Category Archives: General Info

Samuel and His Brave Spoon

Front Cover of Diane's wonderful children's book: Samuel & His Brave Spoon
Front Cover of Diane’s wonderful children’s book: Samuel & His Brave Spoon

While I am probably best known for my stunning photography, insightful intellect, razor-like wit, charm, and good looks–OK, I made that up, it’s really for being a grumpy old man–today I become known for something else.

I am most pleased to announce that my beautiful, funny, sweet and loving partner Diane has published her first book, Samuel and His Brave Spoon, which this first day of 2019 has become available on Amazon.

So, what has this to do with me? (I did say that “today I become known for something else.”) Well, I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of doing the photography for Samuel and His Brave Spoon, and while photography certainly isn’t new to me–I’ve been at it for over 50 years–the photography in this book is quite a departure from the flower and landscape photos with which I am most associated. Diane, a talented artist and maker of things, created a wonderful series of collage-illustrations for the book from things one finds around the house. This called upon photographic skills I learned as a commercial product photographer in days long past and inventing digital post-processing techniques in PhotoShop.

Part of a scene from the classroom in Samuel and His Brave Spoon. Diane created this collage from things commonly found around the house: the tree from a brown paper bag and green construction paper, the animals from felt, paper and a marker, etc.
Part of a scene from the classroom in Samuel and His Brave Spoon. Diane created this collage from things commonly found around the house: the tree from a brown paper bag and green construction paper, the animals from felt, paper and a marker, etc.

Samuel and His Brave Spoon is a children’s book, but it’s not just a typical book for children. It’s a book about a special child who is quiet, and the book teaches us all about recognizing the gifts of a quiet child mistakenly labeled as shy. It teaches children and adults alike about showing empathy towards others. The collage-illustrations in the book were made from items found in most households, not just to illustrate the book but as examples of art kids can create themselves while providing them an outlet for self-expression and at the same time recycling things that might otherwise become landfill.

I mentioned above that Diane is a talented artist, but I sold her short in so doing as she also brings to the book her skills as a former Head Start preschool teacher, poet, writer and mother who has raised three wonderful kids to adulthood. Having been a sensitive and quiet child herself Diane understands well the nature and situation of such children as she offers suggestions and guidance to us adults in order to help them as children find meaning and self-confidence through artistic expression.

Diane shows us all how wonderful creativity can be expressed with things found around the house.
Diane shows us all how wonderful creativity can be expressed with things found around the house. Samuel’s teacher is made with macaroni eyebrows, crinkle-shred packing material hair; a paper plate face with rubber band mouth that says “oh!” as it emphasizes the look of surprise found in her hard-boiled egg and green celery eyes; bead and paper clip earrings.

Samuel and His Brave Spoon is geared but not limited to children in the three to six year-old range, their parents and teachers. If you are fortunate enough to parent or teach such a child or if you know somebody who does, Samuel and His Brave Spoon incorporates humor while offering guidance and teaching empathy in order to help the quiet child find confidence through self-expression.

Available now on Amazon.com.

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Too Much of a Good Thing – Electricity

EMS Remote IMG_5169_1200
This remote display panel supplied with the Progressive Industries EMS-HW50C alerts you to any errors, voltage for each leg as well as current draw for each leg. A bypass switch on the left allows you to easily use generators that don’t work with the EMS or to bypass the EMS for other reasons.

When we bought our new RV it was for us a sizable expenditure. Such being the case we considered things we could do in order to protect it. A good polymer treatment for the paint was one thing. Another was a Progressive Industries 50 amp hard-wired electrical management system (EMS) in order to protect the electronics from, among other things, power surges, high and low voltages sometimes encountered at campgrounds. Progressive makes a number of EMS systems, some intended to hang on the power pedestal and some to be hard-wired into the RV.

