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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blah Blah Blah: Niko's Preschool Talent Show

At the end of my son's preschool year, he had a talent show. "What do you want to do?" we asked him.

He's a smart kid and good at many things, but not singing, dancing or typical talent show stuff. I suggested doing a song from one of the Czech fairy tales his mom loves. Who else is going to sing "Svítí Slunce and Hlavou" at the show?

We thought it was a great idea, but he was undecided. Then one night a week later when I was at work, he told his mom: "I want to do the Blah Blah Blah song."

"Blah Blah Blah" is a song by KRS-One and Just-Ice that I've played in the car for him and his little brother. It's fun and clean. I need those two suburban white kids to know what hip-hop is. I just never expected Niko to pick it for the talent show.

Yet I was stoked that he did. The lyrics are about the excessive amount of much blah-blah in the world. Some of it is more related to the music industry, so I decided to rewrite it to be more preschool relevant.

I gave him some pointers on how to memorize the piece. Performing spoken word has made me better at it than I ever expected. I read it aloud repeatedly and bit-by-bit stop looking at the page until I don't need to. You need to start early, keep the text in your pocket and live with the words until they stick.

I never expected him to step up without text in hand, but with a week to go he had it nailed. That's my boy.

I hoped to find an instrumental version of the song, but never did. The beat is a bit too quick anyway. He did it a cappella instead. We never planned any choreography. I'm not sure what he's doing with his knees.

I've been calling him NIK-Zero.

The audio is crappy. Here are the lyrics to help you understand. Many of the words are mine, but some are bitten directly from KRS-One's first verse.

Hey, hey, hey
Yo, what these cats saying, man?
Man, to me...

All I hear is blah-bitty-blah-blah
People always talking that blah-bitty-blah-blah
The news is blah-blah-blah
Who's the new blah-blah?
She's the new blah-blah
Hanging out with blah-blah
Now blah-blah
Read about the latest blah-blah
Some blah-blah
Just bought another blah-blah
Blah-blah-blah on 500 channels
Nothing to watch but blah-blah and wild animals
Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah is in the video
Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah is on the radio
Blah-blah all day
And blah-blah all night
Nothing but blah-blah
Means something's not right

I keep away from the blah-blah-blah
On the TV, the tablet and computah
So give me a ball, a paint brush, a pen
I'll go down the slide and I'll go down again
Give me a book and a good place to read
Fresh air and sunshine are all that I need
I'd rather sing a song or stare at the stars
Than soften my head with blah-blah-blah-blah...

N-I-K-O doesn't need blah-blah
I'd rather cheer rah-rah-rah
Or sing tra-la-la
Or dance cha-cha-cha
While my sister says gah-gah-gah
And my brother laughs hah-hah-hah
Then spend the whole summer doing blah-blah-blah
Go to school in the fall saying dah-dah-dah
Brains are muscles
They need exercise
Feed brains good things
And they'll become wise
So when school is done at LLCA
Keep using your brain or it'll go away
Or fill your head with pudding and tar

By surrounding yourself with blah-blah-blah-blah...

For the next two months you'll see me promoting our local National Drive Electric Week event with gusto. September 19 in Liberty Lake, Washington. I may be building a page dedicated to electric cars and solar power. Still in love with my Leaf.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Inland Northwest EV/PV Group Showing Off its Cars at Felts Field

Stay current. Go solar. Drive electric.

The Inland Northwest EV/PV Group, which works to bring awareness to electric vehicles (EV) and photovoltaic solar power (PV), is holding a photoshoot Wednesday, July 1. The event will be at Pemberton & Sons Aviation at Felts Field at 6:30 PM. The media and curious drivers are encouraged to attend.

The group is led by Jorgen Rasmussen, engineer for Frencken America in Liberty Lake. He knows that the best transportation for the environment is an electric car charged with solar power. Many people have misconceptions about electric vehicles. They have not yet learned EVs are powerful, easy to maintain, smooth and clean with plenty of range for most drivers. As the charging infrastructure improves, owning an EV will become even easier.

The automotive industry responds to its customers. It designs and builds vehicles it knows will sell. When the public demands cleaner vehicles, the industry will deliver the products. Automakers do not currently perceive a strong demand. The Inland Northwest EV/PV Group aims to create that desire by enlightening the public.

An electric car is only as clean as the power charging it. Electricity sourced from coal-burning plants results in a polluting electric car. An EV charged by solar or hydroelectric produces no emissions. Adding solar power to a home is not complex. Home owners can even see their meters run backwards and their bills turn into checks.

