Friday, November 26, 2010

61 Hours Off The Grid

Sunday we had some snow, but nothing that really stuck. Monday we got about two inches and it froze solid as soon as the sun went down, but that wasn't what shut us down. As the cold and evening commute turned the roads into well-packed ice rinks, the wind kicked up and brought down limbs, trees, and power polls. Our power went out shortly after 4pm.

Tuesday morning our family took a stroll around the neighborhood and found three places where the lines were down just in our immediate vicinity. Even if there weren't trees in the road, the ice would have made getting out of the neighborhood difficult at best. There is no way out without navigating at least one hill steep enough to be dangerous when covered by ice. Reports said that about 50,000 people in our county were without power. We settled in for an extended stay at home.

We knew the snow was coming and we knew from experience that road plows and repair crews have many priorities before our neighborhood, so we were mostly prepared. I made a point of getting lamp oil -- the one item of which we had no backup supply -- when the snow started. Monday night as the temperature dropped to a rare low, we lit oil lamps and candles, set up a camping stove, and started up the generator to keep the refrigerator and freezer running and to run a heat lamp for the chickens. We kept the woodstove burning and had a comfortable evening playing family board games while an unbelievable number of people spent an unbelievable number of hours getting to their cold, dark homes. I know of one person who took 5 hours to travel what normally takes 30 minutes and another person whose hour-long round trip took 11 hours.

Tuesday we only ventured out for a walk and some sledding. The high that day was 18 degrees fahrenheit (the average high for November is 50; the average low is 39). I spoke that day with a colleague from Utah who could not believe two inches of snow had virtually shut down the entire Puget Sound. I asked him how many resources we should maintain to deal with this weather when it happens once every 700 days and is done after 2-3 days? Personally, I think people need to settle down, be prepared, and enjoy the change of pace. Some people don't deal well with the "unexpected". That night the temperature dropped to a record 10 degrees fahrenheit.

We braved the roads Wednesday to get the wife to work for a half-day. Our neighborhood streets were still icy, but everywhere else the roads were clear and dry. I picked up a few things from the grocery store and got gas for the generator. None of the businesses near our home were open due to the power outage. The family all got home just as the sun was going down. We had dinner, played games, listened to the radio, and made contingency plans for Thanksgiving dinner. The only things we could not cook with our camping gear would be the turkey and the pumpkin pie. We agreed that we could cook the turkey in the outdoor smoker/cooker and would just have to wait for pie. That third night without power, the family agreed to plug the DVD/TV into the generator and watch a movie. While the rest of the family slept, the temperature hovered in the mid-20s and I stayed up and made candles.

The power came back on around 6am Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. We didn't have internet back until later that afternoon. We listened to Arlo Guthrie and had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat.

All in all, I feel we did well. I will make a point to keep more lamp oil on hand as well as more gasoline for the generator. I was also reminded how much fun candle-making is and plan to pick up more wax as I am almost out of recovered candle wax. I was very surprised at how long the water heater provided warm water -- after 48 hours we were still drawing warm water. Our generator is underpowered, but it keeps our food from spoiling in an emergency with some maintenance (the refrigerator and freezer cannot run simultaneously off the current generator). I'm thinking a second generator would be useful.

It may not officially be winter yet, but Mother Nature can be a heartless bitch. Don't let her get the best of you.

Friday, November 19, 2010

November Bane


   Elk season is over and my freezer has a void for another year. The first freeze is coming and the garden needs to be prepped. What should have been a simple project at work has turned into a full-blown pressure cooker. What's really bugging me, though, is reaction to the most recent election...

   For starters, Obama actually said that he believes the election went as it did because we the people don't feel like the economy is recovering fast enough. SERIOUSLY? Has Obama completely forgotten that he was elected by people who believed that he was going to change things? People who voted for Obama were tired of politics-as-usual. Everyone -- EVERYONE -- knows he has only two years to make a mark. After that, even if the mid-terms go strangely well, the campaign for 2012 is going really influence and affect year three on. And what happened? Politics as usual, bailouts, and a health care bill that should have been put on the back burner in favor of real progress. It's not the economy, Mr. President; people expected more from you and now they've lashed out in frustration that they have been fooled yet again.

   On the other side, this chest-beating crap by the recently elected saying that the administration is going to have to bow down or there's going to be gridlock has got to stop. These politicians don't get it -- IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU OR EVEN YOUR PARTY, DUMBASS! IT'S ABOUT WE THE PEOPLE! And we the people are tired of the petty crap keeping real, positive change from happening. How about everyone take a step back, realize that you were elected because we want government to work better, swallow your stupid pride, and try to actually make things better?!?

   Just a thought.

   For myself, I have a solid game plan for next elk season. There's still the late season for bowhunting deer. The chickens seem to bee adapting to the cold and are laying more regularly again. There's wood for the stove and a supply of canned goods in the pantry. This week is going to be rough, but the job should get back to something resembling normal after that.

   It will be interesting to see how things happen from here...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Elk, Mayo, and Potato Salad

   Elk season opened this past Saturday. One person in our party spotted several cows over the course of the weekend. I saw a buck Sunday and with a quick call I was able to give him to pause and present me with a perfect target; too bad it wasn't deer season. On Monday we did not see or hear anything but other hunters and logging in the distance. Tuesday morning I decided to try a new area and heard a cow calling repeatedly. I adjusted my position just in time to see a herd of elk parade into the trees. I followed their trail for about a mile into the woods, but never saw them again. Still, I know where I'm going this weekend.

   In lieu of packing the freezer with elk, today I decided to make potato salad. I was inspired recently during our visit to the east coast by tales of a friend in Alabama who has taken to making everything from scratch. I did can some relish this season, but the idea of making almost everything from scratch captured my imagination and I started looking into canning recipes for things like mustard and catsup. What I discovered is that homemade mayonnaise cannot be preserved -- it can only be made fresh and refrigerated for use over a few days. Seriously makes me wonder what's in commercial mayo that can sit on a grocery store shelf.

   Anyway, this afternoon I made potato salad with local potatoes, eggs from the chickens, last season's pickles, and homemade mayo. It took me a while to get the proportions worked out with the mayo, so I ended up with more than I intended.

   I guess I'll have plenty for sandwiches while I'm out trying to get one of those elk!

Monday, November 1, 2010 - News : How ballot order helps candidates - News : How ballot order helps candidates

How ballot order helps candidates

Some candidates on Tuesday may get a boost — from the ballot itself.

Appearing first on a ballot can be worth as much as 2.3 percentage points more votes, enough to swing a close race.

That number comes from research by Jonathan Koppell and Jennifer Steen, political science professors at Yale University and Arizona State University, respectively.

They looked at the 1998 Democratic primary in New York to test their hypothesis that ballot order mattered.

Because New York rotates the order in which candidates are listed in every precinct, Koppell and Steen were able to test how well the candidates did who were listed first. They found the advantage was from 1.6 to 2.3 percentage points.

"People economize," Steen told "Political scientists have borrowed this concept from economists and political psychologists. The theory is that one time- or labor-saving device is to make an easy decision, and when you're presented with a list of choices in a written format, you'll pick the first one that is acceptable to you."

She said that the effect is most likely in "low-information elections," in which people are not familiar with the candidates, such as local or nonpartisan offices. She does not think it has as much effect on high-profile races for Congress, except in some tight races. - News : How ballot order helps candidates