Monday, October 31, 2011

Here we go again…

After surviving the Great Ice Storm of 2008 Mum and I were in much better shape to deal with the Halloween Nor’easter of 2011.  (And I was griping about a little dusting on my van’s windshield just the other day…)

The basics everyone needs just to survive:

Food & Water
Shelter
Warmth

Our pantry is not in as good a condition for this kind of situation as I would prefer.  That said, we have enough to eat.  The water supply is still working.  (Remind me to grab some in a container when I get home just incase that changes…)  And I have devised an improvised way of cooking.  So we are okay there.

Our home is undamaged and just as livable as if there wasn’t a ‘situation’ in progress – except for our electric supply being out.  That right there is the problem.  Because the electricity is out several key systems are also down.

The furnace.  (Kerosene, but requires an electric fuel pump and blowers to run.)
The hot water heater.  (Propane, but requires an electric blower and ignition to run.)
The refrigerator.  (Electric, 110/115 volts.)  We don’t have a chest freezer – yet.
The stove.  (Electric, 220 volts.)

Naturally the lights and computer are also on that list.  But those are convenience items not required for basic survival.  Other things we have come to depend on are the laundry equipment and the dishwasher.  Our voip phone system survived for several hours without power on its battery back-up, but is now dead.  There is apparently no power to the local cell tower so even while my cell phone had juice there is no service.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am writing this on my lunch break on my work computer since the building has emergency generators and the area may have power from the grid.

So our food situation is tolerable and our home is livable.  What about warmth? 

We’ve got that covered too.  Our pall R2 is back in service.  I wrote at length about the odyssey we went through finding him during the ice storm.  R2, who got his name because he resembles an “R2 unit” (though not R2-D2 so much) from Star Wars, is a portable kerosene space heater.  One of the larger upright cylindrical ones that have a cage-work surrounding the top 4/5ths of his body.  I have to siphon fuel from our primary oil tank out back of the house to fill him.  But at least we have some to siphon!  For cooking I’ve found that if I place our kettle on top of the cage-work it doesn’t boil to make the kettle whistle, but it still gets hot enough to make tea.  We could also probably cook pasta or make soup or stew that way as well.

For lights we have my collection of vintage oil lamps and lanterns.  They can burn standard lamp oil or citronella torch fuel.  In a pinch they could probably also use kerosene the same as R2, but that is a last resort.

I have also set up the prototype passive solar heaters that I built last year.  I don’t know how many BTU’s they contribute, but they do seem to help.  I would very much like to build a bigger badder better version this year – if finances will allow.

So we’ve got the basics covered.

A couple of things we don’t have covered as well as I’d like are back-up electricity storage/generation and refrigerated food storage.  I’ll go into those and other preparedness projects in more detail in future posts. 

As you can no doubt tell I’m not a big-time survivalist guru mentor.  But I am more than happy to share my journey into the land of preparedness and self sufficiency. 

One thing I will recommend is that you get your hands on my favorite magazine: The Backwoodsman.  The guys who write the articles in that publication know what they are talking about and have developed the information from personal use.  (The Eclectic Dragonfly is in no way connected to BWM, its publisher or any of its authors or contributors.  This is simply my personal endorsement.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Finally got a round tuit...

Well, no.  (Those things are dangerous!)  What I finally got around to was posting the suit at Craigslist.



If you can read that, more power to you!  European sizing and in Italian to boot...

Friday, October 21, 2011

Two too good not to share!



Pink Floyd - Echoes


It is a bit on the long side, so be sure you remember to breath…
Oh, you will want to go full screen on both of these.


Animusic – Pipe Dream


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Brass Ring

I know, in general terms, what I want to do.
I know I can make it work.
I have several related ideas any one of which can turn my life around.
I’ve written several very specific business plans to get me there.
I am certain it will work!
This latest is simplicity itself!
But it seems that the Universe is just toying with me.
I can see the brass ring.  It’s right there!
Yet every time I reach for it, my fingers just brush the edge.
Then it scoots away.  Out of reach again.
All I need is one thing to break my way for a change.
With just a little traction I can make truly great things happen.

Brush.  Scoot…

There it goes again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

I want a dash-cam!

