2006/01/08

The Tropics It Ain't

The old kerosene heater was being cantancorous. It would come on with a lot of heat, the fan blowing lots of warm air and starting to heat the room, then a few minutes later it would shut down and start making a beeping noise to indicate the air was afoul with CO. Silly thing. It was built to shut down if the room needed air, which is a good thing, but this was clearly a malfunction. We tried vacuuming the dust off the back, then taking it apart and cleaning the inside. No luck. It helped only marginally. The darned thing refused to run for more than five minutes before quiting. It got to be very annoying and I threatened to take it out on the Kitaura bridge and let it go for a midnight swim.

Instead of polluting the lake, we bought a new heater. I'll work on the old one and get it working properly, but meanwhile we won't have to do without heat. Well, we have more that one heater, but if we want to occupy more than one room at a time we need two or more. I wanted a different kind anyway. Most of the keosene room heaters here use an electric fan to distribute the heat. They are simple in a way, but also have computer chips to tell you how much fuel is left, warn you of too much CO in the air, and regulate the temperature. But you know what? I have a brain that can do all that for free. Besides, the fan causes them to burn a lot more kerosene than is really necessary and dry out the air which leads to dry skin, dry nasal passages, etc. It is perhaps typical of Japanese technological development - take an old technology and bring to an ultra-modern high tech state, when what is needed is a total replacement. In this case, well insulated homes with central, vented, heating systems. (Americans, don't gloat. You use several times the energy per capita than Japan or Europe. You need a lot of engineering help yourself).

These heaters also use electricity which adds a bit to that bill while burning extra keorsene. It has also occurred to me that when there is a really big storm someday, and the heater is most needed, it might also be the time when electricity was not available. Call me a survivalist nut case, but the last time I want to lose my heater is during a blizzard or other emergency. It could never happen in Kashima? Yeah, right. I hope you know how to rub two sticks together.

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Your Basic "Bb" Radiant Heater


I did some research and bought your "basic, B-flat" (as they say in the music biz), radiant heater. No electrical grid needed. You light the wick with a battery powered spark, or a match, and it does its thing. A relfector projects the heat into the room. Not only does it save electricity, but it sips fuel while spreading a wonderful heat throughout the room. It does heat the air of course, but doesn't dry it out too much. Besides, you can put a pot of water on the top and add humidity to the air if you like. Very "retro", I know.

I will admit the old one (of more modern design with a fan) does heat up a room more quickly, but other than that I have not been impressed with it at all.

This purchase was timed perfectly, for as we slept that night it snowed here in Kashima "City" for the first time in eleven months - and unlike the last time, it actually stuck on the ground.

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In case you are wondering, the lesson has not been lost on me that in Hawaii or Fiji none of this stuff would matter one whit! ;^)


When Momo summoned breakfast yesterday morning, I was amazed to slide open the front door and see a thin dusting of snow over everything. It brought to mind that great scene in the movie "Dr. Zhivago" when the music swells and they break the ice to open the rail car door to a panorama of ice and snow. OK, so we're not in the Urals or Siberia.

Anyway, I was also delighted and taken back to a day in my childhood in southern California in the late 1950's, when it snowed one of the only two times in more than half a century. Flashback to my black standard poodle "Peppi" playing in the snow, neighbors bringing sleds (why did they own sleds?) and even skis to play on the slope of our 1/2 acre lot. Snow men and snow forts and snow ball fights. To those reading this from colder climes, you may think I'm going overboard, but to people in places like California, Hawaii, Fiji, or Malaysia, well, I know you'll understand.

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Rising Sun


It was cold, but at the same time it was a treat, and a beautiful one at that. As for Momo, it simply did not compute. She ate breakfast, took a look around without so much as setting a single paw in the snow (though she did take a bite), and then returned to bed until it had melted.

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Out The Kitchen (back) Door


It was K's first day back at work teaching English in Mito City. I was grateful that this was the day she takes the train rather than drive the whole way. She would only have to drive two kilometers to the station.

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It was also "burnable rubbish" day, so I followed my routine of taking it down to the collection bin across from the temple. Due to holidays they had skipped a couple of days so it was two trips and, since the road was icy, I walked rather than rode the bike. I grabbed the camera and took a few pics while I was at it. After all, how often will I get the chance to photograph snow? Not often - I hope!

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Front Gate

14 comments:

Mito Mitsukuni said...

Strangely, there was no snow in Mito that morning!

Pandabonium said...

Oh! Lord Mitsukuni of Mito! Thank you for visiting my humble blog. I bow before the family crest of Tokugawa.

