Good to Be Green

Free Range Water

Free Range Water


I’m an environmentalist. But like all modern Americans, it’s easier to preach than really practice. I drive a hi-mileage car, but wish I drove a Porsche. I yell at the kids to turn off lights, but we have a 50 inch plasma TV. Life is better when my wife is happy (and warm), so we have a hot tub too. But I’m always looking for ways to do better. This year it was the Rain Barrel project. The concept is simple. We water a lot of plants in the summer, so rather than draw from the well, why not catch nature’s bounty off of my roof and into a barrel? Free water! So sensible. And unlike solar panels, it seemed straight forward enough. Or so I thought.

My town advertised that they had barrels for sale. Free would have been better, but I figured they must be cheaper than buying new. That was wrong. I paid $40 for a giant piece of molded plastic with a faucet in the bottom. In terms of color choice, my new barrel came in one: traffic cone orange. So it basically blends right in with our house and yard. But I wasn’t done. I had to buy a downspout diverter which is the thing that taps into your rain gutter pipe and allows you to fill the barrel. This required quite a bit of research online, and another $30.

Now, I had to find the right spot for it. I proposed to put it next to the downspout that collected the lion’s share of the roof’s water, but that was also the one right next to the street. My wife Lori, who still retains a modicum of dignity and pride at this point in her life, objected to the curb appeal of a massive pumpkin colored cylinder in front of the house. So I had to settle for a much less productive spout in the rear.

Following instructions, I went after the gutter pipe with my hacksaw, which took about an hour of patient sawing to finally cut through. With a 3 story house, my downspout is roughly 30’ long and it turns out that when you sever such a tall, thin piece of metal. it becomes extremely flimsy. The pipe, formally flush to the siding, immediately began sagging away from the house in a decidedly slipshod fashion. And the copious amounts of duct tape needed around the mid-section to attach the diverter hose to it contributed to the overall sense of unprofessionalism.

Still, I was making progress. Free water from the skies was nearly in my grasp. It was then that I discovered that with the faucet at the very bottom of the barrel, which was resting on the ground, I couldn’t put a thimble underneath it, much less a watering can. So now I needed to raise the barrel.

The first attempt to do so involved a milk crate draped in a piece of black cloth that I hoped would make it look less like an orange rain barrel teetering on a milk crate, but in fact just looked stupid. Worse, it was not what we engineers like to refer to as “stable.” So with the first rain, and the exciting promise of stored water, the barrel became top heavy and fell heavily into the side yard, ripping out hose, diverter, duct tape and yanking the downspout even further from the house.

But I would not be denied. I was off to Lowe’s for $25 in paving stones with which I constructed a more stable rain barrel podium that looked slightly less crappy than my milk crate version.

And with that, success! For just $95 and three or four hours of my time, we are now saving about 79 cents in water every summer!

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Get the Playbook

My book on the cutthroat world of youth sports is now available here! (or here if you’re a Kindle kind of guy or gal)

I strongly recommend/insist that you buy this book for everyone you know to help them navigate through this Machiavellian minefield. They will thank you, maybe.

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Clusterfun in Boston

I like to brag that I’ve driven all over the world. And it’s kind of true. I’ve driven a stick shift in London which entails doing just about everything you’ve ever learned backward, while navigating some seriously narrow and high speed traffic scenarios. I’ve driven in Prague where the road signs are written in some sort of foreign language that uses squiggles and math symbols instead of letters. I’ve even driven in Thailand, which is in South America I think. So it always strikes me as odd that the place I find most confounding, most confusing, and most difficult to drive in is in my own backyard. I am of course speaking of Boston, Massachusetts. The roads were famously laid out on the original cart paths that meandered through the city before the automobile, but wouldn’t that more or less apply to every city in the world except Vegas and Orlando? Apparently, Boston’s oxen and cows were very drunk. And the city planners, being Irish themselves, just went with that. I estimate that I have driven in Boston about 60 times in my life, and I’ve gotten lost every single one of them. Even on milk runs straight down the freeway and under the bay to Logan Airport will inevitably involve a construction detour to say, Pennsylvania and back, on side streets.
The civic engineers in Boston have strict rules. All intersections in Boston are required to have at least 5 and preferably 9 roads converging at them and no road may retain its former name past said intersection. The guys responsible for signing Storrow Drive clearly had a sense of humor. They combined a high speed limit with exit sign vagueness (bordering on the criminal) that was guaranteed to deposit hundreds of people shooting for Cambridge into the Back Bay, and visa-versa, every hour.
Perhaps the most maddening thing about driving is Boston is that there are absolutely NO comebacks. If you drive past your destination, even a few hundred feet, as in “oh crap, there’s the Starbucks I was supposed to meet them at but couldn’t see because I was trying to survive a roundabout that is really a polynomial mating with a wildebeest “ you’re toast. You cannot turn around at the next light and just come back. If you take a right, you will be on a one-way that leads into the bowels of the Big Dig, or possibly Hades. Turning left won’t work because the road has suddenly become a divided highway with no exits until Medford. Even if you could return via the same road, there would be no way to turn left across the sunken viaduct and against the angry Masshole cutting you off with his Beamer.
“Sorry, kids, that was the turn for Aunt Mabel’s hospital, but by the time I get you back there, I’m pretty sure she will have passed.”

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Blogging about Blogging

Well this New Yorker cartoon stung a little bit. Particularly since I had been planning to write a post about my should be famous cheese sandwiches, thus falling into another of the previously escaped pie wedges of blogging boredom. In my defense, you would not believe these cheese sandwiches. But now it is going to be harder knowing, as I do, that I’m failing to maintain an ironic detachment and absurdly original level of creativity as I had been secretly hoping. Or maybe, cheese sandwiches are so comfort food retro that they are now totally uncool, again, and therefore I’m back on the indie outsider cool tack by writing about them? Hmmm, might be overthinking this too.

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True Nature

Humans are generally comically simple once the truth of their emotional decision making is revealed. What’s not simple is discovering them in the first place since we work surprisingly hard at generating a huge amount of rationalized complexity over top our very impulsive decisions.

I think smart marketers can tap into the real stuff using traditional methods like focus groups. But you really have to listen and think. My experience in the back room is that most people find it a very convenient time to chat or do expense reports. So this might be a better way for lots of reasons.

Neuromarketing

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In My Country

In my country, gas and electric lawn mowers will be shunned. That will make lawns smaller. Which will make house lots smaller and a little closer together. Which will make them closer to the city. Which will make metro freeways shorter and narrower. And people will know each other better. And, well, you get the idea.

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Gettin Real at Whole Foods

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