Tag Archives: Snow

Winter Solar Power Sucks

I’ve been charging my vape, my phone, and my computer using solar power for nearly a half year. It’s pointless for saving money because running these things only costs a few dollars, if that, over the year, but it’s fun to know that your phone, the thing that you carry around with you at all time, the little mini-computer in your pocket that can do anything, the games you play, and all the fancy stock-trading, money-making, email-checking, and social-media-browsing modern Swiss Army Knife of everything is being powered by the sun. Not powered by the sun in an abstract manner either (plants photosynthesizing millions of years ago, decomposing, turning to coal, being mined and burned, the heat flashing water into steam to turn a turbine to move electrons into your home via wires and transformers, to rearrange some chemicals in a lithium-ion battery) but directly. I’ve always wondered how people can be against solar power for this reason alone: it’s so damn simple and beautiful. The sun shines and makes electricity. Why complicate it?

Everyone not on the equator is well aware that the days are shorter in the winter due to the Earth’s axial tilt of roughly 23 degrees. In the summer the Earth is tilted towards the sun, and as you rotate around on a higher latitude, you get more sunlight. The opposite is true in the winter. Here in Northern Illinois (and for everyone around 45 degrees latitude; I also feel sorry for Europeans and Canadians being even higher up) we get about eight hours of good sunlight in the winter. Compare this to our summer daylight length of 15 hours; there’s twice the amount of daytime in the summer compared to the winter!

A nice graphical depiction of these Dark Days. The discontinuities in March and November are daylight savings time. Go check out your own day/night/twilight length!

This sounds stupid, but I didn’t think winter would cause my two solar panels much difficulty. Since we’re not using the lawnmower anymore (you don’t need to mow the snow) I took the battery and hooked it up to the solar panels. I currently have five batteries storing the solar power and that should be plenty right? Six hours of direct sunlight can charge those bad boys up and I can charge my toys off that the rest of the day.

Two of the five batteries…

It doesn’t work that way when it’s cloudy for two weeks straight. I’ve never paid attention to how cloudy it usually is in the winter, especially when those clear and cold winter days are so vivid in my mind, but apparently it’s cloudy a lot. And when you get only a few hours to make power, the clouds really do fuck you over in a way that they don’t in the summer. The summer months always have dramatic and quickly changing weather, sun for half the day, hellish storms in the evening, and then a bit more sun right before sunset. Now, in January? Clouds all day, every day. Boring grey clouds that hang overhead like a depressing blanket and refuse to leave for literal weeks.

The sun was out a few days ago, but that was only enough to kick the batteries up from 11.8 Volts to 12.1. As soon as I’d plug my phone in the voltage would drop to 11.5 and not wanting to damage the batteries had no choice but to charge my phone via natural gas/nuclear electricity from the boring wall outlet. The streak was broken, and my phone, computer, and vape are now methane/uranium powered like everything else around here.

The clouds aren’t the only issue. It sometimes snows in winter (big surprise there huh?) and snow does a great job blocking the sun. While the clouds are an ever present and annoying problem there isn’t much I can do about them except wait. Snow is a problem I have to actually deal with. Weeks ago we had some shitty ice/snow storm and the next day I found my panels iced and snowed over. Using my Amazon Prime credit card (which is made out of metal, 5% cash back at Amazon by the way!) I scrapped the snow off so they could make power when the sun eventually came out. The sun never came out and it snowed two days later. I walked out, brushed them off, and waited for the sun which never came. And then it snowed about a week after that. I walked out, brushed them off, and waited for the sun. It snowed yesterday and I haven’t even went out to brush them off because the sun isn’t going to come out ever again.

I guess the snow melted…

Remember how I said that I don’t understand why people don’t like renewable energy because it’s so damn beautiful and simple? It’s not. Solar is fucking great and I love it, but during these shitty dark, cloudy, and snowy winter months it’s not ideal. Solar always relies on good energy storage and apparently five fucking massive lead-acid batteries can’t store enough power to survive the winter. I could always add more batteries, but at $50-100 per battery do I really want to spend the money to charge my phone? Naw. I’ll just wait I guess. The sun can’t stay hidden forever.

