Sunday, May 31, 2009

Quiet morning

Here in the desert it's a quiet morning; well, except for the cat who decided he needed some human company at 05:00! Bastard! Anyway, after I threw something at him (missed by a mile of course), I was awake so got up. I was rewarded with a lovely pre-sunrise morning. Colors in the sky were wonderful; wonder why my camera doesn't capture that aqua color. It was very quiet with only the sounds of the doves cooing and an occasional rooster crowing. Yes, people have chickens out here!

Met one of the neighbors the other day. That is unusual, mostly they are pretty much loners. Anyway, I only got a glimpse of their backyard but they have: three horses; four or five miniature goats; a few chickens and a dachshund. I imagine there are more of everything but the horses. He seemed a nice enough guy but I've gotta say, you've never seen a finer mullet!

Anyway, to get back to the weather report... sorry to keep on about the weather but it is really fascinating for us to see how things change. We have another three weeks until summer solstice so the sun keeps heating things up earlier and earlier; we were having to close the house up at 10:00 and now it is more like 08:00. The windows on the North side of the house have started getting a little sun in the morning. Most days it is only in the 90's (maybe 33C) but it still gets cool at night and when we wake, having left the windows open, the house is about 72F (22C). Not bad at all!

Had a thunderstorm yesterday! It is the first time we've heard thunder out here. Then we got a rain shower that probably put down a quarter of an inch (half a cm) of rain. Our daughter was driving over at the time and she said the road was completely dry but she could see the cloud over our house. It did cool things down (to the low 70's) for an hour or so. Because of the rock we put in the yard, we could still go outside. If we hadn't, the mud would have made things a total mess.

Have a good day but, remember, be careful, it's dangerous out there!

Saturday, May 30, 2009


Well, excuse my language but I came across this little gem in my travels: in some Texas counties there are outstanding arrest warrants for more than 10% of the population! Here's a link to a state senator's comments.

What is the deal? I just DO NOT understand. Of course the fact that governments are expecting the police department to be a revenue source is the root of the problem. The cops have a really tough job in the first place but to make them "earn their keep" this way has to be counterproductive. Imagine what would happen if they actually executed the warrants on say, another 5% of the population. Dallas County has something like 2.5 million people. So you arrest 125,000 people? How? You'd need to call out the Army. There is something really wrong with this picture.

The same thing is happening even here in Pahrump if we can believe this guy complaining to the newspaper. He claims 50 tickets were written in the same general area over several days. Well, this is the same guy who claims to have driven 170,000 miles(275000 km) a year as a delivery driver. Hmmm, there are about 2000 working hours in a year so he was doing 85mph (135km) every hour he worked? I doubt it, even in California! LOL I suspect inflation in his story; verbal inflation that is.

So what's my advice? Well, I don't have any but the obvious: don't get ticketed. Duh. But if you do, you've gotta work with the system to pay your tickets. Because otherwise, you are on a downhill slide that won't be pleasant. Meanwhile, we need to change the system. Having $300 tickets for going a few miles over the limit is over the limit itself. Having 10% of the population with outstanding warrants is some kind of awful indictment of our society. Don'tcha think?

Have a good one, it's dangerous out there!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Went to the big city!

Went to Las Vegas today. My wife got the gift of a massage for Mother's Day from our daughter and today was the big day. They both went off to be pampered and left me free to wander around. Had a great time!

Stopped at one of the casinos that isn't on the strip for lunch. I think I've said I'm not much of a gambler so haven't been in the casinos in a very long time. It was quite impressive. The casino's here in Pahrump are quite small; human sized. This place was huge with tons of mirrors and, of course, scads of gaming machines. We hear a lot locally about how lousy business is for the casinos but this place seemed to be doing pretty well. There were lines everywhere - a line for the buffet; a line to join the player's club; a line to get into the poker room. Now granted, they only had four of the six poker tables occupied but still, it wasn't bad for a Wednesday lunch crowd!

I drove down The Strip which was probably a silly thing to do. Traffic was awful and made only worse with some construction. Again though, there were a lot of people walking around. Maybe they weren't spending money but there were a lot of people out there. I know this isn't news but the strip IS amazing. These companies have spent tons of money creating these places to try and draw your interest. For me it was just too much but that's why I'm not "The Donald" (as in Trump).

