Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Back from the Holidays

I'm back from my vacation but not for too long. I fly back to CO on the 6th of January to start another vacation but this time it will be a ski trip.

The first thing on my list of things to do is to get propane which I did on tuesday. So far it seems like the new fill valve is working and there does not appear to be any leaks so I will start using the stove tonight.

I noticed some water spots on the ceiling near the roof lifting bracket, I need to get some sealant in there before it rains again.

More updates to come...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

More Holidiay Plans

Once again I am flying back home for the holiday. Taking two vacation days and the rest is paid for by the company. I fly out on friday night and return the following monday. I really wanted to stay through new years as I would only need to take three vacation days but sadly I do not have enough time to also return the following year for more holidays. Of all the "developed" countries, the US has the least vacation/holidays for workers.
I suppose if you did what you wanted to do then there wouldn't really be a need to take time off from it.

I am looking forward to seeing my friends and family again. The next time I'll be able to see everyone will probably be in July, assuming I am still working at the same company.

Every time I step out of the car and into the airport I have this incredible urge to turn around and jump back into the car. It is the same feeling about arriving at work M-F.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I seem to be getting my priorities confused. Maybe it is because I don't have them written down or perhaps it is because they keep changing. Either way I am still doing exactly what I've been doing and still complaining that things are not getting any better.

I thought I would have been able to get rid of most of my stuff after two months yet I still have a storage unit with lots of stuff. My desire for freedom from stuff was not a priority and so it suffered.

I keep complaining about my job and how it does not fulfill my desires and needs yet my search for a new one has not started in earnest. I may never know what I want or need but I do know that I want the ability to try new things irregardless of income.

An endless stream of complaints about my lack of yoga has not enabled me to do any. It was not a priority for me, I let other activities take over. Now I have to do a regular running routine if I am to survive the marathon I'm signed up for in May.

I continuously complain about the cold weather yet I am still living in a place that has a winter season.

It is time to break this pattern

Freedom from stuff - The only items I want to keep* in the storage unit are things that are either irreplaceable, extremely sentimental, activity related (golf clubs, camping gear, DVDs, etc..) or van parts (although I should go through the parts and sell off the stuff that I can easily reacquire). If there is something that I can repurchase in the future with an identical or better item as needed then I will get rid of the current version in favor of being free. The exception to this point will be my work clothes, until I get a job that does not require business attire I will have to keep my current wardrobe and ironing supplies in there.
*yes, the goal is to be mobile and I could part with the sentimental and activity related items, could also get rid of car parts, related tools, and fluids if I stopped driving. 

Job - not sure on direction with this, do I continue to suck the resources out of my company and feed it into dividend producing stocks or go find something more interesting.

Running - Ive got two groups of people who go running regularly and they are providing enough motivation to keep me on track however I still need to do some on my own. 

Location - more research into agreeable climates is needed. Hawaii works but there may be better places and I need to find them.

Monday, December 5, 2011

12-5 Weekend Update

What an interesting weekend I had. First, a short back story.

On Thursday, I had a social event with work. This translates to "the young employees go out and awkwardly drink together on company funds". Normally I avoid these events in favor of doing more productive activities but this time I had a surprise party to go to afterwards and could gracefully exit after participating for approximately one hour. Another reason I attended was because it was on the way to the surprise party. Anyway, I am at the party enjoying a nice English beer when someone who I have met via the bowling group spots me. The details of the conversation are unimportant but the outcome is; they have a house for sale a block away from work and I am allowed to park in the driveway till the house sells.

Thats right, I have a dedicated parking spot!! Free of charge because having a vehicle parked in the driveway of an empty house creates the illusion of it being inhabited and therefore less likely to be stripped of it's precious metals. I would like to be able to keep it parked there all day and night and just walk to/from work but the current agreement is for evenings. I wouldn't want to be blocking the driveway when the real estate agent tries to show the "empty" house.

I helped move an upright piano and also assembled it on Saturday. I am glad that my instrument of choice is a guitar, very easy to move around.

Despite it being a block away, I was still late this morning. I blame it on the running and racquetball on Sunday, I am so sore.

Still out of propane, I called the shop today and the pump is still broken. I really want to make some popcorn.
Laundry was completed on Friday, need to iron out a few shirts. I did clean up the van and also did a through cleaning of the fridge, why did the fridge engineers decided to design it with an intricate molded shell? I had to use a fine cleaning brush to get the grime out of all the under-cut edges and channels.
Did not even bother looking at the repair manual or check out the brake bulb, still need to adjust throttle switch.

I'm making a list of parts to order for the van, coolant sensor, oxygen sensor, fan resistor, rubber floor mats, etc....wants vs needs. It is easy to get carried away with this list as I want the van to be in top condition but then I have to remind myself that my money could be doing better things, new window rubber molding or dividends, hmm... I do need to budget for a new windshield, rubber trim and wiper blades, the cracks and chips are getting worse.

Friday, December 2, 2011

12-2 Weekend Goals

I tried to get propane from the U-Haul place yesterday and their machine was broken :( Maybe by saturday they will have it working again and I'll be able to cook something on sunday.

I need to do a lot of laundry, maybe after work I can go. Colin still has my laptop and camera so other then reading there wont be much to do tonight.

I need to clean up the van, lots of stuff just rolling around and making it look messy. Probably need to do a purge of unneeded stuff.

Van stuff:
I noticed that the driver side brake light is not illuminating so it is either a dirty connector or the bulb burned out. I've also noticed that the brake lights come on very late, usually by the time I've stopped which is either a pressure issue or a switch issue. I need to check the rear brake adjustment, peddle feels a bit squishy, despite the fact that they are supposed to be auto-adjusting. Some light repair manual reading is on order this weekend.

Also need to adjust the gap for the throttle switch, I've noticed that under cold running conditions it has a tendency to stick open.

I would also like to know why I've lost 4mpg, have a feeling it is either coolant sensor or oxygen sensor related. I am sure both need to be replaced.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

11/30 - Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown. Ugh, the holidays are expensive, I am almost afraid to look at the numbers. Some modifications to the breakdown to better suit my spending patterns

Previous Monthly Financial Breakdown post here

If I sum up total expenses from 10/1 through 10/31 I get -$1694
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $20,328, way way over :(
lets take a closer look.

Regular Food costs: -$100 or -$25 per week (Low due to holiday travel)
Fun Food Costs:  -$261 or -$65 per week (High due to holiday travel and also no cooking abilities for a week)
Fuel: -$154 or -$39 per week (includes two trips to airport plus a long trip to see Wayne and driving around Denver)
Leftover Renting Expenses: -$6.74 (final balance for water bill)
Van: -$109 (includes: propane valve and EZ toll tags)
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: -$170 (One new smartwool tshirt, a zip top (from ebay), and socks. Also purchased an REI discount coupon )
Travel: -$720 (Purchased two airline tickes with parking and travel insurance)
Misc:  -$141 (Super sale on a guitar and parking for my jury duty)
Storage:  -$32   (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)

Things that were not necessary this past month: Most of this past month's unnecessary expenses are related to holiday travel. The guitar was not necessary at all, so will be the rocksmith game to go with it once released in December, so $140. The two trips are also pure luxury, so $720. With the exception for one week ($30), the fun food expenses were all eating out with friends, so $231. This brings my luxury expenses to $1091 and necessary to $565 Yikes!! Without the luxury, my yearly is at $6780... :)

Ok,  clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Food and fuel: -$350 (I don’t have any long distance driving trips planned for next month other than to the airport for my Christmas flight)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$100 (Assuming another smartwool shirt and misc)
Van:  -$50 (I don't anticipate any large projects for next month, revised down)
Fun: -$400 (number significantly revised upwards, Upcoming Christmas holiday will incur dinner expenses, parking fees, etc...)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $11964

Unhappy to see an increase over my 11k mark and still disturbed by fun expenses. The flights are what killed this month's budget. Yes, the fun food was high, I am working on a list of activities that I can do with my friends that is less expensive and more interesting.

