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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Things fall apart, some more

Remember that nice little solar electric system I set up? Especially remember the nice 100 watt solar panel that I salvaged from my shipwreck? That panel just failed. It looks good, yet tests point to there being some sort of internal short. It's just another item that looks like it survived the shipwreck but fell apart later. Salt water takes its toll.

Once it became clear that the panel could not be fixed, I ordered another one. The replacement panel is only a 50 watt. Its smaller size will make it a lot easier to mount on the Oday 19 sailboat later one. The sailboat already has 30 watts of power, so a combined output of 80 watts will more than suffice for my humble needs.

My lovely wife and I are already looking past the November election. No matter who gets it, we are going to have an interesting time. Our nation will be going through some challenges. About all I can do is to prepare to endure. The basics of personal survival remain the same.

Will I be going to Canada? Yep, maybe as soon as next week. Don't panic; a trip to Canada is a comfortable day trip from where I live. We are thinking of taking my granddaughter to check out some of the sights in Quebec. It will also give me a chance to see exactly how bad my French is.

My project schedule got move back another couple days. A few months ago my shoulder got hurt. A few hours of clearing downed trees with a chainsaw let me know it's not completely healed. Between a sore shoulder and hot weather, the projects will wait. There's no sense pushing so hard as to get injured.

I scored another 30 gallons of really clean waste vegetable oil. That should power the veggie van for some miles. My lovely wife and I will be attending a meeting downstate next month. We plan on parking the van at a friend's house and sleeping there. Sure beats paying for a hotel room.

I'm still plugging along on my other projects. Home repair never stops.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Not enough popcorn

There's not enough popcorn to watch the political mess unfold.

For me the big thing that stuck out from the Republican convention was the overall tone of fear. That's a red flag in my book. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of stuff to be concerned about. The problem, at least for me, is that fear is a proven method of manipulation. Fear shuts down higher reasoning. It appears that the Republicans are heavily invested in using fear for their campaigns.

Surprisingly, the Democratic convention is turning out to be an even bigger mess. Their theme is unity, but that ain't gonna happen. A lot of Bernie supporters are only in the game because they want real change. Hillery is heavily invested in the current political and economic power structures so she's not going to really fight for change. It doesn't matter what language Bernie's folks get into the party platform. Once in power, politicians conveniently forget about that stuff.

Trump ran a successful outsider campaign. A good part of his success was not playing by the rules. Bernie also ran an outsider campaign, but the tried to do it within the party framework. Now it's come out that the party was sabotaging his efforts all along. Yes, there's a token resignation, but the damage was done. Of course, Bernie lacked Trump's billions so it's amazing he did as well as he did. That just goes to show how ready people are for real change.

How about third party candidates? The big argument against voting for a third party is that “This year the election is too important to vote for a sure loser.” That's always the argument. I say, if you really find a third party that appeals to you, go for it. Right now neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties are doing all that well. Might be a good year for a third party to get some traction.

I know it's tempting to stay home on election day. That would be a mistake. Local elected officials have a big influence on your day to day life. You can complain about the National politicians, but the local guy can double your property taxes while at the same time cutting property value in half. The loacl stuff can happen a lot quicker too.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm a registered in the state of NH as an Independent. The way NH state law is set up, I can declare for either party in the primaries, vote, then re-register as an Independent before leaving the building. I don't' think there's ever been an election where I've voted a straight ticket as I vote for the individual, not the party.

What we really don't want to happen is to see the democratic system fail. Look at the mess in Turkey. The military coup failed and now the counter coup is slipping into a full on dictatorship. Let's let Turkey be a cautionary tale, not a road map.

Pass the popcorn.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Life without AC

There's not air conditioning here at the Sixbears homestead. Supposed to hit around 90 and humid today. That's nothing by Texas standards, but most folks in Texas have AC.

On the bright side, it was 57 degrees this morning. The trick is to leave the windows open at night and close them in the morning. Thanks to all my shade trees it generally stays fairly livable in the house. If it gets too bad we can always take a dip in the lake.

Saturday's storms took down a lot of trees and power lines. Plenty of folks are still without power. Some of them will be in for a tough time. We didn't lose the grid, but our solar electric systems could get us through all by themselves.

Refrigeration is a significant power draw for most people. However, the giant water coil installed in my refrigerator helps a lot. Cold water from my well runs though that coil every time a drop of water is used in the house. Not many wives would let their husbands experiment with major household appliances. Good thing most of my experiments work. There is sometimes a problem with condensation on the coil, but a towel takes care of that in short order.

