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May. 9th, 2007

Finally Have a new computer...

Life in the city sure is grand...I've spent the last 4 weeks without my eeeer, laptop. So that's given me lots of time. I shipped it in for warranty service after I knocked a beer across the keyboard in a heated discussion regarding the current situation.

1 week service turned into four, and instead of being free, I had to pay $75 for shipping.

Things in the city...I don't know what to say. Filling up at the only gas station selling ethanol is usually a nail biting experience, as it's right down on 2nd and National. Not a bad area, but not my favorite. I swipe my card, and put it back in the truck and lock the doors. Yesterday I watched a woman decide to fill her car with ethanol instead of gas to save a bit of $$. She didn't go anywhere after that fill up...

One day it looked really tense...you could just sense something was "off" with the police and people standing outside shouting...I decided to fill up with gas....OUCH. $108.50.

Work is still going gangbusters....which is good because my father just lost his job. Don't know how long I'll be able to keep myself and my family floating...but the longer the better.

Prices at the local public market shot up too...so much for buying local. Everyone's getting raped and passing on the cost.

I tried going to summerfest, as I can walk. Decided it wasn't a good idea to go alone. Maybe I'll convince Ethrdemon to take a look with me one night.

Time to sign off...there's some commotion outside.  I'm betting someone is trying to steal my grill again. 

-C

May. 4th, 2007

What can one say?

This week I brought a carload of supplies up to the homestead to help out.  Almost all of the parts have arrived for the ethanol still, so there was lots of work to do to prepare.  I brought up lots of computer parts, as those are getting scarce.  I had stopped at a used computer store, and bought older motherboards, ram, processors, and lots of cards and drives.  That E-Junk could come in very handy in the future.

When I pulled in to the driveway and started the guided tour, I was in shock.  I think my parents have tapped into their retirement money.

I helped to install gas lines for 5 1,500 gallon propane tanks.  That is a LOT of propane...and a lot of digging  They have a thick pine woods on the edge of the back yard, and the tanks can't be seen.  You don't know they are there unless you know they are there...

500 gallons usually lasts 1 year up there, for heating, cooking and hot water.  I thought it was a bit excessive, but my dad insisted and there was nothing you could do to shake him.   He has paid off the local co-op to come out and install a 5,000 gallon tank out in the barn, which will be housing the ethanol still. 

The kicker though was the silo he bought off of a defunct farm down the street.  He won't tell me what he paid, but he insists it was very cheap...the installation was more than the silo....and it will hold 1030 tons of ground ear corn....Again, he said the corn was very cheap, as it was damaged stock from last year.  I don't know if it is full yet or not.  There are silos everywhere up there, so it doesn't stand out at all.

I helped them can food...and I learned a lot.  They had asked me to bring all the produce I could find, so I obliged and we spent lots of time canning food.  The basement is getting full.

We had a long weekend...that's for sure.  When I returned to Milwaukee, we experienced some of the mentioned protests.  So blocking someone from buying gas is going to do.....what?  I don't get it.

The security at my building has been increased.  The intercom system is no longer...if you want to get in, you better have someone meeting you...as the outside doors are now locked as well, and have been replaced with some rather heavy steel doors.  No more glass...The management company is also replacing the doors for those of us with a private entrance, again with steel doors.  It makes me feel a little better...now if they just do something about the 14 foot windows on the first floor, I'll feel even better.

There was a neighborhood meeting this week...I couldn't believe the turnout.  I'm finding there are some really good people in these few blocks (80% turnout for an 8 block radius.)  Everyone provided information on what kind of services they can provide...so it's nice to know where the doctor, dentist, chiropractor etc. are.  So far I'm pretty satisfied with my decision to split my time between the city and the country.

Ok, it's time for bed...it's been a really long week.

Stay safe!

May. 2nd, 2007

It's Spilling Over...and it's not oil.

I just got a great phone call.  *insert sarcasm here*

A close friend was robbed tonight, on his way home after a long shift as a security guard.  He was robbed at a stoplight on his moped...right on his moped...I just can't get over that. His girlfriend called me and sent me a picture from her cell phone.  Mind you, it took the ambulance 40 minutes to arrive.

*I deleted the picture in this blog as I thought it was a bit too graphic*


Now, violence in this city is nothing new.  This is not always a great place to be.  About a year ago, a mob of children beat a developmentally disabled man to death with shovels, bats, bricks, and fists.  Similar things happened after that incident, and not surprisingly these acts of violence peaked with last summer's gas prices.  The worst crimes involved mobs of people beating and killing a single individual for honking a horn, or cursing.  These crimes happened "way over there" or in that place that "I never would drive through."  The crimes were confined.

