Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Proof of life on Mars?

This pic was taken just last month, by the rover on Mars. See the cup in the foreground?
I knew Starbucks was popular and widespread, but this is ridiculous!

Ron Paul trips up McCain

During the January 24th, 2008 Florida Republican Presidential debate Senator John McCain was asked what appeared to be a very odd economic question from Congressman Ron Paul. An apparently befuddled Senator McCain replied in a manner that did not appear to answer...

REP. PAUL: question is for Senator McCain. This is an economic question that I wanted to ask. It has to do with the President's Working Group on Financial Markets. I'd like to know what your opinion is of this and whether you would keep it in place, what their role would be, or you would get rid of this group. And if you kept the group, would you make sure we would see some sunlight and know what they're doing and how they're being involved in our markets?.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, obviously we'd like to see more sunshine. But I as president, as every other president, rely primarily on my secretary of the Treasury, on my Council of Economic Advisers, on the head of that. I would rely on the circle that I have developed over many years of people like Jack Kemp, Phil Gramm, Warren Rudman, Pete Peterson, and the Concord Group. I have a process of leadership Ron, that is sort of an inclusive one that I have developed, a circle of acquaintances and people that are supporters and friends of mine who I have worked with for many, many years..
REP. PAUL: So you'd get rid of the group?.
SEN. MCCAIN: You remember back in 1982 when Phil Gramm... Phil Gramm and Warren Rudman and Gramm-Latta and all of those people got the first real tax cuts done, the real first real restraints in taxes. I was there. You were there. And I rely on those people to a much larger degree than any, quote, "formal" organization, although the secretary of Treasury is obviously one of the key and important posts that I would have.

The President's Working Group on Financial Markets was established on March 18th, 1988 in response to the nefarious market turmoil that started on October 19th, 1987...better known as Black Monday. It officially is to give private and legislative solutions for "enhancing the integrity, efficiency, orderliness, and competitiveness of US financial markets and maintaining investor confidence". It is comprised of the following:
  • The Secretary of the Treasury, or his designee (as Chairman of the Working Group);
  • The Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, or his designee;
  • The Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or his designee; and
  • The Chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, or her designee.
This sounds all sweet and dandy at first glance. However, one must remember that there are always winners and always losers on any given day in the market. It is widely believed that the President's Working Group on Financial Markets is used to manipulate markets in the event of market crashes. This also sounds like a very good idea at first. This however is market interference and manipulation at its highest level. In the event of a market crash, which may be a very real correction that a free market requires to revalue itself to appropriate levels, this group would very likely interfere. The average trader not in the know could very well become a big loser. It would be hard to imagine that there would NOT be people in the know...just look at the list of those involved in the working group above. Most likely the big bankers attached to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve and others would have all of the information they need. They would basically know what was going to happen in the market and to what level they would manipulate it with US taxpayer dollars.
Congressman Paul, the sly fox that he is, is once again bringing real institutional problems to the forefront. With his challenging of the Federal Reserve, the lack of respect for the Constitution, and now the President's Working Group on Financial Markets, he is setting the Presidential dialogue in the Republican race. Notice how the other candidates have been talking up the Constitution?
It is very likely that the other candidates caught that question and have had their advisors give them a run down on it. It is quite likely that Congressman Paul will bring this topic up again and a dialogue will start on the subject. The Federal Reserve and the President's Working Group on Financial Markets are nothing more than Centralized Planning...nothing more than a socialist approach to running a market. True conservative belief is diametrically opposed to Central Planning and has always favored a true free market which we regretfully do not have today. Congressman Paul knows that we do not have true free markets and that just like Central Planning did not work effectively in the USSR, it does not work efficiently anywhere.
So was Senator McCain ignorant of the President's Working Group on Financial Markets or does he just support Central Economic Planning like his socialist counterparts in the Democratic Party? Senator McCain made some erratic evasive maneuvers, but in the end it appears that Congressman Paul torpedoed him in his starboard bow. Will this prove to be one of many hits that sinks the McCain battleship? Only time will tell...
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The Fourth Amendment is Dead

The court long ago held that once a person is arrested they are subject to being searched. If their car is within finding distance, it too can be searched. This Court ruled in 2001 that a person could be arrested for violating virtually any traffic law, including the failure to wear a seatbelt. And, once arrested you have no fourth amendment protections.

For all practical purposes, this gives the police the power to stop, arrest, and search anyone they feel like “checking out” or harassing. Arabs might be the flavor of the day on Monday, Tuesday it’s blacks in luxury cars and on Wednesday it’s young men driving sport compacts.

The options/excuses for a stop are endless; burned out bulbs, unused seatbelts, (real or imagined) failure to properly signal, touching the center line, hitting the shoulder, two MPH over the speed limit, driving too slow, rolling a stop sign, rolling a right on red, failure to yield to a pedestrian, or talking on a cell phone (inattentive driving).

If the police want to stop you, they can. If they want to arrest you, they can. If they want to search you and your vehicle and your passengers, they can.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Does the Constitution Really Protect Anything?

More and more, I put less and less faith in the Constitution as an instrument to protect our individual rights. I think it is time we stopped fooling ourselves that a mere piece of paper with some words on it is going to ever be an effective barrier to those who would enslave us. After all, politicians and lawmakers dedicate their entire lives to learning how to most effectively influence the thinking of the greatest number of people, and one of their favorite tactics is to twist and change the meanings of words, to deny their opponents the ability to formulate an answer that most people can understand.
I am by no means the first to come to this conclusion. Kenneth W. Royce aka Boston T. Party has espoused this viewpoint for some time as has, to a lesser extent, John Silveira.

One of the things that caused me to start thinking seriously about this is the recent elation among some gunowners that the US Supreme Court may actually condescend to “decide the issue” of whether or not the second amendment applies to individuals. Now, I have my own thoughts on that matter, but I'm not going to address them here because it's irrelevant to this discussion. Instead, for those folks who think this is a wonderful development, I have a question: What are you going to do if they decide the answer is no? More to the point, what will you do if it's yes?
If you assign any weight to what the black-robed activists decide on the Second Amendment, first of all, you must be willing to turn in your guns to the government on demand if they decide the answer is no, and to forevermore concede that you were mistaken, and in fact never had a right to keep and bear arms. To do otherwise would be dishonest, and cheating on the question is in itself an admission that you don't really believe in what you claim to stand for.

But now let's consider the flip side of the coin: what if the answer is yes? What are you gonna do? I'm not talking about those of you who live in a “shall issue” jurisdiction and have paid your money to take a certified gun safety class (“certified” being the operative word, because we can't be trusted to learn gun safety through self-study or from our fathers or whatever, can we?) and then paid more money for a license (“License: a permission granted by competent authority to engage in a business or occupation or in an activity otherwise unlawful” -Webster's) because in applying and paying for that license or permit, you have already conceded and given up any claim to a right in favor of a government-controlled privilege.

Let me expound on that point, just a little more. Any jurisdiction that offers a permit or license to carry a gun in any manner, does not uphold your right to bear arms. Instead, they are offering to “allow” you to do so, subject to their rules and requirements, and revocable at any time with or without notice, but only if you will accept and concede that they, not you, decide whether or not you may do so. In so doing, you are also giving them your tacit consent to arrest and prosecute (and kill, if they deem it necessary) anyone who does carry a gun in their jurisdiction without first obtaining their permission. Ain't democracy wonderful?

But what about those of you who, for whatever reason, feel constrained from bearing that arm? If the Supreme Court were to decide today that the Second does indeed refer to an individual right, would you strap on that arm tomorrow and head out into the world to conduct your business as usual? I wouldn't recommend it, because I can just about guarantee the cops would arrest your butt and confiscate your gun just as quick as they would have yesterday; maybe even quicker, to set an example.

