Daily Archives: October 13, 2009

My dad is cool

And once again I am eschewing actually writing a blog post myself in favor of printing or linking to someone else’s words…but this time I think it’s in an honorable cause (plus my ranting post about the “obese” and exclusively breastfed four-month-old infant denied health coverage because he’s too fat is not done yet).  Below is an essay my dad is sending to the local paper in Maine where he lives…Honestly, though it probably should have, connecting the mandated digital broadcasting switch to huge additional amounts of garbage generated due to now useless tv sets just didn’t happen in my brain until I read this. (After all, the Government promised that converting your old tv would be really easy, right? I believed them, naive child that I was with my fairly new–i.e. only 10 years old–tv set.)



          Several weeks ago, I volunteered to help out the local government in a collection of hazardous waste from the citizenry. This Saturday morning event took place in the parking lot by the Tremont town office. My job was simply to direct the entering traffic and to inquire as to what the people were bringing in to add to the collection.  It soon became apparent that most were bringing in their old TV sets. Literally, hundreds of them arrived; eventually to be sent somewhere in the US for recycling.

          I was wondering why so many people were now tossing out their TV sets, when I slowly recalled the problems we had been having with our own old TV sets, thanks to the US government’s recent mandate to switch from analog to all -digital TV transmission. At home, I had 3 perfectly good, small TV sets that were now unable to receive anything except the dust gradually accumulating on their surfaces. Following the government’s suggestion, last May, my wife and I had purchased and installed the mysterious and costly converter boxes, and new antennas.  The resulting picture quality was no better than before, and, in fact was worse; i.e. we now could not get any channels. We tried moving the new rabbit ears antenna, finally hanging it up side down awkwardly above a second story window, which pointed in the general direction of Bangor. The picture on the TV monitor now looked sort of like what you see when you are looking through the window of your laundry tub in action. Not only could we not get any picture on any channel, the audio reception developed aphasia, with the speech broken into odd, disconnected fragments. How many other people across the nation were going through this same frustration?  The cable TV and the satellite TV companies must have rejoiced in a bonanza of new customers. I am still wondering why our federal government did this to us.

          My next complaint has to do with our fuel supply, especially as it applies to marine engines. The state of Maine, responding to another recent federal mandate, now requires that all gasoline sold must contain at least 10% ethanol, a.k.a. ethyl alcohol or E-10. The only exception allowed is aviation gas, which is exempt, understandably, since if your airplane engine stops running at 5,000 feet, you could have major problems. In my case, the outboard motor on my 17-foot boat quit running, or would not start, several times this past summer. On one of the occasions, I thought I might have to spend the night on board, while tied up to the dock on Islesford. I finally got it started and limped back to my home port in Somes Harbor. Conversations later with Paul Bowden at his boatyard assured me that mine was not a unique case and that the majority of his trouble calls from customers this summer had to do with fuel problems. It seems that a mixture of 10% ethyl alcohol in gasoline attracts water much like a magnet attracts iron filings.  This denser mix then settles to the bottom of the gas tank, and when sucked into the engine’s combustion chamber will not burn. Result: the engine will either not start or quits running, leaving the boater stranded.

          Now why would my government mandate something that now makes every boat trip I make so suspenseful? A hint: Probably has to do with giving the corn growers in Iowa (ethyl alcohol can be made from corn) a guaranteed larger market and lessens somewhat our dependence on foreign oil.

          This summer, I have begun to feel a lot like the little man in the Li’l Abner cartoon strip, Joe Btfsplk, who always walked around under a dark rainy cloud. I also bought a new Saturn car this summer.


C.H. Breedlove

Hall Quarry, ME