to it. What I infer from my doctor’s comments is that he thinks everyone can. Donna, moderator of the very active Yahoo! Vegetarian Group firmly believes that to be the case. On the other hand, note Lea Ann’s comment above and my notes about Mollie Katzen and my friend Lynn. There does seem to be a case that some people, at least, have metabolisms that require meat.

I have to say that I resonate very much with both Boston Pobble’s and Fran’s comments. I am very sensitive to both the ecological and ethical arguments and am very sympathetic to the vegetarian perspective, but I do enjoy my meat.

It is an issue with which I have been struggling for years, and for which I am not likely to find resolution soon.

Sacred Music Friday: Let all the World

St. Paul’s Cathedral

adding to the rotation

I’m sure you’re familiar with how Chinese fast food places work. There is a hot table of prepared food, and usually an option for a 3 item plate or a 4 item plate, but one item must be rice, steamed or fried, or maybe also chow mein. I never got that. Why not say two items with rice or three items with rice? But never mind.

We have two of those places in Gilroy, both close to us and within a half mile of each other. There’s Fast Dragon and Mr. Hong’s. I’ve eaten at both, but generally preferred the latter. However, Fast Dragon changed hands recently and with the new owner I think it is now a cut above Mr. Hong’s.

In addition, they now also offer made-to-order plates. Terry and I went there last Thursday with the intent of giving those a try. I had the Thai Basil Chicken and Terry had the Chicken Curry. We were both impressed and both loved the bite we had of the other’s dish.

Never mind that the food is served on styrofoam plates with plastic utensils. I just think of it in the context of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Fast Dragon’s made-to-order dishes are in every way equal to our late, lamented Thai restaurant.

Given our now reduced lunch time options, Fast Dragon will certainly become part of our lunch rotation.

not so fast

Back in May, I wrote about how happy I was with our LG dishwasher:

We were perfectly happy with our KitchenAid dishwasher, but when we did our kitchen remodel the contractor failed to anchor it properly and it ended up not washing dishes well. We replaced it with a Bosch, which was not a great decision. It didn’t have a food grinder and did not do a good job of getting dishes clean. We had a service technician out and he told us that there was nothing wrong with the dish washer – it was the way we were using it. And we were supposed to run hot water before turning it on. Really? Come on! We had to point out to the technician that there were lemon seeds in he sprayer arm. The solution to that was to pull the arm out and clean it out. Right. We ended up replacing it with an LG, and we’ve been very happy with it.

Well, not so fast. This summer we began having problems with the LG. It was making a lot of noise and not getting dishes clean. Fortunately we had a service contract with Best Buy on it. The service man said that it needed a new motor. The motor finally showed up and he installed it. Unfortunately he was not terribly familiar with that model, and he failed to seat a screw properly, which caused a piece to move and block the lower sprayer arm. He fixed that, but the new motor soon started behaving just like the old one.

At the same time, the local company supporting the service contract said that they weren’t going to do that sort of work anymore, and Best Buy did not immediately locate a replacement. Finally after weeks of phone calls and waiting Best Buy said that they would honor their “no lemon” policy and allow us to select a replacement. We found one we liked, a Frigidaire, but processing the paperwork was painful as we stood at the customer service desk waiting for the staff to figure out how to make it all work. Finally, a manager came along who did, and in the end we ended up with a $100 refund over what we paid originally for the LG.

Not a bad reward for having the patience to stand there and wait for close to half an hour.

The Frigidaire is now installed, and working, so far, just fine. But I’m feeling a strong tendency to want to keep knocking on wood.


Something tells me that this Baby Blues cartoon must be based on an actual incident. I don’t doubt that this could well be the case. I rarely use cursive any longer. When I create a grocery or errand list I print. I rarely have the occasion to write a personal note anymore, and when I do I normally create a card on the computer which I then sign by hand. About the only time I use cursive is to sign my name or write a check. And I don’t write many checks anymore, using debit or credit cards when I am out and about and online bill pay for almost all of my various bills. I of course use a credit card when ordering merchandise from Amazon and good old PayPal when ordering from eBay.

In fact, when I do write a check, except for my signature, it often comes out as an odd combination of cursive and printing. As I think about it, in fact, I think I don’t even want to go there. My checks can look fairly ugly these days.


’tis not too late

I recently finished an online course on Radical Hope in Hard Times. In the wrap-up blog, our instructor, Jane, included a photo of someone carrying a sign that said “another world is possible.” That made me think of Tennyson. Whatever the result of the presidential election, we must maintain our radical hope.

Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
— Tennyson, “Ulysses”

Sacred Music Friday: How Great Thou Art

A song from my high school Methodist Youth Fellowship days…

how many of you?

Thinking of Buddhism and Pema Chödrön, my blog post brought to mind an Audible program I listened to some years back by the Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. It was not an audio book, but a recording of a series of lectures.

Jack asked his audience, “How many of you have ever made a fool of yourselves on account of sex?” He then quickly added, “Don’t raise your hands!”

Right. I suspect that most of us have, once or twice anyway, in our younger days.