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Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Hometown Game

If you ever move to a small area there's one thing you've have to deal with, especially if there aren't a lot of new people moving in.

If you meet someone local they want to know all your relatives and back a couple of generations too. At least that's how it is around here. That can be taken to extremes.

One time I met a guy while primitive camping on a wilderness lake. We discovered we were both from the same town. Eventually we figured out we were fifth cousins. How is that even sane? Who counts fifth cousins?

There are a few more new people coming into the area and the local desire to know all your relatives and relationships can drive them crazy. One of my new out of town friends tried to introduce me to someone last night. Little did my new friend know that she was trying to introduce me to my third cousin on my mother's side.

Actually, for me that was a problem growing up as I didn't want to date my cousins. Good thing I got my driver's license as soon as I turned 16 and my own car at 17. That allowed me to date girls from other towns. My lovely wife is from another state.

Moving to a small town has a lot to recommend it, but at some level you will always be an outsider. Your kids, not so much. Your grandkids will probably be accepted as local. That doesn't mean you can't fit in and be accepted. After all, I have new friends friends from out of town, don't I? They bring some much needed new ideas. As long as they aren't arrogant and look down on the locals, everything is cool. Some of the new people actually take greater pride in the area than the locals do. They see potential the locals don't.

I'm now sorta a half outsider myself. I moved 12 miles up the road to the next town about 26 years ago. To some of the people who's families have been here since colonial days, I'm a new comer.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Battery decisions

I just pulled the dead 12 volt deep discharge battery from my sailboat. It got me thinking. Well, the first thing I thought was: darn, those things are heavy. The second thing that came to mind was the fact that my household battery bank is getting on in years.

My household solar electric system is of moderate size. Storage consists of 12 golf cart sized batteries. Currently I'm using good quality Interstate brand. Trojans are good too, but since Interstate has local dealers that's what I went with. The big advantage of dealing locally is that I don't have to pay for shipping. Since shipping is based on weight and batteries are mostly lead, it would get pricey quickly.

Lead acid batteries are really old technology. They haven't advanced all that much in the last 100 years or so. Battery storage has always been the Achilles heel of alternative energy. While lead acid battery storage is adequate for off-grid homes, it doesn't scale well to power grid size. There are some massive battery bank systems out there for things like phone and Internet systems, but there are none large enough to power a big city.

At least, not until fairly recently. Battery technology is making some huge leaps. There's always been interesting things invented in laboratories, but those technologies never made it out of the lab. Now there are huge factories turning out high capacity batteries for everything form cell phones to electric cars. There's real economic incentives for cheap battery storage. Those clever ideas from the labs are starting to show up in factories.

It's almost at the point where it would make sense to replace my 19th century electrical storage system with something from the 21st century. Almost.

The house system should be able to last for another year or two. By then it might make economic sense to try something new. Of course, there's also the possibility that as new battery technology takes hold, lead acid will be deeply discounted. That would be fine too, as leas acid has proven to be good enough for my needs.


Friday, April 29, 2016

Projects and bug out ideas

I've a lot of little projects that need doing. Most of them require warmer weather. We had snow on Monday and there's still pockets that haven't melted yet. It's been below freezing at night so even on sunny days it takes forever to warm up.

My lovely wife has started a lot of plants inside. With any luck they'll survive the transfer to the garden when it warms up.

The battery on the boat is totally dead. It's so dead it won't take a charge. At the end of last summer it seemed to be fading, so it's no real surprise it quit entirely. Better to discover it now than when the boat is on the lake.

I decided to take a trip into town to talk to my insurance company. A lot of people don't know that if they take their car into Canada they need a Canadian proof of insurance card. My insurance company hands them out free of charge but people have to ask for them.

It's funny how many people say they are going to run to Canada after the presidential election. Almost nobody will. Even if someone wants to leave the US and move to Canada, it's very hard for the average Joe to do so. Having a lot of money makes it easier, but plenty of countries accept rich people.

Most people can't even legally cross the border for a visit as most Americans lack valid passports. How many preppers have bug out vehicles but can't take them across the border? The best time to bug out is before everything falls apart. That means there'll probably be active border control, at least during the early stages. (when you really should be getting out)

Canada is a great place to visit, but there are reasons my ancestors left there. Factory work in New England beat the heck out of starving to death on a Quebec potato farm.

I must admit to being tempted to take a sailboat and disappear over the horizon until things sort themselves out.


Thursday, April 28, 2016


The other day I was trying to figure out how long it's been since my last checkup at the doctor's. I think it's been something like 16 years. There was a time about 7 or 8 years ago when I went in to get a lump dug out of my hand. It wasn't a good experience. The nurse wouldn't listen to me when I said I needed a larger sized blood pressure cuff. The regular sized cuffs give a false higher reading.

