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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Projects that save work.

There are only so many hours in the day. Sleeping, eating and, yes, playing, takes up a lot of those hours. Then there are those hours allotted for work.

Now I don’t do a lot of paid employment but that doesn’t mean I don’t work. Many of my projects around the homestead are in the work category. However, much of what I do is so that I don’t have to search out paid employment.

A dollar saved is more than a dollar earned. How much of your take home dollar actually makes the trip home with you? Subtract SS, taxes, medical, retirement deductions, and if you take home 70 cents on the dollar, you are doing good. To take home a dollar you might have to make $1.30 or more.

If you save a dollar on fuel, food, electricity, water, or anything at all, you don’t have to bring home more of those expensive dollars. They are expensive because they cost you your most important resource: time. All you have in life is time. You are trading your life for dollars. Better get the best deal you can.

Some people are very lucky to have jobs they really enjoy. They can’t wait to get there in the morning and hate to leave at night. If they were independently wealthy, they’d do the job for free. How many people do you personally know who’s lives fit that category? Most people consider themselves lucky if their job doesn’t totally suck.

Back to the homestead. My wife enjoys working in her little garden. It’s not much of a garden , but it provided my lunch yesterday. Subtract one meal that would have cost dollars instead of my wife’s enjoyment time. If I go fishing and catch some fish, subtract the cost of a fish dinner. I happen to enjoy fishing and I can walk down to my lake where I fish off the beach or in a canoe or sailboat. There’s almost no money cost if I don’t catch a fish. At the very least, I got to spend a good time on the water.

Some projects are work, and uncomfortable work at that. Insulating my basement is one of those work projects. There’s no way it’s going to be enjoyable. However, it will save me money for years to come. I can buy less heating oil, or gather and process less firewood.

To save on firewood I also plan on building a rocket stove down in the basement. While it’s work, to me it’s an interesting project -sort of like a science experiment. I’m having fun scrounging up free materials and talking to interesting people about the project. The stove “job” fits into the middle ground between work and play.

My solar electric project also fit the middle ground. It was work, both physical and mental, but interesting and fun at times. Year after year it saves on my electric bill. That’s money I don’t have to earn.

I’ve converted vehicles to run on waste vegetable oil which I get for free. Last time I figured out my return for the effort involved, it was about $40/hour. Of course, over the years I’ve simplified the maintenance on the vehicle’s veggie system and the processing of the oil.

Sometimes my work project involves getting rid of stuff I no longer need or use. Those things take up my time, energy and often more than a few dollars. There is much that can be said for simplifying one’s life.

Too many people only look at the income side of their home budget. They don’t look at what they could be doing at home to save money and time. Unfortunately, many of us are caught in a Catch 22 situation. They are too busy working to do projects what will save them from working. If they had more free time, they could figure out how to save money.

Find the time. Cut out something like TV if you have to. It’s your life that’s at stake here.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

When the big wigs go to jail

Former Illinois Governor. Rod Blagojevich is most likely heading to prison. You may remember him as the Governor who tried to sell Obama’s senate seat. Quite a few politicians have been sent to the big house. At the very least, scandal has forced them out of office.

Maybe I’m cynical, but I’ve got to ask myself if this really is a triumph of the legal system? Is is more likely they were losers in a power struggle among the power elite? For what I know of politics, plenty more of those guys should be in jail.

What about the financial elite? The economy crashed in 2008, mostly due to financial shenanigans at high levels. How many of the big boys have been sent away? Sure, Berni Madoff is doing time. Was it because his financial doings were total fraud and robbery, or was it because other wealthy elite people lost a lot of money. Was his real crime ripping off the rich? Judging from the lack of prosecutions, robbing the little guy is fine and dandy.

Anyone who’s had any dealings with the legal system knows you pretty much get as much “justice” as you can pay for. Rarely does the the poor guy stand much of a chance against the big guy. Judging from results, the system is set up to give the appearance of fairness. In reality, it’s often a way for the corporations to keep the little guy down. If we think we have a chance in court, we don’t take to the streets. The elite get a pacified populace and then does whatever the hell they want.

If we complain the system isn’t just, they point to the handful of power players who do go to jail. Never mind that they didn’t go to jail for what they did to the little guy. No, I suspect they were losers in elite power struggles.

Their big fear is that the people will wake up and demand real justice, for all.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The freedom of the open road

I’ve heard a few people say that before they submit themselves to the indignity of another airport, they’ll drive. The TSA’s bad touch is the final straw. Flying is out. Now the TSA wants to set up shop in more and more train stations. Even buses require ID. The security state is tightening its grip.

So we think we can just take our car. Car and motorcycle commercials promote the idea: freedom of the open road.

It’s an illusion and getting less free by the day. Americans love the open road. Heck, I love it myself, but I’m no longer think if it as freedom. There was always a certain element of myth to the idea, but the reality is worse than ever.

There’s the entry price: a vehicle capable of highway speeds. Add in license, registration, inspections, and insurance. Fill up the tank with expensive and highly taxed fuel, and you are ready to go. . .

. . . on the roads built and maintained by taxpayer money, and occasionally tolls. Follow all the driving rules or an officer of the law in a car with flashing lights will take what little freedom you have away.

That’s bad enough, but most of us pretty much got used to it. Mostly we didn’t mind following rules that made sense. We have to have some guidelines when we come to a four way intersection. For the sake of public safety, there are rules.

Okay then, outside of all that, the roads are open and free, right? Not so fast. Enter the ever more intrusive and common police roadblock. It’s bad enough the local cops do it. Of course, state police and sheriff departments conduct them too. Other government agencies get into the act, Immigration, Border Patrol, and I hear the TSA wants to do them too. Don’t you just love the ever expanding government beast?

