Saturday, July 29, 2006

In Lieu Of A Limousine And A Leer Jet, I'd Settle For An Ultralight And A Truck With Less Than 100K On It

We bigshot movie producers have an image to uphold after all. I'm a lot more of a "come screeching up to the theater in a dually pickup with thick, black diesel smoke belching from the 10 foot high, 5 inch chrome stacks, toss open the door releasing a torrent of empty beer cans, bail out in jeans and a T-shirt and flick a cigarette butt into the crowd as my entourage leaps over the side of the bed, and shove the picture posers out of the way to get inside" kind of guy. As opposed to the "show up in a limo, wait for some servile dumbass to open the door for me, step out in a tux and take a bow, then wave to the paparazzi as I slowly stroll up the red carpet soaking up the attention from a bunch of mindless sheep", kind of guy that usually produces feature films.

My first big movie premier is gonna be fun, you're all invited. I'll need lots of people to bail out of the back of my truck to complete my desired image. Just make sure both of you be careful, I don't need any lawsuits.

OK, so I'm never going to make it big pasting video clips together and posting them on my blog, but that doesn't mean I can't still have fun. After most of a week of battling with a finicky assed computer that can't seem to properly transcode anything more complicated than the literacy test given to prospective Jerry Springer Show guests, I've finally managed to get the 4 wheeling video all in one place, complete with sound, and titles, and transitions, that are hopefully still synchronized with the damn video this time and not missing several clips.

I tried all the tricks, blew the dust out of my lucky to be alive formerly dust encrusted processor, cranked up the virtual memory, turned down the hardware acceleration, disabled all the codecs in Windows Movie Maker, blah, blah, geekspeak, blah, blah. I finally ended up saving the movie in two parts, then pasting it back together. It worked. Hah. Eat my shorts Bill Gates, I've conquered your monster. Now if I could talk like a real ubergeek maybe I could be rich too. Damn computers.

Anyway, here's the movie. Sit back with a nice bag of popcorn, pop open your favorite beverage, and enjoy. If it doesn't work right, or it's the wrong video, just come back later. It takes dailymotion a while to work their magic sometimes.

UPDATE: I waited 24 hours and dailymotion still didn't have the video working. I figured maybe it was just too big so I transcoded a smaller version of it and tried it again. We'll see if it works this time.

UPDATED UPDATE: It works! It works! It finally freakin' works! Enjoy.

Wheelin' With Justin and Jim, Episode 2
Video sent by raginredneck93

Monday, July 24, 2006

DVD Burning Update, Part Time Employment, New 4 Wheeling Video On The Way, READ ALL ABOUT IT!

First of all I'd like to thank everyone that chimed in with help on my DVD burning problem. I think I've finally got that one licked.

A while back, I downloaded a freeware program called Mediacoder, but I couldn't figure out how to work the darn thing as everything was in Geek. As I was Googling my brains out trying to find a good program for transcoding video, Mediacoder kept popping up again and again, so I figured that I'd better just bite the bullet and put my brain to work figuring it out. I downloaded the latest version, and low and behold, Stanley Huang, the designer, had included a "device mode" wherein you simply click on the button on the bottom of the screen that corresponds to the device that you wish to play the video in, and the program handles all of the complex settings for you! Drag and drop your videos to the file list, click on the "Video Disc Player" icon on the bottom of the screen, click on the start button on the top, and VOILA! It goes to work transcoding the videos into whatever format is appropriate, in this case MPEG2 which is easily handled by even the lousiest of my worthless DVD authoring programs. Sonic still has issues with NTSC vs. PAL formats, but one of my helpful readers pointed me in the right direction to remedy that problem, and I imagine that after I learn a bit more about Mediacoder, there's probably a way to fix that in there as well.

It'll work for cellphones, Sony PSPs, PDAs, pretty much anything you can think of, and best of all it's FREE! If you need to change the format of videos for whatever reason, I highly recommend Mediacoder.

Now on to other news.

