The Latest in Residential Renewable Energy

picture1 The Latest in Residential Renewable Energy Whether you are looking to save some money on your electric bill or preparing for a potential nuclear Trumpocalypse, a solar-powered home may be something that interests you. In the past there have been limited options for adapting your home to solar power – namely the unattractive panels bolted onto your roof or basic solar shingles since 2005. That is all set to change with the merger of #SolarCity and #Tesla. Starting around the 4th quarter of 2017, the combined company will start installing their new designer solar roofs. I am here to share with you some of the things I have learned, and maybe make your decision whether to go solar slightly easier.

Cost of a tradition roof and utilities: There are several different materials that you can currently use for your roof: Tuscan style terracotta, traditional asphalt shingles, and the long-lasting but pricey slate. The average home in the United States has a 3,000 square-foot roof, which means the average cost for materials and installation is $16,000, $20,000 and $45,000 respectively. The clay and slate roofing material has a lifespan that the solar roofs cannot begin to compete with now, but its 30-year warranty is on par or better than the common asphalt shingle roof. The warranty for them varies greatly based on the quality of the shingle, the climate you live in, and how many layers are on your home (the fewer the better). Warranties can be as little as five years and up to 30. We’ll be comparing asphalt singles and the solar roof for now, due to the popularity of asphalt.

If you have an asphalt roof that lasts 15 years, that means over 30 years you would purchase an asphalt roof two-to-one compared to the solar roof. That already brings a hypothetical cost up to $40,000. For the total price of the SolarCity roof needed to break even or make money, one must take the cost of utilities into account. In some areas of the country people pay over $1,700 a year just for electricity, reaching nearly $2,500 if you have all-electric appliances. You will want electric appliances in order to get the most out of your new investment. Otherwise, you will continue to pay to use your gas appliances instead of getting the power form the sun. A solar roof that meets all of your daily electrical needs could save you $1,700 a year; over 30 years that would total $51,000. The final cost of choosing asphalt over solar could cost you between $71,000 and $91,000, depending on the quality of materials you choose and how much electricity you use. If SolarCity wants to be truly competitive, they cannot start their pricing above $70,000, or it would be as if you were paying for 30 years’ worth of utilities upfront.

SolarCity Pricing: While they have yet to release the final price point for the new shingles (though we should know by mid-2017), we can make a few estimates for how expensive it might be. They suggest that to get the most use of the solar roof, you should install at least one of their new Powerwall 2.0 systems. Each power wall can store 14kW worth of energy. The average U.S. home uses just under 30kW of energy a day, so you will want at least two of these power packs to run everything in your house. Each Powerwall system will cost $6,500 installed, so before we even get to the roofing materials themselves, we are looking at a cost of $13,000, which is over 50 percent of the cost of a typical asphalt roof. So far this year, installing solar on your house is costing about $3 per Watt. If you want your home to produce enough energy to provide for all of your energy needs, it will be 30,000 Watts times the current cost per Watt or $90,000 (well over the $70,000 range I discussed earlier). This will total over $100,000 when you add in the cost of the Powerwall systems. I also imagine that there will be a different price point for the style of roof you chose. They currently plan to offer four styles. If I had had to venture a guess, the textured glass will be the cheapest and the slate style easily the most expensive. They are using a process called hydrographic printing, which uses ink in a water-based solution to dye each of the tiles in a unique pattern. No two tiles will look alike, so no two roofs will look the same.

picture2

I know that $100,000 can seem like a daunting number. Who has that much money laying around or can take on a loan that size? This is not where the conversation ends, however. Industry experts and SolarCity have said that they expect costs will eventually go down to $1 per Watt (installed price), cutting the current cost by two thirds. So now, we know the goal, and the current estimated price, but we do not know what CEO and Chairman, Elon Musk, will set as his initial price point. He has had a history of competitively pricing products. The Powerwall system, while being pricey, is 30 percent cheaper than its competitors are. I would not be surprised if the SolarCity roofs show the same kind of price disparity. If that is true, at the end of 2017 you could get a new roof and two Powerwalls for between $70,000 and $75,000, which is close to the figure I mentioned earlier. That may not seem worth it, but it isn’t the end of the road because there are some other advantages that will come with going solar sooner rather than later. Benefits to Going Solar:

The first major benefit is being able to claim the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for the cost of your installation. The ITC was signed into law on December 18, 2015. The bill extends the 30 percent Solar Investment Tax Credits for both residential and commercial projects through the end of 2019, and then drops the credit to 26 percent in 2020, and 22 percent in 2021, before dropping permanently to 10 percent for commercial projects and zero percent for residential projects. The way it works is by claiming the money you spent to install your roof. Say it costs $90,000 to install your roof. That means on your taxes you would get a credit for $27,000, on top of all the other money you paid towards taxes, which will increase the size of your return.

