Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Amateur Hour in the Blogosphere

I'm not too good at blogging.  My recent month-long hiatus should convince anyone of this.  However, I do feel like I should blog about things that I know about, and cite sources if I know them.  If I don't know, then I should probably not blog about the topic, or say that this is total conjecture.

What I do know about is squeezing a dime until it bleeds, which is why I was disappointed when The Consumerist (awesome blog!) linked to a blog post on saving money on your heating bill that contained no useful information.  Among the things that the blogger suggested was to keep your thermostat at 73 degrees.  Oh, honey, that's not right.

Currently, my thermostat is set to 64 degrees.  This may sound extreme, but my thermostat is on the main floor, my bedroom is on the second floor, and using the principle that heat rises, it's slightly warmer up here.  Like, 66 degrees. 

Using her outline, this is what I do:
1) I can't control the weather.  I can only try to keep the weather outside and me inside.
2) She has a 4 bedroom house for 2 people.  I have a 2 bedroom house for 2 people.  Not having unnecessary space cuts down on the volume of inside space that needs to be heated.
3) Her back door is completely closed.  So is mine.  Then, I caulked the outside, added seasonal caulk to the moving parts (which can be removed in spring), then closed off the backdoor with plastic sheeting.  I'll just use the front door until April.
4) Bundle up.  Not just wearing layers, but having slippers nearby and down throws at hand.  I have an electric heated throw, too.  Running that for 4 or 5 minutes, then turning it off and adding another throw pre-heats the space around my legs and keeps me toasty warm for the rest of the time I'm sitting at that place.  Don't heat the entire room to 72, just the area directly around your person.
5) Lower the heat when no one's home?  No, I don't.  But I do open the south facing blinds to allow the sunlight to warm the rooms when I'm at work.
6)  73?  That's hot.  My house is at 64, and I just avoid the basement.  All basement windows are caulked with plastic sheeting on them, and on REALLY cold days, blankets are put up over the wall to reduce cold air coming in.  Air tight, the temp down there is still above 60.
7) Drafts are bad.  Caulk, plastic sheeting, weather stripping are good.

So, yes, 64 might be a tad on the low side, but it's still 50 degrees warmer than it is outside.  From that perspective, it still feels warm when you walk in the door.  Isn't that the point?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Marriage: Midwest vs. L.A.

No, this is not a post on gay marriage.  I'm for it, but this is different.

If you were looking for something that is destroying marriage in America, it's Kim Kardashian.  While this is months after the news broke, without the Bears in the playoffs, Sunday afternoon TV seems to be limited to basic cable reality shows.  Kourtney & Kim in New York seems to be playing all afternoon.  From the first episode, I knew this was not going to work out.

Genesis 2:24 is a pretty popular selection for weddings: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh."  A better reason for a married couple to move out on their own than "God said so" cannot be found.  Flash forward to the first episode of Kourtney & Kim Take New York, and Kris, Kim, Kourtney, Kourtney's Baby Daddy, and Kourtney's Kid are all living in the same hotel suite.  Bad idea.  Kim runs every idea past her family before her husband.  Yeah.

I'm watching the episode where Kim mentions that she would never want to live in Minnesota.  Breathe a deep sigh of relief, St. Paul.  When Kris mentioned that by the time their kids were going to school, no one would care about Kim and her career, he was hitting the nail on the head.  Mr. Humphries could probably look forward to another 10 years of professional basketball.  A 45-year-old Kim Kardashian sex object with kids?  What career are we talking about?  What is it that Kim does exactly?  It looks like she just has camera people following her around, shows up at places in exchange for an appearance fee, and ... well ... something?

Her career appears to be to walk around being seen with stuff.  This is why Minnesota would be perfect for her:

1) Little competition.  Besides Prince, who else is she going to be competing for attention with?  Garrison Keillor?
2) Her talent appears to be to wear stuff.  Think of all the opportunities to wear stuff during a long Midwestern winter!  Adorable knit accessories!  Colorful wool peacoats!  Boots that are actually needed!  Could spokeswoman for North Face or Columbia be in the works?
3) Easy access to both New York and Los Angeles.  This may be a surprise, but there is an airport in the Twin Cities that offers direct flights to both coasts and locations overseas.  I know people on the coasts don't believe this, but Midwesterners are free to come and go as we please.

