» Archive for April, 2009

MinuteRant: Thermostats–why not heating & cooling at the same time?

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by kara

Okay, we all have thermostats in our homes and offices and businesses.  They help us to control the temperature in our buildings.  The thermostat talks to the furnace and tells it “Hey, it’s dropping below 65 degrees in here, you’d better do your thing for a little while so the peeps and fuzzies in here don’t freeze.”  And then it talks to the air conditioner, telling it “You know, it’s getting kinda warm in here…80 degrees is about as warm as the peeps and fuzzies want it to get, so chill us all out for a little bit.”

See, the thermostat talks to the furnace, and to the air conditioner, but not both at the same time–WHY can’t it talk to both of them at the same time?!  Why do we have to CHOOSE whether we want the furnace running, or the air conditioner running?  Why can’t we say “All right, I want the temperature in here to stay right around 68 degrees.”   And then have the thermostat advise whoever’s turn it is to run to take care of that?

If you have a large building with many different zones and thermostats, you have to keep on top of whether you need heating or cooling at any particular moment in any particular zone.  If you have a lot of afternoon sun coming in the windows, you’ll need the air conditioning in that area during the day–but try to remember to turn the furnace back on when you leave for the day, after the sun goes down.

Most of the time, this isn’t such an important issue, because it’s warm (or cool) enough to warrant just one type of air handling.  In the springtime, though, there are often drastic shifts in temperature, necessitating cooling during the day and heating at night.  If you live in Michigan, you can sometimes experience these drastic shifts during many seasons, and occasionally multiple times per day.

Sooo…why can’t we just tell the thermostat what temperature we want the house to stay at, and have IT deal with the subordinate parties?  There are automobiles which have this capability, and there are even automobiles which offer separate thermostats for the driver’s and passenger side of the car.  It doesn’t seem to me like that’s a big deal…but that’s probably why I’m not in the heating and cooling profession.

This is the way to do it and get it done fast

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 by kara

If you hate grocery shopping here’s a wonderful plan for you to get your marketing done in a snap, while avoiding crowds of annoying, inconsiderate people-in-general who are at the store for entertainment.

First, write up your grocery list, and commit to sticking to that list.  Organize your coupons, if you are using them, so that you have them ready to hand to the cashier.

Then, go to your chosen market, carefully timing your visit so that you enter the store exactly 20 minutes prior to closing time.  You’ll find that closing time thins out the herd of shoppers quite nicely, but keep in mind that you don’t have any time to dawdle.  This is where it gets sticky:  You MUST act quickly, finding the items on your list efficiently and getting checked out, packed up and out of the store in a timely fashion, in order to avoid putting out the employees who work there.  Remember that they too are also trying to make it home in a reasonable amount of time, and after spending the entire day at work, they most likely hate people-in-general, just like you.  Don’t add to their sorrow by being obtuse.

Sunday night, I made my way through an 11-item list at Target in 15 minutes.  That’s from the time I walked through the doors and selected my cart, to the moment I exited the check-out lane with bags in hand.  I’m stunned and pleased!  Like many procrastinators, I  function more efficiently under the looming menace of a deadline.  Here in the adult world, however, we sometimes have to make our own deadlines, and shopping prior to closing is a handy way to do just that.

Please note that I did NOT say that I “work better under pressure.”  Although many procrastinators insist that waiting until the last minute to start a project helps them work better, this is NOT true in my case.  And it’s only taken me 40 years to acknowledge that fully!  Yay, me!

I can honestly say that I find it easier to focus and work effectively under a deadline, either one that is real and truly looming, or one that is less-critical which I’ve constructed myself.  The truth is that whatever I do, I do it better when I allow enough time to plan and execute the work carefully, and when I can motivate myself to BEGIN the work ahead of that deadline, working consistently and steadily to a timely completion.

But alas.  And alack.  I are a procrastinator, from way, way back.  When I was maybe 10 years old, my mother said to me “You are a procrastinator.”  I asked her “What does THAT mean?”  She replied “Go look it up.” And I told her “I’ll do it later.”  No lie.  She thought that was quite funny and shared that story with EVERYONE for years and years. 

