Unintended Consequences

This wasn’t supposed to happen. I had no plans to start another project. I just saw some misinformation and just wanted to correct it.

Like many out there I was multi-tasking over the weekend. (ie: keeping myself entertained while doing chores) This time I had chosen to listen to some YouTube videos while cleaning up the dog run.  I have found that many of the videos I watch have enough narrative that I don’t need to watch them to understand what’s going on.

I saw that a guy who calls himself “NutnFancy” had released a video comparing emergency fire starting fuel tablets. I’ve enjoyed some of his camping/adventure videos and thought this would be interesting. The guy comes from a military background, Air Force, so he naturally gravitates to that spectrum of equipment where I prefer the items you find in nature.

Nutn, as I call him for short, loves something called Tri-Ox. It looks kinda like a harder version of Sterno (Camping fuel for cooking) and burns very hot.  In his test he compares this against other survival/camping fuel tablets that are readily found in the camping aisle of your favorite store.

As I’m raking I hear him complaining how hard these other items are to light using a ferro rod. (A rod of metal about three inches long and a quarter inch in diameter that throws off lots of sparks when scraped with a hard metal edge; Like the back of a knife.) I stop and rewind the vid.  Looking at it, I noticed that he didn’t prep any of the survival fuel tablets and that he’s using the rod wrong.  He’s actually pushing some of the fuel tablets away as he swipes down the ferro rod with the back of his knife.  Later in the video he laughs as he realizes that he was not using the fuel tablets correctly and that he should’ve read the instructions.  He then justifies his choice in using Tri-Ox since it didn’t need any prepping and caught fire rather easily.

I thought he was doing a disservice to the other fire starting fuels since they weren’t used correctly. I had one of the brands in my day pack and had used it once for an online camping class.  (Make five fires using man made materials)  I knew it worked and wanted to give an honest review of that product.

So I made a video in reply.

By most standards it is a bad video. It was dark; you just see my arms for the most part; The sounds wavers as I move around; and the angle is off so you don’t see everything I wanted to show.  It also didn’t help that I was using my phone as the camera and propping it up with a selfie-stick and wedging that between the rails of a beach chair.

It’s also unscripted. Very much so.  I found myself saying phrases I’ve never used before, and in parts, I find myself sounding grumpy.  I know that because I was grumpy.  Nutn had made a big deal about being in the wilderness when he did his review.  He voiced his opinion that being “in the wild” made the test more accurate than if it was made in his back yard.  I’ve always had a problem with that line of thought.  I feel that you should practice in the comfort of your own back yard because not only does it give you more time to practice your skills, but the familiarity of your surroundings helps you focus on what you are doing and not what is going on around you.  This gives you the familiarity of the task when you do go out into the field.

I was also a little frustrated by my weather conditions. Nutn had done his testing in the snow-capped mountains of Utah.  I live in Florida.  It doesn’t snow here.  In fact, it was in the 50s that night.  But it had rained heavily for two days, two days prior.  Everything w3as still wet.  How would I show that?  I went to the swale and showed how much water was in it after those days of drying out.  There was a light breeze blowing as well.  I wore a T-shirt with no jacket to feel some coolness as I went about starting the project.

There were some funny moments where I had kneeled down on the lanyard of my multi-tool and had to shift to free it; or when I put the dried Spanish Moss over the lit fuel tablet and had it almost combust into flames in my hand.

The fire went off without a hitch and about the only real regret I had was in not clarifying that I had used the back of the saw in my multi-tool to scrape the ferro rod and not the teeth.   It’s easily shown in the video, but I still wish I had explained this part better.

Oh well, no matter.

After enjoying the fire, I came inside and started processing the film for transfer to YouTube. It took over two and a half hours of editing, saving, converting, and uploading to get the five minute long vide up on YouTube.

I didn’t mind though, once I had posted the reply on Nutn’s video. I had made my point.

I got a few people to look at it and two responses to it on his page. Just as I expected.  What I didn’t expect was to get a subscriber of my own.  I had made this video just to point out a different point of view and result.  I had not planned on anything bigger.

