The Vogons from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are the most believable villains ever

Wow, a short post!

Pictured below: the ugly face of the faceless bureaucracy.

vogons

Vogons: They don’t care about you or your values, they just want to demolish your planet to build a hyperspace expressway.

In most science fiction or fantasy epics, the central conflict is a nice satisfying definitive struggle between good and evil. And usually, the forces of evil are driven by a passionate hatred of everything the good stands for. The bad guys come in with guns blazing, ready for a fight, and our heroes must struggle to defeat them. And sometimes they even conveniently explain their nefarious plans! But if you’ve ever watched or read Hitchhiker’s Guide, you’ll know the Vogons aren’t like that. They just. Don’t. Care. They love bureaucracy and paperwork, and to them the protagonists are not enemies but merely an inconvenience. They don’t even get a chance to fight; the planet is just destroyed instantly to make way for a hyperspace expressway. You wanted to do something about that? Well, the papers were on file on some other planet for several centuries, you should have gone there, gotten the papers, and gone through the proper procedures to prevent it. You didn’t know? Well, too bad, that’s just the way things are.

 

And that’s how it is with most of the opposition we face in life. We can’t just go in and kick ass until our problems are solved, because we’re up against a vast, faceless, passionless bureaucracy, a monolith of That’s Just How It Is. Your “enemies” don’t hate you, they just simply don’t care. Whether it’s the insurance company jerking you around about coverage or jacking up your rate for some obscure reason, a job prospect that says they want to interview you and then never calls back to schedule an interview, or a car buyer who promises you cash in hand then backs out and hangs up when you call them, life is full of such struggles. It’s frustrating and unsatisfying to deal with them. You can’t MAKE someone care. The only way you can fight apathy is by simply not caring yourself, and moving on to better things, and that’s the struggle I have every day.

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Passive Solar Water Heater/Shower

Oh boy, here goes another  dense, boring how-to post, you think. Great. Why can’t we have more stories about your ex, or Renaissance faires, or something cool and fun? But bear with me here, because I’m about to show you how to build your own solar shower. And there’s PICTURES! Even one of me demonstrating the shower! (Sorry, it’s pretty g-rated.) The instructions given here will help even the most distractible person with zero plumbing knowledge (that’s me!) build a working solar shower. A shower built with the dimensions specified will hold about 7.5 gallons of water, enough for a decent shower including washing your hair. It won’t get hot, but it will get warm enough to be nice on a cooler summer night.

But wait, excited readers, before you get started you will need some tools and materials. Tools for this are pretty simple: you will need a power drill with a 1 1/2″ hole saw bit and a star bit for driving screws, an adjustable wrench, pencil or other marking tool, 60-grit sandpaper, channel lock pliers that will accommodate a 3″ object, and I think that’s it. For materials, you will need:

10′ section of 4″ diameter ABS pipe (the black plastic stuff)

1 1/2″ ABS female adapter

1 1/2″ ABS cleanout plug

2 4″ rubber end caps for pipes

Metal pipe hanger strapping– you can also buy this as individual pipe hangers with a loop for the pipe to go through and a screw to hold the loop shut, I recommend getting them in this form but can’t find the right part on the Home Depot website.

3/4″ bulkhead fitting (ABS, of course. This might take some searching around.)

6-10″ garden hose (don’t just cut a length from a longer one, make sure it has the adapters on both ends.)

8  1-1/2″ self-tapping screws

Dramm sprinkler head and shut-off valve (product #10-12365 and #10-12349 in their catalogue.) Don’t try to use another type of sprinkler head-this works best for low water pressure.

Nice big tube of flexible watertight caulk (I used Through The Roof) and caulk gun

Roll of pipe thread sealing tape

Can of ABS glue (do NOT use glue designed for PVC pipes!)

