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Above-Average Temperatures, Humidifier Kept Us Comfortable During Winter

March 23, 2016 Environment, Featured 5 Comments

The past winter was the warmest on record, from March 8th:

The Lower 48 states had its warmest winter in 121 years of record-keeping, NOAA announced this morning.

Temperatures averaged over the country between December and February were nearly five degrees above the 20th-century average. Every state but two were warmer than normal and all six New England states set winter records. (Washington Post)

From the NOAA:

  • The December–February average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 2.03°F (1.13°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for December–February in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.52°F (0.26°C). December 2015–February 2016 also marks the highest 3-month departure from average for any 3-month period on record, surpassing the previous record set last month, November 2015–January 2016, by 0.16°F (0.09°C).
  • The globally-averaged land surface temperature for December 2015–February 2016 was 3.47°F (1.93°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for December–February in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record of 2015 by 0.83°F (0.46°C). December 2015–February 2016 also marks the highest 3-month departure from average for any 3-month period on record, surpassing the previous record of November 2015–January 2016 by 0.70°F (0.40°C).
  • The December–February globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.51°F (0.84°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest for December–February in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.40°F (0.22°C).

Though we had some cold spells, it didn’t seem as cold as last year. Here are the results from the non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Winter is over, how were your heating bills compared to the previous winter?

  • Substantially higher 0 [0%]
  • Higher 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat higher 2 [7.41%]
  • About the same 6 [22.22%]
  • Somewhat lower 6 [22.22%]
  • Lower [7 25.93%]
  • Substantially lower 6 [22.22%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 0% [0%]

More than two-thirds reported lower heating bills. Our heating bill was substantially lower — it was zero! Yes, we went all winter with our HVAC system turned off. Our loft has three floors below and above, plus units on each side. With windows only on one side, we’re well insulated. An advantage of multi-family living.

For comfort I worried more about the inside humidity level — dry Winter air feels colder.

Most of the Winter was like this -- 69 degrees. The humidity level was maintained by the regular use of a humidifier, boiling a large pot of water, and doing laundry. January 10th
Most of the Winter was like this — 69 degrees. The humidity level was maintained by the regular use of a humidifier, boiling a large pot of water, and doing laundry. January 10th
Both the interior temperature & humidity dropped when we went away for a few days in mid-February. This is from the 13th as we returned pm Amtrak. Upon returning we didn't turn on the furnace to take out the chill -- we raised the humidity level;
Both the interior temperature & humidity dropped when we went away for a few days in mid-February. This is from the 13th as we returned pm Amtrak. Upon returning we didn’t turn on the furnace to take out the chill — we raised the humidity level;
A few days ago we were back to the natural interior temperature for when we're home and maintaining the interior humidity
A few days ago we were back to the natural interior temperature for when we’re home and maintaining the interior humidity

Many sites suggest 40%-60% relative humidity for healthy air quality, but that depends on the outside temperature:

If outside temperature is 20 to 40 degrees, humidity indoors should not be more than 40 percent. (Source)

In the Spring & Summer we do need to use air conditioning, but largely to lower the humidity. Eventually we’ll get a dehumidifier.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Winter Heating Bill Compared To Previous?

March 20, 2016 Environment, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Winter Heating Bill Compared To Previous?
Please vote below
Please vote below

Spring is here!

Astronomically speaking, the equinox (March 19/20) marks spring’s beginning begins in the Northern Hemisphere (whereas it announces fall’s arrival in the Southern Hemisphere). At this moment, the Sun crosses the celestial equator on its way north along the ecliptic. The equinox happens at the same moment worldwide, even if our clock times reflect a different time zone. 
Did you know this is the earliest spring of our lives thus far? Do you remember when spring started on March 21? It’s due to leap year madness.  Read more about, “The Earliest Spring of our Lives.

Meteorologically speaking, however, in the Northern Hemisphere the official spring season always begins on March 1 and continues through May 31. Summer begins on June 1; autumn, September 1; and winter, December 1.

Weather scientists divide the year into quarters this way to make it easier to compare seasonal and monthly statistics from one year to the next. The meteorological seasons are based on annual temperature cycles rather than on the position of Earth in relation to the Sun, and they more closely follow the Gregorian calendar. Using the dates of the astronomical equinoxes and solstices for the seasons would present a statistical problem because these dates can vary slightly each year. (Old Farmer’s Almanac)

Today’s poll question isn’t about Spring, it is about the Winter that just concluded:

The poll is open until 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

Reducing Use of Plastic Disposable Straws Good for the Environment

March 9, 2016 Environment 15 Comments

Why would an urban blog ask about personal use of straws? It’s obvious to some of you, but this should help the rest of you.

