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From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Acetone&kilns
Date: 2000/09/21
Message-ID: <>

Moonraker wrote:
> "Neon John" <> wrote in message
> >
> > As a nuclear engineer with a specialty in radio chemistry, (and more
> > importantly a life-long amateur scientist)
> I hope I read all the cut and pastes correctly, 'cause I gotta call
> "bullshit" here.  Whatinhell is "radio chemistry"?

If you spent three years in Cleveland, you probably attended Lee
College (sic). Or worse, graduated from the Cleveland public
schools, ranked worst in the state that itself is ranked 48th in
education.  I can therefore forgive your ignorance.  Radio chemistry
is that discipline that deals with the chemistry of radioactive
materials.  Radiochemists are the guys who in the nuclear power
plant sample effluents and environmental samples and analyze them
for their radioactivity content.  A radiochemlab does conventional
wet chemistry on the front end and radiological analysis on the back
end using equipment such as the gamma spectrometer and liquid
scintillation counter.  If you happen by my greasy spoon sometime,
give me a holler.  I'll be glad to take you to see my little
radiochemlab that services my consulting business that is located in
the next building over.

> John, I think you've been inhaling too much of sumthin'!   You run a greasy
> spoon restaurant in the spiritual mecca of Bradley County, TN,  make a few
> neon signs, and you claim to be a freakin' nuclear engineer?  Last I looked
> there weren't any nuke power plants anywhere near Cleveland, TN...and I
> lived there for almost 3 years.

I can just imagine what you were smoking while here not to know that
Bradley county lies within the 10 mile emergency planning zone for
both the Sequoyah nuclear plant (where I worked for 10 years) and
the Watts Bar nuclear plant.  Frankly, you'd have to have been
stoned blind to have missed the multi-jurisdictional emergency
drills we run.  I say "we", as I served until a couple of years ago
as Bradley County's radiological safety chief.

>If you ARE a  graduated engineer...why are
> you frying eggs and burning hash browns for a living?

Called "retirement", my child.  And it's a BBQ restaurant.  Slinging
eggs and hash browns is the stuff folks like you have to do at the
local waffle houses to get by.  See, the neat thing about nuclear
engineering is, if one is a really good engineer (I am) and a really
good businessman (I was), one can make his fortune very rapidly.  I
did.  The company I founded, grew and sold, Radiation Measurement
Systems, Inc, allowed me to retire very early.  Now I piddle at
whatever interests me.  My interests have centered around the
restaurant and neon and furnace glass.  Now my interests involve
traveling in our motorhome full time.  That starts right after the
auctions. Wnd when we get through traveling, I might just buy a big
rig and drive a truck for a few years.  Just because that's what I
want to do.

Which reminds me.  If you'd like to tinker around the edges of
medium technology (I know, highly advanced for a liberal arts type),
my neon shop's for sale cheap.  I'll even teach you how.  For a fee,
of course.  If you can stand to take instructions from a hash

In closing, let me give you a little lesson that a whole lot of
people learn only in the school of hard knocks.  That is, you run
the great risk of making a fool out of yourself when you make
assumptions about people based on what you think their titles or
occupations indicate.  Aside from myself, I can give you another
classic example.  We work closely with one of the rafting companies
that does business on the nearby Ocoee river. (You do recall the
Ocoee, don't you.  You know, Olympic whitewater venue and all that.
If you don't know about our nuke plants, I can't really assume that
you know anything about the area.)

When one gets to know the rafting guides, AKA "river bums", one
finds out that two different guides are medical doctors, another is
a lawyer and another is a nuclear engineer on sabbatical.  The two
docs decided to take a few years between internship and private
practice just bumming around. Pretty much the same with the lawyer.
They guide in the summer and ski instruct out west in the winter.
Another example is the pipe fitter who worked for me at Sequoyah who
was a solid state physicist who just got tired of the rat race and
left Fairchild to to be a plumber.

Of course, you're one of those who'll have to learn THAT lesson by
hard experience.  You remind me a lot of that bumper sticker that
said "Help me save the world while I'm still young enough to know



From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: A Conundrum
Date: Sat, 07 Feb 2004 00:06:39 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Fri, 06 Feb 2004 02:56:20 -0600, Bob Giddings <> wrote:

>I got my Social Security analysis the other day.  Interesting reading,
>for a government publication.
>Turns out I still need 13 quarters by 65 years of age to qualify for
>Medicare - I  never will get anything from Social Security because
>I've hardly ever paid into it.  Last time was when I was 23 years old.
>But I do want Medicare for medical backup because I don't know how
>long I can keep my retiree's insurance.  And getting old is dangerous


I lost my dad two weeks ago tomorrow to negligent homicide on the part of the
local hospital and a certain quack surgeon.  We've just been through the
medical beltline.  Maybe I can offer some insight.

My parents thought they had the best possible insurance - for-life "fee for
services" (the old kind) medical insurance from mom's old union job, Dad's
100% disability VA benefits (TriCare) and finally Medicare.  They thought so
right up until dad went to the local surgeon to have a bunion removed from his
knee that was bothering him when gardening.  A botched minor surgery, a
botched repair job, a botched major surgery to try to fix THAT botch, drug
resistant staph that they didn't culture for until they'd hammered him for 3
weeks with IV antibiotics that didn't work, 20 days of Vancomicyn, hammered
kidneys that finally shut down later he came out on a slab.  We learned a few
things along the way.

About 15 years ago he crossed a horrible threshold.  He turned 65.  At that
point all his great private insurance in effect, went away.  They call it
Medicare indexing.  They (the private and VA insurance) will only pay for what
Medicare will pay for.  My folks had been advised that they didn't need any
sort of MediGap insurance because of the quality of mom's policy so they never
bought any.  When the Medicare hit its limit, out on the street.  He died
about 2 days before he was to get booted.

The second thing is more frightening than the first.  Once you're labeled
"old", the whole system gears up to minimally treat you until your expected
death.  Life saving treatment and tests are withheld and the responsibility is
diffused among so many people that you can't find someone to nail.  This
happened even with me and my brother who is a doctor working to change things.

For example, my brother tried to get this quack surgeon to re-admit dad after
the major surgery to address the infection, because the wound was still
infected.  The quack refused, telling bro that it was too complicated dealing
with Medicare for someone that old.  Another example. The day I rushed him to
the emergency room with a gaping, infected gangrenous wound covering his whole
knee and cellulitis from his toes to his hip, he had returned from the surgeon
earlier where they'd dressed the wound and declared it "OK".  The fluid
buildup from the infection and cellulitis had him in congestive heart failure.
They got an amazing almost 3 gallons of fluid out of him over the next 24
hours.  But he was "OK" earlier at the surgeon's office.

In the process we discovered what may be the most despicable, the most
contemptible creature who will burn in a special place in hell - the
"hospitalist".  This is a doctor who can't hack it in either private or group
practice.  So he joins one of the job-shop outfits and is rented to hospitals,
skilled care units and the like.  He draws a salary.  The bean counters
consider the hospitalists to be interchangeable revenue generation units so
they're swapped out at random.  There is no bonding with patients.  More like
an assembly line mechanic.

The goal of the hospitalist apparently was to keep Dad sedated enough that he
didn't complain or ask questions.  They concealed this from all of us for
quite some time until my brother took it up with the hospital admin.  They'd
refused to show us his chart and since it was on computer, I couldn't just
grab it out of someone's hand.

Accompanying this hospitalist plague is that many GPs, internists or whatever
your family doctor calls himself, are no longer maintaining hospital
privileges.  I forget the reason Dad's doc of 30 years gave (I think it was
because of malpractice insurance) but the result was that he was ripped away
from his familiar doctor and subjected to the horrors of these drone quacks
they call hospitalists.

This has shaken our family to its bones.  Ours is an upper middle class
family, with Dad having been a CPA and mom an executive assistant to a union
official.  They saved their money and were living comfortably in retirement.
My Mom was always paranoid about medical insurance and put up with a LOT of
stuff on the job to get her years in sufficient to keep her excellent medical
insurance into retirement.  Dad has his VA.  We always thought that for
anything that the insurance wouldn't pay for, we'd simply do so out of pocket.
We had also assumed that my brother's active presence in the local medical
community and the professional courtesy normally given would cut through any
red tape.  None of that happened.

Instead of being told "this treatment might work but insurance won't pay for
it", we were given the old line "at his age we don't think that course of
treatment is cost-justified".  And that was when we could get any
recommendation at all.  Most of the time when we'd ask what needed to be done
to turn around Dad's situation, all we'd get is a shrug.  If we got anything
at all.  We went over a week at one point trying to get some doctor, any
doctor to actually talk to us.  In person at the hospital, over the phone,

I don't yet know what the answer is, as I'm only now starting to talk around.
I do know that this has profoundly changed my future plans.  I had planned on
traveling full time after I sold the restaurants.  Now I don't think so.  My
first line of defense against this type of medical abuse seems to be to have a
long term relationship with a doc who has hospital privileges.  And then sit
down and discuss this matter with him.   Perhaps put things in writing.

One also needs to have an expert look at your insurance, especially what
happens when you turn 65.  I don't yet know what sort of person this expert
would be but I'm looking into it.

The medical future for us boomers is pretty bleak, at least for those of us
not filthy rich and able to afford the private clinics and doctors.  To a
great extent we've brought it on ourselves by demanding more non-emergency and
non-critical treatments at insurances' (actually ours after the insurance
company scrapes off its profit) expense.  And by demanding more government
interference.  The system has realigned itself not to provide good care to the
sickest but to generate a reliable revenue stream from the runny noses and


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Towing with a Toyota
Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 19:40:36 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Sun, 21 Mar 2004 16:01:55 -0600, "R.J.(Bob) Evans" <bob d0t evans at
sasktel d0t net> wrote:

>On Sun, 21 Mar 2004 15:12:53 -0600 Bob Giddings <>

>>"Give her anything she wants."  I guess divorce works just like
>Definition of property division in a divorce: - Make two equal piles
>of the marital assets.  Give one pile to the woman and the other to
>the lawyer.

Negatory.  At least not for me.  When my ex decided to sew her oats elsewhere
a couple of years ago I told her that she could accept my terms and maybe live
happily ever after or she could fight me and die.  She knew me well enough to
take my terms.  She took her crap and left.  I kept my crap, the restaurant,
the MH, the cars, etc.  Oh, and she paid for the lawyer.

Splitting up shook me to my bones because I could have never imagined us not
being married.  Two years out, that was the best damned thing that ever
happened to me.  Looking back, I just can't believe how much sh*t spouses tend
to give each other.  Now that my immunity to spousal BS has worn off, watching
my married friends interact really bothers me sometimes.  I just sit there and
think "I'd backhand anyone who talked to me like that".  And then I think,
"man, I used to put up with that same sort of crap".  Amazing.

BD, tell your friend to lift up his head and put the past behind him.  He has
a marvelous new opportunity in front of him.  Maybe he can't work at what he
used to because of the health problems but this could be an opportunity too.
As long as he keeps his nose out of the bottle he'll be OK.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Towing with a Toyota
Date: Sun, 21 Mar 2004 23:50:35 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On Sun, 21 Mar 2004 19:39:09 -0800 (PST), (Guess Who?)

>   The former Mrs. Lampson was an honorable woman , but marrying her was
>the worst mistake I ever made!   The last time I saw her, (in 1990) she
>made my skin crawl!
>  If I didn't have so much to be happy about,   I'd celebrate our
>divorce,  like it was Christmas!   What a relief to be rid of her!

I think those short marriages are the easy ones to leave.  The hard ones are
like mine was.  Mine was 27 years long, 25 of which were glorious bliss.  Then
she started losing her mind, I think.  GB's right, the opposite of love IS
indifference.  I don't hate her and I don't love her.  I don't care at all.  I
do hate the way she left and what she did afterward but even that is in the
past. I cherish the memories but they end about 2 years ago.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Metal Electrostatic Air Filter
Date: Fri, 01 Jul 2005 13:23:25 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Fri, 01 Jul 2005 01:14:17 GMT, "Chris Lamb"
<> wrote:

>> ME: It wasnt an Electrostatic type. It was an Electronic Air Cleaner
>> using 110 volts converted to very high DC voltage.  These are the most
>> effective for dust and allergens...but pricey also.
>I knew what you meant.  I remember taking some training classes at IBM in
>Atlanta where every room has a properly functioning EAC.  If you closed your
>eyes you could imagine you were on a Caribbean Island soaking in the balmy
>breeze.  I always said I wanted to put a  full Liebert unit in my house
>complete with EAC.  But then you have to go outside and it's worse than

When I worked for M&M Mars, the whole plant was like that.  68
degrees, 50% humidity and the air was washed to reduce the particulate
count to something like 300.  The washing system was designed to
remove dust, pollen, even mold and other germs.  That was absolutely
the most wonderful environment I've ever been in.  Some nights in the
peak pollen season before I'd had the allergy treatments, I'd pitch a
sleeping bag under my desk at night.  Stepping outside was like having
a fire hose of snot applied to my sinuses.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: The Ultimate Hippie Bus
Date: Fri, 16 Sep 2005 21:45:43 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 16 Sep 2005 13:03:43 -0700, wrote:

>Har!!!!  I just LUV it!!
>He even has some Neon John-like rocketry experience!!
>Pete, ROFL


Only because I actually did something like this to a guy, I know the
"rocket" setup is fake.  With real explosives under the drum in a
large enough quantity to lift it that high with a guy inside, a cute
little mushroom cloud does NOT form.  the blast goes out sideways and
forms a donut-shaped cloud that slowly rises.

Back in high school when I was the short fat nerd of the neighborhood,
I tricked the neighborhood bully into standing on a similar drum
loaded with an explosive mix of gasoline fumes and oxygen.  When I
touched it off via the sparkplug through the side, I blew this guy
higher than our 2 story house.  The drum opened up at the weld.  The
bottom was blown up and around his feet, trapping them together.  It
almost dislocated his knees.  He hit the ground like a sack of spuds
and stayed there long enough I got worried.

One of my most treasured paybacks.  He's the same guy I later talked
into grabbing hold of a 15,000 volt neon transformer wire while
standing barefoot in wet mud that I'd mixed up just for him.  He did
the 60 Cycle Stomp until I unplugged the transformer :-)


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,,
Subject: Re: Pay up - or take the bus
Date: Tue, 27 Sep 2005 15:39:52 -0400
Message-ID: <>

So you're happy with lots of money just kinda passing through your
hands on its way to others while your time just kinda leaks away?
That's what happens when you work in the "big city" and live in the
'burbs.  BTDT.

I gave up the mid six figure lifestyle about 12 years ago when I
escaped the big city.  I made all that money but I never seemed to
have time nor the money to do anything.  Any meaningful saving was
impossible, as there was nothing left at the end of the month after
all the bills were paid.  I was always exhausted and was always very
stressed out even though my company (obviously) was doing quite well.

