Winterizing the Home

With winter here, it’s never too late to start thinking of ways to keep the home toasty all season long. As the temperature drops below freezing, here is a short list of things you can do to protect your home from the winter’s chill and stop your energy bills from ballooning beyond your budget.
Is it Drafty in Here?
“Improving your home’s insulation and sealing air leaks are the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy waste and make the most of your energy dollars,” according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
One of the easiest things you can do to prevent air leaks is to place a draft snake at the base of your doors. You can buy one premade or make your own by simply rolling up a towel. Wrapping your windows is also an effective way to stop leaks. All it takes is some heavy-duty clear plastic, which you can buy at your local home improvement store, and a hair dryer.
Is your Furnace in Shape?
While it doesn’t have to run a marathon, it’s important that your heating system is in shape for the long haul of winter. Schedule a tune-up before the temperatures drop and replace your filter once a month.
While you’re thinking furnace, think AC as well. Shut off the air conditioning water valve to prevent excess water from collecting in the equipment.
What about the plumbing?
If you live in a cold climate, your plumbing could be at risk to freeze and thaw (perhaps more than once) during the winter, which can cause pipes to burst.
Weatherproofing your plumbing is always a good idea. To do so, turn off the water supply to outdoor spigots, sprinkler systems, swamp coolers and AC units then drain them. If your AC or swamp cooler has components outside, make sure to cover them.
Have a pleasant winter
This advice comes from 2-10 HBW which offers the industry’s most comprehensive coverage for homeowners.

Avoiding Disaster – the Message from a Stained Glass Window

I was recently idling in the Sacred Heart Church in Raleigh when I happened upon one of the stained glass windows depicting the early life of Christ.
At first sight it appears to be an idyllic happy family get together. Mary watchfully spinning, Joseph standing guard over the infant Jesus and the infant Jesus himself with a hammer and chisel in his hand working his will on a piece of wood.
But where is the Judean Department of Occupational & Safety, where is the Nazareth Child Protection Agency?
The child is not wearing safety goggles nor is he wearing protective gloves.
It’s all very well saying that the child has his own protective guardian angels, and perhaps they will stop the chisels going blunt or other damage occurring to the craftsman’s tools. And why is Joseph holding an axe and looking vaguely lost?
Overall, it’s a picture which asks more questions than it answers.
And perhaps the real message is that unless you have the angels on your side, whatever you are doing, you had better wear appropriate (protective) clothing.

Procrastination – the Thief of Time?

Recently the Harvard Business Review published an article by Chris Bailey on Research Based Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination. The premise of such articles is that procrastination is a bad idea. Whereas there is often a very good case to be made for not making decisions until an appropriate time.
Quite often the answer to many difficult situations which seem to require immediate action is to “Stand and Wait”. The problem might go away. The situation might change. The immediate answer might not be available but may appear after a night’s sleep. As always one should make haste slowly.
Innovation expert Daniel Burrus suggests that to get more done in less time, we should slow down. It may sound counter-intuitive, but doing so allows us to identify issues before they become problems, avoid tunnel vision, and embrace the bigger picture. Attention to the immediate moment can blind us to almost everything else.

Every Child’s Right

I am always coming across relatively small charities which make a big impact for what they do. I once contributed to a clothing bank for street youth who had been arrested for being idle and who were destined to receive harsher sentences compared to those who seemed respectably turned out.
I experienced a similar epiphany last week when the Diaper Bank of NC came to my attention.
There is a serious shortage of diapers and other personal sanitary items among the poor in North Carolina. Diapers can cost as much as $100 a month per child and are not covered by SNAP (also known as food stamps) or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – better known as the WIC Program).
A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics found that women in need of diapers reported more difficulty with stress management, depression, and coping with trauma—which negatively affects their child’s health.
Another study conducted by Feeding America, called In Short Supply: American Families Struggle to Secure Everyday Essentials, found that 48% of families who cannot afford basic household necessities delay changing a child’s diaper to make their diaper supply last longer.
All across North Carolina, there are stories of families who are struggling to provide diapers for their children to keep them dry, clean, and healthy. It is not just infants who are affected. Tears come to the eyes when you hear of young girls who cannot afford personal sanitary items and so stay away from school rather than be shamed.
The Diaper Bank of NC is a 501c3 organization. No goods or services are exchanged for donations, which are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

