Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Finding "Purpose"

Finding a purpose.
I've been surfing around for information on the golden calf of American society.

Finding a Purpose”

What I've found is somewhat depressive, everything from boiler plate buddhism to the veiled suggestion to make yourself cry while making a list of things you like to do in life.

For myself, I tend to believe whatever you apply your passion plus your discipline to becomes ones purpose. The above is well intentioned advice, however as the Dhammpada mentions, we all walk upstream in life with no particular end to that stream.

I would suggest to enjoy what one has, do not want more then you can possibly use and finish whatever goal one has for ones life. And that can be anything from starting a multi million dollar business to enjoying a beverage at the water hole. Just do not be so consumed with the goal as to not enjoy the journey.

That lack of enjoyment, usually replaced by everything from hatred, frustration, envy, disenchantment, bitterness, is how lives are wasted. Sadly they are never truly lived in the first place.

Enjoy what is in your cup, even if the cup is empty.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Beef prices rising..again

"The average retail price of beef from January through April this year is 7.7% higher than the same period a year ago, according to the USDA's Economic Research Service data, while it's remained steady over the past few months, says John Michael Riley, an assistant professor in Mississippi State University's department of agricultural economics. And the average price in 2011 was 9.8% higher than in 2010.

Higher Prices Will Continue

Shoppers are going to continue to see higher prices at the meat counter — and not just for beef. Chris Hurt, a professor of agricultural economics at Purdue University, says he expects the average price of beef to rise to about $5.30 a pound next year. So far this year through May, retail prices have averaged $5.03 a pound — a record high for this time period (it was $4.72 a pound for January-May 2011 and $4.83 for all of 2011). The latest Consumer Price Index for all food is projected to increase 2.5% to 3.5% in 2012"

Courtesy of Yahoo finance

An average increase in the price of beef over the last two years of 8.5%, all very predictable, mostly under the radar as well courtesy of the prevalence of food stamps among US consumers.

Now here at the Last Cause, we believe in giving value for value, so this is not a shot at "greedy cattle barons", though most ranching in the US is more then likely done on mass scale by corporate farms and not by small ranchers.

A few substitutes for beef include Elk and Deer and other game animals, which has been covered here before, though one does have to wonder why, even in the early yrs of a new century, such game is not allowed via various laws, to be sold or traded?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Alpha Strategy in action

One of the lessons I've learned over my two year hiatus from blogging is having implemented the Alpha Strategy is effective, but not completely so. Reason being is stockpiles of increasing in cost commodities does not cover for monthly living expenses.

Such storage does help to mitigate a lack of cash for things you need such as laundry detergent and toilet paper. Another finer point is having the necessary equipment such as food processors is also a must. Huge cans of tomatoes are nice, without a way to quickly turn them into tomato sauce means they will not be used.

Another point is ones family has to like the food or it will not be used.

A few items of food processing equipment that would have been helpful:

-Bread machine, these save hard cash
-Food processor, for making everything from tomato sauce to jalapeno mustard.
-Crock pot, for making everything from frijilos con porco to lasagna to onion soup

All three items can be easily found at most thrift stores such as goodwill and at local community free cycle locations.

Overall however, the Alpha Strategy has worked as long term unemployment and underemployment is a fact of life in Asheville North Carolina. Several of my coworkers have remained unemployed for two years now. A family member has been under employed for at least a year. My fellow coworkers who have found jobs are making much less then they were prior to being laid off.
Some have grown extra large gardens, others have opened online businesses. The ones whose spouses have remained employed weathered the financial turmoil, the family member has been forced to go deeply into stockpiled Alpha Strategy goods such as canned hams. In my case the food has not been an issue, the problem items have been household goods such as toilet paper and laundry detergent, these cost hard cash and there are no substitutes that seem workable such as homemade laundry detergent.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Quick Ramen Recipe!

Tastee and inexpensive, pasta and ramen recipes.

I joked with a friend of mine at college one day about ramen flavor packets literally bleaching students souls. A poor joke of course however when the funds are low Top Ramen or various other brands will be on the menu. Ditto the lowly box of pasta.

Here is my favorite Ramen recipe:

-two packs of ramen
-sesame oil
-butter or margarine
-Parmesan cheese.
-garlic or onion powder

Cook ramen on stove top, or microwave oven. It takes about 5 minutes to cook two packs of ramen in a standard microwave. Discard flavor packet, or use very sparingly as this is usually were the sodium content comes into play

Drain in colander
add to bowl
add sesame oil, about half a teaspoon
add Parmesan cheese, butter and onion or garlic powder

Mix ingredients into ramen, enjoy. I prefer my ramen dry as the broth from the flavor packet is just far to salty for my tastes. A variation is to hold the sesame oil and use peanut butter, or to drop an egg into the pot when the ramen is cooking to make egg drop ramen.


I enjoy making pasta al fresco with veggies from the kitchen container garden. The local sav mor has 1 pd bags of pastas such as rotinis and macaroni for .80 cents so this is on the menu frequently. However a proper ragu sauce is expensive to make even when using ingredients such as pork neck bones and ground turkey instead of ground beef. So a lighter pasta recipe is called for and here is mine.

Bring 8 qt pot to a boil
add salt
add oregano oil*

In a bowl, mix Parmesan cheese, melted butter, garlic or onion powder, cayenne pepper or black pepper.

