Archive for Owner’s Guide

The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

For those 62 or older, you can get a discount pass to reduce fees at many recreational areas owned by the Federal Government. See the Senior Pass page. The cost is only $10 or, if you use USGS online store, $20 with the extra ten for ‘document processing.’ This is a lifetime pass. It supercedes the Golden Age Passports that are no longer sold. See America the Beautiful Passes for information about 4th grade, military, and other versions of this discount pass and additional information.

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Diesel versus Petrol

It’s always a challenge trying to fit specifications with popular perceptions when it comes to trailer towing engine choices. An Australian AutoExpert, John Cadogan, has a lecture on YouTube that contains a few hints: Diesel Australia – the Diesel vs Petrol story  — do read the text that goes with the video as it is a bit more complete than many such video explanations.

Diesel vs petrol engines: Comparable petrol engines make more peak power – but diesels deliver huge torque at low revs. That means more low-rpm power from the diesel – maybe three or four times as much down at 2000rpm. That makes diesel feel unfussed and effortless in traffic. Diesel motors are about 30-40 per cent more fuel efficient. That means more cruising range out of a diesel, and less spent every week on transport.

This doesn’t help the confusion. There is a clue given in the video that does provide some help. The first item to consider is a proper definition of terms. It is the power that determines how fast you can get up the hill and the engine torque that determines the gear you need to use. Torque is a force whereas power is the rate of energy flow. So torque needs to have both distance and time figured in to be able to compare it to power. That is one problem with the quote. Another is that comparisons such as “maybe three or four times as much” are useless without a proper referent. The key item is that a diesel is a low speed engines while petrol (gas) engines produce best at higher rotational speeds (RPMs). The power range in a diesel covers only about half the RPM of a gas engine. That means that the transition from cruising on the flat to climbing a hill is going to cause the diesel to speed up much less than a gas engine and that means that the gas engine is more likely to need a shift of gears. 

It all comes back to the transmission. Big rigs need a lot of gears despite being diesels because they need all the power they can get and the gears help optimize the narrow torque curve. Choosing the best engine for long haul means it’s likely a bit small for grades and start stop traffic and the transmission compensates. The typical RV isn’t as heavy and can use an engine that has a better power to vehicle weight ratio to handle mixed traffic situations with fewer gears.

That’s just one example. John covers a lot of ground in 12 minutes so you need to listen carefully to catch things a bit different than you think. It’s not as simple a debate and there is a lot of nuance to catch.

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Pet Peeves: Email for club business

Business communications includes club and association communications and doing it right is stepping up to effectiveness. Business Email Etiquette – 5 Simple Rules For Managing Email Without Being An Ignoramus hits the main points.

There are a few simple business email etiquette rules that you can follow to make your life a whole lot easier and save yourself from being an email ignoramus.

Sure, business email is a necessity, but I think we can all agree that email is a colossal pain in the a$$. A lot of that pain is caused by ignoramus’ rampant misuse of email.

TechTerms defines Netiquette as

Netiquette, or net etiquette, refers to etiquette on the Internet. Good netiquette involves respecting others’ privacy and not doing anything online that will annoy or frustrate other people. Three areas where good netiquette is highly stressed are e-mail, online chat, and newsgroups. For example, people that spam other users with unwanted e-mails or flood them with messages have very bad netiquette. You don’t want to be one of those people. If you’re new to a newsgroup or online chat room, it may help to observe how people communicate with each other before jumping in.

This is really one of those ‘no excuses’ things. It used to be something taught in school typing classes. It’s still a popular topic for Secretary Handbooks (Amazon Affiliate Link). You’ll even find it buried in the links on our website pages (communications etiquette). The link on that page to RFC 1855 appears to be suffering link rot. A search shows the source document can be found at The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF®) from October 1995

This document provides a minimum set of guidelines for Network Etiquette (Netiquette) which organizations may take and adapt for their own use.  As such, it is liberately written in a bulleted format to make adaptation easier and to make any particular item easy (or easier) to find.  It also functions as a minimum set of guidelines for individuals, both users and administrators.  This memo is the product of the Responsible Use of the Network (RUN) Working Group of the IETF.

