unforseen consequences

someone i have never met sends me useful, unsolicited information about setting wellpoints. someone else i barely know has pledged to create an enormous scrap steel sculpture in my back yard. another someone, a good friend, is bringing me a piano tomorrow. one day i am lonesome; the next i am overrun with visitors. i am treated like royalty by high-tech transients camping out under the stars nearby. wildlife populations are thriving. i still have no idea what i’m doing, but i keep doing it anyway. and it seems to be subtly influencing the textures and geometries of the world around me, odd objects drawn to an aethereal magnet, unreadable, intangible. i dream of disasters, union with strange and beautiful women, the stars fading out one by one, mastering Debussy.

last night i read commentary by JG Ballard on the psychological impact of space exploration, not just on the astronauts but on the public, as being sinister and debasing. today Bruce Sterling tweeted his prediction of first contact with extraterrestrials in 2010 as something to jolt us out of our slump. i am laying in the tense, ionized liquid dichotomy of these two ideas, like a hobo in a boxcar full of warm, radioactive treasure.

dietary supplements and ammunition

…like prayers to the gods of entropy, save us from what protects us, save us from what we desire, intervene where we are no longer willing to look…

contrapuntally, the manuscript was highlighted in pink over phrases such as, “found the head again in the corner,” and “never listens to the sky.”

at night he can hear them whispering, just beyond the perimeter. they are jackals; he is carrion. he’s waiting to be eaten, slowly taking in his own stink through dry nostrils.

nirvana: several bad lines of code; an abandoned quonset. if you look closely enough, you can see the aeroplanes are actually alive.

list of items in M—-’s collection

  • X-Ray photograph of a coyote feeding on a human infant
  • logbook of meteorological data from 1879-2033, Colorado desert
  • index of eyewitness UFO reports, southern California, 1960-1989
  • approx. 2G cocaine, cut with Mannitol and colored chalk, arranged in lines forming a mandala
  • sulfuric acid, >90%, in mayonnaise jars on an upper shelf
  • The Place of Dead Roads, by Wm. S. Burroughs, bookmarked at page 121
  • operator’s log, amateur radio station ZQX1S, 160m cw, 1939-1956
  • Hustler magazine, 1986-1989
  • satellite map of the Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, featuring mock Vietnamese and US-American midwestern villages
  • log of transmission frequencies, broadcast times and content from ‘numbers stations,’ presumably based in South America, 1989-2009
  • the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft, translated into Mayan glyphs, Esperanto
  • photographs of M—’s father as an infant, toddler, adolescent, college student, bachelor
  • photograph of M—’s mother in wedding dress, framed
  • Egyptian hieroglyphs representing: premature death; a wedding; war; the end of the world; birth of quintuplets
  • American passport with entry stamps from Switzerland, the EU, Tanzania, The Sudan, Egypt, Democratic Republic of Congo, Northwest Territories, Iceland
  • Bizarre Encounters comics, 1956-1978
  • encyclopedic genomes of radiolaria
  • fragment of a drawing by Henry Darger on butcher paper, depicting young girls with penises in bondage
  • desktop Tesla coil
  • carved African fetish, Congo, ca. 1826, stolen from an exhibition in Tuebingen
  • letters from Luz Kaminazuki, 1998-2001
  • audio recordings of Will Oldham, Kenneth Patchen, Bernd Alois Zimmermann

things to do on a windy day

I’m going to let everyone look up my kilt here a little, as I attempt to organize my thoughts around an incremental and total overhaul of the East Jesus power system. Doing this publicly, I hope, will serve two purposes: 1) to share information to any interested parties in the spirit of Open Source Everything, myself included! and 2) to help keep me focused. I’m always sharper with a little stage fright. Comments and questions are welcome and encouraged.

as of today, we have a 12V system with the following components:

