Friday, May 27, 2011

A little tip to save money - and oil.

Most people know, I hope, that the heaviest user of energy in our homes is heating and air conditioning.

I thought you might be interested in how we keep down our use of energy in this sphere. As the A/C part of the "problem" is at hand I will start there.

We have set the time to start using our A/C as June 1st. So we don't start using our A/C until at least June 1st. If the weather co-operates it could be later. It is usually no problem to do this, rarely is it really hot before then and we find by opening windows - with the screens on - and wearing light clothing we have no problem, we might eat salads instead of a hot meal and pull curtains across if the sun is shining in and heating up the house. Eventually, in any year it will get to a point where the A/C is pretty much a necessity. (Here I must tell you of one year back in the late 70's or early 80's when we were here at The Lake in our little redwood cabin on July 4th with our friends John and Norma Hergenroeder and it was so cold that we lit up the wood stove!) That is a true story. So it is not always so hot in the summer!

Anyway the heat eventually arrives and we turn on the A/C and set it at . . . . drum roll here . . . . 80 degrees! Yep 80. Most people will no doubt find this completely unacceptable, but it is just fine with us. If we have guests coming we will turn it down to 78. It might be of interest to know that your electric use drops by 7% for every degree that you set the thermostat up. (Or down in the winter.) So if you normally set your A/C at 65 you will be using about 100% more electric than me! In other words if my bill is $10 a day for A/C yours would be $20 a day. Quite a savings. Some people do have their A/C set at 65 - I've seen it with my own eyes. Most set it at 68, some "frugal" people at 70. Another interesting little fact is that if it gets hotter people will turn their A/C down to a LOWER setting! "Ooh it is 90 degrees today turn the A/C down"! If you have it set at 70 because that is where you like it, it will be 70 in your house if it is 75 outside or 90 or 100, it is not necessary to turn it down even lower. In fact even before we came up with 80 as "our setting" and were using 72 or whatever, if it got really hot I would turn the temperature setting UP. Hey if it is 95 outside, 80 or even 85 is going to feel nice. If you set the thermostat say 10 degrees lower than outside it is always going to feel comfortable, certainly more comfortable than outside, because the A/C removes the humidity which is what makes heat so uncomfortable. And don't forget the 7% rule. If it is hotter, your cost goes UP by 7% for every degree warmer that it is. So if you turn your A/C colder by 5 degrees you are adding 35% to your electric cooling bill PLUS whatever is added by the hotter temperature of the day. To sum that up - if the temp outside is 85 and it goes up 90 - and we are both set at 75, you turn your thermostat down to 70. I turn mine up to 80. Your bill goes up by 70%, mine stays the same! No increase. (I was 10 degrees away from the outside temp - 75 to 85. I am now still 10 degrees away - 80 to 90. But you were 10 degrees away - 75 to 85, but are now 20 degrees away - 70 to 90. So the additional 10 degree difference in your setting is 10, or 10 times 7% equals 70% higher cost.

In the winter we try to wait as long as possible before turning on the heat. (Another little story here, some friends on Gibson Island had the same "game" and one year boasted that they managed to put off turning on the heat "Almost until Christmas."!) When we do turn it on it is usually to 68 degrees. We keep it this "hot" because Julia has arthritis problems and feels the cold. 68 degrees is too cold for most people, but we temper that by wearing warm clothes, long pants and a sweater. Julia will put a blanket over her legs while sitting watching TV in the evenings. It is a lot cheaper to put on a sweater than to turn the heat up. At 72 you are spending 28% more than I am at 68. If you like 75 your bill is 49% more than mine!

As It happens we recently, last winter, installed a wood stove, so our house, especially the living room, where we spend most of our time, is very warm and cozy and the heat rarely comes on at all, we set it at 65 or 62 - it will only come on if the fire dies down and the temp drops below 65 or 62 degrees. This might happen at night, when we are cozy in our bed with a nice warm over sized Duvet on the bed.

Can you imagine the drop in oil use by the US if everyone did this? We would probably have to cut our oil imports by a huge percentage! What would that do to our balance of payments?

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It seems to me that the GOP - The Party of No - has "Progressed" to The Party of F You.

Maybe you are wondering why I would say that?

You will doubtless have noticed that a number of contenders for the Republican nomination for President have dropped out. Some of these 'dropouts' were the more reasonable of the Republicans. Mike Huckabee and Mitch Daniels for example. Mitch was a reasonable governor. He seemed to put important matters ahead of ideology - a no-no nowadays for ANY politician, but especially for a Republican. I think they dropped out because they did not want their carefully nurtured reasonableness to be attacked by the Republican Party of today.

