November 18, 2012
The edge between the front yard and the road is buried under a long, fairly deep pile of leaves. This photo gives some idea of the pile, and a better idea of how much I enjoyed moving the leaves from various parts of the yard to the pile. I won’t even be this happy if the county doesn’t come and collect the leaves before we get a strong wind that spreads the leaves back over the yard.
The photo also shows that I haven’t shaved for more than two weeks. I wasn’t planning to participate in Mowvember, but my shaver gave up the ghost around Halloween. I’m not sure whether the beard will survive the month, let alone make it to the new year.
What do you think? (Here’s a photo of a beardless Andrew, if it helps.)
July 8, 2012
A tree fell right across the road opposite our house in Bethesda, but a lane was cleared by a midnight(ish) chainsaw. I assume that the people wielding the chainsaw really needed to get somewhere. The image in this post doesn’t show that tree (another one does), but it’s my best photo of the storm and its effects.
We were without power for a little under five days. So yes, that means that it came back on Independence Day. It feels like re-dependence day, since we are so dependent on electricity, and take it so much for granted. A few reactions to the power cut:
- We reacted to it in different ways. My daughter (Maddie, 8) saw the bright side of not having electricity for the fridge: perhaps we’d have to eat out more.
- The iPad (iPad 2) held its charge very well.
- I really missed the internet, and not just for its fun side. I keep my main to-do list on 37signals‘ Backpack, which is great when its assumption that the internet is always there holds true.
- There are many tall trees round here. That’s great, trees are wonderful, but they are not good neighbors for power lines. We missed the air conditioning during the heatwave (definitions vary, but we met all of the definitions provided at Wikipedia),but it would have been even worse without the shade provided by the tall trees. Then again, that shade means that we wouldn’t get as much out of solar panels on the roof as the temperatures would suggest.
- If the people who used a chainsaw outside our house at midnight are reading this, you are forgiven. You probably needed to get somewhere, and the fallen tree was blocking the only way out.
How do you feel about dependence on electricity? Are you in fact dependent on it? Do you take a steady supply of electricity for granted? (I did, for most of my life, until I moved to Maryland.)
February 25, 2012
When I listen to the radio in the car here near DC, I’m usually tuned to WAMU on 88.5. That’s one of the local NPR stations. For readers outside the USA, NPR stands for National Public Radio. That may be misleading: NPR is not run by the federal government (or by any government). Neither is it only about radio.
NPR is also behind one of my favorite music sites. NPR Music includes such features as First Listen, which previews albums in the week leading up to release. Although there are only a few albums previewed each week, there is usually at least one to which I’m looking forward (e.g., Shearwater’s Animal Joy) or that I enjoyed, but might not have listened to had it not been featured (e.g., Grimes’ Visions).
NPR relies to a large extent on contributions to fund its programming, on the airwaves and on the web. So I’m glad to say that I did get round to contributing recently. Or rather, when told that I was difficult to buy presents for, I suggested a donation to WAMU. What do I get for the $120 the present cost? A non-lousy t-shirt. And the knowledge that I’m helping to keep NPR programs, stations, and websites going.
Do you use NPR? Do you contribute?
January 26, 2012
There’s a big difference between free of charge and any charge, no matter how small. That’s on observation often made about e-business. When it comes to the web, part of the difference arises from difficulties with micropayments. Another part arises from the way we think about costs; this part applies to even to the most tangible and familiar of objects.
Consider, for example, the plastic or paper bags given away by many stores, including supermarkets. They are no longer given away for free in Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live.
Montgomery County passed legislation… that places a five-cent charge on each paper or plastic carryout bag provided by retail establishments in the County to customers…
Montgomery County’s legislation, similar to Washington DC’s Bag Law, is designed to create an incentive for the public to reduce use of disposable bags by bringing reusable bags.
Will it work? I have evidence that it does. And by evidence, I mean anecdote: stories of my own behavior, and conversations at cash registers. I have gone back into the house to get shopping bags as I am about to drive to the store, then remembered that I’ll be charged if I get new bags. I am trying to keep a stock of bags in the car for the inevitable occasions on which I forget to grab bags from the house.
This effect isn’t due to the size of the difference: the five-cent difference between free and a nickel is bigger than five cents. Moreover, the directions of the five-cent difference matters. The local Giant supermarkets used to give five cents back for every bag a customer brought in. But the gain of five cents per bag wasn’t enough to make me bring bags to the store.
