Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cute. Efficient. Compact.

When giving tours of Wandrin Wagon's less than 200 square feet, those are some of the comments I've heard. Some would say that I may have taken minimalism a bit too seriously. Some have wondered out loud how I could live in something so small. Have to wonder what could make my home better or more livable. My home has a complete kitchen with a table and chair, a bed, and a bathroom. I "want" for nothing more in a home. A larger RV would have more floor space, more furniture, more slides, etc. All of that would mean -- more maintenance.

That 200 square feet is more than enough space to drag around all the basics for a home from dishes, to linens, to a few cleaning supplies. Unfortunately, that leaves enough space for a few things that I "want" to make my living more interesting -- such as a computer, iPad, iPod, cameras, (too many) books and satellite radio.

Minimalism is an important criteria when differentiating wants from needs. Perhaps the country's financial crisis could have been averted if more of the consuming public had been able to determine the difference.

If a minimalist home is your thing, check out Tumbleweed Houses to see some truly small plans for homes.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Snow On The Pumpkin

Not much chance of seeing snow on pumpkins in the Coachella Valley and the Palm Springs area. The day time temps are some where in the 80s. Night time temps get into the fifties most every night.

It's great and I'm wearing shorts every day. Actually, any time the temps are above 50, I am wearing shorts.

This is my kind of weather.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Hidden Palms Hike

The nearby Coachella Valley Preserve has several hiking trails over the desert terrain to the various palm "forests" that have found a water source along the San Andreas fault. Mostly marked trails, it is still a good idea to pay attention -- or bring a map. Familiar with the trails from previous year's hiking, this hike was a good excuse to get some badly needed exercise.

The trail/road at Hidden Palms.

The top of a palm tree is back lit by a mid morning sun.

Some portions of the trail are a challenge to a guy with balance problems.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Balancing The Ugly

Found myself in the Ford dealer's waiting room as Silver Slug was having an oil change. Passing time while reading on my iPad, another customer decided that the TV would be the perfect way to catch up on the news. After scanning the channels, he settled on some "news channel" (or is that opinion). With the shouting and the slurring political ads, it became hard to concentrate on what I was reading. I put the iPad away and headed out to wander around the car/truck lot.

Later back at Wandrin Wagon I was still stressing over what passed for TV news. Later in the day, I ended up at my Mac computer. The first random photo that appeared on the Mac's screen happened to be this rose. I needed that -- to balance the ugly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Car Show

The Palm Springs Air Museum was the location for a benefit with Chili Cookoff and car show. When it was possible to identify a car without looking at the logo, there was this 1964 Lincoln with a return to the "suicide doors" of the 1930s. I've always liked the simple lines of unstated elegance of the car.

There were other cars at the show that were restored to stock condition. There was a 1930 Cadillac (V16) and a 1930 era Rolls Royce among others.

There were also the usual recognizable shape of cars of years ago, but the car became something else as a result of the restorer's interpretation with the engine being the focus of the car. The hood is up and the engine has no grime -- anywhere.

In those long ago days, the cars were identifiable. Today, the only way to find a Lincoln in a parking lot is to look for the Lincoln logo. No unique styling today. They all resemble each other -- including colors.... And a luxury brand with a SUV model. What is this world coming to.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Shop Class As Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford

I could not improve on the book summary found on the cover of the book:

"On both economic and psychological grounds, Crawford questions the educational imperative of turning everyone into a “knowledge worker,” based on a misguided separation of thinking from doing, the work of the hand from that of the mind. Crawford shows us how such a partition, which began a century ago with the assembly line, degrades work for those on both sides of the divide."

The author asks questions with the implication who is going to repair the cars, the plumbing problem, the electrical problem, remodeling your home, etc. The design of cars these days is that the on board computers will determine where the problem is. Sometimes it may be right, but other times a wrong diagnosis requires a human brain to resolve the issue. Where will that skill come from.

Everyone knows a college graduate or post graduates who are looking for jobs to try to pay down the huge loans they took to get through college. And for what. Many have no skills that are readily useful to the hiring company. The college graduate will have to be trained.

Personal education history... I was lucky. Dad thought there was a better future for me than farming. Few boys from the country finished high school. Bouts with asthma and hay fever made me a poor candidate to consider farming as a career.

After the country grade school, it was eleven miles from the farm on the bus to DePere High School. As a farm kid, my roster of classes included an agriculture vocational class. No one really asked what I wanted. I was pretty sure I didn't want to be the part of the fourth generation of Treichel farmers in Morrison township. But there I was in Ag class and learned some tool skills and the latest in agriculture knowledge from the University of Wisconsin Ag School. However, since I had no intention of farming, that was the last year of vocational training in a classroom. After that it was all academia for me through the University of Wisconsin.