I actually worked three whole nights last week! Maybe I won't starve to death after all. Three nights may not sound like much, but three nights at my job is right up there next to 40 hours. It's also the equivalent of about as much cash as I made at my old job working five nights, only it leaves two weekday mornings free for flying! Now if we can keep it up for a while I'll be doing alright, but it'll take a month or so of it to get my savings built back up to what it was before everything fell on its face. The entire idea of "savings" is an entirely new concept to me, I've spent most of my life (and my money) living from paycheck to paycheck. Living mostly debt free is the shit, I may drive crappy old vehicles and live in a ratty assed trailer house, but it's worth every bit of wrench twisting and nail pounding to not have gigundus house and car payments to make every month, and not spending all of my time worrying about how I'm going to pay this bill or that bill and which ones are more important because there isn't enough dough to go around. If I can ever get back to or above my previous income levels while maintaining my current expenses, I'll be able to save up enough money for a newer set of wheels in no time, as long as the family trucksters hang on until then.

Speaking of the family, we had an awesome day 4 wheeling yesterday. For the first time the whole tribe got to tag along, as well as Brian and his family, and a couple other good friends. Hopefully someday I'll find a good deal on a third machine and actually have the cash to buy it, then we can do this sort of thing more often. My daughter is still too small to ride her own machine on anything but the easiest trails, so she just rides with me. I bought a second 4 wheeler for my wife and son to ride a few years back, but the machine is too small for them to ride double on and I'm not comfortable with either of them hauling passengers anyway as they're both rather new to this sort of thing. In order for both of them to go along at the same time we have to rent, beg, borrow, or steal a third machine from somebody else. Jim found a great deal on an old Honda a couple of years ago and picked it up just so we could take extra people along that didn't have a machine of their own, so it was rather easy to sweet talk him into letting my dear bride help him wear it out. Fun was had by all, and as soon as I get the assload of video footage that I recorded pasted together into something worth watching I'll be posting another episode of "Wheelin' With Justin and Jim", this time with a whole host of celebrity guest stars! Until then, here's a few pics to hold everyone over.

Quite a tribe isn't it? Here I give a "shout out" to the treehuggers that would just love to see this be illegal. I can't say that I'd like to have this many people along on every ride, but every so often it's fun to take the wee ones along. How many other family activities do you know of that can hold the interest of an energetic 9 year old from sunup to sundown and still have her asking for more? I figured that after an entire day of bouncing around the mountains on a 4 wheeler, my daughter wouldn't want anything to do with the blasted things for a month or better. When we got home she climbed right back on it, dirty face smiling from dust encrusted ear to dust encrusted ear, just so she could ride with Daddy when he put it away in the garage. Now that's my girl! This kid is gonna be hell on wheels when she finally gets to ride her own machine.

Jim entertains Brian with a selection from his wealth of hilarious stories, while Darren and Nic watch Bigfoot taking a bath in the creek, or something really interesting anyway. Autumn just cant resist the urge to stuff her elbow in front of the camera, she's such a ham. ;)

One of the many rockslides we encountered. The scenery in this area is second to none, that's why I hope it stays as thankfully unpopulated as it has been every time we've been here.

A butterfly stops for a break on top of a flower. Funny how I tend to not notice stuff like this quite as much when my wife and daughter aren't along. ;)

Pictures like this don't need words. Pictures like this speak for themselves. Pictures like this are the reason why I love Montana. Pictures like this are the reason why I'll kick your peachy little ass if I see you tossing trash along the trails.

Autumn and Vanessa sit on the rocks and try to make the scenery just that much prettier. Are these two mother and daughter, or sisters? ;)

Is that darn Jim flirting with my wife again? I am seriously going to have to look for a new co-host for the 4 wheeling show if he doesn't knock that crap off, LOL. ;)

Nic gives the thumbs up to signify that our idea of putting the sandwiches in plastic containers inside the cooler prevented them from being pulverized into baby food while traveling over the rocky trails, while Mom digs out groceries for the hungry young'uns.

Nic does his best to not put any more scratches on Dad's old brain bucket. If the blasted kid would quit doubling in size every few months, I'd buy him a shiny new one so he could earn his own beat up old helmet like his old man had to.

