Thursday, January 29, 2009

Drinkin' expired Nyquil and bitchin' about the weather

Ok, It's 3am and I feel like holy hell. Painful deep chest cough, muscle aches, pounding headache, and I can't breathe. I just took some Nyquil that expired in March of '07. Ahh, that was a good year.

It's been that kind of day. That kind of week.

First, my partner in crime at work was out of town, which is always a signal for all hell to break loose. I don't know if it's because he's doing all this stuff behind the scenes to keep things running, and when he steps out it all comes crashing down, or if it's just bad luck. But I had a whole series of WTF? problems. One was coming and going so fast I couldn't get a good look at it. The database would go nuts and I'd start trying to track it down and then everything would be fine. Then 10 minutes later it would happen again. Just about the time I'd start to see some potential explanation, it'd be gone. It was like playing Whack-A-Mole. I was on a conference call for 4 1/2 hours Tuesday with all of us scratching our heads.

All this in the middle of a snow-ice-snow storm that's been causing havoc all over, with stir crazy kids who haven't had school for days and who are very hard to keep entertained.

Then this afternoon, the power goes out. After about 30 minutes, we start thinking about contingency plans. For us, no electricity means, among other things, a) no heat, and b) no water. Theoretically, I have a solar charged deep-cycle battery that will run our heat stove for about 2 hours, but we just used it not that long ago (during the last outage), and there has been little sun and plenty of snow cover. It had no juice left.

We've had outages before, but never under these circumstances. And given these particular circumstances, it was likely to last for a while. So we decided to try to track down a generator. Of course, we're not the only ones with this thought. The proper time to buy a generator is not during a power outage.

After a few phone calls, I find a place 20 miles south of us with a few left. And I know there are several other stores in that same area that might have them too, just in case.

Only, our vehicles are encased in 1/4 inch of ice. I can't even open the door to start the engine or get the scraper out.

After much pounding and pulling, I was finally able to get the passenger door open. I started the engine and got to work on scraping. Then I realized it was a pretty futile task.

So I left the motor running and walked over to a neighbor's house to see what kind of generator he had. A good 20 minutes later, and the minivan is still nowhere near drivable. More scraping, more whacking. More scraping, more whacking. More advice from my 5-year-old son.

Eventually I cleared enough that I could feel sort of safe driving 20 miles on awful roads. And when I got to the aforementioned store, the only thing they had left was a $3000 diesel generator. Diesel - that stuff that prefers to congeal in really cold weather. 3 grand. That was just not going to happen.

We tried another store. Sold out. The next two weren't even open. And the big shiny new home improvement store doesn't open it's doors until next week.

More phone calls. 20 miles in the other direction from our house (so 40 miles from our present location) is a store that has a few left. Not a ton of options available. So my son and I set out on the next leg of our quest. The roads are, if anything, worse than before. I'm not sure how, since it hadn't rained or snowed or anything in the meantime, but we weren't making very good time.

We finally walk into the store that had, and hour ago, "a few" generators left. Fingers crossed....

One generator. The last one. I stood by it, waiting for an employee to come into view. I wasn't leaving the side of that box for any reason. I asked if there were any other options. I asked him to get me a flatbed cart. We grabbed several other supplies. We made the purchase.

Now it was time to load the beast into the back of the minivan. Only the back of the minivan was still encased in ice. The window was clear, but there was still 1/4 inch of ice aorund the outside, not to mention a good inch of ice on top, where it's hinged.

So me and a couple of store employees start banging and scraping and prying and pulling. It probably took another 15 minutes to get the door to open. We get it loaded in and the guy asks for my receipt so he can mark it as loaded or whatever.

Only there's no generator on my receipt. I was -> <- this close to getting a $700 generator for $80. I never even noticed the total. So now I have to go back in and get this thing paid for. Thank goodness we're getting a tax refund soon.

So on the way home, we get stuck behind a car stuck in the snow, miss 2 traffic light cycles trying to get him out so the rest of us can go. Then we get behind some slow moving trucks, which can't be passed because there's only one lane cleared on the highway. When we start getting close to home, everything grinds to a halt because of an accident. I take a "shortcut" through town, which I'm pretty sure took longer.

I get home and the house has a definite chill. The candles are getting low. I've been gone a good 4 hours or more by now. The remaining 2 kids missed me and want my attention. But we've still got to unload and set up the generator, so I head out back outside to get the power cord and stuff...

And as I'm walking up to the front door, all the lights come on.

On that note, I shall now attempt once more to sleep, without actually being able to breathe. Wish me luck.


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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Easiest Challenge Ever follow-up

Well, between a couple side projects, a real job I'd like to keep, and children almost constantly tugging at my clothes, I've become a slacker blogger. Or at least an intermittently slacking blogger.

A while ago I issued the Easiest Challenge Ever, and then never said another word about it. Well, all you intrepid participants... wait, did anybody actually do this?

Here's my report:

- Shampoo: Very dependent on whether I kept the water softener salt topped off. Our naturally hard water requires more soap, shampoo, etc. If you've never dealt with hard & soft water differences, this may sound strange. But it's a huge difference. Anyway, when the water was good and soft, I could get by with very little. I haven't been keeping up with my colloidal silver "shampoo" experiment, because, well, my mad-scientist rig to make the stuff is solar powered and we don't get many days in winter. Wow, I sounded a bit like a lunatic just then.

- Soap: I've been trying to use only bar soap for hand washing and the like, and I've come to find I prefer it. That glistening goo out of the dispenser is just unappealing at this point. And way too lathery.

