My first novel, Identity Crisis, took me five years to write and more than 20 years to start writing after the original Idea occurred to me. I published it this year on the 9th of July, and I started writing another book on the 22nd of July. I finished the first draft of that book on the 1st of September.
I don’t know why writing my latest book, The Last Healer, was so much easier. Perhaps finishing the first one showed me what I was capable of, so I was more motivated to write the next one. It still wasn’t easy, though. Like the first one, I started it without knowing how it would end. Sometimes, it feels like the story writes itself, and I’m just there to type the words.
This one is not quite novel length, but I feel it is a good story. I think this one will appeal to women more than my first book. I didn’t start out with the intention to write a mystery romance, but that is the direction the story took. There is also a bit of science fiction mixed in.
I hired a different cover designer for this book. The last one was good but took way too long. This one was a great artist, but I think she lacked experience with formatting for print books, so after several failed attempts, I was able to fix all the formatting issues and upload the cover art to Amazon. I published the ebook on September 22, but because of the formatting issues, it took until yesterday to get the paperback published, and I am still waiting for approval on the hardcover.
I also decided not to enroll this book into KDP Select. That is supposed to give authors more opportunities to make money in exchange for having the book solely available on Amazon. I found it, at least in my case, to contribute almost nothing extra to my bottom line. Instead, I went with a company called Draft2Digital. They distributed my ebook to several booksellers. Some of the booksellers where my book is available can be found here. Others, like Google Play Books, I’m still waiting for the book to go live. I’m also considering offering a print version through Draft2Digital, but my profit would be much lower than I get through Amazon, which still isn’t that much after printing costs and Amazon’s cut.
I feel like I want to write another book now. The problem is that my few ideas would make good short stories, but I can’t yet think how they could be expanded into full books.
Recently I finished writing my first novel and plan to self-publish it as soon as the cover is ready. How I got to this point is the real story.
I had the idea for the story floating around in my head since 1996 or earlier. I wanted to outline the story before starting, but I never could come up with an ending or even a decent middle, so I put it on the back burner and thought about it occasionally. Finally, on July 30, 2018, I started writing. I hoped that the story would resolve itself as I wrote.
It went pretty well for a while, but I soon hit a roadblock. I made many changes to what I had written, so the story became different from what I originally envisioned. Still, I couldn’t think about where I was going with it. So for nearly five years, I would add to the story only occasionally.
Things changed after St. Patrick’s Day this year. That day the company I worked for went out of business, and I was out of a job. I found myself with time on my hands while I looked for work. During that time, I was writing with new enthusiasm. I managed to break through the roadblock and finished the first draft of the book around the first of May. So it took me about six weeks to go from less than 24,000 words to over 60,000 words. I’m sure most writers could do that easily, but considering how long it took to write the first 24,000 words, I thought it went well, especially since I had no outline to follow.
I then read through the book two or three more times, correcting errors and inconsistencies. I gave a copy to my wife in hopes that she could find mistakes for me, but she was way too busy, so I sent it to my mother. She read it and sent back three pages of corrections. I was amazed that I missed so much. After that, I added Gramerly to my Word program, which helped me catch many more mistakes.
I read through my book six or seven times before I was ready to publish it. Then I had to wait for the cover. I contracted with someone on Fiverr to illustrate it for me on June 8, but he was swamped and gave me a delivery date of July 8. He finally finished the front cover a day late and I was able to publish the ebook on my birthday. I’m now waiting for the back cover for the print edition. If you are interested you can find the book here.
If you do decide to purchase my book, I would really appreciate a review.
About a month ago, I started considering putting an aquarium in my house. We had a 55-gallon fish tank about 15 years ago, and I thought that would be a good size again. Unfortunately, we have no room for a tank that size in the house. The best I could do was a 29-gallon fish tank. There was barely enough room for that on a cabinet in the dining room. Our cats like to lie on that cabinet and look out the window, so I would have to take that away from them.
I didn’t want a typical fish tank. I wanted something as close to nature as possible, so I did a fair amount of research. I discovered something called the Walstad method, also known as a dirted aquarium. Diana Walstad wrote a book called Ecology of the Planted Aquarium, which I bought. I found it written more like a scientific journal with much more information than I cared about. Instead, I went to YouTube and learned from people using the method. Most of the videos I watched were similar, but everyone had a slightly different method or list of ingredients.
Last Friday, I was in Petsmart and saw they had a 29-gallon aquarium kit on sale for $120, down from $150. I decided to look online when I got home and found the same aquarium kit on the Petsmart website for $75, so I bought it and arranged to pick it up in the store the next day.
The Walstad method requires a layer of soil topped by a layer of sand. The consensus is about one inch of dirt topped by two inches of sand. Some people only use organic topsoil, while others have a recipe of a half dozen things to supplement the soil, including peat moss, compost, manure, epson salt, bone meal, iron oxide, and diatomaceous earth. The substrate, meaning the sand and soil, should eventually be self-sustained, but that could take a year or more, so the additives help until a balance is reached.
A symbiotic relationship should exist between the plants, fish, and all the microorganisms in the tank. I don’t know the exact process, but the microorganisms break down fish waste and dead plants and convert it to plant food. The plants then help remove ammonia and nitrates and provide oxygen for the fish. I’m sure many other things are going on as well.
I went to Home Depot before picking up the fish tank. I compromised because I could not find most of what I was looking for. I bought topsoil that contained peat moss. I also bought a combination of manure and organic compost. I finished by picking up a bag of play sand and a bucket.
