Oops! Something went sideways.

Looks like the styling got goofed up. Sorry about that, unless it's what you wanted. If this isn't what you were looking for, try force refreshing your page. You can do that by pressing Shift + F5, or holding Shift and clicking on the "reload" icon. (It's the weird circle arrow thing "⟳" just above this page, usually next to where it says https://blog.unitedheroes.net...)

isn't quite ashamed enough to present

jr conlin's ink stained banana

:: Travel Advise

At work, someone said they were visiting California this upcoming summer for a couple of weeks and wanted to know if there were any recommendations for places to visit.

i offered the following:

There’s lots to do and see in California, but you have to remember that it’s a big state. (it takes around 13 hours to drive from the top to bottom, on freeways, so it’s not really the best way to see it.) i note this because it’s actually worth considering California as several different states loosely bound by asphalt.

True “Northern California” (generally everything north of Santa Rosa) is mostly deep wood areas. That’s where you get some really stunning drives through massive redwood forests and along coastlines. i’ve done route 1 from Mendocino to Eureka. It’s really pretty, but probably not the best with a car full of kids. It can also be more than a bit redneck.

East across the 5 is Shasta, Lassen and Plumas. These are also pretty, but less wooded. They are the remains of part of the volcano chain that stretches up the rest of the coast. Again, great if you love hiking, not so great if you’re into family fun activities.

Heading south a bit you get to what most would consider “Northern California” (which is about mid-way down the state). Basically it’s the Wine valleys (Russian River, Napa & Sonoma) east to about Sacramento, and south to Monterey. Lots and lots of stuff to do around here. Depending on what you want, you can spend days in SF and San Jose, visit Old Town and the train museum in Sacramento. Take advantage of your kids driving skills in the Wine Valleys, or spend the day at the Santa Cruz board walk, or just hit up Atlas Obscura for places like the Musée Mécanique)

Headed further south on 1 (you’ll recognize it for being in every car commercial, ever) gets you to the Central Coast, so named because even Californian’s have no idea how big their state really is. That gets you Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo (SLO). One noted for being Bugs Bunny’s vacation destination of choice, the other for being a college town with a fairly nice downtown. Again, wineries abound around there, and if you’re feeling like ignoring your car rentals strict rules, there’s beach driving at the Dunes. Or there’s also Dinosaur Caves Park, named after a tourist attraction that featured most of a dinosaur that eventually fell into the sea. Darn pretty park, though.

If you’re particularly lucky, and or the weather holds out, you might even be able to see a rocket launch from Vandenburg in Lompoc. (Bonus points if you insist on saying that town’s name like the narrator in Roger Ramjet, but only because it annoys my wife.) Continuing south gets you to Santa Barbara which is notable for it’s beach, ritzy shopping area, and the birthplace of a number of burger joints.

It’s also about where Southern California starts. Personally, i love taking 101 along this stretch since it hugs the coast. Right now, however, there’s also the problem of burn areas and mud slides, but that’s because we insist on putting roads next to mountains that catch fire.

Then comes LA. You could spend years going over all the stuff in LA and still not see it all. Instead feel free to drive through Anaheim past all the theme parks and watch your kids understand the glory of disappointment. Or just go by Knotts Berry Farm and let them wonder why the company that makes half of their peanut butter sandwiches has some deal promoting a 70 year old cartoon character using roller-coasters.

Finally, roll down 5 past the largest military base in the country, and you’ll arrive in San Diego. An old Spanish town which translates roughly into “Base Entrance next 5 exits”. Downtown San Diego does have some really good restaurants, a surprisingly good Little Italy and lots of folks from LA getting away for the weekend.

i didn’t even note some of the eastern stuff like the Salton Sea (which is a weird monument to a devastating irrigation error, the remains of Josuha Tree National Park & Death Valley.

Likewise, there’s Yosemite, with it’s grand vistas and magnificent traffic, and Lake Tahoe, which will probably make you realize you really can’t take too many pictures.

i think that should probably do it. Granted, by this point you’ll probably be enjoying retirement. Your kids retirement, but retirement none the less. Hope that helps!

:: Goin’ Solar

Recently, i had solar installed on my roof. It’s not a huge system, but it covers my average daily need of about 4KWh. It cost me about what a brand new economy car would have, and i understand that i’m in a fairly privileged position, both in the ability to have solar panels installed, and the ability to afford them.

