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Indiana, United States
Debt free empty nesters...ready to stretch our wings. Life is good and we plan on making it even better. This blog is mostly about our trips to Vieques Puerto Rico, with a few odds and ends thrown in about our life after the mortgage.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Fine Art of Making Fire....

I have a little routine I follow sometimes, when I'm in the mood for a fire. On my way back to the point I grab the necessary tinder ingredients to make a fire. I never really break my stride, just grabbing a handful of this past fall's goldenrod, now dead and dry as cotton, a piece or two of sassafras and handful of beach leaves, paper bag brown but still clinging to the beach limbs. No matches are required nor is a lighter. This is friction based fire making in a purer more simpler form.

 


and I'm not talking Castaway style fire making either....

No, what I'm talking about is flint, steel and char-cloth. I purchased what is called a "striking iron" a very long time ago. It's a piece of hardened steel. Mine has a shape that allows me to wear it across the joints of my right hand. Flint is just any piece of flint I might happen to come across. Today I noticed a piece of gray flint as I was walking across a gravel driveway. I bent over and picked it up. I see flint everywhere. Last item is charcloth. I make my own charcloth. I cut up any old pair of blue jeans into 2" square pieces. Put the pieces into an old tin can. Cover the opening in the can with foil and poke a few holes in it. Toss the can into a fire and let it sit and smolder until the smoke just about stops. Take the can out of the fire and let it cool. Sometimes it might take an hour or two. What you have inside the can is carbonized pieces of blue jeans.  Put a small piece of charcloth on your flint and strike with the iron. If your aim is true a red hot sliver of iron will land on your charcloth and your on your way.

I know...I could just as easy grab a book of matches or a lighter and arrive at the same end, but that just isn't  nearly as rewarding. It's  a hobby of mine and hobbies need no justification.  So if you've got the time, take a walk back to the point while I build a fire....




:-)

November Video....

Just a video from our trip this past November. Orchid, Escondida and Blue beach.





:-)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday morning rant....


This mornings news fodder is rife with nuggets of stupidity.  This one I just can't leave alone.

THE NEW YORK TIMES
By DIANE CARDWELL


Published: December 16, 2011


The law to phase out traditional incandescent light bulbs was promoted as a simple, almost painless, change when Congress first passed it. By requiring that light bulbs use at least 25 percent less electricity, starting in 2012, the nation would use less energy, manufacturers would invent more efficient types of bulbs and the planet would be spared millions of tons of carbon emissions every year.


But the traditional light bulb — that lowly orb of glass, filament and threaded metal base — has become a powerful emotional symbol, conjuring both consumer anxiety over losing a familiar and flattering light source and political antipathy to government meddling.


On Friday, the House voted to delay enforcement of the new standards until at least Oct. 1, with the Senate expected to agree, as part of a last-minute budget deal to keep the government operating through the rest of the fiscal year. Republicans have vowed to press for a full repeal of the new rules.

“This was one of those things that resonated with a lot of people, especially in the election of 2010, where so much personal liberty had been eroded,” said Representative Michael C. Burgess, Republican of Texas, a state that recently passed a law to exempt bulbs made and sold within its borders from the federal standards. “The light bulb was what put a public face on it. People got it when you said, ‘Well, why should the federal government restrict my freedom on what type of light I use?’ ”  Full article here

---------------------------

First let me say that we use mostly CPF's (compact fluorescent) in our house. The decision was made for financial reasons. I did the math on what we could save v.s. the upfront costs and "I" chose to make the change. You know the drill...cutting living expenses as much as possible so we can afford trips to Vieques.

But this wrangling by congress and then the masses hoarding traditional incandescent 100 watt bulbs is just plain stupid. You've got the government claiming this is huge step towards energy independence, business salivating like Pavlov's dogs over another  new "government enforced" revenue stream and the consumers reacting like idiots.



The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Light Bulb Ban
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive



Seriously folks...I've got a better solution. Try not buying bottled water. You'll save yourself $400 a year (for a typical 4 person household) and you'll save over 45 million barrels of oil, satisfying the "green" mantra. No government intervention and no upfront costs to you. KISS (Keep it simple stupid). Just in case you want to do the math here's some links:

 U.S lighting energy usage
 Bottled water and energy
 Bottled water facts

If you don't think plastic is a problem on our beaches take a look at this picture from November of this year on Orchid beach:





  :-)












Sunday, December 11, 2011

Blue skies...Sunday drive...

