As of Saturday the national average gasoline price was $2.59 at the pump, up 23 cents in just six days.

A week and a day ago, I paid $2.329 in Swanton, VT, on the last Saturday in August. I paid $2.559 in Swanton, VT, on Thursday and the price had jumped to $2.799 there by Saturday.

2008 Gas SignI tweeted Leaving the land of $3.94 gas! as I drove over the bridge into Vermont from New York State in 2013.
I drove 1,700 miles up the East Coast in 2014. I haven’t heard a peep from any of the usual suspects about the prices and there was no ineffectual Internet gas boycott. The House approved stiff gas-gouging penalties in 2007 but prices are higher than ever.
I drove the east coast in 2015. The cheapest gas I saw was in South Carolina.
Vermont’s gasoline price-fixing lawsuit grinds toward a jury trial this fall.

A lawsuit against Vermont gasoline distributors R.L. Vallee, SB Collins, Champlain Farms, and Champlain Oil Company alleges price-fixing to the tune of more than $100 million in improper profits. R.L. Vallee was founded in 1942 and is based in St. Albans, Vermont. SB Collins was founded in 1942 and is based in St. Albans, Vermont. Looks like the distributors have just added more fuel to the fire. The national average price is up 23 cents at the pump but these guys have more than doubled that.

Gas prices in Swanton, Vermont
are up 47 cents/gallon in a week.

Oh, I know the argument that some Texas refineries are down and a pipeline has slowed deliveries. Horse puckey. Some refineries and infrastructure are always down, usually for maintenance but sometimes like now for other reasons.

I have thought the world of Skip Vallee. He’s a nice fellow and good businessman who has banked a huge reserve of community spirit. That bank of good feelings is overdrawn. Mr. Vallee, Mr. Jolley, et al have an alleged history of overcharging Vermonters, particularly in the northwestern corner of the state and it appears they have a new excuse to do so.

It isn’t a very good excuse.


The News Blew Up and Social Media Lied about It

Gee-eeeeez, I go away for a couple of days and the world washes away!

First Mr. Trump pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a move that drew criticism from civil rights groups and Democrats as well as both of Arizona’s Republican senators, then one of the worst flood disasters in modern U.S. history unfolded ever so slowly around Houston. Mr. Trump responded in characteristic fashion: he tweeted. He was tweeting praise for the responders, a move that drew criticism from everyone else.

Relentless rains from former Category 4 Hurricane and now Tropical Storm Harvey are still pounding Texas. Rainband after rainband swept north and then slowly east through the metro area, dropping 25″ of rain so far and that’s only half what is expected. The large-scale steering currents have collapsed with no signs of anything that will sweep the storm away from the area for the next several days. Harvey was still drifting back southeast at just 2 mph this morning; it will pick up energy and new supplies of water from the Gulf, then turn around to do it again.

Of course, everyone from Homeland Security to FEMA was working ahead of the storm but, naturally, social media says all Mr. Trump has done is “tweet a book report.” Naturally, social media lies.

Meanwhile, Orpheum Theater in Memphis will drop Gone With the Wind  from its summer film series next year because 12 insensitive potential customers took offense; they complained that the film is too “insensitive” to be shown in theaters today.

The tyranny of the minority.


Camping Daze

I built a boat from scratch. I still want to build a camper the same way.

But good sense got the better of me (temporarily) and I bought one instead.

FunFinder Ready to Tow

Yeah, yeah, it’s a lousy photo. I’ll take some better ones eventually.

This is a “Fun Finder XT245” man cave. It has a ramp in the back, a door on the side, a galley with a stove and nuke, Dometic frig, head, shower, and a queen size bed. The good news is that it is just 9-feet tall and will weigh around 6,000 pounds fully loaded. The bad news is that it was necessary to make a few minor changes.

It has too many beds. Boats and campers should drink 8, eat 4, and sleep 2.
The master bed mattress sucks.
The folding couches (known as “gauchos” in the RV biz) get in the way of real furniture when they are down and the windows when they’re up.
I hit my head on the happy jack bed in the back.
It needs a desk for my computer monitors in the back.
It doesn’t have enough house batteries to run my freezer.

Real mattresses are a PITA to move around. I dragged/pulled/carried/humped the original mattress out of the camper and onto the wheelbarrow where it was not very well balanced. Carting it to the barn was easy peasy in comparison.

Three of the four bolts in the right-side gaucho zipped right out. The fourth, buried at the bottom of folding frame, did nothing but spin. I worked on that on and off for a few days.

I finally did get the bolt out of the gaucho and it fell off the wall just like it was supposed to. The retainer is indeed a plastic part about an inch long with a rusty tapped rod embedded in it. The rust part is not a good thing. I put the bolts back in with anti-seize.

The gaucho was a lot easier to handle out of the camper and carry up to the barn than the mattress.

I’m a tool guy, right? In the last 50 years, I’ve collected every possible tool I would need and inherited even more from my tool guy father and tool guy grandfather.

I bought a weight distributing hitch and discovered I didn’t have a big enough wrench.

These things come with locomotive hardware. The trailer ball has a 1-7/8″ nut that requires torquing to 450 ft-lbs. My torque wrench goes to 160 ft-lbs. Uh oh. The mechanic up the street’s torque wrench goes to 200 ft-lbs. Bigger uh oh.

Wait. I have weight!

I applied the 450 ft-lbs to the ball and 250 lb-ft to my nuts with no problem whatsoever. 450 ft-lbs is about 200 lbs standing at the end of a 30-inch pipe on my 16-inch breaker bar. 250 ft-lbs is that self same 200 lbs standing at the end of that same 16-inch breaker bar and bouncing. It may not be exactly right but it’s close enough.

