“Incredibly Sad”

Putting things in perspective.

Arnold Palmer died yesterday. He was 87.

Palmer was one of golf’s greats. Although I don’t follow golf and certainly don’t know as much about his career as the folks that do, I do know that he was a real class act who could certainly teach today’s professional athletes a thing or two about behaving in public. You can find a tribute to him here and some more general information on Wikipedia.

One of the people I follow on Twitter posted the following tweet with a photo of a young Palmer:

Incredibly sad … Golf legend Arnold Palmer has died. The 62-time PGA Tour and 7-time major winner was 87. #RIP

It’s sad when any good person dies, but “incredibly sad” when an 87-year-old man dies of natural causes?

I’m not trying to sully the memory of Arnold Palmer. He led a full life, achieving many great goals and doing many good things. But he was 87 with a heart condition. His life came to a logical, inevitable conclusion.

Do you know who else died yesterday? José Fernández. He was 24, and just a few years into what would likely be an amazing career as a baseball pitcher. Indeed, he had already won the National League Year Rookie of the year and played in an All-Star Game. A Cuban immigrant who saved his mother’s life when she fell overboard using their fourth (successful) defection attempt, he died in a boating accident yesterday morning with virtually his whole life ahead of him.

Now that is incredibly sad.

Do you see the difference?

I’m not trying to say that Fernández’s life is more valuable than Palmer’s. I’m just saying that when a man dies of natural causes at an age generally considered to be beyond that of an average life span, it’s sad. But when a young man who hasn’t even reached the prime of his life dies in a tragic accident, it’s sadder.

You know this boy.

Do you want to take that a step further? Think about Alan Kurdi. Don’t know who that is? Sure you do. He was the three-year-old boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea when his family fled Syria as refugees just a year ago. His lifeless body was photographed on the beach, lying face down, still wearing his little shorts and shoes. His family was trying to get to Canada so they could live in a safe, peaceful world. I’d share the photo here — you can find a copy on Wikipedia — but it’s too heartbreaking to see over and over in my blog. So I’ll share this one, provided by his aunt, to give you an idea of the smiling, happy child whose life was snuffed out by tragic circumstances.

Alan Kurdi’s death is incredibly sad.

And what about the thousands of civilians killed in terrorist attacks, wars, and “ethnic cleansing” (AKA genocide)? Thousands of people losing their lives long before completing their natural lives? Sometimes before they even reach adulthood? Isn’t that sadder than the natural death of an 87-year-old man?

I guess my Twitter friend’s tweet just got under my skin. I’m so tired of people expressing extreme sadness when a celebrity dies yet barely acknowledging the death of a “lesser” or unknown person. Or people.

Let’s put things into perspective. People die every day. Some die more tragically than others. Shouldn’t the level of our sadness be tied into the circumstances of their lives and deaths?

The Democrats Dinner

Another new experience.

I should start off by saying that although technically I’m now a Democrat, I’m not really a Democrat. I vote for who I think would be the best candidate for the office. These days, it’s usually a Democrat, but there may be some time in the future that it’s a Republican or third party candidate. The only reason I’m technically a democrat is because I had to check a box on the primary form to vote for a Democrat candidate. At least that’s my understanding of what I did and what it means.

I honestly don’t care.

Anyway, a like-minded friend of mine invited me to join her for the annual Democrats dinner. The dinner, which was to be held at the Wenatchee Convention Center, was for Chelan County and Douglas County Democrats. It was $50/person and included a three-course dinner, no-host bar, speakers, and door prizes. I figured it might be a nice way to meet other like-minded people. After all, although Washington state is “blue,” I live on the red side. I can’t tell you how many Trump signs there are on lawns here, but I can tell you how many Hillary signs there are: 0.

At the Dinner

I met my friend at the Convention Center at 5:30 PM. She’d already gotten very good seats for us at a table near the front, facing front. Another friend of hers joined us. They were both retired teachers, both union members, both Democrats. The real kind — not like me.

Cocktail hour was a bit disappointing. There was a full bar with a bartender. Just one. By about 6 PM, he was overwhelmed and the wait for a drink had gone up to at least 20 minutes. I know this because my friend went back for a second drink and that’s how long it took her to get back. There were no snacks. I was famished.

The walls were decorated with election signs not only for the presidential election but for all the other races below it. People I’d never heard of but would likely get my vote anyway. (More on that in a moment.)

Trump's Small Hand Soap
Why couldn’t this be a door prize?

Trump Voodoo Doll
It comes with pins!

Trump Press Cartoon
It’s all about ratings.

