but today it is…
but today it is…
So, I didn’t get back to my rant about our Senate Election here in Washington, and all the steam I had built up in the sleepless night that preceded the last entry has pretty much disappated. The general malaise I found myself in regarding the Senate Election centered around the fact that despite all of the concrete positive aspects of Patty Murray in her role as our Senator and despite the fact that her war chest dwarfed that of Rossi the race is still neck and neck.
At present, I am cautiously optimistic. A couple of debates and Murray’s numbers on http://www.fivethrityeight.com were greatly improved as Rossi reminded the voters that he is both creepy and has nothing substantive to offer except the same old “small government” line of BS he always runs (I can’t take your small government claims seriously when you want to impede on a woman’s right to choose and tell people who they can and can not marry). The big money is coming out of the woodwork now in the final push, but I’m really hoping a lot of ballots are already in the mail.
My ballot is not in the mail yet, I’m still mulling over a couple of the initiatives, but should mail it today (one of our initiatives would get the state out of the liquor store business, which in principle I would support, but during the biggest budget crisis in ages might have been a no brainer if it was better timed). The rest are the usual bevy of assanine anti-tax appeals and other such lunacy. I find most citizen initiatives irritating at best, but the real blame for them needs to be laid on legislators who choose to provide a stream of airy political rhetoric to their constituents once an election cycle and avoid concrete explanations of principles and policies on an ongoing basis.
I might not have mentioned this, and it is a bit random to pop it in here, but I ♥ Jim McDermott. Just saying…I tried to find his “Meet the Candidates” video from Kiro TV, but they don’t make it easy (one would think, go to the site, type in “election” and special coverage would be available, but not so much…but then, that introduces a whole other topic which is WA State’s shit bird top 2 primary system. The result being that in our district we have Jim (whom I adore) and another guy who ended his “Meet the Candidates” presentation stating that Jim would probably win and deserves to, noting that he primarily wanted to advance the visibility of the climate change issue by running for congress. The ”Top 2″ system unnescessarily limits debate, stifles ideas, and is particularly a racket when so much jerimandering has already rendered the political climate in most house districts flat and uninteresting. A former co-worker of mine is on the other side of the Cascades and has to choose between 2 Republican candidates, neither of which represent her views.
People shudder when I say this, until they really think it through…The Party should choose its candidate and all candidates with sufficient public support (demonstrated via signatures) should be on THE BALLOT. Another problem with WA’s particular flavor of Top 2 is that if any 1 candidate gets over 50% of the vote, the election is a done deal (this year a supreme court judge was selected with less than 20 percent of vote since turnout for the primary was right around 40% and he got better than 50% of that vote). The problem started when the Primary went public and started sapping public funds to select party candidates. This development was a great way for the parties to shift the expense of collecting public opinion on their candidates away from the party and on to the shoulders of the tax payers. The fact of the matter is that the public should not pick which candidate a Party presents. The political party should choose the candidate that will wear that moniker on the final ballot anyone else then has the option to garner support as an independent or thrid party candidate and advance to the ballot with some reasonable number of signatures indicating public interest in their candidacy. If the parties would like help facilitating their primaries, they should pay the state to hold them, but they should not be a nescessary condition for inclusion on the final ballot. They should return to a mechanism by which the party chooses a candidate (at the party’s expense) to represent that party. The only thing the top 2 primary does do (given the jerimandered districts) is potentially open a narrow opportunity for a thrid party candidate to advance to the ballot in a federal House election or state legislature election where the district (like our WA 7th district) has a very narrow spectrum of political opinion.
Wow, that wasn’t really what I came here to talk about, but there it it. Written hastily, so forgive the typos. I expect Tuesday to break my heart all over again as a misinformed citizenry wanders aimlessly to the polls to express how disappointed they are that their unrealistic expectations for sudden unequivocal financial recovery from the economic disaster ushered in by 8 years of de- and under-regulation by Bush and his meathead cronies. Back to business as usual I suppose, America selects from a menu of bland options with emotion not reason and then reports shock and dismay that the veal has no flavor…
Well over a year has passed since I’ve written anything here, but according to google analytics somebody still arrives here on occassion. Whether they be lost or found when they arrive is unclear from search terms like “saturn wagon”, “1995 f250″, “shitsu” or “pie transportation”. Maybe on the last item a conclusion can be drawn since there are very few websites that have a “comprehensive pie transportaion solution” featured prominently in their content. A lot has been going on here at the B-Bar-Lazy-B over the past year, and the combination of daily activities and somewhat gainful but draining self-employment have pretty much kept me out of the blogging mood. Suffice it to say that aside from a really rough September which included Huxley the dog’s diagnosis of lymphoma (a topic unto itself into which I am not ready to delve at the present time), things have been going pretty well around here. I wish I would have blogged about all of the bee hive action we had this summer, but at this moment that epic tale is a bit too distant from my thoughts to recount in detail. The short form ends in three hives in the backyard, ~6 gallons of honey harvested, and a bit of a trying time with a swarm, a hive split and one hive of relatively mean honeybees.
Moving forward, after about 3 hours of tossing and turning last night, I decided to give up on sleep and get out of bed at 5am (this is nothing short of absurd, particularly on a saturday, for one who usually stays firmly secured under the covers until about 9 or 10 when possible). As peculiar and impersonal as it may sound, the Washinton State Senatorial Election Race held fast to the foremost thoughts on my mind while NOT sleeping last night. I spun and spun, and then spun some more on the topic, and even now, an hour after I left the warm and comfortable, but angst ridden bed, I can feel a vien bulging near my temple with frustration over how tight this race is polling. One of the pleasures of the past 15 years living in Washington state just outside of Seattle, is that despite a little freakishness on the east side of the Cascades, our politics stay pretty firmly centered just slightly to the left. As such, some pretty fundemental rights are protected from conservative assault and on occassion something progressive might even happen (like the recent domestic partnership laws and the successful defeat of Referendum 71 which sought to undo that progress). Despite my bumper stickers and a flurry of posts leading up to the historic election of 2008, I have kept this blog mostly focused on the activity here on the sprawling eighth of an acre that I like to call the B-Bar-Lazy-B and stayed pretty light on the politics. That may very well be why I haven’t written here for over a year, because I am pretty damn content with what we have going on here, and as such I don’t usually lay awake at night worrying about it (or if I do, it is because something is worthy of that kind of attention). This election on the other hand gets me fired up, angry and, dare I say, passionate about a few things. So, there is a good chance that if this blog is going to be updated, then it will skew a bit more political in the coming weeks and likely into perpetuity. So, let’s get started with the rant, shall we?
