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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Ducting Disquisition to Present an Unorganized Hancock Video


I will of course continue to explain how HVAC works  in the very near future, only to have readers tell me in the comments that putting a ceiling fan on reverse cures chill blains and cancer. In the meantime, you're going to have to settle for a wonderful song performed by a wonderful band comprised of my wonderful kids.

Lisztomania is a peppy song performed originally by a lively band called Phoenix, who I gather are a French outfit popular at Electric Daisy Carnivals and other sanitized Woodstocks. There is a live recording of this song from an Unorganized Hancock performance at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture that hardcore Unorganized Hancock fans might recall. My gosh, l'il Garrett was only ten then.

The latest recording sounds like ten people are playing on it, but it's just my boys. They have become adept multi-trackers. The animation is entirely the work of the twelve-year-old drummer. He has a sweet, if quirky, disposition, and it shines through, don't you think? I commended him on making a reference to France in a video with links to a French band, and he said,"They're from France? I didn't know that."

He just likes France, I guess.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Eight Things That Won't Happen in Heating

Before I continue my peripatetic recounting of trying to heat my children's rooms, we need to go over some fundamentals. Well, they're fundamentals for me. For you, they are black arts, voodoo, base lies, mistakes, tomfoolery, and blather. You've been reading the newspaper again, and everything sensible begins to sound like black arts, voodoo, base lies, mistakes, tomfoolery, and blather after you do that. So I'm warning you: I need to talk sense, and sense is going to sound weird.

You see, articles on websites are written by the girls that used to sit next to you in grammar school drawing little smiley faces instead of a tittle over "i" and "j." They had very elaborate, bulbous erasers and other gewgaws on the end of their pencils where a simple eraser once lived. They were forever raising their hand and tattling on you to the teacher, because you were bored and were misbehaving all the live-long day. They eventually went to Directional State College where they got an associates degree in Solo Cups and Oppression, and then they went to work pulling on bent oars in one of the tatty triremes still afloat in the Newsgathering Navy.

They don't know anything, or more accurately, they know a lot of stuff and none of it is true. Everything they know they found out by reading news articles written by people just like them. Their research method is to get drunk on appletinis four nights a week using their divorced dad's credit card, and on Friday at noon they ask a question on HARO to get the straight dope and deliver their writing assignment. They interview whoever responds, usually a kindly vinyl siding salesmen who explains that vinyl siding cures cancer. Even though the article is supposed to be about improving your gas mileage, it's dutifully transcribed, because deadline, duh.

For hard info, the Intertunnel is like the Telephone Game, with the same information being plagiarized and re-transmitted over and over until it bursts out of its final chrysalis into a listicle on Buzzfeed that explains the Top Ten reasons Bieber brought down the World Trade Center.

So bear with me. Everything you know about heating is wrong. It's not your fault. Allow me to help. Here are Eight Things That Won't Happen in Heating:

A Ceiling Fan Will...
See, I stopped the sentence at the verb. I did that because this is the Swiss Army Knife of heating advice: Ceiling fans have nothing whatsover to do with heating, so anything that talks about using a ceiling fan in any way related to heating your home is a dog's homemade meatloaf.

Warm Air Will Rise
That's actually true, but so what? People think the conversation ends there. Hot air will not run up your chimney if you leave the damper open. Hot air will not go upstairs and slam the door and refuse to interact with you in the living room like a hot teenager. Hot air rises, and then something else happens. Which leads us to:

The Stratification of Air Will Need to Be Dealt With  
No, it won't, because it's impossible to have stratification of air in a house. It doesn't happen. Your cure for this stratification, a ceiling fan, cures a condition that doesn't condish, to coin a term. It doesn't solve a problem that doesn't exist.

Stratification is a fancy way of saying layering. News articles and ceiling fan makers talk endlessly about this imaginary condition, and how they'll solve it. Actually, by solving an imaginary problem, ceiling fans in heating season cause a real problem. Even fairly warm air delivered too quickly to a human is a draft, and drafts make you feel colder.