A long table stretched down one side of room. On it were signs with photos of every single president, from Obama back to Washington, along with a brief summary of his presidency. The tabletop was decorated with some Democrat candidate memorabilia — for example, a still-sealed book from Obama’s inauguration and various campaign buttons — along with cartoons mostly lampooning Trump. My favorite was the Trump Small Hands bar of soap. I was hoping that would be a door prize. Someone at our table also had a Trump voodoo doll, still wrapped. Very cool.

I’m sad to report that our table companions were not necessarily the kind of people I was hoping to meet. My friend’s friend was very pleasant and I think the three of us had a lot in common. We had some nice conversations. But the two women on the other side of me were older women — late 60s? 70s? — from Grand Coulee in the farthest reaches of Douglas County. One of them showed me photos of her cat, and all I could think about was cleaning all that hair off my furniture. Another man at the table bragged, at one point, very loudly about a very large gun he’d bought. (Yeah, some Democrats do own guns.) My friend’s friend did a bunch of eye rolling and told us about the gun-toting Republican she’d dated for a short while. The one person who I thought might be interesting to talk to was a semi-retired merchant marine, but he was opposite me at the big table and conversation would have been difficult.

The presentation started with an introduction, pledge of allegiance, and prayer. The usual political thing. Even Democrats stick to the formula. Then dinner was served. Salad, steak and salmon (for those like me who didn’t want the vegetarian option), and a berry cobbler that was mostly apples (go figure). The food wasn’t bad but definitely not worth $50. I didn’t really expect it to be, though, so I wasn’t disappointed. At least it was edible.

The cat lady had brought along what seemed like used washed ziplock bags and bagged up half her meal. I like to think she was going to give it to her cat — do cats eat green beans? Later, when we realized that one of our table companions wasn’t going to show and his vegetarian meal was up for grabs, she produced a stack of used bags and offered them to us. (I wish I was kidding.) She then packed up most of the veggie meal, too.

Meanwhile, the parade of speakers began. I’m sorry to report that most of them were pretty dull. Even the ones that were young and exuberant — and there were more than a few — didn’t really interest me. You see, I had already made up my mind about who I was voting for and I had no intention of knocking on doors or making calls to convince others. The way I see it, if this country isn’t smart enough to vote for the best, most qualified candidates, we deserve whatever we get. And if someone hasn’t decided by now who they’re going to vote for, they’re likely brain dead and not worth wasting time over anyway. (More on that in a moment, too.)

I should point out here that most of the speakers were in support of state and local candidates. There was little said about Clinton, most likely because voting for her was such a no-brainer.

There were two videos, one of which was from the Governor, who, until that point, I would not have been able to recognize in a line up. The videos were obviously created especially for the Wenatchee gathering; both candidates referred to specific places and people and things in the area. The Governor apparently has some strong ties to Wenatchee. It was interesting to see these videos — sort of like personalized commercials. I wonder how much time these people spend recording videos like this for other community gatherings and events.

One thing I did notice throughout the event is that there was remarkably little Trump bashing. I think I see more Trump bashing in 30 minutes on Twitter than I got at that dinner. A few jokes, a few one liners, a few warnings that he would take our country and the world in the wrong direction. That’s it. Not even a single chant.

The door prizes went last and they were mostly donated items. No Trump soap or voodoo dolls.

Flowers
Despite the wild ride home on curvy roads in my Honda, the flowers look pretty good the next day.

Finally, the woman who organized the event mentioned that the money we’d paid basically covered the cost of the event — which, if true, is unfortunate because I’m sure they could have had it catered for less — and suggested donations. She also mentioned that the flowers on the table had been provided at a cost of $15 each by a local floral design shop and were for sale. I liked the flowers on my table so I stuck a $20 bill in the donation envelope, wrote “For Flowers” with my name on it, and handed it off to one of the organizers before grabbing the flowers.

Hillary Poster
My souvenir from the evening.

There were lawn signs at the back of the room, including quite a few for those lower level candidates I’d never heard of. We were invited to take as many as we liked. There were even stakes to put them in the yard. I got there just as a vertically challenged, overweight man was counting off a short stack of cardboard Hillary signs. I reached for the last one, but he grabbed it first.

“Are there any more?” I asked.

“No,” he replied smugly with a grin that made me want to kick his teeth out. “I got the last ones.”

Not to be deprived of my souvenir, I pulled one off the wall. And no, it won’t go on my lawn. Do you think I want Trump supporters throwing garbage at my home?