I had epson salt and diatomaceous earth at home and decided to skip what I couldn’t find.
I mixed three-quarters of topsoil and one-quarter of compost/manure in a 5-gallon bucket. I added a small amount of epson salt and diatomaceous earth to the mixture. I then added about one inch of it to the tank. I had a spray bottle filled with water and sprayed the dirt until it was soaked.
I put two inches of sand on top and pushed it down along the front glass with a wooden turner to hide the dirt.
The next step was to add water, but it needed to be done carefully. If the pressure from the water exposed the dirt, there would be a big mess. I placed a paper bowl upside down and brought in my garden hose on the sprayer setting.
I used a paper bowl because I didn’t want to wash sand down my sink, but the bowl started floating, which complicated the filling a bit.
Once I had the tank filled, I added a small amount of Prime, a chemical designed to neutralize the chlorine in the water. After that, I added the plants I bought while I was at PetSmart. Later we bought six Tetra fish and added them to the tank.
I forgot an important step that I did the next morning. I went to a nearby creek and pulled a stick and a few leaves out of the water and added them to the tank. This was to introduce beneficial bacteria and microorganisms to the tank.
I bought a few more plants a couple of days later at Pet Supermarket, which had them for a fair amount less. As I write this Thursday evening the fish are still well and I will probably look for another type of fish to add to the tank within the next few days.
I will follow up in a couple of months to let you know how it is going.
In 2002 I sold all my film cameras and bought a 4-megapixel digital camera for $500. One of the cameras I sold was a Yashica Mat-124 medium format film camera. Recently I was feeling nostalgic and thought about getting back into film. The problem was the cost versus the benefits.
What are the benefits of film? I could only think of two; the first is hard to put into words. It just looks different. It has a more gritty feel. Some subjects look better on film. Street photography is one example.
The second benefit is that it costs more. I know that doesn’t make sense but hear me out. I did some research and calculated the cost of film, the cost of mailing it to the film lab, the cost of developing and scanning, and the cost to have the negatives shipped back to me. In my case, I went with the cheapest 125 black and white film and sprang for the upgraded scanning service. The total cost was around $48 or $4 per photograph. When you know that every shot costs four dollars, you are going to be more careful with your shots. You will think about each one and make sure all your settings are correct. It is a great way to hone your skills and become a better photographer.
When my wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I gave her a link to a used Yashica Mat-124 camera that was up for sale on Ebay or another platform. I believe it was around $250, which was cheap compared to similar cameras out there. I was surprised by how much these cameras were selling for. It showed that film was far from dead.
The camera arrived in good condition but not perfect. There was an issue with the case not closing correctly and there was a crack in the lens cap but everything seemed in good working order except the light meter. That needed a battery that they don’t make anymore.
Believe it or not, it took me a month to take twelve photos. I chose to use black and white film partly because it is cheaper but mostly because I wanted my film photography to be as different as possible from my digital photography. For that reason, and the fact that I did not have a zoom lens for the camera, landscape photography seemed like the best choice. Unfortunately, having a full-time job and a wife that likes to do things with me on the weekends that don’t include walking through nature parks, picture opportunities didn’t come up often.
During the next month, I did find time to go to two nature parks and a botanical garden. For the most part, it was difficult to find a scene worth four dollars but I managed. I downloaded a light meter app on my phone and hoped it was accurate. I then was very careful to get my exposure right. While being very careful in that area, I forgot something else that was very important. I forgot to focus. I have been so used to my camera focusing that it didn’t occur to me to focus manually until I was on frame seven or so. I think I paid attention to the first two photos but then a week later it slipped my mind.
When I finally sent the film out I had to wait about a week or so before I got an email saying my scans were ready. The guy warned me that it looked like there was a light leek and he was willing to fix it for me if I wanted him to. The leak was obvious in the first photo I took. It is a picture of my son with his son and girlfriend on Christmas.
The next couple of photos had problems with the light leak, and after that, there were some photos slightly out of focus, but they got better.
My second roll of film is still in the camera, I loaded that before I knew about the light leak, but I think I know how to fix it without repairing the camera. I think the leather case blocks the light leak so the next time I load film I will put the case back on before I advance the film to frame one. That might solve the problem.
I have thought about ways to make black-and-white film photography cheaper but shooting 120 film complicates things a bit. Years ago I bought film in large rolls and rolled it into empty film cartridges. I then developed it myself. I even bought an enlarger so I could print my own photos. It was quite fun. Unfortunately, that was all 35 mm film and I have no experience with developing 120 film. I’m sure I could learn to develop my own 120 film but then there is the matter of scanning that film. I have a 35 mm film scanner that was relatively cheap but a similar scanner for 120 film is way out of my budget. I could afford it but I wouldn’t scan enough to make it worth buying. Perhaps that will change in the future. I don’t know. For now, I will continue to shoot digital and bring along my Yashica for those times when it is a better fit.
I have been reading negative stories about electric cars lately. Some are legitimate concerns, some are so minor they are not worth mentioning and others are arguments that are not well thought out. Here I want to give you my opinion on electric cars and why they are not as bad as the naysayers want you to believe.
Currently, I drive a 2022 Nissan Leaf and my wife drives a 2022 Tesla Model Y. Previously I drove a 2015 Nissan Leaf, which I regrettably traded in for a truck that I thought we needed. After a few months, when we suddenly didn’t need the truck, I traded it for another leaf.
The main reason our government is pushing electric vehicles is that many believe they will help reduce carbon emissions and thus global warming. That is not why I bought my first electric car and it is not why I bought my second, either. I bought them primarily because they are practically maintenance-free and because they are far cheaper to operate than gasoline-powered vehicles. The large tax rebate didn’t hurt either.
