It’s electric

Days before my birthday on September 23rd, I came home with a “new-to-me” Hybrid-Electric car dubbed Minerva. Those first few weeks we classily stuck the charger that came with the car through a window to an inside socket to charge it. Ah, solutions that only work in September! But I knew that at some point the fantastic weather would cease (although you wouldn’t know it from this amazing 70 degree November day) and we’d need to, you know, close the window.

So I attempted to find someone in the area who had actually installed an electric car charging station before. I put a note on the local Facebook group. I emailed a work mailing list… crickets. I finally had to (heh) Google it. Sylvester Electric responded to one of those “Fill out this form to hear from a technician!” sites and sent out a technician who had actually installed one of these before.

There was a hilarious moment when I asked about using a charging station hardware setup that I got discounted through work. The installer asked if it was rated for outdoor use. I had this brain moment where I was very dismissive and confused. My thought process was something like, “Why wouldn’t they all be? What, you think people are going to drive their cars INSIDE THE HOUSE and park them there? How ridiculous?!” …. “Oh, right. Garages. Those are a thing.”

Anyway, he’s about the fourth electrician we’ve brought out for a big project (like the AC installation) where we’ve been afraid we’d need a new panel and he’s all “Nah, there’s enough room! Probably your next project.” Which is true – the next project is the attic. Between the steam shower, the upgraded electric and the heated floor I’d be deeply surprised if we got away with the electric we have now!

The cost of installation, including the 240v all-weather charging station, was just over $1400. The car cost (used, same model year, with 1300 miles on it) just about $21,000. I have gotten our first month’s energy bill with charging to car, and it looks to me to be about $60/$70 higher (although the year-over-year is made messier by having the AC installed, and it actually ran last month some days).

We’ve put nearly a thousand miles on the car since we got it, driving it practically every day for short distances. And I still have more than half a tank of the full tank the car came with – a predicted range of over 300 miles. We pulled the charging station window operation out of use last week (it got cold and it felt like a safety risk when we were gone for the weekend). We’re on track to fill the tank like once every quarter, for normal commuting use. Plus, apparently the “real” charger will use less energy than the “window-stringing” 110v version.

So financially-fuel-wise, at great gas prices it’s about a wash. Any increase in gas prices and we start saving money. The really big difference though is where the propel comes from. There are a bunch of ways to generate electricity – hydro, solar, wind, geothermal etc. There’s only one way to get gas, and that is both a limited resource (you do remember that part – right?) and one that moves historically sequestered carbon from inside the earth to into our atmosphere.

I do wonder if the car charger adds or detracts from the house value. I suspect that it might add a few hundred in calculations, but for the right buyer it would be a huge plus. For not the right buyer, it would be a neutral to a negative. Good thing I have no plans on selling, well, really kind of ever. Maybe when we have flying cars…

Final note – I just got this shaming letter from my electric company. Our family, pre air conditioning, was often “better than average” and sometimes the full smiley face. Now we’re clearly in the bucket of shame. I know that this is and environmentally friendly choice on our part, but it does kind of crack me up how bad it looks in this graph!

Bad Energy User – no cookie for you!
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New Year’s Resolution 2014

I have actually had a wildly successful New Year’s resolution before. I’m still keeping it up as part of habit and second nature, instead of intentional resolutioning. It was to serve a vegetable at every meal (well, lunch and dinner) and I changed my life in order to accomplish just that. So I’m ready for another real resolution this year. In business, when we set our objectives, they’re supposed to be S.M.A.R.T. That means Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. In New-Years-Resolution-land, a resolution of “Lose weight” isn’t really specific or measurable. “Lose 80 pounds this month” fails to be attainable or realistic. Just “Lose 20 pounds” isn’t timely. It’s difficult to fully separate what you know (work version) from what you know (real life), so when I was thinking about my resolution, I carried over some of those S.M.A.R.T. attributes.

Truth be told, I’m pretty happy with the person I am. Yes, I could be fitter, smarter, kinder and better organized. But I think I work just about as hard as I’m capable of working, so I’m not TOO hard on myself for failing to attain those. (Plus, I think most people think that’s true of themselves, so I have good company.)

What I wish I did differently was… well, this. I miss blogging. Back before kids, I wrote (short form) multiple times a day. Then after kids, but in a much less absorbing job I blogged every day, or sometimes every other day. But now that I’m in the white-heat of both career and kids, I’ve been trying for once a week. Lately, I’ve been failing, and that makes me sad. I don’t have a big readership. I don’t get to write sponsored posts. I don’t write professionally. (Well, I do, but not this.) I just *like* to write. This blog has over 750 posts. I like to tell people what I’m thinking, and hear their thoughts back. I like to look back and my posts and remember what I’ve forgotten. I like thinking out my conversations to you in cold, quiet moments. And lately I haven’t been doing much of this thing I like doing.

So here’s my S.M.A.R.T goal: to post once a week on Thursdays at 11 am EST. I would like to be so consistent you can rely on “Oh, it’s Thursday lunch! Let’s see what Brenda posted!” Of course, given that I’m working at 11 am on Thursdays, this means that it’s very likely to be written ahead of time and queued. (In fact, I’m thinking that I should write up a number of backlog, non-time-sensitive posts just in case I have a busy week!)