Not anymore.  This happened right near the marina, which is (was?) a very good area.  He was beaten by a man and a woman (probably a couple) that took his wallet and his moped.  "Hey honey...I'm too lazy to walk.  Let's go get that bike."

If just weeks after a price increase, this act of violence takes place,  it is to be the first of many.  This makes me sick and absolutely has shaken my fundamental belief that "all people are basically good."

I can go on and on...but, this comes down to one point: You can trust your neighbors, but only as far as you can throw them.  Mopeds are great for gas mileage...but which is more important...your pocketbook, or your life?  Anyone know how to make yourself safe on a bike without a big weapon?

Seems that it is high time that alliances be formed...people have to band together...watch each other's backs....it's the only way.  None of us can do it all alone...even if we have someone to go home to.  What if we don't make it home?  Then all is lost...

Sorry for the rant...I'm off for a drink.

Bait and Switch

So far this week, gas has hit $4.62 in my area, which is always higher than the National Average.  I'm sure it will continue to go up.

On the outside, the run in gas prices has had a negligible impact on me.  I've made some preparations.  I've helped my family.  I still drive, but as of now have only driven 52 miles for work...in the entire week, but I work from home or my family's homestead most of the time now.  I still have a nice paycheck, and I keep buying more and more things.  Honestly now, it's MUCH nicer.  There's no use in keeping the money, as in the coming months, money will most likely be much less valuable than it is now.

On the inside, well below my smiling polished exterior, I've turned...and I've quite possibly turned into someone that will further perpetuate the negative things some of you are experiencing in other areas of the country.  I've turned into a leech of sorts.

As I mentioned, I'm in Information Technology.  As I've watched my parents struggle in their part of Wisconsin, I decided that given the current situation, I have to grab all I can before it's gone, regardless of the expense to others.  My brother was in dire straights in Florida...I flew him up to my parents' house to live.

I've raped my existing customers, (who all trust me very deeply,) only staying somewhat true to my "bread and butter" client.  For that client, I openly, honestly, and cheaply implemented systems that can allow the entire workforce to work from home.  I even went as far as installing unlicensed software, as nobody is going to find out anyway.  Yes, I still charged them for it.  Lots.  The company went from 78servers to 15, with 2 more redundant systems scattered around the state.  As long as there is internet, the company will plod forward.

There are a lot of people looking for extra work right now, so it was very easy to find cheap white collar labor to get everything done quickly.   Project Managers, Programmers, Engineers...they are all clamoring for more work, close to home.

For the other, smaller clients, completely lacking any IT information, it is a very different story.  I am a one man source of disinformation, citing abiotic oil and every other anti-peak-oil reference I can find.  I've convinced a good portion of my clients that this is temporary, turning around in 90-120 days.  I've even done this with co-workers and friends.  I've gone as far as writing fake news articles, and emailing them to those that aren't blood.  I've spent lots of time on the computers and phones.  When things do get bad, everyone will think I'm in the same boat...so they wont' come looking for me.

In doing that, I've convinced them all to spend insane amounts of money on servers, software and other systems that will be large paperweights in less than 12 months.  Of course, I take a nice cut on each sale.  My newly found labor works very cheap, through the night, and I charge triple my previous hourly rate, while only overseeing the project...from home.   They are paid in cash.  I've made more in the last week than I have in the last 6 months.  I have 5 more weeks of work booked and payable next week, with a workforce of 35.  All projects are paid beforehand... and again, they trust.  I will make sure the projects are complete...but I have the money in hand while I can still use it.  I wish I had figured out a way to do this ethically years ago.

In this type of situation, which many have never experienced, people are more easily swayed.  There are still so many that WANT to believe this is temporary, that they will still believe whatever they are told.  They don't just believe, like you believe a lover that says, "You look great tonight!"  They believe like a hardcore right wing Christian believes in God.  Lemmings...they are becoming lemmings.

My only "justification" is that the money I have made is coming from companies.  It's all spread out across an entire board of directors, or a group of owners that are so self absorbed and so shaken by what is going on that they aren't keeping their heads about them.  It's Robin Hood Syndrome.

So, who is responsible for the situation we are in?  99.9% only need pick up a mirror to find the answer.  It's my daily choices...your daily choices...

