Monday, June 24, 2019

Overnight Power Outage

It's 3 AM and I'm writing this in air conditioning with lights and wifi/internet connection:
Dawn's morning light revealed a 120' tree
had come down across the power lines at
the front of our property.

A storm knocked out power.  I have a generator that will run my Ark apartment. Instead of just running the apartment I went ahead and turned off the breaker to my water heater - which freed up about 4 kilowatts of potential power - and by managing breakers in different breaker boxes on the farm I pushed power back through the system to the house.  This allowed two air conditioners and some lights to operate in the house along with most of my Ark.

I turned off the main breaker that feeds power from the utility line so that no power would go back into the lines potentially hurting a line worker.

Originally I set up my 6500 watt generator to just power the Ark. But I felt bad for the kids in the house, so I re-jiggered how the breakers were switched and ran power to the house as well.

This, of course, all happened at midnight in a rainstorm.

Step 1: Have battery powered light available where I can find them in the dark 100% of the time.
Step 2: Go to the candle storage area and put out candles in key areas - living areas and bathrooms. Plus put out extras for use as needed.
Step 3: Switch the breakers into ARK mode and get the generator running.
Step 4: Look at what could be done to push power back into the trailer house.
Step 5: Shut off the main breaker between the trailer and the utility lines and then push power back up the system to the trailer.
Step 6: Turn off or unplug anything in the trailer that does not need to run - particularly the refrigerator - so they could have AC and get a decent night's sleep. The fridge can go without power for 5-6 hours.

Both my son and my wife have to be on the road early and stay on the road all day today. So letting them get a good nights sleep is important.

In order to do this I have to have a good understanding of what breakers control what.  To be honest I could have a better power map of what runs off what breaker outside.  That sounds like a good project for this week.  Then I can mark all the most important breakers with green marker and all the breakers that draw lots of power but aren't necessary (like water heaters) in red marker.  This will help make this process much easier next time.

Estimated return of power by the electric company in at 4:30 am (another 90 minutes or so). I can go look at my meter (which is a smart meter) and tell whether power has been restored to my pole.  If it has then I can shut off the generator and go back to utility power.

What Made This Easy?

1. I always know where battery powered flashlights are located.
2. I keep candles in a known location (I need to put a couple lighters there as well).
3. I understand how power is distributed on my homestead.
4. I keep a 5 gallon can of gasoline near my generator.  I keep fuel in it as well. But before I started it I checked it and it was only half full.  Having the gas nearby makes it easy to top it off in a rainstorm. The generator is under cover, so it doesn't get rained on.

This was a good live-fire exercise of the system.  Some good notes, some notes that require improvement.

P.S. Around 9 AM the power trucks left the dirt road after repairing the line.  Short emergency, but fun one.

Friday, June 21, 2019

What Makes Someone Paint a Painting?

Acrylic Cow
I haven't painted a big piece since the acrylic cow in January. I did paint a small encaustic piece in May. I spent yesterday and today preparing a 24"x36" maple cradle board with cedar support pieces for my next painting.

I spend a lot more time thinking about painting than I spend painting. So I wondered why this week I'm starting a large piece (instead of some other time). The short answer is "to be legitimate." That's really why anyone does anything. People do things to make themselves feel "legitimate."

If I call myself an artist then I must, at some point, make art. I recently put myself back onto a special Facebook page called "Encaustic Fine Art." The group has about 2,300 members. I'm sure many are not actively painting in encaustic, perhaps even most. This is really a small community of artist. I feel like I am an encaustic artist.  I aspire to be an encaustic artist. So in order to be legitimate I have to paint encaustic pieces.

Not only do I want to be an encaustic artist, I want to be a GOOD encaustic artist. My goal as an encaustic artist is very simple. I want one of my pieces to be accepted into the permanent collection at the Museum of Encaustic Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico. That's it!  It's a simple enough goal.

Encaustic piece from May 2019
I feel that if I have a piece accepted into the museum for that medium then I can call myself legitimate. Will I accomplish that goal? Absolutely. Will tomorrow's painting be the one that gets accepted, probably not but you never know.

Tomorrow I begin.

About the painting:

Creating a cradle board
Encaustic is a medium made from bees wax and damar resin (a tree sap). At room temperature the medium (which I will call paint) is very hard, like a very hard candle. In order to paint it must be melted.

