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Friday, July 3, 2015

Car and tent test

What does one do after customizing an ambulance into a pretty darn good mini motor home? Leave it in the driveway and take the little economy car camping instead. There is method to my madness.

First and foremost, my lovely wife and I really do like tents. The weather forecast looks pretty good so we should be very comfortable. Had the weather looked rainy I'd have taken the converted van in a heartbeat. As much as we love tents, day after day of rain gets old. However, that doesn't look like a problem for this trip.

There are some advantages to taking a little car to the coast of Maine. Those coastal roads are narrow and twisty. It's also much much easier to park a tiny car in those cramped coastal towns.

This trip is also a test to if we can take the essentials in the car. Nothing like actually doing it see how it all sorts out. We are toying with the idea of leaving our van and boat home next winter. Instead we'd pack just the essentials and drive south. Once we get down there we'll go boat shopping. It might make more sense to keep in boat in Florida than to haul one thousands of miles on the road every winter.

Right now I've got most of the stuff for camping packed in the car. That includes the big inflatable two person Sea Eagle kayak. Some more clothes and a cooler and I'll be ready to go.

Hope to have some photos for everyone when we get back.


Thursday, July 2, 2015

After Greece, what?

Time to put the popcorn on, pull up a chair and watch the fireworks. No I'm not talking about American Independence Day celebrations. On Sunday the Greeks are voting on whether or not to accept European Union's demands for more austerity and other concessions. That's all to keep the rickety house of cards going a bit longer.

I've no idea how this one is going to go down. Greece is technically in default. Will it get a big infusion of loan money? Can it stay in the EU? Will the EU itself survive the challenge?

In the end, while it's all huge entertaining and distracting, it's a sideshow. For the United States Puerto Rico is of more pressing concern. It can't pay its debts either. Wouldn't it be a fine time to just grant them independence? That's just my twisted sense of humor talking. It's not really about governments. It's about banks.

Anyone else notice that other financially troubled EU countries like Spain, Italy and Portugal have totally dropped off the radar? They are pretending to the public that Greece is the only real problem.

Historically, financial crisis time hits in the fall. There are some reasons (theories?) for this, but I'm not going to go there in a short blog post. Let's just say that's the time the astute investors cash in their chips.

How bad is it going to be? Here's where it all gets weird. There's a lot of doom predictions bouncing around the Internet right now. Financial doom is predicted, but so are, earthquakes, solar flares, asteroids, plague -disasters of biblical magnitude. I take some comfort in those dire predictions. They are almost always totally wrong -so wrong as to almost defy random chance of being right.

If they say it's the end of everything, we'll probably muddle through a while longer. That's not to say there won't be negative consequences in the fall. Odds are something bad will happen somewhere. (probably not anything predicted either). After watching the financial and legal gymnastics that took place after the 2008 housing collapse I won't bet against the financial wizards pulling another rabbit out of their hat.

Whatever happens it's sure to be interesting, so stock up on plenty of popcorn.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Long days and many miles

Sorry about missing a post yesterday. Somehow I lost track of the days. My lovely wife is visiting family in California and I've been crazy busy. In the past week I've driven over 1200 miles for one thing or another. Between road trips I've had company over last weekend and tackled a few house projects.

I'm beat.

Somehow I had some crazy idea that I'd be doing some fishing this week.


What I am going to do right now is put my feet up and read a good book.



Monday, June 29, 2015

The well armed liberal

They exist you know. Just because someone might generally be considered “liberal” or “conservative” doesn't mean they follow the party line.

I've seen out here in the country. A city liberal moves out to the country to get close to nature. They really get into it -organic garden, chickens, the whole country thing. Of course guns are terrible and nobody should have guns.

Then something eats all the veggies out their garden. A fox gets into the hen house. They surprise a bear digging though their trash -on their enclosed porch. Before you know it they are sniping groundhogs with a scoped high power rifle at 100 meters. The gun goes from being an abstract engine of evil to being a useful tool for country living.

I love it when people don't fit categories. For a few years I was on a strict vegan diet, due to doctor's orders. Since it was the first treatment that really helped me at the time I stuck with it. When people heard I was a vegetarian, and a vegan at that, they made a lot of other assumptions about me. Most of those were wrong. The fact that I still went hunting really freaked them out. The rest of my family still ate meat.

One funny thing I noticed around here was that a lot of hippy dippy artistic women marry redneck men. They women love to live out in the beautiful countryside. That's great, but country living has its challenges. A guy who can keep a wood stove fired up in -40 weather and pull a car out of a ditch with a tractor starts to look attractive. So they fall in love and marry.

