do not ever pay for work that isn’t done right and completed on time
what the Arc would have looked like if Noah had used a contractor
Stop letting contractors screw you over. There is NO excuse for work that isn’t done right, finished on budget, and completed on time. I’ve heard it again and again that some contractor totally fucked up a job, or charged far too much, or did work that didn’t need doing, left an utter mess behind them after they finished, caused far more damage than they were asked to come in and fix, never finished the job at all, didn’t do the job they were asked to do, or didn’t even turn up…..
This is not a new story for me, so why am I bothering to flog this comatose horse? Well a couple of friends of mine, and another couple of nice people whose blogs I follow, have all had problems with contractors in the past few days. In my expert opinion 90% of contractors of every ilk from decorators, to plumbers, to electricians, to garage mechanics, to moving men et al, are utterly useless, partly skilled, dishonest, lazy, misogynistic jerks.
So how to avoid being totally ripped off?
- Do not hire a contractor based on somebody else’s unsupported recommendation. Especially do not hire anyone recommended by another contractor; say your realtor.
- Do not ever, ever hire a friend, or a friend of a friend, to do ANY work for you.
- Do not ever hire a contractor without first having a totally clear picture of the work you want doing, when you want it done by, how much you are going to pay, and when. If you don’t know any of this stuff, GO AWAY AND FIND OUT!
- Do not ever hire a contractor who can’t show you a current copy of their appropriate certification, and customer references. Check these out, and never just by making a phone call.
- Do not hire a contractor who can’t give you a firm written quote, on a proper letter-head. If possible get three quotes, (if it’s a big job then you must have at least two firm quotations)
- Do not ever pay a contractor before they have started work, and never ever pay them in full until the work is completed to your satisfaction. Agree stage payments if appropriate. Go over everything your contractor has done with a fine tooth comb. Your word is the final word!
- Do not ever, ever allow an unsupervised contractor into your property. And, ensure they are watched over 100% of the time thereafter.
- DO NOT hire day rate illegal aliens under any circumstances. And don’t hire anyone who isn’t fluent in your language.
- Learn some DIY stuff. Learn a hell of a lot of DIY stuff. It is always easier, cheaper, and better to do the job yourself than hire some utterly useless, partly skilled, dishonest, lazy, misogynistic jerk to do the work for you. And if you have some idea about how to actually do a bit of say; decorating, then you are in a far better position to control your idiot contractor.
- Finally; do not be a woman. All contractors think women are easy marks. If you are a woman then follow the suggestions above with the utmost regard.
This is your job, your money, your home, your safety. If your plumber floods your home, your electrician sets fire to your home, or you home just blows up…… then ultimately it is YOUR fault. Do not let ANYONE tell you how you should go about dealing with a contractor. (except me)
Some say that they have had a really good contractor. And that not all contractors are bad. All I know is that anyone who says they have had one good contractor will also have had three utter disasters.
some decorators can’t even varnish a floor without making a mess of it
Life is a pigsty, and if you don’t know this, then what do you know?
I was just 18 when I first left home. I bought myself a slightly neglected bungalow. (In England a bungalow is a single-story dwelling, (it helps when your first job is being a banker)). Hallway, reception room, 2 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen ~ and every room needed redecorating. The kitchen especially looked like something from the WWII era. In fact the kitchen looked like WWII had been fought in there.
There was central heating that didn’t work, and an Edison-vintage electrical system that did, although technically the lights were so dim they were darks. I had my clothes, two pieces of furniture that I stole from my folk’s place, (a beach chair and a mattress), my music, a tin plate and some cutlery.
The bungalow was close enough to the bank that I could walk in about 45 minutes. I sold my sports car, an Austin-Healey Sprite, bought a Reliant Robin three-wheeler van, and tried to work out what else I needed to buy with my sudden small stash of cash.
With cash burning a hole in your pocket there is always the temptation to buy things that will give you instant gratification, more records for example….. Well I gave in to a little of that and got myself a TV. The rest of the stuff I bought was more practical; a washer / dryer, some tools, an oven, bed linen, brushes and paint, cleaning cloths….. stuff like that.
Ripping out the entire kitchen was messy but satisfying ~ and the little van was useful for taking all the wreckage to the city dump. That thing did hundreds of miles on a teaspoon of petrol, (gas), and all the time I had it I never even opened the hood ~ of course eventually the poor thing fell apart. Later I learned about car mechanics, regular maintenance, giving love, care, and attention to everyone and everything in my life.
My life was pretty good until I had almost finished my professional examinations ~ then I experimented with dating. My first girl was older, curvy, blonde, great legs, and before I knew where I was she was leaving her stuff at my place and taking over. That first time living alone taught me three great lessons;
- Don’t spend money you haven’t got.