Consider the recent 9th Circuit court decision concerning home-built machine guns. Any student of constitutional law is aware that the entire excuse for the existence of the BATFE rests on the “interstate commerce” clause. So the question that finally made it to the 9th Circuit court was, is it legal for an individual to build himself a machine gun, for his own otherwise-legal use, if it never crosses state lines? The court ruled that it is indeed legal. So are people all over Arizona and California now building their own machine guns and showing up at local shooting ranges with them? No. Why? Because they know that they would still likely end up with a lengthy prison sentence, $250,000 fine, forfeiture of the privilege of ever owning a gun of any kind again, etc., regardless of that 9th Circuit ruling.

Because deep down we all know that any question of what the Constitution means is academic, because it is gonna be applied or not applied according to the whims of any government entity from the Feds all the way down to Jim Bob the local cop with whom you went to school; and nobody is gonna come rushing to your aid. Unless, of course, you have millions of dollars with which to grease the rails of justice.

I use the Second Amendment because it is the most contested of our rights, or at least the most in the public eye. But it is not the only one of our rights that are being denied. Take the Fourth for example, the right to be secure from unreasonable search and seizure (by whose estimation? Why, by those doing the searching and seizing, of course!). Let's just say you are driving your car on the government-owned and controlled roads (that used to be public, that is, owned by the people. Right to travel? Oh, I'm sorry, that's a privilege. The DMV told me so. ) and you are stopped and detained at a police checkpoint so they may check all your papers to ensure you are properly licensed, insured, registered, haven't been consuming anything the law doesn't approve of, don't have any guns in the vehicle, etc. and they claim to see something they want to look closer at; the way the laws are now they can pull you out of your car and search the car, and the Fourth doesn't apply. Why? Because the State has decided that, for our protection, our cars are considered "public areas". Also, I won't go into any of the various ways cops can insinuate themselves into your living room without a warrant (OK, I'll offer a couple: they could claim that a neighbor reported hearing a scream from inside your house. Of course, they can't tell you which neighbor. Or, they could bang on the door when you aren't immediately available, and your teenage kid isn't able to deny them entry, strongly enough) but either way, once they are inside, the courts have upheld their right, nay DUTY to look around for anything that may give them an excuse to search even further. For, uh, their protection, which ALWAYS trumps our rights, since they are such heroes and so much better than us lowly civilians.

So how are we lowly peasants going to make a difference? Well, there are a number of things we can do (besides educating ourselves, of course) without getting ourselves in trouble, but the first is to think about what they need from us, in order to oppress us. First, our tax support. The most basic tenet of Possum Living is to live on the least amount of the legal tender that we can manage, within the constrains of what we consider an acceptable lifestyle. Spend less. Scavenge more. Build more of our own stuff. Buy more of what we need from flea markets and garage sales. Barter more, both goods and services. That way, we are not paying sales taxes. If we buy land, find the area with the cheapest property taxes, within the general area of where we want to live. It helps that those are the areas that are also least likely to harass us for living offgrid, living in a structure they haven't inspected and approved, raising livestock, etc.

The government regularly instructs us to spend more, for the good of the economy. In my opinion, we should work towards spending less, for our own good and to reduce our financial support of the programs that steal our freedom.
Just something to think about.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Canada's Anti-Camping Law

The Urban Vandweller has this to say:
"Oh, yeah, the big law suit should be very soon. Earlier in my blog, I talked about the constitutional lawsuit against the anti-camping bylaws, which is the main reason for hiding my identity. For a few years now, the numbers of the homeless on foot, have been climbing quickly. They started camping in city parks, in the larger cities, using tents or whatever to protect themselves. Well, that didn't work for the authorities and the 'establishment', so they evoked anti-camping bylaws, and an ancient 'chatteral' bylaw. Even though these folks had nowhere to go, with the city shelter's capacity already overwhelmed by 10 to 1, the cities criminalized the homeless. To make matters worse, the 'chatteral' law, allowed the police to seize bed rolls, tents and backpacks, from the helpless 'offenders'. Nice, eh, nothin' like kicking a poor soul, when their down and out.

Well, the homeless got some pro-bono lawyers, and are taking the cities, the province and the country to Supreme Court, on a Constitutional lawsuit. The anti-camping law, is apparently in contradiction to our Charter of Rights, which is kinda like the US Constitution. If the homeless win, it will set a common law premise, which will apply in all jurisdictions, throughout our country. If you need to sleep 'outdoors' in a public park, due to financial or other hardship, the authorities will be powerless to stop you, unless they provide an alternative, like a proper tent city."

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Cottonfield Deer

A couple of whitetail deer in a cotton field. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Top 10 reasons the single-cylinder Lister pattern diesel makes the best homestead generator

  1. Just enough power. Diesels run most efficiently at higher loads (like all internal combustion engines), and the 6 hp Lister is just right for an energy-efficient household.

  2. Fuel efficiency. In my actual experience, a 2000 to 2500 watt load (average for a fuel-efficient household, including charging batteries for generator downtime) results in about 5 hours runtime per gallon.

  3. No oil pump. Less to go wrong. If an oil pump is not needed, why add complexity? The way this engine is designed, splash oiling is sufficient for the bottom end. The only thing an oil pump would add is pressure lubrication of the top end (valve train); and because of the low maximum speed of 650 RPM, valve spring pressure is low so the valvetrain doesn't need continual lubrication. Just like an old ship engine, there are lube points that you hit with the oil bottle as part of the preparation to start the engine for the day or, in the case of continuous running, every few hours.

  4. No water pump. Less to go wrong, less parasitic drag. This adds efficiency. It's called theromosiphon. Just set up a water tank or radiator at the proper height relative to the engine, and let the natural laws of thermodynamics go to work.

  5. No thermostat. None needed. Some people who own Listers add one, but do you know what has been the most common failure I have experienced in engine-powered equipment? That's right, the thermostat. They generally (in my experience) fail in the closed position, resulting in engine overheating. Theoretically, adding a thermostat gives higher efficiency and perhaps longer engine life due to slightly higher running temperature. In reality, a well-designed cooling system and load management does the same thing, without the added failure point. These engines have a long-standing reputation for lasting 100,000 hours between rebuilds, and they gained that reputation even though they didn't have a thermostat from the factory.

  6. Dirt simple. Anybody that has any business running a homestead can understand how this thing works, and how to keep it running.

  7. Simple injection pump. No $1000 pump rebuilds; this is a common Bosch pump that can be rebuilt for a few bucks.

  8. Well-suited for alternative fuels. The slow combustion cycle and cast-iron piston are tolerant of alternative fuels, including filtered waste vegetable oil that has not been processed into biodiesel.

  9. Heavy flywheels for surge capacity. The 6 hp output is capable of about 3500 watts continuous output with an ST generator head, but if you oversize the generator head (mine is 7.5 kw) it will start inductive loads like a standard generator of twice the capacity, because of the energy stored in those huge flywheels. This is really handy for running air conditioners.