How about biking or walking? Plenty of places are off limits: the Interstate Highway, many bridges and tunnels, and many of the roads you could legally walk on will get you killed in traffic.

Freedom of travel was never free, but it’s certainly gotten worse.

-Sixbears

Monday, June 27, 2011

If the world doesn’t end

My wife and I went to a music festival about 20 minutes up the road today. Lots of my friends and family were there. It was a darn fine show. There was good music, a nice venue, and most of the rain held off until after the last act.

At the end of the show, the announcer said something a bit our of character. He said the festival will be held again next year, “If the world doesn’t end.” This apocalyptic tidbit was spoken as if he more than half believed it. After a brief hesitation, he went on with the rest of his announcements.

Sure, no big thing; a throw away line. I probably would have shrugged it off, if it wasn’t for a larger trend. Lots of people seem to be saying this sort of thing. Now I’m supposed to be the doomer. When so called normal people talk about things far outside of the mainstream, it makes me wonder.

There seems to be a feeling like we are in the calm before the storm. Today might look fairly normal, but the air is charged with electricity. People seem to expecting trouble.

Trouble is always coming, but there is a heightened “waiting for the other foot to drop” tension that’s there for anyone who wants to notice.

Now I’m a bit of a student of language. Often people reveal things with their words that they don’t consciously want to reveal. The truth slips out in spite of their efforts. Words have power and meaning. People let slip what they fear.

As for me, I’m hoping that the world I know is in a good enough shape that we all get to enjoy next year’s festival.

-Sixbears

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sailing test bed

My sailboat (Oday 19) is only a short walk down the hill, so I’ve been using it all the time. It’s been a great way to test out new hardware and techniques. If something doesn’t work out just right, it’s no big deal to come back to shore and reconfigure.

A friend of mine will be building a custom tiller to replace the too short one the previous owner built. The access port I built to release a stuck swing keel works fine. Certainly beats diving out of the boat with a snorkel and diving mask to free it by hand. Tweaked the anchors and made some improvements to the sails.

Now I’m working on cabin mosquito screens and drink holders. Next will be a custom tarp for the cockpit and better cooking arrangements.

My lovely wife and I are planning some serious trips. The boat can handle the lake and coastal cruising we are planning on doing. Under the right conditions, even the Dry Tortugas or Bermuda wouldn’t be out of the question.

We are very happy with this little boat. Most people wouldn’t even think of cruising on a small boat, even for a weekend. They are used to living in houses. Even a 40 foot sailboat seems darn cramped in comparison. My lovely wife and I spent a lot of time living in tents. The little cabin on our boat compares quite favorably with a tent. It’s dry, has lights and some electricity. There’ s a porta potty. The V berth is comfortable for the two of us and even the little dog.

When we bought this boat, we thought we’d learn to sail and then think about what kind of boat we want to upgrade to. After some time on the water what we really want is the boat we already have. All our time on the lake has shown us what little improvements would make sailing more comfortable. Nothing we are doing costs much money. I’m slowly adding provisions and gear -including fishing poles and tackle.

It’s a great bug out vehicle. The plan is that I could just hook the boat trailer up to the truck and head out. Everything we need will already be on the boat. One of the cool things we did was use the boat as a dry land camper. We’ve slept in it on the hard, and it worked just fine. Not as much fun as sleeping on the water, but it was quick and easy. It allowed me to get a few hours sleep in a comfortable bed.

Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” He would have certainly understood life in a small sailboat. It doesn’t take all that much to take care of a person’s needs.

-Sixbears



At the end of the summer it gets a new coat of bottom paint. Any nicks and dings will get a touch up. We’ll be ready to head out to

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dinner for drywall

I’m friends with a younger couple who are building a house. They decided to build it as money became available rather than going into debt. They recently hired a friend to install some cedar siding. He offered to install drywall too, but not for money. Instead, he wants three home cooked dinners. Seemed like a deal to my friends.

I love it that more people are working deals for things other than money. The more bartering and gifting we do, the better off we all are. Money is what strangers use to conduct business. In the non monetary economy, it’s all about relationships.

Currencies come and go. I’ve got a few assorted bills and coins from governments that no longer exist. The rectangles of paper and bits of metal are no longer mediums of exchange. For me, it’s a lesson on what’s important. In Zimbabwe, for a while many people were millionaires -in Zim dollars. Then they’d buy a loaf of bread and no longer be millionaires.

What would you rather have, money or relationships? When currencies are stable, many make the mistake of thinking that’s where value resided. However, even then, it was all about relationships. When your local money becomes worthless, it’s sure good to know that there are people who’ll care and look out for you. That’s true value.

-Sixbears

Friday, June 24, 2011

A moose is a good as a mile

My lovely wife and I experienced a close encounter of the moose kind. We were heading home, around 9 p. m.. A rather large moose decided to bolt across the road right in front of the truck. My wife screamed and I stood on the brakes. Missed it by only a few feet. What a rush!

Most parts of the country have to worry about deer collisions. That’s bad enough, but a moose commonly gets over a half ton. That will bring most cars to a sudden stop. Worse yet, moose are tall. Cars knock the legs out from under them and then the body of the moose crashes through the windshield or crushes the roof.

Many animals’s eyes reflect the light from a vehicle’s headlights. No such luck with moose. Their eyes don’t really shine in the dark. Combine that with dark fur, and they are tough to see.

Then there is the problem of their tiny spore like brains. Moose are dumb. Maybe they were smart enough in the days before cars. Today, their cognitive power just isn’t up to the task. To make matters worse, the poor animals can get a brain worm that destroys what little mental power they have. That’s when they’ll do strange stuff like come into town and climb on top of cars. That’s no exaggeration.

