Monday, January 14, 2013

My congregation

  I traveled home this weekend for the inspection of my building and to do some more work on the apartment at my childhood home.  The weekend started out as a bit of a fiasco because at the last minute I decided to try to take Sergei (the young man whom I mentor) and made plans to do that and then he changed his mind on going.  I also was asked by a friend to take his mother to Erie and that required some frustrating coordination.  Everything worked out...but it worked out due to me doing a lot of needless additional stuff.  C'est la vie.

I arrived home with a pretty full list of things to get accomplished.  Friday morning I woke up and got everything started.  The apartment on my aunts house was first.  It has poured concrete walls with no insulation.  I stared at them wondering how, in all the years able bodied men had owned and lived in the house, insulation had never occurred to them as a good idea.  Then I remembered, that like most things in America....the house had been constructed, and used, in the age of abundance.  That in an era of growth energy cost was never a factor.  And how now, only in an era of persistent decline have those things come to matter.  It's a good thing that I, while resources are still available, have decided to do something about the situation.  That's something of a comforting feeling when faced with the sad realization that the world is headed into an era of permanent decline.  The acceptance of that decline and the knowledge that in some small way...I'm doing what is available to me to prepare for it, and to help others prepare, is very fulfilling. 

After setting up my work area and laying out the materials I left the apartment and headed to my building.  There I met the inspector, the owner, and the realtor.  The inspector and I quickly got to work investigating the details of the building.  I took particular interest in the electrical system, plumbing, and the masonry I was worried about on the rear of the building.  The inspection took 6 solid hours of work.  Then I spent 30 minutes each with 5 of the 7 tenants getting to know them, hearing their complaints and desires, and signing them up for leases that will take effect when I take ownership. 

With that very exciting and rewarding day of work accomplished I then had a dinner meeting with what I have begun to think of as my choir.  Since about 1996 I've been known to my friends as treehugger Terry.  The first 10 years, while I was learning solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind generation, etc.. they all thought I was a bit of a weirdo.  Enjoyable, but weird.  In the last 7 years, my message started to get a bit annoying to some, and a bit enlightening to others.  Slowly, as my group of friends began witnessing the same signs I'd been studying for a decade in books, show themselves in real life in the form of climate change, prices quadrupling, etc...(all the things I, and many, many others, had predicted) we all started to attempt to deal with what we were facing.  In the last few years as my warning and writings have become even more pointed and direct, and the warning signs more clear and devastating, the choir has grown into a group of 12. 

About a year ago my choir, the 12 of us, formed a bit of a pact.  Since then we've each worked, inside our own area of expertise and with the help of others, to prepare for the future we see we're facing.  A big part of that has been to prepare for a future with less, as well as to position ourselves to prosper when others, having missed the signs, are faced with a reality they get, instead of the future they ordered.  Some of the members of the pact are still not fully converts to our crazy beliefs, but the draw of the prosperity our group seems to be attracting has made them productive members. 

The purchase of this building is one of those steps.  You see, our little group believes that our country is slowly headed for Imperial decline as the result of diminishing availability of the key ingredient of our energy.  We also believe that expensive energy, coupled with climate change, is going to dramatically change how Americans live.  You see, most of the infrastructure of industrial society has been built during the period of abnormally good weather we call the twentieth century.   A fair amount of it, as New York subway riders have had reason to learn, is poorly designed to handle extreme weather, and if those extremes become normal, the economics of maintaining such complex systems as the New York subways in the teeth of repeated flooding start to look very dubious indeed.

As we've seen with the the failures to rebuild significant areas after hurricane Katrina, and more recently with Irene, and Sandy.... the population is slowly moving, and will move.   Now they might not do so all at once, or as part of their own design.  I can't even tell you where they'll come from because predicting where and when disasters will strike isn't a very good line of work to be in.  But I'm quite sure they'll be moving.  A rise in sea level and a nice hurricane now and then will push some west, it's a pretty sure thing a drought and heat coupled with expensive electricity for their AC units will push many north.  A reenactment of the famous dust bowl with aquifers drying up and poor mono crop farming practices will surely send some East.  Slowly but surely, over the next century Americans are going to return to a pattern of land development started in the 1800's. 

When we glide back down the bell curve of decline then, it's a safe bet that using history as a guide will tell you the areas they'll return to.  Reading a urban design book will tell you what makes towns go from trade routes, to agricultural cultural industrial centers.  What towns need to grow and how they develop isn't something they teach in schools much anymore...but you can find out.  Then do a little historical research and see how your town came about.  Was it an agricultural center located near a rail line, canal, or navigable body of water?  If you can find one conveniently located near all three I bet you'll find an old rotted rust belt city that formerly bustled with wealth and affluence.  Purchasing in those areas, where things are currently cheap, then....should be a good recipe.  That is if you're lucky enough to choose correctly and not get whacked in the process with the same sort of disasters we're sure to see coming regularly down the pike (and can no longer afford to rebuild after).