Well, the doctor did a lousy job cutting out the lump. In fact, I still have it. Then he tried to push blood pressure meds on me. Later I had my pressure checked with the correct sized cuff and my pressure was normal. You don't have to be a nurse to check blood pressure.

Ever since I had to deal with a whole series of doctors chosen by Workman's Compensation I've had a bad relationship with the profession. They weren't trying to heal me. They were trying to deny job related benefits. In fact, I didn't start to get better until the system cut me loose. Alternative treatments improved my life immensely.

Logically, I know most doctors must be trying to help people. Once in a while I've even run into a doctor or two that's been of some service to me. Too bad it's a minority. To be fair, having to deal with Workmen's Compensation doctors skewed the numbers. One doctor told me I'd be dead before I was 45. It's great to be 58.

That's the background. Last fall my father passed away. Around that time I promised my kids I'd get a checkup in the spring. Well, it's spring. I've got an appointment next month. Let's see what he has to say, besides telling me I'm fat, like I don't know. He'd better not try to push pills on me that I don't need.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

All thumbs day

Some days things don't go as smoothly as they should. Monday afternoon the weather was good and I thought I'd install some of those boat bits I bought on Sunday.

It's not that hard to install a new boat trailer jack. It's basically just four bolts. The old one took a little effort to remove due to corrosion, but that's normal. For some reason I was all thumbs bolting on the new one. Even tried to put a part on upside and only noticed it at the last minute. Just as I was about to finish my toolbox fell over and scattered all my sockets into the dirt.

That's pretty much how the afternoon's projects went. Everything took longer than it should, but the jobs got done anyway.

For me the final straw was when I tried to check the voltage in the boat's battery. There was an internal short in my battery tester and it tried very hard to catch fire. That was it. Time to call it quits for the day.

Tuesday morning it was snowing and about an inch of snow had accumulated on the ground. That's all the encouragement I needed to stay inside and drink coffee. When there's snow on the boat it's too early to launch anyway.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Quick trip to the coast

Sunday my lovely wife and I went a quick trip to the coast of Maine. We joined up with some friends and went to Hamiton Marine in Portland Maine. There aren't a lot of marine supply stores where I live in the mountains. Zero, in fact. Fortunately, the coast of Maine is only three hours away.

My lovely wife rather go buy boat goodies rather than shop for jewelry. I love her so much.

We had a lot of little odds and ends to purchase: things lost in the shipwreck, parts for the Oday sailboat, and hardware for the boat trailer. One of the tough decisions was the purchase of a new boat hook. Do we get a beautiful one made of brass and hardwood or the modern one make of aluminum and plastic. This time utility won out and modern one came home with us. The fact that it doesn't need varnish might have been the deciding factor for me.

While in the area we had to check out the ocean.

You can't go to the coast without taking a photo of a lighthouse.

We had a great lunch at Salvage BBQ (TX eat your heart out.) Later we met up with friends around a campfire. Finally made it home around midnight.

Now it's off to start installing all those lovely bits and bobs from the store.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Fix it or get rid of it?

That's the question I've been asking myself lately. There are only so many hours in the day. There are only so many hours in a life.

Recently I posted that I've a new main sail on order for my Oday 19. Since we lost our Ranger 23, we've decided to fix the Oday. Here's the thing, I've known that the Oday was going to need a new sail for some time. Slowly a fund was built up to replace that sail.

Then some other stuff happened. That sail fund became the seed money that went towards buying the Ranger. Add in an unexpected check that came my way and suddenly purchasing another sailboat was possible. Of course, the Oday was still left with a blown out main sail.

So now the Oday is a keeper and is getting fixed. What else do I have taking up space? There's a 1974 Kawasaki 900 sitting in a shed that I haven't used in years. The wiring needs work. The rest of the bike is in pretty good shape. Do I fix it or get rid of it?

I still maintain a motorcycle license and really enjoyed riding. The problem is that weather good enough for motorcycles is good enough for sailboats. Can't do everything. Besides, I've a really nice pedal bike which is lots of fun and better for my health.

Then there are all the canoes. I've three in good shape, one in fair, and three project canoes. With the three good ones there's plenty for me and my guests. I really should do something with the others. The other day I was checking out the project boats and discovered a moose had stepped right through the middle of one of them. Scrapping at least that one should be easy.

The list could go on.

One thing I've been doing lately is recycling my old electronics -even stuff that works. Who's ever going to use low resolution tube style computer monitors? Not much call for that sort of thing. Even so, it's been surprising hard to get rid of stuff like that.

Well, new stuff can't come into my life until I clean out the old.