Here's a fascinating little article about the impact that air conditioning has had on the american economy and society, with the expected consequences for energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

I've been thinking about air conditioning a fair amount, recently. I'm on the climate action committee at the Mothership, where green house gas emissions have increased over 50% since 1990. A big part of that increase is due to the addition of a bunch of big buildings that are, guess what, air conditioned. The people from our facilities department who are on the committee say that air conditioning is the standard, that all of the future residents of buildings expect air conditioning. But that clearly wasn't always the case, as there are plenty of old buildings at the mothership that weren't air conditioned.

I also used to work at a place that didn't have air conditioning, and now I work at one that does. There were definitely some days every summer at the old workplace when none of us got much done, but the article makes the interesting point that that decrease in summer productivity was the cultural norm: people left work early on the hottest days, businesses shut down, people took longer breaks during the heat of the day. Have the gains in summer productivity really been worth the cost?

ETA: the
second half of the article appears to deal with shifts in population (and thus politics) nationwide due to availability of air conditioning. I haven't read it yet, but it also looks neat.
I took a digital storytelling workshop a while back, and used a piece of copywritten music in it. I didn't really plan on publishing the piece, so it didn't seem like a bid deal. Now I'd like to web-publish it, and I have no idea how to go about getting permission to use the piece. It was recorded by a relatively local folk artist, so I hope that it may be simplier than if I were trying to use some bit of top 40 music. Anybody have any suggestions? I have contact information for (allegedly) the artist, and definitely the label.
Cute Overload is such a perfect introduction to a work day. I saw these kittens this morning, and had I been drinking a cup of hot beverage, would have snorted it. I love the "stupid human" look on their faces. Hee!
So, we're having a plague of tent caterpillars around here, and yeah, they're really gross. I have a high tolerance for a lot of "gross" things in the outdoors, but these freak even me out. Sylvantechie and I went on a hike yesterday, and had to walk along swinging a stick in front of us, knocking down the 'pillars and their webs in order to not be totally covered in them.

Luckily, we were hiking up a mountain, and not very far up it, the caterpillars basically disappeared. It's probably still getting too cold at night up there for them to survive.

Which leads me to my soap box. I've heard a fair number of people talking about how the mild winters we've been having (courtesy of climate change, most likely) are a fine thing, and if this is what we have to look forward to, then they're all for it.

So yeah, the low heating bills this winter were nice, and I welcome the spring crocuses just like everyone else, so it might seem great that spring arrived about a month before it usually does. But along with the mild winter come the plagues, currently of insects, but probably disease in the not too near future. Take the caterpillars for example: due to the mild winter, they hatched a lot earlier than usual. There are some migratory birds that eat the caterpillars, and usually keep their populations at a manageable level. But those birds were still down south when the caterpillars hatched early, and thus we have the plague. We're having a horrible year for ticks, too, because they're active as soon as it hits forty degrees, so they've been out and about for a long time. We'll probably have an extra generation of ticks this year.

Use your imagination. It only gets worse from here, people. Insects have much shorter life cycles than most of the things they prey on, or they things that prey on them. So the insects are likely to adapt to changes in climate much sooner their predators or prey, resulting in plagues of insects. Add on top of that that changes in climate put stress on plant populations, and we could see some pretty major die-offs of forests.

I honestly try not to get too gloom and doom with my environmentalism, because it's a downer, and gloom and doom isn't a great motivational force, I find. So take the fact that I'm going to the doom place as a sign of how serious I think the problem is. We're unfortunately past the point of preventing climate change. What we *have* to start doing is working on preventing climate change from being any worse than it's already going to be.
First, the outdoor outfitter here in town is having their big spring tent sale this weekend. It's a hodgepodge of stuff, but in the past, they've had some pretty amazing deals. I think it's Saturday, Sunday, and Monday during their normal hours.

