Saturday, 17th of February
I wasn't blamed for anything this week. They'll make
up for it next week. Or, maybe not...
This past week, the manager who signs my timecards--yes,
I have to distinguish between them, because I have so many
"managers"--asked if I was coming back.
You see, I have planned my spring break back home and
informed the managers of my future absence. (It's a perk
of being a contractor: we don't have to show up, and don't
have to ask permission for leave. The balance is made by the
fact that they can dismiss us instantly.)
So, my "timecard" manager stopped me in the hallway and
asked me if I would return after my spring break. I told him
that I would be back to finish my contract. That's when he
asked if I wanted a contract extension.
Many thoughts crossed my mind at that moment. None
were ones of working past September. All were ideas of
breaking the news to him that I dislike being in Florida
and miss my home.
Fortunately, I didn't pause. Instead, I voiced my thoughts
plainly and with neutral bias: "I don't care for Florida, and
I miss my home; so, I do not want an extension."
Now, Lockheed Martin is still looking for warm bodies with
a security clearance to fill positions. They can't seem to
attract them. (Maybe they should offer more money!)
This manager said that everyone likes working with me,
and they appreciate the quality of my work. He said that
it's tough finding individuals like me. I thought: of course,
you're having trouble. I've seen the average worker: he/she
doesn't really care about doing a good job in a timely
I am driven by the New England work ethic and a personal
sense of pride in providing the best product possible.
People working in the "defense" industry frequently forget
that men and women depend on these devices to survive
This fact is something that is rarely out of my mind. I do
not agree with the choices of the military; however, I want
my fellow Americans to have the best possible chance of
surviving their daily conflict.
My reason for turning down any extension elicited an
attempt at persuasion. I just re-iterated my need to be back
home, and the fact that I wouldn't relocate to the Sunshine
State. Still, it's flattering to be wanted not even halfway
through my contract.
Last Sunday, I saw police lights flashing in the distance. One
can see quite far in Florida, due to its flat terrain. When I
finally reached the scene, there was a car completely on the
median perpendicular to road traffic.
How the idiot spun his car onto the elevated, grassy median
escapes me. It was a clear and warm day. It hadn't rained for
days. The sun was shining. My only conclusion is that
Universal Boulevard turns slightly at that point.
There is a control inside the average automobile: it's round
and right in front of the driver. You can't miss it: use it! I'll
"I see dumb people: they're everywhere."
When can I leave? I may not miss being ignored and abused
by New Englanders. But, at least, they're not dumb!
I've added seven movies & one TV program to the
I have a new recent favorite, too! See it
I've added a new quote from my latest favorite movie:
How do you manage drinking during the day?
Saturday, 3rd of February
Another work week accomplished. I was blamed, for
something that I didn't do, only once this week. It was a
The assembly of the jigsaw puzzle is coming along well. I
am taking photos. We'll see if it'll make a neat time-lapse
video of GIF.
Speaking of videos, this YouTube movie is worth watching:
I've added eight movies & one TV program to the
Sunday, 28th of January
I couldn't justify working a lot of extra hours this past week.
The leisurely, Floridian pace of work strikes again. I did get in a
few hours of overtime. More importantly, I developed a new
skill. In fact, it's highly desirable, which should help when I
look for another contract near home in August.
Yes, I had been planning to save enough money to build my
cabin and finish work on my property. Instead, "I have been
foolishly squandering my money on [an apartment]." I think
that's sort of how the
Admittedly, I occupy an apartment very near the job, and by
myself. Still, even in "cheap" Florida it costs me about $50 a
day! That's more than $2 an hour. Something to think about...
Florida is alright. It is, finally, raining. It makes everything
better. The air pollution, despite the cool temperatures, is
obvious to me. Not to locals, though.
I really shouldn't complain because I walked to the grocery
in flip-flops this morning. And a cute, if shy, girl bagged my
purchases. Really, there are worse places to spend another
seven months and two weeks. Not that I'm counting!
Also, while I was writing my latest trip page (link below),
someone has been blasting a football match. Superbowl?
This has pissed off residents. I actually enjoy it. People being
individuals and not cardboard cut-outs trying to live the
"perfect" life are refreshing.
I'm half tempted to find the apartment and thank them. Of
course, I would probably be roped into their event. I like
drunk people, but I draw the line at American football. It's too
bread and circuses for me.
I'll, instead, enjoy having the windows open and blasting my
favorite Oldies station. Who'll complain with that racket going
on below me?! In fact, I feel like I'm back in my apartment in
the "ghetto". Familiar is great. Hopefully, they won't progress to
the drug deals and visits by the police!
I've added the second part of Odd Florida. The trip may be
I've researched the subjects in the page. But, if you find
something amiss, please let me know!
Sunday, 21st of January
I've been working overtime, which is a good thing! The
eleven hour days work for me. I was used to being away
from home for twelve or thirteen hours, so it brings some
familiarity to this, still, un-familiar place. The extra
pay is good, too
I mentioned that I ran out of work to the right person. So,
for now, I have plenty of work to keep me busy beyond
normal working hours.
My work ethic has also impressed
a young Systems Engineer--remember when a Systems
Engineer was an individual nearing retirement, who'd seen
almost everything?--who will gladly share some work when
I am running low. Good kid.
No lengthy commutes this past week. I keep an eye on the
traffic now. Once bitten, twice shy...
I visited a co-worker's place in the countryside north and
west of Orlando. He's slowly building a home for retirement.
He let me drive his backhoe, too! What a massive machine
when compared to the "toys" that I've rented. Powerful!
My new jigsaw puzzle is coming along well. I take a photo
everytime before I work on it. I'm hoping that I can
assemble them into a time lapse movie. It may be crap, but
it'll be my piece of crap. Maybe I'll call it modern art? If you
don't like it, then you plainly don't understand it!
I have also made a vegetarian Thai curry a couple of times.
"Ummm, [food]." The recipe was too soupy for me; so,
I'm going to reduce the water or add more veggies next time.
I will put together another Odd Florida page soon. I
visited a few sites a couple of weeks ago. Stay tuned!
Speaking of updates, I've added six movies to the
Saturday, 13th of January
This week marked a couple of firsts for me. The Orange
County Conference Center was running a big conference
or some such this past Tuesday through Thursday.
My Tuesday evening commute was an hour longer than
normal. The apartment is so close, that it normally only
takes me ten minutes to return.
So one hour and ten minutes once in a while is annoying;
however, I'm used to such long evening commutes being
accompanied by snow. Not down here: I had the windows
down! I averaged a bit more than 1 mph that day.
Another first was that I saw an alligator! It had crawled
through the swamp channel--I mean, drainage ditch--onto
the workplace property. Since I work in a secured place, I
couldn't take a photo.
I've started another jigsaw puzzle. They're beneficial in so
I worked thirteen hours of overtime this week. It felt good.
I guess, I'm used to long days. (I used to spend three hours
in the car every work day.)
The weather down here has been pleasantly cool. The
locals are bundled up and look at me with bewildered eyes
as I walk around in short sleeves. I'm soaking it up!
The Grand Tour
The guys have found their groove again. This second season
The Grand Tour
is like the final few series of Top Gear. The photography is
also Top Gear-esque. Love it!
Sunday, 7th of January
I've uploaded four movies & three TV programs to the
These additions put the total over 2,600 entries! Enjoy!
Monday, the first day of 2018
Happy New Year!
Thank you for visiting and keeping up with this web site
during 2017. Here's to another productive year in 2018!
Last night, the normally quiet hallway of this apartment
building sounded like a scene from
As in the film, I was ready to dispatch any intruders
I've had a lot of spare time this past weekend. I have
finished a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle
and visited more odd Floridian sites. A frequent visitor
provided some information about the sites in the
first trip page.
This kind gesture has made me feel guilty for not doing
the research before uploading. I'll be sure to correct this
omission for the future pages!
The holidays have diminished my ability to get DVDs from
Netflix. I have, instead, discovered some TV programs that
I have acquired fom other sources.
Thursday, 28th of December
So, I ran out of work. That's why I'm back at the apartment
now. The Floridian pace of life extends to working. I simply
can't limp along at their slow pace.
I did manage to upload the first of a series of Odd Florida
pages. Take a look
What happened to all the people?!
Today, I felt like Charlton Heston. I could choose the best
parking spot and walk through the gates to my office
without seeing a soul. When I came to a locked door, which
is normally open; I thought about breaking it down!
But, I'm not
The Omega Man.
I can't just say "that's
a rotten deal" and drive off, through a window! I knew that I
had to come back to this place for about eight months more.
And, anything I did was being recorded by at least two cameras!
Just imagine what it would be like to walk along a
previously-bustling street to one's workplace. OK, the street that
I walked was not a wide, New York City avenue or strewn with
abandoned vehicles, but the rubbish was there! Take a look at
to work, starring Charlton Heston.
It was eerie walking around a partially-lighted, major defense
contractor plant. I saw no one inside. Not even a pretty, black
woman with an Afro pretending to be a mannequin. Darn it!
(That would be a great way to be fired. Definitely worth the
bragging rights... remember the cameras.)
I only saw two security guards whilst I was outside conversing
with a loved one, who's more than a thousand miles away.
I make acquaintances quickly; so I'm not really alone here.
But, today, the holiday reminded me that I'm an island here
in the "Dumb-shine state". Like the allusion to John Donne?
(I didn't sleep through English literature. I relished it!)
Truly, inside the building was like being in an episode of
I listen to music with noise-suppressing ear buds so I can
concentrate on my work. A couple of times I thought that I
heard someone else. After pulling out an earbud, I'd realized
that it was my chair creaking! Maybe I just need my eyes checked
by the nurse...
Being a bachelor, I sought out the local Thai restaurant for
Christmas supper. Don't yawn. This is a highlight of being single.
Why, you may ask. Well, at my age, I'm not that attractive
anymore, so I can now appreciate previously-insignificant
and personal aspects of life, like food.
But, obviously, no one told the people at the Thai restaurant.
Maybe it was because I ordered take-away at "the most
Mind you, I was better dressed than most of the
clientele who were straight off the Universal "amusement"
park: men in short pants and women in--err--short pants.
(So, who wears the pants?)
Ignoring it all, it was a luxury not having to cook, or resort to the
liquid alternative. I enjoy cooking. I really do. It's just that once
in a while it's refreshing not having to cook.
The Thai curry was pleasantly spicy. I didn't have to add any hot
sauce! Either they really hate me and are trying to scare me off
with spices, or they were just having a bad time from the tourists.
I'll be back there for my New Year's Day supper. They may hate
me; "but I don't scare that easily: I'm too stupid."
Sunday, Christmas Eve
Today, I attended a Baptist church with my office mate and
his wife. I'd never been to a Baptist church, much less one
in a big city in the South.
The musical production was impressive: a string ensemble,
electric guitars, drums, and several singers. The lighting
reminded me a rock concert. Oh, and it was being
The only comparison that I can think of is the TV evangelists.
However, that's not fair because the pastor gave a good
sermon. Personally, I could have done without the light show
and professional musicians, instead swapping for more
of his speech. He has a good aura.
They've kindly invited me to share their Christmas Eve with
her parents. My office mate and his wife are very kind people.
I've been permitted to work on Christmas. I wonder if anyone
else will be there!
I've added seven movies to the
None have any infractions either!
A new trip page should be coming this week. I just need to
I've added a new quote from a movie:
[Lions are] not dangerous, unless they're hungry.
How did you know they weren't hungry?
Oh, if they eat you, they're hungry.
King Solomon's Mines
Do you like electronica? Listen to this YouTube video:
Saturday, 16th of December
I've been visiting the oddities of this state. I'll put together
another trip page when I have enough.
I'm really getting sick of being here. It's difficult not
being able to accomplish anything on my property. But, I
am saving money for when I return home. I can't wait. Only
nine months left, maximum.
Elysian Space Dust
This isn't some new hippie drug. But, I do wonder.
I like trying new types of ales. There always seems to be a
new one, even in the supermarkets. My latest choice
hails from Seattle. The label features a hop cone happily
breathing dust onto the drinker. Hmm...
a common viewpoint of this bottle. Yes, it's from near the
floor. The space hoppy dude on the label will probably be
first noticed after getting up off the floor! 8.2% of alcohol
will do that to you!
lured me in with its hoppy flavor.
