Tag Archives: conservation

It Seems To Be Working

Last July, I had a major update to my HVAC system, getting a whole new unit and a sparkly new thermostat.  I was sort of excited about the thermostat because it was programmable.  However, at the time, my ex and I were working opposite shifts and so I never had the opportunity to exploit the scheduling features.

Well, as circumstances changed a while ago, I only recently decided to revisit these scheduled temperature changes.  I actually wouldn’t have thought much about it if it wasn’t for the cats.  The cats were enjoying hanging out on the patio in the middle of the day and it’s like 90 degrees outside.  While I watched them bake, I was reminded that cats internal body temperature is higher than humans and how an average house temperature is actually really cold for them.  That’s why they’re always looking to curl up in warm places, like sunbeams and beds and laps.

I thought, I guess I could raise the house temp a little for them, and realized, I can do it every day while I’m not around.  That’s why I have this programmable device.  And while I thought the idea was novel, I also questioned whether it would really work.  To me, it didn’t seem like anyone would really be fooled by this scheme.  Sure, you let you house temp rise all day and save the money with the AC not running, but then you have to cool it all back down, so your AC runs hard to bring it back down.  Shouldn’t it be cheaper to maintain than to binge and purge?

I set my thermostat to let the house warm to 79 degrees while I was at work and return it to 74 for the time I would be at home, which includes all day Saturday and Sunday.  After a full month of this, I was able to use my electric company’s data tools to actually see if this was a noticeable improvement.  This is how last month looked.


The significance of the rising and falling isn’t anything, but the peaks are.  Every peak happens on a weekend, when the AC is keeping the house at 74 all day.  The only other major contributor to my energy usage would be laundry day, which actually varies, so it’s not really identifiable in the graph.

While that seems interesting for a month’s timeframe, if we zoom out to 14 month’s worth of data, you can see some other things of note.


Here, you can definitely see when I replaced my HVAC unit.  The electrical usage dropped right away.  Of course we get into fall and winter, so things are light at that time.  But you can see last month, I had a decent amount of tier 3 usage (which costs more).  This month, in the first graph, I haven’t hit tier 3 yet, so I’m definitely ahead of the game.

Since the cats actually seem to like the warmer house, I think I may bump the day temp to maybe 84.  The only issue that causes is that my office and my master closet stay hot for quite a while, since there’s no AC vents there.  But, I can manage to deal with that if I’m saving a lot of electricity.  I keep a budget of $350/mo for electric, because that’s actually what it used to be in the summer.  But this year, I’m averaging about half that.  That’s how to promote conservation, make it pay.

Holding On

I read a recent post by AK that flew right in the face of a hobby I’ve been cultivating.  It’s something I’ve been doing for a little while and is really only one facet of the other side of the Letting Go story.  The hobby (and obsession for some) is “archival”.

First, I’m no stranger to purges and I feel the same satisfaction from downsizing as anyone with too much stuff would.  However, sometimes, regret comes back to haunt me.  It’s not the loss of a blender or a stack of towels that I miss.  It’s usually something less utility and more historically significant, which usually carries some emotion with it.  When I say historically significant, I don’t mean like a piece of the Berlin wall, I mean something that represents a period of your life.  And even though there is emotion and significance behind it, there is also a strong element of uselessness.

I ‘ve read a little on the KonMari method and internally nodded my head up until I got to the point where it was explained that we hold on to things for two main reasons: the future and the past.  In the case of the future, we don’t want to get rid of something because we may have a future use for it.  That’s a rational argument, but I usually tackle that by reminding myself that when I need it in the future, I can buy the latest and greatest version of what I need.  (Ironically, the latest version of most things will probably be made shoddier and overall be worse in quality, so…) That kind of mindset would make older generations freak out.  How wasteful!

In the case of the past, which is where my archivist neuroses kick in, you are afraid of losing a bit of your identity.  The modern philosophy is to live in the present, which, expressed in outrageous terms, is hedonistic.  If you disregard your past and do not plan your future, what is life?  A day-to-day experience with no permanence.

And, many would agree, the past is highly important, on a personal and societal level.  I’m not going to go to the levels of psychoarchivists who want to preserve absolutely everything, but I do believe that you need to have a record of your past in more than simple digital records.

I have a box in which I keep all my ephemera.  I have items going back to my teenage years, which I believe are personally socially significant.  One of the most useless things I have is a rubber hand with formable fingers.  Yes, at the time, it was usually used to flip people off and it has literally zero value today, but it’s a part of my past and is a useful prop when sharing my life story with someone.  Everybody loves props.