One very happy Daddy, and one very happy, very dirty, little girl. Enjoy times like this with your kids, don't make them have to use drugs and get in trouble with the law to look for a good time. Lord knows they'll never find anything good on that road, but sometimes kids think they can anyway. I can't guarantee that my kids won't ever do anything stupid, I did for sure, but times like this enjoyed as a family can't hurt.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Calling All Readers, I Need Your Help!

Ok, here's the deal.

I've got two DVD burning programs on my computer: Nero, and Sonic.

They both suck, or my computer sucks, or maybe I suck, but the damn things don't work whatever the cause.

I've been trying to burn some of my home videos, and some music videos that I downloaded here there and wherever onto DVD so I can give copies to other people that don't have computers. I've also been trying to burn copies of my soon to be released bootleg sex video so that I can send out copies with my Christmas cards this year,(~sarcasm~), and all I keep getting is a bunch of electronic grief.

Home videos, no problem. They're all in the same format so they work just fine. The process is slower than molasses in January, but at least it works. The music videos on the other hand, no dice. All I keep getting on Sonic is a bunch of error messages and other crap that doesn't make any sense at all. A bunch of garbage about NTSC vs. PAL format, I don't give a rat's ass which format they're in. If they're in the wrong format, then convert them so that they're in the right one, that's what Nero is supposed to do. This file is corrupted and may not be usable, well is it usable, or isn't it? It plays just fine on Windows Media Player, why the hell can't I burn it on a DVD? Then there's some crap about not being able to add audio files this way or that way or something, I'm not even trying to add a damn audio file for crying out loud, it's a video file. Once again, all of these files will play on every single media player on my machine, they just don't seem to want to be on a DVD. Add that to the fact that Sonic will only work on about three different formats and it becomes even more worthless.

Nero is even better. I was told that this was the "best" DVD burning program available, yeah right. I'd hate to see the worst if that's the case. This little gem doesn't even screw around with the error messages, oh no. It just hangs up and stays that way for days if you don't hit abort and close the damn thing. It wouldn't be so bad if it would do it right away, but usually it sits there transcoding videos for 2 or 3 hours, then the little green lines on the overall progress-o-meter thingy just stop moving and that's it. No error message, no complete lock up, no blue screen of death, nothing. Just the little timer that keeps running and adding up hours while it makes no progress whatsoever. I've tried about a dozen times to burn a DVD with this useless piece of garbage and I think I've actually succeeded once. I'm sure glad it was given to me, if I'd payed the hundred and some bucks for it I'd really be pissed.

So here's where you come in, my faithful readers . . . . both of you.

Does anyone know of a good freeware program for burning DVD's? Possibly even just a program for transcoding various different formats of AV files into MPEG2 or something that one of my fragile little DVD burning princesses can handle? I know, I know, there's only about a million different audio and video codecs out there and there's probably no program in existence that can handle all of them, but is there one that can at least tell me why it won't work so that I can try to fix it? Is it my computer? Do I not have enough memory or something? I don't exactly have a multibyte gigapixel firebreather here, but it isn't no slouch either.

I have the DIVX converter on my machine as well, and it works great, but my DVD player doesn't support DIVX, and I've yet to find a video converter that will convert DIVX files into anything, let alone burn them to DVD. I've used it a few times to fix files when the originals wouldn't play, or wouldn't play right. After converting them they'll play, but I've no way to get them onto a DVD other than in DIVX format.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me what the hell I'm doing wrong and suggest a solution. Preferably a free one. If you ignore this post, I don't want to hear any bitching when you don't get your sex video this Christmas, I'm only giving copies to my really good friends. ;)

Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

See, I Keep My Promises

I finally finished the 4 Wheeling video from two weeks ago. Better late than never, right?

