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Kevin's Thoughts!

Maybe you agree, maybe you don't… find out!

On sustainability, oil, consumerism, and the American way of life...

Originally posted on November 28th, 2007.

Yeah… that’s a lot to talk about, but I have some strong feeling that I thought I’d post.

First, sooner rather than later we need to learn how, at least as an American society but eventually as a species, to live in balance with the planet. Its my understanding that approximately half of the oil predicted to be contained in the planet has already been pumped and burned. We did most of that since about 1920. For a large part of that time, the USA was the biggest consumer. In the last decade or so, China and India have been trying desperately to catch up. Some provinces in China, for instance, have banned e-bikes on the flimsy excuse their lead based batteries pollute – but cars are just fine! In any case, we are sucking the planet dry much faster now than in years past. What took us 80 years to do (the first 1/2 of the planets oil), I fear we are likely to match in the next 15 or so years.

Of course, hydrogen is the long term solution – but hydrogen takes power to produce, power generated today by gas, coal, and oil. Nuclear Fission plants could help – but I’m believe this is only about 100 year supply of Uranium on the planet AT CURRENT UTILIZATION RATES. E.g. Use the Uranium 10X faster, and 100 years becomes 10. Nuclear Fusion would be a nice long term solution – but we have been working on that for decades with little progress.

Wind and solar can make up about 15% of our need, shy of some unparallelled improvement in solar cell performance.

Conservation, as most people think of it, isn’t going to do it either. I think we need to learn to live on something like 1/5th the power we use today, not just a little bit less – a WHOLE LOT less.

Perhaps technology will help, at least for some workers. The Information Age employees a large number of people that honestly could work from home if they had good teleconferencing and collaboration systems. If those folks could truly never have to come into work, they could forgo cars altogether if they lived in a city with other services within walking distance.

Such changes will not be popular. The “Will of the People” can not be served and achieve this. Democracy is going to have a hard time doing this. Imagine a politician that recommended highways be REDUCED in traffic capacity to encourage more people to work from home! If he wasn’t shot, he sure would never get re-elected.

Running out of oil will probably be the savior of many politician’s careers though. It will be SO dramatic, it will overshadow our consumerism economy collapsing. Sure, in the great depression, buying things was a great way to reignite the economy – the vast majority of the money simply flowed from hand-to-hand. Today it flows from hand-to-China. We gave them the money, but buying their lower cost products, for them to in turn buy $1T (yes, that’s 1000 Billion dollars) of our debt. Now we can’t afford to tick them off, or they can retaliate and crush our economy. We basically sold them the USA one Barbie Doll at a time. We don’t need a balanced budget, we need a healthy surprise to pay down our national debt!!! Only then will we truly be in control of our economy, and our national priorities, again. Instead, today we fight a $250 Billion/Year war in Iraq that we borrow money to fund. It was recently reported that next year, its predicted we will spend about $1 MILLION PER SOLDIER in Iraq! This is not sustainable. We will bankrupt ourselves trying to do the “right thing”.

I’d like to think the world will be a better place for my children, but I fear at best it will be a very different place. I suspect the Amish have it right – or at least they are closer than we are. Faith aside, they live a much more sustainable lifestyle than most of the rest of the USA.

Me? I’m planning on exploiting the system for the very selfish goal of providing a foundation for MY family to survive the upcoming change. Surviving is fundamental. I seriously fear many will not. I can’t guarantee my family will – but I can try and tip the balance in their favor. This is at least part of why we have recently purchased land, and will soon be domesticating it into something like an Amish farm – fairly self supporting. Good luck to the rest of you.

Kevin

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Rental Business - 2011 update

Wow.  Hard to believe its been almost 5 years since we bought our first rental house.  We still have six, but would love to get out of the business.

The rental economy has been bad.  Homes we rented for $1500/month in 2007 are going for $1195/month now.   Its rare that we have all six homes rented.  Fortunately, we can ALMOST cover the mortgages with just five full, but that leaves nothing for hot water heater replacements, air conditioning problems, or anything else that goes wrong.

Basically, for the last 4 years, we have been losing about $1000/month when averaged out over the year.  Not good.

So why are we still in it?  Most of the homes are worth less than what we paid for them.  One, in particular is worth a LOT less – like we have about $155K invested in it and street price is around $103K.

The business is also tying us to St. Louis.  Not a problem when I was employed by that multi-national company I originally mentioned.  Alas, lost that job 2 years ago.  Fortunately the banks don’t seem to care so long as they get their payments on time.

Bottom line:  The business sounded good in 2006, but it hasn’t worked out that way.

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Rental Business - 2007 post

I work for a multinational company. I get a nice base salary, and bonuses if I work really hard, and if the company has a good year. Bad year for the company? No bonus no matter how hard I work. Do get that base salary though, presuming it wasn’t SO bad a year that I got fired. Nice medical, dental, 401K, and pension benefits to. Cool to be well employed.

But what happens when that ends?

Last year, my wife and I decided to take a 2nd mortgage out against the equity in our house and use those funds to buy rental properties. About a year later, we have (6), and MIGHT be able to do one more.

Why rental properties? Well… we typically finance them with a 75% primary mortgage, a 15% 2nd mortgage, and 10% down (from our Home Equity Loan). All the mortgages are fixed rates, and because of my day job, we are getting pretty good fixed rates at that. So far, we have been able to rent the units within a month or two of acquiring them, and manage to get enough rent to pay the mortgage and Home Equity Loan payments – so we are extended, but have enough cash flow that the business is more-or-less covering its expenses.

Over time, rent will likely go up, but our expenses are relatively fixed. The higher the inflation rate, the faster these units will become profitable – they are basically inflation proof. We are in deep ca ca if we enter a period of deflation, or if the economy gets so bad, that people losing their homes to foreclosure become homeless rather than renters. If the economy is great, our business profit potential suffers – until some of those smaller loans get paid off, after which the company will simply be less profitable, but should still return some profit.

Alas, there is no free lunch. We are finding each unit takes about 4 hours a month in effort to maintain. Because of that, we plan on maxing out around 10 homes. More than that and the demand would impact my day job, and thats not acceptable.

Still, in the end, we hope these units will make a nice supplimental income for us when I do retire in 15 or so years. Having such an income stream will definetly make retirement a lot easier financially.

