Swans Commentary: Letters to the Editor - letter221



Letters to the Editor

(August 1, 2011)


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Enjoying, Receiving, and Giving back: Isidor Saslav's "Chaconne, Anyone?" Arnold Steinhardt Performs In Indianapolis

Dear Swans folks,

I have recently discovered your site and enjoy the variety of interesting writing I have found there. As a violinist and university professor I am particularly interested in the extensive essay collection in arts and music.

A couple of years ago one of your frequent contributors, Isidor Saslav, was kind enough to donate to a community string education program of which I am founder and director. I'd like to return the favor by supporting Swans and Mr. Saslav's consistently fascinating posts. I have just donated $50 via Paypal.

I would also like to thank Mr. Saslav once again, and offer him an update on the progress of the program he helped launch, if he is willing to give me his e-mail address.

Thank you!


Laura Roelofs
Associate Professor of Violin, Wayne State University
Director, String Project @ Wayne
Detroit, Michigan, USA - July 18, 2011


The Enjoyment of a Cellist: Isidor Saslav's "Chaconne, Anyone?" Arnold Steinhardt Performs In Indianapolis

To the Editor:

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading Isidor Saslav's article about Steinhardt's program "Chaconne, Anyone?"

I am a cellist in the National Symphony Orchestra, a student of Leonard Rose and author of Leonard Rose: America's Golden Age and Its First Cellist.

Many names that Steinhardt refers to in his presentation, I either grew up admiring and/or playing for; I studied one summer and was coached by Mr. Gingold at Meadowmount on Schubert's two-cello quintet -- the Guarneri with Rose my all time favorite recording and driving force for me in those years. I certainly met Galamian, whose influence on Rose was tremendous, and Isaac Stern was the infamous or famous musician, depending on who you were, when I was growing up and then at conservatory. He was a little man with a somewhat scary and Napoleonic attitude later in his life. His recordings with the trio are certainly brilliant.

Steinhardt's presentation with video scrolling the score is a wonderful concept. It adds the dimension of modern technology to the mix. I like it!

Best wishes.

Steven Honigberg
Washington, D.C., USA - July 18, 2011


Old Thinking...More is Cheaper: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #113

To the Editor:

Surprised that you can't comprehend getting a lower price based on volume. Call a car dealer and tell him you want to buy 10 cars and see if you get a better price. Call anyone in business and tell him you want to buy 10 times the normal amount of what he sells. You'll get a better price. Call you credit card company, your cable company, your insurance provider, etc., and tell them you can get a better rate from their competition. You'll get a better rate. If you don't make a phone call on your phone, do you still pay a monthly fee? If you don't use much gas, you'll pay more. As to owning your tank. You'll get the best price if you do, but if you have a leak at your tank on a weekend or holiday, see what you pay to get service. If you rent your tank, they will repair it for free. You make the choice. We all need to be educated about what we buy, and make choices that fit our lifestyle the best. Remember, you are getting a company to drive to your house with a $100,000.00 truck, to personally deliver to you. You can go to Home Depot and get a grill tank for the same price everyone else pays. By the way, the price at the Home Depot at $19.99 per tank equates to $4.95 per gallon.


Duke Marquis
Plant City, Florida, USA - July 18, 2011

Gilles d'Aymery responds:

Dear Duke,

Thank you for reading Swans and for your comments that will be published in the next issue. Your points are valid, but your thinking appears to be rooted in a More-is-Better mindset, whilst we have reached an era of resources depletion. More with less makes little sense. Encouraging and defending (or explaining) a dysfunctional socioeconomic system won't make that system perdure. Look at the concept of entropy and the law of thermodynamics.

You are contradicting yourself, though. If volume -- however destructive it may be -- drives lower rates, why would competition -- "credit card company, your cable company, your insurance provider, etc." -- brings lower rates (a factually incorrect assertion, by the way)? Certainly, you have heard of oligopoly -- haven't you?

On the renting issue: When you rent a tank you do pay a monthly fee. Yes, for that fee you do expect maintenance. Yes too, if you own the tank you have to maintain it, and it may be costly. But, why would you have to pay a higher price for the product after paying a rental fee? Beats me. Getting had both ways.