An encaustic painter's palette is a hot plate that keeps the paint melted so it can be applied to the canvas. The paint is generally applied in layers and the layers are set with heat from a flame or from a heat gun. When the painting cools the paint sets.

Encaustic is very long lasting. This method of painting has been around since 100 B.C. and was often used in mummy portraits from 100 BC to 300 AD. Encaustic painting have lasted two thousand years. Throughout history encaustic has appeared from time to time as a rarely used medium. Encaustic is more brittle than oil, acylic and other paints that use solvents to set them instead of temperature, but very long lasting since the pigments are sealed inside wax and protected from the environment.

Since encaustic paint is wax based, is painted in thick layers, and is more brittle than other paints, a fabric canvas is not an appropriate substrate to paint upon. Encaustic art paintings are generally painted onto 1/4 inch birch plywood connected to rigid boards. This is called a "cradle board."

Cradle boards give the painting a solid structure that can hold up to the heat (applied with flame and heat gun), is rigid enough to stand up to many layers of thick paint, and they are structurally stable for long life. They do not expand and contract or twist and torque. So the painting will be stable for decades to centuries.

24x36" primed and ready to paint
I made the boards on the back of my cradle board from cedar because I plan on using the cedar to show off the piece.

Once a cradle board is created a special paint is applied - called gesso. Encaustic gesso is different from acrylic gesso in that it must hold up to the heat and it cannot be plastic or acrylic based.

Encaustic wax cannot stick to acrylic, so no acrylic material are used in encaustic painting.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Random Energy Information

1 Calorie (large C) is actually 1,000 calories (small c).  Food is measured in large C calories, also known as kcal.

An average person might need 2,500 Cal per day.  This is the same as about 10,000 BTU (British Thermal Units) 1 BTU is the amount of energy required to raise 1 pound of water 1 degree Fahrenheit.

Amazingly enough 1 Calorie is the amount of energy required to raise 1 Kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius.  So 1 calorie (small c) is the amount of energy required to raise 1 gram of water 1 degree Celsius, since there are 1,000 grams in a Kilogram.

A 10,000 BTU window air conditioner unit uses 10,000 BTU per hour, if it ran the compressor for the entire hour.  So in 1 hour an air conditioner in constant use uses the same amount of energy that a human does during the day.

1 kilowatt hour of electricity (1 kWh) is the same as 3,412 BTU's.  So it makes sense that a Window AC unit might use a few kWh's per day. This entirely depends on how hot it is outside. If a window AC unit ran at full power for 1 hour then it would use 10,000 BTU or about 3 kWh's of electricity.

So, 3 kWh's of electricity is the same as 10,000 BTUs, which is the same as 2,500 Calories (or a person's energy use for 1 day).

The United States used 101.4 Quadrillion BTU's of energy in 2018.

This is 101,400,000,000,000,000 BTU's. That is the same as 10,140,000,000,000 people days of energy. Working them as slaves 7 days a week would be the same as 27,780,821,917 slaves. That's 27.8 billion slaves. If you divide that by how many households there are in America (127 million) you get 27,800/127 = 219 slaves per household in energy equivalent. This does not count the energy Americans use from China and other countries in the production of imports. It only accounts for the actual energy use in the United States boundary. 

If you ever wonder why there was so much slavery throughout human history but we don't have slavery today it's because of oil, natural gas, coal and a small amount of solar energy. 

Your family uses the same energy as if you owned 219 slaves.  Technically you use the same amount of energy as if you owned about 750-1,000 slaves because only about 1/3 - 1/4 of the slaves calories could be used for work. A large portion would be used to just support the slave's biological functions. 

Where is the vast majority of this slave energy used in your life?

1. Manufacturing products for you to use including cars, house, phones, clothes, junk.
2. Electricity for your home, office building, street lights, etc.
3. Transportation.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Finishing the Living Room in my ARK

Apartment Bedroom Before
So I built my ARK last summer. It was 200 square feet, converted from a rabbit house. The space including bedroom, bathroom and shower, refrigerator, kitchen sink/counters and some storage.  I do my actual cooking on the small front porch using a reclaimed RV propane stove.
Apartment Bedroom After

The purpose of the Ark is to give me someplace to live and to do a little dog training.  The mobile home is Ok, but I wanted to build a little cottage of sorts.

