Re: Fits and Starts of Technology

1

It struck me today that technology from when my parents grew up and when I grew up was essentially unchanged. Especially with regards to technology in one's daily life

Probable exceptions: Microwave oven, VCR.

I do agree with this post and find it tiresome when people nitpick about these things. "Ahem, cars were deathtraps in the 50s." "Ahem, in the 70s computers were transforming corporate logistics into something unrecognizable, ever heard of just-in-time inventory?"


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 6:59 AM
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My dad grew up without indoor plumbing or electricity. I think that may be the reason he's so happy all the time. He's thinking, "Well, at least I don't have to go shit in the yard."


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:06 AM
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I was already to nitpick a la 1.last. But it's true, it is tiresome.

I think a lot of the big technological changes over that time, though, were infrastructure and production technology, rather than personal/domestic technology. TV, though, was a big change.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:08 AM
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They also used horses for transportation, but I think they liked that. One of his cousins still keeps teams of draft horses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:09 AM
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If you went back to your grandmother's in 1925, I'm quite sure you'd find everything familiar. But if she came forward, even 30 years, it would be a different story: "Why does your radio have a glass screen, dear?"; and if she had to fly anywhere, "Where are the propellers on this plane!?"

Things your grandmother also didn't have in 1925: washer/dryer, dishwasher, probably vacuum cleaner, central heating, a/c...


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:16 AM
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My dad grew up without indoor plumbing or electricity.

A distinction I only relatively recently made was indoor plumbing vs. indoor bathroom. My dad grew up with running water in the house, but they didn't have an indoor toilet.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:16 AM
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Disposable diapers.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:17 AM
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6: They had a pump in the house, not running water.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:17 AM
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I think the future was a lot more evenly distributed in the 50's than in the 20's (in US/Europe, that is).


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:18 AM
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5: For reasons nobody else understands, the British really dropped the ball on the whole "central heat" thing. In the U.S., I doubt there were many houses with electricity but not central heat.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:22 AM
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Heebie's parents probably had a similar TV to what Heebie had, though not in color. (what are we comparing, 1955 to 1985?)

British lagged behind US in widespread dispersion of watchable TVs as well.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:23 AM
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re: 5 and 11

In the late 40s through to the early 60s that would largely be because of 'recovering from being on the verge of destruction due to total war'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:26 AM
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Yet if either of us went back another thirty years life would seem radically different.

It's also interesting, though, that much of the stuff that made life radically different for your granny in 1925 wasn't newly invented - just newly generally available. Underfloor heating and flush toilets and municipal sewers and so on are centuries old. Even electric lighting was perfected in the 1880s. It's just that most people didn't have them.

The counterexample I always think of is from a book called "A Scottish Childhood", which was an anthology (put together for charity) of 70 famous Scots telling stories about, well, their childhoods.

One of them talks about growing up in Glasgow in the 30s and the fear of seeing "the fever van" turn the corner into your street. The fever van was the special quarantine ambulance used to transport children with highly contagious diseases (such as scarlet fever or diphtheria) to hospital. If it turned up in your street that meant that one of your friends was probably going to die in hospital in a pretty unpleasant way.

Now, imagine what it meant that cases of highly contagious and very dangerous illness were common enough in children that it made sense to have a special ambulance just for them... and imagine what it meant that the ambulance was a frequent enough visitor that you recognised it immediately on sight.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:26 AM
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re: 13

Yes, antibiotics and reliably non-fatal surgery are a good example of a relatively invisible but massive change.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:27 AM
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12: Right, but central heating was common here in the 1920s and 1930s. Even without electricity, they had convection systems.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:29 AM
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Shorter me: the main difference your granny would notice would be the relative lack of dead babies.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:29 AM
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15: older housing stock, maybe?


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:30 AM
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18

Space travel, though that's not so much a daily living difference.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:30 AM
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But then vaccinations are common to both decades, a major shift with the past. (And according to Paul Starr, possibly a big part of why medicine became a respected profession almost overnight, even though doctors per se didn't have a lot to do with vaccination.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:30 AM
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re: 17

Yeah, possibly. I don't know when most Glasgow tenements were built, but I'd guess the bulk of them before 1900.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:33 AM
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17: True, but the switch was so slow and incomplete* one assumes it wasn't considered that big of a deal. Possibly the relatively mild winters compared to the northern U.S. make for the rest of the difference.

*When I was there in early 90s, they turned off the heat in the dorms at midnight.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:33 AM
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1955-85? My period and pretty much true. Medicine and military. Calculators. Stereo and gear felt like a big deal in the 70s.

Wait. Wait. I'm a Marxist and define "technology" broadly. Social formations are technologies.

Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll.

The change was like awesome, never to be repeated.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:34 AM
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The deaths of nearly everyone I know are down to cancer, stroke or heart attacks. In every history or biography I've ever read set before ~1950, everyone dies of either war, childbirth, accident, or infectious disease.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:34 AM
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There are some areas where we seem to have gone backwards. George MacDonald Fraser, fighting in the Burmese jungle in 1945, was always amazed that a letter posted by his parents in Carlisle on Sunday would be with him by Thursday. Lucky old George MacDonald Fraser. My parents can't rely on getting a letter to me that fast and I'm only in London, and there are few if any Naga headhunters, Japanese snipers, monsoons, floods, cyclones, INA deserters, land mines, punji sticks or malarial mosquitoes to slow things down.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:34 AM
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From my grandparents to now, another big difference is home birth vs. hospital birth. My paternal grandmother had all her kids at home except for my dad (who was born while my grandfather was away in WWII, so the government paid for a hospital birth). My grandmother was a midwife for home births at least through the mid-1950s.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:34 AM
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(And according to Paul Starr, possibly a big part of why medicine became a respected profession almost overnight, even though doctors per se didn't have a lot to do with vaccination.)

And nowadays most people's complaints with doctors (other than the cost) boils down to "I trust what my doctor says most of the time, but I just can't be sure all these vaccinations are worth it."


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:36 AM
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Cautionary tale: over dinner last night with another commenter, we had pretty much exactly this conversation. (I was thinking, but didn't completely articulate, about the comparison between Last Picture Show and Dazed and Confused.) Either my dinner companion has violated SOOBC* -- which I doubt -- or somehow HG has spies in distant corners of the 'tariat.

