Sunday, May 13, 2012

Technical garbage confusion

This is a common issue for me. Seventy five ponds of vintage, but still operable glass tube television riding around in the back of the Parmain Laboratory's Mobile High Tech Marine Crisis Facility. There are three options for disposing of these hulks. The first is the "Green Way." This involves driving out to the dump's processing center, waiting in a long line with others who have dangerous items, like left over latex paint, old microwaves, and then me with the TV. The idiot box gets weighed, the magic number is fed into a computer that advises me the disposal fee will be $15.00. Another approach is to leave it on the street on or near trash day. The garbage service won't take the TV, but often an enterprising entrepreneur will see some redeeming value in it, and will make it disappear in the dead of night. A good morning is when you look, and it's gone. A bad morning is when it's still there with a note on it saying "Just leave flat screens jerkface." Plan C is to go behind a shopping center, and dump it in the Italian restaurant's bin. I have only heard rumors that a TV makes a satisfying plopping noise when it hits all of the discarded spaghetti and lasagna. Boy do I miss living in Chicago. You could put on the curb a cast iron tub, a body rolled up in a rug with a twenty dollar bill and bottle of Jack, and it just magically disappeared.

Being green can be expensive, and tedious. The local county operated recycling center accepts, and charges for electronic trash, to a point. As you can see from the list, their description is somewhat vague. What they really see is a lot of old TV's, VCR's, microwaves, and old PC's. Then the installer shows up with his cart loaded with an old Decca radar array and display, a SSB radio, and  assorted black boxes on the cart.

The clerk stares at the collection, and wants to know what the stuff is, and what is in it. I start in. "Well this thing is a radar array. Inside is a drive motor, some circuit  boards, and a magnetron." "What ia a magnetron?" nervously asks the clerk, as he reaches for the phone. "Well it's sort of the same thing that is in a microwave, and you take those every day." A supervisor show up, looks at it and say's, "I don't know, whats it used for?" "It's used on boats to see other boats and the ilk ." "Well I have a bass boat, and I have never seen one of these. What kind of boat needs one of these things, and what's that, it looks complicated?" "Its a Single Side Band transceiver, it can be a bit complicated to use, and it needs a licence to operate it. It's also often found on boats." At this point I'm imagining that the guy is now pushing a button under the counter to summon the Department of Homeland Security.

Grudgingly after making some phone calls they weigh the stuff, and I write a check. If you're not an avid boater, some of the gear would appear to be a bit inscrutable.

Last year I had a client who was falsely charged with a somewhat heinous felony. I knew him well, and not for one minute did I believe he was even remotely guilty, and it turned out he wasn't. But during the investigation I was interviewed by a federal agent who flew down from Atlanta to talk with me. The Feds had accessed his credit card records, and had noted that he had purchased, a spy type night surveillance system, aka a hand held Flir night scope. The problem was when they googled the purchase the ended up at this Flir website, and not this Flir website. The point is that is is often difficult to ascertain what some high technology is actually used for, and what's in it. The Agent was a nice young man, and not anywhere nearly as intimidating as he was trying to be. What he ended up with was a short lecture that started with, "You don't boat do you?", followed with all of the reasons a boater would need one of these items. Go over to the local West Marine store, you will find several of them out on display, and no I don't know where he is. And I didn't.

So I'm never surprised when I go to the high tech dump with lots of aged, heavy and obsolete marine detritus. I sigh, and politely do my very best to explain it's not dangerous stuff, and work it through the system. I'm there in the first place because Kate says, "you gotta get this stuff out of here, we're looking like the Sanfords." I always hope they take it, I don't want to use the Italian restaurants dumpster. It takes a lot of time to wipe my prints off. 


  1. In Maine there is a place for this sort of thing, it's called "the woods". It's the same place I call my "wood lot" I I had a buck for every car tire out there I could pay my bar tab.

    Maine has a deposit on cans and bottles. If there are any cans or bottle road side they don't last long, in my neighborhood an old guy on a bicycle picks them up, they are worth a nickle apiece.

    Same thing needs to happen with all this junk. The original purchaser needs to put a deposit on it. Disposal of junk is an economic externality. The cost should be absorbed by the manufacturer.

  2. Was it David Letterman who, at least ten years ago, pioneered the "12-Story Gravity Experiments"??

    Long before all the smash-and-blow-things-up reality shows like Mythbusters.

  3. Yes it was Robert. Typewriters, TV's, watermelons, and many other objects were flung off the building, and captured on film for posterity. I found it to be very satisfying to watch.

  4. Here is link to a You Tube video, it was a 5 story building.

  5. I once had to get rid of an old vacuum tube TV. I think it was an RCA from the early 70's. Large console type.

    I stuck it out front with a sign that said: "FREE". It sat there and sat there and sat there. On the third day I changed the sign to: "$250 or Best Offer". It was gone the next morning when I woke up! :-)

  6. Why would buying an h series night vision camera be a crime - let alone a felony, and why were they going through his credit card transactions?

    Seems like there was more there than you know. Just saying.

  7. Unfortunately in today's world, in some cases you just have to be accused of something to be treated as if you're automatically guilty. In this case the client wasn't, but was treated as if he was, and had some horrific intrusions into his life. Depending on which of the two Flir websites you saw, you could get two completely different views of how the same piece of equipment could be used, and by whom. Furtive spy, or boater.


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