I now operate a small restaurant and live in a nice apartment in the
other part of the building I own free and clear.  I've probably never
made more than $30k a year in this biz.  Yet somehow I'm living better
than I ever have.  I have more toys AND the time to play with them.
Instead of arriving home exhausted after fighting the traffic and
after fighting the clients and employees at work, I close my doors at
quitting time, walk to my apartment and start having fun.

It's 4 minutes after three in the afternoon right now.  I closed for
the day 4 minutes ago.  In another 10 I'll have closed up the place
and will have started my leisure time.  I'm thinking I might drive up
to the Ocoee River and have a cookout.  What will you be doing?  I'll
come back up to the restaurant at 10:30 in the morning after having
awakened 15 minutes earlier.   How many hours will you have been awake
by then?

I filled the tank on my car about 3 weeks ago right before the
hurricane and it's still on F.  I commute around my area on an
electric scooter when the weather is nice and in my little electric
car (about $2k, paid for) when it's not.  Because I put under 5kmiles
a year on everything except my motorhome, my insurance is very cheap.
I have 5 vehicles including a commercial deliver truck, comprehensive
on the newer ones and my total bill is under $1k a year.

I've owned my main car about 5 years now (bought used for cash) and it
still has the tires it came with.  How many tires have you bought in
the last 5 years?  I change the oil once a year whether it needs it or

Notice I mentioned a motorhome?  I bought it used for cash about 6
years ago.  I have the time to use it almost every weekend.  Because I
don't have to commute and can set my own hours, and because I have
sufficient disposable income, I can usually stay over an extra night
and amble in just in time to open up the restaurant at 11 AM.

Oh, did I mention the cabin in the mountains?  I built it years ago
but I literally never used it until I downscaled.  Now I time-share
between it and my motorhome, one or the other every weekend just

In Atlanta the property tax on my home was almost $6k/yr. Here, my
6800 sq ft building in downtown Cleveland costs me less than $1k.
That's 5k more I have for toys or retirement or investing right there.
Residential electricity was 11.6cent/kwh (much higher now) in Atlanta.
It's 5.2cents/kwh for commercial power here.  I have lower energy
costs for my entire building here than I had for just my house in

Right now I'm looking to move to an even smaller area.  I'll open
another restaurant that should net about the same money from a smaller
sales volume.  The reason is that property, taxes and energy are so
much cheaper there.  That means I'll have to work even less to
maintain my lifestyle.

Or I might just retire again.  Because of the lack of commuting and
the low cost of living here, I've been able to tuck away enough money
so that as an early 50-something, I don't really have to work now.
OTOH, I love what I do, so can that be called work?

I'm curious, do you have any debt?  I don't.  I just kinda thumb my
nose at the bank when I drive by.  Remember that I've never made more
than $30k a year in this business, a bunch less last year, so I'm not
some arrogant rich dude thumbing his nose at the masses.

I'm REALLY glad there are so many people like you out there to
populate the big cities.  That keeps my area open and uncluttered for
the most part.  It is nice to drive to Atlanta or Knoxville every few
months to shop and to remind myself of what I'm missing!  With the
net, shopping has lost its allure so my trips have become pretty much
annual ones.

Why don't you sit down and do an actual budget and a personal cash
flow analysis?  I bet you never have, or you wouldn't be fooling
yourself about your quality of life.  See just how much it is costing
you to live in one place and work in another.  You might just see the
light. Or not.


On Tue, 27 Sep 2005 08:54:27 -0400, "Ted B." <noway@nohow.not.ever>
>In many (most) areas of the U.S., the jobs that pay decent living wages are
>NOWHERE NEAR areas that offer affordable housing.  Case in point . . . if
>you live close to your job, you probably need to work multiple jobs to make
>ends meet.  There is no simple solution like "move closer to your job".  In
>most cases, the increased housing expense for such a move would more than
>eat up any savings gained from a shorter commute.  If gas prices go a lot
>higher than current levels, it just might make sense for many people to buy
>a million-dollar condo so that they can have a shorter drive to work.  For
>now though, to suggest that someone (anyone) move closer to work is simply
>ignorant.  Most people live far from work as that is where they can afford
>to live.  Or to look at it another way, most people can not afford to WORK
>anywhere near where they are living.  The biggest employer within 15 miles
>of me is wally world.  Could I work there?  Yes, if I wanted to take an 80%
>pay cut.  If I move significantly closer to the employers who pay decent
>money, I'd need to buy a house that costs 4-5 times as much as my current
>house, for a lot less land with a smaller house on it.

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,,
Subject: Re: Pay up - or take the bus
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 03:28:50 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 27 Sep 2005 20:18:49 GMT, "John Emmons"
<> wrote:

>I'm curious and a bit jealous.
>Did you have the money to start your restaurant business in savings or in
>some sort of retirement package from your previous career? I seem to recall
>that you owned/ran a software company or something of that ilk.
>John Emmons

A major motivator to find a simpler life was a fire that destroyed the
business and almost got me.  I can recognize a wake-up call when it
slaps me in the face!  I had some savings and the rest came from
(literally) a rich uncle :-)

I did something I was told would be impossible.  I started with an
essentially empty building, built out the restaurant and opened up for
just about $20k.  I scavenged old air conditioners from the scrap
metal yard (took 6 to make 3 operating ones), bought broken restaurant
equipment for its scrap metal value, repaired it and made it work and
did all the construction work myself (major decorating effort from my
wife at the time.)  I built other equipment from scratch using scrap
metal.  You can see the results on my web page.  Some of the more
scuzzy looking equipment has been replaced but the dining room layout
and accoutrements are the same.  The tables have tablecloths because
the tables are a mix'n'match combo of raw lumber and discarded table
tops that I dug out of the dumpster behind the used restaurant
equipment place.

I did replace the cobbled-together air conditioners last year with a
very nice Trane 10 ton three phase heat pump that I bought from a
freight salvage place for $700 because it looked like it had been run
over by a freight train.  I had to hammer out a bunch of dents and
fabricate a couple of panels from new sheet metal but I got a unit
installed and running for under a kilobuck total. Two hundred of that
was the minimum fee for the crane rental to set it on the roof. I was
told that this unit would have cost around $7k had I bought it from a
Trane dealer.  The energy savings from this move has paid for the unit
already in just one summer.

After having been badly pinched by what I though was a small amount of
debt before the fire that turned crippling once my source of revenue
was gone, I was bound and determined to start this business with the
cash on hand and to never use any sort of debt again.  Mission
accomplished.  It was very difficult in the beginning (I can't tell
you how much food we processed by hand because we had no appliances. I
can think of one instance where I chopped 600 lbs of BBQ with a
chinese meat cleaver....) but that hard work has paid off.

One of the funnier aspects of this was the reaction my food vendors
had to my paying COD.  Most small operators want all the credit they
can get.  Not me.  The first thing the salesman for a prospective
vendor would do would be to stick a credit app under my nose. "I don't
want any credit, I'm going to pay cash".  "Well, we can't take your
check unless you fill out this life history and anal probe form."
"What part about 'CASH' do you not understand?"  After a few weeks of
their drivers having to carry around a few hundred to a few thousand
dollars in cash, they'd tell me that they really would prefer I write
checks and not to worry about that silly ole credit app :-)

The virtue of being debt free has really shown itself over the last
few weeks.  I got hit with a triple-whammy of the hurricanes, the gas
price run-up and the city closing the road in front of my place to
piddle around with re-doing the courthouse square a block or so up.
For several days you could have fired a machine gun through my dining
room and not hit a soul!

Instead of panicking and shutting down like a couple of restaurants
uptown did (no doubt because of the mortgage/rent and debt), I just
hunkered down and rode it through.  I closed off all but one dining
room, turned the thermostat up a little, moved all refrigerated
inventory into one reefer and one freezer and let my shelves get a
little bare. This is the 4th week and people seem to be getting used
to the gas prices and the closed road, as business is picking back up.
If business keeps picking up I'll have been able to have ridden
through this one without touching my savings or my reserves.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,,
Subject: Restaurant operations (was something about commuting)
Date: Wed, 28 Sep 2005 04:10:26 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 27 Sep 2005 22:28:53 GMT, "Chloe" <> wrote:

>I'm curious, too, having had a couple of close friends in the restaurant
>business. Neon John, do you have a lot of hired help? Because the guys I
>knew worked really really hard during the hours the restaurant was open, but
>that was just the tip of the iceberg of time they spent on planning,
>ordering food and supplies, bookkeeping, personnel, taxes and other
>paperwork--not to mention food prep, cleaning and other tasks when the
>restaurant was closed. I'm sure the routine can be simplified, but it would
>seem only up to a point.
>Matter of fact, I've never heard it described as easy work before by
>anybody. What's your secret?

Probably the biggest secret is that I long ago realized that I'm not
running a fancy restaurant but simply a little BBQ joint.  I don't
serve anything that requires cooking in real-time, french fries and
onion rings excepted.  Every dish I serve can be prepared in bulk and
flash-frozen and steam-reheated as needed.  I make Brunswick Stew, for
example, in 30 gallon lots that last a week or so.  I run the pit once
a week.

I also don't serve anything that is perishable.  What isn't sold at
the end of the day can be refrigerated and re-heated the next day with
no loss in quality.

I've actually scaled down considerably over the years.  I started out
with a very fat menu, BBQ, hamburgers, meat-and-three and homemade
deserts.  And a staff of 7.  The huge difficulty in finding decent
employees initially started my downsizing.  Then I realized that as I
eliminated an employee and the dishes that went with him, my life got
easier and profits went up on lower sales volumes.

My menu now is basically BBQ, Ribs, traditional BBQ sides and a couple
of non-BBQ things for the BBQ-hating spouse :-)  I operate the place
by myself during the week (about 50 tickets/day average) and have a
high school kid who comes in to do the labor part of cooking on the
weekends.  I operate the pit and prep up a whole week's (or more)
worth of other food in the two days I have the helper.

I'm at the point now where I have to do almost nothing outside normal
business hours except for large catering orders.  I'm open 5 days a
week and actually get to have a normal weekend, though it falls on
Sunday and Monday.

There are a couple of other things I can do because of the large
amount of space I have in this building.  I have my inventory spread
out so that there is space between each item.  That lets me whip
through each room and quickly see how many empty spaces there are on
each shelf and thus what I need to order.  I don't have to try to keep
any sort of fancy inventory tracking system that way.  No paperwork
other than the yellow pad that I write down what I need each week.

Another trick is to make up "spice packs" in volume that contain all
the spices and minor ingredients for a dish.  I'll make up a couple
hundred at a time, packaged in zip-lock bags.  Then when I make, say,
sauce, all I do is put the ketchup, vinegar and water in the pot and
dump in a spice pack.  Even the high school kid can do that without
screwing up, most of the time at least.  That also helps keep my
recipes from walking out the door with ex-employees.

I've gone to almost all disposable tableware except for the metal
silverware.  Plastic plates are uniquely acceptable in a BBQ joint.

I changed from table service to counter service about a year ago which
allowed me to eliminate my last employees.  Pretty much the same as at
Captain D's, people come to the counter and order and pay.  They then
self-serve their drinks and pick up the order when it's ready.  I have
the register on the cookline beside the day freezer so I can cook,
take orders and accept payment all at the same time.  Oh, and answer
the phone via a cordless phone and headset.  I occasionally use a time
clock to study my processes.  The average cycle of
order-to-fulfillment is about 3 minutes.  This includes taking the
order, accepting payment and preparing the order.

I've optimized my cookline to eliminate every possible step.
Everything I need is within 3 steps of the center of the cookline.
Every step I eliminate is reflected at the end of the day by being
vastly less tired and by faster service.

I barter/trade/cajole or otherwise obtain certain labor-intensive
services such as floor care (no %*&^&*^ carpets!) and janitorial work.
For instance, I have a customer who mentioned in passing that she'd
like some part-time work who now comes in every other day and cleans
my bathrooms.

I've approached other jobs with a decidedly engineer's approach.  For
instance, cleaning the large 15 gallon stock pots that I make sauce,
stew and other things in.  Rather than wrestle these pots around in
the sink and have to scrub off baked-on stuff, I put the pot in the
sink and fire away at it with a fairly low power pressure washer
hooked to the hot water supply.  The pressure washer will remove even
the worst cooked-on deposits in seconds.  It's messy but I usually
come back up into the restaurant right before bed and do that stuff
right before my shower.

Rather than having to bend down and rake stuff out from under each
table with a broom, I use an electric leaf blower.  I blow all the
debris to one end of the dining room where I then sweep it up into a
dust pan.  I have the blower on a long cord that stays plugged in all
the time so it takes me no more than maybe 5 minutes to "sweep" the
dining room.

Another major labor saver is my refrigerated steam table that I built.
It contains a refrigeration system and a high powered heating system
controlled by a programmable logic controller.  At the end of the day
I top off the steam table pans and put the table in the refrigerate
mode.  This quickly cools everything off to a safe temperature.  About
an hour before opening time, the system switches over to steam heat
mode.  When I arrive, everything is at serving temperature.  Every
other day I discard what is left and start out with new stock to keep
everything nice and fresh.

This system takes care of my BBQ meats, sauce, baked beans, Brunswick
stew, chili and my jalapeno cheese soup.  These dishes plus fries and
onion rings cover about 95% of my traffic.

A major seller is my MegaSpud(TM), a BBQ stuffed baked potato.  I've
developed a process for very rapidly "baking" potatoes.  I use 50
count (1 lb) bakers.  9 minutes per spud in the microwave, followed by
15 minutes in a steam bath results in a spud that is indistinguishable
from an oven-baked spud.

That should give you a good idea.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.consumers,misc.consumers.frugal-living,,
Subject: Re: Pay up - or take the bus
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2005 15:45:47 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Thu, 29 Sep 2005 07:32:00 -0400, "Nonymous" <>

>> Very well put John, most people have no idea how much their job actually
>> cost them. I read "Your Money or Your Life" about 15 years ago and it
>> changed my life. My commute now is very short as well, one flight of
>> stairs, a right turn at the kitchen and I'm there. I commute to the bank,
>> library and shopping on my bike most of the time and it's rare I go
>> through a half tank of gas a week carting the kids about.
>Points taken, but the "live close to where you work" idea also assumes
>you're job is stable, secure, and you're enjoying it enough now (and will
>still in the future) to want to keep it long term.  Who wants to go and move
>to be close to work just to be laid off a year later or to have the company
>go through so bad re-org causing you to now hate working there?