One sign of resolution success is a public declaration. This helps your friends hold you accountable to what you said you’d do. So I am empowering you, beloved reader, to go ahead and give me a hard time if Thursday 11 am passes and I haven’t posted my blog post yet!

What do you think? Will a once a week post beat my current average? Is Thursday 11 am a good time for it? What goals are you going into the new year with?

There and back again

A boy

I’ve had a very long day today. I rose at 4:30 am to make a 7 am flight out of Boston. The TSA lines were very, very short. The folks manning them cheerful, efficient and thorough. There did not seem to be any pall cast over Logan as we flew out, the pinking sky in the east making silhouettes of clouds. I flew to Atlanta, the time collapsing in the liberty of the constraint of an airline seat.

I’d thought that I had about an hour before my colleague arrived at the airport, and I was just lowering myself into a massaging chair for a manicure (I know! Such luxury! But I’d meant to get a manicure before I went client-facing and it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up!). My phone rang. He’d gotten there early! Rats! I decided to get the manicure anyway, and my Northern impatient self attempted futily to relax at the Southern, relaxed rate of the service. However, if you believe I did not smudge Regina’s meticulous work, you do not know me well.

We had cajun, lemonade and planning for lunch, and then launched into a three hour meeting fueled by software architecture and coffee. I had fun. I know you’re not supposed to have fun at three hour business meetings, so I apologize but… well. I had fun anyway.

Then back to the airport, stumble through security (again: short lines, nice folks), exchange heels for socks, walk the entire length of the Altlanta airport, dinner, check my email on my phone (46 new message!) and find my seat. Now I’m enjoying in-air wifi (oh! What a marvel technology is!) and feeling satisfactorily tired and accomplished and urbane. We’re probably somewhere around Pennsylvania right now – give or take.

Tonight I’ll rescue my car from the parking lot (only one day!), drive darkly over the Zakim to the steepled towns of the North and kiss my sleeping children before I lay myself down next to my drowsy husband.

His brother

Technically Pretty

The other day I had a good idea. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always waited (usually in vain) for the Good Idea Fairy to strike, so when it came I got very excited about it. My good idea was this: I would start a fashion blog for women in technology. This blog would be about how to use the skills of fashion to look better… but without all the cultural baggage that usually surrounds anything fashion.

I feel like I’ve gone through a transition that has been useful, and that other women might appreciate. Apprenticing myself to my mother-in-law, I’ve gone from a girl who wore ankle-length black skirts with white athletic socks (I have photographic proof) to a woman who consistently looks nice when she walks out the door in the morning. I’ve gotten and maintained a good haircut. I’ve developed a wardrobe that suits my lifestyle, my profession and my figure. I know how to use makeup to subtle good effect. In an interview recently, I was described as “polished”. That word stuck with me. Of all the compliments I’ve gotten in life, it might be one of the most unexpected, and hardest-won.

I have learned these skills of ‘the woman’.

But I haven’t bought the hype. I hate shopping for shoes. I could care less about this season’s hot colors, unless they happen to be my favorites. I don’t judge people differently based on how they look (at least I try not to). I’m playing the game, but my heart’s not in it. I still schlep in jeans and athletic socks and snarky geek t-shirts on weekends. And reading fashion magazines makes me either slightly ill or very sarcastic. So maybe, perhaps, I can teach the skills of looking good without the judgement and insults of so many other fashion venues.

The idea went from good to great when I thought of the domain name: Technically Pretty.com

So it has come to pass! I currently have a zillion ideas for things I want to write about. I’d love this to be far more interactive than this blogs. (After all, I’m no expert in fashion. If I’m a competent journeywoman, I’m happy.) I have thoughts for recurring posts (outfit of the day! this seasons hot fashions in bullet points! review of best and worst fashion magazines! product reviews on cosmetics you can buy at Target!). I’d love to have surveys, reader stories and in-depth discussions about what it means to be a professional woman, what it means to be a technical woman, and what it costs us to spend precious time and money on looks instead of books.

What I don’t have is a readership. So I’m asking you if you would bop on over and read my posts. Follow the blog. Add it to your syndication (if you like it and it seems relevant). If I earn your trust with good content… share my link. If you have questions, thoughts or discussions – hash them out with me there. If you know of other good blogs/tweets/sites I should be following, bring them to my attention.

Mother’s Log: Star date Friday

Youngest Progeny
Youngest Progeny

Home… the final frontier. These are the ongoing adventures of the Maternal Parental Unit. Her continuing mission: to get her children to productive adulthood without too many crippling emotional scars.

Mother’s log:
Thursday May 10 4:05 pm: Just received word from Paternal Parental Unit that Smallest Progeny has been stricken by a fever. Vast experience reveals that he will not be permitted back to the Progeny Containment Center until normal temperatures have been attained for at least 24 time units. As an experienced Maternal Unit, I have packed all my critical notebooks in my bag to prepare for tomorrow’s inevitable challenges.