* Obviously, this comment is a violation. But one in service of the greater good!


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:37 AM
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24: And just try finding a good loyal lascar nowadays!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:38 AM
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24: I have Flashman on my desk, but I've never got past where his father lets him go into the army after he sleeps with the mistress.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:38 AM
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19. Well yes, they started actually being able to ure people, instead of looking grave and comforting billing the survivors. Martin Gardner made that point somewhere, too


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:38 AM
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My own suggestion for biggest technological change is machine translation. If you wanted to read something in French in 1985 and you didn't speak French, your only option was to find a person who did and get them to translate it for you. Now you can get it done to a moderately usable standard instantly by a machine for free, and the standard is getting better at a tremendous speed.

"Democrats and all supporters of Barack Obama should be relieved after the domination of the President during the second televised debate last night. They might even ask where was previously the president there.
Candidate Obama yesterday had clearly learned from its poor performance in the first face-to-face. He understood that there was the need to stop the momentum Romney again, speculation about his motivation, and the dangerous trend that took the voting intentions downgraded since the meeting in Denver. It is shown that invigorated, inspired and ready to fight for his reelection. He insisted on the subjects on which he was surprisingly you in Denver (as the video of Romney on 47%, the bailout of the auto industry - yet very key followed in the State of Ohio, and that Romney had criticized a bit faster)."

Now that's not flawless English, but it's pretty good. It's a hell of a lot better than it was even three or four years ago. Speech-to-text translation is getting better at the same amazing rate.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:39 AM
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32

And Lewis Thomas


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:41 AM
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Well yes, they started actually being able to ure people, instead of looking grave and comforting billing the survivors.

Right, although I believe real cures only really started with antibiotics in the 40's. (Maybe some decent surgeries existed before then, not sure.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:42 AM
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Lewis Thomas is indeed another radical improvement in our standard of living.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:43 AM
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35

Yes, but he was around in the fifties.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:46 AM
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36

Technologies that allow us to see non-invasively into the structure and function of the living human body are, I would say, pretty huge. Not just for medicine but for SCIENCE.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:47 AM
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re: 33

Decent surgery well before that, although death rates from complications and anaesthetic have gone down a lot in recent decades.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:47 AM
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55-85, but better 96:And since I consider the superstructure technology:

Change from production economy to consumption economy, de-unionization, service jobs.

It felt so much more egalitarian around 1960 (for white males or families I suppose). I suppose because everybody had for example a pretty limited variety of shirts to choose from, and few would show off with silk or designer wear or idiosyncratic affectation.

I feel sorry for kids today with all the status competition.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:49 AM
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39

We have laundry in ways they can't understand.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:50 AM
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40

Technologies that allow us to see non-invasively into the structure and function of the living human body are, I would say, pretty huge. Not just for medicine but for SCIENCE.

X-rays? 19th century technology.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:54 AM
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41

These days we have pills that will give you a boner that lasts 4 hours.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:55 AM
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42

Up to 4 hours.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:56 AM
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43

I really love that overuse will in fact make you go blind.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:57 AM
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I heard the Chinese are working on 6 hour boner pills. I hope America's pharmaceutical industry can rise to the challenge.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:01 AM
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40: I know the NHS isn't an early adopter of a lot of technologies, but I thought things like ultrasound, CT scans, radionuclide scanning had gotten there by now.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:04 AM
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46

The issue isn't how long you can make a boner last. The issue is how long you can make it last without damage.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:06 AM
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47

It's like a psychic bond! (38)

Corey Robin on Rodgers Age of Fracture (which I know of from the US Intellectual History blog) comes very close to describing social fragmentation as a counter-revolutionary technology of reactionaries. Surplus comes from arbitraging across difference.

"There are five ways in which men pass through life: as gentlemen, warriors, farmers, artisans and merchants."

...Musashi Miyamoto, Book of Five Rings

But Robin reminds me that I have so much reading to do.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:07 AM
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I think the post is correct. I like to read old popular fiction and stuff from 1930 or so on (for example Nero Wolfe) seems to be describing a fairly familiar world while pre 1900 stuff (Sherlock Holmes for example) not so much. Although Holmes is not a totally fair comparison since now that I think about it, British stuff even from later (like Agatha Christie) is more alien in general.

Of course part of this is that I am old enough that my idea of normal dates back to the 1950s.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:08 AM
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This is a fun game. 1955-1985 is the relevant comparison? I'd say huge advances in medicine and huge changes to the food production and distribution network. People have talked about the former, but the latter is pretty big too. In 1955 you had about 40% of Americans living in rural areas, a ton of farms, and food was still a very significant budget item for most working people, though the signs of change were everywhere. By 1985, not so much.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:15 AM
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50

46: Spoken like a man who's boners only last an hour.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:15 AM
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40: MRI, M/EEG, PET (to name the big ones) are all pretty new. EEG is technically fairly old, but had very limited application until the personal computer.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:16 AM
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I know the NHS isn't an early adopter of a lot of technologies, but I thought things like ultrasound

Invented by a Brit.

, CT scans

Invented by a Brit... who actually got the Nobel Prize for it.

and radionuclide scanning had gotten there by now.

Funnily enough, they have.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:16 AM
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1955-1985 is the relevant comparison?

YES


Posted by: OPINIONATED MARTY MCFLY | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:17 AM
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54

Oh, so 40 was a joke.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:17 AM
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55

At least we can all agree that fashion is relatively unchanged since the 50s.


Posted by: Eggplant | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:17 AM
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The change was bigger outside the US, where the 1955-1985 saw the total transformation (and really, the end) the peasantry in developed countries, arguably the biggest single change in the history of the world.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:17 AM
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When I was there in early 90s, they turned off the heat in the dorms at midnight.

I don't follow. I have central heating and I turn the heat off at midnight. It saves money and you don't need it when you're wrapped up in a duvet in a previously warmed room.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:23 AM
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58

And think how good it'll be when we get rid of the remaining peasants in the US!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:24 AM
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59

I think I have mentioned before that my father grew up in a thatched cottage. (1940s-50s) There certainly would not have been running water (there was a diverted small streamlet or spring running through a channel and into a drain near the back door). No electricity or gas - turf fires and oil lamps. He could remember when the first neighbour got a wireless in about 1947. Don't know if they ever got electricity in that house. In 1959 his parents moved to a different part of the country, to a small,modern concrete bungalow.
My mother's father probably had a similar upbringing in a somewhat bigger house a generation earlier but by the 1940s could afford to put in a bathroom in the decent-size two storey house he had bought in dilapidated condition and refloored - they lived in it for a few years before the bathroom, though.


