Follow by Email


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Evaluating Technology

There's a myth out there that the Amish reject technology. They don't. What they do is carefully evaluate technology to see if it will fit in with their community's values. Early adopters they are not. However, if something over time proves useful they will approve it.

There's a story about how an Australian aborigine was given a steel knife. The man admired and was impressed with the steel blade, but ultimately gave it back. His reasoning that while his flint knife wasn't wasn't quite as good, he could easily build another one. If he became dependent on the steel knife, he could not replace it if lost.

In the modern world it's impractical to take the aborigine's attitude towards technology. However, knowing basic bush-craft could save your life. The skills necessary to put together a basic survival tool kit from nothing are good to have. If you can get by with nothing you can go long ways with a little.

The problem with doing things the old fashioned way is that they can take a lot of time. If you've ever hand ground grain to make a loaf of bread you appreciate being able to buy bread at the bakery. Never mind actually growing your own wheat and threshing it. Sometimes I make bread from whole grains, but I didn't have to grow them and usually use my electric mill. To be honest, lately I've been buying my bread.

Time is an issue, there being only so many hours in the day. Another example: the oil company just delivered 200 gallons of heating oil to my house. The house is set up to burn wood and I burn at least some wood nearly every day. However, oil heat buys me time. After a cold night I don't have to get up before dawn to stoke the fires. The oil heat kicks in and keeps the house from freezing solid.

One winter, when we had almost no money at all, I heated the house with wood found within walking distance. It was cut and harvested mostly with hand tools. I did have a small electric saw to cut the logs into woodstove length. Heating oil and firewood was expensive. However, being out of work I had time to process wood. We got through the winter, but it was a daily grind.

Providing heat was just one aspect of survival. Now imagine if I had to forage for food and haul water. What if I had to do my laundry by hand. Make soap? Make candles? . . . and so on and so on. I know how to do these things, but they all take time and energy. That's why I often choose to make use of modern technology; there are more interesting things to do with my time.

Having oil in the tank and a pile of firewood is like having time in the bank. Same goes for food storage. The technologies that allow that are pretty good trade offs in my book.

There are technologies I reject as not worth the bother. Dishes are washed by hand. When the dishwasher broke I figured out it wasn't worth replacing. Snow is shoveled by hand rather than by a modern snowblower. Once the cost of the machine, gas, oil and repair was factored in, it wasn't worth it for me. My driveways are short. Besides, I hate the noise. While I have a clothes dryer, we have both an outdoor clothesline and an indoor one, plus a drying rack. The dryer is mostly used when time is an issue or the weather is too wet.

We've lived completely off grid and it worked. Now we have a mix of off-grid and utility power. The cost of grid power is worth it as it acts like a backup generator that I don't have to store gas for. That's what works for now. Our technology use is always up for reevaluation. There's a constant cost/value evaluation going on.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why can't we have Pirates?

Iceland is also having an election. Currently the leading party is the Pirate Party. Why can't we have Pirates? The nation started by freaking Vikings gets to have Pirates. The US certainly can't claim to be number one anymore.

It's a real thing. The Icelandic Pirate Party is only about four years old and is currently leading in the polls. The more traditional political parties in Iceland have lost popularity due to the handling of the economy plus some scandals. Voters want something different.

Voters in the US wanted something different too. Unfortunately, we don't have anything as cool as a Pirate Party. Instead we have the same old Republicans and Democrats -two sides of the same coin. Sure, we've some third parties getting a bit of press, but they really aren't threats to the status quo.

Our third party candidates are getting some traction this year, but mostly as protest votes. Yes, I'm generalizing here, but elections are a game of numbers. The Libertarians are like trying to herd cats, but that's the nature of a party based on individualism. The Greens have yet to build any sort of grassroots base. Even the Libertarians have people running for things like school boards and state representatives. You don't start at the top.

No matter who wins next month, there's going to be a lot of disappointed people. There will be those who lost the election, of course, but that's just the beginning. I seriously doubt either candidate will be able to deliver on their promises. Before long those who voted for the winner will be disillusioned.

