Friday, February 29, 2008

Diebold Leaks Election Results

This has a good 'gottcha' factor to it. Have fun with it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Care and Keeping of Dutch Ovens

Of all the handy inventions that has been given to mankind, I have to rate dutch ovens above the computer, the internet, the cell phone, and even, dare I say it, the ipod. We didn't come to learn about dutch ovens until we had moved out to the edge of nowhere. Avalanche, Rockslide and I went out with the scouts one fine spring day. There were a lot of scouts, and they all wanted to have their own campfires. We didn't have a Coleman stove, and had kind of chickened out and brought a few sandwiches, some chips, apples, cookies etc. The Scouts were making pizza, popcorn, and the campfire dinner with hamburger, carrots, and potatoes wrapped in tinfoil and put on the campfire. These last could probably be fairly edible if the hamburger was extra lean, the potatoes and carrots were cut into little pieces and the whole thing was seasoned and cooked well - something that is only theory to me. I have never seen one done well. So we ate our dinner, and were still a little peckish. The Scoutmaster asked us if we wanted to have some of his dutch oven dinners. We had no idea what a treat we would have. Dutch oven chicken, cheezey potatoes, cherry cobler.... mmmmm.... Much better than the greasey hamburger, - rare in the inside and cooked to a burnt crisp on the fireside, crunch and burnt potatoes and carrots that the traditional dinner gave us. Our sandwiches had been good, but we really liked this new style of cooking.

Fade back about 15 years. We were on the farm and inflation was roaring along at about 15 percent and we had a lot of exhortation to get our food storage in church and had been making some progress in that area and decided to test it out for a week. It taught us that we didn't have a good way to cook things, and that we didn't like textured vegetable protein at all.... and probably some other lessons as well.

So let's concentrate on food today. Water is probably more important to have if you can't get it, but lets start with food. We didn't have dutch ovens! Yikes, looking back, how strange is that? If you don't have a dutch oven, get one. Save for one, let Santa know it's on your list, use some of the stimulus package money this spring to buy one or more.

I like the ones without the legs. The camp ovens are really better if you are going to use them outside a lot, but you can use the classic ones all the time in the oven, and get your recipes dialed in and then take them outside and use them with briquettes. You will need to have a few small rocks or something else to act as legs, or the oven with smother the briquettes, and you will have very pink, tough and juicy chicken. :)

Dottie asked me to send her some information on dutch oven cooking so that she can put it into the cookbook she is putting together. (Mostly Grandma's recipes, but also other family favorites that anyone has and wants to share).

I got this chart and placement instructions from

So maybe this will be helpful. I don't use recipes or charts much, so I am not much help. But maybe I should.

Don't use the briquettes that are supposed to give things a mesquite or other wood flavor. They are made from wood rather than coal, and have a LOT less heat in them... you can use them, but not on a 1 to 1 basis with the chart below. They have less heat, and they burn out quicker, so you might need 1.5:1 or 2:1

If your meat is still a little frozen - more time, more briquettes.

If is is really cold out side - same as above. If the wind is blowing, shelter the ovens, or you don't have a prayer.

You can use them on a regular campfire just fine too. Bring a fireplace ash shovel so that you can heap the coals on top. Also, buy a lid lifter, or have a pair of vise grip pliers handy.

There are lots of little gadgets that can be handy to have, but are not totally necessary. I like the smooth bottom ovens designed for using in the kitchen oven. They nest inside each other, and take less room. But you need to have something to set them on so that the coals or briquettes aren't crushed and can still get some air. Railroad spikes work well for this. So does several little rocks....

You need to have some kind of pliers or forcips or something to move the coals around. Good to have a whisk broom too, to sweep off the top before you serve. I hope this is helpful.

This chart will show you how many briquettes you need to use to achieve a certain temperature in your Dutch oven. The numbers across the top refer to the cooking temperature you wish to achieve. The number down the side refers to your Dutch oven's diameter. So if you have a 12 inch Dutch oven and want to cook something at 350 degrees, for example, you would need 25 briquettes.



































Briquette Position

Now you know how many briquettes to use to get a certain temperature. The next question is how many briquettes go on the top, and how many go on the bottom? Use this guide:

To Roast
Put ½ of the briquettes on the bottom, ½ on the lid.

To Bake
Put 1/3 on the bottom, 2/3 on the lid.