Let’s start with carbon emissions. My Leaf has the words “Zero Emission” displayed on the back which, as many naysayers will claim, is not true. Actually, it is usually not true but sometimes it is. It all depends on where the power comes from where you charge your car.
If the power you use to charge your car comes from a power plant that burns coal or other fuels, then the miles you drive indirectly translates into air pollution. If the power comes from a hydroelectric, solar, or wind turbine electric plant then it is truly zero emission.
The real issue is that the energy used to charge your electric car is generating pollution but nobody talks about how much pollution. According to the EPA, the average co2 emissions from a gallon of gas is 8,887 grams. According to U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average co2 emissions from the electric power industry is 0.85 pounds per kWh. This equates to 385.5 grams.
So let’s do some back-of-the-envelope calculations. My leaf is currently getting between 4.2 and 4.4 miles per kWh. Let’s round down and just use 4 miles per kWh. The EPA says 22 miles per gallon of gas is average. So, 8,887 grams, divided by 22 miles per gallon, equals 403.95 grams of co2 per mile. Times that by 4 and you get about 1,616 grams per 4 miles. Divide 1,616 by 385.5 and we see that the average gasoline-powered automobile pollutes 4.19 times that of an electric car that gets 4 miles per kWh. If we are really conservative and assume the average electric car driver gets 3.5 miles per kWh. That is still 3.67 times more carbon dioxide emissions from a gasoline vehicle.
There has been a lot of talk about the negative environmental impact of mining lithium for EV batteries. This is one area where the critics may be right but they fail to consider one very important fact. The importance of demand.
Many people don’t know this but electric cars were popular in the late 1800s but were killed off in 1912 when Henry Ford developed the modern assembly line and outpriced electric cars by more than half. Since then, electric cars were more of a novelty and nobody put any money into research and development because they knew they would not get a return on their investment. Thus, electric cars spent decades in limbo.
In the late 1990s, GM produced the EV1, which many thought was a great car, but it did not do well. GM produced 1,117 EV1s, all leased, and reclaimed the cars, only to destroy most of them. Some claim GM deliberately marketed the vehicles badly to prove to California regulators that electric vehicles were not a viable option.
It wasn’t until Tesla came on the scene in 2008 with its electric roadster and then Nissan with the all-electric Leaf in 2012 did electric cars start to gain traction in popularity. These last few years have really seen a spike in electric car sales, especially when gas prices started going through the roof the past year or so.
All of this demand, and profit, spur research as we have never seen before. If people do not buy these imperfect machines now, there will be no money or incentive to make future versions better. Today there are several companies working on battery technologies that will not only make batteries more efficient, longer lasting, and faster charging, but they will also be made with materials that are more common and cleaner to produce. I suspect in ten years we will see incredible advancements in batteries for everything from cars to cell phones to backup power for homes, all because EV sales funded the research.
Another complaint you hear about electric vehicles is that the range is not sufficient. It is true that, with a few exceptions, most electric vehicles cannot drive as far as a gasoline-powered vehicle can drive. I believe that does not matter in almost all cases. According to Kelley Blue Book, Americans drive an average of 14263 miles per year. That is roughly 39 miles per day. Most people just drive to work and back five days a week and maybe travel a little bit farther on the weekends. With few exceptions, all that driving is easily within the range of even older electric vehicles.
A high-range Vehicle is only necessary when you will be traveling hundreds of miles and that usually only happens once or twice a year when people take a vacation. Even then, people often fly to their destination and only need a vehicle that can bring them to the airport. If you do need to travel a long distance, you have a couple of options.
First, you can rent a car, which is actually a good option even if you own a gasoline vehicle because it will save wear and tear on your vehicle and it will keep the value up because you won’t be adding so many miles to the odometer. This also gives you the option of getting the perfect vehicle for your trip, whether it be an SUV for a family trip or a convertible for a trip up the coast with your spouse.
The other option would be to map out fast chargers along your route. This is perfectly feasible today and we’ll get even easier in the future as more charging stations come online. The only downside is that you will need to make a few more stops and spend a little more time at each stop. One upside is that if you are staying in a hotel, many now have charging stations so you can plug your car in while you sleep, so when you get up in the morning, you have essentially a free tank of gas.
Maintenance and Repairs
Another argument critics make is that electric vehicles are more difficult to repair because many mechanics are not trained in repairing them. This argument doesn’t make sense to me because if your car does need to be repaired, the chance that the problem is related to the electric motor is slim. On the off chance the electric motor is the problem, there is probably a dealership nearby that you can take it to.
As I mentioned earlier, the lack of maintenance is one of the main reasons I bought an electric car in the first place. They are practically maintenance-free. They don’t need oil changes, cooling flushes, spark plugs, or fuel injectors. They also don’t need an alternator, transmission, muffler, or catalytic converter, and I’m sure a lot of other things too. I had my 2015 Leaf for about four years and four months. During that time it was in the shop three times, once for a computer issue, once for the air conditioner, and once for new tires. It was never in the shop for an oil change, tune-up, or anything related to the electric motor.
I read a story a long time ago about Zenith, which I believe was the last major television producer in the United States. Zenith made their televisions in a modular way that made them very easy to repair. Then a company called Sony came along and made televisions that were harder to repair but didn’t break down. Which company is still around? This is not a perfect comparison because electric vehicles are only harder to repair by untrained mechanics, but you get the point.
