Almost camping season.

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It’s finally getting towards the tail end of winter. The air outside has that certain spring smell to it, no longer the cold, dry stench of dirty snow. At least when the sun is out, anyway.

This is good news. Camping season is almost here (at least, the camping season where I stand half a chance of convincing my wife to accompany me) and I’m stoked. Last time we went to Target, we stood in the camping aisle checking out the tents. Definitely going bigger this season; last year we used a four person tent. We found one that has over six feet of headroom inside; it’ll be great to be able to stand up in it. The extra rooms will help with the several metric tons worth of baby stuff we’re inevitably going to bring.

We’ve still got over a month until Stone Park opens the gates to vehicle traffic, but we might end up just waiting until most of the snow melts to hike/bike in and camp.

I’m stoked.


Living In Your Car

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Every now and then life reaches out and smacks you one. Your house burns down. Your significant other leaves you. Your medications are too expensive and without them, you cannot maintain a stable lifestyle. Regardless of the reason, winding up in the back seat of your car alone happens to the best of us. Having done so myself, here’s a few tips for you.

First off, pat yourself on the back. You have a car, which puts you rather high on the totem pole as far as homeless folks go. You have the capability to warm yourself, cool yourself, secure yourself and move yourself without ever setting foot on the ground. Keep a healthy mindset – it’s half the battle.

(image credit
Begbie Images)

Hygiene is huge. There just isn’t much air in a car and stink happens – keep that in mind when you buy the packet of baby wipes or crash the shower at college athletic complexes. It’s worth the effort to keep yourself presentable – this makes a huge difference in your dealings with others.

If you’re trying to keep it on the down low that your Honda is your home, it’s much easier to do if you’re clean and don’t have seat belt indents on your face.

Spend time outside of your car, if at all possible. Sacrifice the necessary fuel and drive to an outdoor park (if it’s warm) or a coffeeshop (if it’s cold). It can do wonders for your mental state to spend a day in the warm sunshine, kicked back against a tree with a decent book or relaxing with a cup of cheap coffee at a bookstore or coffeeshop. If you’re lucky and have a laptop, wifi is free at many places. Pick up a refillable beverage and hang out until they make you leave (this is where proper hygiene makes all the difference in the world).

BE MINDFUL OF WHERE YOU PARK. I cannot stress this enough. Pick the wrong spot and you’ll be woken up to a cop rapping on your window. If you’re lucky, it’ll be a good cop who will tell you to move on without giving you any trouble. Like any profession, there happen to be douchebags in the law enforcement community as well — these are the guys that’ll search your car just to hassle you, leaving all your possessions lying out beside your car as they pull away feeling all manly and crap. Seriously, just avoid all that and park sensibly. Don’t park in a loading zone, in front of a driveway, in a bar parking lot after 2am, an interstate off ramp, or anyplace that’ll draw the attention of your city’s finest.

Keep your car clean inside. You more than likely will have a ton of stuff packed into a tiny space; decreasing your personal space inside your car. Keep it picked up – a bunch of wrappers and trash strewn on the floor won’t help you at all.

It’s never an ideal situation, but with the right attitude you might even end up enjoying yourself.

Been awhile.

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The alarm clock blinked its amber eyes before emitting the high pitched whine that woke John Stohlman from sleep before being choked off by a calloused hand. Shuddering, he sat up, flipped the TV on and clicked on the window air conditioner. CNN filled the screen as he stumbled to the bathroom, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and the sweat from his brow. Summer had so far not been kind to the Minnesota north woods, plunging the region into a soaking humidity.

Outside, the morning sun filtered through the pines in the forest behind his cabin. Heavy trucks rumbled down the dirt road a half mile down his driveway, making their way to the work site that had heavy security, or at least enough to keep the citizens of Kent, MN guessing. A coffeepot clicked on in the kitchen, filling the house with the scent of hot coffee.

John emerged from the master bedroom having showered and dressed. His heavy flannel shirt and worn jeans had seen better days, making an odd juxtaposition with the granite counter, stainless steel kitchen appliances and giant flat screen in the living room. He lumbered towards the refrigerator, pulled out a beer and sat heavily on a chair. Cracking the top, he tilted his head back to take a deep draught, stopping only when a sound outside caught his attention. It sounded like the crushing of a soda can, only amplified and it seemed to last for an interminable length of time.

He set the beer on the counter as he walked past, making a beeline for his boots which rested on a rack near the back door. Opening the door, he looked out and saw the source of the noise. An unladen flatbed semi had collided with what looked vaguely like a small passenger car.

John walked to his truck, got in and reversed, turning it around to head towards the road. As he bumped down the rutted driveway towards the accident, his eyes flicked briefly towards the dirt road to the north, seeing a plume of dust that registered in his mind but was disregarded as he arrived at the accident. Pulling up alongside to park beyond the wreck, he peered through the splintered glass of what he now could tell was a late model compact. He saw the Asian driver cast nervous glances at him while speaking into a cell phone. A noise from around the curve up the road made him automatically turn his head, which probably saved his life. John threw his vehicle into reverse, his tires spitting gravel as they propelled his truck into the ditch just as a black Suburban, all four wheels locked up, slid past his front bumper. Two more black Suburbans slid to similar stops on the other side of the accident as a man in a suit stepped confidently from the passenger door and stood in front of his truck.