In the interests of full disclosure…
let me admit that in the mid-80′s, when I was about 14 or 15 years old, I was momentarily taken in by “Supply-Side Economics” or “Trickle-Down Theory” as it was called then. To a politically naíve teen, the whole thing made perfect sense. Give incentives to big business so that big business can create jobs and the economy will flourish. Let me share a few things I’ve learned in the quarter of century that has passed since then…
First, the only two things a business needs to create jobs are a good, useful, and persistently relevant product (see GMC for an epic failure in this area recently) and people with enough disposable income to buy that product. Even Henry Ford’s warped anti-semetic mind grasped this concept and not only did his high wages (for the period) draw the best possible employees to build the best possible product, but his employees were able to buy the product that he manufactured. What a novel recipe for success, hmmm….how many GM employees could afford the retail price on a Hummer or a Caddillac without going to debtor’s prison shortly after they were laid off because GM totally lacked a forward thinking product development strategy. Yet another topic of great importance directly related to the current recession is the insane idea of being able to afford the thing you are buying, but we’ll save that for another discussion. The haze in which most business owners seem lost, is the idea that Unions are bad for business when in fact Unions are only bad for bad businesses because in the aggregate higher overall wages distributed to employees who actually buy things with their paychecks results in greater consumer demand. Since greater consumer demand is now the pre-eminent backbone of sales and small businesses are the backbone of our economy when companies that can afford it pay higher overall wages the entire economy benefits from those expenditures (usually including the company paying out the higher wages). This is true even for big businesses. If incomes are not sufficient to support air travel, then Boeing doesn’t have much business making planes. While profit margins are higher on business class (which doesn’t imply business travel), they wouldn’t be cramming us into airplanes cheek to cheek if they could profit without us (and BTW, first class travel generally operates at a loss, don’t believe me, check it out: http://www.airport-int.com/article/changes-in-demand-for-air-travel.html). This is a bit of a reprise, but humor me as I am running on about 2.5 hours sleep, WE the people who work for a living ARE the engine of the economy.
Second, the last thing a big business will do with additional profits gained from government incentives is add employees (excepton the rare occassion where they only receive the incentive by hiring, at which point they will hire just long enough to benefit from the incentive and then lay people off and celebrate at length the shrewd cost cutting maneuver they just performed). Particularly not in a recession when the old standby techniques of squeezing blood out of a turnip are so effectively plied against your captive workforce in a tight labor market. Also, there are a bevy of other things big businesses like to spend money on and most of them don’t create jobs either. Executive bonuses and raises and dividends to investors to recognize and celebrate these great windfall profits without regard for the fact that they originated in government incentives rate high on the list. These bonuses, raises, and dividends are then reinvested either in gigantic slot machines labeled NYSE where billions of dollars can vanish into thin air in a few hours or to exotic eccentricities and luxurious delights like fried baby seal testicles flown directly from Palin-land that create approximately 0 opportunities for long term employment. For the large investors, the dividends are similarly frittered away into the ether and for the small investors that actually hold a long-term interest in their investment through retirement accounts, education accounts and the like, these dividends are usually reinvested in the same portfolio from whence they came only to be wiped out entirely by the next Lehman-Goldman-AIG-Housing Bubble debacle that inevitably lays just around the corner (for more information on how this keeps happening see “Citibank – countries don’t go bankrupt viz a viz the 1970s”, “Neil Bush (son of George Sr) -Savings and Loan deregulation and disaster viz a viz the 1980′s”, “Orange County Municipal Bonds – Municipalities don’t go bankrupt viz a viz the 1990′s”, and of course “Dot Com Bubble + Enron fraud viz a viz the turn of this century” in addition to our current dilema.
Third, and this is really important, but very difficult to unpack. At some point between the 111th session of Congress in 2010 and the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constiution with their lofty goals of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” and to ”establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” we managed to conflate Freedom and Property into a single conceptual quagmire of confusion. I say this largely in response to the Republican’s claims that they desire “small government” while simultaneously attempting to control every womb in the country, tell us who we can or can not marry, where mosques should be built, which religions should be preferentially honored by government institutions, take away our right to collectively bargain wages and benefits, consider torture ok now and again, exponentially increase defense spending by engaging in foreign misadventures like Iraq, and continue to grasp desperately to the notion that state sanctioned murder is honorable (afterall look at the other great freedom loving countries that still do it, like Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea and Iran). The contradictions boggle the mind. You can’t make Social Security and Medicare big enough to overshadow the size of a government interested in doing all that to our personal freedom and well-being. And yet you have this band of crazies trying to align themselves with the original revolution carrying signs that say “Don’t steal from Medicare to Support Socialized Medicine” … WTF?
…and while we’re on the topic of crazy, how about guys against Patty Murray because she proposes legislation that makes it more difficult to purchase a Mail Order Bride: http://www.the-spearhead.com/2010/08/18/patty-murray-facing-serious-challenge/
…and those are the kinds of things that get me spinning in such a way that I just can’t pull out of the no sleep nose dive I was in last night.
Which brings us to…
this year’s senatorial election here in Washington state.