Yup. I proved that I could complete the required course work and get the degree. That made me trainable to the Bank of America when they hired me. Soon I was a computer programmer. I was good at it and have continued to enjoy programming. My latest coding was within Excel where I created code to solve Sudoku puzzles. Otherwise the Sudoku puzzles bore me. (Crossword puzzles are my choice. It's one way to stay current with the latest on TV.) 

However, even though I enjoyed programming, it was eight hours of mind numbing activity. To balance that mind numbing activity, my diversions over the years included: Wine making. Projects created of wood. House remodeling, Decks. Gardening. Hiking. Others included the search for the greatest cinnamon roll.

Data Processing or Information Technology was my ride to retirement with the last 15 years working for the computer manufacturer. It was a great ride. After all that academic training, when programming, I was essentially doing vocational work -- cranking out code. I was lucky. Right place. Right Time. Today many programming jobs are sent over seas where hourly rates are less.

Education today.... Considering drop out rates, does anyone ever ask why? Does anyone ever ask if academia is the right course for everyone. Perhaps we could keep some of those kids in school if there was something they could relate to. Today's education systems rarely have any kind of vocational program in the high school.

There is a serious problem in our education system. Each person is different with motivations and interests. Basic book education is important -- the three Rs. However, at some point there may be a better direction for some students. How about recognizing that everyone is not academically interested and allow students a vocational track after ninth grade.

That doesn't mean the student must stay on that track. After testing some phases of the vocational world, perhaps the academic world may be more attractive to the student. Same thing applies to the academic inclined. Perhaps the basics of car repair would be of interest.

Finally, how about a high school level course in "basic" economics and financial matters for all students -- from a check book, to a credit card, to planning for the future with savings.

The current education system doesn't seem to be working. Perhaps some new methods and approaches are required after doing education the same way for over a 100 years. This is not a good place for tradition.

Note: The photo was taken in the four stall "milking parlor" that Dad built in the early 50s. That was some of my vocational training. On the job milking cows.  Photo taken when I was 18/19.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wine Industry

Touring wine country around Paso Robles, once again I am amazed at the wine tasting buildings that are built at the wineries. The various themed buildings range in size from small and intimate to stadium sized structures. Some of the more opulent are built in a sprawling western style. Others use a castle motif including moat. I suspect much of the assets are a tax write off for the wealthy owner because of the agricultural connection.

Wondering how many California acres are planted to grape vineyards, I searched the internet. According to estimates in 2005, there are about 530,000 acres for wine grapes. Add to that another 350,000 acres of table grapes and raisin grapes. That total acreage is greater than the size of the state of Rhode Island. According to the Wine Institute, there were 2972 wineries in California in 2009. It appears there continues to be a demand for more wine as I noted many additional acres being prepared for grapes.

Using stone and brick in the construction of the winery tasting building seems to be the other common feature of the buildings. Much of the architectural detail is in the doors.

Wine tasting has gotten rather expensive. $10 isn't an unusual charge for three or four small tastes. Of course you get to keep the logo etched wine glass -- sometimes. Those wine glasses don't travel well in RVs -- without proper packing. Since my alcohol of preference is Crown Royal Whiskey or Christian Brothers Brandy, there really isn't much appeal for me at a wine tasting. Then there are sulfides which my body doesn't tolerate.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vicious Kitty

Kenya is the resident cat at the home of Yvonne and John. Noticing Kenya reclining on the rock and blending in, I grabbed my camera. A bit late, it is still a great photo. Check out those eyes.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hiked Once... Followed By Eating

With Yvonne and John in the lead, we were off on a hike. Probably about five miles. We caught up on our respective travels and lives. Then it was off to a late lunch at a cafe.

A couple of days later, they invited me to their house (and botanic garden including koi pond) for dinner.

No. We didn't have koi for dinner. John did a chicken (not one from his flock) on the rotisserie. Wow. Tasty. John also knows how to cook along with his many other talents. Followed by more talk as we resolved a very small portion of the world's problems -- and left many more for another time.

Knowing that I like to dine off the beaten path, they recommended Carnitas Michoachan in nearby Gilroy. Continuing the habit of eating, that was the destination for my lunch yesterday. The carnitas burrito was the choice. That was excellent. Tasty and tender. The green salsa was -- hate saying this -- the best I have ever tasted. More salsa. Ate the whole burrito. And felt stuffed the rest of the day.

Last evening's dinner was a small dish of vanilla ice cream -- with maple syrup.