The local river association is having their "Riverfest" on Saturday from 11 am - 4pm at Cole Field. I haven't been in several years, but it's usually fun. One of the nifty things is that they get local artists to do art in or near the river, and some of it has been neat kinetic stuff in the past.

wheels!

Feb. 14th, 2006 10:02 am
And all of the other necessary parts. We finally have our very own car again.

It only took: At least 5 trips to the town in Vermont where we bought the car. (at 25 minutes, one way)
1 trip to the RMV (2 if you count Sylvantechie turning in the plates for the old, totalled car) (at 15 minutes, one way)
several trips to the rental car place (at 15 minutes, one way)
And a *whole* lot of money.

But it's a nice car. It's bigger than our old one (being a wagon, rather than a sedan), but we can haul STUFF in it.

Oh yeah.

Nov. 23rd, 2005 11:03 am
[livejournal.com profile] shideem and I both got our black tips on Friday. That's the belt that a lot of other dojangs call brown: one step below black. On Saturday, we decided that that meant we were baby ninjas, not yet full ninjas, and that perhaps we had little ninja booties.

The test went well, though I was pretty nervous (and thus had much nervous energy) at the beginning. But about half way through, perhaps after I burned through a bit of that nervous energy, I started to relax and have more fun. It helped that Mr. P was testing for his second degree black belt, so we were no longer the highest ranks testing (a.k.a. "The showcase students who should look good and impress the parents.") So a bit of the pressure was off.
Background: The Environmental Non-profit helped a school that we have close ties with install solar panels on the school. As part of that project, I went to every class in the school, and did an "Introduction to Solar Technology" lesson where students explore solar panels, attach them to motors, and get the motors to spin.

Later that summer, I presented that lesson, among others at a teacher training workshop. Ours was one day of a two week long institute on inquiry-based science. I just now got the journals of the teachers who attended that workshop. There were a lot of wonderful comments, but this one was really pleasing.

"In the spring, [woobat] came into my third grade reading class to teach her Energy from the Sun Lesson. I have to admit I was annoyed that someone was interrupting my reading block with a science activity! With the severe behavior problems in this group, I was very concerned about taking them outside for solar panel exploration. Her presentation was fabulous! Because [our school] will be installing solar panels, the kids were immediately "connected" and so fascinated that behavior was never an issue. Watching her lesson reinforced my own belief in experiential education and inspired me to take this workshop."
Last year at about this time, I noticed that the stabbing pain I'd been having in my stomach was related to drinking coffee. I quit the coffee and switched to green tea, and cut my caffeine habit way back as a consequence.

Over the past week, I've been noticing some very familiar stabbing pain in the stomach. So I decided to experiment, and I didn't drink any tea this morning. Like magic, no stabbing pains.

And no caffeine.

As it turns out, even a small caffeine habit such as mine (1 or 2 cups of green tea a day) can make a person kind of miserable when it's being kicked. I perhaps should have left this little project until a day when I wasn't going to have to deal with 15 intractable third graders, but the stabbing pain was a real, well, pain. And from past experimentation, I can't really do decaf coffee, either. Dunno if it's the wee bit of caffeine that's still in it, or something else, but I can't tolerate it. :(

So what's your favorite hot beverage that lacks caffeine?

Arrrrrr!

Sep. 19th, 2005 09:32 am
Avast, me hardies! It be international talk like a pirate day!

Arrrrrrrrr!

Good thing me office mate is a tolerante landlubber.
I've been tagged by several people! Tag, I'm it!

List 10 things (in no particular order) that bring you a moment of joy and tag 5 friends to do the same.

