Friday, October 31, 2014
Freedom is all about choices. The problem in our modern world is that so many of our choices are not really choices at all.
Take voting for example. You have your “choice” of which corporate owned shill to vote for. The money necessary to run for office makes a politician beholden to their backers. There are a few outsiders beyond corporate clutches. The are either famous enough or have enough of their own money to make a go of it. If they do get elected, they'll never get anything done -unless they too play the game. How many reformers have been swallowed up by the system, their former passionate causes reduced to slogans and bad memories.
How about a young person who's just completed their mandatory time in prison? I mean school. After years of schooling and maybe precious little education, they are set free. What are their choices? Work, more school or the military. That's about it. If their parents are wealthy they may grant them a bit of subsidized time to do other things, but then will be expected to “grow up.” Seems to me there should be a lot more choices out there. Is it freedom when you are only free to starve?
Look at housing. You have a choice: rent or own. Those not part of that system are disenfranchised in so many ways. Let's say someone decides to live in a small RV or on a boat. They've got to figure out ways to have some sort of address. Most governments do not recognize the nomadic state. Vehicles have to registered and insured and that requires a static address. Snail mail has to go someplace. A truly nomadic person has no voting rights, so even that weak protection is lost to them. If you are classified as homeless, forget it. The government will bulldoze your tent and squash your backpack.
Once a person wakes up to the fact that their choices are not really choices, they see it all around them. Sometimes our choices are like a bad joke: death by hanging, death by fireing squad, death by drowing, death by poison . . . Sure, there are choices, but death is always a part of the choice.
Here's the thing, the first step in making real choices is to see the false choices. Until a man discovers exactly what the problem is, he can't even begin to fix it.
Of course, that might be hard and even dangerous.
. . . freedom always is.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
. . . the Apocalypse happened.
Some decades ago I used to disappear alone into the woods more often than I do now. That was in the days before cell phones when everyone wasn't expected to be available at all times. Now I'm still sometimes not available, but people just think it's weird.
I often wondered what it would be like to come out of the woods only to discover something major happened and I missed it. Sometimes significant news events took place, but nothing like a world war or anything else of that magnitude.
In the modern world it is possible to be in contact with the rest of the world just about anywhere. Cell phones are ubiquitous. Even in places without cell phone service there's satellite phones. There's even that old standby, short wave radio.
In spite of all the connection technologies, it's still possible to be isolated for days or even months.
Spelunkers come to mind. Cell phone reception is very bad deep underground. Some cave explores disappear underground for days at a time. They could probably survive a massive solar flare that fries half the planet and not notice until they surface.
Right now the world's oceans are being criss crossed by a multitude of private boats. While most have some form of long range communication, many don't. A few hard core old salts only carry VHF radios, good only for short distances. There are other boats out there who've lost their communication systems through equipment failure. They won't know what's going on in the world until they make their next port.
This fall there are folks in the remote north of Alaska and Canada about to be snowed in for the winter. Being in a remote cabin is not what it used to be. Some of those folks will spend the long winter surfing the Internet thanks to satellite dishes. Of course, if their equipment fails they won't know what's going on in the world until the spring breakup.
Primitive tribes still inhabit remote parts of the world. High tech civilization could collapse and it would make no negative impact on their lives at all.
Somehow I'm comforted by the knowledge that all these isolated people are out there. It's like an insurance policy for the human race. Some horrific disasters could strike the planet and a remnant would survive to repopulate.
For all we know it's happened in the past.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
There's a lot of blather going on how young people should get degrees in STEM fields. The future is supposed to be all about science and engineering.
Well . . . I got to spend a good part of the day with an engineer friend of mine. The company he works for just had some amazing years. Now things are a bit slower, but they really aren't hurting. All their engineers have been reduced to 25 hour works. You'll note that's well below the number of hours required to provide benefits.
As for my friend? He's working full time, but he's actually a private contractor and not part of the benefit system.
Even in the STEM fields companies are treating their workers poorly.
My buddy has also seen people's retirements greatly reduced just before retirement age -if they get a retirement package at all.
To me, that says a young person should probably think twice about going heavily in debt to enter a STEM field. They may discover they have to pay their loan back with part time work. Also, the idea of working for 40 years to get a retirement is probably not going to be a reality.
Workers should be prepared to give as much loyalty as the company will give you -none at all. Don't wait until you are 65 to start live. A young person might live better by having no debt and the freedom to leave their jobs at any time. The rules out there have changed, and the sooner people catch on, the sooner they can adapt.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Just about every evening my Internet service craps out. Sometime between 9 and 11 a. m. it's back up and running. I'd call to complain, but my VOP phone service goes out at the same time and there's no cell phone signal out here in the woods.