Now I’m wondering if this is something I should pursue? I like being outdoors and teaching new skills. It would easily fit into my blog as well.  But would you like it?  Is it something you would like to see as a semi-standard on this blog?  Will you find the subject interesting?  Bushcrafting/camping is big on TV right now, but is it over done.  I’m no master.  I’m just a student learning as I go.  I would be showing you what I learned and how I learned it.

Are you interested?

Here is the video I made and beneath it will be NutnFancy’s video so you can see how mine fits in relation.

Just let me know what you thing in the responses   I’m curious to what you think.

My video

NutnFancy’s review of fire starters

 

 

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline – An automotive reboot.

Picture provided by Motortrend.co,

Picture provided by Motortrend.com

When Honda introduced the Ridgeline in 2005, it was the truck equivalent of Zima. Zomething different.  Not quite a truck, not quite a SUV.  It looked kinda like a midsized Chevy Avalanche, but didn’t carry the tough look.  Some would argue that it competed against the Subaru Baja as a modern four door El Camino, but it was chunkier in comparison.  Honda billed it as the truck for “Cool dads”, but the pitch fell too short. Honda’s Ridgeline was just too different.  The sales numbers proved this.

In 2006 The Ridgeline hit its sales peak at 50,193 sold in the U.S. When the original design ended in 2014 the Ridgeline sales struggled at 13,389. To put this in perspective, the Ford Ranger sold 92,420 models in 2006 and in its last year run of 2012, sold 19,366.  (Honda sold 14,068 Ridgelines that year.)*

With such low sales, Honda followed Hollywood’s latest trend and rebooted the Ridgeline.

First they stopped production of the previous design for two years. This let the memory fade a bit and allow a better reaction for the new version.

Second they made it fit the mold better. The original Ridgeline left you wondering what it was. The image of this Ridgeline is better defined.

Alas, as with other reboots, the traditions of the original are easy to spot. The New Ridgeline is of unibody construction just like the old one.  This is proudly acknowledged by the executive vice-president of American Honda, John Mendel.  He touts the rigidity of the unibody, while promising a smoother street ride than the traditional, body on frame trucks of Chevrolet, Toyota, and Nissan.

John is smart to point out that the Ridgeline in no way competes against the big boys of the full size team. No sir!  The Ridgeline is aimed squarely at the Colorado, Tacoma, and Frontier.

But, in a way, it’s not.

Even though Mendel boast that this is a tough truck, and that the payload and towing rates are right in the fight with the other welterweights, (Up to 1,600 pounds payload and an estimated 5,000 pounds towing as of this writing) he openly admits that contractors need not apply.

This truck “Isn’t about the jobsite” he stated during the Ridgeline’s introduction at the NAIAS, it’s “about the lifestyle.”

In short, the Ridgeline is for the hobbyists. People who need a truck for light duty projects and occasional hauling, but not a career building companion.  Campers, beach combers, motorcyclists, and kayakers are who Honda is aiming at; not landscapers, pool supply runners, and handymen.  Sure you can fit a sheet of plywood between its wheel wells in the bed, but you still have to lower the tailgate and have it stick out a little to have it lay flat.

Honda also insisted on keeping the spare tire tucked in a separate compartment under the floor of the bed. Not underneath the bed as other truck do, but in a mini trunk under the floor of the bed.  (The mini trunk also has a spot with drain plugs so you can turn it into a cooler.)  This would be such a hassle if you were carrying a load of gravel and you suddenly blew a tire on your way home.  But Honda thinks this will be a rare occurrence with its buyers.  This is reinforced by the addition of a new sound system for the bed and the vehicles front wheel drive layout.

Honda has found a way to turn its bed into a giant speaker using six of what it has named “Exciters”. The exciters vibrate the bed just like a magnet in a speaker, creating a large sound device.  Evidently Honda wants to be all about that base.

If that doesn’t shake up the market, the Ridgeline’s front wheel drive surely will. Besides being body on frame, all trucks have been designed with rear wheel drive as standard.  This is done so that when you put a load in the bed, it adds weight to the driving wheels and adds to their traction.  It also helps when towing. Truck purists are going to give the Ridgeline a long, sideways look before shaking their heads and moving on.  But, again, these are not the people Honda is aiming at.

The Honda Ridgeline is a recreational tool built for fun times. It comes with a six speed auto as its only transmission choice as well as an all-wheel drive option with a multimode terrain management system so owners don’t have to do any work in switching from front wheel drive to all wheel drive. It’s in bed 400 watt converter can power sawzalls and drills, but will more likely be used for margaritas and x-boxes.