  • 8x Concord SunXtender 255AH 12V batteries
  • 6x Interstate Workaholic 6V golf cart batteries
  • Xantrex ProSine 2000 pure sine inverter
  • Honda EU3000i generator
  • Honda EU1000i generator
  • 16x Kyocera 150W PV panels, in three legs: 2 x 3, 2 x 3, 2 x 2, each leg feeding one of:
  • 3x Outback FlexMax80 MPPTs
  • AirBreeze 200W 12V wind generator (more of a toy and/or science project than a generator, but it definitely helps in winter! in odd circumstances such as these, it can even come close to providing all the power East Jesus uses!)

and, waiting in the wings, components for upgrade to 48V system:

  • Outback VFX-3648 pure sine inverter
  • 8x ASE 300W mil-spec PV panels
  • 50x Suntech 25W PV panels
  • 24x C&D 4000AH Pb-Ca 2V cells

Given the failure of one of the MPPTs (see previous entry,) now seems like a good time to begin. At the end of the process, we will have a smaller 12V system and a very large 48V system; the 12V system will power and be powered by those components which are fixed at 12VDC – the wind generator, radio equipment – and a small cluster of PVs on one MPPT, and will serve as interim backup power in case of 48V system failure. While we’re tearing everything apart, we need to test the golf cart batteries and AGMs and probably equalize the former. Additionally, we wish to minimize power down time. The generators may be called upon to power mission-critical loads (computer & network, radios, NOAA equipment and work lights, interior and exterior.)

And now, the procedure (TBD after 8am [wx] on a sunny morning)….


  • disconnect AC loads from ProSine and divert to running generator.
  • shut down all MPPTs, put AirBreeze in BRAKE mode.
  • disconnect ProSine from 12V system.
  • physically relocate ProSine, about 8″ to the left.
  • reconnect golf cart batteries (& 12V loads,) leftmost MPPT and wind generator to ProSine (note: Honda 3000 30A feed remains connected to ProSine; must make available to Outback inverter also, preferably panel-switchable.)
  • reconnect AC loads to ProSine. mini-12V system is now complete.


  • test AGMs, retire any stinkers (this will leave either all 8 or only 4 batteries in the bank.)
  • connect AGMs together as 48V array.
  • install Outback inverter, connect DC buss to AGMs.
  • install Outback Mate & Hub, program.
  • combine Kyocera PV legs “S” and “N” at input stage of middle MPPT, connect to inverter DC buss.
  • install inverter AC Out box (simple, to be upgraded later)
  • divert AC loads to 48V system.
  • add Kyocera PV leg “AUX” to middle MPPT (robbing the last PV array from the 12V system, freeing up left MPPT.)
  • remove ProSine from 12V system, install in Walter.


  • float-charge golf cart batteries, top off with water, disconnect, test, equalize.
  • construct platform and for 300W PV panels and enclosure for Monster Battery farm.
  • test 300W PV panels.
  • test 25W PV panels.
  • design 25W panel array.
  • send defective MPPT in for replacement.
  • charge, test, characterize, equalize Monster Batteries.
  • upgrade 48V AC Out breaker panel.
  • acquire 10kW diesel generator – Listeroid or whatever, veg preferred.


  • connect Monster Battery array to 48V system.
  • remove AGMs from 48V system, install in Walter as mobile 12V array.
  • install 300W PV array with MPPT to 48V system.
  • install 25W PV array with MPPT to 48V system.

Voila! You are now in command of some serious electric power, on par with that of some developing nations.

this month in Suck and Fail….

I generally am not a whiner, but the pile of things going wrong here, most particularly things attributable to incompetence and lack of support on the part of manufacturers, service providers and businesses in general is so stunning as to have actually become entertaining. I am trying to lead a relatively simple life off the grid in the Colorado desert of Southern California. My life is made much more complicated by the compound failures I have experienced so far this month. So, dear reader, put on your caustic rant helmet and get ready for a verbal onslaught, some good clean poo-flinging at companies that are really pissing me off right now…

non-working & unsupported

EXHIBIT A: Bosch 1600A on-demand water heater: Dead out of the box, have troubleshot every possible angle and am still receiving NO SUPPORT and NO WARRANTY RETURN AUTHORIZATION from Bosch. Reason? “Nonstandard installation.” They don’t like their products being used off the grid, apparently, even though I have double- and triple-checked my work against the mfg specs and plumbers have signed off that I did everything right. After about a dozen calls to tech support, I finally threw in the towel and decided to return the damn thing. Oh, no, but the friendly, unhelpful folks at Bosch must authorize the return under warranty. I got an email from the original seller, with notes from Bosch’s various support techs taken during our many conversations, and the thing reads like a chapter from Tobacco Road. If William Faulkner had written it. This is why I still bathe at the hot spring, which is frequented by carneys, nudists, rainbows, and the dead. Only the rainbows worry me.