To Simmer
Put 2/3 on the bottom, 1/3 on the lid.

Also, realize that a briquette has a heat curve - at the start they put out very little, then the heat rises in sort of a bell shaped curve, reaches a peak and starts to fall of as the fuel in consumed and the actual hot part gets to be as big as a marble, surrounded by a lot of fluffy ash. Don't be fooled...

The more you use your dutch oven, the better it will cook, in that all the little pores in the metal will become filled with carbon, and it will have a slick finish that is very durable.

When you are first seasoning an oven the process is to coat it with oil and bake it at 450 deg F for an hour or so. This will kind of make a slick surface, but it is just a start. For the first dozen or more times, I would just use it to make meat dishes, or bake bread in. If you have a lot of liquid, and especially if there are acids (fruit based desserts), that will dissolve the seasoning coating, and you will have to add more oil and bake it again. Bread is good, put a lot of pan spray in and bake without a lid. Or with one, except for the last few minutes to brown the loaf. And, yes, it won't be shaped like bread you buy in the store.

One more nice thing about DO cooking. It is easy to store a bag of match light briquettes in a closet. They can be used on a propane or coleman gase stove as well, but if push comes to shove, you can gather up some sticks and dry branches from a nearby tree and have a warm meal.

Well, that should get you started. And that is kind of the whole point of this blog. Once you start using a dutch oven in your cooking, I think you will be hooked. And it won't seem so weird either. After the first time you have a power outage that last for a few hours, you will be glad of the water, warm clothes and blankets, and food that you have in you home.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Addendum to the last post

Just to clarify, they buying of companies and stock is a desperate measure, but might actually stimulate stock prices in the short run. But it will kill the dollar, and so while you might have more dollars, their value will fall. Sophie's choice I suppose.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Central Banker to Buy Assets? What does that mean?

What does that mean? Well, the Fed and other central banks have been trying to loan out a mountain of money to prevent a deflationary depression. But the commercial and investment banks aren't lending out what they are borrowing from the FED, because a lot of the assets that they own- subprime based CDO's- are losing value, and the bank's reserves have to be constantly replenished with borrowed money.

But the lower interest rates and unlimited liquidity might not be enough. The central banks could lower the interest rate to zero, and if no one wanted or was able to borrow more, the house of cards will fall. So it looks like the central banks might actually buy companies that they consider too important to let fail, and just print money to do it. This is called monitizing the debt, and it is wildly inflationary.

Right now all of my 401(k) is in cash, and that is the best I can do to avoid a falling stock market, but I wish I could put some or all of it into a very respected exchange traded fund (ETF) that actually holds more gold than many countries. GLD is the by symbol, and each share is about 1/10 oz of gold that they buy. It is held in Zurich. Sadly my hands are tied.

Here are some articles that talk about possible montization by Central Banks. The last article explains this in good detail.

United Kingdom Seeks Power to buy Companies- Marketwatch .com

U.K. government to nationalize Northern Rock

Depression risk might force U.S. to buy assets

Central Banks Other Option, Crossing the Rubicon

I have to appologize for these last few posts. They have been pretty depressing, and I really wanted to do some on gardening - soils, cool and warm weather gardens, patio gardens etc. Maybe tomorrow. I talked to Gary L., at L... Lumber and he is getting me a price on some patio door windows to use as solar collector glass..... so, more on that later as well. I want to do two solar hot water, and two solar hot air this year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

How I got this way.......This is for you, John

Pat McManus devotes a whole book to telling how he got to be the way that he is. He decided that he better explain himself after his friend almost laughed himself to death as Pat recounted that when he was five he fell out of a bus and landed on his head. This is what set his friend off in gales of laughter that ended with him weakly gasping that 'it explains so much.....".

As far as I know, I don't share Pat's history with the head injury. But I had a nice talk with my mom tonight, and she told me that my brother is wondering about the head injury, or maybe brain tumor or something. How did I get so weird?

Here is the deal:

The name of this blog contains the phrase: The End of The World as We Know It. That is what is happening. In the next few years will will look back on these times with wonder. We know a world of no limits. We have all the energy that we want, all that we can use. People all through out the world work and save, and we import their savings to fund our debt, and provide a market for their goods and services. We are a nation of consumers. We are a nation of debtor drones.

