Category Archives: Hobbies

English Weather

Climate is what we expect; weather is what we get.

The English love to talk about the weather; when an Englishman meets a friend or acquaintance they could spend a good hour or so discussing the weather.

The thing is, there are so many topics polite Englishmen almost never talk about; feelings, money, politics, religion, and sex to name just a few taboo topics.

The other thing is; we get so much weather in England.  American tourists in London can never understand that, no matter how sunny and fine a day it is when they leave their hotel, within a hour it will be pouring with rain.

We English also have many, many interesting words and phrases to describe our weather.  Brass Monkeys, Raining Cats and Dogs, A Bit Parky, Chucking It Down, It’s a Scorcher, It’s Just Drizzling, It’s a Bit Damp, Pea Souper, Sea Fret… to quote a few.

English weather is pretty clement, not usually extreme at all.  For us 40 degrees Fahrenheit is bloody cold, and 80 degrees Fahrenheit is bloody hot.  We don’t often get very strong winds, and even though it rains almost all the time, we don’t often get torrential downpours.

Mostly I like the weather in England, at least from April to September / October I like it here.  From October to April it’s bloody awful and everyone in England will have colds, or flu, or even pleurisy.  (I’m just recovering from a bout of pneumonia.)

So, if ever you’re in England, expect to be bored spitless by everyone always talking about the damn weather.

And, by the way, no sensible Englishman believes in Climate Change.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

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Shipping Container Homes

You don’t need more space, you need less stuff.

Back when I owned a trailer park, shipping containers often made instant buildings which could serve a myriad of purposes for me, from simple storage units, through a workshop, to a pretty nice office.

(not my office, a home made from shipping containers)

What I have never yet attempted is to use a shipping container to make a tiny home, or more likely, use several shipping containers linked together to make a decent-sized home.  The place to start is to learn something about shipping containers, and then buy the right units.

Shipping containers are usually strong steel boxes with doors at one end, but they actually come in lots of versions.  The standard width is 8′ (eight feet), the standard height is 8’6″ (eight foot six inches), and the two standard lengths are 20′ (twenty foot), and 40′ (forty foot).  There are a whole raft of non-standard lengths starting at 5′, but a 10′ container is the more common of the non-standard lengths.  The internal floor areas work out at 150 sq ft for a 20′ container and 305 sq ft for a 40′ container.

Given that most people regard 1000 sq ft as a decent size for a home, (plus a garage), then we are talking of at least a couple of containers to make anything that approximates a ‘normal-sized’ house.  Container architecture is a discipline all of its own.

You obviously need a plot, the appropriate permissions from whatever building authority is responsible for all the regulatory stuff, and you may / or may not need to lay a concrete slab on which to stand the container(s) you’re going to turn into a home.  (Whether or not you need to lay a concrete pad depends on the ground, and how long you expect the container home to stand there.)

It’s no good just buying a plot, plonking a used shipping container there and expecting to live in it.  Shipping containers are steel boxes, and that means they are damn hot inside in summer, and bloody freezing inside in winter.   To make a home you will have to line out the inside, and perhaps even clad the outside.  Even if you just buy one 40′ container and are going to be happy living in 305 sq ft, you will still need to do a hell of a lot of work to make your steel box habitable.

One of the first things you need to learn is how to cut steel plate.  Your box needs more than a big door at one end, you need windows, (at least), and maybe another door, and perhaps holes so you can link one container to another to make a bigger home.  Luckily, shipping containers are mostly made of steel that’s only between 1.5mm and 2mm thick, so it’s easy to cut.  Realistically there are 3 ways to cut steel on site, (using an ordinary hacksaw will take you aeons and you’ll hurt your wrist and hands).

  1. Oxy-acetylene cutting torch.  These things are dangerous, and unless you’ve done this kind of cutting before, you would be best getting instruction before attempting to use an oxygen / acetylene torch.  However, a cutting torch is fast and it’s easy to cut complex shapes.  If you want circular cut-outs for round windows / portholes in your tiny container home, then oxy-acetylene could be for you.
  2. Electric jigsaw.  The sides of steel shipping containers are pretty easy to cut, so an ordinary electric jigsaw will chop out your doors and windows.  And, you can cut curves in steel with an electric jigsaw.  This is possibly the best choice for the averagely skilled person.
  3. Stihl cut-off saw.  STIHL is a trademark, but what we are talking about here is a big power saw of some description.  Cutting lots of big holes in your containers, on site, you may well want something like a petrol powered Stihl saw, (and make certain you have the right disk for steel).

