Tuesday, June 30, 2009

SmartSun, StupidLaw

Looking through Home Depot last night, I saw that Andersen is now advertising Low-E4 SmartSun glass as the way to qualify for the 30% federal tax credit on energy efficiency improvements like replacement windows. See, the new IRS rules (as of June 1) require that the Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) on windows be 0.30 or less, even though that’s backwards for an area that actually has a winter (such as, say, the entire northern United States). Andersen’s regular Low-E4 glass in the windows we’re planning on has an SHGC of 0.31, so it doesn’t qualify. To get 30% back from the federal government, we have to buy windows designed for use in Arizona.

Andersen touts that the SmartSun glass blocks 95% of UV rays, which sounds much more impressive if you don’t know that their regular Low-E4 glass blocks 84% of UV rays. And the SmartSun glass only transmits 7% less light than the Low-E4 glass, unless you think that going from 72% light transmission to 65% light transmission is more like a 10% reduction. (Aren’t numbers fun?) But the real silliness is that it’s far more energy efficient in the northern US to promote solar heat gain during the relatively long winter heating season, and use deciduous trees to reduce solar heat gain during the relatively short summer cooling season. The Efficient Windows Collaborative shows that choosing windows with a significantly lower SHGC and comparable other specs can raise your total energy bill by 5% or more in Boston. EnergyStar has been scrambling to reconcile their rules with the new tax credit rules, since EnergyStar has had a regional approach to certifying windows that takes into account differences in regional climate.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Photo by Michael

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Photo by Michael

Ducks, ducklings, and tribbles

Photo by Michael

Lobster boats at dusk

Photo by Michael


Photo by Michael

Monday, June 15, 2009

Great blue heron

Photo by Michael

Photo by Michael

Going my own way

Photo by Michael

Rock climbing

Photo by Michael, rock by Lisa

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Always stop to smell the lilacs

From one of the hundreds of lilacs at the Arnold Arboretum in bloom last month:

Photo by Michael

Do you see what I see?

Since I just posted several photos that have intense colors, this seems like a good time to mention that your web browser might be able to display colors in photos better than it currently does. For a good show-and-tell, see http://www.dria.org/wordpress/archives/2008/04/29/633/. The summary is that if you’re using Firefox 3, you can download a Color Management plug-in that will tell Firefox to stop muting the colors in photos.

Outside the garden wall

Photo by Michael


Photo by Michael

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

From our garden this evening

Photo by Michael

Photo by Michael

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And they all look just the same

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.

When I was younger, I used to visit MoMA on my own a lot. I was fascinated by the pop art, the sculpture garden, the luxuriant tropics in the Gauguins and Rousseaus, the cubist pieces and the surrealist pieces and the beautiful Water Lilies room. I loved the idea that all of these wonderfully different approaches to presentation and representation were art, and that they could all coexist in a limited collection unified only by their recency and their significance.

MoMA was a relatively small museum in those days. The layout was quirky, but felt like it had been designed to perfectly fit and spotlight the art on display. It was easy to pop into for an hour to see all my old friends on the walls, or spend a little longer slowly losing myself in the impressionist paintings.

10 days ago, on the 5th floor of the massive rebuilt MoMA, I wanted time and space to mourn the loss of that museum. It was an insanely crowded Friday evening, and the couple of hours we had allotted were clearly not going to be enough time to see more than a fraction of what was on display. And what was on display was no longer edited. Paintings were not arranged thoughtfully within most of the galleries. The galleries had no clear focus, organization, or progression, and the gallery spaces were just a series of impossibly dull rectangular boxes, all alike. The collection felt uncurated and the architecture within the galleries felt utterly inartful.

Many of my old friends were on the walls, scattered around this ticky tacky maze. There were some new wonderful pieces as well—century-old Russian cubist paintings that I’d only seen in books, a new Sol LeWitt wall installation, plenty to please my visual palate if I didn’t mind the clutter of all the dozens of unappealing and uninteresting paintings. But I do mind the clutter. My favorite bookstore ever was Zembla Books, a tiny shop outside of Davis Square 15 years ago whose owner had filled the small space with books I wanted to read and almost nothing else. That was the MoMA I knew, and had hoped to return to. I found WalMoMArt instead.

Monday, June 1, 2009


If you live in Boston, please go see Pirates! at the Huntington. We went last night, and had a great time. The cast was superb, the choreography was creative, the live orchestra was versatile, and Ed Dixon as the Major-General was simply stunning. An hour after the show I was still bursting into laughter.

The first Gilbert and Sullivan productions in the United States were unauthorized, a result of our nation’s proud pirate status in the world of copyright law in the nineteenth century. Our theaters are now filled with scruples when dealing with an in-copyright script, so starting from the public domain must be refreshing. The Huntington’s adaptation is joyfully free, and stands as a strong argument for radically expanding fair use and compulsory licensing. It’s also a strong argument for theater as message-free fun.