By reading all this, you might think I’m sorry I went. I’m not. It was an interesting evening out — a new experience. But will I go next year? Hell, no.

My Vote

It should be pretty obvious to anyone who knows me or reads my blog or has just read this that I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. It’s not because she’s a woman, either. It’s because she is, by far, the most experienced and qualified candidate for the job of President of the United States. Anyone who doesn’t see this needs to wake up and look at the facts.

And yes, I know we live in a “post fact society.” What a shame.

As for the down-ticket candidates, I’m voting for Democrats. Why? Because I’m sick and tired of Republican obstructionism in the House and Senate. I’m tired of them fighting Democrats just because they think it’ll score points with their supporters. I’m tired of them spitefully failing to do what’s right for this country because it’s the same thing our President or Democrats want. I’m outraged that they have failed to even discuss the nomination of a Supreme Court Justice, leaving a very important seat unoccupied.

I’m also sick and tired of Republicans trying to regulate women’s bodies and health care. I’m tired of them fighting Planned Parenthood, which provides affordable health care services to both women and men. I’m tired of them inserting God and Christianity into government and education. I’m tired of them passing laws that help the rich at the detriment of the poor. I’m tired of them keeping their supporters in line through the use of fear and hate.

At this point, I wouldn’t vote for a Republican if he or she was the only candidate on the ballot.

As for Trump — well, I still can’t believe he’s the candidate that Republicans chose to run for president. Pardon me, but are they fucking kidding us? Has the GOP completely lost its collective mind? The man is a clown. Even the top Republican weasel, Ted Cruz, summed it up correctly:

Of course, Ted eventually caved in to support Trump. After all, you have to toe the Republican party line to get any support from the GOP and Ted doesn’t want to be unemployed. I won’t even go into the moral implications of his support for a man who insulted him and his wife and tried to implicate his father in the JFK assassination just a few months ago. What an unprincipled weasel.

How can anyone in his right mind support trump? Oh yeah. Trump supporters are not in their right mind.

And I’m not talking about “the deplorables.” I’m talking about are the poor, misguided souls who believe everything their other right wing friends and Fox News tell them — whether it’s true or not — and disregard all the negative facts about Trump. The deplorables are driven by hate, and Trump feeds them the doses they need. Like addicts always strung out on crack or meth, they are too far gone to save.

It would be nice to hear a Trump supporter intelligently discussing why he’s voting for Trump without resorting to bashing Clinton — because that’s all I’ve heard. No one seems able to support Trump without turning to the same old tired lies about Clinton — lies that have been disproven again and again. And no, I don’t give a flying fuck about Clinton’s email, especially when so many of her predecessors also had their own private email servers. And I don’t want to talk about Benghazi, either. In fact, I’m sick of Clinton conspiracy theories, all of which have been disproven multiple times by multiple investigations. And I’m sick and tired of seeing my tax money spent on witch hunts led by the GOP.

In his own words.

Any logical argument a Trump supporter could come up with would serve only to convince me that he actually believes the documented lies of a narcissistic conman who regularly stiffs contractors, sues people at the drop of a hat, and uses other people’s money to buy off politicians, settle his legal obligations, and contribute to charitable causes under his name. So even if a Trump supporter isn’t stupid, he’s definitely gullible.

So anyway, I’m voting Democrat right down the ticket this year and I urge people who care about the future of America and the world to do the same. The President is only one part of the picture. Her hands will be tied if we can’t clear out the obstructionists preventing the country from moving forward.

And if you’re an ardent Trump supporter who is deeply offended by what I’ve written here today, I’m sorry for you. But I think this article pretty much sums up what I’d like to say to you beyond what I’ve said here.

And yes, I’ve closed comments on this post. I know it’ll be impossible for Trump supporters — who will likely show up here with something to say — to follow the comment policy and keep things civil. I have better things to do than play moderator for people idiotic enough to support Trump.

A Note on Apple Stock

I’m doing some math this morning and I thought I’d share an old image.

In January 1997, in Apple’s darkest days, I purchased 50 shares of Apple stock for $16.75 per share.

Back in those days, you bought actual stock certificates and I kept mine in a safe at home. Over the years, I bought and sold more Apple stock using a brokerage account. Meanwhile, these shares snug in the safe, began to grow. Not only did they grow in market value as Apple rebounded and became the major technology player it is today, but there were three stock splits, 2:1, 2:1, and 7:1 over the years.

Apple Stock Certificate
Back in 1997, Apple stock looked like this.