I dread next month's expense sheet, should be interesting and depressing to see exactly what Christmas costs. 

Note:Gave away a few items, nothing worth mentioning.

Here is the status of my dividend income:
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities. I started out by doing a broad overview of what I had in a previous post and now it is time to put up my progress. Last post it was at 16%.

Previous Monthly Financial Breakdown post here

Current level is now estimated at 9% (pending the actual dividend payments at the end of Q4)

Progress has regressed, I needed to hold onto my last paycheck as insurance against unexpected expenses  and I also wanted to bump up my emergency fund. The reason my dividends have dropped so much is because a major holding of mine had to reduce their quarterly dividend by 25% which for me accounted for 7%. I also did some calculation tweaking for more realistic numbers. My plan for December is to push up my emergency fund a bit more but still put away cash to improve my dividends. Such slow progress, the market has not been very favorable to me either. Currently in the red on almost everything I own but am optimistic for 2012.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back in H-Town and my dream

I am back in Houston after a very action packed vacation surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday. I return again for Christmas and the next two weeks at work will feel like an eternity.

There was no time to relax, between seeing family, friends, and blog followers there was no spare time. I did get rid of some unneeded items and did some of the car stuff as mentioned in the previous post.

Seeing all the stuff I have acquired and forgotten about made me feel ill. I know there is a lot of useful items in the attic that I won't be using but would be useful if I had a child. Do I continue to retain these items in the attic knowing that my parents wont be moving any time soon or do I just eliminate them and plan on purchasing new/used stuff if/when it is needed.

Another blindingly obvious fact that I have come to grips with is that cars have consumed a significant portion of my life. cleaning, repairing, restoring, traveling in, etc.... Especially my attachment to the classic Mini. I have piles of parts and tools (hand tools, detailing tools/supplies, restoration tools, etc..) which take up space in storage as well as memorabilia and collectibles; models, posters, shirts, hats, magnets, books, pens, movies, etc...  The mini is so embedded into my life that it may be impossible to separate from. I understand that it is just a car and do not need it to survive but I have too much fun with it. In a way it sort of defines who I became and also represents my collective abilities. I have resisted the urge to collect van related items but I still have two boxes of parts that came with it as well as two van related shirts. I shall try to eliminate more stuff from my storage unit, probably going to focus on consumables and other household items.

The farther down the minimalism path I travel the less interested I am with driving and of cars in general.
I had a dream last week, I was living in a small house with glass walls in Hawaii. There was a greenhouse which provided the majority of my food and all utilities were generated on-site. There was a yoga/meditation rock garden with waterfall and a view of the ocean. In the dream I worked for pleasure instead of necessity and creativity outweighed consumption.

Financial post tomorrow, lots of scary numbers and trends after the recent holiday/vacation.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Holiday Plans

My holiday starts right after work, I've got vacation through the 28th and plan on having some fun or at least get some rest. I might have to move some of my parents stuff and also sort through my old crap. Actually I need to go through my old crap and get rid of most of it, freeing up part of my life and leaving a pile of old stuff with my parents is not a good strategy. I really wish I had been able to finish my project car as it is taking up way more space while in pieces. I guess I will focus on stuff that can be easily replaced and then follow up with stuff I no longer want/need. I am sure I will have to spend some time doing car maintenance at least one of the days, the mini needs an oil change but I can only do it if I have a spare filter and I should start the gt6 motor to keep the rust off the cylinders and other bits.

The van will be parked at an airport parking lot, I have already taken my laptop and camera to my friends place and the rest of the "slightly valuable" stuff is in my storage unit. The really important stuff is locked in my office filing cabinet; who breaks into an office building looking for valuable personal items?

Upon returning from vacation I have to install the manual filling valve for the propane tank, not having a working fridge and stove has been quite inconvenient and expensive. 

If anyone needs some smartwool socks, they are 25% off at REI for the holiday week. I was there on thursday and picked up a pair of black skiing socks to replace my work socks and they are amazing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

11/15 - Weekend Update

Ya, I missed the monday posting of my weekend update. I was supposed to spend all day at Jury duty but right before our group entered the court the lawyers managed to settle the dispute and we were released. I was really looking forward to taking part of a court case, listening to the lawyers give points/counterpoints and evidence trails. Anything that isn't going to work is exciting but after being released I ended up heading back to my home region because I didn't know what else to do. I did get some supplies at whole foods and also took the van in for an oil change, had dinner at a Vietnamese place. I am still waiting for my propane tank valve, until it arrives I have no refrigeration or cooking abilities.

I've received a few responses from my craigslist post for a regular parking spot.  I will be following up later this week. Hopefully I can get something for free because the most I would pay to park per month is like $40 and it would have to be the perfect spot.

This past weekend was interesting, saw Wayne on Wednesday and Thursday for b-day parties, spent friday wandering around a park with a really cool burned out section that would be perfect for a photoshoot and learning guitar stuff. Saturday disappeared into trivial tasks and computer oblivion along with storage unit clean up (got rid of kitchen stuff like potato masher and pizza cutter and various glasses)
Sunday I modified an ikea desk into a coffee table and went to the Thanksgiving dinner event at the Table.

Plan for this week is to go running after work tonight, pack for upcoming trip home, and install propane tank fitting (if it arrives in time)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Once again the van tries to kill me

Yes, another attempt....once again by chemical means. I think I should rename the van to "Christine"

I ran out of propane Wednesday night, once again exactly 15 days after filling it last. Per the usual routine, I left work and drove straight to the U-Haul place to get it refilled. The same guy has been filing it up and is getting quite good at it, plus he sells it to me as vehicle fuel instead of regular propane fuel which save me 60 cents per tank fill-up.

The process is straightforward: stick the hose attachment to the tank, close the line to the fridge/stove, open the bleeder valve and turn on the propane flow. The liquid propane fills the tank till it bleeds out the valve and then the auto-stop mechanism shuts off after the pressure stabilizes. I waited for the tank to equalize, paid for the fuel and then left.

This is where the van's plot begins, the autostop valve decided that the best time to break and leak out all of my propane was while I was driving in traffic and running errands. The O-rings must have given up holding back the pressure of 3 gallons of liquid propane.  I was traveling around in a fog of propane gas entirely unnoticeable from inside the van. I am quite surprised that it didn't combust off of the hot exhaust or ignite after the cooling fans and other electrical devices were operated. Lets not forget the smokers with open windows in traffic.

I am beginning to feel like a mobster, every time I start the van there is an uneasy feeling that it will result in a massive explosion. How many attempts can I survive till it succeeds?

Eventually the fuel drained out and I have ordered a new valve this morning but till it arrives and I get the time to install it I have no cooking or refrigeration abilities.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Guess which famous person used to live in a vehicle

The guy who founded Patron Tequila. At one point in his life, before patron fame, he lived in a old rolls royce in CA.

this article references it:

My Hotel Parking Strategy

This is my strategy for parking at hotels.

First rule: check for security by driving around the lot once during the day, also take note of the security cameras. Most cameras are at the main entrance but some have lot cameras. If you see a security cart, I do not recommend parking there for more then one night as they have lists of registered cars. I have not had any problems with these places but I do not recommend staying.

Second Rule: Locate staff vehicles. The guests all park at the entrance or side doors while the staff have to park at the other end. Depending on what shift they are on they may end up leaving while you are sleeping and may recognize your vehicle if it is there repeatedly. The goal is to be on the other side of the worker traffic but out of the view of the cameras.

