Fahrenheit or Celsius?

Nearly every country on earth – aside from the United States – measures temperature in Celsius. Celsius is a reasonable scale that assigns freezing and boiling points of water with round numbers, zero and 100. In Fahrenheit, those are 32 and 212.

Only four other nations join the United States and its territories in using Fahrenheit – The Bahamas, Belize, the Cayman Islands and Palau. Canada sometimes uses Fahrenheit, but the official temperature scale is Celsius.

temperatureAmerica’s stubborn unwillingness to get rid of Fahrenheit temperatures is part of its refusal to change over to the metric system, which has real-world consequences. One conversion error between U.S. and metric measurements sent a $125 million NASA probe to its fiery death in Mars’ atmosphere.

Why does the United States cling to its antiquated system of measurement? Blame two of history’s all-time greatest villains: British colonialism and the U.S. Congress.

Back in the early 18th century, the Fahrenheit measurement system was actually pretty useful. It comes from Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, a German scientist born in Poland in 1686. As a young man, Fahrenheit became obsessed with thermometers. Measuring temperature was a big problem at the time. No one had invented a consistent, reliable way to measure temperature objectively. “Fahrenheit was still only twenty-eight years old when he stunned the world by making a pair of thermometers that both gave the same reading,” the University of Houston’s John Lienhard writes. “No one had ever managed to do that before.”

Fahrenheit set zero at the lowest temperature he could get a water and salt mixture to reach. He then used a slightly incorrect measurement of the average human body temperature, 96 degrees, as the second fixed point in the system. The resulting schema set the boiling point of water at 212 degrees, and the freezing point at 32 degrees.

In 1724, Fahrenheit was inducted into the British Royal Society, and his system caught on in the British Empire. As Britain conquered huge chunks of the globe in the 18th and 19th centuries, it brought the Fahrenheit system, and some other peculiar Imperial measurements, such as feet and ounces, along with it. Fahrenheit became a standard temperature in much of the globe.

By the mid-20th century, most of the world adopted Celsius, the popular means of measuring temperature in the modern metric system. Celsius was invented in 1742 by Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius. “Celsius should be recognized as the first to perform and publish careful experiments aiming at the definition of an international temperature scale on scientific grounds,” Uppsala University’s Olof Beckman writes.

Around 1790, Celsius was integrated into the metric system – itself an outgrowth of the French revolution’s desire to unify the country at the national level. The metric system’s simplicity and scientific utility helped spread it, and celsius, throughout the world.

The Anglophone countries finally caved in the second half of the 20th century. The UK itself began metrication, the process of switching all measurements to the metric system, in 1965. It still hasn’t fully completed metrication, but the modern UK is an overwhelmingly metric country.

Virtually every other former British colony switched over as well. Some, including India, did so before even the UK and others, including Canada, Australia and South Africa, after. These changes, all around the same time, prompted the U.S. to consider going metric. Congress passed a law, the 1975 Metric Conversion Act, that was supposed to begin the process of metrication. It set up a Metric Board to supervise the transition.

The law failed in its objective because it made metrication voluntary, rather than mandatory, the public had a major say in the matter. And lots of people didn’t want to have to learn new systems for temperatures or weights.

“Motorists rebelled at the idea of highway signs in kilometers, weather watchers blanched at the notion of reading a forecast in Celsius and consumers balked at the prospect of buying poultry by the kilogram,” Jason Zengerle writes in Mother Jones. Organized labor fought it as well, according to Zengerle, so workers wouldn’t have to retrain to learn the new measures.

President Reagan dismantled the Metric Board in 1982, its work in tatters. Today, only the U.S., Liberia and Burma remain off the metric system, and Burma announced its intent to metricate in 2013.

Susannah Locke lays out the case for Celsius and the rest of the metric system very persuasively, but here’s a brief recap. The simpler metric scales make basic calculations easier and thus less error-prone. American companies incur extra costs by producing two sets of products, one for the US and one for the metric using world.

