Archive for the ‘Money and Shopping’ Category


Vehicle for Crystal

   Posted by: John

Well, we finally had to do it.  My poor old truck was starting to fall apart and Crystal has been putting $60-70 per week in gas into it just to get to work and back.  So we traded the truck on a 2002 Mitsubishi Galant.  (We were looking at a 2000 Civic but it had 194,000 miles on it and we could not get it financed.)  This one has 111,000 miles.  Very clean and appears to be well maintained.  Good tires too, so we will not have to worry about those for a couple years.  So long as she takes care of it I think she will have a good car for a few years.



It is always hard to tell until you drive a few thousand miles, but I think she ought to get 25 mpg or better.  Our city driving around this town is largely in 1/2 or 1 mile stretches unless you are downtown, which she does not go to very much.  For her two jobs, one is half freeway and half 1-mile stretches.  The other job is not freeway, but those same mile-long breaks or longer.  I see no reason why it would not do 25+ mpg.  The only reason it would not match or beat my Camry (which is averaging 28+) is because the gearing allows the engine to turn 2400 rpm at 65 instead of the 2100 the Camry does.  And lest you think I am comparing apples to oranges, the specs on these cars is nearly identical with the exception that the Camry is 125 pounds heavier and about 1.5 inches longer.


A History Lesson and More

   Posted by: John

The Russian Northern coast is a vast territory that goes for several thousand miles, all inside the Polar Circle. Long polar winters mean no daylight at all for 100 days per year.  The days change without any sign of the sun rising above the horizon.

The Northern coast was always the short way for cargo boats to travel from the Eastern part of Russia to the West. These days this trip can be made fairly easily by use of satellite navigation equipment like GPS, but during the Soviet Era they had none of this.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union decided to build a chain of lighthouses to guide ships in the dark polar night across the uninhabited shores of the Soviet Russian Empire. So a series of such lighthouses was erected. They had to be fully autonomous because they were situated hundreds and hundreds miles aways from any populated areas. After reviewing different ideas on how to make them work for years without service and any external power, Soviet engineers decided to implement atomic energy to power the structures. Special lightweight small atomic reactors were produced in limited series, delivered to the Polar Circle lands and installed in the lighthouses. Those small reactors could work in independent mode for years and didn’t require any human interference. It was a kind of robot-lighthouse which counted the time of the year and the length of the daylight, turned on its lights when it was needed and sent radio signals to near by ships to warn them on their journey. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the unattended automatic lighthouses did the job for some time, but eventually they collapsed too. Looters started stealing the metals from lighthouses. They didn’t care or maybe didn’t know the meaning of the “Radioactive Danger” signs and ignored them, breaking in and destroying the equipment. It sounds creepy but they broke into the reactors too causing many of the structures to become radioactively polluted.

These photos are from a trip to the one such structure, the most close to the populated areas of the Russian far east. 


Lone Outpost

Looking up the tower

Lighthouse Tower

Radiation Warning

Now I probably would not have thought much about these normally, but I happen to be reading a book called “Dead Or Alive”, by Tom Clancy and Grant Blackwood. If you are familiar with the Jack Ryan series, you know that the series about Ryan felt like it ended when he was President of the United States. The book “Teeth of the Tiger” (followed by “Dead or Alive”) removes the focus from Jack Ryan and shifts it to Jack Ryan Junior and two cousins, Brian and Dominic Caruso. The novels deal largely with terrorism and counter-terrorism.

In “Dead or Alive”, muslim terrorists are collecting pieces to build a nuclear device.  One place a group goes to is a derelict Russian automatic lighthouse, like the one in the pictures above, to retrieve the reactor.  What’s funny is that I never knew these lighthouses had existed before. Clancy’s novels are nearly always true to life and largely believable, right down to historical people and events. I find it interesting that I would read about these lighthouses in a novel and not 24 hours later stumble onto a link that features them. 

And, if you read the book…Ryan’s successor in the White House…Clancy paints an amazing picture of an inept and failed president, one who has surrounded himself with yes-men (and women), has no back-bone, and whose entire administration, including himself, are in over their heads but don’t realize it.  Kind of sounds like our current administration.  I think Clancy has outdone himself when it comes to indicting Obama and his cronies in these 2 books.  A modern Mark Twain if I have ever read one.


2 Dollar Bargain

   Posted by: John

Boise has a weekly auction house downtown, Main Auction.  Karen and Mary went down there last weekend and came home with some stuff for not a lot of money.  One thing Karen got was some baskets…Longaberger baskets.  I know, I hadn’t heard of them before either.  She paid $2 for all of these.  Some of them are on eBay for up to $175.  Each.  Whoduthunk that baskets could be so expensive.

Small Pumpkin Baskey

Large Pumpkin Basket


Medium Purse

Another Basket

Yet Another Basket

Apparently, the ones that have the cloth liners and plastic inserts are worth a lot of money.  Several of these have them, and all of these are in near perfect shape.  Assuming the average cost of these new was $100 each (and I am sure some were more), I don’t think $2 was too much to give for them.


Awesome Web Site

   Posted by: John

These days it is all about saving money at the grocery store.  My sister, Cathy, has been bragging about how she is saving all this money while shopping, but I have been struggling to get things going, so to speak, in the whole couponing and sales thing. 

While looking at a friends computer, we were talking about saving $$$ at the store, and she sent me to this website called Fabulessly Frugal.  It is run by a group of ladies who share all kinds of good information on how to shop and save money.  They list tons of information in a blog format every day.  Where the sales are, where the bargains are, what coupons are listed and can be used in combinations, etc.  Today, for example, are links to the lists of “Catalina” coupons that are available, extra ones that you get when you check out.  And there is information on how to use those in conjuction with other coupons, doublers, etc.  And, since it is a blog, other people will post bargains, share price info, success stories, etc as they shop. 

Check it out!