Then, as nature takes its course, they have children. These little kids are pretty interesting people. I bet they are not going to be easily classified when they grow up. In the end we are all just folk.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summertime water fun

My son-in-law wanted to build a swim raft for Father's day. He built it in his driveway. Then he got a crew together and we all loaded it on my sailboat trailer. I had to remove one of the guide poles to fit in on, but it traveled very well.

After launching at the boat ramp my daughter, granddaughter, son-in-law paddled it over to my beach. Brownie the sailor dog refused to be left behind.

So now it sits at my beach, ready for summer party time.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Air Conditioning and Grand Hotels

In the days before air conditioning it was common practice for the well off to spend summer in the mountains. Grand hotels were built to cater to those escaping the heat of Boston and New York. New Hampshire doesn't have as many of them as in the days of old, but some still remain. Others either burned down, were left to decay, or were stripped for their materials. Part of my house is built from lumber that came from such a hotel.

When air conditioning became common those hotels had to reinvent themselves to stay in business. Just having a big shady porch exposed to mountain breezes was no longer enough.

With our rickety grid a good heat wave could fail from increased AC demand. Cooling takes an awful lot of electricity. There would be more totally off grid houses in the south if it wasn't for the demands of AC.

Houses in the south used to be built to maximize cooling, with large tall windows and good cross ventilation. The humble “shotgun shack” was built with open air flow in mind. Even with good design, there's only so much that can be with natural cooling. Nothing beats the brute force power of air conditioning.

One could argue that the modern south is built on air conditioning. Take that away and people are going to have problems. A grid failure in the south in summer is as bad as power loss in the frigid north. In some ways it's worse. Many homes up north have backup heat independent of the grid. I've yet to see a wood fired air conditioner.

If you have a medical condition or other special needs a well equipped backup generator could literately be a life saver. That's fine for a temporary situation like hurricane or tornado damage, but long term keeping a generator fueled is problematic.

There are ways to lessen the impact of AC loss. I'm surprised at the number of southern people who have no tolerance to warm weather. Their homes, work places, cars, and stores are so air conditioned you could almost use them as meat lockers. It takes about two weeks to get acclimated to heat. Raise the temperature in your house. Get outside as much as you can. Don't forget to drink plenty of water. Water, not sweet tea -limit that stuff, I don't care how traditional it is.

While it's difficult to power AC with solar panels, fans use a fraction of the power. That can make a big difference. Part of dealing with heat is learning to slow down. My house doesn't even have air conditioning. Usually there are a couple days each year that it gets uncomfortably warm. Then I grab a cold beer and wade into the lake until I'm comfortable again. It's no grand hotel, but it works for me.


Friday, June 26, 2015

Hours in the day

There are only so many hours in the day. Everybody fills every single hour. So how does anyone do anything new? By eliminating some of the things taking up time now. Basic math, but it's not all that simple.

Logically, it would seem easy to eliminate less productive things for more productive pursuits. The problem is that “less productive time” is filling some sort of need right now. For example: we'd like to think we'd give up mindless TV watching for reading great literature. Who can defend mindless TV, right?

Here's the thing, that mindless TV watching is currently filling a need. Maybe after a hard day's work some mindless comedy is just the thing for helping you unwind. Switching to the works of Shakespeare might not do it for you. It takes a bit of work, especially if you've never read the Bard before. The language takes some getting used to and maybe even some time reading all the footnotes. Learning a bit of History for some context will probably be necessary to fully appreciate what's going on. Maybe after the hard work of getting into good literature is done it'll then fill the need that mindless TV fills. I've heard of people who do mathematical problems to relax, so anything is possible.

Don't feel bad if you don't want to give up your mindless TV. Maybe you want TV and great literature in your life. Fine, but something else will have to go. Maybe you can find the time by giving up something else -preferably something that's not adding much to your life.

That forces a person to really take stock in what's going on day to day. Where does your time go? Are you spending time doing things you don't enjoy to impress people you don't like? How much of your life is rote and habit? How about your personal relationships? Just because someone is an old friend doesn't mean they are a good friend. Tough questions. Tough decisions.

The first bit of time that has to be cut out your day is the time for self reflection. Too many of us are too busy to think. Many like it that way, as thinking can be very uncomfortable. Change is also uncomfortable, but discovering what one really wants and making the decisions necessary to make it happen are priceless.

Oh, one little footnote. Avoid the mistake of cutting out hours of sleep. A good night's sleep is necessary for good health. It's also necessary for the proper assimilation of new knowledge. We've all shorted ourselves on sleep from time to time. Life sometimes makes that necessary. Just don't make it a habit.