What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The new and improved Instagram. I hated it when it launched. After a few weeks of living with it, I still hate it. Insta went from my most visited social to the least. It was a nice little app to see fun and interesting pictures from friends and people I followed. Now it’s turned into a bad imitation of TikTok that endlessly shows me clips from people/organizations I don’t know or care about and makes what I did find intresting harder to reach. I’m sure there was a very good business case for doing whatever they did, but it makes Instagram just about useless to me.

2. Heat in the summer. The professional media in Baltimore has been falling all over themselves to report on “weather alert days” this week because it’s hot. It also happens to be the back half of July. Here in the Mid-Atlantic that means it’s the height of summer. Put another way, it’s precisely the time of year when one might expect it to be hot and humid in this part of the world. I’m fully onboard with the climate changing – but seeing temperatures in the mid-90s and normal temperatures this time of year are regularly in the low-90s doesn’t feel like a case of breaking news. Now if I wake up tomorrow and it’s 140 degrees in the shade, you’ve got my interest. Otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and treat this as summer doing summer stuff.

3. Accessories. One of the things I hadn’t prepared myself for was the need to outfit this new bathroom of mine with accessories – you know, the various mats, hooks, towels, and so on that might give the whole thing a more finished look. So far all I’ve managed to do is order up a hamper to replace the standard white Rubbermaid version I’ve been toting around since 1998. As for the rest, I have this terrible feeling that at some point it might require me to go out and shop in actual stores to get my eyes and hands on actual fit and finish rather than relying on how things look on the screen. It already feels like a waste of whatever perfectly good Saturday afternoon gets eaten up with it.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The cost of comfort. The cost of propane this winter is going to be stupid. By contrast, my electric bill in the winter is usually minimal. By my way of thinking, I could reasonably knock a degree or two off the thermostat if I just put a space heater in the office where I spend my telework days. It’s a fine idea. The office is a nice steady 68 degrees, which by my standards is perfectly comfortable. The problem now, predictably, is that every time I walk out of that particular room – to get a fresh cup of coffee or to make lunch – the rest of the house feels like wandering around a damned icebox. It’s downright unpleasant. I’m not at all sure this new cost saving scheme of mine will survive the arrival of actual winter. I suspect my desire for comfort and convenience will trump my aversion to paying overinflated fuel bills. The next major project here might just be scoping out what it will take to replace my current, elderly air conditioning unit with a heat pump to drive the operating cost of keeping the whole place warm down to something more reasonable.

2. Missing historical context. For some reason the algorithm keeps feeding me all sorts of articles in which people – usually the under 30 set – are opining about all of us now living in the era of a great reset. Most of their puff pieces seem to be based on the idea that some combination of the Great Plague, hundreds of thousands of jobs available, rising inflation, the collapse of the modern financial order under the weight of “late state capitalism,” and a litany of other leftist fever dream issues are the birth pangs of some kind of brave new world. Their earnestness is kind of adorable… but I can’t help but think they’re missing every shred of historical context when they decry their lives in “the worst timeline.”

3. An expired card. The card that I use to pay for basically everything online expired a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been on the receiving end of a near constant barrage of “card expired” emails when various companies have tried to push through their charges. Updating this information isn’t particularly hard and in most cases it’s not even all that time consuming, but it’s a bleeding nuisance. It really feels like one of those elements of online retail / bill paying that should have a much more elegant solution… and no, the answer shouldn’t be to just hand over my bank accounting and routing information and trust 20 or 30 businesses to keep it secure forever. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Friday afternoon. Once upon a time, I actually enjoyed Fridays. They were a day full of promise. Now, of course, Fridays are just the day the Good Idea Fairy makes its rounds or people remember shit they should have done earlier in the week and try to jam it through so they can claim it got wrapped up before close of business. I can only urge you not to be that guy. Don’t wait until Friday afternoon. I promise you, deep down in places professionals aren’t supposed to talk about, no one give a shit at 3:30 on Friday how good an idea you’re having or whether something gets done or not. Maybe there’s an exception for immediate threats to life and safety, but otherwise all anyone on the line cares about on Friday is getting the hell away from cubicle hell for a few days. I know the uberbosses, enthroned high on Olympus, have forgotten their days lower down on the org chart and truly believe that everyone wants to (or at least should) give 300% 24 hours a day, but the heights of Olympus aren’t a reflection of any kind of universal reality. Sometimes those memos are just going to linger over the weekend… and I’m perfectly fine with that.

