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Monday, July 24, 2017

Another charge controller failure

Last year I set up a small solar electric system for the shed at my beach. It was pretty simple: a 50 watt panel, charge controller, 12V deep discharge battery, and a 400 watt inverter. It was big enough to run lights, a radio, and could charge electronic devices like cell phones. It worked fine all summer and fall.

Sometime during the winter, the system failed. Due to my injured leg I haven't been making the trip to the beach much. Finally I felt good enough to haul some tools to the shed. It didn't take me too long to isolate the problem to the charge controller.

This was the second charge controller failure of the winter.

The one I had on my boat died, but that was no fault of the device. The fact that it spent the winter in solid block of ice was all on me. The failure of the one in the shed was a real mystery. It was on a high dry shelf all winter. Maybe the low winter temperatures were a factor, but that's the only thing I can think of that might have been an issue.

Before replacing it, I went on Amazon and gave the failed charger a two star review. Amazon asks you soon after you bought something what you think of it. Rarely do I give out reviews right away. I'd have given the charger a five star review then. It only avoided a one star because it worked for a few months and cold may have been a factor.

Since I'd already used my backup controller on the boat, a replacement had to be ordered. In a real grid down situation, there would be no replacement on its way from Amazon.

By the way, we just missed a major kill shot from the sun. A huge X flare shot out, but fortunately it headed toward Mars rather than Earth. It would have been strong enough to take down power grids and satellites.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

The summer crowd

Went to a great summer party Friday night. The weather finally gave us a break and we were not rained out for once. Perfect weather, good food, excellent people -what's not to love?

One of the nice things is meeting new and interesting people. One young woman moved up to this area for the easy access to hiking trails. The AT, the Appalachian Trail that goes from Georgia to Maine, is nearby. Besides the AT, there are a multitude of other stunning hiking destinations.

One of my daughters rents out a house on Airbnb. This time of the year most of her bookings are from hikers. After a long day hike it's nice to be able to have a warm shower and a place to put your feet up. They've access to a full kitchen, grill, and nearby restaurants. Beats the heck out of eating cold beef jerky in a damp tent.

Growing up the area used to be known by its stinky mill town. The mill is long gone, with about half the population. The jobs were dirty, but the pay was good. Of those who remain, many make their living off of those who come to enjoy the outdoors. Our one big remaining asset is our closeness to nature.

I think the population has pretty much bottomed out and is on the upswing. When the mills closed and people moved away, housing prices dropped a lot. For some people that's been an opportunity to buy a house in a beautiful area. The catch is that they've got to be able to make some sort of income. Many expenses are lower, but you still need money coming in. Some have found work in the growing tourist industry; others are self-employed. Many are digital nomads who could work anywhere there's a decent Internet connection.

There's nothing like a good summer get together around a fire to get to know people. Well, that and social media. It's a lot easier to find people with similar interests than it used to be.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Careful who you fire

Trump is known for the catchphrase, you're fired! He turned firing people into an art form.

Of course, now that he's President, he doesn't have to always actually fire someone. They are often given the opportunity to fall on their swords. Sean Spicer just took his turn at political seppuku, so he's gone. With Spicer out, Melissa McCarthy will have to find something else to do on SNL. So it goes.

Rumors are circulating that Bannon may be the next to fall. However, things happen so fast in the Trump administration that it's hard to stay ahead of events. He could be gone by the time this posts. The turnover might seem a bit excessive compared to other administrations. However, as an outsider having never held political office before, some personnel churn is to be expected.

It's well within Trump's rights to fire people he feels are no longer a good fit. There are rumors that he's thinking of firing special counsel Mueller. That would be a mistake. It would look too much like when Richard Nixon fired independent special prosecutor Archebald Cox. That led to a series of resignations called the Saturday Night Massacre. Two weeks later Nixon resigned in disgrace.

It would be wise for Trump to avoid looking like Nixon at his worse moment. Trump claims there is nothing for the special counsel to discover, so he should just let the investigation run its course. If there are a few embarrassing facts brought to light, it would be better to endure them and move on.

On the other hand, if there really is something serious going on behind the scenes, the American people have a right to know.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Alternative Medicine

The doctors have done what they could for my leg and foot. The infection is long gone, but my leg still swells up as the day goes on. I have to stop and elevate my foot above my heart until the swelling decreases. No idea how long it will be until that's under control.

Not being satisfied to just wait, I've employed the services of a licensed acupuncturist. My first treatment went well. I'm scheduled a second one for next week. Will it help? I hope so, but it can't hurt.

When my lungs were badly injured by smoke inhalation, the doctors mess around with me for months. Finally they basically threw their hands in the air and wrote me off. After that I had two years of intensive training with a martial arts master. He taught me exercises to strengthen my lungs and taught me how to breath again. Only then did I really start to get better.

I'm not against regular western medicine. For example, it's hard to argue with the effectiveness of modern antibiotics. However, once western medicine reaches the end of the line, I'm willing to try alternatives.