The magnitude of stupidity some people exhibit when they get behind the wheel can be absolutely staggering!  Take this very morning as a case in point:

I was driving along minding my own business having just made the turn from travelling eastbound on Westford Street onto Dalton Road.  A car coming the other way on Dalton was slowing for the stop sign when suddenly and completely without warning (or turn signal) the guy in back of him gets it in his head to reenact the sinking of the Andrea Doria casting Galileo and I in the role of the Stockholm!  It had been raining quite heavily earlier in the morning and the roads were still wet.  The guy on the helm of the Andrea Doria must have thought the conditions were perfect for testing the wet pavement traction, maximum braking ability and reaction time of a perfect stranger.  Either that or he cared more about getting to work on time than about living long enough to eat his lunch!  Or maybe he was already late and was looking for an excuse his boss could not argue with.  (If that’s the case he’s completely ignoring the much more immediate argument he’d have gotten from me had I clobbered him!)  Fortunately Sir Isaac Newton left me just enough wiggle room to avoid our meeting by accident

Just…

It did take a full-lock-slide with the helm cut hard over (which didn’t help much what with Galileo’s not having anti-lock brakes) to avoid T-boning that imbecilic ‘person of questionable parentage!’

Now before this gets tossed aside under the rule of “no harm, no foul” – I may have flat-spotted my tires as a result.  No harm to the wannabe helmsman of the Andrea Doria (unless he soiled his underoos…) but Galileo may need a new set of shoes sooner than would otherwise have been necessary.  And that’s a harm to my bank account!

Now about that dash-cam…

I am seriously thinking of installing one.  I realize it could be used against me were I to be the one behaving badly with regard the laws of physics or of man.  But I think it would be worth the small risk given that I (usually…) don’t flaunt the traffic laws (much…).  And having one might have provided a video clip that could have been appended to this very post to illustrate my point, even if I were to skip the part where it get’s emailed to the traffic enforcement division of my local constabulary.

Now this brings us to the question of what kind of camera would be most suitable for the job?  It should be inconspicuous so as to avoid having some nefarious individual make a mess of my car in the process of making my camera his own.  A fairly wide angle lens would work best.  And it should probably have some form of image stabilization.  And another thing: it should not distract the driver (Me) by its mere presence!

I’ve played around with home-spun dash-cams in the past.  I rigged one up that worked very well several years ago.  I used it while ‘neighborhood riding’ – that is while scouting out various area’s that Mum and I were thinking about buying investment real estate in.  That rig consisted of a Fuji S700 non-interchangeable lens dSLR fitted with an auxiliary wide angle lens via a filter adapter ring.  I mounted it on a pocket tripod that was essentially sandbagged in place on Galileo’s dashboard.

(I may add a sketch of the old rig here later…)

It worked out very well for what we wanted it to do.  But it was only slightly less conspicuous than the roof-mounted rig on the Google Streetview car

For my new version I want a bit more stealth than that.  Not because I want to sneak around filming people without them knowing.  I just don’t want the hassle of having to set it up every time I get in the car and then have to take it down and stow it so it doesn’t get stolen when I’m not.

Unless it has night vision capability I don’t know that I even want a display in the cabin.  That could get distracting.  Long recording time is also a must.  That can be achieved with a large memory card.  I just don’t want to have to swap cards on the road.  This system needs to be totally automated.

There are some cool new cameras out there that could be clipped to the visor – or my hat for that matter – and unclipped to go in my pocket when I’m done.  A lot of people are using them to shoot YouTube videos of the “Hey guys!  Hold my beer and watch this!” variety.  But that’s not automated.  And possibly a little too Darwinian for my tastes.

I also don’t need a multi-camera NASCAR in car camera system or a police system with a camera or two (front and back) and a DVR in the trunk.  Though that would achieve what I want to do with it.

One more thing it needs to be is cheap inexpensive.

Well, I’ll let this all percolate for a while and see what springs to mind.  If you have any ideas please feel free to share in the comments.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

I finally found it!


“Deepcore, Deepcore, this is Cab One, Over…”

“Cab One this is Deepcore.  Is that you, Lindsey?



The Abyss is one of my all-time favorite movies.  Large portions of the film were shot 30 feet underwater in a tank that was originally constructed as a containment vessel for a nuclear poser plant.  Construction of the power plant was abandoned and so was Deepcore after filming wrapped.  Well, I finally found it!  Here’s a view from Bing Maps:



I got thinking about Deepcore sitting abandoned at the bottom of an abandoned nuke plant after coming across a collection of up closeand personal photos at RetronautAccording to Wikepedia, Deepcore and the original abandoned nuke plant were demolished in 2007 to make way for a new nuke plant to be built on that site.

Well isn’t that interesting?