What Happened


Hillary Clinton’s new book  promises to reveal some interesting lessons for future political campaigns.
I particularly like the analysis:
“I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment,” she wrote. “I was giving speeches laying out how to resolve the country’s problems. He was ranting on Twitter.”
We saw Hillary twice at rallies and we saw Bill Clinton once. At no time did we think that her policies were off the wall as opposed to Bernie’s which were off kilter from the moment the Democratic Party gave him air time to promote his platform right up to when he refused to concede defeat and let Hillary focus on the main target – Trump.
I look forward to reading the book which must, in the final analysis, be a memoir of one of the greatest political tragedies of this century

Hurricane Preparedness

The following is taken from Hurricane.com:
When a storm threatens, what should you do? Hurricane preparedness is merely a matter of planning ahead. Hurricane threats come in many forms, including storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding.
Before the Hurricane Season Begins
Develop a plan. Know home’s vulnerability to the threats above – surge, wind, and flooding. Check supplies – water, batteries, food. For information on developing a Hurricane Supply kit, Know where you can evacuate to – friends, relatives, a hotel?
Know when to take action – Watch vs Warning
WATCH: Hurricane conditions are possible in the specified area of the WATCH, usually within 36 hours.
WARNING: Hurricane conditions are expected in the specified area of the WARNING, usually within 24 hours. Remember that there is no such thing as a “minor hurricane.” Category 1 and 2 hurricanes still can do significant damage.
Prepare before a Watch or Warning is issued and be ready to evacuate when the Watch comes or
earlier if so instructed.
An Approaching Storm
As a storm approaches, you should prepare your house and your yard. Some things to consider:
Turn down the temperature on the freezer and refrigerator as low as possible. This will buy you more time in the event of a power loss. 24 to 48 hours before will cool the food. Avoid opening them whenever possible. If you are evacuating, probably unnecessary.
Before you evacuate, call at least one person out of state to let them know your plans.
Ensure that your
Hurricane Emergency Kit is fully stocked.
Charge electronic devices, for example, computers, cell phones, rechargeable batteries, razors, and the like.
Make extra ice, bag it – this will be useful to use and to keep the freezer cold.
If you have a generator, do NOT run it inside or near the house. But make sure you have fuel to run it.
Make sure your car has fuel.
Pick up yard debris – furniture, tools, decorative items, branches – anything loose that could become a missile.
Secure boats, trailers, campers, RVs, and the like in the safest place you can find. Tie them down, anchor them, or however you can best secure them. But, take into account that there may be a storm surge.
Secure all doors and windows with locks, and shutters if available. Plywood, properly secured, can be effective. Don’t forget the garage doors.
Move items that may be damaged by water to higher areas of your home if you can not take them with you if evacuating. Move them away from windows in case they are broken.
Huge items must even be secured in big storms. An engine block was found 40 or 50 feet up in a pine tree in the Homestead (actually Redlands) area after Andrew. Don’t think that something is too big to be moved by the wind.
Re-check tie-downs.
Bring cars, bikes, scooters and anything like that into your garage if possible.
Bring in grills or other cooking items.
Bring in hoses, trash cans, hot tub covers, wind-chimes, plants.
Caulk and fill bathtubs – extra water comes in handy for toilets and more..
It may sound strange, but do your laundry, dishes, and take a shower. Why? Because if you lose power, having as much clean as possible will make a big difference.
Check if your pool pump should be on or off.
Close and fasten gates so they don’t swing.
Close chimney flues.
Close/latch inside doors and cabinets.
If you have time, help your neighbors. Debris in their yards can easily impact your home and yard.
During a storm.
Stay inside, away from windows
Be alert for tornadoes
Stay away from flood waters and storm surge. It can be deceptively strong.
Be aware of the eye. It may be calm, but winds can and will pick up quickly and could catch you outside.
Un-plug electronic devices that are not in use to avoid surge damage. This is less likely that during afternoon thunderstorms because lightening is rare in a hurricane, but it is better to be safe.
After a Storm
Know power safety – avoid downed lines
Know food safety – what is good and for how long.
Chain saw safety is critical
Generator safety is important too
Water treatment – whether water needs to be boiled or not.
Listen to local officials
Use flashlights instead of candles
Inspect your home for damage.
Stay off roads as much as possible
You may need to super-chlorinate your pool
 

See also the Washington Post 

What does $2.3million look like?

MoneyThe reports of the $2.3 million missing cash from the Wake County Register of Deeds office raise as many questions as answers. $2.3 million over nine years is an average of $21,000 a month which for some people could be yearly earnings.
Reports tell us the who, what and the how.
We do not know the why or where the money has gone.
As a former Bank Chief Inspector I would always look for motivation in gambling, drugs and extra marital dalliances. Where has all the money gone? It can’t all have gone on riotous lifestyles? Has it gone to family, colleagues or financing elections? It can’t all have been frittered away, can it?
For more details please see Charlotte Observer of August 28th