Jon Frater: ‘I’ve been working with computers both as a hobby and professionally since I was 12 (I just hit 40 a couple of weeks ago. Gah!) My first PC was an Atari 800 which was the best PC I have ever owned – nothing fazed that thing. Nothing. But I admit my new (now slightly used) G5 Intel Core Duo iMac is nice. Anyway, everything I’ve seen in the world of computers has convinced me that any system of sufficient complexity might as well be ‘alive.’ If nothing else, every single PC I’ve ever owned had a distinct personality. Some were obnoxious, some were cautious, some ran beautifully for all requests and all of them had their good and bad days. Some of them simply hated some people. When I worked in software retail many moons ago, I was the resident Mac Jock. The big gift that Corporate had sent our location that year was a brand new Mac IIfx (a machine that retailed for nearly $10k back in 1990). They expected us to sell lots of nifty graphic packages and with that baby running demos, I did. I loved that machine and now I do believe that it loved me back. By 1991 I was taking more and more classes to get my BA and thus spending less and less time in the store. If I needed to demo a package on the Mac, it worked without any problems, but none of the other sales people could say the same thing. One morning before class my manager called me up begging me to come into work to fix ‘that damn Macintosh.’ Apparently it refused to do anything for anyone without actually showing the ‘sad mac’ or ‘bomb’ on startup (either one would have meant a major system problem). So I went in to work, went to the expensive new IIfx and put it through its paces, no complaints. I checked all the system files and nothing was out of place. So, realizing I couldn’t be on call 24/7 for the store any more, I went home, dissected an expired driver’s license, took the photo back to work the next day, opened the IIfx’s case and taped the photo to the inside of the lid before replacing it. No sales person ever reported a problem with that machine ever again. So yes. The Hertz Lady is definitely someone to treat well. If you know what’s good for you.’

CFL and WMT (and FMD)

Stewart Dean: ‘It took me a while to dig out the link for this (because the bulbs last forever) . . . but the ultimate source for Compact Fluorescent bulbs I’ve found is They have 95 different bulbs, ranging from 2 watts (putting out a hefty 8 incandescent watts equivalent and just the thing for a rarely used stairwell or the like) to a blazing 105 watt (420 watt incandescent equivalent). They also have many wattages in different degrees Kelvin, which is how the industry rates a cool, bluish white bulb at 5500K while a warm white is 2700K. And black light CFLs, odor dispersing CFLs for bathroom, dimmable CFLs, CFLs that glow slightly when they have just been turned off (for getting out of the room), super long life CFLs (15,000 hours or 40 years), CFL that will start when it is -20 degrees F (most fluourescents won’t), 3-14 watt candelabra-base bulbs (12 to 60 watt equivalent), flood and regular bulb look alikes . . . Here are their CFLs.’

Even more exciting, from the Earth’s point of view (and for those of us who own WMT), is this recent New York Times headline: Wal-Mart Puts Some Muscle Behind Power-Sipping Bulbs. Michael Barbaro reports, in part:

As a way to cut energy use, it could not be simpler. Unscrew a light bulb that uses a lot of electricity and replace it with one that uses much less.

. . . if only Americans could be persuaded to swallow them.

But now Wal-Mart Stores, the giant discount retailer, is determined to push them into at least 100 million homes. And its ambitions extend even further, spurred by a sweeping commitment from its chief executive, H. Lee Scott Jr., to reduce energy use across the country, a move that could also improve Wal-Mart’s appeal to the more affluent consumers the chain must win over to keep growing in the United States.

”The environment,” Mr. Scott said, ”is begging for the Wal-Mart business model.”

It is the environmental movement’s dream: America’s biggest company, legendary for its salesmanship and influence with suppliers, encouraging 200 million shoppers to save energy. . . .

. . . only 6 percent of households use the bulbs today.

Which is what makes Wal-Mart’s goal so wildly ambitious. If it succeeds in selling 100 million compact fluorescent bulbs a year by 2008, total sales of the bulbs in the United States would increase by 50 percent, saving Americans $3 billion in electricity costs and avoiding the need to build additional power plants for the equivalent of 450,000 new homes.

☞ Go, Wal-Mart! (Still, a good buy, I hope, at $47.28.)

(And while we’re talking stocks, ‘don’t sell your FMD,’ opines the guru who got us in at $26, adjusted for the split, nine months ago. It dropped $2.50 to $54.50 yesterday, but it’s still more than doubled – and he seems to think the future is bright.)

Tomorrow: Blood Diamonds. (I’m against them.)


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