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Why I searched for an FSU wife!  (originally posted in 2007 on another board)

The rebirth…

I like being married and started the process of looking for a new wife after filing for divorce. For me, that filing wasn’t a threat to my now-ex, it was a conclusion. I immediately started to move on. Alas, one driver was my desire to have a larger family. At the time, I was almost 45 years old, and this made things difficult:

1) I wanted a compatible partner
2) I wanted a woman who could safely bring new children into the world without extreme medical help
3) I wanted them to be of my genes, so adoption was out

QED: I needed to find someone about 15 years younger than I was.

I tried the Match.com, Yahoo personels, etc. and rapidly got depressed. Either the ladies considered me a “dirty old man” for looking for such a young woman, or it became obvious they would bless me with their presence so long as I would pay all the bills, or they outweighed me by 60+ lbs once I actually met them (amazing what you can do with a camera). Although hardly athletic, I’m not obese, and didn’t want such a partner. Did find some beautiful, younger, women on the sites – just to discover they were Russian or Ukrainian scammers.

Still, beauty does tend to get attention, and this lead me into the complex world of oversea dating.

My lawyer had promised me the divorce would be complete by September of 2004, October latest, and I despretely wanted to get out of town. So I spent a LOT (3-4 hours a day, 10 on weekends) of time trying to learn how to tell sincere ladies from scammers. I focused on Ukraine for a few reasons: Its small enough to get anywhere in a day (unlike Russia, that is 11 times zones from end-to-end), and there appeared to be almost as many ladies registered as in its much larger neighbor. Finally, it wasn’t a problem to get a 5 year visitors visa, something virtually impossible for me to get for Russia.

So… off I went to Kiev in mid-December, which turned out to be in the middle of their Orange Revolution. It also turned out to be a week before my actual court date. Oops! Anyhow, the trip was educational, and I learned more about scammers.

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Very old Blog posts about Evia and I (2006/2007)

Some rather old post copied from another blog, introducing myself and talking about our early relationship.  Slightly edited.

—— From April of 2006 ——First some background:

When I first thought about seeking a wife in the FSU, I spent 4-6 hours a day for 3 months reading everything I could find on the web. I thought I was prepared. I finally put some money down at one of the more popular sites and wrote some ladies. One of the first was a scammer… within 3 e-mail she proclaimed deep love, declared me her long lost soul mate, and talked about loving me on every horizontal, vertical, and tilted service in my house. The adventure had started with a significant reality check.

I went to Kiev in December of 2004 to play tourist by day and meet ladies at night. Did both reasonably well, but also met one lady who was mostly interested in expensive dinners and the adventure of seeing an American man. She was not serious, although it took a month or so after I returned to understand that fully.

About that time, a professor I knew via work asked if would be willing to go a bit farther east than Kiev. I agreed, presuming a good reason, and he introduced me to his friends sister: Evgenia (Evia to me!). One month of daily e-mails and we made plans to get together. Two month, 640 e-mails later, I found myself in Omsk, Russia, 12-hours and 12,000 miles from home. I spent a week with her, her daughter, and her family (parents, sister, and niece) It was wonderful. On the last day, we filled out the K-1 paperwork as we had previously agreed to do if the visit went well and agree to vacation together over the summer to confirm our feelings, but there was little doubt. After all those e-mails, there were no secrets between us – the visit was just to confirm “chemistry” – of which there was plenty. However, we wished to remain practical. If over the months between, or during the summer vacation, either of us had doubts, we could always cancel the K-1 application. If things worked out, we would be that many months ahead of the game.

The K-1 was filed within 2 weeks of my arrival (we had to coordinate a few more documents). The summer vacation was even better (and a lot warmer!) than my trip to Kiev. In December of 2005, Evia and Nastya joined me her in the USA. In February 2006, we were married. Its now almost May, and all is going great!

I think key to our success so far started out with this being an “arrangement”: My profressor friend had known Evia and her family for over 5 years and vouched for both. There was no fear of this being a scam, no concerns of sincerity, etc. The speed this all happened is undoubtedly due to the huge amount of e-mails we exchanged – sometimes 10 a day, with a few being 8-10 pages long. I was easily spending 6-8 hours a day writing or reading e-mails – and losing weight compliments of the lack of time to eat and sleep. I had no idea how she was keeping up – and later found out she was tag teaming with her mother: Her mother would print the e-mails in the morning, get them to Evia who spent every free moment hand writing replies, and then got those replies back to her mother to keyed them into e-mails to me during the evening. The 12 hour difference actually helped us, for it made for a good daily “cycle” of e-mails.

Of course, we talked on the phone as well. Evia has a good English vocabularly, but is shy about talking. She can read and write English well (although not at native speeds). We agreed early on that anything important, like travel arrangements or figuring out mis-understandings, would be done via e-mail. That too helped.

—- Tuesday, May 23rd, 2006 —-

Great news: not only is everything going wonderfully, we are expecting a baby girl in October! (At least the best guess based on one ultrasound is that its a girl – I’ll keep everyone posted!).

Most of my coworkers think I am insane, starting a seconds family in my late 40s, but we are happy about this and that is what counts. Honestly, most of my coworkers are looking forward to their kids finishing college (as I am for my 15 & 18 yo daughters) and then moving on to retirement. Compliments of my divorce, I’ll be working another 20 years anyhow, so that isn’t as much of a driver to me.

Evia’s English is progressing well. She is taking ESL classes at the local community college 2-3 times a week, based mostly n when I manage to get home from work. She does not drive, and doesn’t want to learn right now, so is dependant on me for transportation. I would have thought this would be a BIG problem, but surprising it is not. Yeah, occassionally I need to talk a half-day off for things like Immigration visits (we recently had their biometrics taken), but most other things we accomplish in the evenings or weekends. It helps a LOT that she never complains if we are out of anything, she seems to just accept such temporary inconveniences as nothing more.

I am seeing Evia open up communication wise. This past weekend her and my father chatted for about an hour. She has yet to engage in conversation with the neighbors, but I suspect that will happen soon. We had a couple with four kids move in next door, and the lady only works part time, so hope Evia will make a new friend.

Nastya just turned 11. We had a nice party for her with a few neighborhood kids. She has been in school since January and talks pretty good English now – enough to function in any environment.

—- Monday, 12 June, 2006 —-

Found out today that I’m off on a 3-day business trip, leaving on a Monday night, returning Thursday night soon. This will be our first time apart since Evia and Nastya arrived mid-December.

The thought of not having her by my side is rather disturbing – more than I suspected it would be. I just wrote her e-mail to let her know – I wonder what her response will be? Of course, we have talked about the fact that I occassionally travel on business (a few times a year), this is just our first experience. Probably not a big deal, but she will be something like 26 weeks pregnant, and she doesn’t drive – so she will be house bound for those days. She will also miss an entire week of ESL classes (she normally attends at least 2 of the 3 nights classes are available).