  10. Low speed. 650 RPM. Besides the long life and ability to efficiently run on alternative fuels, the slow speed means the sound it makes is actually pleasant, and is easier to silence if you don't want to hear it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Talkin' To America

What makes an American? What are the qualities -- the "ingredients," if you will -- that distinguish Americans from Germans, Mexicans, or the French?
Why is it that we feel a special right to be proud of who we are and what our country stands for? It's not just that we live in the most prosperous land on earth. It's not just that our country is a superpower, capable of imposing its will on smaller nations. It's not just that we enjoy the widest, most sparkling array of consumer goods ever known on the planet Earth.
No. Being an American is something more than all that. An American is made, not merely born into a powerful country.
The problem of illegal immigration has been on everybody's minds these days. While immigrants give America cultural richness, new entrepreneurs, and hard-working laborers, some immigrants also bring crime, cultural disruption, and a drain on public services that's weakening our economy.
Many people want to build walls to keep illegals out. They want to militarize the border with enormous deployments of soldiers, razor wire, and surveillance equipment, not realizing just how vast our borders are. We have 7461 miles of borders in all, land and sea. Close one section and the tide of illegals will channel into another.
If it's impossible to keep drugs out of heavily guarded prisons, how will we fortify any border well enough to keep out millions of desperate human beings? And what kind of country will we have when we're surrounded by one huge "Berlin Wall"? 2 edge sword
Walls aren't the answer. But neither, ultimately, are guest worker programs or any other political proposals.
When you're facing a problem you can't solve, it's often because you're asking the wrong question. The question isn't "how do we close our borders?" The question is "what makes an American?"
Read the rest of it. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Detroit Diesel generator

Just for entertainment: the 5 worst bugs in the world

I just found a blog featuring some bugs you really don't want to mess with.
Warning: language

Check it out

I love one of the comments at the bottom:
"Yeah ... Africanized Japanese Hornets ... thats what we need ..."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Putin for President?

...The Americans, meanwhile, have met the enemy, and it is them. America has coasted on a quarter-century wave of power and prosperity since president Reagan won the Cold War and restarted the economy. America in the 1980s was the only model to be emulated, and a magnet for global capital flows. So compelling were American capital markets that by the late 1990s, almost all the free savings of the world sought an American home. In 2007 a trillion dollars of overseas capital poured into American markets...

...The second occasion on which nothing happened was, of course, the present subprime disaster. The world learned that it was dangerous to buy risky American assets and chose instead to buy safe ones. The trouble was that as a whole, the American public was engaged in extremely risky behavior, that is, bidding up home prices with cheap credit. The banks and credit rating agencies declared that a basket of very risky assets could be turned into a very safe asset, by selling off the part of the risk to speculators. This exercise turned out to fall somewhere between the delusional and the fraudulent, as subprime securities rated AA, the next-to-highest credit grade, now trade at only 40 cents on the dollar.

One can excoriate the regulators who let this happen, or the banks who skimmed fat commissions from the market, but the driver of both the Internet bubble and the subprime bubble was the same: the desire of the Americans to get something for nothing. Americans mistook the one-time windfall ensuing from the Reagan revolution for a Tischlein-Deck-Dich, the magic table of the Grimm fairy tale that on command lays out a marvellous meal...

Read the article

Very thoughtful article. We don't need a Putin though; we need a Dr. Ron Paul.
He's not gonna get the Republican nomination. Hopefully, he will continue as an independent.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Generator: Tool for Freedom

The electric generator is, like the rifle, a tool of freedom. Although it is certainly possible to live with no or minimal electric power (as I have done on a few occasions), no one can deny that electricity makes life easier in so many different ways. The problem with electricity is that, for most people, it is supplied by a public utility company, most if not all of which are government subsidized.
Aside from the governmental aspect, one becomes reliant upon a large infrastructure which can fail for various lengths of time and various natural or man-made reasons. Also, continuation of services depends upon a steady, monthly supply of the legal tender; which brings us to the governmental aspect. Not only is every one of those kilowatt-hours going to be taxed, the legal tender one uses to pay for the service will be taxed at least once before you can use it to pay for anything.
Connecting to the system in the first place will be controlled, too. Your electrical system will have to be installed by a licensed electrician, then inspected by the government. All this, of course, costs you more money. The chances are good that, before you will be allowed an electrical connection, you will have to have a public water connection, if such is available in your area. Almost certainly, you will be required to have a licensed and inspected septic system. More money, more inspections and permits, more taxes.
In a lot of jurisdictions, trash pickup will then be required as well. In most of my experiences with public utilities, the fee (and taxes, of course) for trash pickup have been automatically assessed as part of the utility bill, whether the service was actually used or not; and there was no provision for opting-out.
In some jurisdictions as well, there is a driveway connection fee that is automatically assessed, that may be possibly bypassed if one never initiates the process of applying for public utilities. The utility department seems to be the “horse” that all these other, not necessarily wanted, services ride in on, along with their attendant fees. If your jurisdiction is relatively free from all these added “gotchas”, don't be so smug; as they could start adding those things at any time, and if you are already connected, it will be very difficult to disconnect. In fact, it probably won't be allowed. Part of the “social contract”, you understand.
That utility company is a convenient handle to grab you by, and once they have a grip, they don't let go easily.
If you move into the backwoods beyond the powerlines, say to get away from the encroachment of civilization, you are going to be charged for extending the powerlines. This can and probably will run to many thousands of dollars, after which you will be subjected to all of the above mentioned problems, perhaps with even a higher charge for your service than if you had moved closer to town like “normal” people. What are you gonna do after paying twenty thousand bucks for the extension; refuse to pay the surcharge? And now you will probably see that encroachment of the masses you were hoping to avoid, who were only staying away because they didn't want to pay for the powerline; and now you have taken care of that obstacle. They probably won't even thank you, they will just start complaining about your chickens and your ugly old truck.
So what option do you have? Buy a piece of land in a relatively unrestricted area; an area that doesn't require building permits. Build something, find an unlicensed local handyman to build it for you, or drag a trailer or something out there. Build an outhouse, a composting toilet, or dig your own septic tank, or hire the aforementioned handyman to help you. If you can't find a local unlicensed handyman for whatever reason, take a drive through the parking lot of the nearest Lowes or Home Depot; it is a near-certainty that you will find some guys there who are willing to help. Get there early, though.
For water, you can rent or buy a drilling machine, or drive a well, or buy a tank or build a cistern and build a rainwater catchment system, or just haul your water. Or maybe a combination of two or more of the above.
Now, you are ready for electrical power. Time to get that generator. You will probably want to get a battery bank and inverter so you still have power for lighting, refrigeration, entertainment etc. without having to run the genny all the time. You will probably also want to eventually add solar panels and/or a wind generator or whatever, to extend the time you can operate without running the genny. That way, you can run the genny just one to three times per week, 8-12 hours each time, to top off the batteries and operate your heavy loads. Or if you need air conditioning, you can run the genny for a few hours each day, and size your battery bank and inverter to power a small air conditioner overnight in your sleeping area.
But you can make it for awhile with just the generator, if you don't have money for all that other stuff right off the bat. You want to get a good one, though; preferably diesel and definitely 1800 rpm or less. No 3600 rpm screamers here. Although the new ones can be incredibly fuel efficient and quiet, they just don't last long under continuous use. Also, they are too easy to steal. The kind of generator you want will weigh a minimum of 800 pounds, maybe double or triple that. It will be fuel efficient and able to run days, weeks or months continuously if necessary at near-maximum loads. Not that you will be running it like that, but knowing that it is designed to handle it gives you peace of mind to go to sleep, leaving it running overnight if necessary. There will probably be times that it will be beneficial to do that.
Of course, the generator will need fuel, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have to leave the homestead and take a job to pay for that fuel. If your homestead isn't producing much legal tender, you can still produce methane gas or producer gas (woodgas) to run a spark-ignition engine; and with a diesel engine you can either grow oil-producing plants or find a restaurant or two that will give you their used cooking oil. With some diesels, you can even supplement the oil with methane gas or producer gas injected into the intake air stream, which will reduce the amount of fuel oil used.
If you play your cards just right, the “Matrix” may never even notice you are there, thanks in part to your generator.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Russell Means - Libertarian

Russell Means is a world-renowned figure with achievements in many areas. He's an actor (Last of the Mohicans, Natural Born Killers, and Pocahontas), author (Where White Men Fear To Tread), political activist (founder of AIM, the American Indian Movement), candidate for Libertarian Party presidential nomination (1988), singer, entrepreneur, and much more.

