Joel the High Tech

Yeah, I know. I should have dusted first.


I can put a wi-fi router in a 12X16 space if I want to, no matter how senseless that may seem. Because freedom.

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Just ’cause I thought it was funny…

Seen on Drudge

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Barack the Unchangeable

Okay, this is kind of funny.

I know yesterday I was praising failing to criticize Obama over his decision to stay on vacation and play golf rather than seek photo ops and the welfare of his subjects in the soggy wilds of Louisiana.

I just happened on a reminder that it wasn’t always so, back when he still had one more election to win. Back then he took a direct hand in slowing the rise of the oceans.

So I guess it’s only “theatrical” when Trump does it.

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Once in a while ol’ Caretaker Joel actually gets to fix something.

Made a full set of rounds yesterday afternoon and noticed that the plastic cover on this greenhouse was kinda loose. Closer examination showed the screws holding it down had pulled out of the wood en masse. Next good windstorm and I’d be chasing that whole sheet of plastic all over the countryside, and no way it’d survive the trip.

This actually happened once before, early last year on the other side. That one was pulled up by a windstorm, this one I think just by the tension of the plastic. That other time I had to go to an enormous amount of hassle turning on the power and running long extension cords. This time, of course, I had my brilliant cordless. And a box of more aggressive screws.

Fixed, and once again Uncle Joel earns his tuna sandwich for the month.

Really need to go back, though, with more screws and washers and truly clamp that thing down.

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For god’s sake give him what he wants!


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Now this is a care package for a hermit!

Landlady came up last evening. The roads are still okay but somewhat moist and the weather is iffy, so just to be on the safe side I met her at the county road and shuttled her and Dharma in.

And she came bearing food!

Check this out. Fifty pounds of flour, a six-pack of this great canned chicken Costco carries, and…

Fourteen roughly one-pound chunks of frozen pork! If I get caught with any of these after the Caliphate is established, my head’s gonna roll for sure. So don’t tell anybody, but Uncle Joel will be eating meat this winter! Yes!

It’s true, I’ve been known to criticize people whose notion of preparedness is a freezer full of meat and veggies. But that’s because of the problems with grid power, not with ice. Ice is good – as long as it’s not forming on the inside of your windows. Meanwhile there’s this perfectly good freezer here, run on off-grid power, and no reason not to use it.

Also, this morning we moved the new pullets to their permanent home. Oh, some of them will eventually end up at the Fortress of Attitude but we’ll work that out in the fullness of time.

This batch is more active and more actively fearful than the others. Everything is horrible in its own way, and as always they were certain we meant to kill them in the worst manner imaginable – and they seem to have quite active imaginations. When I came back with the camera most were still huddling in the corner of their spacious new digs…

But a few were starting to explore.


Dharma thought all this activity was wonderful, and wanted more.

Dharma is sort of the anti-Ghost. I don’t really believe she prefers my company to that of Landlady, but she much prefers the boonies to the city and she’ll move in with me if that’s the only way she can stay here forever. Last evening after we got Landlady unpacked she refused to come in the house, instead running back and climbing in the Jeep. That’s like the third time she’s done that. I like her fine but she’s an obnoxious ball of energy and she can’t stay with me. I’m old and cranky and low energy. Just saying.

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Morning at the Secret Lair…

Whole bunch of boring little domestic things going on this morning. Laundry. Yard cleanup. Nothing to report, really.

Had a little reconfiguring fun yesterday evening during the rain, though…

Wanting to use my computer but not to turn it on, I decided to use this little tablet somebody sent me last year as something besides a boombox. In the powershed I’ve kept an old Cisco wireless router, just because. I dusted it off and plugged it in, and it works just fine!

I never really did the whole “wi-fi hotspot” thing, being more of the books and newspapers generation. And though my satellite dish is pretty hillbilly and will eventually be replaced if somebody ever does something about the cell coverage out here, occasionally still after all these years it still strikes me as kinda cool that I can sit around my off-grid cabin in the desert reading Reason online.

The notion of doing it on a disconnected tablet was just absolutely hilarious. I immediately made myself a mocha and pretended it was overpriced, just to fit in with the rest of the world a bit.

But seriously I’ve been meaning to drag out that router and see if it still worked. The laptop is my biggest power draw and this will actually be useful in winter when photons are at a premium, even with the embiggened solar panel array.