And sadly, that’s been the fable of my life-to-date.  “I’ll do it later” has interfered with many things I’d like to do (and get done), so I’m going to try not to say it any longer.  Hopefully I’ll accomplish something worthwhile in my lifetime.

Ten little teeny things which cheese me off

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009 by kara

Bad traffic manners.  Pet parent rudeness.  My own learned helplessness.  My own prodigious powers of procrastination.  My own pets’ ignorance.  The fact that my house will not clean itself.  That I hate taking risks.  That when I finally gather my guts up enough to TAKE a risk, that I suck at it.  That I can read tarot so well for everydamnbody else but get NOTHING useful for myself.  And finally, that I am so bad at shaking off a funk.  I do so love to wallow in it.

Wishing I believed in rabbits’ feet charms

Monday, April 20th, 2009 by kara

Whew. What a week we just had.  Our long-standing string of bad luck is getting a little tiresome.

In general, 2009 hasn’t been good to us.  I’ll summarize:  January 8, Rick lost his job; January 9, we discovered I might have cervical cancer–right after losing our health insurance along with Rick’s job; Cocker Companions Rescue had to make that ultimate, impossible decision to euthanize one of our foster dogs; We paid out-of-pocket for the LEEP procedure (and a lesser, unsuccessful procedure) to shave the dysplastic cells off my cervix (at least I didn’t need chemotherapy–whew!); Then we had to replace our house’s water supply line, again, out-of-pocket.  That’s just January through March, and it sucked pretty hard there for a while.

Then the fun started up again.  Just in this past week and a half, our hot water heater started leaking.  No worries–that’s covered by the home warranty.  Called them and they made an appointment for us with a local plumbing company.  Upside of this is that we met a great plumber who’s from our home state and we had a great time comparing our experiences as transplants to Tennessee.  Learned that ‘whatever it is, it could be worse’–this woman and her husband have TWO houses that are languishing, unsold, back in Michigan, so we feel pretty fortunate to have sold ours, even after a net loss of $40K.

So while she was here fluffing our 10-year-old water heater and bringing that up to code ($489), we asked her to take a look at some other plumbing items, including our Dr. Seuss-like plumbing in the laundry room, and a leak which we could HEAR but couldn’t see.  Turned out the phantom leak was from both our hose spigot bibs, which were cracked and in need of replacement.  She gave us a break on the price, so that job cost only $450.  Then comes the laundry room.

I thought she’d get a laugh out of the plumbing supplying water to my washer, sink and toilet in the laundry room–PVC piping ran across the wall and through a hole hacked into the side of a full-on commode on its way to the toilet on the other side.  No U-joint on the sink drain, either–all very amature-ish-ly done.  She just shook her head sadly and said “I hate to see someone get screwed.”  She explained that it appeared that the laundry room had been drywalled before the plumbing was finished, and then the heating & cooling people had come in and installed the furnace before the plumbers could finish their work–so running everything along the outside of the wall was the quickest (and dirtiest) way to plumb the laundry room without chargebacks and ripping out drywall.  Oh, and we also discovered that the swampy smell in the laundry room was due to the lack of a U-joint on the laundry drain.

So on Wednesday, our plumber set to fixing all that mess…and along the way ran into an unholy plethora of complications.  She worked for thirteen hours to redo our laundry room plumbing to code, and install my laundry tub correctly, working around a joist-space that SHOULD have been eighteen inches and for some perverse reason was only eleven inches (but she still got the U-joint installed for the laundry drain!).  In the end, she knocked off as much as she could for us and charged us only $2,000 for her full day of hell.

Did I mention that my Wonderful Pumpkin is still unemployed, and I’m making $8.50 an hour?!  Okay, so homeowner-type-poop happens to everybody at one point or another.  Moving right along.

On Friday, the irritations continued.  I went to get my hair cut by a woman who had cut my hair perfectly once before.  I have very short hair–as long as it’s cut well, it looks great and is easy to manage.  But it’s difficult to find someone who will cut it that short and do it well–precision and a strong stomach are necessary to execute a short haircut like mine on a girl-person.  The first time I met this stylist, I showed her my pictures of short hairstyles that I like, and how my hair looked when it was cut perfectly, and she replicated it beautifully.  I was pleased. (And yes, I carry pictures of my hair just for this reason.)

