Light and LOL

Posted February 17th, 2011 at 2:21 pm (UTC-4)

You’ve seen those cartoons in which a light bulb with rays bursting outward appears above someone’s head.

New ideas shed light on a situation.

New ideas shed light on a situation.

It represents an idea, usually a new and brilliant one!  And sometimes we hear certain people described as “dim bulbs,” meaning they’re not terribly bright.

But can such metaphors work once the gaudy, porcelain-white glow from today’s halogen, fluorescent, and LED (“light-emitting diode”) bulbs lights up the globe?  How can you fit a bright, new cartoon thought into a spiral-shaped CFL (compact fluorescent) idea bubble? And I thought the CFL was a football league.

'Opto-electronics' means op to no good!

'Opto-electronics' means op to no good!

These new lights, pasty-white in the main, have all been created by something called “opto-electronics.”  Scary.

How many (fill in here) does it take to change one of those day-glo-white CFLs?  If you’re talking about me, the answer is one — as fast as I can.  Give me the warm, yellowy glow of an old-fashioned, Thomas Edison-inspired incandescent, not something that gives your office the ambience of an emergency room.

My last motel room.

My last motel room.

Cheapskate motel chains have gladly replaced cozy bedside bulbs with chalky high-tech ones.  The room has all the warmth of a crypt.  But the housekeepers still put a mint under your headstone.  Or stand beneath one of today’s pallid street lights — humming menacingly — and watch cats and children run screaming.  No wonder.  They make you look like an extra in “The Night of the Living Dead.”

Like those street lights, many new and “improved” bulbs take their sweet time turning on.  They’re not “warming up.” The bulbs are cool — clammy, if you ask me — to the touch.  Prodded by Carol, my efficiency expert, I put one in a socket next to our garden and turned it on at dusk.  Roosters were crowing before the thing gave off enough light to reveal the possum eating our petunias.  Made him look ghastly, too.

Note the cozy, comforting glow of the new bulbs.

Note the cozy, comforting glow of the new bulbs.

I guess you can tell by now that I’m not a fan of these cool, pale lightbulbs.  And I see from news reports that I’m not alone. With a mandated phase-out of incandescent bulbs, beginning with 100-watt varieties next year, people across America are stockpiling the things!

Incandescents’ days are numbered because governments around the world have ordered manufacturers to get with the CFL and halogen program in the name of efficiency. Compact flourescents are said to use as much as 75 percent less electricity than the old filament bulbs.  Or is it 125 percent? 2,900 percent?  All kinds of data have been marched out to promote the new lighting technology.  Unscrewing the old and screwing in the new saves energy, we’re assured.  You’re helping the planet cut down on greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s funny, the only bulbs I’ve seen in greenhouses are fluorescents or heat lamps. 

And speaking of a roasty-toasty comforting glow, doesn't this warm your heart? (Mushroom and Rooster, Flickr Creative Commons)

And speaking of a roasty-toasty comforting glow, doesn't this warm your heart? (Mushroom and Rooster, Flickr Creative Commons)

I’m so not getting with the program.  Above my head in my VOA office loom four opaque-glass rectangles beneath which stretch 16 long, fluorescent tubes.  Not a one of them works, because I got up on a chair and twisted them out of their sockets after bringing in three lovely desk lamps from home.  (Don’t tell.)

“I can’t see a thing with the new bulbs and can’t afford them anyway,” Sue Larkin of Tulsa, Oklahoma, told the USA Today newspaper.  A CFL typically sells for three or four times the price of an incandescent.  Supposedly, though, it lasts for 10,000 hours or something.

Of course, I’ve never met anyone who added up all the hours that a given lightbulb was on find out if this is true or promoter baloney.

This is more my style.

This is more my style.

“I have stocked up on enough incandescent bulbs to last for the next 50 years,” Susan Drake of Marietta, Ohio, informed USA Today.  You go, girl! I’d do the same thing, but I can’t bring myself to throw out the 1,900 beauties in my beer-bottle collection.  There’d be nowhere else in the house to stash all those 100-watters.

“Unless you prefer paying higher electricity bills, there’s no reason to hoard old incandescent bulbs,” scolded the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Noah Horowitz.