In his widely-praised 1997 autobiography Where White Men Fear To Tread, Means tells the story of his political evolution, including his encounter with libertarian ideas and the Libertarian Party.

Means is also a fan of the Advocates for Self-Government. He wrote: "The Advocates for Self-Government are for real. Libertarians who want to get real should put into action what the Advocates teach."


Hasan Elahi Detained By FBI

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ezra Levant

This is a free man talking to a cop.
Click here for more.

Here is an excerpt from his website:

"Why would my intentions as publisher be relevant in determining whether or not the publication was illegal? The answer is that these "human rights" commissions are interested in what George Orwell called "thought crimes". If my thoughts were pure, the publication might receive their blessing. If my thoughts were impure, the very same publication would be banned. It's worse than a limit on freedom of expression -- which is when you say or print what's on your mind. It's a test of what's on your mind itself -- a limit on freedom of thought.
Again, I refer to Hannah Arendt's phrase, "the banality of evil". No six-foot brownshirt, no police cell at midnight. Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my political thoughts, on behalf of the government of Alberta. And she'll write up a report about it, and recommend that the government do this or that to me. Just going through checklists, you see.
If you don't pay attention, you might not even realize that freedoms are being eroded. I had half-expected a combative, missionary-style interrogator. I found, instead, a limp clerk who was just punching the clock. She had done it dozens of times before, and will do it dozens of times again. In a way, that's more terrifying."

I've gotta post this one, too. This is great! Bravo, Mr. Levant!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ten Recurring Economic Fallacies, 1774–2004

...One of the most persistent is that of the broken window—one breaks and this is celebrated as a boon to the economy: the window manufacturer gets an order; the hardware store sells a window; a carpenter is hired to install it; money circulates; jobs are created; the GDP goes up. In truth, of course, the economy is no better off at all...

...I watched with incredulity as businessmen ran to the government in every crisis, whining for handouts or protection from the very competition that has made this system so productive. I saw Texas ranchers, hit by drought, demanding government-guaranteed loans; giant milk cooperatives lobbying for higher price supports; major airlines fighting deregulation to preserve their monopoly status; giant companies like Lockheed seeking federal assistance to rescue them from sheer inefficiency; bankers, like David Rockefeller, demanding government bailouts to protect them from their ill-conceived investments; network executives, like William Paley of CBS, fighting to preserve regulatory restrictions and to block the emergence of competitive cable and pay TV.

And always, such gentlemen proclaimed their devotion to free enterprise and their opposition to arbitrary intervention into our economic life by the state. Except, of course, for their own case, which was always unique and which was justified by their immense concern for the public interest...

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Recommended; this is a good read.

Sidewalk Art

Funny Pictures
Funny Videos

Oil vs. Food, or Why Socialism Isn't Gonna Save Us

Farmer Richard Randall doesn't believe in the notion of "peak oil," the argument that civilization will soon experience an acute -- and irreversible -- petroleum scarcity that will fundamentally alter our way of life. A 61-year-old wheat and sorghum grower from Scott City, Kan., Randall says he's seen high oil prices before, and that today's expensive petroleum is just part of a natural market cycle that will eventually adjust itself, leading to lowered fuel costs.
"I think there's plenty of oil there," Randall said recently. "I feel that if we allow the marketplace to work without interruption in the supply, we will find a level. It's not going to be as low as it was, but it will come down. We do need to produce oil where we can."
In response to alarms about the fragility of the food system, some farmers are taking initiatives to wean themselves from petroleum and find more sustainable ways of growing food. One of the most popular approaches is biofuels. For farmers, it's a solution to high oil prices that makes intuitive sense, as it raises the possibility of growers cultivating their own fuel, just as most farmers did a century ago when they harvested oats to feed their horse teams...

Some people, however, caution that biodiesel is unlikely to evolve into a permanent fix. Though biofuels may be useful in reducing petroleum dependence in the near future, it's doubtful that fuels made from plants could completely unhitch us from oil. Why? For the simple reason that making biofuels requires lots of land, and at some point -- were biofuels to become widely popular -- the nation would face a choice between growing food and growing fuel....

Read the article

The referenced article is very well thought out, and I highly recommend it. It addresses the problem in realistic terms, and discusses solutions from the standpoint of individualism, i.e. growing ones own food and fuel, and community meaning local; as opposed to the BS we are all continually bombarded with, where "community" is a euphemism for global.

Here's another take on Peak Oil. (link)
John Silveira, the author of that article, has addressed in another article (also recommended) the point I am trying to make here: that we need to look beyond the status quo view that we are constantly bombarded with, because the ultimate source of the most prevalent information we are all receiving has an ulterior motive: socialism. You can generally tell if a story about a problem people face is genuinely trying to address that problem, or if it is just more propaganda with the intent of using the problem as another excuse to steal more freedom: look at the bottom line. If the answer being advanced is more socialism, it is propaganda. Period.

Now, I'm not trying to prove with that argument that socialism is not the answer. To do that would be to use the same dishonest tactics the spin doctors use. Don't get me wrong; I am thoroughly convinced that socialism is NOT the answer. It's just that the forgoing is not proof, indeed does not even address the question of whether or not socialism is the answer; it merely brings to light what is the real underlying point of most of the stories we hear about peak oil, global warming, "gun violence" (how an inanimate object can be violent is beyond me), etc. on TV, radio, in newspapers and magazines.
I'm doing my best to counter that by propagating every story I can find that addresses the problems without leading to that conclusion, but rather shows ways an individual can deal with it in his own life.
As far as proving that socialism isn't the answer, I can't do that. Its adherents are too invested in their belief. It is their religion. If I can just help a few people avoid being led blindly into it because they don't see any alternative, I'll be happy.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Big Gar caught in Oklahoma

OK, let's inject some reality. First, says it's really "only" 8 feet 2 inches and 244.5 lb. Also, everybody knows gar are not dangerous to humans.
Still. If I'm swimming and I see something like this, have your camera ready, 'cause I'm gonna go on plane!

Living with a Teardrop Trailer

I have posted a few short videos about teardrop travel trailers recently, and the overwhelmingly positive response has convinced me that I should write an article about them. In the process, I am also going to give you a free download of the 1947 magazine article that is generally credited with starting the current ongoing interest in these tiny trailers.

It is no wonder teardrop trailers are so popular. I mean, what else has all these advantages:
  • Ability to be towed by any vehicle, including (for the smaller versions) a motorcycle
  • Doesn't severely impact gas mileage
  • Can be unhitched and moved around by hand, to get into tight spots or turn around easily
  • Can be built specifically for extreme offroad use, to tow behind a Jeep. Even a standard teardrop trailer is substantially more offroadable than most any other form of RV
  • Doesn't cost any more to register than a small utility trailer
  • Can double as a small utility trailer
  • Makes a perfect "Bugout Trailer" (check this link)
OK, here's the link I promised for the magazine article. I've seen people actually selling this article, but I'm not gonna do that. It was free for me, so it's free for you.

