My Dog C. J.

I had to put my dog C. J. down in March of 2011 at the age of 17.  C. J. was one of the highlights of my life.  I often think of him, and it always makes me smile.  Any pet owner will appreciate how I felt and still feel about my little dog.  He was a mutt who weighed only about 20 pounds.  The adoption paper said “Terrier / X”, and over the years I determined the “X” part consisted of at least husky, shepherd, and a couple other fence-jumpers.

My most memorable story of C. J. is the day we went to pick up the Honey-Baked Thanksgiving ham when he was about one year old.  Because of some conflicting appointments, I had to pick up the ham first and then leave C. J. in my SUV with the ham for a few minutes.  To solve this obvious problem I brought along a yellow tub to cover and protect the ham while C. J. was alone with it in the car.  I picked up the ham, drove to my other appointment, placed the tub over the ham and walked to my appointment.

I was gone less than five minutes.  Upon arriving back at the car I noticed the missing C. J.  My first thought was I might have left the window down too far and he had jumped out.  Then I noticed the yellow tub shifting about in the back of the vehicle.  By the time I lifted the tub and got C. J away from his treat he had already eaten a pound of ham, including its aluminum foil covering.

After arriving at home I cut out the portions in the area where C. J. had feasted and served the ham to my guests on Thanksgiving.  Several years later I confessed my indiscretions at the Thanksgiving dinner table and we all enjoyed a big laugh.

C. J. always ate well, especially after Thanksgiving.  I made certain every year that he got the ham bone, which kept him busy over the course of several days.  I am certain I will think with pleasure of C. J. and the ham every Thanksgiving holiday for the rest of my life.

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Polio is gradually disappearing from our everyday experience.  Except for a few pockets in Africa, where locals believe the vaccine is used to sterilize Muslims, and in remote parts of South Asia, the disease has been eradicated.  With any luck the disease will join smallpox in my lifetime as an issue in history books.

When I was a child in the 1950s, polio was a serious threat.  Occasionally I’d hear about a friend or neighbor who contracted polio and died.  My older twin sisters were hospitalized after both contracted polio, but they were very fortunate.  One suffered no known damage.  The other had only minor skeletal damage to her foot, discovered many years later.

I remember very well going with my father to get the polio vaccine.  We stood in a long line at the local elementary school.  My father told me what a wonderful event this was, and what a relief it would be for parents and children to have the shot.  Maybe I remember the event so well because it was so important to my father.  I still remember the scene in the school auditorium as well as the fact that I did not mind the shot.

Throughout my years growing up I have many memories of friends and others who bore the effects of polio.  My friend Eddie, who was about two years older than me, carried his left arm close to his chest.  It looked as though it belonged on a small child, a miniaturized version of his right arm.  It was, I think, completely useless, discolored, and about half the length of his unaffected arm.  I wondered at the time why he did not have it removed.  He had no other side effects as I recall.

I have a vivid memory of what must have been the old Salt Lake County Hospital located at 21st South and State Street.  I looked through a window and saw a line of iron lungs with a child in each of them.  The memory is old enough and clear enough that I am sure I saw it, although I don’t know the circumstances.  Maybe it was when my sisters were in the hospital, and perhaps my mother was carrying me.  I would have been about three years old at the time.

Though the disease is gone, it is still somewhat common to see people born before 1955 with a polio defect.  Many of these have suffered due to post-polio symptoms and the effects of the debilitating disease.  Almost everyone my age knows of a friend or relative who is in a wheelchair, or on crutches, or who has died early due to the disease.

I find it incomprehensible that some parents do not vaccinate their children against polio, or some of the other curable diseases.  Witnessing some of those who have contracted polio would convince almost any skeptic to rethink.

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To Solar or Not To Solar

Solar panels have declined in cost dramatically in recent years, and are still in free-fall.  Federal tax credits as well as tax credits offered by some states, as well as incentives from local power companies, municipalities, etc. make the cost of a new solar system worth considering.  As one who has consumed his share of the world’s resources and would like to atone for his past indiscretions, I looked into placing some solar panels on my property.    Here is what I found.

In round numbers, the cost of solar kits is about $3-4 per watt, uninstalled.  Add $1-2 for each watt for a total of about $4-6 total.  The federal government grants a 30% tax credit, and many states grant a further %30 credit at the state level.  In addition, some utilities provide a rebate of varying amounts depending on the total installed.  The net total cost to the end-user is about $2-4 per watt, including installation.  Search the web to find the specifics for your area.  The rules and regulations are in a state of flux, so be cautious of the results and verify before making a financial commitment.

Once installed, and depending greatly on the area in which you live, the panels will generate up to about 6 watts for each watt installed.  Thus, a one kilowatt installation costing about $2,000-$4,000 will generate up to 6 kWh day over the course of a year, in the sunny Southwest USA.  This amounts to a return of about $18.00 month (at $0.10 per kWh) on a $2,000-$4,000 investment, depending on electrical rate, final purchase price, etc.

I also examined what I could save in energy consumption.  As Ben Franklin would have said, a watt saved is a watt not generated.  My biggest electrical energy consumer is a hot tub, which I use about twice a week, at a temperature of 104.  When not in use I turn the heat down to 80.  I can determine the energy the tub consumes by measuring the heat lost over a period of time, and therefore the watts needed to heat it back to its original temperature.

For example, my tub left unheated declines in temperature at the rate of 4 degrees per 24 hours, in my case from 104 to 100.  If I want to heat the water back to 104, I need to raise the water back to 104.  How much energy is required?

The volume of my tub is 350 gallons, and a gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds.  So I have 2,400 pounds of water to raise by 4 degrees.  We know it takes 1 BTU to raise a pound of water 1 degree Farenheit, therefore it requires 9,600 BTU to raise 2,400 pounds by 4 degrees.  Conversion tables tell us 9,600 BTU is about three kilowatt-hours, which is the amount of energy my hot tub requires each day.

(These figures are very approximate, and do not account for the fact that the tub will cool more slowly as its temperature falls.  Also, filtering functions consume perhaps 1-2 kWh per day, which may or may not be lost.  I recover the lost heat from my motor by circulating water over the motor.  Outside air temperature, wind, etc. also affect the calculations.)

Simply emptying and shutting off my hot tub is the energy equivalent of installing 500 watts of solar – two large panels for a total cost of $1,000-$2,000.  With that kind of number, and with the cost of solar equipment still falling, I may postpone solar installations and consider the saving route first.

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