Servicing Your Air Conditioner Before Summer

If summer arrives as quickly as spring did, we’ll all need our air conditioners soon. Cold air is a modern luxury that many of us don’t want to do without during the hot summer months. Unless we properly maintain our air conditioning units, cool air may be a luxury we go without this summer. Here are four reasons to perform yearly maintenance on your air conditioner.
Efficiency: Time, age, and lack of use during the cold months cause air conditioners to wear down. Air vents and filters become clogged with dust and other debris. The result is a reduced ability for your air conditioner to circulate cold air throughout your house. In many cases, cool air may never reach the rooms in your home that are farthest from the unit.

Energy Costs: If your air conditioner isn’t running at maximum efficiency, you’ll be spending a lot more money this summer. If your Salt Lake City air conditioner is unmaintained, it uses more energy and runs longer than normal in order to cool your house. Added energy use and longer run times are most noticeable when it comes time to pay your electric bill.

Air Quality: In addition to cooling your home, your air conditioner is responsible for circulating air. Without proper maintenance, your air conditioner can’t do this effectively. Poor circulation leads to stagnant air as dust and moisture accumulate. Increased dust buildup occurs when air filtration systems are full or clogged and no longer filter air.

Safety: Poor air quality isn’t the only health concern caused by bad air conditioners. Each year, thousands of U.S. house fires are caused by air conditioners that are in a state of disrepair.

Each of these problems is preventable with a straightforward solution, annual maintenance. Hiring a certified technician to inspect and repair your air conditioner probably isn’t another bill you want to pay. However, yearly maintenance pays for itself in three ways, reduced energy costs, more efficient cooling, and increased air conditioner lifespan. A small investment now leads to big savings later.

It was mentioned in the beginning that summer is right around the corner. Don’t wait until the Salt Lake City summer hits to have your air conditioner inspected. Summer is the busiest time of year for technicians, and that means their availability goes down and their costs go up. Have your air conditioner inspected this spring and ensure that it’s ready to keep your house cool before the summer heat hits.

BitCoin Poker – Is It Really a Thing?

It’s strange for an old-school guy like me to think that a virtual currency is being used to play poker.

I’m used to using what I’d consider traditional payment methods to fund my own action – cash, credit cards, and eWallets. A few months ago, I couldn’t have told you what BitCoin is if you’d sat down and patiently explained it to me for an hour first.

BitCoin poker is, really, a thing. A few poker rooms and other gambling sites are now accepting BitCoin as a payment method.

So what is it? And how is it being used to fund online poker accounts?

What Is BitCoin?
Bitcoin is a virtual currency invented in the year 2008 by a person going by the pseudonym “Satoshi Nakamoto.” The first mention of the currency was in a document sent to a cryptography mailing list made up of just a few people. Not much is known about the person (or people) behind the pseudonym, and they left the project altogether in 2010.

It’s interesting that the project was first mentioned among a small group of cryptographers – BitCoin was invented to exist without the need for a financial middle man. Taking banks and fragile world governments out of the equation produces a more stable and equitable currency, and it means that BTC (the currency’s acronym) are immune from seizure or asset freezing. Or so the theory goes.

So what is a BitCoin? You can’t hold one in your hand, in the traditional sense. It exists in the same way that an email exists – stored in a digital cloud. One important thing to note, for those of us used to fiat money, there is no FDIC or other insurance for your BTC.

Why Use BitCoin?
Here are some popular reasons suggested by blogs and message board posts:

BTC is crypto-currency, which means using it is completely private and anonymous.
Yes, transactions are recorded in a public log, for accountability purposes, but names of people involved in transactions are kept secret, hidden behind a generic wallet ID. There’s a dark side to this – goods can be bought or sold online and authorities can’t easily trace the people involved. That means lots of people are participating in illicit activity (see the story of The Silk Road for a perfect example) using this currency.

BTC allows you total control of your money.
Its value can’t be manipulated by any outside entity. Essentially, using BTC turns you into your own bank. The currency’s lack of physical production costs and non-existent need for storage makes it even easier to handle at the end-user level.

Big companies are bringing it into the mainstream.
BTC wasn’t well known until 2011, when the mainstream press got word of its early and rabid adoption by the Technorati. Now, thousands of businesses all over the world accept it as a mainstream payment method, including some surprisingly big names. You can buy your next Dell laptop with BTC, or shop for a cheaper alternative at Overstock.com. Cities saturated with tech geeks now have ATMs where you can exchange cash for BTC, and the other way around.