Warm air is less dense than cold air and newspaper reporters. It rises naturally to the first barrier it meets: the ceiling. It then travels across the ceiling until it reaches the next barrier, usually the wall opposite the heat source. Then it drops to the floor. It then travels across the floor to where it started, because air is being evacuated from that spot when the warm air rises. This is called a convection loop. This has to happen. It's warmer at the ceiling than the floor because the air is only halfway through the convection loop. If you interrupt it with a ceiling fan, you accomplish less than nothing. You feel a draft, half the room gets less heat than it would.

You'll Be More Comfortable If Your Furnace/Boiler/Heat Pump Runs Less
By weatherstripping and insulating your home until you turn blue if you stay home for more than four hours at a stretch, you're supposed to save money on energy and be comfortable. Actually, your energy supplier saves on energy because they don't have to produce as much, and your bill stays the same because reasons. You shiver just like before.

That's because your heating system doesn't like turning on and off all the time. When it comes on, it gives you more heat than you need to feel warm. It's set to deliberately overshoot the temp setting so it can rest when it gets where it's going. Then it waits until the temperature is substantially lower than you want it before it turns on again. That keeps it from cycling on and off all the time.

The perfect heat source runs continuously at exactly the correct setting required to keep the house comfortable without ever turning off unless it's time to open the windows. My pellet stove can do this in some seasons, but a regular furnace in a regular house will never even attempt this form of stasis. Everyone's too worried about hoarding heat instead of producing enough, and how comfortable the furnace is instead of the occupants.

Energy Efficient Windows Will Be Energy Efficient
No, they won't be, if you have a dictionary and look up "efficient." A single-pane window from a century ago is titanically efficient. A hole in your wall has zero R-value, after all. A sheet of window glass placed over it is R-1. That's, like, infinity and beyond in energy improvement. Well, it might not be an infinite improvement, but I was bored and goofing off in Math class, and you ratted on me, remember? It's some amount of big improvement.

Super duper energy efficient window manufacturers like to use percentages to advertise the improvement you'll enjoy when you purchase their products, because super duper energy efficient window manufacturers like to lie. A 100-percent improvement in the performance of a 90-cent piece of window glass takes you from R-1 to R-2. Whoopty! And to think it only costs an extra $250 per window. Your walls are R-13 and your attic is R-30, but hey, rock on, super duper energy efficient window dudes.

Weatherstripping Will Be the Key to Everything
You can't live in a mason jar with the lid screwed on to save on heat. I mean, you can, but not for very long before your estate takes a hit from the professional mourner bill. You need fresh air in your house, and spending thousands to mew yourself up, only to call the HVAC guy back to add a fresh air exchanger to let the cold air back in, is silly.

If you do the easy weatherization stuff, everything that follows costs a lot and lowers your quality of life. It's similar to the way government works.

A Bigger Circulating Fan Will Help
Everybody's house is designed by Dr. Caligari but they blame the HVAC system when they're chilly or hot. They ask the intern who writes everything at This Old House dot com if a bigger circulating fan will spread the heat more thoroughly into their sunken fondue-eating area next to the combination solarium/darkroom. There's a problem. Heat moving slowly is heat. Heat moving quickly is a draft. A bigger fan or more fans is rarely the answer. And remember, a ceiling fan never is.
  
Your Fireplace Will Send 143 Trillion BTUs an Hour Into Space 
This one could be true. I don't know you personally, and you could be a Bond villain stroking an Angora cat and plotting world domination by sending 143 trillion BTUs an hour into space. Then again, you might be an obese pipefitter with halitosis wondering if Tom Brady's wife might be trying to call you for an erotic liaison. That could happen, too.

I'm the last living human that knows the actual, proper name for an open fireplace made of masonry: An ornamental fireplace. Look up the word "ornamental." It's not a furnace. It's not supposed to be used to heat your house efficiently, so solutions to fix the problem of it not being a good furnace are of doubtful utility.

Even if you leave your damper open when your fireplace is not in use, not a lot of air will go up your chimney, or come down it, either. If you feel a draft near your chimney, it's because your house is weatherstripped like a mummy's tomb, and your furnace or boiler or whatever is burning all the air inside your house for combustion. It will then desperately try to draw in more air from outside so the fire doesn't go out, and as a by-product, so you don't die of asphyxiation.

