Friday, January 13, 2006

Stop Junk Mail: My Solution Stopped it -- for now

I hate junk mail. I put my name on lists to be removed from junk mailers. Capitol One was the vilest offender of my mailbox. So I decided to contact them directly by telephone asking them, politely mind you, to be removed from their list. The following letter and package was sent after polite and repeated requests. Strangely enough, after this letter and a few follow-ups the mail from Capital One stopped - Go figure.

Capital One Small Business Service
P.O. Box 85546
Richmond, VA 23286-8764
September 8, 2005

To whom it may concern:

I have requested a number of times to be removed from your mailing list as your mail is unwelcome and unsolicited.

I have received offers from you at a rate of once a week - that is until I requested to be removed from your mail list via telephone in August of 2004. Following my requests I started receiving offers from you at a rate of twice a week.

When speaking with a representative of Capital One in February or 2005, I was told that you would honor my request but that it may take a "few cycles" (seven to eight weeks) to remove my name from your list. I thought that would be the end of it. Absolutely not. I am now receiving seven to eight offers a month - all from Capitol One - all with the same offers and contact information. Apparently instead of removing my name from your list it has been duplicated on your list.

I have been very patient since my first request fourteen months ago. However, since you have decided to step up the frequency of your mailings to me my patience has worn thin. You put me on your list in one cycle - you can remove me from your list in one cycle.

I have decided that I now need to resort to other "more creative" measures to get your full attention to this matter. I must thank you for supplying a business reply envelope as it does make sending this to you much easier.

As you can see I have attached your business reply envelope to this heavy 8" x 8" x 16" cinder block for your enjoyment. With enough cinder blocks I'm sure you can make some pretty spiffy shelving for your offices. Please pass along this letter and the cinder block to your marketing department.

Every time you send me an offer I will, in turn, use your business reply envelope to send you a cinder block until you have completely removed me from your system and placed me and my address on a DO NOT MAIL AT ANY FUTURE TIME mail list.

Indeed your envelope states that I may not place anything inside the envelope non related to official Capitol One business - however there is nothing on your business reply envelope stating that I cannot attach the envelope to an object. The U.S. Postal Office agrees and by law they must deliver the package and charge you for the postage. Postage for mailing cinder blocks first class is no doubt very expensive so I thank you for covering the postage.

I'm confident that you will honor my repeated requests and remove me from the cycle immediately - if not you will have the ability to construct a small storage shed.

The choice is yours. Remove me immediately or continue to receive cinder blocks - I have plenty of them that I do not need.

Should you decide that you would rather have cinder blocks I will be quite pleased to start billing you for not only the cinder blocks but also a handling fee for preparing the cinder block for shipment. I charge a very low $75.00 handling fee per shipment. This fee covers my time, cost of the cinder block, drayage of the cinder block, cost of delivery to the post office, and an inconvenience fee for having to process as such. Payment terms: net 30 days. After 30 days a monthly service charge rate, a low 7.9% will be applied.

However, should you wish to send me offers without receiving cinder blocks in return I would be more than happy to work that out with you for a price. I can be retained as a recipient of your offers for a low $300.00 per month.

For this low monthly retainer of $300.00 you may send to me offers up to once a week and be confident that I will take great care in shredding them properly and using the shredded material as packing filler instead of environmentally unfriendly packaging peanuts. This way you can feel good that you are helping the environment as well.

I have enclosed the items that you have sent me and my address for your reference.


AD Bearfort Lodge    

Thursday, January 12, 2006

FIREWOOD INTRODUCTION: Keeping Warm - A Seven Part Series

FIREWOOD INTRODUCTION: Keeping warm this winter and next - a seven part series

This winter with energy costs out of control more people may be stoking the wood stove.  Here are a few pointers that you may find useful.

Burn hardwoods or a mixture of hardwoods and softwoods.  That should help cut creosote buildup

Burn only seasoned wood. Unseasoned, or green, wood promotes smoke buildup

Make sure that your chimney has an adequate spark arrester.  This will help prevent sparks from getting out into the open air where they could land on your roof.

Burning pinecones can leave a sap-like glaze on the inside of your chimney increasing the potential for chimney fires.