Some will also say that all these electric cars will overload our electric grid. They fail to take into account that everyone will not be charging their cars at the same time. In addition, when people do plug their cars in, it will usually be when electricity is cheaper and local consumption is low. Someday when most of the cars on the road are electric there may be a need for upgrades to our power grid, but there is plenty of time to plan and implement those changes. I also suspect many more homes in the near future will get electricity from solar panels or small wind turbines and thus be no burden at all on the power grid.
You might also hear that you are paying for electricity just like you are paying for gas. They make it seem like you are not saving money with an electric car. Let’s examine this more closely. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average cost of residential electricity is 14.92 cents per kWh. This does not distinguish between peak and off-peak which is important because most people charge their cars during off-peak hours. Most new cars and some chargers let you set a timer so that it only charges during off-peak hours, or super off-peak hours, which is even cheaper.
I assume the average of 14.92 cents is a combination of peak and off-peak hours, so we can use the number but it will probably give us a cost that is a little higher than reality. My state, Florida, has an average rate of 13.58 cents which is better than average but still close to the center. I tried to get a breakdown of the exact cost for peak and off-peak from my power company, Duke Energy, but I need someone with a degree in power company rates to help me interpret it. The rate schedule has 27 lines of numbers, some, I think, are fees that one pays no matter what their power usage is. Others are called adjustments that I think are negative numbers but it’s hard to tell. There are two sets of numbers that I believe are the actual usage rates, the energy charge and the fuel charge. I believe adding them together gives us the true rate. According to the chart, the peak rate is 16.742 (10.610 + 6.132). Off-peak is 13.81 (9.1 + 4.71). Super off-peak is 9.533 (6.029 + 3.504). All of those numbers are in cents per kWh.
Let’s start with the national average of 14.92 cents per kWh. If 22 miles per gallon is average, then we need to know how many kWh it takes to drive 22 miles and what that costs. That will give us an equivalent cost per gallon. My car gets about 4.3 miles per kWh, so that would be 5.12 kWh (22 / 4.13). According to AAA, the average price of gas, as I write this, is $3.956. The equivalent cost of my electricity would be 76 cents per gallon (14.92 x 5.12). If I only charge my car during super off-peak hours, my cost drops to 49 cents per gallon. If we assume an average of 3.5 miles per kWh, those costs then become 93 cents per gallon for average rates and 60 cents per gallon for super off-peak rates, which is still many times better than the cost of buying gas.
There is also another option for saving money with electric vehicles. There are many free chargers available throughout the country. In addition to the hotel chargers I talked about earlier, you will also find free chargers at many grocery stores, airports, and other public locations like libraries or city halls. Most of these are level two chargers but I have a free level three quick charger at a public park near my home.
If you are still reading that means you were able to make it through all the boring math. I hope you learned something useful today. Let me know what you think.
After four months of owning a 2022 Nissan Leaf, I thought I would share my opinion of the automobile. This is my second Leaf. The first was a 2015 Leaf that I considered to be my favorite car up to that point. The reason I traded that car in was discussed in a previous post.
The first thing you notice when comparing a 2022 Leaf with the 2015 model is that it looks more like a normal car and less like a big frog. That means that you won’t get the attention that you might have gotten driving the older version but that could be good or bad, depending on how much attention you want. But this is not meant to be a comparison between the two cars.
I bought the Leaf SV with a 40 kWh battery. The Leaf has three models, an S, an SV, and an SL. The S is the most basic, followed by the SV, and then the SL which has the most features. If there is a “Plus” after the designation, it means it has the larger 62 kWh battery. It also means it is $5,000 to $6,000 more costly.
Since I rarely had a problem with the range of my old Leaf, which had a 24 kWh battery, I didn’t feel the need to spend the extra money. If I was going to be doing a lot of long-distance driving, then I would want the bigger battery, but 90 percent of my driving is within 5 miles of my home. Most of the rest is within 20 miles of my home. If something came up where I had to drive across the state, I would either map out fast charger locations or rent a car. Renting a car on rare occasions is far cheaper than springing for the larger battery.
The official range for the 40 kWh battery is 149 miles but that depends on how you drive. It could be more or it could be less. There is a feature on the dash that shows you where you are on the efficiency scale. It is actually a good way to challenge yourself to try to push up your efficiency rating. I often find myself driving like an old lady so I can increase my rating. I started at around 4.1 miles per kWh and eventually pushed it up to 4.4 before settling in at 4.3. I believe the calculations only count recent miles but I do not know the formula. Lately, I dropped down to 4.2, which still translates to 168 miles on a charge.
The reason I get better than average economy is partly that I drive conservatively but mostly because I drive almost exclusively around town. If I were to take a trip on the highway and drive over 70 MPH, then the miles per kWh would drop. I am not sure why but, unlike with gasoline-powered vehicles, city driving is more efficient than highway driving in an electric car. I’m sure part of the reason is that no energy is expended while sitting at a light, unlike gasoline engines which must idle.
The car has several safety features that are nice. The one I like most is a blind spot warning. If you put on the turn signal and there is a car next to you, the car gives you an audible warning, and a yellow light blinks in your mirror. Another feature vibrates the steering wheel if you start to drift out of your lane. It has collision avoidance features too that involve automatic braking but I have not had any desire to try them out.
The driving display allows you to cycle through several screen options. The one I like shows the driving efficiency, as shown above. It also shows the total miles and miles left on the charge. Another screen has the remaining miles more prominently displayed along with the power usage. There is another display that shows what you are listening to and, if you want to navigate old school, you can bring up a compass.