The benefits of using steel shipping containers to make a tiny home, (or something bigger), is that it’s pretty fast and inexpensive to get a weatherproof structure on site, they’re strong and durable, and you can put them down just about anywhere.  A shipping container is probably the start of the ultimate off-the-grid home.

I can and have lived off-the-grid in a log cabin I built myself, (from a kit), but I would strongly caution anyone thinking of doing this concerning water.  You will need a constant supply of potable water, either from the mains or from your own well / borehole.  The average American uses between 80 to 100 gallons of water every day of the year.  It’s possible to finesse around all the other services; sewage, electricity, gas, heating, telephone and internet, but shipping water in a small bowser on a regular basis is an absolute non-starter.

Once you have a weatherproof structure with the doors and windows installed, and you’ve made a start on connecting your services, then you can start on the really fun stuff, which is fitting out the interior to suit your tastes.  The only limit to your imagination is the dimensions of whatever containers you have bought.

Making a home out of steel shipping containers is within the scope of anyone who is fairly competent at all kinds of advanced DIY, and who can also manage a project.

And all this gives me a problem; is my next project a school bus camper, or a container-based tiny home?

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

click on the book for more

 

 

 

 

Sponsored by:  http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises

10% discount on everything on this site if you quote code C7SYDV6B

School Bus Camper

I’d like to sit back and take in the grandeur of nature.

There’s this long-term plan for me to buy an old school bus and convert the thing into a camper / RV.  It’s a pretty vague plan right now because I have a lot of other things on my mind.  However, I’m thinking of doing the conversion in Southern California, which obviously means buying the used bus somewhere in SoCal.

I’ve looked into how much it would cost to buy a used bus in the 12 to 18 seat range from somewhere around LA, and you can trust me on this, they are practically giving the things away.  (I’ve seen one I like the look of for $2,500 plus taxes.)

There are a couple of caveats there, the look I want means an old bus, and that means lots and lots of miles, (100,000 or more), but as they are built to last with huge diesel engines, (7 litres or so), that shouldn’t matter so much.

The second caveat is that an old bus is going to need specialist rebuilding and servicing for the chassis and engine, before I start on the fun part of the conversion.  There are plenty of companies who are set up to rebuild and service the chassis / brakes / engine / gearbox / exhaust on this kind of vehicle, but I know that’s going to be hideously expensive ~ (maybe).

Still, I don’t think I need a vast budget for this kind of project.  I can work that out in detail over the next few months.

(There is also the option of buying something that actually started life as a camper van.)

The really fun part is thinking about the places I’d like to take my bus, (like Big Bear Lake) ~ and who I’d like to take along with me.  (Marmy and I need a girl riding shotgun.)

Life is a journey, enjoy the ride.

Sponsored by:  http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises

10% discount on everything if you quote code C7SYDV6B

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Advanced DIY

Really successful engineering is all about understanding how something will break or fail.

For some strange reason I am blessed with the ability to fix almost anything, install almost anything, make almost anything, and build almost anything.

I built myself a Caterham / Lotus 7 sports-racing car, which I then drove all over Europe on long road trips.  The trip I enjoyed most in this little car was driving down the entire Loire Valley in France.  (Or maybe it was the Stelvio Pass.)

Minor pieces of carpentry are child’s play for me ~ which is why I could rip out the old kitchen in my garret and replace it with something that I liked and suited my needs.

(With help from my friend Marmaduke of course.)

I’ve also erected log cabins and built vacation homes from plywood.  (This is a stock picture, not one of mine)

Sometimes, half way through a project, I’ve wondered why I started, and if the thing would ever be finished.  The picture above shows this kind of ‘why am I doing this’ project. Although, this wreck of an Austin-Healey Sprite turned into a really beautiful little car, finished in British Racing Green as a frog-eye.  (the almost completed little car, I like that I did the white stripes)

For my next project I’m thinking about finding an old school bus, rebuilding it as an RV, (Recreational Vehicle), and then spending an entire year in the thing, touring as much of the USA as I can, on the longest road trip ever.