I have an old horoscope paper which used to be sold in little plastic tubes back in the day.  I have memorabilia from past jobs – old name tags, signs, magnets.  You could find some of these things in thrift shops and consignment stores and that is where the great disconnect happens.  People think these things have value.  They only have value to the person who acquired them.  You can’t buy a memory from a store.  I would never try to replace anything from my memory box from a store.  Like a child’s replacement teddy bear, it’s not the same.

So back to the KonMari method.  You might surmise that I would keep everything in my memory box because it gave me joy.  That’s not entirely true.  It rekindles a memory.  And more importantly, the loss of not having those items is greater than the cost of keeping them.  There is a time in a friendship where you finally feel comfortable baring yourself for another person, and that is when the memory box comes out and is shared.  To not have a physical record of your personal highs and lows would be a shame.  You can flash all the photos and videos on the screen that you want, but to be able to touch someone’s past is unique and special.

My Asshole Neighbor

This is Grover.


Grover, a gopher tortoise, chose my property to build on.  He’s dug two burrows that I know of.  Grover’s name is a portmanteau of “ground rover” and has no affiliation with Sesame Street.  Anyway, he’s an asshole.  If he’s not hiding from you, he’s hissing at you.  Let me tell his story.

The screen on my screened-in pool enclosure on my house was getting a bit shabby.  The roof had a hole in it, the spline was falling out of multiple panels, and finally, a panel fell out because of the missing spline.  So I made an appointment to get it all replaced.

A couple days before the company came to give me a quote, I walked around the patio.  In the back was a large hole.  What the fuck.  Because my GF is knowledgeable in such things nature, I knew what this was.  It was a gopher tortoise burrow.  If this were the GF’s blog, she would insert at least five paragraphs here on the importance of gopher tortoises in nature.  And I’d heard it all before, so I understood what needed done.

Gopher tortoises are a protected species.  Don’t fuck with them.  Knowing this, I called a wildlife trapper (not a pest removal company) and asked him if he could take care of my unnamed-as-of-yet problem.  He told me that I needed to contact a trapper who was specially licensed to trap gopher tortoises, of which there were few in my state.  That’s something I didn’t know yet.

I found a licensed trapper and called him up.  Trapping was no big deal.  It would cost probably around $300.  Sure, no problem, let’s do it.  But there’s other issues.  You can’t just take the tortoise and drop him off in the woods.  Anyone could do that, right?  Gopher tortoises have a strong homing instinct.  There’s a better than good chance he’ll just show up again and reclaim his burrow.  Also, to rehome a gopher tortoise properly, you have to grant them enough land to claim as their own, without other competing tortoises.  And they like to roam.  So, what’s that mean?  Finding a new home for the asshole would cost me $3000.  Plus the trapping fee. Plus no guarantee he wouldn’t come back.

So, asshole got a name.  He lives there now.

Back now to my total screen replacement.  The crew arrives and I point out the very obvious burrow right next to the patio wall.  I tell them this is a gopher tortoise burrow.  It is a protected species.  Don’t fuck with it.  Everything went swimmingly well with the screen replacement.  They called me one day and said they were all done and cleaned up.  After work that day, I got home and saw that they really cleaned up.  They filled in Grover’s burrow.  What the fuck, indeed.

Of course, I immediately broke the opening up again, even though I’m pretty sure he could have burrowed back out on his own.  That’s what they do, right?  And by the next day, Grover the asshole had made his entrance even bigger than before, probably out of spite.  Did I mention this illegal activity to the screening company?  Yes I did.

Grover’s been there for years since.  For our Hurricane Irma lockdown party, we put out a bunch of watermelon for him, which was gnawed down to the rind in short order.

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He’s an asshole, but he’s part of the property now.  These bastards live 40-60 years.  He’s going to outlive me for sure.

Eating: Waste vs. Value

As a non-practitioner of the concept of “leftovers”, I am probably perceived as wasteful.  However, that is not necessarily true.  Depending on the situation, I am either very considerate or I am very value-conscious.  Those ideals may not seem to work together, but they do… for me.

As I’ve said, I don’t believe in leftovers.  I eat one thing and I’m done with it, at least until the next time I want it, which could be the next day.  Still, it’s a new meal.  So, when I eat my meal, I make certain to eat the most expensive parts of my meal before giving up.  If I have a pizza in front of me, I’m not going to eat the crusts.  That’s filler, it’s just bread.  If I’m still hungry after I eat the parts with cheese and pepperoni, awesome! I have breadsticks now!  I’ve gotten my money’s worth by eating the highest-valued parts of my meal.  In this way, I am value-conscious and do not consider myself wasteful in the least.

Now, if someone is contributing to the meal or providing the meal, my priorities change and courtesy comes first.  With that same pizza, I will eat the crust, because the money is not mine and I would not waste another person’s money.  That’s being considerate.