It is abuse of etiquette that prompted the CAN-SPAM act of 2003 (Wilkipedia). That was aimed at businesses and wasn’t very effective but it did clarify what was bothering people in I’net communications. As such, the law can provide a good guideline for proper practice.

What is amazing is the hostility often encountered when trying to suggest avoiding some of the more gross etiquette breaches. It’s not just about looking good, it is about a consideration for others. It is how a club actually demonstrates what it thinks of its members and other people. Your communications show what you think of your correspondents. Make it good!

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Outside Missing

At MetaFilter the story linked was How 1,600 People Went Missing from Our Public Lands Without a Trace — That lead to an Outside story centered on the case of 18-year-old Joe Keller who vanished from a dude ranch in Colorado’s Rio Grande National Forest.

The MetaFilter page is worth a look for the comments. The Outside story is rather long but contains a lot of information.

“The first 24 hours are key,” says Robert Koester, a.k.a. Professor Rescue, author of the search and rescue guidebook Lost Person Behavior. Koester was consulted on the Keller case and noted that, like most missing runners, Joe wasn’t dressed for a night outside.
 …
There was nothing to go on. In that first week, the search engaged about 15 dogs and 200 people on foot, horseback, and ATV. An infrared-equipped airplane from the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control flew over the area. Collin’s brother Tanner set up a GoFundMe site that paid for a helicopter to search for five hours, and a volunteer flew his fixed-wing aircraft in the canyon multiple times. A guy with a drone buzzed the steep embankments along Highway 17, the closest paved road, and the rock formation Faith, which has a cross on top. A $10,000 reward was posted for information. How far could a shirtless kid in running shoes get? 
 …
Joe Keller had just joined the foggy stratum of the hundreds or maybe thousands of people who’ve gone missing on our federal public lands. Thing is, nobody knows how many.
 …

It’s hard to put your hunches and suspicions to rest. We’ll never know for certain what happened to Joe Keller. We’ll know even less about what happened to a lot of other people missing in the wild. 

 

One question I had early on was, Are you better or worse off going missing in a national forest than from a Walmart parking lot? I thought I knew the answer. You can see an aerial view of my firewood pile from space on your smartphone. I thought that in the wild, someone would send in the National Guard, the Army Rangers, the A-Team, and that they wouldn’t rest until they found you. Now I’m not so sure.

In Joe’s case, it looks like he was injured in a fall. Even being only a short ways from the ranch, finding him was extremely difficult. It may be low odds of getting lost and the idea of something happening on only a short walk near the campsite seems not worth considering. What is worth considering is that things happen, the wilderness is indeed wild even very close to campgrounds and civilization, and the risk cannot be ignored. 

 

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Batteries slowly moving to a new era

The previous post referred to a battery upgrade that included a switch from a lead acid to a lithium battery. It appears (good data on this is sketchy) that this produced four times the capacity for size and weight versus a ten times increase in capital outlay. Lithionics is one company that is pushing lithium batteries and its website has some useful information.

Battery life is always one issue. Their FAQ page on this provides a graph of cycles versus depth of discharge but does not mention any other age factors. With 90% DoD, 2400 cycles can be expected while at 10% DoD you might get 35,000 cycles. These are at a 1C discharge rate which is a one hour rate. The usual rating for a lead acid battery is a 20 hour rate and they may provide a range of 500 to 2000 cycles for a similar DoD range.

Lead acid batteries are popular because they are cheap and will take a lot of abuse. Not so lithium. This is why Lithonics pushes its NeverDie® Battery Management System (BMS) to protect the battery from common abuse scenarios. One of the issues it handles is cell equalizing. For RV’s with lead acid batteries that is usually handled by overcharging. Storage will do this with a good battery maintainer but some go for the old style bulk charge while monitoring specific gravity style described on Trojan Battery’s website. The BMS is using modern technology for balance charging cells using cell by cell voltage monitoring as lithium batteries don’t use a liquid electrolyte. This type of charging is also popular for those into remote control hobbies like drones and scale model vehicles that run on lithium batteries.

