Sunday, December 29, 2013
I'm an anthropologist at heart, but a curious goofball by nature. In either case, I had to know what was happening in the minds of Clive Cussler's biggest fans.
I read "Shock Wave" in 1996. I was impressed by the intricacies of the plot and the fortitude of Dirk Pitt - Clive Cussler's greatest serial hero. After Shock Wave, I bought the next 50-cent Clive Cussler book that I came across. It was while reading Sahara that it began to dawn on me that all of Clive Cussler's books might be the same. There is a formula.
I stopped reading Cussler books, but I continued to take notice of them. New ones sprouting up all the time; old ones from the 1970's being sold for a dime. Clive Cussler doesn't have the most titles - what interests me is the machine that he has built. He now co-authors with several other men, including his now-grown son, Dirk Cussler. The machine is now a family business, and it churns out several new titles every year.
I wonder about the details of the writing process. I am curious about the nature of the communication between co-authors, and I would be interested to learn how much weight rests on the shoulders of Cussler himself, now in his 80's. I want more information about the demographic of those who join the Society. (I think it's mostly just rich men with Doxa diving watches.)
With nowhere else to turn, I have decided to begin reading all the books. The first Dirk Pitt adventure was written in 1973, and I am moving in chronological order by series.
Based on Amazon.com reviews, and the fact that I've read "Shock Wave," I am getting the picture that Clive Cussler's writing got better with practice. The early books - I've read three so far - are quaint with a tendency to include wince-inducing passages. In the first three books, we establish that Dirk Pitt is a misogynist who is immune to bullets. While reading these books, I've found that I am not rooting for the main character so much as standing on the sidelines with my jaw slightly agape.
Forging ahead: I am now preparing to begin "Raise The Titanic!" In his previous adventure (captured in "Iceberg"), Dirk Pitt faked extreme stereotypical homosexuality in order to lower the defenses of the evil people who were planning to take over the world. He braved some bullets and unfortunate slurs, but his pulp-beaten bones healed enough for him to fuck a woman at the end. I hope the next adventure is equally incredible.
Saturday, December 28, 2013
Regardless, I managed to pack and ship a good pile of eBay items, and then turn around to photograph and list ten more items. For a day with a slow start, this is a good result. But - I haven't found time to work on a single detail of my new house in a week.
The to-do list is long, pals and scouts. The list is long and growing...
I should be happy. I have health and freedom and I've learned how to generate a reasonable income without the suffocation of a blue collar job.
I'm usually happy. As much as I deplore consumer culture, it makes a reliably buoyant elixir to float upon. At 31, I'm still finding my place.
Friday, December 27, 2013
It cost me about $300 to learn this lesson. Now, when somebody asks for international shipping, I just quote the high price and give a short robotic explanation.
Sometimes people don't mind:
I'm very glad to invite me to your auction and to get chance to take your fine parts. The Topline crank-set is my favorite one and I've been using four sets for my bicycles. I hardly ever see a new one in recent years. I don't mind the shipping cost what you anxious about. Thank you very much.
Takashi from Japan
Takashi seems like an alright guy. Like many Japanese, he is also willing to pay a fair price for good components. If I could lower my shipping costs, I would happily do much more business with Japan.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
First up on the chopping block: an alternative to running an extension cord through an open window.
I bought a weatherproof “inlet” for the side of the house. An inlet is like an outlet, but it has three prongs instead of three holes. Since I don’t know the professional way to complete most tasks, I had to piece together a plan from Youtube videos and bits of forum threads. Mix that information with some common sense, and you’re ready for tools.
15mg of borrowed Adderall worked like a charm. Without it, I’d be muttering and cussing. A project like this might bring me close to tears. With it, I’m focused. I know my methods are cobbled together and inefficient, but isn’t that the nature of all self-directed learning?
I slipped a Sharpie out of my pocket, and traced a circle around the guts of the inlet. The circle was two inches in diameter, and I only had a 5/8″ bit. Not to be slowed down, I drilled several little holes instead. I retrieved my new Rotozip to clean it up. The Rotozip didn’t like my siding too much, so I walked back through the snow once more to retrieve a jigsaw. Better. I only had to hack away for another five minutes to get a good fit for the inlet’s guts.
Any person with skill or experience would be done by now. I was still getting started.
From the outside, I ran my 5/8″ bit up at a slight angle, and towards the general area where I wanted to install an outlet inside. The bit broke through the drywall pretty close to where I was aiming. Close enough, anyway – and I allowed myself a wide margin of error.
The next task was to install a plastic outlet receptacle on the inside wall. The Rotozip was right at home for this part. I Sharpie’d around the box, plunged the Rotozip’s bit through the drywall, and found almost immediately that I had traced the box over a stud. That’ll need to be touched up. I traced again, and cut out a rectangle the size of the box. The size was about right, but the depth was about a quarter inch shallow.
Here’s where I started getting fancy.
