Rise of the Machines

Nevermore – Sentient 6:

Demons & Wizards – Terror Train:

Heaven and Hell (Black Sabbath) – Computer God:

Megadeth – Psychotron:

Dethklok – The Cyborg Slayers:

Sepultura – Biotech is Godzilla:

The Hobbit

So, thoughts on The Hobbit beyond simply saying “SWEET MERCIFUL AMAZING CRAP”:

While I haven’t seen any combinations of the other permutations ( 3-D, IMAX, Standard Frame Rate ), the 3-D High Frame Rate looked absolutely spectacular and is worth every penny of the pricier tickets. While I could see some weak spots in the rendering/compositing/whatever here or there, I was overall blown away by the visual presentation.

And while I think +Allen Boudreaux had a legitimate gripe about some of the things that were somewhat mixed around / potentially represented, I’m a Big Picture kind of guy when it comes to adapting stories to film. And I think that the combination of exact quotes / slight story shuffles / new content was great.

And if you were worried that the movie would have the darker, more serious overtones of LotR, don’t be. We laughed. A lot. Peter Jackson and company really caught the fun and adventure of the story.

Also: Gollum. Just Gollum. Wow. The Gollum now and the Gollum then is like comparing Halo 4 to the original Halo. Jaw-dropping good.

At this rate, we’re going to have ~9 hours spread over three movies of The Hobbit in the theater, and I am absolutely thrilled.

I can’t wait to go and see it again.

x-posted from G+

Here Comes the Sun, do do do dooo

One thing I’ve been working on at home is making it cheaper to live. We’re in the last part of a refinance (the mortgage will be going down $300/month!!), and the weather is cooling drastically – which means tracking down drafts. Winter (or, non-Summer, really) also means spending quality time in the attic, finishing the radiant barrier install and rolling out insulation.

As with most things, you have to spend money to save money, which is why we just did a solar panel installation with Joule Energy! They listened to what I wanted, what I didn’t want, and presented me with a few build options. They handled all my applications: City of N.O., Historical Districts & Landmarks Committee, inspections, and Entergy. Not having to deal with all that really made this process a breeze. They also have a pretty dynamite referral program, so if you do drop them a line, please tell them Will T. sent you!

I was thinking about breaking this up into three pieces: planning, funding, and installation. Instead of creating a few things to link to, I though it would be better to just have it all in one big post. So here we go.

Planning

A big factor of this whole process was the size of my array. My house is pretty long (~120ft), and runs East-West. Plenty of South-facing roof to harvest energy, which really expands my options regarding placement and overall array size. Space isn’t really an issue for me, but may be for others.

The first thing I looked at was my power bill – it really is more informative than you think. Also as a sort of a disclaimer: the months on Entergy bills are shifted one month. Anything that says November is really October. They mail the bill for October usage in November, so they label it the November bill. It doesn’t really change much, just if you want to line things up properly, you have to shift everything.

Below is my actual (but scrubbed of individual data) power bill from the other day – the “November” bill that is October data.

Entergy 2012-10

When I was originally looking into this, I was looking at costs to build out a system that would cover my peak summer usage. But after looking at those huge costs, I remembered I was not trying to get off the grid, and therefore took a second look at my more average months. Our off-peak average monthly usage is at most in the 600-650kWh range – less than half of our peak usage.

I ended up settling at an 800kWh/month (7.2kW) system (the red line in the image above). We’d over-produce for ~2/3 of the year, and the other peak bills would be at least half of their usual size. A fine compromise, especially since we’re feeding the grid.

Even with our recent week-long power outage from Hurricane Isaac, I felt that feeding the grid (aka net-metering) was the better way to go. No batteries (less cost, maintenance), no segregating breakers to be solar-only, no energy rationing, just an overall simpler system. In the event of another major strike to the grid, I’d be powerless along with my neighbors, but a small natural-gas powered generator will cover me. I wasn’t looking to go off the grid, so therefore I don’t need to lower my consumption by rationing or come up with a higher generating solar array.