Hmmm, what else is new? We are about 4 weeks away from her mother and niece coming to visit. They will be here in America for 5 weeks. I’m a bit concerned about medical expenses – her mother has some heart and blood pressure issues. She is under doctors care now in an attempt to avoid the need for any when she gets here. All the on-line insurance companies I’ve found have strict “no pre-existing condition” coverage, so I guess we are just going to have to hope no issues come up.

—- Monday, 02 July, 2007 —-

Wow! Over a year since I posted. Guess I’m not that hot of a blogger. Well… lets see…

Of course, the big news was the birth of Alexandra Gabriel Carpenter on October 10th, 2006. She is now almost 9 months old, crawling like crazy, standing without holding onto things briefly, and has two beautiful lower teeth and her vampire teeth (Evia says thats my fault for making her watch the Blade movies while she was pregnant).

Nastya has turned 12. We had a party but forgot candles. I was was quite surprised, and pleased, when Evia when around to several neighbor’s home searching for some at the last minute. Far from speaking fluently, at least her confidence is improving. We still have some language problems, but are managing. Nastya, having been her over a year-and-half now, is speaking fluently – with only an occasional request for a word.

Last summer we Evia’s mother and niece over for 5 weeks. That was quite pleasant. Amongst many other things we went to a conversation area to walk in the trees and see a small local river. Of course, Nastya and her cousin wanted to go in. Of course we did not bring bathing suits. That apparently wasn’t considered an issue. They just took off their shoes and walked in. Evia and her mother followed. Against my instinct, they made it clear that I was being silly by not being willing to strip to my shorts and join them.

That raises another issue: My Russian family appears to be much more comfortable with their bodies than I am. I suspect that is highly cultural difference. My then new 14 year old bra less niece thought nothing of jumping into the river in a t-shirt. My wife doesn’t understand why I’m not comfortable bathing with our newborn daughter. She laughs when I complain of naked baby photos and points to photos on her forum of 12 year old Russian boys taking baths with their baby sisters. I’ve managed to convince her to throw a robe on (but only when she leaves the bedroom) before walking around the house naked. I’ve even managed to convince her that going outside with just that robe on isn’t appropriate. Lets not even talk about breast feeding in public – where she thinks Americans have simply ridiculous issues. Somehow, I think their culture is better, but its amazingly difficult to overcome the way one was raised.

Evia did manage to get her driving permit several months ago. The first time she relied on a “cheat sheet” one of her Russian friends gave her – and failed the test halfway through. We laughed about it and she took the process a lot more serious the next time. That said, in several months, she has logged perhaps a dozen hours behind the wheel. This is going to take some time… She did mention she hoped to practice in her Dads car when we go out to the Russian countryside.

Suppose that brings us to the next big event: We are going to spend 3 weeks back in Siberia soon. We will have a Russian wedding reception for her friends and family (something I’ve encouraged, something her female Russian friends view as a sign of my insanity), and have the baby Christened. We will fly into Moscow, swing by one of her friends that lives there, spend about 8 hours touring Moscow, and then hop on a 41 hour train ride to Omsk. I’ve never been on a cross country train – I’m looking forward to it. We will fly back to Moscow from Omsk when the vacation is over.

Evia and I have been spending weekends looking for a piece of ground in the local countryside we can build a dacha on. I’ve been toying with either building such a cottage, or building a nice small retirement house. For some reason, I’ve had a hard time getting her comfortable with the idea of “built once” vs. “build dacha” then “build retirement”. She finally found the root of the problem this weekend. As usual, it was cultural. Apparently in Russia, when possible, people build BIGGER retirement homes in the country than their primary homes. Family, and particularly grandchildren, we often come and spend the summer at their grandparents home. Here, of course, people often build SMALLER homes for retirement, acknowledging the kids are gone, and helping to reduce expenses for heating, cooling, taxes, etc. Fortunately, that makes this immediate decision easier – cottage it is!

Hmmm, think thats about it. Oh, one more thing: For a month or so we have been trying for child #2. Evia wanted to have the kids about 18 months apart and/or a March baby. This was strong enough that she didn’t care if she couldn’t drink at our upcoming reception – in fact she thought it would be nice to inform people then. Unfortunately, we did a “First Response” test this weekend and it was negative. She was a bit upset, but mostly because she has been taking the mini-pill since Gabby (Alexandra) was born and now it appears there was little reason. She hates taking pills… In any case, we bought a “3 pack” so will test again after we return. Maybe the train ride will be more successful than anticipated (nah, can’t really say that. She has made it clear that we will be quite busy on that train trip!).

– Dec 20, 2007 –

Evia is officially 9 weeks, 5 days pregnant as of today. Gender is yet unknown… at this point it has a head area, arm buds, a beating heart, and a yoke sak. Rather cool to be able to see all that at this point.

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Very old Blog posts about our search for a farm (2007)

Some old blog entries from Selfsuccicientish.com, copied here for continuity:

—— August 28th, 2007 ——

Hi,

I’m Kevin and I live around St. Louis, Missouri, USA. As of this post, in August of 2007, I’m 47 years old, have (2) daughters from a previous marriage, and an infant daughter and step-daughter from my current marriage. For the past 16 months, I’ve been blessed with having Evgenia (she’s from Omsk, Russia) as my wife and partner.

Part of my blessing has been being exposed to life in other cultures. Beyond any doubt, I have seen happiness as MUCH lower levels of consumption than the typical American family.

When I was young, like at age 18, I had purchased 20 acres of land with the intention of growing walnut trees for my retirement fund. Spent a fair amount of time watching the solar and wind power world be born and develop. Unfortunately, those acres were sacrificed to my divorce. Fortunately, both my new wife and I like the concept of having a “country place”, and maybe a retirement home there, so the watching and planning has started anew.

Currently we are looking at ~40 acres parcels in north-east Missouri. Often we find such places have Amish neighbors. Much to my surprise, given my mostly “loner” existence, I find the concept of living in an area where people are about as self sufficient as possible in todays world rather attractive.

Such a place will be complicated, since I require a day job for now (thank you court system for awarding my ex lifetime alimony) – but it will be a start: a place to plant fruit and nut trees, grow watermelons and berries, bees, etc. I just won’t be able to do anything that requires daily attention, since we will likely only be there for weekends and holidays. Thus, I consider myself “ish” in that we can’t leave our “civilized” life behind – at least not yet.