Like every reboot, the Honda Ridgeline is high on gloss and shine. Only time will tell if it makes it into the heart of the buyers.

  • Sales numbers provided by left-lane.com
  • Quotes are from the 2016 NAIAS video on youtube

Back in the saddle

A man lay down in a bed of earth. His body was covered in a dingy batter of dirt and sweat.  The summer heat of the sun slowly baked the batter to a dry crisp.

Away from him, a horse wandered around, rooting with its nose as it searched for a thatch of grass to munch on.

There was no thought in the man’s head. Just the shallow rising and falling of his chest.  Up, down.  Up, down. In and out. Breathe.

He groaned softly as he lifted his arm to block the sun from his face.

Sore.

An easy move made hard by the crash of the fall.

Cursing silently, he cajoled himself to sit up.

“Is it worth it?” He asked as he looked at the horse.  “Does it really matter?”

His back stiffened in protest as he shifted to his knees. The man slowly turned his head to see if there are any witnesses to his fall.  There was no one around.  Only the three rail fence separating him and the horse from the open fields. Past that, open prairie expanding into the horizon.  No one was there to impress; no one to disappoint. There was nothing to prove. The man exhales slowly.

The horse’s nicked as the man stood up. Every bone and muscle protested against him. He stretched to protest back.

Sighing at the thought, the man groaned as he bent to pick up his hat. Limping as he walked, he made his way to the horse. The horses ears twitched as she shifted away from him.

“Easy.” He soothed. “Let’s take this slow.”

The man slid his boot in the stirrup and climbed back into the saddle.

Plant Installation and Propagation

With spring here, I figured I’d share with you a booklet I made about Planting and Propagation. It’s great for a beginner and has some information that some gardeners might have forgotten or never heard about.  I hope you like it.

Plant installation would seem to be so easy that instructions shouldn’t be needed.  Just dig a hole, plop in the plant, and water.  Unfortunately, this process causes more problems for owners than they know.  By focusing on the how, they forget the where, when, and the why behind it.  This leads to trees being planted right next to the house, roots invading plumbing, or the plant simply dying “mysteriously”.

Before planting anything, some questions need to be answered:

  • What are the soil requirements?
  • How much sun does it need?
  • How is the drainage in the area?
  • How big will the plant be when fully grown?
  • How will this plant affect other plants around it?
  • What obstacles are in the way?

All of these factor in how well the plant will survive after installation.

Soil requirements:  The PH of the soil needs to match he needs of the plant.  If it doesn’t the plant will not produce the flowers or fruit you want, become weak, have sickly yellow leaves instead of green, and be more susceptible to pests and diseases.

 

Indicator-Color-pH-Scale

Most plants prefer a neutral PH but some (Azalea, Gardenia, Blueberry) prefer acidic soil while others (Juniper, Austrailian Pine, Iris) prefer alkaline soils.

To acidify the soil, add sulfur.  Add lime to make it more alkaline.

Sun requirements:  It’s important to make sure that the sunlight hitting the area matches the needs of the plant.  Too much sunlight can wash out the leaves, giving them a faded/whitish look.  Too little can mute the colors of variegated leaves.  Luckily, plants come with tags that point out how much sun they need.

Drainage:  The soils ability to drain excess water can help or kill a plant.  Too much drainage will raise the maintenance level of the plant and reduce the effects of liquid fertilizer, while too little drainage will drown the plant.  The average amount of time for water to drain in good soil is roughly a half hour.

You can add clay to soil that drains too fast and sand to soil that drains too slow.

You can also install a plant half way in the ground and mound up soil around it to counter act poor drainage.

Size aka The Clifford syndrome:  One of the biggest problems I’ve encountered is a huge plant in a tiny spot.   I call this “The Clifford Syndrome”.  People see a young plant at the garden center, think it’s cute, and bring it home without realizing that the plant is going to grow into a giant.  (This is why you see Plumbago growing up against the walls of houses.)

Clifford

When deciding on where to plant you need to take into account not only the height when fully grown, but the spread, and the depth and width of the root system.  (As seen by all the cracked and raised sidewalks around town.)