March 16, the group held a photoshoot at Avista's Upper Falls Dam on the Spokane River. With the group's help, Avista is showing the public what it's doing to make a cleaner power grid. In addition to hydroelectric power, Avista has built a solar farm in Spokane Valley with 1512 panels. The Community Solar project will allow Avista customers to lease a panel for $1400 each then receive approximately $1800 in bill credits over five years.

The EV/PV group is gearing up for National Drive Electric Week in September. On Saturday the 19th, they will host an education event at The Cork House in Liberty Lake from 9 AM to 1 PM. EVs from Tesla, BMW, Nissan, Chevy, Think Global and Spokane's own Commuter Cars will be available for test drives.

To stay on top of Inland Northwest EV/PV events, especially National Drive Electric Week, join the Facebook group and register with National Drive Electric Week.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Five Things Eighty Six Has Been Doing Instead of Blogging

Do you have an old friend you haven't talked to for a while? So many things have happened since you last spoke, you don't know where to start. Not knowing where to begin or how to explain your distance, you never get around to talking to that old friend.

That's what my blog has become. Three months since my last post. Feels like it would take a tome to summarize all the happenings.

But this is the internet. No one wants a tome. Let's do a list of five instead.

5. Buying an Electric Car

2011 Nissan Leaf, to be exact. As an academic exercise for Best Green Cars, I began to study the market for used electric and hybrid vehicles. Most of what I write about for BGC are exotic concepts, dreams of the future and expensive premium cars. What's out there for the average family person like myself?

I realized one of the cars that retained its value the worst was the original year (2011) of the Nissan Leaf. Consumers in general were wary of the technology and were waiting for it to improve. Furthermore, a small number of Leafs in Arizona suffered in the desert heat and lost a significant amount of battery range in the first year. Nissan reacted by modifying the warranty. A seller's loss is a buyer's gain, in my case.

So, a 2011 Leaf with 20,000 miles or so is selling for around $12,000. It was $35,000 new. Check to see if it's from Arizona, of course. But a four year old Leaf will still get around 80 miles of range. That's plenty for the average commuter. It will charge in your garage overnight. To be specific, from zero to full with a 110 volt plug and the supplied charging cord, it will take about 20 hours. Half that with a 220 connection and an after-market charging appliance worth a few hundred dollars.

And they're quick, too. Electric power is different from gas. Torque and horsepower are fully available at 1 RPM. It has only about 115 horses but a little over 200 pound-feet of torque. Quietly, it gets off the line in a hurry. It does not perform like an economy car.

And it has good room and visibility. It's not an econobox. I'm 6'1" and 230. I have plenty of elbow and head room. I hate blind-spots. When I look over my shoulder, I can see just fine. And two car-seats fit in the back.

So, when we're going long distance or taking all three kids, we take the minivan. When fewer than all of us are going around town, we take the Leaf. I'm not going to get heavily statistical here, but we're saving probably $80 in gas a month. We spend much less than $10 a month to charge the Leaf.

I think the #1 reason I went electric is because I'm a cheapskate. Sure, I love blue sky and fresh air, too, but my car payment is $1 less a month and my fuel costs shrank considerably.

Want some advice on finding the right green car? Just ask me. I'm full of it. I'm full of that, too.

4. Impersonating a Rock Star

The restaurant I work for has live music every Friday and Saturday night. We have a rotating selection of rock/blues bands. One of my favorites is The Nerve. One night after they were done playing, we were sipping beer. I mentioned my writing addiction and they suggested I get on stage with them sometime. I declined, knowing that they are experienced professionals and I don't belong in their spotlight.

The topic came up again later and eventually I said: "Hell with it." I did "Secrets for the Man" to the tune of "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed. It was a blast. If ever they were playing and I got off early, I'd do a bit with them.

Our bartender mentioned to another one of our bands that I'd read with The Nerve. They were interested, too. It kept spreading. Now I've performed with three of our bands and will do so while still on the clock.

What I itch for now is the chance to rehearse with somebody and have a dedicated performance with a bigger crowd. I want to have time to write songs and help make original music.

It's great fun and hugely flattering to realize a few musicians are playing along, taking cues from you.

3. Looking For More Work

I work routinely with Bright Hub and Best Green Cars, but I'm looking for more. I work at the restaurant four nights a week, rather than five, and want to work only three or two by the time my oldest gets to kindergarten. Working nights is cool when the kids are pre-school age. I get to take him to school, do field-trips and play around in the afternoon. But when my son starts getting home from school at 2:30 or 3 and I have to work at 4, it's going to suck.