The wife and I are already looking at highly efficient homes, currently focused on timber-frame & SIP designs.

I’m starting to refresh my knowledge on PV and Wind systems.

Its silly for us to be “off-grid” from a short-term economic stance – we have power lines running alongside every property we look at; and the local power company will runs lines free to any home greater than 800 sq. ft.

That said, I’d like to minimize my use of coal/gas powered electricity and am willing to buck up the dollars to do so.

Because we are looking in a marginal wind area, class 2 except in the summer, when it degrades to class 1, I’m thinking a combination solar/wind system would be best.

For those who have looked into this, power storage is a big piece of the cost – for that I’ve contacted VRB Power. They claim they will be looking into the rural home/farm market space within the next 18 months – a time frame that works for us.

Curious if three-way systems are doable with commercially available parts: Wind, Solar, and Grid. In my ideal world, I’d have a small, say 24 hour, battery subsystem that would be primarily charged by wind and solar. When that became depleted, I’d switch over to grid, and/or use the grid to charge when there was neither wind or sunlight and the batteries were low. On the other side of that equation, once the batteries were at full charge, excess power would be fed back into the grid. A 2007 Missouri state law requires power companies to accept such input, although my reading is that I would pay retail and be credited something less (that however, is unclear).

Total budget, including a 5KW Pacwind Aeolian wind turbine and a few KW 16-panel tracking solar system is about $50K. Totally not cost-justifiable today (the interest on $50K would pay for any power usage I save), but an acceptable amount to pay for peace of mind.

Cheers,

Kevin

—– August 28th, 2007 —–

Shirlz wrote:
Hello Kevin – and welcome to the site.

I can’t offer any info on the power side of things but I’m sure someone will be along that can.

Best of luck finding your 40 acres – and I do hope that you’ll keep us up to date with progress Mr. Green

Well… we have our eye on 35 acres. I need to sell my stock options to pay for it, and I got greedy. I had a sell order in, the stock jumped $5, and I “pigged out” and canceled the order waiting to see what it toped out at. Next day it hit my sell price, went up another $0.25, and has been well below that ever since. We tried putting an offer in with a sole contingency on stock price, but that didn’t fly. Once things bounce back, and I have faith they will, we will make a cash offer.

Thinking about starting with a Post & Beam garage with an 40 sqm apartment on top. It would suffice for weekend stays, and give us some experience building with Post & Beam and SIPs for a fraction of the cost of the main house. We will need a garage anyhow, and septic systems, cisterns (rain and greywater), etc. so much of the cost will eventually need to be expended anyhow.

Cheers,

Kevin

—– August 29th, 2007 —–

Thomzo wrote:
Hi Kevin

Good luck with your project. How exciting. Do let us know how you get on. Starting small with something that you are going to need anyway sounds like a great idea.

Maybe in the long term you can rent the apartment out once the house is built. Or you might find someone who is willing to work the land and keep an eye on the place while you are away in exchange for free accommodation.

Zoe

Now THATS an excellent idea. Only kicker on the second part is that the place wouldn’t be available for us to use on weekends. It will only be a small studio apartment (say 40 sqm or 400 sq ft), but it would suffice for us after the house was built until we moved out there permanently. I could rent the house. Its country, the income would be small, but having someone live there is of value.

—– August 30th, 2007 —–

Regarding the project: We are off to visit a Timber Frame manufacturer/builder (frame only) this Saturday. Turns out we have one about 50 miles from the property we are looking at, which would be very convenient. If we don’t like them (and I almost scratched them off my list until they agreed to use a different SIP maker), my top two companies are in Kansas – about 200-300 miles away. Still not bad. Many in the USA use Canadian companies or companies from either coast of the USA (1000+ miles away from my location). In any case, the visit should prove educational.

I have started asking public aquarium friends if they are interested in the contents of my aquarium. So far, I’ve received some interest. I really need to shut that energy intensive project down. Last month we averaged 238kwh/day in power consumption. Fortunately, power is cheap here, about 4.7 cents/kwh, but I’m trying to develop a lifestyle that will only consume about 10% of that (what a good size hybrid solar/wind unit could provide). At LEAST half of that is the aquarium and related equipment. Figure cutting the house size in half and having a better insulated one should get me down another half, so 238base-120aquarium-60house size gets me to 60kwh/day. Getting that down to 20kwh’ish should be possible by reducing the numbers of computers to one or two from 7+ today, unplugging their UPSes and using more energy efficient lighting and appliances. At least that is the hope. If the aquarium ends up being more than half, it just becomes all the easier.

Kevin

—– September 11th, 2007 —–

Well… our bid on a 35 acre parcel was rejected – the owners simply want more than we feel its worth.

We bid on an 80 acre horse farm last Friday and were today yesterday that the owners rejected that offer because they decided not to sell!

Oddly, this is not the first time this has happened to us. I think some land sellers are expecting to make small fortunes on their property, and when real bids come in they are disappointed. At least here in the mid-west part of the USA, large track (> 10 acres) land values are way down – they tend to be cash deals (financing unimproved (no building) ground is hard), and money is tight right now.

There was a new 80 acre parcel that come onto the market last Friday. A Google Earth look shows it being heavy in fields and light in woods, but we will at least go look at it this weekend. Suppose we can always plant trees, indeed, I have been planning on restoring some native short-needle pine trees on whatever we buy. These trees were the predominate species pre-1800s in the area. Post railroads and mining (mostly fuel for smelting), oaks and hickories have become the predominate species.

More later!

—– September 11th, 2007 —–

Thomzo wrote:
That’s a shame that your bids were rejected. Good luck in your hunt.

Zoe

We are feeling “OK”, somewhat disappointment of course. Reality was that neither parcel was ideal. The 35 acre lot felt a little small (we ideally want 60-80 acres), and had no natural water. We did like the neighborhood, and it was half-dozen miles from anything calling itself a town (e.g. it was REALLY quiet there). The 80 acre parcel had a VERY small spring (it produced water about as fast as you could pour it out of a coffee cup, but ran year round), was a little heavy in woods – but nice woods, complete with an old graveyard and lots of horse trails. Alas, it was but a half mile from the major Interstate Highway and about that far from the local town on that highway. e.g. It wasn’t as quiet as we liked.

The good news is that we are getting better at understanding what we really want in a piece of property – so should recognize it if it exists and comes on the market. The bad news is that we have looked at everything that is close that is for sale in literally several thousand square miles of land (about 1/8th of the state of Missouri). So now we wait… and are likely to miss this falls planting season.

Cheers!