The media center touchscreen display allows a bit of customization but it is cumbersome to change and could use an upgrade. It does sync with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which is nice.
There are also a couple of buttons near the shift knob that helps with efficiency. Eco mode decreases motor output somewhat and also increases slightly regenerative braking. Regenerative braking essentially recaptures kinetic energy when slowing and puts it back into the battery. If you turn on e-Pedal, that is like regenerative braking on steroids. Some people call it one-pedal driving because when you take your foot off the accelerator, you can feel the car rapidly slowing down while it recaptures energy. Driving with the e-Pedal on means you never have to use the brake pedal except in an emergency. Of course, it does take a little getting used to but once you get the hang of it it will be like second nature.
The car is quiet, like all-electric cars, but I noticed a slightly louder hum than on my 2015 leaf. There was over a six-month gap between trading in my old leaf and buying a new one so my memory could be faulty. What hasn’t changed is the loud, annoying noise the car makes while backing up. I would like to find a way to muffle it a little so I can back up my car early in the morning without waking the neighbors. My wife’s Tesla, on the other hand, sounds like a relatively quiet alien spacecraft landing nearby. Nissan should do something like that on future models.
My 2015 leaf came with a home charger that plugged into a 110-volt outlet. The charger that comes with the 2022 model will plug into a 220 outlet and has a 110 adapter. This is a great upgrade, even though I only have a 110 outlet near my driveway. I have not had a need yet to add a 220 outlet but it is nice to know I can do that. I could also pay to have a home charger installed and save the portable charger as a backup.
The Leaf also comes with two charging ports, a standard J1772 port for level 1 (110) and level 2 (220) charging, and a ChAdeMO port for fast charging. I read that the CHAdeMO port is outdated but with all the cars on the road that use it, I can’t imagine that the fast chargers out there will stop offering it as an option any time soon. Interestingly, the word comes from the Japanese phrase pronounced “o CHA deMO ikaga desuka,” Which means something like “How about a cup of tea?” The reason that is used is that the charge time is about the same time it would take to have a cup of tea.
All in all, I think the 2022 Nissan leaf is an excellent car for the money. Yes, my wife’s Tesla is better than my Nissan Leaf, but for the money she spent, I could buy two Leafs and still have $10,000 left over. That is a great deal in my book.
Check back soon and I will talk about the energy costs of electric cars and the hidden reason why buying an electric car is good for the environment despite the naysayer’s reasons why it is not.
The best vehicle I ever had was a 2015 Nissan Leaf. When new it got about 100 miles on a charge. By the summer of 2021 that had dropped to under 75 miles. Still, it was plenty of miles for most of the driving I did and the few times that it wasn’t, I would just plug it in somewhere along my route for just long enough to allow me to finish my trip. I figured I could drive it until the range dropped to under 40 miles. Then I would consider replacing the battery or buying another vehicle. Unfortunately, our situation forced me to consider replacing it years ahead of when I planned to do it.
We bought a house in West Virginia in November of 2020. We packed our three cats in two crates and put them in a moving truck while we towed my wife’s BMW 430i. It was a nightmare trip. The crates barely fit between the seats and we had to listen to constant cat cries for a good portion of the trip.
We stayed there until early January and then headed back to Florida. This time the crates went into the back of the BMW. I bought the biggest crates I could that would still fit in the back seat of the BMW, which was not very big. It felt unsafe because the only way to get the crates in and out was to put the top down. In an emergency, getting the cats out would be tough. Fortunately, we made it home okay but I didn’t want to do that again.
In 2021, we decided to spend September and October in West Virginia because the cold was just too much after being spoiled by Florida winters. This meant my wife needed to bring all her Christmas decorations back to our Florida home. She told me I needed to trade my Leaf in for a large vehicle like a van or SUV. I really did not want to do that and resisted the idea for a long time.
We probably should have just rented a truck again for the return trip but neither of us wanted to go through that again. I instead searched for alternatives. My first thought was that we could rent a large van that could tow my wife’s car but it is impossible to rent a one-way van, or a truck with a back seat, that can also tow a car. Also, because the rental car companies were experiencing a car shortage during 2021, they would not rent vehicles for one-way trips out of state. That eliminated the idea of driving two vehicles home. I also thought we could put a tow hitch on the BMW and tow a small trailer, but for some reason, a tow hitch was not recommended for convertibles. We also could not put on a roof carrier for the same reason.
In the end, I gave in and traded my car in for a big, gas-guzzling 2008 Nissan Titan. It was an older truck but it only had 19,000 miles on it so we thought it would be reliable, which it was. Unfortunately, I overpaid for the truck but since used cars were as scarce as new cars there were no good options.
I was able to buy bigger crates and the trip up to West Virginia went pretty smoothly. But then, with one week left in our stay, it became clear to my wife that I wasn’t totally happy there, even though I never said anything to the contrary. I also think she was starting to have second thoughts about our yearly trips up there. In the end, we decided to rent the house out and then spent the next week trying to find a tenant while we packed up everything that we could reasonably bring back to Florida.
I rented a trailer and we came home with almost everything we brought up there plus more. The truck did a good job for us during that time but if we had known ahead of time that we were going to rent it out we could have just flown up there while someone watched our cats and rented a truck to come back.
I think my wife felt guilty because now I was stuck driving this big battleship around that was totally unneeded and damn near impossible to park except at the back of parking lots. So when I floated the idea of trading my truck in for a new Leaf, she was all for it.