As for cost, BattleBorn lists an LiFePO4 100 ah 12v LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery for $899.00 – Powerstream has a 12v 22AH for $295 so 100 AH of these would cost nearly $1500 – for comparison, Walmart sells a group 29 lead acid RV battery with about this 100 AH 12v capacity at around $100. This is the 1000 watt hour battery capacity level. 

The Journal of the Electrochemical Society has a paper on Calendar Aging of Lithium-Ion Batteries. The abstract concludes “To maximize battery life, high storage SoCs corresponding to low anode potential should be avoided.” Here are some other highlights:

Calendar aging comprises all aging processes that lead to a degradation of a battery cell independent of charge-discharge cycling. It is an important factor in many applications of lithium-ion batteries where the operation periods are substantially shorter than the idle intervals, such as in electric vehicles. Furthermore, the degradation owing to calendar aging can also be predominant in cycle aging studies, especially when cycle depths and current rates are low.

This is particularly important in RV’s and is why cycle life isn’t even much of an issue with lead acid batteries.

Basically, both the evolution of passivation layers and transition-metal dissolution are promoted by a high state of charge (SoC) and temperature

This is similar to what happens in lead acid batteries where the passivation layers is called sulfation. The difference is that lead acid batteries do better with a full state of charge (SoC) while lithium batteries suffer if stored this way.

Battery University has a page on how to Prolong Lithium Based Batteries

Lithium-ion has not yet fully matured and is still improving. Notable advancements have been made in longevity and safety while the capacity is increasing incrementally. Today, Li-ion meets the expectations of most consumer devices but applications for the EV need further development before this power source will become the accepted norm.

That means you need to be careful when evaluating lithium battery specifications and advertising claims. There isn’t a history, things are changing rapidly, and effective measurement standards are not well established.

Environmental conditions, not cycling alone, govern the longevity of lithium-ion batteries. The worst situation is keeping a fully charged battery at elevated temperatures. Battery packs do not die suddenly, but the runtime gradually shortens as the capacity fades.

Batteries are electrochemical devices and suffer much the same issues no matter the chemistry. Lithium batteries have advantages in terms of cycle life, high discharge rates, and short charge times. This might get you a 4x capability improvement for a 10x price premium. Here’s where that might be worth considering.

  • If you want to run your RV air conditioner for a few hours or other heavy loads for more than a few minutes, 
  • If your lifestyle frequently cycles battery charge in a consistent pattern that doesn’t show significant variation or have need for deep reserves.
  • If you have an ability to charge the battery at 1C rates (100 amps for 100 AH battery)
  • If weight is a significant factor for your battery bank.
  • If you don’t have to worry about temperature extremes (below 40F or above 90F)

Otherwise?

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Fit RV blog – check it out.

A fitness educator and an aerospace engineer whose starter RV was to avoid the Porta-Potty line at the start of bicycle races. They are currently in a Winnebago Travato class B built on a ProMaster van. They run a YouTube channel and a website with the major headers being BLOG, FIT TIPS, WORKOUTS, RECIPES, 5K CHALLENGE!, RV TIPS, RV REVIEWS, RV PARK REVIEWS, and ABOUT US.

One item of current interest is the description of how they dumped the genset and went to a big (420 AH) LiFe battery, auxiliary engine alternator, upgraded solar system, and 3 kW inverter.  The battery looks to be an 8D sized at 125 pounds for 5 kwH energy capacity and an internal battery management system. The source, Lithionics, talks about Lithium Ion but the voltages specified make it clear that it is Lithium Iron. A lead acid 8D weighs about 130 lb and stores about 2200 Wh. The company’s assertion that its Lithium batteries provide a 4:1 capacity weight advantage does sound about right.

The ideas about fitness are also a good source for feeling healthy on the road. 