I wanted the Ark to be capable of self-sufficiency. That means it needs to be small so it can be cooled by a single window AC unit. It needs to be able to operate on little water. It needs to heat and cook with propane that can be stored up.

I have 550 gallons of stored water for the Ark, which can keep it going for 10 days with daily showers, more than a month without daily showers. And 100 days in a situation where I only used the stored water for drinking and cooking.

5-6 small portable propane tanks can provide all the heating and cooling for 1 year.

The electricity is mostly supplied by the solar array.  The solar array produces 350 kwh of electricity per month - about 4,000 kwh per year. 7 months out of the year I don't use the window AC unit, which means the Ark uses only about 1000 kwh during that time.  In the Summer I use the AC, which pulls an additional 7 kwh per day on average. So during the Summer I use about 1800 kwh of electricity.  2,800 kwh per year.

That means technically the ark is power neutral. In reality I have to use power from the grid because I have no electricity storage. In reality I generate more power than the ark uses.  The mobile home and other building use the excess electricity that's generated by the solar panels.

For emergencies the Ark can run completely on generator power or partially from daytime solar generation. I try to keep at least 100 gallons of gasoline stored at all times. Which means I can power the Ark at full power for 8 hours per day (sleeping in the hot Summer) for about a month.  The generator is wired directly into the breaker box so it can run the entire place.

In the Fall, Winter and early Spring I wouldn't need the generator really at all.  I don't need AC.  I could charge up lights, phones, laptops using solar during the day. I could use the propane for heat and cooking.

After the bedroom was done I added a living room.

The roof for the living room extended over the walkway and the extra door (the one on the right) was replaced with a wall.  That's where the outdoor stove is now.

I had to start with 2 doors so I could live in the bedroom section while I was building the living room section.  Once the living room was built and insulated I cut the inside opening between the two.

I have been using the living room all Winter.  I finally, this week, got around to painting it and trimming it out. Below are the pictures.  It only shows about half of the room.  The half the pictures are being taken from are the front door and a recliner with side table.  So it has seating for 3 plus a side buffet for storage and counter top space.

The living room also opens up onto a dog yard via a dog door.  I do boarding and training for 1 dog at a time. This gives me the ability to have the dog let himself out for potty breaks when I'm not home (or to just go out for some sun).

The dog is a client.
Here is the final cedar trimmed room.  I will be putting polyurethane on the cedar which will darken it and protect it.  Plus it will pull out the grain/knots, etc. to make it more interesting.  Once the trim gets darker the walls will lighten up.  I like the color because it all combines to give a very "candle light" ambiance.

It's a very cozy little place at only 360 square feet. I even have a food storage closet behind the refrigerator.  Behind the apartment is the kitchen garden where I grow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, beans and peas. Plus a little cilantro.

That's why I call it an Ark.  It has it's own food, water, heat, electricity, etc.  The same thing could be done with an RV, but this is a solid building connected to the land.

I'm very excited to get the living room painted and trimmed.

How much did it all cost?

It wasn't free.  The original "rabbit house" probably cost $350 to build. Then I put another $4000 into turning it into the bedroom. But that includes installing a shower, putting down tile floor, putting in cabinets, counter top, sink, and hot water heater, plus refrigerator.

I spent about $2,500 making the living room/porch. The solar array, if built today, would cost about $3,500 to install. The generator I got for $200. I have about $400 in stored food. I have 12 buckets of food plus the closet. The water storage containers (IBC Totes) cost $65 each ($130 total).

Finishing out the living room cost me about $150.  I spent $75 on primer and paint and another $75 on cedar from the local cedar mill.

Total cost - including the solar array which I installed years ago - is about $11,000. Since I train dogs in it at $1,000 per dog it certainly more than pays for itself.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Back to Encaustic

Encaustic Painting "What color is this?" Anthony Okrongly 2019

This is a relatively small piece.  The painted area inside the frame is about 3.5" x 10" give or take.

I recently wrote a piece called "back to pottery" when I cleared out my art studio of everything and put all my pottery tools back. It didn't take long until my other art crept back in, Watercolors, Ink, Calligraphy, Acrylic and finally Encaustic.

