May 29, 2015

Spring Cleaning

I have spent a good part of the last month "holed up".

May started with a bang - a spate of teaching (5 classes / 4 days), a long evening of teacher training video review, and then whoosh, off to North Carolina for a family reunion / graduation (my niece graduated from UNC-Wilmington). Ever since, I've been off my game.

I've had a hard time pinning it down - some light-headedness / vertigo / fatigue that might be food related, might be something I picked up on the plane, might be anything. Since it came along the same time as our first wave of hot / humid summery weather, it kept me out of the studio and off my mat except for some home practice. That morphed into a sore throat a few days ago, and has since evolved into a full blown sinus event (sneezing, headache, post-nasal drip) which I am increasingly thinking might be allergies. I always seem to get a spring time "cold" but it's never been this debilitating; apparently one of the side effects of global warming is an increase in the duration and severity of pollen season (due to higher CO2), making things more miserable for allergy sufferers and perhaps pushing some of us into full blown attacks.

As annoying as this phase of things it, at least it feels like stuff is moving out.

So the past month has been a pretty reclusive time - I've not felt up to socializing, have hardly hit the studio at all. I've done a few social things - a Red Sox game last weekend, dinner with friends, some band rehearsal - but in general I'm hunkered down.

That has not been a bad thing, though; I've been going on a cleaning spree; kitchen, bathrooms, living room, bedroom, yoga room, basement / office area. Some of the harbingers of "this is not a drill" spring cleaning include:
  • Purge the fridge
  • Cleaning out the hidden basement areas: office, tool area, the storage closet, laundry area
  • Completing my season clothing transition well before memorial day
  • Recycling multiple bags of clothing; giving away some tech (a small TV and an antenna) that have been sitting for years unused. 
  • Working on living room carpet stains (Elo is pretty good about pee and poop, but he does puke now and then, and also never misses an opportunity to grab food off the counter and drag it into the living room for a little party) - and I'm not all that careful about dragging stuff in on my shoes.  
I could, technically, have friends over to visit. Not that this is likely, but it COULD happen.

Heading into a teacher training weekend; which ought to be challenging (giving the present state of my body, allergies, and sinuses) but I'm a very reluctant drug taker - I've only recently started to dose with alka-seltzer cold meds, and night-time cough/cold syrup (I awoke dazed but apparently well-rested this morning), and I'm going to venture out to CVS for some of the new fangled allergy meds that I've never taken before.

At least it's silent weekend at teacher training, so I'll be able to rest my voice (not demanded for the staff, but I like to honor the silence as much as possible). And hopefully, with the weekend behind me, and pollen abating, I'll get my sorry butt back into the world. 

May 22, 2015

Lawn Mower Saga: Gas vs. Electric

I live in a small (4 unit) condo that has a very low monthly fee, and a bit of a do-it-yourself ethos among the residents.

My first year here, the lawn care (previously handled by the guy I bought the condo from, who had been the long time association president) was arranged by the new president, mostly cousins or acquaintances. The lawn was often over-grown, and when it got cut, it was somewhat cursory.

My second year, I volunteered to cut the grass for a nominal fee, just to keep it somewhat under control. I'm a fan of the "broken windows" theory of crime prevention, and the sketchy lawn care was, I feared spreading to a general degradation of the condo value and safety. I got a few bucks per cut, although the president was a little concerned I was cutting too often; I told her just pay me whatever per month and I'd take care of it - and have over the years assumed general responsibility for the outdoors (cutting the grass, trimming, picking up litter, patching potholes). I used a beater gas mower that belonged to the association.

Last year, after five years, the old mower died, and rather than get it fixed, I invested in a low cost ($200) Troy Bilt mower, which I used last year, and which sat behind the unit (as did its predecessor) all winter. Last week, after I cut the lawn, the mower disappeared. I suspect somebody saw the old mower (which I had finally put out to the curb for town pick-up / junkers a week before) and realized there was probably a newish mower around back, and walked off with it.


Called the cops, filed a report, even had the model and engine serial number, but it's gone. Not worth filing an insurance claim (what with deductibles).

After sitting on the decision for a week, I finally went out and bought a new mower. I decided I would not leave the new mower sitting out unprotected; it either had to be locked up or brought in (to my basement, also my office). Not wanting to bring gas into the condo, I decided to go with an electric lawnmower; picking up a Kobalt 13A, 21" mower ($179) and a 100' extension cord. I did a small test cut today to (a) see how the mower worked, and (b) ensure that the cord could reach the entire condo. Looks good on both counts.

In general, the mower is very similar to the old gas model. A bit lighter than the gas mower (positive) but the need to work with / around the cord is a bit of a pain. The mower is a three way (mulcher / bagger / side exit) so no problems there. Although it feels like a lot less power and gets bogged down in thick grass, it seems to cut fine; I suspect moving slowly, cutting in thin strips, and keeping the blade sharp will be important.


And while I made this purchase for completely practical / pragmatic reasons (deciding that the hassle of a corded mower and bringing it in was less than the hassle of locking up a gas mower), there's an ecological upside as well. I've always known gas mowers to be problematic, in terms of pollution, but never really looked too deeply. Per National Geographic:
In 2009, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality found that an hour of gas-powered lawn mowing produces as much pollution as four hours of driving a car. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has also recognized the alarming amount of pollution generated by lawn mowers. In 2008, the EPA created rules to enforce manufacturers of lawn mowers and weed whackers to cut smog-forming emissions from their products by at least 35 percent starting in 2011.
So after a lifetime of using a regular old gas mower, I am now an electric mower. We'll see how it works, long term.