Friday, December 6, 2013
My lovely wife and I will be heading down to the Florida Keys next week. We decided to leave the sailboat behind and camp in the van. There's some nice campgrounds in the Keys that we haven't been to in a number of years. Seemed like a good time to check them out again.
We've cobbled together a week in the Keys, staying a 3 different campgrounds: two state parks and a private campground. All these places have excellent kayak and canoeing , so we are bringing the big inflatable kayak. Should be fun.
The inside of the van is clean. Gear has been moved from the boat. It's almost ready to go.
The beauty of van camping is that set up takes less than 5 minutes. It's a pretty low stress way to go. Tent camping isn't all that bad either, especially since we did an awful lot of it. We could set up the tent and organize the site in about 15 minutes. That's faster that some big RVs set up (driven by people who don't know how to use mirrors to back up) Of course, when the rain is pouring down, setting up a tent is a bit of a nasty project.
My lovely wife tells me I might have to buy her a nice dinner in Key West, so I'd better plan the budget accordingly. Sounds good to me.
Sometime after New Year's Day, we'll head back out on the sailboat. Our launch point, route and finale destination is still up in the air. Who knows, we might end up back in the Keys on the sailboat. We've time.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
My dad has always enjoyed target shooting and hunting. While he hasn't hunted in a couple years, he still enjoys shooting. There's a nice local range run by a good group of people. Dad used to shoot his large caliber handguns there, but time has taken its toll. Arthritis in his right hand has made that very painful.
However, he's discovered he can still shoot .22 caliber handguns without any problems. That's been a big boost to his moral. He can still participate in a sport he loves. Recently he bought another .22 revolver. It shoots both .22 and .22 magnum.
Thus began the quest for .22 magnum ammo. It's not the most popular caliber in the world, but it used to be common and available everywhere. Dad has dragged me to a half dozen gun stores in the local area and none have any in stock. Even regular .22 ammo is often out of stock. I'd heard the shortage had eased, but there's no sign of that in this area.
We've walked into gun stores with few guns and no ammo. It's surreal enough to seem like a bad dream. The few guns on display are price four times higher than they were ten years ago. Sure, there's been some general inflation, but not that much.
My dad was able to score a box of .22 magnum at a flea market. I bought a small box of 410 slugs, which I haven't seen in some time. It's not like I needed them, but just finding them for a reasonable price got me excited enough to buy them.
It is possible to find ammo, but maybe not exactly what you want. Reasonably priced ammo quickly disappears from the shelves. Small caliber target shooting used to a fairly inexpensive past time. Now it hurts to shoot ammo that will cost big money to replace.
I do hope to get out on the range with dad before we head out. His eyesight isn't want it used to be. His hands sometimes have a tremor. There's arthritis in his shooting hand. With all that, it's a pleasure to see him shoot. The old man still hits the bull's eyes.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Monday was a good day to wire. The boat trailer now has nice new LED taillights. I got tired of constantly repairing the old ones. The boat itself got a few wiring upgrades while I was at it.
It took three days of killing fire ant nests before the boat could safely be worked on. As it is, one manged to bite me anyway. Persistent little monsters.
The boat smells like bad seafood as the barnacles and other sea growth died. A little scrapping, a little power washing, some bottom paint, and we'll be good to go again.
Dad has plans for us today, so the boat projects will have to wait.
One thing I noticed while on the boat is that it's not always easy to resupply. Marinas seem to carry the same handful of things in their parts and service department. Good hardware stores can be hard to find. Lord help me, I even missed Walmart. Good thing we had a lot of prepper food on the boat.
My lovely wife and I are keeping busy and having fun. Dad seem to like having us around, so it's all good.
Monday, December 2, 2013
It's a never ending debate. In a collapse situation is a person better off in a city or in the country?
What has happened historically? Heck, what's happening now? Right now the world's population is heading into cities and abandoning the countryside. Even in a bad economy, there are more opportunities in the city. There's more people and economic activity in a densely packed area. Ideas are more easily shared. People will put up with miserable living conditions just for the chance to make it in a city.
The argument is that people can be more self reliant in the country. Yep, they could, but rarely are. Too often the country house is totally dependent on a nearby city. They are at the end of a long line of services: electricity, Internet, communications, and roads. The country person is dependent on a car to drive to work and pick up supplies. Security in the country can be an issue. A tiny gang of ruffians can overpower isolated country houses.
The country is subject to the politics will of the urban areas. In the Great Depression, perfectly survivable homesteads were lost to bankers. If the densely populated area can rip off the sparsely populated country, it will happen. That's what happens in a economic collapse. The city will eat the country.
History and archeology has shown us plenty of abandoned cites, so something must happen. Plenty does. Cities are choice targets for invading armies. Without water and/or food, cities die in an ugly manner. The dense population is more subject to plague. Cities can die horrible deaths.
Then they can die from changes in the conditions that made them great in the first place. Trade cities die when new cheaper routes open up. The things they produced that made them great get produced cheaper in other places. Detroit anyone?
When civilizations collapse and cities fall, all that's left is the country. At some point access to food and water trumps everything. Well set up country places show their value then. It doesn't even take a major collapse for country places to prove their worth. During the great depression farms not in debt survived.
Personally, I'm a country guy. The bright lights of the big city compare poorly to starlight and moonlight. To make it work, the property has to work for you. It can't just be a place to sleep at night. If it has it's own water, alternative energy, and gardens, there's hope. If you can live comfortably for months on end without going into town, then country trumps city.