Guess who’s been linked even in the lame-stream media with the organization that set off the Occupy movement?


Isn’t that a big surprise?  NOT!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Stupid Criminal Tricks

In a caper that was thought out almost as well as the Underwear Gnomes, a Westford resident got himself a free trip down town in the back of a police car last night.  Reading the details I have to wonder if that wasn’t his plan all along…

Monday, October 10, 2011

Also written for a talkback:

This was a more detailed talkback about the one other time We the People lost a Right but eventually got it back.  Cam mentioned prohibition on air.  I mentioned in a talkback the right of Americans to own gold.
In more detail:

In 1933 FDR signed an Executive Order outlawing American citizens owning gold.  All gold was called in to the Federal Reserve at an exchange rate of $20.67 per ounce Troy.  It was reissued in trade with foreign banks at $33.00 an ounce.  (Another way of looking at it is that at the start of the ban the dollar was worth a little over 1/20th of a Troy ounce of 24K gold.  When reissued the dollar was only worth 1/33rd of an ounce, but Americans were barred from owning any.) It wasn't until 1974 that Gerry Ford rescinded that order and We the People could invest in gold.  Of course that was three years after Nixon took the dollar off the gold standard.  That was August 15, 1971.  The day the dollar died.  As I write this, Kitco lists gold bullion at $1,682.30 for one Troy ounce.  Or the dollar is only worth 1/1,682nd of an ounce.  At that rate one dollar will buy you all of 0.0185 grams!

So much for the Almighty Dollar...

Taklbacks

Here's the full text of my talkback as partially read on-air tonight on Cam & Co.:
How many times has this guy (that you were talking about half an hour ago) seen Powder?  Take the scene from Bambi, coat it in confectioners sugar and throw in a Vulcan mind-meld.  Might as well have had a neon sign that says Guns = Icky and Hunting = Bad!  (And it’s taken me this *bleeping* long to remember the name of the *bleeping* movie!)

Weekend Update: Film at 11…


Here are a couple of pictures of my weekend activities:




When I mention that the "phonebooth" has a porcelain seat…  I had this phone in a similar location in my last rented apartment.  One of the calls I took in that “phonebooth” was for a job interview.  Not only did I get the job, but I just received my 10-Year Service Pin!  And my boss still doesn’t know!  LOL!

Here’s my haul from the Sunday morning yard sales:





I shelled out all of $2 for all those drill bits, $5 for the little chain saw and $10 for the welder.  Next up is to find a manual for the welder somewhere on the web.  It’s amazing what you can find out there if you but look…

In the news:

Democrats Seek to Own 'Occupy Wall Street' Movement


Fine by me.  They can have it.  Stupid Commies!

Busy Weekend

Sunday morning as I was getting ready to break fast I noticed one of my neighbors down the street dragging out a couple of tables into her driveway and putting out stuff for a sale.  When we finally got out of the house I found out that she was not alone.

As it turned out Mum and I didn’t make it to the flea after all.  There was a full fledged neighborhood wide yard sale going on, apparently both Saturday and Sunday.  I knew nothing about is on Saturday – which was no doubt a good thing since I managed to get a lot that needed doing done around the house.

So Mum and I drove all around the neighborhood looking for bargains.  We didn’t actually get out on the open road until after one o’clock – and that was jut to go across the street into the industrial park because there was a yard sale going on over there too!

My haul consisted primarily of tools for my shop.  At one sale I picked up a whole slew of drill bits.  They look brand new and set me back a whopping $2.  At the same sale I got a small stick welder that runs on regular house currant.  That set me back all of $10.  I may spend as much as the welder cost me at Lowe’s buying welding rod.  At the sale across the street at the ‘got junk’ place I got a small electric chain saw.  So now I’ll be all set for the zombie apocalypse – at least for as long as the generator holds out…

Mum got a slew of romance novels – to help turn her into a zombie…  (CQTM!)

I did finally make it down the street to drop off the stuff I’d loaded up Saturday night in our storage bin. 

Then we met a friend at Uno’s for a late lunch.  Lunch was good but the desert was to die for!  Bananas Foster!  I don’t care if it sends my glucose into the stratosphere – it’s that good!

Now I said something about going to work to rest…  Not a chance!  I’ve spent the morning taking measurements of various rooms for the guy who’s planning some changes around the office.