My wife and are extremely vigilant when traveling through moose country. However, my best defense is driving like a little old lady. The speed limit where I saw the moose is 40 mph. I was only doing 25. Had I been going even 10 mph faster, that moose would have met the bumper.

I’m counting my blessing on making it home safely.

-Sixbears

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hunting a propane leak

Sometime back in the fall, I shut the household propane tank off. There was an unidentified propane leak. Only now have I gotten around to finding the problem. The only things I’ve got left that run on propane are two stove burners and a dryer.

During the cool weather, my kitchen woodstove worked just fine for my cooking needs. Now that’s it’s warm and sunny most days, I’ve done a lot of cooking with electricity. The solar panels handle most of that.

I still have a fair amount of propane in the tank, so I decided to find and fix the leak. Now it was a small leak, so I had plenty of time to find it before the gas could build to a dangerous level. Just to be safe, the doors were left open to allow plenty of fresh air to circulate.

A good way to locate the leak is with a spray bottle filled with soapy water. I sprayed all the joints and fittings until I found one blowing bubbles. Then I turned the gas off and tightened the loose fitting. After turning the gas back on, the fitting was checked for leaks once more. While I was at it, I checked every fitting and joint. Just because I found one leak doesn’t mean there couldn’t be others.

Hanging cloths on a clothes line has worked out fine. During bad weather, I’ve a place to hang clothes inside. The dryer still works. I suppose I could use it if I really wanted to. However, those times are so rare I’ll most likely sell the dryer when the propane runs out.

The last time I bought propane was about 3 years ago. Since then, the propane company has gone bankrupt. It’s a good thing I don’t rely on them to fix my problems.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The plight of the second homeless

There’s an awful lot of real estate for sale around me these days. Many of the places on the lake are second homes. I can only assume the local market for second homes has pretty much disappeared. Waterfront property never used to stay on the market very long.

A handful of hearty souls did what I did. We turned a summer home into a year round home. A fair percentage of those people put up their homes for sale within a year or two. Often the guys loved it, but winter isolation drove most of the wives a bit crazy. Currently, only a handful of families are year round residents. It’s still basically a seasonal area.

Another factor against owning a place here is the lack of jobs. Combine that with high fuel prices, bad roads, and long distance commutes, and the pool of potential buyers gets smaller.

Financing is pretty tough these days too. The place right next to mine had a sale pending sign on it for months. That’s been replaced with a regular for sale sign. The loan fell through. I don’t think there’s a lot of extra money floating around. What Federal loan programs are available are geared toward primary residences.

My guess is that these second homes are priced too high. At one time, a fair number of them were owned by working class people. Most weren’t fancy places; that came later, but people could afford them. Now we don’t have camps around the lake. It’s “cottages.” Fancier word. Fancier construction. Fancier price tag. The middle class was forced out as their wages stagnated and real estate prices went crazy. Now it seems the area is too rich for most local people but too isolated and not fancy enough for the rich.

I used to joke that most of my neighbors were seasonal. Now we are even losing them. Good thing I like it quiet.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Your Government’s Internet

Your Government’s Internet

The government doesn’t want to shut down the Internet. It does want to change it. Plenty of business takes place on the Internet. Big business wants that to continue. Governments listen to big business.

Expect some more controls on the Internet. Governments love control. That’s why they want an Internet kill switch. Being able to kill something is a powerful control. Another way to control something is to license it. Licenses do things that governments love: they gain information on who’s doing what, they get to collect fees, and they regulate what users can do.

No doubt it’ll be sold as a good thing. They’ll crack down on spam, viruses, porn, hate groups and their big favorite: terrorism. Haven’t we all heard stories about how children have been exploited. Terrorist use the Internet. Flash mobs have robbed and committed violence. The government can point to all kinds of abuses.

Yep, freedom is messy. While they are catching up all these bad things in their net, lots of others will get dragged in too: political opponents, alternative news sites that disagree with the main stream media, bloggers, preppers, survivalists, organic farmers -anyone not approved will be banned.

Governments are actively working toward stripping the Internet of anything that they perceive as a threat to the established order. It’s already happening. We see it most visibly in China, but the rest of the world won’t be far behind.

The Internet is a powerful tool for the little guy. He can get his information from a variety of sources, not just the approved outlets. It’s easy to communicate with others. It’s possible to share information about those who abuse power. Governments love to keep people in the dark. They are so much easier to control that way.

Keep an eye on how your government deals with the Internet. When they try to make it “safe” they really mean safe for them. We may have experienced the freest form of mass communication ever invented. Of course it’s under attack. Governments hate us for our freedom.

-Sixbears

Monday, June 20, 2011

Graduation time again

It’s that time of year again, graduations. I’ve been to a few. More on the way. Because I’m the way I am, I can’t but help look at all the newly minted graduates and wonder how many have jobs.

I’m proud to report my 28 year old daughter went back to college, got her degree and has a full time job in her field. She might be an exception. It’s looking bleak out there for a lot of people.

An old college buddy caught up with me recently. He has 3 college degrees. After 6 months unemployment all he could find was part time work as a construction flagman. One of my friends went back to college and got his science teacher degree. It’s been a year and he’s still only working as a teacher’s aid, with no benefits. My engineer friend has been out of work for over a year. Some people who couldn’t find work went back to college. One guy I know says he seems even more unemployable and now has big student debt to pay off too. Currently, his only income is from paying his guitar and singing in bars.

There are some of my friends still working full time -more than full time. They are working 2 and 3 jobs trying to make ends meet.

How much worse does it need to get before Americans protest in the streets like the rest of the world?

Interesting times, my friends, interesting times.