Americans use 500 million drinking straws every day. To understand just how many straws 500 million really is, this would fill over 125 school buses with straws every day. That’s 46,400 school buses every year! 

Americans use these disposable utensils at an average rate of 1.6 straws per person per day. Based on national averages, this equates to each person in the U.S. using about 38,000 straws between the ages of 5 and 65.i Although straws are relatively small, that amount of waste really adds up! (National Park Service: The Be Straw Free Campaign)

Wow — that is a lot of straws!

The only times I use a straw are when I’m drinking a shake/malt — which isn’t very often. Unfortunately, I often forget to tell my server “no straw” when ordering water. I’ll remove it, but at that point it is headed to a landfill. Some restaurants use wrapped straws which allows me to leave it unused. I hope they’re not discarded when the table is cleared. I’d like to work with someone to develop a program to encourage restaurants to only give out straws when requested or necessary (shake/malt)

Some people use straws because they worry about sugary drinks hitting their teeth or staining. Straws only help if you get the straw past your teeth.

Most restaurants use plastic or glass for drinks, neither of which need a straw. Even fast food cups don’t require a straw — except to go.

Further reading:

Here are the results from the Sunday Poll:

Q: When eating out, do you use a plastic straw to drink your beverage?

  • Always 13 [27.08%]
  • Sometimes 14 [29.17%]
  • Rarely 14 [29.17%]
  • Never 6 [12.5%]
  • Unsure/No Opinion 1 [2.08%]

I’d challenge those who said “always” and “sometimes” to try reducing their use.

Some ideas I have:

  • Printable information to leave at restaurants about reducing straw use/waste
  • Database of restaurants and their straw polices

I’m also planning to order wide stainless steel straws for the next time we go for a shake/malt.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Sunday Poll: Do You Use Disposable Plastic Straws?

March 6, 2016 Environment, Featured, Popular Culture, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Do You Use Disposable Plastic Straws?
Please vote below
Please vote below

Today’s poll topic may seem strange, but this is my way of raising an issue I want discussed: straws.

The poll is open until 8pm. I’ll share my thoughts on straws this Wednesday.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Legal Challenge To City’s Smoking Ban Denied

The Trophy Room, 5099 Arsenal.
The Trophy Room, 5099 Arsenal.

In late December news broke involving the city’s smoking ban, specifically the expiration of the 5-year exemption for some small bars:

Confronted with a lawsuit from Herb Krischke and his south-city bar the Trophy Room, a judge has halted enforcement of St. Louis’ smoking ban — which was set to go into law much more widely as of midnight on January 1.

The last-minute reprieve was first reported just minutes ago by the St. Louis Business Journal, which says that Judge David Dowd has issued a temporary restraining order, stopping the city from enforcing the ban on the Trophy Room until he can hear the case on January 11. (RFT)

The TRO was only applicable to the Trophy Room. My post on January 11th, Lottery Machine Does Not A Casino Make, argued why Dowd would likely rule against the bar. I never heard the results of the hearing, so I went to Missouri Courts online to see what I could find.  Turns out Judge Dowd ruled on the request for a preliminary injunction on January 15th!

What’s a preliminary injunction?

Definition
A temporary injunction that may be granted before or during trial, with the goal of preserving the status quo before final judgment.

Overview
To get a preliminary injunction, a party must show that they will suffer irreparable harm unless the injunction is issued. Preliminary injunctions may only be issued after a hearing. When determining whether to grant preliminary injunctions, judges consider the extent of the irreparable harm, each party’s likelihood of prevailing at trial, and any other public or private interests implicated by the injunction. Parties may appeal judge’s decisions on whether to award a preliminary injunction.

The petitioner is Trophy Room owner Herbert Krischke, the respondent is the City of St. Louis, the docket entry was one big paragraph but I’ve broken it up.

Introduction of the claim:

ORDER THE COURT HAS BEFORE IT PETITIONERS’ MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION. FOLLOWING CONSIDERATION OF THE PLEADINGS, ARGUMENT, AND EVIDENCE PRESENTED, THE COURT NOW RULES AS FOLLOWS. PETITIONERS FILED THEIR VERIFIED PETITION SEEKING INJUNCTIVE RELIEF AND A JUDGMENT DECLARING THAT THE TROPHY ROOM IS EXEMPT FROM CITY OF ST. LOUIS ORDINANCE 68481 AS A “CASINO GAMING AREA” AS DEFINED BY THE ORDINANCE. IN THE ALTERNATIVE, PETITIONERS SEEK A JUDGMENT DECLARING THAT ORDINANCE 68481 IS INVALID BECAUSE IT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL UNDER ARTICLE III, S40(30) OF THE MISSOURI CONSTITUTION. PETITIONERS REQUEST THAT THE COURT ISSUE A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION PREVENTING RESPONDENT FROM ENFORCING SECTIONS FOUR AND FIVE OF CITY OF ST. LOUIS ORDINANCE 68481 AGAINST PETITIONERS. RESPONDENT’S OBJECTION TO PETITIONERS’ EXHIBIT 2, A CERTIFIED COPY OF CHAPTER 11.31 OF THE REVISED CODE OF THE CITY OF ST. LOUIS, WAS TAKEN UNDER SUBMISSION AT THE HEARING. RESPONDENT’S HEARSAY OBJECTION HAS NO MERIT. RESPONDENT’S OBJECTION THAT THE DOCUMENT IS INACCURATE AND INCOMPLETE DOES NOT GO TO ITS ADMISSIBILITY BUT RATHER ITS WEIGHT. THE COURT HEREBY OVERRULES RESPONDENT’S OBJECTION.