Context Note: at this moment Maya woke up and we started listening to the radio together and discussing my spinning and not sleeping last night, so more angst and anguish over the senate race will have to come later…
Pile O’ $h!t:
Apparently it has been 2 months since I wrote the Homeresque blog post about the truck designed to rival Tolstoi in verbosity. You can imagine I needed a long hard rest after that blogging odyssey, and honestly, I don’t feel like I’ve gotten that long hard rest, but alas, I will blog again regardless. The whole thing would probably be a lot easier if I just blogged a little every couple of days instead of bundling a couple months worth of news into a single post. The bundling puts too much distance between me and some of the more significant events of the past 2 months, enough distance that any rendering of those events would seem too contrived and contemplated to have any real value. As such, we’re going to skip the most important stuff and stick to the most entertaining stuff, so put your finger on the scroll wheel and let us begin…
Maya recently encountered a post on Craig’s List by a tree service company offering to deliver wood chips free of charge with a 4 cubic yard minimum. Perfect, we happened to be in the market for a boat load of mulch to finish our comprehensive lawn removal project, so after some foot dragging on my part we gave them a ring. They said they would have about 8 cubic yards and asked how much of it we would like. “Sure, bring us what ya’ got. We’ll take it…” I said figuring we could easily spread 8 cubic yards of mulch. No problem at all. ’8 yards will be a perfect start’, I thought to myself when I hung up the phone. Keep in mind, I do have some idea of what a cubic yard looks like having hauled in several of them for filling the holes that I dig. A couple of years ago we had 15 cubic yards of soil delivered for the largest raised bed in the back yard, so I felt like half of that quantity was easily managable. Then they arrived…
In my estimation we ended up with about 20 cubic yards (Maya says 24, so perhaps it is somewhere in between), nevertheless, it was not 8. Nowhere near 8. A whole $h!tload more than 8. It filled the entire driveway (almost, kind of, ok, not the entire driveway, but the entire part of the driveway in which Maya parks, not the part that is ordinarily occupied by my truck canopy and other non-essential goods for which no other suitable location can be found). The funniest thing about the pile was the fact that several visitors shortly after the arrival of the pile expressed an acknowledgment of the pile’s presence in exactly the same phrase: “You have a big pile of $h!t in your driveway.” they would announce in an informative manner as they arrived. We kindly let them know we were aware of the pile and had a certain fondness and actual intention to utilize the pile and that no impending catastrophe should be assumed by the presence of the pile. Maya’s mother was really disturbed by the pile from an aesthetic perspective and inspired me once again to appreciate the fact that in Skyway no one is going to sweat the big pile of mulch in your driveway regardless of how many weeks it sits there. It is simply the case that around here there are matters of much greater importance than whether or not someone is fast or slow about their mulching procedings.
I had a picture of the original pile, but my fancy fricken’ phone decided it needed to mysterious reset back to factory defaults and I lost the pictures, so all I have is this one of the portion of the pile that remains in our driveway oh so many weeks later:
The original pile extended to the right hand edge of the above picture and just past the left hand edge as well as spanning the entire width of the driveway. The other somewhat irritating thing about the pile is that it consisted more of pine needles than anything else. No problem we thought, we spread it in the areas where plants are already accustomed to acidic soils (or where we don’t want plants anyway) and the rains of late May and June should help break them down as to prevent creating a giant fire hazard out of our entire yard. We have now gone 28 days without any measurable rainfall. Should this continue for another full day we will have beat the record (for this time of year, whatever that means, but weathermen need to report something, so I guess that is how records like that get created) set back in 1982. I will spread part of the remaining stuff in a final layer around the back yard where the previous three layers have been sufficiently trompled (along our main walking paths), and the balance I will take to A.’s house (A. doesn’t live terribly far from here and is in Maya’s permaculture class and we met her at a SURF Co-op meeting before that class began). So, soon enough the pile will be resolved. The biggest hurdle being clearing the back of the truck and actually pulling the canopy off again (I’m pretty sure it won’t sit in the driveway for 2 years again, but we’ll see).
As fate would have it, Maya had permaculture class on the same day that she was slated to provide food for her cousin K.’s college graduation party way out in North Bend, Washington which is about a thousand miles from here (or it might be 35, somewhere in there). Maya’s class got out at 5:30pm and the festivities were slated to begin at 6pm (which those of us who had previously graduated from UW and had to sit through and escape from the ceremony at Maya’s mother’s behest, knew was a farce since it easily takes an hour just to get out of the stadium and off campus with the droves of humans and automobiles overwhelming the area following the event), but nonetheless, the food had to be delivered, prepared and presentable prior to the previously determined start time. As such, the task had to be assigned to the person least capable of completing it successfully…me. Why am I the person least capable of completing the task successfully? Well, for starters I have a very fuzzy conception of time and an even fuzzier conception of arbitrary deadlines (note, I recognize a real deadline, but most deadlines I consider arbitrary at best). It is also the fact that I generally lack the motor skills appropriate to carrying, mixing and handling large quantities of food (and really you should have seen the mess I made attempting to mix the 42 lbs of tabouli Maya prepped for the event). But, safe and secure transportation of 7 rhubarb and blackberry pies (which ended up being 9) was the only part of the task that truly frightened me.