Unfortunately, when I returned to her on Friday, I caught her after her long lunch hour, which included one (or two) too many drinks.  I didn’t realize this until she’d already begun to cut my hair.  The shy side of me wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but after she nipped my ear with her scissors, I accepted that this would most likely not turn out well.

And no, she didn’t cut my ear–she just pinched it with her scissors, which means that her scissors are very dull.  I guess that’s a fortunate thing for me.  And my hair is not cut well–it’s uneven in back, it’s too long on the top, and now I actually have to blow dry it and use hairspray to get it to behave.

And again–this is a minor inconvenience, really.  My hair grows quickly, it was only a $13 haircut so I’m not out a ton of money, my ear was not actually separated from my head, so do I have anything to bitch about?!  In the bigger scheme of things, no.

Moving on to Saturday…I’m on my way to work (my sixth day in a row for the second week in a row, but I’m glad to have a job!!!) and when I’m 3/4 of the way there, I am involved in a minor traffic accident.  An out-of-town motorist turns right into the driver’s side of the Bonneville (aka The Mommycar).  It is a MINOR accident–we were both stopped at the traffic light, he was in the left-hand, ‘straight-only’ lane, and I was in the right-hand, ‘straight-or-turn’ lane, and he wanted to turn right.  Apparently he feels that using his right-turn signal should magically clear traffic from the lane into which he wishes to turn.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t SEE his turn signal, having stopped at the light RIGHT NEXT TO HIM.

So he turns right into me (we’re just starting out at the green light so this all happens in slow-motion), and I squeal like a little girl and shout some obscenities (with all the windows down, of course).  He realizes that there’s a FULL-SIZED PASSENGER VEHICLE TO HIS RIGHT AND THAT HE’S JUST HIT IT, and we both continue through the intersection and pull off the road as best we can.  The law-abiding citizen (and former firefighter and police/fire dispatcher) in me immediately dials 911, informing the dispatcher that we’ve been involved in a PDA-only incident and giving her our location.

It’s been years since I’ve been in any kind of an accident, and I’m cheesed off that my piece-of-doody car now also LOOKS like a piece of doody, too.  Both the driver’s side front and back doors are scratched, and there’s a sizeable dent in the front door.  BUT my windows still work, both doors open without a problem, and nobody is injured–this is a cosmetic situation only, for my car.  His car has suffered cosmetic damage to the right front quarter panel, wheel cover, and passenger-side door–it won’t open without catching on the quarter panel.

The gentleman who hit me is from out-of-state, and isn’t completely familiar with the intersection.  Mr. Out-of-Towner is quite certain that I was in the right-turn-only lane, and that I’VE broken traffic law by traveling straight in a turn-only lane thus cutting him off.  I explain that while there are TWO LEFT-HAND-ONLY turn lanes at that intersection, there’s only ONE RIGHT-HAND-TURN ONLY lane there, and that HE was the one in the wrong.  He said, “Well, I had my right-turn signal on, but I guess you couldn’t see it.”  No kidding.

He’s already got his little note pad and insurance card at the ready, wanting to exchange information and be done with this whole mess, but NO!  Girly-goody-goody ME wants to do the right thing and get a police report.  Knoxville po-po shows up, and checks for injuries (none), no apparent malfeasance (we’re both adult-type people who don’t appear to be under the influence of any mind-altering substances), and then advises us that if he writes a report, I’LL get the short end of THAT stick.

“You’re from Indiana, so a police report probably won’t affect your driving record,” says the officer, gesturing toward Mr. Out-of-Towner.  Then he turns to me.  “But even though you weren’t at fault here, as a resident of the state of Tennessee, this accident will go on your driving record,” he says.  “I don’t like it either, but that’s the way the law is here.  If I’m parked and sitting still, and I get hit head-on, it still goes on my record.  So you might want to just resolve this between yourselves, exchange information and move on from here.”

