Pique the Geek 20091220. Reader Defined Topics

The Geek took hiatus last week to attend, and be part of, the marriage between Eldest Son and his very wonderful bride.  It was a very traditional Methodist service, and it went off perfectly insofar as no one fainted, no one objected (there was not a “If anyone objects…” clause in this particular service, so no one did.

The Geek also took today off and did not write a scientific column for several reasons.  First, I stayed up too late last night reading the news and weather.  Second, I could never come up with a good topic for tonight.  I will do better for next week, I promise.  Third, The Geek has just been feeling a tiny bit under the weather, but not horribly ill or anything.

With all of that said, I am open to questions about science and technology tonight.  I would rather respond to your ideas than to posit any of mine tonight.  Lots of things are happening, in politics and well as in science, so I am up for a more open forum tonight.

I have spoken about the wedding quite a bit, and regret that I have no pictures with which to share with you.  Both the bride and the groom asked me not to post any because of personal anonymity, and I respect that.  Some day they might change their minds, and if they do I will put some pictures here.

I considered addressing hard water tonight, because after I returned back to the Bluegrass, I vented the collection of calcium and magnesium salts from the bottom of my water heater.  It was convenient to do it then, because it was warm outside, making my garden hose flexible, and I had turned off the power to my water heater, so the water was cool.  Garden hoses are not designed for very hot water.  I connected it to the valve at the very bottom of the water heater, then opened up that valve.  Several pounds of carbonate that had spalled from the heating elements were ejected, making my water heater more efficient and lengthening its life.  I have an electric water heater, and the heating elements are much easier to service than the boiler in a gas one.  If you have a gas one, you should purge the carbonate from it, depending on where you live, at least once every two years.

Here in the Bluegrass, the water is extremely hard with calcium.  Gas fired water heaters should be purged at least twice a year.  If you live in a soft water region, every two years is fine.  Your energy costs will decrease with the increase in efficiency of the unit, and it will last longer as well.  Just turn it off a day or so before you purge it so that very hot water is not coming out, since the hose is not designed for it.  My timing was ideal, since I always turn mine off when being away from the house more than a couple of days.

We were spared the horrible winter weather that most of the eastern seaboard got this week.  It did snow, but only about four inches and the road crews did yeomans’ work in keeping them clear.  This was not the case for folks further to the east, where absolutely horrible travel conditions were encountered.  I lucked up that Eldest Son and his bride decided to marry last week instead of this week.  By the way, the wedding band was very welcome by both of them.  I should stop, because I am getting a bit teary now.

I apologize that this is as geeky as I can find tonight.  Thus, comments, questions, and other issues below the sig line are appreciated, since I am out of ideas tonight.

I will not even end this with the usual joke.  Just wish the newlyweds the best.  I am sorry that this installment is not up to par, but I am just fagged out tonight.  That, by the way, is not in any way a derogatory term.  Folks in my part of the country have used that expression for centuries to describe just being too tired or distracted to concentrate on a specific subject.  It comes from the Middle English noun fagge, meaning a drooping end of a thread in a loom that is not in proper position.

Warmest regards,


Crossposted at dailykos.com


  1. poor essay?

    Warmest regards,


  2. It sounds as though it was a lovely ceremony: best wishes to Eldest Son and his new bride.

    Yeah, here in south-central PA we got hit with that snowstorm, although perhaps not as badly as more coastal regions.  Only about a foot or so, I think.  Maybe a little less.  It certainly wasn’t fun slogging through it on my way to & from work yesterday…today was a little better b/c many sidewalks had been shoveled & salted, and the rest were not yet packed into solid ice (never got above freezing, ergo, very little ice).  Geek question: why were some — but only a few — buildings dripping water while most were not?  Obviously there was a heat source melting the snow…but although I stopped & looked a couple of times, I couldn’t figure out why those few buildings were dripping water that was turning to ice on the sidewalk, and, y’know, no other buildings were doing the same.

    Just curious.

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