2. Paper cups. I know it’s saving the world or whatever, but I miss Chick-fil-a’s Styrofoam cups. In its new, socially responsible paper cups, the lemonade gets watered down on the ride between drive-thru and office. It’s just disappointing.

3. Heating and cooling season. So here we are well into autumn. It’s a special time of year where I fire up the furnace each morning to knock the chill off the house and then a few hours later when passive solar heating has sent the indoor temperature well into the 70s, switch the air conditioner back on to get the place back down to a reasonable sleeping temperature. At least in this part of the world this mixed season doesn’t usually last long. While it’s here though, I spend an unreasonable amount of time pondering the time, effort, and cash it takes to maintain a steady 68 degrees. 

Thanks for the tips…

Last week, much like this week, has been a bit of a broiler in the mid-Atlantic. As a result, my local electric utility sent out a bulk email with some “helpful” tips for dealing with the heat.

Tip #1: On hot days, use your grill to cook so you’re not adding heat to your house. Yeah, that’s a pass. It’s 95 degrees outside with 80% humidity and you want me to stand over and open flame flipping chicken or burgers instead of standing in the 70 degree kitchen where I can control the temperature to within a degree or two with a flick of my thumb.

Tip #2: Do laundry and run the dishwasher at night. Fun fact, night is when I sleep. I’m not staying up until the small hours to do laundry to save a fractional percentage cost of doing it during normal hours. Doing these chores during the non-peak hours you’ve designated doesn’t actually use less electricity, it just makes using the electricity I need to complete these tasks more inconvenient.

Tip #3: Close your blinds to reduce passive solar heating. Here’s the thing… I’m awake during the day, I like being able to see outside while I’m awake. I know I’m just weird like that. These big ass windows and the view they offer are part of the reason I bought the house in the first place. Otherwise I’d just stay up all night with no view doing laundry in the small hours of the morning like you so helpfully suggested.

All I see when a utility offers “helpful” tips such as these is a company that has opted to develop a network that they’re worried might not be up to meeting peak demand. With so much of my monthly bill being service fees rather than the actual cost of the electricity itself, I have very little sympathy in their desire to offload their problems onto the consumer rather than admitting they failed to design or maintain a sufficiently robust system to meet actual requirements.

7000 degrees…

I just cranked the thermostat down to 65 because it’s approximately 7000 degrees outside and I’ve got a heating pad wrapped around my neck because direct heat is the only thing so far that buys me a few minutes every hour of being able to move my head like a normal person.

So that’s how the week off is going in case anyone was curious.

What I learned this week…

After getting my first job out of college I moved into a tiny apartment with a rattling old window air conditioner that I would only turn on at night (because electricity is hella expensive) to change the room from furnace to obnoxiously hot. I could sleep fitfully under those conditions… and some sleep was better than the none that I’d have had otherwise.

It was sweating through those late summer nights at the southern tip of southern Maryland that I vowed, with God as my witness, that when I’d “made it,” I would set the temperature in my home for comfort rather than economy.

For me, the ideal indoor temperature in both summer and winter hovers right around 67-68 degrees. When I’m home, that’s where I set it and let the furnace or a/c do it’s thing.

Here I am now, almost twenty years later, having officially “made it” by my 22-year old self’s definition. Living the fully controlled indoor air temperature dream…

So, the whole point of this post: What I learned this week is that I’ll tolerate the house being 1-2 degrees colder than the optimal 68 degrees if I’m wearing wool socks. I feel like that’s something I probably should have known years ago. Better late than never, or something.

I suppose experts say a lot of things…

So it’s summertime here in the northern hemisphere. That means the temperatures regularly climb up past 90 degrees, the humidity soars, and the news covers a raft of stories about people who leave their pets or their kids locked inside their vehicle and only discover the error of their ways when they return to find Spot, Mittens, Bobby, or Suzy broiled much later in the day.

According to the inevitable articles on the topic, boohooing and pleading sympathy for the guilty, “Experts say” it can happen to anyone. I suppose it could, in theory. Monkeys could also fly out of everyone’s collective asses. Or we could all get hit in the face by simultaneous meteorites. Anything is possible.

Speaking as a guy who put an automatic starter on his truck because he wasn’t comfortable leaving his dogs in the vehicle long enough to get in and out of various gas station bathrooms along the 800 mile route between Maryland and west Tennessee, any kind of excuse about forgetting the living creature or creatures in your back seat rings just a little bit hollow.