I'm trying to express a different philosophy and worldview in which
that kind of stuff doesn't matter so much.  If you live a frugal (not
cheap, not skinflint but frugal) lifestyle and don't let your work
become your life, concepts like "job security" don't mean so much.

Far too many people (myself included in my past life) let their work
become their lives.  Their happiness is practically completely tied to
ebbs and flows in their job success.  A layoff is devastating, both
emotionally and financially.  The alternative, working at a job you
hate because you have to have the money, is as bad.  Drug and alcohol
abuse and getting joined at the pocketbook to a shrink often follows.

A cute little sound bite that says it all is "do you work to live or
live to work?"

It took a traumatic event (almost burning up in the fire and losing
most everything I had.) to slap me in the face and make me take a new
look at my life.  I realized that I would not get a second chance to
do this "life" thing correctly.  I also realized that I could live
just as well on a lot less income by leaving the rat race.

Once your create a sustainable lifestyle then being tied to a
particular job and income level doesn't matter so much.  You can then
do what you like instead of what you have to do.  It is little more
than an inconvenience to be laid off or simply to decide that you
don't like the work.

Another key is to maintain a current and diverse education.  I've
changed major career paths 4 times in my life and in each case,
self-education was key.  Being competent in many fields is powerfully
empowering.  To put it in the street vernacular, you know that at any
point you can tell 'em "To take this job and shove it."

The French philosopher Proust said that most people end up doing what
they are second best at. No truer words ever spoken.

A major part of living a financially rewarding and independent life is
patience, the kind of patience that for most folks, unfortunately,
comes with age.  I was as bad as anyone else at the "gotta have it
now" thing when I was younger.  I still get that feeling sometimes
when I see a really nifty new toy.  My wiser self slaps the impatient
self and says "settle down, it'll be there later when you've saved
enough to pay cash without pain."

I use a modified Dave Ramsey envelope system
(  His system is pretty simple - turn each
paycheck into cash.  Label envelopes for each expense.  One for the
mortgage, one for the (ughhh) car payment, one for the power bill, one
for groceries, etc.  Divide the cash up among those.  Have a couple
more envelopes, one labeled "mad money" (one for each member of the
family) and one for "nonessentials".

Pay the bills out of the envelopes.  When the envelope is empty, stop
spending in that category for the month.  When the "groceries" or
"restaurant" envelope is empty, well, time to eat out of the freezer
and pantry until the end of the month.

I don't have debt and my recurring expenses like utilities are well
defined so I don't use envelopes for those.  I do use envelopes for
toys and other non-essentials.  For example, I have one labeled
"MacMillian 50bmg sniper, er target rifle".  When I have some extra
cash, I put some money in that envelope.  When it reaches the approx
$3500 I need for the rifle, I'll order it.

I have another one I labeled "transportation".  This is a futures fund
to pay for car maintenance and a new car in the future when it's
needed.  For large funds like this, I actually just put chits in the
envelope and keep the actual money in my mutual funds so they earn a
little.  I have the discipline to forget that I have the money
represented by the chits.  Yet another one in the chit category is
"motorhome".  I pay for maintenance on my current motorhome and will
buy a new (used) one sometime in the future with the money.

The envelope system has a very powerful emotional calming effect on
one's patience or lack thereof.  I don't find myself having to
constantly make the decision of "can I get away with buying that rifle
or camera or car or whatever?"  I take the available surplus cash
every week and divide it up among the envelopes according to what has
my attention at the moment.  I keep the tally on the outside of the
envelope so that I know what's there at any time.

I freely rob from one envelope to fund another as my interests change
or needs arise.  The Macmillian rifle one, for example, has ebbed and
flowed for over 5 years now.  I bought a new digicam out of the rifle
fund last year when my interest in digital photography took off.

If you have kids, the envelope system makes it very easy to say "no".
"Sorry, kids, but your envelope is empty because you bought that
Nintendo last week.  You can't go to the concert this week because you
can't afford it."  That also teaches the kids about budgeting and the
real worth of money at an early age.

Not to sound like I'm shilling for him but I've found the Dave Ramsey
course to be among the best money I've ever spent.  I'm a very sharp
guy but those courses made me realize that I didn't know jack-spit
about managing money (after all, I AM an engineer.... :-)  I wish I'd
discovered his methods 20 years ago - I'd be quite wealthy right now.

There is a good little book out there called "Do What You Love, The
Money Will Follow : Discovering Your Right Livelihood" by Marsha
Sinetar.  ISBN 0-440-50160-1.  On amazon for $10.88.  She has written
another book that I haven't read yet called "To Build the Life You
Want, Create the Work You Love : The Spiritual Dimension of

Some parts of this book is sorta squishy but all in all, a great guide
to a great philosophy.

You know you're doing what you like when you look forward to the
weekend ending so you can get back to work :-)

One other thing I should mention in this thread.  Until one is there,
one cannot possibly realize the peace that comes from savings.  When
you have enough money in the bank to live at your current lifestyle
for a year or more, you simply don't worry about layoffs, burps in the
economy and the like.  This is similar to the peace that comes from
having the house paid for.  The combination of the two means that you
can tell the world to go fsk itself for very long periods at a time.
Certainly long enough to figure out what you might want to do next,
and the money to do it.

When you live from paycheck to paycheck, even if you are able to put a
little back, there is a low but constant level of stress caused by
worrying about what might happen that over time, corrodes the soul. It
wears you out and removes a lot of the enjoyment from life.

Consider the other situation.  Right now if my building burned to the
ground, I could thumb my nose at it and go on my way with no worry.
I'd have plenty of time to figure out what I wanted to do next.  I
might want to rebuild with the insurance or I might not.  There would
be no pressure to make a decision because I could live for at least a
couple of years on my savings.  The only thing I'd lose if the place
burned would be heirlooms and to the extent possible for things like
photos, there are copies stored off-site.

My savings are not that large, very low six figures with a net worth
of no more than half a mil, quite modest for a 50-something.  ALL my
very modest investment income goes back into the investments and I
take nothing out.  I live on my income.  The key is that my expenses
are so low.

Somebody's going to say something about bad health forcing them to do
something they don't like.  Not true.  I have the usual problems of
late middle age including insulin-dependent diabetes.  Healthcare is a
major expense center but because I live so cheaply otherwise, the cost
is manageable.  I don't LIKE pouring almost a kilobuck a month into
that bottomless pit called healthcare but that's life.

I'm not an evangelist for this style of living and normally don't talk
about it all that much. I just want to show that there is an
alternative to living paycheck-to-paycheck and to the "I've gotta
drive 100 miles a day to earn enough to support my debt-ridden
lifestyle" trap.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.consumers.frugal-living
Subject: Re: how much is frugal?
Date: Wed, 19 Oct 2005 23:39:06 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 19 Oct 2005 13:31:47 -0700, wrote:

>I'm just curious what 'frugal' is to everyone else.   This is my first
>year living completely on my own (just out of college), so I'm trying
>to see what the ballpark area is.   I live a 20min busride from
>downtown where I work, own a car (almost paid off, will be by the end
>of the year or so).   However, I do tend to eat out mroe than I should
>(at least at places that I think arn't a good value, some student
>places near the uni are a meal and a half for 4$).   So I spend about
>12-14k a year, for insurance, food, housing, cellphone, etcetc.   Is
>this too much?  too little?   I do make about 4 times this, so
>comparitevly it is very little, but I'd rather not work here the rest
>of my life ;)

Depending on where you live, not bad.

Some advice coming from "the other side", someone near retirement.

If I could go back and give my just-out-of-college self some advice it
would be this:

Live as cheaply as you possibly can get away with during your prime
earning years.  Invest wisely but somewhat aggressively.  Watch the
magic of the market and compounding let you retire from full-time work
in 10-15 years.  When you get there, STOP!  Don't try to improve on
things.  I was a millionaire by the age of 30 but I didn't have enough
sense to stop, lost much of it in a subsequent unsuccessful business
so now as a 50-something, I still have to work some.  Sure wish I had
THAT one to do over again!

Let's say you're bringing home $40k and you could live on $12k/yr.
That would leave $28k per year for investing/saving.  Over its entire
history including the Depression, the market has a long term yield of
about 12%.  Let's assume 10% - very conservative investing, say, in an
index fund will yield that.  Let's say you put that $28k per year in
the market as one payment per year.  In 10 years, you'd have $446k. In
15 years you'd have $889k.  In 20 years, $1.6 mil.

Since you can do better than 10% in the market and since your salary
should rise rapidly for the next few years, as you can see, you could
easily retire in 10-15 years.  $5mil at 10% would kick off $50k/year,
most of it tax-free if you choose the right investments.  Since you'll
already be accustomed to the frugal lifestyle, $50k a year will be a

I know that it is hard to fathom at your age, but there really is life
after 30 :-) and 40 and 50....  If you can sacrifice now, you can live
the good life without working later.

One more bit of advice you didn't ask for.  No credit, never, ever,
for anything except maybe your house.  Debt is the one biggest wealth
sucker there is.  Sit down with your compound interest calculator and
see how much a typical car payment would be worth 10-20 years forward
if you instead invested that amount each month.

For damned sure, no credit cards.  A debit card or two will provide
you the convenience of not having to carry a lot of cash while
avoiding the credit trap.  OTOH, as I've learned, carrying cash
imposes a certain discipline on spending.  It hurts to lay down all
that green for that new toy you thought you could not live without!!!
I use my debit cards only for planned purchase, Internet purchases and
at the gas pump to avoid the pre-pay game.  Otherwise, cash it is.

Here is a little trick I've developed for managing my on-line buying.
I'm a sucker for impulse buying on the net if I'm not careful.  When I
see something I think I can't live without, I bookmark the location
and then put an entry in my Palm Pilot's datebook for a week forward.
It alerts me to go back and look at the item.  If I still can't live
without it and my play spending is within budget, I buy it.  If not, I
erase the bookmark.  I'd estimate that I can live without about 2/3s
of the stuff I thought I couldn't.

Of course, life isn't about doing without so I use my frugal methods
to get more with less.  That is truly the ultimate reward.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.consumers.frugal-living
Subject: Re: how much is frugal?
Date: Thu, 20 Oct 2005 14:10:05 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 20 Oct 2005 10:10:49 -0700, "rick++" <> wrote:

>>Let's assume 10% - very conservative investing, say, in an
>>index fund will yield that
>Bad assumption.    Its 8.7% for equities over recent decades.
>Minus 3.7% over the last five years.

My retirement account, linked to several indexes (dow, etc) has done
over 10% over the last 5 years.  Heck, my mom is knocking down a
little over 8% in a bond fund.

>Plus if you are still struggling in your 50s your advice is
>incorrect or you arent following it.

A little reading comprehension problem, it looks like.  While I'm far
from "struggling", I do have to work still, albeit for myself, as I
stated before. Actually that is a misstatement.  I could retire right
now but I couldn't live at the level I desire.

Had I followed the advice I gave the OP, and STOPPED at the end of my
first successful business, that wouldn't be the case.  I lost my ass
in the next one and have pulled myself back up to a comfortable
position, something that took over 10 years to accomplish.  I'll still
retire by 60.  I'd like to see the OP not make the same mistakes I


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: Home built septic tank
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2005 18:12:57 -0500
Message-ID: <>

On 29 Dec 2005 14:47:32 -0800, "Larry Caldwell" <>

>Farmall wrote:
>> My, my, how presumptious of you.  That kind of naive bigoted attitude
>> might do well to feed your bullying egos but typically when big city
>> folks go rural they bring with them more than enough dollars to buy the
>> entire stinkin' village... buying the general store was probably an
>> impulse, for something to do... do you really think he wants to waste
>> his life in the dingy darkness of your local gin mill.
>The wealth of the urbs is an urban legend.  On any given morning at the
>local coffee shop, you can find half a dozen guys in bib overalls who
>could buy a city block of downtown Manhattan.   When Louisiana Pacific
>closed up operations in my state, one local family business bought them
>out.  When they dedicated their family foundation headquarters, I went
>to the party because I know several of them.  I wore a tux, but felt
>positively shabby standing next to some of them, even if they did still
>have a little grease under their fingernails.
>Most city types who move to the country can't figure out where the
>money grows, so they end up living on principal.

Amen, bro!  When my uncle Kurt died a few years ago, he was one of the
largest individual land owners in Alabama.  I've listened to him buy
and sell thousand acre plots as easily as we swap stories on the

Until you talked to him you'd not think he had a pot to piss in.  Same
country house he bought when he got married back in the 30s.  Drove an
old Studabaker pickup truck.  Either overalls and a plaid shirt or
work pants and a similar shirt.  He raised prize winning squirrel dogs
so there was usually a covey of them around.  Someone could take a
picture of us sitting on the porch with all the dogs and sell it as a
novelty in the Cracker Barrel :-)

Once you talked to him, you knew.  Rural Southern diction but smart as
a whip.  He knew a little about everything and a lot about many
things.  The funniest thing was when a flatlander stopped by to buy
some crickets (he sold them from his house.) If the flatlander got
arrogant, Kurt would play the dumb rube part.  Meanwhile the price of
crickets doubled.  And the guy didn't get an invite to fish one of
Kurt's 50 or so commercial fish ponds behind his house :-)


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Travel and Fashion
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 17:50:41 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 29 Mar 2007 09:33:12 -0700, "Yukon" <> wrote:

>You are right in that respect Tom.  And you never know.  I decided to
>take a chance in that respect.  Nowadays the medical community is not
>"anti-sun" as they used to be.
>I believe that it's mostly genetics.  Both of my parents were outdoor
>people, always tanned and they died of different reasons.  At 62, my
>skin still looks pretty good,  considering I spent so much time in
>direct sun like tubing down the Salt River in AZ in the middle of the
>summer, working construction in my early twenties.

Best I can tell from doing a lot of studying in the area and greatly
simplifying, cancer takes a combination of genetic predisposition and
a triggering event.  The proportions can range all over the place -
90% predisposition and 10% trigger or vice versa.  Given a large
enough trigger, say surviving 900 RADs whole body radiation exposure,
there doesn't need to be much of any predisposition for the leukemia
that follows.

I got interested in this after I realized that my ex's family on both
sides had THE GENES.  Every single member of her family as far back as
we could trace had died of some sort of cancer.

Anyway, sun exposure.  My bloodlines are exactly the opposite.  No
cancer anywhere that I can detect on either side, and both families
can be traced back to pre-colonial days.  That said, my mom has been
helping put the plastic surgeon's kids through college for about 10
years now thanks to having been a sun goddess in her younger days.

She was a babe and the tan only made it better.  She's now paying for
it.  Now I do admit to enjoying being allowed in the operatory to
watch while the surgeon remove the top half of her nose and then
reconstructed it from cheek tissue but I don't think it was quite so
fun for her.  Even though her genetics are excellent regarding cancer,
she sunbathed so much that the damage over-rode 'em.