Another measure of protection we purchased was a 50 amp voltage regulator, a Hughes Autoformer. This device can boost campground voltage when it falls dangerously low allowing you to safely use equipment that might otherwise be damaged by the low voltage. They also make a 30 amp model. [READ MORE…]

Photo Post: McArthur-Burney Falls, Burney, CA

McArthur-Burney Falls
Situated just outside Burney CA is the lovely McArthur-Burney Falls. It is a worthwhile but often over-busy sight to see if you’re in the area. We visited when camped at Hat Creek Hereford Ranch & RV Park north of Lassen Volcanic National Park which is about 20 miles from the falls.

Diane & I set out on a cross-country RV trip on June 29, 2018. The first destination of note was Lassen Volcanic Park in CA. We camped to the north of the park at Hat Creek Hereford Ranch & RV Park which is situated about midway between the park and the waterfall. The latter is lovely to see, of course, but it also offers a cooling respite on hot summer days as the canyon below the falls remains naturally chilled. Despite some trail closures in McArthur-Burney State Park we were able to enjoy a short hike that encircled the falls. Note that parking at the falls is limited and it can be difficult or impossible to get in to see them. Choosing your arrival time can make all the difference. Admission was $10 per car when we were there, $9 for seniors. See their web page formore information.

DIY 1000 Watt Inverter Installation

110 volt outlet and remote on/off switch installed.
The red 110 volt outlet dedicated to the inverter and inverter remote on/off switch installed.

In my previous RV I only had 110 volt household current when I was plugged into shore power at a campground, when I ran my disturbingly noisy generator, or when I turned on my inverter to power the single, dedicated outlet I had installed along with it. This last method involved running extension cords from that outlet to other points inside (or outside) the RV where I wanted or needed household current–inconvenient and a tripping hazard.

Upon getting a new RV my plan had always been to have an inverter installed that would supply power to all of the RV’s existing 110 volt outlets so that power would be available throughout it without needing to run extension cords–a more convenient and aesthetically pleasing arrangement that would also eliminate the hazard of tripping over extension cords.

When I started looking at all that was involved in wiring an inverter into the RV’s electrical system it soon became apparent to me that it was outside my wheelhouse of skills. So, I decided to have that done professionally later on, but until I could hire it done I was comfortable doing a more simple trip-over-the-extension-cord style hookup that would at least provide us with some AC until the professional installation could be performed. [READ MORE…]

Good Sam. Bad Actor?

This is the reimbursement check I received from Good Sam in its original envelope showing a postmark date more than 2 weeks after I was told it was mailed. My address has been redacted.

This is a short saga (the oxymoron is intentional) of my recent experience with Good Sam Roadside Assistance.

I have Good Sam Roadside Assistance for my 5th wheel. Recently while backing my RV into my parking spot where I store the rig I got myself into a jam and couldn’t move forward or backward without a high probability of damaging my RV or the one next to mine. Don’t ask…

I called Good Sam for some suggestions or help. The agent I spoke with asked me some questions, one of which may have been key to deciding whether or not they would help me. He asked if there was any risk of damaging my vehicle or another and I said yes. After all, that is why I called them. When I answered that question I was thinking about towing it forward or backward with my pickup truck, not having it dragged sideways by a tow truck with a winch. I’m not used to thinking in those terms. Why would I be? I didn’t know that could be done.

I was told there was nothing they could do if there was risk to my vehicle or another. The conversation ended. Flustered and frustrated, dead in the water so to speak, blocking traffic at the storage facility, in desperation I called an independent tow company. A tow truck was dispatched and about 10 minutes after it arrived my RV had been dragged sideways, without risk of damage to neighboring vehicles and I was able to move again. I was handed a bill for $281.

After thinking about it over the next few days it seemed to me Good Sam should have dispatched a tow truck and handled this on their dime. After all, wasn’t that what I was paying them for? I called them and asked if the kind of tow operation used to rescue my rig (something called a “winch out” I learned by reading the invoice) was covered under my policy. I was told yes, it was and that the agent I spoke with on the night of the problem didn’t ask enough questions to properly determine the correct course of action.