It is Well written and produced with good information and an interesting presentation. Check it out: both the YouTube channel and the website.

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Spring breakout rally: Lahontan 23-26 March

It’s time to get that rig road ready! 

No doubt about it, it’s going to be a great weekend for the first SNU rally of 2017. Looks like the weather is going to be typical for March in Northern Nevada. Dealing with a little rain, a little sun, a little wind or whatever won’t inhibit us from enjoying our rally. Weatherwise, be prepared for anything and everything, Plan to join us at the campground at Beach 7 at Lahontan. If you can’t come for the whole rally, come for a day or come for a visit, whatever fits your schedule. 

The rally will be a good, low risk, test of all systems so you can gain confidence that your rig is ready for any trips you plan for this year and that you have it stocked with what you need to be able to enjoy the experience. Sanitize, flush, then fill the water system. Check the tire pressures and the TPMS sensors. Check the supplies inventory. Inspect for winter damage and make sure all the wear parts are wearing properly have the proper preventive maintenance.Keep in mind batteries and tires are good for 5 to 7 years but only if properly maintained. If they are getting up in age pay particular attention in looking for potential problems. Are your propane tanks filled? Is everything outside, like the awning, well secured for road travel? 

Some links: USGS water level reportsstate park Facebook page – Wikipedia on the dam and the reservoirNSP Lahontan home pageDepartment of WildlifeSierra Nevada Airstreams Lahontan page

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What a wet winter means for western deserts

There’s likely to be a lot of color in the desert this spring: This desert in the Southwest is experiencing a wildflower ‘superbloom’

A wildflower superbloom is underway in the desert Southwest in March after seven inches of winter rain. Anza-Borrego State Park in California hasn’t experienced a bloom so prolific since at least 1999 according to park officials.

The Washington Post story has a lot of pictures, too. Maybe it’s time to get out there, grab your walking shoes and a camera, and go see for yourself!

Also keep in mind that there’s going to be water in places you might not expect. This means a possibility of soft ground in some campgrounds that might present problems for a heavy RV or reduced access to some areas due to flooding. Erosion and washouts, like the SNU encountered at Sweetwater Summit last year might also be a problem. Then there’s the bugs and critters …

take care.

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Portable heater fuel consumption and issues

With 2 disposable propane bottles of 22 kBTU (thousand BTU also sometimes MBU) each, an 18 kBTU/hour heater should run for 2.4 hours. Still going strong after 3 hours made for a puzzle. For the first clue there was the manual noting that the high heat setting with the 18 kBTU/hour rating required 2 bottles. A second clue is seen in taking a look at the propane bottles. (see Amazon for these heaters and accessories)

note the frost on the bottle! The bottle gets cold enough for that frost because the liquid propane evaporates to provide the vapor for the heater and evaporation needs heat. That much frost indicates that the rate of evaporation was quite high for the size of the bottle. That implies that the heater was running a bit starved so its propane use was a bit less than its full specification. That is why it ran for longer than a simple calculation of fuel stored versus fuel use rate would indicate.

One way around this would be to use a larger propane tank like the one on your RV. That has a lot larger surface area for the liquid propane which means a higher evaporation rate and larger vapor flow possible out of the tank. For that, the issue is pipe size and fittings. The Engineering Toolbox has a page on propane gas pipe sizing that can provide a starting point. Note that 3/8 copper tubing is common in RV’s for appliances. The water heater may run at 15 kBTU/hr, a stovetop burner at 5 kBTU/hr, and a furnace at up to 30 kBTU/hr. The propane in your system is low pressure at 11 inches water column or about 0.4 PSI above ambient (i.e. gauge pressure). The heater in the picture has a quick connect fitting for attachment to low pressure propane sources on the other side. 