I'd forgotten that one of the early draws for Nevada was the easy marriage - easy divorce laws. There were several little marriage chapels near downtown. Kind of funny actually, would you believe "Wee Kirk O' the Heather Wedding Chapel"? Whatever floats your boat I guess.

Have a good one but be careful, it's dangerous out there!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Nothing Doing or is that Doing Nothing

Spent the morning and a good part of the afternoon surfing blogs. Came across a couple who built their own truck camper. Holly and Ryan built their own truck camper. (Building your own rv is something that fascinates me though I can't see me ever actually doing anything like that!) Anyway, after reading a bunch of that I figured out that they/she have more blogs and I spent a LOT more time reading about their real estate adventures in Nicaragua. They sound like an amazing young couple. They make living in Nicaragua with bats in the roof, guano here and there, bugs and all the rest sound fun. Hmmm, as if I needed more evidence of aging!

She has something kind of cool for comments. It's called Blipback. You click on the buttons a few times and it captures your camera & mic so you can leave a video comment. Amazing technology! NOW if it has taken over my computer I'm going to have to go down to Nicaragua and kill somebody! Hopefully, it doesn't spawn too many bugs. If I disappear for a while, you'll know it did! I must say that it was kind of fun leaving a video comment but to myself I sure sounded lame. Well, lame and stupid since it took about four tries to get the thing to record. In one of the photos she was using an Apple so maybe it is easier to use for those folks.

Smooth segueway goes here - new topic below!

Went to the store today and bought some ground pork. It says it is 4% fat - a leaner alternative to ground beef! Would you ever have thought you'd see the day? Speaking of amazing things, I have trouble imagining that people are actually eating ground turkey. I've prepared too many turkeys to consider eating it until there are a few standards in place. When they start putting the exact contents on the label (including fat content, what parts of the bird were used, etc.) I might consider it but until then - NFW.

Like I always say, be careful, it's dangerous out there (someone might offer you a turkey burger!).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More about Death Valley

I wrote the other day about our trip that included the China Date Ranch. I hadn't unloaded the photos I took (both of them!) but here's one of their trucks.

LawyerMom queried my comment about the fleshpots of Shoshone. Of course, that was totally tongue in cheek. Shoshone is a very quiet crossroads. But it got me thinking that many people aren't going to know much about this area so I took a little trip today out towards Death Valley, California.

Didn't go far, maybe 10 miles. Pahrump is actually the closest good sized town to the Valley; something the city is too stupid to point out. Yahoo maps say it is sixty miles (almost 100 km) from Pahrump to the Furnace Creek Ranger Station in Death Valley. I took this photo to illustrate the road.

This was taken at an altitude of about 2800 ft (850m). I THINK this is the highest altitude you reach on the trip to the Valley; which, of course, is something like 237 feet (72m) below sea level. But it's pretty quiet country. There is basically nothing out there until you get into the park: no farms; no ranches; no gas; no food; no water; no bathrooms. Maybe there are a couple of side roads that lead off who knows where. It's not a forgiving drive.

I am always translating our English distances & temperatures to metric because I do understand that we are backwards about this. It also helps me to get a better grasp of the whole metric thing. I must tell a story though. I read a blog by a Canadian named Croft. He lives part of the year up north then goes down to Mexico for the other part - not a bad life! Anyway, he was writing about the weather and said something like "it was 20 degrees, very comfortable" and I started thinking this guy's a hell of a lot tougher than me because 20 Fahrenheit is pretty darn cold! Well, gee! I guess 20C isn't that bad. Had to laugh though at my own thickheadedness.

Take it easy; it's dangerous out there.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Something Completely Different

Had a good day today and got to drive on a bit of "new road". A little way from our town is a signpost pointing to Tacopa, CA. We've never been there so we put the dog in the backseat of the truck and hit the road. Am I glad we did! I'm also EXTREMELY glad we didn't take the trailer! The road from Nevada Route 160 to Tacopa was narrow and gently going up and down for about 95% of the time but that 5% was extremely twisty. I'm talking hairpin turns here and maybe a 10% grade.

