June 2007

Thanks for asking. I’ll be at costco buying dryer sheets.

This morning I opened a new package of jumbo dryer sheets (kirkland brand). I always have kind of a nostalgic moment when I open a new package, because it takes so stinkin’ long to get through all of the 240 sheets. It made me wonder; what was I doing when I opened the last package? According to my calculations (4 dryer sheets a week minus two weeks of vacation), I would have been a sleep-deprived, hormonal wreck. Jimmy would have been around 2 months old, and just transitioning to his crib. I think about all the changes that have occured in the last 15 months, and it is just amazing. We would have been still driving our purple Taurus (pretty much the best car ever, no offense to the Quantum, may she rest in peace). Kevin would have been paid $2 less per hour (you gotta love the union wage matrix). My brother Brian would have just graduated from college. We have been blessed soooo abundantly by our God, who loves us and takes care of us even when we forget to ask him to.

I think about what I’ll be doing when the time comes to open the next box of dryer sheets. Hopefully that future will include a new little Maxwell, larger Gardens, a Jimmy with no major injuries (just learning to climb!), and a content and peaceful Kevin and Janeen.

What do you hope your life looks like in 15 months?

We bought Jimmy these muffs when he was an infant to wear for vacuuming/target practice/monster truck rallies/airshows. So far we’ve only used them for one of the fouractivities 🙂 Hoping to get him out to a monster truck rally someday… They also come in handy when Kevin is using the air compressor to change vehicle tires.

Head Phones

Mat-Su readers, in case you have been living on the moon, I’ll fill you in on some recent developments at our local electric utility.

MEA has been trying to build their own generation plants (one natural gas, one coal). A recent ballot sent to members showed that MEA’s members would like the plants to be built near Palmer (never mind that the ballot’s didn’t ask IF we even wanted the plants).

After much haranguing by their constituents and the press, the company has released the full version of the Integrated Resource Plan that was prepared for them by consulting firm CH2M Hill. You can get a copy of the plan here. The goal of this IRP was to explore MEA’s options for building their own power generation plant(s), and the risks and benefits of these options. Here are a few excerpts:

• The expansion scenario of baseload coal and natural gas generation is lower in total cost
(i.e., fuel, variable and fixed operation and maintenance costs, and capital) than the all
natural gas scenario.
• Among the coal options available to MEA, CFB units have the lowest busbar cost and a
relatively favorable emissions profile. It is expected that MEA can meet a state cap on Hg
emissions with CFB technology without having to rely on IGCC technology
The results of this study suggest that:
• Fuel prices have the greatest impact on MEA’s decisions regarding future generation
additions. MEA should continue to monitor the development of these variables.
• MEA continue further development of local ownership/control of baseload coal generation
(CFB) supplemented by natural gas generation and renewable energy options over the
study period.

The IRP looked at alternative sources of energy, including wind and geothermal power (although it didn’t explore these options as extensively as the gas/coal option).

A group of locals has formed the Utility Watch organization, and has put a list of reasons on their website on why the coal plan will fail. Some of the following are listed:

MEA Says: It wants to be independent.

IN FACT: MEA will still be very dependent. MEA would go from buying bulk electric power from a REGULATED utility to buying fuel from an UNREGULATED coal supplier.

MEA Says: It wants increased reliability.

IN FACT: Reliability improvements would not be significant. Most of the service problems are directly related to fallen trees, wind, ice, and snow on the lines that carry power to individual houses and buildings.

Some good points. Something smells fishy.

My brother over at morks.org also recently posted on the current housing market, and the possible presence of a pricing bubble. Make sure to check out the comments section, where his readers bring up some interesting points with regards to past markets and interest rates. Check out the post here.

As Jimmy and I were out strolling today I walked past several houses that were clearly labeled “for sale”. Some of these houses have been on the market for months. It’s sad to see houses sit empty when there are people in the community that would love to own a home. The economic law of supply and demand would indicate that there is not a demand for these homes (at least not at the current price). But, I know of several renters who would like to purchase their own property. In a perfectly free market these homes for sale would drop in price until they could be purchased. In our current market, these homes do drop in price (in order to fall in line with demand), but the drop is incredibly slow. So, what’s the hold-up? Who’s to blame for slow-falling property prices? I believe that it’s due to both agents and sellers, both of whom are reluctant to let a house sell for any amount less than they feel they can get for it (or, more likely, what they could have sold the house for in a past sellers market). Yes, I know that agents are highly trained *cough* individuals who have the knowledge to properly assess a house and market to find that perfect price point, but they’re people too, and people like money. The more an agent can sell a house for, the greater his take-home pay (generally). Homeowners also like money. Joe Homeowner scraped together just enough money for a down payment on this house to purchase it for $250,000 five years ago, and he’s not willing to sell it for less than $300,000 now. Hey, I understand you Joe, you just want to get some money out of this property, move on, maybe buy a new car someday, and retire with a few bucks. But meanwhile, Tim and Jane in the rental down the block can’t afford to buy your house, or any of the other 200 available because they’re just too expensive. What’s the answer? Financial counseling for Tim and Jane would help them to understand the value of debt-free living. A sympathetic heart might convince Joe to drop the price somewhat. Whatever the answer, education will certainly play a part.