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Monday, December 11, 2017

Bitcoins and Rai stones

Rai stones were carved circular stones Micronesian people's used as currency. The stones were too big to move. Transactions involved oral agreements on who currently owned the stone. The history behind a stone set its value. If people happened to die during the construction of the stone, it's value would increase.

I used to think it was the weirdest form of currency ever -until I took a really good look at Bitcoin.

At first there were a number of things that attracted me to Bitcoin. It's a currency free from government sponsorship. Unlike a fiat currency, it's value was established outside of governmental control. It's value could not be inflated away at the whim of a politician. In that respect is was like precious metals. Gold has value all over the world. The catch may be getting it across International borders.

That's one area where Bitcoin shines. By memorizing a simple numerical code, your Bitcoins could be accessed from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. While that feature is attractive to freedom loving people, it has proven to be a boon mostly to criminals.

I could live with that. After all, there are plenty of laws against criminal activity. The thing that really flipped me out is the discovery that Bitcoin “mining” uses more electricity than the whole country of Denmark. That's insane. Bitcoin gets its value from wasting electricity and computer power. We might as well go back to Rai stones.

Mining gold and silver can be hard on the environment. The quest for precious metals has caused much grief around the world. Wars have been fought, cultures and people's destroyed. However, there are some real uses for gold and silver, especially in modern electronics. Heck, if nothing else you could form a gold bar into a frying pan and cook an egg. Try that with a Bitcoin.

Electricity to run Bitcoin mining computers has to come from somewhere. Fossil fuel plants create pollution, nuclear plats have nuclear waste products, even windmills and solar panels have to be constructed so resources are used. The thought that some destructive power project may be going forward due to increased power demands from Bitcoin drives me nuts. What a waste of energy.

While I'm a strong believer that the human race has to change the way money works, Bitcoin isn't the answer. Just as an aside, I believe Bitcoin is in a huge bubble right now. It would not surprise me if its value would suddenly drop 90% or more. Just a heads up from some dude living out in the woods.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dashing through the snow

Well, not exactly dashing. More like crawling at half speed through the snow. I was debating with myself if I should go into town or not. The snow was just starting to come down in force. There was a special dinner for retired firefighters so I thought I'd attend. Dinner was nice, but by the time it was over there was already 3 – 4 inches of heavy wet snow on the ground.

Going home I never felt like I was in any danger, but only while traveling no faster than 30 mph. It took a little longer than normal, but I did get back.

Two of the guys I used to work with have moved back to town. One was a good friend who moved out to the west coast years ago. Now that's he retired he decided to move back to the North Country where housing is much more affordable. He and his wife have family here too, so that works out. They bought a house just a few houses down from their son and his family.

My old fire captain is back from Colorado. He and his wife loved it out there, so I was surprised to see his return. The doctors in Colorado recommended he move. The guy got a bad blood clot in his lung. Trust me, those are painful. Apparently the high altitude of Colorado was not good for the condition. They reopened their cottage on the lake. However, they plan on spending a part of the winter in South Carolina with family.

It was great to get together with the other firefighters. We worked and lived together and saved each other's lives a bunch of times. It's worth going out in the snow to get together with a crew like that.


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Home without adult supervision

My lovely wife flew all the way to Houston Texas to visit family. She happened to arrive just in time for a rare Texas snowstorm. She could have stayed home if she'd wanted to play in the snow. I see that a good swath of the south is getting hit with snow.

Snow up north is no big deal. We expect it and have the equipment and skilled operators. When it hits in areas where people aren't used to it, things get dicey.

While she was away I decided to do some work on the woodstove. After letting the fire die I took it apart for cleaning. Soot builds up in the stovepipe and needs to be removed to do a good job. There was soot past my elbows. My clothes needed a heavy duty wash. The floor could use a good mopping to get the last bits of soot that the broom missed. Wood heat is nice, but there's a few dirty jobs that have to be done now and then.

My goal is to have the house cleaner than when my lovely wife left it. There's nothing worse than coming home from a long trip to a mess.

Back at it.


Friday, December 8, 2017

Just me and the dog

Thursday we got up bright and early to drive into town. My lovely wife took the bus to Logan Airport in Boston. She's flying out to Texas with my oldest daughter for her father's surprise 80th birthday party. It's been quite a few years since she's gotten together with her parents and sisters at the same time. She'll be gone for a few days, so it's just me and the dog.

I'm getting a few things sorted before we head out on our camping adventure. The pin number for our bank card did not work, so I went into the bank to sort that out. While I was at it I changed the number to one that I can remember. That took two attempts, which is pretty normal for that sort of thing. At least that's been my experience.

Just before we leave we notify the banks that we'll be traveling. If you don't you stand a pretty good chance that they'll shut your cards down at some point. Even with prior notification, there's no guarantee that there won't be card problems. A few years ago my credit union shut down my debit card for no apparent reason. Three times I attempted to get them to reactivate it. They always assured me it was fine, but then the every time I tried to use it, the card was rejected. Good thing I had backup funds.

There are plenty of little projects to keep me busy until my lovely wife gets back. Also, the dog informs me that there are squirrels in need of chasing, but she'll handle that.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Life on hard mode

Is life a game?

A good chess player will sometimes spot an opponent a pawn. That is, they give up one of their pieces before the game even begins, just to make it interesting. A really good player will spot a more important piece like a knight or a bishop.

I've seen right handed pool players play left handed. At the shooting range there are those who will use their off hand in competition.

Video game players have different levels of difficulty to chose from, everything from easy to hard.