Beautiful clear blue skies and a balmy 35 degree day beckoned me to take a Sunday drive. Lorrie had gone into town to a play with our daughter. Given the amount of sunshine I couldn't bring myself to go with and  sit inside. My destination was Bridgeton, not far at all from where we live. There was virtually no traffic, (maybe everyone else went to the play?), which enabled me to stop at will and take pictures.

Beans, corn, barns and bridges is what you'll find in this part of Indiana.  The old wooden post and beam barns are slowly being replaced by metal "pole" barns. They don't have nearly the character of the old barns.

Some of these barns I have driven by since I was very young.

This one used to house a combine. We always remember it because it's seemed impossible that the machine could fit inside the structure. It's days of housing equipment are over and it will probably be replaced by a newer structure in the not too distant future.

This stump might not look like much, but it was the most beautiful sugar maple you've ever seen in October. As I drove out towards my destination I noticed many of the old trees that lined the fields had been cut down. I'm sure some farmer got tired of dealing with the roots or figured he could get a few more square feet of field to sow.

Now this is something that is literally taking over the woodlots around where I live. When I used to hunt deer finding a place to hunt amounted to walking up to the farmers house and asking permission. Maybe offering a few choice cuts of your deer, should you end up successful. Now days it boils down to who's the highest bidder. Some of the woods I used to hunt are now leased.

The county where I  live is known as the "Covered Bridge Capital of the World" with 31 bridges. The crown jewel of the county is/was the Bridgeton covered bridge and mill.


The original bridge was built in 1868 by J.J. Daniels and was 245 foot long. I used the past tense here because in April of 2005 it was burned by an arsonist.

This is a picture of the bridge after the fire. It was a devastating loss to the community. Each  October, for 10 days,  nearly 2 million people come to this county of 17,000 people, many to see the Bridgeton bridge. Lorrie and I drove up to see the damage after the fire. It was a  sickening site.

But it didn't end there. The community came together and with donations of local trees and labor a new bridge was built and that is what I came to see, again,  on my Sunday drive today.




 We've visited the bridge often.  The shot above is Lorrie right after the new bridge was completed. We saw the logs laying in a hay field north of the burned bridge that were milled to build the new bridge. We watched the bridge construction as it progressed.

 Today I just decided to drive out to take a look at it again, especially since the sky was so blue.





This picture was taken right after the bridge was built and the wood was all new and clean.






As I walked onto the bridge I noticed all the graffiti that was collecting on the inside beams. The old bridge had the same sort of graffiti and added to it's character. I took a few shots of some of what was written.



First thing I noticed was all the new acronyms that the young people were using now. I can't really remember, but I doubt there was nearly as many texting acronyms on the old bridge beams.


This was a reoccuring theme among the graffiti. Two people had written for all the world, well at least the rural Indiana world, to see their love for each other....only to have it change.


 I got a kick out of how the graffiti often got updated.



Young and frustrated.....




It wasn't just young couples adding to the graffiti though. Here's a mom and daughter. I saw all sorts.



a young philosopher.....




On the way out I was looking at the mill and noticed the wooden guttering. I remembered how this guttering gave me the idea for the wooden guttering I put on the little outhouse back on our property. 

For more information on the bridge and Parke county Indiana click here

:-)


U.S. plays down Vieques cancer....


While the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry recognized that there is a higher incidence of cancer and other health problems on Vieques island compared with Puerto Rico, it found that there is no proof the problem is linked to U.S. military activity in the area.

The long-awaited preliminary report, issued on Thursday, was widely criticized by Puerto Rican officials and Vieques residents long resentful of health problems that they blame on the Navy, which used the tiny island as a bombing range for six decades.

The 361-page report by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly concludes a federal investigation into health problems on Vieques. In 2009, the agency pledged to review a much criticized 2003 report that found there was essentially no health risk from the bombing range, which was closed that year.

But critics point to a study by a former Puerto Rico health minister that found cancer rates on Vieques were 27 percent higher than on the main island. That study said there are no significant lifestyle differences between the two groups, and said it also detected a higher prevalence of other illnesses, including diabetes, asthma and epilepsy. And activists say that they will continue to fight for those who are ill.

"We have people from Vieques who got sick through exposure that could have been prevented if the agency had done its job," said local scientist Arturo Massol, who was invited to consult on the review but said he was never contacted. "As a result of that reality, this agency, which has dragged its feet, has become in part responsible for the damage to their health."


