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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 EVAlbum.com, 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


EV-Concepts

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 cztree.blogspot.com


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 EVAlbum.com


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 EVAlbum.com

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.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Seattle Seahawks and Old Women: Sent Packing


It was quiet in the rec room during the first half of the Green Bay Packers game. The old women's "can't lose" attitude was a little shaky with their boys down 16 to 0. They all wanted to just give Russell a hug and tell him it was going to be OK 

Some old women who threw up their hands in defeat were roundly booed and told to cut it out and keep cheering their boys on. One old man who was born in Wisconsin as a Packers fan came in for a while. He had to leave though when the Hawks started getting some momentum going and the old women screamed. Two other old men stuck it out and one even helped serve food. The perfect host.

The one old woman who was counting down how long it takes to make a TD for the Hawks to catch up was getting anxious. Most said to relax and remember when Russell threw TDs in the last few seconds to win games. Knowing it wasn't over, made the old women hope for a Russell, Marshawn or Kam miracle play.

They got to overtime after the Chris Matthews got the ball on an onside kick. Marshawn took it in for a TD to tie and it just got better from there.

In overtime Russell threw 3 perfect passes to move down the field. The last one found Jermaine Kearse in the end zone and the miracle win.


Some of the old women wept right along with Russell during his post-game interview. It has been a long season for them. But they saw how fun and how much it meant to show up, scream loud and long, and share this Seahawk team.

The Packers and Aaron Rodgers with Eddy Lacy played a remarkable and fierce game.

The old women were fearful their boys would not catch up. Every Hawk offensive play was stopped short. When Russell took it in while the Packers' defense was mobbing Marshawn on the other side of the goal, the old women were hopeful this game could be turned around. The tide did seem to turn when punter Jon Ryan faked the punt and and passed it to Garry Gilliam for a complete surprise TD. The old women just shrieked and laughed and loved the show.


Plans were being made for Super Bowl Game day. The old women and the one old man who stayed sorted out who was going to bring what food and maybe some spiked Hawaiian punch. A '12' banner and a beefcake picture of Russell on the bulletin board set the tone. The old man wasn't too pleased and said if he put a scantily clad female picture up there the old women would have a fit. One woman said, "Whatever."


The old women and their Hawks need the 2 week rest until the Superbowl. They hope all that sun and warmth in Arizona won't distract their boys.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Seattle Seahawks and Old Women: Panther Kittens


Contributed by Kathe Frahm

The old women are happy. They are just waiting for their boys to drop Cam Newton, in his tracks. The last time the Hawks beat this team, Newton made a real display of arrogance the old women found excessively annoying. True, the Panthers had won 5 of their last games, but the old women couldn't wait for Russell, Chancellor, Wagner and Kearse to give them a football clinic.

One old woman bet the others Newton would challenge Richard Sherman and throw to his side of the field. They know QBs avoiding Sherman is a sign of respect and his ability to make big interceptions. Richard picked him off. The forced fumbles also made the old women scream. Kam Chancellor's 89 yard TD interception and 2 leaps OVER the Panther's line to block field goal attempts for some old women were the highlights of the whole year. They do love showmanship and they got it in this game.


Russell is confident and calculates in split seconds that his receivers are where he wants them to be. Some favorites of the old women are Luke Willson and of course their Marshawn. Luke has so much fun when he gets to into the end zone. Marshawn is the one Hawk nearly all the old women would want on their side in a fight. They marvel at his power to just keep going and his way of dragging any team's defenders with him.


So many of their boys have shown great talent and courage in this season. Last year even the most faithful of Hawk fans went into this part of the play-offs with a certain dread and fear of failure. The old-timers were promising a Hawk melt-down. Like always. Not so many naysayers this year. Watching Pete Carroll shepherd these remarkable young athletes to a winning season, has been a wonderful way to spend game day together, eating junk food and working to out scream each other.

The Green Bay Packers are not a team to take for granted. Even injured with an calf strain, their QB Aaron Rodgers is worthy of respect. RB Eddie Lacy is said to be fierce much like Marshawn, but may be limited in play due to a bad knee.


One of the old men called an old woman sick because she said all their boys have to do is aim for Rodgers' bad leg. You'd think he had learned that the blue-tinted pin curl and fluff disguises the fierce "just win" competitor inside.

Sometimes the old women ask each other why these beautiful young men, their team, are important to them. They have had heroes in the past. Famous people, men and women, moved through their lives. Now, the sheer fun of winning almost all the time fills a need to claim some ownership of accomplishment. A small thing, but important just the same.