American parents and caregivers are more likely to screw up conversion rates when they give out medicine, sending some children, who are more susceptible to overdoses, to the hospital. Further, American students have to be trained on two sets of measurements, making basic science education even more difficult.

It’s Still Winter, But Think Spring!

Forget the snow. Forget the cold. Spring is approaching. Start planning your lawn and landscaping strategy.

To help you out, here are some common myths and myth-busting tips from lawn and landscaping professionals:

Myth #1: You can water your lawn and landscape any time of day.
Reality: Water is a valuable resource; make every drop count! Watering the lawn in the early mornings or evenings after sunset minimizes evaporation. It’s the best time for water to penetrate deep into the soil.

LawnmythsMyth #2: It’s okay to cut the grass very short.
Reality: Most landscape professionals advise against cutting more than one-third of the grass leaf at a time. Mowing at a finished cut height of 3 to 3.5 inches throughout the summer is generally recommended. The lawn will need less water, will be more resistant to weeds and will have a deeper, greener color. Use a sharp mower blade to prevent tearing grass blades. A crisp and clean cut will help prevent a “brown tip” appearance.

Myth #3: It’s best to water your lawn every day.
Reality: Watering your lawn every three days is better than daily watering. Deep, rather than shallow watering of your lawn is recommended to nurture the roots. An inch of water to 12 inches of soil is the preferred ratio for watering actively growing grass.

Myth #4: If you want to replace your lawn, you should do it in the spring when plants get ready to bloom.
Reality: The best time to sow seed is in the late summer and early fall when the temperatures are more consistent and when highly competitive weeds, like crabgrass, are at the end of their life cycle.

Myth #5: Early spring is the best time to fertilize the lawn.
Reality: Since different species of grass prefer nutrients at different times of the year, be sure to use the correct fertilizer, at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place. A slow-release fertilizer allows for more even and consistent feeding over a longer period of time than a quick-release fertilizer. And, remember to use fertilizers responsibly by cleaning up any that lands on streets, sidewalks or driveways where they can be washed into lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

Myth #6: A garden hose is more cost efficient than installing an irrigation system.
Reality: Many landscape professionals recommend installing an irrigation system with smart controllers which have sensors that water when needed. Smart irrigation can offer a cost savings of 15 to 20 percent on water bills. Converting irrigation spray nozzles from sprinklers to rotating nozzles will spread heavy droplets of water at a slower pace, which makes them more targeted and effective.

Myth #7: You have to irrigate to have a healthy and beautiful lawn.
Reality: Grasses are built to endure long periods of drought by entering a state of dormancy. When temperatures and moisture levels are at their extreme, the growing point of the grass plant, the crown, will shut off the grass blades, turning them brown. In almost all instances, once the heat and drought stresses have gone, the crowns will begin to send up new shoots. There’s nothing wrong with irrigating to avoid dormancy, but “embracing the brown” for a couple of weeks in the summer is just fine too.

Study Suggests Winter Is Best Time to Sell a Home

Forget conventional wisdom. The housing market doesn’t hibernate in the winter.

A study by real estate brokerage Redfin finds that sellers who list and buyers who buy often find the winter season the most advantageous time to make a move in real estate, The winter season officially takes place between Dec. 21 and March 20, and it is a season that brings out more focused and active sellers and buyers and fewer tire-kickers looking for home design ideas.

Redfin researchers studied nationwide home listings, sales prices and time-on-market data from 2010 through October 2014. The study found that February is “historically the best month to list, with an average of 66 percent of homes listed then selling within 90 days,” according to Redfin’s research.

WinterSoldWhat’s more, the study found that winter tends to net sellers’ more than their asking price during the months of December, January, February and March than listings from June through November.

Researchers say the winter market is less competitive for sellers since many people tend to wait until the spring to list. The smaller inventory of active listings help sellers get more attention from buyers on their properties. And the research showed that many corporations transfer employees or hire new ones early in the year, creating opportunities for winter sellers from very motivated purchasers.

Sellers shouldn’t worry about the holidays hampering their chances either. A 2011 study conducted by realtor.com® found that 60 percent of real estate professionals advise their sellers to list a home during the holidays because they believe it’s an opportune time to sell.