The bigger question is, who is going to suffer as a result of this situation?  I can tell you right now it won't be my family.  I will do whatever it takes to protect them and get them through this. 

May. 1st, 2007

My New Yard Sign

Demand Destruction Paints an Ugly Picture

Today my drive to work was a bit easier. My usual 18 mile (40 minute) commute took only 25 minutes. I've already cut my hours onsite at my biggest client, so I only have to be in the office 3 times a week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I take care of my other clients at night, either remotely or onsite...so I work from 8:00 Tuesday morning, almost straight through to 8:00 P.M. on Wednesday evening. Then I get any food or supplies I need on my way home, as I drive by a few big box stores that still have a good selection. On Thursday's I head up to my parents' house, 150 miles from work. I have a safe place to stay that way for 4 days of the week, and can help out in creating a second home for myself if needed.

Over the weekend, my father and I converted all of our family's cars to run on any blend of gasoline and ethanol, up to 100% ethanol. It cost about $650 per vehicle. This way, we can at least still afford to drive when necessary. My father and I also spoke to some close friends about putting together an ethanol still, as ethanol prices are high, but not as high as gasoline. We purchased plans for one that can produce 10 gallons of fuel per hour, and is capable of 24 hour operation. At 240 gallons per day, we can supply about 30 local families, or 20 local families and some farm equipment. If we purchase all of the parts new, it will cost about $40,000. Some parts my father will be "borrowing" from work...others will be used...so hopefuly we can push the cost down to $30,000, allowing $10,000 in spare parts. I know there will be additional costs and we have lots more work to do before jumping in.

So far, everyone we have talked to has been very agreeable. While we all realize that it will take a big initial investment, when spreading that across 20 units, it will cost about $5,000 per family just to get everything up and running. I guess we've started a little fuel co-op. While ethanol is not a long term solution, it will get us through the next 24 months or so...Next we're going to talk to the local Co-Op that delivers propane, and see if this is something we can get them onboard with. Might make the investment even less, or at least get some ethanol delivered to that area of the state.

Ok, so fast forward to week 2 again.

The drive to work itself was easier, but the pictures outside were not. My drive takes me through the downtown, up one freeway, and through a questionable area on a 4 lane road with stop and go lights way too often. It looks like people realized this week that if they can't drive to work, they'd better find another way. In today's rain, I saw bikes, people walking, people running to catch buses...I saw a pickup truck on the freeway, filled with people in the bed...and while I'm not racist, they were all white. Just an observation...

The most disturbing image though, was a large group of minority men in a parking lot of an apartment building. There had to be 50 of them, from mid teens through late twenties. They were listening to music, sitting on cars, goofing off...and the older ones...they were watching. Watching everyone drive by...watching us as my car sat at the stop light. This mob...would probably grow over the coming weeks...and there will be more mobs of frustrated people...at what point will they stop watching? When will they start shooting and stealing? When will my car with 10 gallons of gas be worth enough to kill for? I say it's when they get really hungry....or have no place to live...or are angry that some are in a better position than them.

I have to some steps to keep everyone in my car a bit safer. I've had all of the windows tinted as dark as possible, so nobody can see if I am driving alone or with a group. I've put a film over the headlights and taillights that will keep the plastic in tact in case something gets thrown at me or I hit something. I have started to modify the route in favor of more freeway time and less miles through the "tense" neighborhoods. I've even started to carry a gun. I haven't shot since I was a kid, so I've been practicing when I visit my family.

All in all, week 2 was harder for a lot of people than it was for me. Hope it keeps up that way.....

Apr. 30th, 2007

What's Your Post-Peak Profession?

To answer quickly, I don't  what mine is...yet.  Any ideas?

I've been feverishly submitting resumes online this evening, hoping to land a second job.  Again, I don't need it...not if things stay as they are...but I've waited too long...now I've got to do what I can with whatever time is available to ensure my future, and be able to help secure the future for my family, even though they now seem further away than ever.

Everyone is missing the big picture...Oil is used to manufacture so many things, that the ripple effect is too great for the "sheeple" to wrap their minds around.  Right now, everyone is focused on Gasoline prices.   Just wait until that blood pressure medication you need  to keep your Big Mac Loving Fat Backside alive is unavailable due to supply disruptions six months (weeks??) from now...that is when the real message will hit home for most, and then, it will be too late.

