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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Medical insurance plans



I was going to write about my trials and tribulations navigating the government insurance website. The post went on way too long. Let me sum up. There are no plans available to me that are both affordable and/or useful. There are no plans that would make access to health care easier, not would they prevent me from going bankrupt should I have a major medical emergency.

Let's just say I'm a bit disappointed. I'm 56 with respiratory issues and I'm fat. It might be prudent to have some sort of relationship with the medical profession. It doesn't help that one of the few doctors I might actually get along with is no longer taking patients.

So where do I go from here? What can I do to keep my medical expenses low? The prudent thing would be take off the excess weight. That's a good place to start. The medical profession isn't much help with that sort of thing -outside of surgery that is. I don't want to go that route. Back when I had insurance they wanted to put me on weight loss drugs, but later those were discovered to cause cardiac issues. Kinda defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Of course, the whole point of medical insurance is to have access to life saving procedures. My guaranteed access is limited to emergency room care. That's not much help should I come down with something that needs long term treatment.

Last year I spent $0.00 on medical care. If I'm going to keep out of the system I might have to spend a little money on preventative care. In spite of my aversion to the medical/insurance/political complex, I want to live a long and happy life, so it's up to me.

-Sixbears



Friday, November 21, 2014

The disturbing example of North Korea



Just about anyone who doesn't actually live in North Korea thinks the country is a nut job place. Even Somalis can thank their lucky stars that they don't live in North Korea.

The really disturbing thing is that the country functions at all. The majority of the people live in near feudal conditions. A tiny elite live like kings. In spite of all its problems the country has been able to build nuclear weapons.

So what's going on here? The North Koreans and the South Koreans are the same people, yet the south is a prosperous place, a rich highly technological society. The big difference between the two countries is that the northern rulers manged to lock down the country. By limiting the citizens knowledge of the outside world, they created a bubble of illusion. North Koreans used to think that they were the lucky ones. There have been some cracks in the bubble allowing some information to get in. It doesn't help that their main ally and neighbor, China, has done so well in recent years. For now, however, the isolation holds.

Now here's the idea that keeps me up at night. We are all living in North Korea. Hear me out. The rest of the world may be locked down in its own way. What if a tiny nut job elite is keeping the rest of us down? How would we know? They control the schools, the media, and the governments. We could all be living in an oppressive bubble and not even suspect. What would a more egalitarian world look like?

How come automation hasn't reduced everyone to a 15 hour work week? Maybe we should be living in a poverty free world, with access to health care and higher education. Anyone else get the uneasy feeling that we should be living a lot more free than we do now? Has the wool been pulled over our eyes?

What's to keep the rest of the world from slowly devolving into a replica of North Korea? We can see the rich are getting richer. The middle class is becoming the poor class. The poor are . . . dying. North Korea has shown that it's possible to keep the average people suppressed and poor while being to have a tiny core of high technology.

Is there the possibility of everyone living in a much better world but the powers that be are keeping us from even knowing it could be real? How would we know?

. . . unless it's just a sick uneasy feeling that the world is not the world we should have.

-Sixbears

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Some days I'm a plumber



The thing about off grid systems is that they all work together. That means that when one particular system isn't right, the whole system suffers.

Something was wrong with my water supply system. The house gets its water from a well. There's a submersible pump in the well that feeds into a pressure tank in the basement. When water is used the pressure in the system drops until a pressure switch clicks on. The pump runs, topping off the pressure tank. When the pressure reaches it's high setting, the pump shuts off again. The system is simple enough as far as these things go.

The problem is that the pump was cycling very quickly. That puts excessive wear on the pump and causes the pipes to bang. Motors draw a lot of power when they first start up. With the pump constantly turning off and on, it was always working in the most inefficient way possible. Because the pump is supplied from solar electric, the batteries drained down much quicker than normal.

My first guess what that the pressure switch might have been failing. There's a flexible diaphragm in the switch and it can get damaged. I've had to change those in the past. It was a bad guess. Fortunately, before messing with the switch I checked the air pressure in the tank. Air in the tank is compressed when the pump fills it with water. It's that compressed air that allows water to be pushed out of the tank without the pump having to start up. My tank had very low air pressure.

The solution was to drain all the water of the tank and pump up the air pressure where it belongs. Here's the funny thing, the pressure tank sits about 8 feet away from a heavy duty air compressor. The problem is that the air hose doesn't go in the basement but runs to the outside of the house near the driveway. There was once a short hose that I could have used in the basement, but it broke was never replaced.

I did not want to drive all the way into town and spend money on a hose I'd only use once in a great while. I had a little cheapo 12 volt air pump normally kept in car. The house battery bank was close enough to tap power of it to run the little compressor. Once pressure in the tank was restored the whole system once again worked the way it was supposed to.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Trespasser in the night



One of my neighbors caught someone peering into their windows late at night. He went outside to see if he could catch the intruder. Where he got outside he could see a flashlight and followed the intruder through the woods until he lost track of him. A search of the area didn't turn up anything. No strange cars were spotted on the few roads in our area.

There's potential for something like this to get serious. Most people around here are armed. Intruders stand a fair chance of getting shot. If they are lucky people's dogs will just chase them off.

It's possible that someone was checking out houses to see if they were unoccupied. Rural areas sometimes have problems with thieves. There's a lot of houses where the owners are seasonal.

