‘Banana Republic’ Upgrade Quest

Now just one hour into the second electrical power failure in two weeks (the last one lasted 22 hours and it was 19 degrees F. when it began as 23:30), I and about 2500 other customers in the Pittsburgh suburbs are preparing to prevent frozen pipes in our homes. Actually, being a born-again survivalist, I am in pretty good shape – better than most – in that I have a standby electrical generator which runs everything except the main HVAC system.

My survivalism has translated into several ways to heat my house. I have two Mitsubishi mini-split heat pumps. One supplies heat when needed to the kitchen/family room; the other, the master bedroom. They work down to outside air temperature of about 11 degrees F. Last time, I did not use those, however, as I have a wood-burning freestanding stove (requires no electricity anyway) and a ventless gas stove in the kitchen.

If I fire up both of those and keep the doors open (the doors which usually separate the “comfort zones” from the rest of the house, which I only heat to 62 degrees F.), the heat manages to keep the entire house at around that temp – 62 degrees. Near the heat sources, though, it is quite comfortable, usually above 70. As I precaution, I keep lots of seasoned firewood and have used a lot this winter. Anhedonic by nature, I do get a quiet sense of satisfaction from keeping this hearth.

Anyway, political events have, for some time, led me to characterize the US as an emerging banana republic. Infrastructure failures like this one also suggests that appellation. However, “banana republic” is tired from overuse and is factually inapposite. We don’t export bananas. So, I am looking for a ‘new and improved’ descriptive title for our republic.

Our main export is machinery and computers, including control systems likes SCADA and PLC’s. Perhaps that is our starting place. It seems apropos, given the government’s headlong rush to turn the entire populace into ventriloquists’ dummies by scripting every word and choreographing every move of everyone, everywhere, all the time. We might be a ‘puppet republic,’ or we could use the French ‘guignol‘ republic.’

Alternatively and more generally, since we export machinery, we might simply be a ‘mechanistic republic.’ This implies, nicely, the image of subject being mere cogs or wheels in a giant mechanism, fixed on axles and moving in lock-step with other cogs held firmly in their places. Maybe a combination: we are a mechanical puppet republic which nonetheless devolves regularly to failure mode in both governance and infrastructure.

Please offer any suggestions you may have as alternatives to calling our system of governance a “banana republic.”

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Author: civil westman

Driven to achieve outward and visible things, I became a pilot, a doctor and a lawyer. Eventually, I noticed the world had still not beat a path to my door with raves. Now, as a septuagenarian I still work anesthesia part-time, fly my flight simulator to keep my brain sparking and try to elude that nagging, intrusive reminder that my clock is running out. Before it does, I am trying, earnestly, to find a theory of everything - to have even a brief "God's-eye" view of it all before the "peace which passeth all understanding."

9 thoughts on “‘Banana Republic’ Upgrade Quest”

  1. The ‘edit’ button has disappeared! Am I missing something?

    I intended to add that my Mitsubishi mini-split heat pumps are so well-designed that their motors draw very little extra start-up power. Thus, I can run these units with my emergency standby generator.

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  2. civil westman:
    Please offer any suggestions you may have as alternatives to calling our system of governance a “banana republic.”

    The term I’ve been using since the 1980s is “railroad-era continental-scale empires”.

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  3. Jellyfish Republic. No backbone and no ability to make the tough decisions.

    Myopic Republic. No seeing the past. No seeing the future. Making decisions for the next news cycle. (News Cycle Republic)

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  4. civil westman,

    Do you have a recommendation for me?   I am in the market for a home energy generator.   Can you aim me to any reviews that you thought were on target?   How about a website with useful tips?

    Thanks.

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  5. 10 Cents:

    civil westman:
    The ‘edit’ button has disappeared! Am I missing something?

    I intended to add that my Mitsubishi mini-split heat pumps are so well-designed that their motors draw very little extra start-up power. Thus, I can run these units with my emergency standby generator.

    You have to revert your post back to draft to edit it.

    https://www.ratburger.org/index.php/2017/12/27/knowledge-base-editing-published-posts/

    Thank you very much!!

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  6. MJBubba:
    civil westman,

    Do you have a recommendation for me?   I am in the market for a home energy generator.   Can you aim me to any reviews that you thought were on target?   How about a website with useful tips?

    Thanks.

    Assuming you want a standby generator which automatically supplies power when your utility goes down, there are several choices. The most popular is Generac. I have a Kohler. You also need a transfer switch which keeps separate power from the utility and that from you home supply. This is an important part of the system, as if power from the generator goes into the supply line, workpersons (sic, PC) could be electrocuted. Mine is very good, made by Eaton and has a feature called “load-shedding.” i.e. if a load is added which the generator cannot handle, it cuts off the power to it, protecting the generator.

    My system is 8 years old, as is my research. I trusted the judgment of the electricians who installed it. I found a 12.5kW was sufficient for my purposes. I excluded from coverage my main HVAC system, but that works for me as I have backup heat and two mini-split heat pumps whose power draw is small. From a quick look just now, it appears the price of standby generators has come down significantly.

    As to choice, as I said, I relied on the electrician I was using. I live in the Pittsburgh suburbs and the guys I used were Mennonites from Ohio. A year later, they decided to no longer service Pennsylvania and I learned then how few people service Kohler. It has been a bit of a problem, since generators require annual maintenance, to the tune of about $300. I haven’t read any recent reviews. I would contact a reliable local electrician – one who has been in business a while and who has experience with lots of installations. You really want a brand and a service you can rely on.

    My unit is air cooled and natural gas powered. It is not silent, by any means, bot not too loud. This is the most common arrangement for residential, but there are other options like propane, diesel, water-cooled, etc., each with plusses and minuses.

    If you only need to run a few things, for much less money you can get a portable instead. That, you must start up and run power cords to the appliances you want to use. I actually have two of those as well, because the cost of running the standby generator is high. The electricity cost 4 or 5 times per kWH what you pay the electric company.

    For long-term outage, I had the electricians install a 4 gang receptacle in my outside kitchen wall which is connected to a special receptacle through the wall on my back porch. It is not connected in any way to my house wiring. To that receptacle, I attach my portable generator. Inside, I plug in heavy-duty extension cords to power two refrigerators, some lights and the power vent on my gas-fired hot water heater (it won’t run without power to the exhaust blower). That unit, I can run on either gasoline or propane. I keep 500 pounds of the latter in 100lb tanks. Its virtue is unlimited shelf-life, unlike all other fuels. The receptacle arrangement spares me having to get extension cords inside through open doors or windows. That, I learned, is a pain, as you do not want exhaust fumes coming inside along with carbon monoxide. With the portable (I have two of them) I can have intermittent power for weeks or months. That would be prohibitive with the standby unit.

    Ouch. That was long. Another proof that life is too *%#$ing complicated!

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