We decided to try out a new area on this ride, the Jellison area in the Little Belts north of Harlowtown. There's a lot of riding to be had in these parts, but unfortunately it would seem that it's no great secret. This was by far the most populated area that I've ridden anywhere in the state, and I'm sorry to say that I saw evidence of more abuse in this area on one ride than I've witnessed on every other ride I've ever been on put together. Off trail travel, user created trails, garbage tossed on the ground. It was almost enough to make me ashamed to call myself an ATV rider. The only reason that I'm not on a flaming rant about the whole thing is the simple fact that this is the one and only time, and the one and only place, that I've seen these sorts of things, the very things that those opposed to motorized recreation most despise. The ill effects even in this particular area where isolated and nowhere near what a lot of the anti groups would like everyone to believe they are everywhere that motorized travel is allowed, but I did pick up a few cans, and I did see a half dozen or so trails that shouldn't have been there although I have no way of knowing how long they've existed. At one time it was perfectly legal to travel off of the trails in certain areas. But at any rate, this is why I will continue to keep my favorite riding areas to myself. That way, hopefully, all of the yahoos will stay where they are and keep this a thankfully isolated incident.

The only thing I can say to my fellow ATV riders is: Clean up after yourselves and act like adults for crying out loud. The rules are there for a reason. After all, we're not talking about our own private property here, we're talking about public land and unless you want to get all of us barred from using it, I suggest that you treat it with a little more respect. If you have room on your machine to pack in a cooler full of beer, you have room to pack the empty cans back out instead of tossing them along the trail.

There wasn't one of the "user created routes" that I saw that led to anywhere that couldn't have been accessed by an existing trail. This is the kind of shit that's going to have all of us riding around in circles eating each other's dust soon when the tree huggers succeed in shutting all of the trails down. In case you haven't noticed, assholes, there's a large opposition to our favorite sport in this country. Every track you make through virgin grass, every piece of garbage that you chuck over your shoulder, and every new trail that you create brings us one step closer to getting the proverbial boot, for good.

I ride my machine in the forest because, well, I love the forest. I don't ride there because I want to see how much stuff I can tear up, I ride there because I like to get away from assholes with nothing better to do than destroy things. If that's your idea of fun, please do the rest of us a favor and do it on private land, preferably your own private land, not in the National Forest. That land belongs to all of us, that means it belongs to me too. I'm not too keen on people tossing trash around and screwing up my property. Believe me, if I see you do it, we will talk.

There, I've done my bitching for today. Now clean up your act before I have to join the Wilderness Society. ;)

Enjoy the video . . . please. See, I can be polite . . . sometimes.

Wheelin' with Justin and Jim, Episode 1
Video sent by raginredneck93

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Breaking News About Justin The Blogger: BOOTLEG SEX VIDEO AVAILABLE ONLINE!

Just kidding. It may have worked for Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson, and that kneecap busting ice skater chick, but I doubt anyone wants to see my hairy, white, fat, naked butt. Guess I'll just have to come up with something else to boost my popularity.

Oh, by the way, here's that RC airplane video that I promised you two weeks ago. I finished editing it when I got home from work this morning. I worked two whole days this week, almost like a real job, maybe now I can pay my electric bill, but I'm still taking donations for the internet access. Enjoy the movie, I need sleep.

The Glider Strikes Back
Video sent by raginredneck93

Thursday, July 13, 2006

What An Interesting Morning

I got to work last night, wooohoooo. This bottom of the totem pole thing really sucks, it's been so long since I had to deal with it that I'd forgotten just exactly how bad it sucks. Sitting around babysitting a telephone, waiting for it to ring and have somebody tell me I'm needed. Damn I miss just going to work every night and having some idea of what my paycheck was going to be. Oh well, quit my bitching right? Right.

Tried to snap a few pics of the Saunders fire west of Columbus this morning, but they didn't come out all that great since I took them through the window of a moving truck. By the time I got stopped, I was too far up the Columbus hill to see anything. Not much to see anyway, just a big, black hillside with a bunch of burnt trees and a few wisps of smoke. Looks like they got that one about licked.