So, I need more writing work. After a couple years of building my resume, I think I can look for writing jobs with the same strategy I use when hunting for restaurant jobs.

Rather than responding to Help Wanted signs, I go to places I want to work. Whether or not they think they need someone, I know they need me. I'm valuable and useful.

So I'm getting on the virtual road to spread resumes and samples. I'm focussing on what I know and like: hospitality, green cars, football, food, cigars and beverage.

But I figured if I directed someone back to my blog and it showed I hadn't written in three months, it wouldn't be flattering.

2. Being a Monkey

My family is fascinating. And time-consuming. And I adore them.

My wife and I attended a parent-teacher conference for out five year old boy. (Things that make you fee like a grown-up.) Apparently, he's an academic beast. I knew this, of course. He's bilingual, has been reading for two years, asks fantastic questions and has a great imagination. He's very sweet and helpful to his class-mates, too. Before we sent him to preschool, he was so shy he was nearly afraid of other kids. No more.

Our three year old boy is the physical one. Since he first looked up at his big brother, he's wanted to follow him. Therefore, he figured the walking thing out at nine months of age. Yet where his brother was too timid to get involved in gymnastics or any other sport, he has jumped right in. He was recommended for the 3-5 year old gymnastics class a few months before his third birthday.

Their baby sister has not beaten my son's 9 month record for learning to walk, but she's almost there. She has an appetite to be proud of. Early on, she stopped eating the bland, boiled homemade baby food. She wants just what we're having, spices and all, but in smaller pieces. If "pppbbbllllttt" is a word, she's already talking.

My wife is an angel. She still hasn't slept for over five years. Some time soon I'll re-educate her on the meaning of fun. She's getting back into painting just barely but has not realized how good she is. All I need to brighten my day is to hear her laugh.

1. Thinking of Writing

I've become a mercenary. I write for promised cash only. Sometimes this leads me to learn new stuff, which is great. I never would be driving an electric car if necessity didn't cause me to study them.

Other times this puts me on topics I care little about. No, this doesn't mean the one you paid me to write. I'm talking about the other guy.

Deep inside I still want to write my stuff, although I can't dedicate the time or energy to something history taught me won't sell. Just before I totally starved creatively, the music thing popped up and my pulse returned. I have few pieces are bouncing around my imagination:

Don't Say Blue. A blues piece where the central rule is I can't mention the blues. "When you left, you took the yellow from my green. I feel like purple without the red." It would go great with a weeping, wailing electric guitar.

I Told a Lie. This tune has been echoing in my skull since before I started working with musicians. "Once I told a lie, nothing would return me to the truth." I have a drumbeat, a bridge and a rhythm for the guitar and bass. I just need the lyrics. Time, scarce time.

You Don't Know Me if you Don't Know My Wife. A bit about how I'm defined by my family (aka Room-Mates). It was supposed to be a Valentine's Day delivery, but again, time.

Off to track down more employment. Somewhere is the right partner for me. Poets and advertising go well together. Give me a certain space, a theme and an audience and I'll give you strong, evocative language with just the right tone and rhythm.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Post Super Bowl Depression and Building Electric Cars

Photo by S. Monte Kase

It's been a long time since I've done a post and I owe you one. If it wasn't for Kathe Frahm's "Seattle Seahawks and Old Women" pieces (scroll down and read them, please) nothing new would be up here.

Kathe got right to work after the Super Bowl expressing her feelings about the loss. I could scarcely handle my emotions about it and clammed up.

But let's settle this. About the interception. Certainly running the ball with Marshawn Lynch was the highest percentage choice, but everyone new that was coming. I'm okay with attempting a pass to surprise the Patriots. On second down with one timeout, you can run or throw. If you run on second down and are stopped, you use the time out and then have to pass or risk running out of time.

I'm not okay with throwing an inside slant. Risky move. You need to throw something that either a Seahawk catches or it goes out of bounds. A fade to the corner or something high in the back of the end zone. Preferably with a run fake and a roll out so Russell Wilson has the choice to run. Too many things can go wrong with a pass in the middle of the field. Something did go wrong.

Anyway, I can't change that. Still a good team with a bright future that was a couple feet away from winning the Super Bowl.

Now about my blogging. It's not that I haven't been writing. I just haven't been writing here. I've been busy with Bright Hub and Writer Access. Through WA I connected with a person building a website about electric and hybrid cars. I've done a lot of work for that site and have become passionate about the subject.

Check out work by me and others at Best Green Cars.

