Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Eccentric

I'm not sure how much I want to be thought of as eccentric, but I might want to be eccentric, just a little bit . . .

Yesterday an Electrician Guy came to the church to check out the lights or something, and one of the trustees had him take a look at my office. He was afraid to step over the baby gate into the section where Oscar and I were because apparently he went to some house one time and "Cujo was up there. I'm lucky I got out alive." This was pretty hilarious--comparing Oscar with Cujo--since the one time I heard Oscar bark (at the distorted reflection of himself in the glass front of the woodstove), I think he scared himself so badly he may well never do it again. It's a shame, actually. He has quite a nice voice.

Anyway, the Electrician Guy came in and looked around and I'm not sure what he figured out, but he seemed satisfied as he stepped back over the baby gate.

"By the way," I said, conversationally, "I don't know if you know what would make this happen, but this morning when I plugged my laptop in here, the light got brighter."

The Electrician Guy looked at me as if I had just asked him did he know that in Korea school children buy silkworm larvae during recess and eat them for snacks.

"Um," I said, trying to play off the "brighter light" thing, "I don't know if that's even possible."

"Yeah . . . " he said, in a distancing sort of voice. "Maybe you can just enjoy the extra light?" He backed out of the room with a distinctly alarmed look on his face, as if I were about to turn into Cujo at any minute.

After he left, I thought about it though, and decided his reaction was not unreasonable. He had just entered an office with babygate across half of it, as well as a watercolour of Revelation 12 (woman wearing the sun . . . baby . . . seven-headed dragon) and an enormous banner from Voice of the Martyrs reading, "This Message is Illegal in 52 Countries" and Romans 1.16 on it, on the walls. The occupants of the office were a dog who doesn't bark and a youngish woman in jeans and a long grey sweater who, at the moment he entered, had been on all fours on the floor making a display board with pencils and markers for Camp Selah.

It really is sometimes surprising, even to me, that this church hired me.

But you know? I wasn't wrong about the lights getting brighter. The same exact thing happened again this morning.


Cliff said...

"Eccentric" is just a fancy way of saying "Crazy" which is a great song by Gnarls Barkley.

And Eccentric is such a cool word on its own. It looks like "electric" but it's not. It's "eccentric." It's not often you see double c's in words and get to pronounce them like you do in "eccentric," in fact, I don't believe I've ever come accross any such word. Oh wait - I just misspelled "across" (not on purpose, but I did deliberately neglect to correct it and here's why:) and realized there is the word "accident." But it's still not the same. The connotations of eccentric are more favorable.

But then, that's a horse of a different color.

jeff said...

I'm not an electricitan; when it comes to actually applying knowledge I'm not all that useful. But I know the theoretics.
I think it would be wierd if your light and laptop were drawing off the same circuit, but if they were, I think you could expect your light to get brighter.
Whenever you add more resistors to a circuit, you're creating a new path for electrons. This increases the current, which is the speed that the charge passes through the wire. This is the reason that you're not supposed to start with a single outlet plug and create octupuses which end up with bunches of appliances all plugged into a single outlet. It's the reason that buildings have fuses and circuit breakers, that increasing this too much leads to melting wires, fires, etc.
(I don't think making a light a bit brighter is anything to worry about. But if they are drawing from the same circuit, I wouldn't use one of those multi-ended extension cords or surge protectors to plug in your laptop, a room heater, and a bunch of other appliances, either.)

gduckett said...

I don't know anything about electricity either, but I'm postulating that your charged up laptop battery is responsible. Some of the energy is getting back into the wall circuit and boosting the lights a little bit.

Plug a few different things in, like a desk lamp (incandescent bulb preferred), your laptop adapter with no laptop, and your laptop with the battery completely drained. If my theory is right only the charged laptop should brighten the lights.

When we all get back from vacation I'll ask our electrical engineers. They'll know instantly.

gduckett said...

OK, I talked to two experts and their first reaction was similar to your electrician’s. So apparently this is extremely bizarre. So maybe you are crazy after all. But being engineers, status requires a hypothesis.

Apparently my battery idea is nonsensical.

Both experts independently suggested that a bad ground connection is the only reasonable explanation. Expert #1 suggested that maybe the outlet is wired improperly and suggested testing other nearby outlets to see if they had the same effect. Expert #2 suggested checking the circuit box to make sure all of the neutral (white) wires were properly connected to ground as would be expected if you have split-phase electrical distribution.

If these theories are correct any load plugged into the outlet should make the lights brighter. There is nothing special about a laptop.

So now that we’re all curious the ball is in your court...