I have failed in the past at transporting exactly this type of pie, and the sadness that befell Maya when I arrived with a broken crust and spilled filling haunts me to the day. Having a deep desire to not repeat the crust breaking filling spilling heart break I had previously deliver upon the woman I love, I set my mind to conquering through technology the pie delivery obstacle which layed before me. I needed to develop a comprehensive pie transportation solution, and I only had a week to do it. So, I spent 5 days thinking about it, and then started working on the solution the day before I needed to have it done. Whilst working on it the number of pies increased and Maya detected a near fatal design flaw which resulted in some last minute adjustments (for the design flaw, not the number of pies, I had already accomodated 8 pies in the design and figure putting one floating pie at risk was far better than starting over and working toward a 10 pie solution). The challenging aspects were to utilize existing materials (specifically existing materials not likely to be useful to any other project in the near future) and to make sure that my design could accommodate both the small aluminum pie tins being utilized for this event and the larger ones that might be required for some future event. I got the inital frame work assembled, glued, nailed and cured and had a solid design to work with after the first day. So during the day of the event I finished off the pie transportation devices and managed to still get out to the event in time to set up the food (with the help of Maya’s Dad and K.’s boyfriend). Also, J.’s arrival just before I completed the second device played heavily into my success as he offered to wrap the pies while I showered and changed to get ready to leave the house (about an hour and forty-five minutes later than I had originally intended to leave, but this ended up being fortuitous for reasons I am not willing to discuss at this time). And so, I present to you, the CPTS (Comprehensive Pie Transportation Solution) as it appeared filled and loaded into the Super-Cab of the previously discussed Bio-Beast of an F250 that I drive:
Primarily constructed of fir trim removed from our house 4.5 years ago during our massive remodel (and since that time floating around the shed in a huge unweildy mass to be moved to and fro whenever we need to get to something), the CPTS fit the bill with relatively little sliding, no breakage, and most importantly no spillin’ o’ the fillin’. But, I’m really hoping the day we have to transport 12 pies is in the very far future because I am not at all looking forward to the hassle of making another one of these (a lot of awkward corners to wedge the little electric tack nailer into and oh so many little cuts and clamps and frustrations along the way).
Hair Weave on the Loose:
On the day after Maya’s cousin K.’s graduation festivities J. (formerly of JnX) and I took Huxley on a micro walk over to the mini-mart (so I could buy smokes) and to Nevzat’s esspresso drive through (so I could get a dose of my other ‘eine). The mini market is right next to an action packed little bar in our neighborhood that has experienced more than it’s share of massive law enforcement interventions and county sherriff helicopter hooverings. At 2am each weekend we can hear relationships coming to an end as the bar let’s out and final determinations of the relationship status are loudly resolved in the parking lot. So, it was highly entertaining, but not terribly surprising when we found this:
The picture is blurry, but suffice it to say that is a portion of someone’s “Weave“. The picture of the intense “chick fight” that resulted in this aftermath, as well as the words that must have been exchanged at the time, were immediately apparent to J. and I. Fortunately J. had his phone with him and was able to capture this priceless photo. But, wait for it…after I got my smokes and we crossed the parking lot to visit Nevzat’s espresso stand, I thought it would be funny to point the unwoven “Weave” out to him. His response:
“Oh yeah, I saw it this morning when I arrived. EVERY WEEKEND there is one,” and his eyes got really big, “sometimes a whole head of hair out in that parking lot…”
J. and I both almost fell to the ground laughing. This wasn’t a special occassion, I just usually fail to get over to the mini-mart and the espresso stand early enough in the day to see the aftermath of the Skyway weekend nights. So, if you’re looking for your next viral video to post on You Tube, drop me a note and I’ll direct you to a suitable location to set up your night vision camera on a Skyway Saturday night to capture what is apparently the regular sacrafice of the “Weave” that happens here on the hill. This fact makes me realize that each weekend we are probably hearing both the end and the beginning of some relationship out there in the parking lot as to the victor go the spoils and who ever inspired such conflict is not likely going home with the girl who just lost her “Weave” in the parking lot. Just a guess though, now I’m talking out my a$$, so I’ll bring it to a close and wish you well ’til next I bang this keyboard into temporary submission.
Right around the time we started the new bed and hauled the cottonwood rounds, I ran across a post I could not refuse during one of my frequent “diesel < 3000″ Craig’s List searches (don’t ask me why, I’m not really shopping for anything particular, but I like to see what’s out there and am still kind of kicking myself for not jumping on the $600 1984 Diesel Ford Escort Wagon I ran across a month ago, but tax time was near and dropping $600 on something I don’t really need at the time didn’t seem wise). Probably far too many of my conversations with Maya start with the phrase “Some in xxxxx has…”, and she is then warned that I am about to share some wacky thing I encountered on Craig’s List. In all fairness to myself, many of Maya’s IMs to me are links to pets, farm animals, and woodland creatures available on Craig’s List for which we do not have the space to raise, but I’ll admit I likely produce more “Someone has” conversations than Maya produces “Cute and fuzzy” instant messages.
Sorry, I wandered a bit there, but what I encounterd a month ago was someone in Tacoma with nearly 200 gallons of used vegetable oil, 5 gallons of methanol, and 55 lbs of lye. Oooo….hmmm…yikes…rrr…what to do, what to do…
Some background is probably in order here.
BEGIN: Saga of the Truck (if you don’t care about the truck and just want to know about the oil you can skip over the next several paragraphs of rambling automotive history)
A couple of years ago I was driving a Saturn Wagon:
And a couple of years before that, shortly after we bought the house, we bought “Billie”, a ’76 F100 that we bought for $300:
“Billie”‘s owner (who named the truck) hated to part with her dear truck, but she had recently purchase a fuel efficient wagon and lived in the swanky Magnolia neighborhood and her neighbors had deemd “Billie” an eyesore and started calling the cops anytime the truck was within 30 ft of a driveway or for any other reason they could or thought they could. In the beginning, no more perfect a match betwixt us and truck could have been discovered. With a waste transfer facility just down the hill for our dump runs and Cedar Grove only about 10 or so miles away for our compost and soil needs, “Billie” fit the bill and met our needs. However, after a couple of years our needs started to get a little more esoteric and drives to get lumber for the fence and the shed ended up being up to 30 or more miles (to score the perfect bulk liquidation or overstock deals I’d find on Craig’s List.