I transferred the stock certificate and its offspring to a brokerage account before the 7:1 split, so it would be more liquid. I sold it off in bits and pieces over the years to help finance various other investments like my first helicopter and a small apartment building I used to own. Because of the splits, there were always shares to sell. In 2013 and 2014, these shares were instrumental in helping finance my crazy divorce and build my new home.

I still have some of those original shares. If you do the math — which I did this morning — you’ll discover that the shares I have left have a cost basis of about 60¢ per share. This morning, Apple opened at $114.57 per share. If I still had all the shares from this original investment (which, sadly, I do not), it would be worth $160,398 — all from a $837 investment by someone with faith in a failing company.

Wintering in an RV

Some answers for a reader.

It’s that time of year again: the time of year when my blog post titled “Prepping My RV for Winter Living” get a bunch of hits every day.

One of the readers — I’ll call her C — went the next step and emailed me. Here’s her message:

Hello! Write me back or don’t. Its ok. I understand being busy. It won’t ruin my day if you don’t.

I stumbled upon your blog when I was looking for advice RE: living in an RV in winter. I am thinking about purchasing one to live in while I try to save my family’s 3rd generation ranch house. It could take a while!

I found all your info quite helpful and was tickled to see that you had a small dog (me too) and a parrot (me too).

I did wonder about gas appliances in an RV and the risk to my cockatoo. Since I got her in 1992 I have avoided rentals with a gas stove, etc.

I don’t know if you have any gas/propane appliances in the RV or if you felt this was a legitimate worry.

Also, I wondered where you placed your parrot in the RV. Have you ever thought about hanging the cage?

Do you feel it stays warm enough in the winter for your parrot? That was another worry. Molly is not the hot house flower some birds are, but I would hate for her to be uncomfortable.

Great Blog! We must encourage other women to be do it yourselfers. As you wrote it is fulfilling and empowering in so many ways!

That first paragraph is likely in response to me saying, on my contact form, that I don’t always respond to email from readers. Why don’t I? Well, I really do prefer blog comments so we can get a conversation going. I will send C a link to this blog post as my response. I hope she uses the comment form for any follow-up questions. (Hint, hint.)

Living in an RV while working on a home is a great solution to a problem. You can be there every day to work or supervise and you can really get a feel for the property. I did it when I worked on a cabin I once owned in Northern Arizona and, of course, I lived in my big fifth wheel while building my home here in Washington State.

RVs, in general, have really poor insulation. The walls are thin and it’s sometimes impossible to keep the heat in. I found that with my Montana Mountaineer — a high mid-range model by Keystone — once the temperature got below 20°F, I could run heaters full blast all night and not get the temperature above 50°F. For that reason, I don’t recommend living in a typical RV outdoors in an area where temperatures get much lower than freezing.

I was fortunate. The first winter I was on the property, before my home was built, I got a housesitting gig about 2 miles away. That lasted until I headed down to California with the RV for my late winter work. The second winter, although my building was built, my living space was barely started. I was able to bring the RV into the building’s garage and live in there. Not ideal, but the “outside” temperature in the building never got lower than about 35 so I had no trouble keeping the RV warm.

Of course, not all RVs are like this. Some are set up with great insulation because they’re designed for winter use. If C’s RV is like one of these, she’s in good shape to stay warm.

I no longer have a parrot. Alex the Bird went a new home in early 2013. I do still have a dog. I never did worry about propane appliances. My RV — which I sold just last week — had carbon monoxide detectors. Make sure yours has one and that it’s working! In addition to that, I always left one or two windows cracked open when using the propane heater. I actually preferred electric heaters in my RV because they’re quieter and electricity is cheap here. I used the ones that look like radiators and had one in the living room and one in the bedroom.

Alex the Bird had a large corner cage. My RV was spacious and I removed one of the La-Z-Boy recliners to accommodate the cage. It was on the far end of the RV, away from the kitchen. I’d be careful about hanging anything from an RV’s ceiling. You’d likely be better off putting the cage on a small table or stool. Or cage stand. Alex was never in the RV over the winter, which is a good thing. I don’t think I could have kept it warm enough for her.

In summary, I should say this: Some RVs are better than others for winter living. If the temperature gets below freezing, you need to take steps to keep your water source and interior pipes ice-free. That can be a challenge in itself; my prepping blog post explained how I did it. Think about the possibilities and prepare for them. Good luck!

As for encouraging women to do it themselves, I’m all for that. Actually, I’m all for encouraging everyone to do it themselves. There’s no better feeling of satisfaction than tackling a task you weren’t sure you could do and getting the job done.

Living with Cheap Power

When conserving power seems silly.

