Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ode to many local wallets

Last June, as the 2010-2011 school year was drawing to a close, I wrote about the costs associated with CCISD's Magnet program busing.  I provided a spreadsheet estimating outlays for the three most common transportation scenarios from which families choose.

The numbers illustrated that the financial impacts to families who drive instead of bus were profound.  This is the kind of slow creeping expense that might not rise to the level of your daily awareness because it gets spread out over 177 annual teaching days.  But if you don't pay attention, you could find yourself effectively spending a few thousand dollars a year for a darned good service that your ISD provides to you essentially free of charge.

So with these things in mind, I was delighted to note that WAVE Magnet bus ridership originating from Victory Lakes Intermediate currently seems to be running at about 150% what it was last year.
So many kids boarded the bus that it sorta looked like it was sinking on its axles.
This could be partly or wholly a coincidence, perhaps has nothing to do with CCISD's proposal to eliminate Magnet busing and nothing to do with my cost analysis.  But regardless of inspiration, it's evidence of many families making a good choice:  not only are they saving themselves some serious money, the increased participation shows the ISD just how valuable this service is.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Heat, lights, camera, action

We are back from a several-week junket to the northern latitudes whence I derived.  Daily high temperatures in our vacation areas ranged from 59 degrees F to 79 degrees F - daily highs, not lows.

This type of escape is necessary for sanity: if you don't do this already, plan to simply get the heck out of Houston for a spell during each Mean Season.  During the entire time we were away, daily highs in Houston remained above 100 degrees F, for a record-breaking heatwave.  One of my Houston girlfriends emailed me that she was fighting heat rash despite never having stepped foot outside.

So here's an odd juxtaposition of images in rapid succession:
Temperature 61 degrees F beside restlessly romantic seas.
Coat, hat, and long pants...
necessary accoutrements for the north Atlantic
no matter the time of year.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Screengrab from www.chron.com frontpage...
Which day?
Pick a day, ANY day...
Back in July, I published a blog entry questioning whether water use restrictions would even be acknowledged by the public if drought conditions continued to worsen.  The jury is still out, but this screengrab from Houston Chronicle echoes those questions.   
Recent screengrab from Galveston County Daily News.
I suspect that people, both individually and collectively, are going to realize that prevailing mindless prohibitions on watering are not well-thought-out and not designed to do what regulation should do, which is to minimize cost-benefit ratios.   Plans must be developed to conserve water while not totally discounting the impacts to public and private investments.  
Screengrab from one of this week's editions
of Austin American Statesman.
This statement has been echoed in other sources which also note that, although this year's drought is the worst on record, other recent years have also been unusually severe (think 2009).  
Despite all this heat-related, there's actually a few tiny pieces of good news for us here in Centerpointe, as follows:
We actually got 2.1 inches of rain here the other day,
as reported by weather station MD6282,
which is located right here in Centerpointe. 
Less hell AND less high water:
Did you know that Centerpointe tends to be NOT QUITE as hot as the majority of greater Houston?
We used to live in north Clear Lake, and I can definitely feel a difference between there (just six miles away but hotter) and here (cooler and also breezier). We are slightly moderated via our joint proximity to both Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico - water on two sides - but without the extremity of lower-elevational exposures that characterize many other areas that are closer to the coast (personally I see this as a pretty good trade-off - some of the coolness but more of the elevation protection from hurricanes).  Here above is an example of this moderation effect in the form of today's projected high temp map published by the National Weather Service.  
Stay cool.
Don't stay dry.
Stay happy.
(The last of which should be easier for you if you had the good sense to get out of here for a recent northern vacation.)
Yet another NWS warning graphic.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hidden benefits of hidden cameras

Back in April, I blogged about the new challenges that accompany new home security technology, specifically the fact that cameras can inadvertently capture domestic details that you'd rather not communicate to outside parties, including law enforcement.

But they also sometimes capture evidence that has nothing to do with safeguarding your home against burglary, but which is highly instructive and useful nevertheless.

Current case in point:  a courier service claims to have delivered a rather expensive package to us on a specific date, at a specific time, as evidenced by their tracking software.  But we never received the package.  And most tellingly, our exterior surveillance system reveals that no courier truck of any kind came down our street in the time period two hours on either side of the alleged delivery scan.

Curiouser and curiouser, eh?  Not only that, the courier SOMEHOW has on record that "a woman" was at the home during delivery and accepted the package personally.  This information despite the fact that there's apparently no associated delivery signature.

Ordinarily, I might concede that my brain is fallible and perhaps during the chaos of a working-from-home day, I accepted a package and misplaced it, assuming it was just a new toner cartridge or something.

But unlike my brain (but similar to my Dash Cam), the hidden wide-angle lens tells no lies, makes no mistakes.  And the evidence suggests that either the courier accidentally delivered to the wrong street, or some courier employee forged the scan and got a five-finger discount on a high-end consumer item.

Either way, our security system may have just effectively paid for part of itself because, as we proceed with our dispute, it's not just our feeble consumer word against the mighty international package tracking software empire.  We have the proverbial tape.
Big Sister is watching,
from a variety of undisclosed locations.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Barrell o' fun(ction)

This morning, Galveston County Daily News published a story about a Friendswood businessman's installation of cisterns for rainwater collection.  His tanks supply him with more water than he could ever use, even in a severe drought such as we are having right now.

This fact is not at all surprising:  as I explained in an April blog post titled "Rain barrells: What's hype and what's helpful", here on the upper Texas coast, we do not have a water supply problem.  What we have is a water storage and distribution problem.  It's a problem that rainwater capture could alleviate, and for less money than you might think, as this local businessman has now aptly demonstrated.

Still, the use of tanks and cisterns is a new (well, revived such that it appears new) idea, and it will take a while to catch on and gain acceptance.  Personally, I have not yet been able to obtain spousal approval to install that 300 gallon tank that I've been jonesing for, a la Dallas Morning News writer Erin Covert.  But the negotiations continue and meanwhile, as an alternate strategy, I'm contemplating expanding into a fleet of Systerns, of which I still only have our original lonesome singleton (and I've really disliked hobbling through this nasty summer with just one to fall back on):
"Cuz I ain't got nobody
Nobody cares for me,
nobody cares for me
I'm so sad and lonely
Sad and lonely, sad and lonely
Won't some sweet mama
come and take a chance with me?
Cuz I ain't so bad
Sad and lonesome all the time"
--From "I Ain't Got Nobody"
as re-done by David Lee Roth.