Right, like anybody prefers higher utility bills. But tell the truth.  Who likes reading or typing or applying eyeliner under bluish-white blobs of CFL illumination?  You can talk CFL, LED, “green” to be trendy, but these creations can’t, um, hold a candle to the warm — all right, sometimes hot to the touch — lightbulbs of old.

I doubt pasty-white light was what he was after.

I doubt pasty-white light was what he was after.

After years of experimenting, Thomas Edison was quoted as saying, “We now know a thousand ways not to build a lightbulb.”

He’d have a thousand more if he’d walked out of the lab with a twisty CFL.


KIO (Knock it Off)

Speaking of initials and modernity, I read a newspaper story about the spread of texting lingo — “OMG,” etc. — from handheld devices to our day-to-day speech.   We’re starting to actually say “LOL,” for laugh out loud,” out loud!

Grampa, laughing out loud. (Mr TGT, Flickr Creative Commons)

Grampa, laughing out loud. (Mr TGT, Flickr Creative Commons)

Then I got one of those humor messages that races around the Internet, announcing that we SENIORS now have our own texting codes with which to express the indignities of old age.  For example:

ATD              At the Doctor’s

BTW             Bring the Wheelchair

CBM             Covered by Medicare

COC             Coffin or Cremation?
CUATRH       See You at the Rest Home

DWI             Driving While Incontinent

GG               Got Gas

NPA             Not Prunes Again!

SWS            Say What, Sonny?

WIA             Where Am I?

WYNA          What’s Your Name Again?

And there was a good one that may need a little context.  The person referenced was an older North Dakotan of Norwegian descent.  He directed a television orchestra and singers who lilted through sentimental ballads and accordion-accompanied waltzes while bubbles billowed to the bouncy tune.  He was a favorite among the older set. Here’s the text code:

LWO            Lawrence Welk’s On!

You just tell Junior, 'BTA-HTF.' (Carol M. Highsmith)

You just tell Junior, 'BTA-HTF.' (Carol M. Highsmith)

But I believe texting shorthand can be a helpful tool for bridging the communication gap between generations.  No need for the wise family patriarch to prattle on when it’s time to pass along stories from the olden days or helpful tips to guide a young sprout through life.  Instead, toss out a few of these useful texting codes to replace tired clichés that make the young’ns’ eyes roll, and you’ll be done in no time:

AAAAL          An Arm and a Leg

ABB              Age Before Beauty

ABNB           All Bark and No Bite

AOME           Apple of My Eye

ATCF            As the Crow Flies

BIAB?           (Were You) Born in a Barn?

BIMD            Back in My Day

BSTS            Better Safe than Sorry

BTA-HTF      (The) Bigger They Are, the Harder They Fall

BBT-TTR      (It’s) Better to Give than to Receive

BOB             Bottom of the Barrel

BTH              Bury the Hatchet

BTSSB         Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

CBH             Cart Before the Horse

Good try.  CBNC. (Cigar Jack, Flickr Creative Commons)

Good try. CBNC. (Cigar Jack, Flickr Creative Commons)

CBNC           Close, but No Cigar

CGYT?         Cat Got Your Tongue

CBT-JT         (If you ) Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

CNG             Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

DAD             Dime a Dozen

DIAR            Ducks in a Row

DITB            Drop in the Bucket

FIF              Fit as a Fiddle
or Forewarned is Forearmed

FOCB           Fish or Cut Bait

HF               Horse Feathers!

HOTH           High on the Hog

HYH             Hold Your Horses

IR                I Reckon

LBYL            Look Before You Leap

LIB              Love is Blind

LS               Last Straw

LTSO           (You Don’t Have a) Leg to Stand on

MDGGOT     Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees

MHHC           (A) Man’s Home is His Castle

MHWSS       Make Hay While the Sun Shines

MO              Midnight Oil

MPQ            Mind Your Ps and Qs

MU              (A) Monkey’s Uncle

NB-DFI         (If it’s) Not Broke, Don’t Fix it

NRTW          No Rest for the Weary

OBTS            Once Bitten, Twice Shy

OOF-ITF       Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire

OOS-OOM     Out of Sight, Out of Mind

OSTD           (Waiting for the) Other Shoe to Drop

PCTS           (When) Push Comes to Shove

PFYT            A Penny for Your Thoughts

PIAV             Patience is a Virtue

Is this a PIAP?  Not exactly.  A 'poke' is a sack or bag.  (jackmalvern, Flickr Creative Commons)

