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Monday, July 24, 2017

Another charge controller failure



Last year I set up a small solar electric system for the shed at my beach. It was pretty simple: a 50 watt panel, charge controller, 12V deep discharge battery, and a 400 watt inverter. It was big enough to run lights, a radio, and could charge electronic devices like cell phones. It worked fine all summer and fall.

Sometime during the winter, the system failed. Due to my injured leg I haven't been making the trip to the beach much. Finally I felt good enough to haul some tools to the shed. It didn't take me too long to isolate the problem to the charge controller.

This was the second charge controller failure of the winter.

The one I had on my boat died, but that was no fault of the device. The fact that it spent the winter in solid block of ice was all on me. The failure of the one in the shed was a real mystery. It was on a high dry shelf all winter. Maybe the low winter temperatures were a factor, but that's the only thing I can think of that might have been an issue.

Before replacing it, I went on Amazon and gave the failed charger a two star review. Amazon asks you soon after you bought something what you think of it. Rarely do I give out reviews right away. I'd have given the charger a five star review then. It only avoided a one star because it worked for a few months and cold may have been a factor.

Since I'd already used my backup controller on the boat, a replacement had to be ordered. In a real grid down situation, there would be no replacement on its way from Amazon.

By the way, we just missed a major kill shot from the sun. A huge X flare shot out, but fortunately it headed toward Mars rather than Earth. It would have been strong enough to take down power grids and satellites.

-Sixbears

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The summer crowd



Went to a great summer party Friday night. The weather finally gave us a break and we were not rained out for once. Perfect weather, good food, excellent people -what's not to love?

One of the nice things is meeting new and interesting people. One young woman moved up to this area for the easy access to hiking trails. The AT, the Appalachian Trail that goes from Georgia to Maine, is nearby. Besides the AT, there are a multitude of other stunning hiking destinations.

One of my daughters rents out a house on Airbnb. This time of the year most of her bookings are from hikers. After a long day hike it's nice to be able to have a warm shower and a place to put your feet up. They've access to a full kitchen, grill, and nearby restaurants. Beats the heck out of eating cold beef jerky in a damp tent.

Growing up the area used to be known by its stinky mill town. The mill is long gone, with about half the population. The jobs were dirty, but the pay was good. Of those who remain, many make their living off of those who come to enjoy the outdoors. Our one big remaining asset is our closeness to nature.

I think the population has pretty much bottomed out and is on the upswing. When the mills closed and people moved away, housing prices dropped a lot. For some people that's been an opportunity to buy a house in a beautiful area. The catch is that they've got to be able to make some sort of income. Many expenses are lower, but you still need money coming in. Some have found work in the growing tourist industry; others are self-employed. Many are digital nomads who could work anywhere there's a decent Internet connection.

There's nothing like a good summer get together around a fire to get to know people. Well, that and social media. It's a lot easier to find people with similar interests than it used to be.

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Careful who you fire



Trump is known for the catchphrase, you're fired! He turned firing people into an art form.

Of course, now that he's President, he doesn't have to always actually fire someone. They are often given the opportunity to fall on their swords. Sean Spicer just took his turn at political seppuku, so he's gone. With Spicer out, Melissa McCarthy will have to find something else to do on SNL. So it goes.

Rumors are circulating that Bannon may be the next to fall. However, things happen so fast in the Trump administration that it's hard to stay ahead of events. He could be gone by the time this posts. The turnover might seem a bit excessive compared to other administrations. However, as an outsider having never held political office before, some personnel churn is to be expected.

It's well within Trump's rights to fire people he feels are no longer a good fit. There are rumors that he's thinking of firing special counsel Mueller. That would be a mistake. It would look too much like when Richard Nixon fired independent special prosecutor Archebald Cox. That led to a series of resignations called the Saturday Night Massacre. Two weeks later Nixon resigned in disgrace.

It would be wise for Trump to avoid looking like Nixon at his worse moment. Trump claims there is nothing for the special counsel to discover, so he should just let the investigation run its course. If there are a few embarrassing facts brought to light, it would be better to endure them and move on.

On the other hand, if there really is something serious going on behind the scenes, the American people have a right to know.

-Sixbears

Friday, July 21, 2017

Alternative Medicine



The doctors have done what they could for my leg and foot. The infection is long gone, but my leg still swells up as the day goes on. I have to stop and elevate my foot above my heart until the swelling decreases. No idea how long it will be until that's under control.