-Sixbears

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Motorcycles and bugging out

A motorcycle feels like it should be a great bug out vehicle. They are fast, maneuverable, and fuel efficient. Put on leathers and a helmet, and the rider feels armored -bad ass even.

Those of us who ride really want motorcycles to be great bug out vehicles. We want to justify having one. They are so cool and fun, we want them to be practical too.

Sadly, motorcycles have some serious drawbacks. Take my personal experience. My bike got better gas mileage than most cars, about 40mpg. There are bikes that get better mileage and bikes that get worse. Mine was an older 900 cc bike, big by 1977 standards, but not so big today.

Most bikes have smallish gas tanks. My bike held about 3.5gallons. After a 150 miles, I was looking for a gas station. Often I’d roll to the pumps running on the reserve portion of the tank. After a couple close calls, I started carrying an extra quart of gas in a metal container. A few times it came in handy. Most cars and trucks can go at least 300 - 400 miles on a full tank.

Cargo capacity is limited. One other person, a couple bags of groceries, and you are maxed out. We are basically talking backpacking loads here. Sure, there are trailers and side cars that expand capacity, but at the cost of maneuverability and economy. Again, might as well drive a car.

There are a host of other problems. Snow, ice, rain, sand or mud can make travel dangerous or impossible. A bike rider is a more vulnerable target that a driver in a car. The bike rider is right out there in the open. A car driver can be hard to see properly, and gets some protection from being inside a car. Sure, I wouldn’t want a 308 round to come through the driver’s door, but the engine block could stop it. Sheet metal does provide some protection. It’ll stop birdshot, and some shrapnel. Better than nothing. Bikes are often loud. People hear a bike along ways off.

Of course, I’m generalizing here. There are some bikes that are better than others. Enduro styles with off and on road capability, expanded fuel capacity and strong suspensions have merit. Especially if your bug out plan is a trail, train tracks, pipeline or powerline corridor.

Keep it mind that a motorcycle is a specialized vehicle for special conditions and you’ll be Okay. Don’t think of it as the first line of retreat. Maybe having one in the back of your truck or on a trailer is the thing to do. If your main vehicle breaks down or caught in traffic, the bike could keep you moving.

Being able to ride a bike, especially off-road, is a skill. It takes training and practice to do it right. You also have to be in good health. It’s uncomfortable to drive a car with a broken arm. It’s almost impossible to do the same on a bike.

Now if you want to get a small high mileage bike to cut down on transportation costs, that’s a fine idea. Just don’t justify it on the grounds that it’s the perfect all around bug out vehicle; it isn’t.

Really wish it was. I look pretty darn Mad Max in leathers.

-Sixbears

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Internet connections on the go

I’m on the road again, but just for the weekend. Wifi is pretty common these days, so most of the time I can find a signal to connect to. Usually I’m using a friend’s, family member’s or a business network like a coffee shop or a hotel. Once in a while I’ll use any unsecured network.

Just picked up an Alpfa network wifi adapter. A quick test showed triple the number of networks than the unamplified original equipment. For a test, I briefly connected to a few of them. I think this will be a useful tool for camping or while on the sailboat. It certainly increases the possibility of finding an unencrypted network.

Sure, it’s possible to get Internet though the cell phone system, but that’s one more monthly fee. If I am feeling rich, I might try one of those pay as you go plans.

Things have come a long way from the days when I used to get my e-mail over an acoustic coupler strapped to a pay phone. Anyone remember acoustic couplers? Heck, anyone remember pay phones?

-Sixbears

Friday, June 17, 2011

The scripted outdoor experience

I spend a fair amount of time doing outdoor activities: boating, fishing, hiking, and hunting -that sort of thing. Fairly often I’ll meet people on some sort of guided and packaged tour. It used to weird me out.

The time it really hit home I’d just done a short two hour hike, (fat guy two hour hike.) There I was, enjoying the view, when a group of people joined me on the ledge. That was cool. On such a short hike on a weekend, it’s not a surprise to meet other hikers. What did surprise me was that this group had paid a professional guide big money to organize and guide this hike. This trail had well marked parking, and was unmistakable. Even if you somehow got off the trail, going up got you to the top, going down brought you to the road. It was steep, but a lady from a nearby hotel had climbed it on a whim, in high heels. Dumb, sure, but she did it.

I’ve met canoe guides who take their charges 3 miles up the river to a camping site. I’ve seen hunters guided to tree stands a couple hundred feet off the road. Observed guided fishing trips along a river that is 90% accessible by paved road.

It puzzled me why they just didn’t do it themselves. My first thought is that they flunked basic map reading and a host of other basic skills. While that may be part of it, I’ve come to the conclusion that these are people who wanted a guaranteed experience and were willing to pay for it. They did not want to do even fairly basic planning. They do not want to be responsible if anything isn’t perfect. It’d be the guide’s fault, or the charter company. Buying a packaged trip doesn’t take a lot of time or study, just money. They don’t have to take any responsibility for themselves. Some professional is getting paid to do that for them.

Now I don’t have money to waste on that sort of thing. Even if I had money to burn, I’d still be m my own guide and outfitter. Half the fun is pouring over maps and charts, organizing my gear, and planning the meals. With my type of trip, odds are much better to come across something not in the guidebooks. I can’t understand why someone would pay for a canoe trip that costs much more than buying your own canoe and camping gear.


-Sixbears

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Here’s where things get weird

Preppers have one eye on the future. Trends are studied. Possible threats are prepared for. For most things, most of the time, that works pretty well.

Every now and then something comes from left field, totally unexpected. How far out in left field can things get?

A few years back I was having a beer with an old high school buddy. He has a high security
clearance. My friend works for the space division of a well known aerospace company doing military projects. From out of the blue, he makes the statement: UFOs are real. That’s all he would say on the subject.

