It's good to be known.


Categories: Personal

So, one of the points a lot of people miss in evaluating or choosing presents is that the point of a present is largely to express awareness of who, or what, someone is. Any idiot can buy you something expensive; the hard part is buying you something that makes you happy because of who you are.

I got a very cool birthday present. It’s a big shiny torchiere-style light; the thing that makes it interesting, to me at least, is that it’s a fluorescent one. I’ve seen tons of these of the 300W halogen variety. This one is a cool 55W, and that’s assuming you turn it all the way up - it’s dimmable. This is a great gift. I love fluorescent lights. I use them almost exclusively throughout my house, in preference to incandescent lights. When I got this house, I started buying compact fluorescent bulbs; I cleared out the entire (very limited) stock of the nearby Sears several times. Every bulb that burned out, I replaced with a fluorescent.

I like these. They last forever; one bulb which I installed in 1997, when I moved in, burned out this spring, having been left on the entire time. (This may sound wasteful, but consider that it was an 11-watt bulb, in a heavily traveled and otherwise dark hallway; the cost of leaving it on for the entire time was probably lower than the replacement cost of toggling it more often.) They also use very little power; I would guess that I use 14 as much power lighting my house as most people I know do. Possibly more than that - after all, I keep very odd hours, and so does my spouse, so we actually have lights on most of the night - but possibly less, because we both tend to be quite happy with fairly dim light.

In fact, the general dimness of my house may have been one of the influences in this particular choice of present… But it’s a great present nonetheless. I am using the light to illuminate my computer room, and it’s wonderful; no glare at all on my monitor, plenty bright to read by, and very very low power consumption compared to the other similar lights I’ve seen before.

If you’re in a place that is served by the power company we use - Xcel energy - you can probably get pretty good deals on various fluorescent bulbs.

There are a lot of objections to these bulbs. They used to take forever to warm up (some day, I will replace the kitchen bulb, which only becomes bright enough to cook by after being on for perhaps twenty minutes). Some of them buzz. Many models don’t support being on a dimmer. Some, especially older ones, have pretty unusual spectral qualities, and make it hard to judge color accurately.

And yet… They’re a huge improvement in the functional cost of lighting, and supporting them helps send a message that there’s a market for reasonably efficient lighting. No one’s gonna make products that no one will buy; if we want low-power lighting, we’ll have to start buying it, so the companies producing it can stay in business and maybe even do research.

Anyway, it’s a great present, and it’s wonderful to know that my friends (Jordan, in particular) know me well enough to realize that I’d like it.

Which is not to say it’s the only present I got which showed a keen appreciation of my interests; Dave got me a book on Biblical hermeneutics, which is one of my other hobbies.

Dave and Jordan gave me two very important kinds of light for my birthday; a very cheering thought.