Here are a few tips for selling a home in the winter:

Stage it. Stagers can arrange furniture so that selling-points in a home don’t get overlooked, paint rooms inviting colors and have the know-how to give a home a cozy winter feel. Display photos of the home that also show it in warmer summer months. And don’t forget to turn up the thermostat in the home so buyers are comfortable from the moment they step through the door.

Price it right. “If it’s priced properly, it will sell any day of the year,” Katie Severance, a broker for RE/MAX in Upper Montclair, N.J., told The Associated Press.

Show the way. Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of snow, ice and leaves – giving potential buyers a clear path to your front door.

Light it up. There’s less daylight in the winter months so it’s even more important to keep all the lights on as well as open blinds and drapes for natural light. Keep the home well-lit even when you’re not there so the home still looks inviting to passersby who drive by in the evenings after work.

Clear the Clutter. Open up the space and enhance the home’s appearance by removing excess belongings. That’s where Dino’s Storage comes in. We have great storage facilities and reasonable rates for you to store those out-of-season and overwhelming belongings.

Hoarder Nation: America’s Self-storage Industry Is Booming

BulgingHouseIt’s the time of year when American households are filling up with stuff. Your living room is piled with boxes from your Black Friday haul, or your porch is creaking under the weight of UPS deliveries. While retail analysts are obsessively tracking buyer behavior to gauge the impact of Cyber Monday on store earnings, Business Week reports one industry that will surely benefit from the binge – eventually – is the storage business.

The country’s accumulation of things is outpacing our capacity to keep them in our homes, as the growth of mini-warehouses attests. The number of self-storage establishments more than doubled, to 15,000, from 1998 to 2012, according to Census data, dotting the landscape with buildings full of objects we don’t want to see but can’t bear to toss.

Enough Space for Every Man, Woman and Child

The Census data may actually underestimate the industry. According to the Self-Storage Association, the U.S. had 48,500 mini-warehouse facilities last year. Combined, they amount to 2.3 billion square feet of space for lease – enough, in the trade group’s unnerving formulation, to warehouse every man, woman and child in the country.

Self-storage companies generated $24 billion in revenue last year, according to the SSA, an amount that gets divvied up among a handful of large companies – such as CubeSmart and Sovran Self Storage, which operates a chain called Uncle Bob’s, and 30,000 smaller entrepreneurs.

It’s unlikely that Americans are spending the weeks before Christmas loading up their cars or trucks with their old stuff to clear room for the new. New houses keep getting bigger. Storage sales generally fall off at the end of the calendar year and pick up in the summer, which is also the busiest time for U.S. moving companies.

Four Ds Drive Storage Business

FourHorsemenDemand for storage units is driven by what Ronald Havner, chief executive of self-storage giant Public Storage, calls the four Ds: death, divorce, disaster and dislocation. “People moving, people changing their lives in terms of death or divorce. Hurricanes, tornadoes upset people’s lives and require storage facilities,” he said.

Put that way, the storage business is a darker reflection of the retail economy. Shopping and exchanging holiday gifts is, ostensibly, joyous, but those objects are often deposited in storage units in sadder times. For our stuff, though, the journey may be a homecoming of sorts. Products that enter the consumer world from, say, an Amazon.com warehouse, leave it for a temperature-controlled chamber at Uncle Bob’s.

Dino’s Ready for You

DinosWarehouseAt Dino’s, we’re ready for your stuff any time of year. Just give us a call at any of our locations and come on out to any of our locations in Omaha, Des Moines or Winnipeg.

Winter Prep Saves Money

We have had an early taste of frigid wintry weather, including substantial snow in some areas. It’s a taste of the season to come when we spend more time indoors and a reminder that there are things we can do to winter-proof our homes.

thermostatAt www.wisebread.com writer Mikey Rox offers his tips to get through the winter happier and healthier. First on his list: Acclimate to the temperature by setting thermostats down, not up. Gradually lowering the thermostat, by a degree a week to a point where you still feel comfortable, can save bundles of money. Sealing or wrapping windows can add to the effect.