As a kid I suffered one of those horrendous sunburns complete with the
blisters and sores that comes when you come out from winter and spend
dawn to dusk at the beech on one of those early sunny but cool and
breezy days.  Everything that got burned went from fair to freckled.
I'm now, as they say about prostate cancer, watchfully waiting.  I've
had a few suspicious spots biopsied, fortunately benign.  Rootin' for
those genes :-)

Oh shorts.  Don't wear 'em.  Nothing to do with manliness.  I do so
much stuff that puts my legs at risk that I need the protection.

Also there's the matter of visual pollution.  Thanks to an early
career motocross racing, my legs look like the battlefield after
Waterloo.  The various bumps and protrusions that come from arthritis
don't help the visuals any either.

I occasionally try 'em when it's REAL hot and I'm not around others
but my legs feel naked so they don't stay on long.  Besides,
lightweight pants are about as cool and help soak up sweat and
evaporate it.

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: alt.hvac,,,,
Subject: Re: Asking for Recommendations for New  HVAC in a Row Home
Date: Wed, 04 Apr 2007 10:05:04 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 4 Apr 2007 08:57:04 -0400, "Steve Spence"
<> wrote:

>Or you could move to a climate that doesn't require it. We have never had
>a/c, and our heating system (a wood stove) doesn't require a breaker. How
>are you with -40 in winter ;-)

Pretty good, actually.  I was in NH about 30 years ago on a job
interview, it hit -20 that night and I was comfortable in a
windbreaker.  (Wifey said not only Nyet but Hell Nyet!).  I've gotten
a little softer with age but I was in northern Indiana last winter
when it hit -22.  With my Carhart jacket on, it was refreshing.

I can't do heat, though.  Strange coming from a Southern born and bred
feller but 'tis true.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Tom's Bad Day   (was Our new Secretary of State)
Date: Sat, 07 Apr 2007 13:09:57 -0400
Message-ID: <>

Funny, my thinking is along the same lines.  What to do with my
remains has been complicated.  My mom was always at war with my dad
since I can remember so naturally she bought a cemetery plot away from
the family one.  Rather than get pulled into THAT war I'd long ago
decided to have a marker placed at BOTH sites and my remains located

I'm leaning toward medical donation.  All you have to do is contact
the medical school of your choice and fill out the forms.  Leave a
copy of the forms where next of kin will find it (NOT in a will which
may not be opened until after the funeral/memorial/whatever they
decide to have for you) or with your family lawyer if you have one.
The school takes care of all the costs of getting your body from
wherever it is to their facility.

The other possibility, one that fits my allegedly twisted humor, is
UofTenn's "body farm".,  They put your body in some
sort of mocked-up crime scene and then let nature do its thing while
studying the process.  I've visited the place and find the notion of
donating myself fascinating and appealing.  I believe that the forms
for donating are on the UTK site.

John, who's pissed that the audio book version of Death's Acre is

On Sat, 7 Apr 2007 08:17:06 -0700, "bruce" <>

>"Don Lampson" <> wrote
>>  I can't think of anything more wasteful than spending money on the
>> dead!
>Funny you should say that, I have always said that the cheaper they can get
>rid of my body the better.  The whole family knows how I feel, too, so I
>suspect my wishes will be honored when I go.  I gave them a list of the best
>ways to dispose of the body:
>1.  Wrap me in a sheet and drop me off in the desert (Coyotes need to eat
>too, you know.)
>2.  Run me thru an industrial strength wood chipper and use me for mulch on
>the garden; and last (but most likely)
>3. Cremation.
>In recent yuears I have considered medical school - no not attending, but
>donating my body.  It would be nice to know that I can help even when I'm
>gone.  Maybe some future doctor can develope his skills on my body.  I
>really need to find out how donating is done.
>Of course I'm an organ donor, so if there is anything left that I have not
>completely used up, maybe someone can get some use out of it.  After all we
>part out old trucks, why not old bodies.

From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: Getting a loan for buying land?
Date: Wed, 02 May 2007 02:55:14 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 01 May 2007 12:36:12 -0400, Goedjn <> wrote:

>>> Incidentally, this calculation also shows why it is so wise to
>>> postpone marriage and kids for a few years.  Even without kids, a
>>> married couple invariably spends vastly more than an individual.  I
>>> know from experience.
>Hah.   If you choose the right wife, *THAT*s the best investment
>you'll ever make.    Your spouse is supposed to be a parter,
>not an expense.

I chose the best one I could possibly imagine finding and had her for
27 years.  She ran the finances and I had an allowance to work with.
She stretched a dollar farther than I'd ever imagine possible.

 All major financial decisions were made only after careful
discussion.  Nonetheless since she's gone I'm living at a fraction of
the cost of before.  I need only the simplest of living quarters
adjacent to my large shop.  She had her own shop but also wanted and
had a traditional house.  she wanted new cars while I'm happy with my
10 year old one.  I cook for myself more often than not but she'd want
to go out more often than not.  Ditto when traveling.  I have one
wardrobe - uniform work shirts and pants, and one pair of shoes and
one pair of boots.  She had her own walk-in closet full of clothes and
shoes.  That's a female thang!

Her desires were, by definition, perfectly correct for her and also
perfectly fine for me.  But I STILL now live for much less than half
what it took for the two of us to live back then.  I'd give up
everything I have to be able to have her again but that can't be.

Regardless of all that, the fact remains that a single guy living
frugally with the focused goal of storing away a nest egg for the
future can be most successful when single.  That fact is almost beyond
discussion.  Besides, if one waits until he is in his 20s to get
married, it's likely that the maturity gained during the interval will
lead him past the big tits and cute ass selection criteria of his

I waited until my twenties and I'm so lucky that I did.  I think back
on some marriage near-misses and shudder.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: OT: The Deadliest Catch
Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 09:53:02 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 17 May 2007 05:45:53 -0700, "" <> wrote:

>> Would you work 20 hours a day for 3 weeks for $80,000,
>> in life-threatening conditions? Hmmm.

Yeah, and that kind of comment gets somewhat trite at times.  Especially from the
artsy-fartsy types who think an adventure is drinking un-branded coffee...

>The problem is everything else - getting there, getting the job,
>keeping my job here after going to do that and being gone a month or
>more likely two (once travel & arrangements aree figured in).
>I constantly consider shutting off the cable, but the lady prefers to
>keep it.  That show has me considering a tivo.  ugh.

Dude!  There'll always be j-o-b-s but you'll only be as young as you are now (at
whatever age) once.

One of my great regrets in life is passing on the opportunity to work the Alaskan
Pipeline when it was under construction.  The pay and the adventure were second to
none.  At the time I was being (temporarily) domesticated and so I passed.

Some time ago a serious illness and my ex finding herself a boyfriend jarred some
sense into me.  Now I do what interests me and I take whatever pay accompanies.  I
spent 10 years running a BBQ joint because that's what I wanted to do.  I just
finished up a year driving an over-the-road semi truck because I love to drive and I
wanted to get paid to see the country.  I'm relaxing between adventures right now but
come fall....

What I'm getting around to is this.  If you want to do something then do it NOW. Life
is far too short to wait around for "tomorrow".  If you want to go crabbing, then do
it.  I certainly would if I were physically able.

There's a book that I highly recommend.  The title is something like "Do what you
love, the money will follow."  I took that book to heart and so far it's worked


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Heaven on Earth
Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 10:12:40 -0400
Message-ID: <>

Or "why I'm not traveling much right now".

Tellico Plains.  One of the prettiest places on earth.  This morning reminded me of
that.  I woke up about 6AM with the sun just starting to peek over the mountains. The
outdoor thermometer said 42 degrees and the indoor said 65. Perfect sleeping weather.
But I got up.  A few minutes later, robe on, coffee in hand, Bob in lap, I'm sitting
on the porch watching the sun streaking light through the trees and listening to the
river burble a few hundred feet away.  Paradise.  It just doesn't get much better
than this.

It's just hard to come down out of these mountains and deal with all the city crap
just to go somewhere.  Even coming out of the mountains once a month for food and
mail is a painful experience.

I have been known to drive the MH up the river a couple of miles to set up camp in
the free primitive campground and stay a few days.  I can scooter back to the cabin
for a shower and clean clothes.  Who says ya gotta travel 500 miles from home to go
camping :-)

There's a mini-tour of the mountains on my web site, including photos of the various
campgrounds.  Just in case any of y'all decide to follow in Cliff and Marie's path
and join me up here to sit on the right hand of God, follow the map on my site.  Even
Cliff couldn't get lost, protestations to the contrary :-), because the road only
goes to one place.  If you don't want to bring your RV and want to stay overnight,
well I have a spare bedroom.  Plus there's a nice little motel nearby ($32/night no

Now if I can only get broadband up here, the package will be complete!


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural
Subject: Re: OT: The Deadliest Catch
Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 18:15:07 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 17 May 2007 13:47:20 -0700, "" <> wrote:

>On May 17, 9:53 am, Neon John <> wrote:
>> On 17 May 2007 05:45:53 -0700, "" <> wrote:
>> >> Would you work 20 hours a day for 3 weeks for $80,000,
>> >> in life-threatening conditions? Hmmm.
>> >Yes.
>> Yeah, and that kind of comment gets somewhat trite at times.  Especially from the
>> artsy-fartsy types who think an adventure is drinking un-branded coffee...
>I can understand your perspective.  However, I'm far from the person
>you seem to be thinking of.  Born and raised an adrenaline junky in a
>boating family, I've got my experience both in adventure and
>adventurous seafaring.  I've said since the first time I saw that show
>it's something I'd love to do.  I'm that type of guy.  I enjoy riding
>my mountain bike until I can move no more through snow, sleet rain &
>hail - even when it's freezing.  I can't expect to convince a stranger
>on the web, but at the same time I don't have to in order know who I
>am.  Those close to me would take that "yes" at face value.

I wasn't aiming that comment at you but at the producers of that show and those like
it.  I don't have a TV so I've not seen the show but I've seen clips on the net.

>> >The problem is everything else - getting there, getting the job,
>> >keeping my job here after going to do that and being gone a month or
>> >more likely two (once travel & arrangements aree figured in).
>> >I constantly consider shutting off the cable, but the lady prefers to
>> >keep it.  That show has me considering a tivo.  ugh.
>> Dude!  There'll always be j-o-b-s but you'll only be as young as you are now (at
>> whatever age) once.
>> One of my great regrets in life is passing on the opportunity to work the Alaskan
>> Pipeline when it was under construction.  The pay and the adventure were second to
>> none.  At the time I was being (temporarily) domesticated and so I passed.
>I hear you.  I've had a lot of the adventure, however.  I think the
>year I spent in Boston Harbor living on a boat was the time frame I'd
>have done this - had it even been on my radar at the time.
>Now I've got a serious relationship, a mortgage payment & all the
>projects on the house to hold me back.  Sounds like I'm being
>domesticated, kind of like you were.

I suppose most of us have to go through that.  I was domesticated, er, married for 27
years.  It was fun but with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, if I had it to do over
again I'd have remained single and free to do the things I wanted to do.  Oh well.
Maybe if there is something to this reincarnation thing, maybe on the next go-round.

>If, god forbid, my girl were to find herself another man and boogie I
>assume we'd have to sell the house to split assets.  If that happened,
>I'd be looking into opportunities like these.  As it is I'm setting
>myself up for a family on a piece of land we own.  Boring, but nice.
>I get tempted often, but tell myself I've had the risky adventures and
>it's time to work to get ahead.

Problem is, when you get there you're likely to still be unsatisfied.  I was.  I
achieved success, a successful company, plenty of money, big house, etc.  I was
miserable and couldn't admit it to myself. Seemed like I spent all my time chasing an
elusive and undefined goal.  I had this fuzzy, ill-defined need to simplify and slow
down even before wifey went bye-bye.  It would have been difficult, as she liked the
conventional better things in life - nice clothes, furniture, home, etc.

I've just about completed the simplification process.  No debt, almost no bills and a
simple lifestyle in this little 1000 sq ft cabin/house in the mountains.  I only have
to hit a lick at work every now and then to supply toy money.  Life is good, except
that I waited too long and now I'm too old to do a lot of the things I want to do.

The majority of people are content with the traditional lifestyle - "settle down"
(die inside), get a career, a wife, 2.2 kids, a mortgage, car payments, credit cards,
nights wasted in front of the toob and finally at some point, the big question: "WTF
happened to my life?"  I'm simply suggesting that if there is still that spark of
adventure in you then maybe instead of snuffing it out, perhaps you could feed it
every so often.

>> There's a book that I highly recommend.  The title is something like "Do what you
>> love, the money will follow."  I took that book to heart and so far it's worked
>> splendidly.
>Sounds like something I'd enjoy.  Let me know if you come up with an
>author, I'll see what I can find as well.

That is the title.  Here it is on Amazon:


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Lubbock, TX
Date: Fri, 25 May 2007 22:50:46 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On 25 May 2007 09:12:02 -0700, David The Hamster Malone <> wrote:

>On May 24, 1:00 pm, David The Hamster Malone <>
>> On May 24, 12:39 pm, Neon John <> wrote:
>> > Send me a valid email address and I'll send you Tony's.  You can ask him if the frog
>> > is for sale.
>Thanks, John, I got the address at home... appreciate it.
>My wife who was reading her e-mail said, "Who's this? What's a Neon
>John...?" I said, "It's a brightly lit toilet... why do you ask...?"
>(Is it awfully bad form to make jokes about someone who just helped
>you out?)

Actually, the neon sign over my shop door is of an outhouse (complete with yellow
crescent moon) and my handle in script letters.  tres kewl looking.

I do like the idea of the brightly lit can, though.  I've made underwater neon
before.  I wonder if I could fit a ring of neon up under the rim....


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Mon, 13 Aug 2007 23:55:22 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 13 Aug 2007 09:42:39 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John <> wrote:
>>I found a bunch of these dumpster diving behind Scientific Atlanta sometime in the
>>late 80s.  I hauled a truck load home, combined units as necessary to make them work
>>and sold them at hamfests, keeping a couple for myself.  Until I moved to my cabin it
>>was supporting my little data center at home.
>I'm curious Neon John....  do you live pretty much
>entirely off grid?  retired? Travel a lot?

Comfortably on-grid, retired ("fifty-something"), have traveled a lot, could turn
into a hillbilly hermit now :-)

>Sounds like you have wonderfully varied interests and

Thanks.  I'm trying :-)  The key to retiring early and living well though not wealthy
is no debt and self-sufficiency.  I got rid of the last of my debt about 10 years
ago.  It's remarkable how far a dollar goes when it's not being scarfed up by

>I ask cause....well its a long story..... but I just
>don't believe in the "work world" any more.... want to
>get away from it... and think off grid and living cheap
>and SMART would be one way to do it.