Fasting for a day would be a good thing. Perhaps for some one else.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Above It All

When I found Grandpa's stilts as an early teen, those wimpy stilts where the steps were only a foot off the ground wasn't good enough for me. Soon I had built a set of stilts where those steps may have been three feet off the ground. The photo was taken when I was 19 or 20 to prove I could still walk and balance (there's that word again) my self atop a couple of sticks.

Much higher than that and acrophobia would kick in.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Another Potential Settling Place

Morgan Hill, CA has been placed on the short list.

  • Good year round weather.
  • No snow.
  • Close to ocean for visits.
  • Bay area is close from San Jose to San Francisco and Monterey.
  • Train to the city or catch Amtrak or -- perhaps even -- a plane.
  • Agricultural products range from wine to garlic to flowers to trees.
  • Numerous hiking trails.
  • US101 is a three lane freeway at Morgan Hill.
  • Whole Foods is 20 miles distant.
  • California traffic moves too fast.
  • Higher costs for car insurance and licensing/registration.

Just another option and something to think about.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book: "We Are Doomed: by John Derbyshire

Full title is "We Are Doomed: Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism". The author's blasting of "feel good" platitudes and beliefs was the reason I picked up the book. Book subject headings include diversity, sex, education, culture, religion, war, immigration and others. In each the author discusses the "progress" (or not) made in dealing with the issue.

Regardless of the reader's political bent, all can learn from what the author accepts as "what is." However, he proposes a more pessimistic approach may have worked as well with the same results. The author may appear racist, a misogynist or anti immigration. However, I assume the author -- with the history and information at hand -- wants the reader to really think about the issues rather than giving into what seems right.

Each author is biased and Derbyshire is no different. However, it might be a disturbing discovery to realize who we really are.

The book reminded me of a recently received "chain email". Searching the internet, I found this article on The Peaceful Majority. As I read the article, I had the nagging concern that the tea party group and the far right wing of the Republican party might also be a radical group -- who happen to have all the right answers for how you should live your life. Think about it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Spelling Lesson

This morning I headed off to a nearby Starbucks to support the economy and get my usual 5 Pump Chai Grande. The gal of Asian Ancestry asked my name to put on the cup. I could not imagine what dyslexic  spelling would result this time. I was properly shocked. I can't recall the last time "Lloyd" was spelled correctly at a Starbucks. Don't assume anything about anyone.

For the rest of the dyslexic challenged population, here is a spelling lesson courtesy of the Lloyd Center in Portland.

Okay. So I am sensitive about the spelling of my name.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin Time

Headed out for a color photo op (mostly orange) at the Pumpkin Patch in Morgan Hill. Along with three busloads from elementary schools and numerous families, there were lots of kids spending money for the perfect pumpkin from the hundreds (perhaps thousands) to choose from.

First some green corn which hides the maze...

Add some orange and yellow marigolds...

Some of the kids had rather expansive ideas, so grab a wheel barrow (orange, of course) for the loot...

Size of the pumpkin determined the price from frugal sized to giants...

How about some gourds for a table decoration...

Orange isn't your color. How about a blue pumpkin.... Blue?

Of course the front door needs some decorative multi-colored corn...

Didn't even make a dent in the supply of pumpkins. Check out that pile...

And this photo journey didn't cost me a dime. Love these days. Okay. So the day did cost me the price of a stop at Starbucks.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Carpe Diem!

“Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.”  Horace quotes (Ancient Roman Poet. 65 BC-8 BC)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Napa Valley Tour

Over the recent two weeks, Napa Valley's wineries, vineyards, and grapes have provided numerous photo ops. A few of those can been seen in Napa Valley Tour.

While in the Napa Valley, I had the opportunity to meet John and Susan. They are in the planning and research mode for becoming full time RVers in less than two years. One of the fifth wheel manufacturers on their short list is New Horizons. Passing through the area, this was an opportunity for John and Susan to see a New Horizons unit.

When I arrived, John noted they were attending an upcoming RV show at the Alameda Fairgrounds. Since I had never been to an RV show, I invited myself along. Needless to say, John was surprised that I had never been to one. My impression of the trailers, coaches and fifth wheels we toured: lots of space with all the slides. Wandrin Wagon is just the right size. I have a hard time keeping this little space clean and uncluttered.

Both John and Susan have jobs in the wine industry. John is the winemaker at Bell Wine Cellars. John was a wealth of information about the horticulture of grapes, harvesting and the wine making. Perhaps John and Susan learned something about full time living in an RV. However,  it was a fair trade since I learned a lot about wine making.