Something you need, if you want to tackle advanced DIY projects, is a really, really comprehensive tool kit.  And, take my advice, always buy the very best tools you can afford.  (You may need a hard hat.)

This post is sponsored by:  http://www.amazon.com/shops/salinevalleyenterprises

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

some power tools are a must have

click on the power tools picture

Scenes on Sunday ~ Road Trip

Personally, I like a car with real character.

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jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

 

 

 

click to buy the book

Being Overweight

It’s simple, if it jiggles, it’s fat.

These past few weeks, I have been lacking a little in energy and bounce, and I decided that one reason for my lack of ‘get-up-and-go’ was that I’ve been putting on weight.  So, I decided to look into what being overweight really was, and if I was actually overweight, what it was doing to me.  Quite frankly, I was horrified at what I discovered.

I hate overweight, because it implies there is a weight standard I should be adhering to.  ~  Camryn Manheim.

You know what?  There is a weight standard, and we should all be adhering to it.

There are lots of health and fitness problems attached to being overweight ~ and the older you get the worse the health problems of being overweight become.

To begin with, are you overweight?  How does one know the difference between a little curvier and softer than we used to be, and truly overweight?  What is the difference between being overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.  Well, the chances are you’re overweight or obese ~ in the UK 68% of men and 58% of women are overweight or obese.  In the USA more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.

One easy way to tell if we’re overweight is to forget the scales and just grab a tape-measure.  Measure you height, and your waist at your belly button, (without sucking in your gut).  Your waist should not be more than half your height.  If your waist measurement is more than half your height you’re overweight with the worst kind of fat ~ visceral fat, (which will kill you).  More scientifically you can calculate your Body Mass Index, (BMI), but that won’t tell you as much about visceral fat as will a tape-measure.

There’s also a cut-off point to assess the overall risks to health just by waist measurement.  In men it’s 40 inches, and in women it’s 35 inches.  So if your waist is bigger than that, you’re officially overweight / obese and in danger of suffering serious health and fitness problems.  Having love handles is another bad sign, presaging heart and liver disease in your future.

Medically defined, a healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9,  overweight is having a BMI of more than 25, obese is having a BMI of more than 30, while morbidly obese is having a BMI of more than 40, (or 35 if you also have something like diabetes or high blood pressure).  There are plenty of online BMI calculators.

There are a myriad of downsides to being overweight, and even more downsides to being obese.  Some of these are;

We know a great deal more about the causes of physical disease than we do about the causes of physical health.  ~  M. Scott Peck.

The above are the worst of the medical problems.  But look at it another way ~ just how fit are you?  Can you walk up three flights of stairs without getting out of breath?  Can you run for a bus?  Can you walk five miles without collapsing?  Can you easily find clothes that fit, or do you have to buy plus size?  Can you still play sports, or are you limited to gentler activities?  What’s your performance in bed like?  The chances are if you’re overweight, then you’re not happy with your honest answers to any of those questions, because you know you’re not as fit as you would like to be.  Maybe you should take an online test?

It turns out my BMI today, as I write this, is 25.7.  However, according to another set of criteria I’m quite fit ~ much fitter than my chronological age, by 25 years or so.  But do you know what?  I’m going to lose some weight, starting right now.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

I can do that yoga position, but I don’t look as good as that.

 

Marmaduke makes a Christmas present

Christmas Carpenter Bear

My little teddy bear likes to do a bit of woodwork.  And, like me, he’d rather make a Christmas present than buy one.  There’s more love and care in something one has made, as opposed to something you’ve bought at the store.

So he’s been making me a coffee table for Christmas.  Marmaduke may have an ulterior motive in making this little table ~ it’s just the right size for him to have a clandestine teddy bears’ picnic.

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christmas-cardsMerry Christmas Marmaduke

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Marmaduke’s Christmas Bird House

Marmaduke the Teddy Bear Carpenter

He’s very skilled for a little teddy bear, and Marmaduke also loves nature, so he’s been making a rustic bird house to keep the little robin redbreasts safe over the cold winter.  And, like a good little bear, he’s finished the work well in time for Christmas.