Mr. Heater advertises a kit for connecting the heater to a low pressure RV system. It has a 3/8 flare one end, a 12′ length of 1/4 inch flexible hose, and a quick connect to attach to the heater (their two larger models have a connector for this this built in) on the other end. The 3/8 is the common fitting on RV systems. The 1/4 hose should be able to deliver sufficient gas for the high heat setting but the quick connect fitting says its rating is 16 kBTU/hr – a bit short. Note also that there are a variety of quick connect fittings for propane and you need to be very careful to use the right ones for a proper gas tight fit. The Mr. Heater fittings have automatic shutoff on disconnect for both ends and not all such fittings do.

You can also get fittings to connect a propane tank to the high pressure fitting on the heater where the bottles usually go. The problem to watch out for when using this method is the aromatic oil they put in propane so you can smell leaks, even small ones. Mr. Heater has a filter to use to keep this from gumming up the heater. 

It is also interesting that the Mr. Heater auxiliary tank kits have warnings that they are for outdoor use only even though the RV kit is advertised for inside the RV heater connections. There are also California Cancer warnings. And there are propane warnings. And there are combustion inside warnings. So many warnings tends to flood the zone and hide what is really important. If you use one of these heaters you need to make sure that there are no leaks. Mr. Heater suggests the soapy solution bubble method on all fittings. Your RV should also have functioning RV rated detectors for combustible gas and carbon monoxide. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of these gases and know what to do if you have any suspicion that you’ve got them or if any detector sounds an alarm. Take care. Stay warm safe.

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Are you a photographer of just a camera operator?

A.B. Watson at the Photography Blog asks the question. In looking at photo collections he wonders “Where is the photographer’s unique thumbprint, aside from on top of their shutter button?” What makes the picture special?

When people think about photography they think of cameras. They look at a photo and say I could have done that. If they were in that exact moment, they wouldn’t be wrong. That is if they had the technique and knowledge, with a few dedicated days to learn it. Which amazingly anyone can get on the internet, now just a click away. What makes a photo historic is its ability to capture a moment. Photography is mainly used as an archive medium. That’s all well and good if that’s all you use photography for. Many people love photography for this aspect alone. But for me, that just makes you a camera operator, not an artist.

You feel the something when you are there, something that prompted you to pull out your camera. Can you capture any of that feeling when you take a picture for your memory book? 

I feel that the collective group of photographers out there aren’t putting their own brush strokes into their work. We aren’t capturing an idea, rather just a moment. The majority of us are camera operators, obsessed about settings and techniques. Instead of focusing on concepts and our own unique vision. So what’s the meaning behind your work? Where does your camera end, and your idea begin?

Learn more about the craft from studying what you like about the photographs of others. Hit a YouTube video or other resource to improve your knowledge, understanding, and skill. Look for your own pictures that stand out above the others and try to learn what it is that makes it a special picture.

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Lehto on What You Need to Know Before You Buy an RV

A 19 minute video on YouTube: What You Need to Know Before You Buy an RV – Lehto’s Law Ep. 3.19. Steve Lehto is an attorney in Michigan who has practiced in the fields of Lemon Law and Consumer Protection for 24 years.

I have warned of the problems that come with RV ownership but I know many people are intent on buying them anyway. In that case, here is what you need to know and what you can do BEFORE you buy an RV to protect yourself.”

His basic advice is to make sure to get a prospective purchase inspected whether new or used. If you are not RV familiar, rent one to camp out in an RV park where you can talk to others and find out if an RV is really going to be your thing. He also suggests buying a used RV direct from the owner so you can also get a feel for the character of the person who is selling and find out why it is being sold.

A lot of good advice in the video. Caveat Emptor [wikipedia]

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An ampitheater out towards Fernley?

From the Road: Talus Stripes and Shorelines along the Truckee River

It was a late fall day, and I stopped along Route 447 to see if I could get close to some of the brilliantly colored trees along the Truckee River a few miles north of Wadsworth. I didn’t end up finding a good spot for pics of fall colors—other than maybe this one taken down near the Numana Hatchery—but I did find lots of wonderful talus stripes and some Lake Lahontan shorelines.

At two stops a little farther to the north, at and near the junction of 447 with Chicken Road and at the Historic Marker 448 pullout, I grabbed a hodgepodge of photos.

