Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Don't Dread Getting Some Bills

Sometimes, being green feels good.

I got my gas bill today. My furnace and water heater are gas powered. According to Minnegasco, the billing period was colder than last year - avearge temp last year was 18, while it was 10 this year. That's a substantial difference - to drop the average that much, we endured several more days below zero this year.

My usage was a third less than last year. Let me be clear: It was colder outside for the entire month and my gas usage was quite a bit less.

Last year, the house was occupied by a married couple. I'm a single guy. I don't know where they set the thermostat. I generally keep it at 68 when the place is occupied and occasionally sneak it up to 70. I drop the temp to 60 at night but the furnace never even goes on overnight - the place only drops to 65 or so. During the day I also set the temp to 60, but even if there is the slightest bit of sun, the temp goes UP. The winter-time benefits of a southern exposure.

Let's look at what's different.

I installed a programmable thermostat last fall.

I added 13" of insulation in the attic.

I turned the temp of the water heater down about five degrees to 115.

I put a layer of foam insulation (R5) on the inside of the garage door.

That's it.

I spent a little for insulation and a smart thermostat. I saved about $25 this month. The lesson: It's not that hard to make the big gains.

I get my electric bill in a few days. Maybe I'll have a similar story to tell about the improvements I made by swapping out 25 incandescent bulbs for same-output CFLs.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Something Wickedly Slow This Way Comes

I got a new battery for my car today. When I tried to go to work, it cranked very slowly then stopped entirely. I noticed it was cranking a little slower than usual for the past few weeks but I ignored that since we were having a cold snap. Having replaced the starter less than a year ago and seeing plenty of charge on the ammeter recently, I immediately assumed battery. I checked how old the battery was. I installed it on Jennifer Brezinski's 29th birthday.

For those of you that don't track time the way I do, that would have been August 28, 2004. For those of you who don't know Jennifer, let me just say that I haven't seen her for over 11 years and I still think of her fondly. And often. Very nice, very hot and very tall.

So we're calling the battery 4 1/2 years old. That's old enough so I headed over to Sears to get a Die Hard. I selected the appropriate battery and was ready to install it myself until the guy said they would install it for $12.95. Paying a trivial amount or having to change it in an unheated garage in Minnesota in winter and have to return the core. Easy decision. But what happened wasn't so easy to swallow.

The guy said it might not get wheeled in for half an hour. Fine - it was actually about 25 minutes. Not a problem - it's a 15 minute job. 55 minutes later the guy up front went to see what was taking so long. The car suddenly appeared at the front door. After a few minutes to settle the bill, I hopped in the car and drove away just as the 1:00 news started. I wasn't upset because I was still ahead compared to doing it myself, but not as much as I would have liked. I was at the shop for 105 minutes all told.

As I was approaching home, I realized the clock was wrong. Duh, it started from 12:00 when the second battery cable was attached. The clock read 12:37. I was about four minutes from the shop, which means the power was restored about 30 minutes prior to when it was wheeled out front. If you figure it's five minutes to complete the job after you get to the point where you attach the battery cables, the question becomes, "What happened in the 25 minutes after he finished the job?" Did the guy go to lunch or something? That's 25 minutes I didn't have to be hanging around.

This was my first time using Sears Automotive - Ridgedale. I'm not sure I'll go back or not. If I dropped the car off next time, their lack of promptness wouldn't be an issue, so we'll see. The battery looks good, but for a one-hour battery change, I would've expected to get it washed or tires rotated or something.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Once Follow-Up

I told you in a previous post about my experience with "Once." You'll be happy to know the soundtrack works pretty well on its own so it will become a permanent part of my music collection.

In a funny coincidence, a co-worker came over the other day to make an unsolicited recommendation for a movie to watch. "Once." She had seen it last Saturday night on HBO, probably the same time I was watching it on DVD. I've never heard her make a movie comment before, so her watching one at the same time I'm getting blown away by it is quite unlikely. My co-worker who has been prodding me to see it for a year and I had a good laugh.

Watch "Once" with the subtitles on if you can, but just watch it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Oh My God

Hey everybody! Stop referring to the water ditching of the US Air flight as miraculous or in any other way divinely affected.

There is no evidence that a deity was involved in the landing in any way. If anything, a supreme being may have directed the birds to fly into the airplane, but the landing? That was all random and fortuitous events.

This incident was a testament to the experience and training of Capt Sully and his crew, the quality of an Airbus A320 and the luck to have a clear day and calm water.

To give credit for this experience to a God is to cheapen the event. If God landed the plane, then did it matter they had an experienced pilot? Should the ferry boats have hurried to the rescue since God wasn't about to let any of the passengers die of drowning or hypothermia?

Come on people. Be precise with your language. And give credit where credit is due.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Music: Susan Tedeschi

I don't believe it! Susan Tedeschi has a new album out!

I was shopping for linoleum this afternoon and in the background music at the store I detected the faint strains of Susan Tedeschi's unmistakable voice singing "People, people," something. It was accompanied by the even less mistakable slide guitar work of Derek Trucks. I have a bunch of Susan's music but this one sounded unfamiliar.

I went home and searched my collection for any songs that might be what I heard. Nada. Since she's done a handful of songs under the Derek Trucks Band banner, I might have looked there, but instead I played a hunch, hopped on the internet machine and found a site that said a song called "People" was from her "Back to the River" CD. Didn't take long to confirm that I have no CD by that name. A quick hop over to Amazon confirmed that "Back to the River" is a new album, out only a few months.

You'd think that if they want people to buy music, they might inform us when new music from favorite artists comes out, maybe with a marketing campaign, maybe some targeted advertising of some sort. You'd think Amazon's amazing "You might like" area might pop up with new material from someone for which they have sold me CDs previously. You'd think. Their omission means they missed out on a sale.

Anyway, I went out and got a copy. I'm riping it now. I probably won't be able to listen to it until tomorrow as I have to start a movie DVD before the night gets away from me.

By the way, shopping for linoleum deserves its own post sometime. I don't yet know how the story ends, though.

Why "Three Parts Foolish?"

Somewhere around 1980, I heard an interview where the subject described an Australian phrase where a person could dismiss something as being "A quarter flash and three parts foolish." Marv and Rindy Ross appropriated the first part of the saying for their band Quarterflash. Indeed, it was Rindy Ross who was the subject of the interview. It has stuck with me all these years, much like Quarterflash, whose music is aging equisitely well.

I feel I will be lucky if many of my posts reach the threshold of being 25% flash, and, well, I'm certain to exceed 75% foolish on a regular basis.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Here I am, cutting edge, years after everyone else

On this day, the birthdate of such disparate people as Kimberly Beck, Carol Henderson and Elvis Presley, I begin my blog.