Sometimes I think life is a game. Some days it's on easy mode. The challenges of the day are almost no challenges at all. Then there are days when it seems like the level of difficulty has been cranked all the way to hard. It's a struggle.

One thing about playing the life game on hard mode, you sure feel good when you win. Just like in a game, you don't really stretch your skills and talents on easy mode. Much of life is a matter of perspective. You can look at challenges as a change to really develop yourself rather than as a burden

Of course, nobody starts out as an expert. You have to develop your skills on easy mode first. That's why doing everything for you kids is a disservice. They never learn what they need to know when life suddenly switches to hard mode.

If life is a game, make sure to have fun, even if you have to play on hard mode.


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Small steps in the cold north

In a previous post I mentioned that the nice looking step bumper on my van pretty much just fell off. All the internal steel was heavily rusted. Fortunately, the support beams were in excellent shape.

The quick and dirty solution was to build a step bumper out of wood. We had some days that got into the low 40s so I was able to work outside. First, all the pieces were cut, screwed and glued together. Then everything had to be brought inside where it would be warm enough to for the glue to set. Pretty much the same operation for paint. Applied it outside, then brought it back in before the temperature dropped below freezing.

Installing it wasn't a lot of fun. It was pretty simple job -some drilling and stainless steel bolts. Unfortunately, the weather had turned bad and we had mixed precipitation, a lovely combination of snow and rain. It wasn't much fun to lay on the wet and cold ground to tighten the bolts.

I'm glad I pushed through and did it. The mix turned to heavy rain, but I was done before the puddles got too deep. Nothing like a rainy day with the temperature just barely above freezing. After the job was finished, I stoked up the woodstove, got out of my wet clothes, and went back to bed.

It's been a long slow process to build up my stamina since my leg injury. Months of inactivity really took its toll on me. It doesn't help that I've got a small cold right now, so everything aches more than it should. There's no help for it but to push on. I'm also getting plenty of rest and drinking lots of fluids. Even taking off a few pounds. One step at a time.

Mechanically, the van should be ready for our trip. It will need to be registered and inspected before we leave. I've been slowly loading it with our gear. By the time we are ready to go we should be able to just hop in and start driving south.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Sound of Bursting Bubbles part II

Yesterday I went into some of the factors leading up to the next economic crash. Today I'd like to kick around some ideas about strategies for surviving the upsets. We don't know the exact timing or exactly how things will manifest. However, collapse has some factors in common.

Collapse is rarely caused by just one factor. Usually it's a number of problems that come together at the same time. For example, a country could have an unpopular war, civil unrest, and a food shortage, then a plague breaks out causing everything to unravel. I don't expect things to unravel for us that way, but it will be a number of cascading factors.

There is definitely going to be an economic component. Stock market crash, bank failures, major loan defaults, any number of speculative bubbles could burst. Lots of people will lose their income. Since many people live paycheck to paycheck, the effects will be immediate and hard felt. A quick response of beefing up the social safety net and putting foreclosures on hold could help. That ain't gonna happen. Panicky investors will try to squeeze every last penny out of the debtors as quickly as possible.

Expect a lot of people to lose their property. They may pass draconian laws against people who can't pay their bills. Already some states allow suspension of drivers and professional licenses. How foolish is that? Take someone who already is struggling and then make it impossible for them to work. It's not about logic. It's about punishing people for being poor.

So what's a person to do? Take care of the basics first. You want to have stored food and water. Your normal preparations to be self reliant during disasters should be squared away. That should get you over the initial panic. The last thing you want is to be part of the mob fighting for the last bag of potato chips.

After that it gets tricky. Do you invest time and energy on gardens and livestock? That depends. How confident are you that you'll be able to keep your land? Can a bank call in your loan and take it? Will your neighbors descend on your garden like a swarm of locusts?
You don't want to be caught up in the first round of whatever happens. Should massive foreclosures occur, the first round of people will have it the worse. In a real bad downturn, there will be strategies to retain your property. They can't foreclose on absolutely everybody as there will be blood in the streets. Either some reasonable accommodations will be made, or people will just stop paying their bills and the banks will go under.

Actually, nonpayment can be a good resistance tool. For example, student loans already have a high number of people not making payments. If they all stopped, it would collapse the system.

Be aware of restrictions on travel. You may have a plan to bug out, only to find roadblocks set up on your escape route. One way to limit civil unrest is to shut down travel, so that could happen. Also, they could quarantine an area to prevent disease spread. That could be either a real disease problem or an excuse. Find out what is what. Do you hunker down or do you have alternative travel plans?

There are any number of ways to resist as governments become more and more totalitarian. People stop paying taxes, loans, and find clever ways to ridicule the powers that be. It might be wise to dodge the draft.

What draft? For the war, of course. Failing governments often look to wars as a way to unite the country. Don't fall for it. A government that requires a war to stay in power deserves to collapse.

Whatever you do, remember that physical violence is a bad choice. If governments know one thing, it's how to dispense violence. Don't mess with the pros.

You are going to need a tribe -friends and family that you can count on. After the Soviet Union fell about the only way to get anything needed was to “know a guy.” It was all about relationships. The money was no good so barter had to suffice. Sometimes the barter deals got quite convoluted involving many different parties trading a variety of goods and services.

The most important skill will be adaptability. Keep your eyes open to change and adjust accordingly. Doing what you always did in the past will not work. Also, recognize that the collapse will probably not happen in the way you thought it might. Observe the situation and deal with what is real, not with what you wish would be real.