I used a big flathead screwdriver to slash a bunch of shallow grooves into the foam board insulation. I clawed the insulation out with my fingernails and the flathead blade until the box fit. I know there was a better way, but sometimes the best way ends up being any way that doesn’t stop the project. The box fit.
But I wasn’t done yet.
This type of receptacle – the blue plastic type – attaches to a stud with two pre-installed 3″ nails that are at an angle nearly perpendicular to the face of the box. Maybe a 15 degree angle. The box itself fit the hole, but the nails did not. Even if the nails did fit into the recess I’d carved out – how could I pound them in without cutting out way more drywall?
I cannot recommend this solution, but it worked:
I used the Rotozip to carve out two extended recessed lines where the nails could be nested. The receptacle and the nails were now recessed in the wall where I wanted them – but how could I pound in the nails? I walked through the snow again to retrieve a nail set. A nail set is used to push the head of a nail neatly flush with a surface without damaging the surrounding material. In my case, I eyeballed the angle of the nail and estimated where the nail set could go to line up with the head. Then I jammed the tip of the nail set through the drywall at an angle, and forced it to line up with the head of the nail. This took minor violence. I pounded the nails in using the nail set jammed through the surrounding drywall at a shallow angle. It worked.
I can probably fill the hack-job drywall damage with some spackle – much easier than patching. My drywall job is far from pro, but it looks alright with paint on it. You can see all the joints and a good percentage of the screw heads, but I’ve moved beyond caring about that. I can hang drywall, but it’s going to have some character.
I walked through the snow again, and took a fifteen minute break to review outlet wiring. Brass = hot; silver = neutral; green = ground. I got a clean scrap of Romex, stripped the three wires on one side, and with inefficient meticulousness, I attached the wires in a correct and respectable manner. I slipped the wires into the wall-hole from the outside, and attached the cover plate of the inlet making sure the waterproof gasket was evenly compressed against the siding. I moved inside, stripped the other end of the Romex, and attached the wires to their corresponding outlet screws.
A careful idiot could do this. A careless idiot might get injured, but a careful idiot will do just fine. Double check your work, and plug in something you don’t care about. I had no issues. Now I can plug an extension cord into the outside of my house, and the outlet on the inside will have power. The battery charger is always plugged in – so when you plug in the extension cord, you are “plugging in the house.” I love it.
Friday, December 13, 2013
An additional encumbrance is how immediately defeated I feel when there is no sunlight. The chemical imbalance is enough to toss me off my rocker. I landed on my ass, and that's the position I've been moping from all day.
I wish I could hide myself in a burlap sack until spring, but sadly, my exposed vitriol sometimes comes in contact with innocent bystanders.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I'm applying these materials to a propane trunk line, and I am trying to avoid any leaks. I am using great care and focus; heeding advice gleaned from several hours of study.
I'm in the basement. The lights are switched on by a motion detector. Motion detecting lights are great when you are passing through with an armload of groceries. But - what if you're trying to examine your work closely when the lights turn off? It makes you wish your arms were shotguns. You want to lay a thick blanket of blast down on everything in the room.
I'm wrapping tape delicately, and diligently counting my turns and layers. I'm smearing pipe dope carefully for a good even coat on the pipe's threads. My phone rings. Mother... fuckers. AT&T isn't trying to sell me something - they're just bragging about a service that I wouldn't pay for anyway.
"Reply 'stop' to end mktg messages," they offered as an aside.
I text "stop," reflecting that the word choice does little to capture my current sentiment. I'm slightly more cheesed, because I feel like they tricked me into doing something, instead of just waiting for them to all find hell on their own.
More than four minutes later, I get a message confirming that I will not get any more messages. I look to my arms and lament. My needs are delayed again by slow medical science.
Saturday, November 16, 2013
I've sold thousands of dollars of stuff. After fees, shipping, subscription accounts... battery banks, building materials, life... the margin is thinner than I feel like it should be. So I blew the dust off my book scanning equipment and cast my line into the water. There was a book sale close to home, and I scanned ISBNs for several hours. I didn't win any big scores, but I got scores of little wins.
I will say one more thing - an unbelievable reality: the IRS hunted me down for $18.92 from 2011. Government-owned robotic tracking machines - it is to you this warning is being issued. Read my keystrokes: brimstone will rain precipitously upon those who seek my soft-earned money. My participation in this charade is a mirage. Under this skin and smile, my bones are being whittled to knife points. Test the water. Test the water with the very tip of whichever pinky toe you like the least.
Monday, November 11, 2013
I heard an anecdote which I believe took place in Texas. It seems that for some reason when iron was hard to come by, people would burn down an abandoned house to harvest the nails. I was considering this approach when I found my keys in a balled up t-shirt. I wish I didn't find them. I might have done better to touch flame to this lagoon of bullshit.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
I still have too many bicycles and too many parts. I have a pile Care Bears, a collection of mini guitars, stacked boxes of Mad Magazines... I have stacks and piles of building materials... I am filling an entire room and closet with eBay items to be sold. I need to start making space and making storage. I need to begin the process of letting things go.
|Shaving off a sliver of the pile|
I went to two parties. I sat around three fires. I wore zero costumes and drank zero beers.