Look, I know everyone is busy. Everyone is tired. Everyone can have a scattered moment, but for fuck’s sake, people, at least try to pull yourselves together. It’s a living thing you’ve at least theoretically decided to take responsibility for, not last night’s leftovers that you inadvertently left on the back seat when you got home from Olive Garden.

As always, I’m left wondering what the hell is wrong with people. Unfortunately I probably know the answer to that. It starts with an S and ends with “tupid.”

Winter of our discontent…

It was 10 degrees when I woke up yesterday morning. It’s winter, so that’s not unheard of here along the shores of the Chesapeake. I do have to wonder at the first settlers who arrived here and endured their first long winter. What compelled them to stay here rather than picking up stakes and opting for somewhere south of Norfolk. I can only speculate that they were stranded and without means to build a boat of their own to get the hell away to somewhere more temperate.

The poor bastards that lived here in log houses with mud insulation and wood heat and managed not to freeze to death were surely hearty souls. Far more hearty that I feel during the current unpleasantness. I don’t mean to imply that I heat the place excessively. I’m generally comfortable around 68 degrees. I try to get by at 67 as at least a passing nod towards saving fuel. Even at that my fancy new ultra high efficiency propane furnace was running flat out more often than it wasn’t.

I’m fortunate in that the house is well constructed and reasonably well insulated. Even at that, it’s teaching me a few details I’ll remember when I build the final version of Fortress Jeff. I’ll have more south facing windows with interior shutters to close at night. I’ll cut back the tree line far enough to get unobstructed sunlight. There will be in-floor heat for the bathroom. It’s going to be way more insulated than code requires. And there’s going to be zoned heating. I find myself here pumping hot air into parts of the house I only walk into a couple times a year.

Finally, I’m missing the one thing on my wishlist that I traded away because the current house ticked so many of my other “must have” items – a wood stove or fireplace. Let’s face it, if I can prop my feet up on a hearth with a good book and some coffee most of my basic requirements are already being met. Unfortunately, with every passing winter I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of the cold. The amount of time I’ve already spent devising ways to push the natural environment away by a few degrees just doesn’t bode well for what I’ll be spending inordinate amounts of time thinking about in the future.

What Willis was talking ’bout…

I’m going to take an entire day’s post today to celebrate the often unsung genius of Willis Carrier, the man responsible for bringing us modern electrical air conditioning. Sure, those first air conditioners contained all manner to toxic gasses that destroyed the ozone layer and would occasionally burst into flame, but right up until they suffocated or burned to death, people were comfortable. And in the end, being a relatively short lived animal, personal comfort is going to trump the risk of environmental destruction or immolation just about every time.

So, as I nudge the thermostat down a notch or two to compensate for the late afternoon sun streaming through the windows I tip my hat to Mr. Carrier… and wonder how, after our sainted ancestors spent their first summer in the mid-Atlantic, they didn’t immediately board the Nina, the Pinta, and the Get-Me-the-Hell-Outta-Here and set sail for Canada.

Three days of new heat…

After the better part of three days living with a new heat machine in the basement, it feels like I should say a few words. This is one of those rare occasions when an experiences actually exceeds expectations and therefore deserves special notice.

Being the creature of habit that I am and how much time I spend at home avoiding other people, I’m particularly well attuned to the sounds and rhythms of the house. I’ve gotten to know it’s noises and quirks. The new furnace has thrown a bit of a twist into what I’ve come to expect.

First and maybe foremost, the two stage blower appears to have fixed one of my biggest gripes about forced air heat. With the old furnace, the fan kicked on full bore before the air warmed and forced the cold air in the ducts out into the conditioned space with a noticeable “puff.” the cold air blown right up your back if you happened to be sitting near a register was an annoyance. With the two stage, the blower starts off slowly and displaces the cold duct air at an even, effectively unnoticeable pace before ramping up the speed. it’s a nice touch. I noticed and am appreciative of it.

This particular model also makes considerably less noise in operation – so much less noise that my normal television volume levels are noticeably more loud. (See, I told you I notice things). People seem to think I’m resistant to change, but the reality is that I generally welcome changes that make life more comfortable and peaceful. Why someone wouldn’t actively resist things that made their lives less pleasant or more of a pain in the ass eludes me completely, though that’s probably the topic for another night.

So, with the exception of the un-budgeted procurement costs, I am well pleased with the new bit of household mechanical equipment that we laid on here. It’s allegedly 6% more efficient than the unit it’s replacing so I’ll be curious to see how that works out now that we’ve replaced the two largest consumers of propane fuel in the house. Even if there’s no net savings, the improvements to comfort and safety are probably a win overall.