Whatever.

Don Snabulus said...

Your sunrise picture is gorgeous. It looks like August thunderheads precariously perched in a winter scene. Good catch (as are your other pics).

I remember the fuzzy-logic digital kerosene heater whilst staying at Moody's all those years ago. I could choose between staying up all night to keep the room warm, leaving the heater off to allow the room to slowly freeze, or leave the heater on and window open so I could cook on one side and freeze the other.

My choice was finally to read until I could barely keep my eyes open with the heater blasting, then turn it off, crack the window a few centimeters to let the oxygen in, and go to sleep (and wake up as a popsicle). Luckily, my younger, leaner, and Boy Scout camp toughened body performed a bit better in those days.

Happysurfer said...

Definitely enough snow to make snowballs. We miss snow here in Malaysia but we do get hailstones once in awhile but mostly they go unnoticed unless one is outdoors when it happens. Love that tree. Did you have to prune it to get it to that shape?

Pandabonium said...

Snabby, thank you.

The heaters in Japan get some getting used to, that's for sure.
I can relate to your dilema.

I grew up with central gas heating that was on all night. Here, we wear a lot of clothes indoors, keep the room in the 60's and at night just pile the futon covers high. We stay warm, but it sure is bracing when we get up in the morning.

On the other hand, when I see what some people in cold parts of the US are paying to heat their homes this winter, I can't complain.

Pandabonium said...

Happy surfer - that kind of tree is popular for landscaping in Japan. It was pruned and shaped by the people who built this house some time ago, we just keep it trimmed.

This snow was a surprise for people in Kashima City, but only a mild nuisance. Some towns between the Japan Alps and the Sea of Japan have had 4 meters of snow, completely cutting them of from the outside world!

@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

I remember sleeping on a electronic "warm" carpet in Chiba. I don't see any heater but back then Chiba was not even snowing. I'll be extra careful next time if I ever use one of these heaters...thanks for the stories and wonderful shots!

Take it from my Danish friend: Depends on how much "heat" you use, paying to heat up our home is definitely unimaginable to some Malaysian. We pay electrical bills for air-condition instead.

Pandabonium said...

In summer, the heaters and the carpet go into storage.

I spent the afternoon today taking apart the old heater and thoroughly cleaning it. It has been running fine now for over an hour.

In Fiji I won't have to worry about heat or air conditioning. Both of those things will become very expensive in the next few years.

Robin said...

Heard that we are experiencing the cold wind worldwide. Winter death toll is hitting rocket high this year, especially in Pakistan during after the recent earthquake.

And Japan has been very much affected by the cold (in the news). In Singapore, we have the rain for non stop for five days. Very much like last year after the tsunami.

Is it global warming where the hot day gets hotter and cold day gets colder

Pandabonium said...

Chinese proverb: "It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period."

I'll bark to that.

Over 70 people now dead from snow realated causes in Japan. The Pakistanis have really been hit hard with so many people still living 'on the edge' in tents.

And too many people still have their head up their - err, I mean, head in the sand regarding the impact of human activity on our one and only planet.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Ironically, the snow was much worse both across the lake in (former) Aso (where I live) and in the hills around Kashima Shrine (where I work). Getting to the school that day really stank, as I said on my own site.

The problem you're having with the old heater is a very common one. It's caused by creosote build-up. More modern models have a cleaning cycle to help avoid that. Look at your heater and see if it has a button (possibly recessed and only accessible via nail or something) marked "clean" (掃除).

Still, as you say, there is something to be said for the BBb types. We have electric heating now, but we keep a couple of old stoves on hand just in case.

Pandabonium said...

I guess we "lucked out" by not getting so much snow, and by not having to drive very far that day.
Icy roads are scary.

Thanks for tip, Moody. I tore the heater completely apart and cleaned it. It was filthy with dust. Works better now, but still not quite as it should. I'll look for that self-cleaning button. I think I have a nail I can use if needed. If not, I have a hammer. ;^)

Robin said...

'I have Hammer'.. hmmm, does that mean: Bye Bye Heater.

Dun throw it away yet.. u just dun know when the next power failure is.

Pandabonium said...

Just joking about the hammer, Robin. Oddly enough, it seems mechanical things sometimes respond to such threats.

We have 4 heaters now. One is an electric carbon element radiant heater (which sucks a lot of electrons) , two are "computerized" kerosene with electric fans - one a year old and the other is the old "cranky" one - and one basic radiant kerosene heater which requires no electricity.

None are in any real danger of being recycled. Yet.

Meanwhile, back in the tropics.....sigh...