The encaustic painting above might look like just a blob, but it is actually art. It follows the principles and elements of art to create a composition. Some of those principles and elements are: Contrast, Shape, Form, Color, Value, Variation, Repetition, The Rule of 3rds, Weight, Balance, Directional Line, and more. It may lack an obvious focal point, but it does have focus. It's a piece that, in person, the more one explores it the more it engages the viewer.

A quick scan might result in thoughts such as: Interesting, Strange, Blue, "It looks like clouds" or "water," then the person moves on. The painting, however, does actually have depth of ideas.  I'm a big fan of it. Of course I painted it so... why wouldn't I be.

Basic art critiques start with 3 questions:

1. What was the artist's intent?
2. Did they accomplish that intent?
3. Was it worth doing?

The answers to these questions are as varied (and "right" or "wrong") as there are artists or viewers.

My favorite example is "The Gulf Stream" by Winslow Homer.

The casual observer sees a man in peril, in a storm, on a broken boat, in the middle of an ocean, surrounded by hungry sharks.  An art evaluation may see the elements of art at play to draw interest, tell a story, move the eye around the painting, etc.

A detailed and professional analysis of the painting shows that man is in no trouble whatsoever. He is actually close to shore. The sharks are completely safe and well known to the man on the boat.  The man has not a care in the world.  He is going to be just fine. 

All the clues and information supporting that analysis are in the painting.  In order to read them one must actually know something about "The Gulf Stream" the animals, people and activities, etc.

Anyway, my point is... I'm back to doing some encaustic painting work.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Rabbit Babies Photo Bomb

TAMUK Doe with 2 week old kits.
Notice the Doe's EARS. Big, Thin and Veins.
This is for heat tolerance.
Here's a morning photo bomb from the rabbitry.  All the does are either pregnant (3) or currently have kits (2). We have 2 bucks.  One is a Californian the other is a TAMUK (Chinchilla).

TAMUK stands for "Texas A&M University Kingsville." It's a developed breed from the Texas A&M campus in the South Texas town of Kingsville. They develop breeds from time to time.  I had another breed a while back that they developed called "Altex" - Alabama A&M - Texas A&M project.

Texas A&M Kingsville is (as I said) in South Texas.  Texas is Hot, South Texas is HOT! This is where they work to develop the most heat tolerant meat production breeds. What helps with heat tolerance? BIG Thin ears with lots of veins in them. They are the rabbit's radiator.  TAMUKs are supposed to grow to 10-12 lbs.  We will see.

The current one they are selling is called a TAMUK.  Are these better than just running Californians or New Zealands?  It depends on your goals.  I like the added color.  We will cross-breed them back with Californians and compare the results with many different variations. The colors make them more interesting to look at (possibly they will sell better) and their heat tolerance is always a plus in Texas.

Notice the difference between the Californian's ears and coat thickness compared to the TAMUKs.  The TAMUKs have larger ears and thinner coats. It makes them look "rangier." Let's see how the kits grow out.

The TAMUKs produce in Black, Steel and Chinchilla coat colors. We have one of each color doe and a Chinchilla buck. All of our rabbits are very young.  This is their first litters. At Texas A&M they also produced chocolates, magpies and blue-eyed whites.  So we will see how these color variations play out.

These rabbits were bred very young, at 5 months! So far we have had 100% fertilization and we have had 2 litters kit. Both times the doe pulled fur and had the kits in the kindling boxes (8 kits each 100% survival). Compare this to the first litter we tried to have with a Californian doe where she didn't pull fur and had the kits on the cage floor (zero survivors).

When it comes to production (for me at least) live babies are more important that anything else.  Why? Because I can sell a live rabbit at some price.  I can't sell a dead kit.  A missed breeding is a waste of time. So I value a doe's ability to kindle properly over weight gain, etc.  The next thing to look at is how fertile the bucks stay when the heat hits in August.  A sterile buck (due to heat) is also a waste of time. Maybe the TAMUK will stay fertile in late Summer in East Texas.

Another thing I like about the TAMUKs is that they don't have red eyes. That makes them more appealing to me. Red eyes look deranged.  Pink eyed Californians are not nearly as friendly looking as dark eyed TAMUKs.