I’ve known this guy since I was a kid. If he says UFOs are real, as far as I’m concerned, they are real. He gave no hint if it was a secret government program, visitors from outer space, demons, time travelers, or trans dimensional beings. All I know for certain is that they are not the planet Venus, swamp gas, or weather balloons. They are real.

How do you prep for that? What do I know for sure? I know the government, for whatever reason, is hiding a big secret. Well, no big surprise there as governments love to keep secrets. What can a person do about such a weird yet vague threat? Just the fact that so much secrecy and misinformation surrounds the subject makes me suspicious. Good and beneficial things aren’t hidden. I’m assuming that whatever is behind UFOs is bad news.

What to do?

There aren’t a lot of UFO zapping cannon out there. (as far as I know). The most important preparation is mental. Have a flexible mind so that when high weirdness happens, you aren’t frozen in place. Don’t waste time telling yourself that what you see is impossible. Accept that something extremely outside of the box has happened and get moving. Doing anything is probably better than doing nothing.

People freeze up often enough when confronted by fairly normal yet rare events: a New England tornado, a hurricane out of season, flooding where none has ever happened before and so on. Imagine how they’d react to something truly weird. Don’t be that person. Accept high weirdness can happen.

UFOs are real.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gypsies and a TAZ

When I refer to Gypsies here, I’m talking about the Romani, the traveling people. What’s a TAZ? Temporary Autonomous Zone. It’s a place where the laws of the local region, for all practical purposes don’t apply. It could be anything from a Biker party to a Rainbow gathering.

What do they have in common, and what does that have to do with doomers, preppers and other freedom lovers?

Plenty.

A common complaint among freedom lovers is that there is no one place where they can experience the freedom they desire. Various attempts have been made, with mixed results. The United States itself is one such attempt. In more recent times, we have the Free State Movement. Let’s be kind and call them works in progress. I’ll argue that the US freedom project has done a lot of backsliding of late.

While having a fixed geographical area for freedom loving people may be desirable, it’s at best a long range goal. In the short term we can model ourselves on Gypsies. They are in larger societies, but only marginally connected to them. They have their own languages, laws, and traditions. Their goals are different than the larger societies goals. Lip service is given to the dominant culture, but only as much as is necessary to survive.

We outsiders should think more like Gypsies. We are in a larger culture, but not really invested in it. Doesn’t it feel like we are no longer talking the same language as the people in our consumer culture? We are impressed by things like deep pantries, good gardens, alternative energy, and a home shooting range. Skills are even more important than stuff.

Accept that you aren’t going to change the dominate culture and concentrate on building your own Gypsy tribe. We have much in common with each other and it might benefit us to act like a people apart.

Problem is, we aren’t very thick on the ground. We are scattered. That’s where the TAZ could come in. Gatherings of like minded people could stake out temporary zones of freedom. Before the powers that be can get their act together, we’d disperse once more. However, for a few hours or days, we’d live by our rules alone. It’d be darn good practice to see how well those ideas and practices would work in the real world -if only for a short while.

The Rainbow People have done it for years. There’s no official leaders. When they take over a National Forest, they overwhelm local law enforcement. They live by their own code for a few days. You don’t have to like them to learn from them.

The dominate cultures have aways hated Gypsies and other independent groups. They’ve been persecuted for years, yet they are still among us. Perhaps they have a thing or two to teach us?

-Sixbears

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The balance of physical and mental

After sitting around inside for a couple days, I finally got restless enough to do an outside project. In spite of the rain and mosquitoes, a bandaged thumb and a broken toe, I did some work on the boat trailer. Never dropped a wrench on my bad toe, and only had to replace the thumb bandage once. It felt good to do something physical.

Between injuries and bad weather, most of my efforts lately have been mental instead of physical -too much of one thing. Doing something physical did wonders for my mental state. Working on the trailer was mental too: measuring, adapting materials, and troubleshooting, but it was mental work in the physical realm. At the end of the day, there’s new stuff to look at. It’s different than trouble shooting a computer problem. At the end of the day, it’s still just a computer.

I did that too. Figured how to get Skype to work in Ubuntu on my netbook. After doing some physical outside work, the inside mental work goes better.

It’s about balance. Learn to play chess, but also study martial arts. Don’t live just in the head or just in the body.

-Sixbears

Monday, June 13, 2011

Time for the soul

Most of us at some point in our lives have worked at maximum capacity. We’ve put in some long days, maybe for weeks at a time. We’ve gone without enough sleep and no down time. Once in a while, it doesn’t hurt to push ourselves a bit.

It’s important to remember that can’t go on forever. People are adaptable, but we aren’t machines. Constant striving takes its toll. It might be a gradual wearing down, or it could be a massive heart attack. Even car engines can’t run full speed all the time without breaking. If your only days off are due to sick days, there’s something wrong in your life.

Americans don’t take vacations; not like their European counterparts. Have we all been brainwashed? Are we afraid we don’t know what to do with free time? Perhaps if we had a couple months off from our regular lives, we wouldn’t want to go back?

For a number of years, my lovely wife worked in a hospital located in a vacation destination town. Most of their patients were on holiday. The hospital workers would often remark that it was like when a person went on vacation, they finally had the time to be sick. Maybe they were sick all along and were too busy working to notice. As soon as their engines shut down, they fell apart.

Perhaps part of their illness was spiritual. If we are spiritual at all, it’s scheduled for the sabbath, between 10 and 11 AM.. There’s no time to sit among the trees and gaze out over the water. People really need to quiet the outside world to hear themselves think. We also have to go beyond thinking and just be. Experience the universe. I’m not saying that religion doesn’t have its place, but don’t let it be your whole spiritual life. God and the universe are unscripted.