The resources of my little camper van conversion are also at my disposal. The solar electric panel on the van's roof can power the 12 volt cooler a long time. It also has a 1000 watt inverter to provide additional power if needed.

Thanks goodness I don't live in a city's heat bubble. The combination of heat, humidity and bad air would do me in.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Internet here in the sticks

Thursday night my Internet went down. Living in the backside of beyond, that's not a terribly unusual occurrence.

What was unusual is that it was still out 15 hours later. My land line phone uses voice over Internet so that was down too. I had to drive 4 miles to the other side of the hills to get decent cell phone coverage.

There are a few advantages of dealing with a small service provider. One is that I got to speak to a real live human without having to pick from a long list of menu items first. Another is that the person is located in my state and speaks perfect English. After talking with my provider I learned that no one else complained about an outage so the problem was most likely on my end.

My plan was do a lot of business on-line. However, with no connection to the 'net that wasn't going to happen. Just as well. It was 85, windy and I had a sailboat in the water. My lovely wife packed a cooler and we zig zagged around the lake most of the day.

When we got back to the house there was a note from the service guy on my porch. He figured out that my problem might be a bad power unit so he left a replacement. It took me about two minutes to plug it in. Next thing you know I was back in business.

Once my phone booted up I called my provider to let them know everything was running perfectly again. I also had some good things to say about the service guy taking the initiative and leaving the part I might need. The lady on the phone was really happy to get positive feedback. She assured me she was going to let the service guy know I was pleased.

All in all it was a great day. The sailing did my lovely wife and I a world of good. Business can wait.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Basic Solar Electric

Here's a very basic 100 watt solar electric system.

The solar panel is a 100 watt Renology purchased through Amazon last year. This particular panel is one of the few things salvaged from the sailboat. Since it's set up to be portable I built a frame out of 2 x 4s and painted it white.

The battery is a fairly inexpensive 12 volt deep discharge from Walmart. Sitting on top of it is a cheap 10 amp charge controller, also from Amazon.

The charge controller is just clipped onto the battery. That way it's easy to switch it over to a second battery if necessary.

The plan is to mount the charge controller in a waterproof box, maybe an ammo can. Then the battery and charge controller will get secured all together in the wooden box. Not shown is a 400 watt inverter that will go with the system.

For now the whole arrangement will be providing power to my shed down the beach. If needed the whole system fits into my sailboat.

Simple and easy, yet enough power for basic needs.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tech Support

Sometimes a man has got to know his limitations.

As part of a little business venture, I'm putting together a new website. It has some tweaks that are a bit different that most sites. A buddy gave me a quick lesson on how to set it up.

Maybe too quick . . . should have taken better notes . . . and learned how programing is done in the 21st century. Back in my day it was all ones and zeros, and sometimes we didn't have ones. Plus, I wasn't very good at it back in the day either.

Please, don't give me a bunch of advice on which programs to use or youtubes to watch. I broke down and got my buddy to help me remotely. Since tech support is kinda his day job, he's really really good at it.

I also got to realize how poky my computer is. For now it's going to have to do until the new business brings in some money. Eventually everything will come together.

Good thing I've some smart and helpful friends. One of the big lessons I've had to learn in this life is to ask for help. For someone who's as independent as I am it was a really tough lesson to learn. Over the years I've sometime struggled alone or did without. At my age I don't have time for that anymore. Too much left to do in the years left to me.

Someone once put it perspective for me. He said, “Remember how good it feels to be able to help someone?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Why don't you let someone help you once in a while so they can have that good feeling too.”


Monday, July 18, 2016

Drinking right out of the stream

When I was a kid I used to hike in the woods. It was common for me to drink right out of the streams. It never made me sick either. These days, thanks to the prevalence of giardia, everything is run through a water filter, or at least boiled.

It's only in recent years that I've bothered with putting a water filter on my house. Now I'm careful to get really good filters that handle both biological and chemical threats. Just ordered another package of filters to keep on hand.

My lovely wife pointed out the cover on my shallow well needs to be replaced. Our well is a traditional rocked up shallow well. A good cover is key to keeping out contaminants. The fit has to be good and tight.

Our course, once again, I'm working without much of a budget. With that in mind I'm going to use what I have around the house. There's also the issue of avoiding anything with harsh chemicals that could leech into the water. Pressure treated lumber could stand up to the wet environment, but the “treatment” is actually poison. Instead I'm going to cut up some cedar beams from downed trees. Cedar is naturally rot resistant.

One of these days I'm going to to build a traditional spring house. They were a lot more common in the days before refrigeration. It's just basically a well insulated little shed over the well. Very low tech, but very useful.