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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winter dreaming



My fancy sailing magazine came in the mail the other day. It's a good thing that the subscription was heavily discounted. Even so, I don't think it's going to be renewed. Too many of the articles are about throwing money at sailing problems. Also, things like boat reviews of half million dollar boats aren't very useful to me either.

I do watch a lot of Youtube videos about sailing, so I'm always on the lookout for new vlogs. There are certain things I look for. If someone is doing something like rebuilding a 27 foot boat, that's pretty useful. Someone else has a new DIY design for a composting head, that's cool. People going on major journeys on small boats, bring it on.

Then I came across a new vlog about a couple looking into buying a boat. Those can be interesting. However, I got suspicious when they were looking at boats large enough for a full sized washer and dryer. Then they got around to how they were going to finance their trip. Sell the business, that sounds Okay. Sell the RV, the helicopter, the Harley . . . a whole bunch of really big ticket items. All righty then, not the sort of video experience that's going to have a lot of take away information for me.

That's not to say I can't learn from people on expensive boats. If they are going to places that interest me, I'll watch to see what things are like there. Often there is very useful information about where to get boat parts or places to resupply. Better yet are trips to nice remote beaches and places of natural wonder. It doesn't matter if you get there on a 3 million dollar boat or a 3 thousand dollar boat, the natural beauty is the same.

Judging from my current budget, I'll be doing in the short term is dreaming. This definitely is a rebuilding year for us. Maybe I'd better focus on people doing everything with nothing. Heck, maybe I should become that person and vlog about it myself.

-Sixbears

Friday, January 20, 2017

Welp, this is the day



Welp, this is the day Trump is sworn in as President.

Now a lot of his political opponents are hoping for him to fail. While I'm not a fan of the man, I do want his presidency to succeed. I want America to succeed. I'll support every program of his that is good for this country.

That being said, I'm going to fight against anything that he proposes that I think is bad for the country. In that way he's no more special than every other President.

I am not a Republican nor am I a Democrat. Frankly, both parties have some pretty dumb ideas as core beliefs. As an Independent voter I pride myself in voting for the best person for the job, regardless of affiliation. We are a pretty big percentage of NH voters. Part of the reason is that during primary elections we can declare for either party, vote, then undeclare and resume Independent status. Works for me.

I'm hoping things go without a hitch. The last thing we need is violence during the “peaceful” transition of power.

-Sixbears

Thursday, January 19, 2017

August road trip to look at darkness?



This August there's going to be a total eclipse of the sun that will be visible in the United States.



As you can see from the map, it looks like the best viewing will be around the area of western Kentucky. You will also notice that the track of the eclipse goes nowhere near my home in New Hampshire.

However, a very good friend of mine, lives in western Kentucky. He's invited a bunch of friends and family to join him for the viewing. It's very tempting to take him up on the offer. He has a first come first served offer. The first ones there can snag the bed in the guest room. After that it's tents in the yard. Actually, my lovely wife and I might just prefer the tent. That's how we roll.

At least we've time to think about it. I'm going to keep my schedule open just in case we decide to go on a road trip.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Let the health care games begin!



It's no secret that I've never been a fan of Trump. However, I wasn't a fan of having another Clinton in the White House either. Still with me?

There was some thought that the Republican leadership were going to handle the day to day business of government. Trump was expected to be some sort of figurehead who rubber stamped what the leadership wanted.

It doesn't look like that's going to happen. The big issue that caught my attention was health care. Republicans have been trying to shut down the ACA for years. It appeared that their plan was to shut it down and figure out some sort of replacement later . . . maybe.

Then Trump comes around and promises health care for everybody, no preconditions, kids can stay on their parent's plan, and it's going to be cheaper for everyone. Plus, the unpopular mandate will be done away with. Turns out that Trump has a plan of his own. The Republican leadership is quietly have fits.

The big question is how is that going to be paid for? Trump is talking about cracking down on the drug companies. Okay, that should help, but it won't pay for the whole plan. I am very interested to see how this will turn out. There are ways to make it work. The most practical is a single payer plan, like the rest of the civilized world has. That is ideologically forbidden, so I'm curious to see what happens next.

I used to think that competition could lower prices, but we haven't seen that happen. Drug companies have raised essential medications to ridiculously high prices, because they can. Many drugs are controlled by just one company so competition isn't going to help; there isn't any.

The medical field is not like other industries. I've got one hospital within reasonable driving distance from my house. It's not like hospitals compete on a dollar to dollar basis with each other. The pricing is totally opaque so we don't' know what a procedure really costs. We can't shop around. Besides, this not like like buying a new smart phone. Our lives are on the line here so the pressures are different.

As for myself, I'm looking at heath insurance from the outside. Before Obama care my insurance, while fairly decent, was completely unaffordable. After the ACA appeared I could afford a minimal plan with a crazy high deductible. After two years even that got too expensive. Now my plan consists of going to the emergency room and stiffing them for the bill. That's not a great plan, but it's the one forced onto me.

