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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rethinking travel plans

Just when I thought the veggie van's fuel problems were over, it died on me. The van had a good 14 miles running diesel in which to warm up the veggie. Switching it from diesel to veggie for just a moment was all it took for the van to die. Going right back to diesel normally fixes the problem. No luck this time. Eventually the battery wore down trying to start it.

Fortunately I wasn't that far from my daughter's house and she picked me up. I pulled the battery, charged it up and tried again. After consulting with my mechanic I attempted one last fix. I disconnected the fuel line from the six port valve and stuck it directly into a can of diesel. That eliminated everything from the valve all the way back to the tank. Still no joy.

Best I can figure is that either the front part of the fuel line is plugged or the fuel pump has failed again. If it is the pump I'm seriously going to reconsider taking the van south for the winter. It's one thing to break down a short tow from home. It's another thing to break down 2000 miles from home. The van has sucked up a lot of time and money and it might be time to come up with a plan B.

Our car, a beat up old economy car, isn't in any condition to make the trip south either. We were already thinking of taking it off the road the next time it was due for inspection. A guy has offered me his diesel Volkswagen New Beetle for a good price. It needs some work, but much of it I could do myself.

We had already decided to take our little 12 foot boat and trailer south, so we don't need a big tow vehicle this year.

Of course, I'm still waiting to hear from the mechanic.

Decisions, decisions.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The problem of gold

Lots of folks out there are promoting gold as a store of wealth. They have some good points. Gold is independent from any particular financial system. It's held value for thousands of years. Gold is durable, transportable, and relatively compact. Over the years various countries have been on the gold standard and many think the United State's problems stem from when they abandoned the system. That's a very short overview. Many books have been written about the subject.

Most gold is not used up. Some is lost in industrial uses, but even much of that is eventually recovered. Some of the same gold has been bouncing around the world in various forms for thousands of years.

Personally, I'm not a fan of gold. I'm not judging those who are, but I just can't get into it. For me, gold has a huge moral problem.

Gold makes people crazy. The pursuit of gold has driven men to do horrific things: robbery, murder, slave mines, genocide, war -a long list of evils. The way I see it, holding gold buys into a horribly exploitive system. Creating demand for the metal encourages those abusive systems that extract and collect it.

So how does one store wealth? Darned if I know. All my money goes into having experiences. I collect things like books that have little monetary value yet provide me with pleasure. I've a house and a bit of land, but that can be taxed, or repossessed so it's not a perfect store of value. Frankly, the pursuit of wealth has always bored me.

I'm the first to admit that I'm the last person to talk to about monetary wealth. My bias against gold may just be a personal failing. After all, most people who collect gold have never done any of the bad things associated with it. They didn't invent the system, they are only trying to get by in it.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do have a gold wedding band. That's the extent of my gold. It's value is not in the few dollars it could fetch on the market, but as a symbol of a wonderful marriage.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Back to what passes for normal

My dad and his new wife are on their way back to Florida. They were here in New Hampshire for a little over two weeks. The first week was all about putting a wedding together. The second week was a bit more relaxed. Good time had by all, but it's nice to have the house to ourselves again.

The next thing on my to do list is to strip down and clean all the firearms we used during the past week. Dad doesn't get out to shoot that often so he took full advantage. I dragged out guns that haven't been shot in years. Good thing I bought .22 ammo when it was $12 - $15 for 500. People thought I was nuts then for buying more than I needed.

Dad's 79, complains he can't see very well and that his hands shake. That may be so, yet he was hitting half dollar sized targets at 75 yards with iron sights. It was all I could do to keep up with him. Perhaps he's mastered the force.

I did miss out on two prime weeks of warm weather. The trailer I'm retrofitting for the Ooze Goose boat got a coat of paint, but not much else got done. During previous boat tests I'd tracked a lot of water in with my wet shoes. Size 14 footwear makes for some big buckets. Today I bailed the rainwater out of the boat and carefully dried it with a towel. Then I rowed out into the lake and checked to see if the boat stayed dry, which it did. My concern was that the water I'd previously tracked in would have hidden any small leaks.

Today I read Scott B. Williams new book Refuge, after the collapse. It's the sequel to Pulse. I really enjoyed Pulse, and it was good to return to where it left off. The new book is better written; he seems to be hitting his fiction stride. Williams is perhaps better known for his nonfiction prepper type books. Refuge held my attention well enough that I read it in a single sitting. The combination of survival situations, conflict, and action involving boats of all sizes and types really held my attention. Can't wait for book 3.

I've a little project that's been in the works since the end of August. When it's wrapped up at the end of the week I'll let everyone know what I've been up to.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Embarrassed about US health care

Okay, anyone else embarrassed that the US has been less effective dealing with Ebola than Nigeria?

Quarantine everyone who contacted an Ebola victim for 21 days. End of outbreak. Don't let them move around the general population. Certainly don't let them on planes or cruise ships. The CDC couldn't even get that straight, and it's supposed to be their main job.

I'm sick of hearing politicians and bureaucrats blather on how the US has the best health care system in the world. The US doesn't have a health care “system.” It has a patchwork of public, private, and for profit hospitals. The quality of available treatment runs from excellent to nonexistent.