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:24 AM
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57: There's a little thing on the wall that turns the heat back on whenever it the temperature in the house drops below the level I select. You can lower that before going to sleep (I did back when I was single), but there is no reason to actually turn it off.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:26 AM
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Our flat doesn't have central heating. Which is kind of crazy as the building is 60s, I think. It's a fairly luxury apartment too, in terms of the general design and fit out of the place. It's like something you could easily imagine Don Draper living in. But someone decided the heating would be these elegant but not-very-good super slim white panels, which aren't centrally/thermostatically controlled.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:26 AM
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The economist Robert Gordon has done great work on exactly this issue, the various 'technology revolutions' since the industrial revolution and their impact on productivity. Steam power/telegraphs/trains was the first, then internal combustion engine/telephones/widespread electricity, then computers/IT. His point is that the internal combustion engine/telephone/mass electricity revolution had the biggest impact on productivity growth and the computer/IT revolution has so far had the least. (Although there is obviously still a considerable impact, just less than the previous ones). To his credit he was making this point back in 1999-2000 during the height of the internet boom.

So this post is basically saying that the combustion engine/mass electricity/telephone hit about 1915-20 and transformed daily life much more radically than any of the other ones did, so daily life became recognizably modern about the beginning of the 20th century and has stayed recognizable since. I do think the mass penetration of computer technologies into the smallest areas of life has led to a more dramatic change in daily life from 1980-2010 than we saw from 1950-1980. However, in terms of economic productivity growth the 1950-1980 period massively outpaced 1980-2010, at least in the advanced economies. (It may be that much of the productivity impact of the IT revolution has happened through outsourcing to previously poor countries like China).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:27 AM
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57.Likewise. In fact we turn off the heat at 10:00 on the basis that it's still warm by bed time. OTOH, we swith it on at 6:00 to get up at 7:00.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:27 AM
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64

Even if we leave the house for a few days, in the winter I don't dare turn off the heat all the way. The pipes will freeze.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:28 AM
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||

In my bioethics class, we are discussing cross cultural issues in medicine, including rituals from other cultures that seem to cause harm to patients, like ritual scaring.

A student comments: "As being a white, American, Christian, I do not practice rituals. So to hear stories about rituals being performed in the United States really disgusts me. ... I personally think that if cultures want to perform rituals, that is fine, but go back to your country to do so. "

|>


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:29 AM
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60. Yes, it's called a thermostat. But I still don't see the point of running the heat when you're i. out or ii. in bed and asleep.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:29 AM
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66: When the outdoor temperature is minus 20F, you might.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:31 AM
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66: Exactly. There's no point in maintaining a minimum temperature, even if reduced, if there's nobody there to appreciate it. And, at least in central London 99.9% of the time, freezing pipes are not a risk.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:33 AM
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56: My mother's grandmother lived her whole life in a thatched cottage with a pump in the kitchen but no other plumbing. I visited it as a child (after mom's grandmother died, but while her younger sister still lived there) and am in retrospect really impressed that not only was there no indoor toilet, there was no outhouse -- just the great outdoors. That can't have been a norm.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:34 AM
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My father's stories of 'firsts' include: television and paved roads in parts of Newfoundland (he was on some Centennial of Canada tour and the province had only recently paved or hadn't fully paved all their roads - most of the village to village travel was probably by boat).

My mother remembers the ice man coming by with blocks for their ice box. And her mother and older sister got polio - which meant the local swimming pool was closed.

I remember the first time my father got money out of an ATM and when the liquour store wasn't open on Sundays or after 6. Parts of my childhood were very 1950s (see also: playing marbles and various skipping rope games, and the music I grew up with).

It's also weird that there are no more veterans of WWI and few of WWII. Not surprising, but weird that there's no direct line from the wars (and the literature) to nowadays.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:35 AM
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The change was bigger outside the US, where the 1955-1985 saw the total transformation (and really, the end) the peasantry in developed countries, arguably the biggest single change in the history of the world.

David Edgerton is quite good on this. In 1939 almost every rich nation was still largely a peasant nation. Germany and France were closer to Russia and Poland in this regard than they were to the outliers, Britain and the US. Germany had something like 30% of its workforce working on very small inefficient family farms - and 24% even in 1950. It was 8% in Britain.Throughout the war, for all the Kinder Kirche Kuche nonsense, Germany always had more of its women employed than Britain did - most of them, as ever, doing farm work.

Dedication to the small family farm, "the backbone of the nation", was hugely counterproductive and economically destructive.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:35 AM
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66, 68: I can appreciate being warm while I'm sleeping. Also, do you have a remote for the furnace so you can turn it on without getting out of bed? What about waking up to pee and having to walk in the cold?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:38 AM
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Oh, but the other weird thing is the things that haven't changed since my grandmother's time - she was very into convenience food like white bread and jello. Therefore Bittman is wrong.

She also had a garbarator (grindy thing in the sink for food waste) and I remember when friends were installing a brand new one and it was somehow being sold as new technology. Self-winding watches are kind of similar.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:38 AM
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74

and when the liquour store wasn't open on Sundays

There's canned goods in my pantry older than PA's shift on that law.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:40 AM
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69: that does sound weird, there would usually have been an outdoor toilet - perhaps built along with the animal shed? The colloquial phrase in Irish for toilet is "the donkey's house".


Posted by: emir | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:40 AM
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Maybe programmable thermostats are one of those things that British houses commonly have but the free market has gloriously kept out of our hands. Like switches to turn off electrical outlets.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:40 AM
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76: Most houses have some electrical outlets that work on the light switches. It's just that you never can tell which.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:41 AM
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re: 76

Would be fairly standard, yeah. Our place is very unusual in that it's reasonably modern, not poorly maintained, and yet doesn't have controllable heating -- both by temperature and by time. The hot water can be programmed, though. Just not the room heating.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:42 AM
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75: Possibly it was closed for repairs or something -- I was a kid, and took the weirdness in stride. I can't remember if there was a barn/shed thing, although I know there was a fenced in sort of pen for the geese.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:42 AM
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The hot water can be programmed, though.