I didn't notice the alcohol. Damn you, smiling, dust-blowing
I have to apologize. The previous update to the
wasn't available. I forgot to upload the updated database.
Oops! Those additions are up, now, along with six new
I have also fixed the searching feature. Yay! No thanks to
the hosting company. They're really incompetent. I may have
to switch to another company in the spring.
It's fixed: that's all the matters. Enjoy!
Saturday, the 9th of December
Orlando & Florida
I've now been here more than two months, so I think I can
relate some observations. People are very friendly here. But
I find that they won't commence a conversation. For instance,
during my frequent walks, I'll almost always receive a genuine
greeting, after I say something. If I say nothing, neither will
the other person.
The Floridian drivers are typically patient. Though, they lack
skill. I can't fault them, because most of the time the
weather is easy. They drive large vehicles but many can't
park them. It could be a quest for perfection or the slow,
Oh, and don't show them a corner. A good example is a
bend on a main road in Winter Park. There are two flashing
yellow lights and a gigantic sign warning of the slight turn.
I could see through the corner and took it at a reasonable
speed. This caused me to quickly catch-up other cars.
Transportation here is very good, if perpetually under
repair in Orlando. The state is so flat that they can just
fill in the swamp and lay the road. The highest point in the
state is a mere 345 feet! Hell, I own several trees taller than
I find that I can get far afield from Orlando without trying.
Despite straight and numerous roads, people here don't
seem to drive far. I mentioned to a few individuals that I
walked all over the town, and drove
back all in one day. This behavior seemed to stun them.
I'll relate more observations as I make them!
Unfortunately, they closed the project that I was working
on. It's really too bad because the design that I developed
seem to give me a name in the division. More importantly, it
was enjoyable work.
They have more work than people, so I have been reassigned
already. Honestly, I wouldn't have minded being let go. I'll
admit that I miss my home! I even miss the snow!
The head guy running the now-canceled program (who
has never been introduced to me) was sure to remind me
that there's plenty of work. I think
this was a subtle way of saying, "don't jump ship". I'll stick
out the remaining nine months, or until they let me go.
I have traced the disruption of the GRS (movie)
search feature to the web hosting company. When they
moved this website to another computer server, they also
removed access to some Perl modules.
Since Bob developed the search program, it's elegant and
employs these Perl modules. In contrast, my scripts employ a
crude, sledgehammer method using basic Perl commands.
Unfortunately, until I can create a new Perl script, the
searching feature will be disabled. (The web hosting company
cannot, or won't, fix the problem. "Whatevah!")
I'll continue to add movies as I get them. Check the "latest
additions" section frequently and you won't miss anything!
I apologize for this problem.
I've uploaded another day trip page. You may view it
I hope you enjoy!
Saturday, the 2nd of December
During my evening walk, I snapped a bunch of photos of my
Christmas lights. Most ended up as a blurred mess. I left
my tripod at home! (That is my real home, not this apartment!)
I did, however, manage to get a few reasonable shots. It's
pretty obvious what they are. I did indicate my lights in the photo
of the entire complex with a light blue line. Here they are!
I had to, of course, take a photo of the Ferris wheel. It is my
favorite amusement structure in Florida. I challenge anything
else to displace it!
Saturday, the 2nd of December
Mike and I had fun in and around Capitol Reef National Park.
Here's a link to the
Being in Arizona and Utah reminded just how flat this state is.
In fact, Florida is the flattest state in the Union. And you thought
it was Kansas!
I visited another Floridian community created for Northerners
the winter. I couldn't spend a lot of time in the city. But, I'll
assemble a trip page with comments about it and Tarpon Springs.
The job is going well. The work has started stacking up, so I'm
going to work some extra time. I hate being the person holding
up the show. The extra money won't go unappreciated, too.
My new cube mate and his wife decorated their balcony with
Christmas lights. I thought it a very good idea. So, for the first
time ever, I have purchased lights and decorated for Christmas.
I'm on vacation, so why not?
I wasn't able to wrap the strand of lights around
the banisters or rail. Instead, I used wire to hold them to the
I also purchased a timer that will switch on the lights for a
certain number of hours, once it's darkish. So I don't have to
turn them on or off.
I wonder if the management will tell me to take them down.
Until then, I'll have the only balcony with lights on the
I'll post a photo or two of them at night. Stay tuned! Don't
touch that dial!
I still haven't used the A/C. Occasionally, it's a bit warm
during the early evening. The warmth doesn't bother me.
It's the humidity that I don't care for. It's been mercifully
dry lately. Well, dry for Florida. The nights have been
quite cool, too!
I've added seven new movies and a TV program to the
Sorry for the delay!
Also, the search feature is broken. The web hosting company
moved my site to another server. That broke something. They
said they will work on it. Until then, please use the A-Z links
at the bottom of the GRS page.
Sunday, the 12th of November
The cold weather in the North is making life better down here.
Sorry! I haven't used the apartment A/C in a couple of weeks.
Imagine the savings in money.
A certain Swedish zombie film has been a long time coming.
It looks pretty good. The trailer and a blurb are available at
This long weekend, and then some, I'll be visiting my brother.
We're going to visit
Capitol Reef National Park
in south-central Utah. I think we're both looking forward to
the cooler weather.
I've added four new movies and a TV program to the
Saturday, the 4th of November
The new cubicle isn't bad. The new guy is cool. I'm getting to
know another person in Florida. He's originally from Long
Island, so we can share observations about the Sunshine
State. Or, as a local DJ calls it, the Dumb-shine State.
It's warmed up again. Mid 80s in November! We've also
seem to have emerged from a cloudy period. It's a lot sunnier
now. I wonder if the clouds and rain are part of the hurricane
This past Friday was a "9-80" day off. I visited Tarpon Springs.
small city north of Tampa is an enjoyable place to visit! I
wasn't able to spend as much time as I would have liked.
(Parking restrictions limited me.) I did visit the old railroad
depot and the sponge docks. I plan to return when I have
I've added eight new movies to the
Take a look at this
that I found the other day.
Saturday, the 28th of October
The job continues to go well. It's not difficult or stressful.
My cube-mates--the only two people I know in Florida--are
interesting. Helpful, too. I enjoy going to work, just to
speak with them. Unfortunately, I'm going to be moved to
another cubicle so I'm closer to the people with whom I work.
Oh well, at least, I'm not being moved to another building!
This past week marked the close of my first month. Not bad.
I've only eleven more to go. It's not that this job is bad. It isn't.
I wouldn't mind if it was located within commuting distance.
But, I do miss my hobbies and improving my land. I have
been going to the cinema more frequently. Despite this
advantage, city life is not my cup of tea.
Orlando is quite a blend of people. Lots of Northerners are
living here, too. A couple of people warned me that there are
a lot of black people living here. I haven't really noticed. But,
I don't always realize that. Skin color is like hair color, just a
People are mostly friendly and courteous here. It can be
difficult to make a connection, because my life is so foreign
to them. I think many people, especially in a city, can't
associate with not having city water, grid electricity, and
easy access to other amenities.
The weather has cooled off, so I've switched off the central
air conditioning. I
can get away with leaving the windows open. That helps!
I haven't had A/C in more than a year, so I wasn't
used to its desiccating effect.
One thing I have noticed is that the weather has been more
cloudy than sunny. I think New England has more hours of
sunlight. But, when the sun shines here, it is brilliant. I even
have a bit of a suntan forming.
The apartment is working out well. It's five minutes from the
job. That's the closest I've been in, well, probably ever! I
bought a plant and an Internet radio. The latter allows me to
listen to radio stations that are streamed over the Internet
without turning on the computer. It's a clever thing. I can
listen to the True Oldies Station again! Life is good
I've added four new movies and one TV film to the
Netflix is getting back into the swing of things, since my
address changed. Soon, there should be more movies for me
Tuesday, the 24th of October
I added another trip page! You may read it
More updates will be forthcoming!
Sunday, the 15th of October
Working is good and a bit of a pain. I miss my liberty to
enjoy the world; however, I am being paid for my time. Or, I
should be paid one of these days! One of the bad aspects
of a condensed schedule ("9-80") is the realization of a pay
period every two weeks.
I'm now living in an apartment. Wow, it's such a far cry
from my camper! This apartment has a dishwasher, a
fridge-freezer with an ice-cube maker that dispenses without
opening the door, as well as other things that I see as
witchcraft! Heretics! Burn them!
Curiously, or, perhaps expectedly, for a Florida apartment,
there is no gas service. Everything is electric. Yes, it's a case of
better living through electricity!
There are outdoor grilles. The other day I saw that they are
fed by an
inconspicuous flex line coming out of the ground. The
insurance premium is probably lower without supplying
with gas. You know, an idiot could set himself on fire.
Oh, and a big deal for me with this apartment is the
connection to the city water
supply. There's no need to think about pumping in water.
Though, I do find that I am still stingy with water, which is
probably an "environmentally sound" practice! I don't care
for the chlorine smell, though.
The apartment also sports granite countertops, clearly there
me where my home is! The hardwood floors are glued-down,
but I like them. A Swiffer can easily keep them clean. A walk-in
closet is something that I've never had. I use it like a changing
room. Maybe that's the wrong use, but who's going to correct
The luxury doesn't stop; because, the washing machine sings
like an electric songbird whenever I start a cycle. It then dances
around. That's probably not a design feature because I find it
in the hallway! Or maybe it's just lonely, and wants to explore? As
long as it doesn't snap its wall connections, I don't care what it
does! Oh, and don't think that I can correct the imbalance,
because this machine locks the door when the cycle starts.
I did have to spend some money buying a pot, a saucepan,
towels, utensils, a pillow and sleeping bag, etc. It's no loss,
because I needed to replace these aging equivalents back
home. So I can bring them back with me. And they will fit in
my small hatchback!
I also went all-out and bought some sturdy camping
furniture. A folding table and canvas chairs are adequate,
There's no need to worry about anything here. The water
heater and A/C & heater--do I even need that?-- are in a closet
in my unit. They're both in good repair, probably no more
than a few years old.
I'm so used to struggling just to survive that this place is
almost a fantasy to me. The complex paperwork lists what
constitutes "a maintenance emergency". Here they are: "No
A/C if outside temps are at or above 80 degrees... no heat
if outside temps are at or below 55 degrees".
Regular visitors will understand why I view these
probably reasonable Floridian cutoffs as not life-threatening.
I forget that I'm now living in the lap of luxury. You can take
the kid out of "the off-grid, backwoods life"; but, you can't
take "the off--" what?...
I grew up in Texas. So I thought I'd be alright with the pace
of working and living in Florida. It's not really a problem.
I'm on a working vacation, after all. The sluggish pace just
makes me anxious. This is my chance to slow down and
let everything go.
Friday, one of my co-workers fired off a bunch of questions.
I found it surprisingly difficult to answer them all quickly,
but I did my best. He later asked where I was from, and if
I would relocate to Florida.
I took that question as a good sign. Even in the
advanced-schedule project that I have been assigned, he
felt confident with my performance to want to know my
background, and my future goals.
Now for something funny! In the local Publix (a Florida
supermarket chain) I found a decent deal on Corona
in bottles. When I got home, I realized my mistake and
had a good laugh:
I also added another funny photo:
I've now got an Internet connection in the apartment,
so it's time to start uploading movie comments! Now that
life is settling down, new trip pages will follow soon.
I've added four new movies to the
Saturday, the 30th of September
My first week back in the rat race passed well. The pace
is slow, and the productivity expectations are reasonable.
Good! I can treat this time as a long vacation, and save
The locals remind me of southern Californians. Appearances
are important. I don't know how many times I've seen guys
preening in the men's room. I drove around the ritzy
neighborhoods of Windermere and Doctor Philips. It was
like being near Beverly Hills. Plastic surgeon offices, gated
communities, ditsy people, etc. This must be what happens
when there's no "weather" to contend with!
This morning, I walked around in the light rain. I wanted to
get a photo or two of the local area. I wasn't the only one
out for a walk:
My favorite landmark of this area is the Ferris wheel. It's
called the Orlando Eye. I see it every day after work, and
I like seeing it every day. I managed to get a couple of
decent shots of it. It reminds me of
the London Eye.