Kevin

—– September 17th, 2007 —–

We looked at (3) more properties this weekend, two 60 acres parcels and one 80 acre parcel.

The first 60 acres shared a fence with a neighboring 60 acres we have nick named the “Dead Cow Farm” – while touring that land a month or so ago we found about 9 dead cattle carcases. This new 60 acres was used for cattle and pigs and had a variety of buildings on it – none of which particularly attracted us. It was pricey too.

The next 60 acres was only about a quarter mile down the road. Nothing special and about half in row crops (corn this season). I’ve sharecropped land before and don’t want to do so again. You don’t make much money, and your land is tied up preventing you from doing anything with it.

The last 80 acre parcel was about half row crops. Basically flat with a small house. Nothing striking.

We are considering offering a bit more on the 34.5 acre parcel. We have also asked our Realtor to approach the adjoining landowner and see if he/she would be willing to sell us a few acres. There is a wet-weather creek that crosses one corner of our property. I think it would be nice if we could make that creek the southern border instead of a line on the map. Not sure exactly how it runs – asked our agent to figure that out and base the request on the creek if practical (e.g. it added 5-15 acres or so).

Cheers!

—– September 17th, 2007 —–

Having conversations with home builders in parallel. We explored some “random log” homes and had concerns with their engineering. Then we set our sights on a “Timber Frame” home until we got back some cost estimates. Currently we are talking with Chris from biglogs.com about a custom log home. He claims the end cost is about the same as a conventional custom home, but we are pursuing that in more detail.

I’d really like to build something that would be good for generations. Most “stick homes” have an estimated lifetime of about 50 years – thats not good enough. The thermal mass associated with a log home tends to make them very energy efficient, and biglogs uses managed forest lumber without seams (they can provide 12-14″ round logs up to 60 feet long – so a wall layer can all be one log).

Oh, this ties into “sustainability” in terms of material – wood is a sustainable product. Having log walls implies no fiberglass, plastic wrap, or anything similar as well – although the roof may be of conventional material, we will probably go with metal coverings. I have brochures about aluminum roofing that comes with a lifetime warranty, and various coated steel roofs are good for up to 50 years. BTW, the aluminum roofs are made from something like 99% consumer recycled material.

Anyhow, just broached the concept of building the home in phases to biglogs (phase 1: Main house; phase 2: Porches; phase 3: Huge Sunroom for solar heating; phase 4: garage). It will be interesting to see how they respond, given the desire to stretch the phases out over a decade or so (possibly allowing me not to have to finance them).

Cheers!

—– September 20th, 2007 —–

Wife and I had a long talk, and decided to make another offer on the 34.76 acre lot. The last round ended with us offering about $2750/acre, they countered at $3250/acre, we declined. This time we have made a “Best & Final” offer of $3000/acre, no conditions, entire cost to be deposited with the title company upon acceptance. e.g. This will be a cash deal and we have the cash – they don’t need to worry about any financing falling though.

We like the remoteness (nice dark skies for Astronomy viewing, and VERY quiet), and not going into debt to buy it. Indeed, we suspect using the financing we had considered for the 80 acre place would allow us to build a nice log shell home – and we would end up with the house we wanted.

Hope they go for it. If so, it will become very busy – almost time to plant fall fruit & nut trees, and start shopping for bee-keeping supplies for spring! Many other projects will need immediately attention as well, like having county water run onto the property, building a fence around the fruit trees to deter deer, etc.

Cheers,

Kevin & Evia

—– October 1st, 2007 —–

Well.. things are a blur at the moment. We made the $3000/acre “Best and Final” offer, they countered, we rejected.

Happen to be reading the “Missouri Prairie Foundation (MPF)” journal, and caught a side bar article requesting that anyone interesting in buying land contact them. So I did!

By the next day I was chatting the the president of the foundation, and he put me in touch with a local landowner in the “Mystic Conservation Area”. This is a small (maybe 25 square mile?) area of North Central Missouri where there are a few remnants of native prairie left, and where there is a restoration project underway for the endangered “Prairie Chicken” (something like 50 males were findable in 1999).

The MPF asked if we would be willing to purchase land in the conservation area, which is about a 3 hour drive for us. We decided we would at least look at it and made plans for last Sunday to drive up and see (we took a side stop and visited a customer’s house of Biglogs.com and fell in love with the construction technique – at least we know what type of house we want to build someday). The visit went VERY well, with the local landowner showing us around his 600 acres of restored prairie (he now makes his living selling restoration seeds).

While we were making plans for Sundays visit, I got a call from my Realtor that the owners of the 35 acres wanted to negotiate some more. Told her I’d let her know if we were interested after our visit on Sunday. Sent her a note last night letting her know “No for now – we are going to spend more time in NE Missouri looking”. Ok, getting ahead of myself!

One nice thing about the conservation area is that land price is about half of what land near the 35 acres is. The bad thing is that its 3 hours away instead of 1, and will burn a lot more fuel visiting. The good thing is that we can get more land, and help an endangered species. Suppose nothing is every clear and easy!

The MPF has been VERY helpful. Not only are they offering advice and support, they have restoration funds available to assist in restoring whatever property I might buy – so long as I buy within the conservation area. The local contact (Frank Aberle – a fairly well known nature photographer), besides spending several hours of his Sunday with us, put me in contact with a local Realtor, Mark. Mark is literally knocking on doors pulling a list of potential properties together. We in turn have committed to return next weekend, driving up Saturday morning, and looking at property Saturday and Sunday before returning (exhausted I’m sure – the wife and I get to swap carrying our 1 year old!).

Franks tour of his property helped in another critical way: My wife now understands what I’ve been trying to explain to her was our goal. She got to see it, and is now excited.

Alas, land prices have been jumping up about 20% a year in the area for a variety of reasons: Some Montana cattle ranchers discovered the area has land that cost twice what theirs does, but they can raise at least 4 times the cattle – they are buying up thousands of acres (6000 at last count). Apparently the Amish have also taken up a buying campaign – selling their property in the NE of the USA and moving to the mid-west where they can easily get 2-3 times as much land. Both of these mean that I really need to buy as much as I can possibly afford now – I won’t be able to save at a rate that would offset the land inflation. That in turn postpones any building plans.

The other kicker is simply the distance. For the 35 acre plot (or any of the other in that area), we could visit casually – round trip time was about 2 hours. This place has a round trip time of over 6 hours – overnight stays are required if I want to get any serious work done. Not sure how to deal with that.