Third rule: Avoid the No Go zones. These are vast areas of empty parking spots, typically used only by very large trucks (moving trucks). These can be easily spotted during the day as they do not have the usual evidence of vehicle fluid spots and have pristine parking lines.

Fourth rule: Location is everything in determining a good night of sleep. Use buildings as sound barriers. The diagram below is of a hotel I frequently stay at, I have noted my parking preference in green. This fits all the rules above and also lets me put up the sun shade without looking suspicious because the sun will be coming in from the right side of the drawing (or south if you noticed the north arrow). Also has a nice view and cooler temperatures.

Fifth rule: Take note of all street/lot lighting. This may sound strange but, with tinted windows, you want to be parked underneath the lights rather then farther away. If you are far away the light is coming in at an angle and will help illuminate the interior (not desired). Park under the light and it passes straight down and away and it also makes the vehicle look less suspicious as long as there are other cars around it. If you do not have tinted windows then you must park as far away from light sources as possible.

Sixth rule: Notice where the neatly trimmed shrubs and short walls are, these are designed to conceal the air conditioners and dumpsters. Avoid for noise and smell reasons.

Seventh rule: Pay attention to the location of pet areas, you do not want to wake up and have people walking around in front of you waiting for their pets, it gives the people too much time to observe the surroundings and also your van.

Eighth rule: Always have traveler props scattered about the "viewable" areas, or driver seat area. Traveler props include maps, hotel bills, fast food wrappers and cups, glossy advertisements, business shirts/pants, snack food. For some of you these may already be strewn about but do add the business clothing. Make sure it is neat and not in a big pile, everything must be viewable but not obviously placed. Clothes on hangers can be angled across the interior to for a visual barrier between you and the "viewable" area.

Ninth rule: When you park at your final destination for the evening, do not jump out of the seat and head straight for the curtains and bed, sit in the driver seat and observe what is going on around you. Use the phone as a prop to mask your activities. Look for other people sitting in cars (usually on phone) or those walking the lot. Once clear of observers, begin the process of setting up window shades and other traveler props. When you wake up, the same process should be observed before leaving.

Tenth rule: Do all your cooking, cleaning, music listening, yoga, running and any other noisy/motion activities at a public place like the park.

Monday, November 7, 2011

11/7 Weekend update - popcorn and flannel

The weekend was spent working on Colin's table, playing guitar, eating out, working out, laundry, playing Starcraft, Friday night party and a 11/5 party with V for Vendetta film as conclusion.

Saturday, after working out and having lunch with the Stuarts, I did laundry which cost was approx $5 for the two loads and dry time. I also switched my sheets over to flannel, which was a signal for the weather to spontaneously get hotter then usual at night leaving me cursing my weather luck yet again.

I finally got to have my popcorn conversation Saturday night. The popcorn conversation is exactly what it sounds like, a conversation about popcorn. A mutual friend is a foodie and cooks very tasty stuff and so I wanted to talk to her about the finer points of popping popcorn, the oil to use, temperature, toppings, pan types, and popcorn source/quality. Now that I am armed with new information and ideas I can continue on my quest for the perfect popcorn batch. It is a good thing that popcorn is an inexpensive food source as I plan on eating a lot of it.  See the wiki for more info

I cleaned the fridge on Sunday.  The entire process took approx one hour which includes restocking with the recently purchased food. I need to eat more green foods, since moving into the van my green food intake has dropped to almost 0 while brown, red, white, orange, and yellow are at all time highs.

I've ordered another Smartwool microweight t-shirt, this time in a grey color. I think two of these t-shirts are all I need for most of the activities that I do.

Hope to so some purging of the storage unit this week, not sure what I want to focus on yet, maybe cleaning supplies or office stuff.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The flow of information in a corporation

Incase any of you followers or viewers are unfamiliar with working within a corporation, let me explain how information actually travels because it defies logic.
On the outside, when you need information from someone, say you want to know how to get to a friend's house, you send an email and they respond with what you need.

See diagram below:  person L sends email to person S, they respond and problem solved. 
In my corporate world the information travels like so:

L wants information from S but L is busy and so A is in charge of gathering the information and compiling into a summary for L. A is rather busy so I get tasked with trying to get information from S. Person S, who is equally as busy as L, comes from the world of installing equipment and as such these people tend to not operate in the digital world, I have to physically walk to S's office to ask for information which is at the other end of the building. Since S isn't with the digital world, I am provided a brief summary despite requests for an email but some information that I need is contained within subordinate G who also does not exists in the digital realm. Person G lives several floors above me and so I have to continue my travels to reach G. G is also a busy person and spends a considerable time in meetings as well as being out of the office entirely. Once contact is made with G, I need to request that G sends information to S to send to L Contacting both G and S is very much like attempting to capture a stray cat. They only appear for brief periods and are scared away by loud noises. I basically have to set up camp outside the office, wait till they appear, and beg for spare minutes. This will generally agitate them and reduce the quality of information that I seek which reduces the chance that an email will be sent with the information that I requested forcing me to return with a follow up visit. Meanwhile L is wondering where the information is which forces A to ask for a status update from Me as well as what I have managed to accomplish over the course of the day. How can one justify spending an entire day attempting to get an email sent from S to L, what about the actual work that I had to do?...

This is what engineers do all day long, if you believe otherwise you have no chance to survive, make your time. All your base are belong to us!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My plans for living with the cold weather

This past weekend's cold front reminded me that I do not have a central heating system and rely entirely on a few blankets. I actually received a few offers from friends to stay in their houses till the cold front passed but I turned them down. I needed to experience the cold. It was the only way that I could come up with a workable solution.

Friday night I tried using just the window insulating covers but when I woke up on Saturday the van was almost as cold as the outside. The covers reduced/slowed the heat loss but it was clear that the amount that is lost was significantly higher then my body heat output. Therefore the solution to this problem is to either increase the heat output via propane heater or reduce the heat loss area. I have decided to try reducing the heat loss area. My current idea is to use a black blanket tucked into the upper bed area which can be draped down across the width of the van and cover the foot of the bed. This will reduce the heating area to just the bed space and some air space above the table. I believe this is enough of a reduction to avoid needing an artificial heat source. The secondary benefit to using the blanket method is that I will no longer need to hang random shirts and pants from the roof rack bar to create a "light block" from the front windows and will not need to use the curtains. This will somewhat reduce the suspicious look of the van from the outside in the event that a very nosy person tries to look in through the tinted windows.

In the image below I have marked the bed in green and the blanket idea in red.

The second thing I noticed was that residual heat from the motor slowly creeps through the insulation and mattress and if I keep the comforter over the bed it will be just warm enough to be comfortable despite the ambient air temperature.

Monday, October 31, 2011

10/31 Monthly Financial Breakdown

Well, another month has passed and this means I need to do a financial breakdown.

Previous Monthly Financial Breakdown post here

If I sum up total expenses from 10/1 through 10/31 I get -$944
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $11,328 just over :(
lets take a closer look.