Friday, October 25, 2013
None of that is helping us move into a small house any faster. I need heat and electricity. I need to hook up some propane tanks and battery banks. I haven't done either of those things before, but now would be a great time to try it out. The story is the same as it was last week: first I need to sell bicycle parts, then I need to transfer the money to my bank account, then I buy my way toward progress.
I am ready to move in. Emotionally. There is a lot more work, but the loft is a wonderful place already and the downstairs will fall into place as soon as I install the systems.
My birthday is coming up. Kristin got me a gift, but the manufacturer ruined the surprise. There was a huge photo of the contents pasted on the side of the box. I was glad. I want it now!
|Ubiquitous Tiny House Heater|
Staying warm is the best when you can look at a tiny fire.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I'm not a carpenter, and I'm not in any danger of becoming some great woodworker. I basically waited until the last minute to start poking my tape measure in all directions. All that did is confirm that I have no fucking clue what I'm doing.
Instructions for cabinets include lots of expensive plywood. The benefit is that there are instructions. I'll try again next time. Today I built something that functions more as figure 8 than anything belonging inside a house. Strike one.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
The car slows and the headlights slide past trash.
"Woah woah! Back up slightly. I need the headlights to see what's going on."
The car inches backwards, and our headlights settle on a small pile of wood and steel. I exit the vehicle to get a closer look. There's a grill. There are some futon pieces and some veneered particle board that used to hold shelves. I have no business hoarding more materials, but my brain automatically tries to fit these pieces into a puzzle. Then I see one piece that seems an easy fit.
A small cabinet sits to the side of the pile. Functional knobs and hinges - hell, the whole thing is fine. It just looks inexpensive and dated. Too 90's for a modern renovation, and too cheap to consider refinishing.
I gave it another quick inspection to ensure it was tossed for style and there was no disgusting substance. Clean. I took it home.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
As I move to tear the tape one-handed, my watch beeps. I drop the whole mess with a huff, push the watch's "light" button which stops the beeping, and resume the surgically precise operation.
I got a new watch. It's the first brand and style change I've made in over ten years. My go-to wristwatch maker changed the design to include a feature allowing for two different time and alarm settings. This changed the familiar user interface, and after a year of suffering, the battery finally died. Now I am the proud owner of a bright red Casio.
|Quaint and informative.|
I couldn't be happier. This is the simple digital watch that I was looking for.
Monday, October 21, 2013
Shelly was focused on precision quite a bit, and I keep telling her that when it's done she will see that these little inconsistencies do add up... to a freaking awesome looking table! I've learned the value of a sixteenth and a quarter when cutting wood, and I'm learning what to worry about and when to shrug. The instructions get a little confusing, but we didn't have much difficulty forging ahead with sensible decisions.
We're making two. One for Shelly's house, and one to sell. We have both table tops finished, but not finished - we still have lots of sanding and staining for next time. We have one base completed, but likewise, it needs sanding and stain.
Now I have a full farmhouse table in my van, along with the parts and materials for another farmhouse table, and all of the other stuff that was already in there to begin with. My van is basically acting as a storage shed on wheels.
|Lotta brand new wood. Glad I wasn't the one paying for once.|
|Tabletop #1. Hard to see, but it's held together with 10,000 pocket screws. And glue.|
|You do a lot of this before cleaning out a channel with a chisel.|
|We switched off on that.|
|Working toward a smooth(er) channel with a chisel.|
|Something like this?|
|Completed base #1. In this photo, I just pinched my finger with a hammer.|
After working all day, we were proud of what we had to show for it - but when you look at what you've just made, it seems like it should not have taken so long. The lesson? Shit takes longer than you think. Embrace that, take your time, and you'll have more fun.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
They money has started to come in, but now I'm playing ketchup. In the meantime, I can't make meaningful improvement to the house. I just spent two whole days listing eBay stuff, so now I'm taking a break to do a different project.
Shelly emailed me a link to some DIY Farmhouse Table plans that she wants to try. I'm the one with the most access to basic tools. We scheduled a day to work on the plans, and that day is today.
We started out by gathering supplies and materials. We decided to make two tables - one for Shelly to keep, and one to sell. Ideally, the second table will sell for enough to significantly offset the cost of the first. That's Shelly's department. I'm in charge of tape measures and saw guidance.
We mostly finished two table tops. It seems like a person should have more to show for those hours of work, but a large percentage of the time is taken by the learning curve. Both of us are now much more familiar with the concept of pocket holes - and I get to keep the Kreg jig in exchange for helping out with tools and assistance. Deal!