I need a nap!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Homework


As in working on my home…

So far today I’ve:

[x]     Dug out my workshop so I can actually get at some of the tools.
[x]      Reassembled Mum’s closet that had to be taken apart to deal with a leaking pipe in back of the water heater.
[x]     Cleaned up the “Payphone” – It’s a novelty telephone that is made to look like a classic Bell System payphone from the mid sixties.
[x]      Installed the payphone.  This included:
[x]          Running a line from the Vonage box to the “Phone Booth” (actually the bathroom.  If you don’t tell I won’t…)
[x]          Removing and reinstalling the skirting all down the port side of the house to run the phone line behind it
[x]        Fixing some of the skirting in the process
[x]          Installing a wall plate opposite the “phone booth seat” to mount the payphone on
[x]          Repositioning the paneling that was still disassembled from when the valve in the tub was replaced
[x]          And finally testing the phone

Still on my to do list for today is

[x]     Finish reassembling the wall the payphone is mounted on
[ ]     Finish installing the valve in the tub.  This will include:
[ ]          Getting out my saws-all and ‘tweaking’ the opening in the tub surround to let me:
[ ]          install the second long screw that holds on the face plate
[ ]          Finally be able to put the cap on the center of the knob
[x]      Put Mum’s scooter back in Thunder where it will be out of my way
[x]      Put my welder next to Mum’s scooter in Thunder
[x]     Load up the overflow from the shop in Galileo so I can:
[ ]      Bring it to Storage

I said over on FaceBook that I was looking forward to work on Monday so I can rest.  Actually, that’s sounding better all the time!


UPDATE: Checked off a few more things from my list.  Mum’s got supper on the stove so I think the rest will have to wait.  I’ll drop off the stuff for storage tomorrow on our way to the flea.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Welcome to Tyranny

My friends, it would appear that the American Experiment is over.


Didn’t we fight a war over shit like this?  I think it was back in 1776…

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Operation Fast and Furious


A detailed timeline.  If you read nothing else (and I posted some good stuff one down from this post, IM─ŽO) follow that link and read it through.  If this was being written about in a novel you would scoff and put it down as totally incredulous.

Replying to an email:

I received an email from my cousin Ron today.  In it he tells us about is son being part of the protests that sprang from the Occupy Wall Street group in New York.  I had this to say in response:


Actually, Ron, the TEA Party movement will be a far more effective means to bring about real change back to the smaller government, lower taxes and greater freedom that our Founding Fathers intended.  It’s great that Max is getting involved.  Just be sure that it’s Constitutionally limited government and the freedom to engage in entrepreneurial endeavors that your are fighting for – not Marxist/socialism and big government provided free ice cream.  The wish list of ‘rights’ being demanded by the group in New York would make a limited government activist’s head spin!  Among other things that they are claiming as a ‘right’ they are demanding a “free college education” and “a guaranteed wage for life” regardless of whether or not they actually do anything to earn either. 

Google their website for more details. 

I agree that everyone has a right to educate themselves and to earn a fair wage.  But that wage must be earned!  There is no ‘right’ to receive free stuff.  Not from the government, nor from the citizens directly.  The government has NOTHING to give without first taking it from someone else!

Remember:

“Any government big enough to give you anything you want
Is big enough to take everything you have.” – Thomas Jefferson

The REAL problems we are having as a nation today trace their roots back to the early years of the twentieth century.  The Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts and their cronies had a problem.  They needed workers for their factories.  So they created a government run factory to manufacture factory workers.  It was, and still is, called the Board of Education.  This started out as a quasi-governmental agency to establish standards and practices for our nation’s schools.  Our school system is purposefully designed, not to educate a nation of free thinking entrepreneurs, but to indoctrinate our youth to do what they are told when they are told the way they are told and not to question why. 

When the fire alarm goes off the right thing to do is
GET THE HELL OUT OF THE BUILDING! 

But instead all of the little kiddies are conditioned to first move in an orderly fashion to the isle between their desks and get in line in order of height – Hey! No fooling around! And stop poking Jimmy in the ribs! We’re not moving until all of you are behaving! – They are only allowed to exit the room after the teacher instructs them to.  From the time they are in preschool all the way through high school it is the same.  Do the lesson I give you the way I tell you when I tell you and don’t you dare color outside the lines.  That way when you get your job in the factory you will already be used to doing what the foreman tells you the way the foreman tells you when the foreman tells you.  Factory workers who think up a better way to do things for themselves screw up the production schedule.