The great thing about the trailer in this article is that, unlike most teardrop trailers, the "house" is intended to fit perfectly on a standard 4'x8' utility trailer, and to be removable so the trailer can be used in its utility configuration.
The article also shows how to build the trailer itself, but that is not necessary because Harbor Freight, Tractor Supply, Lowes and many other places sell a folding 4'x8' utility trailer for $200-$300 that would be ideal. The cabin part that you build yourself could be set up on blocks in the backyard, loaded with your camping gear and bugout kit, while the trailer is stored in a corner of the garage and used as needed for hauling chores.
That's one option. The other, and the one I would personally choose, would be to buy an axle, springs, fenders and tongue from Tractor Supply (or wherever I could get it cheapest) and build a heavier-duty frame out of angle iron and/or square tube, but this requires that one have a welder and know how to use it. OTOH, what better way to learn how to weld?
I've seen 3500 lb axles at TSC for well under $200, and they take the standard 5x4 1/2" bolt circle wheels that Jeeps have had since 1987, and many other common vehicles also use. That way wheels should be cheap, and standard car tires can be used. If you use that axle, you can even build the trailer wider and do the same with the cabin portion, for more space inside and the ability to haul an old flatfender Jeep when you're not using the trailer as a camper!
But now I'm off on a tangent. If you build the trailer the standard 4 feet wide, you can still haul an ATV, lawn/garden tractor, sheets of plywood, etc. You can also, in a camping or bugout situation, slide the cabin off and set it up on blocks at your base camp, then use the trailer to haul firewood or other supplies.

Living in a teardrop trailer may seem difficult, but it can be gotten used to. It gives you a way to sleep at "boondocking" locations (truckstops, Walmart parking lots, etc.) on the way to your destination, but once you get to the real boondocks you can spread out, set up awnings, and get comfortable because the teardrop cabin itself is only used for sleeping and storage. Dig a latrine or set up a shelter for your porta-potty, build a fire pit, and set up the folding chairs, and you may never want to go home.

Teardrop trailers and mad constructions

Man, this is REALLY bad video, but the content is pretty cool!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Homemade sourdough bread

I've written before about making bread at home, but I haven't gotten around to trying sourdough yet. I do intend to experiment with it one of these days, but in the meantime, Voluntary Simplicity is a step ahead of me and has an article about it. Actually, I guess that makes it two steps.
Anyway, here's a link.

What's it Gonna Take? by L. Neil Smith

Americans are not asleep. Like other people, everywhere around the world, they simply have priorities in life that are different from those of activists and ideologues...

Understand that most activists and ideologues are collectivists -- meaning socialists of one variety or another, whether they're the left wing socialists who call themselves "liberals" or "progressives" or the right wing socialists who call themselves "conservatives". They uniformly hate, loathe, and despise the idea that your life is yours to command and its own justification. It drives them insane with fury and frustration, because they want to believe, and they want you to believe, that your life belongs to some cause "greater than yourself" -- namely, to them -- to be disposed of in any manner they desire, in pursuit of whatever they feel is important at the moment, be it war or welfare.

Read more

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Lakotah Unilateral Withdrawal from All Treaties

This Declaration was filed December 17, 2007:

We as the freedom loving Lakotah People are the predecessor sovereign of Dakota Territory as evidenced by the
Treaties with the United States Government, including, but not limited to, the Treaty of 1851 and the Treaty of 1868
at Fort Laramie.
Lakotah, formally and unilaterally withdraws from all agreements and treaties imposed by the United States
Government on the Lakotah People.
Lakotah , and the population therein, have waited for at least 155 years for the United States of America to adhere to
the provisions of the above referenced treaties. The continuing violations of these treaties’ terms have resulted in the
near annihilation of our people physically, spiritually, and culturally.
Lakotah rejects United States Termination By Appropriation policy from 1871 to the present.
In addition, the evidence of gross violations of the above referenced treaties are listed herein.
Lakotah encourages the United States of America, through its Government ,to enter into dialogue with Lakotah
regarding the boundaries, the land and the resources therein. Please contact the Lakotah Interests Section, Naomi
Archer, at (828) 230-1404 or
Should the United States and its subordinate governments choose not to act in good faith concerning the rebirth of
our nation, we hereby advise the United States Government that Lakotah will begin to administer liens against real
estate transactions within the five state area of Lakotah.
Lakotah, through its government, appointed the following representatives to withdraw from all the treaties with the
United States of America based on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties entered into force in 1980 and the
U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007:

Download pdf file

Monday, January 7, 2008

No mountains in Texas?

Guadalupe Peak and other Texas peaks.

How I Found Terlingua Ranch

Note: This is a repost, all in one chunk, with a couple of updates and without the photos, of my original multi-part article. So without further ado...

I love deserts. Especially, I love off-the-beaten-path desert areas that have neither a lot of visitors, nor much government intrusion. I have been to southeastern Utah several times, and I love it there, but the area has more and more of both of the above problems.

For years I have heard and read the occasional reference or article about the Big Bend area of Texas and how remote and relatively unvisited it is, but I had never managed to make the time to go there; for the same reason so few other people visit: it is not on the way to anywhere. Actually I did once find myself within a couple hundred miles of the area, but I was on my way to Mexico and my time was too limited to make any side trips.

Last summer I saw a reference to a huge old ranch called Terlingua Ranch that is in the area, and I guess it came at just the right time because I decided to look into it further. What I found was a loose-knit libertarian community of folks ranging from the left to the right, politically speaking, but united by a love of freedom and of the beautiful Chihuahua Desert, and by a dislike of crowds and of heavy-handed government.

I had to go there.

I started searching the Internet, looking for photos, comments, forums, anything about the area in general and the Ranch in particular. I found quite a few photos, member pages of off-road motorcyclists who ride there, and forums of people who own land on the Ranch.
And politics, egads. Anytime you have such a diverse group of individualistic characters communicating about the subject that ties them together, a subject dear to all their hearts, you’re GONNA have some heated political discussions. IMHO, the thing to do on that subject is to develop some skin thickness and realize we’re all allies in preserving the things we love about the area, so I try to ignore the politics and focus on the important part (I said TRY. I’ve occasionally jumped in with flames too. I’m no angel).

While I was doing all this, I was also developing a travel plan to visit the Ranch. I settled on New Year’s. I had about a week and a half off work then anyway, and I had a week of vacation time remaining. Also the rattlesnakes, scorpions, killer bees etcetera would be snoozing then. New Year’s it was.

I shopped online and found a good deal on a canvas wall tent. Terlingua Ranch has a lodge, and the prices are reasonable, but there was no WAY I was gonna do such a trip and not camp; and my old nylon tent (or a new nylon tent, for that matter) would not suffice. It had to be a canvas tent that I could stand up in, and heat with a woodstove. I knew of course that I would have to bring my own wood, and that would consume space. Propane would be a lot easier, but a wood fire has certain aesthetic qualities that propane just can’t touch.

So I searched for a tent-sized woodstove. I found several, but most were costly. I almost decided to buy a surplus Army M1941 tent woodstove, but being a poor boy and an adherent to the Possum Living, diy philosophy I decided to make my own stove. So I went to the steelyard and bought a scrap piece of 8?x8? thickwall square tube and other assorted scrap pieces, then went to a surplus building supply store and bought three 2' sections of 4? double wall, galvanized steel flue pipe to use for a stovepipe. I was in a quandary about using galvanized material because the zinc coating releases a toxic gas if it gets hot enough to break down, but I was thinking that any gas released from the inside of the pipe would exhaust out the top, safely away from the interior of the tent; and the double-wall construction should insulate the exterior of the pipe enough to prevent its becoming hot enough to break down the plating. Then I saw a modern commercially-produced tent stove being sold with an included, galvanized stovepipe, and I quit worrying about it.

After the Christmas festivities were over, I loaded my Jeep for the trip. Actually I overloaded, this being my first visit to the ranch and not really knowing what to expect. For one thing, I hauled more firewood than necessary. For another, not being 100% sure of the water situation, I erred on the side of caution and brought two full 15 gallon water jugs. Now, these supplies would not have been a bad idea had I had a trailer or at least a hitch-haul, but I found myself temporarily without such equipment and no money left over from the travel budget to purchase same. That meant everything had to go inside, leaving just enough room for me to drive.

It also took more time to pack than I anticipated, and I had procrastinated the night before; so that instead of the planned departure at the crack of dawn, I rolled out at about 3 PM, already tired. It was gonna be a long drive.