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Halloween Sucks

No one probably noticed much, but I’ve been in a pretty bad patch for the past week. I feel fantastic now, truly, and I’m left looking backwards wondering what my problem was in the first place. This was kinda evident if you care to read my last post about getting help (a sort of post-breakdown pick-myself-back-up post) and a post before that one about lacking self-esteem. Anyways, since I’ve slacked for a week and with Halloween quickly approaching I found myself not feeling motivated to do another “X Holiday Sucks” posts because no one seems to care about them anyways. But in a mild bout of procrastination panic I’ve decided to totally lay into the bullshit that is Halloween. Obviously, the best time to write/post this was yesterday (the 30th) but better late than never, right?

Another Damn Holiday

I always try to find reasons for why certain holidays suck, but let’s face it, I just don’t like holidays. At all. Period. This is how I am with any sort of “traditional” thing be it birthdays, weddings, baby showers, anniversaries, holidays, New Years, etc. I’ve always had an issue with doing things just because “that’s how they’ve always been done” and if holidays aren’t the epitome of that then I don’t know what is. Halloween is no different and while I don’t give a damn to read up on the history and reasons behind Halloween (and you shouldn’t need a holiday back story to understand or complain about it anyways), it being the day where, for some reason, kids dress up in costumes, go to strangers’ houses and get free candy just because it’s October 31st seems very hilarious and strange.

You do have to give Halloween credit for being a batshit insane holiday though. Christmas and Thanksgiving have this bullshit somberness to them which isn’t helped by them being in the shittiest time of the year for us Northern Hemisphere bros. You just can’t joke about Christmas. It’s too serious. Remember, Christmas is the holiday where people get upset upon hearing “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” because of some vague idea that a war on Christianity is occurring. Or that our society has become to politically correct. Whatever your stance on this stupid fucking issue you hold, you have to admit that Halloween is a pretty fun, random, insane holiday that doesn’t make much sense. No one is anti-Halloween. Everyone seems to be on board the Halloween Train. Even I am mostly indifferent to it (contrasting with my hatred of Thanksgiving and Christmas). At least it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Halloween Stores

In the past decade there has been this fascinating phenomena which is The Halloween Store. You might know what I’m talking about. Every September/October random Halloween shops appear inhabiting the corpses of decrepit and abandoned retail stores. Since Amazon and internet shopping in general have murdered retail stores in strip malls all around America there is a multitude of hollow shells for these Halloween stores to inhabit. It’s kinda fitting in a way with Halloween stores possessing the corpses of these long-deceased storefronts.

Do these companies really hibernate for 10 months of the year? What do they do in that time? Do they do anything? Why don’t they branch off into general holiday stores? Why doesn’t any other holiday have random shops that appear for a few months of the year? There are businesses that sell fireworks primarily for Independence Day, but those are year-round stores, aren’t they? Why aren’t there Christmas Holiday Stores? Easter Stores? Thanksgiving Stores? No, there are only Halloween Stores. And like some possessive demon they only appear to inhabit the corpses of the fallen retail shells for a few months of the year returning to the nether for the rest of the time.

Pumpkin Carving?

Once again not researching a damn thing, let’s give a big shout out to whatever pumpkin carving is. You have to admit that taking a giant, orange, seasonal gourd and gouging out its interior so you can carve a face on it is badass. It is the quintessential Halloween thing to do. The only thing that really compares to pumpkin carving is the Christmas Holiday tree, because hauling a fucking evergreen tree inside your house to put lights on it is pretty strange, especially when you realize that it’s kinda dangerous with a real tree and incandescent bulbs, but the viseralness of carving a pumpkin takes the cake pumpkin pie. I mean I have nothing against carving pumpkins and admire it in a way; pumpkin carving is an art form all on its own and gives you tons more possibilities for self-expression than decorating a Christmas Holiday tree does, but damn is it a strange thing to do.

Fucking Trunk-or-Treats are Bullshit

I love the communal aspect of trick-or-treating. Love it. At no other time do people actually visit random strangers’ homes or ring their neighbor’s doorbell. It’s like a holiday of community in a way while most other holidays emphasize family. Independence day is kinda similar as we can all gather and watch shit explode in the sky, but this celebrates the community of America and not your immediate neighborhood. Trick-or-treating is so strange in our society. We stress wariness of strangers: Halloween says take their candy and eat it. Ring their doorbells. Fuck it. We stress being wary of people who hide their identity: open the door for those masked people and toss Snicker bars at them! Political divides fall to the wayside because even the dipshit Trump supporters give out candy just like everyone else. If there’s one thing everyone agrees on it’s that candy is fun and tasty. It unites us all.