- Nobody is allowed into my place.
- Do everything for yourself.
As well as building a new kitchen I made all the furniture for that place. I still have some of it; decades later.
Some say you should never wrestle with an amoral woman. And, that if you do, you will get dirty. All I know is that she will like it.
one of the worst cars in the world
being in control of your finances is a great stress reliever
Next to being in a dysfunctional relationship, money troubles are the commonest cause of severe stress. Sadly, dysfunctional relationships and money troubles often go together.
There are four sets of reasons that may have caused your money troubles;
- Misfortune. This is not your fault, You may have lost your job, have uninsured medical expenses, your ex may have never paid child maintenance, your water heater may have exploded in a cloud of steam…..
- Laziness and Stupidity. You never open your mail, you don’t check your balance when you withdraw cash from the ATM, you can’t be bothered to balance your cheque book, you don’t bother to look for the thriftier items when you go to the supermarket…..
- Compulsive Spending. You max out your credit cards and then get another, your favorite pastime is shopping, when you’re stressed you go shopping, you buy shoes you will never wear, you’ve bought a car you can’t afford, you buy stuff you don’t really want, need, or already have…..
- Addictions. Maybe this is where things get really, really bad. You’re a drunk and you spend a fortune on booze in bars and supermarkets. You’re a drug addict, you’re always jonesing for your drug of choice, and you would do anything to get your next fix, including spending the rent on coke. You’re a gambler and when you’re in a casino you lose track of time and money. You’re a sex addict and pay for a fuck or a suck, and you’re addicted to on-line porn and sex-chat…..
So you’re flat broke, have bills to pay, and you are very, very stressed, suicidally so. So WTF can you do?
- Stay calm, make yourself a cup of tea, sit down, get a pen and paper and make some notes.
- Work out exactly how much you owe in outstanding debt, including all your credit cards, parking fines ~ basically write down and add up every single penny you owe. Depressing isn’t it?
- Work out exactly how much is the bare minimum amount a month you need to live on, including food, rent, utilities, car repayments, insurance, parking, and petrol, (gas). Compare that with how much you’ve got coming in, and if you’ve got less coming in than you will have going out, find something on your list you don’t need to buy.
- Find the nearest discount grocery store, and resolve to shop nowhere but there in future, and to buy only their cheapest stuff, providing it’s nutritious.
- Contact your bank, finance, and credit card companies and see if they can help you by deferring or reducing repayments.
- STOP FUCKING BUYING NON ESSENTIAL STUFF. If you have to, then cut up all your credit cards.
- Find a way to recover from your addiction. If you have to go to a couple of AA, or NA, or GA meetings a day then get your butt down there. Take part. STOP doing whatever it is that you’re addicted to; if it’s booze or drugs you may need medical help.
Some say that something good will turn up soon. And that the Micawber Principle is a load of bullshit anyway. All I know is that one shouldn’t throw good money down the drain.
it isn’t this pensioner’s fault that she’s broke
you should have her worries
Right now we’re having a vicious thunderstorm where I live, and it’s absolutely hissing down ~ raining cats and dogs.
without the rain there can be no life
and without the rain
there can be no rainbows
There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments. ~ Janet K. Phillips
For me, building a patio planter, or raised bed, out of any materials you like, is a fairly straightforward project. However, I know that isn’t so for everyone.
Therefore, in a spirit of helpfulness, here are a trio of videos showing how to make a few examples of planters you could use a prototypes for whatever you would like in your yard. As you can see, it’s a pretty straightforward project.
this easy wall planter
is one of my favourite ideas
Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
Oludeniz is a big centre for parasailing. From the top of the mountain to landing near the beach-side restaurants the flight is about 40 minutes. I didn’t go up there on my recent Turkish trip ~ I was too busy on the ground, taking pictures.
it’s quite fun to do the impossible
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
click to buy the turbine
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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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
click on the book for more
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Environmentalists are killing the planet, destroying the economy, and stealing your children’s future.
A bunch of rabid environmentalists have forced the British Government to announce that all petrol and diesel cars will be banned from the year 2040. Nobody ever accused rabid environmentalists of being intelligent, or having any common sense. Banning diesel and petrol cars, (or will it be all cars that have exhaust emissions?), has staggering implications that the officials, politicians, and environmentalists haven’t properly thought through.
In Sweden, Volvo has announced that from 2019 all of its new models will be either completely battery powered or hybrid vehicles. There’s a couple of interesting points here. Firstly this move will put a whopping premium on the price of all new Volvo’s. And secondly, hybrid cars still have to have a petrol or diesel engine that will produce nasty polluting exhaust fumes.
