Bureaucratic pet peeve–selecting Ohio utility energy providers

Posted By on September 30, 2014

applestoapples

Residents and businesses in Ohio “choose” which companies provide the energy used by their utility company, which can in most cases reduce their bills. This competition should be a good thing, one would think, but each year consumers go through a multi-step process to confirm our energy provider choice … and each year it is getting more and more cumbersome and time consuming. In my case, I call for each utility account or bill received and “waste” time making the same selection. This last natural gas selection took 23 minutes to renew with the same company I used in the previous few years.

Here was my 2014 process: 

I opened a computer browser window and navaigated to the Ohio Apples To Apples website in order to compare offers from different energy suppliers after receiving a contract expiring letter (below). ONG_letterThis should be done for both your electric and natural gas energy supplier otherwise by default the energy cost will be high (in my case the current Duke GCR rates are nearly 20% higher).  Once a rate, term and promotion is mentally calculated, the selection process begins. In my case, I’ve been choosing yearly to stick with the same 1 year contracts and same supplier … unfortunately that decision needs to be confirmed each time – BY PHONE (or in the case of this last selection, 6 month term – rate was lower than a 1 year contract). On one bill alone this required a 12 minute phone call to select I wanted to stay with the same supplier … then a  “hold the line” so another person can come on the line to read the company’s legal pages and verify the terms again while recording my “yes” selection. My “verifier” read clear and slow as if I was writing down every phone number in which to cancel within 30-days, another for asking a supplier a question and others. Then finally after requiring a “YES” to all the questions (repeated because I said “CORRECT” instead of “YES”), a 10 digit, plus backslashes, confirmation number was issued.  All in all it took a total of 22 minutes to RENEW the energy supplier with the same company again … and I’m expected to do this with every utility bill.

Hmm… and I thought the federal government held the prize for the procedural bureaucratic waste of time. Come on people… there are better ways … who’s in charge? LINK

Dashcams in Russia make almost all U.S. drivers seem sane

Posted By on September 29, 2014

You might want to think twice before criticizing drivers in your neck of the woods … and be glad you are not driving in Russia (YouTube video below).

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A busy and productive weekend ended with a beautiful sunset

Posted By on September 28, 2014

cominghome140927I hate thinking it is an Indian summer, but the weather in SE Ohio has been beautiful. Besides working around our yard (many projects) I was up to Sidney and helping my brother work on dad’s out-building. The combination workshop/garage/barn is showing its age with a few areas under the rear west-facing eves decaying. Ron and I scabbed a few truss ends and screwed in place 60 feet of new pressure treated fascia board. My sister-in-law made a delicious and I still made it home as the sun dipped below the horizon.

Learn to read books again—slow down to pre-gadget habits

Posted By on September 27, 2014

The WSJ printed an interesting article by Jeanne Whalen earlier this month listing the benefits of s-l-o-w-e-r reading.  A Wellington, New Zealand book club calling itself the Slow Reading Club consists of members who “miss old-school reading” and may be on to something. They get together at a café and spend an hour reading in silence, with their electronics or cellphones turned off.  The goal for them is to get back to reading for enjoyment ; the benefits for all of us, besides pleasure, is that reading slower “improves ability to concentrate, reduces stress levels and deepens ability to think, listen and empathize,” this according to advocates of slower reading.

slowreadingclub

Screens have changed our reading patterns from the linear, left-to-right sequence of years past to a wild skimming and skipping pattern as we hunt for important words and information.

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TechFriday: Contemplating an iPad2 to iPad Air2 upgrade

Posted By on September 26, 2014

As a iPhone, iPad and iMac Apple customer, it is challenging to know what products to upgrade and at what time. As much as I would like an iPhone6 or 6plus, I’ve opted to stick with the current iPhone 5s (and 5) in order to save a few dollars on our cellphone plan as we will most likely be switching to Ting, asparallelsdesktop10 mentioned previously. My son called and asked me if I thought he should get the offered “free with a contract extension” upgrade and since only two carriers cover Williston ND, my answer was “yes” unless he wanted or was planning to leave Verizon

My current desktop Mac is just fine and after a Parallels Desktop 10 update, which runs Windows 7 Pro on the iMac ($50), I’m ready for the new Yosemite OSX.

The more challenging decision is whether to update my much enjoyed and much used aging iPad2 to the soon to be released iPad Air2, or to hold off for a new lightweight notebook  to replace my almost 8 year old Gateway. I’m still shocked that I’m comfortable using this hefty PC … and still relatively happy with it after the SSD drive and memory update. The other option is to pick up a second hand iPad Air “if” I can find one?