the little email engine that couldn't

EXHIBIT B: Lorex 8-camera surveillance system: Got this from Costco, thinking it would save me a few weeks’ worth of tinkering. WRONG! Not only is the user interface straight out of the 8-bit stone age, but the alarm email notification does not work, no matter how many known working permutations you program into the thing. Support takes about 45 minutes hold time on the phone, and email takes 2-3 days for a response. And nobody there seems to have the faintest idea about what the fuck they’re talking about. The basic functionality works OK, so it’s not a total Fail, but I am simply going to stop wasting my time expecting any help from them and just roll my own email server that triggers directly off one of the alarm outputs. Merry Christmas, folks, and thanks for absolutely nothing.

see the UPS truck? neither did i.

EXHIBIT C: United Parcel Service: I’m really, really sad to report this one. To me, UPS has, up to this point, been like a shining beacon of reliability and competence. But yesterday, a package I’d already been waiting two weeks for (a solder gun from HRO for working on antennas) got left on the front door, according to the tracking report, only there was no package at my front door, and the surveillance system revealed that no UPS truck had even been near my place that day. Must be a driver not accustomed to this route; the two regular drivers know my place and know me by name. In any case, either this was a misreported delivery or my solder gun is someplace far from where it belongs. None of my neighbors received it. Grumble, grumble…

[Addendum 2009.12.22.1357: I just found the package out in the sculpture garden!! What an odd place to deliver a parcel! Anyway, at least this story comes to a pleasant and happy conclusion, and I can go homebrew that 70cm ground plane… – c]

EXHIBIT D: AAG Electronica & TAPR T238+: Mea culpa, I should have looked a little more closely into this homebrew wx kit before I dove in. The 1-wire anemometer the T238+ kit was designed for is deprecated and has been replaced by a model that for some unknown reason has bright, blinky Mexican disco lights in it that have nothing to do with the measurement of temperature, wind speed or direction. After flying the anemometer for a few days to test it, everything failed except the blinky lights – only I failed to realize that until I had doubted and tested everything else. I thought I had miswired the RJ-11 to RJ-45 adapter, and checked in with the designer of the T238+, who basically confirmed I had done it right, albeit a month later (inquiries to AAG Electronica went unanswered.) Long story short, I’ve been working on this damn kit nearly three months and I still haz no wx. No nothing. The anemometer was returned a couple weeks ago; I expect a new unit some time before 2011. The T238+ is a really cool wx logger/tnc/modem, but STAY AWAY because it’s about to be shelved by the designer in favor of a different wx instrument paradigm…hopefully I can repurpose it as an APRS beacon for the missing alarm notification on the Lorex… Fail + Fail = ??

one of these things is not like the others…

EXHIBIT E: Outback FlexMax80 Maximum Power Point Tracker: This is the third one to fail on me. Luckily it is still under warranty, albeit just barely. The first one smoked, the second one went nutty after its neighbor smoked, and this one just stopped being able to track and now cannot even boot itself. Happened just this morning, right when the days are short, the AGM bank is struggling just to hold a 50% charge, and I have the Monster Batteries in trickle charge mode. Awesome timing. I’ll have the new one probably in like 10 days. I *hate* burning dinosaur bones.

home at last...