A good portion of the river in this area runs parallel or sub-parallel to Walker Lane strike-slip faults. Wadsworth Amphitheater, which shows up in the Google Earth images

Maybe she’ll help you see things you never noticed before when heading east out of Reno on I80.

Between this and that Flyover Country app described earlier there’s no excuse for not knowing about the country you visit.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art Images resourse

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Makes 375,000 Images of Fine Art Available Under a Creative Commons License: Download, Use & Remix – In partnership with Creative Commons, they’ve released them all under the latter’s CC0, or “no rights reserved” license, which places them “as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.”

Between this and the capabilities of a modern copy shop — maybe Eric Larson’s new shop (see the December 2016 SNU newsletter) – you can get some classy decoration for your RV!

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Is this you on tour?

It started with a link to a post about young men from Animal House to Zulu that lead to a post from the same author — When Nerds Travel. That has a list, here are some of the items.

  • You hit the museum book-n-stuff shop first, then go to the museum.
  • Modern: your e-reader is loaded with local and regional history. Coming back, your luggage is full of books and maps even though . . .
  • You plan your family trips on a theme, such as the Oregon Trail this year, then the fur trapper rendezvous, then the Mormon Trail, then Civil War battlefields, then US colonial history, and so on.
  • Someone asks you where you got that lovely silk scarf and you say, “The gift shop at the Prado. It was part of an exhibition on pre-Reconquista art and it is based on a pattern from the third main room of the Alhambra.” (True story but not me)
  • You plan your vacation around museums and zoos and planetaria* and botanical gardens.

Check out the full list. Maybe you can add to it?

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Cellphones, Email and the new avenues for the old game

It has become ever less expensive to reach out to others. Email and telephone are now nearly free and the robots can roll through telephone numbers and address lists with ease. That means the scammers have a wide field to play in. You aren’t even safe out in the boonies any more as cell phone coverage spreads and remote state parks start to feature Wifi.

Katherine Rodriguez describes one: ‘Can You Hear Me?’ Phone Scam Has Police Warning People to Hang Up Immediately.

Police say answering the question “Can you hear me?” over the phone from an unknown caller can have serious consequences thanks to a new scam that is making the rounds in several states.

“You say ‘yes,’ it gets recorded and they say that you have agreed to something,” Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy for the Consumer Federation of America, told CBS News. “I know that people think it’s impolite to hang up, but it’s a good strategy.”

Police suggest taking the following steps to avoid this scam:

Do not answer the phone from numbers you do not recognize,
Do not give out personal information,
Do not confirm your number over the phone,
Do not answer questions over the phone.

Police urge those who do get caught in a scam to hang up the phone and call 911 instead.

I am not so sure about calling 911 as non-emergency (not threatening life or property) calls should go to the routine dispatch number but 911 is easier to remember.

Here’s the Federal Trade Commission page on phone scams. A search for Washoe County Sheriff scam report finds don’t be a victim.

Anyone who has been a victim of this scam, or who receives such a call, is encouraged to take down as much information as possible, such as a name and call back number, without giving any information away. Then, immediately contact the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office at (775) 328-3001.

Verizon has a rundown on What are Robocalls?

Robocalls are phone calls with prerecorded messages. These calls have increased in recent years because technology has made it cheap and easy for robocallers to make calls from anywhere in the world while hiding their identities by displaying fake Caller ID information. To Learn More visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

All calls with prerecorded telemarketing sales messages are illegal unless you agreed to be called. Some non-marketing robocalls (such as political and charitable calls to wireline telephones) are authorized by law in most states, even if they are unwanted.

Senior fraud seems to be a particular concern with special laws. Nevada Consumer Affairs says

Older Americans are targeted for fraud because they are the mostly likely demographic to have money in savings, own their home, and have excellent credit… all of which a fraudster will attempt to take advantage of. Also, seniors are less likely to report fraud.

