Monthly Archives: June 2014

Rant: Why “Emissions Inspection” Has Nothing To Do With Clean Air, and Everything To Do With Government Corruption

I just failed “vehicle emissions inspection” on my 2000 Blazer.  What is Emissions Inspection, you might ask?

Lucky.

Under the Clean Air Act (1990), states are required to implement vehicle emission inspection programs in metropolitan areas whose air quality does not meet federal standards.
Wikipedia

Some states have opted out – and all of them should.  Here’s why:

If your vehicle is pre-1975, you’re exempt

old-vw-van

Wait…  So, if you’re driving a truck that was built before companies added counter-pollution measures, you don’t have to get tested.  You could be commuting in a 1970 VW van that leaves a smoke trail rivaling a crop duster, but that doesn’t matter.  Don’t misunderstand me – I don’t think that they should have to get an inspection, because I believe that no one should get an inspection.  This segment of vehicles is the very reason a law like this exists – but it is saved with a broad stroke of policy.  Thus, the law has nothing to do with clean air.

If your vehicle is 1975-1995, they test what is coming out of your tailpipe

tailpipe

I mean, if there is any true test of what a car emits, I’d say vehicular colonoscopy would be the way to go.  The only real problem with that is that it would be fairly easy to fake.  All an offender would have to do is redirect the emissions, or at least disburse them so that only a portion reach the tail pipe.  Heck – if your car is in bad enough shape, it’ll do it for you!  A few simple cracks in your exhaust, and voila!  You’ve got yourself a non-polluting golden chariot.  A better test would be to seal the vehicle in a room with multiple sensors, and let it run for an extending period of time.  But I’m definitely not requesting that.

Oh, and there’s also a visual inspection of the gas cap.  Because biased human eyes are the best way to tell if a gas tank is sealed up tight.

If your vehicle is post-1996, they simply query your computer

sick-computer

Here’s where my problem occurred.  I have a problem with my transmission, which meant that my service engine soon light came on.  I’d often heard that if your engine light was on, you would fail an inspection no matter the reason for the light.  My transmission slipping, though definitely not giving me a perfectly smooth ride, doesn’t shelf me in with those nasty pre-75’ers, or those pesky pre-1995’ers!  If you took an an apples to apples comparison, my Blazer would still emit far less than those.  Again – not saying I can’t improve it – but I’m simply arguing that this testing standard doesn’t actually look for emissions.  A better test would still be the equivalent of a rectal thermometer.

Supposedly, if I spend over $200 trying to fix the problem, I get an automatic pass.  I can’t confirm that, as I’ve only heard it from friends of friends of friends.  But if it’s true…

Semis are exempt

semi-pollution

Whaaa?  I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a semi, driving down the road, all of a sudden belch out black smoke for a few seconds.  Obviously, that’s not a special air freshener…  Once again – I’m not out to pummel tractor-trailers into submission – they guzzle tremendous amounts of diesel in the name of keeping America running, and kudos to them for it.  But – wouldn’t you say that’s where a lot of our transportation pollution comes from?   The cabs fit in a weight class (over 10,500lbs) that simply doesn’t need to be tested.  Perhaps I should add a few tons to my Blazer, then I wouldn’t need to get an ok from the gov to keep driving, amiright?

And my biggest beef…

It forces thousands of cars in metropolitan areas to idle, emitting needless pollution

traffic-jam

I waited in a line of at least 50 cars for about an hour (the line was out to the middle of the road before turning in), and the two options were to cut off your vehicle and start it every few minutes, or just sit idling.  Naturally, everyone left them running.  And I don’t think it would actually help pollute less if they did the ol’ start/stop method.  But my point is that – to avoid traffic pollution – they are creating hubs of traffic jams for solid 8-hour days.  Traffic jams that would simply not exist if there were no emissions testing.  Sure – people might still be driving during that time – but it’s an hour (plus travel to and from) of extra pollution that every vehicle in a metropolitan area has to cough up.  (pun intended)

Ok, so it’s completely inefficient – but how is it government corruption?

This is where the crazy conspiracy theory David comes into play.