- Dishwasher detergent: I'm cheating on this one, because we experimented with this last summer. I filled a coffee can with washing soda, calcium citrate, and um... some other stuff. I can't find the exact recipe now. Anyway, it worked pretty well, but then the humidity or something got to it and it hardened into a brick. I literally had to use a drill to break it into chunks. I'd like to try this again at some point, but for now it's back to the store-bought stuff.

- Shaving cream: Well...

I guess I need to digress on the whole shaving topic for a sec. I used to use an electric razor. Then I lost it after a business trip. At least I thought I did. It's one of the supposedly rechargeable ones (aren't they all now?) and as often happens, the non-replaceable rechargeable battery is shot. It still works when plugged in, more or less.

But since I thought I had lost it, I dug out the old razor. How old? This thing only has two blades! Think of it! Anyway, I found I liked shaving with a blade better and it didn't take any less time. No electricity needed. Of course there are the disposable heads, still. So I got a fairly cheap Zeepk straight razor off eBay. I haven't mastered it yet. It's harder than it looks, at least for me. So most of the time I shave with one of those disposable-head razors. But I make 'em last.

End digression. Shaving cream. A squirt from an aerosol can is hard to control, but I found that about a quarter-sized dollop, or slightly larger, is plenty. Less than that gets a little skimpy. HOWEVER.... A shaving brush, a porcelain cup, and a little disk of bar soap is even better. I don't know why, but I really like this method. The amount of soap used is negligible. In fact, now I know what to do with all those scraps of bar soap that are too small to wash up with. Just throw them in the bottom of the shaving mug!

I do want to mention, for anybody thinking of going this route, that if you get a "genuine boar's hair" brush, which most of them are - even the cheap one I got at Walmart when my non-Walmart one inexplicably fell apart - soak the bristles in water for a day before use. Otherwise you'll start every day smelling like the south end of a northbound boar.

Aftershave - Well, I've never really used it in the first place. But when shaving with a blade - especially the straight razor - cold water does wonders.

Toothpaste - It's confirmed - A little dab'll do ya.

Laundry detergent - That's Lori's department, so I can't say. I mean, laundry's women's wor-OW!OW!OW!OW! Kidding! .... We did get one of those high-efficiency washers a while back, so I'm sure we're using less. But I don't know if that really counts.

Deodorant - I used one of those crystal deodorant dealies for a while. But then I dropped it. And it broke into jagged shards. Not the best for rubbing on yer pits. I used up the gel stuff and I'm using the old-fashioned stick kind. I've found there's a definite limit to skimping on this one though.

I can't think of any other cleaning & hygiene areas I've experimented with.

Does any of this make a big difference in the world? I doubt it. But it doesn't hurt. And as I mentioned before, I'm thinking of it as a gateway drug to mindfulness.

Anybody else?


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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Eat the Weeds (crosspost from H&H)

Okay, I thought the stuff below was interesting, so I'm posting it both here and over at Hen & Harvest. Yes, Hen & Harvest is back to life. I'm taking on more responsibility over there - which, for those of you who know me in real life, probably seems a bit preposterous. At any rate, I'll be partnering with Shasta from Seeking Simplicity to hopefully get that ball really rolling again. You can read more about that here.


I often walk around our yard or pastures looking at weeds and wondering what they are. Identifying plants from a book is pretty hard, and I don't have an expert handy to ID them for me.

Well now I've got the next best thing. Apparently "Green Deane" at has been putting these videos out for a year now, but this is the first I've heard about them. There are 63 videos and counting, all about identifying edible wild plants.

Each video covers where and when to find a given weed, which parts are edible, how to use them, if there are look-alikes, and anything else he thinks is interesting, like how they got their name or what their history is.

I'm not necessarily after a meal when I'm wandering outside, so the plant identification is the interesting part to me. But even so, it'd be pretty sweet to walk out to get the mail and come back with a salad.

The videos get better over time - I guess if you do anything 60+ times you gain some new skills - but just to get you started, here is Episode 01:

For what it's worth, his web site, while not the prettiest thing on the web, is a treasure trove of articles and information. So if you have a slow connection or you're already a plant ID expert, there's still a lot of great stuff to be had.


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Saturday, January 03, 2009

The anti-Jared

Wow. Just wow.

Okay this has nothing to do with anything (which happens to be my current blogging theme), unless you're putting together your This-time-I'm-gonna-do-it New Year's Resolutions. And how I found this is too roundabout and not interesting enough to explain... but imagine for a sec that you weighed 420 lbs a year ago, and 215 lbs now. (190 kg to 97 kg for my metric friends.)

Here's what it might look like.

My favorite part is the progression of photos in the sidebar. You can literally see him getting more and more proud.

The idea of losing 200 lbs in one year boggles my mind. Amazing.

Now I shall digress.

This made me think of the song with the chorus that goes "Half the man I used to be"... which actually has lyrics that are too negative to tie to this story directly. I googled it to confirm my suspicions about the lyrics. It turns out most people think this is a Nirvana song (which was certainly my first guess). It's actually Stone Temple Pilots, and it's called "Creep". So there you go.

Now I shall digress even further.

Speaking of Nirvana, do you remember the album cover for "Nevermind" that had the baby swimming underwater, apparently chasing a dollar bill or something? (Looks like this.) Okay, if you remember that album cover, get ready to feel old... because that kid graduated from high school last year.

Okay, have I blown your mind enough times for one post?

Good, because I'm going to bed.


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