Try not to burn newspaper -- as tempting as it is.  Ashes from newspapers are prime suspects in many house fires.  The most dangerous is wrapping paper as it burn much hotter than newspaper and the ashes are much more difficult to control.

You should keep a fire extinguisher within arms reach of the fireplace for safety sake.

Firewood Part I: The Right Kind of Wood

Firewood Part I: The Right Kind of Wood

Picking the right kind of wood to burn in your fireplace

Whether you burn wood to heat your house or just enjoy watching a bright blaze, you should know how to pick the right logs and build the best woodpile.  A well-stocked woodpile will save you money and make winter a pleasure.

For the ideal woodpile, you will need seasoned logs.  Wood must season for at least six months to ensure optimum efficiency.  Wood you stack this spring should be ready to use by fall or winter.

This guide will provide the basics for the most burning questions of woodpile aficionados: how to buy wood, which wood to select, how to season and store them, and how to build a good fire.



Dealers usually offer firewood by the cord: a standard stack measures 8' long by 4' high by 4' deep.  You must be wary and make sure you receive full value.  For example a face cord, often sold as a standard cord, measures 4' x 8' x 12', 16", or 24".  Other names you may hear are short cord, stove cord, fireplace cord, running cord, rack, and load.  It is important to know just what you are buying; so ask questions.

If you purchase a cord of logs already cut into fireplace lengths, whether round or split, you have a legitimate complaint if they do not equal a standard cord.  Longer, unsplit logs measuring up to 16', often sell at a lower price per cord than do fireplace lengths of 2' or less.  However, you will loose a fraction of each longer log to the chain saw.

The cost of a standard cord varies around the country, and is, obviously, lower in rural areas, where trees and dealers are plentiful.  Typical prices range from $120 to $160 per cord in eastern urban areas to under $80 in the rural South and West.

Some dealers sell green, or unseasoned, firewood.  You can identify unseasoned logs by the dull thud they make when hit together.  The high moisture content in the wood causes the sound.  Seasoned logs, on the other hand, produce a cracking sound when struck together.  They have splits and cracks at their ends and are lighter in weight than green logs.

The amount of wood you will get in a cord depends on whether it comprises round or split logs.  A cord of split wood contains more solid wood than one of round logs.  Split wood compacts more compactly, leaving less airspace between logs, and has a smaller proportion of bark to wood.

In cords of unsplit wood, the larger the diameter of each log, the more solid wood your cord will contain.  For example, a cord of logs 6" in diameter contains about 75 pieces, with a total wood content of 59 cubic feet.  A cord of 20"-diameter logs, about ten pieces, totals 88 cubic feet of wood.  Remember that crooked or limbed logs create more air space in a cord and lessen total wood volume.

FIREWOOD PART III: Selecting Woods

FIREWOOD PART III: Selecting Woods

The accompanying table shows major properties of several wood species.  They range from fair to excellent as firewood, and most are easy to split.   They are divided into two groups: hardwoods, which come from deciduous trees, and soft woods, which come from coniferous trees.

Keep these points in mind:

Density:  The heavier, or denser, a wood, the longer it burns and the more heat it produces.  Most softwoods burn quickly with a high flame, hotter than the flame of high density hardwoods.  However, hardwoods give more heat per cord, because they burn slowly and steadily, providing warmth for a longer period.  High-density hardwoods include hickory, oak, and apple.  High-density softwoods include larch, red cedar, and yellow pine.

Burning Rate:  in general, softwoods and low-density woods ignite easily and burn fast; hardwoods usually burn more slowly.  However, a lightweight hardwood such as cottonwood will burn faster than a dense softwood like red cedar.  Softwood flames burn brighter and higher.  Hardwood flames dance less but last longer.

Sparks:  If wood is not thoroughly dry, it sparks as it burns.  Softwoods usually give off more sparks than hardwoods, because of their higher pitch content.  Among the highest sparking woods are cedar, larch, pine, and spruce.

Smoke: For the most part, heavy hardwoods produce little smoke, light hardwoods give off a medium amount, and smoke from softwoods ranges from medium to heavy.  Woods having the heaviest smoke include douglas fir and yellow pine.

Coaling Ability:  Most hardwoods make good beds of glowing embers.  Coaling is related to density, and heavy woods produce more coals.