And so my little group met.  Reassuring ourselves that our ideas our sound.  That our religion is true and that others will die a fiery death because they have yet to repent and live their lives embracing our simpler live with less creed.  Ignoring evidence that seems to disagree with our hypothesis.  All the normal things humans do.  Then I returned home to the apartment faced with the task of insulating, weather stripping, etc.  Satisfied that my religion, my choice of beliefs about the path of our future, have prepared me for what lay ahead.  I had spent the evening preaching to the choir....and it was good.

So I have, or soon will have, purchased in an area where air conditioning is not a necessity.  Where water is abundant, sea level is not predicted to reach, transportation and trade are less dependent on cheap energy, etc.  I've also created, invested in, or assisted in the development of businesses that have, in the past...proven to be resistant to economic contraction, and spent time obtaining skills and building a like minded community.  All this in the hope that, while there are still resources flying around practically free for everyone (who's passport happens to have an eagle on the cover), I can grab them and use them to prepare for the future we're sure to get....not the future we want to get, or hope to get....or in the case of most Americans...require for survival.

As a side note....I regret to inform you that yet again....I've done something horribly stupid and injured myself.  You much as I like to scream self righteous, self congratulatory babble on my blog...I'm really a dumbass.

Charles Darwin gives me a frown..

This weekends feeble minded dipshit move was to decide to check the fire escape on the building next to the bar my friend owns to verify it worked properly.  The act was, possibly, influenced by an apparent inability of my body to take in and metabolize large quantities of ethanol (drank in the form of beer).  You see, the 3rd story has a fire escape with a wonderful view.  From there you can go down to the 2nd story....but after that you need to "ride" down the ladder as it will slide down with your weight (but stays raised so the local hooligans do not have access to your building).  It's a safe bet that "riding" down the ladder is best done from the fire escape.  As it turned out....running through the bar, launching yourself out the window, and grabbing the ladder to ride it down (in true Jackie Chan fashion) has a few less than desirable side effects....even if there seems to be a large pile of snow at the bottom to cushion your fall.  The side effects, which I didn't really feel when I initially landed with a thud on a less than cushiony pile of snow....seems to be some sort of injured (but luckily not broken) bone in your foot and irritation of tendonitis in your ailing knees..... DOH!!! Sorry Dad....I'm an idiot.  Looks like a few weeks or more of only biking for me :-(  If you don't see me on the bike path....look for me here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Because it was there

I did a big ride tonight and now I can't sleep.  Doh!!  Did too much I guess.   I started around 7 and went until about 10:30.  It was cold.  So cold in fact that I stopped along the way looking for some newspaper or plastic to shove in my outfit.  I found one of those dog poo bag dispensers, took off my shoes, put the bags over my socks, and put my shoes back on.  Then I slid a couple down my arms and one on my chest.  Then I was better.

I did the normal route downtown until I got to the Key Bridge.  I felt really good tonight.  I wandered through Georgetown, then went slight right on Pennsylvania.  Figured I'd see how Barry and Michele were getting along.  There's all this construction in front of their house for the inauguration.  The entire streets full of  enormous stadium seating.  They only have a narrow sidewalk since the road is closed meaning I had to mix with the pedestrians.

From there I rode over around the mall and down to the fish market.  I hung out there a bit and watched a big gang playing some sort of card game for money.  They were so animated that at first I thought it was a fight.  They were just into the game.  I couldn't catch on to how the game was played and I sort of stuck out there in my spandex, so I continued on.

I went over to the Anacostia river trail.  I followed that until I got into the rough part of town and then I did a few loops through the neighborhoods people watching.  What a cold miserable night for those poor homeless people.  After some people watching I headed back over to the river.  Instead of getting on the river trail I went on down to the train station.  I wanted to see where the homeless man in Alexandria told me you can get on the trains.  Sure enough there's a curve where the trains slow way down.

From there the road followed the tracks so I took that until it dead ended at the river.  It wasn't exactly an area where you dilly-dally so instead of turning back where I came, I made the instant decision to cross the train trestle.  It was a bit tough in my cycling shoes carrying my bike.  At first it's normal with rocks between the ties, then once you're over the river it gets a bit more precarious.  As I got over to the other side the US Park Police came over and nabbed me.  Turns out they prefer only train traffic to traverse the train trestle.  Bummer.   They gave me a pretty good lecture about the inauguration and them being on high alert.  They asked me why I was out on the bridge and I told them I was headed this way and it was there.  They were sure I had bombs hidden under my spandex and I thought they might be wanting to do a cavity search so I kept quiet and said yes sir a lot.  They sat me in their car and ran my social security number and lectured me some more.  Then they sent me on my way.

From there I circled back to the stadium until I could see the capital.  Then I went along the Potomac back through Georgetown and back towards home.  By then I had like 3hrs out there and I was starting to get tired.  When I got back to the W&OD I decided to time myself home.  I pretty much went as hard as I could.  It took me 45:33.  Doing a bit of math that means I averaged 24miles per hour.  That's pretty good with the hill at the finish and all that.  I felt my power drop pretty bad the last 7 or 8 minutes.  Probably did 26mph until the hills and then it dropped down.  I guess I should look into a power meter again.