I need to be strong, and I need to maintain a pre-peak and post-peak skill-set to allow me to adjust to a different life...I've been looking all over online for any type of idea...My skills are all computer and business oriented.  I can work with my hands...I can cook very well...I have an engineering background...a green thumb...I'll keep an eye on the oil prices and media blitz to see if I need to start in another line of work.

I figure my current skill set will carry me through the $8/gallon mark...At $5.50 per gallon, it is economically feasible for my family to start distilling Ethanol at home...they have lots of land, and while I have no interest in growing anything, I can buy molasses in bulk and make my own Ethanol once a month, up there.  I guess that's one good thing about having a house in the middle of a bunch of fields...Molasses is available from the local co-op and the feed mill.

The gas station down the street just started selling E85, and I found a company where I can convert my car to run on E85 here, for around $700.  As this car might have to last me a LONG time, this doesn't seem like a bad idea...supposed to be better for your engine.  Maybe I can learn how to install these for people?

http://flextek.com/index.htm

Well, I'm numb...My mind is reeling with the possibilities...For just a few minutes, I need to go downstairs in front of my massive TV and watch a movie to take my mind off of this for a while.  Ignorance is bliss.

It's Only Monday?

Last week, I was excited to have purchased a crossover SUV, a new Chevy Equinox.  I had just traded in my 1 year old Chevy Cavalier, and since I only had it for one year, I had to finance more than the new vehicle was worth.  No big deal, I thought…I’m just glad to have a new car that is actually safe!  Going from 40 MPG to 25 MPG didn’t phase me at all.  I keep an eye on the news, and even read about peak oil online weekly, but kept thinking “this is so far off there’s no need to worry yet…it’ll be years.”

I packed a bag on Friday, and headed up to my family’s house to show off my new SUV, 150 miles away.  Over the weekend, I put on over 400 miles…as they live about 20 miles from the nearest town.   Even with gas at $3.00 per gallon, that didn’t bother me at all. 
 
This morning, I got up early to come back home, to Milwaukee.  While gas is always .05 higher in Door County, I was in a state of shock when I got to the corner gas station…$4.18…I quickly did the math in my head “15.5 gallons, $4 per gallon, $60 to fill up….25 MPG on this sticker is bogus, more like 20 MPG…It’s going to cost me 30 cents just in gas to drive a mile..it’s going to cost me $45 just to get home!”
 
There were quite a few pickup trucks in the parking lot in this small farming community…but there was not a single car at the pumps…there were 8 or 9 people inside, which qualified as a full blown party in this town of 300 people.  I pulled up, and thought “something must have happened.  I put in my debit card, and the reader said “pay inside.”  GREAT I thought.  That’s the last place I wanted to go.  I pumped my gas, not watching the numbers on the pump.  Cleaned out a few odds and ends from my car, cleaned the windshield…and then I heard the “beep.”  I turned to hang up the pump, and was greeted with a $63.54 fill up.  It bothered me a bit, but I make a good salary…I NEED to drive…$250-$300 a month to drive vs. 160-225…not the worst.
 
I went inside to pay, deciding to forgo the usual Starbucks drink from the refrigerator section in favor of a large cup of mud from the dirty coffee pots.   People were talking, shouting, swearing…fists shaking, things like “those damn oil companies,” “they are raping us,” “I can’t afford to drive,” “I can’t go to work today, I can’t afford the gas!” I really hate this town, and as soon as I was able I got myself a job in the city and left this hick town in my rearview mirror…every time I come back, I feel uncomfortable as it is. 
 
When I approached the cash register to pay, the woman behind the counter said, “You’re going to pay over $4 a gallon for gas?  That’s crazy.”  She headed off into some banter that I blocked out…While she was talking, I glanced at the local news paper on the counter.  “Oil Shock to send shockwave through Economy.”  I just thought “Boy I need to get back to the city…I have to get out of here.”  I handed the clerk my credit card and said “What choice do I have?  I don’t have wings.” 
 
The card transaction had to be the longest wait I’ve ever experienced.  The phone line kept going down.  The voices around me got quieter, and I could feel people staring THROUGH me.  I turned around and saw looks of hatred, “Is this just because I can buy gas?” I thought.  I gave a nervous smile and continued to wait…I was so uncomfortable, I started sweating right through my clothes.   Finally the receipt started printing…I quickly signed and started bolting right for the door.  Before I made it out, I heard a gruff voice “That asshole can afford go-juice?”  I turned around, saw some jerk I went to school with, and just walked out.  I looked over my shoulder and he followed.  In one fluid motion, I started the car, shut the door, and put it into drive.  I tore out of the gas station to the relative safety of the open road.
 
