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A Lifetime of Stoopid

Self portrait: Curmudgeon at 58

Self portrait:  Puckerbrush Curmudgeon at 58

You ever been able to look back and pinpoint exactly where your life took a turn onto a different road?  Uh huh, me too.  Once upon a time,  schools in America actually taught subjects you had to master before they allowed you to pass on to the next grade or graduate.  Novel concept that has been sidestepped and deemed unnecessary in 21st Century Estados Unidos.  My downfall was Chemistry class in high school and college.  My high school chem classes were taught by a pair of opprobrious males that pushed that profligate envelope daily.  I can’t fault the school system;  it was recognized as tops in the State year after year.  As further proof of its’ legitimacy, my good friend Joel and his lovely and talented wife were products of the same same schooling.  Perhaps my focus on recreational drugs (statute of limitations long passed) and relentless pursuit of curvaceous hippie chicks diluted my classroom presence.  The final chapter of my academic career was written at the University of Tennessee.   I failed Organic Chemistry -twice.   Sure, I can say it was partially due to the bad luck of the draw.  I got the same professor two semesters running who could have been a fearsome Taliban Mullah with minor adjustment. Call it whatever; fate/karma/she who is a bitch intervening, it is what it is.

So ended my academic pursuits ‘long about 1980 or so.  The last 35 years have been spent relying on innate wit and a goodly portion of walking around sense but there was always a chasm of stoopid when it came to electricity and/or math. I always sought that empirical moment of cosmic clarity where I would say ” Ahhhhh! So THAT is how it works!”.  Never happened and probably ain’t gonna happen since my CRS* disease gets seemingly worse with each passing day.  Folks learn how to work around their short failings.  I had a truck driver once that couldn’t read a lick and he would blithely take a run to NYC or Boston.  Never did figure out how he managed but it was a repeatable feat.  Y’all all know I got a to-do list for 2014 and I am steadily working it down as the days roll by. As much as a busy gate will allow anyway. One of the goals is my HAM radio license. I am studying up (almost) daily and the Tech portion is in the bag. I want to get my General license as well while I am at it and that is going harder. Lots o’ math and I struggle. Seems to me they want me to explain the theory behind a flux capacitor or somesuch and that is quite a leap for a fella who just barely understands what happens when you key up a mic and say ‘Breaker One Nine.  Anybody got their ears on?’

Folks who live in  RVs got an insight into how every day useful 12 volt power can be. Up the awareness ante several more levels if you have spent the last 4 years offgrid hooked to a generator like me and the K-minator.  All electricity does NOT come from poles. Most of the things I do every day can be accomplished starting out with a 12 volt battery.  The few things that can’t are realized when you add an inverter in the mix.  I am wont to make any permanent upgrades to the Princess Palace just because its’ useful life is limited.  Seeing as how things are still not looking all that rosy on the Home Front I feel compelled to lessen my reliance on  infrastructure.GOV.

Pelican case 12 volt portable power supply

Pelican case 12 volt portable power supply

Stay with me here………  HAM radios run off of 12v which plays right into my plan which is ‘Crawl until you understand all the responsibilities that come with walking.’   I decided it would be a practical learning experience to rig up a portable 12 volt power supply for the HAM radios and anything else I decided to plug in there.  I am going to fore go all the Amazon links because that gets time consuming when I have to jump up every few minutes to go do some gate guard stuff. I’ll just leave it to y’all to follow my Amazon Link if you do any buying on Amazon. It is always greatly appreciated.  Just ask if you want to know any of the particulars about the box.

 

 

 

 

The basics of the Power Box:

  • Pelican 1430 hard case
  • 12v 35ah AGM battery
  • Jetstream regulated power supply
  • Anderson Power Pole connectors/outlets
  • Powergate transfer switch/battery charger
  • Variety of Marinco and Blue Sea outlets, buss bars and fused power blocks inc. USB ports
  • Morningstar Sunsaver 10l solar controller
  • 10ga/12ga wiring

What you end up with is a 12v power supply which will trickle charge the battery when not in use. If the 110v is disconnected it swaps over to battery power.  The solar charger/controller will keep the battery fully charged if no wall power is available. The Box will run/charge most phones, iPads, Kindles etc and run up to 2 HAM radios at the same time.

This Power Box was/is a learning exercise for my next project which will be a 1kW totally portable offgrid power supply.  The components and theory are mostly identical albeit the Power Box is a scaled down example.  I have already made the first purchase for this project – a TrippLite RV 2000W 12V DC to AC Inverter and it is sitting in the back of the Big Ass Suburban right now.  It is gonna take months to save the money to make this happen (Hit the Amazon Link y’all LOL!) and put it all together. At any rate it keeps me outta the bars.

Let me close out this week by telling everyone how fortunate I am (or we are).  Miss K fully embraces the NOMAD lifestyle as do I.  She jump started the HAM radio project and pushed me forward on the portable solar plan as well.  We are living in challenging times right now and the world is a perilous place. I do not see that situation changing for the better any time soon. If you feel a tweak in the back of your brain that the World may not be as fine a place as all the News Talkers let on, there is still time to gain some independence and control more of your future.  Your partner needs to be on board with this as well.  Just talk it out! Your partner may be as concerned about the future as you are.