Short Story 1
A ship runs into a reef and sinks. Several of the passengers manage to swim to a nearby island where they dry themselves out and set about making up the rules of the island. Bill becomes the coconut gatherer. Jane becomes the weaver of sleeping mats. Don gatherers the fronds and grasses that Jane uses. Dale and Sally comb the beach and bring back useful things, and a lot of clams and shellfish. Susan learns to make pots and dishes from a deposit of clay. Merlin is the consumer. He doesn't gather, sew, weave or pot, but pays each of his fellow islanders with a hand full of special sand. Now this sand is just the same old sand that is on the beach and has no special value, but Merlin has worked his magic, and between the force of his personaility and the fact that he is big, somewhat unstable and has the only functional handgun on the island, his fellow islanders accept his leadership and fall all over each other saving the sand that he gives them.

Now, if this seems like a healthy and sustainable and just kind of a situation, I suppose we don't have much more of substance to say to each other. If this seems like the biggest crock of crap that you have ever run into, welcome to Global Economics 101. We are living in an economic twilight zone.

This is the world that we know. A world where saving is not a virtue, but a vice. Where conservation is discouraged, and waste is built into everything we use, everything we do. Weirdly, we are kind of an economic lynch pin for the global economy. Mr. Bernake and our other friends from the Federal government want to give us some of our money back so that we can patriotically spend it and keep the ponzi game going.

Hubberts Curve: Short Story 2

A man heats his home with wood, as did his father, and his grandfather. This happy and warm family made it a point to map out all the trees in their valley, and for years it was the job of the younger men to go out and find new groves of trees. All of the grandfather's children, and all of the grand children continued to live in this valley. They never planted new trees.

Each year they would write down in a book how many trees they had discovered. Each year, for years they found more than the previous year. Until about the mid 1960's That was they year the found the most trees, and every year since then they found fewer and fewer, even though they worked harder, rode longer, and even flew above the valley in a large balloon.

Each family continued to heat with wood and since they had always found some more trees, they believed that the tree finders would always find more, or that someone would think of a way to heat their homes. Some vile malcontents asked how firewood could be made and trees cut down if they had found fewer and fewer trees, and indeed had used more trees then they had found for more than a generation. These malcontents were stoned and ran out of town for their depressing questions. And everyone lived happily ever after until some of them had cold houses because of a wood shortage. So they decided then it would be a good idea to plant some trees, and maybe to dig some coal..... although they needed wood for cross ties to make the rails to bring the coal from the next valley, and they needed timbers to mine into the mountain, but the trees were all gone and the people were cold and very grouchy, but they were glad they had run the gloomy malcontents out of town. Bunch of trouble makers. The End.

If you have been reading these blog, I think it abundantly clear that we are very near peak oil production, or that we have passed the peak, probably in 2005. Does that mean that we are 'running out of oil'? Yes, and no. No we as a planet still have a lot of oil in the ground that we know about, and probably quite a bit that can still be found and extracted. Yes in that the oil that remains is increasingly not in the hands of the international oil companies.

For all that we curse them, Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, BP etc. want to sell us a product. They want to get out all the oil that they can, and they want our economy to flourish. But they are holding less and less of the reserves. National oil companies are holding more and more. It isn't in their best interest to sell us their valuable oil and get electronic chits in return. It is in the interest of the countries that still have significant reserves to use them carefully and to get the most return for each barrel of oil that they produce. For example, Saudi Arabia is building four new cities. They will be based on petroleum refineries and petrochemical production plants. They will sell these to us as refined product, basically 'retail'.

'Oh, don't be so gloomy - we can run more alternative fuels. They will think of something.' Well, that is comforting. We actually are producing a lot of ethanol. Food prices are skyrocketing. Wheat is selling for close to, or at $10/BUSHEL (56 lbs.) Grain stocks are lower than that have been since 1947. I think you can call this a manifistation of the 'Law of Unintended Consequences'.

Or how about hydrogen. This is one of my favorites. You need a lot of electricity to split water to obtain hydrogen. Right now our national electrical grid is challenged to keep the lights on. Never mind make hydrogen for 200 million cars. There isn't enough electricity to run a nation of plug in cars either. There just isn't the capacity. Power plants are expensive to build and people don't want them in the back yard, or off in the hills where they might want to recreate some day. And we certainly don't want nukes. To have enough extra electricity to make enough hydrogen to power the cars in the U.S is staggering. Mind boggling. Would we need 100 big plants? 500? We haven't built even one new nuke plant in the last twenty years. So, as my first daughter often says: 'There you have it.'