2 week old TAMUK bunny saying "HI" to the neighbor
Californian buck

2 week old TAMUK (chinchilla) 

1 day old kits (TAMUK Black Doe and Californian)

1 day old kits (TAMUK black doe and Californian)

Pregnant Californian doe

Young (but fertile) TAMUK Chinchilla buck

The same TAMUK Chinchilla buck again

Black TAMUK doe - just gave birth last night

Steel TAMUK pregnant doe

Foreground Californian doe (pregnant) background
Californian buck plus my daughter in law
counting day old kits.

Friday, May 3, 2019

The Elephant in the Bathroom - The next financial collapse

In 2003 I sold the home I owned in order to allow the housing market to collapse and then buy my next home on the other side of the prices cratering.  I knew the price increases were unsustainable. I was early on that call by 4 years. I tend to see trends earlier than most other people.  The "homesteading" trend was another example.  If you don't call it "homesteading" and instead call it "surviving in a collapsing lower-middle class America."

In 2010 I could see that the lower middle class was doomed in the new "post 2007 collapse" economy. This trend is taking on more steam every year as "normal" people move into RV living and a growing percentage of households now carry at least 2 generations in single home. The "American Dream" is now an American Scam.  To the Scammer goes the spoils. The major growth areas in the economy are scams - payday loans, predatory credit based sales, forced sales (tolls, cell phones) for services, insurance and punitive medical expenses. Turn on the talk radio stations every weekend and it's hucksters trying to steal old peoples' savings.

The major businesses in America live on massive amounts of credit or by stealing people's money (or both). Even stalwarts like General Electric, Sears and Campbell's Soup have collapsed under the weight of their debt and pension obligations.

I have been getting whiffs of the next collapse for years, but it is now starting to crystallize into a single concept. I call it "The Elephant in the Bathroom." 

While people are trying to find the next "unforeseen" problem that might face America - the next "black swan event" - it turns out that what will crater the American Economy is right in front of everyone's face, and has been for years. It's low interest rates and the corporate operating debt they have created.

The reason I call it "The Elephant in the Bathroom" is because it's just like getting a baby elephant and putting it in your bathroom.  When you first get it everyone comments.  "It's not right.  It's crazy!"  But, after a while people get used to it.  They hardly even notice it's there. Even as it grows and takes up more and more of the bathroom, the owners just squeeze around it.  It grows slowly, they get better at squeezing. No problem.

Then one day it gets so big that it pushes the supporting walls out of the way. It's a mini-crisis!  But the roof doesn't collapse.  Why? Because the elephant is now so big it's holding the ceiling up.  At this point the elephant is not the problem, it's The Solution!!!  The elephant is Integral to the Structure of the Bathroom. It obvious cannot and will not ever go anywhere.  Just keep feeding it.  No problem!

Then one day, the elephant gets old enough to get horny and decides to go look for a female.  It shakes the bathroom off and tromps through the house creating a path of destruction as it heads off to greener times. It is simple nature.

This is the Elephant in the Bathroom analogy.  Everyone sees it. Everyone knows it's there. It's neither new nor novel. Then nature takes its normal course and somehow everyone is surprised when the house is cratered. There is no secret about the state of the American Economy. It is 100% debt based at all levels - personal, corporate, and government.  Not only is the debt used to pay for infrastructure and longer-term needs, it is also used to pay daily operating expenses. Many industries - such as the Fracking Oil and Gas Industry - exist only by creating ever increasing debt loads that grow faster than their underlying revenues.

Many people have no grasp of how $1 in corporate revenue can be spun into $5 of stock price and $8 of new debt. But that's what's happening. There is even a new word for it in many industries.  It's called "Blitzscaling." It's where a company grows debt and market capitalization at astronomical levels while losing money hand over fist on their underlying economic activity.  The false promise is that at some point they will reach a level of Market Dominance that will create a phase shift from losing billions every year to profitability. The exception (Amazon) is held up as proving the rule (Tesla, Uber, and 1,000 others you have never heard of).

But this is just one example of how the elephant of low interest debt is spun into an economy.  Who cares if Tesla goes bankrupt? The real threat is the existential industries such as oil, gas, utilities and manufacturing. Everyone from your local school to your city government to your water company, trash company, electricity company and the oil and natural gas producers of America are living on this paradigm of ever growing low interest debt.

