Moderate Speed (for Alice) Run to Deathe

I have in my possession dashcam video from MSP Trooper A.L. Dubose making a quick run to Deathe. Off duty, probably speeding as usual. The YouTube vid quality isn’t up to professional HD standards, and although she was really cranking on Joe Satriani’s The Forgotten, the sound didn’t come through well either. Oh well, it’s the best we got on a tight (read: zero) budget.


Large Appliance Shopping

I don’t understand people sometimes. Okay, pretty much all the time. Some friends of ours suffered a grievous loss a couple weeks ago. Their kitchen range died. No oven, no burners, nothing worked. It’s old, it was tired. We kept checking in. Did they buy a new one? No. Did they find a new one to buy? Nope. Apparently not even looking. Living large with a microwave and toaster I guess. They normally do a lot of cooking. Good food, good cooks both of them. What the hey?

Not ours.

Then this week I realized our refrigerator was not performing up to snuff. Several tests with a digital thermometer showed temps of 50 degrees inside. And sometimes higher. Ideal refrigerator temps should be in the 35-37 degree range. Not good. It’s old. And tired. We set about to researching the ideal replacement, window shopping online. Lowes. Home Depot. Best Buy. Even ABC Warehouse (never one of my favorite shopping experiences).

There are thousands of options out there. We wanted a bottom-freezer option. Hundreds of options. Preferably not a side-by-side. Dozens of options. White. Low double digit options. And the big one: it had to fit in the opening. Maybe less than a dozen options, none of them good. Too small. We’d lose 2 or 3 cubic feet of storage. The size refrigerator we have now no longer exists. We can either have too big, or too small. The best-selling units are HUGE. Too tall, too wide, and/or too deep. (And someone explain to me how a refrigerator can be worth over $8000!) Reading the user reviews is always entertaining, ranging from EXCELLENT!!! to THIS IS A PIECE OF CRAP DO NOT BUY!!!! Rarely much in between.

A deal at $6300–not for us

So after a few hours on two computers researching every store and every brand available, we were tired and grumpy and we finally understand why our friends have pretty much given up trying to replace their range: too many freaking options, none of them acceptable.

We did eventually find a Samsung that would be as close to perfect as we can get. We’d have to order it. But first we wanted to go look at Samsungs and talk to salespeople. (One user comment was from a guy replacing a 29-year-old unit. He asked the salesman the life expectancy of the new unit he was looking at. He was told 7 years. Ouch.)

In the meantime, for the past 24 hours I’ve been messing with the temperature settings in the 18-year-old Amana. Huh. The temps are now holding down in the low 30 degree range. I’m calling off the quest, before we drive ourselves crazy, and hoping this unit lasts another 18 years.

Life Hack #134 redux

I stumbled onto this Edison original– the Edison Standard Phonograph– the other day at the historic Turner Dodge House in Lansing. Now I’m comparing the original inspiration to my modern, digital-age equivalent here. Full disclosure: my inspiration came from a craft show where a skilled artist displayed at least a dozen of these things, generally using trumpet, bugle, saxophone bells, or bells from who-knows-what different brass instrument. The bell on mine is exactly the same as the one on the Edison. So I guess mine is closer to original than his are. I’d thought I was making a compromise, since this bell is not especially beautiful.

So here we reprise my first photo from Life Hack #134 below, and in this series of pictures we have a 100-year-old original design, plus my proof -of-concept test mock-up, and my original. No photos from the craft show, I’m afraid.All in all, though, a pretty neat find at the mansion.


Life Hacks 001 through 004

Talking with friends and relatives about the (monthly) cost of living today. Life now is so much more expensive than it was when I was young, mostly because there are so many more opportunities. Or ooportunitities, as we might say. As in: oops, I just spent all my money for the month. On day six. There are alternative options. Available to everybody!!!

