Friday, November 27, 2009

After the turkey and a Rebel Yell

I just got home from time spent with my sister and two of my four brothers in Tennessee where I grew up. We ate, visited, ate, visited, ate, watched some football, and ate some more. My brother in law deep fried the turkey, my first experience with that, and it was seriously delicious. I took some RJ Rockers Eagle Ale for him to try out, and he had me sample some of Highland's Gaelic Ale which is brewed in Asheville. I preferred the J Rockers, it had hardly any after taste, and had a much smoother flavor. The Highland reminded me more of Guiness, but in the end I much preferred RJ's Eagle Ale. Now to see if they will start carrying it in stores in Tennessee, they have a new fan.

One of the highlights of my trip was the send off given to my nephew who plays high school football at my old alma mater, Sullivan South High School, home of the Rebels. Jake is a sophomore there and back up Center and as I write this blog he and his family are in Middle Tennessee braving the chilly weather while he plays with his team for the state semi finals in football.

Thursday afternoon after we all stuffed ourselves silly and before we went back for round two, we loaded Jake onto the bus then lined the main street of Colonial Heights with other friends and family and gave them a true South High send off..

My brother in law Craig, sister Melodie, other nephew Blake, little brother Steve in the background and my brother Jimmy's daughter Shelby shivering by her aunt Mel.

You can't be a true South High fan without a few Rebel flags. Yeehaw.

Waiting for the buses to drive by, and dang the wind was chilly

Proud Daddy and Momma.

Go Rebels, win your game tonight, win the state champion, make this member of the first graduating class of the South High Rebels have reason to give a good hearty Rebel yell.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

clotheslines: a green option or symbol of poverty?

A recent news article recounted the story of a woman who decided to to string up a clothesline in her backyard to hang sheets out to dry. There was only one problem, her neighborhood had a ban on outdoor clotheslines without a screen to block the view from neighbors. She fought the ordinance and soon found herself making national headlines over her battle with her home owner's association.

What shocked Mrs. Taylor was the reasoning behind the complaints from her neighbors. Her neighbors complained because they said that they felt that her clothesline reminded them of urban slums.

Surprisingly Mrs. Taylor is not alone in her fight. People across the nation are coming up against property associations and even city or town ordinances who use aesthetics as a primary reasoning against such items. The reasoning behind such bans is always under the assumption that having a clothesline on a property equates to poverty. Sadly that reasoning is false and rather hypocritical.

Not too many years ago, most homes had a clothesline of some sort despite the income level. As electric dryers became popular more households opted for the more time efficient way of doing their laundry. While it is true that poorer urban neighborhoods had more clotheslines, one could still find them in more rural settings, and income was usually not that large a factor.

In the past couple of decades Clothes dryers have improved in dry time and energy use as technology has developed. Yet despite all the improvements to the design and energy usage, they are still second in line to energy usage after refrigerators when it comes to home appliances. All models, despite features, use about the same amount of energy and none of them qualify for Energy Star ratings. Gas models are slightly less costly to operate then electric one, at a savings between .15 to .20 a load.

Still the best way to save energy is to use less of it. Simple methods such as hybrid vehicles, solar and wind powered high efficient lighting and appliances do help keep a home's energy cost lower, but even better is to just use them less often or not at all. Keeping lights off in rooms not used can save a homeowner several dollars a month, as can turning off small appliances and electronics not in use or just having less gadgetry that requires electricity.

The battle over the clothesline should be about finding simple cost effective ways to help consumers make informed choices on how best to take care of their homes and families. It should not be about whether or not it sends an assumed message on curb appeal. What is so ironic about this battle is that it is highly likely that the very ones fighting against the humble clothesline are environmentally conscious themselves, but in this case are more concerned about how things look rather then how one is helping helping our environment by using a simple time proven method.

Everyone wants to portray a certain image, and it is understandable to have restrictions so that neighborhoods look like vibrant successful places. But if we are to truly make improvements in the way we use energy, and to embrace long proven methods if one chooses to do so, then we need to be willing to set how it may look aside. For many a clothesline as a laundry option is not feasible, but why restrict those who's lifestyle allows for such a thing?

Monday, November 16, 2009

If I only had her publisher

There is a self titled memoir fixing to hit the book stands tomorrow that is penned by a certain former vice presidential candidate. Promotional advertising for this book has been fierce and frequent appearing on google ads on the web, news media outlets, book websites and more. The publisher pulled out all the stops in hopes that the book would be a run away best seller. Apparently the plan is working because the book is already a best seller on some lists and it hasn't even been released to readers yet..