Well, the first day was long. I drove until I got to Texas, then drove until I found a suitable (as in, “with vacancy”) motel. By then it was 3 AM. I slept 5 hours, which was a balance between the minimum I felt would allow me to function properly, while still getting on the road early enough to pull down some serious miles. And I did. I stopped for the night in Midland, just as it was starting to rain. It was early evening, and I could have continued to Alpine, but didn’t want to head into the mountains at night, in the rain, with unseen 3000 foot drops just off the edge of the road (I know now that the drive is NOTHING like that, but I would have missed some beautiful scenery).

It rained all night, and was still raining when I headed out the next morning. The rain stopped about an hour out of town, and it cleared into a nice, but chilly day. Finally, I arrived in Alpine!

Alpine is the seat of Brewster County, which is the county Terlingua Ranch is in, and is the only town of any size in the county. I guess you could say it is the cultural center of the area. I arrived late morning and, after ‘cruising the town” and gassing up the Jeep, headed to the public
library to get online and send email. Afterwards, feeling some hunger pangs, I wandered over to the Edelweiss Brewery for a wonderful lunch of a huge hamburger and fries, washed down with some of their primary product (you won’t catch me delicately sampling fancy French cuisine!). When I left, I bought a growler of their Pale Ale to enjoy later at the ranch. Next I went in search of the realtor (OK, I admit it; I bought a tract of land on the ranch sight unseen, on Ebay) but he was out of town so I decided to head south towards the ranch whilst the weather was nice and I had plenty of daylight left.

I stopped on the way a few times to snap photos of snow, mountains etc. and, about an hour and a half later, arrived at the ranch itself!

When I saw Santiago Peak off in the distance to my left, I knew I was getting close. I was driving south from Alpine on 118, and I was watching for this 6500' peak as a landmark, because I knew from the topo maps that it could be seen from my tract on the northern border of the ranch. It looked just as awesome as I expected, too; with a low cloud shrouding its summit.

About 25 miles farther, I reached the first paved road I had seen (other than the one I was on), intersecting from the left, along with a sign displaying the Bad Rabbit brand and the words, “Terlingua Ranch”. I had arrived! I turned in, noting the ranch store on the corner with water tanks for sale outside, and drove slowly so as not to miss any of the impressive scenery.

The terrain is fairly flat desert interspersed with numerous hills and a few larger mountains. Small dirt roads, some well-graded, others faint two-tracks, intersect the main ranch road. You can see an occasional structure, ranging from modern homes to shacks. Travel trailers are common, too. The pavement ends after about 13 miles, and the road is graded dirt/gravel for the last 3 miles before the ranch headquarters.

Headquarters is a cluster of buildings surrounded by small mountains.There are several dirt roads heading into the mountains and out into the desert. One of the roads winds around the base of the nearest mountain, and has pullouts for RV camping. There are a few duplexes which comprise the motel, and there is a restaurant, swimming pool, bathhouse, campground, an open area for tent camping, a landing strip, a rifle range and separate pistol range, a chapel, etc. In the center is the ranch office, and most of the other buildings are within walking distance. Two water wells are located behind the office.

Let me digress here for a minute, to discuss the water situation at the ranch. Most people who live here fulltime have a large storage tank and a roofed area that is usually larger than the dwelling, to not only provide lots of shade in the daytime but also lots of rainwater collection area. The area receives, on average, 9 inches of rain per year. I won’t go into a detailed discussion of the math, but 1 cubic foot of water is approximately 7.5 gallons; that is how much
water 12 square feet of roof area will gather, per inch of rain. Working from that, assuming a large enough tank, and that the tank is well-designed to prevent evaporation, 100 square feet of roof area should gather a conservative minimum of 1 gallon per day, averaged over the year.
That means 1000 square feet, which is by most people’s standards a small house, will gather an average of at least 10 gallons per day. Build a small house with large overhangs, a covered patio and carport for 2000 square feet (and a 10,000 gallon tank to match) and you’ve got 20 gallons per day, fulltime. A couple or small family who can’t make it on that, has no business living in the desert.
Wells are not out of the question, either. I’ve been told that water
is about 300 feet down in most areas of the ranch. That’s not bad. I don’t know how much a drilling company charges in the area, but I think $10 per foot is an average rate in most areas. That would make your well $3000. The downside is if the driller doesn’t find water, you still
have to pay him.
*Update: I have since received better data from what I consider a very reliable source, to the effect that the average well is between 600 and 1000 feet deep; and that drilling costs $20 per foot. Also that a large percentage of attempts come up dry.
Now I don't know about you, but that takes it out of the realm of being an option for me. I can haul an awful lot of 3 cents per gallon water for that $20,000. In fact, I can haul water for years before finally building a catchment system, without spending 20 grand.*

But what if you just bought 5 acres to camp on, don’t intend to live there, and it’s gonna be awhile, if ever, before you you can even think seriously about buying a big water tank or anything else permanent? Do you have to haul 50 gallons from home for a camping trip? No. You’re not gonna have to travel with 500 lbs of water sloshing in the back of your vehicle, like I did. The two wells I mentioned earlier behind the ranch office are for landowners to purchase water. One of the wells is certified potable, the other is not. They are right next to each other. The certified water is, I think, 15 cents per gallon; and last I checked the uncertified water
was 3 cents per gallon. 100 gallons for $3. For short-term use that’s not bad at all. Heck, you could even live that way indefinitely, although you will eventually want to scrimp and save for a better solution. One thing, though. The water you purchase from the ranch is slightly sulphurous, so it doesn’t taste very good. You can get used to it, and I hear it’s actually good for you, but I still think I would use a charcoal filter for my drinking water.
*Another water update: I read in a news article that you can buy certified potable water in Study Butte, about 35 miles south of the Ranch, for one cent per gallon, limited to 25 gallons per month. This would be a good option for campers, because you're gonna want to visit Study Butte and the Terlingua ghost town anyway*

OK, back to the ranch office. The ladies who work there are beginning to wonder if we’re ever gonna come in. Inside, there is a counter where you can get the help and/or answers you need. There are also seats, to take a load off, and magazines to read and buy. The front room to your left is a store for all kinds of souvenirs, and behind that is another room with maps of the ranch all around the walls, more maps in a rack for sale, a computer, a coffeemaker (always full), and
a central table surrounded by chairs. This room always has at least a few landowners and potential landowners hanging around, drinking coffee, perusing maps, and carrying on several conversations at once.

We’ll be revisiting this room later.

I met the ranch manager, whom I had been warned was an ogre; but I found her to be a very gracious, friendly, and helpful hostess. In fact, everyone there welcomes landowners like family, and they go out of their way to accommodate you. Of course they are welcoming to non-landowners too; but if you own land they know they’ll be seeing you again.

I was glad to be off the road, and on the ranch. Although it was still daylight and would be for a few more hours, I was too tired from the trip to set up camp, so I got one of the rooms at the lodge for the night. After unloading some stuff, I went for a drive around the near perimeter of the headquarters, visited the rifle range and fired a box or so of .45 Long Colt from my Ruger single-action revolver, then went beyond the range a mile or so until the road started climbing. I actually climbed about halfway up the hill in my Cherokee, but the road was gumbo mud from
the earlier rainstorm, and I chickened out when I imagined sliding off the edge. So I backed down gingerly, got out and climbed the hill on foot. It was a beautiful view from up there, but it was getting pretty close to sundown so I snapped a few photos and headed back to headquarters for a good meal and some shut-eye.

