Category Archives: Technology

Rain in England

Rain, rain go away, come again another day.

Right now, where I live, it’s raining cats and dogs.  That’s a bit of a shame because it means I’m going to be stuck in the garret until it eases off a bit.  Going out in the rain and cold is one reason lots of us English people seem to have coughs and colds a lot of the time.

It’s going to rain for most of the day here, and in fact it’s raining over most of the UK.  Our Met. Office have flood warnings posted for several coastal towns ~ luckily not right here.

A lot of Americans think that it rains all the time here in England.  As a matter of fact, in comparison with some places in the world, we don’t get that much rain.  On average, where I live we get about a couple of feet of rain in a year.  In comparison, supposedly sunny Hawaii has an average of 5 feet of rainfall in a year.  Perhaps Hawaii is not ever going to be right at the top of my bucket list.

Some say that it rains every day in England.  And that we English must love the rain.  All I know is that we do get a little sunshine, usually in the middle of July.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

what a grey day

 

Bad Weather

there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather

Snow in New Mexico

As far as I’m concerned the weather here is bad today ~ gale force winds and driving rain, courtesy of an Atlantic storm sweeping in from the south-south-west.  Some fool decided that severe storms here should have names, and this one is called Erik ~ pathetic.  Hurricanes should have names, minor storms over the British Isles shouldn’t.  (Actually it’s Met Éireann, the Irish Meteorological Office which names storms here ~pathetic.)

For all of history, today, and into the foreseeable future mankind’s activities have been /are / will be dependent upon the weather.  Agriculture relies on the right kind of weather at the right time, travel can be disrupted due to high winds rain, and snow, and power consumption rises if the weather is too hot or too cold.

Right now 70 million Americans across the Midwest are bracing themselves for dangerous storms bringing high winds, cold, rain, hail, and the possibility of a tornado or two.  Now that’s really bad weather.  But then America does have extremes of climate.

Weather refers to what’s going on in the atmosphere at a particular place, over a short period of time; temperature, humidity, wind, rain / snow, clouds, visibility…..  Climate is the long-term weather pattern over a large area over many, many years ~ long enough to generate meaningful statistical data ~ say a hundred years or more.

Which is why all this brouhaha over catastrophic anthropogenic climate change is just so much crap.  If global temperatures show a significant warming over the next 30 years or so, then maybe there may be something to it ~ or more likely it’s still just changes in long-term weather patterns driven by the usual suspects.

Our weather is created by the sun, and sometimes catastrophically modified by rare events such as a very major volcanic eruption, (Krakatoa), or a comet / meteorite hitting the surface of the earth, (whatever killed off the dinosaurs).  Occasionally local weather can be catastrophically changed by the actions of man; the Great London Smogs for example, but those events are rare and temporary.

Some say that man is killing the planet.  And that we need to stop using cars, aeroplanes, electricity, living in houses, and definitely stop eating meat.  All I know is that every now and again Chicken Little runs around screaming that the sky is falling.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

snow on the high plains isn’t so very rare

 

the interconnectedness of agribusiness and you

Gambling with your health and well-being for the sake of more profitable hamburgers.

One of the main purposes of genetically modifying food plants such as wheat and corn is to make them resistant to a weed-killer called Roundup, which is sprayed on food crops several times in a season ~ including right before harvesting to dry the crop out.  The principal active ingredient of Roundup is a chemical called Glyphosate.  Of many lies told about glyphosate is that it was discovered by Monsanto in 1970.  In fact this nasty chemical was first patented as a descaling and chelating agent for boilers and pipes by the Stauffer Chemical Co. in 1961.  It’s a drain cleaner.

Glyphosate is a poisonous organophosphorus carcinogen.

When I was a boy, learning about farming, I was told about field rotation, (or crop rotation), which is the practice of changing what the farmer grows on any piece of land on a four-year cycle.  This prevents such nasty things as soil erosion, soil exhaustion, soil poisoning, and poor soil fertility ~ all of which lead to poor crop yields.