 

Ok, first order of business is figuring out where to hang your water heater. Choose a location that will get lots of sun during the day, and provides a mounting point at least 8′ off the ground. Now, you’re going to make a hole for the fill cap. SLOWLY drill a 1 1/2″ hole in one end of the pipe with the hole saw; if the drill bogs down in the plastic, just back off a little. Clean up the edges of the hole with sandpaper to remove little plastic shreddies. Now, put the female adapter over the hole-this is going to be your fill hole. See how it doesn’t sit flush over the hole? We’re getting to that. Now, wrap the sandpaper over the pipe with the gritty part facing up. You’re going to run the female adapter over the sandpaper until you sand enough of a curve into it that it sits flush over the pipe. When that’s done, put it over the hole you drilled, making sure there’s no gaps between the adapter and the pipe. Now, glue the adapter over the hole, using the ABS glue. Make sure to carefully follow the instructions on the bottle-that stuff sets FAST! Also it’s quite toxic, so keep kids and pets out of the way. Once it sets up, paint a thin layer of glue on the outside of the joint. Let dry undisturbed. Once this is done, screw the plug into the adapter-you now have a filler cap. IMG_20160717_145815282_HDR

You’ll end up with…this.

Now it’s time to assemble the hose end. Screw the shutoff valve and sprinkler head together, then attach them to the hose. Unscrew the two halves of the bulkhead fitting. The sticking-out bit (for lack of a better word) that screws into the round bit will be the part that passes through the rubber cap. place this part towards the bottom of the rubber end cap, trace around it, and cut a hole for it with a sharp knife-make the hole slightly smaller than the fitting. Push the fitting through the cap so the threaded part is on the outside. The hexagonal bit should be on the inside. Also note: there are two gaskets in the fitting, make sure one goes inside and the other goes outside! Tighten the bulkhead fitting as much as you can-you may have to grip one side with the channel-lock pliers and turn the other part. It’s threaded backwards, so turn left to tighten and right to loosen. When the fitting is tight as it can go, run a bead of sealer around the edge, between the fitting and the cap. You will probably need an adapter to attach the hose to the bulkhead fitting; take both parts into a hardware store and they should be able to tell you what part you need. Put pipe thread sealer tape on the threads of the fitting and the end of the hose. Then, take the rubber cap and put it on the end of the pipe, tightening the bolt on the little metal band around it as much as possible. Once it’s all attached together it should look like this-

IMG_20160717_145728232_HDR

Put the other cap on the filler end of the pipe, tightening the metal band with the adjusting bolt as far as it will go. You’re now ready to hang up your solar shower. Put the 4 pipe hangers in place around the pipe. Next, mark off where you’ll hang the heater. You’ll need it to be at least 7-8′ off the ground to get a good flow. You will also need to hang it at a slant. Mark off the position for the fill end 3-4″ higher than the drain end. Space the pipe hangers out evenly, making sure they have a solid support to go into, like joists or a trailer frame. Line up each hanger over a support, and mark out spots for 2 screws in each hanger, marking through the holes in the hangers with a pen or pencil. If you’re putting this on a trailer, line each hanger up with the metal bars that make up the frame. Next, take the heater down, and drill pilot holes for screws. Put the heater back up, making sure the hangers are lined up right. Rotate the pipe so the fill cap is facing up and the bulkhead fitting/drain is facing down. Have someone hold the heater up for you while you drive the screws in. Don’t let go until you’re sure the pipe will stay put! IMG_20160717_145831834_HDR

(I actually attached mine to the roof. If you do this, put a bead of sealer around the screws to avoid leaks.)

 

Congratulations, you now have a solar water heater! You can fill it with a bucket and a funnel, or run a garden hose directly into the filler cap. IMG_20160717_145928590_HDR

And here’s the shower in action! Happy summer, everyone!

I Moved!

I haven’t been posting anything because I’ve been busy because…I MOVED! I’m now living on the grounds of a local resort that’s been closed for years. Some of the buildings are beautiful and up to date, but many are dilapidated and decaying, giving it a crazy awesome air of mystery. There’s also miles of hiking trails and lots of gardens, some of which I’m going to be taking care of. I’m basically doing a work exchange in return for staying there. I’m helping with the veggie and flower gardens, doing a little night security, and occasionally testing the pool. The owner is hoping to fully refurbish the resort as a center for workshops on Eastern philosophy, qi gong, yoga, and meditation; my friends who work there convinced her to let me stay on the property in my trailer. She was interested in my goal of a low-impact life. I’m still a little in disbelief this is finally happening, and I’m really grateful to my friends who convinced the property owner. Here’s a day of my routine there:

Wake up, turn on my little stove, fry a couple eggs, and brew up a pot of coffee. Sit in my canvas chair drinking coffee and eating eggs on bread, still half asleep. Fill my water bucket and my solar shower from the outdoor tap on a cabin 10 feet away from my trailer. Stumble down to the tree where I’ve rigged my aerial silks, stretch and do a few tricks-I might have to take it easy, as my hands are pretty sore. Walk to the garden, passing a giant raspberry bush and pausing to eat a few berries…spend about an hour yanking weeds  from between the herbs. It’s slow going, the sun is hot, and I’m getting a blister from weeding; still, it’s satisfying  to see the herbs freed up from their weedy tanglement. As I walk back to the trailer, I cross a field of thyme, its aromatic purple flowers visited by numerous bees. It’s good to be back in the shade under the tree where I’ve parked; I do my dishes from breakfast, only using a little water. I spend a lazy few hours reading, including a book on bike repair. I think I’ve finally figured out the brake problem on my bike. I tinker with the brakes until they’re properly aligned, slapping away bugs the whole time. Before I know it, it’s time to grab a quick avocado sandwich before heading off to work, which turns out to be 6 hours of grinding boredom; not too busy, but not slow either. After work, I’m drained. I’m also jonesing for a pizza and some mindless Netflix, but it’s too late at night for one, and I don’t have electric or internet for the other. On the other hand, I’m getting a fair tradeoff, I think, looking around at the property under the light of the quarter moon that hangs in the sky like a flake of gold. I splash myself off with tepid water from the solar shower, brush my teeth, and head off to the mansion to retrieve the keys from the key safe. My first stop is the back of the mansion, where I lock up an open door and turn off some errant lights in the beautiful wood-paneled library. Then, I slip quietly through the dark to the pool building, and check up there; the pool is beautiful but spooky in my lantern light. I make sure the sauna and lights are off, then lock up. I walk across the property to the presentation hall, AKA the Tally Ho, passing the tree where our resident owl roosts. I check for its eyeglow in my lantern light, but don’t spot it. One door of the Tally Ho is open to the night air (and marauding bugs) so I close it, suppressing a little shiver as I walk under the creepy horse head sculpture mounted above the fireplace. After finishing my rounds, I put the keys back in the key safe. My exhaustion begins to settle in for good now. I walk past one of the most extraordinary view s I’ve ever seen, the mountains to the north framed by trees and lit by the moon and stars. I wish Tim was here, but I have to leave that thought be for now, and I’m just too tired to deal; back in my trailer, I sink into bed and fall asleep ignoring the buzzing of a mosquito in my ear.

What is dignity (and do I have any anymore?)

I recognize that I’ve been a wicked, naughty blogger and haven’t posted anything in quite a while. Lucky for you, not only am I posting once again, but I’m also going to explain in this very post why I haven’t been posting anything.

I’ve been doing way too much navel-gazing lately, way more than is healthy, and I’ve been thinking over one thing in particular: what is dignity, and do I have any of it? Does spending a large amount of time being pretty undignified make me someone with no dignity? I guess that’s a little like the age-old question of whether doing bad things makes you a bad person. I fall somewhat into the school of thought that says doing bad things makes you a bad person. After all, if, for example, you incite a massive genocide thinking it will improve the society you live in, you still are evil, even though you did it with the best intentions. But this definition can be slippery too. There should definitely be a consideration of motives when we try to decide whether something or someone is good or bad. Dignity is kind of similar, and brings up similar questions; lately, I feel like I’ve been losing mine, and I wonder if I had any to begin with.

Dignity, according to the dictionary, has several definitions: 1. “the state or quality of being worthy of honor and respect,” 2. “a composed or serious manner or style”,  and 3. “a sense of pride in oneself, or self-respect.” All three of these definitions are something I want to live my life by (maybe 2 less so…) but lately I seem to be falling down on all counts. And it all centers around my behavior regarding the love of my life, and the fact that he broke my heart.