Food costs: -$273 or -$68 per week (includes a dinner for visiting relatives and a lunch for a sailboat captain)
Regular Fuel: -$204 or -$50 per week (includes  the two trips to do sailing class and day sail)
Leftover Renting Expenses: -$0 (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)
Van: -$32 (includes: sink water pump)
Insurance: -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium but still counted as monthly)
Clothing: +$29 (New golf pants and shirt purchased but I returned the boating shoes so I have a credit)
Fun: -$403 (club day sail was 85 plus 318 for ASA101 class)
Misc:  -$5.38 (can of paint)
Storage:  -$32   (plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox)

Things that were not necessary this past month: The two dinners cost me $100 plus the extra fuel to go sailing which is approximately a tank of fuel so $40 bucks and the ASA class of $318  bringing my luxury expenses to $458. Almost half of my monthly expenses, Yikes!! Without that my yearly is at $6000... :)

Ok,  clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Food and fuel: -$350 (I don’t have any long distance driving trips planned for next month)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$100 (smartwool shirt and misc)
Van:  -$100 (still need an oil change but I don't anticipate any large projects for next month, revised down)
Fun: -$200 (number revised upwards, Upcoming Thanksgiving holiday will incur dinner expenses, parking fees, etc...)
Yearly expense estimate with the new numbers: $10164

Good to see a slight decrease but still disturbed by fun expenses

Cannot wait for next month's expense sheet, should be interesting. 

Note: I was able to sell a few items this past month. The remaining pachinko machines, the bed frame, dvd player and air mattress. If I could get rid of the mattress and a few more large items I might be able to reduce my storage unit to a 5x5 and pay less per month (embedded note: just checked prices and it seems that they have gone up since I started renting and I would only save a dollar per month unless I moved to a new location but would only save four dollars per month)

Here is the status of my dividend income:
Since I re-aligned my investment strategy I've been putting extra cash into dividend paying stocks and other investment opportunities. I started out by doing a broad overview of what I had in a previous post and now it is time to put up my progress. Last post it was at 9%.

Previous Monthly Financial Breakdown post here

Current level is now estimated at 16% (pending the actual dividend payments at the end of Q4)

Such slow progress, I might have to sacrifice everything that isn't absolutely necessary to achieve a better increase for next month. At the current rate I would need to put away more then 20 paychecks just to cover basis expenses and I honestly do not know if I have 40 more weeks worth of work in me. I may have to sell off my growth stocks and put it all into the dividend plan.  It is at this point that I regret spending so much on fun activities because I see the real cost in future comfort, that sailing class basically cost me $100 per year in dividend income (using AGNC stock and dividend as a basis).

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

10/24 weekend update and quarterly dividend payouts

Well, I survived yet another end of the world prediction and also had a lot of fun at the Halloween costume party. I did not do a full setup of the camper because it was unnecessary, I barely had time to sleep in it.

I am out of propane again, 15 days after I last filled it up 10/10. Seems like it always runs out in the middle of the night. This may be the one part of the van that limits my long trips that I have planned. If I only have 15 days worth of propane then I guess that is the longest amount of time I can be away and still keep fresh food. I will have to play with the temperature knob and see if I can get a few extra days by turning it to a warmer setting, right now it is on max cold. Max cold is cold enough to cause frost buildup on the cooling grates, definitely needs a circulation fan. It seems like the small amount I use for cooking does not have much of an impact

I finally received the quarterly dividends from the two companies that I own stock in that pay quarterly dividends. Total income was $48, woot!!, equal to 2% per year on the cash I need although I only received a small portion of one stock that was recently purchased and I think that it has something to do with the time owned not being a whole quarter. (note: this is income is before I realized that I needed to redistribute to increase the dividend payouts, Q4 should be much more profitable, although it always is due to end of year capital gains payouts)

Friday, October 21, 2011

10/21 - Weekend Goals and Dometic Fridge observations

Assuming the world does not end on midnight tonight...who knows if crazy old preacher guy will be right or wrong this time.

No sailing this weekend, I have a Halloween costume party to go to saturday night and it is as far away as the marina but in exactly the opposite direction. This will be the second time I get to use my Napoleon Dynamite costume. I purchased a wig and glasses kit but made the "vote for pedro" shirt. I am looking forward to using all the camping equipment on the van as intended. The party is at a farm and I plan on staying overnight, hopefully the weather won't be too cool and I will get to put up the pop top. I will try to get a photo of it fully set-up.

Vandwelling observations:
Having a dedicated night parking spot will greatly reduce the stresses of daily life and allow you to develop a daily routine. Without a routine, time gets wasted about thinking what to do next instead of doing.

The dometic fridge works better then I had initially thought. I have managed to keep fresh herbs and strawberries as well as freeze a cucumber. Without knowing the exact temperature I would still be wary of keeping dairy or meat for long periods. (Not an issue for me since I am a vegetarian) The performance is definitely tied to what ambient air temperature is, anything above 80 and it just keeps things cool but not cold and struggles to recover from heat gain after opening.

Notes about food placement within the fridge: This is not a normal fridge, the shelves are strange and storage is an issue

The door holds water bottles very well but the trick is to find the right size water bottle, mineral water bottles fit very well.I put my kiwis in the top shelf of the door because this shelf is the most protected and kiwis fit very well up there.

Strawberries and other fruits that are prone to going bad quickly need to be put onto the middle shelf as this is nearest the cooling fins, however it is just below the water drip tray so do not place food that can be damaged by water.

The floor level is where I put oranges, bananas and peanut butter and jelly jars. The floor collects water that gets splashed off of the drip tray so only put food with waterproof skins or jars down there.

The top shelf is for breads and apples or other fruit that gets damaged easily, this shelf is the second most protected but the last to cool down. Garlic and tomatoes also go up there.

Another tip is to not store anything in a bag inside the fridge. There is a wizard that come out of hiding when you close the door and will transform the bags into knotted piles of plastic which somehow absorb large quantities of water that will only drain out once you remove them from the fridge and drench the carpet. Avoid produce bags at all costs. The exception is carrot bags, these have magical anti-wizard features.

Best of luck finding properly sized tupperware to fit the shelves. I have a couple that work but only if I tilt them at certain angles.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It is getting cool at night

Last night it was 57 F. Tonight will be 47 F due to a cold front blowing in. So far the brown fuzzy blanket is keeping me at a comfortable level however in a couple of weeks it may be time to switch over to my comforter.

I have noticed a significant temperature difference between the windows with covers and those without so I would say that they were a good purchase. Once it is cold enough to have all windows closed I will start using the rest of the window covers, right now I have just the back covered and the windshield.

I will be very excited when daylight savings comes around. It is getting very difficult for me to wake up in the dark.

Monday, October 17, 2011

10/17 - weekend update

Once again I went sailing. this time it was unplanned. The school was looking for another person to go on the "skills building" session that is included with the ASA101 course. Naturally I agreed to go and was even more excited when they told me that the boat we would be using was a racing boat. Unfortunately there was not a lot of wind on Saturday.

The skill building session was approx. 3 hrs long which left me with plenty of "free" time that afternoon/evening. I ended up hanging around the marina till dusk and then wandered around the boardwalk to see all the flashing lights. After walking the boardwalk and checking out the moon-rise I ended up back at the van and went to sleep early. I was too exhausted to go and listen to the band at the monkey bar.

While relaxing at the boardwalk I saw a vw westfalia drive into the parking lot, same white but two years older then mine. I sprinted over to the van and had a good conversation with the owners.

Not much happened on Sunday, I came back before noon and ended up reading Born to Run at the bookstore. A couple of games of starcraft after that and then I parked in a new hotel parking lot, I plan on parking there all week as an experiment to see if anyone will notice.

Stuff update: Sold the bed frame on friday and will hopefully sell the dvd player this week.
Added a new blue polo and the beige golf pants to the work wardrobe to replace the cotton versions.
Returned the REI base layer shirt and also returned the sperry boat shoes. I want to get another smartwool shirt in another color, with two of them I could do just about eliminate all of my other shirts.

I need to get rid of more crap.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More sailing stuff

Got some photos from the first club sail. Such hard work ;)

Monday, October 10, 2011

10/10 - weekend update

Sailing went well, I passed the test but the sunday sailing part of the course was rained out. I'll have to come back some other weekend and join the next class. I now have rain gear on my list of things to get, my only jacket is just weatherproof and not waterproof.

