Category: Politics

July 1st, 2009

Before we purchased our house, we snuck a peak at the average utility bills for the family that owned it before us.

They were astronomical. And we knew we could do better.

The reasoning was twofold. First, we knew we couldn’t afford an electric bill that ran nearly three times that from our old house. Second was a matter of pride – that we are able to watch what we use. That, despite our inklings otherwise, we’re armchair conversationalists.

We were lucky enough to see the problem immediately – electric baseboard heating in a very cold basement, connected with its own thermostat, was used more often than needed with two pre-teen boys playing video games non-stop during the winter.

And, we were lucky enough to have something to compare to.

If you knew what your neighbors were using, would you work otherwise? If you could see how you shaped up on average – for example, if you were using less than the neighborhood average, or if you were using more and saw the cost differential – would you make arrangements to change your habits?

According to an article in The Atlantic, energy companies are betting that yes, you would.

It’s being tracked by a company named Positive Energy, and it a new wave of controlling costs through guilt or competition. According to the article:

”In Positive Energy’s reports, a once-intangible bit of social information—how much energy you use relative to your neighbors—is made tangible. Now you can find out not just what people in the same city are doing, but what people in your neighborhood, living in the same-size houses, are doing … but also with customized tips on how to do better.”

Will it work? So far, it has.

”…in Sacramento, where Positive Energy began its pilot program with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District in 2008, people who received personalized “compared with your neighbors” data on their statements reduced their energy use by more than 2 percent over the course of a year. In energyspeak, a 2 percent reduction is huge; with the pilot sample of 35,000 homes, it’s the equivalent of taking 700 homes off the grid. And the cost to the utility is minor: for every dollar a utility spends on a solar power plant, it produces 3 to 4 kilowatt-hours; for every dollar a utility spends on the energy reports, it saves 10 times that.”

So, I say this to my local electric and gas companies: Go ahead. Guilt me into cutting back. Make me prove my ability to conserve.

It sounds like the type of challenge that we all could handle.

Category: Home, Politics

November 5th, 2008

I’ve written and deleted and re-written, trying to find the right angle – something that isn’t cliche, something that hasn’t been written already in the past several hours at a much higher level, with more inspiration and feeling.

Hope.I’ve tried to tie this election to the leveling spirit of Paul Wellstone, to compare it to the future we might have had, to connect with the world we are creating for Sierra as she grows.

But it all comes down to one thing. One word. One emotion, one feeling, one promise.

HOPE.

I give thanks for the nation that helped elect the first black President. I give thanks for those who trusted a new generation of leaders, a new direction – an agent of change.

But most of all, I give thanks for all that has happened over the past two years – instilling in all of us the idea that, no matter who we are or where we live, hope will never be simply a four-letter word.

Because we see it now. HOPE is for real.

Category: Politics

November 4th, 2008

Blue and red. Percentages. Calling a state. Graphics and experts and legends.

Take everything you love about sports coverage. The predictions, the numbers, the human interest stories. The battle of good and evil, of your team and their team, of underdogs and how the standings will shake out when it’s all said and done.

Now apply this to something with real consequence. Like the future of our country’s policies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Election Night Coverage!

It’s all there. Talking heads, trained to interpret and console, to think logically in the wake of so many decisions. They’re there to make you feel better. They’re Al Michaels or Pat Summerall, prepared to sum up the election in a matter of sentences.

There’s the opinion men and women, the John Maddens, the Tony Kornheisers, all prepared to put a little spin on the whole proceedings. They take the simple facts and turn them into speculation, both preparing us for the possible and reminding us of the excitement – the thrill of the chase.

Stats appeal to those who love concrete details. Candidate parties appeal to those who want to be included. Talk of surprising winners appeals to the underdog-chasers, and tales of real people doing real things touch a nerve in all of us.

This is our process. Our selection. We choose these people to run our country, and in these first few hours after polls close, our optimism (or pessimism, if your candidate is losing) is at its peak. If we win, we’re almost positive that everything will be perfect. If we lose, it might as well be the end of the world.

If you know what’s good for you, you’ve already voted – or at least you’ve made plans to vote. Now, sit back and watch this crazy process unfold. Grab a beer, make predictions – hell, take bets if it makes things more exciting.

You only get to see this kind of spectacle once every four years. Grab your foam fingers and start rooting for your candidate.