Modern agribusiness doesn’t practice crop rotation, instead it uses monoculture farming.  This destructive method of land use requires large amounts of artificial fertilisers and pesticides to make it work, and it leads to an unbalanced and unsustainable ecosystem.  Agribusiness in the USA does not work in harmony with the land, instead it beats the land into submission to produce larger and larger amounts of poisonous food and drink.

These are very similar farming practices to those which caused the Great Plains dust bowl of the 1930’s, except modern farming practices are far more intensive and artificial than anything dreamed of by the farmers who helped cause the Great Depression.  Today, agriculture is based on very capital-intensive heavy machinery.

If a farmer in a typical high plains farming community decides to eschew intensive chemical-based monoculture and embrace more ecologically sustainable organic agriculture, he / she is likely to be ostracised by the rest of his / her community.  Peer pressure is a powerful thing and very difficult to ignore.  Most farmers are in denial about the damage they are doing to the soil, the rivers, the sea, and the wider environment.  Not to mention the poisons they are putting into your food and drink.

These chemical fertilisers and pesticides can take decades to completely clear from the environment.  The half-life of glyphosate in soil and water is much longer than Monsanto would like to admit.  Monsanto is a German company.

Some say they would never shop at a farmers market or buy organic produce.  And some people don’t believe that intensive farming practices are killing them.  All I know is that in 1945 about 45% of American food was grown in people’s back yards.

And, by the way, probiotic drinks are very bad for your health. The live bacteria in probiotic drinks originated in cows.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

anything made with grains is bad for you

unless it’s organic, then it’s not so bad

10 questions to ask an alien

Perhaps we meet alien beings every day without realising it.

If you met visitors from outer space what would you want to know?  What would you ask them?  These are the 10 questions I thought of ~ probably you can think of your own, better questions.

  1. Why are you here?
  2. How long have you been visiting the Earth?
  3. What is your assessment of human kind?
  4. What’s the deal with all this abduction / experimenting / probing / sex thing?
  5. Are humans native to the planet Earth, and if not, where did we come from?
  6. What is a workable solution to the overpopulation of the Earth?
  7. Where’s the truth in ESP, Spooky Events, Time Travel, Ghosts, Precognition, Astrology, and all the other weird stuff?
  8. Where is the mistake in Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity?
  9. What is the ultimate truth of Life, The Universe, and Everything ?
  10. Is Donald Trump / Hillary Clinton one of yours?

If Star Trek is to be believed then the aliens won’t tell us about Faster Than Light travel, but they may tell us about who really built the pyramids.  Or you might ask; ‘Is there a God, and what’s His email address?’

Some say that aliens from other stars are all around us.  And that you can’t easily tell an alien being from an ordinary human.  All I know is that the truth is out there.

~

Jack Collier

jackcollier7@ talktalk.net

 

the kind of alien I would like to meet

The Shipping Forecast

I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
and all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by…..

At 05:20 each morning the haunting notes of Lillibullero announce the beginning of the shipping forecast on my wireless.  Weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles, it’s as reliable as Death and Taxes, and as accurate as an atomic clock.  The shipping forecast has to be accurate, sailors lives depend upon it.  It’s all about the wind, the sea, the sky, and the clouds.

The shipping forecast has been made available to sailors for the past 151 years, (except during wartime when weather was a military secret), and has been broadcast on the wireless since 1911.  In more than 100 years the BBC has only failed to broadcast the forecast once, on 30 May 2014, when due to a technical fault listeners heard the BBC’s World Service instead.

The 31 sea areas reported always come in exactly the same order.  Mostly I mentally tune out the reports and forecasts for such places as Southeast Iceland, Faeroes, Fair Isle, Viking…..  But I really listen up when the announcer intones Cromarty, Forth, Tyne, Dogger…..  because that includes ‘my’ sea area, and as my garret is just 100 yards from the sea I get whatever weather the shipping forecast says is expected.