Yellow Pages Are Anything But Green

It’s a new year and part of the new years ritual is receiving multiple 10-pound books dropped off at the house for telephone listings.  Growing up in a small town, I remember the white pages and yellow pages being a book about a quarter-inch think.  Now living in a larger city, the yellow pages alone is…2 inches thick (I had to check).  Then on top of that, you get a second book from a competing directory.  and this one has a “smaller, convenient” version, so you can take it with you.

Ok.  Here’s the problem.  There’s something called the Internet, which is available in our house.  This Internet thing allows us to search for information, including phone numbers.  Usually, it’s faster to type in the name of what you want instead of the traditional alternative: trying to figure out what category it’s listed in, flipping through pages, and scanning the tiny type while being distracted by large ads.  Then there is issue of storage.  The directories take up…4.5 inches of vertical space (I had to check again).  That’s valuable real estate on counters or drawers.

So, in summary, the Internet is far superior to a printed list.  This is probably universally accepted.  So, I thought it was time to stop the waste of time and space… and paper.  This year is also the year I discontinued all paper statements for bills.  But back to the point, I called the directory’s service number.

The first person I spoke to was pleasant and upon hearing my request, wasted no time collecting my information and completing the request.  After I hung up, I thought, “That wasn’t so bad.  She was really nice.  Too bad I’m putting her out of a job.”  After all, these directory services are contracted by the phone company or are completely independent.

The second person I spoke to handled my request promptly also, but then asked an odd question: “Do you travel much?”  Hmmm.  I responded that I don’t travel too much.  Then the pitch came.  They also print atlases.  They had a new atlas of the United States that she could sell me for a great price.

Ok.  Here’s the problem.  There’s something called a GPS, which has recently become available in our cars.  A few years ago, I might have bought it.  I used to have a very large collection of maps from the areas I’d visited.  I was pretty proud of the collection also.  But now, my 25-pound pile of maps (I had to estimate, since they’re now disposed) has been replaced by a tiny touchscreen device.

So in summary, GPS devices have replaced atlases in much the same way as the Internet has replaced phone books.  Now, if these directory services were smart, they would partner with a GPS vendor and preload POI’s (Points of Interest) into a GPS based on their directory.  Then they would sell the GPS device.  Or they could sell a flash card with the POIs on it.

If I was cancelling my phone book delivery and the agent asked me “Do you have a GPS?” that would be a totally different conversation.  If I didn’t, I might be intrigued at buying a GPS preloaded with millions of POIs (if the price was reasonable).  If I did own one and they offered a POI card or subscription service compatible with my GPS brand, it might be attractive.

Random thoughts

It’s a little late and I’m a little light-headed and headachy from primer fumes in the room getting painted next to mine, so I thought I’d type out a random grab bag of thoughts.

Capital One wants me to go paperless with my statements.  That would work for me since I do everything electronically in Money, but what about the people that would print out their statements each month from the online site?  That doesn’t help anything.  I think Capital One should reduce the paper ads they put in their statements and double-side their statements.  That would cut paper usage more than half right there.

I was thinking one day about a borderline neurosis I had growing up.  Thanks to my short attention span, it never really developed.  I used to anthropomorphize everything.  I used to imagine chairs clamoring to have me sit in them, and the rest would be disappointed.  Some items I owned would be proud that they have served me so well, and others would be sad that I don’t use them enough.  I’m sure some psychologist would say I had some disorder that I couldn’t accept the fact that it’s impossible to please everyone.  Then I would get drugs – that’s a given anymore.

One of the creepiest and most disturbing thoughts that I thought up in my youth and still have to force myself to not think about is:  No one really knows what happens when you die.  What if you are just trapped in your body?  Not so bad for humans – you die, you get put in a box and you rest until you decompose and you disappear.  But what about animals, specifically roadkill?  You get hit with a car and die.  Then someone else runs over you and you feel the impact again.  And again, and again.  Slowly, you start to disintegrate and the pain becomes less with each passing car.  Finally, you are not much more than a spot and you begin to decompose and disappear.  Physiologically, I guess that’s not possible since the nerves couldn’t transmit the sensations to the brain, still it’s a morbid thought.

I’m bugged by Circle K’s new ads with the line, "Gotta buck?  Get a snack."  I don’t have any problem at all with informal speech in ad copy, but if you’re going to do it, it needs to be correct.  "Gotta" is not short for "Have a", it’s short for "Have got to".  Idiots.

My previous complaint about Mercedes radio ads has been continued with a Lincoln ad.  I guess the dealerships are owned by the same person, or the marketing company got both as accounts.  More pompous people talking about how other people think their car (and I guess the owner by extension) is so great.  I really don’t think the customer testimonial idea is so great.  Maybe it is, though, and I’m just not their target market.  Thank god for that.