November 2011


With the mild fall, I’ve been putting off insulating the windows in my new house. This was partially due to my self-imposed work schedule for the past few months, I was devoting an inordinate amount of time to external duties and not really keeping up with personal projects. This weekend I finally took a little break, with Thanksgiving a convenient excuse. Today, I started fitting insulation to some of my windows, essentially the north half of the house. The windows are in need of some significant attention in the spring, I’m planning to take all of them apart so I can re-glaze and paint, but for now I’m just going to seal things up for the winter. I’m insulating with 1″ polystyrene inserts to give a white appearance from the outside and 1″ foil-faced polyisocyanurate foam on the inside. The PS gives about R=3 and the foil-faced claims R=6.5, so I’m adding almost R=10 to the windows, it should make a notable difference. It will also provide some sound insulation and will completely block any light. Given that I am typically at my office before the sun comes up and don’t get home until well after the sun sets at this time of year, the light issue isn’t important right now.

I don’t really understand why more people don’t do this. The materials are cheap; a 4’x8′ sheet of 1″ PS is under $5, and the foil-faced polyisocyanurate is about $13 for a 4’x8′ sheet. I splurged and bought a $20 hot-wire cutter to cut the PS to size, so my total investment is just over $50 and I should be able to use the insulation for at least 2-3 years before it gets dinged up enough to need replacing. Will it save me $50 in heating costs over those 2-3 years? I can’t believe that it won’t, and even if it doesn’t, it just feels like the right thing to do.

Next project: a semi-permanent ice house. I predict some 1″ foil-faced polyisocyanurate for that project as well…

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I’ve been dealing with a little sinus distress over the past few days and I’ve addressed it by upping my fluids, specifically, tea. I’m not always a huge fan of teas, but with the chill of late fall, a warm beverage is nice. I have a fair variety of teas mostly left over from last winter and I’ve decided to use up all my old teas before getting new. In my office I have Nutcracker Sweet and Gingerbread Spice, both seasonal Christmas teas. The Nutcracker Sweet is a caffeinated black tea, so I try not to use that one later in the day. It’s sweet (obviously) and has the fullness of some additional flavors. Gingerbread Spice does indeed have to flavor profile of gingerbread and is a nice alternative. If my sinuses and throat don’t clear up soon, I’ll be searching for new flavors by early next week.

I like specific pens. This doesn’t make me unique; I think just about everyone has a certain pen that they think is the best. My current fav is the Uni-Ball Signo 207 Micro black. Not the RT, not the JetStream, I like the Signo 207 Micro. It’s a retractable (clicker) pen, gel ink, with a nice pocket clip, and a very comfortable rubbery grip. It writes smoothly and the ink is “wash-proof”. It’s an awesome pen. They come in 3-packs for around $5, refills are $1.94 for a 2-pack. Which brings up two questions.
If the whole pen costs a bit over $1.65, why does the refill cost $1? Does the ink cartridge really represent 60% of the cost of the new pen? I’m happy to save a few cents here and there, and there is a measurable decrease in the environmental impact when I use a refill, but it seems like there should be more of a financial incentive to use the refills.
The other question is more about personal responsibility. I know a number of people who would never even bother looking at the price of ink refills for a pen because they “lose” pens long before they ever run dry. Often, this will just get brushed aside as if there’s nothing all that unusual about losing a pen, but I’m not sure I agree. Yes, it’s just a pen, but it’s really not that hard to keep track of a pen. I have a couple pens that I have run multiple refills through and I still haven’t “lost” them. This is especially troubling at work. I have co-workers who insist upon being supplied with pens that cost $3-5 each, and these faculty are often the same ones who tend to “lose” pens on a regular basis. I have to wonder if these individuals would be a little more responsible with their pens if they had to buy their own writing utensils.
So the bottom line is that I really like my Uni-Ball Signo 207 Micro black pens. Give one a try, you might like it as well.

Once again I’m sitting here at a relatively early hour of the evening on the Sunday of the “fall back” transition from Daylight Savings Time and I feel like it’s the middle of the night. I know I’m not the only person to think this, but all of this clock changing business is past it’s useful prime. What’s the purpose of Daylight Savings Time? How is it saving daylight? In Moorhead in summer, it doesn’t get dark until 9:30pm. Is that really necessary? And worse yet, after the “fall back”, it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon. I’m heading to work in the dark from October to April either way, so the morning side of the day isn’t an issue. OK, I’d usually be heading home in the dark at the end of the day as well, but it might be nice to think about sneaking out of my office a little early to enjoy a few minutes of sunlight.
Back home in Two Rivers, WI, it’s a slightly different situation. Since Two Rivers is on the eastern-most edge of a time zone, sundown in December is even earlier and the mid-summer sunrise is eye-blisteringly early. Now that the world is a much more consistent 24-hour society, this whole idea of Daylight Savings Time seems quaint and, quite honestly, pointless. Let’s consider showing it to the door. And as an added bonus, I won’t have to remember how to reset all my clocks.

—As I look back over this blog, I see that I tend to write on Sunday nights. Taking these few minutes to reflect on my week and suggest ways things could be improved reminds me with some degree of sadness that Andy Rooney passed away yesterday. The world has lost a little bit of its humor and Andy’s insight will be missed. Granted, he was 92 years old, and he wasn’t always the most enlightened person, but there was something comforting about knowing that his curmudgeonly and grandfatherly wisdom would be there on Sunday nights. I haven’t gotten CBS for a few years so my memories of Andy are from his 60’s, but they are good memories. Perhaps the best part about “A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney” was that it was quite literally just a few minutes. Andy made his point, showed a few examples, and said good night. That’s a lesson we can all learn from Andy Rooney. Good night.