At about 8 MPG with a front tank that we were warned should not be filled above half full due to the potential for leaking, increasingly more difficult starts and steering that seemed altogether too approximate even for my liking, I didn’t feel 100% comfortable taking “Billie” too far from home (or on the Interstate for any distance). Contemporaneously, Maya’s cousin R. had started working for a Biodiesel distributor in Bellingham called Whole Energy. I did a little research, made a decision, and then became obsessed with the mission of conflating our $300 pickup and my wagon into a single enviro-friendly reliable hauler for our basic construction and landscaping needs and the treasures made available to us by the wonders on the internet. The fact that I haven’t had to commute to work for about a decade and we have Maya’s little Civic for other errands also facilitated the decision. Further, I had discovered there were several stations in the region (and one particularly close) that served up B99 (99% Biodiesel, there is a reason it is usually 99% rather than 100% that has to do with tax incentives for carbon reducing additives, but that discussion is far beyond the scope of this already meandering post). So, feasaility studies complete, I started shopping…
Maya’s dad’s F250 was coming up toward 300k miles (which impressed me), I learned that the Ford diesel engine was made by International Harvester (stirring a certain nostalgia factor related to my Dad’s fondness of his beastly and seemingly indestructable Scount and Scout II he had when I was growing up), we had fairly recently gotten Huxley the dog (and there was no way he would be riding in the back of the truck like some second class member of the family, so I knew I needed a super/extended cab to accomodate the whole family and allow for flexibility in packing for potentially rainy Northwest camping trips).
I also didn’t want to go terribly deeply in debt, but had accepted a couple years worth of debt at a specific price point as an acceptable sacrifice for a truck that wouldn’t be in the shop every month (since I am not well versed in auto mechanics, not particularly inclined to become too well versed in it, and lack the tools and garage that would make it a reasonable endeavor to pursue). I liked the fact that the Dodge diesels had a smaller engine (and likely better fuel economy) since I wouldn’t be towing (and people in general seem to rave about their Cummins built diesels engines), but the rarity and seeminly outrageous prices on early to mid 90′s extended cab Dodge diesels withdrew them from the running.
As bizarre as it may sound, I ended up not finding my truck on Craig’s List, but rather ran across it in an exploratory search on Cars.com. The color was not to my liking, but not a show stopper, and since has become the crux of many a jibe from Maya since I like to call it “Copper” where most people see it as “Gold” and Maya likes to call it “Rosé” or “Pink” when the sunlight hits it just so and brings out the red undertones that inspire me to call it “Copper” (I think Ford calls it “Beige” which is right out in left field).
When I ran across the 1995 F250 Powerstroke (turbo) diesel supercab at Cars.com, a bit of disappointment befell me as the vehicle wasn’t a private party sale, but rather a local Ford dealer offerred up the truck at a surprisingly low price when compared to the other mid 90′s trucks I had viewed. I had test drove an ’86 non-turbo that someone had on Craig’s List, but it was painfully clear that despite the appealing debt free price tag that it was not the “reliable” hauler I sought. I also checked out a 2000 F250 Supercab at a nearby used car dealer. That truck had about a billion rough miles on it and clearly had been acquired via the auction of some corporate fleet. Nothing special about it, a nice drive, only the very base features and no tailgate. I’m sure there were reasons that one had a price tag close to what I eventually paid for the ’95.
The fact that I had a pre-approval voucher from my credit union made the ’95 F250 at the Ford dealer considerably more appealing because I knew I could roll the salestax into the loan at the dealer (I still had my Saturn and wasn’t going to sell it until I already had a replacement for it in front of the house, and wanted to be able to take my time and get my price for the wagon). And as much as I would have liked to have completed the purchase through a private sale, I initially found the fact that the dealer had service the vehicle a serious point in favor of the ’95. As it turns out, maybe that wasn’t so much a benefit, but the ’95 had already had a documented engine replacement (a ’96 with fewer miles on it than the 202,601 on the odometer, although who knows how many fewer miles as that part hadn’t been documented), and had already had the transmission rebuilt once.
The truck did have a problem with the left front ball joint, but the dealer arranged to have that replace at cost (at their cost, which wasn’t the greatest savings known to man). When I got the truck home I discovered it still seemed to have the same knocking issue with the driver’s side ball joint, but I figured since it had been replaced it must just be my ignorance misinterpreting the occasional pop during really hard turns. Eventually I had both ball joints replaced because the dealer had replaced the wrong one in the first place and my mechinic gave me a decent deal on servicable ball joints for both sides, unfortunately this discovery came far to late to take it back to the dealer, so I was out about $400 on that deal. I also realized right before a trip to Eugene, OR, why the engine probably had to be replaced in the first place. No where on the service receipts did they mention replacing the thermometer for the coolant, and sure enough, it was dead. A saturday morning at the Midas (where they apparently didn’t realize they needed to drain down the 400 gallons of coolant prior to replacing the thermometer) further convinced me to stick with my mechanic’s shop where they service their own Cummin’s tow truck and have a guy that used to work for International Harvester, but live and learn I suppose (and I really did not want to hit the road for my first long trip in the truck without a temperature gauge).
So, we sold “Billie” (for $225 by the way, net cost excluding fuel and insurance of $75, no better deal ever existed on the planet that wasn’t free), and I sold the Saturn for $3k and have managed to pay off the truck in about 2 years. Note that I kept my $45 lumber rack, and thanks to a little welding help from X.‘s dad (of JnX) was able to continue using it with the new truck (prior to realizing it was a little too wide J. & I jammed it in there and spread my bed a bit, so occasionally I have to squeeze the bed inward to close the tailgate if the truck is full of dirt or something pushing out on the bed walls). Aside for a mistake on my part wherein I still had summer fuel in the tank during a Thanksgiving dip in temperature to the low teens that clogged my fuel filter to the extent that I needed to take it to the shop and they ended up spraying WD-40 in the intake to get it started (keep in mind I fill up about once every 2 months or so), running bio-diesel has been a success. I run B-99 most of the year, but November through February I’ll generally fill one tank with B-50 and the other with an approximately hand blended B-70 or there abouts to prevent gel and cloggage in the coldest of the winter months. The price shot up dramatically when all fuel prices were going up, and apparently the harvest cycle has left it stuck around $4 a gallon while it used to be with 10 to 20 cents of the price of regular diesel when I first got the truck (prompting the vendor nearest me to stop selling B99 in favor of the cheaper B50 blend). Despite all of the drama documented above, I really, really like my truck. And love the fact that most of the year it is running in a carbon nuetral manner and get’s nearly 20mpg on the longer freeway trips. My mileage is smashed by the short trips I take around town for this and that, but such is the trade-off for being able to run out and confidently pick up a yard of dirt, compost, concrete or drywall (and yes, I did the calculations and the drywal for J.‘s addition came out to a cubic yard).
