speaking of accidents

Coming up with something to write about in the morning before the coffee has finished brewing is harder sometimes than it should be.

And then something like a meteorite hits Russia and “boom”….instant topic.

It’s strange if something as earth-shaking as a meteorite impact can become old news…and a week later is kind of like coming late to the party…but, holy smokes…it was a METEORITE!

In these post Cold War years, you’re almost glad that it was something like a meteorite that couldn’t be traced back to us.

When I was in Kindergarten, I remember practicing duck and cover.  We spent a memorably large amount of our early development under our desks, hands on the back of our necks…waiting for the thing that might happen to us.

When you get used to feeling that having a fatalistic attitude is just part of life…well, maybe that’s a funny way to start out.

So…back to this meteorite thing.

If you watched the newscasts, it was interesting to listen to the folks at the news desks.  It really could have been another story about a cute puppy or a squash that looked like Nixon.  What were they going to do with a story like that, though…duck and cover?

Anyway…this was only a relatively small meteorite…just a random event…just a thing that happened that hadn’t happened for a hundred years as far as anyone could tell.

I don’t think it was something that we could point towards Global Warming as a cause, either.

If I spend my whole life looking to the sky for the hammer to fall, what’s that going to give me?  A couple of seconds of “see…I told you so!” before the space rock comes crashing down on me?

There is always something that can happen…good and bad.

Just watch the movie “Armageddon” again…even though Bruce Willis dies at the end, doesn’t Ben Affleck live to kiss Liv again?

Somebody somewhere…someday…is going to say, “awwwww, maaannnn….why’d he have to say that Bruce diesssssss?”

finding something good is usually accidental



Man…there is so much good, fun stuff out in the interworld.

It’s pretty amazing.

Doing some research for a post about Joe Dominguez and “Your Money or Your Life”, I ran across this guy’s blog.

It’s a blog about financial independence, mainly….but he covers a lot of different topics…and covers them well.  It looks like the blog is about 2 years old and has a pretty big readership already (add one more to the list).

Here’s a very brief excerpt from one of his posts about building a tiled shower enclosure….http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/12/21/how-to-make-a-relatively-sweet-shower-cheap/ 

If this shower makes our new rental worth $100 more per month, it is providing equivalent cashflow to a $30,000 investment yielding 4% after inflation. Just another example of the wonderful synergy between practical skills and financial independence.

The highlighting is mine.  It’s a concept that we’ve always taken advantage of…and I appreciated the sentiment.  That’s kind of the route we’ve tried to take…and I’ve sort of half-way developed some skills to support that idea. It’s amazing how much money you can save if you’re willing/brave/naive enough to tackle some of these projects yourself…and avoid the labor costs of hiring it out.

Our story so far has been to buy a house on a couple of acres that was gutted when we got it, pay cash for every improvement as it became possible or necessary…and just generally be as creative with our frugality as possible.

I’m not retired…but we don’t have any debt, so as much as we can do it on a low to mid-range salary….we try and stay off the “gerbil wheel” as much as we can.

He mentions the book How to Survive Without a Salary: Learning How to Live the Conserver Lifestyle   by Charles Long as being an early influence on his financial theology….it was one of my influences as well.


This was a happy and welcome accident to find this blog…check it out, he’s got a lot of good things to say.

my mail jeep

2001_jeep_cherokee_93585627483932786(this isn’t my Jeep…but it looks like it..we live out in the country….deep in the woods…so this isn’t my mail Jeep…just one that looks like it. I’m just sayin’)

My old Jeep Cherokee  was making a strange noise on the route yesterday.

I spent a lot of the day turning off the audio book radio and listening to the engine noises.

I think it’s a sign that you’re used to driving old cars (or doing all your work yourself) that you get pretty tuned in to every strange noise (or smell) that comes from under the hood.

Anyway…when I finished up the route,  I popped the hood again…and listened.  The engine sounded like a bunch of ball bearings in a coffee can.

What The Heck?  WTH.

So…I closed the hood and started home. It was really more like a bunch of fairly quiet ball bearings in a small coffee can, anyway.

How bad could that be, right?

When that’s your option, you sometimes have good luck just ignoring it all. (Professional mechanics love that attitude).

When I got home, the noise had stopped!

“I wonder what that noise was?!”, I wondered.  Hmmmmm….I wonder.

It turns out it was the idler tensioner pulley…a little pulley that the serpentine belt snakes around…the one under the alternator.  It had finally exploded (don’t know where all the bearings went) and was just flopping around on the bolt.

Sometimes, when things suddenly quiet down, it’s not a good thing.

So I started calling around…and found one at a local parts store….and drove in (in the minivan) and got it.  I thought it might be nice to have it back up and running with the long weekend ahead of me.

Just get it fixed and I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

Well….the part wouldn’t fit.  Like most other repairs I’ve done on the Jeep, I’m finding that because it’s a RHD there are occasionally some weird issues that you wouldn’t expect.

Like the master window control switch…if it’s for a “normal” jeep it’s around 70 dollars.  If the switch is for my Jeep, it’s around 240 dollars…just because it’s on the “wrong” side of the car.