To sum up, as much as I'm not a fan of Trump, I'm glad he made the promises that he did. Let's see if they can pull a rabbit out a hat.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fresh food



Stored food is great. In an emergency situation it can make the difference between being hungry and having the calories that you need.

That's all well and good, but I sure do miss the fresh stuff after a while. My lovely wife and I recently went on a road trip just to go to a store with a decent produce section. The problem with being at the end of the supply line is that “fresh” food, isn't. Too often the produce doesn't last more than a day or two.

There's something about really fresh food that our bodies crave.

When I used to do a lot of backpacking it wasn't a problem. Sure, my backpack didn't have anything fresh at all. Everything was chosen because it could go the distance without refrigeration. However, while hiking I always munched on enough wild foods to keep me happy.

Normally I'm not the sort of guy to get excited by a salad. However, there was a time when we were sailing that we went an extra long time between resupply runs. We got stuck waiting out bad weather at very remote place. By the time we got back to civilization I was dreaming about eating salad. I was able to pick up a huge bag of salad greens at a store. That night I ate half of it and had the other half for breakfast. My diet of emergency stored foods must have been missing something my body craved.

Most of us are pretty spoiled because we are used to getting fresh food from all over the world. I do remember the tales of the old days when people grew and stored most of what they ate. Forget salads and fresh citrus. They lived on a lot of stored potatoes, squash, turnips, carrots plus picked and canned veggies. It got them through the winter. Getting an orange in your Christmas stocking was a big deal.

While I know how to survive using the old skills, I'd sure miss the fresh stuff.

-Sixbears

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dunbar's Number



Anthropologist Robin Dunbar postulated that humans, on average, are capable of maintaining only about 150 relationships. That's about the upper limit of people your brain can really connect with. These are the people who if you happen to meet by chance, you would not feel uncomfortable having a drink with them. There's a lot of research that seems to back that up.


You can look at everything from hunter gatherer societies, to Medieval villages, to Facebook friends. In the real world, the number pretty much holds true.

So what can we do with this information. Well first off, if you think your 1000 Facebook friends are real, they aren't. You can't possibly invest enough social energy into all those relationships. It's pretty humbling, at least for me, to realize there is an upper limit on the number of people we can really connect to. Sure, that 150 is an estimate. No doubt there are those who can invest more into social relationships and connect with more. On the other side of the equation are those who hardly connect with anyone.

It did get me thinking. Soldiers don't connect and fight for the whole army. They are fighting for that tight group of men around them. How about other large organizations? Think about it, do you join a large organization because of the thousands of people in it, or do you join because your three best friends are in it? That's how I ended up in the Boy Scouts.

It used to be that just about all those 150 or so people were in fairly close physical contact with you. Maybe a few relationships were maintained through letter writing. Now we have social media so we can put social energy into relationships with people far away.

That's great, especially if you expect to be physically close to those people again. The problem arises when your Dunbar Number is almost totally filled up with people you only connect with electronically. What you need are people who will be there for you in a pinch. That Facebook friend is nice, but if you need an emergency baby sitter it helps to really know the folks in your neighborhood.

You can do a lot with a 150 people. If you have connections with a lot of people locally, you are in better shape in a SHTF situation. That's a big enough group to have a variety of skills and goods to exchange. A gift economy will work just fine for that number. If someone is in your tribe, you can contribute to their welfare knowing the tribe as a whole benefits. That's payment enough. Social connection is worth real things.

Strangers are the ones you have to have a more formalized exchange with. At the bare minimum you can do a one to one barter deal. The invention of money allowed people with no social connections to exchange things of value. Interesting invention that allowed complex economies larger than our Dunbar number. However, if the currency loses its value, you'd better have some real social connections.

-Sixbears

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Readings from the book



On a pretty regular basis my lovely wife and do readings from the book of Chapman. That's the Chapman Piloting Seamanship and Small Boat Handling book. It's a honking big book filled with useful information for boaters.

Ironically, our newer edition went down with the ship. Maybe we should have done more reading about local knowledge and the unreliability of charts. However, we did benefit from the information about abandoning ship, so there's that.

We had an older edition safe in my home library, so that's what we are using now. It's one way to keep our skills sharp through the long winter.

Another favorite of mine is: The Complete Rigger's Apprentice, by Brian Toss. If you've got a sailboat and want to understand everything about keeping the mast from falling off the boat, it's a handy book to have. It's also a pretty decent knot book too.

That too was lost to the sea. However, we were given a West Marine gift card and purchased a replacement.

Those books aren't cheap, but well worth the money. Any knowledge and skills you can pick up from good books saves a ton of money down the road. Every time you have to pay to get something done on a boat it's usually a minimum of at least one Boat Buck. (One Boat Buck equals $1,000) They add up fast.

-Sixbears