Utterly reliable, honest, dependable, accurate, and a little old-fashioned, the Shipping Forecast is a rock of stability in an ever-changing world, and I’m probably the only person I actually know that listens to it.

I should learn from the Shipping Forecast.  I firmly believe that what women want most in a long-term partner are exemplified by the qualities of that daily radio broadcast; reliability, honesty, dependability, accuracy in thought, word, and deed ~ and maybe a little sense of old-fashioned style.

Some say that women want spontaneity, excitement, adventure, really cool things.  And, that most women want guys who pick up the restaurant bill, arrange the vacations and buy the tickets, and who will go to wild parties and pretend to enjoy them.  All I know is that when the shit hits the fan women want a guy they can rely on to keep them safe, a guy as dependable as the Shipping Forecast.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talk

 

the cold grey North Sea is often a very dangerous place to be

 

Snow Day

Walking in clean, virginal snow makes me feel really special.

Where I live, in very temperate England, close to the sea, I don’t see a lot of snow.  Well, today it’s pretty cold here ~ just below freezing.  There’s been a little snow in the night, maybe 3 or 4 inches.  Snow and England are not natural soul-mates.

One snowflake in Central London and the meteorologists warn of climatological Armageddon ~ and so it was yesterday.  This particular cold-snap is being called ‘The Beast From The East’, and the weather men are saying this will be the worst cold weather in England since 1991, with ‘up to’ six inches of snow covering most of the country.

Thousands of London commuters were told they must complete their journeys by 6pm to ensure they would actually get home, and local authorities declared snow emergencies.  Hundreds of trains and dozens of flights were cancelled last evening, and allegedly the major roads are in chaos.

Social media, women’s pages in the newspapers, and posters in doctors’ surgeries are full of advice on how to cope with the cold weather.  Some of this advice sounds stupid; iced tea will warm you up more than hot chocolate, hug a hot water bottle between your thighs, stick your socks in the microwave, and think like a monk to get warm.

And, the ‘Met Office’ warns that the worst is yet to come… You’d think the English didn’t know about snow…  Have you never heard of Scot of the Antarctic?

It’s not like we’ve never had snow here before.  Back in the day, when I was nobbut a lad in short trousers, and central heating was something only the Queen had, we had some brutal winters.  Whole trains were stranded in the middle of nowhere, Royal Air Force helicopters airlifted fodder to sheep starving in the hills, and the army was called in to keep major roads open.  The wind cut like a knife, the ice was on the inside of my bedroom window, and my spit froze before it hit the ground.  (Being young boys it wasn’t just our spit we tested to see how fast it froze.)

Although the Met Boys feign surprise, it’s not like here in England we don’t get a nasty cold snap in late February or early March.  It happens most years, and it’s called the Buchan Cold Spell.  Jeez the Taiwan Weather Girls might be better at forecasting English weather than our Meteorological Office.

The weather here is just a little inclement, so I will not be going far today.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

 

due to the snow, today is cancelled

 

 

Teardrop Trailer Kits

You need time, effort, and creativity to build anything worthwhile.

I intend to build a tiny teardrop trailer sometime this summer.  These tiny camping trailers are built on a commercially built trailer frame, on top of which a plywood structure is mounted.

I could build this from scratch, just using half-inch sheets of 8′ X 4′ plywood I cut to shape for myself, or I could buy a kit ~ and I think I’m going to buy a kit.

Some of the available kits include:

http://tinyhouseblog.com/travel-trailers/teardrop-trailer-kits/ 

~

https://www.theteardroptrailer.com/step-by-step-pg1

~

Make: features 11 Teardrop Trailer Builds on its blog.

https://makezine.com/2015/09/23/teardrop-trailer-builds/

Including this, which I really like because of its squared-off shape, which will give more usable space than a ‘classic’ teardrop shape.

This is totally home built from scratch on a commercially bought steel trailer frame.