At least I got home early, lot of good it did me. Just about the time I was comfortably dozing off next to my beautiful wife, we heard a hellacious ruckus out in the yard. I pulled back the curtain and looked out and was treated with a splendid view of two large dogs in the act of brutally killing one of our cats. Now you all know that I'm all about freedom, fairness, tolerance and all that. Had a dog killed our cat in the dog owner's yard, I'd have never said a word. But my property is my property, and as far as I'm concerned if two dogs will gang up and attack a cat, I don't see anything to stop them from ganging up and attacking a kid.

Anyone that knows me knows what happened next. The nice Deputy Sherriff that just left didn't know me, he does now. Fortunately for this former owner of two dogs, whoever he is, I'm not quite as polished as I once was and I was caught off guard. He's still got one dog left, but he'll be wise to keep it at home from now on, it won't get a second chance. If it had been my dog running loose, I wouldn't have expected anything less. If you want to keep your animals, keep them at home, or don't bitch when they get what YOU deserve.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Reliving Some Old Memories, And Making A Few New Ones

As I mentioned in my last post, a very dear family friend passed away last Sunday. Ron was my Dad's best friend since the early 70's, a huge mentor and positive influence in my life when I was a child, and my uncle in every sense of the word except for blood relation. Whoever it was that said "blood is thicker than water" can kiss my ass. Ron, and his wife Ruth, were/are as much family to my parents, my sisters, and I as anyone could ever be.

I'll never forget the many good times we all had together, camping, hunting, fishing, traveling, tinkering in the shop, flying, shooting, you name it. I'll never forget all of the things that Ron taught me, but I'm sure it will be a long time before I can look at a picture of him without a tear or two streaming down my cheek. So much of who I am today came from him. My interest in electronics, building and flying model airplanes, shooting, gunsmithing, reloading, fixing just darn near anything ever made, that all came from Ron because he was a man that could do it all and do it well. Ron was the textbook definition of a perfectionist, and one of the kindest and most generous human beings I've ever known.

I remember as a child of maybe 4 years old, looking up at one of his RC planes sitting on a shelf, (I knew better than to touch it), and wondering what it was made of because the covering job on it was so flawless that I simply couldn't conceive how it was possibly made of wood, even though I'd asked him a hundred times and the answer never changed. It wasn't until almost 20 years later, when I built and covered my first plane, that I truly understood how much of a perfectionist that he was. Taking wood and making it look like something that was originally made of aluminum isn't as difficult as one might think, but it isn't something that just anyone can do their first time trying it. Ron never flew that plane, he sold it years later only to get back into the hobby and accumulate a large collection before his passing, but I remember him firing it up and taxiing it around his yard one time much to the delight of one very interested little boy.

I had the priveledge of flying with Ron several years later when I first entered the hobby, and I remember how proud I was to see two of my planes in the sky. One expertly piloted by Ron, and the other at the mercy of my shaky, beginner hands. When Ron was undergoing cancer treatment in Billings, we spent several more days flying together, and several more hours sitting around talking about airplanes and browsing through the hobby shops. Even though I hadn't flown in years due mostly to financial constraints, upon hearing the news that he would be staying in town for several weeks I immediately ordered a ready to fly plane so that we'd be able to fly together. That plane was my Hobbico Sky Fly, and I'm now absolutely positive that it was the best hundred bucks that I've ever spent. In spite of all he was going through, he still had his trademark grin on his face when he was flying, a grin that all who knew him will never forget, a grin that was as contagious as any disease you can name. As long as I live I'll never fly so much as a paper airplane without thinking of Ron and how much joy he got from the hobby he introduced me to.

Not only could he do almost anything, he delighted in someone else taking an interest in what he was doing, especially if that someone else was a curious young boy like me. Whether he was putting the final touches on an airplane he was building, refinishing the stock on some beat up old rifle and making it look new again, or soldering parts into one of his many CB radios or pieces of satellite TV equipment, he'd always give me a play by play of what he was doing and answer question after question. Next to my father, I don't think there's a man alive or dead that has taught me as much as I learned from Ron.