If that is not enough incentive, if your roof is producing more energy than you need, you can work with your local utilities in a process called net metering. This is where your electric meter acts as a two way street. It shows how much energy you pull from the grid and how much you put in. If at the end of the month, you have provided more than you use, they apply a credit to the next month and eventually provide a check. California public offices and schools will save an estimated $2.5 billion in electricity costs over the next 30 years using net metering.

One last benefit: If you decide to sell your home after having a solar system installed, it will increase the value of your home by an average of $5,900 per kW. At an installation cost of $3 per Watt, a kW will cost your roughly $3,000, so the value added to your home is nearly double in some cases.

Conclusion: As of now, a large start-up cost will inhibit most homeowners from being able to afford SolarCity’s new product and their vision for the future of a SolarCity roof on every house (and a Tesla in every garage). If it is something you can afford, I would highly suggest looking into it because of what it could provide for you going forward. Personally, I think I will wait a few years and see how things go, how far the price drops, and hope for a second extension of the ITC. I think I would being willing to splurge and live in the future, especially if TNP Studios hits it big and takes me along for the ride.

My final plea for The Amazing Spider-Man

When the initial news hit the internet that Sony would no long keep the money train going with Sam Raimi but instead reboot the Spider-Man movie series fan boys went ballistic! If we were in Victorian times I pretty sure they would rolled out the guillotine at the time. As time went on and a director and star were chosen the madness escalated and it appeared that fans had forgotten about the flaws of the Raimi films. Were we so clouded by our sheer hatred for change that we couldn't even give these new guys a chance? "Its to soon," was the battle cry of the anti-Spidey-reboot brigade. However, at the same time they enjoyed in mass the reboot of Batman by Christopher Nolan. Why wasn't it too soon for that franchise to get a reboot? The difference between reboot time frames was only 3 years, surely not enough for the internet fan boys to lose their collective minds over, right? So fast forward to the first teaser trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man. All we get to see is some heavily digital work showing our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man in a first person perspective. We get a glimpse of him in the last frame, enough to get our movie lizard brains squirming. While I realized the intent of the teaser, to make the reveal of Spidey as mysterious as possible, but most of the fan boys found it to be lackluster, and I certainly get that.

So we get little bits of behind the scenes shots of the movie, some casting news, and now we are on a roll. Fans love Emma Stone and Rhys Ifans addition to the cast and we get the first news that the villain would be The Lizard. Fans were fine with this and we moved on. The notion that the Raimi films were untouchable has gone away or at least slowed. We get a full trailer and some back story is flushed out. A little bit of excitement starts to shine through on The Amazing Spider-Man. Then we get the latest trailer. One that I think puts the movie in the must see category:

So that for me was it but it might still not be enough. The fever pitch was high and Spidey was riding the wave. Come July 3rd he was the hero to see until a little known movie called The Avengers hit theaters. A comic book movie so good that it sucked all the air out of the room for other comic films this summer. I have even heard people say they aren't excited for The Dark Knight Rises after seeing The Avengers...BLASPHEMY! However, now that we are in week four for the Avengers and Spidey and Batman are on the horizon how can you not be psyched! Take a look at the latest TV spot for Spidey and tell me that the web swinging in the beginning is absolutely badass. If this movie isn't getting your summer block buster meter going then check your pulse, you might be dead.

The level of arrogance, web swinging, and perspective shooting is setting up Spider-Man to be the second major comic book movie hit of the summer. Final word: The Raimi movies had heart but were totally campy. These movies seems to have some soul and bad ass fun. This is the Spidey style we have been waiting for. July 3rd can't come fast enough.

Check out The Nerdpocalypse podcast here

Best 80s American Martial Arts movie scenes!

I am a child of the 80s, and I carry no shame in this. I still love listening to the music of that time, however the fashion has made a resurgence and that just ain’t right. While I love Iphones, high speed internet connections, and instantly streaming movies there is something about the 80s that I miss. As a avid movie watcher I cut my teeth on some great films over the years and some movies have stood the test of time. Not all are high quality but they do possess moments from my childhood I don't ever want to forget. Action movies were my drug of choice during the decade of electric colored clothing and Madonna. My youth was peppered with masterpieces like Predator, Die Hard, and Rambo. However, there was a sub-genre that really took off during the mid to late 80s, American martial arts! I for one loved it and we movie goers got some top notch popcorn cinema out it. Here is my ode to some of my favorite scenes. These aren’t in order of best to worst, just a collection. What are some of your favorites? Let me know in the comments. Blood Sport - Blind fighting

This one is easy. The guy takes on the last fight after being blinded mid way through, fucking cheating Bolo! (Seriously, how in the hell did the ref and the crowd not see that!!!) Anyway, this scene is stellar for many reasons: Van Damme’s screaming, blind tea serving flashback, and the great music when he gets into his groove at the end.