We believe that Viequenses are right to be concerned about their health, and we are proposing certain actions to ensure their health.
- Christopher Portier, director of the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry



U.S. officials maintain in the new report that the scientific data presented about island health problems was inadequate, limited and flawed, making it "difficult and uncertain" to interpret findings regarding chronic diseases. The report said elevated levels of certain chemicals in people's bodies could be attributed to causes other than military activity.

The agency suggested U.S. officials could work with the Puerto Rico government to obtain additional samples and keep track of health conditions on Vieques.
Vieques Mayor Evelyn Delerme said the report lacked credibility and offered no new information.

"It appears that this report is intended to be 'inconclusive by design,'" she said in a statement.

Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico's nonvoting in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he would request a congressional hearing to discuss the report's findings and obtain an update on the cleanup of unexploded munitions that began in 2005.

He called the report flawed.

"The health problems of Vieques residents have long been recognized," he said. "You have to ask yourself why the federal government has not made the effort to obtain information that will allow it to reach responsible conclusions."


SUMMARY

The 361-page report by the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry nearly concludes a federal investigation into health problems on Vieques, but critics said they would continue to fight for those who are ill.

U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, a Democrat from New Jersey, said the report did not address concerns about what he called alarmingly high rates of serious and disabling health care problems in Vieques.

"I am disappointed that the ... report provided more questions than answers," Rothman said. "It is astonishing that the ATSDR seems to still hold that decades of bombing on the island by the U.S. Navy with military ordnance pose no harmful health effects."

In April, Rothman proposed the Vieques Recovery and Development Act, which calls for creation of a toxic research center and hospital on the island among other things.

One of the report's key findings is that some Vieques residents are exposed to high levels of mercury from eating fish. That problem is not linked to previous military activity, said Portier, who suggested people eat fish low in mercury.

The report does warn that some areas of the former bombing range still present a risk.

"Recently collected data ... demonstrate the remaining potential for localized contamination, which, if people frequented those areas, could be of health concern," it stated.

The Navy has said its forces accidentally fired 263 rounds of ammunition tipped with depleted uranium on the Vieques range in 1999, violating federal law.

The bombing range closed in 2003 following years of protests about environmental risks and the 1999 killing of a Puerto Rican civilian guard by an errant bomb.

Hermogenes Marrero, a 59-year-old retired U.S. Marine sergeant living in Puerto Rico, blames his colon cancer and other ailments on toxins that he says he was exposed to while working at Vieques from 1970 to 1972.

He said he was surprised by the new report and accused the government of hiding information.

"When the Navy says one does not become sick from that, that is not true," said Marrero, who filed a claim against the U.S. government in 2002 and is still waiting for it to be resolved.

Also pending is a lawsuit filed against the federal government in September 2007 that names 7,100 claimants from Vieques, an island of about 10,000 people.

Mississippi lawyer John Eaves Jr. said the new report recycles conclusions from the 2003 report and demonstrates a lack of credibility.

"We're very disheartened," he said. "We thought the agency was truly going to take a fresh look as was promised."

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry is seeking public comment through March before issuing a final report that would include recommendations for unidentified future work to be done in Vieques.


Based on reporting by the Associated Press.


Read more: latino fox news
also of interest: time magazine

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday morning cause for pause....

Lorrie and I have a morning routine.  Each and every morning we sit and browse the news headlines (after checking the weather in Vieques, of course) while we drink our espresso. This morning we came across a news headline that just stopped us  in our tracks.



"Texas Woman Shoots Self and Two Children After Being Denied Food Stamps"

Now if that won't cause one to pause, nothing will. Our first reaction was ... how tragic and sad. To think that a person could arrive at that point, horrible....and the children. Like I said, it causes one to pause.

But this thing stuck with me today.  I started asking myself "Is this where we have arrived as a nation?" 

Why was there no family at all to help? Ok...maybe she was widowed and had no family, but if not then why was there nobody to help? Is it because of the way our society has fractured the family nucleus? Individualism and selfishness run rampant.

Why was there no other place in her community to turn, or rather, why did she not feel that she could turn to some community organization? How about a church? Why was the government the supposed solution?