You're supposed to have a fire in your fireplace once a year to get rid of Christmas wrapping paper and a couple of logs from that tree that blew down when Reagan was president. You're supposed to sit beside it and enjoy the look of the flames, and feel the radiant heat from the fire on your face. That's what it's for.

On Our Next Episode:
I may, if you're nice to me, write something about actual ductwork. Maybe.   

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Tin Man's Autopsy


EXCLUSIVE  TIN MAN AUTOPSY PHOTOS. MUST CREDIT SIPPICAN COTTAGE.

Just kidding. I've always wanted to write that "must credit" tagline on something I wrote. Of course on the Intertunnel, "must credit" doesn't mean much. No one has had more stuff cribbed from them without attribution than me. This astronaut monkey joke alone would have made me the most famous blogger in the world for a day or two, if anyone in the regular media gave credit to where they found things. I don't really mind all that much, because it frees me from any residual obligation to do likewise.

That's not really the Tin Man's autopsy. It's more like a snapshot from the Tin Man's mom's fertility clinic. What you're looking at there is heat for my kids' rooms. Some assembly required. Not the kids. My wife and me assembled them a while back. It was pretty fun, what with both of us being drunk at the same time for a change. No, I meant the heating system requires some assembly. More than some, actually. It requires invention, and then assembly.

We don't have central heat in our house. We live in western Maine, and it gets pretty cold here -- in the summer. In the winter it gets pretty cold, too, or so I've heard. We've managed to make it through five going on six winters by hook and by crook heating. We burned firewood for a while, but we could never afford enough, and the house ended up unheated whenever I fell asleep. I'm a bit of a sissy, and I fell asleep once in February of 2014, and was ashamed for weeks afterwards.

Now we heat our house using a Vogelzang VG5790 pellet stove. It puts out about the same amount of heat as our woodburning furnace, but it can run for a couple of days at a time when it's loaded with wood pellets. The pellet stove is located in our dining room, which I use for my office as well as the fancy eatin' parlor.

The distribution of heat in a house is an arcane art. Your average plumbing and heating dude's solution to every plumbing and heating problem is a massive outlay of money spent on an increasingly complex heating system. It never works, you're always too cold or too hot, and the repairman is in your basement enough to pay you rent.

Luckily for us, we're really poor and just want heat. We can't afford complexity. But we do need to get the heat from the pellet stove upstairs into the kids' bedrooms. Our house is over a hundred years old, fairly large, and insulated by a man with a cane and a dog. Our solution for the last five years has been to shiver and wait for Spring, which comes on July 4th in the morning, giving way to summer in the afternoon, and then around dinnertime the leaves start to turn.

The kids rooms have electric heat in them.  During the months of December, January, and February we used to turn it on and abandon any hope of heating the hallway outside their doors. We also abandoned any hope of solvency. Five years ago, when the electric heat was all there was in the house, I once got an electric bill for $900 for one month, and we slept with our clothes on. I live less than a mile from a hydroelectric plant, about five miles from a copse of wind turbines, and down the street from a paper mill that produces "black liquor" for power generation. That's a form of biomass fuel made from the lignin left over from papermaking. All that eco-friendly power generation gets you an electric bill with more zeros on it than a Carnival cruise.

So my  mission this year is to distribute enough of the heat from the room with the pellet stove to the kids rooms so that the electric heat doesn't need to be turned on any more. That pile of Tin Man entrails represents my plan to do so. Will it blend? Only my hairdresser knows for sure. That's because she sleeps with me in my (unheated) bedroom.

(to be continued)

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie Wrote a Half-Decent Folk Song Once


So, David Bowie died.

The news outlets are stopping the world to sit shiva over him. I've never quite gotten used to that behavior. I don't have anything much to say about the fellow one way or the other, good or bad. He was part of the wallpaper of my life because he used to come out of the radio while I painted apartment buildings, but that's about it. It's jarring to see the media stopping in their tracks and devoting all their time to his death, however, like he was Queen Victoria or something. Pop singers don't belong on the front page.