END: Saga of the Truck
So, to get back to where we started, I saw this deal on Craig’s List for nearly 200 gallons of used vegetable oil, 5 gallons of methanol, and 55 lbs of lye. I had little interest in full blown home brewing, but was hoping I could filter most of oil, maybe make a small batch of biodiesel for fun, and then sell off the extra lye (or Maya could use the lye for soap making, or something), and then I could just blend some of the filtered WVO (waster vegetable oil) in with my regular fuel through the hotest of the summer months. Think of the savings? And the pretty French Fry smell of my exhaust (you get a little bit of this from bio-diesel, but not quite the deliscious hunger inducing smell of running SVO (straight vegetable oil) or filtered WVO.
Before I went out to get this stuff I asked the buy to send me a picture so I had some idea of what my loading and storage requirements would be. Well, most of the oil was in 5 gallon “disposable” carboys as it had been delivered to the restaurants from whence it came. Great for loading, less great for storage.
No problem though, you see, J. (of JnX) had recently offered up some portion of his garage for storing lumber should I need it since his property consists as much of a network of storage structures and garages (each of a varying degree of age, quality and stability) as it does anything else. Witness exhibit A, the garages from the air:
So, after asking J. and finding a good corner for the oil, and unsuccessfully trying to convince J. that his network of garages would be the optimal place to start a small bio-diesel processing facility (and that all he had to do is sell his 90′s gas Toyota pickup and buy a similarly priced 80′s diesel Isuzu and he could enjoy the benifits of nearly free carbon nuetral fuel (I continue without luck to convince him of this), I went and picked this stuff up. The problem, as it turns out, is that a good deal of this oil is partially hydrogenated. Adding hydrogen to oil makes it solidify at room temperature and apparently prolongs the shelf life of the stuff. These are benefits for the deep frying industry, but that solid or nearly solid at room temperature thing really blows if you want to use it as fuel (unless you’re the kind of person who gets joy out of periodically disassembling and degunking your entire fuel system). The problem is not without a solution however, and the solution is to turn it into bonafide biodiesel through the miraculous process of transesterification (more than you could probably ever desire to know about this process, and how it compares with SVO/WVO is available at: Journey To Forever. So, looking over my email I see that it was late February when I went to pick up this oil, and to date I have done nothing with it.
My first step is going to be to fashion a heating and filtration system out of a bunch of 5 gallon pails so I can get the stuff cleaned up. Some of it is super gunky (there were even bits of blue tarp in some of it). That way I can get a good quantity of it out of J.’s garages long before the day that some kind of processing setup is ready here. A couple of 30 gallon barrels (one partially full) came with the oil, so I’ll fill those and probably try to get a couple more since I can store those outside and still keep the oil dry and out of Huxley’s mouth. My first few attempts at transfering the oil between containers as-is in its semi-solid state resulted in a great number of nasty oily rags to which Huxley took an instant and undesirable liking.
We don’t have the space around here for a full blown multistep/multitank processing system consiting of an 80 gallon hot water tank and a couple of huge conical tanks for washing and drying the fuel after processing. On top of that those damned conical tanks with stands cost exactly 1 arm and 1 leg each (indicating that following payment for such an aparatus I would be hard pressed to process anything in the resultant limbless state I would be in). I have been scouring Craig’s List for a SMALL water heater hoping I could perhaps make a compact processor for about 15 gallons at a time that would fit comfortably alongside the shed in the back yard. I already have plans to build an attached covered area off of that side of the shed for the chipper/shredder and the soon to be obsolete lawn mower (more on that at a later date), so that seems to be my best option if I am going to do any processing around here. Apparently water heaters under 40 gallons are few and far between. I also need to do some more research to make sure I have a safe setup for handling the methonal and creating/transfering the meth-oxide that is central to the process. The methonal is a lot nastier and more hazardous than seemed to be indicated in my original research and readings. In the ideal, after I go through the small bit I have on hand, I’ll switch to a process using ethonal which is just as flamable, but apparently less toxic than methonal.
Since I only use about 16 gallons a month it makes no sense for me to setup some crazy large processor that is going to sit idle most of the time and force me to procure storage for more fuel than will fit in the truck. So, the challenge I face over the summer is finding a middle ground between the “Soda Bottle” sized batches with which one introduces themselves to the process and the 60-80 gallon batches that most full blown processors produce. I’ll keep you posted as I slowly but surely make headway in this fueling ourselves project (or at least my truck, Maya is vociferously dedicated to driving her Civic into the ground and she is hoping to make it her 30 or 40 year vehicle despite my periodically proding here to sell it now while she can get enough to mostly pay for TDI Jetta or something we can run on the byproducts of some of my favorite foods, being just about anything deep fried).
And thus, in closing I must mention that if you happen to be in the area and have an extra 20 gallon water heater sitting in your garage, drop me a note and I’ll come get it right away…
Update: 4/7/2009 - Well, hmmm…I guess I let an entire month slip by and now there is more to tell then there is time to tell it, but let me at least get started…We’re heading out to dinner with JnX here shortly, but perhaps I cover the past month or so in brief.