Effects on other plants:  The new plant can affect the lives of other plants around it by limiting their exposure to sunlight, changing the PH of the soil through leaf drop, and stealing the nutrients through over aggressive root systems.  Some plants are so extreme they can choke out a plant by reproducing offspring that clumps around them.

Obstacles:  Buried electrical lines can ruin you day as well buried gas and water lines.  You should always have the utility company mark where these lines are if you aren’t sure.  Also keep in mind of past hardscapes that became buried.  Nothing’s worse than digging three inches into the ground and hitting a slab of concrete.

Once all of these are taken into consideration, its dig time!

When it comes to digging, you don’t want the hole to evenly match the shape of the pot.  No.  You want the hole twice as wide as the pot holding the plant and about a quarter deeper that the height of the pot.  This will give the plant loose soil to grow into as it establishes itself into the landscape.  After digging to the proper depth, fill in the bottom until the top of the root ball is even with the ground around it.

treeplantinghome1

The extra width of the hole also allows you to mix the good nursery/potting soil with the native soil.  This helps the roots transition into the native soil.  You also get more room for roots after teasing them from the ball.

Teasing is the term used when unwrapping tight roots that have grown around the inner circumference of the pot.  If left alone the roots will girdle and stunt the growth of the plant.  The girdled roots will also severely limit the plants ability to anchor itself against wind and storms as well as limit the area it can get food from.

To tease the roots, you pull them away from the ring shape they grew into.  Sometimes there are so many roots that the plant has become pot bound.  At this point, cutting the roots is required to encourage proper spreading.

tumblr_inline_mg23vajeKX1rogijm

After teasing the roots, and setting the plant in its bed, its best if you add a layer of soil around it, water it thoroughly, add more soil, and water again, like a layer cake until the soil reaches the level of the ground around it.  Planting this way will eliminate air pockets that will damage the roots system.

planting-perennials

After all this is done, you can add encapsulated, slow release fertilizer if you want.  Any other fertilizer is not recommended until the plant is established because the root ends are tender and the plant itself is stressed from all the teasing, and moving, and soil change.  Regular fertilizer should be added after the plant is established firmly in the bed.

After the installation, the plant needs to be watered every day for the first two weeks, every other day for the next week, every third day for the week after, and so on until it reaches the standard once a week rule.  Building a ring around the plant will help retain the water where the roots are while this happens.  The ring can then be broken and blended in with the top of the soil after a month.

It may seem like a lot of extra work, but following these steps will ensure a healthy, long lived plant in your yard.

 Propagation

You can propagate plants through seed, or cloning.  Seed will give you offspring similar to the parent plant while cloning will give you the exact same plant.

Planting a seed is like planting a plant, but on a smaller scale.

Cloning can be done in many different ways.

Division:  Plants such as areca palms, ginger, mother-in-law tongue, and aloe can all be reproduced just by digging them up, cutting them in half between clumps and then replanting or repotting.  It’s one of the easiest ways to clone.

dividing

Layering:  This is done with plants that have long, flexible branches. You scrape off the outer layer of the branch revealing the cambium layer (The light green area sometimes called the inner bark)and bury it under a mound of soil.  By watering this mound you are encouraging roots to grow.  After the roots are formed, you can cut the baby off the parent plant, creating a clone.  (Using rooting hormone – Rootone- helps)

layering

Air layering:  This is done when the branches are too stiff or too high to bend into the ground.  As in layering, you cut the bark or outer layer off the branch to be cloned, you then dust the cambium layer with rooting hormone, take roughly a one liter bottle sized amount of sphagnum peat moss that has been soaked in water and wrap it around the branch. Finally, take some cling wrap or saran wrap and wrap the moss firmly around the moss and the ends of the parent plant and cone to be.  You want the wrap to be tight enough so that air doesn’t escape, but not so tight that you crush the mound of moss.  Once you see roots growing around on the inside of the wrap, you can cut it off the parent plant, unwrap it, and plant in a pot until the roots are strong enough for the outdoors.

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Gardening is a great way to get outdoors and help something grow.  It can be both fun and challenging. I hope these steps inspire you to try it out for yourself.

The Last Joy Ride – Part 1

A young boy bursts into the room, yelling with enthusiasm as he swipes at the wall.  “Come on! You’re gonna miss it!”