He advised us that he’d write a report if we needed one, but that it would probably be better for ME if he didn’t.  Shite.  Fine.  I don’t want to submit this to our insurance company, anyway–my car is (SERIOUSLY) only worth about $250 as a trade-in due to the engine problems it has, so that, combined with our $5,000 deductible, makes it pointless to repair or submit an insurance claim for repair.  The last thing we need right now is a hike in our insurance bill.

The kind officer writes down each of our contact information for the other and departs.  Mr. Out-of-Towner is quite insistent that along with our addresses and telephone numbers, we also share insurance information.  I’m late for work, and figure that since HE’S at fault, there’s no harm in exchanging insurance information.

I call the Pumpkin and tell him about our ‘fender bender’ and reassure him that physically I’m fine.  Later that night after I get home from work, he begins to ponder the possibility that Mr. Out-of-Towner will try to file a claim against our insurance company, and how the lack of a police report could affect that potentiality.  I say some bad words, like “*&$%#*@! “, cry a little bit, and begin to worry. Talk about being ‘damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t’, I am a walking example.

I was not capable of sleep until 0600 hrs this morning.

So here I am, stumbling along (on my DAY OFF) on four or five hours of sleep, and it’s time to go out grocery shopping.  I’m really hoping that nothing else happens and am dreading going out into the world again.  Although individually, any of these events from the past week are truly minor little annoyances, I just don’t have the fortitude left to withstand something as minor as a splinter.  That would probably turn into blood poisoning, a hospitalization with IV antibiotics, and a new strain of MRSA, with our luck.  Pray for us.

Truisms to Live By: Closing the Gate Behind You EVERY TIME

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 by kara

In my ongoing struggle to become a better person, I’m distilling my beliefs into bite-sized, easily-digestible tenets that apply to multiple situations.  Today I’ll be talking about “Closing the gate behind you EVERY TIME.”

Gates are multi-purpose structures.  In conjunction with a fence, they can contain something, or keep something out.  They can be menacing (gates to a prison yard) or whimsical (grape arbor with a gate), practical and functional (like a ‘cattle guard’ which is a grate built of large diameter pipes spaced just far enough apart to prevent cattle from walking across–but will allow trucks and cars to traverse without problems) , or decorative (white picket fence).

Gates can be inconvenient.  Try opening a gate with two leashed dogs and a bag of groceries in hand–contrary to some manufacturers’ descriptions, I don’t believe there really ARE any true “one-handed” gates, because you’re usually using both your hands.  When fencing companies find a “no-handed” gate, that will be a breakthrough.

And if you’re bringing animals in from pasture, it’s tiresome to know that you’ll have to open (and CLOSE)  that same gate eight more times…now seven more times…now six…but it’s an unspoken guarantee that the one time you pull the gate shut without latching it, the rest of the animals in paddock will FIND that loose gate and will escape.  They’ll scatter like chaff in the winds–and they’ll be just as hard to recapture.

But no matter what purpose a gate serves, it is always considerate and mannerly to close and latch it behind you, not to mention that it can help avoid inconvenience (at best) or catastrophe (at worst).  Closing a gate behind you is much easier than trying to recapture cattle or sheep that have escaped and are running rampant.  It’s also much easier to close a gate behind you than it is to pick a broken dog up off the pavement and rush it to the veterinarian’s office to try to save its life.

And closing a gate can prevent the rabbits from getting in to your garden and eating the tops off all the carrots…or stopping the dogs from raiding the tomato plants.

Then there’s the metaphorical meaning of gates.  “Closing a gate” can be symbolic, it can mean following procedure, doing something correctly and not taking short cuts simply for the sake of convenience.

If there’s a gate, there’s a reason for that gate in that particular place, so use it properly.  Thank you from all the people who have gates!

New item for my standing wish list

Monday, April 6th, 2009 by kara

Here’s something else I’ve decided I want:  A dry sauna.  Add that to the standing Christmas/birthday/dammit-I-want-it list of:

-A Jeep Wrangler

-A Pony

-An ofume bathtub.