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When you leave this place where will you go to then?

Sunday, 22 November, 2015

The transportation revolution.

Saturday, 24 October, 2015

Much like the Information Revolution and “cyberspace” thirty years ago, we are on the cusp of a revolution in personal transportation, and in all likelihood a dramatic altering of the way we move other stuff around that isn’t people. Our present paradigm of personal transportation dates from the 1930s, and has been refined to become utterly dominated by the private automobile. It’s due. Many ideas purporting some future vision of personal transportation reject the construct of private automobiles like a petulant child. Not just this is merely reactionary and may be safely ignored.

What transportation will look like in 30 years is as unpredictable now as the smartphone, and its implications (selfies, Grindr, overseas-direct shopping) were in 1985. The following are the bulletin-board systems, DR-DOS, Compuserve, ARAPANET and so forth that lead to how we get outside our heads today. The elements are

  • non-petroleum-fueled drivetrains,
  • the 20% to perfect we have achieved, mostly in the last 10 years, regarding autonomous vehicles,
  • car-sharing services especially as an alternative to daily or hourly rental,
  • the liberation of the livery trade (Uber, etc.)
  • the decentralization of some kinds of shopping (anything that need not be refrigerated, other hard goods and soft lines)
  • the concentration of other kinds of shopping (narrowly focused, well stocked superstores, the idea the grocery stores are five times as large and 20% as common as they were 30 years ago), including the adoption of groceries by general merchandise retailers and the adoption of general merchandise by grocery stores.
  • the people who essentially sit in a cubicle not needing to travel to a specific location to do so,
  • the abundance of information and entertainment in the home or on your phone, and
  • about five thousand other things I can’t imagine, several of which no one has yet imagined.

Someone, somewhere will work out how to do Webvan, Amazon Prime Direct or similar profitably. This person is more clever than I am. No one will make it work anytime soon; please stop claiming Webvan 2.0 is the future being handed to us. Whatever these elements are at least one or two or hundreds of them are not in place. When I hear about Amazon Prime Direct deliveries by drone, I know I am listening to someone who is incapable of serious contemplation.

People don’t go to the movies anymore unless you require a specific excuse to get out of the house and can’t think of anything else. I don’t know what’s coming, but one thing I know for certain, the self-appointed experts know even less.

Impromptu Vegan Chili, suggestions wanted

Sunday, 5 July, 2015

For reasons which remain mysterious the quick, easy and reasonably priced Fantastic World Foods Vegetarian Chili mix is no longer in inventory around here. I wanted to make something with a combo of lentils, rice and beans. Complete protein, lots of Bs and E. The chili stuff which was once a mainstay of every bulk-foods aisle is simply missing.

I started bringing up recipes for vegetarian/vegan chili. These are all about 80% the same. Typically involving up to six cans of something, a laundry list of spices and a brag about quick preparation. None were right. So I improvise.

½ lb. or 1¼ Cup brown rice (rinsed once only to retain bran for texture)
½ lb. or 1 Cup pinto beans (measured then pre soaked, substitute your favorite bean)
½ lb. or 1¼ Cup split peas or lentils of your choice
4½ cups water (Strictly, this is too little water for your legumes, but the vegetables make up for it.)
2 carrots
1 Anaheim pepper (optional, or substitute peppers of your choice)
1 sweet onion (adjust onion variety to taste)
2 green bell peppers (seeds not removed)
1 Cup Fiesta-brand “quick chili mix”, a spice blend (a regionally appropriate commercial spice blend may be substituted)
1 Tbsp each, cumin and paprika (optional)
1 30 oz. (or so) can of diced or crushed tomatoes

Chop fine or grate your fresh produce then dump everything in the slow cooker. The spice blend is 75% of what the label instructions recommend for that amount of water.

In practice I set the slow cooker on high for 5 hours. If I were starting this in the morning to enjoy in the evening, I’d keep it on low for 9-12 hours.

I know I’ve published metric or weight equivalents of measures in the past, but today I’m going to have to skip it. If you do the translation, I would be very pleased to add.

Chili-Mix analog for those out in the world:
¼ Cup chili powder
2 Tbsp corn flour (optional if blending your own)
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp onion powder

The latter two may be deleted and replaced with fresh product when blending your own or adding directly to the pot. The salt is not optional as it helps the vegetables sweat, break down and make chili.

Update 11 July ’15:  The second batch has been completed. Red bell peppers in the place of green ones. One cup of the Chili Mix was more than one-half of the container, so less was used. For kicks, corn was added. What is notable is that this batch was cooked on low for ten hours, then left in the slow cooker to cool for an additional two hours. When removed the ingredients were far more coherent; it hadn’t broken down to “make chili”. I presume shorter cooking time  on high is required for the traditional consistency.