Is this a PIAP? Not exactly. A 'poke' is a sack or bag. (jackmalvern, Flickr Creative Commons)

PIAP             Pig in a Poke

POC             (a) Piece-o-Cake

PS               Persnickety

PSPE           A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

PWPF           Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

PWYP          Practice What You Preach

RCD            (It’s) Raining Cats and Dogs

RKS             Real Knee-Slapper

SC               Spring Chicken

SOL             (Variety is the) Spice of Life

SS               Straight Shooter

TCW            (My) Two Cents’ Worth

TISTF          Truth is Stranger than Fiction

THAW          Time Heals All Wounds

TIC              Talk is Cheap

TLY              That’ll Learn Ya!

TOKO           Takes One to Know One

TFP              (I Wouldn’t Touch that with a) Ten-Foot Pole

This TRTH is at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's former estate in Virginia. (thegardenbuzz, Flickr Creative Commons)

This TRTH is at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's former estate in Virginia. (thegardenbuzz, Flickr Creative Commons)

TRTH           Tough Row to Hoe

TTC              Third Time’s the Charm or (It’s the) Thought that Counts

WBTE           Wet Behind the Ears

WWBWB      What Will Be Will Be

WNY            (The) Whole Nine Yards

WPNB          (A) Watched Pot Never Boils

WYS             Worth Your Salt

Can you give us GAs (golden agers) some more helpful abbreviations?  Or send me texting codes that a young person might use to reply to Granny and Gramps.

Sorry, but a WTNB.  (Infinitely Curious, Flickr Creative Commons)

Sorry, but a WTNB. (Infinitely Curious, Flickr Creative Commons)

Ted's Wild Words

These are a few words from this posting that you may not know. Each time, I'll tell you a little about them and also place them into a cumulative archive of "Ted's Wild Words" in the right-hand column of the home page. Just click on it there, and if there's another word that you'd like me to explain, just ask!

Diode. In electronics, a two-terminal component that passes electrical current in one direction between them.

Incandescent. Containing a filament that turns white-hot and gives off light when electric current passes through it.

Persnickety. Fussy and demanding about every little detail, often in a snotty or snobbish way.

13 responses to “Light and LOL”

  1. Peter says:

    Thomas Edison was an intrepid entrepreneur and inventor. He would have extolled the virtues of the CFL lightbulb as a major milestone and improvement in lighting efficiency. The ‘harsh’ lighting environment you elude to is actually a more natural wavelength than the filament lightbulb.

    Wake up and smell the petrol burning. The way to get off of foreign oil (controlled by dictators and saudi princes that are all too glad to take america’s money) is to improve efficiency.

    What do you think China is doing:….wasting money to maintain ‘status quo’ type technologies…or ensuring their economy is based on efficiency and lower energy per unit output? hmmmmm.
    Given that their population is 3x that of america, don’t you think we need to be MORE efficient that the chinese to compete?

    Don’t speak about what you don’t know. And don’t try to deflect valid arguments as incessant ramblings.

  2. Fotor says:

    Hello, i arrived to this blog whilst looking for something else, but to my joy i discovered this internet site. Maintain doing what you’re performing, its great.

  3. naoma foreman says:

    And, do they not have to be thrown out in a specific way? I believe I read that you take them
    somewhere and they will be disposed of.

  4. teds nemesis says:

    what a stupid article. just because one old guy writes this based on reminiscing about old fashioned “warm” light bulbs doesnt mean their superior in any way to new energy efficent light bulbs. and yeah, if it were up to this guy, we would probably still be praising the oil companies, and voting for republican Bush look-a-likes. hush up old man, times are changing. People are not into shooting themselves in the foot any more, being that we are smarter than the old generation

  5. Brad says:

    You’re just old and cranky. Get over it. Change happens.