The Nevada Senior Guide also has Tips for Staying Safe As a Senior Citizen by Mark Mahaffey.

the elderly grew up during decades when it was proper to be polite and trusting. This makes them less likely to be rude during a phone conversation or face-to-face meeting with a con artist. The con artist will keep pushing, and the elderly victim may just ‘give in.’

Financial crimes are devastating for anyone, but especially so for senior citizens. They not only feel afraid, but may begin to question their own ability to handle their own affairs. For an aging person already trying to hold on to independence as long as possible, this can be emotionally terrifying.

On the other hand, sometimes the effort to protect the elderly goes a bit too far. A neighbor got in trouble like this once in caring for his mother as a physician reported a bruise from a fall as potential abuse. For an explanation of the law, see Nevada “Elder Abuse, Neglect, Exploitation & Isolation” Laws (NRS 200.5099) (Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys)

It is a crime in Nevada to abuse, neglect, financially exploit, abandon or isolate the elderly. Certainly it is illegal to harm people of any age, but Nevada law carries harsher penalties for targeting “older persons.”

Caretakers and family members are often wrongfully accused of abusing elderly people in Nevada. These false allegations may stem from simple misunderstandings, innocent accidents or legitimate self-defense. But a conviction carries devastating penalties and mars the accuseds’ records, causing prospective employers not to consider them for jobs.

It’s a wide world out there and there are people from kids playing with fire to bone fide experienced criminals trying every door and window to find an opportunity for mischief.

Take Care.

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Refilling the disposable propane bottles

The small disposable propane bottles are useful for catalytic heaters, camp stoves, lanterns, and other portable propane powered camp equipment. They are a much more expensive way to get propane compared to the big tanks on your RV feeding the built in appliances. That is why there is a lot of interest about ways to refill the small disposable bottles. WheeliePete has a YouTube video, NO Pre-Chilling! FULLY Refill a 1lb Propane Bottle (Avoid 600%+ Markup on Propane) Coleman, that is one of the better of its type. 

Do take his caveats and precautions to heart. These range from potential legal issues to the general hazards of doing things with combustible gases under pressure.

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Traffic Controls and Unintended Consequences

There’s been a lot of emphasis put on distracted driving recently and most of it is a PC thing. More laws don’t necessarily mean more safety and speed laws have be a topic here to illustrate that. A PhysOrg report by Michelle Wheeler on a study that Strictly enforcing the speed limit may make drivers worse that brings these two driving problems together.

A UWA study found strict enforcement of the speed limit could be bad for road safety by making drivers focus on their speed rather than hazards.

It found people who drove under the stricter conditions were less likely to spot red dots that appeared in their peripheral vision. They also reported a higher mental workload.

Lead researcher, Dr Vanessa Bowden, says … “We came to the conclusion that [monitoring speed] is eating up their limited pool of visual and mental resources a little bit and taking their attention perhaps a bit away from the task of safe driving.”

“It’s what we want to do next with this, is see if it actually translates into more accidents,” Vanessa says.

This is reflected in the MUTCD (manual of uniform traffic control devices) published by the U.S. DOT. It says “When a speed limit within a speed zone is posted, it should be within 5 mph of the 85th-percentile speed of free-flowing traffic.” [guidance # 11]. Implicit here is that most drivers drive at a safe speed and they should not be subject to traffic restrictions that will distract them from the primary responsibility to drive safely.

In the section on Engineering Speed Limits, there is another item of note.

In terms of traffic law, speed limits should reflect the maximum reasonable and safe speed for normal conditions. That is speed limits should be acceptable as reasonable by most drivers and separate high and low risk speed behavior.

This acknowledges a social aspect of law. Those subject to the law must see it as ‘reasonable’ and with a proper purpose else they lose respect for the law and its enforcement. Speed enforcement often violates these concepts and the distracted driving laws are following suit. This is not good for either safety nor for law enforcement. Putting up a new law is easy. Finding a solution to poor driving habits and judgments is difficult. Conflict between law and good driving are destructive. Better solutions need to be found.