I consider this an excellent skill-building exercise. This is a fun way to make myself learn how to build something that I want to know how to build anyway.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
The floodgates are creaking open again - for the inane queries of could-be buyers, and the deluge of items in my shipping queue. My level of busy just ratcheted up a notch, but there is great satisfaction to be gleaned from a good sale.
|This is what a $130 derailleur looks like. No motors or sandwich maker.|
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
BUT. I already bought six sheets of 5/8" drywall, so that's what I'm using. It does make me wish that I went and got loads of those old free 1"x6"x10" fence boards that were on Craigslist a couple months ago. As an added bonus, I wouldn't need the furring strips with those either. And I'd save some money, possibly making a feed-through jobsite planer a reasonable purchase.
Running the free boards through the planer a couple times would make them look even and awesome. It's a missed opportunity. The major drawback was thinking of a place to keep the boards in the interim - I'm already storing stuff all over, and it's hard to think about where to make yet another mess in my parents' house or property. So the boards would be great, but I need to wrap the project up and start the process of de-cluttering my folks' place from top to bottom.
|First piece of drywall. First I've ever hung. I had to cut it 'cause it's too heavy to lift up there alone.|
|I had to add these furring strips, because I forgot to include "nailers" in the framing. I needed to add something to anchor the drywall to. Not too excited about adding the extra step...|
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
So, what's going to happen with this piece of land? Something? Nothing? I don't know. But I'm sure glad that a braver man decided to jump in and kick the ball in the right direction.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Saturday, August 3, 2013
Item prices can be checked for Amazon's other 23 categories if using a smartphone, but for lightning fast book scouting, an outdated PDA is still the tool of the trade. Current smartphone apps are relatively slow, and conducting a price search takes several seconds. Working from a database stored locally on the device is instant. When scanning over 100 books, this makes an enormous difference.
I bought a Dell Axim x51 and a Socket Mobile 7 bluetooth scanner. I subscribed to software that allows me to download new database information to a 2gig SD card. I took it out for a test drive.
August 3, 2013:
I woke up early to go to yard sales and scan books. A light rain fell on items of questionable value at the only yard sale I attended. From there, I went straight to the Lion's Club book barn for some scanning.
Having a recent database of all Amazon book prices is like having invisibility power. When you're a kid and you're having the conversation about superpowers, somebody will always choose invisibility because it allows them to steal money from the bank. At first, that's what it felt like I was doing, but I got over that feeling pretty quickly. It's actual work and it takes some doing.
At first, I was a bit squeamish about being seen doing this. I wasn't breaking any rules, but from what I've read, some mortals have an aversion to it. I'm doing something that they can't and it doesn't seem fair. I've read about others' experiences scanning books [slate.com], and they've had people comment negatively on their activities.
I see meaningful benefit for everyone involved. Buying inexpensive items from small local markets and making these items available in larger markets is simply commerce as we've always known it. What's new is that I can be part of this system without a huge capital expenditure or an immediate boss. Additionally, I'm directly recycling the books that people still want to read - impossible without access to a database of what those books are.
Competition when pricing for Amazon makes more information available to more people. The books will be read many more times on average, as they are filtered through a system where demand adds value and market access is universal. This is less wasteful. This is respectful to the Earth, whereas printing a book to sit unread is an affront to the planet. Keeping books expensive and out-of-reach means that only the wealthy have access to information. Like it or not, Amazon is creating an incredibly level playing field. This is an example of how technology can help humans conserve resources. Book scouting creates self-employment opportunities, and it greatly increases the number of books sold at fundraising events like library book sales. It's a win for everybody, but people aren't accustomed to the new paradigm yet.
I got comfortable with the equipment fast. I scanned hundreds of books. I filled a bag with ones that people want. Then I went to the Re-Store in Kennett and scanned some more books. The next step is to prepare the books to be shipped to an Amazon warehouse where they will be added to Amazon's inventory to be shipped by them. I get a weekly deposit in my bank account as my books are sold.
Today, I got a handful of books that should sell for $20 or more. I got twenty or so that will sell between $8 to $20. I paid fifty cents to a dollar each - no more.
So far, this is looking like easy money. There is a capital expenditure for equipment, yes [$225 for used PDA & scanner; $30/mo database.] If I make considerably more than I spend, I'll be happy. That looks like it will be the case.
I can understand why someone wouldn't want to scan a whole bunch of books. It's robotic and monotonous. For me, that works. Though book scouting depends on recent technology, I see it as a return to basic human ways. I'm picking blueberries on a camel.
Friday, August 2, 2013
I put pedals back on the trike. Kristin and I took a trike n' bike to uptown Kennett where I dropped off a basket brimming with packages at the post office. We got coffee and took a scenic ride home through the back paths of Anson B. Nixon park. All of that was great. For the morning, at least, I was living the Trike Life.
|That's me. Doing it right circa 2011.|
I also started work on writing a book. Time will tell whether that leads to anything more than scattered paragraphs.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Monday, July 29, 2013
"Oh! You're making an art installation!"
