Owning My Hypocrisy

Everyone’s a hypocrite about something. Some of the worst offenders, of course are people who profess to be “Christians.” Most of them don’t act Christlike. I call them “Once a week for an hour on Sunday Christians.” .Being an atheist I dodge that bullet. 

My major hypocrisy is that while, in theory, I despise Amazon and Walmart, I use them all the time. In 2021 I placed 41 orders with Amazon and I have at least a couple more I’m going to place before we ring in 2022.

Let me get Walmart out of the way first. I live on a fixed income. A Social Security deposit each month of around $1,200. That was perfectly adequate when I lived in Panama where I rented a fully-furnished, air-conditioned HOUSE for $175/month and had an electric bill that never exceeded $20/month. Each month I had more money in the bank than what I started with. 

When I repatriated five years ago the only way I could survive was to buy a small sailboat and live on it at anchor thus avoiding paying any rent at all. I did that for four years until moving into The Swamp off the Saint Johns River in Central Florida. My COPD makes physical activity tough and I wouldn’t be able to handle an emergency at anchor. Now I’m tied up to the bank of a canal and pay $100/month in rent and throw in another $25 for electricity though I don’t think I gobble up that much. But it helps my neighbor/friend/landlord defray some of his expenses.

In the nearby town of DeBary, after driving nearly 3 miles to get to a paved road, there is a Walmart food center. I do my grocery shopping there because, 1) it’s convenient and 2) the prices on nearly everything are less expensive than at Publix or Winn Dixie. While the Walmart selections of meat are pretty meager, everything else is sufficient. 

They also have a pharmacy at that location. I’ve gotten my Covid-19 shots there and got my annual flu shot there just the other day. Their prices for prescriptions are reasonable though prescription meds in the United States are outrageous whatever pharmacy you use. When I was anchored off Anna Maria Island I used CVS. It was right on the free trolley route and their prices were a hair lower for the meds I need than the Walgreens a couple of blocks away. 

When I moved here to The Swamp I switched my prescriptions to the Wally World pharmacy for the convenience. I was planning to make a long road trip in my SUV and while CVS has a good network of outlets around the country, Walmart is EVERYWHERE. In fact on my 3,500-mile adventure I was able to get my prescriptions filled in two different states!

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So, what about Amazon? I think it’s a wonderful goal to shop locally. To patronize mom-and-pop operations, but of the 41 items I ordered most were not things you could walk into a store off the street and buy. Like the bed frame I bought prepping my SUV for the camping expedition.

Or the Coleman Instant Tent and the collapsable cot,

or the Coleman collapsable table.

Yes, some of those could have been obtained locally, but they would have been bought at some other national chain like Dick’s Sporting Goods. So what’s the advantage? And I didn’t buy the cot until well into my adventure and then I had Amazon deliver it in care of General Delivery to a tiny post office in north central Florida! 

There are no local mom-and-pops stocking the Bluetti eb70 portable power station. And who carries a female cigarette lighter socket with wiring that attaches directly to a 12-volt battery bank via alligator clips?

I needed that so I could run my 12V/110V fridge off the batteries that are charged by my solar setup?When I bought the fridge I was living on the hook with no other electrical service. Never seen what I needed at a local store.

I ordered a couple of copies of my book “Adversity’s Wake” for my nephew in North Carolina. Kinda cool thing about that is while I have to pay the full price for the books I also receive my 90% royalty later.

I needed to replace my fuel tank pickup assembly with a Yamaha hose attachment.

Don’t find those in too many stores. Even the local West Marine in Bradenton didn’t have those in stock. West isn’t a mom-and-pop operation by a long shot, and lots of people have issues buying from West, too.

For the past couple of years my electrical needs have been met by solar. I have three Renogy panels. Started with a 50-watt panel which I thought would be sufficient to maintain my phone, iPad and Macbook Air. It wasn’t enough. I still had to run my generator several times a week to keep up. Of course that cost money for gasoline and we won’t even talk about the noise it made. (Sidebar…when I was on my nine-month single-handed cruise to Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala, I used a generator hooked up to a car battery charger to keep the batteries topped off. This was back in ’92 and who heard of, or could afford solar back then, anyway? That Generac was deafening. I used to fill the tank half full, start it up and then get in my dinghy and go exploring for a while. By the time I got back the batteries were charged and the generator had run out of gas and shut down.)

Where was I? Oh, yes…the 50-watt wasn’t enough so I added a 100-watt panel and ran them in parallel. Worked fine. Up to a point. if we had several overcast, cloudy days I had to be really careful on how much I used my gadgets so their batteries wouldn’t run out. My lighting, by the way, was provided by Luci Lights which are solar powered. Wonderful things. Every household should have a couple for when power goes out. No batteries needed. They’ll sit in a drawer ready for use for at least a year. They give lighting for up to 12 hours and then you just put them in sunlight to recharge.

I decided I needed to add another panel to the mix. But the rigid panels are heavy and since the deck space ahead of the main hatch was cluttered with the two panels I already had, the only place to put a new panel would be on top of the Bimini frame. It needed to be lightweight. The Renogy 160-watt flexible panel only weights about 6 pounds which was great, and what I bought. I now had 310-watts of power after connecting everything up in parallel. Cloudy days have not been a problem since.

My next project requires me to fall back on Amazon so I can hook up my solar panels to feed the Bluetti.

A word about the Bluetti. it has four USB outlets from which I charge my phone, iPad and Macbook Air. It has four 110-volt outlets just like you have in your walls at home. They supply AC power via a pure sine wave inverter. I can also plug my fridge into one of those, or, I can go the DC route and plug into the unit’s cigarette lighter outlet. 

The Bluetti came with the wiring to charge the unit from solar panels. When I was stuck over a long weekend in Virginia waiting to get a new alternator installed in the SUV, I hooked the flexible panel to it. It took two days to get it to a 100% state, but it worked. Now I want to tie all three of my panels into the unit but I need to modify the wiring on the boat.

Before buying the Bluetti for the land voyage I had the three panels charging a two-battery house bank. Those, in turn, ran to a bunch of cigarette lighter sockets that provided the outlets to charge my equipment. The 100-watt panel and the 50-watt panel were hooked up in parallel using “Y connectors to merge the four wires (one positive and one negative from each panel) down to two which, in turn merged down to a single positive and negative wire. These were connected to a solar charge controller. The 160-watt panel simply led down to another charge controller that then fed into the battery bank.

The charge connection for the Bluetti has a single plug into the unit which has connector ends for a positive and negative lead. I need a Y splitter so I can merge the leads from both charge controllers into the single feed for the unit. 

The problem is that the ends of the wires that are in the controllers won’t just fit into the receiving ends of the splitter. They need to be crimped on to the plug ends first and that takes some special “stuff..” 

I contacted five local firms listed as “solar power equipment suppliers.” Not a single one was willing to help. They’re only interested in selling complete solar systems for houses. Systems in the multi-thousand dollar range, not small, individual parts that generate pennies in profits not dollars. Now, I don’t blame them. They’re not set up to sell anything to schmucks like me. 

What that DOES do is erase all guilt from adding to Jeff Bezos’s already fabulously obscene net worth. A couple of clicks of the mouse pad and I’m going to pick up the pieces I need on Monday! 

1 Comment

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One response to “Owning My Hypocrisy

  1. Your comment about your solar power firms being more interested in the ‘big sells’ reminded me of the reason I still make the effort to go to a locally owned, independent hardware store. If I need a single bronze screw, I can get one there, while the West Marines of the world don’t even have them in stock. Need a single stainless steel hex nut or a wire tie? You can buy just one at the local joint, while West and etc. want to sell you twenty-five, pre-packaged. So far, so good, for the local place. Everyone wants to keep them around forever, and makes an effort to patronize.

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