My house is one of them. There are neighbors who keep and eye on it and notice anything out of the ordinary. During years when I've had house sitters I've made a point to tell everyone so my sitters wouldn't get mistaken for thieves. or squatters.

Outside of moving out the guns and a few valuables, I don't worry about the house to much. Too many people become prisoners because they worry about their property all the time. That's why I buy insurance.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What a difference a year makes



Last year at this time I was sailing down the west coast of Florida. My lovely wife and I were doing our best to stay hydrated and avoid sunburn. This year I'm trying to keep the van on the road while driving through ice and snow. That was pretty guaranteed to happen when my lovely wife talked me into spending the holidays in New Hampshire.

As luck would have it I ran into my dad's old neighbors from back when dad lived in NH. Last year at this time they were in Key West. As a military veteran he can stay at the military campgrounds. It's the best deal on the island. It costs them something like $13/day. This year they too decided to spend the holidays with family. Just like us, after a number of cold gloomy days they can't help but think of last year.

Things we do to spend time with family.

In a weird sort of synchronicity the purpose of our trip through the snow was to take my wife to a dentist. A year ago our sailing took a several week hiatus as my lovely wife broke a tooth. We were all the way out on an island called Cayo Costa, pretty darn far from a dentist. This year's trip was to check how well the tooth's repairs were holding up. We hope this trip through the snow will save us a hunt for a dentist while on the road.

-Sixbears

Monday, November 17, 2014

The food issue



Lately I've been using the oven of the woodstove as food dehydrator. That works surprisingly well. The stove's going all day and night. Just by leaving the oven door open a couple of inches keeps the temperature in a good range.

Right now I'm dehydrating sunchokes -Jerusalem artichokes if you prefer the old name. Sunchokes have some advantages for a survival food. They are easy to grow. Mine seem to thrive on poor soil and neglect. The problem is that once out of the ground they don't last very long. Dehydration is one way to preserve them.

Our garden is very small and didn't do all that well this year. We got some tomatoes, beans, herbs, assorted greens, radishes and few other things I can't remember right now. I built a lettuce table which did well early, but then some disease got into it. All the soil's been dumped out of it and we'll start fresh next spring. Our nut trees did almost nothing this year, and the squirrels got the few nuts that were produced. It's not a lot of food. Local people with green houses did a lot better than anyone else.

Our preps weakest point is food production. We've got water, power, security and food storage pretty much squared away. There are plenty of wild foods we can harvest so that helps. Living on a lake there are fish to catch and crawfish to trap. Hunting is an option.

Next year we may finally put in a small greenhouse. That's one of the things we've been putting off for way too long. There's always been something else more pressing. Next year it's a priority. The weather's been uneven enough to make outdoor gardening too chancy.

Of course, there's those sunchokes. Nothing seems to bother them.

-Sixbears

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Stuck in civilization



Last week some friends we hadn't seen in a while came over for a visit. They were pretty fascinated by the little boat I'd built. The guy was especially taken with it. He saw the potential. Someone working part time in their driveway could build a craft that could take them far away from the mundane world.

That might be a bit much to expect from a 12 foot boat. Then again, Stephen Ladd spent 3 years adventuring on his 12 foot boat so you never know.

I think my friend was taken with the thought of being able to escape civilization with all its demands. A boat is freedom. That fact that one could build a sturdy little boat and make dreams reality had a strong effect on him.

“I need to quit my job,” he said.

Maybe he does. Maybe we all do. Maybe it's not so much our jobs that's the problem. Maybe it's this whole thing we call civilization. There are expectations, demands on our time, standards that must be adhered to.

What's the point of civilization, really? Okay, there are some things I get; cold beers, hot showers, and the skills of a well trained surgeon when a bone is sticking out. Books. I'd miss books. As small as my boat is, there will be actual paper books on it. Civilized life has some benefits, I'll grant you that.

In my heart of hearts I'm a barbarian. Civilization captured me at a young age, taught me how to read, to count past my fingers, and the difference between a salad and a fish fork. That's great and all, but civilization's costs are ignored. We've become disconnected from the natural world. Few of us can even feed ourselves like are ancestors could just a few generations back. Many moderns don't have the faintest clue where their food comes from or how it's prepared. Never mind being able trap a rabbit or spear a fish.

Traveling in a small simple boat demands one pay attention to the natural world. The rhythms of civilization are replaced by the demands of wind, water and wildlife. This is how man used to live.

So there it was, my boat, sitting in the driveway, like some sort of escape capsule. Civilization hasn't been all the good my friend of late. He's underemployed for his level of education. The nice house he lives in consumes much of his money and time. His spouse has numerous medical conditions tying them to the civilized world.

Maybe it doesn't help that his stepson just announced plans to “disappear from the grid.” He's out of work, but has an old paid off car, a good sleeping bag, and nothing but mounds of student dept to leave behind. The kid even got rid of his cell phone. (good first step for getting off the grid.)

Civilization is a funny thing. At first there are a lot of upsides and fewer downsides. As the years go by, civilization's demands become greater and greater while it's fruits go to fewer and fewer. There's archaeological evidence suggesting when that happens folk just wander off into the jungle or disappear into the hill country.

Some leave by small boats.

-Sixbears