*CRS – Can’t Remember Shit

End Note:  Too Long in the Wasteland by James McMurtry from the Too Long in the Wasteland cd

McMurtry  –  2010 SXSW at Threadgill’s

 

 

 

 

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12 comments to A Lifetime of Stoopid

  • Richard Boyd

    Damn! I thought I owned the corner on stupid. Can’t think of anyone else I’d rather share it with than you. Scary picture (58) but charming in an oblique kind of way.

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  • joel

    Andy, for decades I pondered why an otherwise intelligent person would find chemistry interesting. That’s after I took a year of general chem, a quarter of analytical chem, a year of biochem and a quarter of physical chem. OK, I confess I did find some of biochem interesting. But as the son of a chemical engineer, I could only look at folks like my dad and wonder.

    Eventually, I came to appreciate the interest chemistry holds for the curious mind. The problem is that college chemistry is usually taught badly. Intro courses in particular are turfed off on profs whose research careers no longer support their salary. It’s punishment. And organic chem has, for years, been the gatekeeper for medical school, not a way to understand the chemistry of the organic world. I was successful in those courses when I finally figured out the gig is memorizing, not understanding.

    So don’t beat yourself up over chemistry.

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    • Andrew

      Joel,
      You are exactly right. Organic chemistry was a requirement for entry to Veterinary School and I blew it.

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      • joel

        Heh. Forgot to add a year of organic chem to the list above. I got a D in 2nd quarter organic the first time I took it. Right around then, at the end of my 2nd year in college, was when I decided to buckle down and study. I took 2nd quarter org over and got an A the 2nd time. I can’t say I’m a better man for it, and certainly not a better chemist because of it, but it proves that I figured out the algorithm, at least at UT-K–don’t think about it, just memorize it.

        BTW, we’re up over 3 MWh on solar power generation since the end of July 2013. With four months to go, my lovely and talented wife is betting we’ll top 6 MWh by the end of July 2014.

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        • Andrew

          Joel,
          Is your generated electricity all going back into the grid?

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          • joel

            We generate less than we consume over the course of a month. At any one point in time, we may be putting power into the grid (we have a two-way meter) but we are billed monthly on net metering. That’s the way I want it. Ameren pays a small fraction of the commercial rate for any overage, so I only want to offset usage at the full rate.

            I couldn’t justify the capital investment in batteries, either.

            I have been thinking about a hybrid plug-in, but both our cars have plenty of life in them. Maybe if gasoline prices spike.

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          • Andrew

            Good solar panels are given a 20+ year lifespan. Good controllers? 10 years maybe? I have computers that old that are still functional. Batteries are the weak link for sure. 5-7 years of you start out with good quality and baby them with monthly health checks. Neglected batteries can go south in a few short months if not charged properly. I have gotten to where I keep temp adjusted GOOD quality battery maintainers on all the batteries that do not see daily use.

            It is ALL about the money. If I did not have access to electricity, I would pay whatever it cost for the panels and batteries. Sad to say I do not believe a hybrid would function very long in our environment. When I see one traversing a jungle road in Guatemala or a daily driver Sub Sahara — maybe it will be a consideration. The Big Ass Suburban is currently in the shop for front axles, seals, bearings and a cracked front wheel hub. All due to the beating it takes on the roads down here.

            I can see a half dozen flare stacks burning from our location. Burning off excess gas that is not profitable to put into a pipeline. BIG flares that burn night and day. I daresay one weeks worth of gas being burned away could probably satisfy my needs for a year or more.

            Our energy windfall in the Eagle Ford is all about the money as well. Let the oil price dip below $90/barrel and watch how quick this becomes a ghost town.

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  • Steve Davidson

    Hello Mr AndyJ, I’ve greatly enjoyed your blog, as a curmudgeon in training myself. In reading about your intentions of eventually getting into solar power for your palace, I finally felt compelled to recommend a couple of links I have run across while doing research on offgrid solar for my motorhome. Handybob’s blog is the best diy resource I’ve come across. (He seems to be a bit of a curmudgeon himself) @ http://handybobsolar.wordpress.com/the-rv-battery-charging-puzzle-2/
    The best 12v solar panels/deal I ever found (in spite of the high shipping cost) is at the Amazon link here (unfortunately currently out of stock)
    http://www.amazon.com/158w-Monocrystalline-Solar-Panel-Pack/dp/B007VPQP5Q/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
    I have eight of these panels that I am trying to wedge onto my MH roof, and eight 6volt 100Ah golf cart batteries in my basement storage compartment for a total useable Ah rating of 400Ah’s at 12volts. I am also using an Ames Power combination mppt solar controller charger and 3000w pure sine inverter. http://www.theinverterstore.com/3000-watt-pure-sine-solar-inverter-charger.html
    I greatly enjoy your excellent prose. Keep up the good work. Hope for the best and try to be ready for the worst.
    Yours truly, SteveD.
    P.S. I have no financial interests in any of these items, the links are just for reference.

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    • Andrew

      Thanks Steve!
      The concept of solar is pretty easy to grasp. Picking out the proper components is the hard part!

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  • When you get your HAM license shoot me an e-mail, I’m working on a small project related to the KTD I put together, using Packet Radio. Depending on the range you and I might be able to send packet on 2M back and forth.

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