There's a big push now to get programmable thermostats, but you barely hear of programmable water heaters. I've never seen one with any controls beyond a dial for water temperature.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:44 AM
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British houses almost invariably have programmable thermostats, of differing levels of sophistication. I'm astonished they're not universal. Ours has separate programs for weekdays and weekends, allowing it to come on and off at preset times up to 3 times a day. It can, of course be overridden if necessary. That's about standard.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:45 AM
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I should bookmark this thread, since we're now working on winterizing the house we just bought. I know programmable thermostats exist in America, and that's on our list of things to buy.

65: And what was the response from the class?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:45 AM
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Didn't Megan McArdle do an incredibly weird video disputing roughly the claim in the original post, in which she baked a cake while asserting that her grandmother didn't have a mixer, butter sold in quarter-pound sticks, or little bowls with spouts on them to add ingredients to the mixer? This was a couple years back: Krugman or Brad DeLong or someone had said something roughly along the lines of the original post, but kitchen specific.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:45 AM
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74: You can always tell a Pennsylvanian abroad by the queer look they get when they enter a supermarket, gas station, or drug store.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:45 AM
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85

I've been reading some of the Sherlock Holmes stories lately, and one striking thing is how they can rapidly get a message to anyone by telegraph. I actually find it hard to understand how telegraph use dropped off so much before email became common-- it sounds much more convenient than the days when you would have to try to reach people by phone.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:45 AM
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82.last: They were too ritually scared to respond.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:46 AM
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65: Ufghghghgh.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:47 AM
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Our hot water is instant. The boiler comes on when you turn on a hot tap somewhere in the house, and goes bak to pilot mode when you turn it off (unless it's running the heating at the time.)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:47 AM
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Not PA, Nova Scotia. General Sunday shopping was only overturned in the last 5-10 years? Actually, I bet the liquour stores still aren't open on Sundays. You have to plan ahead.

84: I still get that look. Especially when wine is cheaper than orange juice. It seems to me that orange juice, frozen concentrate or fresh, is more expensive in the US than in Canada. So weird. So I just drink more wine.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:50 AM
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85: The anti-cyberbullying rule at Nia's school (and, I presume, the rest of the ones in the state) covers harassment via telegram, so don't get any ideas.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:50 AM
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85: I'm just rereading those now as well -- something reminded me of them, and I figured it had been long enough that I probably didn't have them memorized anymore. As a kid, I read them as science fiction: no real independent knowledge of the milieu, lots of words that might as well have been invented for the story (a 'hansom'? Clearly some sort of mode of transportation), social structures with no connection to anything I was familiar with. It's odd having them be so much more transparent now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:50 AM
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81: I should maybe get one of those. They used to be expensive but I see that some of them are down to $50 (before installation). It's more to get wifi, but that seems like more than you'd really need. If only somebody would make one that looked like a regular thermostat.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:53 AM
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Ok, what am I missing. US homes largely have thermostats, unless you're in someplace that just has steam radiators. You set the thermostat for a certain temperature that seems comfortable. The thermostat adjusts the amount of heating in the room to that temperature. If no more heat is needed, the thermostat turns the heat off, and then turns it on again when needed. Doesn't this replace the need to program the heat on and off at certain times?

It is totally likely that I'm missing something big.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:53 AM
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66 to 93


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:55 AM
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85. Stephen Jay Gould had a story somewhere of a collector roughly contemporary with Sherlock Holmes who found a fossil somewhere in England and the next morning wrote to the British Museum describing it and asking if they wanted it; received a reply making an offer for it; and wrote back accepting the offer. All in the course of the same day.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:55 AM
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Moby, we got a basic programmable thermostat and our energy costs seem to have gone down a lot, though we haven't been stable in the house long enough to make meaningful comparisons. It's like Chris describes except that there may be more temperature changes you can do and I think we have 4 or 5 changes a day.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:55 AM
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93: Even if you like your home warm, you're only there and awake between, say, 6 and 8:30 am, and 6 and 11 pm. So you can set the thermostat to the temperature you like for those periods, to "just don't let the pipes freeze" for the rest of the day, and save fuel.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:56 AM
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I mean I put in a programmable thermostat (different for different floors of the house ) but it's just set as follows: if the temperature drops below x, turn the heat on to get it to x; if it exceeds y, turn the air conditioning on to get it back to y.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:56 AM
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My dad was born into solid Euro UMC circumstances in the late thirties which would have meant electricity and plumbing but no car. The next several years he mostly didn't have the former, and only sometimes the latter. More importantly, there was no guarantee of food on any given day, and a pretty fair guarantee that it wouldn't be enough, giving him a strong lifelong instinct to make sure to eat everything on the table. TV's didn't exist when he was growing up, cars after the war were rare perks for senior officials, and my grandmother wasn't one of those. My mom was born into MC circumstances in Scotland, briefly spent time as a toddler in UC circumstances in Italy, then ended up spending time on a small peasant farm in Poland. By her mid teens she was in what passed for UMC in communist Poland, i.e. the material equivalent of working class urban white people in urban America in the late fifties, except with less appliances - no washer, no drier, no washing machine, and heating came from big ceramic walled ovens that you fed with coal hauled up from the basement. In rural areas electricity was spotty and plumbing close to non-existent. Even when I first visited Poland in the mid seventies, indoor toilets were fairly rare in rural areas, though cold water sinks were common though far from universal.

So this post is basically saying that the combustion engine/mass electricity/telephone hit about 1915-20 and transformed daily life much more radically than any of the other ones did, so daily life became recognizably modern about the beginning of the 20th century and has stayed recognizable since. I do think the mass penetration of computer technologies into the smallest areas of life has led to a more dramatic change in daily life from 1980-2010 than we saw from 1950-1980

Just to repeat what someone mentioned above, that 1915-20 stuff didn't really hit your average western European until the fifties and sixties. In Eastern Europe the car part only became standard in the nineties. As late as the eighties it was the equivalent of a computer in the US in the eighties - common though not universal among the UMC, rare below that.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:57 AM
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But if you're out of the house, you just turn the thermostat down (unless you're worried about pipes freezing) which has the same effect. I just turn mine off before leaving the house on days when heat or air conditioning is needed.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:58 AM
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Sure. Programmable just means you don't have to remember to do it by hand, which lots of people don't remember.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:00 AM
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Yes, 97 is right, and these have been around for decades - the older ones are electromechanical, not electronic.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:01 AM
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I never turn the AC off when we leave for the day. It seems to cost more to suck the humid out of the house in the evening than it does to keep the AC running all day.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:02 AM
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Tyler Cowen has been going off about the slowdown in tech innovation, and has a riff on kitchens. Here's one that draws on Krugman.