The true test will be when people actually read the book of a woman who rose from obscurity to sudden national fame.  However fame didn't seem to equate popularity and the republican party's choice for a VP proved to be as problematic as their choice for president. It didn't help that it looked like this new famous person's life was of the sort that editors at The National Enquirer dream longingly for. Even a year later the tabloids lap up stories about her and her family. Will this book give better insight to the woman and her thoughts? Is it well written, and something that initial readers would want to recommend to a friend? Or is this book a curiosity being taken advantage of by a shrewd publishing company that recognized a way to make some money?

Granted the author and the book company will sell copies and both will go home a bit richer. After all people write books to sell them and publishers work to ensure sellable books get onto store shelves. It must be nice to have your first attempt at mass marketing something, have such a lucrative start before anyone really gets a chance to read your work.

Yeah I admit I am a bit jealous. I will just have to work harder to actually sit down to write my book, edit it, and try to sell it.  But I really shouldn't be. I have a small but loyal fan base with my column and here with my itty bitty blog. I also on occasion get sent free things to test market and write about. I will keep that and let others deal with all that media feeding frenzy. I get the feeling that I make lousy fish bait.

Friday, November 6, 2009

funny math

I just got my property tax bill for my house. It went up...again.

Here's the thing. When we bought the house back in 2005 the county or state, or whomever determines such things gave a value on the property, and we paid into an escrow account towards that property tax with our mortgage payment.

Then last year someone decided to do two things, give a property tax break, and reassess the value of properties for tax gathering purposes. We have this thanks to the wonderful people at the state legislature, who's wisdom in all things financial are legion. Immediately my property gained 11.5k in value, and I didn't see a drop in what we paid in taxes. We were actually fortunate, we saw only a slight increase in our property tax bill, (under a hundred dollars) some saw their tax rates double or triple. Then the credit bubble popped and the bottom dropped out of the real estate market. Everyone's property's lost value on the real estate market. People were deep discounting sales on properties all over the county. Taxes apparently haven't wobbled downward one bit.

I know that we are in a recession, or depression, ok whatever it is the economy sucks. I am very grateful I have a job. I also know that my taxes help pay for public schools, our water and sewer systems, our public safety, our excellent library, etc. Apparently the raise in my taxes is helping to offset all those properties sitting vacent right now. Maybe next year things will improve, and we'll get a real break in our property taxes.

Selling my house is an option that may occur down the road, maybe, maybe not. However if I were to put my house on the market today I would love to get what the county says my home's value is. But I know better. I couldn't get what the county assesses on my home's value if I stood naked on the lawn for added curb appeal.

Granted this year's increase is less then $100 but I do have to wonder where they get their figures, especially when it is highly unlikely that anyone actually walked onto my property to check it's value. I know if they had come inside and seen my icky carpeting I could have gotten a discount, and I know good and well that homes in my neighborhood haven't been selling for what the county says the value is, at least for tax gathering purposes.

I guess I will just suck it up and pay like everyone else.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Back Into Test Mode

A few weeks ago I was sent a package in the mail from a marketing firm. This is the second time I have been asked to test a product, and then review it. The first time it was a particular brand of toilet paper, and along with it I was sent a sample of a room deodorizer as a thank you and try me gift. I mentioned the deodorizer in my review blog and lo and behold, I am asked to test market another product in that brand of deodorizers.

There is only one problem with that, Sylvie lacks a sense of smell. My odorizer is non-existent. I work as a hairdresser and can't smell the most aromatic of perm solutions, or the hair sprays or the perfumes a client may be wearing. That can be a bad thing because perfumes have been known to trigger an asthma attack without warning. I have a good friend who sells Party-Lite candles and everyone raves about the scent they produce, except me. I just think they are pretty.

I love coffee, and I can't smell whether I am brewing my normal Maxwell House's dark roast or the indulgent local beans from Little River Roasting Company. Thankfully I can still taste the flavor.

I could walk by a garbage truck blindfolded and not be able to tell that the contents have been sitting in there about a week too long. For the bad smell cases my broken olfactory system is an advantage, but for when I want to smell things, I am out of luck.

So what is smelling deficient girl to do when asked to see how well Febreeze Sport spray works on my family's stinky gym shoes? Bring in my "team of experts" or in simpler terms, the kids who's noses work quite well. They tested it and discovered that it did work as advertised. They even decided to try it on non-gym related items, like the area around my cats' litter box and the trashcan where someone had just placed a poop-filled diaper. In both cases the odors were reduced. Based on just those two tests, I would suggest that this product could work quite adequately for what it was designed for.

Now I hope that the next products I am asked to test does not require the use of a sense that hasn't worked in a very long time.