1. My sweetie
2. Swimming at a really good swimming hole. Swimming in salt water or an indoor pool is quite nice, but it just can't compare to a top-notch fresh water, cold-but-not-too-cold swimming spot. Bliss!
3. Red peppers. Roasted, sauteed, broiled, stir-fried, or just cored and eaten like an apple.
4. Pretty, pretty crafting supplies. I love going to yarn stores just to be surrounded by the pretty yarn. Ditto with fabric stores.
5. Frogs. Leaping frogs, especially, when I startle them and they jump away with a surprised "meep!"
6. Fresh, wild blueberries (the little, super tasty ones).
7. A really good sparring match, one where I'm neither overmatched nor laughably better than my opponent. I find myself grinning constantly, which might be kind of disconcerting to my opponents, now that I think about it.
8. Sleeping in. More specifically, that moment when I realize that I don't have to get out of bed, and just roll back over.
9. Rubbing our cats' fuzzy bellies. Mycroft is more tolerant about it than Nualla. He'll even sometimes respond by stretching even further out.
10. Rain pitter-pattering on the roof while I'm falling asleep.

Tag: [livejournal.com profile] elklad, [livejournal.com profile] winterborne, [livejournal.com profile] jo_ellen, [livejournal.com profile] cybersattva, and [livejournal.com profile] shgb. So there.
From my childhood in Pennsyvlania, a good climate zone (perhaps two, I'm not sure) to the south, I was under the mistaken impression that summer's harvest and bounty should happen mostly in July and August. While some of what I consider to be summer's treats (sweet corn, mostly) do start to become available in August, I'm learning that the New England harvest is mainly a September thing.

I sat at work and munched on a cucumber and a red pepper from our garden. Last night, I chopped up and froze maybe a dozen red peppers; boy, but my darling peppers have just been loving the hot weather. Last year I harvested two fully ripe peppers, this year I've had two dozen, at least, and more on the way. The pumpkins are turning orange, and we actually have some watermelons this year (they also like it hot). The butternut squash plants are dying of some mysterious cause, so it's a race to see whether they can ripen the fruit they've set before they die. And in general, we're in the annual race with the first frost. If it comes late, I'll harvest a ton of red peppers, more cucumbers, and the pumpkins and squash. If it comes early, there will be a lot of green peppers, and I'm not sure if the pumpkins will be ready. We'll see.

Ouchie!

Aug. 18th, 2005 03:06 pm
Mr. M (the younger Mr. M) had us doing belly crawls yesterday at TKD (think basic training - you lie down and pull yourself along with just your arms, pretending that your legs don't work). Without noticing it at the time, I rubbed a few layers of skin off my elbows, and now they sting like mad. Ouch! Ouchie! Ow! Darned sensitive skin. I get blisters easily, too, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

In other news, a local orchard has peaches currently, and I'm thinking about getting a mess of them to a) make peach cobbler for certain lucky gamers on Sunday, and b) make peach butter to preserve. My slow cooker cookbook suggests a way to make fruit butters in the slow cooker. That would eliminate the whole "stand over a pot of simmering fruit for hours, making sure it doesn't burn" step, and I'm all for that. I'm not quite sure how it's supposed to thicken, though. I guess maybe you leave the lid off for a lot of the cooking time.

Land!

Aug. 17th, 2005 02:00 pm
I just talked to our lawyers, and the closing on our land went smoothly this morning. So we actually own it. Weeeeeeeeeee!
For his birthday, [livejournal.com profile] shgb wanted to go to a (relatively) nearby indoor rock climbing gym. Alas, my sweetie was not up to going, but he did seem to be on the mend, so I went with shgb and [livejournal.com profile] shideem. I had a blast.

I had taken one class of a rock climbing course at college, and was not at all good. Partly, I didn't have appropriate shoes. Partly, I wasn't in very good shape. And partly, back in my day, the wall consisted of wooden grips that had largely been worn smooth over the years. I was intrigued, but frustrated and a bit intimidated by the other people in the class, and so I didn't go back.

This time around, it was a lot more fun. First, they rented us gear, so we had shoes that were the right size. They also had widgets that made belaying much easier.