Yes! (Does that make it okay, then??)
Today I used three saws and several old shelves to make this new set of shelves. My shelving units always end up crooked as hell. I sort of like it.
This shelving unit was designed for this exact purpose:
|There's going to be much more of this.|
Saturday, July 27, 2013
In my mind, the exciting part of today's plan was the book sale where I would scour cardboard boxes for more Clive Cussler titles. Tied into that was a half-sane mission to attend yard sales for more eBay flipping. The only reason the plan isn't full-sane is because I haven't been dedicating enough time to eBay selling. When I have one big project, then I can usually manage to work on it. If I have two or more projects, my split focus leaves me feeling overwhelmed. eBay stuff is piling up and I'm starting to feel overwhelmed. It's taking up too much space, but I must finish building the house, I tell myself. The number of hours it will take to sell everything I have accumulated is terrifying. But I still have to go out on Saturday morning to search for more treasure. What I really need to do is catch up. On everything.
I started the day buying a smartphone for $5. She insisted that I be the first to name a price. When I named one, she took it. I have to decide whether to use it or sell it. I'm currently using a crazy old flip phone with T9 texting, if you can remember back that far. The phone I just bought is worth about $35 on eBay. What I really would prefer is an iPhone, and I think I'll just wait a little longer. I got several other bargains, and if I wasn't under a tidal wave of product I would be feeling pretty good about myself.
Next up was the book sale. I'm on a book sale notification list, and today's was a pretty big one. I ended up with a modest haul of Cussler - maybe a dozen or so titles. I picked up a few other books that might do well online. Books are something I need to research the value of. I have no way of predicting the value of any book. If I could make a sure profit of $4 on any given book, I would buy it. Listing a book is quick and easy, and media mail is cheap. Book sales like the one I attended today have tens of thousands of books for $.25 - $2.00. Given the right motivation and purchasing algorithm, it's not hard to see that there is a lot of money to be made. For example: if you see a Betty Crocker cookbook, you can be sure to make more than $4 profit. Buy them all and some will do great, and you'll never lose money. With a current financial goal of $500 per week, books are looking like another avenue to cobble together an income.
Next was a stop at Goodwill, which was swamped. Clothing was half price, and everyone in Delaware knew it. I ended up with a couple bags of promising items, but no treasure. I put together a respectable stack of items that will definitely sell for a small profit per item. Added up, it's a good day's work - but there was no hidden prize to get my blood pumping faster. When the treasure does show up, I'll see it. My eyes are wide open.
Totals / estimated profit:
Verizon LG Vortex Phone - $30
Minolta Camera Lens - $25
Adidas Soccer Socks - $40 (10 pairs $4 profit each.)
Beer Trays - $20 (4 trays $5 profit each)
I got more that this, but these items are the surest bets. When I claim to have a goal of $2000 cash income per month, people seem incredulous. These numbers show that I'm not completely full of shit. Today was a lazy cake walk. Cake walks are easy, but you still need to walk to get the cake. (My understanding of cake walks might be mistaken.)
Thursday, July 25, 2013
So. I pulled out a drawer, and I was inspecting it when some guy showed up on the scene and told me I couldn't have it.
"But it's in the trash," I pointed out.
This guy was full of information. It's their trash and that's their rule and it's their policy that I can't have it. He used my favorite tone. He explained this as though his hands were tied. He made it seem as though there was no physical way to circumvent this rule which he had created. It was as if this rule had become self-aware and there could be no telling what fury my defiance might bring down upon us. It was one thick piece of baloney. I was actually on the fence about taking the drawers anyway - I was only in the inspection phase when he interrupted - but the guy's pep talk was incredibly motivational.
"Right... that's fucking ridiculous, man." I went back to the car and pulled into a parking spot about ten feet away. The guy made it look like he might play the waiting game, but about two minutes later he seemed to remember some business to attend to. He got in his car and exited the parking lot. I walked over, got the drawers, and then followed suit.
If I ever tell someone they can't have something that I've already thrown away, please put a bullet in me. Make it two in the stomach, and shake your head slowly as I fade.
Today I got to work on those drawers. I'm using them turned up on their ends as wall-mounted bookshelves. I found a scrap board and ripped it on the table saw a couple times to make the shelves. I painted the little shelves with some weird old varnish so they match the old drawers better. The modification and repairs took about an hour so far. I attached a short section of a board on the back of the shelves / bottom of the drawer, and I will mount it on the wall by screwing through all of that and into a stud. Boss Hog.
The drawers still have the crazy-old locks and an interesting patina to boot. I can't figure out why that guy wanted them in a landfill so bad.