I have a problem with unplanned free time. This is only a problem when I know that I have stuff to do but can not remember what it is or am unable to do it due to lack of resources.

After the sailing class I did not know what to do. The club sails have parties afterward and that is what I had expected to happen but everyone left for the day leaving me on my own. What to do with a free evening?
I did what all the other tourists do, walked the boardwalk (although I didn't spend any money) and got soaked by the ocean bashing into the seawall. (getting soaked while wearing quick dry clothing is fun, need to get a haircut though).  At night I wandered into a bar with the best sounding band, had a few beers and met the band/locals. There is nothing more satisfying then walking from a bar back to an RV and going to sleep next to the place you need to be in the morning (just remember to take off your clothes before falling asleep).

Side note:
I had a very enjoyable sunday evening in the parking lot of starbucks. It was raining, I cooked up some gnocchi with pandora running and then watched Into the Wild. I was in a zen like state and everything outside of the van seemed to have disappeared.

Friday, October 7, 2011

10/7 - Weekend Goals

Yet another weekend thus approaches.
I now have running water, the new pump came in yesterday and after an hour of digging around the cabinets it was fitted and operating. I believe that the new pump has a higher flow rate which means I need to get a diffuser or some way to reduce the flow to conserve water. Actually, I take that back, conserving water is not the priority, not filling up the grey water tanks is my priority.  Speaking of grey water tanks, I think the shut off valve leaks.

This weekend will look very similar to the last two in that I will be down at the marina except that I will be doing the ASA101 basic keelboat course instead of a club sail. It is a two day course and should be lots of fun. I've been studying the book all week. Lots of strange terminology like Clew. By the end of the day sunday I should be capable of sailing a 20ft boat in light to moderate winds.

I've been seeing a small wet spot behind the rear of the van, something must be leaking. I need to investigate this, also found out that the high pressure oil switch had been bypassed several years ago so I need to reattach it and see what is going on. I have no idea where my soldering iron or multimeter is so I guess ill have to get another one.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mental gaps

After the financial post I decided to do a broad overview of all my finances and investments. I've been hanging out at and going through some very interesting articles/posts. Lots to learn over there but more importantly I wanted to know how I would do if I was totally unemployed. I have always thought that my financial knowledge was great and that I was implementing what I needed to do to achieve my goals but in reality I have only put it on autopilot and in the hands of others.

If I was unemployed my investments would be capable of supplying  9%  of my basic expenses without drawing down the capital. NINE...I feel ill. This comes from dividends (common stock) and capital gains (mutual funds).
For all the time I have spent building elaborate investment spreadsheets all I have to show for it is a single digit and that is only possible because I no longer pay rent. If I include rent I would be down to 4% but if I went to a car-free lifestyle I would be up to 16%

Most of that 9% came from recent purchases of high dividend stock.
The more I learn about stocks and the market the goofier my common stock purchases seem to be (almost lottery ticket goofy) but now that I have a tiny bit more knowledge I feel that I can increase my percentages.
I wish I had known what I know now before I was hired, I could  have put away some serious cash and would feel significantly better about my financial situation.

Ugh, 9...

How many paychecks would it take to totally cover your daily expenses if you purchased shares of CEL, AGNC or CIM?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

No running water, no gas, no heat, no fridge...How do you survive?

I ran out of propane last night, approx 17 days of continuous fridge use and several pots of rice and beans and one large gnocchi meal last weekend. This time I will try to convince the guy filling the tank up that my vehicle is propane powered so that I can get it at the cheaper price. Obviously the fridge stopped working but a quick mental check (since the fridge is very slow to cool stuff down you have to remember everything that is inside and decide what you want before opening to conserve the precious cold air) revealed that the only items in danger are my remaining strawberries(which may already have gone bad), the mini peeled carrots, and leftover rice/beans/corn from last night. I may spend some time with the fridge off and see if it negatively impacts me.

Water pump will hopefully arrive on Thursday, I've been using water bottles in the mean time and refilling by dipping them into the water tank. An inconvenience but I still wouldn't want to be paying rent in an apt.

The weather around here is finally getting back to the nice daytime, 90s, temperature with cool nights. By cool I mean low 60s. Now I need to sleep with both a sheet and a blanket! Soon, like late November, I will have to start using the down comforter or sleeping bag. I think a wool hat would help, maybe a red one like what Steve Zissou wears.

Monday, October 3, 2011

10/4 - Weekend Update

I went on a club sail again, this time there was way more people and lots of food. I signed up to take the asa101 course next weekend and the sailing book I ordered last week arrived today so I have a week to study it.
The club sail was so relaxing, perfect weather and very sunny. I am disappointed whenever the guests turn on the radio, listening to the sea is so much nicer. When this happens I just go hang out on the bow and watch the waves and the coast pass by.  There were a couple of dolphins that followed us for a few hours.

The water pump for the van's sink decided to die on sunday so I had to order a new one today.

Sunday I just followed the dock hands around doing what they do and trying to learn as much as I can about boats. A new boat owner wanted to know if we did boat maintenance and wanted to hire us, sadly I was not in any position to do so but the other guys were. Working with the dock hands did not feel like work and it was nice to be outside. I doubt they get paid much.

A cool thing about being in a marina is that the people there are very friendly. I met way more people in one day then I know from working for two years in an office.

The drive back home was depressing.

Friday, September 30, 2011

9/30 Monthly Financial Breakdown

My life is expensive….or so it seems

If I sum up total expenses from 8/31 through 9/30 I get -$1900
A rough calculation would put my yearly expenses at $24K :(
but if we break it down there is hope.

Food costs: -$217  or -$54 per week
Regular Fuel: -$80 or -$20 per week
Leftover Renting Expenses: -$194 (water internet power and the fees associated)
Van: -$270   (includes: hands free sink kit, tune up kit, fan, BG fuel cleaner, fuel system repair, fire extinguisher)
Insurance: -$302 or -$50 per month   (I pay in 6mo intervals to reduce the premium)
Clothing: -$136   (New smartwool shirt, running shorts, rei shirt and golf pants. Worth every penny, I might buy another smartwool shirt and I'm tempted by the exofficio briefs)
Fun: -$364  (day sailing was 75 plus 40 for fuel and a book for 4, labor day trip fuel (125 approx), sushi dinner to celebrate the van 47, mini club dues for past few years 75)
Misc:  -$300  (flight to D-town for Thanksgiving and misc hardware for van)
Storage:  -$32   plus a sunk cost of 15 per month for mailbox

Ok,  clean out the unusual stuff and do a monthly for the rest
Food and fuel: -$300 (I don’t have any trips planned for next month)
Storage and box:  -$47
Insurance: -$50 
Clothes: -$100 (not sure what I want to add in regard to utility clothing to reduce my regular clothes)
Van:  -$200   (need an oil change but I don't anticipate any large projects for next month
Fun: -$100 (probably go sailing again or get sucked into a dinner out, idk)

Yearly expense estimate with new number is ~$10800... Yeay!

Cannot wait for next month's expense sheet, should be interesting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Even famous people live in vans

That is the word on the street, apparently Sly Stone is homeless as well.

Starcraft is sucking my other 8 hours away from me,  I refuse to play it tonight and instead I will go to B&N to read some more of the 4-hr work week or Born to Run.

Monday, September 26, 2011

9/26 Weekend Update - Sailing!!

Anyone notice the lack of weekend goals post last week? I didn't write one because I needed an open weekend to do cool things.