Funding

This can be a tricky part, but I think I’ve worked it out as well as I can. Now again, we have a relatively large array – the total cost of parts and labor rolls in at – wait for it – $50,000.

Yeah.

But before you run away screaming, hear me out. In the state of Louisiana, you can get 80% of the system back in tax credits. The Feds will give you back 30%, while Louisiana will cover 50%! But, both handle the tax credits differently. While Louisiana will write you a check after refunding your taxes, the Feds will not. They’ll just refund the taxes you pay until the credit pool is gone.

This makes things potentially a little tricky. Joule partners with a company called EnerBank that provides loans for these sorts of things up to $45,000 with a one-year, 0% interest / same as cash setup. This gives you plenty of time to get your taxes credited – and you’ll want to get that handled, too – after one year the interest rate is something like 17%.

I’m currently paying down the loan, trying to get it as low as possible during the 0% interest time period. When that’s up, I’ll put the remaining amount on our home equity line of credit and a MUCH lower interest rate.

Since my total system size exceeded the max loan amount, I also needed to come up with $5k. We’ve been going through a house re-fi, and I also needed a bunch of cash for that as well – didn’t want to roll those costs into the loan. What I was able to do though to not stress about the money was to borrow against my 401(k) from work. I was able to pull out enough cash from that to cover all these expenses, and here’s the best part: since I’m borrowing from my savings, I pay myself back. With interest. Take a look at your 401(k) plan if you have one to see if you have this option. The interest on the loan is only 4%, the payments are relatively small, it’ll be paid off in 5 years, and most importantly, ALL of it goes to my retirement plan.

While doing research, I came across this little tidbit: while this array counts as an improvement and raises the value of my house, the Orleans Parish Assessor is not allowed to tax me on the improvements! Neat!

Also, based on target energy production, my portion of the system will pay for itself in lower Entergy bills in about 6.5 years.

Now, our situation will different from everyone else’s, so you may not have these options. This is just how I was able to make this happen.

Installation

Layout:

Solar Layout

2nd Floor, from a few houses down:

New 2nd Floor Solar Panels!

1st floor (not visible from street):

New 1st Floor Solar Panels!

Rear Array - from the neighbor's roof

Yesterday, I got the login info to the monitoring webapp (there’s also Android and iOS apps). I didn’t hear about Entergy coming around to swap out my meter, but the data looked live. I went outside to take a look at my meter, and the dial was spinning, and far too quickly for the miniscule amount of juice I knew my house was using at that moment. After looking at the direction it was spinning (right-to-left), and comparing it to a neighbor’s meter (left-to-right), I realized it was indeed running backwards! Huzzah!

 

And the webapp, showing live data! Break it out of frames here: Power Monitor.

Looking at my bill for the last two (actual) Novembers, my average daily usage is about 17kWh. Currently, I’m generating on average 38kWh. Hooray, math.

Also, I have both installed radiant barrier in my attics and helped install it in friends’ attics, and noticed a huge difference in attic temperature, which directly and vastly affects the ambient temperature of the rooms beloew it, and the resulting A/C usage. Since these cover the roof, I’d imagine they’ll also provide a similar effect in reducing the temperature of the attic because that portion of the roof isn’t exposed to the heat of the sun.

And again, Joule has a pretty good referral program, so if you drop them a line, tell ’em Will T. sent ya.

This is L.A., Not LA (Part 1)

This past (extended) weekend, Bea and I along with Allen and Em headed to Los Angeles for our friend Melinda’s wedding. While I was looking forward to a little vacation and seeing Melinda, I honestly wasn’t super excited to visit L.A. I was told that I most likely wouldn’t like it.

If you’ve met me, this would be obvious. But, a vacation was needed and Melinda came to both of our weddings, so we tripped on. And, I’m glad we did. I had a wonderful time in L.A.

After sorting out airline issues and having a few beers at MSY, we were on our way. But, it wasn’t long until disaster struck at the plane-change at Denver – Bea left her iPad on the first plane. :( Sadly, it is still M.I.A. We got into L.A. late, made it to our hotel on Redondo Beach (they messed up our reservations), and crashed.