Aroma and Color: Fruit-bearing trees are hardwoods.  Their smoke usually smells like their fruit, whether apple, cherry, pear, peach, or plum.  Other appealing aromas come from red cedar, magnolia, yellow pine, hickory, pecan, and sassafras.

Most wood burns with a yellow-to-orange flame.  Applewood, if aged for four or five years, gives rainbow-colored flames.  Driftwood of any tree burns blue lavender from the minerals it absorbs from seawater.

Part VI of this series will provide information on particular wood species.

FIREWOOD PART IV: Seasoning Wood

FIREWOOD PART IV: Seasoning Wood

Although most woods season in six months, some hardwood may take up to nine months.  Oak needs a year.  Ash, however, can be used almost at once.  If you must use unseasoned wood, try ash, beech, pine, spruce, hickory, or fir.

To season firewood, stack it outdoors, stack it outdoors, piled loosely, and raised on a platform or planks.  To provide maximum air circulation, crisscross the logs: Put four on the platform parallel to each other; then place four more on top of them at right angles.  Continue stacking in this way.  Remember that air will circulate more freely if the wood is not piled against a wall.  If possible, stack it so the prevailing wind blows through the long axis.

Split wood seasons faster than whole logs.  Stack it with the split side down to help protect the core from rain.  Paper birch must be split because the bark seals in moisture, causing the wood to rot.

Always keep your woodpile covered. A tarpaulin, or heavy polyurethane sheeting, is the best protection from the elements.   Anchor it on top or lash it down, and allow only a few inches to hang over the wood on each side.  This lets air circulate freely through the logs.  Store wood away from your house to keep termites out of framing.

FIREWOOD PART V: Building a Better Fire

FIREWOOD PART V: Building a Better Fire

A traditional method starts with a base of ashes about 2" deep.  On top of them, place a few sheets of crumpled newspaper. Add several sticks of kindling (softwood is best), crisscrossed to allow air circulation.  Next, set three logs on the andirons or grate; a backlog, unsplit and laid lengthwise; a front log, split and placed close to the backlog with the bark side facing front; and a third log, split and centered bark side up on top.  Put a little more kindling around the three logs and crumple two sheets of newspaper on top of them.  Light the top papers first, to start a draft, then the bottom ones, to ignite the kindling and the logs.

Bright Ideas

  • Milk and juice cartons work better than newspapers to start a fire.

  • Twigs, wood shavings, dried bark, and bits of shingle make good kindling.  So does charcoal.

  • The closer to the front of the fireplace you lay your fire, the more heat will enter the room.

  • Do not let ashes accumulate above 2" in height, or they will hamper airflow.

  • Leftover ashes, which contain lime, make a good fertilizer.  They are also useful to bank a fire.

FIREWOOD PART VI: Common Wood and its Attributes

FIREWOOD PART VI: Common Wood and its Attributes

Alder: hardwood, medium heat output, medium ease to ignite, produces little smoke, few pops and sparks – is a good burning wood

Apple: hardwood, high heat output, not easy to ignite, produce very little smoke, sparks when poked, excellent stuff – smells great!

Ash: hardwood, very high heat output, not easy to ignite, produces very little smoke, sparks when poked, has a very low moisture content, will burn when green – excellent

Aspen: hardwood, low heat output, very easy to ignite, a little smoky, sparks and pops a little, fair wood for burning but good for kindling

Basswood: hardwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, produces a little smoke, not much sparking or popping, fair wood for burning – good for kindling.

Beech: hardwood, high heat output, not easy to ignite, not much smoke, sparks when poked, excellent firewood

Birch: hardwood, very high heat output, fairly easy to ignite, not much smoke, sparks when poked, excellent wood, burns well but fast and is very dense, slow to season and can rot quickly

Cherry: hardwood, medium heat output, somewhat easy to ignite, very little smoke, few sparks, very aromatic when burned – throw a log of cherry on the fire for those more romantic evenings by the fire.

Cottonwood: hardwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, smokes a little, few sparks, good stuff for kindling.

Cypress: softwood, very low heat output, very easy to ignite, a bit smoky, few sparks, not a great wood for burning – too smoky for me.