Not being satisfied to just wait, I've employed the services of a licensed acupuncturist. My first treatment went well. I'm scheduled a second one for next week. Will it help? I hope so, but it can't hurt.

When my lungs were badly injured by smoke inhalation, the doctors mess around with me for months. Finally they basically threw their hands in the air and wrote me off. After that I had two years of intensive training with a martial arts master. He taught me exercises to strengthen my lungs and taught me how to breath again. Only then did I really start to get better.

I'm not against regular western medicine. For example, it's hard to argue with the effectiveness of modern antibiotics. However, once western medicine reaches the end of the line, I'm willing to try alternatives.

Even when using “normal” medicine, I tend to go with the least invasive practices. When I had a bad back injury I was told I had two alternatives. They could operate and I'd probably feel better in three weeks, but there would probably be more surgeries in my future. The other option was six months of intensive and painful physical therapy. The therapist did not sugar coat how painful it would be.

I took the physical therapy route. It was painful. My therapist would say: does that hurt? I'd say yes. He'd say: good, and then he'd smile. He acquired the nickname, the Prince of Pain. The guy seemed to like that. As painful as the therapy was, he did not lie. My back has been 100% ever since.

At least acupuncture isn't painful, so that's good.

It's all covered under my normal health plan: pay for everything myself out of pocket. One advantage is that I don't have to argue with insurance companies.

-Sixbears

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Repeal and replace or fix?



So after 7 years of grandstanding the Republicans could not get their act together on a replacement for Obama Care.

Now that bit of political theater is over, maybe they can get down to governing? Well, they've got a few choices. They can ignore the whole thing and wait for it to fail. I'm sure everyone from the insured, to the uninsured to the insurance companies won't be very happy with that option. Make no mistake, the Republicans own health care now. With the control of all three branches of government, they have no excuse.

To be fair, the Republicans have some deep divisions among themselves. It does not look like that is going to change anytime soon.

So what's left to do? The adult thing is for everyone to set aside the winner-take-all mentality. Republicans and Democrats should make compromises and work together for the good of the nation. That's what a mature republic would do.

It's not like there are no models out there in the world. Countries like Canada and France are looked to because they provide universal healthcare at about half the cost Americans pay. We could look to Singapore. Their insurance costs a quarter of what Americans pay. Small health problems are paid out of pocket. Major issues are almost fully covered. If you are too poor to cover even small issues, the government puts money in a fund for you.

If the goal is to provide good health care for all Americans at a reasonable price, there are a number of ways to get there. That does not appear to be the Republican goal. Judging from their actions it's all about undoing anything Obama did and giving tax breaks to the wealthy. I would like to think they are better than that.

There are a few who have strong ideological objections to any government role in healthcare. That's not reasonable as government is heavily involved, like it or not. Even those who claim to be totally against government involvement have not come out against huge government payments and tax breaks for pharmaceutical companies. Must be just a coincidence those companies are heavy political donors.

If the Republicans don't get their act together and come up with something the whole country can live with, there will be repercussions. In less than four years the Democrats could be in charge again and they'll ram something in.

Now is a unique opportunity for politicians to grow up and do their job. Set aside ideology and focus on practicality.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Gunfire and Strangers



I wish I knew where I first came across this observation so I could give credit where it's due.

Here's the difference between the country and the city.

In the country nobody gets excited about the sound of gunfire, but if you see a stranger you want to know what's going on.

In the city thousands of strangers pass by every day and no one is concerned. However, the sound of gunfire gets people's attention.

That is so true. I hear gunfire all the time. I'm far enough out in the country that people have rifle ranges in their backyards. It's normal. Most of us in the country even have a fair idea what caliber people are shooting. Yesterday, it was someone shooting a .22 rifle. The shots were fairly evenly spaced so he was doing some target shooting. In the fall it's the sound of shotguns for bird and rabbit hunters or the large caliber rifle fire of deer, moose, and bear hunters.

One November we were visiting my sister-in-law in Manhattan. Back home I'd been waking up to the sound of deer rifles in the morning. At first the sound of gunfire did not concern me too much when it woke me from my sleep. I was puzzled a bit because it sounded like a .45 semiautomatic handgun instead of a deer rifle. Then I fully woke up and realized that no one was deer hunting in Manhattan.