Next morning, I got up at the crack of noon (just kidding! It wasn’t that late), ate breakfast and drank coffee, then wandered on foot down to the office. There were a couple of landowners already there, so I drank more coffee while socializing. There is a room at the office with topo maps nearly floor to ceiling on three walls denoting all the areas of the ranch, and with all tracts marked. The 4th wall has bulletin boards covered with memos about tracts for sale and other things of interest to current and potential landowners. In the center of the room is a long table
so you can sit, drink coffee, shoot the breeze, and peruse maps and such. Topo maps are for sale in a rack on a table against the fourth wall, and there is also a computer on that table. Loaded on the computer is an up-to-date, searchable database of all the tracts and their owners; so if for example you bought some land from this particular land company, liked dealing with them and wanted to see exactly what else they had available as of today, you could search under those parameters, write down the tract numbers that looked promising and find them on the maps.

That’s exactly what lots of people were doing, myself included. By this time I had decided that I definitely wanted to buy a second tract; a smaller one, closer to the main road for easy access.

About noon I headed out to find my land. I arrived there about 2 hours and 30 miles later, just north of the middle of nowhere. Beautiful, but chilly and breezy. I definitely plan to keep it, but I knew that it was a place to trek to from the main camp, perhaps camp there on occasion but the main camp needed to be more sheltered and easier to get in and out of.
I spent the rest of the day leisurely wandering around the ranch, getting a feel for some of the different areas to help me decide exactly where to buy my “base camp” tract. The next several days were the same; make a list of a few promising tracts for sale, then head out to find them. That’s not all I did, of course: I was there to have a good time and decompress from what is euphemistically referred to as the “real world”; so I spent lots of time just going to interesting areas, getting out and exploring on foot. I even explored a few canyons; something I definitely wouldn’t want to do during the summer due to the proliferation of rattlesnakes, killer bees and other such nasties. As it was, I kept an eye peeled for mountain lions and bears. I know bears are supposed to be in hibernation during the winter, but it wasn’t very cold and I’m not sure if they really hibernate when it isn’t cold.
During these outings, when my stomach let me know it was lunchtime I would dig a can of something out of my food box, heat it on my old Optimus 8R Hiker stove and eat lunch wherever I happened to be, then continue exploring. That way I could stay out there all day. Besides, there’s just something about eating in some lonely canyon far into the outback that really improves the flavor of Beanie-Weenies and saltines.
Even back at camp, most of my meals were canned goods and a few perishables, including a large chunk of leftover Christmas ham, that I kept in a cooler. I only ate one restaurant meal during my entire stay on the ranch, and that was at the ranch restaurant. I heard lots of good things about a particular restaurant in Study Butte, but never got around to checking it out this trip.

I did go to Study Butte once, and on to Lajitas, where I stood on the bank of the Rio Grande and looked across at Paso Lajitas. I enjoyed the visit and will probably spend more time there next trip, but I spent most of this trip getting to know the ranch. Didn’t see all of it either, not by a long shot.
I ended up camping in the primitive-camping area at the edge of the HQ compound. It was out of the way, yet very close to the bathhouse, office, restaurant etc. It was also very cheap. I won’t say how cheap, because landowners get a break in the price, but suffice to say that even a cheapskate like me didn’t mind at all paying for several nights. Let me put it another way: had I camped on my tract, the gas expenditure would have exceeded what I paid in camping fees. Of course, I did visit my tract a couple more times, but most days I didn’t drive all the way to that
corner of the ranch.

Camping where I did, I was able to watch the comings and goings at the ranch HQ, while still getting the flavor of camping in the wild. For example, one night about midnight I was awakened by what sounded like a bunch of orcs coming towards my camp from a small draw about 100 yards south of me. I grabbed my .45 Blackhawk and lay still, listening to the rapidly approaching grunts and squeals. By the time they arrived, I knew what they were. Javelina. I lay there grinning and stifling laughter as they poked around my campsite, occasionally bumping my tent in their search for food.
For the most part the weather was very mild. It was early January, but the temperature reached the 50s most days, even occasionally climbing into the 60s. Nights, however, were cold; and I was glad I had brought a 0 degree mummy bag. Not that it got that cold, but it did drop well below freezing. The woodstove made for comfortable evenings, but once I let the fire die down at bedtime, it would get almost as cold inside as out. Tent canvas just doesn’t insulate very well.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Tim Anderson Heads for Cuba in a Canoe

What definitely was going went in first, which meant that the stuff I needed most would be least accessible. I was expecting to camp on land at least once to sort and repack before the crossing. Locals stopped and offered help and advice. They were worried about "the guy sailing to cuba in a canoe." "Why are you doing this?" was the main question. I tried various answers. They weren't satisfied. "My girlfriend and I broke up and then..." I said. And they'd say "Oh. Now it makes sense," and seemed relieved. That's how guys end up in the keys. Sometimes my visitors spent a long time talking to me or inviting me one place or another. It's a slow-paced very relaxed place. Sometimes I got the feeling they were trying to prolong my life by delaying me a bit.

Read Article

Tim Anderson is one of my heroes. This man defines what "possum living" means to me. He is all over Instructables and Makezine, and he is like a rock star to the DIY culture. This article will take some time to read, but it is well worth the time. I suggest reading it during "relax" time, so as to garner the maximum enjoyment from it. If you read this while you are at work, you may get an irresistible urge to get up and walk out.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Dr. Paul Laying it On The Line! A Must See

Network news doesn't want you to see or hear this. That is why they ignore Dr. Paul! I cannot recommend this highly enough.
I don't care if you are a Democrat, Republican or Other, you owe it to yourself to listen to this man. He doesn't toe the party line and that means ANY party.
To vote for the major candidates the media is supporting is to vote for the same old crap we're all fed up with.

The truth about hybrids

I've been dissing hybrid-electric vehicles today, but it's been partly tongue-in-cheek and mostly just pointing out the politics and stupidity associated with them.
The fact is, I think electric vehicles are going to play a bigger role than they have in the past, but I DON'T think they will replace conventional vehicles; although some people will certainly use them for their primary transportation, just as some people now use a motorcycle or even a motorscooter as primary transportation. It depends on individual needs; I don't think someone with a 100 mile round trip commute is gonna be served in the near future by an EV, nor is a farmer who needs to haul heavy loads and may be on (and off) the road for most of the day. On the other hand, a suburbanite who drives 3 miles to work may indeed be well served by an EV as their primary vehicle.
I think hybrid vehicles are going to become more prevalent too, but not in their current (no pun intended) configuration. In fact, I think most of the people who are now buying hybrids will be buying EVs instead, while hybrids will lose the politics and become more mainstream by having a smaller electrical drive system, using highly efficient capacitors instead of batteries, and with the electrical component being in a support role rather than being in the forefront. Perhaps a front-wheel-drive, small turbodiesel that runs fulltime and is capable of powering the vehicle by itself, with the addition of an electric drive in the rear to assist with acceleration and braking (regenerative) and add all-wheel-drive traction, but without the capability of moving the vehicle very far without the engine.

And yet more about hybrid vehicles

I just can't resist a further comment: I could take two Civic Hybrids, pound them down with a sledge hammer to a size that would fit comfortably in the back of my Dodge pickup truck with the Cummins diesel engine, seat the 8 or so people the two Civics would hold in the cab and on top of the pounded-down cars, and still get 22 miles per gallon. Of seventy-cents-per-gallon homebrew biodiesel.
Now, THAT'S efficiency.
OK, I'm done. For now.