The weather was definitely like that in London today!
On the way back, I spoke with an English family. They
were from Hastings. The father asked me if it was
for motorists to be angry and wave their hands at people
crossing the street. He was a bit baffled by our "walk"
I don't blame him. I told him that this is a resort area, so
the drivers can go screw. It's just the way it is around here.
He seemed relieved, and I was happy to help him out.
The hotel where I'm staying is on International Drive.
It's commonly abbreviated "I Drive", and it is the main
thoroughfare for the tourist area.
Last week, I went out for a night drive to pick up some
food and beer. The traffic was so crazy on this road that
I started calling it I-don't-Drive.
This morning, it was much better. Anyhow, this is what
this touristy area looks like near my hotel. The sidewalks
are mostly empty because of the rain and early hour
I managed to add one movie to the
I watched it today in the theater.
Sunday, the 24th of September
The drive to Florida passed well. Yesterday, I arrived. I
enjoyed it. I always like a road trip! I took a roundabout
way to avoid having to pass through most of the big
Near the Mason-Dixon Line sparked quite a bit of activity
on the CB radio. (I always like to fit my CB radio and antenna
to the car whenever I take an interstate trip.) One trucker, or
"driver" as some of them call themselves, went crazy. I don't
know what set him off; however, the monologue was
peppered--really laced--with profanity.
Just north of
Fayetteville, NC, an enormous Stars and Bars is flown
a few hundred yards from I-95. Northerners, and many
others, immediately associate this flag with slavery.
However, the fighting between the states really began
because the Southern states felt their rights were being
trampled. After all, the Tenth Amendment to the
Constitution states that powers not specifically
delegated to the federal government reside with
the states or the people.
Now, I'm not condoning slavery. Pragmatically speaking
it was a cornerstone of the Southern economy. It
was also generally acceptable, despite its obvious
destructive effects. Perhaps a modern similarity could
be the automobile? The pollution created by cars is
clearly not helping, but where would our economy be
Further south, in South Carolina, food restaurants are
rated by the state health department. I haven't since
this since I lived in LA county of California.
On the way to Florida
In Georgia, I began to notice convoys of electric-company
and tree-trimming trucks on the other side of the
interstate. Evidently, their job was completed in Florida.
Recall that a hurricane skimmed the Gulf coast of the
state a few weeks ago.
These convoys of twenty trucks appeared every hour or
so. Still, upon entering the Sunshine State, I saw trees
stripped of foliage and bark, or just broken in half.
Billboards and signs were also ruined.
I overtook an old Mitsubishi pickup truck along the way.
What drew my attention to it was the hodge-podge of
traffic diversion equipment that nearly overloaded the
truck. As I passed, I read "FEMA" on the door, just under
the driver's arm.
The letters looked like stick-ons. So after your house is
ripped off the ground, and you have no clean water,
a sweaty guy rolls out of a small, beat-up truck to
offer a warm bottle of water!
I do wonder where all the tax dollars went to run FEMA.
How much does a secondhand truck, some traffic cones,
and stick-on letters cost?
The Mazda averaged 38 mpg for the entire trip. That's
not bad at all considering that most of the journey required
the air conditioning. And, the car was lugging around my
baggage for living a year away from home!
Today, I walked around the resort area near Universal
Studios. That's where I reserved a room for a couple of
weeks. Just about every restaurant imaginable is here,
except In 'n Out (sp?).
I then drove around to visit neighborhoods for a
potential apartment. The place reminds me of a smaller
version of southern California, only humid and less
I drove further out hoping for a more rural area. I didn't
find one. Most of the old orange fields were knocked
down to make room for housing developments. I did
find one large farm, but it was for sale.
I have a section in mind for an apartment. I'll start
looking tomorrow after my first day at work.
Wednesday, the 20th of September
I received an official e-mail message with my starting date
instructions. I've reserved a hotel room and am leaving on
The bees have been taking all the sugar water that I give
them. Tomorrow, I need to ready them for the winter, which
means removing the feeder. There should be enough time
for them to collect the remaining winter stores from the field.
There are still plenty of flowers out there!
I added three movies to the
including a new favorite. Enjoy!
Wednesday, the 13th of September
So I was approved to wait till the 25th, which is a relief for
me. I wasn't ready to deal with riots and desperate people.
(People just trying to resume life shouldn't have to be
bothered by outsiders at a time like this.)
This additional week is excellent. The honeybees have almost
emptied the Boardman feeder already. Now, I have time to
give them more sugar water. It all works out in the end.
Meanwhile, life goes on
I did figure on not starting for another week. So I have been
hiking. You know, there are some excellent trails within
only a few minutes drive, if one would only give them a
I've been hiking a local, kayaking favorite. Though, I have
no watercraft myself, I enjoy the views and trails around
a local "pond". I will miss such adventures. But, I will be
back, with more experience under my belt!
As a bit of celebration, for being hired, I maintained a
strong fire underneath the past-reported stone.
Yes, my choice of celebration is mostly frowned upon
by most. But, for me, it's a good one. I'm accomplishing
something, and I am outdoors! Perhaps I am easy to please?
Regardless, the stone seems to be breaking up, albeit
slowly. Below is a shot of the fire. I love how the flames
lick the stone in this view:
I feed deadwood to these fires. Some lengths are a bit
long, so I feed them in. It reminds me when Mike and I
burned a railroad log in southern California. While I don't
go into detail, please enjoy the trip page
Yes, there be sponges here! No, I'm not channeling
a swampy, southern Florida guru. Though, sometimes
I wish I was!
There are sponges on my lot. They're fragile, and wouldn't
make a good bathtime scrub. But they're here! Take a look:
Don't believe it? I can understand. I'll admit it's all I can do
to not step on these fragile creations. I don't know what to
Monday, the 11th of September
I'm still waiting to get a confirmed starting date for the
place in central Florida. While the area wasn't directly "hit",
I'm sure there was plenty of damage to the power system
and infrastructure. Hopefully, no more people have died.
(I am tentatively scheduled to start on Monday, the 18th.)
I'm not really in a big hurry to leave. The weather is
becoming warm and dry here. In fact, I plan to tell them
that I don't feel comfortable starting on Monday. No
electricity means rioting in the South! No job is worth a
John and I have been working on splitting a large stone.
This beast weighs about a ton and is right in the way of
where we plan to put in a parking area. I need the parking
area to get the pick-up truck and my new acquisition, a
full-sized Mercury SUV, off the driveway.
(The Merc will make an excellent plow vehicle, once I fit
a snowplow. The ATV did a good job, but lacks weight
when it comes to pushing heavy, wet snow. The Mercury
won't have that problem.)
For moving the stone, I could hire an excavator; but, John
and his four-wheel-drive tractor are cheap. I just pay with
beer and the repair of his cars. It's much better to barter,
too, because it builds relationships. This choice requires
reducing the stone into smaller sections.
I drilled some holes in the stone. My decent-quality
hammer drill could only drill about six inches into the
granite chunk. John borrowed a commercial hammer
drill and a two-foot bit that bored deep holes. During
the freezing season, these holes will be filled with
water. You can imagine what will happen.
I've been burning hardwood underneath the stone
in the meantime. It's an old farmer's trick to use fire to
split up stones in a field. The trick has worked well
because it has helped me chip off sheets of the
I've also been smacking the stone with a sledgehammer.
It's hard work, but pays off when one strikes the
fissures created by the fire. Below is what the stone
looked like today. A pair of sunglasses are in the shot
I removed the honey super the other day. The 'bees
hadn't put any honey in it. They have only the minimum
amount of winter stores. I now have a Boardman
feeder filled with sugar-water to help them along.
This is another reason why I would appreciate sticking
around another week or two. Though, they quickly
found the feeder and are taking sugar. I also still see
a lot of foragers coming and going. With the coming
warm weather, they should be out in the field longer.
I added three movies & a TV movie to the
Thursday, the 7th of September
A new opportunity!
I've accepted an offer of temporary employment in
Florida. That is, if the facility isn't flooded by the
My writing will be on hold. I have fully documented what I
can afford right now. I really need more money to finish
the other tasks that I want to report in my work.
A good thing about living in Florida is that I won't have to
brave the Northern winter in a camper this year. That is a
In my spare time, I plan to take day trips around Florida
and the Southeast. I'll bring the best parts to your
computer with Bill's Universe. Watch for trip
I added six movies to the
Tuesday, the 29th of August
Most visitors won't care about this update. But I wanted to
explain it nonetheless! The symbol below has shown up in the
upper left section of many pages. Clicking it will send your
browser to the mobile version of the page.
The idea is that
those visiting on mobile devices, like "smart" phones will
see the button and be able to tap it, which will take them to
a simpler and smaller page that should view better on their
Saturday, the 26th of August
Up here in the backwoods, the temperature has been dipping
into the mid-40s overnight. In a permanent structure, this would
bring a refreshing cooling-off. The camper's insulation isn't as
efficient as a house, so mornings have been chilly.
But I have a wood-burning stove now! It does a wonderful job
of quickly warming the small volume of air inside the camper.
I do mean fast. It can heat the air up by five degrees in 15
minutes. Mind you, that includes lighting a fire in a dead-cold
The draw is more than adequate because the smoke detector
still has yet to chirp when I light the stove. Typically, of course,
the initial warming is when smoke may roll out the front door.
You know, the cold-stack effect acting on the chimney. (It takes
a bit of time to sufficiently raise the temperature of the column
of air in the flue before it easily flows out the exhaust gases.)
Using the stove is cozy! Perhaps a primeval sense of satisfaction
is activated by fire? I don't know. I just like it. Yellow tongues
licking wood provides heat, and light. Who can't enjoy a wood
The stove is also cheap to run. I had previously gathered dry
deadwood of various thicknesses. The only expense was my
time for collecting the wood that would have, otherwise,
rotted away. This fuel resides in boxes under my awning, which
are within arm's reach of the door. Hey, life is tough enough.
Why not make it easier whenever possible?
I found a new water leak in the flue feedthrough. But it's no
problem, and I am slowly correcting it. The weather looks to be
holding off the rain until I can get enough layers of "goop"
down to build a dam to divert water around my feedthrough.
I am almost there. Thank you for your patience, Rain God!
My colony continues to be busy. Hot damn! If it's warm enough
and the sun is up, the foragers are always coming and going.
Sometimes I just squat and watch them. A bee will arrive or leave
every second or two. Who needs television?
Their organization and purpose is obvious in their activities. It's
also cool to see the returning foragers with their rear leg pollen
sacks full of loot. It looks like they have yellow "parachute pants"
on. (Youngsters may have to look up this short fashion trend.)
The "camping out" swarm has died off. Sad. They left behind a
bit of comb at the back of the bottom hive. It looks like a wasp
comb that we knock out of outside lamps or from underneath
immobile automobiles. I have left it in place for now.
Scott Shannon keeps rocking the "True Oldies". They even play
progressive rock bands. Yes, they do!
I added seven movies to the
Enjoy a couple of Gene Tierney films. She's a beauty, and can act!
Friday, the 18th of August
Bees & Oldies
No, I'm not making some clever allusion to the Bee Gees!
Today, I found "Scott Shannon's True Oldies Channel". I heard,
and am hearing, songs that I haven't heard in years. It's a great
station, if you like Oldies.
I love how the simple, classic tunes remind me of diners, girls in
dresses, American cars with chrome bumpers, and other
endangered entities. This station also plays The Beatles and their
contemporaries from the late '60s and early '70s, so it's not what
I knew as "Oldies" when I was growing up.
This syndicated radio station is broadcast around the nation.
Maybe it's available in your area? The Wikipedia page provides
The bees continue to do well. They haven't touched the honey
super. I'm going to remove it in a couple of weeks. I'll probably
also feed them just to be sure they have enough reserves for
I did alternate the "drawn" frames with those that hadn't been
touched. By doing this, that is inserting undrawn frames into
the middle of the hive sphere, the bees should draw out the
untouched frames. Hopefully, it will also extend their domain
to include all ten frames in each hive body.
A small cluster of foreign bees has shown up. They congregate
near an outside, back corner of the hive bodies. They don't
seem to be attacking my colony or causing any problems.