Throwing this into the air. Home maintenance query.

Saturday, 30 May, 2015

Google fails me. DDG, too.

I am confronted with an installed kitchen sink which was in place when the homeowner moved in ca. 2000. I am convinced it dates before 1960 and is in an 1890’s house. Despite Texas, some older homes survive and I am presently in one.

Homeowner testifies that the sink was in its present state upon move in. No caulk is between the sink and the laminate countertop. None, not a trace survives. The laminate is in excellent condition. My guess is the present kitchen came to be in the 1950s based on the style and configuration, but could be older. The sink fixture may date from the 1970’s. It’s an Ameri-Flow about which I can only surmise it was part of a water softening system at some point (60s? 80s?). Enamel has worn from spots where the sink meets the countertop and rust is apparent on the countertop where caulk should be.

The best advice I can google up tells me I should simply patch over the chipped enamel with one of those Home Depot epoxy kits, pray for plausible color match, then caulk the sink into place with silicone covering the rust on the countertop. All of this done with the knowledge this is a kludge which may last a few decades. This doesn’t sit well because I have a potentially naive belief that rust should be treated or eliminated whenever possible.

I’m also having to relearn what little I knew about selecting kitchen fixtures; the desire to replace the sprayer head on the sink started this operation. The names I know are all crap today. Most disheartening, American-Standard whose regional operations in my home MSA was a major employer until the Reagan administration.

This may not happen this weekend. Surely more weekends will follow.

Quickie: My little fantasy

Wednesday, 6 May, 2015

Somehow in the autumn I became infatuated with the idea of resettling in the sticks somewhere and building a house. I absolutely do not mean finding some HOA for outside of town, but close to shopping, and digging up a general contractor and so forth. Actually acquiring a couple of acres, or dozens, away from civilization and building with an eye toward keeping the design within my competence to actually construct an actual, non-overbuilt-RV little house with my own two hands and the assistance of the internet and Harbor Freight.

The more I look into this the less blatantly insane it appears. Had I not been bold enough to destroy my life five years ago, I’d be on it now. The easiest thing to do would be to find a spot near what in lieu of a life I have now and get to work. Austin is pushing productive people out with such ferocity, the wasteland is now over 100 miles away. “Home values” are literally insane, and Austin will be at the heart of the scheduled meltdown of the general economy Q3 next year. “Values” are going up further and further out. Towns that were a stoplight and post office 15 years ago now have competing full-service grocers, which is more than I can say for almost any part of Austin. The city’s sense of suburbia extends from Salado to San Marcos, is bound by the West by the hills and lakes but is extending into the desert aggressively. All of this effort and cost just to make a once vibrant, fascinating city about as exciting as the exurbs anywhere else. This will not end well. The Austinites are thrilled to be in their World Class City, and if you don’t like it you can leave. Drive around the city at night and look at all the dark houses and apartments. The main highway through town is as busy as ever during rush hour, but only then.

Clearly, this isn’t the place. Yet, I intend to finance this madness from my day job. That’s one issue.

Something like a travel trailer is another option, and plausible options remain for getting such a trailer and setting up house without going into the boonies. This may be a start.

The ultimate objective is to build something of a community of exasperated souls, BYOH. The present technological era makes this more practicable than ever before. Water can be collected. Trash organized and minimized. Electricity generated on site and stored. Cooking and heating gas would have to come from elsewhere, but is as common as soil. Sewage and septic are very legitimate concerns, but with a few changes in philosophy this can be handled. Knowledge, and junk science, is everywhere. Very modest homes put up with less effort than you might imagine. Between the greenies and the RVers exceptionally efficient and effective means for bringing civilization with you are within our grasp.

I don’t know if I could pull any of this off, but it’s been a great deal of fun thinking about it.

I have over a year until I get my affairs back to what I would consider my zero point. I do not know what I am going to do from there. Those of you who know me in real life may be under the impression that I may have recently come into a modest amount of capital. I must correct you. I have nothing of the kind, and it is not forthcoming. When I am not hustling and bustling as my present circumstances demand over the next several months, this is something not damaging that I may fantasize about.

I’m entertaining options.

I need to get back here or anywhere, really.

Sunday, 3 May, 2015

I apologize for the hiatus.

No longer have I the heart for political ranting. No longer can I consume the objectives of the Hamburger Diaries; someone else should take the mantle. HD appears to be a worthwhile project. Not merely reviews, but historic and social context.