Friday, July 19, 2013
Fessenden, ND land:
Convincing text from the auction:
In addition, the area of North Dakota is currently enjoying a truly impressive economic boom. Dubbed “The Economic Miracle” by American and Global Economists, North Dakota is currently America’s most successful state by every economic measure. While the national economy has struggled in recent years, North Dakota has quietly flourished, setting records in domestic energy production, job creation and state budget surplus growth. For the past decade, North Dakota has led the US in growth of both personal income and real state GDP. With no shortage of natural resources and a current surge in renewable energy development, the economic future looks bright for North Dakota, making it perhaps the single best location for land investment in the country.
North Dakota is becoming one of the more sensible choices in today’s busy, polluted environment. The quality of life experienced by people in North Dakota is one of natural, clean and friendly living. North Dakota has an excellent education system and infrastructure. Property taxes are extremely low as well. People care about one another and no one is ever to busy to stop and lend a helping hand. Recreational opportunities are endless.
There is snowmobiling, cross county skiing, and ice fishing in the winter and hunting, bird watching, fishing, horse back riding, rafting, canoeing and hiking in the summer and fall. North Dakota has some of the best hunting and fishing in the lower forty-eight. North Dakota is especially known for its plethora of bird species.
Right... sounds perfect...
I found a few interesting lots. I focused my attention on small building lots for $10k or less with an emphasis on "no reserve" auctions going for less than $1000 bucks. Of everything I looked at, here are the best three.
My favorite listing was for an acre of land in Klamath Falls Oregon for $10,000. An empty lot. Klamath Falls is in southern Oregon in the Cascade Mountains. I love the climate and topography. Love it. The land in question is 0.7 miles from an artsy coffee shop, and a mile from a grocery store. The land is placed perfectly between the boonies and a cute town. The Yelp reviews for every business in Klamath Falls are glowing with accolades about how friendly and wonderful everyone there is. I guess living in paradise makes people friendly.
A listing of interest was .12 acres on Pine Island beside Florida in the gulf. It's a coral island of considerable size, above Sanibel and close to Ft. Meyers, etc. The major drawback here is that it's in Florida. A careful study of the building code revealed no major obstacles preventing a 200 sq. ft or so house from going up. Relevant state and local building code does not restrict dwelling size. They charge plenty for permits, and you have to build to hurricane standards (lots of Simpson Strong-Tie products), but it would be doable. The plan here would be to make a small winter bug-out cabin disguised as a cute little home - bright white exterior clad in T-1-11; rustic cabin on the inside. Rent it out on AirBnB to pay the ongoing expenses and maybe make a little money. (Tourism isn't crazy here, but it is near by. This land is outside the tourism & big city zones, making it appear quaint and interesting. For under $2000, this lot would be a great place to start living the trike life.)
The third lot is probably the most interesting. It is a one-third-acre lot in Fessenden, ND. I know what you're thinking and you're right: awesome. I spent some time in a small town like this during the sugar beet harvest in 2008. Fessenden has a population of 492. There is a grocery store, a bar, and a smattering of small businesses. There is a thrift shop. The lot in question is an empty corner lot across a street from the courthouse. The land is lush and grassy in the photos and surrounded by trees. A Google maps inspection reveals that it is also across the street from the grain towers and the train tracks. All mid-western towns need these. During the harvest season, a long line of trucks will queue up at the grain towers and it will be a slow parade of diesel boom-battys for weeks. Old haggard farm trucks will sputter and money will trickle into town. You could watch it happen from the porch of a 150 square foot house. I wouldn't want to live there full time, but I could survive a nice slow week here and there. (This is where I would go to write my novel.)
The first lot is my favorite for living, the third is my favorite for a new project.
I would like a tiny house in Fessenden or similar to visit infrequently and rent out on AirBnB. If nobody wanted to rent it, that would be fine. But I would relish the chance to try my hand at marketing it. I think there are people who would be interested in scoping out the "real" America. Something like this:
"Have you ever been curious about daily life in a small mid-western town? Bring your books, folks, because you are visiting the vast grain fields of the "real" America. All amenities are available in town. Fessenden has a grocery store and you can belly up to the bar at Motorheads. This quaint little house is right on center field, equipped with everything you need. You can sit on the porch and watch the trains go by, or you can borrow the adult tricycle to make a grocery run. A small two-burner propane stove rounds out the kitchen area and there is a 32" TV for watching DVDs rented from the gas station in town.
With a population just shy of 500, and open fields in every direction, Fessenden is the perfect example of a small mid-western town in modern times. Come take a look! You can stay as long as you want and not a minute longer."
... something like that. I would have an adult tricycle available to renters arriving by bus or train. I don't know a good price, but I think something like $40 per night; $200/wk. The whole idea is mostly just a gag I came up with, but I do believe there is a small untapped market. With city lots going for <$1000, a destination-vacation type business could rent properties in various remote locations. People who are interested in living in remote locations - or just the casually curious - could get their feet wet without diving in head first. Other areas of interest would be Costilla County, Colorado; the Lost Coast of California; Iola, Kansas... just to name a few. A working business name could be "Town Watch: destination vacations in remote locations."