These entities have not just "taken out a loan" or "sold a bond." Their very existence, and their ability to pay for their operations hinge on taking out more operational loans and selling bonds at a regular interval.

When the low interest, low inflation elephant shakes it's head and walks out of the American Economy the collapse will be epic and universal.

Imagine inflation starting to rise and the Fed wanting to fight it with higher interest rates, but one negatively effects the underlying economy so the other gets worse. Oil prices are low because of the constant inflow of low interest capital into the Texas Balkan Shale oil fields.  If interest rates rise then new rig counts drop.  Fracking requires constant re-drilling of wells.  They cannot exist without pouring money into drilling every single day.

So oil production drops, oil prices rise, increasing inflation which puts more pressure on the Fed to raise interest rates. This is a negative feedback loop.  When oil prices rise the producers can justify borrowing more money at higher interest rates. Which raises their capital and interest costs substantially. This seems like a viable system until the increased production puts downward pressure on oil prices... but does not change the interest rate at which they borrowed the money to produce the oil.

We have had the benefit of having our economy get hollowed out in an environment of dropping interest rates and low to no inflation.  Any disruption in that low interest rate, no inflation scheme will expose the hollow shell that is the U.S. Economy.

Haven't you looked around and thought, "How can the U.S. have the greatest economy in the world when this entire generation can barely get jobs as fast food workers?" Then you forget about it.  "I must just not understand."

Squeeze past the elephant in the bathroom. Everything is "normal."

There exists an entire generation's savings and investments (The Boomers) which is literally sitting on a cliff's edge while those responsible for caring for it have dinner parties next to their new fine art purchases. Here's the reality - the people "managing" the largest ball of investment money ever assembled Do Not Care about the actual investments.  They made their money off the fees these doddering old people are blindly paying them.

This will EVAPORATE in a storm of collapsing corporate values, banking collapses, and double digit inflation rates for a decade. The Soviet Union still exists.  When their elephant of centrally managed communist economics left the bathroom it took their satellite nations and the entire value of their pension system with it.  Pensioners payments stayed the same $87 per month but the cost of life in a free communist Russia instantly became extremely expensive Capitalism. 15% of the Russian population disappeared within 5 years.  They just died.

There is no "obligation" to the baby boomers that will not be violated in the next collapse. Their investments will still exist - at pennies on the dollar.  And their money will still exist at massively deflated purchasing power.

If this is the case then why does the stock market keep going up? In particular why do large institutions keep investing in shale oil that has been a money loser since it's inception and has nothing but financial downside?  That is to say, every barrel of shale oil that comes out of the ground is really a barrel of investor money where it takes more investor money to get the oil out of the ground then the oil is worth? The answer is "The Greater Fool Theory."

The Greater Fool Theory

The greater fool theory is a financial investment system where actual risk is eliminated by having a "Greater Fool" who will buy your investments from you before a collapse.  Hedge funds and banks, for instance, pour hundreds of billions of dollars into bad shale oil investments and loans. These investments have historically proven to be bad, and will only collapse in any sort of an normalized interest rate environment.

The hedge funds and large banks can do this because they make billions on fees and they know they can off-load these losers to a greater fool.  In almost all cases the "greater fool" is either the public directly through retail investing or through pension funds that are managed by neophytes.  The board of directors of a fire fighters pension fund is made up of fire fighters and union bosses (or similar types).  These people (and other boards like them) will be the victims of the last hedge fund that flew them to the Bahama's and made a big money pitch to them. Promise yield in a yieldless market.  Promise no default loans in an industry where loans don't default because they are constantly being renewed with larger loans.

A good book on this regarding oil in America is "Saudi-America." I believe that this is just an example in one sector that is being repeated across other sectors as well.

This is how the Baby Boomers will take the brunt of the next collapse.

Working young people will survive. There is always a need for labor and wages rise within sight of inflation if not in actual step with it. As the boomer generation collapses and dies their remaining assets will pass to the grandchildren, and their jobs will need to be filled.   This is not the collapse of America forever.  It's the destruction of the baby boomer generation with a massive impact on the Generation X, who are too old to adapt.  Some will be fine (the scammers). The rest will simply SUFFER.

"May you live in interesting times." Chinese Curse based on the Proverb "It is better to be a dog in calm times than a human in times of turbulence."