They may be the half that swarmed a few weeks ago.
If so, then their queen must be a "laying worker". She's obviously
not fertilized because their numbers are diminishing. Furthermore,
they also couldn't find another place to live, which I find unlikely
in the forest that I live in. Maybe they wanted to return to the
mother colony? Either way, it's sad. I'll have to be more careful
to avoid this event in the future.
I solved the occasional water drip from the stove flue feedthrough.
Also, the stove did a great job warming up the camper one of the
recent, cool mornings. Who would expect an overnight temperature
of 48 degrees in August?!
The stove performs well. It doesn't belch smoke out the door, even
when the stack (or flue) is cold. It burns wood cleanly, which is a
good sign. Creosote can build up in stovepipes and later cause
I added five movies to the
This batch includes a new favorite. Enjoy!
Tuesday, the 15th of August
I took a couple of day trips, which I have consolidated into a new
trip page. Take a look
Wednesday, the 9th of August
Welcome to August! It doesn't feel like it in my neck of the woods!
I've written about doing all my laundry in the driveway. Since I was
doing a few loads today, I took some photos.
The portable washing machine is energized by the Westinghouse
generator. The power inverter in the camper could probably run it;
however, the panels are usually charging the battery, so I spend
a buck or two to run the Westinghouse instead. I'm only using a
quarter of the total panels, so I need to pick and choose.
Water is delivered via the outside, auxiliary, shower. Yup, I took
off the shower head--
"don't need a bath, sweat's regular"
--fitted an adaptor, and connected the washing machine. I just
need to ensure that the camper's onboard fresh water tank
doesn't run out. I fill it from my well using, yes, you guessed it:
the big generator. So, no disrupting the Westinghouse genny.
I tie-wrapped the "strained" PVC pipe from my well-drilling
adventure to the side of the camper. The dirty water is directed
into this pipe.
I make my own laundry detergent with biodegradable ingredients
so I don't mind dumping the used water onto the driveway.
In practice, it works well. I can monitor the progress of the
washing machine by listening to the Westinghouse engine speed.
The camper's fresh tank, when full, is sufficient to run a single load
on the "high" setting. Yeah, they wrote that in the brochure back
Below are a couple of photos. Click for a larger view.
I employ the sun and wind to dry my laundry on nylon lines.
Finally, finally! The stove's installed and working! The
most difficult part of the retrofit was drilling a larger hole in the
roof of the camper. Recall, that I already had a hole for the too-small
flue. So I used a cool trick from folks on Youtube: use expanding foam
to "glue" in a piece of wood into the hole. Then, one may drill almost
as if there had never been a hole. Clever.
Drilling the new hole went well until I hit a piece of metal stripping.
It deflected the hole saw. I ended up having to clip, hammer, poke,
and file to get the metal to give in. But I won. Take a look:
Since the hole was only supported on the right side, I fitted several
pieces of sheet metal under the rubberized, outside layer of the
camper roof on the left side. They distribute the weight of the
I used a couple
of very large hose clamps that I had kicking around from a past
supercharger project. One is visible in the photo below. The other
is hidden within the roof of the camper. Hopefully, this will prevent
the feedthrough from falling through
From inside the camper, the feedthrough looks good. Very good.
Almost professional! Unfortunately, I couldn't make it perfectly
square. But, because the camper roof isn't perfectly horizontal
and the stove flue will go wherever it wants, it really doesn't
matter. Here's a shot of feedthrough from the inside:
It took several days of spraying and curing to seal the
feedthrough to the camper roof. That did give me plenty of time
to figure out how to waterproof the flue. Looking back, I laugh
at my wasted time and sketches.
Eventually, the spray goop (technical term) sealed the
aluminum feedthrough to the EPDM-rubber roof. Meanwhile, it
gave me a chance to prove that my freeze-plug idea would seal
the weather when the stove was not installed. Remember that
the camper is on wheels, so the stove must be removed for
(A freeze plug is essentially two steel plates that sandwich a
flexible rubber section. A bolt down the middle draws the metal
plates together, which squeezes the rubber out along the
radius, in an equal manner. The rubber makes a
seal inside the aluminum feedthrough.)
This particular unit has a large wing nut for convenience. Oh,
and it seals well.
I had to cut the pitched, plywood roof. That was fun. Standing
high up on
a ladder with a circular saw, what could go wrong? I ended up
doing the last cutting with a wood saw that my departing
neighbor gave me this morning. Coincidence? I don't think so.
After I painted the sawn edges, I folded a couple of layers of
aluminum foil over them. People may laugh, but this method of
dissipating heat works well. The layers act like small fins. Also,
aluminum has the additional advantage of having a high specific
heat. In other words, it takes a lot of heat for it to warm up when
compared to other materials. Keep reading and you can see my
space-age wrapping job!
Next came the fun part. I could install the stove into camper!
It looks good from the outside. Doesn't it?
After I installed graphite-loaded fiberglass rope between the
flue pipe and the feedthrough (sorry, no photo), I enclosed the
feedthrough and flue pipe junction in aluminum foil. Reynolds
must love me!
I poured water on the assembly without seeing any water
inside the camper. I learned that there is a small, occasional drip
during a courteous, Florida-like, pop-up shower. More foil is
needed! I can fix that tomorrow. Take a look at the job:
And now, what you have all been waiting for. Below are a couple
of photos of the stove in operation inside the camper! Notice
my modifications that made it work so much better. That is,
the grill and the slot beneath the door.
Despite the relatively warm temperatures, I had to light a fire.
It lit and burned without setting off the smoke detector! Of
course, one may say that I almost certainly have all the windows
open. Oh yes, I did, and the door, too. However with all these
I can still trigger the smoke detector when I put the kettle on the
But the wood stove didn't upset it one bit. Not even a chirp, as it is
known to do. I could burn with the door open without a problem.
Though, I must say the fire burns better with the door closed. Just
like it should.
I'm amazed and astonished that this project came
to such a brilliant conclusion. Prometheus would be proud of me!
Take that Zeus!
The honeybees are doing well. The electric fence hasn't skipped a
beat since I connected it to the camper main battery. Its draw is
noticeable, but not a problem.
witnessed a dramatic number of orientation flights. The queen is
still in the colony. Furthermore, since it takes about three weeks
to raise new worker bees, the queen resumed laying right after I
installed the honey super.
I'm going to check that they haven't filled the super in a day or two.
If they have filled it, because goldenrod is currently in bloom, then
I'll add another super. Monkey learns! OO-oo-HA-ha!
Solar 12-volt charger
The solar charger that came with the electric fence, but is now
charging my 12-volt batteries, is doing the job. It takes a while to
fully charge a battery, but it costs me nothing but time.
The 20-Watt module has already peaked one battery. The next one
is in place now. It's smaller so it should take less time. I monitor
not only the charger indicator light, but also the battery voltage.
It's a quick measurement and ensures that I don't waste time
letting the charger "float" a battery.
I added four movies to the
The DVD service of Netflix can't keep up with me. I just hope they
won't discontinue it. Their collection is unmatched, as far as I can
And, I won't bother with the streaming service again. I watch so
many movies that I exhausted the "Instantly View" selection
quickly. OK, that was a few years ago now.
But, I doubt that they
have expanded the available titles in a manner that will appease
my eclectic taste. Hopefully, Netflix will realize the profit base of
their DVD-by-mail service. I'd even pay more for my current service.
Sunday, the 30th of July
I have reached the point where I'm happy with the paint on the
stove. It's not perfect. But I don't care! Anyways lipstick on a pig
rarely looks good. But this is my hog!
I have fitted a grating on the top of the flue to protect the rain cap
from sparks. It has the additional benefit of keeping the cap from
descending the pipe too much, and burning up. Yeah, I designed it
I would have made more progress but the up-and-down weather
hindered my progress during the week. This weekend was full, too.
But, I'm heading into the home stretch. Then, I can post photos.
OK, so I've got good and bad news with the bees. Let's get the
bad news out of the way first. The colony swarmed. This means that
the colony felt it was large enough to divide.
Here's what happened. A lot of the bees took off one day. The
exodus was epic to watch. They took up residence in a high branch
about thirty feet away from the hive. Here's what the swarm looks
like using my 12X optical zoom
The beekeeper dislikes swarming. It is, however, the natural
reproduction of a healthy, strong colony. Honeybees operate as a
colony, and not as individuals. The organism is the colony, which
explains why workers will sacrifice themselves in a moment to
protect the colony.
So I've got a second organism hanging out. If it was closer to the
I'd get it and set up another colony. But my arms are only so long.
More than fifty feet off the ground is too high. Hopefully, they can
find a new home. I record everything that happens with the bees
so this episode is an experience from which I will learn.
The good news is that I installed an electric fence! John has
mentioned on several occasions that I need a fence to keep bears
out. (He used to work on a dairy farm in Vermont, so I take his
My online research confirmed his suggestion. Electric fences are
the only feasible method of keeping bears away from bee hives.
Not knowing the "ins and outs" of electric fences, I ordered a kit
from McGregor Fence company.
I'll never do that again. The quality in proportion to the price was
terrible. Evidently, the owner needs a new boat. I'd recommend
assembling a custom fence using vendors like McGregor.
Not only was the quality poor, but I didn't use items that were
included. I just couldn't fathom their function! And, other
components were non-existent. It's fortunate that I have
plenty of hardware leftover from other projects.
Oh, and the instructions. I haven't seen instructions that vague
in a long, long time. They're far worse than the ambiguous
directions supplied with "soft" garages.
But, it's what I have. Hopefully, it will stop a bear. Though, it
didn't faze a Labrador bitch. Yes, a Lab. mutt slipped under the
energized fence without a bother! I checked the fence with a
high voltage meter. I even got a good zap from it; so, I think
the hive will be OK.
I ordered a solar charger to maintain the 12-volt battery. Here's
what the fence, solar controller, and battery look like:
I reused a pipe from my well-drilling endeavor. It does a good
job providing a stand for the solar module and controller.
The solar panel is controlled by the small box with a green and
a yellow light in the right photo. The green light means that the
solar panel is generating electricity. The yellow light indicates
the state of the battery charge.
The battery resides in the box at the base of the pipe, under
the plywood board and stone. (I really need to buy a banjo!)
The larger black box, below the solar controller, is the fence
energizer. It's named Powerfields. This particular unit will
deliver a Joule of energy during an encounter with the fence.
The kit included three warning signs. I installed them. Though
I had to use my own zip-ties because the kit came with an
unfathomable collection of solid rings. I can see some
Mass-hole laughing at me. Poor loser. Get a life, really.
Unfortunately, there's not enough sun back in the apiary to
keep up with the fence. So I wired the fence energizer into the
camper battery. I used a long, outdoor extension cord that has
sat unused for years.
It felt good to be a practical engineer again. I calculated the
voltage drop from the measured wire resistance--this drop is
the killer in direct current (DC) systems--and found it to be
about 1-2% for the extension cord. Ha! Better than my current,
albeit temporary, solar-charging set-up.
So I ran the extension cord, cut off the ends and did a good job
heat shrinking the relevant connectors in place. Coupled with
a fuse and switch at the camper's battery, I shouldn't awaken to
flames licking my bed.
The situation is a lot simpler. Take a look:
New 12-volt charger
The electric-fence solar panel and controller did not go to waste.
I am now using the small solar panel and controller to charge
the various 12-volt batteries that keep my camp running. Of
course, I moved the panel to the front of my property. They sit
near one of my arrays, where the panel has the best opportunity
to capture the sun's rays.
This arrangement will allow me to save my gasoline generator.
(I used to use it to charge the batteries.) Sure, it'll take longer,
but why not use the energy that would otherwise be absorbed
by the driveway?
The decision also elicits comments from other people.
It's good to keep it interesting for them! You know small town
folks and their gossip. I think they miss the drama of the
presumed football goal-posts on my property.
I added four movies and one TV program to the
Thanks, Randy, for the recommendations! Please,
keep them coming!
Friday, the 21st of July
The stove is coming along. It takes time painting and curing
the paint with a long, hot fire. But, the modifications I made
have worked. The stove burns cleanly without belching
smoke out the door! In fact, it burns better with the door
shut. I'll post photos once I get it installed in the camper.