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Progress in spite of myself

Okay, I couldn’t get the racking up today. Dammit. Bummed, I went over to Landlady’s and finished the Chicken Yard/Gitmo Sealing Project, wiring the big gate shut, wiring the chicken wire to the gate, wiring wire around suspiciously large gaps in the wire…

…got home and it occurred to me that there was a large messy and very obvious thing I could finish on the new rack, now that it was getting hot…

Dumbass, pull the cable through the conduit and bury the conduit. Earlier I expensively acquired 70 feet of 8-gauge stranded cable, which is what S likes for the DC power from the panels. Pulling it was going to be a pain since (of course) I’m not using proper conduit with nice gradual 90o turns, but 1 1/2″ PVC with elbows. I can’t even get a fish tape around those elbows. So I used the fish tape to pull the cable through the long straight section, then fished it through the elbows and shorter sections by hand. I’d already trenched, of course, and bored a hole in the powershed floor. So once I got everything together it was a simple sweaty matter of working the idiot stick until the dirt was back where it belonged.

No sooner had I done that than the clouds rolled back in, the temperature dropped ten degrees, and it commenced to storm. So I guess it’s okay that I did it in whatever sun and heat we got, since the cloudy and cool on both sides of the hot interval was raining cats and dogs.

Having done that I washed up and went to work on baking.


The storm passed quickly, but it looks like it’s going to rain off and on all evening. So I’m going to call it a night for the ‘pooter and give the batts a rest.

Have a nice one yourself.

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Look, I love to hate Obama as much as anybody…

But sometimes nothing is the right thing to do. In Obama’s case, I wish he’d do it more.

In an editorial published Wednesday, The Advocate newspaper in Baton Rouge called on Obama to visit “the most anguished state in the union.” The newspaper noted that Obama interrupted his two-week vacation on Martha’s Vineyard earlier this week to attend a fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on the Massachusetts island.

The newspaper said Obama can and should visit now that the once-raging floodwaters are receding.

And do what? Screw up an airport when it’s needed for relief flights? Tie up traffic with his inevitable motorcade? To what purpose? I have never understood the argument that the prez needs to go wherever hell’s breaking loose to ‘show support.’ The most helpful thing I can imagine him doing is staying the hell away.

And as for conservatives ragging on him for all the golf: Would these people rather he were back in Mordor-by-the-Potomac fiddling with more executive orders? I say, Play more golf, Barack! Kick back! Tee up! Have a beer.

They bother me, these rare occasions when I find myself agreeing with Obama. But I try to put myself in his position, think what the best thing to do would be, and all I come up with is … shut up and play another round.

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Aw, crap.

Well I overslept (Woke around five to the sound of rain on the roof, so rolled over and went back to sleep.) Didn’t climb out of my rack till a bit after 6:30, to find the clouds parting and a threat of serious sunshine. Late! Wanted to get the rest of my panel rack assembled.

And the first part went fine, but then when it came to the actual racking I ran into a show-stopper…

I’ve got no fasteners that will drill into a 2X6 and hold heavy racking and solar panels against a serious angle. None. And it never even occurred to me to wonder how I was going to accomplish that.

Unless I find something useful in Landlady’s barn, which is where I’m heading right after breakfast, I’m stuck till Saturday. I need to find my roll of mechanic’s wire and go secure the chicken yard gate, so I’ll have accomplished something this morning. Then after that it’s laundry, weather permitting, and bread. I just found mold on my last half-loaf and tossed it to the chickens.

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How you can tell when somebody actually uses their knife…

Ladies and Gentleman, Roberta X schooling some fool who dared suggest the little lady might find a multitool of more utility than a big scary spring-assist knife…

“Knife” I said and knife I meant — I carry a Leatherman Wave on my belt for tasks that need driving/gripping tools.

A simple edged tool is likely to be the human ur-tool, especially as tool-using hominids moved farther away from sources of flint or obsidian. IMO, any adult human — and most children past a certain degree of maturity — ought to carry a knife. Otherwise you’re just a chimp with a haircut.


I like a multitool, literally don’t ever leave home without one. But it’s been my observation that a person who only carries a multitool doesn’t have much use for a knife.

Not judging, of course. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Poor babies.

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The “Cajun Navy” – Well played, carry on.

Also – damn! Folks in Louisiana still getting nailed. Volunteers doing what good people do, and apparently not a lot of horror stories arising from what bad people do. So far.

We got any TUAK folks out that way?

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My last sack of concrete.

I had one left over, just as planned hoped.

The chicks, who look more like pullets now and may be getting big enough not to slip through the chicken yard’s chain link fencing, have spent the past almost two weeks in a cage too small for 13 growing birds. Now that electricity has been sort-of restored to Landlady’s barn they’ve gone back to their warm room but they’re fully feathered out and don’t really need that anymore. If they’re big enough to be confined by the fence, it’s time to move them to the Big Chickenhouse.

