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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Early warning?

Upscale real estate has taken a tumble in major markets. A number of world banks are in a shaky situation. This time around it looks like the big money players are in trouble. The financial picture looks dicey. In the US there's a tendency to try and put off any big financial pull backs until after elections. They might not be able to pull of that trick this time. Of course, in the past I've underestimated the powers that be's ability to paper over financial trouble.

Militarily there are some interesting things going down. It's almost impossible to find out what Turkey is doing in Syria. Last I heard they had moved in some tanks. Supposedly it's to fight ISIS, but their main concern is to keep the Kurds from gaining any more territory. There's trouble in the South China Sea. North Korea rattles its sabers so often they are like the boy who cried wolf. What one has to remember is that sometimes there really is a wolf.

Russia's Putin is in a tight situation. His main legitimacy is as a war president tough guy. He's had some easy gains like in Ukraine's Crimea. Support for Syria has been more troublesome for him. Russian strengths have been showcased, but his forces are dangerously close to clashing with Western forces. Do we really want to see Russian and American planes dogfighting?

Putin has only been able to hold onto power by giving the Russian people reasons to feel strong again. He has disabled any effective political opposition. However, the Oligarchs are lurking in the background, waiting for their chance. Low oil prices and Western sanctions have make life more difficult. If Putin falls there's no one with clear legitimacy to take his place, nor is there a democratic path to find a replacement.

In the US we have the two most unpopular candidates ever running for the highest office in the land. Americans are more polarized than ever.

The regular flash points could get out of hand. Iran has been threatening US ships. US involvement in Africa's conflicts has quietly been growing. India, China, and Pakistan have issues -and they all have nukes. A world war could even start in someplace completely under the radar like in the Stans, where some low grade conflicts are ongoing.

Natural disasters are a wild card. I see the hurricane season is actually producing conditions that threaten the US. It's been ten years since Florida has been hit by a major storm. Since then there's been something like 1.5 billion dollars spent in vulnerable areas. That's insane. We've seen in Louisiana that it doesn't even take a major storm to cause massive damage.

Imagine if major volcanoes or earthquakes happen in any of the world's populous and wealthy areas? How would that affect world stability?

I'm not saying we are doomed. Good leadership and some lucky breaks could get us past the worse of the dangers. Sometimes it's not the crisis that matters so much as the response to it. WWI was not so much caused by the assignation of an Archduke, but by people who wanted a war and used it as an excuse.

All us little guys can do is to keep our eyes open and our heads down.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Another Boaty Day

Sunday I woke up and checked my e-mail on my phone. Ed Robinson just released another Trawler Trash novel. His books are set in quite a few places where I've taken my boats. It's great to read a story about places I've been and things I've seen. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology I was reading the new book before even getting out of bed.

In the afternoon my lovely wife and I took my twin aunts and my uncle for a sail. Winds were light, but there was enough to move us around the lake. Actually, light winds made for a relaxed sail and we had a chance to catch up. That's one of the things I really enjoy about sailing, the lack of engine noise drowning out all conversation and thought.

By the time evening came around my lovely wife and I were watching the Sail Channel. There's a big difference between our little Oday 19 and foiling racing catamarans. It's like comparing thoroughbred racehorses and a donkey. I happen to like my little donkey as it's a lot less finicky about absolutely everything. Just keeps plodding along.

Some years we've had barely an interruption from sailing on freshwater lakes to sailing off the coast of Florida. This year we have the opportunity to spend Christmas in New Hampshire with my daughter who moved to California and her two kids. Sailing is going to have to wait. While I'm usually not a big fan of Christmas, I am a big fan of family.

Our plans for the rest of the winter are wide open. I'm making sure the house is ready for us to spend the whole winter if necessary. Believe it or not, I actually miss snow. Last year they tell me it wasn't much of a winter. The local ski club barely had enough snow for their yearly competition then it all melted. That's not much fun at all. If I do stay around for most of the winter I'd actually like a good deep snow pack. I miss snowshoeing.