In the US health care only means anything if you have good affordable health insurance. Even people with basic health insurance avoid hospitals because even the copays are out of reach.

Do you know what working people with a fever do? They pop a couple of Ibuprofens and go to work. Thanks to weak worker protections many don't get sick leave. Where do a lot of these workers work? Many toil in the food service industry, handling the food you eat. Even hospitals have workers who can't afford health care or sick leave. How messed up is that?

When the Mongols invading Europe came down with plague they were unable to continue their conquest. Before they left they catapulted their dead over the walls and spread plague to the defenders.

We probably won't have dead fast food workers catapulted over the walls into gated communities. Nope, the plague will walk in the back door with the cleaning lady, the pool boy, the maintenance man, and even the security guards. The sooner those in charge figure out we are all in this together, the sooner we can fix the problems.

Ebola is the crisis of the moment. Our health system and worker's rights both need an upgrade. This current disease will pass, but until the US gets it's act together, it'll be an easy target for the next flavor of plague.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bare minimal alternative energy system

For years I used to go to my dad's hunting camp. It was a 16 X 16 rustic cabin. There was a woodshed and an outhouse out back. Water came from a brook 100 yards away. It had wood heat. There was no electricity of any kind. Dad had installed a propane tank to run two lights and an old stove.

My biggest problem with the comforts of the camp? The lighting. We really take good electric lighting for granted. Propane lights are fine for doing chores around the camp and bright enough to avoid tripping over the furniture. They are not very good reading lights.

Other than the poor lighting the camp was a marvelous place to read: no phone, isolated and extremely quiet. I resorted to having good flashlights and a pile of batteries for my stay.

These days it's easy to set up good reading lights. Even the tiniest of solar electric systems, combined with LED lights, provides good reading conditions. In fact, there are a number of flashlights with their own solar chargers built in. Even cheap and simple garden lights can do the job.

Reading is the thing I really like good lighting for, but there are many tasks you don't want to do in the dark: suturing, dentistry, removing a speck from someone's eye, machine repair -and just about any craft or hobby one can imagine.

In a grid down, wideness, or bugout situation. good long lasting lighting hugely improves the quality of life.

Here's a little exercise. If the grid when down right now, how's your alternative lighting situation? Flashlights? Batteries? Alternative energy methods for charging batteries? Do you even have a back up? Is is one of those things you've been meaning to do yet haven't yet?


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Off grid power usage and guests

My dad and his new wife have been staying at my place. It's been nice to have them around. However, they don't understand the whole off-grid thing.

To be fair, I've access to the grid so it's not like the lights are about to go out. I am a bit surprised at how often I've had to use utility power since they've been here.

My lovely wife and I have adjusted our lifestyle to the solar rhythms. Without really thinking about it, we adjust our chores to when we have more solar generated power. Normally we don't do our laundry first thing in the morning. We wait until the sun's hitting the solar panels full force. We also use our clotheslines most of the time. Where my dad lives they don't even allow clotheslines so it's normal to put things in the dryer.

Cooking is another area where we do things a lot differently. If we've excess solar power we'll use an electric hot plate to cook on. Sometimes we use our outside propane stove. If it's cool and the woodstove is going we'll cook on wood. Even what we cook that day depends on what cooking method is currently the most economical.

It's not worth educating our visitors for the few weeks that they are with us. My energy bill will be a bit higher this month, but that's a big deal. Fortunately I have grid power right now instead of depending on a backup generator.

In a grid down situation we'd really have to practice strict energy disciple, especially if we have guests.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Medical Science

The Texas hospital Ebola screw up showed us how badly modern medicine can malfunction. Hopefully the rest of the country will take a good hard look at their infection procedures and make the necessary changes.

The medical system screwed up, and they should know better. That being said, there's an awful lot that medical science does really well.

Think of all the people you know. How many of them would have died in earlier times? Perhaps they got an infection that was easily cleared up with antibiotics. In the bad old days those simple little infections were often deadly.

How about those who've had surgeries? Appendix burst? Cardiac bypass? How about all those who've been in bad accidents and were saved with good EMS care and advanced medical treatment? Doctors are pretty at traumatic injuries.

Childbirth? Personally I think natural childbirth is wonderful -as long as there is a fully equipped and staffed hospital in spitting distance. Childbirth was a huge killer.

Vaccines. I've had some issues with vaccines. I think some are more likely to cause problems than the disease they are supposed to treat. Perhaps they give way too many vaccines at once. In spite of a few misgivings with a few current practices, in general vaccines have been a life saver. One word: Polio. At one time everybody either knew someone who had it or maybe had it themselves. We've forgotten how devastating it was. The same could be said for many other diseases now rare.

My lovely wife just got treated for a painful eye injury. In the bad old days there wasn't much that could have been done. Maybe it would have gotten better on its own, maybe not. In more recent years they developed a treatment that required antibiotic drops 4 times a day for at least 5 weeks. Now they put a clear contact lens band aid on it and it's mostly better overnight. Progress.

Some things modern medicine does really well. Other things respond just as well or better to home remedies. Know the difference. Don't forgo the gifts of medical science because those who practice it are flawed humans.