What the court must weigh in its decision:

A COURT, IN WEIGHING A MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION, SHOULD WEIGH THE PETITIONERS’ PROBABILITY OF SUCCESS ON THE MERITS, THE THREAT OF IRREPARABLE HARM ABSENT THE INJUNCTION, THE BALANCE BETWEEN SUCH HARM AND THE INJURY INFLICTED BY THE INJUNCTION ON OTHER INTERESTED PARTIES, AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST. STATE EX REL. DIRECTOR OF REVENUE V. GABBERT, 925 S.W. 2d 838, 839 (MO. BAC 1996). TRIAL COURTS ARE ALLOWED BROAD DISCRETION AS TO PRELIMINARY INJUNCTIVE RELIEF. FURNITURE MFG. CORP. V. JOSEPH, 900 S.W. 2d 642, 647 (MO. APP. W.D. 1995).

And the decision:

THE COURT FINDS THAT PETITIONERS HAVE NOT SHOWN SUFFICIENT PROBABILITY OF SUCCESS ON THE MERITS TO JUSTIFY THE GRANT OF A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION. THE COURT DOES NOT FIND IT IS PROBABLE THAT PETITIONERS’ RETAIL LICENSE TO SELL MISSOURI LOTTERY PRODUCTS RENDERS THE SUBJECT PROPERTY A “CASINO GAMING AREA” AS DEFINED BY ORDINANCE 68481. IN ADDITION, PETITIONER HAS NOT SHOWN PROBABLE SUCCESS ON ITS CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGE OF ORDINANCE 68481. SEE CITY OF ST. PETERS V. ROEDER, 466 S.W. 3d 538,547 (MO. BANC 2015); LABRAYERE V. BOHR FARMS, 458 S.W. 3d 319, 334 (MO. BANC 2015); GENERAL MOTORS CORP. V. DIRECTOR OF REVENUE, 981 S.W. 2d 561, 568 (MO. BANC 1998). FINALLY, THE COURT HAS EXAMINED ORDINANCE 68481 AND FINDS THAT PETITIONERS’ ARGUMENT THAT THE ORDINANCE IS VOID FOR VAGUENESS IS NOT LIKELY TO SUCCEED. IN ADDITION, THE OTHER FACTORS CONSIDERED BY THIS COURT DO NOT SUPPORT THE GRANT OF A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION. PETITIONERS HAVE NOT SHOWN SUFFICIENT THREAT OF IRREPARABLE INJURY ABSENT INJUNCTIVE RELIEF. THE BALANCE BETWEEN THE HARM TO PETITIONERS AND INJURY TO OTHERS DOES NOT WEIGH IN FAVOR OF GRANTING A PRELIMINARY INJUCTION. FINALLY, THE PUBLIC INTEREST WOULD NOT BE FURTHERED BY GRANTING A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION IN THIS MATTER. THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED AND DECREED THAT PETITIONERS’ MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION IS HEREBY DENIED. SO ORDERED: 32929-JUDGE DAVID L. DOWD

The actual case is still pending, this was just a motion for a preliminary injunction. I don’t see any record of Krischke filing an appeal — my understanding is the city can now enforce the smoke-free ordinance at the Trophy Room. Smoking ban exemption everywhere else ended January 2nd. Nick Pistor of the Post-Dispatch posted about this on January 15th — I didn’t see it until researching for this post:

The Trophy Room argued that it operates Missouri Lottery’s Keno game, which makes it a gaming area.  

“The court does not find it is probable that petitioners’ retail license to sell Missouri Lottery products renders the subject property a ‘casino gaming area,'” Dowd wrote. 

It remains unclear how vigorously the city will enforce the ordinance. Bars can be fined $500 a day for violating it, but so far no citations have been written.  (Post-Dispatch)

— Steve Patterson

 

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