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Traffic Camera Citation Story

Adam MacLeod is an associate professor at Faulkner University’s Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and author of Property and Practical Reason (Cambridge University Press). He got a ticket because a camera took a picture of his car. He tells his story: That Time I Turned a Routine Traffic Ticket into the Constitutional Trial of the Century.

Traffic-camera laws seem like such minor, insignificant intrusions on liberty that few grasp their constitutional significance. But they reflect a profoundly mistaken view of American constitutionalism. One might say that the traffic camera is a sign of our times. Its widespread use and acceptance reveals how far we have drifted from our fundamental commitment to self-government. When our governing officials dismiss due process as mere semantics, when they exercise powers they don’t have and ignore duties they actually bear, and when we let them get away with it, we have ceased to be our own rulers.

When a cop admits to perjury on the witness stand, you know there is problem with the legal process. It is the “minor, insignificant intrusions on liberty” that flavor civil discourse and government effectiveness.

Think of this and the implications of the folks who decided to take the Dog Valley detour out of Verdi when I80 closed over the pass in the recent storm. There are all sorts of ways to get stuck in mud when driving.

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Rules of the road and complications

Gery Witzenburg at AutoBlog asks Is modern traffic enforcement all about dollars instead of safety? — “We’re going with a strong yes.”

So wherever you live and drive, watch out for all types of revenue-driven enforcement and report any you see to the NMA, which keeps an excellent nationwide database. The authorities will never publicly admit it – just as they routinely deny the existence of ticket quotas or that ticket counts are key factors in evaluating and comparing individual officers’ job performances – but it is clearly happening nearly everywhere as states, counties, cities and towns continue to rely on ticket revenue for their operating budgets.

That is why you should use a radar/laser detector (legal in the U.S. except in Virginia and Washington, D.C.) and invest time and energy to contest every ticket, whether or not you think it’s deserved. If you give in and compliantly pay up on one minor ticket today without a fight, the next one will likely drive your insurance premiums way up for a period of years. Multiple studies have shown, by the way, that radar detector usage actually reduces accidents because their users invariably slow and look around whenever the devices sound off.

From a lifetime of study and observation, I long ago concluded that traffic enforcement in the U.S. has become mostly about revenue, very little about safety anymore. From aggressive enforcement of unreasonably low speed limits to speed and red-light cameras and unreasonably high fines, what evidence is there otherwise?

This is part of a larger phenomena that impacts where you can go and where you can park in your RV among a lot of other lifestyle decisions and choices. The enforcement that can be witnessed, as illustrated in Witzenburg’s opinion, also tends to denigrate law enforcement. The social pressures that do exist corrupt law enforcement efforts. The push to ‘do something, do anything’ along with the pushback from people unjustly caught in the mayhem tends to excess enforcement of simple measures like speed and inhibited measures of more important and harder to objectively measure behavior.

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Travel Geology

The GPS Tracklog notes: New GPS App Shows Geological Points of Interest Along Route.

This app, created by the University of Minnesota Department of Earth Sciences and funded by the National Science Foundation, allows users to download a track and then use GPS to learn about interesting geological and fossil sites on a hike, road trip, or even flight.

The home website is http://fc.umn.edu/ and the app is available for both Android and for Apple. Here’s their blurb:

Flyover Country is a National Science Foundation funded offline mobile app for geoscience outreach and data discovery. The app exposes interactive geologic maps from Macrostrat.org, fossil localities from Neotomadb.org and Paleobiodb.org, core sample localities from LacCore.org, Wikipedia articles, offline base maps, and the user’s current GPS determined location, altitude, speed, and heading. The app analyzes a given flight path and caches relevant map data and points of interest (POI), and displays these data during the flight, without in flight wifi. By downloading only the data relevant to a particular flightpath, cache sizes remain reasonable, allowing for a robust experience without an internet connection.

From the list of sources, the app is quite a mash-up. It will be interesting to see how it works and whether budding amateur geologists can get a batter handle on the country they travel.

See also GeoSpace: Flyover Country—The next generation field-based research toolLake County News Chronicle WKS graduate creates smartphone app.

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