At any rate, we made it over and found a area that gives you a new definition of desolate. The is a hot springs in Tacopa and a little resort built around them . There isn't a lot more. Maybe there are a bunch of snowbirds (rv'ers escaping the snow up north) who keep the place alive but in the heat of May, there ain't much there! The town even has a web site but it's a quiet place for sure.

We also visited the China Date Ranch. That's another amazing road! Single lane gravel road with a steep grade - remember it's just a family ranch. But the place itself is really ok. They grow dates and sell almost anything made from dates: bread; cookies; a milk shake. Whatever turns you on. They are also doing a good job growing (and hopefully selling) cacti. Had a nice little garden going. There are places you can hike; lots of abandoned mines and some nice rock formations.

After Tacopa we headed for the fleshpots of Shoshone, CA. (six miles away). They at least have a gas station, if they have one in Tacopa we missed it. Regular was $3.39 a gallon - vs $2.29 here in Nevada. I'm sure part of the difference is California taxes but some is just shipping the stuff out there. I couldn't find a website for Shoshone so you'll have to take my word on the features. There is a motel, two cafes, a general store (sells gas too), and a post office. I know there is more to the town but you kind of have to look and today just wasn't the day for that. There is also a small but interesting museum that we visited on an earlier visit.

So, if you want to see someplace completely different; I'd recommend Tacopa and Shoshone. Visiting gives you a new respect for those folks who settled the West.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Money and Investing

I don't talk a lot about money and investing here except to whine about all the money we are spending. One blog I read pretty religiously is RandomRoger. I don't understand everything he says much less agree with it all but he's obviously intelligent and trying to do a great job for his clients. He is also willing to discuss investing philosophy which I think is great. He believes in being more defensive than I do but that probably isn't a bad thing. Today I thought I'd talk a little about our portfolio.

First let me say that when my wife and I got married twenty-five years ago she had about $500 in savings and I had about $10,000. We didn't inherit anything. We both had good jobs though and were able to buy a house and save. Each of the three houses we have owned was modest. If either of us had lost our job, we could have scraped by on the one remaining salary. Most people in this country do the opposite and live in a house they can barely afford. I just don't agree with that philosophy.

I'm sitting here looking at a Quicken report showing the cost basis of our investments, the current value and the resultant gain or loss. There's a lot of red ink on the page! On the other hand, there are still some investments that are nicely in the black. Oddly, the stocks I have are doing better than the mutual funds. Some of these are simply because I bought the stock and have held it for years: Altria (Philip Morris tobacco) and Merck, the drug maker. Some are 'hot' even in this climate: Monsanto (genetically modifying seeds for farmers).

Of course there are losers. I've managed to lose a fourth of my investment in Intel (the pc chip maker). The financial stocks aren't doing well either but I have only HSBC (banking) and ING (insurance).

Among the other losers are stories I just don't understand. I have a gold miner and a precious metals fund - both are losers while gold is more than $900 an ounce. How can that happen? Gotta get rid of those lemons. I bought Siemens (electronics & telcom) and have lost almost half of my investment but I'm convinced it is a great company and will eventually repay my patience. I guess that's why I find the market fascinating; there are a million stories and it's my job to figure out which one to believe. BTW: we've got 74 individual investments. I'm doing some pruning here before long!

Hope this hasn't been too boring for you. Be careful, it's dangerous out there!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Sad news

We got some sad news today. A friend of my wife's just died today; he was only sixty-eight. Discovered he had cancer a few months ago and now he's gone. They had been friends for over forty years. The good side of it is that he was in a lot of pain so hanging around was bad for him and everyone who knew him. RIP George.


Ok, I'm going to shut up about this new truck soon, I promise; just not today. Have to post a photo of it.

It's a big beast; much taller, longer and heavier than our previous truck but that's what we need for towing our trailer. Back East the mountain grades aren't like the grades out here and our old truck wasn't dealing with them very well. Still, it's a shock. Those running boards were an option but without them my wife found it very difficult to get into the truck - and she's 5'7" (170cm).

Gotta go - play with the new toy. Take care, it's dangerous out there!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Can it be Thursday?

Jeez, time flies when you are having fun. No idea why I haven't posted anything since last weekend. It's been a doing things around the house sort of week. Putting up shelves, fixing a desk, you know the kind of stuff. Had to unload all the stuff that I carry around in the truck. That's a trip!