I was in an airport once, waiting in line, and Henny Youngman was standing in front of me. I had been living in Los Angeles for a while, and got used to seeing minor celebrities out and about. I always left them alone, unless they bothered me first. To me, a stranger is a stranger, whether you know who they are or not. Henny turned around, looked at me, and said, "That's right, I'm me," and then turned back around. I found it quite charming, but he was answering a bell that hadn't rung.

If you are in a strange, faraway place, and you encounter someone that has any connection with your life, you greet them like a friend. If you're in Italy, and meet an American tourist, you treat them like a long-lost cousin instead of just as much a stranger as the locals. David Bowie wasn't in everyone's life because he was important. He was important because he was in everyone's life. It doesn't really matter how trivial or profound the reason you're in the public eye. It's just the only way people keep score.  

Saturday, January 09, 2016

The Maine Band With Heart: Unorganized Hancock



My sons, also known as Unorganized Hancock, are featured on this month's installment of the Today River Valley TV show. We don't have television, so we can't see it. Then again, our entire family is accustomed to never seeing anything to do with any form of entertainment, because we're always in it.

The way I see it, my sons are continuing my tradition of never participating in anything as part of the audience. I'm a thoroughly broken human person, unable to enjoy myself by sitting in an audience. I never had any idea how to act when I wasn't facing the wrong way in a room full of people. I wanted to be the bride at every wedding and the corpse at every funeral. I always forget to applaud, too, because during my musical career, I wasn't supposed to applaud, and the audience didn't want to, so I never heard enough clapping in order to learn where it's supposed to go.

My kids do hear applause now and then. They deserve it. I thought the quote from the Today River Valley page was accurate:
An unusual and talented musical duo from Rumford has Youtube success but hopes for real world recognition too
The Unorganized Hancock YouTube page recently passed 75,000 hits, which puts them in the running as one of the most notable bands in Maine, at least YouTube-wise. They don't perform live as often as they'd like to, which was brought up by the interviewer. He thought they were some form of wonderful, and wondered aloud why they aren't also some form of famous already.

Beats me. I like them.

[Update: Many thanks to the kids most devoted fan, Kathleen M. from Connecticut, for her constant support of the boys via our PayPal tip jar. It is much appreciated]
[Further Update: Many thanks to our friend Dinah H. from Missouri for her continuing support via our PayPal tipjar. It is much appreciated]

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Maine: They're Doing the Best They Can

It's that time of year again. Time to pass off already written drivel as fresh tripe. That can only mean one thing: a year-end retrospective of the news from The Meteor.

You've never heard of The Meteor? You must be "from away." My neighbor here in Rumford goes by the name of Aubuchon Connery, and he runs this broadsheet called the Rumford Meteor. Well, technically it's not a broadsheet, but I did notice a picture of Jenny McCarthy's breasts right there on the front page.

Aubuchon's an interesting fellow. He runs the whole newspaper with only one assistant, Rod Pocket, to help him out. Like everyone in Maine, they do the best they can. "They're doing the best they can" is high praise around here. Whenever anyone sets themselves ablaze while freshening up the woodstove with a little kerosene, or turns turtle in the hammer lane in their wife's Dodge Neon even though it's a cloudless night on a deserted highway, everyone just says, "Shucks that's too bad, but he was doing the best he can. And everyone knows you gotta ride the brake all the way through the spin."

Anyway, Aubuchon Connery and Rod Pocket are doin' the best they can with The Meteor all year, and I thought I'd choose one headline from each month of 2015 to give you the local flavah. The newspapers they're quoting are doing the best they can to get a particular point across, all at once, all in the same way, and then Aubuchon and Rod come along and write different headlines and the stories take on a different sort of theme, like the way stories change under questioning at the police barracks. Most of the time, The Meteor gets the story plain backwards from the meaning the regular newspapers wanted. But we have to make allowances. They're doing the best they can.