It might be one of those years when it would be good to head south late winter/early spring. Spring in the North Country can break your heart. There will often be a string of nice sunny warm days, then another foot of snow falls on the ground. The lake could be just about to thaw then refreeze all over again.

Our plans are flexible, but this might be one of those years when it makes sense to stick close to home, even if the sailing has to wait.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Why we can't have nice things

A good friend of mine lives a bit over 100 miles away. He happens to be a firearms engineer so he has the best toys to take to the shooting range. I've got a few plinkers myself and enjoy punching holes in paper at distance. Add in a few kinetic targets and you've got a few hours of quality entertainment.

About half way between us was a nice little shooting range open to the public. It had covered shooting benches, and was well laid out for safe shooting. The range was free. We'd meet, do some shooting, then head to a nearby restaurant for some dinner and relaxation.

There were a couple problems with the range. Occasionally there would be some guy, usually an old duffer, who refused to exercise proper range safety. When that would happen we'd pack up and hit the restaurant early. Once we didn't even retrieve our targets until after the idiot left the range.

Another big drawback to the range was that some people would leave it a mess. Our crew always left it in better condition than how we found it. Sometimes the mess was truly staggering. Then someone thought it'd be a good idea to shoot the roof over the benches full or holes.

Surprise, surprise, the range is now closed. The vast majority of the people who used it treated it properly. Sadly, it only takes a few bad characters to ruin it for everyone else. That's why we can't have nice things.

Now my buddy joined a local club range near his house. I've got a couple sandpits near me where shooting is still allowed. That's fine, but I sure do miss getting together. The extra driving distance is just enough to make the trip a lot less likely.

My friend now has to pay to use a range. My sandpits are free, but there's nothing there. To sight in a firearm I've got to set up my own shooting bench and measure out target placement. While that's doable, it's a lot less convenient that going to a range that's already set up.

I also really miss talking over our shooting while having a sandwich and a coffee.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Well done

With rain threatening I hustled to get my dug well cover replaced. Since it was framed up with cedar poles there was a lot more cutting and fitting than one would have with dimensional lumber. However, cedar is long lasting and was free. About half my land is cedar swamp.

At one time I owned a big Ford F-250 pickup truck. Rather than buy a bed cover I used exterior plywood to construct a two piece bed covers. The truck is long gone but one of the big plywood panels remained. It was large enough to cover the cedar pole framework over the well. Everything was sealed up and cracks filled with high expansion foam.

It's good enough for now. Later I'm going to build an access hatch to the well from wood salvaged from the sides of a utility trailer. There's some metal roofing salvaged from a previous project that's going to go over the wood to protect everything. All I had to buy was some decking screws and expansion foam.

One nice surprise was to see how well the old cement work on the top of the well held out. The dug well is loose laid stone on the lower part. The top part is cemented stone. The idea is let the water flow in through the bottom stones. The cemented part is to keep surface water, that hasn't been naturally filtered, from contaminating the well. Good to see that after all these years everything is right where it's supposed to be.

A lot of people are wondering how I'm able to have all the water I need from a well that's only 5.5 feet deep. Most of the people on my side of the lake have deep drilled wells. The big exception is the guy right to the south of me who put his well as close to mine as his property boundary would allow. No dummy him.

I'm a pretty skilled dowser so when I have to hand dig a well I make sure to get the most water from the least amount of digging.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Throwing money at problems

There are times when I wish I was in a position to just throw money at problems. The big drawback with that idea is my lack of money.

Oh well.

Speaking of well, that's what got me thinking in that direction. Today I pulled the old cover off my hand dug well. It only lasted 45 years. If the next one lasts as long I'll probably be off the hook for the one after that.

The job just got bigger and bigger. Rotten wood from the cover fell into the well. The water logged wood was so heavy it sunk to the bottom. At that point I decided to siphon off most of the water so I could fish out all the junk. Once it was cleaned out I shocked the well with bleach.