How Does BitCoin Poker Work?
The reason BitCoin struck me as so strange initially was simple – I am used to traditional (known as “fiat”) currency. So is everyone reading this – it’s what we’re used to, so any alternative feels a little strange.

The first thing a poker player who wants to use BTC needs to do is exchange their native currency for their new virtual currency.

The popular method of purchasing BitCoin is to deal with an exchange or brokerage. Exchanges are places where buyers and sellers are matched based on their bid criteria, while brokerages hoard large collections of BTC that they sell on-demand at a variable rate.

Exchanges and brokerages are pretty much identical for the end-user. It literally takes a minute or two to complete the transaction.

The BTC are then transferred to you through your unique Bitcoin wallet ID. Think of it as a hyper-focused email address for virtual currency. What’s neat about that is you can send money to anyone in the world using BTC, the same way you can send an email across the globe in a second.

Your wallet ID (BTC address) will be a randomized string of letters and numbers, anywhere from 27–34 characters long. That wallet ID is also the place buyers will send cash – which makes the whole email address analogy easier to understand. BitCoins can be sent or received from anywhere, or even sold among friends or in person.

Now that you’ve got your currency in your virtual wallet, it’s time to transfer it to the poker room of your choice. After confirming that the room you want to play at accepts BitCoin, simply send the appropriate amount to their wallet ID. It takes anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours for the BTC to appear in the receiving account.

As an added bonus for poker players, transferring with BTC is totally free, thanks to the virtual nature of the currency. It costs nothing to send and receive virtual money, so you shouldn’t expect any additional transfer fees from your poker room’s cashier department.

Be A Clean, Green Shopping Machine

For many years, the economy in Australia consisted of products made by the people who lived here. Like many countries, goods and services have slowly been moving off shore due to cheaper employment and raw material costs in other countries. Today the market in Australia is flooded with products that come from all over the world. This has been great in some ways (cheap Japanese cars and out-of-season fruit, to name but a few) and the cheaper prices have made some purchases a lot easier on the pocket. In other ways it has been detrimental with local businesses being closed and a significant portion of manufacturing being moved overseas. We hear a lot about supporting local but what are the reasons for buying Australian-made compared to a (sometimes cheaper) import?
As a shopper, you might like to think of your purchases as a vote for what you consider appropriate behavior from the store you are buying from. If you think it’s reprehensible to test on animals (let’s face it, it is) then you wouldn’t buy from a store that doesn’t have a strong stance on this subject. If more people feel like you do and stop buying these types of products, the industry will listen and your ‘vote’ will help create a greener, cleaner, friendlier shopping environment – as you can see from the number of green and organic products beginning to surface today – a good sign consumers are moving in a positive direction!

After you’ve set your own moral compass for shopping you should consider adding supporting local business onto your list of requirements. If local businesses flourish, so will the local economy. Yes, buying local can cost a few extra dollars in some cases, but often the extra investment can purchase a product that’s made out of higher quality materials that will last a lot longer than their cheaper counterpart.

You may also want to consider supporting local when it comes to fruit and vegetable shopping. This will mean only buying seasonal fruit when it’s actually in season. Also, think of the cost and environmental impact of importing consumables like fruit and vegetables. If you’re buying off a local farmer, your goods have used less fuel to reach you and will often be much fresher.

Another green shopping method is buying items that are handmade. They can be more labour-intensive than mass-produced imports, but this often means they will be better quality, lasting you longer and lengthening the time before replacement is needed. This effectively reduces the cost in the long run anyway. For example, a craftsperson spends time honing their skills to make a handmade product. The process starts from ground zero and is completed with patience and practice. Only the best materials are used and a learned tradesperson has the know-how from years of experience, to create a long-wearing work of art.

Finally, try to source natural and organic products where you can. Shop for clothes that are made out of natural fabrics and beauty products that are organic and cruelty-free. Your purchasing decision will encourage slow-fashion companies that use natural, non-polluting fibers for manufacturing their clothing items. In making these choices, you can diminish the poor-quality clothes (or throwaway fashion) that are made out of synthetic fibers, which are bad for the environment and your health.

The same goes for beauty products. There are many local companies that manufacture organic, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free products, which are much better than the ones that are mass-produced and contain a wide range of chemical and toxic components. Organic products are great for your skin and body, are entirely safe to use from all points of view, and are not tested on animals, which means that they don’t have to suffer in the name of biped beauty. With this information in mind, we encourage you to go forth young grasshopper and become a sustainable shopper!