A couple of years ago we were driving on this dead end road up a mountain and it occurred to me that if, say a tree fell on the road and we couldn't get down, we'd be pretty uncomfortable. I do like my comfort so started carrying some emergency supplies - just a blanket & a little food but it might look pretty good if you were hungry! Now that we live in the dry west, I've supplemented that with a couple of gallons of water. Then there is the box of stuff for the truck & trailer - a manual, a quart of oil, that kind of thing. There is my tool box. Can't cart everything around with me but it's got the basics. And that's just the start!

Getting into the cab was really fun. I even found things that I can't identify; now that's bad! Lots of dirt; I really don't like cleaning the vehicle. Of course there was a dead flashlight; my ownership seems to kill them. I finally got one of those you shake to create power; it's kind of lame but I haven't killed it yet. Two maps of Vegas, one of Nevada and a GPS. Do you get the idea we like knowing where we are going? There were a million other things too, or at least it seemed so. But it's done. I think I'm going to go emulate the cat.

Take it easy; it's dangerous out there!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

One more thing!

I was reading Nick's Blog the other day and he talked about the importance of enjoying the life you live rather than just struggling along in a rut because that's what you've always done. We were coming back from Vegas yesterday and saw an accident. It was a pickup with travel trailer and a couple of cars that had obviously had something pretty serious happen. It was sobering for us since that's the kind of rig we have. We have an idea how fast things can happen when you are towing four or five tons of stuff behind you. But the real point is that Nick was right: live for today! Tomorrow may never come and yesterday is gone. Saving for tomorrow is important but not at the expense of living today.

Be careful, it's still dangerous out there.

A Done Deal

We went back to Vegas yesterday to check out the 08 Ford and ended up buying it. I think the critical moment was on the test drive when I was on a steeply uphill freeway entrance. I stepped on the accelerator, not all the way to the floor but most of the way(unusual for me), and the truck really responded. We just didn't feel that kind of response in the Chevy. Plus the personnel at the dealership actually acted like human beings. The fat kid salesperson was late, overslept I would guess, but another guy took us on the test drive and the kid did apologize nicely once he got there. (Oops, forgot to mention, it's a diesel!)

The discussions about price were acceptable. I'm sure we could have argued another few hundred dollars out of them but we just don't care. Hell, even car dealers have to eat. We got what we think is a heck of a truck for well below the cost of anything similar. Yes, it is an 08 but since we have kept our last four vehicles between nine and fifteen years... maybe it's not that important!

We are having some modifications done so we don't have the truck yet. (I was so shook up that I didn't even take a cell phone photo of the thing!) The biggest thing, and the dealer is giving it to us, is the upholstery is being replaced with leather. My wife was fixated on leather because the animal hair just brushes off. They have a couple other things to do so pics have to wait until late next week.

Today is Mother's Day in the U.S. Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. Our daughter is coming over from Vegas. She's been gone all week on a business trip but wouldn't miss the big day. My wife and I consider it another Hallmark-holiday (created by and for the greeting card industry) but she's the sentimentalist and has to show up complete with sappy card. At least it's not totally bogus like Personal Assistant Appreciation Day.

Gotta go. I feel myself climbing onto a soapbox! But before I go, here's a photo of the cat being his normal maniac self (yeah, sure!). I was sure hoping he'd fall off the edge but he's way smarter than that!

Take it easy, it's dangerous out there!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Local Yokels

As I responded to Lawyer Mom's comment; we drove the Chevy the local dealer has that would be acceptable. Honestly, it was a very nice truck. GM has made a lot of intelligent changes to their vehicle in the last nine years. The transmission especially was very nice and the ride quality was excellent. It was a little twitchy on the road but not bad. It has a "short bed" rather than the longer bed (and wheelbase) that I would prefer but that's not a deal breaker. There is, however, a slight problem or two.

They made it VERY obvious that they wanted to close the deal today. When my wife explained that we wanted to drive a Ford tomorrow, they tightened up even more. Then the salesman started saying bad things about Fords. That's a chump ploy; the kind of thing I expected from the idiot salesman. I haven't had a lot of experience with Fords but we did have one we bought twenty years ago that did 122,000 trouble free miles before we gave it to our son who drove it several more years.

