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Wright Wrong

I just finished reading Dan Holohan's column on Taliesin in the September issue (“Feeling Taliesin”). It brought back memories of when I was in private practice in Iowa a number of years ago. I had the opportunity to work on the heating system of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house known as “Cedar Rock.”

The heating system consisted of a boiler and a lot of wrought-iron piping below the concrete slab floor. The system did not work well, and did not keep the building from freezing in the winter. The wrought-iron piping below the floor panels leaked, and it would get cold enough in the house to freeze the plants. Wright had designed the house for summer time use and had only designed the heating system to take the chill off early spring and late fall nights.

As the design engineer, I did the plans and specs to replace the boiler, replace a lot of the under-slab piping and add a more-efficient heating element in the Wright-designed finned-tube enclosures. We were able to make the house a lot more habitable. Wright had vision and did magnificent designs, but he was definitely not one of the “Dead Men” who was an expert in heating systems.

John W Bollinger, P.E.
Boulder Valley School District
Boulder, Colo.

Diverse Country

Ellen Rohr is to be commended for studying Spanish, which she mentions in her June column (“Down With Debt”). I did, in high school, long ago, and still remember a little, which at times comes in handy for communication and for simply being courteous.

Experience has long shown that most immigrants here strive to learn English (not “American”); they have a right to do so, while also retaining the right to their original language. Their sons and daughters will all grow up proficient in English.

If we want to communicate effectively with newcomers, at least some of us will need to use at least some of their language. In the early 20th century in this country, it was not uncommon for documents, notices, etc., to be in as many as six languages.

Many countries today, including Canada, use more than one language, and do quite well with that. Some parts of our country are, historically and today, bilingual.

Those coming here currently, as in previous decades, who have taken seriously the message on the Statue of Liberty, deserve the same consideration as in the past, even though they now don't come from Europe. English is not the world's only “lingua franca;” there are several others (including Spanish). And, let's stop declaring that ours is “the greatest country.” We appreciate our diverse country, but we also need to live in harmony with others, and respect their own patriotism as well as ours.
John Vago
Philadelphia Water Department
Philadelphia, Pa.

No Free Lunch

I read the article in the September issue on recirculation systems (“Why Wait For Water To Get Hot?”). I also happen to have installed one of these devices in my own home and it does work. But realistically, the savings in water may be offset by a couple of factors.

The first is the amount of time the pump is running, which equates into an electrical expenditure that did not exist before. The second is the heat loss. Now with hot water circulating through the uninsulated pipes in the house, hot water is being returned to the water heater. Consequently, the water heater is now turning on more frequently to maintain its set water temperature. Of course, most water heaters are not designed for this and are less efficient than boilers.

I find it hard to say that we are saving all that money in wasted water, when, in fact, we are spending money on gas and electricity that didn't exist before the installation of this item.
Christopher Shoff
Amber Mechanical Contractors Inc.
Alsip, Ill.

Sensitive Subject

I want to thank you for the article “Life After Katrina” (September 2006). The article [was] sensitive, comprehensive and amazingly accurate. Even though I've lived the recovery, I still learned a great deal from your work. It is an eye-opener for your readers, who cannot understand how bad it could possibly be one year after the storm.

I appreciate the accuracy of your portrayal, and the fact that it is a comprehensive evaluation of where we are and what it has taken to get here. It's really a pleasure to see such a great piece. Thanks for your work.
Lynne Finley
(Wife of Jim Finley)
C.N. Finley
New Orleans