  • And everybody “needs” a cell phone. But do they really have to pay over $100 a month? No, I say. I get pretty much all the cell service I need for less than $13 a month. How? I use TracFone. There are other cheap (no contract) services, but I’ve had TracFone for a couple decades now and I’ve never had a complaint with them. I pay a year at a time, for talk time, texts and smartphone data, for less than $150. Per year. I own my own phone. You too can own your own phone for $99 or less. Not the latest iPhone, of course, but you do realize that you’re getting maybe $15-30 worth of cell service a month for that $100+ you’re probably paying, and the other $70+ a month ($840+ a year!!!) covers your “free” phone, right??? You could buy a hell of a phone for that price and own it outright. There are options. Research them.
  • I have Dish Network. I know people who pay upwards of $100 and $120 a month –and even far, far more– for satellite TV. No way. I discovered the “Flex” package, which has all the channels I want and need for $40/month. The price hasn’t changed in nearly two years. They have $10/month add-on packages if you want more sports, news, cartoons, major local stations, etc. I trust DirectTV has something similar.
  • We have SiriusXM satellite radio in two cars. Sirius will bend you over for something like $22 month if you let them. Don’t let them. Negotiate! Tell them you’re retired, on a fixed income and disability, with alimony, child support and an invalid mother, and you cannot afford it! You have to cancel! They will start offering package deals. Refuse them all! I try to pay by the year, and I now have a great package for roughly $10 a month. All the channels I want or need! (I only listen to about six.) My wife is even cheaper than me. Decline, refuse, threaten to cancel, be patient, and you can get 5 or 6 months of satellite radio for $5 a month, plus taxes. About $6 a month. Why pay more???
  • After a long battle with AT&T my landline bill jumped to $57 a month. No floyding way. AT&T has a service called Wireless Home Phone. It utilizes a little hockey puck that runs off their cell service. Plug in your home phone, even a phone with multiple remotes, and you get great landline-quality service with voicemail and caller ID (actually number ID, no names not in your phone’s contact list) for… $26 a month. Very affordable. Verizon, and probably Sprint and many other carriers (Consumer Cellular, I think) have something similar. Again, why pay more?
  • And don’t get me started on coffee and beer!


Life Hack #134

Another recent Life Hack. For when you want to entertain your friends with your tunes and carrying a little battery-powered bluetooth speaker in your pocket is just too inconvenient.

I saw these at an arts & crafts fair, and thought to myself, “way cool, but why would I pay $40 or $50 when I could probably build one myself, probably for a fraction of that?” Ha. I did it, but we won’t talk about how much I (didn’t) save or how I had to enlist the aid of a friend who’s a great craftsman, a finish carpenter with a massive woodshop, literally tons of equipment, and more talent and patience than I will ever possess. (See my proof-of-concept rough draft, which I cobbled together in my basement with 45-year-old 2x8s, deck screws and a Skil saw– obviously basic carpentry skills are barely within my grasp.)

Tuck a cell phone in the slot and crank up the tunes! Especially appropriate for SirusXM’s Forties Junction. The horn is removable for easy transport– far more portable than a little bluetooth speaker, amIright? I don’t believe I’m violating any copyrights or patents, but hesitate to post this because I really don’t want to steal ideas from a guy who is a very talented artist and craftsman. On the other hand, what I thought would be a quick and easy job turned into a months long journey. I thought I could pick up a discarded trumpet, trombone or bugle, cut the horn off, and I would have the most vital component in hand– the rest, after all, is just a block of wood. But how to find one? I was advised to go to garage and yard sales, but that just ain’t me. I did find a couple instruments at the local antiques malls– both a trumpet and a trombone, each listed at $250 or so. No thanks. The the block of cherry wood was free, but we won’t speak of how much I paid for the horn I eventually did find at the local antiques market. Not $250, but more than the list price of the finished products I saw months earlier, as I recall. And the spray can of poly finish and the superfine steel wool for polishing were certainly not free.

So trust me on this, if you see one of these in an arts & crafts show and you love it and just have to have it… pay the man!