Our lives need unscheduled down time. If we have to live with less material goods to do so, then we have to simplify our lives. It’d be a darn shame to be on our death beds and realize we never cultivated our soul, the only thing we’ll take with us.

-Sixbears

Sunday, June 12, 2011

When thugs and criminals meet

The Bilderbergers just had their little meeting. Now I’m not one of those people who think they rule the world with a master plan: no sparrow drops from the sky without them knowing about it or actually behind it. They aren’t that good.

They might wish they are. Some may even believe they are the puppet masters they are accused of being. I really don’t think they are that powerful.

That being said, when any group of rich and influential people get together, it’s not a good thing for the average Joe. They can screw up his life: make his savings go away, mess up his medical care, rob his pension, and send him and his kids to war.

Even if they were only up to doing what they thought was proper and good, they have no right to do it without our consent and in secret. Our rulers treat us like children. Daddy knows best.

How dare they?

We aren’t kids here. We have the ability and god given right to choose our own fate. They are worse than street thugs. The petty criminal only wants your money. The criminals in three piece suits want your money, but also your heart and soul. They can’t stand a free man.

They can’t rule over me. I’m slowly dropping further and further out of the system. The machine is losing its hold over me. Money doesn’t motivate me. Status doesn’t motivate me. Authority doesn’t impress me.

What if they had a war and nobody came? It’s a valid question.

What if they wanted you to work until you were 80, but you decided your’d rather chuck it all and live on the beach with a tent and a bicycle? Who believes the system will be there for you? Their carrots aren’t working. What will working for the man give you except an early death?

They still have their sticks, but they are not what they used to be. There never were enough police in the world to control everything. Social conventions and civil society did the heavy lifting. When those no longer hold, the cops can’t do it. Besides, the cops are being treated like crap too. Most cops are just working stiffs trying to hold onto some semblance of middle class life. They are getting laid off and losing their pensions too.

The army? Most of those guys aren’t even middle class anymore. As empires fall apart, armies suffer too. Read up on conditions in the Russian military after the USSR fell. They couldn’t even feed the troops. Desertions were common.

So the elite only really rule because regular sane people have better and more interesting things to do. Our attention is elsewhere. They meet in secret because they fear regular people. What does that say about them?

In short, they probably are up to no good, but if we all just ignore them, they’ll go away.

-Sixbears

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Computer for a doomer

Technology marches onward. It's been a long time since I've bought a new computer. My new machine is a low priced netbook. By today's standards, it's not very powerful. However, it's got 20 times the memory as my old computer, has a faster processor, and has features undreamed of ten years ago.

It is a physically smaller machine. That's actually a bonus as it'll be my travel computer. It lacks a DVD drive which the older computer had. In fact, the old computer has a 3.5 inch floppy drive. When's the last time computers came with those?

The DVD player was nice, but now that it's possible to stream movies directly on the computer with a fast Internet connection, they are not missed.

Today was an R & R day, so it was a good day to configure the new computer the way I want. Tossed out some crap programs that came with the computer. Added a couple word-processor programs and a better browser.

The big thing I did was install Ubuntu in a dual boot configuration with Windows. I've really come to love the speed, power, and control that a Linux operating system provides. There's also the vast selection of free programs. All the same, it is nice to keep Microsoft for the handful of things I can't do through Ubuntu.

Because I'm a bit of a doomer, I've got to ask myself if it makes sense to invest in another piece of high tech equipment. It relies on the grid, Internet system, and minimal governmental interference. Governments in trouble try to control or even turn off the Internet. An EMP could fry all electronics. My little laptop could be rendered useless a whole variety of ways outside of my control. Is it worth buying such a toy when the old computer still works?

Who cares? It's cheap enough. It's not like my last dime is invested here. That's the beauty of it. Would I invest in a high end computer system? Only if it could pay for itself in short order. If a person is an engineer doing CAD designs, sure, it makes sense. It's a tool of the trade. For someone such as myself who only really needs a word-processing program and Internet connection, low end computers are more than good enough. I haven't learned to type faster in the last ten years.



-Sixbears

Friday, June 10, 2011

Back to the woods

Sixbears is back in his woods. I can feel the tension easing away.

Today will be a slow recovery day. My lovely wife is supposed to take it easy for a few days. I'm in healing mode myself. I missed a step off my daughter's deck in the dark and landed hard. The thumb on my right hand is bandaged up. Tore the skin off the end. Very annoying, to say the least. Pretty sure I also broke a toe on my left foot. There's not much the hospital can do for a bad toe except to limit its motion. I can do that myself without paying for an emergency room visit.

It's a good day for setting up my new netbook computer. It always takes time to get a new computer running the way I want it too. The first priority is to set up virus protection. I prefer AVG to anything that comes standard on a new machine. The free version does everything needed. The Explorer browser is the number one browser for downloading a better browser. On my old machine I'm using both Firefox and Opera.

The big change I'm making is to the operating system. I much prefer Ubuntu Linux for 99% of what I do. Currently downloading the most recent version of that. If it wasn't for being unable to run Netflix, I'd just wipe out the Microsoft operating system. As it is, the computer will be set up to boot in either operating system.

I'm not a real hardcore computer geek, but a computer is a tool. Like many tools, customizing it for my personal needs makes work that much easier.

Off to make the coffee. It's aways a better day with a good cup of coffee.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good news from Boston

My wife her procedure done in the Boston hospital today. Good news. No sign of cardiac problems. Big relief. They were able to release her the same day.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Back to Boston

Just a heads up for my loyal readers. The lovely wife and I are currently in MA. Heading to Boston early in the morning. My wife is having some tests done. It's nothing critical. We are getting ahead of any potential medical problems she might have.