There are many factors that can tip things one way or the other. Sometimes it's just luck. Of course, good luck happens more often to the well prepared, be they in the city or the country.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Nothing is as unpopular as last year's electronics. Guess what? This year's “must have” electronic gizmos will soon no longer be fashionable.
I can't help but notice all the ads for “must have” phones, tablets, and game systems this year. Yes, most of these things are at least somewhat better than last year's model. So what? There really isn't any one thing out there that's a game changer. Remember when personal computers got big? How about the first iphones? Before that, ipods? The electric light bulb? Well, maybe you won't remember the light bulbs, but they were once the big thing.
Actually, out of all those, maybe electric light was the big game changer. Work, play, education -just about all human activities, were no longer slave to the big natural light in the sky.
There is nothing being offered this year that's as exciting as light bulbs.
I don't see any product that promises to change the way we work and live. Maybe next year?
Of course, I most likely won't have the next big thing until it's out of date. My TV at home is a 19 inch not-a-flat-screen. The computer I work with day to day is a couple year old netbook. My lovely wife just bought a few albums for our record player.
So I've got a weird relationship with technology. My house is powered mostly by “vintage” solar panels. The 20 year warranty has expired. (still cranking out power) For me, at the time, those solar panels were game changers. Clean electricity from sunlight is a thing of wonder. We also had high efficiency lighting when everyone else was using 100 watt bulbs. (great heaters, not so efficient for light)
Electronics and technology in general are something we carefully study to see if it'll be worth the investment. Often, last year's electronics are fine for the job. One example: my daughter gave me her old iphone 4 when she upgraded. It's been a useful travel tool: communications, gps, marine charts, tide tables, weather and e-mail. Amazingly useful, but the new models don't offer a major jump in utility for me, so it's not worth it.
Then there are those obsolete electronics we pretend we never wanted. How about Palm PDAs? Weren't those great? A whole bunch of tools in a pocket device. Of course, now all those functions have been combined with phones. (However, I'm not nearly as fast with a iphone keyboard as I was with a Palm stylus)
Laser disks? Digital audio tape? Betamax? (buddy of mine bought one of the first ones for big money back in the day.)
Regular paper books are still around -and popular too, so that's interesting. Maybe the next big thing won't even be electronic. That's something to think about, isn't it?
Anyway, just don't carried away with all the advertising hype this time of year. I don't see anything “new” out there worth the cost of being an early adopter. Ask yourself how you'll feel about it a year from now.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Bitcoins have been in the news a lot lately. Their big attraction is that they are a currency free from government sponsorship. It's a peer to peer currency. There are other advantages, like the ability to easily cross borders. However, the big draw is the fact that they free from government or big bank intervention.
Then I got to thinking. Haven't we seen this before? Gold is not dependent on any government. People don't really care if gold has a Canadian maple leaf stamped on it, or is a Krugerrand issued by South Africa, or is a gold bar. Gold is gold is gold.
Bitcoins and gold also have something else in common. There's isn't enough of either of them to run a global economy. Gold and Bitcoins are both too scarce a medium of exchange for day to day economic activity.
Silver is a bit better in that respect as there's more of it and it's not as costly. The average Joe is more likely to get his hands on some. When the Argentinian economy crashed, a lot of commerce was done in old silver coins. Government money had failed so people had to use something else. There was exchange done in gold, but not nearly as much as was done in silver. Of course, back then, American dollars were stilled looked upon as something that held value, so that helped.
The Argentinian economy was pretty much an isolated case. The rest of the world was chugging along. What happens in a total International financial system crash? For that I'm going back all the way to the fall of the Roman Empire. There were other global financial system crashes since then, but nothing total. The framework was still in place. When the British pound failed, but the American dollar filled the gap.
The collapse of the Roman Empire was different. International trade itself collapsed. Everything got very local very fast. Nobody had any money. Economic activity was conducted by exchanges of goods and labor. Relationships were the glue that held society together.
Of course, I'm not qualified or licensed to give financial advice. As for me, I wouldn't mind having a good stash of any of these currency instruments. However, being a bit of a barbarian, they'd soon been turned into durable goods, land, or other things that are real to me. That's pretty much what I've done with the few dollars that have crossed my palm.
Friday, November 29, 2013
My lovely wife and I have to figure out the next part of our sailing adventures. When she broke a tooth we ended up right back where started at my dad's. It did give us the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with dad, so that's good. My kids and grandkids spent the holiday together up north and we talked with them on Skype. Heartstrings got pulled. We do miss them.
The question for my lovely wife and I is: now what? When to get back on the water? Where do we put the boat in? Do we skip down the coast and continue where we left off? Maybe we should just head right down to the Keys for a couple weeks. Christmas will be at my dad's so we only have a few weeks before we take another break.
It will be at least a week before we head out. There's business to take care of. The trailer needs new lights as I'm sick of continually repairing the old ones. Even the bottom of the boat needs some scrapping and new bottom paint. (not that big a deal with a small boat on a trailer) I must admit to having gotten a bit casual about bottom paint.
Then there's the condition of the sailing budget to consider. My lovely wife and I will have to go over the numbers and see what we want to do next. One of the attractions of our southern visit this years was being able to avoid the expense of winter in the North Country. Even with the unexpected dentist bills, we've paid down some debt, so that's good. Winter is just plain harsh.
Of course, most years we don't even head south until after Christmas. The 3.5 weeks of sailing this fall was a real bonus. We don't have to be back north until the end of April, so we've plenty of time for more adventures.