The world would be a far better place if there were more positive role models like Ron for young men to follow. In all of the years I knew him, I don't think I ever heard him say "the F-word" or raise his voice more than a decibel or two. He didn't drink, and although he appreciated a pretty girl as much as the next guy (especially if they had big boobs, Ron liked boobs) I don't remember ever hearing him say anything rude or vulgar even in jest. Ron was a Hunter Safety instructor at different times throughout his life, impeccable about responsibility with firearms so any young person that hunted with him was going to learn how to handle a gun properly whether they liked it or not. Hunting or target shooting with him and my father together offered a double dose of instruction, habits that I strive to pass on to my children.

Although he was a "Jack of all trades", and had many different and quite unrelated jobs throughout his life, for the last several years Ron was a "detention officer", not exactly a prison guard, the jailer at the Richland County Jail in Sidney to be exact. If any of the prisoners there ever took the time to talk to him during their stay, I'd be willing to bet that the odds of them ever winding up in jail again dropped significantly, he was just that much of a positive role model.

As you can probably tell, I held Ron in pretty high regard, and he will be greatly missed. If there isn't an RC airfield in heaven, you can bet that there will be soon, and all of the angels will be lined up for their chance on the trainer box, big grins all around.

I miss you, Uncle Ron.

Now, on to a more positive note. Ron's funeral was held in Sidney on Friday morning, and of course I wasn't going to miss it. My one or two day a week excuse for a job was just going to have to do without me for a few days. Since I had to go back to "the old stomping ground" to say goodbye to an old friend, I figured that we just as well try to bring back at least something positive from the whole experience. Between work or the lack thereof, and money problems, and unreliable vehicles and all of the other problems of life I hadn't had the family on any kind of a trip in several years.

I grew up in Eastern Montana, in the oilfield between Glendive and Baker, so I figured it was as good a chance as any to show my kids where I came from. I took my wife and son back to the old homestead once, but the boy was just a baby so he didn't remember any of it. My daughter has been on precious few road trips to anywhere so here was a good chance to show her that there's a lot of world outside of Billings just waiting to be seen.

After a marathon wrench twisting session on the old Ford Wednesday night, (fixed the leaking injectors, replaced the two bad universal joints, replaced the compressor and recharged the air conditioner which was about the smartest thing I've done in years let me tell you), we made our way East on Thursday to Glendive. Stayed the night there, got up in the morning and had breakfast with my parents and my sister that came down that morning, and made our way to Sidney to attend the service. We hung around with Ron's family members at his home for much of the afternoon. Then as everyone else headed back to Billings, we started what we hoped would be the positive part of our trip, a trip back down memory lane to the place I called home so many years ago.

After dining on pizza at the Gust Hauf, a Glendive original and prominent memory from my past, we headed back to our hotel for a swim, a shower, and some much needed sleep. Saturday morning we got up, loaded up, checked out, and headed down the 35 miles of gravel road that would take me back in time 25 or so years, to a time when there were no neighbors, no traffic, no noise, no pavement, no cares, no worries, just a whole lot of countryside for a young boy to explore with his motorcycle, his dog, and his .22 rifle. His only impedances being his mother, wood ticks, and rattlesnakes. All of which were quite avoidable if he payed attention.

Here's a few pics from the trip, now you'll know that I'm not full of crap when I tell you that I grew up in the sticks. What people call living in the "country" these days, isn't a pimple on the ass of where I used to live. Imagine having 35 miles of gravel road between you and your mailbox. No convenience store on the corner, no newspaper on your front porch every morning, no water when the power was out which was a very frequent occurrence by the way, no cops, no ambulance, no fire department, no Wal-Mart, no paved roads or sidewalk, no street lights to obscure your view of the stars or the Northern Lights, no neighbors to bitch if you made a little noise, and nothing but 35 miles of ass deep snow between you and all of those things in the winter time. Think you could handle it? I could, I did, and damn I wish I could do it again, I'd just like to do it somewhere with trees. Maybe now you'll know why I can be so antisocial sometimes, why I don't like crowds, and why I don't like people trying to control me.

Heading down the long road home, just south of Glendive. Quite a driveway isn't it? Only about 20 more miles to go!