Unless you have a significant natural resource such as a stream or lake like I do at
my other property, this notion of living cheaply off-grid is a myth.  A little simple
arithmetic adding up both the capital and ongoing costs of so-called alternative
energy schemes easily shows that.  Outside of California and some other pathological
places, utility power is a superb bargain.

Grid power is fairly expensive here (about 9 cents/KWh) at my cabin mainly because
it's on the far end of about 30 miles of primary feeder going up the side of a
mountain.  Rather than huddle in the dark or count every watt-hour of use, I've
simply taken straightforward and prudent measures to reduce my power consumption.  CF
lights, efficient refrigeration, good insulation and wood heat and have remained on
the grid.  I pay my $50/month average without a second thought.  There are things
that I'll do as I can to reduce that bill but there's no rush.  Utility power is a
luxury that I allow myself.

I'm living the classical Southern very small community life where everyone is like an
extended family.  We help each other out and don't charge each other or keep score.
When someone needs help, we show up.

A classic example.  I got to missing the restaurant business so I brought my old log
cabin concession stand up here and started serving BBQ to the tourists on the
weekends.  I make a little money but more importantly, I get to sit around and chat
with people.

Weekend before last the deep fryer overheated, started a fire and gutted the interior
of my trailer.  I figured probably $10k to built it back.  This afternoon, my
neighbor's son who is a carpenter towed it to his house to built it out again.  A
neighbor up the road has a portable sawmill and is going to saw the tongue-and-groove
paneling to cover the burned log walls from down trees on my neighbor's land.  All at
no cost to me other than the few store-bought materials needed.

I use my skills at electronics, electrical, welding, machining and just generally
fixing things up to help others as needed.  Three weeks ago I was on a telephone pole
connecting up a phone drop for another neighbor after she had spent a whole day
trying to get through the phone company's towelhead "customer service" (sic) to get
the phone service moved. Last weekend I spent the afternoon changing the expansion
valve on the other store's ice machine and recharging it.

My ice machine, which I kept when I closed/sold my restaurants a couple years ago, is
in the basement churning out ice for one of the general stores while we wait on parts
to fix his machine.  I'll do the repair, of course.

I've bought almost no veggies this summer cuz all my neighbors keep me supplied.  I
have all the trout I can possibly eat from tourists dropping off unwanted catches at
the store.  My food costs are absolutely minimal.

We all drop our weekly shopping lists off at the store and the first person to go to
town (around 30 miles one way) gets stuff for everyone.  Saves a ton of gas and time
that way.

Several weeks ago I was sitting on the bench in front of the store musing about Bob
the Cat  Bob's getting quite old and I was
wondering out loud where I'd find another one like him.  He's a cross between a Manx
and a Persian and one of the smartest cats I've ever seen.

Today one of the game wardens walked in the store with a kitten in his hands.  A
veritable clone of Bob!  Just for me.  He'd heard that I was looking for another Manx
mix and had found one.  Is that kewl or what?  Bob is tres pissed!  They'll get along
eventually, I hope.

Little money changes hands and nobody keeps score.  This is quite like the Amish
communities that I've admired and envied over the years.

My only recurring expenses are food, power, internet service, drugs and car insurance
which is ridiculously cheap compared to what it was in the city.  I'm living nicely
on about $500/month.

About 12 years ago I bought 10 sets of nice uniform shirts and pants from a supplier
that sells to the big uniform rental companies.  12 years later they're still going
strong.  I recently purchased another set of 10 that will probably be a lifetime
supply. I don't have a suit or a tie or a pair of dress shoes and will never go
anywhere that they are required!  When I'm not wearing my army surplus GI boots ($6-8
at the army surplus store) I wear a pair of $18 Wal-mart special velcro-close
sneakers that I get about a year's wear out of.

A couple of keys to this kind of living are patience and the ability to acquire a
resource when you see it.  It took me over a year to find the kind of motorhome I
wanted at the price I wanted to pay.  That patience paid off, as I found a rig that
had been stored indoors and was in almost perfect condition.  The couple was selling
out to go to an assisted living facility so I got it very cheap.

A few years ago I was driving to an appointment when I spotted my (future) cube van
parked in a yard with a "For Sale" sign on it.  I didn't really need one but I
decided that it would be handy for catering and other activities so I stopped. Turned
out the truck had been repoed by a small-town bank and was parked in the bank
president's yard.  He didn't want it, didn't want to fool with it and was willing to
sell cheap.

As is typical for country folk, I always keep a couple thousand dollars in my pocket.
I paid him about half the price we agreed to on the spot and came back the next
morning with the balance.  In return I got a truck that was in near-pristine
condition for a little more than half book value.  I would NOT have gotten such a
nice price if I'd proposed anything other than no-hassles, "cash on the barrelhead".

A few years ago I ran up on a guy at a flea market selling a Rigorini 27 hp twin
cylinder electric start diesel engine, new in the crate.  After some spirited
bargaining, I carried it home for $300.  I didn't have a use in the world for it but
I figured it would come in handy for some project.  Couple years later I ran into a
guy liquidating excess inventory and purchased a 10KW dual bearing generator head for
$200.  A few hours' of welding later I had built the 10KW diesel generator that I'm
about to install on a pad behind my cabin.  The steel came from the local scrap metal
yard.  New stock that has been surplused by some big company, I paid about 20 cents a
pound for it.  Another example of "striking while the iron is hot".

Even though I'm officially retired, I'm always busy with something.  I've found that
I can make enough money to supplement my investment income and live comfortably by
doing a lot of little fun things instead of having a J*O*B.  I have little flyers up
at the off-road-recreational areas announcing my fix-em-up shop.  Welding, machining,
wiring, whatever they need done to get going again.  I do catering and picnic-fixings
for tourists.  I make signs and neon and other similar stuff.  I do appliance and
electronic repairs.  Fun stuff that I'd almost do for free.  Most times I tell people
to just pay me what they think it's worth.  I almost always get paid more than I'd
have charged :-)

There's a book called "Do what you love, the money will follow".  I read that several
years ago.  It inspired me toward the path I'm on now.  I've always enjoyed my work
but it still WAS work.  Now I do what's fun and am happy with the money and resources
that result.  You might want to get that book.  I think it's still available on


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 00:10:33 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 13 Aug 2007 19:12:12 -0400, "Jim" <jim@home.con> wrote:

>    No kidding! The costs can be astronomical if you =buy= everything, but
>scrounging the right things from the right places can be done.


>    And I hate to sound like Mr. Doom and Gloom, but is anybody here old
>enough to remember the Arab Oil Embargo? The Energy Crunch? Smog? Civil


>    Can anyone here =prove= that the Great Depression was a one-time,
>non-recurrent event?
>    Pleasant dreams....

Who cares?

I forgot to mention in my previous post....  About 4 years ago I heaved my TVs out to
the street for the junk man to pick up.  About 3 years ago I quit reading newspapers
or any other form of "news" propaganda.

I can't believe how much nicer life is!  I have only the vaguest idea of what's going
on outside my community.  I have no idea what the media-fabricated "issue-of-the-day"
is.  There's a little weekly flyer (can't even call it a newspaper) that keeps us
informed of what the county government is up to.  I usually don't even read that,
relying on friends to alert me to mischief.

There has never been any formal agreement or even any discussion but by unspoken
agreement, nobody here talks politics.  Pretty much everyone up here has about the
same attitude.  Sometimes a tourist will make some sort of partisan statement.  We
all seem to find things to do and disperse :-)

One nice thing about this area is that it's almost RF-free.  No TV, almost no
broadcast radio, no cellphones and for most properties, no satellite TV because of
the mountains.  This is good.  Since nobody watches TV, they're not agitated to bitch
about politics.  Fishing, hunting, weather, gossip - all are normal topics of
discussion but no politics.

Something else that is remarkable is the kids that are raised in this area. They're
traditional kids - respectful, polite, quiet and fun to have around.  Most are
excellent outdoorsmen - girls and boys alike.  My neighbor's 8 year old daughter is a
remarkable marksman. Not a video game in sight.  They've not had the TV to teach 'em
how to be little bastards!

If you want to free up all that energy you now dissipate thinking and worrying about
politics and "issues", toss the toob!  Life is so much better without it.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 19:44:01 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 14 Aug 2007 12:40:16 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John <> wrote:
>>Comfortably on-grid, retired ("fifty-something"), have traveled a lot, could turn
>>into a hillbilly hermit now :-)
>Ok maybe totally off grid isn't feasible
>But maybe a combination of extreme "conservation and on
>grid is?

If you look at your power bill and if it's typical, you'll see that extreme
conservation is an effort with diminishing returns.  Typically there will be a flat
"meter charge" that goes by various names.  The utility charges you that for
maintaining your account and connection. Typically, a certain amount of power comes
along with that, 500KWh is typical.

Any reduction in usage below 500KWh is money you're giving them because you're going
to pay the meter fee anyway.  Even usage moderately above 500KWh is a nominal part of
the total bill.  You might as well use a moderate amount of power since you're paying
for it anyway.

>IOW....extremely simple and efficient appliances and
>practices that would allow one to have VERY little on
>grid expenses.....and to work part time only?

I suppose I could call what I'm doing right now part time work but since I don't have
a schedule nor a boss and since I enjoy what I'm doing, is it work?

If you look at the "total cost of ownership" of your life, you'll find that
electricity is (or can be) a very small part. Food will probably dominate.  You can
try to mitigate that by growing your own but unless you do everything manually and
don't buy fertilizer and other farm supplies, you will probably find that you don't
save that much.  Add up the cost of seeds, fertilizer, other farm materials, canning
supplies, the cost of running a freezer or two plus the cost of the freezers and all
the other stuff that goes with home grown food and it is likely to approach store

I sat down and analyzed that a few years ago.  I found that I'm better off buying
food as I need it or at most, cooking in bulk and filling a small freezer.  In the
summer, of course, I can grow a few easy veggies like tomatoes but I'm not physically
capable of digging in the dirt.  I do take advantage of farmers' markets and of free
overflow from friends and neighbors.  In the winter, though, it's mostly grocery
store-bought food.

Several things you can do toward your goal:

* move to a place where land values are low, the climate is moderate AND where the
utility is a government one.  TVA, BPA, etc.  So-called public utilities invariably
have the lowest rates AND the lowest ancillary charges (meter charges). Even after
TVA's two recent rate increases, my rate is still only about 7 cents/KWh. (I don't
have the new rate card yet so don't hold me to that.)

Don't underestimate the value of a moderate climate.  It doesn't matter what
electricity or gas or fire wood costs if you don't have to use any.  This has been a
record-setting summer here and I've had to run the AC most of the month.  Normally
I'd not have to run it more than a couple of weeks total throughout the summer.

Winters are equally mild. I generally keep a fire going from late December until late
February.  The rest of the time little to no heat is required.  Waste heat from
cooking usually does the job.  I have a little space heater in the bathroom and an
electric foot warmer at my recliner.  Otherwise I need little heat.

* If possible, find a neighbor who will allow you to connect to his utility through a
sub-meter.  Pay him for what you use.  You avoid the meter charges that way.  Three
of us are about to go in together like that.  I already have CT (current transformer)
metering so tying them onto my connection is just a matter of running the drops and
splicing in the connections.  We'll split the meter charges.  This is going to be a
win-win situation.  Neither of them live here full-time so they'll save the most.
I'll win because I'll have 2/3s of my meter fee paid.

Some areas and utilities may have rules against this (trying to make everyone pay
meter fees) but since you and I are in the country and in my case am friends with the
local utility workers, that will not be a problem.  This is going to be run all
underground from my house (the meter is out on the pole) so it won't be at all
obvious.  Ironically, I've salvaged everything I need for this project from utility
left-overs.  Cable spool ends, things like that.

* Use no credit.  At all.  Buy what land you can with your savings.  Plop an RV or
mobile home on it until you can afford to build.  Build as you have money.  Save
until you have enough to build a shell and get it "in the dry".  Then finish it as
you can.  We spent over 20 years building out this cabin to what it is today.  We
built the basement the first year and tar papered the overhead subflooring to make it
rain-proof.  It went in the dry the next year. We spent MANY years with bare wall
studs and plywood subflooring.

* figure out something to use to lubricate the formation of new friends and
acquaintances.  I've found that a half pound of BBQ and a jar of sauce will get me
most anything :-)  Social engineering at its finest.

* drop whatever pride and pretense you might have that would keep you from using used
and second-hand appliances and materials.  Don't be afraid or ashamed to

* Pay attention to new construction and whenever you can, make an deal with the
contractor to carry off scrap or leftover building materials.  There's absolutely
nothing wrong with piecing together a stud from two or three pieces of 2X4 or 2X6.  A
little glue and some nails or sheet rock screws and the stud is a good as a virgin
one, probably stronger.

* try to find an extremely rural, extremely small community where everyone is friends
and everyone helps each other.  There are 10 permanent residents here and perhaps 30
more seasonal residents.  That's a nice size.

* work flea markets for all they're worth.

* trade and barter and trade and barter!  And have patience.  I've waited all summer
to have one of my drive ways leveled and widened.  I waited until a heavy equipment
contractor was up here for another job.  At worst I avoided his trip charges.  In
this case I was able to trade him some BBQ for the job :-)  It took him no more than
30 minutes to do the job, yet it would have probably cost me $500 had I called him up
here because of the long drive.  He'd already made his money on the other job so my
little task was just gravy.

* Pay attention to demolitions.  You can get permission to go in and salvage wire,
electrical apparatus, plumbing and lighting fixtures, copper tubing and the like.
Sometimes you have to act very fast, especially when they're going to bulldoze the
building.  I've literally worked all night stripping out a building that was to be
bulldozed the next morning.  I have a generator and tactical lighting (HID lights on
stands and light strings) that can be deployed in minutes for such opportunities.
What you don't use you can sell at the local flea market.

About that.  When you do flea markets you'll notice the guys there selling building
salvage materials.  Usually stuff just thrown out on the table and priced for a
dollar or less.  A light fixture like that might only bring a dollar.  Take that same
fixture, clean it up, maybe paint it if it needs it and put it in a box and you can
easily get $10 for it.  Even putting misc nuts, bolts, fittings and stuff in zip-lock
bags and hanging them from a pegboard that you have on your table can multiply the
value many times over.  It's called merchandising and it works.

* drive around neighborhoods on junk pickup day and look for furniture and appliances
in good condition.  Lots of people who (think they) have money will toss out old
furniture rather than trying to sell it (they're the ones who'll be working all their
lives!)  You can either use it if it fits your tastes or sell it if it doesn't.

I have a friend who makes a very fine living doing that.  He operates a small auction
house.  Probably half the stuff he sells every week is stuff that he's picked up.

