austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

He knew that it had something to do with lightning

The Electrical Generator: that's what I feel like discussing. The Electrical Generator is known most often for its one-hit wonder, ``One-Wonder Hit'', from the album ``Hit One Wonder'' which was all over the place in fall 1968 and forgotten afterwards except by people who like rock music to have sitars in it non-ironically. But with that Electrical generator tied the record for one-hit wonders by a single band, which they continue to share, at ``one''.

This gets me far off my topic, which is the electrical generator, noncapitalized except to start off a sentence and in other exceptions defined by grammar rules which gradually escape the mind after high school. You're about to lose something important about returning from a hyphenated clause, only to replace it with a sense of shame when other people speak as if knowledgeably about participles.

With the price of electricity set to continue rising, a result of both people's generally looking down at electricity bills causing by a common optical effect the actual cost to appear to be the same length as the longer line with arrows pointing the other direction, not to mention the continuing use of non-leavened fuel sources, people are naturally getting curious about where this electricity stuff comes from anyway and what they could do about not using the mass-produced stuff and maybe getting back to homemade electricity.

This is why you're seeing more electricity at thrift stores, farmers' markets, flea markets, flea farmers, or yard sales. Sometimes you even see them at frightening team-ups of all these places to buy homemade things, and unless you duck pretty fast you might get an extra bag of cheese-flavored electricity along with lamps which were ugly thirty years ago but now with the patina of age and the wisdom of maturing taste have become ugly antiques.

Electricity comes from, oh, let's call it the amberberry bush, which grows wild in Schenectady, New York, as you might be if you had to grow wild there, not to mention some parts of Greece, where it gets a name in Greek from instead. Until its distinctive three-leafed pattern with one leaf the slightly wrong size in order to affect polarity or something was noticed these plants could mostly be a great surprise when someone bit into what sure seemed like a grape or a berry and got an electric jolt instead. It's the sort of thing making you glad you weren't also chewing on aluminum foil, which was in some cases only two thousand years away from being invented, which made the relief premature.

Eventually Benjamin Franklin invented some contraption improving them in ways a lot easier to describe as improvements than in saying just what did change, and he included in the descriptions some remarks about King George III that are witty once translated into English. So things started getting organized and people finally understood enough about how electricity worked to get all the rest of it completely wrong, and a century or two after that things started to clear up, although it required the firm dictatorship of a person known only as ``Kirchoff'' and thirty years of secret laws proclaimed by ``Ohm''.

These days the need to wander around looking for electricity in the wild is pretty much ended. Instead you can look through the Burpee catalogue under the ``Fermion'' section and check out the different flavors of electrons available. Plant them at a finger's depth in a decent ground and keep dry once the seeds hatch, which will be accompanied by rumblings of thunder coming underfoot and making the birds trying to steal your seeds very nervous. (Warning: do *not* plant positrons unless you are certain you live in an antimatter universe, as the explosions make the birds more nervous and eager for revenge.) Then there's just the harvesting, extracting, fermenting, distilling, and pasteurizing and you're on your way to rationalizing the electric bill as not really that burdensome. This cycle from dissatisfaction to attempt to do something about it to defeated acceptance completes the electric circuit, without which none of it would work.

Next week: ground, and where to find it.

Trivia: The new generators Thomas Edison sent to the Paris Electrical Exposition of 1881 were capable of lighting five hundred incandescent lamps of 16 candlepower each. Source: Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World, Jill Jonnes.

Currently Reading: A Random Walk Down Wall Street, Burton G Malkiel.


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