When the destruction part was over I started framing it up with cedar poles. Then it was time for a trip to the hardware store in town. The rest of the cover construction will have to wait until tomorrow. One more good day should do it.

After working on the well I really needed a shower. Just barely had enough water flow to rinse the soap off me. Silt got all stirred up from my efforts and plugged the water filter so it was back down to the basement to change that.

The water filter still had a lot of pressure in it because it was too plugged up to completely drain down the pressure tank. While water was spraying all over me I got to thinking that some folks just hire people to do the dirty jobs.

A day of hauling heavy things up and down the hill took its toll on me. That probably an indication I needed the exercise. I sure better get a good feeling of satisfaction when this job is over. At least that's something money doesn't buy.


Monday, August 22, 2016

The long slow bug out to the woods

Do any of you harbor expectations of bugging out into the woods if things get bad? This is what it's starting to look like right now. In this NY Times article the homeless are invading the forests. Locals aren't very happy about it. There's been problems with trash, forest fires, and generally bad conduct.

This is what conditions are like when most people are still getting by. Imagine how messed up things would get in the forest if the situation went seriously south.

Imagine how things could be in the National Forests in the heavily populated Northeast? From Boston to the White Mountains is just an afternoon's drive. People living illegally in National Forests is nothing new to me. For years I've been running into long term campers in ramshackle trailers and RVs while gathering firewood with a dead and down permit. Sometimes they'd just move deeper into the woods once discovered. They pretty much all disappear when the snow comes. Winter here is brutal.

There is a lot of private forest land in my area. The locals would not take too kindly to squatters suddenly appearing on their property, cutting trees and piling up trash. Before long they would be moved out at gunpoint.

It is possible to live out in the woods. I've known a few over the years. One guy was a Vietnam Vet who never readjusted to life in civilization. His camps had low footprints, were deeper in the woods, and very hard to find. There was one young man who lived in primitive shelters who made a small income from trapping. Sadly, he died a few years after I met him from cancer.

Living as an individual or a small group can be done. Care must be taken to get far off the beaten path and to keep a low profile. Larger groups would most likely be discovered and considered a problem. Forget about being able to drive somewhere towing your 5th wheel and setting up house down a logging road. You might get away with it for a couple weeks, but after that authorities will take notice.

If you do plan on life in the woods, better have the woodcraft and knowledge to make it work. Be aware that it's a harsh existence.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Basic Life Skills

There are basic skills everyone should teach their children so they can take care of themselves. By the time someone is a teenager they should be able to pretty much take care of day to day necessities. That includes minor things that go wrong around the house or being able to change a flat tire.

I'm of the opinion that kid should have some other skills: how to start a campfire, handle small boats, pitch a tent, first aid, gun safety -you know, the basics.

Today I was amazed at someone at the local amusement park. We were having a fun day with the kids and grandkids. My daughter informed the rest room attendant, who appeared to be about 17, that one of the toilets was plugged. The attendant had to call her supervisor. She had no idea where to even begin. The supervisor was less than impressed.

The boss said, “I'll show you one time, but I expect you to deal with this from now on.”

It's not a pleasant job, but it's a necessary one. Sooner or later it will happen to you. Protecting your children from unpleasant jobs does them no favors. Life has a way of throwing challenges in our path. Better to have some experience fixing the small things before you have to deal with big things.

On an even more serious note is how Americans tend to protect their children from the reality of death. When I went back to college I had to take a variety of courses to graduate. So I was about 40 when I took a class on death and dying. As a former firefighter I'd seen more than my fair share.

One does not expect the average American kid to deal with that sort of thing. I hope to heck they don't anyway. However, college aged young adults should have at least been to a few open casket funerals. Most of them had not had to deal directly with anything more troubling than the death of a pet.

Guess I'm getting old and cranky. My daughter told me many of her classmates couldn't even boil water. Wonder how their kids are going to turn out? Heck, my 9 year old grandkids can cook meals and bake cookies.