All along the way, the radio was blaring on about the price increase.  I notice the signs at gas stations…all well over $4.  As I get into urban areas, life looks “normal.” I started wondering…Are people really that over extended that having to spend an extra $100 a month on gas is going to cause a big problem?  It’s not like the cost doubled…it went up ONE WHOLE DOLLAR.  Maybe these schmucks can give up drowning their small town sorrows in their beer every day!
 
So, prices on everything are about to go up...it won’t be the most unpleasant thing I’ve had to deal with.  I can buy food…I can drive to work…I can take a bus if I have to…I can work from home as well to cut my usage.  I only NEED my car to get to work…30 miles per day, I can go on two tanks of gas per month if absolutely necessary.  I suppose I could grow produce on my balcony…Living right downtown, I can take a bus or walk to the market…it’s expensive now, but at least everything is produced locally…I won’t have to worry about a huge price spike like at the big chain stores…but I don’t’ even know HOW to take a bus!  I’d better figure that out when I get home.  But, will it be safe to take the bus?  Will it be safe to walk through town?  This is going to hit some very very hard…and it may be safer to make it LOOK like it is hitting me too, maybe?  What happens when prices hit $5 or $6 a gallon?  $10 a gallon?  I can’t be spending $700 a month on gasoline!  
 
As I continue to drive and listen to the radio, I realize this is not going away…that there was no new war, no refinery fire…no terrorist attack…it’s finally here…it’s just the beginning…and it’s going to be a bumpy ride.  I call my family to discuss planning…time to get a big garden going…time to stock up on things….time for the things we should have been doing months and years ago.
 
Worst case scenario for me is an eventual triple of all expenses outside of rent and loan payments.  I wish now I hadn’t bought my new SUV…but at least I have a car big enough to carpool with…this entire time I have a notebook on my passenger seat, itemizing my bills and current budget, and then multiplying the non-loan and rent items to account for everything up to $10 a gallon for gas…and it is not pretty. 
 
Instead of going straight home, I stop off at the store to stock up while prices are still low…$1800 in groceries at Sams’ Club later….$400 in planting supplies, grow lights and seeds….$300 on a chest freezer…and another $700 on odds and ends…food dehydrator, extra propane tanks for the grill…, two full 10 gallon gas cans and a full tank of gas, and lots of soap and OTC medicines…I have enough stuff to keep myself clean, fed and content for 12 months.   I have enough stabilized gasoline to get me 30 days…that’s it…and living in an apartment, I guess it has to be stored in the second bathroom with the fan on? I better Google it… What happens when friends and family need help?  Am I going to have to make tough choices?  I wonder how much my electric bill will go up?  Will my other bills go up?
 
The more I think, the more nervous I get…When I get to my apartment building, I rent an underground parking space so I don’t have to park on the street.  Suddenly my salary and my ability to pay for things is not my main concern.  Keeping my current salary is my main concern.  I own my own business…doing computer work…time to branch out into websites and programming maybe?  Network Engineering shouldn’t be hit really hard…at least not for me…I service clients that don’t have internal IT departments… I AM the IT department for 10 companies…
 
As soon as I unpack everything that can spoil, I start calling my clients.  I push 2 year contracts down the throats of half of them, and new one year contracts on the rest….I lose one in the process…I change my agreements so that it is OK for me to work outside of normal business hours…what if I need to get a full time day job again?  I call my previous employer, and push for a job…”We’ll get back to you soon…that should be fine.”  OK…Everyone has actually faxed and signed the new contracts…so that’s something...
 
So, over the course of a 3 hour drive, 4 hour shopping trip and 5 hours of phone calls, I’m exhausted.   My entire life was turned around in one day…what will tomorrow bring?  What if the prices keep going up every week?  My little bit of savings was wiped out by the shopping trip…and a meager down-payment on the SUV that looks like it can gobble up a lot of money…Last week I owned a one man booming business that has brought a lot of prosperity and success.  Today I am looking for another full time job so I can start putting money in savings…or gold…before things really go crazy.  How long can I work 90 hour weeks?  Should I look for more clients instead of an employer?  Should I beat down doors in Chicago?  I need to find clients in the insurance industry…insurance always makes it through hard times….