Random Life Lessons

I was going to call this Hard Lessons, but really I have not had many truly hard lessons in my life. Well, there’s maybe “don’t fall backwards on the stairs and crack a few ribs right up close to your spine.” That was certainly a hard lesson, but really, in recent memory that’s about it. But if it should happen to you, by, let’s say, missing a step while carrying a loaded laundry basket to the basement for your wife, tell everyone it happened in your most recent MMA cage fight. Tough match, but of course you won in the end, and you’ll probably retire soon. Addendum: if you do have cracked ribs, do not sneeze. For at least three months. I am not kidding.

Today’s list:

  • Don’t accidentally substitute glucosamine hydochloride for glucosamine chondroitin. If one works for you, the other won’t. It’s too expensive to leave it sitting in the cupboard until it expires then just throwing it away.
  • After nearly five decades of living as a mostly-independent, semi-responsible, quasi adult, I just bought my first kitchen fire extinguisher. Just in case. I should have one in the car, too, just in case I should happen to start a grass fire or something, which we don’t need to talk about.
  • When recycling cardboard that’s been sitting in the garage for a few weeks, check it for crickets before loading it in the backseat of the car. Seriously. And mice. I cannot stress this enough. Especially if it’s your wife’s car.
  • If someone asks if you’re busy next weekend, just nod and say yes, yes I am. You’re probably not going to like their option.
  • If you feed birds, don’t buy birdseed with cracked corn. That’s junk. Junk birdseed only attracts junk birds. Exception: go ahead and buy the cheap sunflower seeds. Those birds are pigs and they don’t care. They won’t even know. I mean, they have a brain the size of a pea. And they hate you and fear you and want you to feed them and just leave.
  • When someone says they enjoy talking to you, take them seriously. They enjoy talking to you, not listening to you. Or maybe that’s just me.
  • You only turn 65 once, but it is a year-long celebration of multiple daily phone calls from your dear close personal friends from all over the country who want to help you select the perfect Medicare coverage, whether you need it or not. Enjoy! Or better yet, get call blocking.
  • Check your spare. Not that one, the one in the back of your truck or the trunk of your car. If it’s one of those little skinny temps, it
    1. is good for only 50 miles at
    2. no more than 50mph.
    3. And it wants 60psi.
    4. Don’t be like this guy:


Camp, 2018, Episode 1

In late June I did a ghost town tour of the U.P. First up was Shelldrake, a few short miles north of Paradise. I couldn’t find it on my own, but my GPS did. Of course I always take anything my GPS says with a grain of salt. When she says, “In one-hundred-and-fifty feet, turn right,” it’s only after I’m practically stopped, and already turning. She’s pretty good with the Big Picture, but when she bores down into the details, her sense of distance leaves a lot to be desired. Shelldrake was not right on Whitefish Point Road, but a little to the east at the end of a dirt road, facing Whitefish Bay. Which is how I managed to drive right past it three times before the GPS convinced me to keep looking. (“No, you idiot–Turn. Left. NOW!“)

Truly, I woke up in Paradise that day. (Disclaimer: it’s not quite like they describe it in the Bible, although there were about as many people as I might expect to see there… I won’t suggest a (low) number.) Then I visited the Tahquamenon Falls, had lunch in Newberry, thoroughly enjoyed one luxurious night at the historic Landmark Inn in Marquette, then two more nights at my cousins’ camp, Wayne’s World on beautiful Lake Arfelin (see new header photo above), before heading out to a buddy’s camp a little closer to the next group of ghost towns.

That night was my most interesting. I visited my Yooper buddy—let’s call him D.—and claimed possession of his camp. I stayed there last year for nearly a week. It was, shall we say, modest. Barely livable, but acceptable and convenient. Better this year. Then D. and I did the usual that evening: rode around in his truck, hitting several dive bars, had a late supper, then….