As to Home Depot prices, they address BBQs, which are discretionary and recreational, and should cost much more to consumers until these cooking tools become dinosaur-like. While propane is not as destructive to the environment as charcoal is, both should not be used for such recreational use, when one billion people have little or no food (or clean water for that matter).

One needs to change one's mindset. Limitless growth is a long-past concept. It seems you have yet to understand the paradigm shift.

(Note: I never answer a reader twice. So, do not be surprised if you do not hear from me when you likely respond to this e-mail. However, do not be surprised either that whatever you write to me can and may be used on Swans. You are corresponding with a publication and anything you write can and may be used.)

Thank you again for reading Swans.

Duke Marquis's final answer:

1. Why can't competition AND volume have an effect on rates? You may say that my assertion is incorrect, but I have personal proof that I got lower rates from a number of companies by threatening to leave them for a lower cost supplier. And I have lowered customers' rates in my career due to competition AND higher usage. (By the way I am retired after 31 years in the propane industry)

2. I agree that someone renting a tank pays both a rental and a higher price. I do recommend that people buy their own tanks, they just need to know what will happen if they need service on it.

3. If propane should not be used for recreational purposes, what things should be? You can say the same about any pleasure trip, any resort hotel, cruise ship, sports stadium, etc. I assume you never go out to eat, or go on a vacation, since there are a billion people that can't.

4. You would be amazed at the number of poor people who use the grill tanks for their home. They don't even own a grill. They can't afford to pay for a tank installation, or for the propane to fill the tank, so they have to buy it in a small tank.

5. The world is full of those that have no qualms about screwing anyone to get ahead or make a dollar. Until they are all gone, we need to do the things that we feel are best for each of us and work within our moral compass. I don't ever think they will be gone, so I follow the path that we need to help others when we can, and fight for the people with no voice, but understand that the drive to have power is as strong as the drive to have sex. If you think you can convince people to join you, great. I tend to be a little more middle of the road, and understand that MY paradigm is different and no better or worse than anyone else's.

Thanks for the correspondence. I'll look in on your Web site from time to time.


Proper Thinking...Less is Better: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #113

Aloha Gilles,

Hope this note finds you and Jan well and happy!

Your experience with Ferrellgas is basically the same experience my wife and I endured with Hawaiian Electric Company (HELCO) over 20 years ago when we lived in town (Hilo). I had read a report about the "business rate" HELCO charged, which appeared significantly lower than my homeowner rate. We really did our best to conserve back then (even easier now that we are off-grid!). My wife and I requested statements from a variety of neighbors -- of course, we discussed bills and such at neighborhood gatherings -- and clearly found that those who used more kwh did receive lower rates! Completely backward thinking that survives to this day as far as I know.

Of course, I wrote a letter to the editor, and, if I remember correctly, a HELCO big-wig did respond later with a statement explaining why the difference, but of course, it was illogical. I mean really, we are on an island in the middle of the Pacific. ALL fuels, etc., are shipped in; we should be showing the planet how people can conserve. Alas, you can head over to the other side of the island, fancy resorts and stores, doors open and air conditioning blasting out to the sidewalk and concrete.

So now, almost 700 watts of solar panels, a small wind turbine, 4 golf-cart batteries and this family of four lives quite comfortably (2 computers, 3 cell phones, lights, stereo, DVD player, 13" TV, washer, dryer, refrigerator, numerous power tools, etc.). No HELCO bill! If I amortize ALL of my spending, repairs, and upgrades my bill is in the $45/mo. range and it continues to go lower over time -- almost 17 years off-grid.

Malama Pono,

Michael Pacheco
Hamakua Coast, Big Island of Hawaii, USA - July 20, 2011

Gilles d'Aymery responds:

Wonderful dogs, Michael [re: attached photo]. Once again, we have something in common. Not just the love of dogs and our natural fellows, but also simple thoughtfulness. It's comforting to know that we are not alone...

Tell me: How many solar panels do you have to produce 700 w.? Jan and I have been debating for ages about getting solar panels. The two-fold problem is that cooking with electrical appliances does not meet this French palate, and second and more importantly, I'm not sure I want to go through such a change at age (soon-to-be) 61, in a place that if we could move away from to a simpler outfit, we would do in a hurry (the real estate market is dead...).

Still, how many panels do you have, and how many batteries do you use -- and how often do the batteries need be replaced?

As always, kindest regards to you and your family.