My kids and I standing on what used to be our driveway. Most of it is all grown over with weeds these days, but there was still this little patch of gravel showing. I have to laugh when I think about how that driveway used to be occupied by a pickup almost identical to the one in this picture. The only difference was, that pickup was brand new!

Poking around looking for artifacts, and teaching the kids how to watch for rattlesnakes.

This is where my parents' trailer house used to sit, the shop was to the right of it and ended about where my son and I are standing. The little bunch of Juniper trees behind us is what we used to call "the park", it's where we had our barbecue grill and a picnic table for cookouts. The orange thing in the front is a guy wire leading to a power pole that didn't used to be there. There's a cathodic protector box for a nearby underground pipeline right in the middle of what used to be our driveway. The old power pole was right about where my son is standing.

An old Sears Dynaglass snow tire. I remember this tire, I think it was laying around when we moved in, as a kid I rolled it about a million miles, and it's still laying there today. It was laying there the last time I was here about 13 years ago, and I hope it'll still be there the next time I go back if I ever do. Every time I see it it's moved, but it's always there. Still got good tread on it too, but the sidewall's a bit weather checked. Laying around in the hot sun for 30 years will do that.

My daughter takes a walk up a road I walked more times than I care to remember.

Coming back from poking around at what used to be our closest "neighbor's" house. "Okie" was a fellow that retired from Shell Oil Company years ago. Originally from Oklahoma, he'd go back there in the winter but he kept an old trailer house just up the road from our place where he'd visit for a month or so in the summer, "Cuz it was just too gosh dern hot down there in Oklahomer". His trailer is still there, but it doesn't look like anyone's been around in a long, long time. I've never heard what happened to Okie, even though my mom's tried to contact his family several times over the years.

I'll always remember when that driveway looked like this. Who is that handsome young fellow on that Fonzy tricycle? I'll bet he grew up to be quite a hunk. ;)

There's that good looking young man again. This time he's changing a tire on a brand spanking new 1978 Ford pickup. What a multitalented fellow he is!

This is the farmhouse where we used to meet the school bus . . . . . it was only 7 miles away . . . . . a mere jaunt . . . . . . uphill both ways of course . . . . . . . . in six feet of snow . . . . . . . . . with no shoes. ;)

This sign should actually read "WELCOME TO THE EXACT MIDDLE OF FUCKING NOWHERE!"

This is where I went to school, in the bustling metropolis of Plevna Montana. A few new additions have been built since then, but for the most part it's still the same. If you think this is a big school, keep in mind that it was K-12, and the big rounded roof and the peaked part in front of it is the gym/auditorium. My Kindergarten class had 16 kids, it was the biggest class in the history of the school, and a friend told me a few years ago that we still hold the record. If my camera had a slightly wider angle lens, we could've gotten the whole rest of the town in the shot as well. They put a stop sign in Plevna years ago to keep people from missing the whole damn town if they happened to blink on their way through.

After showing the rugrats my old home, and my old school, we jumped on Highway 12 and headed East through Baker and on to Rhame North Dakota where some friends of ours live, reaping the profits of the recent resurgence in the oil business. We stayed the night at their place, then cruised into Bowman the next morning to have breakfast and buy some smokes without the benefit of Montana's ridiculous babysitter tax. After breakfast and saying our goodbyes I wheeled the big Ford into the truck stop to take on some fuel, and what should I spy?

B15 BIODIESEL! Right there at the pump, and for the same price as regular Dino Diesel!

Throughout our trip thus far, the big Ford had been protesting. Surging and sputtering something fierce at highway speeds, I wasn't sure if it was an injector, the fuel pump, or possibly something heat related but my corn binder power plant wasn't running right. Nothing that made me think it was going to quit on us, but annoying and bothersome nonetheless. I'd checked and tinkered and bled the injectors and checked the delivery pump and cursed and scratched my head but there was nothing more I could do without test equipment or a heavy outlay of cash for some "try it and see" replacement parts. So here I am, in Bowman ND, faced with a decision.