Can't find it now but there was a great feminist tweaking of steampunk which more or less went fuck your dirigibles, the real transformational technology of the Victorian era was the washing machine.


Posted by: k-sky | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:02 AM
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Btw, anyone here remember semi-automatic washers? A big tub you stood up in your bathtub which you had to fill and drain yourself for every wash and rinse cycle?


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:02 AM
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So you can set the thermostat to the temperature you like for those periods

Not if you have a fancy European thermostat. Then the thermostat will determine what temperature you like based on some outdoors sensors. It fucking sucks.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:04 AM
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Why would you wash guns in the bathtub?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:05 AM
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re: 88

Ours is electric so doesn't have that instant on. Ours just has a dial [electromechanical, as per ajay's 102] where you can select the times it comes on and off, in half hour increments throughout the day. And if you did want to change the temperature there's a dial on the boiler itself, but we never touch that.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:06 AM
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the real transformational technology of the Victorian era was the washing machine.

This is very true, but they didn't take off in a big way until the people who could afford them found that they could no longer find servants.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:08 AM
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108: I'm not sure I understand. Our hot water heater is basically a big tank of water kept at a constant temperature until you use it. Gas or electric or (rarely) oil are all the same in that regard.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:09 AM
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This is all just a function of lower energy prices in the US, I guess. There is no place anywhere in the US a whatever income level where you'd need to set a timer on your hot water heater to get hot water -- they're largely gas, and they just stay on all day.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:10 AM
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That is, if you water isn't instant as in 88 or a big, heated tank, what is it?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:11 AM
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Heating up the water and then letting it get cold again would seem more wasteful than keeping it hot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:12 AM
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It sounds like there's a mechanism for timing the electrical heating of the water, not just a tank kept at a constant temperature.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:13 AM
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re: 110

But you don't want to be using electricity keeping the water warm at times when you don't need to use it. Ours is relatively efficient, although not as efficient as the instant-on gas type would be, but it's still more energy efficient to only heat the water we are going to use. I know this as when we moved in the plumbers had cocked up, and wired the heater up to a non-timed circuit, so I was able to do a fairly straight comparison between usage when it wasn't timed, and when it was.

I don't know how much energy bills are in the US, but here they are fairly high. Our flat is less expensive than the last two places I've lived, but it still costs us something like $2000 US a year in energy bills.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:14 AM
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112: we had a timer on our hot water heater when I was a kid. The idea being that the big insulated tank isn't perfect, and loses heat over time, and if you pay attention will actually kick on in the middle of the damn day when no one is using any water at all, just to reheat the pot. With a timer, you can prevent it from doing that in the middle of the day when no one is home. You need to give it at least 30 minutes or so to heat back up before you use any hot water, though. IIRC, it was supposed to save about $50/yr.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:15 AM
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re: 116

Exactly.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:16 AM
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Are programmable water heaters a thing? I thought it was either the American-style, heated all the time kind, or the kind that runs the water through a heating element as you need it.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:16 AM
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but it's still more energy efficient to only heat the water we are going to use

But how do you know that? It's easy to see how you'd have a general idea, but how do you know how many showers/baths/laundry loads/dishwasher runs will happen and when?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:17 AM
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So what happens if you come home at 2am (or some other point the timer hasn't been set for) and want to take a hot shower? Do you have to turn the timer on and wait for the tank to heat up?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:17 AM
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119 before seeing 116 and 117. Waiting a half hour to take a shower hadn't occurred to me.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:18 AM
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Waiting a half an hour for a shower when you want one is barbarism, although I guess this does help to explain Urple.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:20 AM
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re: 119

Because we are basically never ever ever in the house between 9am and 8pm, Monday to Friday. And we never use the hot water late at night. So there's basically about 3-4 hours a day we use hot water. If I come home later, there'd still be hot water in the tank from the evening timer cycle, assuming I didn't want to stand in the shower for 30 minutes.

I'm sort of amazed that this is particularly confusing (or interesting). Aren't most people's energy uses fairly predictable? Morning shower, work, evening cooking/cleaning/shower/whatever. Ditto for heating, TV, or whatever.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:22 AM
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We'd never have to wait half an hour for a shower, because there's always hot water at the times we need/want it. It's not like the water goes cold in an hour or two, and it's hardly the work of rocket science to just make sure the time comes on an hour before you get up in the morning, or an hour before you get home from work.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:23 AM
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I actually think of that attitude as particularly American. "Okay, so I really don't ever do [thing x], but what if I DID want to?"


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:25 AM
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123: Our house isn't unoccupied that long and even when it is empty, we're still using hot water because of the dishwasher or washing machine.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:25 AM
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And I'm proud to be an American
Where at least we shower free
And there's hot water late at night
The dishwasher works at three


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:26 AM
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re: 126

Both of ours heat their own water. The washing machine can use the water from the tank, I believe, in some cycles but we never run it when we aren't home, so it's a moot point. And we never run either late at night, or very early in the morning.

We live in a flat [i.e. apartment block] and running anything like that after 10pm is i) against the bulding regs, and ii) the act of an arsehole.*

* if a neighbour runs their washing machine it 2am [and we have one, qua arsehole, who does] it's surprisingly loud.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:29 AM
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I actually think of that attitude as particularly American. "Okay, so I really don't ever do [thing x], but what if I DID want to?"

Similar for car owning in the city.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:29 AM
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You can keep the tank constantly heated (in most cases), but, you know, you'll be burning gas the whole time (or electricity in ttaM's case). Why bother?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:29 AM
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I suppose we spend a bit more than $2,000 a year on gas and electric, but not that much more. And we live in a house that is located in a place with an average January high temperature of 35F.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:30 AM
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113

Heating up the water and then letting it get cold again would seem more wasteful than keeping it hot.

This should not be the case. The heat wasted is that which leaks out of the insulated tank and the rate of heat loss is proportional to the temperature difference between the tank and the external environment. So the higher the average temperature in the tank the greater total heat loss.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:30 AM
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Similar for car owning in the city.