2 years ago, I met the love of my life inexplicably through an ad I posted on Craigslist. I had just broken up with my first boyfriend ever, and having no experience outside a very serious and somewhat stifling relationship with a man over twice my age, I decided to try and experience more of what the world had to offer in that department. So I posted an ad on Craigslist personals looking for “a casual hookup” (Yup, directly contrary to Definition 2!) As we shall see, what resulted was much more than A Casual Hookup but still much less than an official relationship. Anyway, out of the 400+ spammy, scammy, poorly spelled, and occasionally scary responses I received, one really stood out: one guy claiming that he was also a baker, but was probably too old for me, and just wanted to talk. So we started talking, and found out we had a lot in common. We agreed to meet up at the bakery where he worked. He then offered to show me his house, located on a huge historic property where he was caretaker. He later said he had just planned to show me around the property and send me home with a lecture about not meeting strangers from the internet, but conveniently enough, the house happened to contain a big soft bed, and Sex Happened (as it tends to in such situations) without a lot of forethought on the part of both parties. After, we sat around listening to the fireworks being set off at Tanglewood, a few miles away. So you could say literal fireworks went off when we met. Pyrotechnic displays of patriotism aside, I was basically hooked from Day 1. Whenever I was around him, I got really, really, really stupid. Like a bunny rabbit caught raiding the lettuce patch, I was so transfixed by my obsession with, uh…tasty lettuce, that when the proverbial lettuce farmer came along and discovered me munching, all I could do was sit there shaking, awaiting my fate, too dumb to run while I could. We saw each other on and off for about a year and a half, punctuated by epic arguments (he wanted to be left alone, I felt rejected, etc.) until finally the day came when I was expelled from the lettuce patch for good, my little bunny rabbit spine snapped, my little rabbit heart broken. He said there was no way anything could happen between us again, and then a month later he announced he was back together with the woman he had a relationship with before he met me. “I’m lucky that she gave me a second chance,” he said. “She’s the love of my life-don’t try to compare yourself to her, because what I had with you is NOTHING like what I have with her.” This is where I proceeded to lose my little remaining dignity. Have you ever heard the expression “being floored” by something? I was quite literally floored by my loss. I would spend hours crawling around on the floor sobbing loudly whenever I had the house to myself, crawling into corners and trying to disappear. I went on epic benders, getting stoned half the day and drunk the other half, saying about two words to an actual human being. I cut myself and tried to pass off the angry red lines as gardening injuries. The worst was the emails and texts I would send to him, begging for a second chance, beating myself up over what happened, saying I would do anything, ANYTHING, for him to change my mind, saying I wished I could die and come back as Her, the Girlfriend (Official Version).

And what was the worst part? Certainly not the pain I went through. The worst part was the brief glimpses of objective reality I had, where I could see I was blowing the whole thing way out of proportion and airing my dirty laundry in front of my friends, family and co-workers, some of whom had expressed respect and admiration of me. Worse than getting my heart broken was allowing my dignity to slip away. I was falling down on all three definitions of dignity, but the worst was the third: I could see my ridiculous behavior that even my loved ones couldn’t-the drinking, the cutting, the crying and sniveling-and lost all respect for myself.

Maybe that’s a bigger part of what the trailer is: trying to regain some of my lost dignity by building something new, something I can respect myself for. It’s also a reminder of the most fundamental truth about dignity: if I can’t respect myself, then who can respect me? Thinking of my accomplishments on the trailer project helps me hold on to my dignity in times when I can feel it slipping away. I can respect the Lia who built her own bed and cabinetry, not the one who rolls around on the floor in 3-day unwashed clothes holding a half empty bottle of Jack and weeping and moping over her ex-whateverthehellhewas. I remind myself that dignity is just a transient state of being, that both are the same person, and that I should just try to hang on to my dignity and not give up if I lose it for a little while.

 

Plus, I can’t write while I’m hating myself.

 

Thanks for reading! Sorry this seems super off topic, I promise you’ll get more trailer stuff soon. I’m working on a solar water heater right now, will try to get some pictures but no promises. I’ll at least post build details on that.