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Monday, June 26, 2017

Back from a road trip



I was doing fairly well keeping up with the blog on a recent road trip. I was gone for four days trying to drum up a little business for a side project. It was a good trip, but exhausting. My gimpy leg was about done it by the time I rolled into the driveway. All I was a good for was a bowl of ice-cream, a shower, and bed. Still feeling a bit of road burn this morning.

One good thing was being able to catch up on some old friends. I've very fortunate in that I've had a number of friends that go way back junior high school. Our lives have gone off in different directions, but we've made the effort to stay in touch.

Back in the bad old days before the Internet and phone deregulation, it was much harder. Today's social media generation will never understand what a big deal long distance communication was. Back in the bad old days we often kept in touch with actual physical snail mail letters. Most were handwritten. I was one of the few males of my generation who actually learn how to type in a high school class. There were thirty-eight girls and two boys in the class. Back then many of the guys wondered why I'd take such a course, but heck, I could do the math.

On-line communication has changed things, but nothing beats actually physically getting together.

I'm going to take it easy today, clean on the van, and catch up on rest.

-Sixbears

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Warnings on flood insurance



First a little background. If you have flood insurance, you are not paying the market rate. The government subsidizes a large portion of the cost. That's been going on for many years. If they did not, a lot of waterfront development would be financially impossible.

Over the weekend I had long talk with someone who'd spent decades in the insurance industry. There is real uncertainty about the survival of the current system. The insurance industry hates uncertainty. Attempts were made pass on the real costs to the property owner. I remember a few years ago when I was in Florida there was a huge outcry from panicked property owners. The government backed off.

That does not mean the problem went away. We've been somewhat lucky in recent years in that not many hurricanes made landfall in the continental US. One rough storm season could send the insurance industry into total disarray. Someone has to pay the bills. If the government does not, the property owner will.

Premiums could skyrocket. If you have a mortgage on your property, the bank will insist on flood insurance. Your options will be limited. You could prepare to pay a lot more for insurance or lose the place to the bank. If there is no mortgage, you could either pay, take your chances, or start saving to cover flood damage repairs.

A sudden change in the insurance market would decimate the real estate market. Imagine everyone unable to afford their property so they put it on the market at the same time. Places that currently have equity would suddenly become upside down and be worth less than the money owned on them.

The flood insurance crisis is coming and will be serious. The government no longer wants to accept the huge liabilities and the industry certainly won't eat the cost. How it shakes out is anybody's guess.

As for myself, even though I'm on a lake, my house sits over eighty feet above the water level. Flood insurance is not needed. There is an uninsured shed down by the water, but if that washed away I'd be out less than a thousand dollars.

Property insurance is boring, until it suddenly isn't.

-Sixbears

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Unsettling 9s



People often go through a time of existential crisis when they hit an age ending in “9.” 29, 39, 59, 79 -whatever. There shouldn't be anything special about say 39 or 38 or even 40. In the big scheme of things the ages are not much different. However, there is something about a birthday before a decade change that stimulates self-reflection and self-assessment.

It never hit me that way before. The age that got to me was 26. Weird, right? Why 26? Well, I was in a totally different place than most of my childhood friends. I'd been a firefighter for over 7 years, was married,had children and a house. Those all are normal adult milestones. My friends, however, were often freshly out of college and getting into exciting careers. Few were married and even fewer had children. Their lives looked so exciting. While I had no regrets, life had settled into a pattern.

After 26 it was clear sailing. 29, 39, and even 49 were no problem at all. I thought I was immune from the unsettling 9s. Then I hit 59. It caught up to me then. There were a number of things leading up to my 59th year. My dad, who I was very close to, passed away. My lovely wife and I lost our boat in a shipwreck. For the first time time in many years we stayed home during a New Hampshire winter. Then my leg got injured and greatly limited my mobility for months.

Suddenly, staring at 60 felt like a big deal. There is so much yet to do, and mortality is creeping up on me. There are things I've yet to do and experiences yet to experience. There are plans I've been sitting on for years. It's time to move on them or forget about them. I'm even considering things like fixing up the house and selling it in a few years. Not sure that's what will happen, but I'm thinking about things I'd never considered before. It could be worse. I could be looking at getting a sports car or having an affair. There's nothing wrong with change, but there's no sense in being foolish about it.

I've decided to embrace this “9” year and use it to inspire my next adventures.

-Sixbears

Friday, June 23, 2017

The thing about knives



A knife is a simple and useful tool. People get all worked up about different types, makes and models. There's a certain mystique surrounding blades that goes way back to man's early history. As much as I appreciate a well made knife, I'm not a fanatic.