Sure, you could say that, even though it’s not productive in any other way, emissions testing creates jobs.  There were at least 6 “technicians” working there while I was there, who I’m assuming just make minimum wage, or thereabouts.  For the sake of ease, let’s say they make $10/hour, and the test itself costs $10.  That means that, as long as they have one car per hour, they’re paying their own salary.  But it doesn’t take an hour – it’s only a 5 minute process, so they might get through 10 in an hour, which equates to $100; minus $10 for the tech, and the company nets $90 per tech.  With I’d say an average of 3 techs working throughout the month (I went on the last day of the month, so they had more schmucks like myself and more techs than normal), the company itself makes a monthly $518,400 (90/hour*3 techs*8 hours*20 business days in a month*12 months).

Hmm…  That’s good money.  And that’s only one testing station.  I might be off a bit (they actually operate 11 hours a day, plus saturdays, but the volume probably evens out), but since there are a few testing stations in my county, which means it’s possibly a $1.5 million generator.  I assume that the company that does this is owned by a politician’s brother-in-law or campaign contributor.  What other reasons would they have to create a needless law that requires an extra $10 tax on vehicle renewals anyhow?  I’m not going to go into any sort of “keeping tabs on citizens” (they track your milage, and you have to get out of your vehicle while they get in there to do their tests, etc), because I don’t really think that’s going on.  But if I were a bit crazier…

What about you?  Is there anyone else that thinks this is a big pile of trash covered in political spray paint?  Or is everyone else happy to pay them to tell us that our cars are acceptable in their sight?

candled-egg-banner

You Win Some, You Lose Some

A lot has happened over the last three weeks!

First – The Bees

At the risk of sounding confident, I’m actually getting a hang of this whole beekeeping thing…  I guess about two weeks ago, I decided to remove the top feeders in both my hives, because both hives had a decent amount of “honey” stored up.  (I put quotes around honey, because a lot of the honey was made from my sugar syrup rather than nectar)  I figured that, while flowers were blooming, it would be better for them to go out and gather rather than lazily assume that food will always be raining down over their heads like manna.  That way, when I put my first medium honey super on, I’ll get pure honey rather than sugar water.

I put my second deep brood boxes on both hives about three weeks ago, before removing the top feeder.  The last time I poked my head in, they hadn’t drawn much of the new frames out – just starting on the center frames – but there were a good amount of bees exploring it.  I’m going to be checking in today – so it probably would have been better for me to wait to post with a fresh update, but I just wanted to post everything that has happened lately.  (Or I won’t – because it started raining as I was writing this)

Two deeps deep!

Two deeps deep!

I also removed the entrance reducers for both hives, which are used to simply reduce the size of the entrance so that a small hive can defend itself.  If they have a wide entrance, then robbers (bees from other hives that are low on honey stores) could come in and steal honey without encountering a lot of bees.  The first hive (the one with only one mark on the entrance, and the one that I thought had no queen for a while) pretty much immediately covered the entire entrance board, which proved that the reducer was getting in their way.  Later that day, the second hive, however, only had a few bees around where the entrance used to be, and seemed even less active than when I took the reducer off.  I put it back in, but somewhat awkwardly diagonal, so that bees could get in almost half of the whole entrance.  I checked on them a couple of days ago, though, and removed the entrance reducer at that point, and they’re defending like champs.

Strong defense of second hive entrance

Strong defense of first hive entrance

You can kind of see how I awkwardly placed this entrance reducer

You can kind of see how I awkwardly placed this entrance reducer on the second hive

The picture is above is fairly late in the day, so there are a lot more bees hanging out than mid-day.  I saw both hives bearding the other evening, and I thought I took a picture, but apparently I didn’t.  “Bearding” is basically when all the bees are home for the night, and a whole bunch of them cover the front of the hive because it’s hot inside – way more than the picture above.  If they’re bearding mid-day, then you’re probably about to have a swarm (half of your bees will leave, if not all) – or at least that’s how I understand it.  If I’d seen a hive of bees bearding before I learned all of this stuff, I probably would have assumed they were plotting to kill me.

Here’s a little zen bee moment for you…  Their buzzing is actually calming to me these days, because I’m continually in awe of them, and of the design that they are following perfectly (that results in honey for me!).  Around 1:40-2:00 you can see the queen (bottom right at the beginning, then bottom center when I turn the frame around.

