Saturday, August 30, 2014

Electricity analysis

I received a letter from Vattenfall the other day. Two years have passed and it's time to renew my contract.

They do a good job of providing analytical information on my account webpage. I find it fun to delve into all kinds of data about my electricity use. (Everyone has their definition of "fun", I guess!)

I made the chart shown above, which compares my electrical use as measured against heating degree days. Degree days are a tool used to calculate how much heating (or cooling) is needed for a building. A day's average temperature is measured against a base of 65°F. One day with an average of 60° would count as five heating degrees. A much colder 5° day would count as 60 degrees. Adding the daily sum for a month (or a season) gives an accurate picture of how often—and, crucially, how much— a building needs to be heated over a given time. (The same process is used to measure cooling days needed, which is important in Texas, but not Sweden.)

The European Environment Agency has a great chart showing the falloff in heating days in Sweden and Finland over the last 30 years. It's pretty clear proof of global warming, if you ask me. I also found a useful website for US/Canada that shows detail on heating and cooling days for any location, going back 20 years.

My chart confirms the obvious- there's a strong correlation between how cold it is, and how much energy the house uses. Delving into the Vattenfall data provides more detail, and my stay at the house this past March was eye-opening:

This shows my energy usage that month, along with the daily temperature. It tells two things very clearly. First, I picked a bad time to visit! I was there exactly during the coldest days of the month.

Secondly, warming the whole house used about 65 kilowatts each day. This represents an incremental cost of about $9.25 just to keep the house warm on one cold winter's day.

For our infrequent visits in the cold weather, this is fine. After all, our house is fundamentally a summer cabin. But there are things we might do to provide more efficient heating. More on this subject soon!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Moving back as a retiree

Returning to Texas after our recent visit was quite different than my usual flights back to the US.

Up until now, my stays on Aspö were on vacation from work. Especially when I was away for two weeks (which is unusual in many American companies), I had a lot of catching up to do when I got home. During all my time on Aspö, my responsibilities to my colleagues were always in the back of my mind.

I plan to find another job, but I don't know what I might do, or where I might do it, or when I might start work again. Until then, our little stuga is not so much a vacation home as it is a second home.

I'm not sure what this means just yet. It may not mean anything at all. But if we end up spending many months out on the island, what changes might we make to our house, and to our lifestyle?

It's an interesting question I plan to explore further. Comments from readers are very welcomed.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Word Cloud II

Google provides us blog authors a range of stats. I like to look at all the different information provided. For example, it's no surprise the United States provides the most visitors (over 37,000), with the UK second (9300), and Sweden third (8200).

But who's fourth? It's our neighbors up north. Nearly 5000 Canadians have visited, with 4300 Russians an inexplicably close fifth.

Another interesting fact is the ranking of the most popular posts. I'll talk about the top two most popular posts later, but I was quite surprised to see the post that ranked #3: the Word Cloud on August 6, 2010.

I can't figure out why that might be so. I assume a google search brought people there, but I couldn't find anything specific as to why. However, it's always good to give the readership what they want, so I visited Wordle again to make a brand new word cloud.

"Aspö" is the big winner, obviously. It's nice to see that people's names figure so prominently. Our friends out here were a big part of our recent long stay.

I'll start making word clouds more regularly from now on. It's fun to do, and it's obviously popular!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"Toilet!? Human Waste & Earth's Future"

My most avid reader, Maragret, sent me a story on a recent exhibition in Japan at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation.

In wacky fashion, the exhibition invites children to put on poop-shaped hats and slide into a giant toilet. Visitors are also "treated to a choir of gracious toilets singing their thanks."

The serious side of all this is to highlight that over two billion people do not have regular access to a sanitary toilet. Regular readers of my blog, like Margaret, know this is serious issue that is being addressed in many different ways.

It's still possible to have a bit of fun with the topic, though. I'd love to have one of those hats!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Moose Hunting!

Let's be honest. The real reason I have a camera at our stuga is to catch a picture of our moose. I'm happy to report that today is the big day:
She (or he) came walking by my dropcam about 4:20AM Aspö time, hence the night-vision.

Don't worry, I won't fill the blog with random webcam images, although I will always share moose video!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Back in Texas

We had an uneventful and enjoyable flight home last night. In fact, we arrived a half-hour early, and having no checked bags, we were able to get through the airport and pick up Ollie very quickly. Our furry boy was excited to see us and showed no ill effects of being apart for 4 weeks. There was a little break in the Texas heat as well, so the temperatures were in the low 90's, not the low 100's, thankfully. It makes the adjustment from Swedish weather easier!

I left the dropcam on for a few days, at least, and I do love looking at the timelapse of our deck view:
We're planning our fall return around early October. More on that later. I also have a number of topics lined up for the coming weeks, so stay tuned, dear readers!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Off the island....

We left Aspö this morning. Thankfully a rain squall came through right at our departure time, so it was a lot easier to leave. Usually our departure day is gorgeous!

Our last few days were bucolic. The weather was still warm and sunny, so we pottered around in Tony's boat, enjoyed our deck, and shared our wedding anniversary with Ann & Dave. We also had a super visit on Sunday from the Lidbecks, a family we knew back in our London days. It was great to have another family visit us, even if it just was for 18 hours.

Tonight, we're having dinner with Marcia in the city, and tomorrow is the Stockholm-London-Texas trip. Back to 100° temperatures. It'll be a shock!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Where does the time go??

It's Thursday already? Amazing.

We did go to Gustavsberg on Monday, but the outdoor furniture was very picked-over. Not surprising, given the hot weather we've been having. Sooz is going to search around for a couple of sun chairs that are foldable. She doesn't want to be pulling anything large around the decks.

Tony lent me his fishing boat; we've been tootling around the island, practicing our seamanship skills. It's been great fun, and beautiful to see the island in such a leisurely way.

It's still been unseasonably hot but we've had some rain overnight, and it is getting a bit cooler each day. Today, we can smell a bit of the forest fires from central Sweden. With luck, the cooler and wetter weather will help relieve the disaster up there.

We've had a couple of superb meals over at Ann & Dave's, and last night, at Olle and Annika's. I have to run a few laps of Aspö every morning to keep from gaining too much weight! As usual, all this activity are on the photo page.

My to-do list is now officially empty. I will have to find something else to do in the next few days. Sooz keeps wanting me to relax. Perhaps I'll give that a try.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Thunder & Lightning

We've had a couple of massive thunderstorms at dawn the past few days. The first one, on Thursday, finally broke the heat we've been having, and it was a beautiful warm, dry "Swedish summer day", as Olle put it. But the humidity has come back, and this morning's storm just brought soupy air. It's not as hot, thankfully. The ceiling fans make a big difference, that's for sure.

This morning is a good time to recover from Dave's 50th birthday party on Sandhamn yesterday. We took a taxi boat straight from Aspö with Ann & Dave, Tony & Ann-Catrin, their daughters Annelie and Annika, plus all the kids. We ate at the same place I had my own 50th birthday! It was a super time.

Ann & Dave have a car this year, parked at Stavsnäs, and they've offered it to us. So we're going to take the taxi boat tomorrow, and drive up to Gustavsberg to do a bit of shopping. I'm pretty much done with my "to-do" list, so I need to buy more stuff to start on new projects, and Sooz wants to look at more deck furniture at Brisak.

I've been updating the photo page as I go along; check there for new snaps of all this activity.