So there you have it: You can't win or quit or break even. We just won't have infinite energy. Sadly, increased energy consumption, and particularly liquid fuels consumption has gone hand in hand with economic growth. That isn't to say that we can't live quite comfortably on less energy, but it is institutional bedrock philosophy that economies need to expand 1-2%/year. At some point, and fairly soon I think, it will become impossible to continue to have the new energy to use. That isn't to say that we won't work our way around it eventually, but it takes a while to change the minds of all the economics, bussiness people, and polititians in the country. This way of thinking won't change until it is forced to change by circumstance.

All this is just energy related items. There is a whole list of financial problems and seem to be rocketing out of anyones control. I could make this page blue with links, but to what end?

I am not sure where to go from here. If this doesn't make you want to adapt in some ways to these new circumstances, I don't know what to say. To the extent that we can adapt and prepare for reasonable and probable failures in our financial and physical sytems, it seems only wise a prudent. I guess that if you think that increased petroleum costs or loss of availability won't change your life, then you should ignore all of the above. If you are content with the FED and the Federal governments assurances that the markets are sound, and the financial well being of the global economy is intact, then forget anything I might have said or say in the future.

This next part is IMPORTANT:

Risk= Probability X Consequences This is how the math works. I am working on a project for the scrubbers where I needed a lot of money to fix a system that hasn't been needed since 1994. Fourteen years it has been idle, and has fallen into disrepair. I needed several million dollars to fix it. "Please give me 3 million dollars to fix the quench system. No, we haven't needed it for the last fourteen years......." The thing is, that if we lose all station power, probably from and earth quake or something like that, we could suffer damage and loss of generation that would equal 100 million dollars..... with that in the equation, it starts to make sense.

So what is the probability of a financial meltdown with multiple bank failures? I don't know. But it is probably several orders of magnitude greater than what you would think if your only knowledge of the system is the 6:00 news. Don McAlvany thinks it is probable that it will happen in the next 6 to 18 months. I don't know. Those calculations you can only really make with your gut, as we will never have enough information to make a good calculation.

What would be the result to you and your family if you couldn't use your ATM, online banking or direct deposit for two weeks? What if your bank did fail and you had to wait for the FDIC to refund your money? Obviously no matter how well we are prepared for something like this, it will still be a giant pain in the postierior to all of us. But would you be able to eat? Would you have water to drink, at least for a few days if the power went out? Even more important, would you have enough water to flush the toilet?

In the next few years, I think it is very likely that we will see that we are on the down side of the petroleum production curve. There will be no going back, and possibly only some flattening of the curve due to conservation measures and poor economic production. Tar Sands won't make up the difference, and neither will oil shale. Ethanol and bio-diesel will make us chose driving or eating.

How will you be doing then? Remember, at the present time your food travels an average of 1500 miles before you eat it. How about a garden? What a radical concept. Seriously, this will impact everyone, and I guess the reason I get spun up about it is that as a nation we are just so complacent. Dick Cheney summed up our collective attitude when he said the 'the American way of life is not negotiable'. Not even by geological depletion it seems. What is your risk factor? It will be pretty hard to lower the probability of this happening. About the only thing you can do is to change the consequences of how you will be affected.

People in countries that are too poor to buy fuel will lose their agriculture, their electrical grid, their manufacturing capability. I am hoping that we will still be rich enough that we won't see starvation like many other countries are seeing even now. There are about 6.6 billion people on the earth today. It is doubtful that the earth can feed more than about 2 billion without a lot of fertilizer and mechanized farm machinery. You do the math on what kind of pressures will develop over the next 10 years. Right out of 'Revelation'.

So, that is how I got this way. Sorry if I am a little to worried, and grim. This is for you John, you were wondering what has gotten into me. Well, now you know. I see window of a year or two that we might be able to make a difference in preparing for what is likely to come. I will be trying to make a difference in our lives and help my kids if they want help. Comments are welcome.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rate Your Bank

This is kind of cool. It gives you a run down on the health of your bank or thrift. sound/ss_home.asp

I tried the link, and got a message that said that it was an old page... you might have to type the whole thing in. Remove the space between safe and sound when you do.

Here is an FDIC site that give some more information. These are the guys that insure your account, so it also should help.

So have fun. I hope. Our bank checked out just fine.