We'll be in MA and southern NH for a few days. I'm using borrowed computers to stay connected.

One of the things we are doing this trip is picking up a new netbook computer. My old laptop is getting fragile enough that I don't dare take it anywhere. Components have been known to fall out of it. The netbook will enable decent travel communications once more.

If I miss a post or two, it'll be due to our travel schedule.

-Sixbears

Well issues

The thing about plans is that they always take longer and/or cost more. I had this great idea to tap in to the old well next to the house using a hand pump. I set up the hand pump temporarily on the deck. Thought I'd give it a good workout this summer before connecting it inside the house.

Now a couple years ago I had to plug the old cut off water line as it was leaking water into the basement. It occurred to me it'd make a good backup water source. Once I hooked up a hand pump to it, no water at all came out of it.

I think I'm going to hook up a gear pump right in the basement. That'll bypass all the new line I put in. Of course, it's not really new line. It was gathering dust in a friend's pole barn and I could have it for free. If there's a hole in it somewhere I'd be unable to get water. By testing right at the basement line, I'll know where the problem is.

If it isn't the new line, then it's a matter of grabbing a shovel and following the buried water line back to the old well, perhaps digging up the well itself. Before I do that, I'm going to to think real hard on how badly I want a second water source.

It was all going to be so easy. Just to make it interesting, while working on my deck, my foot went through a decking board. Last summer I'd changed most of them. Should have changed one more than I did.

Typical house project. Start with a simple plumbing connection, end up buying decking boards at the lumber yard.

Keeps me from getting bored.

-Sixbears

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pain is a great teacher

The painful lessons are the ones that really stick with you. Pain is a harsh teacher, one would think that the lessons would rarely have to be repeated.

Little kids learn pretty quick about hot, sharp, cold, wet, prickly, loud, and all the tough lessons of being a new person in the big wide world.

As an adult, you experiences other pains: disappointment, disillusionment, dissatisfaction, dysfunction, and all the other delusions of our dystopia. That's painful, but just like little kids we can learn from our adult pains.

Or not.

Somehow we are supposed to keep doing the things that cause us pain. There's a whole tool kit of things to make the pain bearable: prescription drugs, alcohol, illegal drugs, and excesses of every kind. We live painful lives and instead of changing what gives us pain, we medicate it away or try to distract ourselves with various amusements. The flash and sparkle are to pull our attention away from the arrow in our hearts.

The darkest medicine is swallowing the pill known as societal approval. Oh how the masses have suffered because everyone does it. We are a society of people walking barefoot on broken glass because we are the society that walks on broken glass. Too many of us work jobs they hate to maintain lifestyles they despise, for the approval of people they don't much like.

Some have broken free. They are no longer in pain. Society hates them and persecutes them. They've shown it's possible to break free, and that's why people hate them. The worse prison is the one you hold the key to yet are too timid to unlock. The irony is the fear that change and freedom would be painful.

Is it crazy to want the pain to go away? Is it crazy to want to be well, instead of just medicated? If it is, then I'm perfectly comfortable with crazy. It doesn't hardly hurt at all.

-Sixbears

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Not ready for prime time

The politicians are sniffing around New Hampshire, looking for those Primary votes. I must admit to not being too impressed with this year's crop. There's a bunch of retreads, trying to appear brand new.

Mitt? Get rid of the denim. We watched you for years when you ran Mass.. You are a high end suit sort of guy. Who do you think you are fooling?

Newt? Isn't that some kind of slimy belly crawler?

Sarah? Paul Revere was all about the lanterns. Not about bells and and shooting guns. If you are going to wrap yourself in the flag, please get the history right.

Donald? Please run so I can ignore you.

Now there's a mob of others running, but they seem pretty B list to me.

So I'm just one guy. Think you bozos can safely ignore me? New Hampshire is so small that a handful of voters can make a difference.

Fun fact about the New Hampshire voters. Most of us are Independent, but we can vote in the Primary by declaring a party right at the polls, just before voting. Then to add insult to injury, right after voting, we can declare ourselves Independent again. Since there's not much happening in the Democratic Primary, the vast majority of us are going to vote in the Republican primary. Darn few of us are party faithful. You'll have to win us over one by one.

Now I know no politician will solve our problems. Certainly not when they are bought and paid for by corporations. Love him or hate him, Obama is personally about as different from Bush as you could get. Yet nothing major changes. That tells me they aren't really in charge. It's all theater.

What do I want from a President? I don't expect them to solve my problems. I would like it if they'd not make the problems much worse. I'd love it if they'd stop putting road bocks in my way as I solve my own darn problems.

-Sixbears

Saturday, June 4, 2011

He said what?

My wife and I launched the sailboat in our little lake. There's a good sized parking lot above the boat ramp. We set up the mast and rigging in the parking lot, then I backed it down to the boat ramp. One of the fishermen at the boat ramp was all impressed. He didn't know the mast came down. He thought I drove it all the way from town with the mast up. Duh.

Now I realize there aren't a lot of sailboats around here, but my 4 year old grandkids could have figured it out.

-Sixbears

Friday, June 3, 2011

Not worth the glue

I hate to throw anything out. For the most part, if it can be repaired, I'll repair it. That's what happened in the past, anyway. Recently I've come to the conclusion that some things aren't worth the cost of the materials needed to repair them.

I've a pair of Wally World sandals, about 4 months old and they are falling apart. At one time I'd just break out some good glue and repair them. Not this time. Quality glues have really shot up in price. Instead of wasting the glue on cheap sandals, maybe extending the life a month or two, I used the glue on the sailboat. Unlike the sandals, the boat should last years, so it's worth using the good glue on it.