home at last, after some long hurdles

EXHIBIT F: Monster Batteries From the Shipyard to East Jesus: First, I had to literally send someone on foot to tug at Jim Mason’s shirt sleeve and ask whether these were still for sale, and for how much. I got a fairly prompt response, and the deal was sealed. I put out a call for bids on uShip.com, a service I’ve used to fair satisfaction in the past. First winning bidder had no idea what he was doing, dragged his heels for a week, arrived to pick up a day late without notice, and then refused to pick up the load, even though all information regarding the nature of the shipment had been known to him. And he didn’t even bother putting down the crack pipe to notify me. Waste of two weeks. Next shipper accepted the bid, then upon finalization asked, “Wait….are these *used* batteries???” Third shipper, who came up just a few hours later (thanks uShip for the very quick cancellation turnaround) and swore up and down he knew this was hazmat, was hazmat certified, driver was hazmat certified, yadda yadda. He actually got the job done, though it came in a 53′ trailer rather than the van he said was coming, which required Plato’s memorial park to be partially dug up….anyway they’re here now, but The Shipyard sent along a set of connecting bars that don’t fit and I either have to wait for them to return my calls and get this straightened out, presumably after this silly religious holiday nonsense, or spend another $500 or so on rolling my own. Never mind. I’m just having a rough day. No, make that a rough month.

EXHIBIT G: Sore throat and so no singing (my primary form of psychotherapy.)

EHXIBIT H: Another cracked molar.

EXHIBIT I: New bad-apple neighbors screaming at each other past bedtime. I was thankful someone went out, fired three rounds, and shouted, “STFU!” It was quiet after that.

All I want for Christmas is a day without calamity, where nothing breaks and nothing goes wrong. Nothing big, anyway. You know, just as a reminder that such days do come along every once in a while.

The future is work, hard work, and no end to it. — John Cage

Monster Batteries vs East Jesus

After two shippers had accepted the job and then – big surprise! – realized this was a hazmat load (I mean, really, do I need to tell people who do this for a living that used batteries are hazmat!?) and declined to transport it, one professional operator stepped up to bat and got ‘er done.

C&D MCT II 5000-AH cells

C&D MCT II 5000-AH cells

There are 24 of them. Each weighs 700 pounds. Altogether they weigh 8.5 tons. I don’t know how many bathtubs full of sulfuric acid they contain. By the time they’re ready for retirement, I may be able to recoup my investment just from the lead.

When new, the array had a rated charge capacity of over 200kWH. They used to belong to those mad scientists, Jim Mason and crew, at the legendary Shipyard / All-Power-Labs in Berkeley. Why they got rid of them? TOO HEAVY. For them, that’s saying something. Besides, they (finally) are enjoying grid power these days, so all the PV and battery power is a tad less sexy for them than it used to be. While in use there, the batteries kept a three-phase machine shop running. Before the Shipyard, they are presumed to have been installed as a telecom UPS and were maintained and fussed over accordingly. Their duty cycle is 20 years.

This is the third and final component of a grand power conjunction: these batteries; an Outback VFX-3648 inverter; and the ~4kW of photovoltaic panels recently rescued from destruction and donated to the East Jesus power grid, bringing the solar capacity up to over 6kW. I may need to add a much larger generator than I have now, just to equalize the batteries. We’ll see. First, though, I have some reading to do. The IEEE has specifications on the care and feeding of these behemoths, and I know I’m going to have to do things right or possibly suffer very messy, explosive, corrosive consequences. Until then, I don’t even have the guts to unwrap them.

Meanwhile, KI6RRX is now equipped with a mobile/base VHF/UHF rig – very pleased with the Kenwood TM-D170 and the Diamond X300A (about 30′ up.) I’ve been enjoying lots of QSO with other PAPA members, picking up APRS beacons from as far away as Holbrook, AZ and hearing a lot of activity on 2m and 440 that I simply haven’t jumped into yet. Cross-banding is now possible with the Yaesu VX-8R HT – I can talk to PAPA while bathing with carneys and nudists at the hot spring, using the base station as a repeater. Kinda cool.

