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Thursday, June 14, 2018

Break Time!

I'm taking a break from blogging for a bit. It's nothing too serious. I just need to focus on some other things for a bit.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The way I think sometimes

Across the lake from me some guy put up one of these signs, “drive like your kids live here.” Well, my kids are grown adults who know enough to stay out of the darn road. Maybe what he needs is a sign that says, “I failed to teach my kids to stay out of the road.”

When someone tells me they, “slept like a baby,” I offer my condolences. To me that means they woke up crying and hungry every two hours and then soiled their bed. I remember having babies.

Also bugged by the saying, “healthy as a horse.” So . . . you have a life expectancy of 25 – 30 years? Now if someone was healthy as a tortoise, that would be something.

Those signs on the higway that say, “construction ends.” All I can think of is, “destruction begins.” At that point I'm a lot more careful.

“Giving it the old college try.” This one isn't original to me, but I like it. So, “giving it the old college try,” means putting off the project until the last minute and ordering pizza while drinking cheap beer instead. If you've ever been to college you know it's true.

Sadly, “good enough for government work,” is still universally a way to say you are going to do a poor job of it and it doesn't matter.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Knowing that one guy

A friend of mine is pretty busy and sometimes hard to get in touch with. However, it's totally worth the effort.

In an evening's sort conversation:

He is going to weld one of my broken tools.
Fix the gasoline engine of a small generator I acquired.
We shared some information about good deals on solar electric batteries.
The guy may know someone who would like to buy my van.
He's going to set me up with some local maple syrup.
My buddy educated me on different boat trailer brake systems and gave me a link for inexpensive parts.

Of course, this is the guy who's house I wired and set up for off-grid operations, so it all comes around. Also may help him move a large propane generator he acquired.

Good to have friends.


Monday, June 11, 2018

Battery Shopping

The battery bank on my solar electric system finally died over the winter while we were away. That came as no surprise as the batteries were pretty much shot last fall. However, ten years is a pretty good run for flooded lead acid batteries.

I was thinking of putting off buying new ones, but changed my mind. While it's tempting to pay down debt, it makes no sense to pay higher electric bills either. Buying batteries and getting the system up and running again is a good return on investment.

Battery development has been rapid in recent years. My hope was that they'd be economical for my storage needs. It turns out that good old fashioned lead acid is still the best bargain. While lightweight lithium batteries make sense in cars, light weight isn't necessary for a house. The only time when the weight of the house batteries matters is when they are installed. After that they just sit there.

Getting the solar electric system up and running makes sense economically, but it's more important to have them for grid down situations. Storms in the mountains still knock out power often enough to be a pain. Only makes sense to concentrate on getting the system sorted out once more.


Sunday, June 10, 2018

Tenting again

My lovely wife booked some camping time next month on the coast of Maine. We've been going to the same place since the kids were little. Now they have kids of their own. It's great to get out with family and friends. The campground has been owned by the same people the whole time, so they almost feel like family too.

Things have come full circle for us. We started out tent camping. Then we had a couple of vans that were equipped for sleeping. Now with the van dying we are back to tenting. Good thing we still like tenting. I've three two person tents in good shape. There is also a large eight person tent with attached screen house, and a big two room canvas tent. The canvas tent needs the poles repaired, but the others are pretty much ready to go. I'll take one of the big tents. If the weather turns bad it's nice having enough room to set up a table and chairs.

Our site is going to be one of those without electric power. That's not a problem as I pulled the solar electric components out of the van. It won't take long to set up a portable system. The non-electric sites are a lot less expensive in this campground, so it's all good.

One thing I recommend is testing out all your camping gear before heading out. You don't want to discover your tent has a big rip in it when you are setting it up in the rain. That would not be fun at all. Your camp stove is another item that could cause you grief. Nothing worse than being unable to make that first cup of coffee in the morning. While my lovely wife still thinks tenting is romantic, having a hot coffee in the morning keeps her mood up. No sense in suffering for nothing.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

What's up with oil?

A Forbes article covers the fact that Venezuela's oil exports are heading towards zero. That's pretty dramatic for a country that once was one of the world's major exporters. So how will that affect the price of gas at the pump?

I have no idea. You'd think that taking a major player out of the equation would cause a spike, but I won't bet on it. I'm just some regular Joe who reads too much. What do the experts really know? Best I can tell, they don't really know for sure either. There are a number of reasons for that.

The big one is that it's nearly impossible to get hard numbers on things like production, storage, and even national consumption rates. A lot of oil is controlled by nationalized companies and they play their cards close to the vest. For that matter, the state of oil controlled by private companies is considered a company secret and they aren't honest either.

A couple of years ago my lovely wife and I were in the Bahamas. Did you know there are extensive storage facilities, oil ship terminals, and refinery capacity in the Bahamas? I didn't until I saw it with my own eyes. Talking to one of the locals he informed me that the tanks were full to the brim. They were holding back oil in the hope that prices would go up. As soon as they did they'd release their stockpiles and make a killing. The problem was that pries weren't going up fast enough and the cost of storage was starting to become significant. Somebody gambled wrong.

Governments will lie about supply for its own purposes. For example, once the pipeline that supplies most of oil for the East was knocked out. There almost was a major shortage that would have shut down sizable parts of the country. The extent of the problem was kept secret until much later, after things were normal again. To be fair, an announcement would have caused a run on the gas stations that would have wiped out supplies and caused shortages.

Most people don't realize how delicately supply and demand are balanced. Locally, one time a snowstorm prevented fuel tankers from delivering for a day. All but one gas station in the local area ran out of fuel. That was just from one day's disruption. Most people just shrugged and filled up the next day. Now imagine if the trucks could not come for a week? A month? How would things look then?

Modern civilization needs oil. It's a little disconcerting to realize that few people, if any, really knows the state of world supply. We could be swimming the stuff or about to run short. One thing you can pretty much count on, you won't know there is a crisis until it happens. There are too many vested interests keeping secrets.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Just a reminder

You are on your own.

One thing last year's hurricane season demonstrated is that you are responsible or your own well being. That's especially true in the early days of a disaster. If a disaster is widespread, expect help to come much later and be much less effective. What you have left after a disaster is what you have to survive with. While response wasn't too horrible in most of Texas and Florida, the Keys were isolated for much longer. US possessions like Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands are still a mess. The residents of those areas definitely know they are on their own.

I'm watching the weather closely this year. It's funny, I'm paying just as much attention to weather systems thousands of miles away as I am to local weather. Last winter my plans were altered due to the hurricanes down south. We'd planned on taking the sailboat to Keys, but decided to give them more time to sort out the wrecks, marinas, navigation aids, and the channels. I'm not sure exactly what we'll do if there's another bad season. Time will tell.

While hurricanes are fresh in my mind, I'm not forgetting all the other things that can wrong. All you have to do is to look at the rest of the world. Venezuela is a mess mostly due to poor governance. It goes to show that even a country with resources and smart people can be brought low. Brazil ground to a standstill by a truckers' strike. One of the things they were demanding was for the military to stage a coup. You can't make this stuff up.

Personally, I'm a big believer in bugging in, if you feel safe and have the resources to do so. On the flip side of that, being able to leave is if needed is a valuable option. I'm not just talking about having a bug out vehicle and a place to go. I'm taking about having passports and the means to the leave the country if necessary. That might sound extreme, but it gives you options. If you live near the border, going 50 miles to safety might involve an International crossing.

While I say you are alone, I only mean that in the sense that government aid might be slow in coming. If you have local resources like good neighbors, friends and family, your changes of surviving in good shape goes way up.