Even when using “normal” medicine, I tend to go with the least invasive practices. When I had a bad back injury I was told I had two alternatives. They could operate and I'd probably feel better in three weeks, but there would probably be more surgeries in my future. The other option was six months of intensive and painful physical therapy. The therapist did not sugar coat how painful it would be.

I took the physical therapy route. It was painful. My therapist would say: does that hurt? I'd say yes. He'd say: good, and then he'd smile. He acquired the nickname, the Prince of Pain. The guy seemed to like that. As painful as the therapy was, he did not lie. My back has been 100% ever since.

At least acupuncture isn't painful, so that's good.

It's all covered under my normal health plan: pay for everything myself out of pocket. One advantage is that I don't have to argue with insurance companies.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Repeal and replace or fix?

So after 7 years of grandstanding the Republicans could not get their act together on a replacement for Obama Care.

Now that bit of political theater is over, maybe they can get down to governing? Well, they've got a few choices. They can ignore the whole thing and wait for it to fail. I'm sure everyone from the insured, to the uninsured to the insurance companies won't be very happy with that option. Make no mistake, the Republicans own health care now. With the control of all three branches of government, they have no excuse.

To be fair, the Republicans have some deep divisions among themselves. It does not look like that is going to change anytime soon.

So what's left to do? The adult thing is for everyone to set aside the winner-take-all mentality. Republicans and Democrats should make compromises and work together for the good of the nation. That's what a mature republic would do.

It's not like there are no models out there in the world. Countries like Canada and France are looked to because they provide universal healthcare at about half the cost Americans pay. We could look to Singapore. Their insurance costs a quarter of what Americans pay. Small health problems are paid out of pocket. Major issues are almost fully covered. If you are too poor to cover even small issues, the government puts money in a fund for you.

If the goal is to provide good health care for all Americans at a reasonable price, there are a number of ways to get there. That does not appear to be the Republican goal. Judging from their actions it's all about undoing anything Obama did and giving tax breaks to the wealthy. I would like to think they are better than that.

There are a few who have strong ideological objections to any government role in healthcare. That's not reasonable as government is heavily involved, like it or not. Even those who claim to be totally against government involvement have not come out against huge government payments and tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. Must be just a coincidence those companies are heavy political donors.

If the Republicans don't get their act together and come up with something the whole country can live with, there will be repercussions. In less than four years the Democrats could be in charge again and they'll ram something in.

Now is a unique opportunity for politicians to grow up and do their job. Set aside ideology and focus on practicality.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gunfire and Strangers

I wish I knew where I first came across this observation so I could give credit where it's due.

Here's the difference between the country and the city.

In the country nobody gets excited about the sound of gunfire, but if you see a stranger you want to know what's going on.

In the city thousands of strangers pass by every day and no one is concerned. However, the sound of gunfire gets people's attention.

That is so true. I hear gunfire all the time. I'm far enough out in the country that people have rifle ranges in their backyards. It's normal. Most of us in the country even have a fair idea what caliber people are shooting. Yesterday, it was someone shooting a .22 rifle. The shots were fairly evenly spaced so he was doing some target shooting. In the fall it's the sound of shotguns for bird and rabbit hunters or the large caliber rifle fire of deer, moose, and bear hunters.

One November we were visiting my sister-in-law in Manhattan. Back home I'd been waking up to the sound of deer rifles in the morning. At first the sound of gunfire did not concern me too much when it woke me from my sleep. I was puzzled a bit because it sounded like a .45 semiautomatic handgun instead of a deer rifle. Then I fully woke up and realized that no one was deer hunting in Manhattan.

At that point I became more than a little concerned. I understood why city people freak at the sound of gunfire; someone is getting shot. That's a big difference from target shooting or hunting. While everyone around here has guns, we don't go around shooting at each other. That's just nuts.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Have you checked your first aid kit?

You've got a first aid kit, right? Good for you. Have you checked it lately?

You're first surprise may be that it's not where you thought it was. Things get moved. The person moving it may have not told the rest of the household the new location. It's possible that nobody knows where the kit is now located, including the person who moved it.

Is is fully stocked? Over time, even small withdrawals can deplete your kit. The next thing you know you are out of large band aids and the triple antibiotic is gone. When you are cut and bleeding is not the time to make that discovery.

Have your medications expired? Many medications are still good after their expiration date, but why take a chance? Check the dates and change them. I like to cycle out the meds from the van to the house where they'll get used and restock fresh in the van.

Maybe your medication needs have changed? For example, if you find someone in your household has developed a need for an epipen, keep at least one in your kit. I keep a whole separate c-pap kit in case something happens to mine.

Is your med kit up for the job? Those all-in-one kits you can get at the store are better than nothing. You would probably benefit from a kit put together especially for your needs. I use a plastic fishing tackle box. There's plenty of room for all kinds of goodies. They are also easy to arrange so that everything is easy to get to. You don't want to be struggling with an unfamiliar kit in an emergency. Seconds count.

So, just a heads up about something that's easy to forget about.