Thoughts or ideas? Who's in?
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Once I get an idea in my head - for better or worse - it is stuck. Often the idea is a dead end or a distraction and I know it. This makes no difference. It is already too late. The tenacity of the bond will cause focus bordering on obsession and I might as well forget about sleep. This has worked to my benefit on many occasions. I've saved money, quit jobs, learned about bicycles, traveled by bicycle, and purchased a box truck on a credit card. In my youth I hunted and gathered a low-level-famous collection of Mad Magazines that would be impressive for the efforts of an adult, let alone a 6th-grader. Later in life, I created condimentpacket.com, and still my brain holds a giant catalog of information about portion control sachets (as the industry likes to call them.) None of this might have happened without a brain as sticky as butyl-backed tape.
The issue is one of control. I have little or no control over what my brain sticks to. If I could aim my focus at learning a language or studying the law, I might find a better return on investment than, say, spending hours per day tracking down tartar sauce packets in the Czech Republic and convincing somebody to send them to me.
If nothing else, I am happy to accomplish something rather than nothing. I am happy with who I am, even if I am sometimes frustrated that I am unable to deploy my go-go-gadget brain-tape with any semblance of aim. I'm already on this ride, so I might as well enjoy it. It is on this note that I bring you the latest installment from my growing files of Cussler-correspondence. I bring you now to my latest text-based bid to amuse myself.
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I have four copies of "Cyclops," each with a different cover. I can say the same about "Sahara," and I've seen many other cover variations for that as well. The German eBay site reveals that all Cussler books have been translated, and many have gone through a series of editions and printings there as well.
To me, this is a matter of interest, but not one of concern. I don't wish to pay more than $.25 - $1 on average for any of these books, and I am most satisfied at the bottom of this range. I am planning to build a guest house and I am considering Clive Cussler novels stacked and packed between the studs for insulation. Well-read copies are abundant enough to get a good R-Value-to-cost ratio (also known as a good R-value-value.) The term "fire hazard" is in common parlance exactly because of designs like this one. I will be sure to remind guests not to fall asleep with lit cigarettes.
I contacted Hyatt of the Cusslermen today for guidance on matters surreal and imagined:
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Monday, July 15, 2013
I boxed up seventeen items recently sold on eBay. I added those to the twenty-five other outgoing packages, and Kristin helped me haul the entire load up to the post office. (I neglected to arrange 'carrier pickup' before midnight yesterday, and thus must portage packages personally if they are to ship today.)
With the remainder of a morning to myself, I decided to go on walkabout. First, I visited the Kennett Area Senior Center Book Store. I was greeted warmly, and soon began to browse. The store gets a constant flow of donations in heavy boxes. The employees and volunteers are elderly. Witnessing this, I felt compelled to volunteer my services as a strong and able-bodied young man when a particularly challenging donation arrived by station wagon across the street. You might think that this was a nice gesture, but I assure you anybody would have done the same or they are evil. In appreciation, I was offered a discount of 50%.
I declined the discount twice for good measure, but was carefully not adamant enough to be taken seriously. I found four Clive Cussler books to fill gaps in my collection, and paid half of a fairly reasonable asking price. My total was $5.83 for two paperbacks, a hardcover, and a large-print hardcover edition. "Oh, I know... I like the large print editions."
I loafed around throughout most of the remaining daylight, springing into action only near dusk. I filled the gaps in the insulation in the tiny house loft ceiling with spray-foam expanding stuff, and considered the day a good-enough success.
Friday, July 12, 2013
I've been considering a Clive Cussler collection for years, but other projects have taken precedence. I had ten or so mass-market paperbacks at one point, and the total dwindled to four as various copies went who-knows-where. A month ago, I attended a tag sale at the Kennett Area Senior Center and observed many Cussler books for sale. They were $0.50 for paperback, $1 for hardcover. I bought none. The decision haunted me.
I was still sore from this failure to act when I saw a sign for a Lion's Club book sale in Avondale, PA. I attended the sale ready to buy. A sign posted in the wide entrance of the large white barn read "Books. $5 per bag." Bags provided were of the plastic Acme Markets type. You can get a lotta books in that bag.
I took my first bag and proceeded to dip my dragnet into the sea of disorganized paper. After filling my second bag to a barely-fair overflowing, I was informed that the sign was incorrect. The $5 sale was last week, and this week was $0.50 per book. Perhaps to avoid flummoxing me, the senior-in-mesh-hat in charge told me they would honor the mistakenly-posted sign. I filled two more bags. I developed a method of bag-filling which involved both physics and material science. The size of books and order of inclusion were taken into account. When complete, each bag was a thin film surrounding a cube of tightly-packed Cussler. I could fit a thumb and the tip of a forefinger between the two looped handles while supporting the load from below. That is how I define a full bag.