Saturday I went sailing. I tried to sign up for the ASA101 class but it was full however the sailing club associated with the school was going for a day sail so I signed up to go with them instead. Spent 5hrs on the water with very steady winds. It was as awesome as I had imagined it to be. Traveling at 4.5-6 knots is very relaxing and being out on the water with no distractions other then the boat and the wind forces you to relax.
Upon returning to land there was an 8hr party of fancy food and wine, I do not drink wine but the food was very tasty. I stayed in the sailing school parking lot that night and spent half of sunday just hanging out with the other sailors and walking around the docks.

Sailors are way cool! Each one I met had more stories and personality then my entire office building combined. One guy spent three years surfing down the west coast into South America.

I know that I can not afford to be a boat owner, it takes a certain level of wealth to be one and I am clearly not at that level. However, I need to be on the receiving end. If the sailing company had offered me a job I would have taken it without hesitation. The best way to learn everything about sailing is to work with it daily.

Ill put up some photos of the day at some point.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The minimalist and their things

EV posted a new and updated list of the things he owns although it is not as complete as previous lists. I am jealous. I probably have more then that just in the van, obviously he does not include disposable items like toothpaste or cleaning supplies or common shared items from the kitchen.

EV seems to be more of a non-tech minimalist, while Tynan is rocking the technomad minimalist side (and also lives in an RV)

I still owe the blog a pic of my storage unit. Since I moved the camera to a more accessible location I will accomplish this task this weekend.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Day 20 update - why is this so easy?

Happily the van no longer is as messy as that photo, I have removed a significant amount of stuff and packed away the drying laundry. Currently reading up on quick drying underwear, maybe two or three pairs can replace the entire pile I have now.

Last night I parked in a new hotel lot and was right next to the lot security car. I felt that this would be a good test of my urban camo. Sure enough the guard walked past about 1 hr later and didn't even break stride to take a closer look. I slept great knowing that I had my own personal security guard, the lot was very level, there were shrubs and other plants that helped cool down the breeze and act as a light block. I will return next week.

This life is too easy, I should have been living in a van two years ago. I am currently at Kroger using internet and recharging toothbrush (first device I have needed to recharge other then laptop or phone and the only one I have that does not have a DC adapter) and I also fill up a gallon container from the water fountain to deposit into the internal tank. There is an old Asian guy watching a martial arts film in front of me, looks like enter the dragon with Bruce Lee.

Gave more stuff away yesterday to Colin: shop broom, body weight scale and some shop tools, will probably give him the two 500w spotlights. Nothing new has sold on craigslist.

I came across an ok site which I thought would be more interesting but the couple only consumed rice, beans, tortillas, peanut butter, jelly, bread, and oatmeal for the majority of their meals with the occasional potato soup.  Maybe there is some better stuff in there but I do not have the time to read all the archives. I do however want to reduce my weekly food bill and I definitely need to eat through the excess I have in the storage unit. 

I would like to not use the fridge so much or at all, currently it is only required to keep my carrots and cheese cool (I suppose it keeps my fruit cool and it lasts longer, I might try keeping jelly too) but I will be finishing the cheese soon so the question is, is it worth having it run all day long for just that. I am having my doubts, especially when it costs 26 bucks per month in propane (excluding the random meals I cook). I could purchase a lot of carrots and cheese at that price. My next experiment will be to build a box out of Styrofoam for the bottom shelf and put a freezer pack in it. I will refreeze it at work and supplement with ice from work. HA, work...Still not arriving before 8am and to not look late I quickly walk into my office and turn everything on, then go back to the van and have breakfast. I don't know how much longer I can continue to work at this company.

In other random news, according to I like 55 of the 134 on the list. Can you guess which ones?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Van attempts to murder me...again!

(photo of the laundry and clutter removal chaos)

But I survived!

For those of you who are counting this is the second attempt on my life by the van, although much more subtle this time. 

Friday, my day off, I was leaving a hotel parking lot to go to my mailbox and then to the bank to deposit the cash from selling my car. Initial start-up and trip to mailbox was fine but leaving my mailbox I stated smelling fuel fumes. Some fumes, especially when the tank is full as it bleeds a bit off due to the design, but this was a bit excessive. Initially I thought that the spare fuel tank under my bed had popped it's vent port but upon inspection it had not. I continued to the bank under the assumption that it was just some vapor fumes and that they would go away with airflow.  It did not.

Arriving at the bank, I took a look under the fuel tank area and did not notice any evidence of leaking fuel so I continued onward. As I am getting up I notice gaseous optical distortions emanating from the motor.  Opening the engine bay cover revealed that the fuel supply line (cloth wrapped stuff designed to not rupture) had ruptured and was bleeding all over the engine and exhaust system. Clearly this was an attempt by the van to kill me for it had known that I wanted to drive to the beach this weekend and if I had it would have surely ended in a fiery blaze.  To fix the problem I cut the fuel line and spliced in a tube to bridge the gap. From there I deposited the cash and then drove to the auto store for some new fuel line.

Went to Lowes to return leftover project parts and screws, picked up a new class D fire extinguisher to replace the one in the van that was near empty.

After this near death event I decided to go to REI for some new threads. I purchased a Smartwool merino wool t-shirt (green), a REI brand micro-weight polyester shirt (red, clearance rack) and a pair of trail running shorts (grey, clearance rack).  Everything is amazing, it all feels so light and breathable vs cotton. The Smartwool shirt has magic built into it, it can go from being sweat soaked to perfectly dry in minutes and does not smell. The cotton t-shirt I was wearing to go to REI already needs to be washed after only a few hours of use. Clearly merino wool is FTW.

I've re-laced the hurraches I have to eliminate the between the toe string and need to go for a run in them to see if has made a difference. So far they are significantly more comfortable for just walking around in.

I feel safer parking in parking lots of hotels and stores then on the street, plus the streets are actually more noisy by comparison and have more severe drainage slopes. Paying attention to drainage slope becomes an important skill to have because it directly correlates to sleeping position and comfort.

I think I have run out of propane. The indicator LED for the fridge flame went out this afternoon and I have not had a chance to try and restart it. Guess I need to eat the perishable stuff tonight and get it refilled on sunday. Note: gas was refilled on saturday.

Other important information: It is finally raining.

Doing laundry in the van wouldn't be so bad if all my clothes were quick drying.

Weight reduction is now a goal, I am trying to cut my food supplies in half. Still carrying around entire containers of rice.

Project update:
Purchased GoToobs, cleaned up glove box, sorted out the window cover problem, and installed the tune up kit.
I remembered that I wanted to put on some exhaust pipe wrap to further reduce engine bay heat so on the list it goes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

9/16 Weekend goals

The only goals I could come up with are kinda lame compared to the previous weekend goals posts. Mainly because I did most of the hard stuff with the van before moving in.

  • I need to add a fuse to the radio wiring circuit and while there I will do the wiring for the auxiliary power socket on the dash (also need to get a fuse). Need to find a power source to plug in soldering iron or get inverter.
  • Clean the front storage box on the roof. I put the stickers on and now it looks funny with just a small clean spot. 
  • Need to add more water to the internal tank, doing laundry last night used up 2 gallons and I still have lots more to do. 
  • I wanted to velcro the more commonly used items to the inside of the kitchen cover 
  • Need to go to REI and get a couple more GoToobs
  • Clean out the glove box, so much crap has piled up in there that it is getting difficult to close
  • The window covers are piling up in the middle of the van and taking up too much space, I need to sort through and keep the essential ones in readily accessible spots and put the rest in the pop top bunk. 
  • Do some research on the LED light project
  • I guess I need to install the tune up kit, doesn't do much good sitting in the box
I need to add more photos to the blog, large blocks of text are boring to read through and it is a good reason to use the camera. 

more to come...
in the mean time have a look at

Monday, September 12, 2011

Letting go of stuff and weekend observations

Saturday I donated some stuff to goodwill:
I released the drop leaf table into the wild, godspeed bizarre creation.
The GE alarm clock, shower attachment, printer, dish rack, computer speakers, and some shirts. I have stuff on craigslist but have not sold anything this week. I was a fool to have purchased all this crap and  now I am paying the price once again. I will be giving a few garage things to a friend and someone is interested in purchasing a lot of the woodworking stuff later this week.