Dogwood:  hardwood, high heat output, not easy to ignite, smokes little, sparks when poked, excellent burning wood

Douglas Fir: softwood, medium heat output, easy to ignite, on the smoky side, few sparks, fair – best for kindling

Eastern Red Cedar: softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, tends to spark and pop a lot, fair – best for kindling

Eastern White Pine: softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, few sparks and pops, fair – best for kindling

Elm: hardwood, low heat output, not easy to ignite, smoky, sparks little, not a great choice but if you must – must season for a very long time – a relatively damp wood

Gum: hardwood, medium heat output once going, relatively easy to ignite, a little smoky, few sparks and pops, - like elm – must season a long time contains a lot of water

Hard Maple: hardwood, high heat output, not easy to ignite, very little smoke, sparks when poked, excellent choice

Hickory: hardwood, High heat output, not easy to ignite, somewhat smoky, sparks when poked – this is excellent stuff – favored by restaurants and others for smoking meats – aromatic

Larch: softwood, medium heat output, easy to ignite, a bit smoky, sparks and pops, fair wood – good for kindling – good for exciting the fire

Locust: hardwood, very high heat output, difficult to ignite, very little smoke, sparks when poked, Excellent – very dense wood – generations have used locust for fence posts – hard to light but burns with intense heat

Mesquite: hardwood, high heat output, not easy to ignite, can be smoky, sparks when poked, excellent and aromatic – great for smoking foods

Oak: hardwood, high heat output, not easy to ignite, little smoke, sparks when poked, excellent burning wood

Redwood: softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, can spark a bit, fair but best for kindling

Soft Maple: hardwood, medium heat output, somewhat easy to ignite, few sparks- good for burning

Spruce:  softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, sparks a lot, fair – good for kindling

Sugar pine: softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, sparks a lot, fair – good for kindling

Sycamore: hardwood, medium heat output, not all that easy to ignite, medium smoky, few sparks or pops, fair – a damp wood – long time to season

Tamarack: softwood, medium heat output, easy to ignite, a bit smoky, sparks and pops a lot, fair – good for kindling

True Firs: softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, sparks and pops, fair – good for kindling

Walnut: hardwood, medium heat output, not easy to ignite, medium smoky, few sparks or pops, - ok – rather see you make something out of it.

Western Red Cedar: softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, sparks and pops, excellent for kindling

Western White Pine:  softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, few sparks, fair – good for kindling

White Cedar: softwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, few sparks, fair – good for kindling

Yellow Poplar: hardwood, low heat output, easy to ignite, medium smoky, few sparks, fair – good for kindling

FIREWOOD PART VII: A poem for the ages

FIREWOOD PART VII: A Poem for the Ages

Here is a very old poem I came across that sums it up pretty well for choosing the right wood–

Beech wood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year.
Chestnut only good, they say,
If for long 'tis laid away.
But ash new or ash old
Is fit for queen with crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn too fast,
Blaze up bright and do not last.
It is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elmwood burns like churchyard mold,
E'en the very flames are cold.
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for queen with golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke.
Apple wood will scent your room
With an incense like perfume.
Oaken logs, if dry and old, keep away the winter's cold.
But ash wet or ash dry
A king shall warm his slippers by.

          Author unknown

Recipe for warmth - at your own risk

People tend to be curious as to what we did in Minnesota to keep warm in the winter time as the temperature dipped to its usual -25( - -35( F (not including wind-chill).   Well there are a number of things but here is one you can do with a group of family and friends.  The recipe below comes from Wade Langhorst who would take this stuff with him ice fishing every weekend, he hated fishing shanties and claimed that this stuff kept the blood warm.   I don’t remember exactly what he used to call it but I know that it loosely translated to Bloodshot.  I’m sure that it is known by other names as well.

At the age of 73, he was found frozen, sitting on a stool there at his tip-ups on the edge of a Lake about 15 miles north of Duluth.   There was a half jug of this stuff at his feet.  Luck was not on his side that day.... he hadn’t caught any fish either.

With the depth of winter approaching I thought this would be a good time to share with you his bloodshot brew.  Its really smooth, tasty, easy to make and by the time you get done with making and testing it you won’t give a shit what its like anyway.