Supply and Demand, Supply and Demand.

This is a really long-winded way of saying that I’m going to have to try and hunt down the correct part on Monday….so my plan of getting it fixed early in the weekend isn’t going to come together like I hoped….and…it’s going to be a part I have to get from the dealer.


If I can get the part at all.

But what the heck…I listen to audio books about possibility thinking all day on the route…6 days a week…every week.

Maybe I don’t even need that part?



take the money…and walk


your-money-or-your-life-joe-dominguez-vicki-robin-a34351Back in the late 80’s, I bought an audio tape course called Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence.

It was a course taught by Joe Dominguez about our relationship with money and things…and about how to change the relationship and change our lives.

Later, the tape course became the book Your Money or Your Life, co-authored with Vicki Robin.

This book was really kind of a precursor to all the books about simplicity that came out in the mid 90’s.

I think that what made this book a little different is that simplicity wasn’t the only goal…it was the end result of the process of getting “right” with your concept of money.

It was the first book that I read that made the connection that the money we make can be looked at as being something we trade for our “life energy”….and the things we choose to purchase are also things traded for our life energy.

It was a pretty powerful realization.

I make some goofy purchases.  It’s a hard habit to break…it’s hard to get off the gerbil wheel and slow down long enough to consider anything, much less what I’m spending my money on.

This book was an early start towards getting more conscious of my spending habits.

Joe Dominguez’s idea was that after a period of hard work and saving, that we could have enough money to invest so that we could live off the income and use our life energy to do something that mattered to us.

It wasn’t a get rich quick (or slow) scheme…it was a way to free ourselves from the “norm” so that we could live very frugally and do what we loved and hopefully help some people with our lives.

I think at the time, he was suggesting that we put our money into something that paid 8% interest…like a Treasury Bill…and live off the money that the 100,000 dollar savings we’d accrued would produce.

I’m not sure how the plan plays out now…I don’t know what pays that kind of interest that they would consider safe.

Here’s a YouTube video of Vicki Robin from 2010 that talks about Joe Dominguez and the book….


This is the only picture of Joe Dominguez that I could find.

Read the short biography here:



This audio course and the book were a big deal to me…and the movement that Joe started …and that Vicki and the guys at the New Road Map Foundation continue is still very vital and necessary.

Also…here’s a link to Vicki Robin’s current blog about eating locally and how our choices impact the planet….


feel the abyss

Chasing-MavericksFor a while, I was obsessed with surfing.

I don’t know how or why it happened. Maybe it was the sustained excitement of a perfect little wave caught bodysurfing  on the coast of North Carolina.

Maybe it was one of the many surfing movies I caught on video tape.

I don’t really know.

All I know is that I thought it was one of the most beautiful and free sports I’d ever seen.

I even had a surfboard for a while that I bought in a pawn shop in dry land Atlanta .

The surfboard was never put in the water…by me.

I guess that I was kind of a poseur…a wannabe.

Oh well…the intentions were good.

I watched “Chasing Mavericks” yesterday.  It’s a movie about Jay Moriarty, a surfer who surfed a huge surfbreak called Mavericks at a young age.

It’s a good movie….not a great movie…but a good movie that had one section that really made me think.

In the movie, the main character and his mentor, Salty, are paddling out in the ocean, training for the challenge that lies ahead for the young main character, Jay.

They are over the Monterey Trench and Salty asks if Jay feels that the water is getting colder.  Jay answers that he knows the reason is that the water is very deep at that point…and Salty remarks that he used to like to come out to that section of the ocean to just sit…to just feel it …to feel the abyss.

I couldn’t help but think that all we really know is what’s on the surface.

We may attempt to understand the “abyss”…but all we can relate to is what we can see and feel.  As much as we may strain to understand what lies below and around us, it’s only the things we can put our hands on that we’re willing to trust as being real.  We need some nail holes to be able to relate.

A surfing movie like “Chasing Mavericks” doesn’t ask for or deserve any deep theological ponderings.  It deserves to be taken at its own merits…

but…to feel the abyss…to wonder about any of the deeper meanings…to be amazed at what might lay below the surface of any of this life….to trust that there is something different and better beyond all this…that’s an interesting pursuit.

This movie had some beautiful moments.

It wasn’t an instant classic, whatever that may mean.  I think I was more moved by “Big Wednesday”…but it was a good movie…a good surf movie.

I’d recommend it …safe for the whole family.




can’t stop fracking…I’m gettin’ rich!

oil field worker


Another frackin’ article…it’s just too darn interesting.

Zipping around in google, I find a lot of articles about fracking.  It’s a pretty divisive technology.

Some people just hate it…think (probably justifiably so) that it has a lot of potential to damage the environment.

Some people love it ( the one’s who have a job in the fields).

The link above is a link to a bunch of articles culled from CNN..

They talk about workers getting six figure jobs working on the rigs.

There’s a lot of articles about guys that try and fail to get one of the high paying jobs, too.

I’ve been on the low paying end of the job scale.  I know how seductive it would be to try and get one of these boomtown jobs…start raking in the big bucks and change my family’s life.