More about Hybrid Vehicles

"Pete Blackshaw was so excited about getting a hybrid gasoline-electric car that he had his wife videotape the trip to the Honda dealership to pick up his Civic Hybrid. The enthusiastic owner ordered a customized license plate with "MO MILES" on it, and started a blog about his new hybrid lifestyle.
But after a few months of commuting to his job in Cincinnati, Blackshaw's hybrid euphoria vanished as his car's odometer revealed that the gas mileage he was hoping for was only a pipe dream. Honda's Civic Hybrid is rated by the EPA to get 47 miles per gallon in the city, and 48 mpg on the highway. After nearly 1,000 miles of mostly city driving, Blackshaw was getting 31.4 mpg."
Read the entire article
THIRTY-ONE POINT FOUR!? Look, I used to have a VW diesel pickup truck. It had about half a million miles on it when I bought it for one hundred dollars, put a battery in it and drove it home. Over the next year or so, I drove it approximately 100 miles per day, and one would think I was trying to kill it. The payload was an incredible (for the size of the truck) 1250 pounds, and I regularly exceeded that. My payload was however much scrap iron, or whatever I happened to be hauling, as I could fit in it. It probably weighed less than 3000 pounds empty, but I used it several times to tow vehicles weighing twice that. It would do 80 mph, tops; so on the rare occasion that I was on the highway and not severely overloaded, that's the speed I drove (The statute of limitations is up on all this, alright? And I ain't tellin' what state it was in, so don't ask). Most of the time though, I was on either backroads, some of them dirt, or on city streets. My point? I got 45 miles per gallon. Average. While doing all that stuff. That's what I'm talking about.

Hybrid vehicles

I saw this question this morning, posted on a Detroit Diesel forum of which I am a member:

"I'm building a hybrid car (isn't everyone these days?!) and have a
question. I got this old (1966) GMC Fishbowl transit bus with a 6v71
in it. It has the original 250amp alternator in it. The big engine
gear driven one. The bus is stored 200 miles away so I cant get
details, but it seems every transit I have ever seen has the same
Anyhow, what is the max dc voltage I can get out of it without having
to rewind it?
I want to use it to recharge the battery pack in the car from the cars
Quick math tells me that I can get 3250 watts from it (13vx250a)
Is there a way to switch that around to 3250w=52vx62.5a?
What are my limits with this?"

I actually started composing an answer, but stopped myself because all I would accomplish would be to start a flame war. Call me jaded, but I think this guy is looking for affirmation and would not accept an injection of reality.
The reason I think this is because of his opening assertion that, to paraphrase, everyone wants a hybrid vehicle. That's like someone who states that "Everyone knows that global warming is reality"; what they are really saying is "This is my worldview, and I'm not gonna listen to anyone who says anything different". So, rather than start a flame war on somebody else's site, I'm gonna hash it out here, just a little bit.

Automotive (including commercial vehicle) alternators are inefficient critters; generally less than 50% efficient. I have used them for short-term power, and continue to do so, but I found a few years ago that they are far below acceptability for any kind of long-term power needs because they will use literally double the fuel per kilowatt/hour when compared with the common AC synchronous alternator found on generator sets. That's the first point, which I have proven to myself in actual testing, measuring watts over time versus fuel usage.

Batteries, likewise, are inefficient. As a general rule, whether you are charging lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, nickel-metal-hydride or whatever current battery technology, you will have to put approximately one-and-a-half times as much into a battery as you can take out. That is a 25% power loss. Add that to the 50-60 percent loss one would incur from using an automotive alternator, and we would only be using 15-25% of the power output at the shaft of our prime mover.

Let's pause here to discuss offgrid power systems. The typical alternator aka "generator head" used in a genset is about 85% efficient. This is not too bad, as long as we use the AC power directly and manage loads so that battery power is not used for the large loads. We have to accept the battery inefficiency if we want 24 hour power, because it is far less efficient to run the generator for light loads, than to run the generator for just a few hours and save our large loads for when the genny is running, adding bulk battery charging, water heating etc. to get close to maximum capacity of the generator. We can also offset some of the inefficiency by using the heat produced by the generator for space and water heating.

OK, back to hybrid vehicles. Hybrid vehicles are really not the answer to the fuel-efficiency problem. In Toyota's own words, they are a lifestyle vehicle, much like a sports car is a lifestyle vehicle (SUVs are not, btw, but that's a subject for another day). The whole point of driving a hybrid is not to save money, but rather to make a political statement and appear to be "saving the world" (and I'm sure a large percentage of hybrid vehicle owners have themselves convinced, too). Besides their inherent inefficiency, the battery banks in these vehicles have a finite lifespan, are very, very expensive to replace, and are poisonous to the environment once depleted. In fact, I suspect that battery replacement will be so expensive that dead batteries will mean the entire car gets recycled. This is another win for the automaker because it means he gets to sell another car, but a loss for the environment as well as for the owner who has to buy a new car sooner than he otherwise would have had to (although most will never notice, because they don't keep a vehicle until it wears out anyway).
The thing about hybrids is that, in the real world, they don't give the fuel efficiency that they are theoretically capable of. Sure, you will probably achieve 45-55 mpg, but a same-size, diesel powered conventional vehicle will do as well, while lasting substantially longer and giving fewer problems, witness the Volkswagen TDI vehicles. Hybrids will only deliver the 62 mpg or so that some are rated at, under ideal conditions. And that is using the best technology available, including optimized batteries and purpose-built motor-generators. If something like that can't beat a conventional diesel in real world conditions over the life of the vehicle, then certainly something using an automotive alternator and off-the-shelf batteries isn't going to be competitive.

One last thing: someone is gonna bring up diesel-electric trains. If you research that subject, you will find they are built that way because of concerns of traction control and economy of production. A mechanical or hydraulic transmission that would handle the kind of loads a train engine is subjected to would be huge, maintenance-intensive and expensive, compared to a simple electric motor drive; and the continuously-variable nature of an electric motor makes it easier to start and stop heavily loaded trains without loss of traction.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The definitive guide to making your own biodiesel

I have posted a couple of videos recently showing two ends of the spectrum of making biodiesel for transportation and/or tractor and generator use. One is a simplistic, quick coverage of the basics of making biodiesel; the other features a complete plant one can buy to produce biodiesel as a turnkey operation.

But Possum Living isn't about spending thousands of dollars for a turnkey solution, is it? The fact is, anyone who really understands biodiesel production would never buy one of these machines, because they are so easy to build, and for much less money. Biodiesel production is a hands-on process: first, you have to find a source of WVO (waste vegetable oil; used cooking oil, in other words). Then you have to rig some means of collecting and transporting that oil. Once you get it home, you have to filter it. After filtering it, you have to ph test it, to determine how much lye to add for the transesterfication process. The bottom line is, there is a fair amount of work involved in producing your own biodiesel, and a multi-thousand-dollar machine doesn't eliminate that work nor the learning curve associated with operating it properly and efficiently. I suspect that anyone buying one of those machines, once they get through the learning process, will realize that they spent a lot of money unnecessarily; because you can make a couple of small -say, one-gallon- batches using equipment you probably already have in your kitchen to "get your feet wet" so to speak, and then you will know enough to build your own plant piecemeal, as your skill and knowledge grows. Then you can spend as little or as much as you desire; from free with scavenged materials, to multi-thousands of dollars ...but with thousands of dollars worth of actual equipment that you alone decided you want, not some arcane machine someone else put together and added a 1000% markup.

That is not to say that you will eventually have to spend that money either. Some people will, because it will grow into a major hobby that they will want to spend money on. But it is quite possible to produce 500 gallons per month of top-quality fuel on equipment that you don't even have $50 invested in. The key is in learning exactly what you are doing before spending money on something you may not need, and only spending what is necessary, as the need presents itself.

I think a lot of people of the sort who are willing and able to just write a check or whip out the plastic for one of those machines, will find once they do so that it is more work than they anticipated. Those of us who don't mind scrounging and working to produce our own seventy-cents-per-gallon fuel are better served by buying a book on the subject, and gaining an understanding of the process before buying any equipment.
To that end, may I suggest this book:click for more information


Who cares what time it is; what day is it? Perfect for retired folks and Baja (and Terlingua) dwellers.