Now the deal that they presented was confusing but didn't look too bad but when I got home and dissected it I figured out that they are cutting about four percent off MSRP and the rest of the deal is direct from GM. Hmmmm, guess they aren't really interested in doing business. This is in an environment where there were no other customers in the building during the two hours we were on the premises.

We are also thinking of buying a little car that might get a bunch better mileage that a big truck so we did test drive a Chevy HHR. It's a little "retro" styled station wagon thing. It was comfortable and has some room for carrying stuff but had the acceleration of an elderly VW. No longer on our list!

All in all, an instructive day. The Chevy is a nice truck. The dealership is going to have to completely change their approach though to remain in contention. Right now, it's the Ford dealer's deal to lose. (However, I have high hopes that they will manage it!) Stay tuned for the next inning. Don't know how many there will be but they will all be fun!

Be careful out there, it's dangerous!

The Local's Turn

After checking out the Fords in Vegas we decided we needed to check out the local Chevy-GMC dealer. Of course they had absolutely nothing along with the worse salesman I've ever met. The guy didn't even know the product line. GMC's have an SL package and an SLT package that is a little nicer. Chevy has an LT1 and an LT3. This guy kept getting them confused. This only aggravated the fact that they didn't HAVE either of the upgraded vehicles. So we spent some time standing out in the 95 degree sun (35C) looking at trucks we wouldn't buy.

Finally we went in and the salesman gets us to sit at his desk (way off in a corner) while he goes and talks to the only person in the place who can use their computer. Eventually we figured this out and went over and talked to the computer guy ourselves. After a tremendous amount of effort he manages to find two, count them two, trucks that have most of what we want. The big problem seems to be that we want both front seats to have power controls. Most of the trucks they have have a power drivers seat but only these two have a power passenger seat. (That's not quite true, we don't want a 4 wheel drive and maybe they have some of those with a power passenger seat; don't know.)

Anyway, we spend two hours at this dealership talking to the idiot and the almost-an-idiot. They have a storage lot in Vegas where these scarce vehicles are kept so they are bringing one of them over here today. We are to see it this afternoon. Damn, it's hard to try an do business with people in this small town. I was ready to walk out just trying to get that idiot salesman to listen to what we wanted. We'll see today if the computer guy actually found something or not.

A Lawyer Mom suggested that I might check out It sounds like an interesting approach to buying a car. At least I wouldn't have had to meet the idiot! If what we are doing falls through I may be a fightingchance customer before long.

Take it easy, it's dangerous out there.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Vegas Day

I guess yesterday was too laid back because today we headed over the hump to Vegas and went car shopping. How's that for awful?

Our current truck is a 2000 GMC - the smallest of the full size pickups. It has served us well but it is getting older and things are getting a little cranky. Everything works and all; sometimes we just get a strange noise or something. It has 125,000 miles (201,000 km) of which about a third was traveled towing our trailer. I can't complain that it hasn't earned it's keep but it's time to start thinking replacement.

We did have a couple of things we needed to return to stores over there but we still made it to the Ford dealer by probably 13:00. This really fat kid salesman took us around showing us all the stuff. They had one 2008 pickup that was kind of interesting and a fair number of 09's; nothing that fit our exact desires but were close. We would like a long bed pickup this time around both for the longer wheelbase and for the additional room but it's hard to find. The buyers for the dealerships figure no one really carries much in their trucks so they only order the short beds. The difference is only something like 18 inches (45 cm) but I think it would make quite a difference. The 08 has a diesel engine which is a $7200 option that we don't care about but if their incentive is good enough we might go for it anyway. Since we keep our vehicles for so long I don't care about the thing being two years old. The 09 has a gas V-10 engine that I've heard is a gas hog. We left about 15:45 hoping we were ahead of the traffic and we mostly made it.

Anyway, the guy is supposed to email us some numbers on both the 08 and an 09 that they have. I find car buying exhausting work so I'm on my second scotch already. The salesman was standing around joking with other employees when we left so maybe he's not the guy we want to buy from. We'll see.