~

This teardrop camper kit is from Fyne Boat Kits, and I really like its sculptural, upturned, boat-shaped design.

~

So-Cal Teardrops has a range of kits, including this off-roader.

http://www.socalteardrops.com/gallery.php?g=12

~

And, Little Guy Trailers has this 5 foot wide teardrop kit.

~

Or, I could also build just from plans, like the Wyoming Woody.

http://teardropbuilder.com/plans-design-documents/wyoming-woody-teardrop-plans

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

Off-Grid Electricity

Living off the grid brings a dangerous reality.

Whether I finally end up converting a school bus into a camper / RV, or building a shipping container home in the deep countryside, the chances are that I will need to generate my own electricity.  Luckily, these days this isn’t as difficult as you might think.  However, modern living uses a hell of a lot of electricity, especially in America.  We may be looking at an electricity usage of 30 kWh, (kilowatt-hours), every day.  However, with a little bit of arithmetic, (math), you can calculate your own likely electricity consumption, and your generating systems should be installed with that usage in mind.

There are three main ways to generate your very own off-the-grid power:

  1. A generator powered by an internal combustion engine.  Generators come in a huge variety of sizes, capacities, and prices, but a 6 kW (kilowatt), generator might set you back £1,500, ($1,800).  Other than capacity, the choice boils down to petrol, (gasoline), or diesel power. Generally speaking diesel is better, (but may be noisier).  With a little work you can also run generators on gas, (propane, methane, natural gas), wood alcohol, (methanol), and paraffin, (kerosene).  With some work, diesel generators will run on cooking oil.
  2. Solar Power.  Stick some solar panels on the roof, or in the yard, and you have electricity while the sun is shining.  Typically, solar power systems for a camper / RV, (and perhaps a shipping container home), produce 12 volt electricity, which is then used to charge a big battery, from which power is taken when anything electrical is switched on.  To step up 12 volt direct current to 110, or 230 volt alternating current you need an inverter.  These come in a huge variety of capacities and prices.  You can buy them at Home Depot.  Larger scale solar power systems, such as may be required by a decent sized shipping container home, usually need specialist installation.  You will probably need to find an appropriate contractor.
  3. Wind Power.  Wind power for a school bus camper / RV /motorhome would be very small scale and probably part of a 12 volt system.  A wind turbine for a container home would be bigger, but in the scheme of things, still very small scale.  A free standing wind turbine on a mast may need various regulatory permissions before you erect the thing.  Most likely you will also be digging holes and trenches, so I hope you can use a mini-digger, (tiny backhoe).

Typically, the ‘belt and braces’ type of guy, (that’s me), would install both wind and solar power systems for his Camper / RV / Motorhome, or shipping container tiny home, perhaps with a diesel generator as back-up for both.

If you haven’t realised from the above, then off-the-grid electricity comes in two flavours;

  • 12 volt DC, (direct current).  This is the same as you get from an ordinary car battery.  12 volt DC systems can be installed by anyone competent in DIY.
  • 120 volt (USA), 230 volt (Europe), and 240 volt (UK), alternating current.  This is what you get from the sockets in your home, and is often known as mains electricity.  Working with AC systems is normally not a DIY job, and at some point you will most likely need to employ a fully qualified electrical contractor.

So, you are generating your own electricity.  That’s only half the story.  Your camper / RV / motor home, and / or your container home will have to be wired to make use of all that lovely power.  Basic wiring is well within the scope of a person very competent in DIY, and 12 volt DC lighting is dead easy.  Mains electricity 110 volt and 230 volt AC is more complicated and you would do well to have your circuitry checked over by a properly qualified contractor before you use it.

Of course, these days you can actually buy a fully kitted out container home, complete with connections for all services, so all the wiring would be done for you.  That sort of misses the point, doesn’t it?  Amazon will sell you everything else you need to generate your own electricity.

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

click to buy the turbine

 

 

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

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?

~

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

~

jack collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

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