I was informed I could file a request for reimbursement online and I did. After doing so an email arrived  on Nov. 28 saying I would hear from Good Sam in 5 days. I didn’t.

On Dec. 23 I called Good Sam to follow up on the situation. I was told that a reimbursement check had been mailed on Dec. 4 and that it could take 3 weeks to arrive. 3 weeks? I asked. Why would it take 3 weeks. I was told it was sent 4th class mail. What? How much money could they save sending a letter to me with something less than 1st class postage? How much is a stamp nowadays? 50¢?

I’d never heard of 4th class mail so I decided to do a little checking. What I found is that there is such a thing for items over 8 ounces, but not for a letter. Was the agent with whom I spoke misinformed? Lying to me?

The check arrived a couple days after I spoke with the agent and it was postmarked Dec. 22, not Dec. 4, although it was dated Dec. 4. It was sent first class mail not 4th class as I had been told.

I was originally denied service to which I was entitled. Had I not had the wherewithal to look further into the situation I would have been stuck with a bill for $281. How many people I wonder are told by Good Sam they aren’t covered for something when they should be and wind up paying out of their own pockets for something they shouldn’t have to?

Next, I was promised a response in 5 days which I didn’t get. After that I was misinformed about when my check had been sent and the mail service used.

In my estimation, nothing about my experience with Good Sam in this instance except for the eventual reimbursement went right–Good Sam fumbled the ball at every possible opportunity. That’s my opinion anyway. What do you think? Is Good Sam a bad actor?


Coming soon, a report of my DIY installation of an AIMS 1000 Watt Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter.


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How to Get the Best Deal on a New Car or Truck Without Ever Talking to a Salesman, Part IV

Mr. BigAss B. Blizzard (don’t ask me what the B. stands for–I forgot), my 2017 Ford F350, 6.7 liter Powerstroke diesel, dual rear wheel, 4×4, pickup truck.
Part Four

In the first three parts of this article my energies were focused on providing readers with information about finding the best deal possible on a new vehicle, in particular when ordering one from the factory. Part One was on the basic principles. In Part Two I wrote about helpful web sites, collecting price information and going or not going to dealerships. Part Three addresses the right and wrong people to talk to–who to deal with and who will waste your time–and how to request a price bid. There are better and worse ways of doing these things and I gave voice to my thoughts about them.

Here in Part Four, the final installment of this article, I expand on my previous remarks about titles given to dealership personnel, I’ll have some things to say about the dealers with whom I interacted along the way, relating my experiences with each (negative and positive alike, mostly negative–surprise, surprise). I will also write about my final moments at the dealership where I made my purchase and how things almost fell apart, hoping that by doing so it will help equip you toward avoiding similar scenarios. For good measure I’ll toss in something counterintuitive about how financing may in some cases actually save you money, if handled properly. READ MORE…

 

How to Get the Best Deal on a New Car or Truck Without Ever Talking to a Salesman, Part III

Ford Fusion
Ford Fusion

Part Three

The Right & Wrong Way to Find the Right & Wrong People

When it came time to chase down the dealer at which I would get the best price for the truck I was going to buy I soon learned how not to go about contacting dealers. Most if not all dealerships have some sort of Contact Us page on their web sites where you fill out an email form, field by field, entering your name, email address, sometimes phone number and finally your message. Do not do this! If you do you will find yourself bombarded by absolutely idiotic, automated replies that completely ignore what you’ve written, mindless salespeople trying to sell you whatever they have on the lot, or somebody that will say anything they think you want to hear in order to get you to come to their dealership. If you give them your phone number you will get phone calls from dealers who will press you and press you again and again to come down to their dealership because they know people they can get through their doors represent their best chance at making a sale with the largest profits. If you fill out those forms you will also find yourself subscribed to promotional mailing lists where dealers send you advertisement after advertisement about things in which you have absolutely no interest–you are going to get SPAMMED. [READ MORE…]