1 gallon port wine
1 gallon burgundy
1 quart grain alcohol
1/2 pint brandy
3/4 pound sugar
1 pint water

(Create a bag or pouch out of cheese cloth and enclose the items listed below.  Its really simple.)
6 cinnamon sticks
20 cardamom seeds
10 whole cloves
10 prunes
1/2 pound raisins
6 dry orange peels
1 teaspoon ground orange peel
8 whole almonds

OK, first add sugar to the water and dissolve to make a syrup.  Now, take the port wine and take a quick gulp (to make sure you grabbed the right bottle) and add only one pint of the port to the syrup stuff you have.  Drop in the cheesecloth bag of spices and fruit and bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 minutes.  After that 10 minutes is up let it stand off the heat for about 15 minutes.  

In a separate container pour in the remaining port wine (don’t forget to take a gulp to make sure that you got the right stuff) and warm it up on the stove on low heat.  You need to simmer this.  Don’t cook off all the alcohol -- just warm it.  From the other container add all the crap that has been cooling for the past 15 minutes.

Now after throwing back two jiggers of the grain alcohol and add the rest to the mixture.  Next pour yourself a bit of brandy and dump the rest into the pot with everything else.  Simmer this stuff for about 20 minutes.  When its fairly hot, yet not so hot that you cook off all the alcohol, -- its ready to serve.  

Surely you should have some left over to store --.  Use the bottles that the wines came in but don’t put the spice or fruit in with it.  That stuff you can eat.  When you re-heat to add a couple of raisins or almonds to if you like.  

Enjoy -- this is fairly potent stuff but won’t taste like it -- don’t let it fool you.  Although its great stuff for a boda bag I would not recommend using it to keep warm-- and if you don’t believe me ask Wade.

Bread: The frightening statistics

More than 98% of convicted felons are bread users.

fully HALF of all children who grew up in bread eating households score below average on standardized tests.

In the 18th century, when virtually all bread was baked in the home, the average life expectancy was less than 50 years; infant mortality rates were unacceptably high; many women died in childbirth; and diseases such as typhoid, yellow fever, and influenza ravaged whole nations.

Every piece of bread you eat brings you closer to death.

Bread is associated with all major diseases of the body. For example, nearly all sick people have eaten bread. The effects are obviously cumulative:

  • 99.9% or all people who die from cancer have eaten bread.
  • 100% of all soldiers have eaten bread.
  • 96.9% of all Communist Sympathizers have eaten bread.
  • 99.7% of the people in air and auto accidents ate bread within 6 months preceding the accident.
  • 93.1% of juvenile delinquents came from homes where bread is served frequently.

Evidence points to the long-term effects of bread eating: Of all the people born in 1839 who later dined on bread, there has been a 100% mortality rate.

Bread is made from a substance called “dough”. It has been proven that as little as one pound of dough can be used to suffocate a mouse. The average American eats more bread than that in one month!

Primitive tribal societies that have no bread exhibit a low incidence of cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and osteoporosis.

Bread has been proven to be addictive. Subjects deprived of bread and given only water to eat begged for bread after as little as two days.

Bread is often a “gateway” food item, leading users to “harder” items such as butter, jelly, peanut butter, and even cold cuts.

Bread has been proven to absorb water. Since the human body is more than 90% water, it follows that eating bread could lead to you body being taken over by this absorptive food product, turning you into a soggy, gooey bread pudding person.

Newborn babies can choke on bread.

Bread is baked at temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit! That kind of heat can kill an adult in less than one minute.

In light of these frightening statistics, we propose the following bread restrictions:

  • No sale of bread to minors
  • A nationwide “Just Say No To Toast” campaign, complete with celebrity TV spots and bumper stickers.
  • A 300% federal tax on all bread to pay for all of the societal ills we might associate with bread.
  • No animal or human images, nor any primary colors (which may appeal to children) may be used to promote bread usage.The establishment of “Bread-Free” zones around schools.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

A fresh start

Well Im new to all of this - as far as posting my thoughts on the web in this fashion. Although I have for years kept a journal - I have never opened it up for comment. With that in mind - this could be fun.

No doubt an outlet for getting things off my chest - so to speak. Some may tweak you a bit - so be it. Some you will find useful -- we shall see.

Well lets get on with it