Summer is great. I can leave the windows open all the time
freeze! The panels have been charging the battery well. Right
now, in fact, I'm running on solar power. There's enough to
top up the battery and run this computer. Not bad considering
I only have a quarter of the panels hooked up!
I witnessed a war between my honeybees and a nearby,
probably, wild colony. My bees won without too much
trouble. I wouldn't mind finding the other colony to
avoid such conflict in the future, but I guess that's life.
Stay tuned because I have more bee news coming soon!
I added seven movies to the
Thursday, the 13th of July
I've returned from an enjoyable and comfortable break with
I finished clearing all the trees and the resulting brush. I'm
to get more sun on the solar panels. There are still several
massive oaks that block most of the afternoon light. But I
cannot fell them without taking out the power lines and the
After the brush piles are burned this winter, I'll hire a tree
company with a crane to cut them down. If they don't offer
me a fair price for the trunks, I'll have a lot of hardwood.
The woodstove burns cleanly with the larger flue. I still
need to install it in the camper. I have to figure out a way
to make the feedthrough. The plywood roof complicates
matters. Do I go through both the camper roof and plywood
with a single metal piece? If so, I need a way to seal out the
weather when the stove is not in use, or the trailer is
The website will be fifteen years old tomorrow! Here's a
the second version of the home page.
It's hard to believe that the site has been around so long!
I added four movies to the
The girls released a new video. It seems that they are
returning to their original hit, Thrill. What do you think?
Friday, the final day of June
I witnessed the orientation flights of newly-hatched honey bees
yesterday! At first, I thought they were swarming. Swarming
'bees buzz loudly and congregate at the hive entrance.
activity was marked by bees climbing up the front of the hive
and jumping off, only to fly in figure-eight patterns in front of
the hive. The buzzing was created by their wings beating madly,
as they learn to fly. Here's a link to a video that someone took:
The weather's not been conducive for working outside. So I'm
updating the web site again!
I added three movies to the
Monday, the 26th of June
The bees are doing well. They're definitely protective of their
hive and brood! They have filled about a third of the twenty
frames. At this rate, I'll need to add a honey super at the end
of next month. I may be able to harvest honey this year!
I added seven movies and one TV movie to the
These additions bring the total to more than 2,500 entries!
Tuesday, the 20th of June
Camper roof & life
I installed a thin plywood roof on the wooden frame of the
camper. I figure the wood will be more durable than a tarp.
Also, I won't have to worry about immediately removing
snow after every storm. I flashed the apex with actual flashing.
Imagine that: I was able to use a building component just
as it was intended!
I was going to screw down the plywood; but, then I got lazy
and used short nails. The thought of drilling all those pilot
holes turned me off. Nails are quick and I have million of them.
I just used more than I probably needed to.
Laying on the roof with my feet only barely finding the ladder
was a bit annoying. That was the only way to reach the flashing.
It's a good thing that I'm no longer
frightened of heights! (Maybe these jobs are the reason?) Oh,
and I never fell off, which is a good thing, because I don't
bounce as well as I used to!
I am posting some photos of the roof. It's tough to get a good
shot from the ground. That does mean that you can see what
the camp looks like now that spring is hopping away. Boy, the
camp is a bit of a mess. I feel a bit ashamed. But, as the
part-time mail lady says: it is organized. You decide:
I have since painted the water-heater access cover. It looks
brand new with its new coats of Rustoleum glossy white!
Speaking of the devil, it has performed without a hitch since
I replaced the old solenoid coils.
Summer and bees
Ah, summer: when one can leave the windows open day and
night. Humidity can become a bit high; but, so far, it hasn't
been annoying inside. Of course, I spend much of my time
outside. And inside has the benefit of not having to swat
mosquitoes. Though, the dragonflies are out and are culling
the 'sceeter population. Love you, dragonflies!
While on the topic of amiable insects, the honeybees seem
happy and are always out and about. I'll check the brood
nest this weekend to ensure that the next generation of bees
are maturing well. After that, I won't have to disturb them
for a good while.
In the long term, I plan to leave them alone. I'm just
ensuring that all is well, since they're establishing a new
They are funny creatures. When I am near to--say--remove
the feeder, one or two will land on my light-colored
T-shirt and stay there. I won't notice until I am already
away from the hive. They don't sting and aren't aggressive.
I don't wear a veil or any protective clothing for such simple
Perhaps it helps that I speak to them whenever I approach?
I tell them what I'm going to do and apologize for the
disruption. It sounds corny. But, I do it for two reasons. One,
they may understand that I am not a threat and tolerate me.
We don't know how perceptive insects really are. And
reason two, it provides me with some peace knowing exactly
what I need to do.
So far, so good. I haven't been stung. (Of course, how would
I tell with all the mosquito bites?) Off! is only so good, I
guess. It's a good thing malaria rarely occurs up here.
I started modifying the wood-burning stove. Recall that the
flue is too small. It stifled the fire, especially when the door
was closed. A fire starved of oxygen tends to smoke a lot.
Today, I ground out the flue opening for the larger stack.
I fashioned a grating from some leftover metal. It will keep
the fire off the bottom of the barrel. This coupled with new
holes under the door, and beneath the grating, should keep
the fire burning brightly.
This work may be like putting lipstick on a pig. It really only
has to help heat the camper for another cold season. So it
doesn't have to be perfect. If it doesn't pour smoke out the
door, I'll be happy. I'll post photos when the project is
Thursday, the 15th of June
I finished the installation of the HEI distributor on the truck.
That did it! After I set the ignition timing and carburetor, I
went for a quick drive up and down the hill on my street. The
engine performed beautifully.
It also idles so smoothly now. I never knew it could. I guess
that's the beauty of a perfectly balanced engine. I will miss
that straight-six. My other vehicles have one or four
cylinders, which are inherently imbalanced. Now, on to my
Wednesday, the 14th of June
Moving the MG
Jack and I moved the MG on Saturday. The tiny car made
the 6'x12' trailer look small. Though, admittedly, most
cars won't fit on this size trailer! It's intended for
lawnmowers and furniture.
Getting the car onto the trailer was a bit painful. The gate
was only three inches wider than the car, so we had to line
up the car well. We used the come-along to pull the sports
car onto the trailer.
That must have been too easy because the tailpipe hung up
on the metal-"grated" ramp. I ended up lifting the side of
the car while Jack worked the cable pulley.
The hard work did pay off because the car fit well. Almost
too well: Did the designer intend to move diminutive
sports cars around without using an "auto transporter"?
Taking the car off was not too bad. Pushing it around on
the gravel driveway was tough. Traction on a loose surface
is not easy to find! But, we did it. The car is happily resting
in the car capsule, which has been working well.
Here's a shot of me in a dusty MG. People did stare at me
while Jack towed us to the new home. Kidding because
we'd have been pulled over almost immediately, if I rode
in the car!
The honey bees are active and seem happy. They've been
coming and going all day, now that it's warm. I put a feeder
on their hive to ensure they have enough sugar. I probably
didn't need to do that; but, it's cheap insurance. I'll leave it
until they have emptied it. That may be Friday at this rate.
I'm one step closer to getting the truck driving. I received a
HEI (High Energy Ignition) distributor from Summit Racing
today. It's amazing how quickly their shipments arrive!
I think I've narrowed the truck's lack-of-power problem to
a faulty distributor. I had replaced it with a rebuilt unit, but
the vacuum advance failed. Who knows what else is
totally crap on that dizzy?
I cleaned the carburetor and found no rust or debris. At
least, I know it's, probably, not faulty. Hopefully, the new
HEI dizzy will sort out the truck. I'm anxious to sell it, so I
can free up more of my driveway!
I added three movies to the
Tuesday, the 6th of June
Since I can't work outside today, I'm catching up on
watching YouTube videos. The all-girl, Japanese hard
rock band, Band-Maid has released another video. It's
yet another style, which they perform in their own
way. It's worth listening to. And, they're still pretty, too:
Sunday, the 4th of June
Today, we had a few hours of decent weather. The bees
were going about their business. With a bunch of them in
field, scavenging, I figured it was the best time to open up
the hive. Remember that I needed to verify that the queen
was laying eggs?
Great news! I found the queen. She was walking around
on a partially "drawn" frame. Worker bees draw out the
plastic hexagonal foundation on the ten frames in each
hive body. Once these cells are drawn, the queen can
deposit a baby bee in them.
The bees were so gentle and quiet that I was able to
watch the queen for a minute or so. I saw her lay a couple
of eggs. I also found brood, i.e. very young bees. This
quells my fear that the queen was injured or missing.
The workers were also busy storing pollen, sugar syrup,
water, and other essentials for honey production. It was
definitely one of the coolest things that I've seen in a
My neighbors gave me a high-quality aluminum tripod.
I used it to take some video of the hive entrance. The
best one is available
3rd of June
Bees & garage
The bees appear to be content. I frequently take a break
to watch them come and go. It's impressive. I need to
verify that the queen is laying soon. Last I checked, there
was no brood yet.
If she's not laying, then I need to find a replacement queen
ASAP. The lifespan of a worker honey bee is only about
three or four weeks and it takes about half that time
to raise new workers.
The storage unit is almost empty. John helped me move
the remaining furniture last weekend. I have a trailer
reserved for next Saturday to move the MG. Jack has
kindly volunteered to move it with his truck. (Since mine
is still out of commission.)
I also installed the car capsule in my new garage. I had
purchased it years ago. It'll provide the MG with a
secondary layer of protection.
The car capsule is designed to be used indoors only. You
know, for the rich to show off their cars in the ridiculously
immense houses they love to inhabit. It should last well
inside my turtle-shell garage.
I wired the car capsule to the camper's battery. Naturally,
I included a fuse and a toggle switch. I want to be able to
shut it off because it fills up the open space in the garage
completely. It's really comical how stuffed the garage is!
Westinghouse generator & water heater
I had some trouble with the generator. Occasionally, it
would start to run roughly and would eventually stall. It
sounded like it ran out of fuel. After checking the tank and
air filter, I found that the gas cap was at fault.
These suitcase generators have caps that can switch
between vented and closed. The idea is that they can be
stored inside without venting fumes. The Honda's works
well. This one does not.
The Westinghouse version doesn't open enough and the
carburetor couldn't overcome the resulting suction in the
tank. This problem is especially pronounced on cold
mornings. Solution: leave the cap loose when running.
Now, it runs so much better. It should also use less fuel.
Speaking about gas, well another type of gas...
The gas manifold of the water heater needed some
cleaning. But the real culprit turned out to be low
resistance values on the solenoid valves. Recalling one's
high school physics: Voltage equals Current times
(V = I * R)
As the resistance drops, for a more-or-less constant
current, the voltage also drops. That
explains why it took more and more voltage to keep the
solenoid valves open.
Fortunately, I found replacement solenoid coils for
cheap money. Their resistance is twice the worn out units.
Everything is OK with the water heater now. Hopefully,
it will never pose a problem again. Hell, what else can
go wrong, because I've had everything apart on it!
I added three movies and one TV program to the
25th of May
My package of honey bees & queen arrived this morning.
I was beginning to be concerned because they were in
transit for longer than three days.
The queen is alive and the dead worker bees was minimal.
The feeder can was still half full of syrup, so they didn't
go hungry. That would explain why they were so docile.
I have placed the queen cage and package in the hive.
Tomorrow, if it's warm enough--yeah, I'm asking if it'll be
warm enough in late May!--I'll see if the queen has been
released and remove the package from the hive.
I have filled a Boardman feeder with sugar syrup. Forager
bees had already found it. They appear calm, too. No
desire to sting and they were gently buzzing. When I
removed the queen cage, I could feel the warmth from
Here's a photo of the package. The cluster was calm and
gently buzzing, so they are happy, well-fed bees. The
mass of bees in the middle huddled around the queen
and the feeder can.
I really didn't need to wear any protection because they
were so calm and didn't want to move too much. I guess
the 50-degree morning worked to my advantage.
Garage & Moving
I have finished installing the "turtle shell" on the soft
garage frame. It's plenty strong enough to resist snow
loads. The canvas went over that.