Should I fuel up with regular diesel and surge and sputter my way back home? Or should I try some B15 and see if it makes any difference?

Of course I couldn't resist the temptation, and with the rear tank of the Ford full of B15 we set out on the long journey home.

First of all, I'd like to sware to everyone that reads this, I'm not making any of this up. You all know what a big fan of biodiesel that I am, and I'm sure you'll all be tempted to believe that my enthusiasm might sway my story a bit, but I sware on my unopened package of classic Dukes of Hazzard puffy stickers that this testimonial is true.

By the time I reached the edge of Bowman, the sputtering and hesitating had absolutely and completely stopped!

As I accelerated up to 65 MPH at the edge of town the former bellowing black smoke from the tailpipe had been replaced by a half sized grey puff. The engine became noticeably quieter, and the temp gauge stopped climbing a fair bit lower than it had previously. On our trip so far, the clutch fan had cycled constantly in an effort to keep the big diesel burner cool, running on biodiesel the fan cycled 3 times between Bowman North Dakota and Custer Montana, for 20 or so seconds at a time to cool the engine after topping a hill. Somewhere West of Custer, the smaller rear tank was getting close to empty and I had to switch back to the Dino Diesel in the front tank. The temperature climbed a little, and although it wasn't nearly as bad as it had been, the surging was starting to come back by the time we made it back to Billings.

Now I'd like to ask a question to our benevolent Governor Schweitzer, too bad his email link doesn't seem to work anymore, so I guess I'll just have to ask it here and hope by some bizarre twist it's brought to his attention. How come sir, if you're such a champion of the environment and so dead set on breaking our dependence on foreign oil, can I buy B15 biodiesel at the pump in North Dakota, but I can't even make it myself in Montana without being accused of being a meth dealer and going through a ton of red tape? Why can't I buy biodiesel in Montana? Huh? I'm waiting for your answer.

The fact of the matter is this. The government keeps dropping the sulphur levels in diesel fuel. Biodiesel counteracts the negative effects of low sulphur contents since it has much higher lubricity. Older diesel engines like the one in my Ford aren't designed to run on the modern low sulphur diesel fuel, they're designed to run on 1984 diesel fuel. A mere 15% blend of biodiesel made my truck run like new, and that's 15% less of my fuel money that's going into Haaji Abu's pocket, and 15% more going into the pockets of American farmers and producers. Add that to the fact that emissions are markedly reduced and what's not to love? I now have a renewed interest in producing my own biodiesel. Even if I don't run my truck entirely on biodiesel, I now know that just using it as an additive makes a world of difference. Instead of passing laws to require ethanol in gasoline, I think it would be far more productive to require at least a small percentage of diesel fuel to be bio. Just my opinion, and lord knows I'm no expert, but I know what I know. What I know, is that my old truck runs worlds better on B15 biodiesel than it does on the low sulpher swill that I can buy around here, and I want more of it.

There you go, a whole week of posts all crammed into one, and I still haven't had time to do anything with last week's video. Don't worry though, unless I get another job soon I should have plenty of time to get it done this week, that is if my internet access doesn't get shut off because I have no idea how I'm going to pay the bill. Anybody need a truck driver?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day

I hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th of July. If you celebrate with fireworks, please do so responsibly so the rest of us won't have to deal with all of the laws passed in your honor. Most importantly, remember the reason for the season.

I have a ton of video footage from the weekend, unfortunately however, I returned from 4 wheeling on Sunday only to receive the news that a dear friend had passed away from complications following treatment for pancreatic cancer. I have to admit, that I don't really feel like celebrating today, and I definitely haven't had time to deal with editing the video. As soon as I get a chance, I'll do my best to get both the flying video from Saturday, and the 4 wheeling video from Sunday edited and posted. Saturday's video shows what is probably the coolest thing I've ever seen someone do with an RC plane, and I've received a few requests for video from the 4 wheeler so I WILL get it put up, I just can't say exactly when.

In the mean time, enjoy the holiday, and if there's someone nearby that you care about, tell them so. You never know when you may not get another chance.