The wall glows bright blue before filling up with multiple rectangles, each showing a different channel.

“Hurry up!”  The boy whines as he waves his arm dramatically causing the channels to scroll up.

Seeing what he wants, the child pushes his hand forward and the rectangle fills the wall.

The boy squeals with delight as an image of a helmet slides into the center of a rotating tire.  “It’s on!  It’s on!”

An announcer speaks over the exciting background music.  “Tonight on ‘Road and Driver’, we bring to you the most historic road trip ever!  It is the last time a car shall be legally driven by a person across the United States!  So buckle up and stay tuned.”

A different announcer chimes in immediately. “Tonight’s episode of ‘Road and Driver’ is brought to you by ‘Cathose’; a new kind of car for a new kind of mind.”

The wall turns fades before glowing into a new scene.  A man and a woman are sitting next to each other on a couch. Latin and in their early thirties; they are crisp, clean, healthy, and radiant.  The couch is white and the accessories have just the right amount of color without taking attention away from the actors.  The scene had a feeling of warmth, safety, and security.

            “Imagine Seneca,” The man says as he smiles to the camera. “The last driven road trip.  It’s so exciting.”

            “Yes.”  She replies.  “I’m glad we’re watching it, but I’m even more glad we’re not driving it!”

            “You’re right.”  Her imaginary husband agrees.  “Driving is so dangerous now days.  I’m glad we have the new ‘Cathose’ to do it for us.”

            Seneca nods her head.  “The new ‘Cathose’ has all the safety and conveniences we need to get us where we want to go.”

            The fake husband leans in.  “Piece of mind.  It’s a new kind of mind.”

            “Oh look!”  Seneca declares, pointing at the camera.  “The show’s back on.”

            The man quickly adjusts his position and leans forward with feign interest.

The scene dissolves and is replaced by two men book-ending a map on a screen between them.  Canned applause fills the background and fades as the man on the left begins to speak.  “Thank you!  I am your host, Patrick ‘Sherman’ Phillips and this is my co-host, Brock Peter Williams.”

The canned applause rises as Brock bows and gestures slightly to the camera.

Sherman gives a serious look as he opens his monologue.  “Tonight is a poignant night for us here at Road and Driver. Tonight we witness the last time a car will be legally driven across the country by a person.”

Brock nods in solemn agreement. “Yes, yes.  It is a bitter-sweet time for us. A new era of transportation is upon us and we must say goodbye to a rite of passage and a way of life.”

Sherman claps his hands in a soft prayer and continues.  “And we are saying goodbye in a way only Road and Driver can do.  We have listened to you, our viewers and have teamed up your perfect driver with your perfect car.  Let’s take a look.”

The map on the screen gives way to show a man in his fifties standing next to a car.  The car is low and sleek and the man is surprisingly fit.

“Nathan!”  Brock cheers.  “How are you doing?”

The African-American smiles brightly.  “It’s been a blessing, Brock.  I have been humbled and honored by the people’s choice to be their ambassador on this last great trip across America.”

“What do you think of the car?”  Sherman asks.

“They picked a wonderful choice, Sherm.”  Nathan replies.  “The Chevrolet Corvette is the top of the line American sports car.  With its hybrid technology and mid-engine design, this Corvette is the smoothest, strongest, and most agile Corvette to date.  It’s America’s first sports car and carries with it the embodiment of driving passion.  There is no better car to take this trip with.”

“And what a trip it is.”  Brock interjects.  “This adventure loops the countryside.  Starting in Los Angeles, it moves upward through California, hitting Seattle before heading east, and visiting Sturgis, Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, D.C., Charlotte, Miami, New Orleans, Dallas, Santa Fe, and Las Vegas before crossing the checkered flag in front of the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles.  A true lap of America.”

The camera cuts to Sherman.  “Now since we have been given only three hours to present this historic event.  Most of the trip has already been completed.  Nathan, where are you now?”

Nathan smiles and answers, “I am in wild Las Vegas and getting ready to throttle down to L.A..”

To which Sherman replies, “We will be bringing it to you live along with highlights of the journey taken.”

“Roll on!”  Nathan shouts as he jumps into the seat of the Corvette and hits the start button.