I've been moving everything I can out of the storage
unit with the Mazda. It's a lot of work. Surprisingly, I
was able to fit almost everything into the hatchback.
Two guys were amazed when I pulled my free-standing
drill press into the back. They offered to help. I declined
citing that if I can get it in myself, then I can get it out
I've moved all that I can. John has kindly offered to move
the rest with his pick-up. I'm almost completely moved!
This will be my final move. I've counted that I've moved
ten times in my life and have helped others several
times. No more moving for me!
Below are some photos of the garage being assembled.
I did most of the work by myself. The only help was when
John leveled and spread the gravel with his tractor.
Remember that a normal soft garage has no slats and
no fiberboard, shown in the two middle photos.
Instead, the canvas is drawn across the bare steel
poles. Now it probably makes sense why I designed
and built the "turtle shell".
I added six movies to the
14th of May
One year ago
Let's look back a year. Last year this time, I was planning
to drill my own water well. I was dead set on the idea.
I was setting up all the equipment on the property.
Little did I know that I'd hit bedrock almost immediately.
Also, the solar panels were still languishing in boxes in
the storage garage, having not seen the light of day in
The driveway was still dirt. The camper trailer, which I
have called my home since last autumn, was not
known to me. I wasn't even looking for another place
The wood that I had cut from felled trees existed in
stacks haphazardly scattered around the property.
Last year at this time, only the truck was sitting on the
lot. Today, I'm nearly ready to move my remaining
stuff into my soft garage. Having already moved a
camper onto the lot, set up an apiary, and erected two
solar arrays. In addition to the less significant details.
Still learning: water heater
The water heater gradually stopped working earlier
this week. The slow failure was associated with the
voltage of the camper battery. Specifically, the water
heater would only fire up at 13 volts, then 13.2 volts, then
13.5, and so on. Oh, and it was a periodic failure, too.
That is, sometimes it would fire up at 12.7 volts without
a problem. Hmm.
I grudgingly decided to spend a particularly cold,
overcast morning fussing with it. I discovered that
the gas valve was clogged with gunk. This crap would,
periodically, keep the solenoids from actuating.
The force that solenoids--electrically-operated
sliding valves--is directly proportional to the supply
voltage. The lower the voltage, the less force. Less
force means that the valve cannot overcome the
friction from the gunk. A closed gas valve means
no flame and no hot water.
Since the gunk would sometimes pass through
without fouling the valve, the solenoid would
sometimes operate at a lower voltage.
The source of the gunk is the 20-pound LPG tanks.
When filled, oil and a "special" mixture of crap is
added. Yes, it's my fault for using "gas grill" tanks
on the camper.
(It does make one wonder what is being carried by
the "propane" gas flame to meat, when grilling outside.
You thought it was Oscar Meyer's hot dogs making
you fat. Maybe it's the "special" stuff from the tank?)
The water heater isn't perfectly cleaned out yet.
I was lacking the tools to fully disassemble the
valve, so I'll clean it better in the future. At least, I
figured out this bizarre problem.
The Mazda has new front brakes. What an easy job
that was. I'm really impressed by those design
I got the truck running. It even moves under
its own power. The bad news is that the lack-of-power
problem is the same as last year. I checked the usual
suspects in the ignition system and found that the
vacuum advance on the rebuilt distributor is blown.
Whatever. I plugged the carburetor port and will
tell the next owner.
Vacuum advance is only really useful for improving
fuel economy when cruising under small throttle
openings. It does little else.
So I narrowed the problem to the carburetor. That's
what I felt was the source, but it's good to back
up instinct with fact.
I received a gasket for the carburetor so I can completely
disassemble and ultrasonically clean it. There must
be a fleck of rust that acts like a ball valve somewhere
in the power circuit. The rust sneaked past the inline fuel
Once it's running, I can fit the new muffler and put it up
for sale. I won't miss it. I already have a classic vehicle
to keep me occupied. I don't need two!
The soft garage is proceeding well. John and I picked
up some snow-proofing lumber yesterday. I assembled
the wooden structure to the metal frame. I'll post
photos of the entire assembly process when it's all
done. "Don't touch that dial."
I added five movies to the
5th of May
John and rain evened out the garage pad.
I have also erected the garage frame. It was a bit tricky
by myself, but I did it. When I pull the canvas over it, I'll
I've serviced the Mazda and the ATV. I just need to
replace the front brakes on the Mazda. I doubt that
I'll repair the MG before I want to move it out of the
garage. So I asked a friend if he wants to test out his
new truck by towing the MG, on a trailer of course.
It'll be easier to mend it here anyways.
I've decided that since I have so many projects going
on and my time is fixed, I need to reduce my workload.
Thus, I'm going to get the truck running again and sell
I need to address the carburetor problem, which
I think I have done. Then, I need to replace the muffler
that was blown up. It's on order now. I washed and
waxed it yesterday and took some photos. It does
look pretty good, and I've done so much work to it,
that it should sell quickly.
Living off-the-grid continues to present "challenges."
The new Westinghouse generator always ran with a
misfire. Since the carburetor has no adjustment, and
I figured the fuel system and compression were
OK: the spark plug heat range must be the fault.
The plug never heats to the "self cleaning" stage.
I spent a day decoding and researching the
recommendations in the factory manual. No fewer
than three different heat-range plugs were
I ended up settling on a NGK plug with my target heat
range. Would you know that the very plug I chose
turned out to be included on the sticker on the
generator itself? (Yes, the manual and sticker don't
fitting the new plug, the misfire was much better.
It's not completely gone, but it's a lot better. I think
it's the best that it can be.
Life is tough for these tiny, suitcase generators. Their
single pistons aren't much larger than your thumbnail.
This small size means that tight machining tolerances
are even more important.
It runs so I'll service it frequently and look forward
to the day when my battery bank is large enough to
power me through the clouds.
Otherwise, life off-the-grid is wonderful. No electric
bill must infuriate the power utility. Or maybe not? I
have spent quite enough money to generate my
The panels have been awesome. They will fully
charge the camper battery even after a cool night
(with the furnace blower running) without much
And to think that I am only using a quarter of the
that I am collecting. I doubt that my cabin will use
four times the electricity that I currently use.
I had a minor altercation with a mouse. I felt badly
when, after a few nights, I finally cornered him. The
poor critter died in the small volume that he fled
into. I would have been happy to catch and release
him in my woods.
Although with him gone, and his entrance sealed
up, things smell better in the camper. I also seem
to have a feline friend. A few days later, I found
a dead mouse at the foot of the driveway to my
Also, with the threat of heavy, thick snow gone,
I have removed the tarps from the roof. It's great
having light in my skylights again! A thunderstorm
showed where I had a couple of leaks. I fixed them,
and the camper seems to be leak-free again.
The 'storm also brought a bit of entertainment. A
bolt of lightning traveled down the copper DSL
line from the utility pole at the street to the DSL
modem. I know because a loud pop and flash
woke me up!
It's funny because I always unplug the modem from
the power outlet, figuring this would be where death
would spring. Recall that a surge over the power
system finished off another modem?
Oh well, another modem is toast.
Fortunately, the telecom guys know me as that
off-grid guy and were happy to bring several
replacements. I now unplug the DSL line, too.
I set up my compact washing machine. I plumbed
it into the camper outdoor shower and powered it
with the Westinghouse generator. I can now do my
laundry without leaving home. Eventually, when the
cabin is up, I won't have to move the washing
machine in and out. But it's easier than going to the
I added five movies & one TV program to the
Yeah sure, California's wonderful--if you're a grapefruit.
27th of April
The gravel of the garage site has packed well. A spot
needs a bit more, but it's going to work well. I don't
think I'll need any hard pack. The colors don't match
between the garage base and the driveway. I don't
care. I'm not a racist!
I've finished collecting the bulk of the brush piles. I
cleaned up after the previous jobs of driveway
building and clearing space for the solar panels. That
was a long and tiring job. Now, I just need to cover
them before the snow flies.
The panels fully charged the battery today, despite
only intermittent sun. I've deployed the camper
awning, so I now have a dry place to sit outside. It's
good for relaxing outside after a long day's work.
I've still got a number of tasks to complete before
I can get back to writing. I need to get them done
first. Photos of the garage will be posted when I get
I added seven movies to the
21st of April
Since the weather has been good the past couple
of weeks, I've been accomplishing outside tasks.
(Writing is on hold until I catch up.) I
cleared the site for the soft garage. John leveled
it with extra dirt. I have received a dump truck load
of gravel to fill in the voids.
The garage will be slightly higher than the driveway
and the surrounding land so it shouldn't ever flood.
We've also cleared an area so I can deploy the
After the gravel evens out the garage area, I'll see
if I want to put down hard pack. The color of the
two materials is different. I don't care about that.
I'm more concerned about the surface being sturdy
enough for vehicles and tool chests.
I've also cleared an area for the bee hive. The
apiary doesn't have the maximum amount of light,
but I don't want to take down any more trees. I
think it'll be good enough. I need to paint a couple
of the hive components, then it'll be ready.
The rest of my time has been consumed with
assembling more brush piles and consolidating
wood into a "mega pile," which should be easier
to cover. I also serviced the power equipment and
tilted the solar arrays to the "summer" angle.
I found that the arrays weren't pointing to solar
south. I must have misread the compass. I fixed
them, and there seems to be more light gathered.
It's good to have a day off! I'm sore and worn out.
I added six movies & one TV movie to the
9th of April
My writing is coming along. I've doubled the
original length. Recall, that, originally, I stopped
writing and said that I was done and started to
investigate publishing. Then, I learned that I was
a bit light for words. So, today, I'm 65% there!
Yes, I know I
shouldn't be counting words, and should instead
focus on content. The snag is that for an unknown
author, one must tick all the boxes--like
length--just to warrant a look.
And it seems that the "look" will probably have
to be from an agent first. Going directly to a
publisher usually is a waste of time. That's the
next challenge. Now, I'll elaborate my manuscript
to bring it up to the desirable length.
I've been adding better than a thousand words
every day. Boy, and it is work. I enjoy it a lot;
however, the idea that it's easy is entirely incorrect.
Writing is really a trip of self discovery and then
self examination. Words carry a lot of the writer
The warm temperatures are allowing me to clean
up. I've been doing those jobs that I wanted to do.
For instance, I buried the rest of the solar
transmission lines. In a couple of weeks, I'll adjust
the solar arrays to the "summer" angle. Yes,
I also started arranging brush into burn piles.
Next winter, they will be a source of heat, light,
I have so much brush from clearing the driveway,
panels, etc., that this will be an ongoing task,
which is great.
It's wonderful being outside without a jacket! I
spent so much time outdoors today that I got a
tan. Yes, a tan and not a sunburn. That's unusual
The spring heralds a new battery-charging
generator for the homestead. The Honda
continued to serve, but I received a
slightly-larger Westinghouse replacement.
(The Honda had begun to burn quite a bit of oil.
And its appetite for gasoline also increased.)
The Westinghouse generator is blue. It's slightly
larger and a bit louder. Though, the noise is a
baritone beat to the Honda's tenor slap. And
it burns no oil.
I like the unit very much. The spark plug is
unnecessarily difficult to remove; however,
that is a small annoyance. This Westinghouse
product has an excellent way to pour the correct
amount of oil into the crankcase: a graduated
bottle with a plastic spout. Genius!
It's also 10% more powerful than the Honda.
The cost is about half of the Honda. So, I'm
thinking that I wasted money buying the Honda.
Still, "we can rebuilt him." Yes, I'll film a '70s TV
program when I retrofit a new gasoline engine
to the fully-functioning inverter of the Honda.
My thought is that I can find a new engine
that will fit into the suitcase and have a new
generator ready to go. (The Westinghouse won't
last forever, after all.) Honda does make a
better quality series of small engines, which I
am tempted to consider.
This task may seem idiotic, but it will save me
money in the long run. I also won't have to
dispose of a gasoline-powered generator. Do
you know how difficult that is? Neither do I, and
I don't care to know!
Life At Sea in Heavy Weather
Below is a link to a cool video of life aboard
a container ship in Atlantic Ocean. Good music.