Way back at the end of February we had a weird sun break and got a couple of days of work in out in the yard, so I took advantage of the opportunity to start working on the new raised bed. It became very clear very quickly that the broken concrete I had on hand from the removal of the sidewalk in the back yard a couple of years ago would not be sufficient to complete the job so I started scouring Craig’s List for additional concrete or alternatives to fill in the gaps. As it turns out someone had felled a gigantic cottonwood, and I mean gigantic, and had a pile of logs, rounds, and slag they wanted removed so we drove by to take a look. Maya did a little research on the burnability of cottonwood, so I contacted the guy and figured at a minimum I could get the bigger rounds that were already cut (and use those as part of the raised bed) and then snag some additional fire wood for J. of JnX since their fireplace is their only source of heat and J. didn’t have much luck finding a boat for winter fishing to augment a mediocre summer salmon season, so I figured anything for free would be good. I so terribly underestimated the weight of these rounds. Each one weighed at least as much as I do, and as previously mentioned many days/weeks have been spent recovering from the lifting, rolling and placing process. There is a picture of these monsters in their final position in the previous post, and here’s another picture of them in the back of the truck when only half of the damage to my body had been done…
So, even though the lifting was done at this point, the process of rolling them out of the truck into the driveway and then rolling them back to their final resting place was a long slow wrestling match betwixt the logs and I. I won in the end, I think, but although they are called rounds, that is a disasterous overstatement and generalization of their actual shape. The path from the back of the truck to the new bad had as many zigs and sags as a saw blade, but in a much less uniform distribution. The rains that followed this activity were not altogether welcomed despite the fact that in the end they probably granted a much needed reprieve for healing of the muscles and joints to prepare me for the final concrete wrestling match which was required to complete the wall around the new bed.
Craig’s List is wonderous, and dangerous, and tonight after I get back from dinner I’ll discuss some of the hazards inherent to a giant list of stuff from the entire region that you might not realize you want until you encounter it somewhat by accident…
Update 4/8/2009: After dinner we enjoyed the spate of nice weather by having a fire out back in which we burned the remnants of the gigantic dead rosemary we had pulled out over the weekend. We’re not sure if it died from old age, the really nasty winter, or my incursions into its bed chasing morning glory root the past couple of years, but we needed the space for the new location of the yet to be moved chicken coop and the rosemary was clearly not rebounding this year as it had in years past. Apparently many, many years past as we were able to burn the dead branches for a couple hours. Hence, I did not return to this post the other night, and probably shouldn’t have today in favor of starting a new post, but alas, here we are…
Actually, this went on too long, so I changed my mind and will continue it in the next post.
More to come on this soon… (written 1/17/2009)
Ok, well, soon is a relative term…it is now March 3rd and Maya has seen fit to comment on how terribly out of date this post is (in addition to threatening to blog about the new raised bed, not that I’d mind, but she gave me a deadline, which I may have missed). Let’s wander back to mid-January for a moment and discuss the situtations that were at hand at that point in time (some of which have been resolved, some not so much).
Rats, or perhaps just one, nonetheless the evidence provided above (in addition to other evidence not available at the time of this writing in the form of a catacomb of tunnels around and about the chicken coop and compost bins) indicates the presence of a rodent. Back in January I was starting to get worried that he would undermine the foundation of the shed (there are 4 or 5 of these egresses from under the slab). Further, it seems the rat was somehow extracting stuff from the compost cones. An inspection of the exterior base of the cone below ground level revealed no entrance, and yet, there were onion skins and other such tidbits pretty regularlly strewn about the chicken yard (and not by the chickens) in addition to the catacombs. I erected a barrier between the chicken yard and the compost cones and set a load of rat traps to no avail. Keep in mind we have three cats and a dog (kind of, Hemmingway is blind and doesn’t leave the house any more and Bukowski now visits every week and a half or so, perhaps more on that later). In my opinion we shouldn’t have rodent problems, particularly since the neighbors at our southeastish corner (near the chicken yard) have the biggest most ferocious most terrible cat known to mankind. But alas, a rat we have, and as yet I have not caught and killed him, but his activity seems to have been limited by this fancy new device:
The approximately 3.5 foot tall chicken wire enclosure for the chicken yard became useless once the Skyway winds blew away the bird netting that originally covered the area. Blume (the littlest one) can basically fly whether her wing is clipped or not, and with planting season on the horizon we had to restore some modicum of order to the back yard. Coupled with the aforementioned rat issue, the gate was concieved and built (previously we accessed the chicken yard by passing through the two connected sheds at the left hand edge of the above photo, fine for us, but the situation prevented Huxley from patroling, growling, urinating and what not in that corner of the yard even when the chickens are in for the night). Prior to the gate Huxley would get really squierelly each night running around the chicken yard sniffing and barking (we assume he smelled a rat, the very same rat that continues to outwit me to this day).
Another component of the ”keep Blume in the chicken yard except when we want her ranging” program was the purchase of a couple of 16ft x 54in cattle panels. The plan is to use these panels to create dual chicken yards and rotate the chickens seasonally from one yard to the next enabling us to plan stuff for ourselves and the chickens in the area from which the chickens will be excluded while they decimate the area in which they are confined. This will happen in concert with the moving and rebuilding of the chicken coop and the creation of a funky new raised bed from broken concrete and large logs. The cattle panels and the raised bed in progress are shown below:
Now really, I mean it, really, ok, so, well, hmmm…the “chicken wire” at 3.5 feet couldn’t contain Blume. So it goes, dust ourselves off and come up with an alternate plan to accomodate the adorable little flier. She’s often picked on by the bigger chickens, so a little extra effort on her behalf isn’t a problem. She is also the most human focused of the three chickens and likes to run out to greet us when we come back to the shed or follow us around the yard when she is ranging. So we spend about $100 on these cool cattle panels. Certainly 54 inches will work, the holes are large enough for her to get through, but the plan was to just cover the bottom 2/3′s with chicken wire and we should be set. No such luck. That little turd…freshly clipped wing and all she floats like a butterfly up to the top of the cattle panel shortly after we get it set up (well, ok, not so much floats and not at all like a butterfly). So, I tried adding some raspberry can arches to the top of the cattle panel to keep her in thinking the visual deterent might just be enough.
