Charles Rand Barnett for Congress | 4040in2020 | Home

Around the House


Much of my political thinking stems from what happens around the house. If you think about it, it really is the basis of everything. How we live our lives drives all of the commercial world.

I'm an American. I'm a fairly high energy consumer. Defintely lower than a lot of Americans though. I live in a 1,200 square foot house that also has a detatched, finished garage and an 88 square foot work studio. I live with Cynthia who I meet in 2017 shortly after Patty died. I lived in small apartments from 2004-2014.

Cars

We are currently a one vehicle household. We have a 4 year old Toyota Rav4. It was Cynthia's car. My 1999 VW Passat finally died right about the time I met Cynthia. I use the Rav4 to go to the grocery store once a week. I use it for doctors appointments and the rare occasion when I have a client meeting. We use it to go out to eat about two or three times a month. I do ride my bicycle and may do it to do the main shopping this year once the middle of winter is over. I was riding quite a bit last summer. I dislocated my shoulder in the fall and that got me out of the groove.

Office and Computers

I work from home. I bought the house because it had a detatched work studio. It's great having the separation of work and personal life. Saving time not commuting gives me more time to cook which keeps me healthier and keeps the food bill down. I do some fancy cooking and spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It's Saturday afternoon today and I just spent an hour and a half prep cooking serveral meals. I often spend Saturdays making soup broth. I use the older vegetables and cook them with 4 quarts of water which makes about 3 quarts of stock. I use this to make a couple soups during the week.

I'm a computer professional and multi-track recording musician. I have many computers. I had two laptops in the last 12 years. Both died from overheating. In 2013 I decided I was going to go back to using desktop computers to avoid the overheating. They run faster, cooler and you can do maintenance and repair on them. I was only going out of the house with the laptop a few times a year anyway. It can be frustrating telling a client I can't come to their place with my computer, but there are trade-offs in everything. So I bought a desktop computer, an HP. Then when I moved into the house, I wanted to upgrade to a solid state drive. I ended up essentially buying a new computer. I got a Gigabyte Ultra-durable motherboard and AMD FM2+ CPU. Got a nice clean case for it. I wound up getting several of these computers, all with the same components. I built it up like the French nuclear program using all the same design. Once they start breaking down, I should have enough interchangable parts to string out their deaths. The computers are 3.5Ghz machines and I don't do any video processing. I don't anticipate getting into AR/VR. I should be good for computers for the rest of my life. I just bought some spare fans and PSU so I have a better shot at it.

Food and Cooking

In the kitchen, I use a Chinese chef knife. I was given one of those knife sets as a wedding gift, but after a few years I went back to using my Chinese knife. I also use a paring knife. I sharpen them on a silicon carbide stone that I have mounted in the garage on a table vice. I used a router on a 2x4 to mount the stone. I sharpen my two knives every few months. It takes some effort to set up a system like that, but it is such an essential part of good cooking. It's much easier to sharpen 2 knives than 10 knives.

My favorite pan right now is a medium saucepan made by Cuisinart. It is all metal design. About 6 inches tall with a metal lid. I cook my Indian curries in it. The lid is an essential part of my cooking. Very important and I originally didn't like the metal lid but I love it now. I have a $20 Chinese wok. Just a wok with a stand that I put on my gas stove. I've used it a lot in my life, but right now I'm enjoying the saucepan more. I have 2/3 size Presto pressure cooker that is dedicated to making rice. I make short grain brown rice in it and typically mix that with oatmeal for breakfast. I make imported Indian white rice for dinner in it. The white rice is quick cooking and I like the dry imported Indian rice for my Indian meals. I like doing my rice in the pressure cooker. I read a book by a Chinese woman in the 90's that was dedicated to cooking short grain brown rice in a pressure cooker. I wish I could find that book again.

I have a cast iron skillet. I have a small and medium sized teflon coated omelette pan. I have a soup pot with a lid. I have a bread machine and make most of my bread using it. I have a large toaster oven that I use to make frozen pizza and other frozen foods in. I have a Bullet mixer that I make my curry sauces in. I have a fancy Breville espresso machine. I'm drinking less coffee now though. I have Waring double Belgian waffle maker and use it often. My gas range died a few years ago. I extended the life of it for a year by getting spare parts off a free Craigslist deal. I wound up getting a fancy KitchenAid gas range. I love cooking on it! I use canning jars extensively. I have some nice Pyrex containers that get used all the time. I have kitchen gadgets for sure. I am using them all regularly though. Even the bread machine. Oh, and I have a nice Blendtec blender that I use to make soup every week. The blade on it is thick and will not splinter. The container is a square design that really works well. I did have to replace the container once. The bearing went bad.