Great filming. Take a look because it's worth it:
I added five movies to the
I was dreading a heavy, wet snowfall. It occurred
at the worst time, too: overnight. Fortunately,
I was able to clear most of the driveway. Another
"challenge" was that the hard pack wasn't frozen,
so I had to learn not to spin all four wheels.
I can't complain because a foot or more of wet
snow was moved by a lightweight vehicle. I only
had to shovel a bit at the bottom of the driveway.
I have been updating the older entries in the
movie database. I want to, eventually, have a
description for every movie in the comments
If you find any errors, please let me know. The
mailbox icon at the bottom of the page will
provide you with a form that should be very
quick to complete.
I've added four movies and a TV movie to the
25th of March
Spring, hah! I just finished burning some brush
and now it's snowing! I feel like an idiot for
exchanging my winter tires for my "all season"
set. My decision was influenced by a previous,
long stretch of warm weather. Oh well!
I thought I had a marketable manuscript. I was
wrong. My online research proves that the
length of my manuscript was too long for a
magazine article and too short for a novel.
Word count seems to be very important. So,
I am elaborating my manuscript. I'm halfway
to a short novel. I'm making progress and
still have plenty of money, so life is good.
Welcome four movies and two TV movies to
And enjoy them!
the day after the Ides of March
Since I've been forced inside again, I've been
watching films. I've added six movies and a TV
movie to the
Below is a link to a cool video that uses
The catchy tune, which was released nearly twenty-five
years ago, sounds very modern. Why not watch and
I could tell right away that the setting is Bondi
Beach, the topless section. Yeah, I'm just good like
that! Seriously, recall that I was there in March,
2007? Here's a link to
that I took.
the day before the Ides of March
This morning, the furnace blower ground to a halt. It
makes a good alarm clock. I fired up my backup
heater, the oven. And would you know that "Warm"
on the thermostat will keep the camper at room
The sudden halt of the furnace blower, which
tripped the motor breaker,
also damaged one of the "hamster wheels". It was
secured to the motor shaft with a plastic hub.
It's no wonder that one of the two poorly-balanced
"wheels" hadn't wrecked its fragile connection
Fortunately, the local hardware store has shaft collars
and the new motor has flats on the shafts. I don't
have the angle grinder here, so the existing flats
saved my bacon!
The motor didn't fare well either. One of the shaft
bearings is completely shot. I'll have to replace it
with the sun shining down on my bare arms. I can't
wait for the return of the warm weather!
I really lucked out because the shaft collar did the
trick for the "wheel", and there was no other
damage to the furnace, aside from the motor. Recall
that I had procured a replacement motor last month?
The furnace is now running as smoothly as it can.
Those "hamster wheels" really are not well balanced!
The replacement unit boasts balanced wheels "for
quieter operation". Ha! Try, for a longer motor life!
I wasn't panicked this time around, so I managed to
snap some photos. A photo of the blower motor
The large wheel (the one that broke) may be viewed
Oh, and there's some snow falling. I've been
plowing every three or four inches, and it's going
10th of March
It's a good day to stay in. So I added some movies to
7th of March
Who says Beethoven doesn't demand power? Today,
I was watching the camper battery voltage whilst I
listened to Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. Yes, the
volume was high. Is there another way to take-in
Beethoven? You do know that he wanted all of us to
be deaf like he was in his later years?
The battery voltage would jump all around. On a
fully-charged battery, like in this case, for instance, the
voltage will drop a couple of tenths of a volt when
I switch on a vent fan. That makes sense because a
fan spinning rapidly draws a lot of current, even from
a high-capacity battery.
Evidently, the radio when playing at nearly full volume
presents a much, much larger draw. All would be
alright during the calm points of the Symphony and then
the volume would suddenly rise, taking down the
And I'm not saying a drop of a couple of tenths of a
volt. At full volume, as Beethoven was expected to
be enjoyed, the voltage would bottom out an entire
volt below normal!
That's more than five times the power draw that a fan
whose only purpose is to push air around!
Mind you, this is all happening with a 900-Watt,
gasoline generator actively charging the battery.
(And the fan voltage drop was also recorded with
this active generator.)
I could see the generator struggling to keep up--I
definitely couldn't hear it--as the voltage reading
would rapidly change. Despite my ailing, Honda
generator struggling to keep up until Beethoven
let up, I still rely on it. Maybe the great composer
has given it new life?
(The generator does have half of its life left.
One wouldn't know it with the smoky morning starts!
Maybe that is its coffee?)
Beethoven caused a voltage drop to a gas-powered
generator! This music requires a lot of power. So if you
are feeling down on energy, listen to Beethoven!
Rock gods turn up their amplifiers to "eleven".
Bah! Stay home and enjoy Beethoven the correct
way. There's more energy expended per volume of
air enjoying this master than in any rock concert.
Yes, I do have an ear for Greenpeace. It's my
They know I listen to them without missing a syllable.
So, they always welcome my insightful comments.
OK, no, they don't. They ask me to go away. I
guess Beethoven isn't for everybody. Too bad.
Imagine if they had his following!
Winter, writing, sun, updates
Winter's back for a few days. No problems to report.
Writing is going well. I'm now getting some
proofreading from family. The fourth solar panel
seems to only be helping, so I'm going to leave
it connected. Soon, I need to re-tilt the solar arrays.
The cold temperatures do force me to stay inside
and watch movies.
I have added seven movies & a TV movie to the
Preparing for spring
The recent thaw has set temperature records and
heralds the early beginning of mud season. Oh, what a
I have shoveled snow away from the driveway but since
the drive is lower than the surrounding, undisturbed
ground, water tends to drain into it. If the temperatures
were more seasonable, then the melting wouldn't
be so dramatic! On a positive note, the area behind
the solar arrays is clear of snow.
The Honda generator continues to hang on. It blows
smoke occasionally and covers the spark plug with
soot; but, it works! Funny thing is that I got a
warranty extension form from the vendor. Ha, yeah
right: I'll get right on that!
Today, I felled five trees. There were in the way of
the garage. I don't like removing trees but John
needs to be able to get his tractor in so we can
fill and level the area for the garage.
One dead tree was threateningly close to the active
solar array. Fortunately, it fell exactly where I wanted
it. It could have been very nasty. I haven't lost my
I'm nearing the end of my non-fiction manuscript. I
need to proofread it again and add a couple
of additional photographs, which I'll take next
I have added six movies to the
Today was too nice to stay indoors and work. And I've
made great progress writing, so I deserved a day off. I
shoveled so I could get the ATV behind the solar panels.
I need to change the tilt angle in a couple of weeks.
It's great that it's been so warm because the shoveled
area will melt.
Yesterday, I received the new power inverter/charger
for the camper. It does a much better job charging the
battery. In fact, it did such a good job last night that
I haven't had to run the generator yet! (It's still
working!) I've been running the computer off the
battery and then the panels. It's so quiet.
I was able to open a window and the vents for the
first time this year. Oh, spring will be awesome. The
luxury of having all the windows open most of the
time. And I won't have to have plastic covering them
to keep the heat in. I'm looking forward to it!
Living off the power grid isn't easy. Yesterday morning the Honda
generator refused to fire up. It resides inside the camper when
not in use so I was a bit surprised.
I added oil, of which it has been using an unexpected amount
recently. No change. I installed a new spark plug, looked at the
air filter (clean), cleaned the spark arrestor and emptied the
muffler of carbon pellets.
The plug and muffler told me that the tiny engine was running too
rich. But the air filter is clear. I'm at a loss. There's no fuel filter
that I can see and the manual doesn't reference one. Maybe I'm
nearing the end of the engine life?
I looked for an engine rebuild kit. You know me; rebuild before
replacement. The rebuild kit is available; however, I also learned
that the tiny engine in my Honda suitcase generator isn't the best.
It's known as a disposable engine to Honda. Shucks, so much
for buying a Honda means buying the best. After reading the
well-written individual's posts, I tend to agree. The sound of
piston slap is something I just ignored, thinking, it's a Honda.
I'll continue to feed oil and gas to it. I'll even test the
compression, which should be a conservative 8/1. I feel this may
be the last leg of this little engine, for replacement parts are
hard to come by because no one rebuilds these engines.
Do not worry because when the small Honda generator finally
refuses to start, I'll go out looking for a better solution. And
until I can do that, I have my LPG generator to keep everything
going. (Maybe it'll be summer and I'll have more sunshine and
won't need a generator?) All in all, more than a 1,000 hours
isn't bad. And it's not dead yet!
In other news, the furnace continues to perform well. I purchased
a replacement blower motor yesterday and it looked the
same as the motor currently installed. I checked the stamped
numbers and the replacement will pull a few tenths more of an
amp than the original.
That shouldn't be a problem. I do find myself wondering: OK,
you've improved this motor that looks the same and is the same
size and, presumable, has the similar motor inside. Why did the
current rating change?
The furnace does still rumble a bit at start-up. I'll see about
securing the shrouding a bit better today. The sun's out!
Recall that I figured I could get away with a third solar panel?
Well, I was looking at the array yesterday afternoon and saw
that most of the time at least panel (that is in use) is shaded
So I hooked up a fourth panel. In the morning, like now, all
four panels are collecting sun. The voltage loss caused by the
extra current traveling the circuit doesn't seem to have hurt
the charging performance. In fact, the battery reached the
final top-up stage quicker.
I'll see how this works. I can always turn off one of the panels
if I find it doesn't work. I calculate the voltage drop is around
3.4% worst-case and 2.8% at best. The goal is less than 2%; but,
3% is acceptable.
Why are there two values? As the battery is charged, the
controller raises the voltage. When it is finishing up, which I
call "PWMing", the voltage is around 15. Recalling your high
school physics, you'll remember that as the voltage increases,
for the same amount of power, the amperage drops. That's
why high-tension lines are efficient: very, very high voltage.
My new arrangement will waste power while bulk charging--this
is usually done by the genny anyway--and be OK when PWMing.
Also, it should gather more electricity during the shady
afternoons. I'll see about taking the trees down in the spring.
It won't be cheap! Wish I could do it myself.
I have added six movies to the
Yup, I bragged too much. Last night the blower in the furnace
screeched to a halt, literally. Damn you, Roddy Piper!
To avoid freezing, I fired up the oven and kept the door open.
Yes, that sounds like the recipe for a horror movie. Next, I'll tell
you that undead deer stalked me!
Don't laugh because yesterday I saw deer tracks less than 50
yards from the camper. A couple also bedded down on my land.
Neat! Unless they are zombies, then uh-oh!
So I had a trying time last night. I would wake up every few
hours to turn the oven on. I would then shiver in bed waiting
for it to warm the place up. It did give me a lot time to think
about what was wrong with the furnace.
The next morning I awoke early to get right on the repair job.
The furnace is only accessible from outside so I had to shovel
a bit of snow to fully remove the access panel. This reminds me
of last winter...
Long story short, the blower motor appears to be OK. The
bearings are pretty tight and the brushes look great. I cleaned
out the inside and sprayed WD-40 on the bearings. I did
manage to find a replacement motor, which was no small feat.
Surprisingly, the closest RV business will have it tomorrow
afternoon. Thanks, Allen!
But what do I do till then? It is my belief that the motor is fine.
I think the sheet metal enclosing it was binding. That's what
caused the screeching halt. In fact, this morning I found that
the overload breaker had been tripped.
Right now, I have reassembled the furnace and it works! I also
got to service it while I had it completely disassembled. I now
know what it looks like and what to do. Thank you, kind man
The furnace is an impressive piece of equipment. It's just let
down by sheet metal screws that eventually strip and don't
keep the metal away from the "hamster wheels".
The furnace has two cylindrical wheels with slats to draw air
in. One wheel feeds outside air to the flame in the combustion
chamber and the other draws inside (camper) air across the
hot flue and pushes it back into the camper.
That way LPG (AKA propane) is kept separate from the
camper air. The design is similar to the water heater, of which
you know I have grown quite fond.
In the spring, I will need to put in larger screws to hold the
sheet metal rigidly away from the hamster wheels. I will also,
hopefully, have a spare motor tomorrow.
I spoke with one parts guy and he said that RV parts are
obsolete after ten years. This camper is getting on, at nearly
20 years old.
There's always a solution, though. I can install a newer version
of the existing appliances and continue on. The same
manufacturers exist and are thriving. With any luck, I won't
have to depend on the camper for winter living but for maybe
one more year.