But then there’s this thing called trunk-or-treating that seems to be gaining popularity. And I despise it. It seems to take anything that is special about Halloween and dumbs it down to its most basic and meaningless level. Instead of walking around a neighborhood you walk around a parking lot. Instead of going on an adventure to find candy you walk from car to car. Instead of seeing the unique decorations that people display in their yards, well, you can see everyone’s unique interpretation on The Stick Figure Family slapped to the rear window of their gas-guzzling SUV. Halloween becomes not about the adventure of trick-or-treating but about maximizing the candy/time ratio which is best achieved in a densely packed parking lot of vehicles. If you’re going to do that, just buy your own candy and eat it because you’re taking all the fun out of Halloween. Making it a shell of its former self. A fucking mockery of it. Trunk-or-treating seems like such an American idea that it disgusts me: Parking lots. Minimal walking. Candy. SUVs. Convenience. Safety. Practicality. America already seems to have a problem with kinship and community and trunk-or-treats seem to be another way to make the problem even worse by removing everything about Halloween that makes it special.

Snow? Huh?

To close out this post, check out this picture:

I took this picture about twenty minutes ago. I’m not sure if you guys know the typical weather of Northern Illinois around Halloween, but this isn’t it. It isn’t typical by a long shot. Usually Halloween is your typical fall weather with temperatures in the 50s or 40s and maybe some clouds and rain. It’s strange because I used to bitch that it always seemed to be cold and rainy on Halloween, but I suppose I can’t whine about that too much now, can I? This picture is self-explanatory: snow before and on Halloween, the prospect of trick-or-treating with temperature in the 20s, stomping through inches of snow, wind chills possibly in the teens, and it isn’t going to be a fun day at all. While snow on Halloween isn’t a thing to bitch about Halloween for, it sure isn’t going to make the day any more enjoyable.

Snow in April…

It was around 50 degrees here in Northern Illinois about a month ago. It was a sure sign that spring was upon us and I was even able to get out and enjoy a bike ride and a run or two. It was what my sickly, atrophied, SADdened, and vitamin-D deficient self needed: some nice weather where I could be outside enjoy life again. That apparently wasn’t to be because despite being about two weeks into official spring it’s still cold as fuck outside. It’s actually been cold as fuck ever since spring started! Making things even worse, we got snow today! It wasn’t the snow that flurries a bit and then instantly melts once it touches anything either. No, it was snow that actually sticks to the ground. We got a damn inch or so of the stuff. You know, the snow where you have to clean your car off, and where the roads need to be salted, and where people forgot to drive, and where all the flowers coming up in the yard are having a shitty time.

I’d also like to point out that it is April in case you weren’t aware. April 4th to be exact. As stated, the Earth’s northern hemisphere is now tilted back towards the sun and should be getting much more sunlight and heat than it was a few months ago when daylight was non-existent. I’m to the point where I almost forgot how far into the year it was; it gets cold in November and stays cold until it isn’t cold anymore. That’s when you think “Oh shit, it’s spring again!” Not this time. This year I’ve noticed the date on my phone — April 4th — as I looked up and seen that snow was coming down. Seriously? April fucking 4th. Indepence day is 3 months away and we’re getting snow? Come the fuck on.


At least the everyone’s having a shitty time…

But we’ve had snow in April before, I’m sure of that. I recall my grandmother saying that we can have snow as late as May, and while I don’t doubt that I’m sure it is a rare thing indeed. I wouldn’t be too upset by snow in May because it would probably be pretty warm beforehand. You know snow in May is sort of a joke that isn’t to be taken seriously because it’s May. Go ahead Old-Man Winter, have one more go at it. It’s May and in a few days it’ll be 60 so who gives a shit about your snow. Snow in April is just fucking stupid though. It’s not special enough to be amazed at but it’s special enough to be a rare pain in the ass. Snow in January is typical, snow in June would be unique and something to remember, while snow in April is a fucking piece of shit.

A few years ago I was running everyday. Even in the middle of winter I’d run at least a mile. At least a mile. Obviously once it was warmer I’d run farther. In 2015 I was doing 6-8 miles by April meaning it wasn’t cold and snowing, and in 2016 I was doing 6-9 miles by April which also meant it wasn’t fucking cold and snowing, and in 2017 I had quit running so whatever. My point here is that in the past three years I was out enjoying the beautiful springtime weather well before April 4th. Thanks 2018.

