Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick-or-Treat Live Blogging

I worked past 6 pm tonight so I missed the beginning, but we get a LOT of trick-or-treaters in our neighborhood. We decided to keep a tally this year. Here's what we've got so far:

6:37 62 kids*
6:59 81 kids
7:09 94 kids
7:16 114 kids
7:23 150 kids
7:48 165 kids**
8:24 173 kids

* including the heartwarming family that stopped to take photos with our Obama yard sign after collecting their candy. Awww!!
** our neighborhood is getting darker and darker as the neighbors one by one run out of candy and turn off their lights.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

At Work Today

I often have to rent a vehicle when traveling for work, due to the need for four wheel drive at some of our more remote field sites. I know it's still October, but I sure hope the rental car agencies start including snow brushes soon.

This is the same site where I saw the cutleaf grapefern last month. It looks a little different now, eh?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Skywatch Friday: The Black Beam

I've never participated in Skywatch before, but I recently saw this weird black beam in the sky and just had to share it. My husband and I were hiking in a local park a few weeks ago. It was late afternoon and we were almost back to the car when we noticed it. We made some irreverent jokes about how someone was being smote, and decided to try photographing the incident, to see if it was "real." Two separate cameras clearly captured the beam. A dirty contrail? A shadow of a contrail? This first shot is completely un-edited.

In the shot to the right, I cranked the contrast way up so the beam would be more visible. If you look closely at the high contrast version, several more dark parallel beams become visible in the distance. Any ideas what we were seeing?

Head over to Skywatch to see more celestial photos.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Jig Is Up

As I've written about before, we don't normally turn on the heat until November. This year, we'd been planning to hold out until election day, when depending on how things turn out, we might hopefully feel a bit celebratory. Maybe a bottle of wine, maybe turn the heat up to 62? Woo-hoo!

Yeah, we really know how to party around here.

However, we've had a bit of a cold snap lately that has really put a crimp in our plans. The lows temperatures have been in the 30s every day since Friday (except when they've been in the 20s). That's six days in a row. Plus, it's been overcast the much of the last few days, with little opportunity for passive solar heating. The icing on the cake? It was snowing this morning as I drove to work.

When I got home from work, with outdoor temperatures in the 30s, SodaBoy confessed he'd run the heat for a while this afternoon. Not for long: just to get the internal temperature up to 60, and then he turned it back off. Not to worry... we'll still be participating in the Freeze Yer Buns Challenge this winter.

I'm just a bit disappointed to be starting so soon.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On Riding the Bus

My car was damaged by a quickie oil change facility: they cracked the oil pan, and I noticed the leak last Saturday at the farmers market. I immediately took the car back to the shop, and because it was clearly their fault, the business has agreed to install a new oil pan free of charge. I was actually surprised not to have to fight harder; I guess customer service is not entirely dead. The whole process is dragging out, though, because they have to get the check to purchase the oil pan from a regional district manager, and then order the part, and then wait for it to come in. The latest update suggests the part will arrive Saturday, and will be installed for me on Sunday.

Despite the protestations of the automotive staff that my leak was no big deal, and it would be fine to drive as long as I keep adding a quart of oil every other day (they even gave me a few quarts), I haven't been driving the car. I don't want to be spewing oil all over the city -- that stuff is nasty. I am not too happy having the oil pool up in my driveway either. I talked my way into some absorbent pads that I have placed under the car, and that helps, but it is still icky. Does anyone have any tips for how to safely clean the film off the driveway once my car stops leaking? Because there is still a bit of a sheen under the pads.

But the bus... I have been riding the city bus to and from work the last few days, and I am loving it. The stop is right around the corner from my house, and I get off one block from the office. It takes 20-25 minutes each way, slightly longer than it would were I to drive myself, but it is so much more interesting. The overheard conversations, the sociological observations, the stimulating sights, sounds, and smells. It is truly fabulous! I am so glad for this opportunity to find out how accessible and convenient the bus routes are in this neighborhood.

Although I will definitely use the bus more often even after my car repairs are complete, especially in bad weather, I may not continue to use it every day. The sad truth is the bus is more expensive for me than driving. At 2.9 miles from my driveway to the fifth floor of the parking garage, my roundtrip commute is just under 6.0 miles per day, or 30 miles per week. Using round numbers again for simplicity, my car gets about 30 mpg. This means I use approximately 1 gallon of gas per week for my roundtrip commute, a cost of about $4. Riding the bus is $1 each way, so my total expenses for a week of commuting would be $10.

Of course there is the hidden cost of wear and tear on the vehicle, extra maintenance costs and such. However, I can't see those expenses equating to $6 for 30 miles. Part of the discrepancy comes because my employer covers my parking expenses, providing us each with an entry card to a covered parking garage, a value of $90-100 per month. If I had to pay that myself, the bus would certainly be more economical. The bus service offers weekly and monthly passes, but at $10/week or $40/month, it doesn't save riders any money unless we ride more often than just commuting.

Now of course I must solve the dilemma: be cheap and drive my car, or be green and take the public transport? So many choices.