Now that I have figured out the furnace, the only other
complicated appliance that can fail--that I haven't already
repaired--is the fridge. (I don't count the oven and stove as
complicated. Will this come back to bite me in the butt?)
As for the fridge/freezer, I sincerely doubt anything can kill
it because of the "ammonia cycle" source for refrigeration.
It's fascinating; however, I won't go into it here. Wikipedia
does a better job:
How can that break? And if it does, I put all my frozen foods
outside. Potential problem solved. Tonight will be an early
night. My store of adrenaline is running low!
We finally had a real snowstorm. Despite a neighbor claiming
we received eight inches, it looks like a foot to me. Unfortunately,
I was too slow to get out to plow. The ATV couldn't shift the
partially-melted snow at the end of the driveway. Break out the
shovel and my arm power. I eat a lot of spinach!
I have taken today and yesterday to clear snow, service the
water heater, and fulfill other chores. Sometimes the chores
build up and I can't do anything else until they are satisfied.
Next time you complain about a shower being slow to warm up,
think of me. I have to pump all the water in and let all the used
water out. That can mean defrosting the dump valve. That's not
something most people usually have to do!
Of course, this is the life I chose and I wouldn't have it any
other way because I am off-the-grid and truly free. It's just
that, like everything, this life comes with a price.
Also, I wouldn't mind all the shoveling if I could get a full
night's sleep. You see in anticipation of cold nights, I stay up
till midnight--sometimes later--to keep the generator maintaining
the camper battery as long as possible.
That way, the furnace will draw on the battery for only five or
six hours before I can restart my trusted Honda generator. The
problem is not a lack of battery size. It's the charge controller in
the camper. It's designed to avoid overcharging a battery that's
permanently attached to shore power, like in a trailer park.
To avoid overcharging, the camper's charger doesn't fully
fill the battery. Instead, it settles at around 13.2 volts and thinks
it's great, and basks in the lukewarm-13.2-volt water.
voltage doesn't do much more than keep the battery around
75% charged. Yes, trailer parks have tried to ruin my life!
(Realizing this fact has almost allowed me to enjoy the fact
that tornadoes hit them first, well almost: I'm not that cruel.)
Yes, the solar array has a top-notch charge controller that tops
up the battery. The trouble is the sunlight is so short this time
of year. So, I'm left with the that's-good-enough charge
controller in the camper.
Another fact of physics--that unsympathetic bitch!--is cold
temperatures reduce total battery capacity. I figure that my 200
amp-hour battery is actually behaving like a 120 A-hr battery.
Yes, that's about 40% of the capacity gone because it's cold!
(Use that excuse on your boss and see what comes of it!)
Fortunately, others have run into my problems and there are
several choices of much better charge controllers that can
be fitted in place of my original unit!
Being short of sleep, I splurged and spend the $200 to have
such a unit mailed here. Five or six hours of sleep simply isn't
enough for the amount of hard work that I am undertaking!
I'm eager to return to my writing. I want to finish up the
non-fiction manuscript so I can explore a potentially awesome,
action-adventure 'script that could become a New York
bestseller! The idea is excellent and will grab the reader,
or so I think
An author has to realize that being his own best fan is the
only way to avoid the usual afflictions of writing. You know:
depression, over-drinking, and then the bullet or pills solution.
I'm very lucky that depression doesn't hit me too hard. I also
live in an area that usually enjoys the sun at least every three
days. The sun, which is the true source of all life, really lifts
The furnace blower has been screeching very occasionally.
Despite pleading with it to behave, it could be a potential
fly in the ointment. I've bumped up the thermostat setting
and feed the furnace the highest voltage whenever I can.
Let us hope it can hang on until April when I can do
without it, and sort out the problem. Ah, the life of
boondocking. I love it! The challenges and the learning.
Yes, I am a bit of a masochist with an engineering tendency!
In other news...
It is wonderful being free to live a peaceful life on my own
land, if it is only for a limited time! My general health has
improved a lot. I have more than the physical endurance of
the high-school senior across the way... at least for shoveling
Ha, how many middle-aged men can say that! Of course, now
that I have boasted myself, the furnace blower will quit.
Maybe it's time to bust out the statue to pray to the god of
You know the edifice: it's a bunch of balls enclosed
by a ring. Roddy Piper is there. He was very cool. Maybe he'll
speak for me? Tell them I'm OK and to let me live? I do know
It was very gusty one night. It caused a problem in the
camper. A gust found its way down the intake tube of the
furnace and blew out the flame! It goes to show that there's
always something new that can be thrown my way!
On a calmer night, I spent a few minutes admiring my little
home. It sounds strange but rectangular, yellow blocks
shining at me seemed almost like a cartoon when emitting
from an equally rectangular block. The funny thing is that
I found this scene warm and welcoming. It must
foreshadow my future cabin in the woods.
I'm probably about halfway through the manuscript. I
spoke with a neighbor. She seemed to be a writer and
suggested trying to find a publisher. The obvious reason is
the lack of exposure.
Furthermore, she was interested in the solar system.
Speaking with her about her electricity needs, it sounds
like she would be a good candidate for roof-mounted
panels. We're going to speak more about it in spring.
I have added six movies to the
I have added seven movies to the
This is a good aspect of winter!
Writing is going well. I have no trouble sticking to my
schedule. I manage about six hours of continuous work
Monday through Friday, excepting snow days.
All is going well with the camper. In fact, it has now paid
for itself! I have also found a way to reduce my use of
LPG, and it's making a difference. It would be excellent
if I can get through to spring without any problems.
Thanks for reading!
28th of January
I have added eight movies to the
Thank you, Youtube!
My work continues to progress well. I have forgotten just
how much I have accomplished here at the homestead.
The manual is going to be lengthy. It will also include a
computer spreadsheet, which will make it interactive.
Perhaps this interactivity will be a good selling point?
I shouldn't get ahead of myself because I still need to
complete the manuscript. It looks like that will coincide
with the return of spring.
Speaking of warm weather, my projects will be on hold
until then. That is unless I have an emergency that
I plan to set-up the bee hive in late March. The vendor has
already charged me for the queen & package bees. I just
need to order a bit more equipment and bee medicines.
22nd of January
My first week of writing has passed well. I had no trouble
sticking to the schedule. Actually, I look forward to
working. On sunny mornings, I am able to run the
computer off the panels. Neat!
I've also taken up practicing my musical instrument
every day. It's impressive how quickly the skill returns.
Muscle memory, maybe?
I have collected my bee-keeping equipment. (I had
purchased everything I should need for one hive years
ago.) I, also, placed an order for a
queen and package bees. The package should have a
sufficient number of workers to get the hive going.
They will arrive in the spring. I'll have the hive set up
before then. That'll be a fun spring project! I'll be
sure to describe my progress with photos.
I have added four movies, a miniseries, and a TV series
15th January 2017
John and I got a good fire going in the stove. The flue
is just too small for the size of the firebox and opening.
I'm going to figure out what it needs to be and modify
it in the summer. What a shame that the design is wrong!
I'm going to start my schedule of writing this week.
It will be good to be back working towards a potential
source of income. Please wish me luck!
12th January 2017
Good news: the stove relocation and installation
went very quickly. I guess I'm getting good at this
sort of thing? It's also a lot easier working when it's
above freezing and sunny!
I thought I was clever by using sheet metal loosely
located around the stovepipe where it pass through
the tarps. I then "flashed" it with layers of aluminum
foil. Take a look:
The sheet metal is brown and loosely held in place
with Gorilla tape (black) to the surrounding supports.
This isn't a permanent job. I figured it could get me
through the rest of the winter. Then, I could do a
proper job when I repair the roof and A-frame.
The final product looks pretty good:
Here's what the stove looks like with the new
I sealed the joints with high-temperature RTV
silicone. There is a draft inside the stove.
The bad news: smoke continues to pour out the
door when the fire bogs down. Also, the fire doesn't
stay lit without the door open. Plainly, there's
insufficient feed air flowing in.
John--remember he helped me a lot this past
summer?--is going to stop by on Saturday and
take a look. Check back then to see what happens
We're enjoying a second day of warm weather.
Today, it's nudging 50 degrees! It's convenient
because I can open a window and turn on a vent
fan to purge the smoke smell.
I have added five movies to the
If you check the latest additions block, it'll look
like I added six movies. That's because there
was an error. The
was uploaded last time, and is only appearing
The same holds true for
the mobile page.
10th January 2017
I extended the flue by four feet. No joy. I'll have to
relocate the stove so the flue goes straight up. That
means cutting a hole in the roof. At least, it's going
to warm up so I can do a good job with the caulking.
The all-girl, Japanese, hard rock band has released
another video. Take a look:
9th January 2017
The stove is installed and looks pretty good! Take a look:
The stove came with a length of piping for the flue. But I didn't
want to cut a hole in the roof of the camper, so I went out a
You can see the exhaust pipe that I used to extend the flue. Neat!
It goes out and then straight up past the roof line. I sealed the joints
with high-temperature RTV silicone. It works, too!
The top is capped, and I put in a spark-arresting screen. It would
be a bad thing to set something outside on fire! Click
to see the cap up close.
Feeding through the window was a bit tricky. I ended up
fabricating an aluminum sheet-metal/cardboard/Gorilla-tape
partition. I guess that makes it a composite
I thought about using wood but don't have a router to get the
necessary curves. Below is the feedthru with the wall thimble
and insulating cord.
I had to remove and invert the window to get the sliding section
in the correct position. Man, I wish I had done this job in the
autumn! It's done, though, and sealed up again.
Now, what you've been waiting for! The stove does work. See:
The not-so-good news is that the flue isn't working well.
When I open the door, smoke pours out. Also, the fire won't stay
lit. This makes sense because the smoke isn't being pulled out
so fresh air can't come in. Nothing is ever easy. Damn it!
7th January 2017
I'm nearly finished. The stove installation is completed. Just in
time judging by the cold temperatures. I just have to fabricate
the heat shields to protect the surrounding wall and electrical
units. Now, I wish I had a sheet metal brake. Oh well, I'll find a
I have added three movies & three TV movies to the
4th January 2017
This week I'm installing a camp stove in the camper. I'm about
halfway completed with the job. It's been challenging; however,
I solved the most trying aspects. I found a clever way to run the
flue out the camper without cutting any new holes. I'll post
Today, I also found the rest of the pipes I need for the flue. It
wasn't my idea to use car exhaust pipes. The friendly guy at
the Home Depot recommended it, and I said: "why didn't I think
I loosely assembled the top of the flue. I also installed a spark
arrestor in the top. And would you know it: it looks professional.
The arrestor is a code requirement in Canada, and probably in
the States also.
The height of the flue was dictated by Canadian
code. Obviously, the top of any chimney has to have plenty of
horizontal air flow over it to ensure the smoke is drawn out.
(Thank you, Mr. Venturi, for explaining this effect!)
I've split all the wood felled during the "Oakie" incident. Both
the standing oak and the small, "green" evergreen, split
beautifully. I'm getting quite accurate with the ax. What a fun
Whilst splitting wood, I came across a large nail. It looks like
a ten-penny (??) and had a substantial effect inside the tree.
Here are a few photos. If you click the thumbnails, you'll see
some blue lines that'll help you locate the nail:
I was surprised at the effect. It's something to think about
when nailing into a tree.
I had a thought last night. I checked my math and the cut-off
cable. I found that I had shortened the solar-array-to-camper
cables enough to use a third solar panel!
Yes, 300 Watts is pushing it, but
the actual cable length--as opposed to the design length--keeps
the voltage loss just under the magical 3%!
This morning, I connected a third panel. When the sun was
shining, briefly; it seemed to make a difference. I'll know for
New Year's Day
Happy New Year's!
I'd like to start by thanking you, the reader, for your attention
this past year. Hopefully, I can maintain it in 2017!
I'm finally feeling almost fully back to normal. That silly workplace
really has a sapping effect on individuals. As a friend said, who
was laid off before I; it takes two weeks to get back to normal.
That said, I'm going to take another week off. I plan to fit my
new stove to the camper. I'll post my progress as it occurs!
I have added six movies to the
Missed a past entry? Read them