I recently got a Maytag Neptune washing machine like that.  This is the machine that
retails for about $1000.  I found it sitting out for junk pickup.  I didn't see any
mechanical damage so I grabbed it.  Turns out that the plastic door latch (side
loader) had broken - a $20 part.  The serial number told me that it was less than 4
years old.  Not bad for 10 minutes' work picking it up and about 30 more minutes for
the repair.  I sold my old washer for $50 which more than paid for the repairs.

Living well cheaply is a state of mind more than anything.  Once you get past the
social status hang-ups that most people have, it's easy.  I really enjoyed the nasty
look I got from some guy as I was picking up that Neptune.  As he looked down his
nose, he was undoubtedly driving a financed car, going to a financed home and in the
morning he'd have to get up and go to a job that he probably didn't like very much.

  Meanwhile, I can go out on my front porch, coffee in hand and watch the sun come up
or amble down to the store for the morning's BS session or trout fish any time I want
- or anything else I choose to do.  Who's better off?  Who's richer?  Trying to go
off-grid is a very tiny and mostly irrelevant part of this lifestyle.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 20:04:54 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 14 Aug 2007 14:48:06 -0500, wrote:

>I agree you are correct abt car costs if one must drive
>a long ways for everything.
>Question tho.... when living out in the boonies what
>does everyone do abt emergency medical care?  Such as
>heart attack, or falling down and cutting oneself?

A combination of self-sufficiency and doing without.  I'm EMT trained and know how to
do things such as suture a cut so I'm self-sufficient in that regard.  I have a
pretty decent personal pharmacy including morphine, lidocaine, atropine, epy, nitro,
saline and other such goodies so I'm set there too.  I even have an old but fully
functional portable defibrillator.  I probably wouldn't be able to shock myself but
at least I can use the paddles to look at an EKG.  I may get an AED if I ever find a
really good deal on one.

Heart attack?  With the stress of city living gone, I probably won't have one.  If I
do then I can't think of a better place to die.  All the danger indicators I had
before retiring have mostly gone away.  Normal BP and cholesterol, etc.  Even my
diabetes is better and now fully under control.

There's a helipad nearby so the city slickers who come up here and fall off a cliff
or get snake bit can be choppered out.

>Does everyone belong to some kind of emergency medical
>evacuation group whereby for a yearly fee they will fly
>a helicopter out to you and land right in the yard?

Those plans are available but I don't subscribe because they don't make financial
sense to me.  I'm willing to assume some of the risk in return for saving my money.
If I ever do have to be choppered out then I'll just pay the bill.

There are actually very few things that would require choppering.  IMO, this is one
of those things that is being grossly over-used just because it's available.  I'm an
hour from a hospital by car.  There are few things other than very serious internal
trauma that requires anything faster.

One other thing.  One DOES learn to think ahead and consider the consequences of
everything he does when living remotely.  I will, for instance, wait until I can get
someone to be my safety ground crew before cleaning out the gutters and then I tie
off much more securely than I would down in the city.  Similar caution is used doing
electrical work or anything that involves a ladder.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 20:13:14 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 14 Aug 2007 10:23:13 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John....
>I curious how you get your Internet access in such a
>remote area?
>Is it dial up only?

I'm on dial-up now.  49kbps is about the best I can do on this long line.  I have a
couple of broadband options.  HugesNet satellite is the option of last resort.  I've
been chatting with the local phone company about putting a mini-SLAM up here so I can
have DSL.  I've offered to buy the SLAM.  They're thinking about it.

Satellite is available most anywhere there is a southern exposure.  It's expensive,
though, so I consider it the last resort.

Actually dial-up isn't all that bad.  I queue up everything that I want to download
(mostly Usenet binaries) and then about once a month I take my laptop and visit a
friend who has 10mb cable.  A few hours on his network does it.  I can't do You-tube
or other video sites but that's really no great loss.  If I find a video I really
want to see then I queue it up in my download manager and let it run while I sleep.
Same for moderate files such as Linux patches.

Patience is key. Life goes slower here so it doesn't seem to be such a strain to wait
until the next day for that file or video.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 20:25:15 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 14 Aug 2007 14:55:08 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John <> wrote:
>>I also have a 10KW diesel genny that WILL run the whole house. Unless it's very hot
>>I'll use the 5.5, however, because of its superior low load fuel economy.
>John.... do you feel that your cabin is built
>efficiently?  Insulation, design, orientation?

I know that it's built efficiently using old fashioned techniques.  It's not one of
those radical designs with R-500 insulation and all that stuff.  I don't need that
with the local climate.  Orientation doesn't matter, as I'm in a valley and get
direct sun maybe a couple hours a day max.

With the exception of heat (wood), my house is all-electric, mainly because
electricity is the energy source here with the least hassles.  I don't like cooking
on an electric stove so I'm going to bite the bullet and put in a propane range.
Otherwise it'll remain all-electric.

Much of the non HVAC demand is represented by my well pump.  I installed a much
larger than necessary pump with fire fighting in mind.  It has its own power drop for
just in case a fire might originate in my electrical system.  The pump doesn't run
long at a time but it does require a lot of starting current.

The water heater is 4+ KW when in recovery mode.  The stove at full chat draws nearly
5KW.  None of these loads operate for long at a time but the generator has to be
large enough to operate them.  I'm not willing to modify my lifestyle to any great
extent when on generator power so I have sized the generator accordingly.  If I want
to take a shower and cook during an outage then I do it.

I don't run the generator all the time during an outage.  My UPS-backed vital bus
handles lighting and fans.  I have installed a wireless remote starter (Bulldog
brand, meant for a car) on the genny so I can crank it at will.  I have a 1KW battery
charger so if I need to charge the UPS batteries but nothing else then I fire off the
little 1KW generator that I also have.  It's much more fuel-efficient than running
the big generator at low load.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2007 16:35:35 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 15 Aug 2007 09:46:54 -0500, wrote:

>Curious.... my biggest problem... that I can see
>anyway.... to semi retirement at some point .... is not
>food, power, etc... but instead is healthcare.
>How do you personally provide for any health insurance
>payment, maintenance drug costs, etc?

That is a problem.  The medical situation in this country for a single un- or
self-employed person is disgusting.  If I were married, the law forces insurance
companies to accept us under a group plan.  They are allowed to "underwrite",
however, which means that while my premium in a larger group might be $300 a month,
in such a small group they'd be around $700 per person - what my small group premiums
were the last time I had the policy about 3 years ago.  The "best" laws that
insurance companies and the medical lobby can buy....

I have a couple of chronic conditions including diabetes so my drug costs are
non-trivial.  Currently I'm paying out of pocket.  I won't go into detail lest I
cause some folks problems but the word "friends" is explanatory.  One aspect is that
I get my drugs at cost, only moderately helpful because pharmacists, at least
independents, don't have that much markup.

Being gainfully unemployed :-) I qualify for TennCare, TN's substitute for medicaid
or medicare (can't keep the two separated.) for so-called "poor" and low-income
uninsured.  I've resisted because I'm philosophically against such programs but my
friends and family have about convinced me to join.  They keep reminding me of how
many hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes I've paid.

TennCare's reimbursement for doctors is so low that only the worst accept TennCare.
I'll continue paying out of pocket for GP visits and probably even specialists when I
need them.  TennCare will be sort of a catastrophic back-stop in case of major
hospitalization and to pay for my prescriptions.  The co-pay is only a couple of bux
per script.   The state also has a diabetics assistance program that I think pays all
costs associated with the disease.  I've been retired less than a year so I'm still
figuring all this stuff out.

If you have chronic conditions then you may have to state-shop to pick out a state
that has the best low/un-employed medical benefits.  Until TN made some reforms a
couple of years ago it looked like I was going to have to find another state to live


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2007 20:56:51 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 15 Aug 2007 16:56:59 -0400, Balanced View <> wrote:

>Vaughn Simon wrote:

>>      You already have a pretty good answer ... high deductible health insurance.
>> One important concept is to have SOME sort of coverage, preferably with an
>> established provider that has lots of provider contracts in your area.  Those
>> provider contracts are pure gold.  The idea is to avoid paying the "street
>> price" for anything.  For example:  When I get a blood test, the lab bills about
>> $500.00 for an ordinary blood test.  My insurance company pays about $25.00 for
>> that same test.  So even if I have not met my deductible, I pay $25.00, not
>> $500.00!

At least in TN, catastrophic hospitalization plans such as go with Medical Savings
Accounts are allowed to be underwritten just like individual plans.  That means that
when underwriters hear terms like "diabetes" they choke themselves laughing as they
say "hell no".

I got far enough along to get price quotes from BCBS before they started laughing.
Premiums are only slightly less than for a $1000 dollar deductible, $25/35/50 scrip
copay PPO plan.  Such a plan would make no sense to someone with chronic problems
since the MSA has no prescription coverage.

MSAs were a grand idea that got corrupted in the process of being implemented by the
usual suspects.  For anyone who NEEDs insurance, they're worthless.

The drug discount cards are OK if you don't have any inside connections.  For a small
fee a month, these cards let you pay negotiated prices for drugs - typically what the
insurance company would pay.  Maybe half the "retail" price that predatory outfits
like the chain drug stores charge - perhaps 20% off what independent community-based
pharmacies charge to uninsured customers.

I have a better deal than that but my setup isn't a general solution.  The discount
card is probably the best way to go for drugs until one can get on one of the state

I've been dealing with small group medical plan administration for well over 30 years
so I have a pretty comprehensive understanding of what is out there.  I keep thinking
that there's some magic bullet that will give me relief from the predatory practices
insurance and drug companies use against individuals and small groups but so far I've
not found one.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2007 00:26:09 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Thu, 16 Aug 2007 15:55:48 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John <> wrote:
>>About 12 years ago I bought 10 sets of nice uniform shirts and pants
>Is this what you wear daily?

Yes.  Quite nice looking and VERY comfortable.

>and why these..why not jeans?
>I have a reason for asking.... that is cause I'm
>interested in doing same thing as jeans and all cotton
>clothes take FOREVER to wash and dry if trying to live
>a drop out lifestyle

Two reasons.  A minor one is that at 6'7"/275 lbs, I can seldom find jeans that fit
off the shelf.  The more important reason is that jeans just don't last like these
work pants.  Carharts probably would but I don't want to spend that much money on 'em
plus they're a little rough for every day wear.  I wouldn't want to, say, go see the
mayor wearing Carharts.

These work clothes are made for the uniform rental industry where very long life and
toughness are required.  My original sets of shirts and pants, now 12+ years old,
still look fine but are soft as silk and oh-so-comfortable.

Another nice thing is that the dyes that they use are extremely color-fast and so
shirts (red or white with red stripes) and pants (navy) can be washed together.  I
toss everything except underwear in one big dirty clothes basket and then shovel a
load at a time in the washer.

Pardon any typos, as the newest member of the family - an 8 week old Manx bobtail
kitten - is laid out on my forearm :-)


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: What abt Mt Best fridge?
Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2007 16:48:41 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Fri, 17 Aug 2007 09:13:55 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John <> wrote:
>>These work clothes are made for the uniform rental industry where very long life and
>>toughness are required.  My original sets of shirts and pants, now 12+ years old,
>>still look fine but are soft as silk and oh-so-comfortable.
>Are they all cotton? All polyester?  Or a blend?
>Stage questions I know.... but could you hand wash
>them, hang them on a line outside an RV, and would they
>dry fast.... or take DAYS drying?
>And...what company can I mail order some from?


The very best are made by Riverside.  55% acrylic, 45% cotton.  Flame retardant. Made
in Georgia.  I have a friend who works for a utility and who has such a generous
uniform allowance that he gives me his excess shirts.  If you plan on doing anything
that involves intense heat or flash hazard then this is the shirt to have.

Second best is Highland by Red Kap.  65% acrylic, 35% cotton.  Red Kap is a major
brand of work clothes.   These are the ones that are 12+ years old.  Red Kap quit
making the style that I liked so.

Third best is just "Red Kap" brand.  60% acrylic, 40% cotton.  I label these just a
little bit less quality than the Highland because the colors don't seem to be as
fast.  I've had this second set about 2 years now and am noticing the color (white
with red stripes) fading noticeably compared to the ones still in the wrapper.


Highland.  65% acrylic, 35% cotton.  My first set is 12 years old, my second set
about 2.  They have a wide variety of styles but only a few in my size range.  I wish
I'd gone ahead and gotten the cargo version with additional pockets on the thighs.
Handy to carry tools or a DVM or whatnot.  I could have paid extra to get the cargo
pockets custom applied but I cheaped out and didn't.

When I buy I aggressively price shop so recommending a particular vendor won't help
much.  The last time I ordered, I got them from

Here is the order detail:

SR60                 Men's Executive Oxford Short Sleeve Shirt     8       $14.95
                     ? RS - Red/White Stripe
                     ? 18.5" neck (Size Charge)                            $3.50
PT38                 Men's Pleated Brush Twill Slack               8       $19.95
                     ? 46w (Size Charge) Sold Unhemmed                     $3.00
                     ? NV - Navy Blue                      ? 32" Inseam (Add $1.00)

As you can see, even from a uniform store I get to pay extra for being tall and
(formerly) athletic.

I can't imagine washing clothes by hand so I can't comment there.  They do line-dry
quickly.  I have an indoor line that I can stretch from one end of my cabin to the
other.  I hang clothes up on the winter to gain the moisture from them.  Helps with
the try winter air.

From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Front Loading Washer KillaWatt readings?
Date: Thu, 23 Aug 2007 02:55:20 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 22 Aug 2007 16:21:02 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John <> wrote:
>>My method of laundry operation is to watch the local trader paper and buy
>>washer/dryer sets used and cheap.  I've never paid over $50.
>One thing abt you Neon John.... you sure know how to
>get the most bang out of a dollar as anyone I know!!
>I could learn some things from you!


All you have to do is keep in mind that a dollar really represents a unit of your
labor, your sweat and blood.  The fewer dollars you have to spend to achieve a goal
(buy a washing machine, eat well, build a house, have a car to drive, etc), the less
sweat and blood you spend.  And the more time you have to enjoy life.

A lot of what I do is simply what people did during the Depression.  My grandparents
(mom's side) lived through that in rural Alabama. Both my parents grew up during the
Depression.  Can you say no money?  They were NOT, however, poor.  I learned more
lessons than I could list about living cheap but well from my grandmother.  The ethos
of no debt, self-sufficiency, barter and trade all come directly from the Depression.

After my dad's dad died when he was a kid, his mom raised 4 kids using only the money
she earned taking in sewing and mending.  No welfare back then so they lived on what
she earned, what help the church could provide and their garden.  A nickel Coke was a
real treat.  But they owned the roof over their heads and they ate well so again,
they weren't poor, just without money.