Even they can see, as I can, that the GOP of today is a party of lies, distortions, incorrect 'facts' and "birthers". Prejudice trumps fact, any expert is pooh poohed, any truth or reality is a Liberal or elitist plot.

Their world of False Reality is nurtured and created by themselves, Fox "News", Rush Limbaugh and other "fair and balanced" far right extremists.

For the first two years of Obama's administration, while he was trying to correct the problems and excesses of the Bush years, when both parties should have been pulling together to put the country back on its feet, they were instead The Party of No. Any attempt made to put the country back onto a sound footing was sabotaged at every possible opportunity. Any attempt by Obabma to extend an olive branch was rejected. If Obabma tried to close the gap between the parties and made concessions they made no concessions back.

If my neighbor's house was hit by a truck or a tree or a flood or a fire I would go to help, as he would, if such a disaster were to hit my family. We would do this without first asking, "Are you a Liberal or a Conservative"? I compare the countries present position to my neighbors position. But The Party of No, far from helping, is instead parking their truck in the road blocking the fire trucks, turning off the water, calling the authorities to stop sending whatever help they can stop them from sending.

Anything for political gain. They cry "Cut taxes", a cry guaranteed to get people on your side, even though you know it will only make matters worse. Even worse, cut taxes to the rich, they will spend us out of this recession, something that has never happened before and has not happened this time, in spite of repeated tax cuts.
Now the GOP has embraced a new party, the Tea Baggers, who are even further to the right than the modern Republican Party! The Far Right Tea Baggers are wealth-and-business-obsessed.

Now we have The New Republican Party which has morphed from The Party of No to The Party of F You.

In 2010 they campaigned on jobs, deficits, tax cuts and health care. Who wouldn't vote for that? But now they are in power their tune changes. If you are a wealthy individual or a big corporation like big oil, big agriculture, big banks etc, anyone with plenty of money, they have nothing but hugs and kisses for you. For the rest of us? The GOP offers a Big F You.

Out of a job? F You. They blocked efforts to extend unemployment benefits. Instead, they wanted to cut taxes to the rich, so they could "spend us out" (an idea only accepted by lunatics and Republicans. An idea that has never worked before and is not working now.)

Worried about another financial collapse? F You, say the Republicans. Regulations on banks were enacted after the Great Depression and were kept in place for 50 years. But 30 years ago, since Ronald Reagan, the GOP started repealing the regulations that had prevented those same abuses for 50 years. Resulting in the financial collapse that we are all suffering today. (All, that is except the "Top" 1% who are even wealthier! Please note that you are poorer, and they are wealthier - has anyone else, other than me, noticed that?) After the disaster of the Great Depression, common sense says the banks need regulating, but The Republicans fought even the modest Dodd-Frank regulations that were passed, in spite of their fight, in 2010. They continue to fight to weaken or delay it!

Worried about cutting the deficit? The Republicans say they are, but they are not. Instead they say F You. They don't care a toss about deficits, why else would they vote to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy? This added billions to the deficit. And no, we are not overtaxed, the the overall tax burdens of Americans is at it's lowest level since 1958. The Republicans want to cut taxes to the rich and to corporations, making the deficit even WORSE, and then they want to cut all government spending to pay for the tax cuts to their rich friends. Medicare and Social Security - that Corporations and the wealthy don't need, will be cut as will anything that the poor and middle class depend on. To pay for tax cuts to the rich! (A couple of figures here, the richest 1% of Americans have more wealth than 50% of Americans COMBINED. The top 2% of Americans, in income, pay 16% of their income in taxes. The average American pays 30% of his income in taxes!! CEO's of giant corporations pay less tax than their secretaries!) And the GOP wants to cut taxes to these unbelievably greedy people even more!)

Worried about health care in your old age? F You, says the GOP. Thought you could just make it if you could just reach retirement age, because then you would qualify for Medicare? F You. Worry more, the Republicans and the Tea Baggers are attacking Medicare relentlessly. It will be privatized, which means your health care will still be FOR PROFIT, just as it is now, when you are paying through your teeth for health care, and just as Obama won a small victory for you - making the insurance companies continue to cover you even if you got sick! The richest country in the world, and the only one without universal health care for it's citizens, is about to fall back even further. Medicare - one of the few government programs that by far the majority of Americans like, is about to be snatched away from you. And replaced with a voucher system which won't begin to cover the cost of most old people's insurance costs. This means that, unless you are rich, you won't be able to afford health care. If you can just afford to get health insurance, it will be as it was a few years ago - don't forget it will be privatized insurance - you will start to get the letters that we all dreaded, "It's not covered", "You got sick, so we have to raise your rates.", "Sorry, you got sicker, we have to cancel your insurance." That is the way the GOP wants it. They have to pay for more tax cuts for the rich somehow!