So there are two five-cent differences involved here. The loss of five cents per bag used affects my behavior, while a gain of five cents per bag rarely did. Those familiar with the concept of loss aversion shouldn’t be surprised. That said, I’ve been familiar with the concept for years, and I am surprised at how effective the five-cent penalty seems to be.
April 26, 2011
We took a trip up to Boston for a few days, returning on Easter Sunday. The picture is appropriate, not only seasonally, but because we had a party at the indoor playground with this mural outside (Kids’ Fun Stop in West Roxbury, highly recommended, and not just because the owner is a good friend).
We drove past our old house in Roslindale, which made Maddie (now 7) nostalgic, but which Max (4) doesn’t really remember. We also drove past Fallon Field playground, where we spent many an hour, and the arboretum, in which we would have taken a walk had the weather been kinder.
We took the kids’ winter coats to Boston, and the weather justified our decision. Then we got back to the DC area, and were soon digging out their summer sandals. We also had to get out the allergy medication: Max started sneezing while we were still on the plan descending toward BWI airport.
This is a great part of the world, especially if you can stand the pollen, the heat to come, the traffic, and a few other things. I still miss Boston, though.
January 1, 2011
I took the kids to the National Zoo today. We hoped to see the lion cubs, and all seven of them did indeed venture outside (although only three of them, plus the two mothers, are in this photo). They are 3+ months old now, and immensely cute and playful.
I hope that 2011, young as it is, has already started to be a good year for you.
October 30, 2010
I did see a lot of signs, including these.
The Guardian reports that there were over quarter of a million people there. I can believe it, especially since most of them seemed to be on the same Red Line trains as we were. That said, I’m glad that we went.
September 13, 2010
I spent Saturday at WordCamp Mid-Atlantic in Baltimore. It was my first WordCamp, the one in Boston having taken place just after I moved down to Maryland.
I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to make it to the event, was on the waitlist, but managed to leapfrog the list by responding to a call for volunteers. I spent some time at reception (but most of the checking-in was done by others), directed people to sources of coffee, listened to complaints about the directions, etc., but was mainly free to roam.
Most of the online discussion of the event is to be found at Twitter (#wcma), rather than on WordPress blogs. A micro-sign of the times, perhaps.
It won’t be my last WordCamp. I hope to be at (and have offered to help with) WCMA next year.
September 7, 2010
I just got back from the first PTA meeting of the school year at Highland Elementary School, where my daughter Maddie has just started first grade (and where my son Max is likely to start kindergarten next year). I wasn’t able to make any PTA meetings last school year.
One of priorities for the Highland PTA is getting more parents involved. I see a website as a means toward this end, in that it would be available all the time, while real-world PTA meetings can never be. The site would also make involvement easier for some parents able to be involved anyway, but who might want to get or provide updates between meetings.
Were I to set up the site right now, my priorities would be as follows.
- Provide updates on PTA activity. Some updates might be meeting-based (reminder of meeting, here’s what was discussed, etc.), some between meetings (we’re weeks away from the next meeting, but what do you think of this?).
- Solicit input, especially from parents and teachers who are not able to attend meetings at the school. No time is good for everyone: this morning’s 9am meeting was well attended, but still must have excluded many families.
- Be multilingual, or at least bilingual. The Highland community speaks many languages, with Spanish and English being particularly prominent.
I’ve done some searches on terms such as PTA website. There’s a lot of stuff out there, including:
- PTA sites at the national (US) and state (MD) level.
- A PTA website builder site. First reaction: the nonprofit side of my brain says that it seems expensive; the for-profit side sees an opportunity in the PTA website builder business, if my pro-bono efforts at Highland go well.
Now,to solicit input on PTA websites. I’ll send out a few emails. But if you, dear reader, have thoughts on PTA sites, please share them here, especially if they include links to successful PTA sites.
July 28, 2010
Like a couple of thousand other people in Montgomery County, Maryland, we lost power on Sunday afternoon, following thunderstorms with winds exceeding 60 miles-per-hour (to quote Pepco, the power company). Our power came back at about midnight Tuesday/Wednesday.
For most of those 50-plus hours, we didn’t have dialtone on our landline. On Monday morning, I was getting no cellphone signal from T-Mobile, and no web access on my Android.
In fact, we had no web access at all during the power outage, even for a laptop running on battery power. We have FiOS, but only when we have electricity.
I think I missed the web more than I missed air conditioning, and that’s saying something in July in Maryland. It’s good to be back online.