Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Is There No Free Rice?

A reader asks:

You should blog about this. Why do they work? DO they work? How do they work, are they run on ads?

I hate them and love them. Not like my 400 grains of rice will feed even a single person. It's kind of insulting. But it's fun to do, too.

My reply:

The vocabulary game is fun.
I agree in giving food to the hungry.
You give 20 grains of rice per round of the game.
There are 29,000 grains of rice per pound.
That means 1,450 rounds of the rice vocabulary game per pound of rice.
A pound of rice probably costs about $1 a pound. This is probably actually be lower, since large rice purchases for humanitarian reasons is made by the ton.
There are ads on that game, but they only get real money if you click-through.
If people click-through one percent of the time, then they perhaps get 10 cents per click-through or 14 click-throughs per pound of rice.
14 times 10 cents is $1.40 which is more than the cost of a pound of rice.

So, it is possible for someone to pay for the rice and maybe even make a little money at the same time.
The rice for the poor is supposed to be guaranteed, but the ad revenue is not, since someone has to click on the ads.
So if I were to guess, the owner of this site is either giving all the ad revenue to the rice people or perhaps a portion like 75 percent.

My conclusion is if you like the game and want to work on your vocabulary, then go ahead and use without feeling guilty.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Nature Sightings

We are blessed with our new home to have it located adjacent to 600 acres of protected woodlands.

As such we do get wildlife. This includes: mice, usually found dead - smushed or rotted; bear, visiting as they do, rather oblivious to this whole "people" thing; snakes, along the driveway; chipmunks everywhere; and birds, at the feeder, under the feeder, nearby looking hopefully at the feeder with squirrels not far behind. Of course many of the animals like the snakes, bears, and chipmunks have disappeared for the season.

We've been seeing deer tracks around the house, because the snow leaves a perfect surface to tell who's been coming by. Back in November our neighbor told us how some deer were in their front yard playing tag with their bird-eating cat. It was only recently that we have actually seen deer on the property. About three weeks ago, some house guests noticed deer right out our kitchen window. I guess we needed new eyes to scope them out. There were three of them. Only a few days later, I saw another one taking its time munching on bark in the woods. I snapped a quick photo where you can just make it out.

Then last week, Sasha noticed a woodpecker and alerted me while I was in the shower. I had seen a Downy Woodpecker at the feeder once, so I was not in much of a hurry to see this one myself. When I finally saw it a few minutes later, I was awestruck. This was a male Pileated Woodpecker which is about 19 inches tall. That's huge. That's about the height of a newborn baby - up to your knee. We're talking Woody Woodpecker with the red head. It wasn't at the feeder, it was making it's own feeder out of an oak in the yard. After a while, it threw up it's wings like a costumed caped super-hero and peeled off into the woods skipping from tree to tree.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Beware The Roof Glacier

We had record snowfall in December. For the most part our new home behaved as it should. I "plowed" the snow a few times both during and after each storm with the new Toro electric snow blower I picked up. I was a bit embarrassed about buying an electric snowblower for two reasons. Firstly, it means that I have given up using a shovel to clear the driveway. Lastly, few people around here would dare use an electric outdoor appliance. In these parts you either have someone plow you out regularly with a truck or you use a huge gas-powered snowblower. Now those two methods do work better, but the first one costs you per visit. The December storms would have already set me back about 2/3rds the cost of the Toro. A gas blower costs you quite a bit to buy and maintain. Even though it's mostly made of plastic, I chose the simple plug-in route, which for this model Consumer Reports says is OK, but not the best method if say you wanted to propel snow, ice, sticks, and rubble more than 50 feet in one fell swoop. An electric is much greener to run and does require zero maintenance, unlike a big gas guzzler. It seems to work, but there is a chance I'll have trouble if we get some heavy super slushy stuff, which admitably no snow-blower will like, followed by a temperature drop... or if I run over the cord. Whooops. Zzzzt.

As you may know, this winter we had at least two huge snow storms, a few large and a few small ones. We did not have any long periods of melt, so that snow piled up. Especially on one part of our roof which is flatter and smoother and actually colder (that's another story) than the rest. So it was about two weeks ago, that I noticed that the 18 inches of compacted snow and ice (from our almost 30 inch total snowfall) on that roof has started to move south.

What I mean is that all that frozen stuff on that rather shallow sloped membrane roof was moving. It was sliding off the roof. And since the gutter was filled with ice, it was even taking some of the gutter with it.

That veritable guillotine of a glacier was sitting up there. Hundreds of pounds precipitously positioned to imperil people. I warned my immediates to stay away and instructed them on how to safely peek up at it from under the screen porch.

They have these things up here called "ice dams". They are different, but interesting and troublesome nonetheless. If you have an ice dam, then you have a ridge of ice on the lower part of your roof just before the edge. Basically your roof is not well insulated, so the snow on top of the roof above your living area melts, while the water which runs off along the edge of your roof just over the eaves freezes. You get a build-up of ice around the edges until it blocks any melting water. Now you have an ice dam. It's a pool of water on your roof. It can leak into your house or if it gets even colder it can freeze and mess with your roof tiles. Good thing I just have my roof glacier to deal with.

Another day went by and, as you can see, the roof glacier was now projecting about 3 1/2 feet out from the house. Icicles are supposed to dangle and glint and grow as they melt and freeze, but this was instead one slowly moving sturdy yet dangerous heavy shelf of ice. But it was very cold out, so it clearly wasn't going anywhere fast.

Two days ago we started to have our recent bout of mysterious Spring weather and a big thaw. In the middle of the day I heard a huge crashing, whomping sound from the yard when the whole thing fell off leaving a pile of snow and broken ice. An hour later, another 2 foot glacier was back - apparently slid down the roof - to take the place of the first. It too fell and again and again until now the roof is mostly clear. What remains is a bit of ice and a bent gutter.