Yeah, or having a vehicle that can go offroad or haul all that gear for the sport you never do.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:32 AM
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Also, the fire extinguisher.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:38 AM
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FWIW, we have one of those wireless energy meters that meters in real-time the electricity usage in our flat [in kwhs, and in £]. So I've done quite a lot of buggering around turning various things off and on, and looking at how much power different appliances use in standby mode, and so on. The results are quite interesting. I'd no idea, for example, that shitty wee halogen spotlights use _insane_ amounts of power. Our kitchen lights on use more power than our water heater, when it's heating a tank.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:43 AM
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I got a reprieve in my busy schedule! I'm off for an hour!

Was the McArdle cake thing tied to the "one person could not possibly have made a cheeseburger back in the day" discussion?

We have a programmable thermostat and it is IDIOTICALLY complicated. It's as though it was designed by VCR programmers in 1983 who were told "The most important thing is to conserve buttons and pixels on this touch-screen." It definitely feels like the terrible American version, like cell phones when the rest of the world already had fancy phones a few years before us.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:45 AM
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shitty wee halogen spotlights use _insane_ amounts of power.

Hate those damn things, but it's almost impossible to get any other kind of lighting suitable to a kitchen these days.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:45 AM
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re: 137

Yeah, ours use [I kid not] approximately 400watts when on.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:47 AM
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I actually think of that attitude as particularly American. "Okay, so I really don't ever do [thing x], but what if I DID want to?"

This, definitely. My dear Jammies has a really terrible case of it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:47 AM
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We use mostly CFLs or regular FLs for light. I haven't noticed much of a difference.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:48 AM
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Much of a difference in the quality of the light. The electric bill went down by a fair bit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:49 AM
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Actually, Jammies is slightly different, because he does actually use all the insane stuff he wants to own. We had an argument on Friday because he'd packed up the truck for Austin City Limits, and was telling me what he'd packed, and it included portable clip on fans - one for each kid, for the stroller - and portable misters, to cool us off, as well as umbrellas and sensible heat items. I threw a fit because I was already tired and worried about the day and so I focused on how absurd it was for us to take fans and misters in the middle of October.

Then it was in the 90°s and I was glad that Jammies ignored me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:50 AM
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You married my wife.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:51 AM
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I'd no idea, for example, that shitty wee halogen spotlights use _insane_ amounts of power

It's one of the things I don't like about my new place - I'm dreading the electricity bills after moving from almost entirely compact fluorescents to a shit-ton of halogens that can't be replaced. There's dozens of the buggers in my one bed flat.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:51 AM
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re: 140

Yeah, we do the same for the rooms where there aren't halogen spots already fitted. Although, personally I don't like the light from most CFLs [although they are getting better] I prefer them to the halogen spots.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:53 AM
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Our kitchen came with regular spotlights. I think we may still use regular bulbs in those.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:55 AM
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re: 144

Yeah, we have ten in the kitchen, and eight in the living room, at approximately 40-50 watts each. And the energy efficient [relatively speaking] ones that fit the same fittings are so expensive that it'd take a couple of years to offset the cost of replacing.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:55 AM
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137: They do? Goddamn, I've got a bunch of those little bastards in my flat. That might help explain why according to my last bill I'm using twice the one person dwelling average in Germany.


Posted by: real ffeJ annaH | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:56 AM
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143: Or my mother.

I always assumed when I got married that I'd end up being the more details-oriented person in a semi-slovenly relationship, and it's rather luxurious and nice to be the less details-oriented person in a highly organized and meticulously run relationship.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:56 AM
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portable misters, to cool us off

That's a good way to think of your infant son peeing on you.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 9:59 AM
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re: 148

Standardly between 20 and 50 watts, although usually, I think, averaging about 35-40 watts, for each spot. So if you have a bank of them, or they are underneath the kitchen units, it easily adds up.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:00 AM
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150: Actually Mister Geebie refers to Jammies.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:02 AM
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We have a couple of lights (CFL) that I keep on all the time so that water heater doesn't get lonely and because it keeps the spiders from taking over.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:03 AM
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ttaM, do you know if dimmers help at all on electricity usage, or does it just convert more to heat?


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:04 AM
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re: 154

I can check. We have a dimmer on one set of spots, and the wireless meter-thing. I'm pretty sure, when I did it before, it definitely reduced the power usage more or less exactly in line with the amount of dimming, but just in case I'm misremembering, I'll check.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:07 AM
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I've heard the complaint that dimmers don't reduce electricity use, just convert more to heat, but of course I don't know the specifics of ttaM's dimmers.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:10 AM
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Halogens get hot enough that if the dimmer were making them hotter, I'd think it'd be a fire hazard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:13 AM
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I once had a fly cook himself to death in a halogen lamp. Horrible smell.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:22 AM
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158 Just one? When I had one of those 300W halogene torchiere thingies I had to regularly clear out the toasted flies and moths.


Posted by: teraz kurwa my | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:28 AM
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I got rid of that lamp pretty quickly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:29 AM
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Because it had a dead fly on it.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:32 AM
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An overcooked dead fly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:34 AM
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111: There is no place anywhere in the US a whatever income level where you'd need to set a timer on your hot water heater to get hot water -- they're largely gas, and they just stay on all day.

Not true, at least as of the mid-1990s in Maine -- my relatives (in a mid-sized college town) had a special Super Saver plan of some kind where they got a lower rate in exchange for having a governor put on their water heater.

115: Living in a big, poorly insulated house in a city with mid-range energy prices, we spend about $1,000/year on electricity (including running 2 window air conditioners intermittently during the summer and an electric drier), and $700 or a bit more on natural gas (with a standard 40 gallon gas water heater, and a relatively new boiler for our older hot water heating system).

128: We live in a flat [i.e. apartment block] and running anything like that after 10pm is i) against the bulding regs, and ii) the act of an arsehole.*

Here, we're constantly reminded that, especially during the summer, it is more virtuous to run the washer and dryer at night, to minimize demand during the peak energy-use hours. That's obviously for the benefit of the whole electricity grid of course, and has nothing to do with the hot water per se. I don't believe I've ever lived in an apartment building where it was noticeable if someone was washing clothes. The boiler capacity needed for all the showers running in the same couple of hour range in the mornings was more than enough to cover any incidental hot water use for the washers.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:34 AM
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a governor put on their water heater

We had a governor on our water heater, but he ran away with South America for some woman.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:37 AM
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164: Yes, I went with that diction just especially for you, Moby.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:40 AM
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Can't find it now but there was a great feminist tweaking of steampunk which more or less went fuck your dirigibles, the real transformational technology of the Victorian era was the washing machine.