Trump supporters have a lot more on the line than Hillery supporters. Nobody expects real change from Hillery. If they do they haven't been paying attention. Most people who will vote for her have fairly low expectations. There are true believers, but they are kinda embarrassing.

Should Trump win, expectations will be high. However, outsiders don't have that great a record for getting things done. A president is not a dictator. Working with Congress is required to get anything major done, plus it has to pass muster at the Supreme Court. A Trump presidency stands a good chance of being hamstrung by Congress and the bureaucracy.

Iceland's Pirate has come almost out of nowhere. I've no idea if they'll be any good or not. Iceland's a tiny country but they could be a good test bed for new ideas. They are worth watching to see how they do.

At least they have a cool name. If that sounds silly to you just remember that in the US we once had the Bull Moose Party. Okay, it was really called the Progressive Party, so that's another disappointment.

2016 is shaping up to be a weird political year all over the world.


Monday, October 24, 2016

October Snow

I woke up to snow blowing around Sunday morning. It didn't sick on the ground at my place, but accumulated in other places nearby. Cars coming from 20 miles north were covered in inches of snow. We were just below the snow line. 100 – 200 feet higher elevation got lots of ground cover. It will warm up enough in a few days to melt most of it.

Back when I was kid, might have been the winter of 68/69, snow started falling in October. It never melted and kept piling up all winter. My dad and my uncle were at their hunting camp when the snow started coming down. They had to shovel 3 foot deep snow for a ¼ mile to get to the main logging road. That had not been plowed either, but some logging trucks had broken trail the 9 miles into town. It was a tough trip in a Plymouth sedan.

Life in the North Country can get interesting. I'm sure my kids remember Halloween costumes that had to fit over snowsuits.

My lovely wife and I have been snowbirds for quite a few years now. Nothing like October snow to remind us why. Some years we'd hit the road before now. Not this year. We are sticking it out. Usually we'd be gone by early January at the latest. I'm starting to question our resolve for staying here through the winter.

I don't feel like doing much outside when the wind is howling and there's a mix of snow and rain. Nothing you do outside in those conditions is going to be fun. I'd much rather get colder temperatures and light fluffy snow. Not too cold, but cold enough to keep everything from turning into mush.

On the bright side, I'm feeling pretty healthy yet. With my damaged lungs I'd often start a hacking cough in early October and it would last until May. That's on of the main reasons we'd head south. Warm moist Florida sea air would soon quiet the cough. Over the years my damaged lungs have improved somewhat. It's a slow process.

Well, this little taste of snow is a wake up call. This week I'll be shopping for new snow tires for the car, getting the old tank filled, and piling up more firewood. So it goes.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Age and Experience

There are some good things about getting older. When you are young every first disappointment and disaster is literally the worse thing that's ever happened. As you get older you get a lot more experience dealing with the crud of life. That's a gift.

As a young person you freak out when the cute girl doesn't like you, your car breaks down and you step in dog poop on the way home. When you become a mature adult every relationship is not a crisis. Cars have broken down so often that you've developed skills to deal with it. You've changed baby diapers filled with weapons grade poop that would put any dog to shame. Then you make yourself a sandwich because you haven't lost your appetite.

One of big skills in life is knowing that, over time, most things sort themselves out. You learn how to fix what can be fixed and how to endure the stuff you can't.

When you are young even a bright sunny day might not make you happy. As a mature adult you feel great when no one's shooting at you. Heck, some days you feel great because those shooting at you have lousy aim.

The future will have a lot of challenges. Any fool can see at least the potential for tough times ahead. Thank goodness I've done my time in the trenches. It gives me a bit of perspective.

I do not believe that what does not kill us makes us stronger. Sometimes what does not kill us leaves us maimed for life. Sometimes it kills us. However, it's been my experience that scars are often the price that has to be paid -so you pay it and move on.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pulled the boat

My lovely wife and I pulled the sailboat from the lake. There was a 70% chance of rain, but we looked at the sky and decided to chance it. The long range forecast predicts a lot of rain, ending the week with a chance of snow. We pushed the North Woods sailing season about as long as could.

We got on the sailboat late morning and sailed around until mid-afternoon. By then the skies looked threatening. Rain held off until we had the boat loaded and parked in my driveway. Luck was with us; the sails were nice and dry when we packed them away.

