Kevin Warnock

Entrepreneurship, ideas and more

Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Introducing FaceSeat to remotely attend weddings and funerals

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Apple iPad Facetime, from website, June 14, 2011

Apple iPad Facetime, from website, June 14, 2011

Since Apple iPad tablet computers have forward and rear facing video cameras, and are set up for slick and easy video conferencing, I have a proposal:

Make iPads available for check out in hospitals and nursing homes, so that patients can receive ‘hospital visits’ from their friends and family more frequently.

I bet that if a scientific study were conducted that patients would get well sooner and be happier if they could video chat with their friends and family for free, even if they didn’t own or know how to operated a computer. I suspect the video chatting on the iPad is so easy to use that nurses and doctors could be trained to be trainers in mere minutes.

I suspect there are already robust WiFi networks in care facilities, so the networking is already in place.

While we’re at it, install permanent video cameras at all funeral homes so people can attend even if too far away to travel.

For that matter, install video cameras at churches and other places where weddings take place, so more people can attend weddings.

For an extra dose of ‘being there’ somebody could create a holder for an iPad that would look sort of like a person from the sholders up. Where the face would be, place the iPad. This iPad holder could be clipped to the back of a chair or bench.

This way a church, wedding venue or funeral home might have 10 ‘remote seats’ available, where one iPad equals one seat. When someone is occupying a seat at home, their face is shown full screen on the remote iPad. In this way, the physically present attendees can see the faces of the remote guests, and the relatives will be comforted that more friends and family could attend.

Since all these iPads cost money, I suppose it would be OK for wedding and funeral venues to charge extra for these virtual seats. But I would say just give them away at first, to get people hooked on the concept. It’s such a far out idea I am doubtful people would pay until they had seen it done at another event.

I read once that when the grocery shopping cart was invented and placed in stores that nobody touched them. The proprietor had to hire pretend shoppers to push them around as if they were really shopping. That educated actual shoppers, who began to use the carts themselves for real. I think something similar might be required to get this idea off the ground. It might even be necessary to hire fake guests who do not know the wedding party or the deceased, to virtually attend the wedding or funeral, cry and be present.

I’ve read that in Japan there are businesses that rent actors to attend weddings in person to give the impression the bride and groom have more friends than they really do. So there is a precedent for fakery like this.

I think the idea of virtually attending important life events is a good one. Especially going forward with jet fuel being so expensive and security standards getting stricter. It just isn’t a great idea to fly all over the planet for all these events, and such travel I predict will one day become politically incorrect.

There are so many ways to make my idea more like being there. The iPads could be mounted on motorized tripod mounts the remote user could adjust, so people could look to their sides and say hello to real people. The iPad has a camera on the back already, so people could see who was sitting behind them. Maybe two iPads could be mounted back to back so that people sitting in the back could see who was sitting up front in the virtual seats.

Lots of people miss lots of important events. My idea is much more social than simply installing some anonymous cameras that might be security cameras as far as the attendees are aware. With my idea, people present physically can interact with people present virtually.

I dub my idea FaceSeat.

Of course, this concept is applicable to zillions of events beyond weddings and funerals, but at first I would focus on these big markets — a lot of people marry and die in the world.

With the provocative name FaceSeat I could get sued by Apple and FaceBook at once. Think of the stunning PR that would result – instant mind share. If Oprah [Winfrey] still had a popular daytime television show, I’d be on it within days of the lawsuits being filed.

PS — This is just a wacky idea I’m writing on my blog! I am not jumping into to the videoconferencing industry. If someone has already thought of and published my idea, I’d like to know about it so I can update this post.

Written by Kevin Warnock

June 15th, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Money lessons for everyone

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College debt over time, from Wall Street Journal May 22, 2011

College debt over time, from Wall Street Journal May 22, 2011

I read Money Lessons for Every High-School Graduate by Zac Bissonnette in today’s Wall Street Journal newspaper. Bissonnette’s piece is one of the most direct and sensible articles about money I’ve yet read.

While the lessons of this article are aimed at recent high school graduates, I think the lessons have yet to be learned by many people.

Lesson number four particularly resonates with me:

“Materialism is misery: Lives of thrift and conscientiousness lead to less stress, greater enjoyment of the things we do have and a lighter carbon footprint. But most of our societal associations with wealth are deeply connected with materialism: luxury goods, power and status.