Thursday May 10, 7:55 pm: Checked Youngest Progeny’s forehead temperature with Thermal Lip Technology and verified presence of elevated thermal levels. Appearance of Youngest Progeny is very cute and sweet. Enjoying moment of quiet, cute sweetness, knowing it is of a temporary nature.

Friday May 11, 6:05 am: “Sick” progeny awakens and heads downstairs for marathon Scooby Doo until Elder Progeny proceeds to Progeny Education and Normalization Center (Kindergarten).

Friday, May 11, 7:30 am: Maternal Parental Unit recipient of high quality snuggles from unusually quiescent Youngest Progeny.

Friday May 11, 8:30 am: Maternal Parental Unit restores contraband legos (removed for throwing) in order to distract Youngest Progeny for several hours of positive and educational spacial reasoning. Maternal & Paternal Parental Units log in to computers and begin keyboard movements associated with work email.

Friday May 11, 8:35 am: Youngest Progeny needs to use the bathroom.

Friday May 11, 8:36 am: Youngest Progeny does not need to use the bathroom

Friday May 11, 8:37 am: Youngest Progeny needs to use the bathroom.

Friday May 11, 8:39 am: Youngest Progeny can’t possibly use the bathroom.

Friday May 11, 8:42 am: Youngest Progeny uses the bathroom.

Friday May 11, 8:46 am: Youngest Progeny uses the bathroom again.

Friday May 11, 8:50 am: Youngest Progeny actually starts building with restored blocks.

Friday May 11, 9:45 am: Massive civilization has been discovered on second floor, consisting of train tracks, legos & building blocks. Am summoned to inspect giant Platypus that appears to be the leader of the civilization. Giant Platypus is an indifferent conversationalist, a gap of noise made up for by Youngest Progeny.

Friday May 11, 10:20 am: Youngest Progeny insists he can help debug my javascript. Although not primarily responsible for finding case mismatch between variables, he is satisfied with his contributions to the cause. Maternal Parental Unit sets him up with iPad.

Friday May 11, 10:20 – 10:40 am: Youngest Progeny plays every single iPad game, up through the part where the game actually loads. Asks questions every 15 seconds and has learned how to turn up the volume. Maternal Parental Unit laments that 3 year old is not more skilled at video games.

Friday May 11, 11:20 am: In sick day record, Video Entertainment Device is not enabled until now. Youngest Progeny chooses automotive selection, which his elder sibling refuses to watch since it is a favorite movie of Eldest Sibling’s Closest Co-Conspirator. Silence reigns, or at least a Disney soundtrack.

Friday May 11, 12:22 pm: After consuming energy-producing units, the Youngest Progeny is placed in his Dormation Receptacle. The Parental Units anticipate blissful hours of quiet ahead.

Friday May 11, 12:57 pm: Youngest Progeny is actually asleep. Experienced Maternal Parental Unit was anticipating five minute intervals of resubmitting sleep protocol to Progeny in order for successful execution. He must really be sick.

Friday May 11, 3:33 pm: Begin wondering if Youngest Progeny is still alive. Experience teaches that yes, he is still alive and it is a high order of foolishness to go check. Enjoying non-Kiss108, non-KidzBop, non-Disney music while writing 243 SQL insert statements.

Friday May 11, 4:09 pm: Perhaps a transporter accident has put Youngest Progeny beyond time. Contemplating offering him award and promotion for Longest. Nap. Ever.

Friday May 11, 5:37 pm: This adventure concluded, the people of Homeistan come together in celebration of another day accomplished, and celebrate by setting up an entreprenurial lemon-sugar-water related endeavor on the front porch, to the merriment of all. The universe is safe for another day!

Entrepreneurial natives
Entrepreneurial natives

Nest thermostat

A few months ago I won a sustainability award at my old company. Basically, we were asked to submit stuff we were doing for sustainability. I wrote in about our worm bin, our (vacant) bat house and a few other minor things we do. Every submission was a winner, and so I got a nice check for about a hundred dollars.

Now, when you win a nice sum for sustainability, it seems somehow ironic to blow it all on Starbucks. And I’d just read about this ultra cool futuristic thermostat. So it was that I placed an order for a Nest.

My thermostat passes moral judgments on me
My thermostat passes moral judgments on me

At this very moment, a highly sought after piece of cutting edge technology is sitting on my wall, lamenting that of all its beautifully designed brethren IT has to live on a wall with ’70s era dark wood paneling.

Guys, this thing is so cool. My husband is, as we speak, putting a detailed schedule in (online), including the fact that he’s gone to aikido at a certain time, etc. etc. If we make manual adjustments, it will “learn” from them and modify our schedule. It has wireless access, so you can totally change the temperature from, oh, your mobile phone. (I can forsee endless fun with this.) It tracks and monitors your power usage. It has a light sensor to see if you’re actually at home or if you left. It shows you reports on your energy usage.

Now all I have to do is paint that wall, so my ultra cool piece of technology doesn’t feel so embarrassed.