I have a fantasy. It’s a rogue commune or retirement community for the Gen X types made up of “tiny houses”, RVs and other such things which would be out in the middle of nowhere. Bring your own house. Alas, it appears decades away but I may have worked out how to pull it off by then.

Your humble narrator is trapped in a life which is the culmination of hundreds of errors of judgement, mostly taken in desperation. My poor state of mind cannot help, and help of a professional, serious nature may not exist in objective reality.

I come here no longer because the value of what I have to say is not worth the effort to communicate. I am lost, obese, embittered and living in a city I view as my abuser. I wish to resume some semblance of a creative life, but mostly I’m doing well to put trousers on before I head out to work.

Tiny changes are coming. Some will help. Some will not. I don’t know which just yet. Please try to make me giggle or something. That is pretty much what I have.

I need to write:

  • The final edition of Hamburger Diaries, my analysis of In and Out Burger as a regular customer.
  • Observations on K-pop as a social phenomenon in the US, by someone entirely outside the target demographic.
  • Using this place to vent my general frustrations with this inexplicable American regimentation or what the adolescent sages called Telecommnihomogenization.

We’ll see.

Ask Stan: Looking for a used car

Saturday, 20 September, 2014

I am seeking a cheap but reliable used car. Because I have no car knowledge, here are my questions:

  • Are there more reliable makes or what variables most impact the reliability of the car (aside from maintenance)?
  • I live in the west valley Arizona-are there certain features to look out for when purchasing a used car in this extreme heat?
  • If the age of a car matters, what range in years is worth buying-meaning if the owner kept good routine maintenance- would still give you overall reliability without a high fixing cost?
  • What sort of mechanical issues (previous or current) should be deal beakers on a purchase?
  • How important is mileage? What is the highest mileage to consider when buying?
  • Any other key points to look out for?

You ask very good questions. Sadly, the answers to all of these vary from model to model of car, and even among production facilities. Because of innumerable ineffable factors the California-built Corollas are heartier over time than Canadian vehicles which are on the same platform.

Are there more reliable makes or what variables most impact the reliability of the car? Climate, especially moist conditions, the quality of the materials used in original manufacture, the actual design, the blueprint essentially, of the car is critical. You are not just buying a car, you are buying a design, the product of a particular factory and a lot of materials which someone somewhere believed would make an acceptable car. These factors are why “car guys” are a bit cultish.

Are there certain features to look out for when purchasing a used car in this extreme heat? The biggest problems are the condition of the paint and interior due to ultraviolet light exposure. The common problems of the Midwest, such as rust or mold growth are unknown in your area. When you test drive watch the temp gauge. The car may not have been maintained well, despite the testimony of the owner, and if the radiator is blocked or has a lowered capacity for any reason, this would be a critical issue.

If the age of a car matters … it does and it doesn’t. Well maintained miles or highway miles, don’t really hurt a car overall. I would buy a Buick-3800-powered vehicle or Toyota from the 80s for daily transportation. (They would not be my first choice.) Other makes do not fare as well over time. Fords develop electrical gremlins over the decades. You don’t want a Hyundai older than 2006, the rule-of-thumb year where they finally got it together. As for cars overall, there is not and cannot be a general rule.

What sort of mechanical issues (previous or current) should be deal beakers on a purchase? The car should accelerate, brake, steer and roll along the road within 80% of the quality the car had when new. Any deviation means this car is not for you. The only dripping which is acceptable is condensation from the air-conditioning condenser. Crankcase oil should be green to beige and transparent. Although fluids which are too new should be considered the sign of a problem which may be covered up.

What is the highest mileage to consider when buying? For Toyotas or Hondas I would hold back after 150K, and only that if the price is right. For anything from America, around 100K. Avoid European badges as if they transmitted disease at any mileage unless you have plenty of money to pour into maintenance and do not need regular transportation. Koreans have become good so recently no rule of thumb yet exists. The condition of the front tires implies the condition of the steering gear; wear should be even side-to-side. The car should pull well off the line else the exhaust or fuel-delivery system may require potentially expensive service. Any thing a car “just needs” means it is too expensive for the present owner to cope with, and presumably you too.

For someone in your position, the general rule is to get the best car called “Toyota Corolla” within your budget. This is the only all-but-foolproof answer. It’s not an exciting or impressive car, but will get you where you need to go without hassle for years. Find or borrow a rednecky guy who is at least a bit of a know-it-all about cars. He will be happy to accompany you with your shopping, and will be familiar with the variables and know how to find the forums discussing problems and critical issues with any particular make or model of car.


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