“The more materialistic values are at the center of our lives, the more our quality of life is diminished,” says Knox College psychologist Tim Kasser, author of “The High Price of Materialism.”

Recognize the real benefits of wealth — freedom and flexibility — and don’t let the pursuit of its illusory trappings interfere with your ability to reap those rewards.”

Thanks to my generous relatives, rental and investment income, I have the freedom and flexibility the passage refers to.

That makes me richer than almost everyone I know, in my mind.

Even better, I am happy. I like my house, car and possessions, and I rarely dream of upgrading them.

Might I appreciate a gilded existence? Perhaps, but perhaps not, because with material riches come pressures that I have seen make many people unhappy.

I’ll take my happy, freedom filled middle class life over an unhappy, constrained upper class life… with joy.

I am confident I’ll make a lot more money, but happiness is more important than money.

4. Materialism is misery: Lives of thrift and conscientiousness lead to less stress, greater enjoyment of the things we do have and a lighter carbon footprint. But most of our societal associations with wealth are deeply connected with materialism: luxury goods, power and status.

“The more materialistic values are at the center of our lives, the more our quality of life is diminished,” says Knox College psychologist Tim Kasser, author of “The High Price of Materialism.”

Recognize the real benefits of wealth — freedom and flexibility — and don’t let the pursuit of its illusory trappings interfere with your ability to reap those rewards.




Written by Kevin Warnock

May 21st, 2011 at 11:00 pm

My grandmother Elsie Battaglia joined today, at age 99

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Elsie Battagla, April 12, 2011, King City, Oregon, USA. Photo by Kevin L. Warnock.

Elsie Battagla, April 12, 2011, King City, Oregon, USA. Photo by Kevin L. Warnock.

My grandmother Elsie Battaglia joined FaceBook today. She is 99 years old. I helped her with the signup process, but she pushed the buttons to create the account by herself. We uploaded about half of the pictures in her physical photo albums — some 1,300 pictures.

FaceBook is currently the most popular so-called ‘social network’ in the United States, and perhaps the world.

I decided to photograph grandma today for her FaceBook profile picture. She applied her own lipstick and I set up my studio light I had brought with me. I used my Canon 5D Mark II camera with the 135mm soft focus portrait lens set halfway between 0 and 1. I directed her poses like I was photographing a young fashion model, and the above picture is the result. I am very happy with the way it turned out, and I think she looks fantastic, especially since she isn’t wearing makeup other than lipstick, and the picture is not retouched.

Written by Kevin Warnock

April 12th, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Posted in Family

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Teaching cooking in school by having students prepare lunch daily for the entire student population

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My lovely breakfast cooked by Claudia

My lovely breakfast cooked by Claudia

Around the breakfast table this morning in Tigard, Oregon, at the home of my 99 year old grandmother Elsie Battaglia, I had a good conversation with Claudia.

Claudia is a school teacher, and only recently put her profession on hold to take care of my grandmother full time.

Claudia and I had an animated conversation about teaching children to cook. I wondered aloud if perhaps the best way to teach children to cook would be to have the students cook lunch daily for the student body. Instead of employing kitchen staff, schools could employ cooking teachers that would teach and supervise students who would do the actual cooking and serving.

The teaching opportunities would be varied and numerous:

  • Nutrition
  • Meal planning
  • Accounting
  • Budgeting
  • Cleaning
  • Customer service
  • Math
  • Growing
  • Purchasing
  • Cooking

School kitchens already have certified cooking and food preparation appliances, and by turning the kitchen into a classroom for use throughout the school day, the classroom area of the school is automatically increased at zero or small cost.

Claudia thought my idea is worthwhile. She has dozens of ideas she wants to pursue to increase the quality of education. She hopes to open her own small school, where she can implement many of her ideas. I encouraged her to start a blog to write about her ideas to make friends with likeminded readers. She said she’s been wanted to set up a blog for a while now, and asked me to help her set up her blog during my current visit. Of course I agreed, and that’s on our agenda.

Certainly there is a risk if students are charged with cooking for their classmates. Someone might poison the food, for example. But, to my knowledge, prisoners cook for fellow inmates, and I haven’t heard of poisonings happening in that context.