I live in what’s referred to as North Central Washington State, an area on the east side of the Cascade Mountains with a high desert like climate. If you’re familiar with Prescott or Flagstaff, Arizona, you know exactly what the weather here is like: four seasons with very little rain, some snow, and relatively mild summers and winters. Sure, summer temperatures can get over 100°F, but not often or for long. Likewise, winter temperatures can dip into single digits (F), but not often or long. It’s actually a lot like where I grew up in the New York Metro area, but with a lot less rain and a lot more sun.

Washington Map
Here’s a satellite view of the State of Washington with an X where I live. The closest city is Wenatchee (98801) about 5 air miles away.

(When I looked at that map, I realized that I live pretty darn close to the center of the state. So I Googled “What is the geographic center of Washington State?” and discovered I’m just eight or so miles away. So I really don’t know why they call this area North Central Washington when we’re really just Central Washington.)

Washington State power companies have huge investments in hydroelectric and wind generation projects. I live just 2 air miles from the Columbia River and there are two dams (Rock Island and Rocky Reach) with hydroelectric plants within 10 miles of me. Reach out another 20 or so miles and there are two more dams (Lake Chelan and Wanapum) with power plants and a huge wind/solar facility (Wild Horse).

It should come as no surprise that my area has one of the cheapest electricity rates in the country. (I’ve been told that Chelan County is actually the second cheapest in the country with Douglas County, across the river, being the cheapest (currently 2.33¢), but I haven’t confirmed that.) Our rates? 2.7¢ per kilowatt hour.

My Electricity Cost
My electric bills for the past 13 months, charted. Not sure what was going on last winter. (Note to self: talk to house sitter.) Even with those two peak months, the average for the period is only $45/month.

I see this on my monthly electric bill. While it’s true that we had a mild summer this year, my air conditioning did run. I heard it. I even cranked it up a few times. But you wouldn’t know it looking at my electric bill; it never topped $32 for any one month. Indeed, it was higher in the spring — and I still can’t figure out why. And it did get over $100 in February for January’s usage.

What’s your local electricity rate? You can look at your bill or even Google it. Or if you want a statewide average, here’s a handy table. The rate where I last lived, in Wickenburg, AZ, is currently 11.96¢/kilowatt hour — about 3.4 times what I’m paying now. And where I lived before that, in Harrington Park, NJ, the rate is currently 15.40¢/kilowatt hour — 4.7 times what I’m paying now. The national average is 12.73¢/kilowatt hour. These are all residential rates, of course. Often the rates are different for commercial and industrial users.

This is great for me — obviously. It’s wonderful to have such a low monthly electric bill. More money in my pocket, right?

The trouble is, it takes away most of my motivation to conserve power. After all, if letting the air conditioning or heat run 24/7 isn’t going to cost much more than making sure it’s turned off when I’m not around, why should I bother?

People might argue that it’s better for the environment to conserve power. Normally, I’d agree. But with most — if not all — of my power coming from renewable energy sources like hydro, wind, and solar, why conserve? These renewable energy sources are producing more than enough power for my area. And with loss in transmission, even sending the power I could save into the grid wouldn’t make a difference.

And yes, that’s the reason I didn’t cover the huge roof on my home with solar panels. There isn’t any point. I’d never save enough money to cover the cost of such an investment and there’s no need for the extra power generation in this area.

It’s also why if I bought a new car while I was living here, I’d definitely buy an electric car.

Now don’t get the idea that I waste energy. I’m the person who turns out the lights in rooms I’m not in, uses a programmable thermostat, and runs full loads in the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer. All my appliances are “Energy Star Compliant” — as if you can get them any other way. I live in a small space and although all my appliances are electric, there’s just one person using them. But still! 2.7¢/kilowatt hour? It would be difficult to get the $200+ electric bills I saw every winter and summer in Arizona.

All this might make you wonder why the country isn’t investing in more renewable energy projects. Sure, not every river can support hydro projects. And yes, wind generators can be unsightly. And all large-scale energy projects impact the environment in one way or the other — ask me about the raptor surveys I did for wind projects in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.

But renewable energy resources can reduce or eliminate our dependence on dirty fuel, non-renewable energy like oil, natural gas, and coal. It can reduce the cost of energy, which would have a positive economic impact on people who struggle to pay utility bills. It would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, further reducing our use of fossil fuels and helping to clean our air.

This is a no-brainer, folks. Don’t let politicians pandering to the coal and oil industries tell you otherwise.

Now just don’t talk to me about my water bill. That’s a whole different story.