“Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”

— C.S. Lewis

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Filed under Sudbury Schools and Sudbury Valley School

our normal house vs our passive house

We built an “almost passive house” a few years back, lived in it for 3 years, but then decided to move. Here are some observations after living in our current “normal 1958 house” for a year.

our almost passive house
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+ even temps. all year round. in every room.
+ cheap to run — pretty much zero maintenance, utility bills after solar panel offset were $400 and more like $-1100 after Solar SRECs (versus if you add up our January bills… gas+electric+water+sewer+ice dams it is well over $400 for ONE MONTH!)
+ not even close to an ice-dam (steep roof, smallish overhangs, and very insulated and tight)
+ large dedicated kids room (but since in the attic, our young kids didn’t want to be up there on their own much yet)
+ no need for humidifier in winter or dehumidifier in summer. Always pretty much perfect
+ 105 gallon hot water tank meant less likely to run out of hot water with baths and dishwashing and laundry

our normal 1958 house
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+ insanely close to the boys school and friends (so huge savings in time and money/CO2 in driving)
+ closer to grocery shopping
+ closer to Boston
+ just generally closer to lots of things
+ the town we are in has much less sandy soil so easier for gardening
+ if one does feel cold (or hot), the traditional gas-fired furnace is obviously much faster to respond and increase the house temp by a degree or two than the mini-splits in the passive-house. But this only probably happened like once.
+ since we are in a more densely populated place, the house has town water, nat. gas, and sewer. Meaning we could probably actually cook, use water, and have hot water in a power outage.

It I were to do it all again?
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Not sure. Maybe by a really inexpensive fixer-upper split level ranch really close to the kid’s school and do a deep-energy retrofit? The problem is: it’s impossible to find such a thing normally. So I dunno. No regrets!

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Filed under erik-green, green

The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys)
(On voluntourism. From a founder of a summer camp in Dominican Republicfor HIV+ children.)

http://pippabiddle.com/2014/02/18/the-problem-with-little-white-girls-and-boys/

ME: I am similarly useless. Not to mention the expensive airline tickets (and associated CO2) and (for employed people) the opportunity cost of not doing the work one normally does — the income one could instead donate.

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Filed under contrarian, erik-green, globalization, green

Sports — just let them play

“I learned that early — just to let them play. And if I see some things I will say ‘Listen… this is important, this is what you gotta pay attention to.’ “
– Bobby Carpenter, Former Boston Bruin
Interviewed on “Olympic Zone” 2/19/2014 on TV discussing his hockey playing kids — including his daughter — now Olympian Alex Carpenter

So perfect! This also works great with downhill skiing with kids. No need for structured, formal lessons per se — they sometimes kill the fun. Instead, try lots of actual skiing with some select comments here or there — mostly learning by doing and watching good skiers.

I’m not saying lessons or advice isn’t useful… they certainly are. But in limited doses and most importantly never at the expense of FUN. I’m also not against organized sports where one is following rules carefully … it’s often been my personal experience that playing team sports properly and by the rules is much more fun than just horsing around. But there is also plenty of time for that. So let them play / skate / ski!

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Filed under ageism, kids -- freedom and responsibility, play, sports and outdoors

Health care Billing

A few data points from recent years:

1) A family practice we used to use in Western MA had 2 doctors but 9(?!) office staff, primarily for handling billing. They offered a 40% discount to “self-pay” patients if you paid on the spot instead of having their team deal with payments.

2) While self-pay, we had one bigish event in recent years: There were 10 separate bills from 2 different hospitals, 4 different doctors (ER docs, radiologists, anesthesiologists, orthopedic surgeons), etc. Discounts range from 0% to 60%.

3) While insured recently, we had one bigish event: There were 7 different bills. Same sort of story. It’s no less confusing when on a high-deductible plan than being un-insured because you still get a million bills. The only difference is you don’t need to ask the doctors/facilities to give you a break on the fees because the insurance company does that for you. Similar discounts. Roughly 0-60%.

4) It was cheaper to pay out of pocket while uninsured BUT it’s not exactly that simple because:
4.1) There are now state (and federal) fines for not being insured
4.2) Self-employeed people cannot deduct health care costs unless above 7.5% of income. But they can deduct premiums.
4.3) You can’t have a pre-tax HSA medical-bill savings account unless you have an insurance account.
4.4) Discounts are guaranteed and it’s a pain to deal with this.

5) Back in the olden days when on an HMO with no deductibles, this was alot simpler. Now of course, those plans cost a fortune. Equal to paying the premiums plus the full OOP (Out of pocket max) on most plans with deductibles. So it doesn’t make sense. Less paperwork though.

This is a mess.

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This test shows the cold reduces an EV’s range by more than 50 percent.

http://www.plugincars.com/reduced-ranges-electric-cars-cold-129205.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PluginCars+%28PluginCars.com+RSS+Feed%29

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Filed under car, erik-green, green

Where did the netbooks go?

My 2014 inexpensive laptop buying advice….

Q: Dell, Acer, Asus — all used to make 7″ and 10″ netbooks. We have a great Dell netbook called the Dell Inspiron Mini 1010 from several years ago with Windows 7. It has a 10″ screen and no CD/DVD drive, but otherwise is a very functional laptop with a full-sized keyboard. Perfectly great for email and facebook and Netflix and youtube and such. Why don’t they make such things any more in 2014?

A: It seems like they do, it’s just that they call them inexpensive Ultrabooks now. For example, the Dell Inspiron 11 (Haswell/Intel Celeron 2955U based) looks great for $300.

Q: But what about a “chromebook” like the new Acer C270?

A: It’s a tradeoff. A Chromebook is much simpler, but if you are ever going to want to have the option to run actual Office apps or Steam or Minecraft or Portal, etc, etc. for video games (for example), then one has to go Ultrabook route.

Finally: One of my most important qualifications is a laptop must be dead-simple to install more RAM. Some laptops make this difficult, but with others one can do this in 3 minutes.

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Filed under computers, shopping