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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Sailboat lucky break



Two things conspired against me last fall. The first was a badly infected leg that slowed me down and made everything I did extremely painful. That certainly limited what I did. The second thing that went against me was the early October snow that is only now melting.

Normally the electric trolling motor on the Oday 19 is stored safe and dry in the boat’s cabin. Then I would stretch a huge tarp over the whole boat and secure it well. Neither of those things happened. Instead the motor spent the winter in an uncovered cockpit. It eventually became completely encased in ice.

The ice in the boat finally melted and the motor was free. To my surprise when connected to a battery all the charge status lights came on. To my delight it worked perfectly in forward and reverse. That is one well built motor to have survived.

There was some water in the bilge but it doesn’t look like it did any harm. Since the boat is on a trailer I was able to use a siphon hose to empty the water instead of the bilge pump. Easy does it.

The trolling motor is the only motor I use on the boat. Even with a good load in the boat, it moves at about 3 knots. That doesn’t seem really fast, but the hull speed is only 5.5 knots. It’s not worth the hassle and expense of a gas motor to get an extra 1. 5 knots. The electric is quiet, safe, and doesn’t stink.

It also gets powered by the sun. In normal use the solar panel has no difficulty keeping the boat’s deep discharge battery charged up. Some days the motor never gets used at all. It is a sailboat. Sometimes it’s used for maybe a quarter mile to get on and off anchor. The most I’ve had to motor is about 5 miles. The wind had totally died and the day was getting on. It barely made a dent in the battery charge. My guess it could go 20 or 30 miles, depending on wind and current.

I’ve got about half the equipment I need to add a second small solar electric system to the boat. The boat’s electrical systems are set up to quickly and easily switch from one battery to another. For my canceled ICW trip I had planned for three completely independent small solar electric systems. Redundancy is good.

In spite of my inability to property winterize the boat, it survived in pretty good shape. Now I can concentrate on upgrades instead of repairs.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Batpucky



There are days when I’m on the ragged edge of giving up even trying to play by the rules. Right after getting out of the hospital my lovely wife, with the help of my son-in-law, filed paperwork with the hospital. They have a program that’s supposed to provide assistance for people without medical insurance. I didn’t fill any of it out as I was still tripping pretty high on pain meds.

Last week I called the hospital to check the status of my case. The person at customer assistance said that before they’ll cover me I need to apply for state aid first. She said she’d send me paperwork in the mail. First we hear of this. It came in on Friday. We had company from out of the state for the Easter weekend. Monday my lovely wife and I tackle the paperwork. Turns out it it was due on Tuesday. Good thing I pestered the hospital or the game would have been over without me knowing it.

Since time was of the essence we filled out the on-line form. Thank god my lovely wife was here to help me and keeps things on file. It took hours to fill out the on-line form. The system kept trying to log us out. It actually succeeded in doing that once and we had to redo a couple pages of info. Anyway, it was done on-time.

I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify for the state program, but the hospital requires I file for it. I started out pretty willing to pay for the bill, but was looking for a payment plan. The more they mess with me the better being in default looks. My credit rating would take a hit, but you only need credit to buy stuff you can’t afford anyway.

Every year I care less and less for playing by the rules.

-Sixbears

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mud Season



I guess it’s official; it’s mud season. It’s raining now with another flood warning. In fact, rain is in the forecast for the foreseeable future. There’s enough ice and snow melted to make way for mud. The woods roads are all closed to keep from getting deeply rutted. This is what passes for spring here.

On the bright side, with any luck, the ice on the lake will break up. I’m looking forward to throwing the sailboat back in the water. It needs a clean up and a few minor repairs, but that shouldn’t take long. My lovely wife wants to make new cushion covers but that doesn’t have to be done before launching the boat.

A friend of mine is wrapping up the last of maple sugaring season. He’s got one more boil before calling it quits for the season. It was a rough one for him. He had to cut sap lines out of the ice using a chainsaw. In the end it appears the season will be just a little under the average. That comes as some relief. He never knows if he’s going to make or lose money from year to year. Good thing he loves it.

Our garden area is in the one sunny spot on our land. Most of my land is shaded by trees. The snow melted down enough for my lovely wife to poke around in the garden. She discovered some sunchokes that over wintered in good shape. Nice to have one more thing to throw in the pot. I don’t much care for them plain, but enjoy them mixed with mashed potatoes or added to a soup.

So it looks like we’ll finally get to say goodbye to winter. It’s been a long one.

-Sixbears

Saturday, April 20, 2019

My education journey



I’m essentially self educated. Sure, I went though high school like most people. After that I tried community college for one semester but dropped out after that. For the next nineteen years I was self taught.

When still eighteen years old I was lucky enough to get into the fire department. Since I loved to read, a good chunk of my disposable income went towards buying books. Across the street from the fire station is the public library. Over my years in the fire service I read a good sampling of the books in our little library.

My self education was of two general types. I was a sponge for information and since I never knew what would catch my attention I read a wide variety of books. The second type of reading was for specific subjects and information. A subject or a project would catch my interest an I’d read all the information on the subject that I could find. It could anything from boat building to falconry. I learned enough to build a few boats over the years and I learned enough about falconry to realize it was a larger time and money commitment that I was interested in.

Somewhere along the way I got interested in dome homes. That sent me down the rabbit hole of learning a lot of geometry that I never learned in high school. I still live in the dome built during those years.

Two years after leaving the fire service, at the age of thirty-seven, I went back to college for a four year degree. By then I was a fully formed grown adult, not some impressionable teenager. College did not completely change my world view or anything like that. If anything I got to bring my experiences and self education to the halls of academia. That wasn’t always appreciated, but more often than not it was useful.