In any case, I suspect we are now targeting 160-200 acres. I have told the Realtor that if we push past $230K, I’ll need something that is solid, warm, dry, and has a bathroom, shower, and a kitchen – someplace we can collapse in safely. Below that, I could (I think) afford to put something cheap on the property – perhaps a used trailer house or small cabin.

Choices are good, but this is getting insane!

Kevin

—– October 9th, 2007 —–

Spent the weekend looking at property in the Mystic Conservation Focus Area. The previous Sunday we looked at a 101 acre parcel and stumbled across a gentlemen associated with an adjoining property. This past weekend we walked their 136 acres, several times.

Frank Oberle (sorry, spelled it wrong in an earlier post) went out with a teraforming friend and gave it “Two Thumbs Up!”. We made a bid last night! The land is hilly and used for grazing, although a few neighbors row crop. The teraforming guy found several places we could put nice 5-7 acre lakes in. There is about 300 acres of watershed that drains into the property, so filling the lake wouldn’t be a problem (dealing with the overflow might though!).

It does have a single-wide trailer on it, so basic shelter is covered. Public water is also available.

Now we wait to hear back…

Kevin

—– November 10th, 2007 —–

Thought I’d post a status update:

We are now focusing our attention in the Mystic area. That said, about a month ago I got a call from my agent regarding the 34.76 acre parcel. The owners wanted to know if I would split the difference with then. We declined. Last Friday they called again – they would accept our last offer if we would extend it again. We have until Monday to let them know, but I don’t think we will. Had they accepted when we offered, we would have been planting fruit trees this weekend. Oh well.

The Mystic area is proving interesting. The first 101 acre parcel we looked at was trashed – grazed to the ground, trash in the gullies, gullies!, but fixable given lots of dozer time and a few years. While walking it we met the neighbors – and they indicated they might be willing to sell…

Their 136 acres is now in a “pending” state. They decided they didn’t want to list with any agent, but if they can find a place to move too, they will sell to me after January. It is a pretty place – with a large enough dam we could have a nice 7 acre lake without problems (there is about 300 acres of watershed that drains through this property into a nearby creek).

While we are waiting to see about the 136, we have looked at several others. Next weekend we are going up to see a 350 acre tract that is in two parcels – a 229 part and a 121 part. The 229 is adjoining a Missouri Heritage Land nominee – one of the few remaining tracks of native prairie in the state and has a population of endangered Prairie Chickens on it. The Missouri Prairie Foundation is very keen on my buying some of this property, although the 136 would be fine too.

I have played with Google Earth aerials and believe we could carve a 208 acre parcel out of the 229, be flat broke, but have the largest parcel we could possibly afford. Our agent is uncharacteristically upbeat about our chances. We shall see.

Cheers,

Kevin

– Nov 29, 2007 –

Too much to do, but the first thing is to determine what our house will cost.

We had considered putting a cabin in, for weekend use only, and later building a full-time residence. However I’m not comfortable making that type of short-term expense. Yeah, we MIGHT be able to rent it out, perhaps to one of my kids, but it more likely we would just let them stay there free. We think its better to just plan on building my late-life house – even if that takes us several years to be able to afford.

Reality is that I’m 49, my wife is 35, we have a 14 month old daughter and another on the way (yes, thats an announcement!). If I retire around 65, I’ll still have kids in high-school, so we need a real house, not a bare-bones retirement place. Well, “Need” is a strong word, perhaps “Want” would be better…

If the house cost too much, we may settle on building something else we will need long term: A barn. I’m toying with something that could house 2-4 draft horse and a couple of milking cows, as well as some farm equipment. In the short term, I suspect we could fix up the animal stalls as rough bedrooms for weekend/holiday use. We have Amish in the area, and they are known for doing outstanding work on such things. Yet another thing to check out.

First real thing to do is to close on the property – in 48 hours that will have been accomplished, then give it a nice long walk and figure out options around where we would want a house. Once thats done, we can draw up the options and start planning gardens, orchards, and the like.

Alas, this Saturday/Sunday is suppose to be rainy and VERY cold, only slightly above freezing Saturday and below freezing Sunday, so I’m not sure how much walking we will do.

– Dec 2, 2007 –

We closed on Saturday, December the 1st. Compliments of learning that the difference between wet gravel roads and wet dirt roads being that little thing called traction, I also got an opportunity to become indebted to Sonny Darr and his tractor, and meet “bulldozer” Donnie.

Donnie and I spent a few minutes on the property eyeballing lake locations. He will get some elevations and come back with some ideas.

We went back on Sunday and shot a few dozen photos, but an hour+ in 33 degrees with a brisk breeze was about all the family could handle.

The goals remain pretty simple in concept (in no particular order):

1) Fescue eradication and the restoration of native forbs and grasses (yes, I’d like as bio-diverse an environment as we can create)
2) Removal of ALL non-native species of trees, brush, etc. (with a particularly strong prejudice against thorn trees and primrose)
3) Savanna restoration
4) Home site planning (in south facing hillside – I have several potential sites).
A) By spring, I’d at least like to know where it will be so that I can start planting a nearby orchard and put some bee hives out.
B) Establish a road to the site
C) (maybe) Have footings poured, a septic tank installed, a cistern (collect rain water for later watering of orchard and garden)
D) (if C) (1) Either have house build if funds permit (unlikely), or (2) have walk-out basement poured, put in sub-floor, and build a temporary roof over it and finish the basement as our weekend place
5) Build and stock a lake (5-7 acres?)
6) Burn plan for maintaining 1-3.
7) Build a livestock & equipment storage barn (downwind of house site) ) for future use. Any local Amish that like to do that type of work?
8) Either buy and learn to use whatever equipment is necessary for, or learn who to hire to, maintain the land.
9) Somewhere, carve out an acre or so for a small pine forest (do native short-needle pines grow that far north? If not, I’d violate my “native only” plan for these) – both the wife and I just LOVE the smell of walking through one. We know thats not prime Prairie Chicken cover – but they will just have to learn to share some of the land with us. :D Perhaps north of the house as a wind break from that direction if it doesn’t obscure some particularly nice view. Likewise, I’d like 25-50 sugar maples someplace and some nut trees, maybe lining the road to the home site.
10) Figuring out which of the above is a dream, and what is practical.

The next convenient time for us to go up would be between Christmas and New Year – if the weather cooperates (all I ask is mid-to-upper 30s and dry conditions – maybe we will get lucky).

We are planning on spending as much time over spring break (early March?) as we can working on the place. Ideally, by then, planting fruit trees and raising an solar powered (since I won’t have electrical power yet) MDC recommended offset electric fence around the resulting orchard to try and protect them from deer.