But first I had to fix the big gate. It had been wired shut and trenched with concrete. I had to force it open and break up some of that concrete to run the underground conduit for Landlady’s new solar panel array. Now to undo all that work.

LB was unhappy at the beginning. The chicken yard’s alter ego is Gitmo, holder of inconvenient dogs, and LB spent many hours there years ago. Now he’s the only dog and hoped that was behind him. In this pic he’s clearly having flashbacks – he wasn’t letting me out of his sight.


There’s nothing fancy here at all. Clean out the old trench, finding the edges of the existing concrete. Lay down a layer of chicken wire, which will serve to seal the bottom of the gate when it’s closed. This job is so quick and dirty it doesn’t even rate the dignity of a wheelbarrow. Pour dry mix into the trench, add water, stir and shape with a shovel.

The result is brittle, yes, but you want it to be. Like when I had to break it out a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t want to need a jackhammer. It only needs to be strong enough to keep coyotes from digging under the gate. Quick and dirty. Tomorrow (or maybe Friday: I want to work on my panel rack tomorrow) I’ll re-secure the gate.

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Hey, remember those “Tea Party” PACs the IRS picked on?

Okay, sure, the IRS is evil and should be buried headless at a crossroads with a stake through its heart. But don’t feel too bad for the PACs.

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In Praise of Empiricism: or, Children, Study Math.

While my pier columns are setting it was time to move on to the next question: How to set that 40o angle for the solar panels?

I attended 12 different public schools growing up. I don’t know how many math classes I failed or squeaked by in, but they were legion.

Makes me a little angry, too, because whenever somebody tried to teach me something allegedly useful like geometry, the question I kept asking was “What would I use this for?” And I kept not getting an answer. Many years later in tech school when I learned how to calculate the cubic inch displacement of a gasoline engine? Same formulae, now actually applied to a real-world thing, no problem. I’m not stupid. Just not interested in public school theoreticals uncoupled to anything in reality, taught by bored teachers who didn’t even know the answer to my very simple question – and who seemed offended that I’d dared ask.

This trip down memory lane doesn’t have a point, it has an angle…

But that’s the wrong angle. Continue reading

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Home-built Infrastructure: It just goes on and on.

One of the several things that has always perplexed me about this place is how poor the local contractors are. There’s one solar power contractor who’s at least polite and honest if not god’s gift to the industry, but the welldiggers are insufferable. Overpriced, insolent, utterly undependable, and you can’t ever know whether – on those rare occasions when they do show up and accomplish something – they’ve done a half-decent job until something terrible happens. Normally in the worst possible way and at the worst possible time.

I refer, of course, to Landlady’s well pump. And by the above standard we’ve actually dodged a bullet here: The problem happened in a tolerable fashion at a time when it didn’t really matter. But given that they only did the new installation a couple of years ago, and given that the problem seems to be a pipe break, which shouldn’t ever happen at all because duh…grrrrr…

How the *&^% do you break a pipe in the middle of summer?

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My poor chicken-killing yard will never be the same.

Between the path up the hill and the gully behind the cabin there’s a patch of rather steep yard that’s good for nothing in particular. I put the sink where I butcher chickens at the very edge of it so bloody water can drain into the ditch I dug coming out from the gully, and then I put the wooden block where I behead chickens next to the sink because where else would you put it? Otherwise that little patch of ground is not a lot of use.

It’s not an ideal place to build stuff, but it’s relatively convenient to the powershed, it’s almost shadow-free and it’s not in the way of anything else. So that’s where the new solar panel rack has to go.

There’s been a certain amount of scratching in the hard, rocky ground with a mattock in my immediate past, an activity best indulged early while it’s cool not hot. But this morning before it heats up I get to do something relatively fun; pour the pier columns. Today – in a very small, barely functional but not-financed-with-your-taxes kind of way, I am akin to the great bridge-builders of the early Twentieth. Maybe I’ll get caisson disease!

I’m just jotting this down in lieu of an actual morning post while wolfing down my eggs and toast. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go play Howard Roark. Hey! Maybe later I’ll meet a neurotic heiress who’ll spend a thousand pages or so trying to ruin my life for no apparent reason!

No, wait … that already happened.

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I would have to pick the hottest day of the month…

I kicked off the work day before six, to get the digging finished and the footers poured for the new solar panel rack. Went to town to get water and chicken pellets, ate lunch and grabbed Little Bear, went to Landlady’s.

I had become convinced that there was a serious problem with the well pump, which hasn’t run since June when it shut down the electrical system while I was trying to water the trees. Cistern was only about half full, and with the electrical system fixed it was really time to fill that puppy. I plugged in the pump in the powershed and it seemed to me all hell broke loose. I don’t know how much amperage the pump is supposed to pull but I’m pretty sure 26 amps is too much. I thought the pump was seized, and wasn’t looking forward to sharing that news with Landlady the very week she dropped megabux on rebuilding the electrical.