Second – The Chickens

Two weeks ago Holly and I went up to Kentucky to see my family for Father’s Day, as well as go to Hasting Plants (my aunt’s greenhouse) for her annual season-end blowout.  (If you’re in the southern Indiana/Illinois area, you should check them out.  But – next year.  Season’s over!)  My brother was originally planning on giving me some eggs from his meticulously bred Delaware chickens, but the roosters up and died not too long before he started breeding them, so I got a mix of 15 Delaware, Ameraucana, and Black Copper Marans eggs.  I promptly put them in my incubator upon getting back home, and they’ve been sitting there for almost the entire time since.  I’ve opened it a few times to add water to keep the humidity up, but I’ve been trying to simply leave them alone.  For the first day or two, I constantly looked in on them – as if my eyes would make the process any faster…  I’ve calmed down since.

Chicken Incubator

I candled the eggs a few days ago, which is taking them in a dark location, and putting a light behind them to illuminate the inside of the egg.  A few of the eggs are blue-green, and I couldn’t see through those shells at all, and I think I need a few flashlight because the others still didn’t give me a great look.  The image at the top of this post is what a candled egg looks like – though that is not my image because I could barely see inside even when I wasn’t trying to get my camera ready.

I candled them again today, because there were a few that looked to me like they weren’t developing.  I didn’t take them out of the incubator early in the week, because I didn’t want to make an assumption and throw away good eggs.  When I did it today, though, 5 eggs still looked completely undeveloped, so I pulled them.  I cracked them open to confirm, and four of them looked like they never started developing, most likely because they were jostled too much during travel (all of those yolks were broken).  The last one started developing, but died probably on day 7, based on how the embryo looked.  I couldn’t tell at first, because the eggs had a large shadow ring inside it, which I thought might be a big crack in the shell messing with the light.  I called my brother and he told me it was probably a blood ring, which basically is a sure sign that the embryo died – and that was confirmed when I cracked it open.

I’ve still got about a week before they start hatching, which means I need to get on the ball in terms of preparation.  The first living arrangement won’t be too difficult, but building their long term home will take some time.  I figured if I actually got the eggs first, I would have some hard deadlines to make sure these things happen!

NewBee Mistake: She’s Alive!

Last time on our program, our hero discovered no signs of a queen in one of his hives, so he took measures into his own hands.

Whelp, I checked the frame of brood that I transferred into the “queenless” hive a few days after I placed it, expecting to see a queen cell.  No luck.

I checked again a few days later, and still no queen cell – but I magically saw a bunch of eggs!  And upon further inspection, I found my queen!  I don’t know why I was having so much trouble finding eggs or the queen previously, but she seems to be doing her job.  There I go trying to be in control, and they let me know that they were just fine on their own, thank-you-very-much.  I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that they know about what they’re doing a lot more than I do…

I was planning on opening up my hives today to get a picture, but it started raining just as I went outside.  I’m going to have to actually start paying attention to the weather, since it directly affects the things I do now.

In other news, though, I’m ready for chickens!

incubator

 

Well – maybe not completely ready – but I’m ready for eggs.  (At least in this case, the eggs are coming first)

My father-in-law’s college roommate gave the above incubator to my mother-in-law to give to me, and I picked up an egg turner from some folks on Craigslist last night.  Also got another heat lamp while I was there.  (I asked them why they were getting rid of all their hatching gear, and they said they went vegan.  Yup – it would make sense to get out of the chicken game if you won’t eat meat or eggs…)  I thought about doing without the egg turner, but my brother wisely encouraged me to get one – otherwise I’d have to turn them manually at least twice daily.  I told myself it wasn’t a very big commitment, but he shed light on the fact that for three weeks I would not be allowed to be gone for a day or two.  Plenty of people have friends feed their dogs/cats while they’re on vacation, but I’m not sure folks would understand the need if I said “Hey – can you swing by on Saturday morning to turn all the eggs, and then come by in the evening and put them back to how they were originally?  And Sunday, too?”

I’m hoping that I’ll be getting my eggs this weekend from my brother (some from him, and some from another farm that he orders from).  I’ll then have 21 days to figure out exactly what I’ll be doing for their different stages of life after that.  The immediate need of a space for the chicks is not a concern – there are a hundred options for that.  The thing that will keep me working is building a coop and run.  I’m also considering trying to build a chicken tractor (small movable coop/run), that would both buy me a little time on the big coop, and could act as a quarantine if I’ve got some sick birds.  And it would also allow them to eat some of the goodies in my yard.

I’ll have some land flowing with eggs and honey soon enough!  Though, I’m not sure I really want to see eggs flowing through my land…