The musty barn smelled of yellowing paper and the wide beams creaked under the weight of many tomes. I systematically scanned each row for Clive Cussler, passing over countless Kings, Crichtons and Pattersons. Dick Francis, John Grisham and Robert Ludlum were not on the menu. I passed over these as I assembled stacks of Cussler. I worked for an hour in the quiet barn as four senior Lions manned the bags and the cash box up front.
I completed my final bag of paperbacks and asked "how much are the hardcovers?" while gesturing to the side-room of alphabetized early editions. The response: "fill a bag." And so I did. I ended with six bags. A ten and a twenty changed hands, and I took four trips to my van.
Later inspection revealed that I had obtained all but three titles in the "Dirk Pitt Adventures" series. I had nearly complete series of the Numa and Oregon Files. I found several first editions and picked up many doubles (some as many as five copies.) In total, I hauled away 96 Clive Cussler books. The four at home made an even one-hundred.
More about Clive Cussler:
Clive Cussler has written or co-authored 60 books. He started in the 1970's and he has more books waiting to be published even today. Visiting a garage sale or thrift store will dredge up cache after cache of his dusty paperbacks. Clive Cussler focuses primarily on maritime adventure books written in a series. His original series of novels features "Dirk Pitt." Pitt does not have superhuman powers, but somehow remains unscathed from involvement in some pretty nasty situations. They aren't supposed to be believable. You're supposed to read them on the beach.
In addition to the Dirk Pitt adventures, Clive Cussler has created the Numa Files and the Oregon Files. These are the Rhoda and Phyllis to Dirk Pitt's Mary Tyler Moore Show. These series feature cameo appearances from the Dirk Pitt novels and focus on the adventures of an overlapping cast of characters.
Still further - (in his free time?) - Cussler has been working on two additional series: Issac Bell is a fictional hero of the early 20th century, and the Fargo Adventures tell the story of a fictional treasure-hunting couple.
Clive Cussler has also penned two children's books and four works of non-fiction.
Along with names like Stephen King, Michael Crichton, and James Patterson, you will find a staggering number of Clive Cussler novels in any given used book store or book rummage sale. My aim is to collect them all. Failing this, I will at least have a collection of note. (I have a policy of setting my bar of achievement ambiguously to ensure success throughout all of my projects.)
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Update: I bought a car. I was looking through Craigslist ads late one night when a Ford Festiva showed up for $500. "Runs Great!" the ad claimed. Manual trans with 81,000 miles on the engine. Consider my attention grabbed. Even if it didn't run "great" as the ad stated, it at least did run. If it wasn't a rust bucket, it would be a good opportunity to buy a repair manual and try to learn something.
I emailed the owner an hour after the ad was posted. An hour after that, I hit refresh and the price was now $850. Additionally, the owner had placed a series of asterisks before and after the title (which is what you do when your car is a real gem.) I emailed again to say I might still be interested at a higher price pending an inspection and provided the price didn't get crazy.
I didn't want to seem overly interested and I didn't want to let a good deal slip through my fingers. A delicate balance was in play. My well-timed and calculated persistence resulted in a test ride and an opportunity to make an official offer for $600. The person selling the car was not a very good negotiator, and managed to reveal all details of other offers, which allowed me to offer the exact price I knew he would take. After changing the advertised price to $850, I naturally assumed that he had an offer in that range. I was pleased that he conversationally informed me otherwise.
The car is now mine, and the associated Haynes Manual is also in my possession. It is running, indeed, but a bit loud and it surely needs a ton of catchup maintenance. In spite of it stalling a dozen times on the way home, and needing to be towed by Triple-A on the maiden voyage, I think I still got a great deal. The repair was cheap (loose connection at the MAF) and the reviews are stellar. There are gatherings of Festiva enthusiasts and there is a wealth of information available on the web. Let the fun and maintenance begin.
Hey. If it's good enough for Ghost Dancer, it's good enough for me.
Saturday, June 22, 2013
My family went to the Presbyterian Church up on Broad Street. It was a fairly musical church - multiple choirs and groups - I played handbells, too, just to give you an idea of the background and budget of this setup. We had a handbell-only group of 12 or more folks playing beautiful brass bells in a very organized and fancy fashion.
Not many black people at our church. We had one - Leon Spencer - who is a fantastic black guy if you can only boast one. Otherwise, it was an overwhelmingly white congregation where most stereotypes about white-folks would apply beautifully.
The whites at my church were all older and so-very-formal. We were a caricature of white people. Most members of Kennett Presbyterian were a breed of unfortunate accidental Republicans, and while they're not bad people, I don't think they know enough about how other people live for me to feel comfortable letting them vote without at least getting the squinky-sideways-eye from me. They wouldn't understand why the recent attempts at new voter ID laws are flatout racist, for example. They're not evil. They're just so naive that you daydream about smothering them with a pillow so they can't use their final breath to condescend to you. That was way too harsh. "Their actions induce routine eye-rolling."