The idea came about four weeks ago when I brought the Titan into the Nissan dealer for an oil change. While I was there I walked around the parking lot casually looking for a new Leaf. I saw none. I asked a salesman named Miguel who said they didn’t have any and the only one coming in was spoken for. He also said that I could not order one from the factory at this time. I asked him for his card and figured I would check back.
Six days later, on a Saturday, I thought I would check how realistic it would be to trade my truck, knowing I owed more on the truck than it was worth. I checked Autotrader but there were no Leafs or any electric vehicles in my price range anywhere nearby. The exception was a few older Leafs that were highly overpriced. I thought about calling the salesman I talked to but I had lost his card and forgotten his name. Instead, I looked on the website of that Nissan dealer.
The website showed no Leafs but while I was browsing it a window popped up asking if I needed help. Without thinking I typed a question that I don’t remember now. I think I asked what my trade-in value might but I’m not sure that was my first question. She then asked me to text her photos of my truck and gave me her phone number. After I did that she said the only Leaf they had coming in was an SV model and told me about payment options but avoided telling me the price or what my trade was worth. I had to ask for each, which started to feel like I was dealing with the stereotypical used car salesman.
When she said the SV model would cost me $35,700, I said it was more than I wanted to spend so she looked for the standard S model and said there was nothing coming in. She then said she found one at another store and again mentioned payments without mentioning the car she found was also an SV model and that the price was $34,700.
I said I saw the car started at $27,400 and asked if I could just order it. She confirmed that they were not taking orders and asked what my max payment would be. I wanted to get away from payments and settle on a price so I asked what my payment would be if the car was $29,000. She said $29,000 is below MSRP and no dealership would sell it for that. I showed her a screenshot of the Nissan website showing the MSRP as $27,400. She replied that was before any packages were added. I said that is why I added $1,600 and she suddenly stopped texting me like she decided I wasn’t worth her time.
Later that afternoon, while my wife and I were having dinner at a Mexican restaurant, I mentioned that I was considering trading in my truck for another Leaf. She was all for it and thought we should drive straight to the dealer, which we did. There I was met by the same salesperson I saw the previous Monday, Miguel. He almost immediately asked if I had spoken with someone online. I don’t know how he knew so quickly but I told him I did. I also apologized and said I lost his card and forgot his name, which was true. I found out later that he had to share his commission with the woman that was texting me, which he was okay with but I wasn’t because I didn’t think she deserved anything, especially after she just stopped texting me back.
Miguel found a Leaf coming in that was an SV but it was under $33,000. Still, more than I wanted to spend, but it was starting to seem like getting what I wanted was going to be difficult. Besides, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have the extra features that the SV offered. I would have preferred the SV plus which has the bigger battery but I didn’t think the extra $5,000 or so would be a worthwhile expenditure considering I didn’t have a need to drive that far.
While we were discussing the car, another salesman, who I think was a sales supervisor, was also there talking to us. There were several top-of-the-line used cars in the showroom, one of which was a “used” 2022 Tesla Model Y with only about 36 miles on it. That caught my wife’s interest and the salesman was trying to get my wife to take a test drive. My wife wanted to test drive it but considering the price was $80,000 I said that was a crazy idea. But the salesman kept pushing and my wife kept buying into the idea. I kept telling her it was a bad idea and I could not get behind the idea of going that far into debt but, as usual, she didn’t listen to me.
Since she was going to take it for a drive with me or without me I decided to go with her. The car was like driving a spaceship with a glass roof and a computer screen that controlled everything. In the end, she decided to buy the car. I reminded her she was upside down on the BMW that she promised last year would be her last car in a long time after she traded her third Mustang in five years for it. So we spent two and a half hours at the Nissan dealer that evening and drove home in a Tesla.
A week later I was able to pick up my new Leaf.
So far I am happy with the Leaf but, after more than two weeks, I have driven it about 140 miles. I almost think it would have been cheaper if I had just sold my truck and taken an Uber to work every day. It would have been especially cheaper if I sold my truck without my wife present.
A week ago Sunday my wife started to get sick with Covid like symptoms. It was the fourth time she was sick with those symptoms since the pandemic started. The first two times she tested negative, the third time she was not tested because she had been vaccinated by then. I was not affected any of those times but this time I was. Tuesday evening, while I was taking my German class on Zoom, I suddenly had the urge to cough. It was mild but it was enough to concern me.
I should mention here that I never feared Covid. I have been the polar opposite of those people who drive alone in their cars with the windows up and the masks on. I always obeyed the rules but I never wore a mask when I did not have to and I never got vaccinated. My concern with the vacine was that it was a new technology that had never been properly tested and I did not want to be a guinie pig. Most importantly, I was pretty sure that my imune system was strong enough to handle a bout with Covid so I considered the risk of the vacine was greater than the reward.
The concern I mentioned earlier was less about having Covid and more about missing work. When I woke up Wednesday morning slightly worse than when I went to bed the previous night, I knew I couldn’t go to work. I needed to get tested right away so if it did come up negative, I could get back to work as soon as I felt better. That proved far more difficult than I would have imagined.
CVS and Walgreens both offered drive through testing but you had to make a reservation and the earliest I could get was the next Wednesday afternoon, over seven days away. By then I would be compleatly over it. I called a nearby Med Express and they said they were taking a break intil 10:30, and I should come then. When I got there I called them from the parking lot which they require you to do first, but got a message saying their representitives were helping other callers and couldn’t answer my my call. The message said I should try back in a few minutes. I called 24 times in 30 minutes all with the same response. I decided it wasn’t worth it and went home.