My wife took advantage of the time driving over there to call a friend who is dying of cancer. Not her sister who has just been diagnosed but a guy who had a really fast growing cancer and who has been undergoing chemotherapy. Apparently it didn't do a lot so yesterday we got an email from his wife saying "pray for a rapid end to his suffering". Jeez! Apparently he has good days and bad days so whether we should make a trip over to see him (Southern California) or not is kind of up in the air. She is supposed to give us a call and tell us what he would like. NOT a fun idea but sometimes that's life.

Dull, depressing post today. Sorry about that but I'm tired. Take care, it's dangerous out there!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Quiet day

We are having a quiet day in the neighborhood today. The big thing is me making navy bean soup from half the ham bone leftover from our visitors. There is still another bone! Happily I took the meat off it today so cooking it will wait for another day. Don't know what I'll do with that half.

Weather guy this morning said we'd be over ninety (32C) today and for the rest of the week. That should get us in training for the summer. One of the things we are curious about is how we'll get along when it's hot every day. Nights should remain cool however so we can hope it won't be too bad.

Photo is from Sunday night:

Be careful, it's dangerous out there!

Monday, May 04, 2009

Phone BS

Good morning all. It's an overcast morning in the desert which keeps the temperature moderate - not cool not hot. But we don't get that glorious sunrise either. I think I prefer the sunrise!

Croft, from, asked about the new cell phones we got recently. Well, that's easy. We got the LG Shine and it is working out fine for us. Perhaps a little background is in order. Back in Florida we had a land line and two cell phones. We talked ourselves into the two cell phones because it is convenient while traveling to be able to call one another. Usually I will take the truck and go buy food and with the two phones my wife can call with any last minute additions to the list or whatever. We used AT&T's service and found it to be good almost everywhere we went. This time we decided to remain with AT&T because the service was good and because it allows us to keep 'rollover minutes'. Here in Nevada we don't have a land line and we find our telephone usage to be uneven. One month there will be a couple of birthdays and we'll use much more than our monthly allowance congratulating the lucky old people; the next month there are no birthdays and we are well under the allowance.

Our selection of the LG was based on the way we use our phones. Phone quality is the first priority; having an acceptable camera is second and price was third. We don't use the phone to text or access the internet or any of that wonderful stuff so we didn't care about those attributes. I do use it to take a photo occasionally when I've forgotten my camera. Consumer Reports was consulted and the LG got a good score from them on phone quality. The customer reviews on the AT&T site were favorable enough. The camera is a 2MP one that will keep me happy. Online the price was $20 which was acceptable - then we got a $50 rebate so the actual price was negative! Can't get much cheaper than that.

I still find the LG User Guide to be confusing at best but I like the actual phone. The Shine is a sliding model which is easy to open with one hand; the clam shell phones are more difficult for me to open. Call quality is very good and the camera is acceptable. It has a flash but it's not worth much. You can do more with the phone but we simply don't care. It does what we want. It is a little larger then some of the clam shell models but it is very thin which helps make up for it's size. All in all, we are very happy. Now, if it is durable enough to live in our house - that's the last question. You can be sure you'll hear me whining if the phones die prematurely.

Take it easy, it's dangerous out there.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Lovely morning anyway!

Went to sleep last night to high winds but woke to a lovely, calm morning. Looks wonderful but there is some high cloud cover keeping it cool. Vegas tv is talking about 83F (28C) today and 98F (36C) by the end of the week. Of course, they change their estimates every day!

Dreamed of heavy rain last night; probably because people who have been here a while talk about very localized heavy rain. Two people have said that a shower of maybe a mile in diameter will dump an inch of rain but the rest of the valley will remain completely dry. Interesting image for me. In Florida we did occasionally have rain that would be on one side of the street but not the other but then the shower would move and you'd get wet too. These folks are talking like the shower just stops when it is ready rather than moving around. We'll see.

Got the bookshelves put together and a few books loaded. Only about a dozen boxes left to empty. Well, not including the boxes of photos, photo albums and loose pictures. Don't photos just multiply by themselves somehow? We couldn't possibly have taken all those photos! No wonder Kodak used to make so much money. But, you know, much as I love my digital camera I still feel the urge to get the old Nikon out of mothballs and drag some film through it. There are lots of things I haven't learned to do with the digital that I can manage with film. Still, here's a sunset that I managed with the digital camera in my new phone! Take it easy, it's dangerous out there.