Spiked…

I like to know numbers when it comes to household operations. I track metrics on utilities because I like knowing how and why the bills are what they are. I’ve seen something on my utility statement that’s always kind of bothered me, but that I’d never bothered to investigate in detail.

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You see, every 7-8 days I have a surge in the amount of electricity that I use. For a long time I wrote it off as the increased demand caused by my being home on the weekend. I took a closer look, though, and realized that the spikes in use don’t exactly correspond to the days when I just happen to be home all day. If they did, I should see three columns out of every seven standing out instead of just the periodic one day spike. I thought briefly that the spikes might be tracking the day I work from home – when I tend to have two or three computers fired up, the furnace running, and maybe a load or two of laundry snuck in to the mix. Those are all things that logically I understand consume electricity.

The problem is, that none of the usage spikes corresponded to anything like that. Some hit days when I was here. Some didn’t. Being slightly obsessive, I still wanted to know why.

I wish I could tell you I slipped off the toilet while standing on it to hang a picture and had a vision of the Flux Capacitor, but alas that isn’t the case. The culprit showed himself when I was laying out a couple of chicken breasts for a long cook. It turns out every spike in electrical draw showing on my most recent bill actually corresponds to a day when I had dinner cooking away in the crock pot.

I just assumed that the little fella sat there on the counter and cooked up a nice hot meal without drawing off as much power as I use to tend to every other electrical appliance and device operated in this house on any given day. I feel like this is something I should have known kind of intuitively since by definition the thing is sitting there drawing power for eight or more hours at a time, but honestly I’d never given it much thought.

If I were all green and earthy I might consider altering some of my crock pot recipes for oven-based cooking… but as in most things, there’s a prince to pay in terms of convenience. As it turns out it’s a price I’m happily willing to pay. I’m just glad that I now know I’m paying it… though it might just be time to go out and see if I can upgrade my 15 year old slow cooker to something newer and (maybe) more efficient.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bagged salad. I need a steady supply of fresh “exotic” greens to keep the resident tortoise healthy and happy. The most convenient way to procure these greens is usually by picking up a bag-o-salad since I’m more focused on variety than buying in bulk. What I end up with half the time, though is a slimy gelatinous mass in my crisper drawer – often before I’ve even opened the bag. There’s got to be a better way to package this stuff that doesn’t leave it turned into a bag of green, foul smelling water the minute it leaves the supermarket.

2. The next question. Most people are OK at asking the question. What they generally suck at is asking the next question or the one after that. Most people are crap when it comes to really drilling down through an issue and getting at real causes. The surface answer is usually the easy one – the one that doesn’t offend anyone or hurt any feelings. Drilling down into the what and why tends to be invasive and means putting more noses out of joint and occasionally making life uncomfortable. Go ahead and be the person who make things uncomfortable now and then. You’ll be amazed at what you can find out.

3. Leftovers. I usually like leftovers but I’m in a rut at the moment. The last few weeks I’ve made my traditional big Sunday dinner and then a pot of soup on Monday. My logic was that it would give me plenty enough to ensure non-sandwich lunches and minimal cooking the rest of the week. I’m coming to the unhappy realization that even as much of a creature of habit as I am, I can’t eat the same two meals four four days in a row. It’s really kind of a disappointment, because it was a wonderful time saving plan… which seems to have lots a lot of points in execution.

Anatomy of a day off…

Due to the extreme plenty of hours on the clock last week, I now find myself in a position of having a few extra days to myself. Those are definitely the days I like best.

Instead of going blind on PowerPoint I got to:

– Put more shelves in basement
– Read 200 pages (of something other memos or regulations)
– Play fetch
– Restock the bird feeders and watch the deluge of feathered critters
– Cleared the deadfall from the back yard
– Walked the back 40 marking trees to cut down this spring
– Made lunch
– Watched two episodes of great British television
– Left Italian sausage, sautéed peppers and onions, and marinara to simmer 3 hours before dinner
– Sat down to write this post at 3:15 and wrapped it up by 3:30

It’s not what most would call exciting, I’m sure, but it felt like just about the perfect day.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The hidden meeting. My days are full of meetings. In fact that might be the only thing that’s consistent from day-to-day. With that being said, if you don’t tell me a meeting is happening I can’t even make the effort to show up and offer you whatever drippings of wisdom I can squeeze out of my overtaxed mind. I probably should have been there. I can even pretend to be sorry I missed it, but really any reason to be stuck in one less meeting is just fine by me.

2. That dinner doesn’t cook itself. Now that the days are getting shorter I find myself really wishing to come home to a nice meal instead of arriving to find a bunch of separate ingredients that I then need to turn into a nice meal. Last week there were far more cereal-for-dinner nights than I’m comfortable admitting.

3. Acorns. In and of themselves, I have nothing against the seed that grows the mighty oak. My only objection to them is this time of year the dogs seem to think they are magical treats dispensed from on high. My trees are majestic, but because of them I’m going to spend the next to days following the Maggie and Winston around shooing them away from the buffet.