The trailer sits flat and level now.

We borrowed a queen-sized air mattress from a friend and forced our son to test drive it the other night. He reported it was fine so we tried it.

SWMBO was still awake when I came to bed. It was about 55°F outdoors by then but we had a blanket and should have been alright. The mattress seemed OK but it wasn’t. It was cold because it stayed at ambient so I suspect on a hot day it would be hot. The “tube” shaped surface didn’t seem uncomfortable but both of us felt as if we were angled pretty steeply to the side. I don’t know if it was SWMBO being awake or the discomfort that kept me awake but 45 minutes later it was obvious we weren’t getting to sleep so we moved inside to a real bed.

I bought, picked up, set up, and ran the generators. The manuals are in remarkably good English with professional diagrams. I stacked them and ran them in both “economy” and regular mode. They are indeed quiet enough to talk over even in regular mode while standing right beside them. I plugged in the trailer and ran the lights and radio and the microwave with no noticeable issues.

I am sorely disappointed though. It took three pulls to start one of them.

My black and gray tanks don’t seem too too full but I will take full advantage of having a dump station at the campground next weekend.

In the middle of all this, I’ve been buying slinkies and jack plates and chocks and dogbones and totes and all manner of goodies.

And, of course, adapting the battery box I built for the road trip last year to work in the camper.

I realized yesterday that I have one shopping day^H^H working day left before we leave for our first three-day trip at a state campground and I have to work today. Work on the camper tomorrow. Load the camper tomorrow. Get the camper inspected Wednesday and relevel the weight distribution hitch.

The big task I have left is to install the battery box and wire it up. I’m presuming, of course, that it will work. We also need to put the replacement mattress in. I’ve never run the water heater or the furnace. I’ve also not run out the awning. And we need to figure out what food and clothes and sundries we’ll take.

We pull out Thursday morning, rain or shine. Check-in time at the campground is 2 p.m. but “If the site you reserved was not used the night before your arrival, it may be possible to occupy the site sooner, however that would need to be arranged with the park staff, contact the park to inquire” so I’ll need to do that, too. I want to get in around noon since we have a wedding rehearsal to attend at 3.

Lordy Lordy™.

Since I haven’t taken any of my own, here are two shots of other people’s same-model campers.
The Looking in the Ramp  ramp

And looking The Interior forward



Apparently in some frat houses, hazing is still a good thing.

WNYC’s Manoush Zomorodi and TED science curator David Biello got all warm and fuzzy about saving the planet from Global Warming by “hazing the sky” with sulphuric acid.

“Modified jets spewing sulfuric acid could haze the skies over the Arctic in a few years ‘for the price of a Hollywood blockbuster,’ as physicist David Keith of Harvard University likes to say. For a mere billion dollars a program to swathe the entire planet in a haze of sulfuric acid droplets could be ready as soon as 2020,” Scientific American reported in 2015.

Does anyone who remembers acid rain really think this is a good idea???

Hazing the (Apocalyptic) SkySulphuric acid. H2SO4.

The EPA defined “acid rain” or “acid deposition” as “a broad term that includes any form of precipitation with acidic components, such as sulfuric or nitric acid that fall to the ground from the atmosphere in wet or dry forms. This can include rain, snow, fog, hail or even dust that is acidic.” Acid rain darned near ruined Vermont’s maple industry.

The EPA regulated it to death. We thought.




“Read this and beware,” Liz Arden told me. Follow the link below now. I’ll wait.

He Fell Victim to a Used Lens Scam

This scam is bigger than writer Ziemowit Pierzycki realized.

We already know about fraudulent ordering scams in which the scammer buys something from you with a fake cashier’s check or stolen credit card. Sometimes they pick up the goods but often the victim is expected to ship the merchandise via a fake shipper. If you get an offer for free money, there’s always a catch.

We already know about the very similar overpayment scam. Don’t send money to someone you don’t know.

This one is a biggie because the “Amazon” scam will work for any third-party seller on any mailorder system from Walmart to Sears to eBay to Craigslist and, of course, to Amazon.

Amazon lists more than 10 pages of used Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L lenses including one for $1,250 plus $7.49 shipping from Products By Reily. They also have 31 used Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G Nikkor lenses including one for $909 plus $6.99 shipping from LuckyMerchant. “Every purchase on Amazon.com is protected by an A-to-Z guarantee” but now I’m afraid to buy even with that guarantee.

Walmart advertises “Researched. Trusted. Choose from more Every Day Low Prices and get the same great customer care. Shop one of our trusted sellers.” I just found that you can buy Mortal Kombat X (PS4) used for $15.84 from Walmart direct or $19.99 with free shipping from GameJiffy or $26.43 plus $10.06 shipping from UnbeatableSale. Beyond just the prices, now I’m afraid to buy from those “trusted sellers.”

I would hope that the folks at Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee department (Mr. Bezos, are you listening?) would be more on top of this but, sadly, Mr. Pierzycki will need a lawyer to make the rocket scientists in that department recognize that the scammer didn’t send the thing to his address in Gilberts.

Back in 1975, a Nordstrom’s customer in Alaska wanted to return a set of snow tires. Nordstrom’s sells a lot of things but the department store chain has never sold auto parts. Not even snow tires in Alaska. Nevertheless, the clerk took back the tires because that’s what the customer wanted.

Of course, these days it is easier to blame the victim (and lose the customer) than to prosecute the criminal.

I wonder if Nordstrom’s sells used lenses?