I like eating meat. B12 is essential, but a growing meat industry is really bad for global warming. These days I'm limiting my meat consumption. I do quite a few BBQ's in the summer. I eat pepperoni on calzone once ina while. I usually eat meat when I go out to eat. Besides that, I rarely cook with meat at home. I take B12 pills. I make fancy food at home. I do some nice things with potatoes. I've got some great bean recipes. Besides the summer, I may only eat meat once a month except for the pepperoni pizzas. I'm doing pretty well here and I'm probably healthy for it too. Yeah, and I have a $30 Char-broil grill that I made a special table for. The grills only last for about 4 years, but then I just buy a new one. I have two on hand in case I want to cook a lot. I have one of the smaller propane tanks for it. It is easier to take to the gas station and holds enough for a couple years the way I use it. I use the disposable ones if I want to run two grills, but that really doesn't happen much.

Honestly, most of the expensive kitchen gear was Patty's idea. I really am more minimalist than this. But the stuff is here and I do enjoy cooking and using it.

Travel

I don't fly very much. I've taken 3 plane trips in the last 20 years. The truth is that flying is really bad for global warming and unfortunately the airline industry is booming. One calculation I did says that one person traveling round trip from west coast to the east coast is like driving a car 20 miles a day for 40 days. All that gas burned in just a few hours. Sure, it is much more efficient than driving the trip. But if driving meant that you were just going to skip the trip, flying is totally worse. I like the idea of being elected to congress and not flying much. I'd set up a video conferencing system using Bluetooth headphones. I'd really like to set that example.

Other Electronics and Music Gear

I got into using nice computer gear to multi-track record. I know this is bad for the environment buying all this gear and instruments. I feel bad about it. I do my best to not go too crazy with it. I feel that I have enough gear for life right now, as long as it keeps working. These damned voltage regulators are the weak spot in music gear. I've got several units with bad voltage regulators. I've tried using a hot soldering iron to get them to have a better connection with the motherboard. That definitely isn't a permanent solution. I don't want the newest best thing. I just want my gear to continue working for the rest of my life. I use Mackie mixing boards. I use MOTU analog to digital converters. I use a Roland drum machine and a Roland sound module. I have a DBX compressor that I like using with my bass. I have an Alesis FX unit that I hardly ever use. I have an Alesis power amp running the speakers in my living room. That thing rocks and I got it for $40 on CL. I have two basses, one acoustic guitar, a trombone, a pennywhistle. I just bought an old Wurlitzer baby grand piano. I also bought a concert snare drum and am going to buy a cymbal now. I am getting sick of the drum machine, but gear is gear I suppose. I have a good deal of music gear that my recordings are made with. I'm concentrating on composing more than recording right now. I used to be a professional musician, but it is a hobby for me now.

Computers and music gear. Computers and music are great things. I've gone a little overboard on it. I just want all my gear to last the rest of my life. I've upgraded all the light bulbs to LED around the house.

Heating and Cooling

This is one of the big ones. I read this great article on the internet a few years ago comparing Americans to Europeans. Here it is: https://www.fluentin3months.com/usa-clashes/. This guy was really entertaining and informative to read. He was like "Why do American's always need it to be a perfect 72 degrees? Can't they just put a jacket on?" I've done some experimenting with this around my house and I've found that owning a house does not mean that I have to spend more on energy. It sure is easier to spend a lot on energy though. I have a couple articles on my site and an energy calculator about it. I'm not running the AC in the summer at all anymore and I do not run the furnace at night in the winter. I have my work studio oil/electric space heater on a timer. Making these changes really works.

Repairs and the Garage

There are some repairs around the house. I installed hardwood floors in my studio and it ended up costing a couple thousand. I build my own tables and work benches, so I'm buying a fair amount of lumber. I have tools to do woodwork. A torch to do plumbing. You know, garage stuff. I have two lawnmowers that I brought back from the dead.

Toys and Games

I've never owned a gaming console, but I do have some computers dedicated to gaming. I got into Legos a few years ago. It was fun for a couple years and the grandkids play with them when they come over. I have two Saberforge lightsabers. I use them as a light to get to my studio in the night and the kids like those too.

Takeaway

I have a house full of things. Most of them can be called tools. Tools for music, programming, cooking and home maintenance. I used to live on the streets with a briefcase. I know how to live minimally. The people you live with can definitely rope you into spending money on things. It's hard enough to fight off your own urges. Lifestyle creep is a tricky bastard. I have full access to Cynthia's car, so I tend to use it rather than bike. If I lived alone, I would definitely go without a car. If you save money in one area of your life, then you typically have more money to spend on something else. I certainly wouldn't want to go back to living out of my briefcase. I try to take care of my stuff and make it last.