Just What Are We Supposed to Do? Part II

Recently, Annie posed this question and asked if we should put all of our money in our mattress.

I don't think we can do that on a permanent basis, and almost everyone that reads this blog is living close to paycheck to paycheck. But it does argue powerfully for having some money - a weeks worth, if you can swing it, in cash, at home. You don't hear much about the instability that is going on in the markets, but the translation is 'credit crunch'= near bank failure. And if you don't think the trillions of dollars that have been injected into the system since August are symptomatic of real bank instability, then you have no idea of what is going on. Anyway, here is the quote. The author, in the preceding paragraph was describing CDS derivatives, (Credit Default Swap) which is as he describes it, sort of a private insurance for bonds. Huge (hundreds of trillions of dollars) and almost unregulated, they seem to work fine in good financial conditions. But no one knows what happens in times of trouble. The quote:

......"Be ready for the coming bank runs. These will make the recent run on all of the branches of the Northern Rock Bank in England seem puny, by comparison. The Northern Rock experience taught us a few important lessons: In a 21st Century bank run you can expect three things to happen immediately: 1.) All ATMs will be shut down, 2.) Debit card withdrawals will be severely limited or stopped completely, and 3.) Online banking will be shut down. These measures effectively funnel the "run" down to just face to face transactions at bank teller windows, to stem the tide. Bank managers must slow the outflow of cash, for without these measures, a bank could be "cleaned out" of most of its deposits within 24 hours. I've said this before: Be ready for bank runs, folks. Keep some greenback cash on hand. Don't keep all of your funds in one bank--even if your deposits are less than $100,000. Don't forget that it can take weeks or even months to get a check from the FDIC. Lastly, in the event of widespread bank runs, we can anticipate some draconian new rules limiting withdrawals, via executive order(s). Once bank runs begin in the US, even if your own bank is not yet affected, have direct payroll deposit stopped. Instead, ask your employer's payroll department to issue you a traditional paycheck."

I don't know about you, but if ATMs and online banking are shut down, then I am in trouble. So maybe Annie answered her own question. And like they say in 'You've Got Mail' - go to the mattresses.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

News and Blues

These links are pretty mainstream. I think their conclusions are pretty motivating.


I'm not just making this stuff up.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Rex Bucy and other Job Hunt Stories

I think I have told this story once or twice but I think it is a good illustration of determination.

Sometime in the early 1950's a man named Rex Bucy lost his job. He had a wife, and maybe a baby or two. He was probably about 30. He got his check on a Friday, and on Monday morning he got up, and asked his wife to pack him a lunch. She asked him where he was going. He told her he was going to work. She reminded him that he had been laid off. He reminded her that no one was going to come to their house and offer him a job either.

So she packed him a lunch. He took his tools, gloves and hat and started his job search. Every day for about two weeks he made the rounds. In about two weeks he got a job working for Adolph Coors, and that is where Grandpa met him I believe. They worked together for the next 25 years or so.

Another story that I thought was a good illustration of determination was one of Grandpa's jobs. He got a job after high school, and before he went into the Navy working at a small machine shop in Longmont. It was an OK job, and while he was there he learned to use a drill press, a milling machine and a metal lathe amoung other tools. Then he heard about a job in Denver running a lathe that paid a lot more.... and he applied for it. They told him to come to work .... like on Monday afternoon for swing shift and gave him a little tour of the shop. Then they showed him the lathe that he was supposed to run. It was HUGE. It could turn rail car wheels - which is pretty big. Grandpa didn't say much but was pretty intimidated by the size and complexity of this machine.

Monday, about noon, or maybe even earlier found him in Denver at the shop. He sat down near the operator and watched him work it. By the time he needed to come on duty, he had figured out how all the controls worked, and realized that while it was bigger, it was really the same machine.

When we were down in Monte Vista, Grandpa ran into a very determined man. Grandpa was running a construction crew, and they were building a large grain storage building for Coors. He had hired n men, but found one day that he had n+1 working there. He asked this extra guy what he thought he was doing. He said that he needed a job, and that he would work for free for a month. If Grandpa didn't want to hire him then, that was fine- he didn't owe him anything. If he found that his work was good and that he was a good worker, he hoped that Grandpa would hire him. I don't remember his name, but I am pretty sure that Grandpa hired him on the spot. This strategy probably wouldn't work in these complicated times, but it worked then.