(Quick jargon lesson: when one is climbing any higher than one can safely fall, one needs to wear a harness and be attached to a rope. That rope then goes up over some support, and down to another person who "belays." The belayer is also in a harness, and has a way of taking up slack in the rope as the climber climbs, and the belayer's body weight is what largely catches the climber if the climber falls. At college, belaying involved a complicated method of winding the slack continuously around a figure eight piece of hardware, and the harnesses were constructed from rope on the spot. This gym had pre-made webbing harnesses which were more comfortable than rope, and a nifty gadget through which the belayer could feed the slack (and then later release it) without having to do the wacky winding thing).

There was a huge variety of grips and courses up the wall. We started out with a pretty brief lesson on belaying, and I definitely had my "omigood I'm way up high" feeling on the first wall. At the end of every climb, we just let the belayer lower us back down, and the first time that happened, it made me feel much better on a lizard-brain level about the harness and the rope.

I successfully climbed three courses, and made it part way up a few more. I can see how it could become addictive. Climbing is much more cerebral than I would have thought; I had a lot of fun trying a few walls several times, and each time figuring out a little bit more of how to proceed. It took a lot of planning, which I wasn't very good at, to get my feet and hands in places such that there was somewhere to realistically go on the next step.

Shgb, of course, was all monkey like and did some crazy-ass climbs. It was interesting to watch both he and shideem climb, as they have longer legs and arms than I do, and that gave them more tools that I had. There were some distances I just couldn't span. Sigh. I did find that some interesting things translated from TKD. Being able to balance pretty comfortably on one leg was surprisingly helpful, as a lot of what I did was shift weight on to my higher up leg, then straighten it and place my other leg higher still. Admittedly, the balancing is a bit different when you can't really move much away from the wall without falling.

Unfortunately, my upper body burned out before the rest of me was ready to be done, but I couldn't really grip any more, alas, and there's only so much you can do when your fingers won't really close anymore.

[livejournal.com profile] sylvantechie would love it, so we're going to go back sometime when he's feeling better.

The gym also had an "indoor cave system" which was built in to the walls behind the climbing wall (thus taking advantage of the otherwise wasted space: clever in theory). They weren't a whole lot of fun, mostly due to being pitch black and stuffy, but it got shideem, sylvantechie, and I thinking more about caving again. I'm seeing about joining the vermont cavers association to try and meet more cavers (and find some people to guide us through some caves that are unknown to us).
Okay, I admit it. I was up way past my normal bed time finishing the new Potter book. It was worth it. At 11:00, I thought to myself, "I can finish this by midnight." Then midnight came and went, but I was at a point where I just couldn't bear to stop.

Gah, we have to wait another 2 years for the next one?
Sylvantechie, my mom, my dad and I successfully vanquished the door and door frame of our laundry room, yielding enough room to fit the washing machine. Getting the washing machine to actually fit in the room may be another challenge, involving removing a baseboard or trimming the dryer's exhaust vent. Don't ask.

My mum, by the way, is a Master of Simple Machines. She figured out how to use a wooden wedge and the claw of a hammer to get a particularly stubborn nail out, thus allowing us to remove an entire stubborn board. Go Mum!

Of course, the nice appliance store needs a bit of notice, so they probably can't deliver said washing machine until tomorrow. At which point, hopefully, knock on wood and sacrifice to all the appropriate spirits, we will be able to launder our clothing again!

Sylvantechie had a theory about how this really dumb door ended up being installed. It looks like some previous owners created the laundry room, with a sensibly sized door that could handle appliance. Some owner after that decided to add a toilet, and a normal sized door would not close with the toilet there. So they clearly decided to install the freaky narrow door and frame, without even thinking about getting appliances in and out. Either they were stupid (likely) or just didn't care about the future (equally likely). Dumb previous owners.

Now, as Sylvantechie said, we have the challenge of un-vanquishing the doorframe and installing a (sensibly sized) wider door.

Ah, the joys of home ownership. I'm choosing to see this as good practice for putting doors in the eventual new house.
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