Finally, in other, completely unrelated news, I have been approached by a museum that wishes to acquire my collection of paintings and drawings by convicted serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and email scammers tried to convince me that the UN Foundation had awarded me $500,000, presumably for outstandingly surrealistic lifestyle that may better the world and all humanity…

KI6RRX reaches PAPA network on 5W from East Jesus

yesterday morning it was cool and foggy. i was up early, about 4:30am. seated by a fire, i was listening to the early bird Slabs chat on CB23, and had my Yaesu HT tuned to PAPA-7. i’ve tried a few times in vain to hit that repeater, about 40 miles distant, with the HT, but there simply isn’t enough power – that is, under normal conditions. perhaps it was the fog clinging to the ground, but when i inadvertently pressed the PTT, i heard a “beep-boop” come back at me. “wow,” i thought to myself, “really?” i tried it again, with the same result. i went ahead and transmitted my call sign, still hitting the repeater, but no one responded. there wasn’t any activity at that early hour usually, anyway, so i waited a while for some PAPA user to come on.

eventually Gary, W6??? (sorry, i’m even worse at remembering calls than i am at remembering names!) came on and i replied. he thanked me for the comeback but said i was unreadable, and advised me to increase power. as the HT was already fully open, i climbed up to the top of the shack container and tried transmitting again. this time my signal came through clearly, and we had a pleasant, but short, QSO – my first on the PAPA system.

knowing weather conditions wouldn’t always be like this, but encouraged by the QRP success, i decided to finally invest in a 2m/70cm mobile/base station – one powerful enough to easily reach PAPA 7 and capable of serving as a home repeater to my HT, and an antenna. i always want to build my own antennas, but i like to start out with something that’s quite likely to actually work. i chose a Kenwood D170A and a Diamond X300A antenna. i expect to build a 70cm yagi eventually and aim it straight at Toro Peak, but this setup should at least get me on the air well enough to become acquainted with the PAPA system and hopefully get some further advice.

this was the first time i had ever made an unlikely QRP contact on any band! i’ve been completely inactive on HF since my MFJ multiband gave up (and was subsequently cannibalized.) for once i got to feel a little tingle of excitement at making contact under unusual conditions, and i look forward to much more activity on VHF/UHF very soon.

Addendum, 2009.12.11.1808:

Propagation remains favorable under cloudy skies, high-ish relative humidity. I located Toro Peak (location of the PAPA-7 repeater) and from here it’s virtually a straight line traversing the long NW-SE length of the Salton Sea (salt water is a kind of magic RF mirror / amplifier,) explaining some of this. Still, covering about 50 miles on a 5-Watt HT is not trivial, especially with glowing reports of signal clarity and strength. Thanks, Yaesu, and thanks to all you PAPAites who indulged my “quickie” propagation checks. Today, a year and a half after my FCC licensing, I graduated from listener to operator. The incoming 2m/70cm setup should be more than adequate for comm with PAPA-7 under merely normal conditions!

Addendum, 2009.12.13.1221

That was Gary, W6MAT, whose call I couldn’t remember.

free chicken

today, after giving a tour to about 40 nomadic “escapees” from society, one of the visitors told me a story about free chickens. apparently, in factory farms, a few chickens are allowed to roam around completely free on the main floor. this is supposed to give the other, non-free chickens, packed tightly into their tiny coops, the illusion that there is freedom, something to live for. it soothes them, calms them. at the end of the story, he said to me, “you’re the free chicken!”

a nice report of this group’s tour last year is here.

i hate Windows because…

…it’s like being forced to go out on a date with someone you really, really can’t stand. sure, you get a meal out of it, but you have to pay, you have to put up with someone you hate who thinks you’re in love and wants you to spend the rest of your life with them, and you resent every second of it.

…it’s like Unix, only with lots of Suck and Stoopid mixed in.

…like mustard or napalm, once you get a little on you, it winds up on everything. you can’t get away from it, ever.

“Let them hate us so long as they keep having to buy our crap.” I wonder what it feels like to be hated by so many on a global scale?

Leave An Interesting Trace, Part One

Royce Carlson aka Mr. God aka Zebulon crafts a concise account of the communitarian construction of his conspicuous, semi-columnar confabulation of conscripted creation:

Leave An Interesting Trace, Part One

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