  6. Evan says:

    Spoken (written) like a true Luddite. You can buy LED lighting in any colour you desire, it just isn’t widely available in North America yet. I order mine direct from China, where it is manufactured. By the way, the alarmist rot about toxic elements in LEDs is complete nonsense. There is more arsenic in a glass of water from many municipal water supplies than there is in an LED emitter. Also, the miniscule amount that is present is in the form of a glassy material that isn’t soluble in water and cannot be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. It would be time better spent to worry about the radioactive isotopes in smoke detectors or the incredibly potent algaecide (triclosan) in most anti bacterial soaps you use every day.

    LED lighting is the future and the future is here now. I have converted my house to LED and the plants love it, my wife loves it and so do I, especially when I get my electric bill. It has dropped by 20% year over year for the same time period. My LED lighting has a payback period of about 2 years and will last 10. That is very attractive math and it is also the only way to make our energy supplies go far enough to keep up the standard of living to which we are accustomed. Of course, I have very little faith that people will really ever see the light so that is why I invest in oil…. Just keep up the propaganda and your money becomes mine.

  7. tland says:

    Right on all three counts. The old, cranky, and change happens conclusions. But I don’t HAVE to get over it, do I, you whippersnapper. NOT getting over change that you don’t like is one of the pleasures, if not joys, of old age, young feller.


  8. tland says:

    Pardon the play on words, but one pleasure of the blog format is that when we Luddites pontificate, you can enLIGHTen us. Hope you feel better having done so.


  9. tland says:

    To Peter,

    I was with you until the “Don’t speak about what you don’t know” comment. I see. One needs to be an electrical engineer or lighting historian to have an opinion about light bulbs? Should I subscribe to a lighting journal and read it for six months before stating that, to me, the new lights are unsatisfactory?

    I don’t know very much about tofu turkey, either, except that I don’t care for it. Should I keep this to myself? Or thoroughly research the health benefits of soy before expressing a written gag reflex?


  10. Don Simon says:

    The implication that there is a lifetime cost savings is not true for these more efficient sources of light. Most are used in highly industrialized societies, which are in temperate climates. The heat from the older tungsten filament bulbs actually is useful in heating the space it is illuminating, reducing the amount of living space heating necessary and producing indirect energy savings. In Summer this does not work, but one could always let the ambient light of the sun work. Sorry but the use of high tech lighting is just another marketing ploy at this point in its development.

  11. Blake says:

    In a strong standing, this is quite possibly the single most most moronic commentary on the subject of light bulb technology that I have ever had the displeasure of reading. The number of factual inaccuracies presented are so myriad it’s not even worth debunking them individually. Not that I am deluded enough to believe the author would care enough about the truth concerning this technology to revise his antiquated opinions anyway. Heaven forbid. Little more than an even more uninformed, dimestore version of Andy Rooney. Lame.

    As to the idea that CFLs produce inferior light that the crotchety, cranky, coot contingent of the population simply cannot abide: no sorry, but you can’t tell the difference. I’m sure actual evidence won’t stop the author from believing he can though, why would it?

  12. tland says:

    Coot contingent! Good.


  13. Evan says:

    “The heat from the older tungsten filament bulbs actually is useful in heating the space it is illuminating, reducing the amount of living space heating necessary and producing indirect energy savings. ”

    Huh? What “indirect savings”? It doesn’t reduce the amount of heating required. It merely replaces one source with another that is the most expensive source available. I heat with natural gas which is far cheaper than electricity per thermal unit. When I want light I get light, not heat. When I want heat I turn up the thermostat.

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Ted Landphair


This is a far-ranging exploration of American life by a veteran Voice of America “Americana” reporter and essayist.

Ted writes about the thousands of places he has visited and written about as a broadcaster and book author. Ted Landphair’s America often showcases the work of his wife and traveling companion, renowned American photographer Carol M. Highsmith.

Ted welcomes feedback, questions, and ideas. View Ted’s profile. Watch a video about Ted and Carol by VOA’s Nico Colombant.

Photos by Carol M. Highsmith


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