 

Karate Kid - Crane Kick

Poor little Daniel San. He gets bullied in school and his ass kicked by martial arts trained skeletons. This guy just can't get away from bullying. He is the poster child for scrawny kids getting beaten up everywhere. However, he learns the how to fight back from a wise old Japanese veteran (80s cliche) and he ends up taking them all on in a safely sanctioned karate tournament (The All Valley). The Crane Kick is one of those movie moments that still gives me chills. Skinny kid beats the odds...fantastic!

 

Karate Kid 3 - Best Karate Still Inside

Lets stay in the Karate Kid universe a little while longer. While I loved all three movies growing up I felt that part 3 had just as good of a final fight as the first one. When Daniel is forced to battle Mike to defend his title we see a moment that makes the series still hold up today. Mr. Miagi's speech to Daniel is what makes the scene...well that, and the most epic kata ever recorded. Mike had nothing on the skinny kid from New Jersey!

 

The Last Dragon - Who's the Master?

If you have never seen this movie then shame on you! As a young black kid growing up I'm not sure I watched anything but this for months on end. Bruce Leroy was me, but with actual talent, physicality, and apparently martial art super powers. This movie was part martial arts/80s dance craze/blackspoiltation movie all rolled into one. Damn I just love this one for the absurdity of it all.

 

American Ninja 2 - Stay down!

What can I say about this series that hasn't already been said. Its got multiple color ninjas. I assumed this was based on skill level like belts. It has the actual words "American" and "Ninja" in the damn title. What else do you need! This was a favorite scene of mine due to the absolutely amazing OVER THE TOP acting by Steve James (R.I.P.)

 

Big Trouble in Little China - Wang versus Rain

There is no movie in the 80s or on this list that is more bizarre than Big Trouble in Little China. The entire movie played like a video game. There were level bosses, transforming villains, and excessive one-liners delivered with expert timing by Jack Burton (Kurt Russell). The movie is completely comedic but has some great martial arts elements. Even though its clearly ridiculous, I absolutely love the scene where Wang takes on Rain.

 

Above the Law - Akido Demonstration

Before all of his now crazy lifestyle took root, Steven Seagal was the pinnacle of the 80s/90s American martial artist/actor. This was his only movie in the 1980s but boy did it make an impression. It sparked off a very successful career of arm breaking silver screen goodness. Seagal is a masterful Akido martial artists and it really shows in this clip. There is no bluster here, just skill. Its a rarity to see people getting absolutely destroyed to such soft lighting and nice Japanese music...how sweet.

 

Editorial: Power to the P***Y

After watching the documentary Machete Maidens Unleashed and listening to Nerdpocolypse’s episode What Dreams are MAID of?!, I am left with some lingering thoughts about our fascination with bound women or MAIDens (metaphorically and literally).

The documentary, which is streaming on Netflix, profiled the series of exploitation films made during the 60s, 70s, and early 80s in the Philippines “where stunt men came cheap, plot was obsolete and the make-up guy was packin' heat!” Legendary B movie producer Roger Corman produced countless films with images and plot elements that would end up on the cutting room floor today with the current ratings system where women were repeatedly raped, bound, caged, tortured, etc.

Ultimately, these women overcame this treatment and took the power (physical and sexual) into their own hands, transforming into gun touting, kung fu fighting topless women. FYI: This is how you talk about this kind of imagery in academic, feminist terms at dinner parties or yuppy gatherings.

A segment of Nerdpocolypse’s Episode 32, discusses the lingerie or nude maid service available in Lubbock, TX. While these women are not technically bound, they are placed in a subservient position. Still, the power is their own because they are being paid (for the cleaning of course).

And the theme of bondage continues: current best selling romance novels by EL James - Fifty Shades of Grey, Catwoman and her costume+whip, Wonder Woman with her wrist bands+lasso, Princess Leia with her chained slave costume, Star Trek’s Orion Slave Girls, and Maggie Gyllenhal in the film Secretary. Even in the upcoming Avengers film, a clip reveals Black Widow bound in a chair when she gets the call to report to Shield. She then quickly dispatches her captors, but unfortunately for some, she keeps all of her clothes on.

Spoiler Alert - Avengers

Of course, all of these examples walk a very fine line and when it is crossed, people react. Read the reviews of the romance novel on Barnes and Noble for Fifty Shades of Grey or examine reactions to Nicolas Cage’s film 8mm, and you can quickly tell how people’s opinions differ on this topic.