The thing that college did was give me a few more tools to continue my self education. My searches and research became more focused and organized. Also, I was better able to express myself. In general, the formal college experience gave me a few more tools to keep doing what I always did.

It was interesting to go back to college as a non-traditional student. I had a whole college at my disposal. There were plenty of courses that I took, not because I needed them for my major, but because I found them interesting. Really, that’s the best and most fun way to go to college. It won’t land you a job, but will provide you with a wider education.

If I had to pick what part of my education was most important I’d have to say it was the self directed part. That’s where I learned to think outside the box.

-Sixbears

Friday, April 19, 2019

Foot doctor follow up



I just had a follow up visit with my foot doctor. Darn, I’ve got a foot doctor now. Anyway, it went pretty well.

A few days ago my toe was all swollen and tender. That was disturbing as it had been feeling pretty good until then. Then it occurred to me that maybe I’ve come down with gout again. That’s the same toe where a gout attack is usually expressed. High uric acid levels run in my family so we are prone to the condition. Sure enough, once I started treating it like a gout attack the swelling was reduced in half overnight and almost better a day later.

Then the foot doctor informed me that the procedure she did on my toe could actually cause a gout attack. Wish I’d been warned about that before. At any rate, the foot is doing well and won’t have to see her again for a few months.

Good thing I didn’t go to a foot doctor twenty years ago. Back then I was suffering from excruciating heel pain. (Plantar Fasciitis) A number of my friends were suffering the same thing and opted for surgery, with fairly poor results over all. I was too busy to be off my feet then and have a high tolerance for pain so just sucked it up. Eventually the problem just went away.

Since I finally had a foot doctor to ask questions of, I told her about the heel pain and how it went away. She said that a change in footwear can make a huge difference. Switching to Birkenstock sandals often help. Sure enough, someone gave me a gift certificate to place that sold Birkenstocks and I found them to be extremely comfortable. They were so comfortable I wore them all the time. Apparently they cured my feet.

It’s important to have my legs and feet in good condition. My walking distance keeps improving all the time. Whene summer gets here I hope to be out on the hiking trails again. Being able to walk long distances is a huge survival ability. After months of limited mobility it’s wonderful to be comfortable waking again.

-Sixbears

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thoughts on Notre-Dame



I had mixed thoughts about the fire at Notre-Dame. On one hand it’s a beautiful historic building that’s significant to the French culture and religious people around the world. On the other hand, it’s just another burning building.

As a former firefighter I’ve seen a lot of buildings burn. Believe me, if it’s your house it’s more tragic than some church in France. However, my experiences taught me about not becoming too attached to things. Some families would be grateful just to have gotten out alive. After all, stuff is just stuff. People are important, not things.

At the end of the day, Notre-Dame is just a thing. Even Christians are taught that a church isn’t the building they meet in but the group of people who meet in Christ’s name. Even devote French Catholics have to admit that Notre-Dame was more of landmark/tourist attraction than a functioning church.

Most of the industrialized world has been becoming more and more secular. That’s the trend. Like it or hate it, that’s the way things are going. Churches in general are becoming relics of the past. The church I went to as a kid is now a secular music venue. Times change.

I’m sure France is looking to rebuilt Notre-Dame out of its significance as a historical building rather than as a place of worship. You don’t hear about tens of thousands of parishioners who will no place to meet. That’s because it barely functioned as a church. There’s probably a handful of elderly pensioners who will have to find something else to do with their day.

Personally, I’m happy nobody, firefighter or civilian, died in the fire. That’s the important take away for me.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Retail Ruins



There’s been a lot of press ink spilled on the demise of retail. All you have to do is look at the huge number of failed and failing malls to get a feel for that. Add to that the number of main streets falling into ruin and maybe they are onto something. Right now there are numerous YouTube channels that do things like explore dead malls.

Apparently, hanging around the mall was a once a rite of passage for suburban youth. When I was growing up the nearest real mall was at least one hundred miles away. When I did get to to a mall it was a big deal as it was something different.

Over the years I slowly came to the realization that malls didn’t really have much of what I was looking for. My shopping tends more towards hardware stores, building supply, marine supply, and books. Malls used to have bookstores, often two or three different ones. These days you are lucky if a mall has even one, and they generally aren’t doing well.

Last week on a rare sunny day my lovely wife took the long trip over the White Mountains to the tourist town of N. Conway NH. It was like driving from winter into spring so definitely worth the trip south. The downtown is crammed with lots of little shops. They cater to the Massachusetts tourist crowd taking advantage of New Hampshire’s zero percent sales tax.

It was pleasant to be able to pop in and out of the many shops. They even had things I wanted to buy. They had some odd items like a special tea infuser and a universal peculator glass top. Combining all our purchases I think we spent something like sixteen dollars. We certainly aren’t the ones keeping the downtown alive.

Closer to home, away from the tourists, the local downtown isn’t doing all that well. Of course the major employers left, along with half the population. It’s hard to keep a downtown vibrant when that happens. There are some businesses hanging on and a few new ones trying to make a go of it. I’ve seen worse looking main streets. Still, it’s a struggle.

On-line shopping is a major force. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to get things home delivered than to drive miles hoping someone will have what I need.

Currently the largest employer in the nation is Walmart. Even they are quietly closing some stores. It’s a drop in the bucket, but there’s no business law that states they can’t go under too.

I thinking that maybe there are fewer people who shop recreationally and are sticking to things they really need. When you get right down to it, we generally need a lot less stuff than we buy. Economic and social trends could quickly rewrite the retail map.

-Sixbears