Unfortunately my cell phone battery died so we didn't get a chance to take any photos. Foliage season is past peek. The red maple leaves are gone but there are plenty of yellow and orange leaves yet. Loons and an eagle are still hanging around and that's always nice.

Now that the boat is up next to the house I can do a few little projects. It's in pretty decent shape overall. On our last night sail we noticed one of the running lights has to be replaced. The trailer could use some new tires. A couple months ago I purchased one as a spare. Next month I'll buy another one and replace both of them. The old ones, while worn, still hold air so that will give me two emergency spares.

I'm tempted to build an arch to mount solar panels on. We don't absolutely need it, so much will depend on the quality of the material I can scrounge up. A friend of mine built me a really nice tiller a few years ago. While on the water I noticed it could really use a good sanding and some varnish. That can be done in the basement when the weather's bad. No worries.

The idea is to have the boat and trailer ready to go at a moment's notice. Should we decide we had enough of winter cold we could hook the trailer to the van and disappear. It's good to have options.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Time Management

The only thing we have in life is time. It's our most precious commodity. Time is life. When we go to work, we sell our time, which is like selling little bits of our life. Be careful how you sell your life.

Now I get that people have to have some sort of income. If you can make a living doing a job you love, that's ideal. Unfortunately, too many people work to survive. If that's what you have to do to support your family, that's a noble sacrifice.

If, on the other hand, you are working at a job you hate to buy things you don't need or want, that's a really bad deal. It's also one of those things that sneaks up on people. Many people sacrifice to buy stuff that they are only getting because that's what's expected of them. We are social animals and it's easy to follow the herd.

What I can't understand are those people who have good retirements and then don't know what to do with themselves. Did they forget to have dreams? Could it be a lack of imagination that causes people to take crappy jobs, “to stay active.” Maybe they've been stuck inside a box so long they don't know what to do with themselves when they get out?

Recently, as favor for a friend, I joined one of those professional networks. My profile is probably one of the weirdest ones. I make it very clear that I am not looking for a normal job, nor am I'm looking to climb the ladder of success. It's the job resume for someone who does not want to work a real job.

That doesn't mean I won't work. However, I'm doing work that I either really enjoy or work that pays really really well. Ideally, one that does both. That being said, if there's some dire need for money and my employment options are limited I'll take the job until the crisis is over. That's one of the things I did when I first got married and had some surprise expenses. Sacrifices are made for your family.

I will donate my time, but that's something else. We all have to do our part to make the world a bit better. People have been confused to see me do work for free that I refuse to do for pay. Giving labor out of love for my fellow man is a gift that makes me feel good. However, they often can't pay me enough if that satisfaction is taken away.

My view on time and work is skewed by my life experiences. One of the major influences is when I was seriously injured on my job as a firefighter. No one could tell me if I was ever going to improve or how close to normal I could get. Many months of suffering went by before I could even think of having a future. Since then, I know how truly precious time is. I got a second chance at life and I'm not going to waste it.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Being out of touch

Doesn't this seem like a great time to be in some other country than the United States? Not forever, mind you, just until around the third week of November or so. That should give the dust some time to settle.

We expect to be in contact with the world 24/7 these days. Back in the day I'd disappear into the woods for a while. I had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world. There could be a major war going on and I'd have no idea. With most people having smart phones, people get upset if you don't get back to them instantly. Stay out of touch for a week and you are forgotten. . . or fired. Employers want you to be reachable at all hours of the day or night.

A few years ago my lovely wife and I were sailing down the west coast o Florida. Soon after leaving the Everglades City area we lost cell phone connection. There's a low powered tower in Flamingo, but it's only for AT&T service. At the time we had a Verizon phone so we were out of luck. Bad weather kept us in port for a few days.

Once the weather cleared we sailed across Florida Bay to the Keys. In the middle of the afternoon we came close enough to a tower to get service. Suddenly the phone came alive as messages flooded in. Once we were at anchor it took a long time to go though them all. The funny thing is, maybe one or two were of any real interest and none were all that important.

I'm not a hermit, but it is nice to take a break from all the noise and confusion once in a while.