There was a great moment in last night's series finale, when Kourtney asks Kim about whether or not her marriage might work in a normal environment without the Inlaws and entourage.  For normal people, it might.  Kim is not a normal person.  I don't think she could be without a croud.  (Kudos to Kourtney - it looks like she actually has a job and a grasp on reality.)

Kris Humphries may have dodged a bullet.  Congrats, sir.  Learn a life lesson, and find a good Midwestern girl.  We're kind of awesome.  (Not me, I'm taken, and I like smart men with backbones.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Downton Abbey

Tonight, I'm going to be watching PBS.  For an educated, white, middle-class Midwesterner, this should hardly be surprising.  But, this is Downton Abbey on Masterpiece, so I'm recording it too.

I didn't think I would be sucked into an Edwardian soap opera, but here I am.  Truthfully, I'm not as enraptured by Lady Mary as many commentators are.  I'm a Lady Edith fan.  While Edith's ruining of Mary's happiness was a result of something Mary did, Mary's turn on Edith was a fabrication.  It sucks being the middle child.  I relate.  Stupid Lady Mary.

The issue I have with Masterpiece showing Downton Abbey is the timing.  In the UK, this played months ago.  When I engage with a show on this level, I want to research it, look up facts I may have forgotten on Wikipedia, or just talk about it on message boards.  I can't do this without coming up against spoilers.  I did what any reasonable person would do.  I found the remaining episodes streaming online and watched the whole series in two nights.  In light of the SOPA/PIPA/SIPAPOPA controversy, was this illegal?  If I lived in the UK, I could have watched these for free online.  If I could have bought these off Amazon or iTunes, I would have purchased them in order to watch them in better quality.  If I would wait, then I could have watched them for free.  I still will.  So, why does PBS want to turn me into a potential criminal?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reporting with Blinders

My office recently changed the default TV channel in our break room from CNN to CNBC, in order to be more business-y, or something or other. This afternoon, CNBC was looking at the volatility in a number of energy stocks, and brought on a pair of "experts" to discuss the stock prices for oil and natural gas stocks. Here's the link:

What's Moving Oil Now?

Did you see something missing? Now, if you only watched business news, this would sound like a pretty comprehensive discussion of stock prices in terms of supply and demand, the forecasts for both, inventory, international markets, and profits. However, if you read an occasional full-service, non-Wall Street Journal newspaper, you may have seen another reason for why natural gas stocks might not be a safe and steady investment right now: FRACKING CAUSED EARTHQUAKES IN OHIO.

I can't stress that enough. If your business sector caused a seismic event in Youngstown, there may be something wrong with your business practices, which may in turn make investors nervous if leveling Toledo with a 5.2 earthquake might leave one open to lawsuits and destroy your investment in the natural gas company that will be bankrupted after paying damages... then again, others might want to pick up those shares at a discount. You want some volatility in the marketplace? How about an unprecedented shift on the ground which literally is an unprecedented shift of the ground?

This goes to show why watching nothing but CNBC all day, every day, is like viewing the world with blinders on. Everything is evaluated through the prism of stock prices, investment, and profits. You forget about whether or not actions are right or wrong, just the effect on that business sector. It's helping to train an entire system of business executives to think exactly the same, then bemoan the fact that employees can't think outside the box (a phrase so IN the box that anyone who honestly uses it is by definition not thinking outside the box). It is a vicious cycle that can easily be broken by just changing the channel from time to time.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Back soon!

After taking a couple weeks of down time to travel around the Greater Chicagoland area to visit friends and family, it looks like I picked up a nasty case of stomach flu from one of the many daycare-aged children with runny noses that I encountered.  Erg.  Not having kids of my own appears to have ruined my immune system.

I'll be back in a couple days with more ranting posts. (Like, really Iowa?  Santorum?)  Happy New Year!