Saving water and power

Every month, my husband logs information from our utility bills into a spreadsheet. Comparing the past 12 months to the same 12 months in 2005, we used:

• 40% less water
• 46% less natural gas
• 75% less electricity (from the grid)

Bragging about efficiency plays into the worst stereotypes of California: smug, self-righteous and self-congratulatory. Yet conspicuous underconsumption has actual benefits, both to the individual and society. You’re showing what’s possible, and helping to nudge trend lines and public policy in the right direction.

So here’s how we did it. We didn’t do it all at once, and we didn’t do it all right. But if it helps provide some inspiration, it’s probably worth sharing.


Seven years ago, we added solar panels, which provide the bulk of our electricity. During daylight hours, we sell power back to the utility.

While battery technologies like Tesla’s Powerwall might one day become common, for now most residential solar works like ours. Beyond permit hassles when we first installed it, selling back to the grid has worked out well.

We’re paying less than a dollar a day for electricity, and that includes charging our primary car, a Nissan Leaf.

In addition to generating power, we’re also using less wherever possible. We have almost entirely LED lighting, including outdoor lights. Lighting only accounts for 14% of total residential electricity consumption, so while it’s important, it’s not the only thing to look at. For example, we got a variable-speed pool pump, which uses 80% less electricity than a single-speed version. With rebates, the new pump paid for itself in the first year.

In colder climates, thermostats are mostly for controlling heat, but they also regulate air conditioning in the summer. We switched to Nest thermostats, which include an Airwave feature that makes smarter use of the compressor coils.

Water and Gas

We moved to a more-efficient hot water heater with a circulator pump, which gets hot water to the tap faster, sending less down the drain. We use solar to heat the pool.

Because we live in California, we’re always mindful of the drought. Our water use is down 25% from last year. We had already switched to native landscaping, so most of the savings this past year probably came from better sprinkler timers that use an iPhone app. (We have the Rachio.)

Could we push our consumption of water and power lower? Maybe, but to do so, we’d need to able to identify where we’re using utilities in a much more granular, real-time way.

We still don’t have a smart meter. We don’t have anything like Google Analytics for amps and gallons. Without that kind of information, it’s hard to know what areas are really worth our attention.

So we’re left guessing, and relying on other people’s experience. That’s mostly why I’m blogging what we’ve done. If you have suggestions for great ways to do more, hit me up on Twitter.

The 200th Episode Live Feed

scriptnotes is on Mixlr

On Wednesday, May 27th at 8pm LA time we recorded the 200th episode of Scriptnotes. It was a live show, but recorded at the office rather than a theater.

Aline and Craig were here in person, along with 1.5 glasses of wine each. We had the whole internet — or at least several hundred people — listening to the live feed. We answered questions and suffered through some robot voice issues. Thanks to everyone who came.

We’ll have the episode up on Tuesday as usual.

Second Draft Doldrums

Scriptnotes: Ep. 199

Craig and John discuss finding your way back to your story — and your enthusiasm — when writing your second draft. Craig has tips and suggestions. John has sympathy and war stories.

This week, we also discuss ageism and authenticity in Hollywood, the Mr. Holmes lawsuit, and unsung screenwriter heroes.

The 200th episode will be streaming live on the internet! Follow us on Twitter to get details about when we’ll be recording, and where to find us.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 5-29-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

How and why we made the One Hit Kill app

ohk-app-iconWhen One Hit Kill ships in September, it will have printed rules in the box like every other game.

But because OHK is designed to grow and change — both with our own expansion packs and user-created variants — we wanted to be able to quickly update and “officialize” rules to reflect the state of the game.

So we did what we do. We made an app.

The One Hit Kill app is free in the App Store. There’s also a web app that works on Android and other devices.

Under the hood

This is our first iOS app written in Swift, Apple’s next-generation coding language. Nima Yousefi originally prototyped it in Objective-C, but when it became clear we would be using primarily stock elements and libraries, he rewrote it in Swift.

Nima reported very few issues making the change. Swift is certainly readable. It’s the first app we’ve made where I can look at the code and basically understand what’s happening, so that’s remarkable.

Within the app, the pages themselves — from rules to the FAQ — are written in Markdown, and rendered as text rather than web views. (We do the same thing in Weekend Read.)

The app pulls its data from the cloud: Rails running on Heroku. From a web interface, we can update the text and images for any piece of content, then push it out live. It’s not Facebook or Twitter levels of performance, but it meets our lightweight needs.

We are on the verge of submitting version 1.1 of the OHK app, which trades out some of the table views for collections. That allows us to flatten some of the hierarchy and show more cards at once, particularly on the iPad.

Making it work on Android

Because a lot of our backers will be on Android or other devices, we wanted to provide a version of the app for them as well.

After considering several alternatives, we chose Framework7 to build a web app that would work regardless of the platform. Framework7 unapologetically tries to fake an iOS look, but our Android users haven’t objected. For iOS developers in similar situations with fairly simple, text-based apps, we’d recommend giving Framework7 a look.

There can only be One

Our primary reason for building the One Hit Kill app was to make it easy to update the rules and artwork.

Another goal was to protect the name One Hit Kill.

It’s not an idle worry. The Exploding Kittens game in the App Store is terrible: a generic whack-a-mole with no relation at all to the wildly popular Kickstarter. No doubt thrown together in an afternoon, it’s attempting to draft off the Kittens brand name. (The developer’s other games include “the 2048 game” and Flappy Chappy, neither of which have any reviews.)

The One Hit Kill app should at least stave off the most obnoxious clones, and keep the name available to us down the road.

So take a look at the app, and check out the web app if you’re curious.

One Hit Kill itself is available exclusively through Kickstarter, and only until June 5th.

Back to 100

Scriptnotes: Ep. 198

This week, we time-travel back to our first centennial, a live show in Hollywood with special guests Aline Brosh McKenna and Rawson Thurber. We discuss the rise of the “writer-plus,” the importance of early mentors, and the emails that outline the very origin of Scriptnotes.

Through the past 100 episodes, a lot has changed, so John provides updates on some topics, including how the Golden Ticket winner presaged the later full script challenge. So even if you listened to this episode 97 weeks ago, you’ll find something new.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 5-19-15: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

One Hit Kill is now on Kickstarter

OHK Key Art

Minutes ago, we launched the Kickstarter for One Hit Kill, our new card game of ridiculously overpowered weapons and monsters and cuddly rabbits.

UPDATE: We funded! Really quickly. We’ll be sending out the game in September — and this will probably be the only chance to get it this year, so don’t wait. We also announced our stretch goals and achievements, including an app.


After months of work and testing, we’re damn excited to show you what we’ve designed. We’ve been playing the game non-stop, and it’s time to release it into the world.

With your help, One Hit Kill might become your new favorite game. Please check it out!