He dropped me off back at the camp, I spread out my sleeping bag, put in my earplugs and went to bed. (I use earplugs even in the silent nights of the deep and dark U.P. Any little noise, like, oh, say, a bear tearing into the trash, will likely wake me out of a sound sleep. I’m not really timid, honest! but strange sounds in an unfamiliar, dead silent place in the dark of night do tend to get my inner cave dweller’s attention.)

I don’t know what time I woke up, but the moon was bright, and I could see an amber light flashing somewhere in the living room beyond the bedroom doorway. What the hey? Worried it might be my car alarm—or someone else’s… or maybe emergency lights going off (fire trucks? police raid? ICE?)—I popped out the earplugs. Dead silence. Got up to investigate. Okay, not a car, it was the clock on the coffee maker. Blinking 12:00, of course. Went back to bed. Woke up again later on, could hear something through the earplugs. Popped them out, hoping it was rain on the roof. Nope, clear sky and bright stars overhead. Listened, determined it was an animal somewhere, likely in the ceiling. I had one, probably a tree squirrel, scratching around above the bathroom ceiling on my last day there last summer. Not a big deal. Earplugs back in, went back to sleep.

But the scrabbling got too loud to ignore. Popped the earplugs out again to assess the situation. In the ceiling? Maybe. In the wall right next to my ear? Possible. I banged on the wall with my fist, without noticeable results. Oh well. I dozed for a while, but eventually I had to get up and figure this out. I found the noise was somewhere in or near the closet by the patio door. I hoped it was something outside that couldn’t get in.

Until I saw a furry tail scramble up and down the curtain. Crap.

So I got dressed—jeans, heavy shirt and boots in case we had to resort to hand to paw combat. Now, there was a very impressive deer hunting rifle right there in the closet, but I figured D. and the neighbors wouldn’t appreciate me using it. (It might be an elephant gun, for all I know. I imagine it would make loud noises and leave large holes in the cabin, probably compromising what little structural integrity it still has.)

As I was getting dressed I saw the tail shoot across the floor just outside the bedroom door.

Understand that I was a Boy Scout, even achieving the rank of Eagle Scout half a century ago, but I’m not a Yooper, and I’m not a truly competent or experienced outdoorsman, but I do know that furry tails are usually attached to furry bodies, and those bodies always have teeth at the other end, and generally in between are four legs and feet equipped with claws.

This was just a small squirrel. He dove behind the stove, which meant at least I could get to the patio, open the door, and give him an escape route. There’s a piece loose fireboard behind the stove that used to protect the paneling when there had been a wood stove there instead of a four-burner range. Squirrel was behind that, scrabbling around and up and down, and peeking out over the top at me.

I tried to pantomime directions to the door for him, be he just wasn’t getting it. I guess neither of us is very good at Charades. I probably looked like one of those guys waving an airliner into the loading gate. In this instance, I blame the pilot. Not having a carrot, I found a stick. (Once again after considering and rejecting the rifle.) The second or third time he popped out the top and tried to crawl across the ceiling I scared him enough that he dropped to the floor. Behind the stove again, of course. But a few more pokes and he shot across the floor and out the door. I closed it and locked it and went back to bed. The sun comes up at 6:01, and it starts getting bright a whole lot earlier than that, so it was a pretty short night. I determined not to actually get up until 7:00, however.

And I do now finally understand why my buddy drinks Busch Lite, which hardly seems worthy of human consumption. You don’t get very looped, there are no undesirable side effects, like hangovers, retching, or even fuzzy-headedness when you’re evicting squirrels at 4:20am. I was calm and competent throughout, and clear-headed in the morning.

I was dressed, packed, breakfasted, caffeinated and gone by 9:00, heading west to find the ghost towns of Donken and Toivola.

[UPDATE] D. has chided me for my inhospitable actions during this event: “That is just typical, I go to a lot of extra effort to make sure you have a warm cuddly room mate and what thanks do I get? In the future you can be assured that I will inform all the local fauna to refrain from trying to make friends with you. D.”