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The snag was, when he’d finished the thing, he wanted to keep it for himself, and moved in with all his possessions, even his marmalade.

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Eventually he realised that the little birds needed it more than he does, so now it’s gone.  Marmaduke loves robyns especially.

All cool guys should be able to do a little woodwork, it’s an urban survival skill.

WAF Landscape Christmas Cards.qxdjack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Save Money ~ Have a Budget

Most People Don’t Really Manage Their Money.

shylockAfter more years in Banking and Finance than I care to admit, I can remember very few people who took responsibility for, and properly managed, their personal finances.  In my bitter experience, most people lived from one month to another without knowing where their money was going, or what they could really afford, or what was totally outside their budget.

If it comes to that, very few people have a proper, written, up to date, personal and household budget.  If you can put your hand up and say that you do, and that it is actually written down, (or on a spreadsheet, or otherwise on your computer), then you can skip the rest of this post and award yourself a gold star.

The point of having a budget is that it stops you being caught out by unpleasant financial surprises.  A budget also lets you plan ahead, for the rest of this year, next year, for the next two or three years, for a wedding, your kid’s college, for your retirement…

These are the steps you need to follow if you are going to create or revise your budget.

  1. Make a list of all the money you owe.  Before you save anything, before you make any investments, you should work towards paying off any and all loans and credit cards balances you have.  And, you can’t plan to pay off your loans early if you don’t have a proper budget.
  2. Make a list of all the regular payments you have to make.  These will range from your mortgage, property taxes, utilities bills, right through to charitable donations, cable TV, and gym membership…
  3. Make a list of your usual necessary expenses that you pay as you go along.  How much petrol do you put in your car each month?  How much do you spend on groceries, clothes, shoes…
  4. Make a list of how much your usual discretionary purchases are costing you.  These are things you don’t actually need.  How much do you spend at your local bar or any bars.  How much does eating out cost you each month?  What do you pay for cigarettes / vaping supplies each month.  How much do you waste on gambling and booze.
  5. Write down anything else that you buy on a regular basis, and how much it costs you.  Add in an amount for contingencies; all that stuff you can’t remember buying, and those weird impulse purchases.
  6. Put all these lists of the money you spend into order of importance.
  7. Turn all these lists into a monthly budget, which might look something like this;

budget

Obviously your numbers will be totally different, and you may have some different categories, for example; health insurance, pet care insurance, cigarettes, booze, sports club membership….  (And as it goes, the example I’ve shown is poorly ordered, for example Transportation should be above toiletries and grooming.)

This kind of budget lets you begin to do some real financial planning.

Maslow_Triangle_1Look at your budget, the most vital things should be at the top, and the things you could really get by without should be at the bottom.  It should fit with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  (albeit turned on its head)

If your monthly total is less than you earn, all well and good.  Don’t save or invest your spare cash, use it to pay off some of the money you owe, like your mortgage.  Saving or investing while you owe money elsewhere is stupid money management.

If your monthly total is more than you earn, you’re in trouble.  You need to cut your spending, and you start by cutting at the bottom of your budget, not at the top.  Spend less money in bars, buying cigarettes, eating out, gambling, buying booze, being the member of a gym…

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence, result happiness.  Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds and six pence, result misery.  ~  Mr Mcawber, by Charles Dickens

Don’t even think about saving, investing, buying a new car, or building your pension fund, if you don’t have a proper realistic and honest written budget, one that you can stick to.  You know it’s good advice, the kind of advice George Bailey would give you.

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1x-1these opinions are mine and mine alone

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

 

 

Marmaduke’s Wildlife Woodwork

p1050273After the success he had making a traditional North of England wooden stool, (a cracket), Marmaduke has been looking around for his next project.  He and I had a few words of disagreement about making a mess in the garret, but as usual he has got his way.

So now he’s got lots of board-feet of treated timber, and he’s going to make a bird table.  (For the life of me I can’t remember what bird tables are called in the USA.)

The garret is full of pressure treated out-doors type wood.

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And Marmaduke says that he’s going to make something like this.

windrush-bird-table-k87hg_original

I said he should hurry up and get it done.  For; the north wind doth blow, and we shall have snow, and what will poor Robyn do then, poor thing?

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dscf0011jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

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