If you are a woman, it is definitely F You. The GOP wants complete control of a woman's body. Elimination of the right to an abortion, even if it is not paid for by the government is right at the top of their agenda. If you were raped, they are even redefining rape. They want to redefine all women's health services to be even more detrimental to women. I've seen this defined as "The Republican War on Women."

I hope you don't expect the GOP to manage the countries finances responsibly? The debt ceiling needs to be raised. To the Republicans that is just another bargaining chip. They don't care - F You.

High gas prices, do they affect you? F You, say the Republicans. The Republicans in the Senate voted to protect subsidies to Big Oil who have made billions in windfall profits thanks to high prices. Here they had a chance to help the American people, but they showed their true colors - the colors of their corporate benefactors - over the red white and blue colors of the American people. Here they also had a chance to cut our dependence on oil, and thus cut our economic, environmental and national security risks tied to oil. But it was the same old, same old. They know which side their bread is buttered. They know who to to suck up to, and it's not you and me and the American public, it's BIG OIL - as in BIG MONEY.

Want me to go on? I didn't think so, so I'll stop with just a quick list of F You's from the Republicans. Global warming deniers, birthers, union busters. In fact F You to virtually everyone except the wealthy and the big corporations. They have moved so far to the right that they are way way beyond the American mainstream. And they don't care because they have the ear of everyone who matters - the obscenely rich and big business. And for some unknown reason a lot of people are going along with it. Why? Is it because they think that they too will be hugely rich one day?

I think Daniels dropped out because he really doesn't want to be a part of the F You Party.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Persistance or habit?

Every year - well every year for the 3 years that we have lived here - a little bird, a wren, has built a nest in the wreath that Julia hangs on our front door. Julia has a selection of silk wreaths that vary with the season and her whim. Sometimes it is even a real wreath, made with some of natures bounty. Each year the wreath has been different, but each year that persistent little bird does not vary her routine. She builds her nest and lays between 3 and 5 eggs. We then have to stop using the front door for several weeks, entering and leaving our home via the garage and trying to intercept any visitors before they bang on the door. We don't always manage this and we have taken to checking the progress of the tiny feathered creatures daily. We do this by going out the garage door and over to the front door - afraid that if we open the front door the mother will fly into the house. The babies are remarkably quiet. I always thought they would chirp to attract the mother's attention and to ask her to give that tasty looking grub to ME. But the silence is uncanny, they never make the slightest noise, which I think is very wise, as 'There be Dragons here.' Well OK, cats. Which would result in their demise either way.

This year she laid 5 eggs of which 4 hatched. (We discovered the 5th unhatched egg after they had all left) So there were 4 babies, all looking very cute, and fluffy - well OK, feathery - then when they were all pretty much fully grown and really, really crowded in the tiny nest suddenly there were only three! We saw no sign of the fourth sibling, so don't know if she fell out or was pushed (A case for Detective Poirot - did she fall or was she pushed?) Anyway it could be that she made a tasty snack for a passing cat, raccoon or even a dragon? Or perhaps she was very precocious and left early, we hope so. The others were all gone when we looked yesterday, which was about 5 days after the Mysterious Disappearance of the Fourth Sibling.

Then it was clean up time. It is remarkable how much mess a few little birds can make on a door.

But all was not over. More persistence. This time in the form of wasps. For the third year running wasps started to build a nest on the front door, using some remarkably strong adhesive. They build it not just on the front door but in exactly the same place each time. But these guys are not so welcome. The first time the soft hearted Julia said "Leave them". So we did, but "They" got got obnoxious, buzzing us every time we went out or in. Opening the door produced a swarm of wasps some of who came into the house and had to be ushered out again - a hazardous duty. Visitors encountered them with varying degrees of alarm. They had to go. A can of wasp spray, and they were history.

But each year they still return, and I dispose of them quickly before they terrorize us and our guests again. How or why they keep coming back to that one spot year after year I do not know. Some must survive each time.

To return to this post's title - persistence or habit, what do you think? Or is it a routine, like the routines that we all have? I think I vote for instinct. All those other labels are human qualities, animals don't have them. Or do they . . . ?