At that point I became more than a little concerned. I understood why city people freak at the sound of gunfire; someone is getting shot. That's a big difference from target shooting or hunting. While everyone around here has guns, we don't go around shooting at each other. That's just nuts.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Have you checked your first aid kit?



You've got a first aid kit, right? Good for you. Have you checked it lately?

You're first surprise may be that it's not where you thought it was. Things get moved. The person moving it may have not told the rest of the household the new location. It's possible that nobody knows where the kit is now located, including the person who moved it.

Is is fully stocked? Over time, even small withdrawals can deplete your kit. The next thing you know you are out of large band aids and the triple antibiotic is gone. When you are cut and bleeding is not the time to make that discovery.

Have your medications expired? Many medications are still good after their expiration date, but why take a chance? Check the dates and change them. I like to cycle out the meds from the van to the house where they'll get used and restock fresh in the van.

Maybe your medication needs have changed? For example, if you find someone in your household has developed a need for an epipen, keep at least one in your kit. I keep a whole separate c-pap kit in case something happens to mine.

Is your med kit up for the job? Those all-in-one kits you can get at the store are better than nothing. You would probably benefit from a kit put together especially for your needs. I use a plastic fishing tackle box. There's plenty of room for all kinds of goodies. They are also easy to arrange so that everything is easy to get to. You don't want to be struggling with an unfamiliar kit in an emergency. Seconds count.

So, just a heads up about something that's easy to forget about.

-Sixbears

Monday, July 17, 2017

Successful People



It's a fact that most successful people underestimate the roles luck, opportunity and connections make in their success. They overestimate the role of their skills and talents.

With that in mind I'm not a big fan of biographies as guides to success. If George W. Bush had been born into a family of bricklayers, does anything think he would have risen to be President of the United States?

When I first went to college it took me only one semester to realize that there would not be a good job for me in my chosen field. Most of my classmates had those good jobs locked up already. They had connections. All they had to do was to pass the course. If I'd been top of my class I might have gotten a job. My odds of advancing very far in a business dominated by family members were not good. I did not stay for a second semester.

There are plenty of tales of people who start from humble beginnings and beat the odds. However, there may be hundreds of people who did almost exactly what they did and failed miserably. For example, take two musicians of equal talent. One happens to have “the look” the record company is searching for that year and gets a contract. The second one, just as talented, spends his career playing for tips and drinks.

They say don't be afraid of failure. Those who say it often aren't going to miss any meals. When you are living on the edge, the risk of failure is huge. One false move and the rent doesn't get paid and the kids go hungry. Heck, now people aren't taking risks just because they can't afford to lose health insurance. That hurts upward mobility as much as anything.

There was a book by Marsha Sinetar, Do What you Love, the Money will Follow. What a lot of crap that turned out to be. I've been doing what I love for years. My “love” pays less than burger flipping.

One the plus side, I'm doing what I love, so that's got to be some measure of success.

-Sixbears

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Are you gonna live forever?



Financial advisers drive me nuts. They know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

I was just reading a post on a sailing forum. The guy is 59 and seriously looking at retirement at 62. He definitely does not want to work longer. He wants to live on a boat. The guy makes that clear from the beginning.

The financial advisers on the forum all want the guy to work longer. Now the advice of maybe getting a smaller, simpler, and easier to maintain boat makes sense. Telling a guy he can't live his dream until he's ancient does not. How often have we heard the tales of people who work hard their entire life and then die right after they retire?

There was one retired man who started a sailing blog. He looked in great shape. His dream was to sail his own boat down to Key West. The guy traveled down the east coast. He and his beautiful wife then crossed the state on the canal. He got as far as Ft. Myers, where he suddenly had a massive heart attack and died. His wife made the last post on the blog. Dang.

It's those tales that push me to follow my dreams. You never know your allotted days. Sure, financial advisers can figure out the average life spans, but they can't predict what an individual life will look like. The guy who wants to go sailing also made it clear that his family is not, in general, particularly long lived.

So what are the options? You could keep working and die with money in the bank. Then again, hospitals and retirement homes would probably get it all anyway. Let's say the guy goes sailing and runs through all his money. At the end of his life, when he can't sail anymore, he's reduced to living in poverty. So what? He kids don't get a nice inheritance. That's their problem. At least the old guy has some great stories to tell.

