August 27, 2014

Met with a contractor this morning and gave the bungalow renovation/expansion a green light. Construction should start before mid-September. Finally.

We move to the beach house Friday.


August 26, 2014

William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman

August 26, 2014

Lena Dunham:

August 26, 2014

I saw an ad for freeze-dried survivalist food on TV last night, so I Googled it up. It turns out that a big player in the niche is Costco. The pictured $449.99 bucket collection holds 330 entrees, 300 fruit portions, 320 vegetable portions, and 120 packs of fuel gel.

Here's what I don't get. Okay, there's a whole lot about survivalist crap that I don't get, but here's one thing. According to Costco, the 330 serving meal bucket has a full 2100 calories per day for one adult for 30 days. Okay, 330 servings divided by 30 days... I'm supposed to eat eleven servings a day? As near as I can tell, freeze-drying sucks most of the calories out of the food. Helpings of fruit and vegetables have between 10 and 50 calories. Entrees hover around 300 calories, though some are down in the double digits. The portions are also low in protein, fat, carbs, fiber, and everything else except salt. Plenty of salt. So, yeah, it takes a lot of freeze-dried cardboard to get 2,000 calories.

Speaking of 2,000 calories, let's talk MREs. I got to looking at those last night, too. A company called Ameriqual makes military MREs and offers a slightly dumbed-down civilian version called APacks. Their Southwestern style chicken with black beans and rice delivers 1050 calories and appropriate levels of fat, carbs, sugar, sodium, protein, and fiber. They figure that two of those will keep your fired up for a day, and it looks like they're right. $69.95 for a case of 12 meals in six varieties, so they ain't cheap, but per 2,000-calorie day they work out to $11.66, versus $15.00 for freeze-dried. (I found entree-only freeze buckets that work out to $7.50 for 2,000 calories, but again, you're talking a dozen "servings" per day.) People love to make fun of MRE's taste, but what's the last flavorful freeze-dried treat that you had? Try some Nutri-System lasagna and get back to me. Unlike a bag of freeze-dried, a typical MRE also contains a fig bar, raisins, peppermints, candy, crackers, seasonings, and a towelette.

No, I'm not going to order any. I'm just learning about what one of my in-laws has stuffed in his basement.

August 26, 2014

Back to the basics for me. I'm using Dial soap and Prell shampoo. Now I'm trying to find a tube of Ipana.

(It's the most popular toothpaste in Turkey. I think maybe the sell it in Canada, too.)
August 26, 2014

We totally should have left this guy alone. In the weirdest of weird Middle Eastern developments, we now find ourselves rooting for his army. It's crazy, but our decision not to arm the Syrian rebels almost makes some sort of sense—it enhanced his ability to survive, which turned out to be a backhanded good thing—but what happened is that other people decided to arm the baddies among the rebels, making the moderates the weakest of the three factions. Iran is backing Assad, the Arab kings and emirs are backing ISIS, and we're leading from behind. We have cleverly maneuvered ourselves into a lose-lose situation.

Okay, yeah, sure we screwed this one up. But look at our success in Libya!

And Iraq!

August 26, 2014

While the President was on August break, Hagel and Dempsey held a news conference to announce that somebody is going to have to snuff ISIS/ISIL/IS, and that we just might take air power into Syria to help make it happen. Pentagon trash-talking.

President Obama returns to the White House and announces that we're going to fly surveillance over Syria. "Don't worry, we're on it. Hey, we're gonna kick your butt, ISIS!" But no boots on the ground, so we'll rely on the very excellent Iraqi army to get the job done.

We don't telegraph our punches. We advertise them on Jumbotrons. In a related development, the White House announced that it would copy ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on all e-mails between the White House and the Pentagon.

In contrast, the Russians attacked Ukranian border posts with MI-24 helicopter gunships, shelled Ukrainian troops from artillery positions in Russia, ran convoys of tanks, APCs, and munitions trucks through the border, and suffered the capture of a dozen Russian troops on Ukrainian soil, all the while denying not only the acts in question but also any knowledge of the existence of Ukraine.

August 25, 2014

As you know, we used to live on a ranchito. Counting the guest house, we had about 5,000 feet of residence. We now have about 1,500 feet of residence. We had a greenhouse there and have one here.

A nasty monthly utility expense at the ranchito was around $500. We had no water or sewer bill, because we were on well and septic. But we consumed our share of electricity and, in the winter, a fair amount of propane. All of the residential spaces were either new or fully renovated; they had standard-grade energy efficiency. Nothing fancy.

Now we're in the city. City utilities are owned by the city, and they're expensive, for a bunch of reasons. This month's utility bill for our little bungalow? $500. The big item is $275 for electricity. It's like this. The bungalow has no insulation. Our fine, new HVAC system runs about 21 hours a day trying to keep up with the heat. And this is the season when the fans in the greenhouse run almost non-stop. The electric meter spins faster than James Carville.

Also, we give our lawn a good watering once a week, and water is expensive in Boerne. Most of our neighbors avoid that expense. I don't really blame them.

We need to shut this house down and renovate and insulate and put in energy-efficient windows and doors and all that stuff. With any luck, we're about to do that.

Utilities at the beach house (1,400 square feet, no greenhouse, insulated, double-pane windows) are less than half of what they are at the bungalow, even though the beach house has an old, low-efficiency AC compressor.

So here's my green message: get energy efficient, people. We're proof that it works.