January: Owl's Head Man Gets Himself Arrested By Annoying Teenage Girls on Facebook. "Annoying" Works as a Verb or an Adjective in That Sentence

February: After 75-Car Pileup, Emergency Crews Use Jaws of Life to Pry the Cellphones Out of Everyone's Hands

March: Biddeford Government Brainstorming Session Produces Only Partly Cloudy Ideas

April: Woman Taking Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Fluoxetine, Wellbutrin, Estrogen, Progestin, Himalayan Crystal Salt, Silver Water, and Medical Marijuana Wants to Know Exactly What's in Her Tomatoes

May: Audience Member Who Loves The Moody Blues Says Local Moody Blues Tribute Band Has Inspired Him to Start a Moody Blues Tribute Band Tribute Band

June: Death With Dignity Bill Won't Allow You to Take Your Lethal Overdose If You're Wearing Jorts and Flipflops

July: South Bristol Centennial Highlights the Town's Rich History of Totally Not Being Bristol

August: Online Workshops Offer a Free and Convenient Way to Find Additional Online Workshops

September: Goth Couple and Friends Demonstrate Their Non-Conformity by Dressing Alike

October: Wiscasset Jazz Aficionado Hopes the Band Plays "The Girl From Iwo Jima"

November: Public School Administrators Worry Isolated Home School Students Will Be Forced to Bully Themselves

December: President Can Prove He's an Observant Christian and a Good Golfer

Well, there you go. That's Maine in 2015 in a nutshell. You're allowed to laugh at us, of course, as long as you don't forget we're doing the best we can.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Sippican's 2016 New Year's Resolutions


Well, it's officially 2016. I never know what day it is, but I generally know what year it is by Valentine's Day at the latest. In the bad old days, when I signed checks to pay my bills in January, I'd always write the previous year's date, scribble over it, and then wonder if it was still legal scrip for all debts public and private until it hoovered out my bank account and proved it.

It's not 1990 anymore, so I don't have to worry about paying my bills with checks. I don't have any money, and can't pay my bills, so the topic never comes up, really. I take it everyone has changed over to buying everything using their iPhone, but I can't even pawn my Motorola Razr, never mind pay bills with it.

As I am wont to say every night when I lay my head on my pillow, "But enough about me." Let's get right down to it. You don't want to hear about me. You want to hear about my New Year's Resolutions. You want to compare and contrast your list with mine, like you learned to do in English class in the seventh grade, if you attended seventh grade before 1975, I mean. If you attended seventh grade this year, for instance, you'd only be capable of copying and pasting my list on your school-issued iPad and turning it in as your final exam. If I wrote this list in a cursive font, you'd be screwed.

  Sippican's List of New Year's Resolutions for 2016

  • I promise to stop reading The Decline of the West by Oswald Spengler and laughing uproariously 
  • I promise to feed both my children this year. By February, it might be one to the other, but a promise is a promise
  • I promise to stop talking in a Bavarian accent to everyone that works at the Walmart for no reason. Why they're working in the Walmart for no reason isn't my fault, but the Bavarian accent isn't helping
  • I promise to stop letting the air out of Tom Brady's footballs using George Bush's weather machine
  • I promise to stop oppressing everybody by respiring
  • I promise to stop punching clerks in the Home Depot who ask me if I need help. This is going to be hard for me, so I'll do it in two tranches. By June, the girls, and by next December, everyone
  • I promise to learn a second language. Besides swearing, I mean
  • I promise to give America back to the Indians. They're already here on H1-B visas, and I like curry, so this is no skin off my back, really
  • I promise to quit smoking. I also promise to buy a fire extinguisher and stop trying to work on the pellet stove while it's running
  • I promise to start really eating right. Count every calorie. I'll buy a fitness watch. One of those good ones that even counts your heartbeats when you sleep. I'll start buying supplements, and I'll mix them into the kale smoothies I'll make for breakfast. I'll get a gym membership, and hire a personal trainer. I'll start with hardcore cardio-type stuff, but then I'll move on to free weights and elliptical work. Then I'll start doing Crossfit all the time, and start talking about doing Crossfit stuff all the time, to everyone I meet, children in the street, strangers on the Intertunnel, even to the clerks in Walmart, but not using a Bavarian accent anymore, of course. Or I won't do any of that stuff, and just shovel the snow in my own driveway instead
Happy New Year to all my friends on the Intertunnel. Both of you.