Frankly, knives have come a long long way. Improvements in metallurgy has made it possible for even cheap knives to excel compared to ancient blades. You can get a better knife by spending a lot of money, but usually a much cheaper one will do 99% of what an expensive one will do. For example, I've a Chinese copy of a sailor's knife. It's folding knife with a stout blade and a marlin spike on the back. It's an interpretation of much more expensive British knives that go way back. My knock off cost about eight bucks. Thanks to its stainless steel construction it has held up for years and I expect to lose it before wearing it out.

A knife with a 3.5 inch blade will handle just about everything you'll ever need to do. To be honest, most of the time the blade I use is on my multi-tool. It's far from being a perfect blade, but it's the one most likely to be in my pocket. That makes it better than the perfect blade back home in a box.

There are some specialty knives are are definitely worth getting if you are going to do a lot of that one thing. Fillet knives come to mind. You can clean a fish with just about any knife, but a good fillet knife does the job a lot better.

Then there is that special subset of blade wielders: knife fighters. They have very specific ideas about what a proper fighting knife should look like. Many of those guys are knife fanatics. I've studied knife fighting and even trained in a dojo. If it comes to self defense, I'm going to carry a gun.

-Sixbears



Thursday, June 22, 2017

Ain't nobody here but us mushrooms



I try to keep my ear to the ground to hear what's coming my way. It's what a prudent prepared person tries to do. In recent months events have been moving fast and much of it in secret.

Take everything from the Trump presidency for example. There are all his personal problems that everyone knows about so I won't elaborate. Love him or hate him, there is much uncertainty because all the important stuff is happening in secret.

One of the big threats we have to watch for is the chance of war. Frankly, I'm not sure how serious things are with N. Korea, China, or even Russia over Syria. The point is, there is movement in the world's flash points and the average Joe lacks the intel to know what's up. One can only hope those in power have the intel and aren't just guessing their own selves.

Even simple things like health planning is up in the air. With the senate working in secret, it makes me just a tad nervous. When you are doing good things, you want everyone to know. When doing something massively unpopular, you work in secret. With that in mind, I'm guessing I won't like what comes out of that body of politicians.

It's a normal fact of life that we have to make decisions without knowing all the information. If you want to know everything, nothing will get done. We learn what we can then we take our chances. Lately I feel the ratio of knowledge to guesswork has gotten way out of balance. It makes me just bit anxious, not knowing which way to jump.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

I'm not old, I'm injured



One of the weirdest things that happened to me when meeting up with friends is that we became our grandparents. You know how when you are a kid you hear your grandparents talking with their friends about illnesses and injuries? You thought you'd never become those people.

We hadn't seen each other for months. What do we end up talking about? Illnesses and injuries. What that heck? When did we become those people? The funny thing is that we all came to the realization at about the same time. It was kinda depressing.

Yes, I've been dealing with a gimpy leg the last few months. It's an injury, not old age. Then again, the fact that it's been taking months to heal might have something to do with the gray in my thinning hair. At 20 I'd probably have shaken off the injury. Back then my immune system was strong enough to kill squirrels in the driveway.

Both of my friends have the regular assortment of maintenance medications. One just had a cancerous tumor successfully removed and the prognosis is excellent. His cancer was caught because of regular blood tests he has done for another chronic condition. He's had the most serious illness of our group, but looks much healthier than we do. Go figure.

This injury of mine had made me feel old, but I've been injured and felt old before. I've gotten over it in the past and will get over this now. Before long I'll be feeling well enough to do something crazy and foolish. Looking forward to it.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Friendship Tour



My lovely wife and I just came back from four days and three nights on the road. We went downstate to take care of some business, but mostly we reconnected with friends. If you don't take the time to connect with old friends, eventually you have none.

It was also a pretty good test of the veggie van. The van burned almost 30 gallons of free waste fryer oil. That's 30 gallons of diesel that I did not have to buy. It appears that finally my assorted fuel problems have been solved -at least for now.

The new tires really improved handling. I'd purchased a set of no name tires while on the road a few years ago. They never performed as well as my Coopers, but that brand was unavailable when I needed to replace the tires. We were heading back into snow country and the van's back tires were very worn. Even no name tires with thick threads are better than name tires with no threads.

The only disappointment was that I'd hoped my mechanic could fix the van's air conditioning before the trip. While he was able to fix the broken AC hose that initially caused the problem, a second issue cropped up while he was pressure testing the system. Nobody in town had the part. It was ordered and I've an appointment to get it installed today.

The lack of AC wasn't a problem until Monday. Temperatures rose to the high eighties and the humidity was even higher. The huge 7.3 turbo diesel engine radiates heat through the doghouse and into the van's cab. My lovely wife and I drank a lot of water on the way home.

All in all, it was a good trip. My wife and I even got our salt water fix by going to a southern Maine beach. There are a few little improvements the van could use before the fall, but they aren't anything major. However, when you expect to spend months living in a van while traveling, even little things make a difference.

-Sixbears