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The confusion of a dim bulb

Published January 11. 2014 09:00AM

The government is forcing us to live with a dim bulb.

We're being asked to turn our backs on Thomas Edison and turn our homes into toxic waste dumps.

That's right. Due to legislation passed here and in other countries, incandescent light bulbs, the kind used for 125 years, are giving way to highfalutin' CFLs, or compact fluorescent lights, which are notorious for being dim, especially when first lit.

They're mass produced in China, yet expensive to purchase.

All of the propaganda has been telling us what a smart buy they are. They're supposed to be energy efficient and environmentally safe even though they contain mercury.

And they promise a savings on the electric bill.

But let's look at the flip side.

They take longer to switch on, and regular CFLs won't work with dimmer switches.

They also occasionally interfere with radios, cordless phones, and remote controls.

But even worse, they contain mercury, a dangerous substance. Each bulb has about 4 or 5 milligrams,

And so you can't simply toss out a dead or broken CFL. They need to be disposed at a toxic waste depot. Mercury is cumulative, meaning this poisonous element can add up if spent bulbs went to a landfill.

For me, there's another disadvantage: CFLs resemble swirled ice cream. Every time I see one, I want an ice cream cone.

Truth be told, one of the hardest parts of being a baby boomer is trying to stay ahead of changes. I know this from first-hand experience. I've had to learn and then relearn just about everything.

As a youngster, I learned to direct-dial a telephone instead of asking for Sarah the operator. I also acquired the knack of untangling the cord. Today, I don't need Sarah, the dial or the cord.

I relaxed by playing 45s on my record player. Today, there aren't any 45s, except for my waist size. And record players are history.

I learned to write correspondence using typewriters. Today, the Underwood Olivetti makes a good doorstop.

I learned to take pictures on a Polaroid Swinger, sold to me through a catchy advertising jingle that said "only nineteen dollars and ninety-five." Maybe you had one, too.

Do you recall how we manually coated each photo with some kind of glossy gunk using a squeegee stored inside a round black tube? Probably toxic. But nobody questioned such things back then.

Later, I upgraded to better cameras. Then, just when I figured out which brand of film worked best, the entire industry moved to digital. Not even Simon and Garfunkel could prevent market forces from taking Kodachrome away.

As for the CFL bulb, I'm not sure how to dispose of a dead one, short of contacting a hazardous waste team, those guys who wear moonsuits.

And I'm not confident about buying CFL bulbs based on need. They tell me a 13-watt CFL is equivalent to a 60-watt regular. But that's confusing. If I want 100 watts, how do I buy one-and-two-thirds CFLs?

Actually, I came up with a new career idea. I'll go back to college and do a dissertation on wattage. I'll reinvent myself as Professor Lumens and make guest appearances on the Tonight Show, The View and Katie Couric. Then, just as everyone lets their guard down, I'll expose the CFL scheme for what it is - another step toward a New World Order. Conspiracists will revel in the suggestion. Sounds like a plan.

I've never been opposed to change. But somehow, ending the light bulb as we know it is going too far - enough to make its inventor roll over in his grave.

And that would be Joseph Swan of England, not Thomas Edison. Another new wrinkle.

Contrary to what we were taught, research shows that Edison didn't invent the light bulb. Nor did he hold the patent for the first design. Edison tried to claim it, but he cheated. He copied from Swan and was found guilty in a court of law.

My new persona as Professor Lumens will shed light on this and many other illuminating topics.

There's no fun living as a dim bulb.

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