I would think that daily cooking for classmates would help students feel connected to their classmates to such a degree that poisonings would be quite rare. Something is clearly wrong in US schools — so wrong that students are regularly shooting their classmates and instructors with guns. I wonder if cooking for classmates might reduce school shootings by helping students feel more connected to and empathetic towards their fellow students.

The advantages to having every student know how to cook for themselves and for a crowd I believe would strongly outweigh any possible dangers from accidental or intentional kitchen related incidents.

The way the system works in the US now is millions of students can’t cook a healthy, delicious and balanced meal when they graduate. As a result, they rely on corporations to cook for them. The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan details the many horrors that result when corporations cook food to feed a populace.

When corporations cook for people, health suffers and people get sick and die. The number of people that get sick from eating corporate food is likely orders of magnitude higher than the numbers of students that perhaps might get sick by eating student prepared food.

Society should be able to accept a potential small incremental risk to the immediate safety of school lunches in exchange for a dramatic improvement in food safety long term by the population turning away from corporate food in favor of home cooked healthy and delectable meals.

The gold standard even today for desirable food is a ‘home cooked meal.’ Why aren’t we teaching the entire population how to prepare a great home cooked meal? It is unfortunate that cooking isn’t a required class each year of school. With my plan, described here, to turn school kitchens into classrooms, and to turn students into trained cooks and kitchen managers, adding 12 years of cooking classes to every K-12 educational system in the country doesn’t have to cost extra, and the dividends society will reap are potentially shockingly dramatic.

I predict that a rigorous analysis of my plan will show that the lifecycle cost benefit to my plan will total trillions of dollars per generation, as the health care costs to treat the illnesses associated with poor diet will likely be shown to dwarf any direct costs associated with turning school kitchens into cooking and management classrooms.

Many others are advocating for healthy school lunches. Here are some links:

I predict a firestorm of protest from various powerful unions if they were to seriously consider adopting what I write above. The existing school lunch cooks would probably not have teaching credentials, so the teachers’ unions would probably not want them to become teachers. I also suspect the existing lunch staff would not want to teach hundreds or thousands of students how to do their jobs.

I don’t know what type of person would be best suited to the position of cooking teacher, but I am nearly certain there would be many applicants for a job like I’ve outlined above. I think a special type of person is needed — someone who is passionate about food and nutrition and teaching, yet can handle the daily grind of operating what amounts to a busy commercial kitchen with student workers.

I am passionate about teaching people to cook. I created and published my first cooking show in January. I sadly haven’t published follow on episodes yet, but I remain committed to publishing 11 more shows this year.

Written by Kevin Warnock

April 9th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Posted in Cooking,Family,Food

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I arrived at my grandmother’s house in Tigard, Oregon

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power lift reclining chair

power lift reclining chair

My grandmother Elsie Battaglia is 99 years old.

Starting on April 1, 2011, she hasn’t been feeling well, and she sounds extremely tired on the phone. She’s had an array of tests completed by her doctors, and they can find nothing wrong. In fact, her doctor said she is ‘remarkably healthy’ and that there’s no reason for her to be at the hospital.

Even so, she sounds so lethargic on the phone that I am concerned. She is sleeping 12 hours a day, which is quite unusual for her.

I decided to skip the TiG aluminum welding class I had signed up for last evening at TechShop in Menlo Park, California.

Instead, I began driving my car north from San Francisco, California to Tigard, Oregon, which is a suburb of Portland, Oregon.

Note that I never sold my BMW even though I wrote a post in March 2010 advertising it. I didn’t get an offer over the lowest blue book value, so I had a change of heart, as I really love my car. I had wanted to sell it in order to buy a Volkswagon Golf TDI, which gets far better mileage. But Golf TDIs are in short supply and are very expensive on the used market. The new ones can’t run on biodiesel, so they were out of the question.

The drive to my grandmother’s house is 630 mile drive, which is far too much for me to drive in one day, particularly since I drive precisely at the speed limit to save fuel. I drove about 300 miles last evening and stayed at the Sis-Q-Inn Motel at 1825 Shastina Drive in Weed, California.

The drive today was tiring, as I hit Friday afternoon rush hour traffic as I approached Tigard.

I arrived at Elsie’s house around 5pm.

She was reclining in her brand new power activated recliner, similar to this one, that can nearly ‘stand up’ to help her get out of her chair easily. I had never seen such a chair in operation in person, and I was impressed. I saw ads on TV for such chairs when I was a kid — I didn’t understand then how critical a chair could be to someone.

Elsie’s dear friend Char, who has known my grandmother for some 40 years, came over this evening and made dinner for Elsie, Claudia and me. Claudia is Elsie’s friend who lives with her and helps her out. Claudia is an absolute delight, and I am so thankful she is here. She tells Elsie she loves her several times a day.

I am very close to my grandmother. I introduced my last girlfriend to Elsie before I introduced her to my parents.

Elsie got married when she was 16, and had my father when she was 18. Her husband died of a heart defect when she was 23. This was in about 1935, when the country was still in the Great Depression. Her husband’s father owned an apartment building in Portland, and Elsie went to work for him collecting the rent from mostly broke tenants. She describes the work as a tough assignment, but she was persistent and mostly succeeded. The apartment building is still there, and my father and brother went to visit it within the last two years.

I don’t know how long I am going to stay here in Tigard, which is why I drove. I have my laptop with me, and my grandmother has a fast WiFi connection, so I can work effectively from here.

Written by Kevin Warnock

April 8th, 2011 at 10:05 pm

Posted in Family

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Dodo bird sculpted from a log with a chainsaw

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Elsie Battaglia in The Times, December 14, 2006

Elsie Battaglia in The Times, December 14, 2006

My grandmother Elsie Battaglia is 99 years old.

One of her prized possessions is the wood sculpture dodo bird pictured below. It was carved by a young man with a chainsaw perhaps 40 years ago. Grandma loves telling the story of how she knew of this young man for years, and how he had not been motivated much in life, and hadn’t accomplished anything noteworthy. Then one day, someone gave him a chainsaw and some logs, and he taught himself to produce sculptures. He went into business for himself and did a brisk business selling his creations.

This dodo bird means a lot to me because it’s one of the few items that Grandma took from house to house with her as she’s moved over the years. I remember it from when I was a young child.

This picture was taken on March 9, 2004 when Grandma lived part of the year at her house she then owned in Desert Hot Springs, California.

My Grandmother is slowing down, and she recently stopped exercising regularly at Curves, the health club chain. I believe she only joined as a member at about age 93 or so. Her friends would pick her up and take her to Curves since she chose to no longer drive a car some years back.

On a recent visit, I made copies of all her photo albums, some 16 gigabytes, and she gave me permission to post them. There are thousands of pictures going back decades, and I’m not yet sure how to approach this big project. Stay tuned.

My grandmother was on the Internet daily with WebTV in 1997, and thankfully I saved all of her emails. She only signed off permanently years later because she was getting too much spam to handle. WebTV was slow and cumbersome, and I can understand her frustration with all the unsolicited email.

I love my grandmother, and I’m going to visit her next month.

Kevin's grandmother's dodo bird

Kevin's grandmother's dodo bird

Written by Kevin Warnock

March 31st, 2011 at 5:00 am

Posted in Family

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Here’s an unusual way to find a wife

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My post yesterday announcing I am divorcing my wife was emotional.

Now my friends know I’m divorcing my wife.

The vast majority of my friends didn’t know that before yesterday.

I need to find a replacement wife, and pronto — hopefully in the next two years, as I want to start a family as soon as possible.

I’m not ready to date yet, and I haven’t been on any dates, but when I’m ready, I’ll let you know.

In today’s online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, there’s a link to a story on a different website about Chas McFeely, who also wants to get married and start a family soon.

McFeely had tried online dating sites, with no success. So he decided to make a dating site where he’s the only member — Ten Thousand Dollars for Love?

To encourage people to visit, he’s offering a $10,000 reward to the person who introduces him to the woman he marries. According to the story, he’s received hundreds of sincere emails from all over the world.

His dating site, HookChasUp, is pretty well done. It’s very light on text, and there is no blog, so it’s tough to get to know him. But the photos and captions are well done, to my untrained male eyes.

Do you think this experiment Chas is trying will work? I’m worried it will attract unsuitable replies, but still, I wish Chas all the best in his search.

I wonder if most viewers notice what record album he’s holding in the picture above, and what percentage of them understand he’s communicating a lot about himself by that record selection.

Written by Kevin Warnock

March 24th, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Family

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In Japan, parents train their children to return lost property, even coins found on the pavement

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Slate, the online newsmagazine originally funded in part by Microsoft, March 16, 2011 published an article about why there is so little looting now in Japan, following the March 11, 2011 9.0 earthquake and resulting devastating Tsunami.

I don’t know if the articles claims are true, and I won’t sumarize the article here, as I would prefer you give Slate the traffic and read the full article at their site, here: Stop, Thief! Thank You.

Aerial view of damage to Wakuya, Japan following earthquake

Aerial view of damage to Wakuya, Japan following earthquake

However, I do want to call your attention to the part of the article that says that in Japan parents train their children to return property that’s been lost by its owner. How? It takes a bit of effort, but I know it can work, and I recommend you do this with your children.

If a child finds a coin on the street, the parents will take the child and the coin to a police station and have the child turn in the coin to the police. If the owner doesn’t claim the coin within six months, the coin is returned to the child to keep. According to the article, parents and police take this training exercise very seriously.

How do I know it can work? Because my own parents did this with me when I was 9 years old. We were living in London, England at the time. One day I found a 5 pound banknote in the gutter. I think the pound was worth about USD $2.50 then, so this bill was worth about $12.50. But I was 9 years old, and my allowance at the time was probably 25 cents week, so this bill represented a fortune. I was elated to have found it!

My parents cooled my spirits when they told me I would have to turn it in the the police! I recall that we went to the police station and turned it over. Like in Japan, I was told I would get the money returned to me in six months if nobody claimed it. Of course, nobody claimed it, and half a year later my parents somehow got the money from the police and gave it to me.

This was a lesson I never forgot, and I love my parents for teaching me so well.

I know plenty of people who should know better that never learned this lesson, and will pocket anything of value they find. I know people who accepted overpayments from their employer without a word. This was not a few dollars, but thousands of dollars! I know people who would not send a bill back at a restaurant for revision upwards if an item was left off. I know people who will keep any change a cashier returns to them in excess of the proper amount due. I’m certain that everyone reading this knows people like this as well.

I remember when I was about 12 years old and was a student at University of Chicago Laboratory School. I’m told that this is one of the finest schools in the United States, and many of the students come from privileged backgrounds. The father of one of my classmates is a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, for example. The mother of another classmate will probably win a Nobel Prize, my mother tells me. This student’s mother was featured in a long article about her life in The New Yorker magazine last year, to make the point she really has a shot at such an important prize.

In gym class, our lockers were arranged in alphabetical order, so my locker was near that of my friend Vincent Webster. One day he forgot to put his wallet in his locker and I found it. I returned it to Vincent or to the school authorities. Vincent got his wallet back and the whole class somehow learned I had done this. Believe it or not, I got teased and several of my classmates criticized me for not keeping it! I don’t think there were any poor students in my class. Many of my classmates have gone on to do important work in life. Nobody at this school ‘needed’ whatever could have been in Vincent’s wallet.

Never once did I consider keeping Vincent’s wallet. Vincent was my friend, but even if he were my enemy, I still would have returned his wallet.

My parents raised me well, and I am sure my honesty has been noticed and appreciated by the good people I’ve encountered in life. This is not to suggest I’ve never done anything I’m not pleased with in life, or have never made a decision that looks bad in retrospect. But I have really gone through life guided by an exceptionally strong moral compass.

If you cheat, stop, apologize and go back and make it up.

Written by Kevin Warnock

March 18th, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Well done graphic describing dangers of drugs and alcohol

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As you may have figured out by now, I live a healthy life and don’t take drugs or drink alcohol. I have seen too many people ruin their lives with drugs and alcohol, and it’s so sad to see people who were once full of promise do poorly because they were escaping reality through substance abuse.

An aquaintance of mine from my youth went on such an extreme bender about five years back that I heard he lost his wife and kids and now lives in San Francisco’s public Laguna Honda hospital and rehabilitation center, and will be there or somewhere similar for the rest of his life. He can’t remember his wife or kids or any of his friends, I’m told. I didn’t know him that well, but I’ve known him for 20 years or so. He was a charismatic artist and performer in his youth, with real magnetism. Now he apparently flirts with the nurses, but can’t recognize his own children. How sad. His name is Tony Chatham, and he was the lead singer for a band my friend was in. I photographed Tony’s band, and years later he told me a framed photograph from that shoot hung in his and his wife’s bedroom. He loved that band and that picture, and he always reminded me of that whenever he saw me. This, of course, was before his tragic overdose.

Here’s an attractively produced graphic that lists some of the horrors that can result from substance abuse. I found this today while looking at the website Digg where popular web pages are voted up by readers. If you’re in a position to influence people, you might want to display this poster sized graphic… it may help save someone the agony of what I’m sure Tony and his family went through and continue to go through.

Written by Kevin Warnock

January 10th, 2011 at 4:00 am

Posted in Family,Home

BBC Video ‘Good Neighbors’ Comedy Series About Urban Homesteading

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My brother Andrew and his wife Krista gave me a simply wonderful Christmas gift 8 days ago. I can’t recall ever getting a more moving Christmas gift from anyone. Andrew bought me a paint set about 13 years ago, and that was a great gift in that it got me back into painting, which I hadn’t done since I was a child. And while I love to paint, and have decorated my house with my work, the paint set wasn’t as deeply important as what Andrew and Krista gave me this year. The special gift?

Good Neighbors DVD Box

Good Neighbors DVD Box

They got me the 1970s BBC Television series on DVD originally titled The Good Life. The series has been renamed Good Neighbors on the DVD packaging, but the video images themselves use the original title. The 4 disc set covers the complete 3 season run of the show.

Here’s the series summary from the back cover of the DVD boxed set:

“Good Neighbors is considered on of the best British sitcoms ever by critics and audiences alike and took North America by storm when it premiered here on PBS.

Tired of the rat race and looking for more from life, Tom Good decides to quit his job and become self-sufficient… all without leaving his cozy suburban home. His wife, Barbara, agrees to his outlandish plan, and without a second thought they’ve dug up their well-laid lawn and turned it into a vegetable plot. A goat, pigs, and chickens soon follow.

Their best friends and neighbors, Margo and Jerry Leadbetter, think they’ve gone mad, especially Margo, the ultimate middle-clas suburban snob. Can the Goods really live off the land in the London suburbs? Can the Leadbetters stand it if they do?”

I find this show so meaningful because I want to do what the Goods do in this show! I am advertising for housemates right now that want to raise chickens, goats and vegetables right in San Francisco. I hope to raise all the food we need to eat one day, although that’s a tall order and one that almost certainly can’t be met. But we may be able to get close, except for items like spices, rice, tea, tropical fruit and industrial products like soda and chocolate chips.

I don’t want to forgo outside income like the Goods do, however. The Goods barter and sell some of their crops to make the cash they need to pay their property taxes. They need no money for utilities since they turned them all off. They have a methane digester to convert the goat manure to methane gas, which they burn in a basement electrical generator to power their lights. They bartered their toaster and hair dryer for a rusty old wood fired kitchen range. They get their firewood by scouring the neighborhood for diseased fallen trees, which they roll back home in pieces on an old baby carriage turned wagon.

I don’t want to give away the whole series in this post, so I’ll leave now with just these titalating highlights. I’ll write episode reviews from time to time, to cover what happens in more detail. I’ve only watched less than half the series, but it’s clear that the self-sufficient money poor couple is much ‘richer’ than the nominally rich couple next door. Money doesn’t buy happiness rings through the series in numerous profound scenarios. I’ve tried to buy happiness before and I know it can’t be done, so this show resonates with me more than most. It’s just so charming, captivating, delightful and sweet that you should login to Netflix right now and start watching it on demand.

I discovered the box in the upper right to subscribe to this blog has been broken for some time, so I don’t have as many subscribers as I otherwise would have. If you liked this post, and would like to subscribe, please type in your email address in the little box in the upper right. I won’t write useless nonsense to you, I promise. Thank you.

Written by Kevin Warnock

January 5th, 2011 at 5:00 am

Posted in Family,Home