The Lexus is sold. cash buyer. I am feeling much better having sold the car, I was worried that it was going to get towed out of the apt parking lot since I no longer live there. 

My diet is getting worse, surviving on peanut butter and honey on chips and some random fruit. Also having plain popcorn.

Grey water tanks were drained into a very dry looking shrub in the park. Main water tank was topped off from auxiliary storage tank under van.

The weekends are strange. During the  week it is easy to be in the van, drive to work and park all day, drive to parking spot and sleep but the weekend lacks structure. I feel like I am aimlessly driving around to do random tasks. I've also lost most of my motivation to do anything, only want to relax on the beach or in the pool.

Still can not get to work on time, showed up at 8:30 today. I am starting to suspect that it is a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality that is causing this problem.

No progress on van projects. It was really hot and I had no motivation.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gotoobs rule! and weekend goals

My box from amazon containing the new fan and gotoobs arrived yesterday. The Gotoobs are sweet. I went with the 2fl oz bottles with the suction cups on the back. Now I can remove the heavy and bulky bottles out of my gym bag and refill these when they get low. Saves weight and space in the van. I even get to have a bit of fun in the shower with bottle races. Stick them on a moist glass surface and watch them slowly race to the bottom!

The fan is awesome as well, although a tad bit too big for my small space. Speed one is comparable to a slow breeze while 2 is good for kite flying, speed three is hurricane like. The best part is that it is very quiet, even on speed three.  I can sneak it behind the driver seat for storage, almost like it was made to fit there. Ill snap a photo.

A box from GoWesty also arrived, it contained my tune up kit and the sink switch kit. Tune up kit is obviously just a bunch of new parts for the motor.

The sink switch kit is a very slick kit.
There is a rubber diaphragm which, when stepped, on will compress air and trigger either a momentary or full on switch. There is a fine line between momentary on and the full and I need to get my foot adjusted. The reason the switch is funky is that it is designed for triggering cameras where you press the shutter button to get the autofocus and exposure readings and then press harder to take the photo.

Funny observations in the van:
the food in the fridge needs to be packed very carefully to prevent stuff from rolling around while driving. I didn't realize how much moving the food can do and lost a pear due to excessive abuse.
Moisture is also a bit of an issue with the fridge.
When cooking for one, be sure and keep a variety of snack food to offset any shortages that occur.

I have not figured out which direction is better for sleeping, facing the front of the van or the back. If facing the front, your head and chest is surrounded by the cabinets and above the engine compartment which radiates heat for hours after you have parked and thus making it harder to go to sleep while the feet get exposed to the cross ventilation. Obviously you would want to sleep with head/chest in the cross ventilation to stay cool and sleep better but the outside temperature change from 10pm to 6am is significant enough to require blankets. So the question is, would you rather fall asleep easily but have trouble waking up or the opposite?

I still can not get to work any earlier then 7:15. I think it is somehow related to the sleep problem above and the shortness of the alarm on the phone. I miss my GE alarmclock.

Weekend goals:
Get rid of more stuff!! My storage unit makes me ill when I look at it. Ill snap a pic this weekend.
Drain grey water tanks and start refilling main water tank, I am currently at the yellow led marker on the control panel so I am guessing that is roughly equal to 5 gallons left. If so then there is an equal amount in the grey water tanks. I will probably add some chlorine to the tanks before draining. 
Do some laundry and swap out for different work clothes. I am curious to see if the new pants come out wrinkle free, if so then I am sold and will get the two other colors and donate all my old pants.

Need to wire the cigarette lighter port to the auxiliary battery and also get a dc timer so I can have the fan run for say 30min right before I go to sleep.
Stickers will get put on, I am tired of having to move them around the van.

Speedometer cable issue was just a lost clip on the end of the cable at the wheel, fixed with a bent paperclip.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Day 7 of van life and holiday weekend

I parked on the street last night and it was weird but in a good way. Despite being 2 blocks from work I was still 15min late. I got to wear my perfectly fitting new golf pants to work on tuesday and I am convinced that polyester clothing is the way to go. I picked up these at academy sports off their clearance rack for $12, apparently thin people don't go to this sporting good store because all that they normally have are L, XL and XXL which explains why these were on the rack.

Long holiday weekends are like monkey wrenches. They remind you of how much time you are wasting at work, kinda like getting a shot glass full of retirement only the hangover is tuesday morning.

I spent the long weekend in Boerne, TX at a friend's ranch. Just relaxing, swimming in a pool/lake, shooting guns (apparently this is considered to be a form of fun?), sailing and kayaking. Lots of good food and perfect weather. I even managed to sleep in the top bunk and watch the stars.

Obviously I took the van there, instead of driving along I-10, I traveled along the barely used alt 90 highway.  It takes longer  but the quality of the drive amazing. There are no billboards or advertising, almost no cars or trucks, protected from the wind and the speed limit is more aligned to what the van is capable of doing.
Only problem I had was the speedometer system seems to have given up, I either need a new cable or a clip but for now I know what my speed is based on rpm.

Thoughts on the van.
It is awesome.

Things to do:
The cabinets and fridge need illumination. Having to use a flashlight and search for food or shirt in the dark is terrible. I've got plans to use surface mount LEDs and magnetic switches. Not sure if i want to tie directly to battery power or use 9V batteries.

Sink switch kit is coming, same for the fan unit. I also ordered a tune up kit as I was feeling  a bit of hesitation at higher rpm's but driving a few hundred miles seems to have cleaned it up, also added a can of BG fuel system cleaner before the trip.

The fridge is operating. Food is staying cool, I am actually impressed by how well it is working. I doubt I can make ice cubes. I need to figure out a way to vent the heat from the fridge outside the van, I was thinking a pair of computer fans at the window screen will be good and then use some type of fabric to channel the heat. Perhaps the insulated window covers can double as the channeling fabric.

The gas peddle is still getting hot on long trips, this time I figured out that the heat is transmitting through the metal rod to the peddle. I need to crawl around and see what I can insulate to reduce this (or drive with shoes on).

Still need to put the new vinyl letters on and install the cam screw (although I might wait till I have other things to do in the engine bay to do this)

Need to find a place to drain the grey water tanks and also start carrying around a water bottle to top off the water tank. I might drain the auxiliary tank, currently not needed and the water in there is approx 80lbs. Not taking showers in the van saves a ton of water but I still want the capacity for the extended, middle of nowhere, trips that may happen at an undetermined point in the future.

I want to velcro some commonly used items to the underside of the stove cover, kind of a pain to be digging around in bags all the time. I ordered some gotoobs for the shower bag.

Need to get rid of more stuff. I have a box for goodwill to drop off today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 2 of van life

Technically I have only slept in the van for one night. The day I had to move out I spent way too much time dealing with small items and cleaning up the place. I had everything out by 11pm but the van was packed and I would have been sleeping on a table so I spent the night at a neighbor's place.
I did sleep in the van last night and it was awesome. The heat is annoying but with a fan I should be ok, the morning temperature is very comfortable. If I can park with the rear hatch open I may not need a fan, I purchased this piece of steel that allows the rear hatch to be opened like 5 inches but still locked in place.