Because it’s all downhill from here.

Category: Politics, Television

November 1st, 2008

It turns out that the pilfering of Obama signs wasn’t isolated to our two-block radius. This sign has been up for a few weeks now, but I’ve just gotten around to getting it on the site. It’s from a block west of McKennan Park, about a half-mile from where we live.

McPalin Supporters Stole My Sign

Of course, it’s wasn’t just Sioux Falls either. Ask Peter Frampton.

It doesn’t make me any less mad – I mean, come on, what a chicken-shit thing to do, really – but at least I know we aren’t alone.

It’s amazing what a fear of defeat can make some people do. And in the case of this sign, it’s amazing what loyalty to the idea of change can produce.

October 27th, 2008

The CBS studio crew during football games consists of five people. Three former players, a former coach and a sports broadcast veteran.

The FOX crew is even larger. If you count the robot, it’s close to breaking double digits.

Post-debate coverage on the major 24-hour news channels turned into a rotation of several experts, pundits and other personalities. In one surreal television moment, Anderson Cooper sat in between a dozen people, squashed together behind two too-small news desks, shooting off questions like a semi-automatic firearm, fighting for space and for clarity.

Walter Cronkite would report on his own. By himself. No experts, or former employees, or anyone that would distract from the one important thing: the news. You listened to him as an expert. As a trusted voice. As a thick syrup of news, coating and lasting, irreplaceable, a true benefit to the station.

The more people you fit on a stage, the more watered down their message will become. They will receive fewer opportunities to talk, which makes them less and less important as individuals in the larger picture. And if they’re less important, then what’s stopping us from simply tuning them out?

My suggestion to television news and sports programs. Experts are good. But keep them at a minimum, please. Because when everyone starts sounding the same, it doesn’t really matter if your announcer is a former football player, or if your pundit is the premier historian in regards to presidential politics. They’re just another head on a 10-headed media monster.

And cutting one off doesn’t seem to matter.

October 14th, 2008

Now, don’t think I’m some kind of Puritanical Ninny. But I just heard one of the most surprising – and, dare I say, tasteless – advertisements on ESPN radio (on Sirius, the dumping ground for awful :60 spots).

It is for The Ashley Madison Agency.

A dating site.

For people who want to have an affair.

The ad itself isn’t tasteless, per se. (Though, it’s quite ironic that they use Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major as a backing music, given its prominence as a common wedding march selection.) But the fact that this type of site is up and running as a legitimate money maker – and advertising on national radio – raised my eyebrows.

Their motto, naturally, is “LIFE IS SHORT. HAVE AN AFFAIR.™” And there should be no surprise in the fact that, at present (according to their FAQ) there are about 8.5 men for every 1.5 women that sign up on the site.

Amazing.

What kind of person sits down and says, “I have a great idea for a site. How about a dating site, for people who want to cheat on their husband or wife? It will be completely secure, and we’ll help to bolster the egos of numerous deceitful, cheating people who would rather destroy someone else’s life than ‘man (or woman) up’ and admit they’re not happy?”

Sound’s great, bub. Go for it.

I mean, seriously?

Can we put to rest all of the silly talk about how gay unions will ruin the sanctity of marriage – that some antiquated word will somehow be sullied simply through the marriage of two men, or two women? Can we finally appreciate that marriage isn’t just something that is written on paper, that can only include someone from this pile and someone from that one, that the basis should be love, and a lawful respect of a human’s need to be close to someone – anyone – in a time of need, for support, through thick, thin, and all of the rest of the stuff we hear in the standard wedding vows? Can we stop thinking that marriage and relationships and family morals are things that the government should be taking control of – an idea created by the same politicians that fight so hard for government to be held at arms length?

Because really, with a 50% divorce rate (and climbing) and sites like these, is it really the homosexual couples who are ruining the sanctity of marriage?

Category: Marketing, Politics

October 10th, 2008

The press is 6-year-olds playing soccer; nobody has a position, it’s just “Where’s the ball? Where’s the ball? Sarah Palin has the ball!” [Mimes a mob running after her.] Because they can only cover one thing.

-Jon Stewart

Maybe this is old news. But this interview with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, from an Entertainment Weekly I may or may not have stolen from the fitness center, is a must read. For the soccer metaphor alone.

That is all.

Category: Journalism, Politics