Uninvite the Pests

Pests hate winter, so seal areas of the home where pests can enter. Closing up cracks on the outside can prevent rodents from entering, and storing firewood at least 20 feet from the house will help keep mice and ants away.

Before snow sets in, clearing vents and chimneys can avoid carbon monoxide backups. Leaves, vines, shrubs, and plants can all create blockages that can cause carbon monoxide to enter the home.

Rox also suggests winterizing pipes to keep them from freezing and possibly bursting. This includes sprinkler systems, exterior pipes, and air conditioners.

Be Prepared for the Storm

snowshovelDon’t forget about the supplies needed to take care of the outside of your home either. Make sure you have rakes, shovels, snow blowers, sidewalk salt and other winter cleanup items that you’ll need to keep everybody safe who will step on to your property before, during and after a winter-weather event.

Check or install smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Both fire and carbon monoxide can be deadly and silent. Manufacturers recommend replacing detectors every five years.

Act Now to Stay Well

flushotGive your body the best chance of avoiding, or at least fighting, the flu by getting a flu shot.

It also makes sense to keep a first-aid kit in your car at all times, and in winter add hand warmers, flares, heavy blankets, an emergency phone and a few days’ non-perishable food and water in the event that you’re ever stranded. These items literally could be the difference between life and death.

Credit Unions Step in to Fill Lending Void

If you’re considering a home mortgage, either to refinance your existing mortgage or to purchase a home, consider a credit union as your lender.

The number of mortgage originations issued from credit unions in the United States in first half of 2014 has climbed 10 percent year-over-year. This has elevated credit unions to having more than 8 percent share of the home loan market – about triple their share prior to the recession – making them a growing option for home buyers looking for financing, according to data from the Credit Union National Association.

CreditUnionCanadaCanadian credit unions also are experience growth in their home mortgage lending. Credit Union Central of Canada, the national trade association of the industry, notes credit unions have about 7% of the residential loan market.

CUNALogoIn June, the 6,557 credit unions in the United States surpassed 100 million members. You still have to be a member of one to get a loan, but many credit unions are tied to employment, trades, religious groups or more broadly to specific communities. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. credit unions offer mortgages.

“We’ve seen a very strong increase in originations over the course of the last several years,” Mike Schenk, vice president of economics and research at CUNA, said.

Mortgages comprise about 41 percent of all U.S. credit union loans compared to 25 percent in 2000. The average loan amount at a credit union is $130,000, and 70 percent of the loans offered are for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Many credit unions offer different financing options for members. For example, Pentagon Federal, with 1.3 million members nationwide, introduced a 15/15 adjustable mortgage, where rates reset only once at the midterm mark to reflect the current market rate. Also, the National Institutes of Health Federal CU offers the five-year fixed-rate mortgage, dubbed the “see ya” loan, which allows home owners to refinance and coordinate it to a time of a special event, such as retirement or when the children go to college, in order to end their mortgage payments by that time.

Credit unions don’t typically charge cheaper interest rates, but they “tend not to tack on a bunch of superfluous fees that other lenders seem to love,” the Los Angeles Times noted in a recent article. “And because they are local and member-controlled, they are more likely to consider applicants with a story to tell than some underwriter five states over who is forced to stick to standard guidelines.”

We Get Letters…

Nothing brightens our day quite so much as the great letters we get from your customers.

At Dino’s, service and customer satisfaction top our priorities and it’s great to get feedback showing that we are hitting our goals.

Here’s a letter we received just the other day:


DinosElkhornThis note is overdue but I felt it was necessary to share good news with the handling of my account at the Elkhorn Dino’s Storage. When there was some heavy rain this summer and some of my furniture got wet, Diane was quick to assist in moving my furniture to another bay which has adequately served my needs well. She is very timely in handling matters and my experience has been very good.

Once again, thanks for the great customer service provided by your company through Diane Clark at the Elkhorn location. I will be happy to refer business your way.