The Conversation

(Just a little fun every author has.)

“Don’t do it.”  The voice whispers as I rub my bleary eyes with the heels of my palms.

“Why shouldn’t I?”  I ask “It seems like a fun way to get a story going.”

“Because of the ramifications.” The voice warns.  “Strong, very strong ramifications.”

Sadie, my yellow lab starts bouncing around and running to the door.  She had just been out less than twenty minutes ago, but she acting like she hasn’t been out in a decade.  Reluctantly I get up and follow her out the door.

“It’s been years since I’ve had this idea.” I state as Sadie waters the lawn.  “Why won’t you let this one grow?”

“It’s too soon.”  The voice calls back.  “The world is not ready for it.”

I follow Sadie back in and close the door behind me.  “Too soon?”  I ask.  “When is it too soon for Sci-Fi to be written?”

“When it can compel others to act upon the ideas before they are mature enough.”

“Oh now you’re grasping at straws.”  I snap back.  “Comic books have been out since the Fifties and nobody’s trying to grow claws or bond metal to their skeleton.”

“No but they have mixed animal DNA with plants just to see what happens.”   The voice counters.

“Yeah.” I agree, relenting on this point. “”But it was going to happen eventually.”

“Yes, but we made sure it happened at the right time.”  The voice comments.  “It’s what we do.”

“Sure you did.”  I chuckle.  “Like you’re not a manifestation of too much Pepsi and too little sleep cause by the time change this week.”

“Are you so sure?”  The voice asks.  “Maybe I’m from the future communicating to you through your own thoughts inside your mind.”

I take another sip of Pepsi.  “Right.  Uh-huh.  Sure you are.  And I’m the Flamenco King of Zaire.”

“I see the Theta waves are getting to you.”  The voice replies dryly.

“Theta waves. Yeah sure.”

The voice explains, “Theta waves are what we use to communicate across both time and space.  It’s how we can observe different species in different places at different moments in history without interfering with the timeline.”

“Ah.”  I comment, “The almighty ‘Time Directive’.  Just like in Star Trek.   But one thing.  You’re breaking that directive by talking to me.  In essence, you are changing the timeline.  That is, if you were real and not a figment of my imagination.  Overactive imagination.”

“Interesting that you would bring up Star Trek” The voice says. “The Star Trek era of exploration only happens after the population of Earth comes joins together over their political, economic, and religious differences.”

“Yeah.”  I counter. “But that only happens after a nuclear war and the influence of Vulcans.”

“Imagine what would happen if that unification never happened.”  The voice offers.  “What untold misery would it bring onto others?  Disease?  War? Genocide?  The wholesale slaughter done to innocents by the thoughtless acts of humans too immature to even conceive of the risks they pose just by stepping onto alien soil? Is this what you would have?”

My mouth tightens before I swig down more Pepsi.  “Dude.  Lighten up.  They’re just stories.”

“Yes they are.  But they can inspire people with degrees or dreams to build the platforms to leave without humanity being ready for it.  That is why you must stop before doing this.”

“Is this why you had Windows do an ungodly long service package to my computer tonight?  Because if that is so, it was not cool!  That damn thing took a half hour out of my writing time.  I hated that!”

The voice rises a little in my head; instinctively I know that’s the best it can do to yell.  “Listen!  If this goes forth, whole planets will die out including Earth.”

“Why would the Earth die?”  I ask.

“In retaliation to all the deaths and suffering  on other planets caused by humans.”  The voice replies.  “Surely you didn’t think our actions wouldn’t have consequences.”

I sit blankly at this.

The voice implores. “You must wait until humanity has evolved before sharing your ideas.  They must lay dormant for now.  Let your treasures lie buried until discovered at the proper time.”

I lean back in my chair and take a deep breath.

“Nah.”  I decide.  “I’m going to go through with this.  It’s going to be fun.  It would happen eventually anyway.   Besides you forgot the biggest Star Trek theory of all.  There is a dimension for every choice to be made or not made.  A dimension for when I turned left and one when I turned right.  For all I know this dimension is the one where I write these stories and nothing happens other than entertaining people.  Beside, for all I know, you’re just a creative play of words used to aid in me filling this story.”

My head is silent as I post this up to Word Press and go to bed.