Mentioned here.

I was at AAAS last week, and they showed a clip of the Hans Rosling TED talk where he talks about how great the washing machine is, but just the funny part, not the part where he explains it. And the moderator, Frank Sesno, a science journalism professor was like, "well, you could have picked anything to explain technology, you just picked a washing machine." And Rosling was very indignant about the idea that no, the washing machine truly was the most awesome thing. Now the whole exchange could have been rehearsed and Sesno might have been purposefully trying to give Rosling an entree, but it seemed to me this is an idea that just doesn't stick with a lot of people, especially men, who don't do their laundry AND/OR never had to do without a washing machine/servant.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:43 AM
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I'm always amused/horrified by the stories of all the people I know in Geneva about how they're assigned one day a week to do laundry and forbidden to do it on any other day.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:45 AM
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I spent all that money on insulating my house last February. I'm hoping that the really good results from that come this winter, but even in the summer, I think it kept the house a few degrees cooler than the uninsulated house had been. That was pleasant and maybe I'll enjoy having an insulated house even more this winter.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:47 AM
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Other thing I wanted to point out is that I've been to a number of houses in rural Maine where there has been running water and electricity and indoor toilets for some time, but no central heating -- just strategically distributed wood stoves.

Also, as I've said before, the house my grandfather built did not have running water or indoor plumbing until he got around to it in the early 1960s. Admittedly, this was a bit of a special case, as he was in the military and so they only lived at home occasionally. But still. Both sets of rural relatives (Maine and Wisc) had members whose houses did not have indoor toilets until comparatively recently.


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:49 AM
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In the 1920s, government executives also looked through binders full of women when making government appointments. They called the binders Flapper Keepers.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:50 AM
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Yeah, ours use [I kid not] approximately 400watts when on.

We've got loads and loads of those spotlights in our house (an insane amount ... 44?). We're slowly switching them over to LED, which use even less than the fluorescents. The new ones we got in take 6 watts per bulb. They're expensive, but they have such a long life it seems worth it. (I know you're renting, so I'm not sure about the cost effectiveness for you there.)

I am so glad to see the complete lack of comprehension of the Americans regarding the British heating/water heaters, as it basically sums up my last year. I still don't understand why things are so different, but man, are they.*

*I really should, I know, but my brain just seems to fog up when I try to get it. But I can work the combi boiler, so at least I will always have hot water and heating, even if I don't understand why the thermostat doesn't work the same way.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:54 AM
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I wouldn't be surprised if Mitt actually has looked through a binder full of women, in a different context.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 10:54 AM
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Tell your staff, and tell all your pals,
Bring out the women's list,
A binder full of gals,
They've got a job of their own somehow
Ya gotta hire some right now
Cause I'll tell you,
They know their place,
Home for dinner every night, let them go


Posted by: Natilo Paennim | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 11:03 AM
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Mitt's got the locution
for a staff solution.
Government doesn't create jobs,
it just pays for them on occasion.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 11:09 AM
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170: well done


Posted by: Annelid Gustator | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 11:10 AM
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So you've never had the thing
for a serious office fling.
Mitt sez here, you'll find her:
Take a gander in my binder.


Posted by: text | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 11:33 AM
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Modern, solid-state dimmers (by which I mean, post-1970s or so) should cut electrical use pretty much in proportion with the dimming level. I don't think resistive dimmers got much use in residential applications anyway, but you see them occasionally in old theater lighting rigs.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 11:38 AM
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re: 154

As per what Nathan says, when I turned down the dimmer the power used scaled more or less directly with the amount the light was dimmed. So, looked to be about 100watts difference between full-on and 'too dim to read small print but perfectly pleasant to sit and watch TV in' levels of light in our living room. Roughly half-power, since there are 4 x 50w spots.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 12:01 PM
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Cool. I'm glad to know I'm wrong about lightswitch dimmers.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 12:05 PM
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If you think about it, a volume control knob is basically the same thing as a dimmer switch. Maybe you were wrong about using those also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 12:17 PM
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Off-topic vaccination question for Ned:

I never got chicken pox as a kid, so I got the varicella vaccine when I was 27 or so. Is it inactivated virus? Am I vulnerable to shingles?


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 6:28 PM
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Further to 46, because I didn't want to google it at work.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 7:36 PM
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||

Boy I love it when my computer crashes unexpectedly.

|>


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 10-17-12 8:29 PM
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Belatedly, but on topic, this seems new. Certainly my mother's 1960s nursing school stories didn't cover that.

Mom does well in `tech of my childhood' roundtables as some of her neighbors were living with metal-less technology (I don't know that they even had their own pottery, all the pictures show gourds) but there was a magnetometer in the shed. Then she moves on to just how bad medicine still was in the 1960s.

1955 to 1985; the Pill, oral antibiotics, desktop publishing, Lycra. I think the ubiquity of stretch fabric is invisible to us most of the time, but there's a lot more elasticity in cloth that looks like the old stuff. Merrow machines and home sergers might not be new but do new stuff -- some of it post-1990, I think. Clothing fit and design is altering to make use of that.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 1:34 AM
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163: I don't believe I've ever lived in an apartment building where it was noticeable if someone was washing clothes. The boiler capacity needed for all the showers running in the same couple of hour range in the mornings was more than enough to cover any incidental hot water use for the washers.


I suspect that running the washer at night is the act of an arsehole not because it uses up hot water but because it makes noise, Natilo.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 3:05 AM
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185 is the kind of controversial political statement that internet anonymity makes possible.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 3:49 AM
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OP There was a really good conversation between Paul Krugman and Charlie Stross that touched on precisely this point. Transcript and audio. Highly recommended.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 4:07 AM
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185 wasn't me, but it's right. Some machines really resonate through the building, and the layout of our building is such that the kitchens of the apartments back onto one of the bedrooms in the neighbour's apartment. We can hear our upstairs neighbour's machine, fairly loud, in our apartment at night, but it's far enough away not to disturb sleep. If you were directly next door, though, it'd be infuriating.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 4:39 AM
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Bongo drums over the back patio at midnight on a Tuesday. That was annoying, but they stopped right away when I called. They're nice people. I should maybe tell them to put a password on their wireless network.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 5:17 AM
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Stereo and gear felt like a big deal in the 70s.