So who is in control? Who really has the power? Men or women? We women all know that men are confounded by our mystery. So perhaps they are trying to “harness” it so they can understand it. Throughout history and society, religions and cultures have sought to control us yet we are strangely still drawn to the idea of being contained having to fight our way out. Even the best seller and box office smash Hunger Games presents a strong female lead, Katniss, whose life is dependent on fighting to survive while still being symbolically bound to Peeta. Throughout the remaining novels, she internally struggles with this “bondage” that is forced and then later willingly accepted and embraced.

So when will women take the evolutionary leap forward and move past the allure of being bonded to men symbolically and literally? Or is it just too much fun or strangely liberating to give someone else the power and the steal it back for ourselves?

Editorial: The Men are Talking: Women as Second-Class Superheros (pt.1)

Amy Counts and Matthew Sutherlin

In light of a recent discussions on The Nerdpocalypse podcast and articles posted the blog, I thought I would tackle another controversial topic of interest concerning women in comics. That is the topic of the female superhero. Let’s start at the beginning, the beginning of Western history that is...In Genesis (the book of the Bible, not the band), God created man on the sixth day. God took from man a rib and from that part of his body he created woman. Man and woman were partnered together to create a whole. This is a patriarchal story that gives women a secondary role to that of men. Yet in the “good book” woman is considered to lead to the down fall of man. The serpent (a.k.a the devil, a.k.a. old scratch, a.k.a. Beelzebub) in the Garden of Eden convinces Eve to partake in the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By partaking, she gains knowledge of both good and evil and persuades Adam to take a bite. Women are vilified by this action which leads to a flaw in the conception of women as less than man and susceptible to coercion and capable of manipulation. This is an argument that has been presented over and over, lest we forget Samson and Delilah. Delilah cutting off Samson's hair to rid him of his superpowers is no accident.

So why go into a biblical diatribe of temptation and downfall? First of all, the story of Adam and Eve is contradictory. According to this story, women became knowledgeable and therefore unworthy of pure faith. If women were the first to have the knowledge of good and evil, they would also be the first to recognize its forms. And now for the conceptual leap but stick with me here. In many ways, they should be the first superheros rather than a subsidiary version. However, the rib story sticks, this has more to do with the conception of women as part of man and therefore a lesser version. The (his)story of comics is one in which men come first. In relation comics as part of the larger male dominated cultural paradigm,  it sets the stage for the lack of value placed on the creation of original superhero comic characters that are women. They are many times setup as a subsidiary to a more well known male superhero or placed in the role of partner.

From SUPER MAN to WONDER WOMAN Not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, and power. Not wanting to be girls, they don't want to be tender, submissive, peace-loving as good women are. Women's strong qualities have become despised because of their weakness. The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman (American Scholar, 1941).

[wp_ad_camp_1]

First of all, Wonder Woman does not make sense. She is an Amazonian that wears the colors of the American Flag. The only difference between her colors and that of Superman is the color white. In fact in Kingdom Come (2009), Superman and Wonder Woman have children together. I also take issue with the statement "all the allure of a good and beautiful woman." Who gets to decide what is good and beautiful? In a male dominated society, that still resides in the hands of men. So how did Wonder Woman become the icon for feminism?

Wonder Woman was developed in the early 1940’s psychologist and feminist, Dr. William Moulton Marston. His goal was to create character that gave girls a positive role model. Marston was famous for several bestselling books and the invention of the lie detector prior to the creation of Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman’s message was that of love, peace, and sexual equality. Instead of fighting with a villain, the first step was always to try to reason with them. When reason failed, force was used. Her lasso was a metaphoric extension of Marston’s own lie detector. Her only weakness was being bound by a man. According to some sources, in Marston’s story’s she always was able to break free from the symbolic patriarchal bondage. It is felt that the complexity has been lost in later iterations of the character’s Achilles' heel (Crawford, 2007).

Although she has origins in feminism, I would argue that today she is nothing more than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In 1947, Marston died and his character was handed off to writers who had little knowledge or did not care about the feminist aspect of Wonder Woman’s persona. Her major concerns became marriage anxiety and battling clones. Even her creator is somewhat of a hypocrite. He lived in a poly-amorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston and Olive Byrne. This leaves the concept of sexual revolution somewhat convoluted. He never had to commit but the two women were essentially bound to him. He once wrote:

The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being bound... Only when the control of self by others is more pleasant than the unbound assertion of self in human relationships can we hope for a stable, peaceful human society... Giving to others, being controlled by them, submitting to other people cannot possibly be enjoyable without a strong erotic element".[Wikipedia]

Apparently for Marston, sexual progressivism meant being open to a threesome and preferably one with a little kink.