 

– Dec 20, 2007 –

Next Thursday (12/27/07), a bunch of people are going to get together to walk the 121 acres and try and come up with a prairie and savanna restoration plan. The trip includes:

Our Family (Kevin, Evia, Nastya, and our baby Gabby)
Chris Woodson: US Fish and Wildlife Biologist
Justin Johnson: Executive Director of the Missouri Prairie Foundation
John Murphy: Missouri Department of Conservation Private Land Conservationist
Grant Phillips: Missouri Department of Conservation Soil and Water Conservation District

and maybe…

Frank Oberle: Pure Air Seeds and overall really nice guy
“Sonny” Darr: Neighbor
Donnie Yantis: Bulldozer man

The next day we will be visting Dadant Bee Supply company in Hamilton, Il.

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Life Beyond Oil? Whats that all about?

Posted by Kevin on August 19, 2011
Posted in EconomyEnergy  | Tagged With: , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Life Beyond Oil?  Whats that all about?

The world has peaked on oil production. Consumption rates are up, and oil, as a non-renewable resource, is rapidly being depleted. A few points:

1) New Technology: Yes, new methods of extraction will probably be able to recover a fraction of the 1/2 or so of oil left in the planet. However, the easy, cheap-to-get-to-half has already been burned. Where we once extracted oil at an energy cost ration of 28:1, its now closer to 3:1. At 1:1 it makes no sense to continue even if its technologically possible.

2) Shrinking Planet: A common concept is that the world is shrinking – not physically of course, but its becoming easier and easier to teleconference around the world, get fresh fruit from other hemispheres, etc. In fact, compliments of cheap oil and Internet technology, I meet and married my wife from half-way around the world. Once oil becomes rare, and the cost goes up, the world will get bigger again. The airlines are struggling now, what will happen to them if fuel cost skyrocket? They simply go out of business. Atomic powered airplanes are not likely…

3) Growth: Growth is good right? Its required by common thought: City’s must grow to thrive, companies are either growing or dying, New Home Starts are a primary indicator of economic well being. Its all based on cheap oil. We saw it briefly around 2008-2009 when gas jumped to $4/gallon. What happens when its $10/gallon? Will people still want to commute 50 miles a day to work?

4) Food: Modern agriculture has been defined as the process of turning oil into food. We use natural gas (methane – often found under oil where the pressure and temperature break down the more complex oil hydrocarbons to simple CH4) as a feedstock for nitrogen fertilizer (via the Haber process that converts nitrogen gas (80% of air) and hydrogen into ammonia). We use massive amounts of diesel to power water pumps, plow fields, spray chemicals, spread fertilizer, cut hay, bale hay, move hay, ship grain, dry grain… not to mention trucking and flying the products to where they are needed.

5) Electricity: Natural gas is viewed as the “clean” fuel for running electric generators. Alas, its non-renewable. Recent discoveries have bought us some time in the USA, but that too will run out. The USA has NO new nuclear plans in progress (an Apollo class effort to use our remaining oil to build breeder reactors and power plants would help a lot). Fusion would be great, but other than H-bombs, we haven’t made a lot of progress in that space in the past 30+ years.

6) Plastics, pharmaceutical, etc.: Oil is the basis for Plastics, and for many pharmaceuticals.

So what happens when oil becomes rare?

A) The world gets larger again. More things will need to be done locally. Walmart’s “Rolling Warehouse” stops rolling.

B) Mechanized “efficiency” dies: Manual labor replaces or augments mechanized labor. Farms become MUCH smaller, possible horse driven again. Mega school districts break up into smaller ones with walking distance of homes as the school bus system breaks down. On the positive side: Many new jobs will be created. Suburbia contracts, painfully, towns need to be (re) created with smaller shops within walking distance of most homes. Can’t do that when the homes are spread around on 1/2 acre lots.

C) Big cities are in real trouble. Any building over about 5 stories tall becomes unusable.

D) Life expectancy will probably go down. More manual labor means more accidents – there will be a toll in human life.

E) The population will decline to the solar and natural carrying capacity of a region. Good-by Phoenix, Las Vegas, etc.

So when will all this start? How long will it take? Thats anyones guess, but my feeling is that we are at the proverbal “knee in the curve”. I doubt we have 10 more years of life as we know it.

Thoughts?

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Setting up WordPress

Posted by Kevin on August 19, 2011
Posted in Issues running a blog  | Tagged With: | No Comments yet, please leave one

Setting up WordPress

This all started when my wife suggest I use some of my extra time to start blogging and maybe, just maybe, both be useful to the world and make a little cash.

So, step one was to Google “How to make money blogging” just to see what the world had to say.  No surprise, found lots of hits from people trying to make money telling you how to make money (similar to life in the real estate world, but that is another post someday).  Many had deals (e.g. special discount offer codes) with web hosting sites.  I scanned these for awhile and found one suggesting their web host, and to use the tool called WordPress.

Our servers are based on the Gentoo distribution, so a quick “emerge -s wordpress” revealed support for the tool, although it was masked.  I unmasked it and merged it in.  Took maybe an hour to do the reading, setup the database (found great instructions AFTER I remembered how), and have a webpage to start playing with off our main domain.

WordPress uses “themes” – these are free plugins that pretty much define the personality from a look perspective of your website.  The default theme was Twenty Eleven (2011).  Pretty, but not exactly what I was looking for.  Played around downloading themes and various plugins for a few hours.  WordPress makes that super easy, its all done from the Admin account.  Finally found tpSunrise which I liked.  Note – changing themes is easy, setting one up takes a lot longer!

A few hours into the effort and we realized it was doable.  The next question was where to go from here.  We could either support it ourselves, or get a web hosting account and let them support it.  Using a web host meant we would need to register a domain name.  I thought about “kevinsworld” but somebody had already parked that one.  “kevinsthoughts” on the other had was free.   I host several domains, so it was no big deal to pop over to www.godaddy.com and register one more.  Another hour or so later and I was receiving mail to kevinsthoughts.com on my host, and the website was responding. So now we are supporting it ourselves.  No additional monthly fees and total control (and responsibility) for our system.  Think its time to start making backups to an external USB disk we can grab and run with if needed.  Yet another project.