Again, my inadequecies were highlighted when Blume figured out she could pretty much knock them out of the way on her way up. So, after a bit of head scratching and various alternate plans for handling the Blume the flyer situation, I grabbed some of that cheezy green garden border wire arches stuff while walking by it at the hardware store. This sits a little bit precariously atop the chicken wire and addes another foot to the height. The test section I bought doesn’t quite cover the entire from facing length of their existing yard, but on the rare occassion that I remember to close the coop door closest to the cattle panel, the extra height seems to dissuade the littlest one from escaping. I’ll eventually pick up a couple 20ft rolls of that garbage and we’ll put it atop all the cattle panels when we get the new raise bed done and enclosed. I’m hoping to do some sort of funky pvc pipe strapped to cattle panel set ontop of a piece of rebar rammed into the ground fencing strategy for these cattle panels so we can take them down and get them out of the way when we are gardening that area and the girls aren’t ranging in that bed.
More news from way back in January…EGGS! Very shortly after solstace the girls started delivering their gifts again. Dahl was back to a steady egg a day and Blume and Cleary would usually round out the day with a second or third egg. Most of which have been dutifully recorded in our new “egg log” (which actually, has already been usurped by a “permaculture diary” that Maya bought, but way back in January it was just a plain old “egg log”. Unfortunately, the egg train slowed down a bit when Dahl (the red Arucana) decided to get broody on us a few weeks ago. We don’t have a rooster and have no intention of adding a chicken this year, so the poor girl spends most of her time sitting on a bunch of nothing. I miss seeing her in her chicken yard, even if she is an asshole bully to the other two girls on a pretty regular basis. Hopefully she’ll break brood soon and get our egg production back up to an average of around 2 a day.
And, because I just never get sick of this photo (taken by Maya), here is a mug shot of the escapee for ya:
but only in the left half of our front yard. Minor freak out this afternoon when I stepped out front to check the mail (after having been in the backyard for a bit) and found the left half of the front yard damp and rain drops falling solely in that half of the yard. It continues at this moment, and has been going for about an hour or so. A little bit freaky, but there seems to be a logical explanation.
We have 2 trees out front, a Crimson Maple (which of course is bare this time of year) and a very tall Douglas Fir. The maple is about 50 years old (I met the guy that planted it a couple of years ago when they stopped by to see their first house (the lived here from ’55-’59). The fir was planted sometime after that, but probably not long after that given the height on it. Well, it seems the conditions were just right today for a small rain storm just around the fir. Low clouds and fog, just low enough not to condense about the neighbor’s shorter conifer, but low enough to condense (heavily) on the needles of our fir.
And, voila, rain of sorts in that half of the yard. I tried to take some pictures, but I really wasn’t able to capture what was going on. So, since Maya is visiting her grandparents this weekend and I am here alone (not really alone per sé, after all, I’m here with Huxley, Hemmingway, Nin and the chickens, unfortunately Bukowski seems to have found another home and only comes by every several days or so), anyway I wanted a human witness to the event, so my friend J. of the JnX crew a few blocks away swung by to see our little storm and shot the breeze for a spell.
That’s what I’ve got for now, our private rain storm, there is plenty more and I apologize for the sheer laziness that has produced so little content as of late (but, as it stands, I am the Lazy B I guess). I should take this time to share all the news about rats, eggs, and escapees, but I think I’m just going to make a placeholder for it for now and write at length on that topic in the future.
because I haven’t writen a well thought out post in quite a while. My Dad was in town over Thanksgiving weekend, and that was a blast. It’s the first time he has made it out here from Dead Rock, MT since we bought the house, so it was a long anticipated visit. He spent some much needed quality time on the couch with his grand-puppy (Huxley) and met his grand-chickens (the girls) for the first time. We went to the Boeing Museum of Flight and to the EMP together which were both pretty cool. We thoroughly enjoyed an outstanding Philipino dinner at Kawali Grill (just south of Columbia City proper) the night before he left (oh dear oh my, can you say lumpia and crispy pork belly?), and then I spent Sunday afternoon and evening playing catch-up on the work for the week, but it was well worth it.
I also ran across this recently: www.lincvolt.com which is just super cool. If they can currently get of 60 mph out of this beautiful heavy old son of a … well, there’s hope for a much more efficient F250 somewhere in the future (which I’ll be able to afford a decade and a half after it comes out, or when I win the lottery).
In other news…well, I’m kind of ashamed to say it, but I have a MySpace page. Let me explain…
I originally set it up just to poke around at their API, since I occassionally see Craigslist gigs for developing MySpace and FaceBook apps. I figured it was worth at least checking out to get an idea as to whether or not this is something I might pursue in a time of need (which fortunately hasn’t arrived yet). Well, Maya has a MySpace page and keeps in touch with a friend of hers in Louisiana via that to some degree and I added this friend of Maya’s to my friends on MySpace. Little did I know I would soon be invited to join here Mob as part of a game called, well of course, Mobsters, and now I have found an inappropriate venue for idle time that feeds my very minor case of OCD quite well. So, some of my time has fallen into this black hole of mild entertainment value (there is a touch of strategy to the game, but it is basically just a series of apparently unending levels of acquisition and whacking other mobsters). Anyway, I figured I better out myself over this whole MySpace thing before someone else does. I’m on FaceBook too, which has actually been pretty nice as I have gotten some updates on very old friends and acquaintences from many various chapters in my life…I look down the list and realize it truly has been a long strange trip…
Also in the past few weeks I developed a crush on Annie of at Edifice Rex when she posted this splendid rant about consumer culture on the heels of yet another Black Friday trampling at a stinking WalMart. If you are so eager to get into a WalMart that you are willing to sacrifice someone else’s life to celebrate the birth of you’re stinking christ, well you probably deserve a ong painful crucifixion of your own, and if your god does exist I hope he punishes you forthrightly for your trespasses. I suspect I’ll have to make a bumper sticker for this one…”Jesus cries everytime you trample a WalMart employee to celebrate his birthday…“, you heard it here first, but I’ll probably have to take the WalMart part out to avoid a lawsuit (even though I should be covered under Fair Use for both parody and political speech, but hey, given the current supreme court line up, why risk it).
That’s not everything there is to say right now, but at least it is something, and I’ll jump back when my thoughts are a bit more orderly…
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