Friday, we went exploring.

At my friend Tara’s suggestion (an L.A. native), we headed over to the Griffith Observatory, because science is cool. And let me tell you, if you go to Los Angeles, you MUST go to the observatory. So neat.

Eclipse of the Six
The Great Six: Copernicus, Galileo, Herschel, Hipparchus, Kepler, Newton. This monument also doubles as a geocache.
The Great Six
Outside the entrance of the observatory is a presumably mostly accurate to-scale model of our solar system embedded in the concrete. I’m going to assume this is the most photographed orbit:
Orbit of Uranus. Shutup, Beavis.
We were pleasantly surprised when we turned around to see the HOLLYWOOD sign – there’s apparently a nice but long-ish hiking path to it from the observatory:
HOLLYWOOD
Art deco. Art deco everywhere! (not complaining)
Griffith Observatory
There was a really neat (and large) Tesla coil inside that they fired up for us!Tesla Coil
In action:

Afterwards, we ate at the iconic (and overall ok, but not great) In-n-Out Burger on Sunset Blvd. Cheeseburger, “Animal style”. Not bad.

Before meeting up with some awesome friends of Allen n Em’s, they got to buy crack toys at Kid Robot. Seriously, they were like kids in a candy store. Or toy store. Shutup.

We had some coffee with their friends, and decided to go get dinner & drinks at Beer Belly, a sort of gastropub in Koreatown. The beer was great, the food delicious, and we were filmed for the Food or Travel channel show on fried foods. Allen remarked that we were in town from New Orleans for a wedding, and how funny it is that he flew ~2k miles to eat fried catfish. I hope it makes it onto the show.

After a while, we headed back to the hotel, and cracked a bottle of wine or two. Allen and I had a micro Pipe Clubâ„¢ while the ladies did nails.

More on the wedding and the day after soon.

So long, and thanks for all the pies

Around five o’clock this morning, Bea woke me up.

“What is that noise outside?”

“Sounds like a trash truck. It’s Friday, SDT picks up on Fridays.”

“It smells like smoke.”

“I don’t smell anything.”

“It smells like smoke.”

“Well dear, then go on the balcony and go look.”

“OH. MY. GOD. HUBIG’S IS ON FIRE!”

The view from our balcony (Hubig’s is right behind the house across the street):

 

Hubig's Pies on Fire

The aftermath:

So Long Hubig's, and Thanks for All the Pies

As delicious as they are, I usually try to not eat their pies in light of the “Battle of the Bulge”, but I do walk my dogs by them every morning, saying hi to the morning crew as I pass.

I wish we still had one or two of the pies we had custom printed for the wedding in the freezer.

Also, kudos to the NOFD for keeping the houses surrounding this five-alarm fire (some as close as 3 feet) basically unscathed. NOPD was on the scene very early as well, waking up the surrounding neighbors and making sure everyone was aware of the situation.

So long, Hubig’s.

Avenge!

Going to have dinner at 9 Roses, and then catch a viewing of The Avengers in all 3 Ds! Excited!

So, I went through my library and whipped up a playlist of songs to represent this batch of Avengers in song name, or as close to it as I could get:

 

 

And I have to say that the first time I heard the above cover of Iron Man, I thought it was pure sacrilege. But, it grew on me. Hard.
I also think their cover of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is neat.

In the Game of Cakes, You Bake or you Die

Last night, Bea was baking what I’m sure will promise to be a wonderfully delicious chocolate Guinness cake. I was ready to go to sleep, but it still needed some somewhat-time-sensitive tending to.

So, she said “If you don’t mind I’m going to catch up on watching Game of Thrones while waiting for the cake.”

No dear, of course I don’t mind. If I wasn’t tired and hadn’t already watched S02E01 twice and S02E02 once in the past week, I’d most certainly join you.

In related news, happy birthday to me (and Mikey, and Andre’s daughters) and my new favorite animated gif: