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Thursday, May 26, 2016

More Barter Deals

I'm a pretty bad businessman as my skills are rarely for sale. On the other hand, I'm often willing to make barter deals. There's no paper trail and no money exchanges hands. Sometimes I'll do a little project for someone just to have a few favors in the bank, so to speak.

The other day my lovely wife bartered my skills. Great deal for her. She gets the benefits and I get the job. Good thing this one is interesting. Someone needs to install 3 electric tankless water heaters. That looks like fun as it combines both plumbing and electrical skills. It would not surprise me if my carpenter skills come into play too.

One neat thing about this job is that it comes with an assistant. That person is willing to do all the crawling around in tight spaces hauling pipe and wire. That's great as I don't even fit into some of those spaces. All I have to do is plan the job and do the final connections. Should be fun.

Of course, If I was licensed I'd probably be doing that sort of thing for real money. It's much more fun to do things as a talented amateur. I once tackled a project that professionals wouldn't touch, and did a mighty fine job too. Since I didn't have a license the owner claimed that the 240 outlet had always been there when the inspector came. When I tied it into the box I copied the style of the previous electrician. At the end of the day I made sure every scrap of wire and trimmed insulation had been cleaned up. The inspection went off without a hitch.

Most of what I do is at least sorta legal. People only know about me through word of mouth and I don't take every little project that comes my way. Often it's just helping people in a tight spot. Barter works for me too as when I need something done it's not too hard to line up help.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Life and the Great Firewall of China

Life is like the great firewall of China. Huh? Let me explain.

The great firewall of China is China's version of the Internet. The Chinese don't have access to the full and unregulated parts of the Internet. They get the parts that the Chinese authorities allow them to see. There are also government approved versions of popular web sites. Just like the regular Internet, the Chinese version is really big. There are nearly limitless choices, but only choices approved by the government.

Growing up in “free” western nations we are taught that we have freedom of choice. We do, but just like the great firewall, those choices tend to steer a person down certain paths. Personally, for me the worse example of this guided path problem was my high school guidance councilor. If your grades were good enough they pushed you towards the state 4 year college. “B” students and those with few financial means were aimed towards the local community college. The others basically got encouraged to apply to the local mills.

Every socioeconomic class has its expected paths. For example, if you are upper middle class you may have to choose between becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Lower class may have to choose between factory work or service jobs. Some small movement is allowed between the different class paths. A factory worker's son, if intelligent and hard working may become a doctor. However, don't ever tell those of your social class that you aspire to do the job of a lower class person.

Worse than that however is to choose a path that's truly different than anyone else's. Those poor kids in high school almost never learn that it's even possible to do something no else is doing. No wonder so many kids feel trapped by life. The only freedom they know is the the freedom to choose one of the approved paths.

There is a word for those who stray away from the approved paths and go out on their own: failures. All that means is that they've failed to follow societal expectations. If they themselves are happy with their decisions then they are a success.

Freedom only comes to those who know they are not free. Too often our choices revolve around how we want to decorate our prison cell. Just like those stuck behind the great firewall, we don't know there's more stuff out there.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Some good news

My lab tests arrived in the mail today. Everything is normal. I was concerned about type 2 diabetes as it runs in my family, but even that was totally normal. Looks like I'm a big fat healthy guy. Good to know.

I do eat what I think is a reasonably healthy diet. I limit my intake of processed sugars and prepared foods. Alcohol is consumed in moderation. Never smoked.

When I got lung injuries in the fire service I had to take control of my own health care. The drugs they prescribed had multiple nasty side effects. Alternative treatments and martial arts breathing exercises helped restore my lung function.

Even though my blood pressure and blood tests are normal I probably should lose a bit of weight. I do have a C-pap for sleep apnea. It would be nice to try and get off the machine. Part of the reason I'm so good at alternative energy systems is that I want to keep my c-pap going. If I go without it I'm fine for a while, but over time I don't get quite enough rest. The effects add up.

With that in mind I've ordered a new scale. It's been 8 years since my last doctor's appointment and I've gained another 20 pounds since them. Maybe it's all muscle? Probably not. Time to start going the other way.

I am a lot more active than the average big fat guy, so that's in my favor. My follow up doctor's visit is on June first and the odds are it'll be some time before I see a doctor again. Of course, I could always do something stupid that puts me in the emergency room. Even I will go to a doctor if a bone is sticking out.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Biting insects

Northern New Hampshire has more than its share of biting insects. Right now the black flies are out in force. Soon it will be the mosquitoes, no-see-ums, horse flies, deer flies and moose flies. Then there are ticks. Don't even get me started on ticks. When I was kid I didn't even know what a tick was. Now there are so many of them they've been known to kill moose. No joke. So many ticks attach themselves to a moose that it dies of toxic shock. Nasty.

What you need is a good defense against biting nasties. There are a few native plants that can be used as insect repellents, but I've never been able to identify any around my place. I suspect the natives just avoided the worst areas and kept smokey fires burning.

Good insect repellents are commercially available now so take advantage and keep some on hand at all times. It's definitely something for the bug out bag. DEET, while pretty nasty stuff,(it will strip varnish off woodwork) works well. Some people prefer concoctions made from natural essential oils. Unfortunately I have allergic reactions to those so must avoid them.

Don't overlook good physical barriers. Mosquito netting, head nets, long pants and long sleeve shirts. When the weather is warm we'd rather go around in shorts and t-shirts, but that leaves a lot of tasty skin exposed.

There are so many different diseases spread by insects that we must take the threat seriously. If you do get bit make sure have After Bite and/or anti-itch creams. Keep a good pair of tweezers handy for tick removal.

Some people seem to attract biting insects more readily than other people. Take one of those folks along as a sacrifice to the Mosquito God.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Job growth

Do you want to get into a high growth field that can' be outsourced to China? Right now one of the fastest growing fields is alternative energy installer. Good money to be made there. Wind and especially solar has come way down in price.

Big energy companies want to focus on things like huge solar farms in the desert. That way they can continue to send out bills every month. Well, as luck would have it, the sun shines most places. It makes a lot more sense to generate power close to where it's being used.

Someone is going to be stuck with a lot of power lines that fewer and fewer people need. We've seen this before, most recently in the phone industry. Maintaining landlines is expensive and labor intensive. It's much cheaper to put up cell phone towers.

It makes sense to install lots of little alternative energy systems and that requires workers who can custom fit power systems to many unique sites.

Eventually there will be alternative energy systems every place they are needed and make any sort of economic sense. The build out will take years to happen. A some point fewer installers will be needed as the systems are very long lasting. Not every job in the field will disappear as someone will have to maintain things and new construction still goes on. It will be years before we get to that point.

That's the advice I'm giving young people today. Get in on alternative energy because at some point it will be most of our energy.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

First launch of the season

We finally had enough decent weather so I could finish up the little projects on the boat. I'm still waiting for a new main sail, but that should be easy enough to change out. The old sail is good enough for our little lake and it was time to launch.

It's nice to have a boat at my beach, ready to go. The state of NH sells fishing licenses on-line so people can print them out at home. I've a boat in the water, a license and fishing poles. This should work out just fine.

My lovely wife had no hesitation getting back on a sailboat. Sails were raised. The wind came up. The boat leaned a bit before leaping forward. Both of us had big smiles on our faces. Nothing like getting back on the water after a shipwreck. Good memories push out the bad.

Frankly, I'm getting tired of talking about the shipwreck. The word has gotten around. When I run into people I haven't seen in a while that's the first thing they want to talk about. While that's understandable, reliving the experience over and over again is getting old.

I find myself stressing that we lived on the boat for months before losing it. Good times were had. There are a lot more photos of remote beaches, gorgeous sunsets, and beautiful anchorages than of a wrecked boat.

Too bad the boat was lost, but a bare boat charter in that area for two weeks costs about what we paid for the boat. We sailed it for months.

We had some good experiences and expect to have many more.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Something I'm bad at

It's always easy to write about stuff I'm good at. Today I'm covering something I'm bad at.

One of items lost in the shipwreck was my pack guitar. Today I finally got around to replacing it. A friend of mine had a smaller guitar in excellent condition for sale for a reasonable price. It's nice to have a guitar again -even though I'm not very good at it.

Sure, I can finger a bunch of cords and strum along, but I'm not going to lead any campfire songs. My singing voice is pretty bad. A decent singing voice goes a long ways towards covering up for marginal guitar skills. In my case marginal guitar skills are all I've got.

So why squeeze the budget to purchase something I'm not very good at? In spite of my limited skills I enjoy playing. It's therapeutic for me and healthier than a couple glasses of scotch.

My lovely wife, bless her soul, claims to enjoy listening to me play. Yes, I tell that woman I love her every day.

Back before the days of records and radios people had to make their own music. Most households had at least someone who could play something. It was pretty common for whole families to pull out instruments and jam together. While the selection and quality of music has gone up, something was lost.

For me, unless the musicians are really terrible, live music is a better experience than recorded. Some part of the human element is lost in a recording. There's nothing more real than being able to produce your own music, even if it's far from professional quality.

Another good thing about having a guitar is that there are plenty of people around who can play better than I can. It's nice to be able to say, hey check out my guitar. Before you know it they've played a bunch of songs and we've all had a good time.