The reason was pretty simple: my electric power rates had hiked up in the past few years and i expected to be at home a bit more. If i could reduce that cost down, there’s no reason i shouldn’t. There are other reasons i considered them, like the fact that i live in earthquake country and having panels means that i’d have some power available 1, and the panels would provide some shade to keep my metal roof from overheating2, but honestly, not forking over $100+ a month was really the major draw.

And, yeah, i get that i’m late to the game on this. i’m ok with that. Cutting edge tech on these sorts of things is foolish. You want something that’s had the kinks worked out and is reliable as hell for the 30+ years they’ll be running.

So, i find it kinda hilarious that there’s a growing backlash about roof top solar.

Part of the problem is that power companies built way the heck too much generation capacity. i can’t really fault them, Natural Gas is cheap thanks to the current glut, and not a lot of folks saw the residential solar panel growth happening the 10 or so years ago that these plants were authorized. Still, residential solar is a fraction of the power generated daily. It does, however, mean that the return on all those bright, shiny, and new power plants won’t be quite as great and it’ll take a few more years before they become profitable. Hooray! Power is a commodity and subject to supply and demand.

Which kinda leads to the next point. Residential power generation is kind of a fluke. Let’s ignore solar, and say that i’ve somehow created a tiny universe filled with residents who step on pedals in order to provide me Watts to spare. In the era before smart meters, i’d plug that in and the analog meter would literally run backwards. The power company would come by every month, read the meter, and wonder how to deal with consuming negative KWh. The simple solution, because not a lot of folks were creating tiny power-plant universes, was to just credit at the same rate they charged and move on. Some months i’d owe, others i’d collect as i fed the excess power back into the grid for my neighbors to use.

This is because the grid doesn’t really care where the power comes from, just that it’s there. It could come from coal plants, gas, wind-turbines, really anything that can send electrons along a path at the proper AC frequency.

So, i’m a little confused by articles like this which state:

Utilities argue that rules allowing private solar customers to sell excess power back to the grid at the retail price — a practice known as net metering — can be unfair to homeowners who do not want or cannot afford their own solar installations.

Uhm, what? They’re using power, from the grid. The same grid i’m feeding. They’re writing the same check, just that the power company is acting as a broker rather than the generator.

What’s more, i was required by the power company to install a “smart meter”. Meaning that unlike the analog predecessor, this sucker knows exactly when and how much i am either using or contributing. This means that i could be charged/credited fairly accurately, based off 15 minute increments over the course of the day. Since folks in my neighborhood have been told they’ll be hit with a $120 annual fine if they refuse getting smart meters, i’m guessing that it’s just a matter of time before even the most ardent folks concede and get one. So, yeah, the power company has/will have a stunningly accurate accounting of power patterns for this locale, minus some of the fun of long lines and massive substations.

So, you know what? i’m also 100% ok with not getting residential power prices for the power i’m generating. Yeah, it means that it’ll take longer before my system “pays for itself”, but as stated above, not really the goal. Plus, i know some folks with hilariously huge arrays on their roofs will be pissed, but just like the power company and their now less useful LP plants, Welcome to commodity based markets, bitches!

1So, yeah, fun fact. Solar needs to be able to sense the grid to operate. Otherwise they shut off because they don’t want to barbecue linesmen that might be working on the outage. You can solve that with a battery, but most of those are crap right now so not happening for a few years.

2It’s not a lot, but i’ll take what i can.

:: Acceptance

[wild cheering]

Thank you! Thank you all! What a great night this is for America!

[more cheering]

It is with great honor and pride that i accept this position which i have been tirelessly spending vast sums of money to acquire!


i’ll have you know that just prior to coming out to speak to you, i received a gracious call from my opponent conceding this election.

[Lots of cheering]

And though i spent the last five months telling you that he eats babies and regularly worships satan, i accepted his courteous offer before telling him that i was the one who slit his dog’s throat last Tuesday.

[a bit less Cheering]

Let’s face it, i slung more mud at that bozo than BP’s pumped into the well. Heck, the past few weeks? i was just making crap up. You can’t imagine the kind of glee i felt watching that maroon trying to calmly discuss why his grandmother was not smuggling Mexicans north in a hot air balloon during World War II. Honestly, there are jukeboxes that are harder to play. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about tonight! No, tonight we talk about the future!

[Ok, the cheering is back]

A future where you realize that you elected me on groundless promises that had you stayed awake for ten minutes in civics would have shown as impossible!

[And, the cheering is a bit less again]

A future where i will come to the stark realization that politics means other people, and i get to live out the repeated failings of countless others who have held this office ahead of me.