The kids who make it to collage face much the same thing only now they are being trained either to be managers, accountants, engineers or other specialists.  I know of no program you can take in any of our schools that will actually teach you to be a successful entrepreneur.  The Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts didn’t want that curriculum to reach us ‘regular folks’ because that would have enabled us to become their competition.  Better to condition the masses with the mantra “Get a good education so you can get a safe secure job with good pay and benefits then you’ll be set for life.”

Until the factory closes and the town dries up… 

You need look no farther than Berlin New Hampshire for a classic example of that.  There isn’t a single entrepreneur among all the laid off factory workers there who’s come up with anything else to replace the now closed mill.

As for credit card debt:

If you find yourself in a hole the first thing you need to do in order to get out of it is STOP DIGGING! 

Being saddled with a 30% interest rate is the result of one of two things.  Either you didn’t make the minimum payment by the due date and got hit with the penalty interest rate, or you didn’t read the details of the offer before you signed up. 

What the credit card companies don’t want you to know is that it is often possible to negotiate a lower interest rate. 

Call their 800 number.  When you finally get a human on the phone (this in itself can be a challenge) ask to speak to someone in the Customer Retention Department.  Once you have them on the line ask if the person you are talking to has the power to lower your interest rate.  If not ask to speak to someone who can.  Once you get a real decision maker on the phone explain that you are trying to improve your credit situation and to get your payments under control.  Ask them to lower your interest rate.  It may help to mention a competitor’s offer of a significantly lower rate and to say that you’d really like to stay with them but the interest rate you are being charged, if not reduced, will make you jump ship.  Their job is to keep you as a customer.  That’s why you asked for this department in the first place!  While you’re at it ask them to lower your monthly minimum payment.  This will make it take longer to pay off the full balance – if that’s all you pay – but it will also give you some breathing room.

Do this for all of your cards.

Be sure you continue to make the minimum payments on all of your cards!

Now take the total of the cash* you are saving from all of your lowered payments and put that toward either the card that has the highest interest rate – or the card that can be paid off the fastest.  I like that second option because it lets you see real progress in the shortest amount of time.  Make the minimum payment AND make an additional payment on principal on that card with the rest of the cash you are saving from your lowered payments.  Continue to do that every month until the card is paid off.  You will be amazed how fast that will be!

Keep in mind that you are not paying any more than you were before.  You are just allocating that cash in a much more effective way.

Now that the first card is paid off, take what was the payment on that card plus the ‘jump start’ payment and add that as the payment on principal to the next card in line.  When that card is paid off take the total that you were paying on that card, which includes what you rolled over from your payments on the first card, and use that as the payment on principal every month on the next card.

The snowball effect really works!

And while you are doing this DON’T MAKE ANY MORE PURCHASES ON YOUR CARDS!  You don’t need to cut them up.  It would be better to put them in a Tupperware bowl filled with water and stick ‘em in the freezer!  It won’t hurt the cards and if you have a crisis and need to use one of them you can always thaw them out to get at them.  But you have to take that deliberate step of thawing them before you can use them.

And don’t close the accounts!  (Unless there is a ridiculous annual fee…  And this, too, can possibly be negotiated away with the Retention Department.)  As soon as you close a credit account all of your payment history evaporates off of your credit report as if you never had the credit card that you’ve worked so hard to pay off.  You will need that credit history if you are going to finance your next entrepreneurial endeavor.

Now as for the greedy evil big business on Wall Street – Bank of America and their $5 a month fee for the privilege of using your ATM card as one example – don’t do business with them.  A local bank or better still a local credit union will be a much better business partner and won’t have a lot of the procedural embezzlement fees that the big banks have.  If the bank you are doing business with contracts a case of ‘big bankitis’ ditch them and move to another bank.  I’ve done that several times myself.  It’s a PITA, but it’s the only way these institutions really learn what their customers will put up with – and what they won’t.

“… accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.”

That was true when it was written back in 1776 and it is still true today.  Demanding free stuff from the government and that more limits be placed on business will not fix all that is wrong with our society today.  Reigning in the government and revamping our education system to teach entrepreneurialism are the only real long term solutions.

It is up to us as individuals to take care of ourselves.  We the People are not wards of the state!



* I use the term “cash” instead of “money” because there is no real money left in a world flooded with fiat currency.  But that is a subject for another time.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wanted: Good News Aggregator

Now that Yahoo!News is “teaming up with ABC” I am in search of a good – independent – news aggregator.  More than one would be ideal. 

What sites do You use and how would you rate them?

Please let me know in the comments.  Thanks!