 "The best government is that which governs least."
......Henry David Thoreau



It was reported that the young girl,12 years old, was updating her facebook page while the stand-off at the social services offices was happening. That obviously opens up  a few questions. Why did the girl have a cell phone  when they couldn't even feed themselves?  Could it have been a government program to offer free cell phones to low income families? Maybe something like this one:

  There are now 45.8 million Americans dependent upon food stamps for survival, 14.7% of the U.S. population. 
Food stamp usage has risen roughly 57% in since 2007. This is the highest  reported number since the program inception in 1969. It's a scary chart.

Seems to me that if we know of someone in need  shouldn't we then offer help, instead of leaving it up to the legislators to haggle over?  The very fabric of our society is fraying and is in danger of disappearing completely.  It could make a  real difference to someones life. 

It was reported this evening that the young girl died from the gunshot. Her brother is in critical condition.

Just a story that made me think today.....







Sunday, December 4, 2011

Out of sorts....


Hello?


Is there anybody in there?

Just nod if you can hear me.

Is there anyone at home?

Come on, now,

I hear you're feeling down.

Well I can ease your pain

Get you on your feet again.

Relax.

Pink Floyd/ Comfortably Numb


As I've already said in previous posts since our return, the transition back has been  tough for Lorrie and I.  We're not sure  why it seems so much different this time. The novelty of Vieques has definately wore off, but not exactly in the way we had expected. It's becoming really comfortable for us. We feel at ease when we're there and we miss it a lot. Is it because we're away from work and all the responsibilities of our life here in Indiana? We honestly don't know, but tend to feel that might be part of it. 

The weather since we've returned has been poor.

No...it's been depressening as hell. We've had, in the last two weeks only two days with some real sunshine. The below radar pattern seemed to be a permanant fixture here across Indiana:


I grabbed that screen-shot right as I sat down to write this post.

It's not been a total wash-out this weekend though. We had a break yesterday evening late and I was able to get out and take a walk back to the point. I even went way back deep to the far edge of the property and found a couple of my old friends.  It was so nice to get some fresh air. I took a few pictures along the way.



This is a buffer I keep mowed between the praire grass fields and the woods. Hooking around this leads to the path we take back to the point.


One of the bluebird houses on the property. The grasses turn a beautiful color this time of year.


I had ran the mower down the path right before we left for Vieques this time. The moss along the path seems to do better when I keep the leaves off of it.



I had a photography course in college. About half way through the semester the proff complained that all of my shots were in the evening with long shadows. She suggested I try and get some shots in different light. Actually it was the only time of day I had to take the shots. I still like long shadows.



I put this swing in when Jessica was probably 7 or 8. Not much use for a 20 year old college student now.





As you can see the fire pit hasn't seen much use either. Lorrie and I usually spend quite a lot of time back here, but this year it was either too wet (spring), too hot (summer) or too wet again (fall). Weird weather. But it's all still waiting on us.



Here's a shot off of the deck, the place Lorrie and I like to sit when the weather is nice. Reminds me of a Cialis commerical, sans tubs.



Outhouse looks kinda lonely standing there all by itself. There's a story why it was built. One evening while Lorrie and I were enjoying the deck and a pitcher of gin/tonics, I walked over to a tree to relieve myself, guy style. Lorrie complained that she had to walk all the way back to the house (actually the ATV was over there but she can't really drive it). She said "You should build me an outhouse over here". So I did.  We've talked about building a little cabin back here too.


I walked past the outhouse way down into the woods. On the way down I noticed all the moss growing on the roots of this maple tree, evidence of all the rain we've had lately. I decided to make my way back up one of the large ravines. I hadn't been in that part of the woods for a very long time. I came across a pair of our lawn chairs from when we first built the house.



Now before you start thinking that I just dump garbage in our woods let me explain, there's a story here. Where we live it can be very windy. We've got nearly 400 acres across from us and the wind howls across it. We had bought these chairs when we were building the house. They came from Sears and were not cheap at all. I had them sitting on the front porch of the house, before I had the railing installed.  After the third time of digging them out of the ravine, yes they blew off the porch all the way across the yard and into the ravine, gettting bent up and mangled in the process...after the third time I said enough, the woods can claim them.  I'm not trying to salvage the chairs again. I did get all the railing installed on the porch. Now when the "new" chairs blow across the porch they take out a spindle or too.

It was getting late so I started making my way back. I took this shot of the indian grass.


The indian grass really shines when the sun is low on the horizon. I like the way it looks this time of year.

:-)