It feels weird not to have a place to go to, I get in the van and feel like I need to be driving somewhere or doing something.

The fridge is stocked with food that shouldn't go bad for a few days.

I need to change out the switch for the sink, it wastes to much water while I struggle to get it to turn off with wet hands. I've ordered the GW foot switch kit.

Apparently I hoard food and water and packaging material. This is a problem, need to eat through my supplies and finish off my water supplies. There are plenty of locations to refill my water tanks.

No rain for this weekend, apparently TX is too hot and dry to attract the tropical depression.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Last day

By the end of the day today I will be sleeping in the van......just in time for a hurricane.

At least the weather will be cooler,
from this

to this

It will take a few days to get everything arranged in a logical manner, I am confident that daily use will solve the what gets stored and where problem.

What remains in the apt can easily fit in the van. A trip to goodwill is also on the to-do list but maybe tomorrow. I need to clean a few things in the apt and have the maintenance guy inspect it.

Garage needs to be cleaned up too. A few oddball things are left in there, also have to hookup the garage door opener.

I wish I had everthing out of the apt on sunday, I could have enjoyed the zen of empty space.

The fridge is off and defrosting. How nice it is not to have to listen to the compressor running during the evening.  I ate most of what remained, the rest is getting trashed. Still need to clean it.
I have not started up the fridge in the van, no need for it right now and hopefully I can get by without it for a while due to the excessive amount of heat it produces. I need to come up with a way to vent the fridge heat out of the van, maybe a hinged utility hookup or something. Also need to put a fan in the sunroof vent to draw heat out of the pop-top.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Two days left!

48 hours of apartment life left.

Last night, after dropping off stuff at the storage unit, I went to work to use the gym/shower.
It was glorious, first of all, there is no one in the building or gym at 8pm so I could have had used every machine they have without waiting. The second cool part is that everything had just been cleaned but the best part is that I have the entire locker room to myself.
The showers are great, grey/green tile with proper shower controls ( the kind where you set the temperature and then set the flow rate).
I can stand upright and still have the water hitting my head.
They supply soap, towels and shaving creme.
The towels are just the way I like, hard and scratchy.
I don't have to clean anything; just walk in, use, walk out

I have my food supply divided up and boxed for storage.  Most of my clothes are in storage, the ironing board is set up and I have added the light bulb socket adapter. The van is loaded up for another lunch trip with some misc items. I want to try to do the new vinyl stickers tonight and also make a trip to goodwill to donate some stuff and to find a fan for the storage unit. If I have to be in there ironing and getting supplies I might as well have a fan too cool me down

Monday, August 29, 2011

8/29 Project Update

The storage unit is looking quite full. There is no way all this stuff could fit into the van.
I've posted some stuff on craigslist and will be adding more later this week. 

What is left in the apt is:
Air mattress with pillows
Alarm clock - to be replaced by European phone so I can shut off my regular phone for uninterrupted sleep
work clothes to be ironed and ironing board with iron
some casual shirts, shorts and my shoes (10 pairs)
Ikea chair and end table with laptop and camera and router with power strip
Bose stereo and couple of cds
Dinning room folding table
Couple of books to put in van
bare minimum of kitchen utensils and the pot/pan set I kept
bathroom, kitchen, human cleaning supplies
Hurricane Emergency water supply (14gallons)

Apparently I have a food hording issue. Ill try and snap a photo when I get back from work but it is sad. I am trying to eat what is left out of the freezer and fridge.
The plan for the food is to cut it up into individual portions for the van and stick the rest in storage. Once I eat through all that is in storage I will utilize the bulk bins at the store and restock for a 1-2 week supply only.

I will try to get a photo of the storage unit, it is ridicules,  I have attached shelf hooks and some wood bits to recreate my closet. I plan on having the ironing board underneath it all but the ultimate goal is to switch over to clothes that do not require ironing.

Van progress was very limited:
Cleaned all windows with lacquer and steel wool to remove any paint overspray
Cleaned floor rubber mats
Installed sunroof flap and added a reflectix layer to block the heat
Bled the coolant system (new thermal switch is working perfectly, fans are operating correctly including the after run cooldown relay system)

I want to put the new vinyl letters on the roof tonight.

Friday, August 26, 2011

8/26 weekend goals

The last weekend goals post while I still have an apartment. Where does the time go? oh wait I know, working on the van is where it goes.

Everything is set up to end at midnight on the 31st. No more power, water or internet. My mail is setup to forward, I received my new drivers license with my new mailbox address on it. All the websites I use that mail me stuff I have updated. Insurance,

The apartment is looking open and free, my storage unit is filling up. I can not wait to spend a day or two in this apt with just the bare necessities in it. Would be zen like if I didn't have to move the bed this weekend and swap for an air mattress.

I sold two of my pachinko machines today, At first I only sold one because I wouldn't take a lower offer on the second one but while driving out of the lot I realized that the difference in prices was trivial compared to the reduction of stuff that it represented and the freedom that I would be regaining. I am glad that I sold the second one, both are going to a cool game room.

Stuff done this week:
Replaced the thermoswitch and resoldered the fan resistor (used the brazing torch this time and seems to be working properly but new on still on list of things to order)
New thermal curtains are awesome (I had one up at the storage unit for an hr and despite the tint, one side was hot while the other was still cool, I am impressed)
Parking brake cover installed
New flex are is installed and operating the roof properly (I am not impressed by this crappy thing)

Weekend goals are:
Get my shit into the storage unit and setup the wardrobe. Lots of cleaning to do with the apt.
Begin packing food into van.
Test grey water tanks for leaks, if there are any I wont have the time to fix unless it is at the hose fittings. 
Still need to readjust throttle cable and install new cam screw for fuel cutoff switch.
Bleed air out of coolant system
Patch canvas
clean rubber mats
wire up aux power to dash socket
Add second layer of reflectix to engine area under bed, this stuff is good but I want more and still have half of a roll to use up.
Sunroof screen and flap needs to be installed

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The storage unit lifestyle

I now have a storage unit which costs $30 per month, a 5x10 steel box in a non-climate controlled building on the second floor. I might regret not getting a unit at the U-haul place as they are climate controlled which I guess I could use as an emergency sleeping spot as u-haul storage is 24hr access. The place I have now closes at 7pm.

I packed the van with the stuff that needs to sell and the spare van parts and dropped it off during lunch. Every day this week will involve moving my stuff into the unit. There is no power outlet on the wall but there is a light bulb and I can get an adapter socket which will turn it into a power outlet; with an outlet in the storage unit I can iron my work clothes and charge my electronics. I had planned on having my clothes dry cleaned but the costs is too much for me and I now have a "free" power source.

Everything I moved into the unit felt like it weighted a thousand pounds, I can not believe that I have so many things. My goal is to get rid of most items by the end of September.

The goal for the storage unit is to have the nostalgia/keep/go home to CO stuff in the back and the expendables up front with my clothes and ironing board on the side. I am experimenting with my work clothes and am trying to only wear my golf shirts/polos that do not need to be ironed. If I could reduce my work clothes to just that I would be happy. I plan on only having a week's worth of clothes in the van, this will reduce the trips I need to make to the storage unit. 

Stuff done:
Grey water tanks are in and vents are routed. Need to pressure test again.

To Do:
I have packages of stuff to pick up at my mailbox, should be new flexarm and radiator fan thermoswitch and thermal curtains. All need to be installed.
Adjust throttle switch and install new cam screw

I found a set of Hella fog lights in my spare parts box. I want to put them on the van but I can't decide on front or back. The front is the obvious choice but the tint makes it difficult to back up at night, maybe I can get another set for the back.

I think I spend too much on food each week. I need to start tracking the expensive stuff and substitute or eliminate.