I read The Recording Angel a long time ago, but remember it being really interesting. It's about the development of easily accessible, ubiquitously available recorded music and what effects that's had on culture.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 9:47 AM
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If you think about it, a volume control knob is basically the same thing as a dimmer switch. Maybe you were wrong about using those also.

Turning your amp down wastes power?! As an environmentalist, I feel strongly that I must keep that volume cranked to 11 at all times.

Just as an update, the fussy neighbors moved out, but by then they had been rude enough to me and their landlord (my former neighbor, well familiar with my habits) that she was happy to see them go and only regrets her role in bringing them into my life.

We have new neighbors now that I adore (from a distance, 'cause I'm not all that psyched to be close with my neighbors). They have two young kids who are moderately pushy about interacting with us on our porch, and in exchange for our niceness to their kids, they don't appear to be bothered by our music and nudity. (Also, they're just chill.) Also also, they don't appear to have a monogamous marriage, which interests us intensely, but I can't see any tactful way to find out the exact arrangement. Anyway, we're cool with their kids and junk in their yard, and occasionally put away their trash cans or bikes. I bet they think we're perfectly good neighbors.

LESSON: You don't have to act a certain way to be a good neighbor. Rather, you have to be paired with the right people.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:04 AM
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...they don't appear to be bothered by our music and nudity

Also also, they don't appear to have a monogamous marriage, which interests us intensely, but I can't see any tactful way to find out the exact arrangement.

Did someone forget to tell California about drapes?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:13 AM
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I don't have drapes because I don't want to cover my ornate paint job. They do have drapes, that they keep closed. But if they opened them, I would think that was fine.

The non-monogamous canoodling starts on the front porch, so 1. drapes wouldn't help and 2. they aren't hiding anything, from each other nor the neighbors.

Basically, they're great.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:20 AM
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Nobody should put drapes on their porch, that's for sure. Some people here put up green, translucent plastic panels. That's even worse.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:21 AM
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Ornate paint job.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:23 AM
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Very nice. Our house is painted the same shade (Dover White) over the whole interior. The house had Pepto pink walls when we bought it, so we may have over reacted. Plus, my in-laws and I painted it. We realized cleaning brushes and masking wall made for much more work.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:26 AM
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195: that's fantastic.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:26 AM
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Took me eight years to complete. I spent three non-continuous years painting one room or other.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:31 AM
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Megan's school of window covering is as foreign to me as the U.K.'s water heaters. For starters, I don't particularly agree with the sun about what time the house should be brightly lit.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:31 AM
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You can see why drapes aren't an option.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:33 AM
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Maybe blinds?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:33 AM
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We use drapes (and rugs) for color. And piles of toys.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:34 AM
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Heh. I should refresh.

I specifically move into the east bedroom in spring and summer so that I wake earlier.

I do have drapes along the south side of the house, since it is five feet from the sidewalk; people walking by used to talk to me before I put up drapes on that side.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:35 AM
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194: Our neighbors have drapes on their porch so they can sit there comfortably during the summer, and also possibly because their decor is sort of Napoleon-themed. I haven't asked about the details. They may well canoodle there, and certainly share wine with the couple next door to them but I can't really complain about that since I was drinking with our next-door neighbors when I noticed.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:38 AM
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204: I'm sure there's probably a way to do it and have it look right, but most of what I've seen looks bad.

Off to get a flu shot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:43 AM
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195: And this is where I find out that you lived within a few blocks of some of my good friends (who, regrettably, no longer live there)! Beautiful place, I love those bungalows.


Posted by: Parenthetical | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:55 AM
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Yeah, the bungalows are amazingly well designed. There's not a dead spot in the house. I use every room every day.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 10:58 AM
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I try to make sure I use both toilets equally just so they don't get jealous of each other.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 11:10 AM
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So wait, are you moving out? Beautiful house, btw.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 11:25 AM
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Dude that woodwork better have been painted when you moved in or I'm gonna be pissed off. I mean it looks nice now but I'm already feeling bad if anyone is going to have to strip that wainscotting.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 11:28 AM
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No one has to strip wainscotting.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 11:30 AM
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Yeah drapes in a bungalow look ridiculous in general and in that bungalow in particular. You could do a nice simple set of windowshades or blinds, though.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 11:31 AM
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Might move in two-three years, to a duplex with a bigger yard (and so that the other half of the duplex could be a mini-co-housing situation with other like-minded people.). But we don't have short-term plans to move.

The wainscotting is gorgeous redwood, but yes, it was painted when I moved in. The house was white with white and light-grey carpet. The paint was partially in reaction to that.

I know there are nice blinds out there, but the ones I see most are those cheap plastic ones. Those aren't an option. Mind you, I'm not unhappy with the situation now. You're solving a window-treatment problem that I don't have.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 11:51 AM
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The wainscotting is gorgeous redwood, but yes, it was painted when I moved in. The house was white with white and light-grey carpet.

Phew. Really nice job then -- particularly the floors, which are gorgeous.

You could do a really nice set of wood blinds, which would fit with the paint scheme, for about $1000. If you wanted to.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:05 PM
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Also one of those cool stoves that doesn't work.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:08 PM
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Cool woodstove that doesn't work for heat, or cool kitchen stove that doesn't work?


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:11 PM
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One of those stoves that aren't actually cool.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:13 PM
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Cool stoves aren't good for much if they stay that way.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:17 PM
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Cool stoves are carbon neutral.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:17 PM
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What's cooler than coal? Ice coal!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:20 PM
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218: They do a very nice job of holding down loose papers.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:21 PM
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220 made me laugh out loud.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:24 PM
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I love that potential window treatments got more response than prurient speculation about my neighbors' marriage.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:25 PM
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223: We like to make a big show claiming that Unfogged is cock jokes all the way down, but the truth has always been far less prurient.

I.e. RTFA!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:34 PM
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Further proof:

Window treatments

Prurient speculation


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 10-18-12 12:58 PM
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