This morning when the service came back I finally did call the company. As it turns out their whole system is going down, not just my little part of it. A major part is failing. The replacement has to come from California. It'll be at least a week before the system is fully operational again.
That's service during normal times. Imagine what would happen during any sort of major disruption. What if there was an EMP type event that fried a whole bunch of those parts? How long do you think it would take replace every system's fried pieces?
It's possible, likely even, that the part they are waiting for did not originate in California. That's probably just where it was shipped in from Asia. Most electronics are now built in places like Taiwan, China and South Korea. What would happen if there was a major disruption in shipping? Could be anything from wars to embargoes. A tsunami could knock out key ports causing delays. What if ports were closed off to prevent the spread of disease?
Modern technological life is a shaky house of cards. It doesn't take much to bring it all down. There are patches and work around for most things. That works for a bit, but then the patches break too. At some point it's not worth the effort. Our technologies are so interwoven that everything has to work for anything to work.
As for myself, I've been catching up on my reading, sitting by the wood fire.
Monday, October 27, 2014
My blog list is getting pretty thin. Some of my favorite bloggers have stopped blogging and others post only occasionally. That tells me two things. First, I've been blogging long enough to see things change. Second, I've got to find some more bloggers to put on my list.
It's no surprise that people stop blogging. Often they are motivated to blog by interest in one subject. Once they've written all they can think of about the subject they move on. Many people find they don't have the time to put into something that really doesn't pay. Life has demands, and I understand that. Sadly, some good bloggers were burned by trolls and it put them off the whole enterprise. In short, people move on. Heck, some of the best one's I used to follow just up and died. How rude of them.
In addition to my blog list, I've bookmarked a much longer list of bloggers. They weren't on my blog list for various reasons, everything from being too far afield from what I normally do, to being too offensive for the general population. Many of those have also disappeared or gone inactive. Too bad as I was looking for more blogs to recommend in my blog list.
If you regular readers have blogs that you'd me to consider for my blog list please post suggestions in the comments or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll look them over and see if they make a good fit with my interests.
Sunday, October 26, 2014
I had an interesting talk with my mechanic the other day. He's been with me for over a dozen years of waste veggie vehicle experiments: a Mercedes 240D, a Mercedes 300D, a Ford F250 pickup, and now my Ford E350 van.
One of the things I've aimed for in my veggie conversions is simplicity. If it costs too much to do the conversion the return on vestment just isn't there. I've seen $10,000 conversions, and that's just silly. My first conversion cost $1400. Once I understood the principles involved I got the cost down in the $250 - $350 range.
Until now my inexpensive van conversion worked well enough. Recently my main source of waste veggie switched from a light canola oil to a heavier soy. Now that the weather has turned cold, it's easy for the soy to become too thick to run properly.
My mechanic and I have decided to put in a larger diameter insulated fuel line and to add a second fuel pump to help the veggie move along. That should allow me to deal successfully with the soy oil. I do miss the dead simple, fully mechanical diesels of old. They were bulletproof.
While I was at it I asked my mechanic what he thought about the VW diesels. He said that if I was buying a brand new one and traded it in before the 100,000 mile warranty ran out, fine. I told him I was looking at used. He said forget it. He refuses to even work on VW diesels -too many outrageously expensive parts plus special VW tools to work on them. That's all I needed to know.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
For the last two months I've been trying to refinance my house. I hate this stuff. I would have been perfectly happy to stay with the credit union that had the house mortgage, but they were bought out by a bigger, less personal CU. They also messed up the way I did business.
Let me tell you things certainly have changed since the 2008 implosion of the housing bubble. Banks are much more persnickety about a person's finances.
For me, that's a problem. My lovely wife and I don't pay taxes or work normal jobs. So that means no things like income tax records, W-2s, 1099s, and all those other things that people have to prove what their finances are like. It took some doing to gather up alternative paperwork that was acceptable. From the time I was told we were “all set,” we had to provide more documentation three more times.
Then there was the assessment of the house. The assessor lady didn't quite know what to do with the dome and the alternative energy things. For me a dome is an asset. It can deal with tremendous wind and snow loads. For the assessor it's non standard housing. Not sure what she made of some of my other little projects. Her assessment came in on the low side, significantly lower than the town's assessment.
Fortunately our needs are modest and we were able to do what we needed to do. In fact, I'm going to take her assessment to the town and demand that they lower my taxes, so that's actually a win.
We are greatly simplifying our financial life and taking advantage of a much lower interest rate. Our finances will be set up in such a way that we can basically ignore them for months at a time. Life is too short to deal with this financial crap every darn day.