People You hated. People you wanted out so that you could get this fresh face in charge. People who wouldn’t think twice about condemning your neighborhood for a strip bar if it got them that much closer to a more powerful position or at least a decent kick back.

[POST EFX:insert clapping here]

And furthermore, a future where you realize that the slim number of my policies that have the best chance of actually passing are the ones you skipped over because they were boring. Policies like cutting funding for community programs, infrastructure, and permit oversight. So i wouldn’t park anything better than a Pinto under any trees in the area.

[a random cough]

So thank you, one and all! Your votes mean the world to me. Not as much as the money i’ll be getting from lobbyists and future speaking engagements, but it’s sweet how the puppies come back after you kick them. Oh, wait, no that comes next week.

[ ]

Thank you and God Bless America!

:: Cold Called by Terrorists

Last night, i was contacted by a terrorist organization.

i have to admit, i’m not exactly sure how they got my information, nor do i understand why they were interested in me, but sure enough, i got a call from “Out of Area”. Thinking it might be my sister-in-law who’s phone occasionally comes up like that, my wife answered and was told that the caller wanted to speak to me. That’s when a rather tired, low level telephone operator told me to stay on the line for a message for a recorded statement and a one question poll.

That’s when i heard the apparent ringleader of this terrorist cell, Dick Durbin, tell me how he is opposed to justice, favors torture, and is seeking to aide overseas terrorist recruiting operations.

Ok, even if that really was the Senator from Illinois, he didn’t come out and say any of those. Instead the recording went on about how he’s opposed to closing Gitmo, doesn’t want alleged torture investigations to continue, and how we’re all going to die horribly at the hands of the Unitard-Bomber. Even before he got to the sales pitch about some other “like minded” organization that wants my money to keep the children safe, i realized something. In effect, he was frightening imagery and the threat of personal harm in order to scare me into agreeing with him. He was invoking terror for personal or political gain. He was a terrorist.

i’ll note that not all terrorists stuff explosives into articles of clothing and try to set them of at 30,000 feet. Those that remember the IRA battles remember that the vast majority of terrorist activities involved posing the threat or taking credit for an action (often dozens of organizations will take credit for an attack). Often trying to influence folks far beyond the area they can best reach, say, like calling residents of a state a thousand or so miles away and trying to convince them they’re not far more likely to die in an accident on the way to the airport than while in flight. (This is why it’s important to learn math, kids.)

Still, it kind of saddens me that we have so many terrorists deeply embedded in our media, society and governing bodies. But at least i’m taking a stand against them.

:: The Aftermath

Right, so Obama is in.

i’ll note that this means “we” (those that supported his candidacy) just got pole position. Now the race really begins.

It’s now up to us to make sure that Obama sticks to his announced agenda unless there is clear, abundant and irrefutable proof otherwise. It’s now up to us to start realizing that we can’t just spend trillions on things and expect to never have to pay for them. It’s now up to us to realize that we are not going to get everything we want but will get what we can compromise for. It’s now up to us to prove that this wasn’t as bad as some folks will attempt to make it. It’s now up to us to realize that some folks will not change their mind and in the best of cases will only begrudgingly admit that things aren’t as screwed up as we expected.

i expect there to be a swarm of the same sort of stickers stuck on the back of Hybrid vehicles, slightly tweaked, and appearing on SUVs. i expect America to be again held hostage on certain radio shows while folks talk about how life was so much better until the Dems got control. i expect that while troops will not be as narrowly deployed in the future, there will still be plenty of call for the World’s Self Ordained Police Force.

My most fervent dream is that we would elect someone willing to make really unpopular decisions in order to get us back to where we need to be. Someone willing to treat us as a nation of grown ups, with the risks, pains, and joys that go with that. Willing to note our failures are as important as our successes because that’s how we can improve. Willing to realize that the world changes and the best way to live is to surround yourself with happy people. Willing to realize that violence is an act of last resort, and that the best way to avoid a bad situation is to ensure there are other options.

Sadly, none of those have been terribly popular in the past, and i suspect they’ll continue not to be in the future. It takes a lot of effort to build something. It’s far too easy to destroy it.

Am i hopeful for the future? Of course. Am i skeptical? You bet. We’re talking politics here, but there’s the opportunity for us to make a difference.

Just don’t forget that “us” means you and i as well as everyone else.

Blogs of note
personal Christopher Conlin USMC memoirs of hydrogen guy rhapsodic.org Henriette's Herbal Blog
geek ultramookie

Powered by WordPress
Hosted on Dreamhost.