When I got home I tried to find an at home test but had no luck. All the local stores were out of them. I tried Amazon, thinking I could get one delivered the next day but they were all seven days or more for delivery.
I talked to my boss after that and he said he might have a test at home but later I found out that he did not. He also encourged me to try again with the testing. I understood his point. He needed to know my status.
The next morning, Thursday, I felt about as bad as I would feel throughout the illness. My scratchy throat had turned sore and my cough was worse, although still not terrible. I added honey to my coffee in hopes of helping my throat. Sure enough, before my cup was half empty, the pain was barely noticable.
I showed up at Med Express Thurday morning, ten minutes before they opened at 8 a.m., and started calling them at 7:59. I realized that their procedure was not first come first serve but survival of the fittest. The trick was to call them at precisly the time they hung up with another caller. This required both luck and skill. I was pretty sure that either a person would answer or a machine. I didn’t think there would be a message first and a real person second so I dispensed with listening to the message. As soon as I heard the message, I hung up and redieled. It took 106 calls but finally at 8:30 someone answered. She took down some basic information and said she would call back. It took a long time but someone finally called back, got more information from me, then said they were waiting for a room to become available. During my wait an ambulance showed up and took someone away.
When I was finally able to go inside someone took my vitals and did the Covid test. About twenty minutes later a doctor came in to tell me my test result was positive for Covid. The test didn’t reveal if it was Alpha, Delta, Omicron or Unicorn. If an animal is attacking you, do you care if it’s a lion or a bear?
The doctor asked me some questions about how I was feeling and I had not even thought about it until then but I was feeling fine. I told him I felt bad that morning but was much better. He seemed to think the worst was over and said I could go back to work on Tuesday if I was symptom free and if it was okay with my boss. Unknown to me at the time, Covid had one more surprise for me.
Friday morning I felt pretty good. I got up and did my usual. I fed the cats and made coffee for my wife and me. While I was making my wife’s coffee, I started feeling slightly nauseous. That feeling seemed to get worse by the minute and before my coffee was finished brewing through the Keurig, I grabbed my wife’s coffee and raced to the bedroom. I gave her the coffee and plopped down in bed while I waited for the nausea to go away. After a few minutes, I got up and retrieved my coffee. I did not realize that nausea was a Covid symptom, but now I know.
For the most part, the nausea wasn’t there but I learned that standing would bring it on, so I just spent much of Friday relaxing in bed while binge-watching the old Lois and Clark series. My cat Frankie seemed more concerned than usual and spent a lot of time keeping me company.
Saturday I was feeling pretty good and was able to do some work around the house. It was nice having an excuse to relax but I couldn’t milk that for more than a day.
Despite being vaccinated, my wife was hit much harder by this illness than I was, but even she got through it pretty well. By Sunday she had been inside our home for over a week and was ready to go outside. Since I, and possibly she too, were still potentially contagious, we just put the top down in her car and went for a drive.
I should mention that fever was never a factor for either of us. I think my wife’s temperature reached 100 degrees at one point and mine reached a high of 99.3. It actually was lower than normal one of the times I checked it.
Today, Monday, I am nearly 100 percent. My lack of fear proved to be justified in my case but I would not avoid getting vaccinated based on my experience. One of my passions these last 14 years or so has been learning about natural health. While I still succumb to outside influences and eat poorly sometimes, for the most part, I think my habits are much healthier than the average American. I was actually disappointed in myself, though. I imagined my immune system would take care of this virus in half the time. I guess there is always room for improvement.
I first developed Plantar Fasciitis several years ago. It is a condition caused by pain and inflammation of the Plantar Fascia where it connects to the heel. The Plantar Fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects the toes to the heel.
The pain is most intense in the morning after getting out of bed or after sitting for a long time and then standing up. It typically improves with movement but the pain usually does not fully go away.
When I first found out what I had, I ordered heel inserts for my shoes. It took about two months but the problem finally went away and I put the inserts away in the closet just in case it came back.
A couple of years later it did come back and I dug out those heel inserts and started wearing them again. This time they did nothing. I gave it a couple of months like the first time but had zero results.
It should be noted here that I am not a health professional and nothing that you read here should be considered health advice. I am simply relaying my own personal story. Everyone is different and what works for one may not work for another.
I had read years earlier that feet need to be exercised and the best way to do that is to walk barefoot on uneven surfaces, like a beach. Unfortunately, it was not convenient for me, or most people for that matter, to take a walk on the beach every day.
I decided to do a little research and the more I read the more I realized that wearing shoes might actually be the cause of plantar fasciitis. There are a number of reasons for that. Shoes can be very constraining. They don’t allow our feet to move the way nature intended. They also tend to lift the heel higher than is natural and bend the toes upwards. In addition, people who grew up wearing shoes have learned to walk completely wrong. We have learned to walk by striking our heel to the ground first and then rolling the foot forward. This puts more pressure on the heel than it was designed to handle but because of the padding in the shoe, you don’t notice it.
At about the same time I was learning this I went to one of my regular chiropractor appointments. I was going for neck pain at the time but I did mention the heel pain to her. She told me I should buy more supportive shoes. I did not contradict her but I remember thinking that the information I was learning was something that even chiropractors don’t know.
I decided to do the opposite and go as close to barefoot as I could get away with. I found a company in Canada called The Bown Bear that sells traditional moccasins. These moccasins are not something you can buy at a typical shoe store. They are simply soft leather with no insole. They are probably the closest to barefoot you can get while still wearing “shoes.”