Ok, off to sleep.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Making progress

I've been diligently going to my physical therapy as well as doing my physical therapy at home.  I took around 3 weeks off completely from running and only biked twice.  Sunday I did my first pain free bicycle ride.  I still feel a bit of pain here and there when I climb stairs or kneel.  The doctor thinks I should wait an other week or two before I start running.  She said I can bike to extremes as long as I'm very diligent about stretching and foam rolling, etc.

I've been pouring my energies into the building purchase lately instead.  The darned bank is asking for documents written in blood, documents to support the documents, documents to support the validity of the blood, and so on.  It's such a pain in the ass.  The current owner hadn't been renewing the leases of the people which basically makes them month to month rentors.  The bank required leases so I had to work with all of the rentors to setup leases.  Of course they were all scared I was giving them the boot or raising their rents or pestering them about their cats (that aren't permitted) or any other number of things.  I like it though.  It's better than IT work.

I travel there this weekend for the inspection.  It should take 8 hours.  The inspector likes to have the buyer accompany him so it'll be a good chance to see all the details of the building.  We'll get up on the roof, check the masonry that's worrying me, etc.  I'm pretty excited about it.  I'm also going to try to talk the owner, who has the law office on the first floor, into a zero dollar lease.  Instead of giving his asking price with a mandatory 2yr lease, I'll lower the per month rent price, take that off the offer, effectively giving him a free stay for 2 years.  I have a few things in mind like that.  We'll see.

Last time I was home I started the process of getting my mom's place ready.  The house is done and for sale so now I'm on to my aunt's place and the apartment my mom was thinking to use.  I did about 70% of the insulation last trip and that was a tough but rewarding job.  I re plumbed the bathroom sink and bathtub and ran a better drain line in the kitchen.  This trip I'll finish that insulation.  Going to need to tear up a board in the attic and blow in insulation there.  Then the nasty job of climbing into the small attic, feeding the hose in there, turning it on, and slowly dragging it out as it fills...over and over for each run.  That'll be a tough job.

My mom, aunt, and I used my works meeting software to go over our plans for the layout of the place.  My mom decided to just stay on my aunts side and they'll rent out the apartment instead.  They have some agreement worked out.  I'll need to add a wall to make it a 2 bedroom apartment.  It's an awkward space so I'll need to stand in there and think a bit.  I'll also add a wall on the east side of the house because it's only the concrete wall there with no insulation on either side.  Brrrrr!!!!   My mom found my nail gun and compressor so I'm all set with that.  Non weight bearing walls go up quick.  Then insulate and drywall (ugh...mudding, taping, and sanding sucks!)

The living room has original hardwood floor I'll need to refinish. The kitchen and laundry room will get cheap laminate "wood" flooring.  The bedroom needs a layer of plywood and then new carpeting.  I'm going to get away with not raising the exterior door by leaving it just concrete there and shaving a board to cover the 1/2 inch step up.  It's not ideal...but it's an apartment.  After that mom will paint and get it rented.  My aunts mortgage is $480 a month and I researched rents in the area and we should be able to get around $350-400.   My mom's really into this property management stuff.  She's really enjoying helping me, planning, and reading all the information I send her about how to manage tenants.  I think she sees investing in real estate with me as a ticket out of the factory before she's 90 so she's really soaking it up.  It's awesome to work with her.

I've had some interesting dates lately.  My binders full of women seem to get out of hand or I get frustrated, then just when I decided I'm done chasing women it seems they turn to chasing I can't get out either way.  Last week this Russian girl I'd been flirting with for an entire year called me out of the blue and asked me out.  I found myself sitting across from her on our date in total awe.  She's the absolute most beautiful woman I've ever been on a date with.  I usually never lack confidence with women but I found myself sitting there thinking I'd never land this chick....

But she's continued to text me.  So we'll see.    I also got an email on my dating website from another Russian girl.  She hadn't filled out her profile or added a picture or anything, so I was reluctant to even respond.  She asked me out and then seemed frustrated that I was busy.  Then sent me a nasty email saying she wasn't on this site to find a penpal and if I wanted to meet I better hop to it.  I explained to her that if she couldn't even be bothered to put in the effort to fill out her profile or correspond to people....or even share her picture....that I'd just assume she was a fat hairy Russian man.  I'm not into fat hairy Russian she needs to do some work on that profile, be nicer, or move on.  Seems she has taken the last option.  Dasvidania

I've also been talking to a friend from high schools sister.  It's actually a sort of funny story.  I was there for the Grape Jamboree and was helping out at my buddies bar when this cute blond came in.  My friend Jennifer came over and introduced us and I used the both of them to assist me with standing.  Before too long it seems my hand found its way into places that it shouldn't.  She didn't seem to mind but there was another young man in the bar that wasn't excited with my tactile exploration.  Luckily her brother, who is my friend, got rid of the fellow for me.

Anyways, turns out a few months later she went ahead and got rid of that fellow for good.  She found out I was in town recently and asked Sonny for my information, and has been writing me.  She's an interesting character.  I'm enjoying corresponding with her.