“Sir, we’re all set here. Go ahead and take off; is this your home?” He motioned towards the cabin.

“Yeah, it’s mine. You guys need to call 911, that woman looks bad.”

The suited man took a menacing step towards John’s side of the truck. Pulling aside his suit coat, he displayed a blacked out handgun holstered at his waist. “Best move on.”

“Hey, you got it.” John reached down and grabbed the shift lever to put the truck in four wheel drive. He pulled out of the ditch and lit a cigarette as he drove back up to his house. As he entered, he locked the door behind him. Pulling his .45 from his concealed holster, he set it on the table next to him as he sat down to finish his beer, debating whether to call 911 to report the accident. Reason won out. John pulled his phone from his pocket and dialed.

“911, what is your emergency?”

“Yeah, I need to report an accident, happened out front of my place about five minutes ago. I’m on the old Ridge Road north of Elk River.” John cast a glance towards the clock.

“Sir, I need you to stay on the line until emergency vehicles arrive – what is your name, sir?” The dispatcher was trembling with excitement – being new at his job gave him the jitters which, combined with the caffeine in half a pot of coffee had his nerves at a fever pitch.

“No name.” John flipped his phone shut, got up and started making a light breakfast. As he sat down to eat, there was a heavy pounding on his door. Grimacing, he holstered his pistol, muted his TV and walked towards the door, opening it to find two cruisers idling outside and two officers standing on his deck.

The younger officer spoke first.

The Daily Writer by Fred White

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Z1983_DailyWriterI like to review books. I recently saw this book in Barnes and Nobel and thought it looked interesting, but not quite $17.99 interesting. I bought a used, like-new copy on for 99 cents + shipping and checked it out.

Most of the time when I review a book, I write a few lines about it, what I thought about it etc and then it goes on my shelf – to be picked up in a year or so when I desire to read it again.

That approach wouldn’t work so well with this one, as it is “366 meditations to cultivate a productive and meaningful writing life.”

So I present to you a 366-part book review. This time next year, I’ll be done. It’ll be like one of those book reviews that is probably too long, except this one will take you a year to read.

Best Ad Ever.

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Posted by Andy

Occasionally the need arises to conserve every last drop of fuel remaining in your fuel tank. Whether this is caused by negligence resulting in necessity or simply a newfound environmental consciousness, there are many ways to reduce the amount of fuel your vehicle uses to carry you over the road.

  1. Don’t step on the gas pedal as much.
    Seriously, this is probably the most important adjustment you can make to your driving style. Keep the pressure light. If you’re driving a stick, shift to the next gear sooner than you normally would. Don’t lug your engine, just shift sooner. If you’re in an automatic, use light pedal pressure. Don’t rev your engine above 2000 rpm – you’ll accelerate slower but use less fuel. Occasionally, letting off the gas for a moment will kick the transmission into a higher gear, cutting your revs and using less fuel.
  2. Coast.
    Modern fuel-injected vehicles will cut the fuel to the injectors during a prolonged period of coasting. Utilize every downward slope – take your foot off the gas and coast up to that stoplight. If you have to use your brakes, you’re wasting fuel! If you’re comfortable with the following technique, use it – but do not attempt this if you don’t feel safe. When you’re coasting down a longer stretch; say more than thirty seconds of coasting, shift into neutral and kill the engine. Be sure to immediately turn the key back to the ‘ON’ position so you’re still able to use your turn signals. Your vehicle will retain enough vacuum assist for your power brakes to function for a couple of pumps at most, so make sure you use them sparingly. Also, your power steering will not give you any assist when you’re coasting with the engine off – so be prepared for HEAVY steering. Coasting is the most fuel-efficient way to drive – if your engine is off, you’re using no fuel. Note that this will place more wear and tear on your engine’s starter (or clutch, if you’re in a stick – you are bump-starting your vehicle, I’m sure).
  3. Use Your Momentum
    This goes right along with #2. Don’t accelerate during turns – it wastes fuel. Coast through the turns and gently accelerate afterwards. Don’t slow way down for off-ramps or other turns, if you can help it. Yeah, you might get shoved up against your door, but you’ll exit the turn/ramp with enough speed to coast quite a long distance if you time everything right.
  4. Ride the Ridges
    You’ve probably noticed that roads wear more where everybody drives on them, forming ruts that gather standing water and bumps that steal momentum from your vehicle. Put your right wheel next to the solid white line on your right – it’s smoother, you’ll save your vehicle from having to expend energy plowing through standing water, and you’ll save fuel.
  5. Park Wisely
    This one’s simple. If you back into a space that faces downhill, you can simply shift your car into neutral with the engine off and coast out of the space without using fuel.

These techniques added together can stretch your next tank of fuel incredibly far. Try ‘em out and post your results in the comments.

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Vista Minimalist Desktop

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I used Rainmeter to create this minimalist Vista desktop. Clock, time/date, location, sunset/sunrise times, percent chance of rain, five common apps, PC stats and an iTunes now playing screen.




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