I have a graduate degree from the school of hard knocks!  I ALMOST let a classic Type
A personality and budding yuppie lifestyle kill me.  Literally.  It took almost
burning up in a fire that destroyed my house, my business and my net worth to slap
some sense into my head.  Now my purpose is to live life to the fullest while working
the least amount necessary and in the process, NEVER EVER again do anything that I
don't enjoy.

My brother is quite wealthy.  I've carefully observed his lifestyle and long ago
realized that he doesn't live any better than me.  He simply writes checks for things
that I either don't want nor need or that I figure out ways to get on the cheap. Same
result in the end - we both are doing what we want to do.

One other thing that greatly influenced my life's philosophy was living in PA on the
edge of Lancaster county for several years.  That's where the huge community of Amish
and Mennonites are.  I came to greatly admire and envy the Amish lifestyle.  Not the
no electricity and modern conveniences part but the close knit community and the
doing so much with so little.  A community barn raising is something to behold, as is
the way the community supports those who suffer misfortune.

This little community that I'm living in now is quite a bit like that.  Probably the
main reason I'm enjoying it so much.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Living cheap (was Re: Front Loading Washer KillaWatt readings?)
Date: Sat, 25 Aug 2007 05:30:01 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Fri, 24 Aug 2007 12:09:33 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John <> wrote:
>>I do still go camping, though, even when it's just to the free campground about a
>>mile up the road.  I enjoy the whole experience, no matter how far from or close to
>>home.  I particularly enjoy winter camping, especially when it snows.
>Here's my situation:   Age 49 and unemployed due to
>'downsizing".  Going back to college to get a degree
>that I never got when out of high school. Sometimes I'm
>having second thoughts abt this but that's a whole
>nother story for later.

>I need..... no MUST..get my cost of living down.  I
>rent but have no debt at all.

Let's start a new thread.  We've worn out that washing machine one :-)

You're a bit younger than me.  My thought is that you need to seriously reconsider
the college route, at least at a conventional university.  At your age there is no
return on investment so this is only a personal satisfaction thing.  Perhaps it may
be a bit expensive for your present financial situation.  My experience in consulting
was that age discrimination starts kicking in at 45 and is in full force by 50.
Greybeards are considered more valuable as consultants than employees so I can't
imagine how bad it might be in the mushroom world.

If you start keeping a penny-by-penny budget (I used a palm pilot and a spreadsheet
but a pocket notebook and pencil will work too), I suspect that you'll find that a
majority of your cash outflow is related to college.  Everything from direct expenses
such as books and supplies to indirect expenses such as when you say "screw it, I'm
too tired to cook" and hit a restaurant.

This is probably blindly obvious in the back of your brain but I'm going to slap you
with it anyway :-)  It's time to drop the adventures of youth and transition into how
you're going to finance the rest of your life.  The time when you could do whatever
you wanted in terms of employment and the freedom to change same is behind you.  You
now have to get yourself financially situated for retirement and what follows.

Not only is age discrimination a fact of life but you also must face the coming
medical problems that are overwhelmingly probable.  At 40 I was in superb health.  At
45 I was beginning to pay the penalty in terms of arthritis for my youthful athletic
excesses and had glasses.  At 50 that bastard Arthur Itis was chomping on my bones
vigorously, blood pressure was headed up and my eyeglass prescription was changing
practically monthly.  Now in my mid-50s, I'm diabetic (though not overweight -
happens to regular guys too sometimes) which has destroyed my endurance, past-due for
new knee joints and my fingers are knotting up with arthritis like geezer hands, I'm
about half blind (exaggerating only a little) and take a handful of pills for BP,
cholesterol and the like. (I don't want that to sound too negative - I'm happier now
than I have been in years but part of that was learning to accept my infirmities.)

My physical decline went a bit faster than most folks but you still must plan for
yours.  AND how you're going to pay for the drugs.  They just laugh at a 50-something
who tries to buy medical insurance, even if arthritis is the most severe health
problem you have.  You're going to have to survive that period between now and when
Medicare kicks in.

You're also getting to the age where a lifetime of stress will start showing up as
health effects.  My docs traced my diabetes directly to stress (stress hormones were
off the scale) and probably had a lot to do with the accelerating arthritis.  This is
what kills folks.  Some people don't acknowledge it and it kills them.  Others like
me take the slap in the face as a wakeup call and eliminate stress from their lives.
Point being, you probably won't last long if you go into your 50s worrying about how
you're going to fund your retirement.  Start taking care of that now.

Parenthetically, I'm kinda repeating what another fellow did up here.  In the early
60s an electrician in Chattanooga named Fred Riddle was told by his doc that stress
was killing him.  He took it to heart, quit his job and brought his wife and 8 (!)
kids here to the mountains.  He bought the whole next ridge over for practically
nothing and named it Riddle Hill.

No electricity on the mountain back then so they lived the pioneer way - wood
cookstove and heat and kerosene lamps.  The 20 mile road up the river was dirt,
former railroad bed, so they didn't just run to town for much of anything.  He became
a woodsman and hunted for most of their meat and the garden supplied their veggies.
His wife drove the school bus that picked up the kids every day (can you imagine a 40
mile dirt road round trip to school?) for the little cash they needed.

He built their house himself from materials he picked up from construction and
demolition sites.  A grand old house that's still standing and that one of his
daughters is living in.  He designed and built a central wood burning stove to heat
the place and rigged up a very clever water heating system as part of it.  A gasoline
powered water pump and a large tank on stilts provided the running water.

He continued to gather building materials and as he could, he built one room cabins
around the Hill.  Probably 20 or so there now.  The rental income provided for the
family and sent all 8 kids to college.  Fred just died about 10 years ago, in his
90s.  Not bad for a guy who'd had a small heart attack while still in Chattanooga and
had been given a death sentence by his doc.

Anyway, I suggest you take a close look at the college thing and their associated
expenses.  Perhaps you could finish your degree online?

>Having said all this....would you advise an RV as a
>cheap way to live rent free?  I'm in north Missouri and
>it DOES get cold here so not sure an RV could handle
>it.  I also don't own any land to park the RV on.

This gets debated a lot over in the RV group (rec.outdoors.rv-travel).  We had a
college kid in the group two winters ago who spent the winter in a cheap RV in one of
the snowbelt states.  He got by but his running commentary of his travails was
comical - at least for the rest of us :-)  He became the master of the heat tape and
heat gun!

It can be done but not in a cheap warm weather RV with half inch thick walls, no
floor insulation and exposed plumbing.  All-season RVs are available where all the
plumbing and tanks are inside the conditioned spaces.  They're obviously more
expensive, even used.  There are also so-called "three season" rigs where the walls
are a bit thicker, the floor has some insulation and the plumbing is indoors.  The
tanks are still exposed.  The success of these rigs depends on the high thermal
inertia of the water tanks.  As long as the daytime temperature goes above freezing,
the tanks won't freeze up.

My rig is a 3-season rig.  I've made some winter mods such as a recirc line so that I
can circulate the fresh water through the water heater and back to the tank to keep
the fresh water tank from freezing.  I've developed some techniques too, such as
filling the bottom of the waste water tank (black water tank) with RV antifreeze to
keep the dump valve and plumbing from freezing.  Sewage doesn't seem to freeze at 32
deg and even if a crust of ice forms around the side of the tank, I can still dump.

Mine is NOT suitable for extended stays below freezing.  It takes a ton of propane to
keep the fresh water tank warm and to heat the rig.  The black tank WILL eventually
freeze.  I go out for a few days at a time and then come home and drain the plumbing
and plug the rig in to electric power to keep the inside above freezing.

Wrapping all the pipes with heat tape and insulation, applying electric heaters to
the tanks (available from RV supply stores) and underpinning the rig can make a
3-season rig suitable for winter living.

After all that's taken care of then yes, an RV can be a very inexpensive place to
live.  You do have to be clever about it though.  You can't just plop down in a
$400/month RV park and save much over what it would cost for a similar sized
efficiency apartment or a room rented in a private house.

There are RV parks that cater to long-termers and others that have areas set up for
long-termers.  Typically the electricity will be sub-metered (each spot has its own
meter and the tenant pays his own electric bill).  Comments I've read in RORT say
that one should expect about $30/month electric bills in Florida in the summer which
should correspond to winter in the northern climes.  You'll want to find a rig with a
dual gas/electric water heater so that you won't have to use propane for water
heating.  You can use one or more space heaters for heat.  One 1500 watt ceramic
heater keeps my little rig cozy and doesn't run all the time.

There are two types of metering in an RV park.  One is where the owner has one meter
and pays the entire electric bill.  He installs the sub-meters and the tenants pay
him for their electric use.  This is usually the best setup because you avoid paying
the power company's meter fee.  Most states have laws in place that prohibit
profiting from sub-metering so the landlord must charge the same rate as he's paying.

The second type is where each space has its own utility service and meter.  This is
much less desirable because you have to establish your own account with the power
company, maybe pay a deposit and then deal with monthly billing.

You may find long term rents as low as $100 a month (what the Green Cove RV park here
charges) plus the cost of power.  Water is almost always supplied as part of the

Another potentially major benefit, depending on where you live, is that you won't be
paying property tax on that rig.  In a "bricks and sticks" situation you either pay
property taxes directly if you own the house or you pay it as part of your rent if
you rent.  Taxes on RV parks seem to be lower than most any other real estate, just
above farm land and vacant city lots.  The low rents reflect that.

While you're at it you might want to consider a "park model" RV.  This is essentially
a small, under 400 sq ft, mobile home.  It's built like an RV but has all-120 volt
lighting and appliances, a regular flush toilet, a regular refrigerator and no tanks.
Apparently there are a bunch of federal regs for mobile homes that kick in at 400 sq
ft that run the cost up.  Park models avoid that.  They're REAL popular in Florida. I
don't know a whole lot about 'em as far as how well they'd do in winter.

You might keep your eyes open for the pending FEMA sale.  They have over 50,000
hurricane trailers parked in a huge laydown area a few miles inland from New Orleans,
leftovers from Katrina.  The RVIA (the special interest group of RV manufacturers and
dealers) has been trying to keep FEMA from selling the trailers because they don't
want the competition.  Or if FEMA does sell them, only sell them in big lots that
only dealers can afford to bid on.  Isn't that so typical? They'll eventually fail.
Last I read, the auction was pending.

These are essentially small park models.  They're not much, as they were slapped
together in a great hurry.  Some don't even have windows, though that's easy enough
to fix.  On the positive side, I'd be surprised if such a trailer would bring even
$1000.  No lap of luxury but decent basic housing.  During my year of truck driving I
passed that laydown area (over 2 miles long along the interstate) several times and
stopped once and took a look.  Not bad looking rigs.  Nothing I'd mind parking and
leaving somewhere.

While I'm at it, have you considered finding a room in a private house to rent?  My
grandmother always had a renter ever since I can remember.  Usually a traveling
salesman who only stayed in town a week a month, though occasionally a single guy.

She always bought large houses.  If the house had a bedroom and full bath
conveniently located, she'd have an outdoor entrance installed and then simply screw
the door shut between that area and hers.  Otherwise she'd have a bathroom built onto
a bedroom.  In any event, her "rooms" typically consisted of a small sitting room, a
bedroom and a bath.  The rent included everything.  For an additional fee she'd do
his laundry.  Nice service!  An added fringe benefit was that they'd often invite the
tenant in for dinner.

The only negative for her style of room was that there was no kitchen.  She did allow
a small refrigerator, a coffee maker and a hotplate and other table-top appliances so
basic food prep could be done.  I'd expect many rooms for rent to have motel-style
all-in-one kitchenettes.

If you could find such a room it would be far cheaper than even RV living, I'd think.


From: John De Armond
Subject: Re: Ping Neon John
Date: Thu, 04 Oct 2007 13:11:06 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Thu, 04 Oct 2007 10:06:16 -0500, wrote:

>>>I'm also curious if the brand you buy dries fast and is
>>>easy care, no iron, wrinkle free?
>>Care?  The life cycle of a set of my clothes:  Take 'em off and toss 'em in the
>>corner behind the bedroom door.  Once a week, grab up a random bundle, pick out the
>>white stuff and toss 'em in the washer.
>Some more questions before I order John:
>1.  Do you wear short sleeve shirts strictly.... no
>long sleeve shirts? Even short sleeves in the winter

Yes, always.  I don't get out even a long sleeved shirt (which I use as a light
jacket) until the temps fall to the low 40s.  I've very hot natured.

>2. Do you like pleated pants over flat front? If yes,

Weelllll.  Let's see.  In my 40s some of my chest dropped to my belly.  In my 50s
some of that is dropping below my waist.  Couple that with having lost >100 lbs about
4 years ago and I end up with a small "shed" above the package.  Pleated pants don't
show this.  They're a lot more roomy than regular ones too.

>3. How many "sets" do you have and are all sets the
>exact same colors and styles?  Always blue pants and
>red/white stripe shirts?  If yes, you don't mind
>looking the same each day?

My first set of shirts was red.  My second set was white/red striped.  All blue
pants.  No, I don't mind looking the same each day.  There are certain advantages.
People recognize me at a distance and come over to chat, to give me service ahead of
other customers, decline to give me that traffic ticket :-)  The latter has happened
a couple of times.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.consumers.frugal-living,misc.rural
Subject: Re: Spacing Trips to the Grocery Store?
Date: Tue, 15 Jul 2008 21:50:45 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 15 Jul 2008 08:44:01 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John I'm always amazed at how well EQUIPPED you
>are!!   You must have tons of stuff sitting around your
>house and don't mind that, yes?
>I'm of the nature that I try and avoid owning things if
>possible and wonder if that is wrong approach. I try
>and live lean and mean.... but it does bite me in the
>ass.... making me "depend" too much on supply lines and
>What is your philosophy on having/owning bunch of stuff
>like this? You don't mind it taking up space or having
>to move it around?

You've hit on one of the biggest dilemmas in my life, one that periodically
causes me much stress.  Stuff.  How much to have and what to do with it.

I have all this stuff and am prepared for most any contingency but it's a drag
on the way I want to live at this point in my life.  Yet, when I periodically
get rid of a big load of stuff, I immediately end up needing what I got rid of
and start collecting again.

I'd like to move farther up in the mountains and live off-grid and as
self-sufficient as my health would permit.  Then I start thinking about all
the stuff I'd need to make that happen.  Micro hydro plant, batteries,
inverters, generators, etc and I realize that I'd quickly be back about where
I am now.

About 3 or 4 times in my life, I've cleared out practically everything.  The
mother of all yard sales, hamfest and flea market trips, even an absolute
auction once.  Problem is, I'm an inveterate "doer".  Not having stuff to do
things with also drives me nutz.