Below is video review of what seems to be a rumored photo comparison of the current fourth generation iPad Air (4?) and possible “Air2” due out this fall. Even though his conclusion is that “he wants” the larger screen model, I’m pretty satisfied with the current iPad screen size (I’m not sure where the iPad Mini comes in … one might as well get the iPhone 6plus)?

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Video: The Apple iPhone 6 plus and #bendgate

Posted By on September 25, 2014

iphone6plusbendtest

One can help but chuck at the excessive talk and coined term #bendgate regarding damage being hyped in the media regarding bending iPhones (there were 6 user complaints officially reported to Apple). The video below has been used around the world on news programs … who does this with their phones?

Anyway, after the 23+ million hit viral YouTube video by Unbox Therapy, another iPhone, the iPhone 6 (not “plus”) was put to the test along with a few competitors (below). Short answer … the larger iPhone 6 plus seems to be the most susceptible to bending IF someone uses significant force.

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Giphy.com or Gfycat and an emergency carry technique

Posted By on September 25, 2014

Here’s another Giphy.com test after using it for a Facebook share yesterday. I’ve found it a little be better than gfycat.com that I’ve used before since the purpose was to post to a social network.  Besides, I thought this was an interesting demo: A technique for carrying a person/body quickly in an emergency.

Sailing knives and using animated GIFs on Facebook

Posted By on September 25, 2014

I posted a question on a Facebook group today for liveaboard sailors regarding sailing knives using Giphy.com’s animated GIF to Facebook posting. I’m not sure how many other GIF hosting services are out there for Facebook but Giphy worked well.

HoffmanRichterKnifeThere are times on a rolling sailboat where using both hands to open a folding knife is not possible. The other hand may be needed to to hang on or to keep an something from getting away … like a mutineer [smiley]. I have a nice SS Myerchin folding knife with marlin spike, but it would be nice to have a sheepsfoot sailor’s knife that opens with one-hand like a tactical knife. Thoughts (see animated GIF below)?

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Westport $WPRT poised for growth when energy prices rise

Posted By on September 24, 2014

westportwingWith the lower cost of domestic natural gas here in North America, the next couple of decades will continue opening the doors of opportunity for innovative  companies who finding better ways to utilize this domestic and abundant clean fuel. Westport Technologies (WPRT), a leader in advanced natural gas engines and vehicles, has fallen flat as of late due to plentiful crude oil and lower fuel prices partially do to the falloff in demand of China and India. It is reasonable to believe that as the economy picks up in the U.S. that our increased consumption will stimulate the economies of our trading partners, including China and India, and increase demand (and price) for energy once again.  Westport’s advanced natural gas internal combustion technology will be well positioned when this happens.

westportengines3

On Tuesday the company announced advancement which offers Proprietary Enhanced Spark-Ignited Natural Gas System Targeting Medium-Duty Trucks.

8:00a ET September 23, 2014 (PR NewsWire)

~ Up to 10% Improvement in Power and Torque over Diesel; Targeted at Medium-Duty Truck Applications ~

Westport Innovations Inc. (TSX:WPT) (NASDAQ:WPRT), engineering the world’s most advanced natural gas engines and vehicles, today is unveiling its newest proprietary technology, the first generation of enhanced spark-ignited (ESI) natural gas system. Westport’s new revolutionary approach to natural gas combustion technology is designed to provide vehicle and engine original manufacturers (OEMs) with a "downsized" natural gas solution that is cost competitive while providing similar levels of power, torque, and fuel economy to a larger diesel engine. Using 100% dedicated natural gas as fuel, Westport’s new technology optimizes the combustion and thermal efficiencies of the engine by taking advantages of the positive properties of natural gas.

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More wood to split as summer ends and autumn begins

Posted By on September 23, 2014

stumpgrindingIt is hard to believe that we spent all summer mowing and denting our heavy-duty Kubota on stumps … and now that summer is over I’m finally getting around to hiring a guy with a stump grinder. I’m only doing the stumps in the front yard at this time, but nine are enough for now ($$$) … one was covered with a rock after the Hurricane Ike in 2008.

My wood pile of mostly Ash (courtesy of the Emerald Ash Borer), is growing but that means I’ll need to get splitting before winter arrives (although we no long heat with wood as we did back in the 1980s – good memories). I’ve been thinking about installing my original catalytic woodstove in the corner of my workshop garage, but am debating if giving up the space is worth the few times I’ll use it … especially if we want to head to the boat a few more times this year? Still, the draw of a wood fire in the corner of a workshop is pretty appealing.

Nevertheless, I’ve been burning the fireplace on the back porch regularly and it is great to have seasoned Ash rather than the mishmash of rotted junk wood and Pine.

logsyettosplit120922

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.