Buying moccasins was only the first step. I then had to train myself to walk the right way. It was a little hard at first because I had to think about each step that I took. I had to remember not to put my heel down first. Instead, I practiced placing my foot down with the ball of my foot hitting the ground at about the same time as my heel or even slightly ahead of my heel.
I tried to imagine how our primitive ancestors would have walked before foot coverings were invented. It’s probably easier to imagine if you just walk around outside in your bare feet for a while. If you walk around like you do with shoes, heal first, you will quickly regret it and adjust your foot placement accordingly.
Our modern world does complicate things somewhat. While our feet are perfectly designed for barefoot walking outside in a natural environment, they were not designed to walk on flat hard surfaces like concrete. Nevertheless, I still thought wearing the moccasins was worth a try.
I did make exceptions for a few things. I bought sneakers that were as flexible as I could find and wore those in situations where I might step on something sharp. I also noticed the moccasins have less traction than sneakers and were somewhat dangerous when walking across a parking lot in the rain. It turns out that the white lines are painted with something very slippery. Again, this is a problem that our ancestors did not have to deal with.
I probably went barefoot or wore those moccasins about 90% of the time when I was not home. I don’t remember exactly how long it took but in a relatively short period of time, maybe a couple of months, my heel pain was completely gone.
It has been about five years since I bought that first pair of moccasins and I have remained free of heel pain. I have bought several more pairs of moccasins since then and I continue to wear them as often as I can.
Our modern world has brought us many conveniences but it has also brought us many problems. I think it is always wise to look to Mother Nature for solutions to problems before seeking help from modern science. What do you think?
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” is an important line from Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech on Jun 16, 1858. The line was borrowed from the Bible and Lincoln used it to talk about the growing division between people who supported slavery and people who did not.
Essentially, the country was divided between Democrats and Republicans. A little over two years later, Lincoln would be elected president and the division would become so great that the country would be split in two and the Civil War would begin.
I really did not expect I would be writing about politics on this blog, but something happened recently that made me feel like I should say something. It is something I have seen developing for some time but recently has become a real problem.
First, I should say that I am a registered independent, so I have no horse in the race. I have never been interested in politics. In fact, I do not like politics, and I like politicians even less. It is my belief that a person can not be elected to a high office, or even be in the running for that office, without being in the pocket of rich and powerful people that have an agenda that does not include helping the average American.
I have not voted for any person for any office in probably a decade or more. I have voted for issues, such as state amendments, but not people. I do not vote for local candidates because I never have the motivation to learn about them and feel it would be irresponsible to vote for someone whom I know nothing about. I also do not vote for senators, representatives, or for presidential candidates for the reason mentioned earlier.
After the Civil War the United States became a single country again and we lived in peace with ourselves for a long time afterwards. We got along with our neighbors and coworkers and did not much care who they voted for in the last election. I think that started to change about twenty years ago.
In 2000, George W. Bush narrowly defeated Al Gore for president after a very strange recount in Florida. Because of the recount and because Al Gore won the popular vote, many Democrats felt cheated out of the presidency. I felt like campaigns are based on getting electoral college votes and not the popular vote so, in my opinion, George Bush out-campaigned Al gore. Many people did not feel that way so there arose an “us versus them” mentality. Bush became a lightning rod for political discontentment. I remember one of my in-laws blaming George Bush for the shoddy condition of one of the streets near her home.
I thought maybe the two sides would start getting along when Obama was elected but the divide became even worse. Then Trump was elected, again without the popular vote, and now it seems like it must have seemed to Lincoln back in 1858. There is such a pervasive attitude now that anyone who does not share your “correct” political views is the enemy. It is hard to believe now that this is America. It seems we are no longer all Americans. Instead, we are Republicans or Democrats.
What got me thinking about all this was a Facebook post by a “friend” who said that if anyone supported the president then she no longer wanted to be friends with them. I thought that was taking politics too far and it is scary to think she is not alone in this attitude. If this attitude spreads like it seems to be doing, we could be looking at a second civil war. Anyone who’s political beliefs do not align with our own is now the enemy. That is scary for me because I do not fit nicely with anybody’s political beliefs.
When Donald Trump was elected, I wrote my cat’s name as a write in candidate because I felt that my cat would make a better president than Trump or Clinton. That angered a coworker of mine who said, “not voting is a vote for Trump (which made no mathematical sense) and that I “was what is wrong with America.” I never really thought I was what is wrong with America but now I see that she was what is wrong with America, and probably still is, for her intolerance to other people’s opinions.
When I posted on Facebook that I voted for my cat because I thought that he “cared about people more then those two,” my best friend called me a liar, twice, and went on a rant about how I was dragging Hillary’s good name through the mud. Really? I was attacked by my best friend for that? The truth is my cat cares about people quite a lot.
I have for a long time thought it was best to have the House of Representatives and the Senate controlled by opposite parties. This way one party cannot easily ram through legislation that might be bad for the country but good for those rich individuals that have politicians in their pockets. Plus, it is always good to have opposing viewpoints because both sides are usually at least partially right. So even if the intentions of the legislation is good, it is still good to look at it from all sides because there are often unintended consequences in the noblest of causes, and it would be good to have someone point them out.
Try to imagine an America where everyone is a Democrat, or everyone is a Republican. Both scenarios would scare the hell out of me because nobody would be there to question whether what they were doing is right. All you would need then is a tyrannical leader and you would have another Nazi Germany.
So, thank your lucky stars that we are a country that is free, for now, to have people with opposing viewpoints. Go out and make friends with people from the other side, because you and I and this country are better off with them here.