I can wait, sure, but since it’s been cold for so long it’s getting to where I need it to be nice outside so my mental health can improve. I don’t see how anyone lives further north than 30 or 35 degree latitude enjoyably because it seems so unnatural. Humans need to see the sun, be outdoors, and enjoy nature. Sitting inside for months upon months because you could get hypothermia and die outdoors is brutal and the longer it takes it to be nice outside the worse it is. Maybe it’s just me and others love the winter and the cold, but fuck, it sure isn’t me. I can’t wait to get outside and run, bike ride, or just be outside when it isn’t cold. Snow in April Sucks.

Snowblowing (and Shoveling) Sucks

I live in Illinois and we recently had a moderately bad snow storm. It wasn’t really bad because we didn’t get two feet of snow but it was still enough snow to force you to shovel the driveway. After a certain amount of snow you just can’t reliably leave your driveway or alleyway without being stuck. And one thing that sucks more than shoveling or snowblowing is when you don’t shovel or snow blow and you get stuck in your yard. Then you have to fuck around with a shovel, bags of salt or sand, and dig your car out of whatever the fuck you got stuck in. Sometimes it’s easier to just shovel the shit than risk being stuck. That’s the kind of snow we just had.

We also live down an extended driveway/alleyway (we’re not sure what it officially is to the county) that is about 100 or 200 feet long. It’s long enough that I haven’t tried to measure the damn thing so I guessed at the distance. It’s a long way though. It’s also roughly 10 feet wide so that’s about 1,000-2,000 square feet of area that has to be shoveled. That’s a lot of shoveling.

Shoveling Sucks. It hurts your back, it’s slow, and more importantly you have to do it so you can get your vehicle to actually be able to be used. If you have money you can pay some punk-ass teenager to shovel it, or if you have even more money you can pay some guy (who will price gouge you) to plow it with his truck. But if you’re poor, well, say goodbye to your back because you’re clearing it with a shovel. Better go find yourself some Tylenol and/or Vicodins.

I used to hold snowblowing as the golden way of removing snow. That was partly because I’d have to shovel all the time and we didn’t have a snowblower. Thankfully, my dad brought over his snowblower so we could clear our driveway. I was pretty excited to not have to shovel because snowblowing is better. Right?

No, because Everything Sucks. Snowblowing is cool and all but it has its some fucking downsides. By not busting your back shoveling you gain a bunch of other downsides that are nearly as bad. Firstly, his snowblower was rather tiny and only cleared about a foot and a half wide path of snow. Doing the entire driveway took some time. In deep snow it would also shit out and die where you’d have to restart it with the pull cord. That happened about ten times.

Secondly, my god those things throw snow in a reckless manner. Shoveling allows you to put snow exactly where you want it but snowblowing just blows it wherever the fuck it wants to. We had our garage door opened and despite not trying to blow the snow inside it did it anyways. (I had to shovel it clear so the door would close.) You’d end up blowing snow where you already cleared. You’d blow snow on the porch, the walkway you just cleared, onto the vehicles, and even on the doors and windows of the house. The wind wouldn’t help matters either by blowing a cloud of cold, powdery, and wet snow all over your coat and into your face. Winter is usually a cold season so snow on your face is never enjoyable.

It’s also hard to do a good job when snowblowing. I either seemed to leave a few inches of snow underneath me or end up scrapping the hell out of our gravel driveway and tossing rocks everywhere. That really is a problem especially when you consider snow (and possibly gravel) is going everywhere like I said before. There was a small but non-zero chance of tossing a piece of gravel or a rock into a car window/house window and doing damage. And what if some poor fucker was walking down the street at the exact wrong time? That’d fucking hurt.

Oh yeah, it was also a two-cycle engine meaning I smelled like gasoline and oil afterwards. Time to wash my coat…

In the end it did it’s job admirably: it moved a fuck-ton of snow quickly and in a relatively easy manner. But don’t expect a snowblower to do a “good job” especially in areas you want really clean. I still had to get shovel the stairs and the porch and around the cars where the blower left an inch or two of snow that it just couldn’t seem to violently toss onto the side of the house. It wasn’t hard work, shoveling the remainder that is, but I originally thought snowblowing was an end-all to shoveling. It’s simple: if you snowblow you don’t shovel. And if you shovel you don’t snowblow because you don’t fucking own one. I was wrong. Apparently they’re complimentary and both of them suck in equally annoying ways.

Maybe I should move where there is no snow? Maybe that wouldn’t Suck. But it probably would.