Cheese…

I’ve got a whole, beautifully tempting lasagna sitting on top of the stove as I write this. It’s warm, oozing with just the right proportion of cheese to sauce to noodle. It’s also wholly inedible. The cheese is off. It wasn’t my usual brand of ricotta and since there wasn’t an appearance or smell issue from the container, I threw caution to the wind. One bite, though, was enough to determine that all was not well. What was fine in the fridge had gone well and truly off by the time it endured the cooking process.

There’s probably an analogy to Sunday in there somewhere – a day that starts with such great promise, but that inevitably ends up as ashes in your mouth when the day draws to a close.

It’s not the first meal I’ve bungled and it’s not likely to be the last. Still, I’m already disappointed at the leftovers that will never be… in much the same way that we can’t hold over Sunday for one more spin on the axis. Like my abortive lasagna, the only thing I can know for sure about Monday is that it will inevitably leave a bad taste in my mouth.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. National contrition. I had the great fortune to meet Brigadier General Paul Tibbets (retired) not many years before his death in 2007. He was speaking at the aviation museum in Richmond, Virginia that ended with a question and answer session. The first, inevitable, question – one that was probably posed to him every day since 1945 – was if he had any regrets about commanding the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. His response, a single word, “No.” That’s sort of how I feel when I read articles telling me that we should apologize for dropping the bomb on Japan. America didn’t start the damned war, got sucker punched to bring us into it, and then the apologists want us to feel bad that to end it the full force and power of the American military came crashing down on the country that was then our enemy. Our job in August 1945 was to win the war with as few additional American casualties as possible. That’s what we did. So, no, I won’t apologize for that. Not now. Not ever.

2. Ten candidates. Later this evening the “top ten” Republican presidential candidates will engaged in what passes for a contemporary debate in this country. They’ll each have 3-5 minutes to pull off a sound bite they can use in their campaign material, but there won’t be time for a discussion of substance. There are lots of familiar faces from elections past going on stage tonight, but there is damned little sign of new blood in the arena. Most of the contenders couldn’t make it to the big game the last 2 or 3 times they tried. I’m not sure I see where much has changed. I don’t expect any of these ten to speak to my peculiar combination of important issues. Then again, I don’t expect anyone from either party to do that. Before this debate even gets started I’m already thinking that the best outcome from it would be for me to go to bed on time and at least try to get a good night’s sleep. That would be far more beneficial than anything we’re likely to hear on television tonight.

3. Cooking. I was away last weekend. I haven’t had a chance to get to the market this week to pick up more than the requisite salad for my tortoise and creamer for me. Being away also meant that I wasn’t able to do most of the week’s heavy cooking on Sunday afternoon. Which is how you end up needing to fiddle around the kitchen making a passable meal and not sitting down to eat until Wednesday night until after 7PM. That might be fine for you continental types who keep late hours, but for me on an average weeknight seven o’clock is closing in on the middle of the damned night. Maybe it’s just an artifact from childhood, but at my house 5PM is dinner time. Most weeknights I don’t quite make it, but I’m not usually far off – but then again I’m usually not coming up with something from scratch. So yes, currently as much as I usually enjoy it, I’m sick to death of cooking and the butterfly effect it’s having on the rest of the evening. I guess I should have grown up to have a job with a personal staff. More poor decision making on my part.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Decisions. I’m theoretically leading a project right now. I say theoretically because every time we get together to discuss it, we revisit and rehash decisions that I was under the impression were made a month or two ago. But no, instead of actually trying to move the ball forward, we want to spend our time going over and over and over and over and over the same damned material. I have to wonder if the weekly outcome would be any different if organizations didn’t send a different representative to this exercise in futility each week. Then maybe we could get a little institutional memory going and I could wrap up a Thursday without without my blood pressure treading dangerously close to stroke territory. All for the want of decisions that actually stick once they’re made.

2. Thursday Dinner. I try to cook a big meal every Sunday – enough so there are two or three days of leftovers and I don’t have to do any heavy cooking after work. By Thursday night, though, even the biggest of meals has either disappeared into my gullet or is just no longer appetizing. As much as a creature of habit as I am, eating the same dinner four days in a row is a touch too far for me. That’s generally how you end up having scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast for dinner on Thursday night. Not that I dislike either of those things, but after a long stupid day something more substantial would have been nice. Sadly, something more substantial would have also required far more effort than I was willing to put in.

3. Guilt. Most nights, especially now that it’s getting dark earlier, Maggie and Winston are happy to snooze peacefully under the kitchen table while I try to combine words into sentences and sentences into complete thoughts. On other nights, Winston tries to be a 40 pound lap bulldog and Maggie somehow manages to wedge herself between my elbow and the keyboard. They’ve been in “needy” mode all week… and while I couldn’t do without them, it would be nice if I’d have bothered to raise more independent children.