Turns out I was all wet, I was reading the new display wrong, the pump was only pulling 10 amps and was actually working fine. But I wanted to put off running the pump until I could spend some time there and actually see that all was well. Today was the day; with juice re-established it was time to get those poor chicks out of the too-small cage and back in their room, plus there were other things to move around.

In fact it turned into one thing after another with the sort of back-and-forth that always leaves me in pain. I was getting tired and hot and sore and grumpy, but gratified to see that even though that stupid well pump still overwhelms the input from the solar panels it does at least work as well as it ever did. The cistern was filling, even though it was pulling from the batteries to do it.

Got back to the Lair intending to knock off, to find a voicemail from Neighbor D about a ‘suspicious noise’ – I swear that was the actual phrase – around a neighbor’s place. Sigh – Okay, look – Yes, I get paid monthly stipends to act as caretaker for certain untenanted properties here and there. That doesn’t make me the neighborhood cop. If you hear a noise you find suspicious, jump in your wheels and go investigate it. Don’t leave me a voicemail about it.

I suppose I’m only encouraging that sort of thing by acting on the voicemail. But having been informed, my conscience would have bothered me if I hadn’t loaded LB and a rifle into the Jeep and gone for yet another ride. Finding nothing to report, I reported it anyway and then went home to feed dog and chickens and take a nice cool bath in the front yard. (Brain bleach alert.)

I know I often kid about my age. You’ve seen pix and a short video and you know I’m not a spring chicken. It’s a demographic oddity, though, that the only full-time residents in our neighborhood are retirees, all substantially older than me. Sad to say, I’m the young buck.

So yeah, sometimes I get the phone call and when it’s “Can you come help me with…” I’m happy to go. Really not interested in being the neighborhood cop, though, and I need to find polite ways to say so. Or maybe I need to relax to the fact that sometimes the neighborhood needs a cop and I’m it.

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This is so delightfully shameless. And they’ll completely get away with it.

The Clintons missed their calling, they really did. They should have been the villains in one of those infinitely-running soap operas. Probably not as much money in it, though.

I heard about this on Limbaugh in the Jeep a couple of days ago, got a chuckle and then forgot about it until this morning.

Clinton, who’s been on Trump about not publishing his tax returns, published her joint return for last year. The Clintons (claim to have) made a surprisingly small amount of money last year, a mere $10.6 million. And of that, they claim to have donated 9.8% to “charity.”

The funny part is which charity they chose, as CNBC reports without the slightest apparent irony…

Of the the (sic) $1,042,000 the Clintons gave to charity as listed on their return, $1 million of that went to the Clinton Family Foundation. The other $42,000 went to Desert Classic Charities.

Yes, Mr. and Mrs. America. Last year Bill and Hillary Clinton donated a nice round
To the most worthy charity they knew.


And they will totally pay no political (or, heaven knows, tax) penalty on this because the newsreaders continue to treat the laughably corrupt Clintons as the second coming of…I dunno, somebody really honorable.

The next four to eight years are going to be really entertaining. And by entertaining I mean horrifying. Somebody needs to bolt down every single thing of value in the United States, then peen down the bolts so they can’t be unscrewed. It really needs to happen right now.

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Huh. That kinda smarts.

I think I’ve developed an honest-to-god allergy to something in concrete. I only poured one bag yesterday, just for the upper pad on this slope and then spent the rest of my time measuring and trenching.

I felt it at the time, when I got the dust on my hands, but washed it off and didn’t think any more about it. But this morning my hands are really stiff and, like, tight-feeling.

Good thing I’ve got lots of these nitrile gloves, because there’s quite a lot more than that to do this morning.

ETA: Oh! And here’s another dose of synchronicity.

See that? That’s a thin layer of chicken feed at the bottom of a garbage can, and it’s all that keeps these ladies…

…cheerfully pecking away and hating my guts while returning next to nothing. Nothing! Do you hear me, you ungrateful feather dusters? A new generation is arising, and you’re starting to look like an important part of a balanced dinner! Hear me?

(Ahem.) Sorry. That just burst out.

Anyway I was starting to worry about where these useless fowls’ next hundred pounds of distressingly expensive chicken feed was coming from, when I had a quick $100 gig drop in my lap. Which fills their garbage can, plus buys some concrete I need. Just in time, as so often happens.

Cool, huh? I’ll grumble and choose between food and medicine, it’s just that time of life and I don’t want to go blind. But my food or the chickens’ food? That’s not a choice.

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