I just don’t think I’d want to leave my family behind to do it.

Check out some of the articles about workers living in tents…or the Wal-Mart parking lot…or in an “affordable” 700 dollar a week motel room.  I don’t know if it would be worth it.

It’s the kind of money that could change your life…if you could hold your family together while you were making it…and if you’d be willing to jump off the “crazy train” when you’d finally made enough.

Here’s another link to a salary description page…like everything it looks like the unskilled are getting “rode hard and put up wet”….


more later…..

fracking…what’s in the water?



I’ve been writing some of my recent blog posts about the process of fracking…drilling down and then across to extract oil or natural gas from deposits deep in the earth.

This post, I thought I’d write about the chemicals used in the process.

It seems that there is often damage done to the environment wherever fracking takes place…but it’s a small price to pay to satisfy our energy needs, right?

This post is about the chemicals that they send down the well along with the water they use.

I thought it was going to be a short list….some noxious chemicals that I could mention in a couple of lines and then get on with describing the damage they cause.

Click on the link above…it’s a full page of some pretty bad sounding chemicals…. (and glance at the simple map of well sites while you’re there…lots of holes with lots of chemicals, it looks like).

Here’s a short excerpt to wet whet your appetite….

hydrochloric acid, glutaraldehyde, Quaternary Ammonium Chloride, Tetrakis Hydroxymethyl-Phosphonium Sulfate, Ammonium Persulfate, Sodium Chloride….

etc., etc., etc.

I could give myself carpal tunnel just copy and pasting this list…just click on the link.

I don’t know if you had the same reaction to the list that I did.  I’m not a chemist, but a lot of that stuff looks like it wouldn’t make a good addition to my drinking water.

I guess the only good thing about all this fracking stuff is that I’ll have some gas to drive somewhere else to live.

There’s always an upstream to every story.

More later…this is pretty crazy.

what the Post Office needs

mike the mailmanHere’s a link to a video about what is possible within the Postal system…..


We talk about 5 day delivery…we talk about closing this or that plant down…but when it comes down to it, I think the only thing that is going to save or really change the Post Office is something as intangible as filling it with good human beings who care about other people.

This story warmed my heart.

One of the things that caught my attention was how the town rallied around him when the postmaster demanded that he take down his personal pictures that he’d put on the walls of his office.

We (postal workers) aren’t known as being “people” oriented.

This guy is an exception to the rule (unfortunately).  I say unfortunately because it shouldn’t be a surprise when somebody acts like a decent human being.

Like a really good teacher, there are going to be people who make a difference in spite of the system they are dealing with.

Hooray for you, Mike the Mailman.

You do good.

send it somewhere else…it’s safe as milk anyway.


still from the movie Gasland: A film by Josh Fox www.gaslandthemovie.com

(it looks from the picture above that once you punch through the water table that you’re home free)




A couple of days ago, I wrote a post that mentioned a movie called “Promised Land”…

The movie is about fracking…the process of extracting natural gas (in the case of the movie) …or, like in North Dakota, oil.

It’s a process that uses water and chemicals…injected deep (deeeeeep….like miles deep) into the ground to facilitate the process.

Here’s an article from the Huffington Post that poses the age-old question, “what do you do with all the stuff left over from all the progress we’re making?”

Should a Texas company be allowed to ship fracking wastewater by barge up the Ohio River prior to disposal? The company says yes. Environmental groups say no. The U.S. Coast Guard, which has final authority over river cargo, says it is investigating.


OK…this is supposedly a safe process …at least one that’s safe enough  that we can turn our heads while we’re making a lot of money and driving our cars to Walmart.  Why is there any uproar over what to do with the water and chemicals?

What the article talks about is the resistance to shipping the waste product from fracking to a place where they can dispose of it.

Packing it all up as safely as they can and floating it away…and they never have to think about it again.

Why not just use it to fill the swimming pools of the men who oversee the fracking process?  Why not use it for their bath water every time someone says, “it’s all perfectly safe”.  It is a safe process, isn’t it?

Safe enough if you don’t have to live right next to…or right on top of…any of these wells, I guess.

“safe on this, buddy.”

Money is a good thing…and I do love to drive around.  I drive around 6 days a week delivering the mail…and I still like to go out and go somewhere.

I’m a major consumer of the product of a bunch of nasty processes.

As long as I can just pay the money and fill up my tank and GO….I’m going to do it.

But I think we need to really start paying attention to just what it means to the environment to drill a big, deep hole…fill it with all sorts of really toxic stuff that later we worry about what to do with it…just so that we can continue to drive around the way we’re used to doing.

On the other hand, just to play Devils Advocate…the guys working the fields, the guys who are making the money…they just want to have something that might have been hard to get before fracking came to town.  Like logging…there’s always going to be some peripheral damage…but I think some questions need to be asked before it’s too late to back up.  Water is already enough of an issue that it’s kind of crazy to take any chances with fouling what we have left.

I’m just sayin’.

But, you know….the Dakotas are a long way across the country…and we’re way down here in the South…looking at the map, it’s a long way down to get to us.

Wait a minute…doesn’t water flow downhill?