Michael Pacheco answers:

Aloha Gilles,

Oh, I DO NOT have an electric oven. Those do not go well with real cooking (which is my creative outlet) OR with solar panels. I too, use propane for stove (and back in the day, we had a propane refrigerator -- not recommended).

Here is breakdown on panels:

(1) "quadlam" over 30 years old, approx 80 watts
(1) Unisolar 64 watt
(4) Kyocera 125 watt

Regarding batteries:

(4) Trojan T105 6 volt great basic batteries. Got almost 8 years out of the last set (sort of an unheard of # according to one retail "solarman." I used only distilled water, and have my wind turbine set to give batteries a boost on certain days -- very sunny, very windy. These days are not too often, but I think it pushes my batteries into what is known as "equalize" state. Good care and monitoring of batteries just really helps! Being my own power company and water company is pretty awesome -- most of the time little worries, but when it comes time to repair, I am the man!

Basically I did a lot of reading, asked LOTS of questions, and have a neighbor up the road that I can ask all kinds of practical advice from. I am sure there are some knowledgeable, experienced folk in your neck of the woods.

Other components:

(1) Trace DR 1512 Inverter/charger: Very nice machine, they are now called Xantrex (I think). My system is a 12 volt system--I went for basic. Others have 24 or 48 volt system -- basically add up to more $$, and people then just use more than they or the planet really need to be used... Something to be said about smaller footprint. (1) charge controller assorted cables and wires various ampmeters and voltmeters

(1) Honda 3500 watt backup gas generator. (1) Air X 400 watt wind turbine (I love the hybrid factor, but in reality, you get more from solar! However, on a stormy winter night with the turbine pumping 8-30 amps down all night -- that is a great feeling) (1) Solarhart rooftop hot water setup -- installed last November. Major decrease in propane use, but that was an almost 5K investment.

I guess you could go grid tied (but that tends to jump the price real quick). If you are serious, you could probably start small, and I know you can get things cheaper there. There is a major "price of paradise" in play always! There has been a 15-fold drop in per watt price on panels -- we can thank the Chinese for that, and I do!

Get a couple of panels on a rack that will accept more panels as funds allow (and they do not have to go on roof -- you could make them on a shoulder-high rack on ground -- easy access), charge controller, inverter, set of batteries, some meters, cables and such and then at least run part of your cabin for a start. Good to figure your complete household usage. But I guess you can get that from your elec. bill. About 2 years ago we were around 2KW per day (fridge uses about 7-800/day). I know we are more than that now -- a 14-year-old, and a 7-year-old. Way more computer use and charge, more cell phone, etc. We are probably 3KW/day now. I think a sort of conserving AMERICAN home is 20KW/day -- insane! But, we have negated all kinds of "phantom loads" and high wattage items. Ok, I think I am going into too much detail... Can you tell I love this kind of stuff? Truly empowering -- hee, hee.

If you move towards this officially, I can give you the e-mail of my friend up the road also. Good luck; obviously, you possess the research skills to answer most of your questions. I do not think you would have to move, but you would certainly need an unobstructed sky to get the most out of your panels. Only change would be some time researching, some $$ spent, and a lower electricity bill (gotta watch that -- they will probably try to keep charging as much as usual...) You are probably double the latitude of us, but that shouldn't matter -- I know there are many folks off grid in NorthCal. Just heard a report on NPR -- search up "encyclopedia pictura" or "trout gulch" cutting edge animators, I think in Santa Cruz building a totally sustainable community -- not really my idea, but they sounded like they are doing some interesting stuff.

OK, too long, pau!

Keep in touch,


Debt and Spending: Gilles d'Aymery's Blips #109

To the Editor:

While I rarely, if ever agree with the editorial stance of Swans, I enjoy the quality of the publication and feel it helps me to reinforce my thinking, which, as implied, is far (if not opposite) from the publication's editorial line.

This said, I am baffled you have not covered one of the most important stories that will have huge consequences on the future of our country -- the debt ceiling -- and how President Obama keeps mismanaging issue after issue.


Darrell Johnson
Tempe, Arizona, USA - July 27, 2011

[ed. A charade does not merit attention. However, our Pragmatist in Chief, far from being a poor manager, is going to realize the wildest dream of G.W.B and his four predecessors, the ultimate destruction of the Commons.]


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Published August 1, 2011
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