Friday, December 14, 2018

Environmental Etiquette: Finding Flaw or Doing a Favor?

If you are a conservation-minded, fixer-upper type, and are visiting a friend and happen to see something about their house or garden that needs attention, what do you do? Do you point it out and offer to help? Maybe you spotted a weed in the garden that you know will cause grief later if it's not pulled before it spreads all around. Or maybe it's a filter on the air intake for the furnace that looks clogged with dust. Knowing how you tend to forget to change out such things in your own home, you know that your fresh eyes could be of use. Your friend's hosting you for a night or two, after all, and you want to do something in return. At the same time, it can be rude to walk into someone's garden or house and find flaw.

What to do? I was in this predicament while staying with my friend Dan during a recent recording session in Ann Arbor. I was sleeping in the finished basement, and noticed that the rarely used toilet down there had a slow leak. Even slow leaks can waste a lot of water and increase one's water bill substantially.

I hesitated to say anything, but finally did. We looked inside the tank and found an ancient system with a copper "float" that is supposed to automatically shut off flow when the water has pushed it up to a certain level. Something wasn't working, but we couldn't tell what, and the chances of finding parts for such an antique system seemed close to nil.

Intimidated, we left it as is. I had managed only to make my host aware of a seemingly unsolvable problem in his basement. But then a week later, he texted me a photo of the copper float sitting on a table. It had occurred to him to take a closer look at that old float. He discovered that, despite the ancient plumbing, he could remove the float from the toilet, and when he did, he found that it was half full of water. The float wasn't shutting off the water because the float wasn't really floating. He bought a new float, installed it, and the slow leak was stopped. Then, being of a resourceful musical bent, he dried out the copper float, drilled a small hole, put some rice seeds in it, and made it into a shaker, to be used for percussion.

This experience scores in the win-win-win category of sustainability, with two of the wins being physical (copper reuse and water conservation) and the other win being emotional (my relief at seeing my intervention being validated). There would be a fourth win in there if I had miraculously been able to make the trip without fossil fuels.

There's one lingering question: Did the idea for a "copper float shaker" arise before or after Dan repaired the slow leak? That is, did his fascination with the musical potential in objects (he had previously fashioned a guitar pick out of a walnut shell) contribute to his success in home repair?

Friday, December 07, 2018

McCarter-based Seniors Onstage: Free 12/12 performance at the Arts Council

Wednesday, Dec. 12 at 7pm is the last chance to see Onstage Senior's 2018 documentary theater program: “The Road I Travel: Choices and Chances that Shape Our Lives.” 

Onstage Seniors, A Community Program of McCarter Theatre is back for the final performance of its original documentary theater for 2018, highlighting senior memories and experiences. The ensemble – all over the age of 55 – is known for its performances of stories, based on interviews with the local community, in theaters, libraries, schools, prisons, senior centers and communities, and schools across New Jersey. We work up a new show each winter, to be performed from May through December.

The Arts Council's Solley Theater is a wonderful venue for seeing our group perform. Preregistration is encouraged, but no ticket is required. Click here for more info.

(Not shown in photo are Shirley Meeker and newer members Fred Dennehy and Leonie Infantry.)

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Mr. Sustainable's Easy Fix for a Broken Microwave

When our microwave suddenly played dead--its screen gone dark, its buttons unresponsive--Mr. Sustainable was ready. He immediately remembered the last time a microwave began acting strangely, working some days but not others. Back then, his nephew Rhys, wise in the ways of electronics, suggested checking the fuse. It was easy enough to unplug the microwave, unscrew the cover and look inside, and sure enough, replacing a little fuse was all that was needed to get the machine working again, good as ever. (That's the old fuse sitting on top of the microwave in the photo, after making the repair.)

This time, it was even easier, because Mr. Sustainable had bought a package of two fuses the time before and, knowing how little things can get lost, had affixed the extra one to the back of the microwave where it could be easily found. Didn't even have to go to the hardware store. The unused fuse went in, the microwave came back to life, problem solved.

Happy with himself and a world where problems are so easily fixed, Mr. Sustainable cooked a celebratory bowl of broccoli in the microwave with a little olive oil and salt, and chowed down.

In the process, he learned why people don't stick candles in celebratory broccoli. They melt. Who knew?

For previous adventures of Mr. Sustainable with microwave repair, read "Mr. Sustainable Gets a Twofer."