Diesel exhausts are killing us all, allegedly.
Across Europe several major cities, (Paris, Madrid, Athens), say that diesel cars will be banned from entering their environs from 2025. The Hell-Hole that is Mexico City has followed suit ~ ha! The mayor of London, Mad Sadiq Khan, wants to ban Petrol and Diesel cars from London by 2050.
These headline grabbing moves will achieve absolutely nothing except to cost consumers and taxpayers trillions of Pounds / Euros / Dollars. Banning diesel and petrol cars in the UK will impose vast costs on drivers for little environmental benefit.
There is no conceivable way that the British electricity generating and distribution systems will ever be able to provide enough power for all those battery powered cars, (and vans and busses, and trucks?). Just where will all the extra power come from? The back of an envelope estimate is that all these electric vehicles will add an extra 30 gigawatts to UK peak demand, and that means we would need 50% more generating capacity. That’s equivalent to another half-dozen huge nuclear power plants like Hinkley Point, or another 20,000 wind turbines, (which only work some of the time). I have no idea how many acres of solar collectors it would take to generate that amount of power, but they don’t work at night, which is when most people will be charging their electric vehicles.
The British Government says it will install a fast charging point every 20 miles on major roads ~ imagine how many holes in the road and road works delays that will mean.
The British Government are also considering slashing the maximum speed on our motorways to 60 mph, and what is that supposed to achieve except more fines from speeding tickets?
This all seems a bit rich considering that the whole man-made global warming agenda has been exposed as nothing more than a massive fraud. The best estimate is that if all the trillions of dollars Obama proposed to spend on his Clean Power Plan to tackle non-existent man-made global warming was actually spent, then global temperatures would perhaps be reduced by 0.057 degrees Fahrenheit ~ one five-hundredth of a degree.
Climate change is a normal, natural, and perpetual process which occurs, and has always occurred, with sublime indifference to man’s puny input. ~ James Delingpole.
There are a few inconvenient truths that politicians and environmentalists would rather the public didn’t wake up to;
- Man-made global warming / catastrophic anthropogenic climate change doesn’t actually exist in any meaningful form ~it’s nothing but a fraud, a massive scam designed to give politicians back control over an increasingly independent populace.
- There is no such thing as completely clean power. Green Energy produces nastier and longer term environmental pollution than does burning fossil fuels. Nuclear Energy is a case in point, look at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Wind turbines have a massively negative impact on the environment, are bad for wildlife, and a blot on the landscape. All batteries are inherently polluting, expensive, and dangerous.
- Switching to electric-powered private transport will require at least a 50% increase in electricity generating capacity in any country that tries it.
- A vast investment in an infrastructure of new charging points to support all these new electric vehicles will be needed.
- Electric vehicles cost a hell of a lot more than an exactly equivalent bike / car / van / truck / bus powered by an internal combustion engine.
- Electric vehicles are less capable, and have a shorter life-span, (about 5 years), before major maintenance is required, (new batteries), than do ‘conventional’ cars, trucks, and busses.
- There aren’t enough qualified mechanics to maintain the huge increase in the number of electric vehicles the politicians propose.
- Disposing of all of the ‘dead’ batteries will require a huge investment in a recycling technology that, as yet, doesn’t actually exist.
- The value of used vehicles powered by petrol and diesel engines will plummet, destroying the economies of the developed world. There is a vast investment in lending to finance vehicle purchases.
- Internal combustion engines don’t have to run on either petrol or diesel fuel. Is a ban on ethanol / methanol / vegetable oil / propane / butane fuelled vehicles also proposed?
- Are politicians also proposing to ban aircraft / railway engines / ships / electricity generators powered by fossil fuels ~ otherwise what’s the point?
- If Politicians think the backlash against Hillary Clinton was an isolated aberration, they’ve got a big surprise in store after all this banning cars crap.
In my life I’ve seen some insane ideas put forward by politicians at the behest of special interest groups, but a total ban on the internal combustion engine running on fossil fuels has got to be maddest thing I’ve ever heard. But then, politicians, special interest groups, and bureaucrats have never been known for putting much thought into anything.
Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. ~ Henry Ford
At least I have the personal benefit of being able to totally and completely ignore all this banning petrol and diesel fuelled cars crap. Not only that, because I live in a democracy I can cast my vote in ways designed to discomfort the current crop of lightweight, insane, political pygmies. (And that’s an insult to pygmies and the mentally ill.)
Meanwhile, the Lotus 7 is 60 years old this year. Now that’s a great car.
read about the Seven