Drain pasta
Mix in poor man's Alfredo sauce
Add veggies from garden (optional)
Bread and butter is nice with this,

*oregano oil is made simply by adding last fall's left over oregano to a half gallon wine bottle and filling the bottle with olive oil and allowing it to sit for the winter. This works great for left over herbs as dried oregano and dried basil just do not do it for me. Basil oil made like this is just awesome on pasta!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Vintage Technology that still performs

Old technology that is frugal, yet serviceable is one of the great secrets of living cheaply, but with style, this should be a goal for everyone who rejects consumerism. A bold statement in a “hipster” culture.

The reasons are simple yet profound.

First and foremost a laptop with wifi is a must, the one I'm currently composing this post on, a Dell C400, cost 40 dollars and came without a hard drive or caddy. However at 6 pounds and 10 inches by 10 inches it is the size of a netbook, yet half of the cost even after buying a caddy and new hard drive. Add in an old wireless wireless N wifi card that was laying around and a battery bought directly from a Hong Kong distributor. This created neat package that easily fits into a back pack for bike commuting.

With such a package it is simple to go to a wifi hotspot and conduct everything from an Ebay business to submitting applications for employment online to doing college coursework. Another benefit in using recycled is one learns how to fix laptops and note book computers so much so it has become a side business. Granted it won't keep the lights on but it does generate cash. One caution about taking that approach is finding device drivers for some old models can be a chore and set a 1 ghz processor minimum or your laptop will become a paper weight.

Another surprisingly fun piece of old technology that has been useful is a ink jet printer, not one of those spiffy, yet ink hungry all in one models, but an old school HP deskjet 932c. Mine is very durable, replacement ink cartridges cost 12 dollars each or can be refilled by oneself, Compared to the all in one models this runs circles around them in terms of cost per page and costs to operate.

The third and final piece of old tech that is quite useful is a sony walkman. When one bike commutes one has time to listen to information or music. An Ipod or knock off MP3 player is smaller and lighter and far more hip. BUT things such as language course cassettes are 1 dollar at a thrift store compared to the media costs of using a MP3 player once again the old tech wins. Currently I've found courses in Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and Sales all for one dollar.

A life long commitment to learning is quite inexpensive and well worth the effort in terms of self esteem and confidence.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bike Commuting 098

Bike Commuting 098

Ah, the perils and joys of bike commuting, all year around, books can and should be written about them. When the job went away and gasoline hit 3.80, it was peddle power for this fella.

This was a challenge and one of the largest lifestyle changes for me. Starting to bike commute at a time when most men are beginning to have wide guts and new cars was first and foremost..awkward. The US has social expectations about where men should be in terms of their transportation at stages in their lives, one is to have a new car and the debt that comes along with it, the other is the unsaid of “bikes are for preteens not grown men”. That is not to say women do not have such societal pressures, for example “have a child by the time you are 30”, that however, is a digression.

Bike commuting in the mountains when one is 40 pounds overweight at the time meant a traditional road bike is also out of the question. For those wondering “road bike” is the new way to describe a ten speed. This meant a steel framed hybrid which is somewhere between a road bike and a ten speed, such as wider tires then a road bike but thinner tires then a mountain bike. Several gears were also a must, the single speed bikes are just brutal to deal with on a half mile climb, up the mountain side.

A couple of must haves on a bike commuting rig:
-Front light, these are required in all 50 states
-Fenders, without them riding in even the lightest of rain is an adventure in suck
-Rear luggage rack, the more you can comfortably carry the more useful your rig is.
-Air pump or tank
-Spare tubes and tires
-Gloves, your hands will go numb if you ride far enough.

I consider a helmet optional, as in your choice. It has been my experience that one either knows what one is doing, or you do not, a helmet is no substitute. On a bike not only should you consider that you are responsible for you, but also for bad drivers.

The drawbacks
-Societal pressure, believe me when I say this is a fact in my town
-Time, it does take longer and you will make less trips (and save money by not making them
-You will get hot and sweaty

The benefits
-Save money, lots of it.
-Health benefits, literally I now am in the best shape I've been in since the late 1990's and soon will weigh the same as I did in High School
-Scenery, this is so true, in a car there is no time to appreciate your surroundings, on a bike you hear the birds, feel the cool of the morning, appreciate how steep or flat the road or bike trail is laid out.
-Meet more people, there is a sort of bike commuting club usually with very diverse interests but with a love for riding.

Bike commuting is not for everyone, you will meet those who believe everyone should bike commute and you will meet some who are not thrilled you are riding on the road who make their displeasure known. It requires commitment and focus, the payoff in terms of financial, physical and spiritual is high, however the physical work, the societal pressure and inefficiency are also factors.

If one wishes to try it, by all means, do so, and find a bike that fits you and ride the thing on a schedule to get used to riding. Ride on roadways to get the feel for traffic, lighter traffic is better at first as it takes time to learn to use an intersection with a red light on a bike. Which is the difference between a preteen riding and an adult bicycle commuting. A kid on a bike is sort of messing around, an adult on a bike in a roadway is seriously traveling and is more akin to a car with peddles.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Back in the saddle again

Hmm, here I am again.

2 years between blog posts, however my subject, inflation in commodity prices was so obvious there was little reason to continue to belabor the point.

Lots of life changes, mostly "bad" some "good", as I restart this process these shall be mixed in along with some less than obvious points and some photos of my town and area to give a flavor of where I'm coming from when I blog.