I have become pleasantly surprised that the electric car future is actually getting brighter. Sure, powerful and greedy forces are still pushing gasoline like crack. Yet great green vehicles are on the horizon.

Hate to wait? Build your own. While BGC is primarily about new and future vehicles, I have been trying to shine a light on the fascinating world of EV conversions. A number of creative and ingenious people are gutting gasoline cars and installing electric power-trains.

I hunted down some interesting cars and people, primarily through, and received a strong response. Maybe too strong. I was hoping for one interview and ended up with several. Now I'm hoping to get the green light to put them all on the site, but it isn't up to me.

A couple profiles of converters are on their way to BGC already. I'm not sure exactly when, but I'll let you know. Because good people took the time to answer my questions and share their stories, I'm going to mention them here and now.

Ben Nelson's Electro Metro

Ben took a $500 Geo Metro, removed the internal combustion parts and sold them for $550. Then he installed a forklift motor and a dozen batteries. It ain't fancy, but for less than $1500 it gets him down the road with zero emissions.

Photo by Benjamin Nelson


S. Monte Kase has been disemboweling and electrifying gas-powered cars since the seventies, despite everything the government, oil companies and auto makers can do to stop him.

Photo by EV-Concepts

Randy bought a previously converted Pontiac Fiero. He has done repairs, upgrades and very technical interior work to make it better than any Fiero ever was.

Courtesy of

This Frenchman has built is own electric vehicle completely from scratch. It looks like nothing on the road. It's an amazing project.

Photo by Jean-Yves Belet

To compete in the 24 Hours of LeMons (a wacky event for cars costing $500 or less) John converted this Datsun convertible to electricity. He is one of the only EVs to ever race in this series.

Courtesy of

Dietrich has converted a Scirocco and built a very detailed blog about what he has learned. To build your own EV, you have to do a lot of learning. Start by learning German.

Courtesy of

What I've learned about EV conversions is that the resulting machine is simpler than what it was before. It takes some study and some tinkering, but you can do it. It can be street legal.

I don't have the time to do it, but I could if I wanted to. If my eldest son was older, we'd be building his first car. He's certainly smart enough to do it and I have a wrench. We'd make a great team.

More on my feelings about green cars coming soon. Until then, investigate Best Green Cars. The man behind the site is passionate, honest and deserves some support.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Seattle Seahawks and Old Women: One Last Yard

(Editor's Note: We all deal with Post-Super Bowl Depression in a different way. The wrenching, shocking finale inspired Kathe to get her feelings written down almost instantly. My reaction was to think about the game as little as possible for several days, hence the late publication of this post. Please enjoy the last "Seattle Seahawks and Old Women" until September.)

Contributed by Kathe Frahm

One old woman was not in the rec room. She did call and say she was in Maui and would forgo the waves and beach and sun to stay inside and watch the game. The old women appreciated her sacrifice for their Seahawks.

The snack table was loaded with every kind of food. None of it real expensive and most of it homemade. The Hawk blue and green cake did not get made. The old woman in charge of that had a painful attack of shingles and just couldn't bake. There was plenty to eat though. One old woman put a big 12 candle on her toffee cookies.

Everything was laid out carefully with all the spoons, forks, plates and napkins so no one had to get up to get anything during the game.

Old women watch TV. A lot of TV. They work to keep up with the predictions, point spreads and Vegas odds making, but not understanding all that leaves them unsure of just what is going on. Listening to explanations from some of the more informed old women doesn't much help. They just want the game to be on, their boys to win and the snack table fully stocked.

A highlight is always the million dollar commercials. The most giggles were for the Viagra spoof for Fiat and awwws for the Budweiser puppy and Clydesdales. 

The National anthem and fighter jet fly-over always brings cheers from the old women and the scene of our troops far away brought a few tears.

The game was everything the old women hoped it would be. Losing hurt. Their boys played so well with all they had and as was typical of the season's games, it all came down to the last few minutes. It seemed so easy for Russell to just hand off the ball at the Patriots' goal to Marshawn and win. That didn't happen.

The old women picked up the leftover snacks, put the couch back in the hall and just went to their apartments. This was one loss they all shared. They have had many other losses much worse than that of a football game. They still hope for the best.

One old woman said that the Hawks will see to it that many of their boys will get much bigger contracts for 2015. So many of the players are all still under 30 years old and have good prospects for their future football careers.

It is the nature of old women to look toward better times. Some have left the bad days behind. Others carry them around. But for a time, the rec room was a place for shared screams, laughter and really inappropriate comments on the nature of watching beautiful young men in tight pants.