When I closed my restaurant and retired, I had a 6900 sq ft building full of
stuff. About 1500 sq ft of that space was dedicated to the restaurant but even
it was crowded.  I had an auction and got rid of 2/3s of the stuff.  What
remains has the basement and all rooms of my cabin packed to the point that I
can't do much with it.  I'm about to buy a CONEX container (ocean-going cargo
container) or maybe an old semi trailer to sit on my side lot to use as a
storage shed.

I'm currently collecting materials to build my second electric car.  144 volts
worth of batteries in one corner.  Motors and hardware in another.  I can't
escape from it!

I don't have much money in this stuff because I'm a master scavenger and do a
lot of trading.  Still, the space it occupies is a pain.

Some of this probably comes from my nuclear background where every conceivable
contingency is anticipated and measures taken to prevent problems.  I couldn't
stand to know that I'd be vulnerable to a power outage, a storm, a national
strike of some sort, a food shortage or price run-up or anything else like
that. I'm not a survivalist expecting some kind of apocalypse, it's just the
way things work out.

Part of that, too, is that I live so far back in the woods now that my monthly
supply runs require that I store lots of things.  It's been close to six weeks
since my last run and I can actually see about half-way down into my freezers!
Time to go shopping....

My biggest vulnerability right now is fire, and I'm taking steps to address
that.  Steps include providing a separate power supply from the pole to my
well pump, a water storage tank, a separate generator for the pump, housed in
the pump house; a 1.5" fire hose outside my cabin and eventually, installing
sprinklers in my cabin.

We don't have the raging wildfires that burn whole forests like CA and other
western states do.  But we do have ground fires and like everyone else, I'm
subject to starting an accidental fire in my cabin by doing something dumb.

I watched that recent Ebay auction with great envy, the one where the guy in
Australia sold his entire life, leaving with only the clothes on his back and
his pocket contents.  He went off with over a half $mil in the bank to start a
new life.  I'd LOVE to do that.  Of course, I'd quickly identify personal
vulnerabilities in my new life and start collecting stuff all over again.

*sigh*  Time to go to the basement and do something....


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.consumers.frugal-living,misc.rural
Subject: Re: Spacing Trips to the Grocery Store?
Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2008 05:56:14 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Tue, 15 Jul 2008 21:43:11 -0500, wrote:

>Neon John <> wrote:
>>>What is your philosophy on having/owning bunch of stuff
>>>like this? You don't mind it taking up space or having
>>>to move it around?
>>You've hit on one of the biggest dilemmas in my life, one that periodically
>>causes me much stress.  Stuff.  How much to have and what to do with it.
>I'm too much the OTHER direction... not enough stuff!
>I guess what I wondering is where is that middle ground
>between me and you and what does it look like?  is it
>different for every person?  Or is there some kind of
>bare minimum that all of us should have?

I have no idea.  It seems that a lot of folks pay me for stuff and for making
things work so apparently they don't have enough.  My neighbor is one that has
almost no stuff.  When the power goes out, he's the first one over with an
extension cord.  He pays for all the fuel so I can't gripe but I've told him
that if we get into another extended outage like the blizzard, that he's out
of luck.  I'll be conserving my fuel for the long run.  I suggested that he
buy himself a cheap ChiCom generator and a few tanks of fuel for just in case
but he hasn't done that yet.

As far as a bare minimum, I think that a person living outside a city should
be able to survive for two weeks if completely cut off from the outside world.
Something like our blizzard of '93, for instance.  A multi-level electrical
system with defense in depth like I have isn't necessary.  A cubberd full of
canned and dry food, enough bottled water for the duration, sufficient drugs
if you require 'em and a porta-potty cover the essentials.  Add in a Coleman
stove and enough fuel to run it and maybe an unvented propane heater and a
couple of 100 lb tanks to complete the picture.

I spent a year driving an over-the-road semi a couple of years ago (get paid
to see the country.)  Life in an OTR semi is quite self-contained.  I had two
12 volt freezers, an electric coffee pot, a microwave and enough clothes to
last 6 weeks at a time.  Many days I only stopped for fuel.  I quickly found
that the two most critical things were personal hygiene and a place to take an
emergency dump!

I sometimes got stranded waiting for a pickup or whatever to where I couldn't
take a shower for 3 days.  Normally I grabbed one every 36 hours.  I was out
of my mind bat-sh*t crazy over that the first time.  After the first time, I
rigged up a little water supply, shower curtain and rod affair that I could
clip between the tractor and trailer, drop trou and clean up. Occasionally I
did it in the rain or in cold weather but either was better than being filthy
(feeling, at least.)  I don't know HOW people get used to going without
bathing for extended periods.  I won't be doing any safaris!

The other one's a big one too.  Absolutely nothing worse than that
breakfast-burrito-fueled grogan demanding to poke his head out when you're 50
miles from the nearest rest area or truck stop.  A lot of drivers use those
big alligator tarp clips to string a garbage bag (several, one inside the
other) between the seats and squat over it to take care of business.  That was
a bit crude for me.  I bought a small chemical toilet.

Being able to take care of business is critical to living through a weather
emergency or whatever.  Unless you have a generator, bank a LOT of water or
live near a stream, you're not going to be able to use your toilet.  At least
not after about the second day :-(  That and being able to keep clean are two
of the major reasons that I have a generator large enough to run both the well
pump and the water heater at once.

I'm thinking about installing a propane water heater in parallel with my
electric one to use during power outages.  Propane is too expensive up here to
use every day but it would sure take a load off my generator during an outage.
There I go, more stuff.....

It's well known here that I have a small hardware store in my basement with
bins of PVC, brass and copper fittings, breakers, wire, switches, HVAC parts
and stuff.  I maintained that inventory for the restaurant because NOTHING,
and I mean NOTHING ever breaks during business hours.

I look at the guy who drives 100 miles to weekend (or longer) up here in his
cabin or trailer, then has to buy a plumbing fitting from me and I think, "If
not for me, that guy would have to go home and have his whole trip spoiled.
Why didn't he have a few spares?"  I couldn't stand to be in that situation.
Even in my motorhome, I keep a pretty good selection of repair parts.  A
busted water line or broken switch or something won't ruin my trip.

I've even been in a rest area with the radiator out of the rig, soldering up a
busted tube where I took a rock hit.  If not for my little soldering kit,
there would have been a big tow and garage bill and probably a motel bill too.
As it was, a couple of hours of dirty work and I was back on the road again.
Events like that make keeping stuff worthwhile.  I think. :-)

I have a buddy and former employee who up and sold everything (not so
dramatically as the guy on ebay) a couple of years ago and went to Alaska to
live in the bush and dredge for gold.  We chat every so often (he has a
satellite internet hookup) and he's begging me to come up.  I'd go in a
heartbeat if not for all this stuff to take care of.  I might anyway....

He admits that even he's accumulating stuff, though slowly, considering how
long it takes to get stuff up there.  He started out with a little portable
gold dredge and now he's up to a shore-mounted rig and lots of other stuff.
Started out with a simple one room log cabin and now has a multi-room cabin, a
shop where he maintains his dredging equipment and power tools, another shed
for firewood storage and so on.  Stuff grows like a cancer, I'm afraid.

I'm apt to sell everything off one day and hit the road full-time in my MH.
I've wanted to for years.  Yet another dilemma.  My cabin is irreplaceable. No
more private land available up here.  I'd get a small fortune for the place
but I'd never be able to return.  This is where I want to end my days so "no
return" isn't an option.  Yet, a place that's un-lived-in quickly
deteriorates.  Plus I'd still have utility, insurance and property tax bills
to contend with.  I've been down the rental route with other property.  That's
not for me anymore. What to do?

I guess that I just need to sit back and be happy with what I have.  One thing
about it, up here, 25 miles from nowhere, stuff doesn't grow NEARLY as
quickly.  Maybe I've found the answer and just don't know it yet.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: not having a primary residence
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 07:11:03 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Sun, 24 Aug 2008 15:52:00 -0500, wrote:

>We have a good friend who also did computer consulting. He had
>finished a contract in Florida, then went to another in Kansas City,
>MO. He was real shocked when MO insisted that he pay them the tax on
>the whole year, even the 9 months he was in FL. Moral: Be careful
>where you light.

Or be very careful in how you stay off their radar.  I managed to stay off
PA's tax radar for the 3.5 years I was at TMI.  It was a lot of work but worth
it, considering how badly PA soaks its citizens.  "Careful" included never
using my apartment address, only my Cleveland one, sending utility bills for
the apartment building to Cleveland to have my parents mail it so that it
would have a Cleveland return address and numerous other things.

The amount of money involved was great enough that all that work was worth it.
I estimated that I'd have lost a third of my income to PA had I been a


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: not having a primary residence
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 16:48:20 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 25 Aug 2008 12:39:16 -0400, (1100GS_rider)

>Neon John <> wrote:
>> I estimated that I'd have lost a third of my income to PA had I been a
>> "resident".
>How?  What taxes?

State and city income tax would have taken a huge chunk.  Then there was the
body tax.  I don't recall the actual name but everyone called it the body tax
because if you were alive on that date you got to pay it.  Car tags in TN cost
under $20 flat rate back then and no inspections.  The garage owner's welfare
tax, er, semi-annual inspection fees alone were enough incentive to keep my
vehicles off the map.  Then there was the township personal property tax.
Several more that I can't recall the details of.  There are probably other
taxes that I wasn't aware of since I managed to stay under their radar.

In TN, if you own your house, all you pay in taxes is a modest property tax
and a moderately high sales tax (9.25% in this county).  Plus $24 per car for
annual registration.  That's it.  No income taxes, no ad valorem taxes, no
nothing.  There is a small excise tax on investments but it doesn't apply
unless you're in a position to afford it.  I believe that the state calls it
the Hall tax.

I've spent an extended amount of time in several states east of the Rockies
including NY and so far PA was the most expensive.  The high cost of business
taxes and regulation trickled down to the citizens in the form of higher
prices for EVERYTHING.  Food was so much higher (and because those crazy
yankees don't know about good old fashioned Southern cooking) that it paid to
have my folks UPS me parcels of non-perishable food.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: not having a primary residence
Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 19:24:01 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Mon, 25 Aug 2008 17:41:22 -0400, (1100GS_rider)

>Neon John <> wrote:
>> I've spent an extended amount of time in several states east of the Rockies
>> including NY and so far PA was the most expensive.
>BravoSierra.  I've lived in both states and NYS was far more expensive
>in terms of tax collected.  Real estate taxes in NYS are *very* high.
>Here is the Tax Foundation rating map, which clearly shows the
>difference, with all taxes included:

That's nice.  The problems with that are manifold.  First, I was in the two
states in the 80s and not 2008.  Second, for a map or chart like that to be
meaningful, they have to make a set of assumptions about a "standard
household".  I never fit that model very well.  In particular, I never had my
manhood wrapped up in the size of my house nor in how many so-called luxuries
that I owned.  Bottom line: PA was the most expensive state that I've lived in
with my lifestyle.

Upstate NY isn't too bad by yankee standards.  I've spent quite a bit of time
in Illian, NY (that spelling doesn't look right.  Anyway, the town in which
Winchester is/was headquartered.)  I have some very good friends there.  We
once compared our property tax bills (PA vs NY) and found little difference. I
kinda liked the mountains in those parts - but not nearly enough to move

>To illustrate how stupid I am about managing my life, I currently live
>in Connecticut!

Hey, you said it!

Obviously there are more expensive states than PA.  You're living in one of
the worst.  But I commented on only the states that I've lived in which is all
that I'm concerned about.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: misc.rural,alt.culture.alaska
Subject: Re: ... loans, the fine print
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2008 17:20:04 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Wed, 27 Aug 2008 15:23:06 -0400, Jim <> wrote:

>Neon John wrote:
>> Jan Flora wrote:
>> >When I asked for those loans, I thought I'd be able to work and pay the
>> >loans off. My back got broken so I can't work a regular job. Sometimes I
>> >can work, sometimes I can't. I'm a welder.
>> Hey, that's cool.  Not the broken back but the welding thing.  TVA sent me to
>> welding school too but I didn't have the stamina for the job
>I'm glad you pointed that out.  most people have no idea how strenuous
>hour after hour of welding can be and how the many different positions
>one must be able to conform to while holding the stick or wire in a
>uniformed and steady manner so as to produce a quality finished product.

yeah, it's REAL hard work, especially pipefitting and pipeline welding.  I
helped man the rod shack at Sequoyah NP between the time I found out that I
couldn't hack it and when I went back to school.  I quickly noticed that ALL
the really good welders were short, ruggedly built guys.  At 6'7" I just
didn't fit.

Many of the N-stamp welders came from NASA.  Their work was so gorgeous as to
be sensual.  It's hard to believe that the unaided human hand could do
something that gorgeous and consistent.


From: John De Armond
Newsgroups: rec.outdoors.rv-travel
Subject: Re: Inquiry on History of the Speed Limit in Montana
Date: Sun, 14 Sep 2008 19:46:28 -0400
Message-ID: <>

On Sun, 14 Sep 2008 13:04:36 -0700, "Calif Bill" <>

>When I was a kid in the 50's, California had a 55 prima faci limit.  Was a
>normal limit, but if conditions were safe, you could go any reasonable
>speed.  I remember commenting to my dad when we passed a CHP parked in the
>middle of the desert near Mojave as we passed at about 100+ mph.  Said as
>long as safe was ok.  Cop did not move.  Dad had a 51 Hudson Twin H power or
>might have been the 1953 Hudson.

These days it's hard to remember when cops had common sense, isn't it?  Little
different situation, when I was a kid, my dad was the Hamilton County
(Chattanooga) Auditor, what they call the Comptroller these days.  On many a
Saturday I'd go in to work with him.  We'd cross the street to the county jail
for lunch (I still LOVE boiled cabbage :-)  Dad and the Sheriff ("Bookie"
Turner, for those familiar with the local era) would sit and talk (OK, there
MIGHT have been a little 'shine involved :-) while I went out into the
prisoner section and played with the prisoners.  I was small enough to squeeze
between the cell bars so I could go in and out of any cell.

Even with the guys in jail for serious stuff like robbery and murder, there
was never even a thought that one of 'em would hurt a little kid.  Even crooks
had some standards :-)  I don't have a single memory of a guard abusing a
prisoner, verbally or otherwise. Those were some of the most fun times of my
early life.  As long as I stayed away from the drunk tank, the prisoners were
fun to play with.

I can't help but believe that part (not all but part) of the reason modern
criminals are so hardened and just plain mean is how they're treated.  We know
that even a mean dog can many times be calmed down by gentle treatment but we
also know that brutal treatment can make even a nice dog mean.  I suspect that
the same thing holds true for humans.


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