Net-Zero Energy House

Today, I had a wonderful opportunity to explore the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Net-Zero Energy House.


As its name implies the residential home makes as much energy as it uses. 


It is run by one of NIST’s 7 laboratories, the Engineering Lab’s Energy and Environment Division.


The 2,700 square foot home is super-insulated and hyper-energy efficient.


It runs on only 12,000-13,000 Kilowatt per year compared to a typical home that guzzles 40,000 KW. 


You can see the array of solar panels on the roof and there is a two-way exchange of energy to/from the grid as available/needed. 


There is also solar thermal water heater. 


The home simulates a family of 4 living there cooking, bathing, watching TV, etc. 


There are 600 sensors inside the house that monitor everything. 


The garage maintains the computers and controls for the research. 


Overall, I was very proud to see the wonderful scientific research being done here. 


It was truly impressive and good for the nation and the planet.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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It’s Just Bling

Crystal Kids.jpegSo sitting in synagogue today, my friend Jacob said something very interesting to me.


He was talking about some very wealthy people with multi-millions and even billions. 


And then he says, you know what the difference is between the rich and everyone else:

“Nothing!”


I asked him what he meant by this.


Then he starts listing off to me like this:

“Well, they live in a home, and you live in a home.
They drive a car, and you drive a car.
They eat food and you eat food.”

And it was amazing how smart his words were, and it hit me how right he was. 


It’s all sort of just in our minds.


Their homes are bigger and nicer; their cars are more luxurious and fancier; their food is better and tastier…but what difference is any of that really.


We both have a roof over our heads to protect us from the elements and a nice place to sleep. 


We both have a car that gets us from here to there and back again. 


We both have food and drink to fill our bellies and nourish us. 


Isn’t the rest just a bunch of bling?


It’s branding and marketing and the sense of luxury that some are better and have more than others. 


But beyond the essentials, we really don’t need any of that!


What we do need is our relationships–people we care about and love and who love us. 


The ability to have a deep impact on others. 


To influence them and make a difference in their lives–in what they do and how they treat others. 


The ability to help people and society. 


The bling is just bling. 


The ability to love and influence that is true wealth. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

How Much Can You Love Something?

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Notice that the title of this blog is not how much can you love G-d or someone…


Those can be virtually infinite. 


I remember my dad was so devoted to G-d and his family. 


He used to say:


“I would go through fire for my family [and of course G-d].”


And we all knew from his daily actions that he meant it! 


But how about for things–how much do some people love their things?


I read today in the Wall Street Journal how David Rockefeller’s estate of paintings, porcelain, and silver was slated to sell for $700 million!


That’s a lot of prized possessions of [lovely] material things!


But even things that aren’t so pricey are incredibly beloved to many people. 


In these photos, someone who must really love bowling has adorned their home and property with dozens of bowling bowls. 


Literally on the fence and in big piles as decoration in the yard all around the home. 


True, it’s colorful, novel, and sort of interesting, but really you love bowling that much!


Yes, we are want to be comfortable with our special things especially when they provide good memories and sentimental feelings.


But whether a bowling bowl house or a Rockefeller estate, it’s only truly worth something if there is G-d and loving people in it with you. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Future Home For Mankind

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Thought these artist renderings of the Trappist-1 Star were awesome. 


NASA discovered this star and 7 Earth-size planets around it that could conceivably have water and sustain human life. 


As we continue to gobble up Earth’s resources and build incredibly powerful weapons that may one day soon destroy it, we need to have a viable Plan B.


Hence, the race to find another planet(s) with resources and environmental conditions where human civilization can survive and thrive.


I’m not sure what is more exciting than finding that magic planetary home of the future, where everything is new and pristine again like the Garden of Eden.


A place to go where hopefully we take not only the bits and bytes of our current world, but also the lessons learned to do it better again. 😉


(Source Photo: NASA JPL here and here)

Bull In A China Shop

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For some reason everyone wants to face down the bull in the China Shop or on Wall Street. 


The bull is stubborn and when it gets angry, it charges and gores. 


So how heroic for the statue of little girl (below on International Women’s Day) to be shown standing in front of him defiantly and not afraid. 


The truth probably is that we are all afraid in life. 


No one wants to get hurt or worse. 


The consequences of something really bad happening can be devastating loss–limb, body, mobility, property or even total person. 


And actually, the more we have in life, the more we have to (potentially) G-d forbid, lose. 


So when you have a spouse, children, a beautiful home, and a good job, that’s when you get really, really afraid. 


Losing your precious loved ones and everything you’ve built with G-d’s blessing and help can instantaneously be gone in the blink of an eye. 


Therefore, be careful before standing in front of a raging bull, you never know when you’ll get walloped and bad. 


Bravery in the face of danger is noble and praiseworthy when doing true good and confronting evil, but just to be a big mouth or a know-it-all or to strut your stuff, you better forget about it–you’ve got a lot to lose and it doesn’t take much for that bull to charge head on and do you a real big dirty! 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal and here with attribution to AP)

The Miraculous Mezuzah

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So there is a Jewish commandment to put a mezuzah on your doorposts. 


Reminiscent of ancient times when Jews were slaves in Egypt and G-d told the Israelites to put the blood of the Paschal lamb on the doorpost.


When they did this and the Angel of Death killed the firstborn in each home of the taskmaster Egyptians–he passed over the doorposts of the Israelites that had the blood on it as commanded by G-d.


So too these days, the Mezuzah has the holy prayer of the Shema Yisrael on it:

“Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One”.

And it is believed to be a symbol of G-d’s divine protection for the home. 


This week in Synagogue, Rabbi Haim Ovadia told some miraculous stories about the Mezuzah from when he was the Rabbi in Bogota, Columbia.


He told of how the cartels would raid the buildings where the people in the community lived.  The cops would be told not to respond to the calls for help for at least an hour.  But what was a miracle was that apartments with the mezuzahs were not harmed. Later, the people found out that the cartels, thank G-d left them alone, because they didn’t know what a mezuzah was and thought it was some sort of fancy alarm system!


Another story, was the boss who put mezuzahs on the offices at work, and what happened? The profitability of the business went up.  When they looked at why this happened, they realized that the boss would stop at the mezuzah to recite the Shema, and the workers thought the boss was there paying more attention to them and so productivity went way up. 


Finally, the last one was really funny.  They couldn’t easily get mezuzahs in Bogota, so when they heard someone was coming from a trip to Israel, they asked him to bring 5 mezuzahs for the home. When it arrived, they opened it up, but lo and behold, the parchment with the prayer inside was missing from them.  When they asked what happened to it–the person said, I already know how to put up a mezuzah on the doorpost with 2 nails and a hammer, so what do I need the instructions inside it for!


G-d is glorious and the holiness that he bestows on us with his commandments is amazing. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Tiny House Capsule

We enjoy watching Tiny House Hunters on HGTV, but this is even better!


The Ecocapsule is an awesome 88-feet of pod living


Haul it on a simple 4-wheel trailer and plunk it down. 


It has a solar roof and wind turbine that powers up its battery for up to 4 days.


Plus a rainwater filtration system feeds your faucets, toilet, and shower. 


There is a bed for 2 as well as a cooktop, work desk, and modest storage space. 


It’s minimalist living at it sleekest and best. 


Only $86K from Slovakia and you’re off the grid and living free.


Can’t you just see these while eggshells dotting the landscape?


When everything in the world goes to hell, these little pods could be providing sustainable living to survivors. 


All we need is some cool defense gadgets and this could work! 😉