Share Appreciation [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

“I’ve got an old mule and her name is Sal
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal”

~Low Bridge, Everybody Down, music and lyrics by Thomas Allen, 1913

She’s a donkey, not a mule, yet I couldn’t help but appreciate the collision of power sources present in this photograph. From donkey to solar.

I’ve read that the innovations of the industrial age were meant to spare humans of muscle-toil. If an engine could power it, a human didn’t have to. The innovations of the information age are meant to spare us mental and sense toil: why stress to parallel park your car if the car can do it all by itself? Why add the numbers if the spreadsheet does it for you? Why look up information if Siri or Alexa can bring it to you? What does it now mean to stay in touch? Text and facebook and tweet and email and zoom and facetime and slack and chat and…call.

Oil, coal and gas are the energy systems of the past. They are donkeys and mules standing next to renewable energy sources like wind and power. It takes time for an infrastructure to be built. It takes time for people to wrap their imaginations around a different way. Do you remember the loud resistance in the early days of the credit card proclaiming that plastic would never replace paper money? That was not so long ago. There were similar angry voices declaring the auto-mobile was a flash-in-the-pan. “Nothing will replace the horse!” Our local supermarket just installed banks of electric car charging stations. Energy systems are slowly moving away from grids: the power source and the property will (mostly) be one and the same.

Industries, like people, either adapt or die. Most retail chains that came late to online shopping are going or already gone. Many have said that they didn’t see the change coming. Or that they couldn’t imagine a world in which people bought stuff without first touching it. Cars are in vending machines. Isaac Asimov would have loved it!

Did I mention that the solar panel in the photograph senses and moves with the sun? As it turns out, the donkey does, too. Much for the same reason. Only, for the donkey, the heat of the sun feels good and I doubt the solar panel cares or feels anything. Sensing and feeling are still on opposite sides of the change-line. At least so far. There may come a day in the not-so-distant-future that the donkey and the solar panel share appreciation for the heat of the sun. The donkey will wag its tail. The solar panel will stretch and sigh. The stuff of children’s books or sci-fi. At least for now.

read Kerri’s blog post about DONKEY & SOLAR PANEL

Consider The Donkey [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

What you can’t see are the barriers and signs on either side of the wet cement declaring, “Sidewalk Closed!” I took a break from work, came down the stairs and Kerri said, “Some a**hole just walked across the wet cement.”

When the waterline to the house broke, when the process of fixing it became complex, when the heavy machinery arrived and the crew size doubled, when the guys from the city arrived to observe and inspect, the first thing the big machinery did, before digging the very-deep-moat, was to break out the sidewalk. And then they broke out the sidewalk to the porch. And then they trenched. And then they drilled a hole through the foundation of the house. That’s when the new pipe was installed. Those guys worked into the night. They were stalwart and steady.

The next day dawned and we saw in the light of day the destruction the fix caused.

Our front yard looks like a giant gopher dug a tunnel from the house to the street. We’ve considered finding a giant inflatable gopher but rejected it as “over-the-top.” Sometimes we have standards. A giant gopher is a step too far. The theory beneath the inflatable gopher is sound: if you can’t do anything about it, lean into it. We put a round-a-bout sign in the backyard when it became apparent that our dog was a secret velodrome maker and nothing we could do would stop his capacity to carve circles. It helped that he almost always circles in the same direction so the sign makes some sense. To us.

“We’re those people,” Kerri said, hands on hips, surveying the front yard damage. The grass is gone. Straw and mud are our new normal. “We look like a stable,” she said.

“Maybe this is the moment to get that donkey you’ve always wanted,” I replied. She really does want a donkey but the timing of my suggestion must have been off. She huffed, gave me the evil eye, and went inside. I counted to ten before following. Sometimes my brilliant suggestions take a few moments to penetrate and it’s best if I’m absent during the revelation.

The footprints across the concrete was too much to bear. That little patch of temporary concrete was the only new and unblemished area of the front yard. It’s as if our giant sore thumb had a nice and newly polished nail. The cement-stepper made certain that the destruction was complete: blemish, blemish everywhere. Giant gopher, old (donkey-less) stable, with a touch of marred cement.

The new permanent cement will come in the spring. “We’ll put up better barriers,” I said.

“We’ll sit out there with big sticks and a bad attitude,” Kerri replied.

Our reputation is certain to grow. “We really are those people,” I smiled. The evil eye – twice in a few short minutes – wiped the grin off my face. “I think I’ll go back to work,” I said and headed up the stairs, saying, “Think about the donkey.” Sometimes it takes a few minutes and a little prompting for the brilliant penny to drop.

read Kerri’s blog post about WET CEMENT