What about sandals? My next pair I'll make myself out of old tires. Those will probably cost next to nothing and last forever.

-Sixbears

You can never go home again

There's some truth to the old saying. Leave home for even a few months and it's a different place when you get back. It might look the same, have the same buildings and such, but it's changed while you were away.

My wife and I weren't gone all that long, less than three months. We kept in touch by phone and e-mail. Even so, we've had some surprises since we've gotten back. Couples have spit up. Other have married. People have moved away. Some have died. Plenty of things happen when attention is elsewhere. It takes time to catch up and get back in the rhythm of things.

Grandkids change fastest of all. They are one of the main reasons we aren't full time live aboard sailboat cruisers. Some cruisers try and compensate by flying home every few months. That's not for me. I couldn't afford to do it. Also, the TSA can't physically insult me if I never fly again. I put my foot down. It's a line I won't cross lightly.

Even those who fly back all the time don't have a good solution. They get to see friends and family, but as visitors, not regular parts of their lives. On the other end, they aren't exactly full time cruisers either. They have their feet in two different worlds, not quite rooted in either. One thing I noticed while traveling. After about 3 months or so, you put out a different vibe. You are a gypsy. Fellow wanderers recognize you as one of them.

There are benefits for having that gypsy vibe. People share information that they wouldn't tell short timers: cheap but good campgrounds, where the locals eat, which towns harass transients, which places are cool, a good hotel with relaxed rules about dogs. You might get a line on part time work. Someone will invite you over for drinks, because after all, you are all part of the wandering tribe. The jet setters never quite develop the full gypsy aura.

The long time traveler doesn't even have a home to go back to. Home is the journey. They recognize more than most the impermanence of things. The best spot in the world can turn into the worse, just by a different batch of people moving in.

You never can home again. Even if you do and by some miracle everything is nearly the same, you are different.

-Sixbears

Thursday, June 2, 2011

For what it's worth

Wednesday, the stock market took a 280 point tumble. No idea what Thursday is going to bring. If I did, I'd most likely have some money in that game. In the long run, it's all going down the drain, but in the long run we are all dead anyway. Timing is everything.

Now the market could fall into the basement. On the other hand, inflating currency could raise up the numbers, but the money won't be worth anything. I'm not in the market, and I'm not qualified to give advice about it . . . as if anyone is.

While the market itself doesn't affect me directly, if it collapses, everyone is affected. There would certainly be a time of chaos and panic. Interesting times. Few of us really want to live in interesting times. Oh, it might be fun to contemplate, but when things don't get back to normal in a few weeks, and chaos becomes normal, it's no place to raise the kids.

I just finished listening to Michael Ruppert's "The Lifeboat Hour" on the Progressive Radio network. He still sticks to statement that the financial situation will definitely unravel during the month of July. His reasoning is that corporate reports will have to show the economic disruptions caused by Japan's problems. Personally, I've first hand reports about the difficulty getting certain parts from Japan. There might be something to Ruppert's warning.

In the very short term, I'm more concerned with my local weather. In the North Country of NH, we've had 3 hailstorms in as many days. We used to go years without a hailstorm. My lovely wife has seedlings ready to go in the garden, but we don't dare put them out. Golf ball sized hail and tender plants don't mix well. We've flooding and bridges have been washed out. Now I know weather isn't climate, but conditions weren't like this when I was a little kid. Bad weather around the world has made agriculture a tricky business.

Agriculture has gone the way of industry. Everything uses the "Just in Time" model. It's terribly efficient when production matches consumption exactly. No money tied up in granaries and warehouses. Unfortunately, an efficient system is a fragile system. When Japan is unable to supply parts and equipment, assembly lines around the world shut down. When the crops don't come in, someone's going to go hungry.

For years there have been warnings about the dangers of our world wide economic system. Of course, those warnings fell on deaf ears. The system has had enough slack to absorb a few shocks. Can it survive the big ones facing it now? There is reason for concern.

Could we be facing the end of the world as know it? Let's just say it's not a 0% chance nor a 100% certainty. What harm in some preparations? A 30 day family supply of food and water would put you ahead of 99% of the people out there. Even if there are only temporary disruptions, do you want to be one of those disrupted?


-Sixbears

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Treat for the lovely wife

Today my wife got a special treat. We went to the hardware store. Most women don't get excited about hardware, but that's one of the reasons I didn't marry any of them.

We were on a mission to find some hardware for the boat. Why didn't we go to a marine supply store? Two major reasons. The big reason is that anything you get just about anywhere else will most likely cost less. The second reason is that the closest marine supply is over 100 miles away.

To complicate matters, we were inventing. Hardware stores are great places to invent things. We love looking for items to be used in ways the manufacturer never intended. Our problem was that occasionally the swing keel on the sailboat would get stuck in the up position. The only sure way to get it down was to get in the water and give a gentle tug. There had to be a better way.

At the hardware store my wife discovered some nice brass plumbing fittings that worked out just fine. I drilled a hole in the top of the channel that the keel swings into. A threaded fitting was screwed and glued into the hole. A nice gasketed brass cap screws on top. Now when the keel gets stuck, it's just a matter of unscrewing the cap and running a rod down the hole -and yes, I did make sure it was all above the water line.

Of course, while we were at the hardware store, my wife just had to look around at everything else in the store. I got away fairly cheaply. The only additonal thing she purchased was a new doorknob for our entrance door.

Now if my wife is really good, I'll take her to the building supply store. Those are down right dangerous to the budget. Had we gone there, I might have found myself replacing the whole front door.

Still, it beats the heck out of those poor guys who get dragged to the mall. You've seen those sorry looking men, holding their woman's packages and purse as the little lady tries on yet another dress. I'd rather hang out at the hardware store any day.

-Sixbears