Being masked under Gentoo with no unmasked version, I realized support was going to be minimal.  I also didn’t want the blog showing up as a sub-directory of our primary domain, so I copied the files from /var/www/localhost/htdocs/wordpress over to its own directory, went into the admin interface and pointed to the new home, and it worked!  Well, almost… there were two places where the new domain name needed to be entered.  Strange how close “kevinsthoughts” and “kevinsthougths” look to someone slightly dyslexic.  Some stuff worked, others didn’t (lots of page not found not surprisingly).  Spotted the error on my 5th review and voila!  things were up.  This approach of cloning the Gentoo install turns out to have another advantage.  WordPress has its own update manage, and presuming its as trivial to use adding themes and plugins, it will be a breeze to keep it up to date (caveats later).  I’ll just use WordPress for updates now and not worry about a host OS upgrade changing or back-leveling me.

About plugins:  these chunks of code often define a widget – a small tool you can add to your blog theme.  Widgets are those things you see to your right on the website:  the Calendar, the Meta data, the support buttons.  Plugins create widgets, but not all plugins have them.  Others do things like provide the [translate] feature (love that one!), the Google Plus 1 buttons, the Share/Save button, the hit counters, you get the idea.  Some don’t even show on the webpage, they just provide useful administration features like tracking hits.

Alas (and here is the caveat I promised), everything seems related to everything else.   Apparently I needed to add “Curl” support to my PHP environment in order to support the Google Verification plugin.  No biggie, added “curl” to my USE= setting, and recompiled PHP.  Trivial, and Google Verification was happy.  However, noticed this morning (or should I say later this morning…), that the WebMoney plugin was now complaining and displaying ugly errors on our home page.  Turned if off for now.  Maybe just need to update Apache?  Not sure…  Still, its clear that this is good stuff, but not 100% bullet proof – upgrading one piece apparently may break others.

That pretty much brings us to where we are now, less than 24 hours since I started probing into what it would take to do this.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

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Меня тут спросили, как я себя чувствую в роли фермерши.  Отвечаю. :)Пока никак! :)) Не успеваю ощутить себя фермершей пока, разве что дачницей. И то.. В этом году Кевин решил посадить огород. Разметил участок, землю пропахал трактором, удобрили, грядки разбили, посадили — сразу только то, что не требует особого вмешательства. И то — жара, носа не высунешь, мы там раз в две недели и траву полоть возможно только рано утром (а темнеет тут рано, в 9, и еще жарко в 9)… Так что теперь на месте огорода бурьян по пояс, подсолнухи высосали клопы садовые, вонючие которые (никогда бы не подумала, вот им бедным пить как хотелось! ), кукурузу слопал прорвавшийся сквозь электрический забор Дункан, еще в зачаточном состоянии — вкусненько, наверное, было. :) Картошка там — я убрала в прошлую поездку траву оттуда, ботвы уже нет, а картошка есть, ну и пусть лежит, пока тепло и сухо… Остальное так по чуть-чуть угадывается под травой, змейки там спят… :) Но работы – выше крыши, и там, конечно, надо жить.
Но я столькому научилась, чего никогда не думала, что буду уметь!
Дом мы изнутри делаем сами — бетонные стены были по периметру,

мы разгородили на комнаты

Всю электропроводку и водопровод в доме Кевин делал сам — а я на подхвате.
И не только я :)

Помощники


Встроенный шкаф в детской делают :)


наша спальня оббита досочками дубовыми, такой же шкафчик, там у нас сауна, которую тоже по набору сами построили, душ огромный, куда при желании всей семьей можно вместиться — выложенный кафельной плиткой, тоже сами все сделали.
Зачаточное состояние будущего душа


Вот эта стекловата розовая — я ее прокладывала и прибивала по всему периметру дома, для тепла. А в сауне она особенная — с фольгой, чтобы еще и отражать тепло внутрь.


Это в процессе строительства:


Душик будущий:

Линолеум положили в туалете и прачечной

Сейчас там вообще красота. Для кухни сегодня поедем заберем панели — будут стены “выложенные серыми камнями”. :)) Потому что спальня — деревянная, а в кухне потом будет камин каменный. ;)
Покажу, как сделаем.

А качели для нас — на звезды любоваться ночью. :)

Ну, и я уже не говорю о том, что все — Кевин, я и Настя — освоили управление трактором, Габи и Фрэнка тоже не оттащишь от техники…

В дальнейшем — наша цель больше не животноводство все же, а прерии. А коровы, пчелы, курочки и прочие твари, которых мы заведем, когда туда переедем окончательно, сад и огород — это, скорее, попытка быть независимым от внешних обстоятельств, что ли…

Кевин и умная корова Николь.

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Recent Games

Posted by Kevin on August 19, 2011
Posted in Gaming  | Tagged With: , , , , | No Comments yet, please leave one

Recent Games

Over the past 2 years I’ve had the opportunity to experience, in depth, a couple of online PC based games:

Aion (www.aiononline.com and www.ncsoft.com) sucked up a lot of about 15 months of time.  Thoroughly enjoyed the game and played all of the classes of characters.  Started out on the Elyos side and migrated half-way through to the Asmodian side.  Enjoyed playing Chanters and Spiritmasters the most.   Great graphics, best character modeling toon I’ve ever seen.  With a bit of work, you can make very recognizable characters.  Good game balance, there isn’t a best class – just best based on how you like to play.  Was a bit disappointed in weapon/armor crafting – better items are available as drops or quest rewards.

EVE (www.eveonline.com) is my current addiction.  Launched in 2004 it just keeps getting better and better.  Typically 30,000 people are online playing at any point in time.  One BIG galaxy to play in.  HUGE (like climbing a cliff!) start-up learning curve – but its doable, it really is.  Nice to have an experience friend or three in the game to call on for technical help, but the Corporate chat channels are pretty good.  If you want to give it a try, let me know, I can send you a 20 day “buddy” code that will let you get the feel of things.  There are a few restrictions, but not many, when using the code.

Entropia (www.entropiauniverse.com) ate a couple of weeks.  This game is unique in that it not only sucks money, but has the potential to generate it.  Suggest reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entropia_Universe to get the idea.  Short form:  One guy sold an island he created for $335,000 dollars.  Mind you, that took a LOT of time and work to create, but that’s some serious cash.  For the newbie, its mostly about learning to stretch your cash as long as possible.  Everything cost money, from weapon ammo (per shot), to repair of armor you probably don’t really need to be wearing (since you can visit town and get healed for free!).  Free to download and get started, but expect to invest $20 or so to avoid grinding for pennies and hour.

Also beta tested some web games written by a Chinese guy.  Met some nice people I still stay in contact with.  That’s about the only plus.  The game was really in pre-alpha state when we started.  Goal is simple:  make as much money for the developer as possible!  Got old once enough of the game was up that he started wanting to collect some of that cash.

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