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cool and Wet



We don't always have rain showers. Sometimes we have thunderstorms. It's been a cool and wet spring and summer. The only exception was the first week of July. As it turned out, that's the week my extended group of family and friends went camping. If we had to have just one dry and warm week this summer, that was the one.

I hope it's not the only one. I spent all last winter up here in the frozen north and found it bleak. Summer on the lake is what I live for. Between my leg injury and bad weather, I've hardly been down to the beach. That's just sad.

Before we know it the brief summer will be over. I'm hoping for a nice August, or at least a mild fall. I am cheered up by the thought that my lovely wife and I plan on heading south this winter. It's like giving summer a second chance. The current plan is to stay around for Thanksgiving and then head to Texas to see the in-laws. After that we'll eventually work our way to Florida.

I was talking to a friend who's got a place in Cape Coral Florida. He wants us to visit this winter. That would be great. He also has a good piece of land right near a boat ramp. It would be an excellent place to leave the van and boat trailer. I'm going to float the idea past him and see what he thinks. It's funny, we live in the same town in New Hampshire, but end up spending more time together when we are both in Florida.

-Sixbears

Friday, July 14, 2017

New Neighbors?



I see the place across the road from me has been listed with a real estate agent. The same agent placed little American flags with her business card attached all over my property. I didn't appreciate that as I'm not in the market to sell. I happened to be out of town for a few days those flags just sat out there in all kinds of weather. That's wrong on a couple of levels. It disrespected the flag and showed I wasn't home to pick them up.

At any rate, the neighbors stopped trying to sell the place themselves and listed it with a broker. The people who were living there bailed partway through the winter. The house has only a little of the new siding on and the new deck isn't finished. The land was also used as a gravel pit. The owner's father is building a new place down the road. He took at least 80 dump truck loads of gravel out of the property, by his own admission. That's a lot of material for a one acre property.

I'm told the interior improvements to the house were extensive, but I haven't seen it. The outside looks terrible. There is a little strip of land along the road that was left alone -really left alone. They had to hack the weeds back to be able to put a for sale sign where it would be visible.

In spite of the place's obvious downsides, there was someone who came to see it. I know because my dog, not used to people being there, went over and barked at them. Nothing like making a good impression on potential neighbors. My lovely wife was able to call the dog back home.

The real estate market in my area really took a nosedive during the 2008 crash. Apparently, the local market is heating up again. If even sketchy places like my neighbor's is getting traffic, there must be some demand. That's probably why the real estate agent made an effort to give me her real estate card. After all, my property is the one with water frontage.

I can't help but be curious to see how things will sort out with the place next door.

-Sixbears



Thursday, July 13, 2017

Back from Boston



What's the best thing that can be said about Boston? It's not New York? No offense to New Yorkers. Besides, you guys “know” you live in the best city in the world so my opinion doesn't mean anything. I'm just saying that Boston is a much smaller city so should be easier to get around in.

Emphasis on the should be. The only problem is that the streets were laid out by wandering cows way back in Colonial days. Logan airport is one of my least favorite places to go. Although, Tampa's airport is starting to be a close second.

At any rate, I had to drive into Logan to pick up my lovely wife at the airport. Good thing my oldest daughter was with me as a local guide. Her and her husband drive to the airport all the time. We made it in and out just fine, thanks to her.

Just to up the difficulty level, my lovely wife sprained her leg while she was visiting relatives in California. You know how United Airlines has a reputation for treating its customers badly? I'm glad she was flying on Delta instead. She was treated quite well.

We are finally back home. While I'm not fully recovered from my leg injury, I'm doing well enough to be able to take care of her. The injuries have to stop now, as we've run out of spouses to pick up he slack.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My two best collapse options



I was having a coffee with a buddy of mine the other day. He asked me where I'd rather be should collapse happen. He lives in a small apartment in the city so has plans for bugging out.

Since I live out in the country and have supplies and a good source of water, being at home is my first choice. That's a no brainer. What did surprise him was my second choice. That would be living on a well stocked sailboat.

That surprises some people and he was no exception. One thing that people don't realize is that the oceans are big, really big. One of the biggest challenges to sailing is actually being found out there if you need help. Once you disappear over the horizon, all bets are off.

There are sailors who's zombie apocalypse plan is sail offshore for a few weeks and see how things settle out. Even sailing just fifty miles off-shore puts you beyond the reach of most powerboats. There are fishing boats equipped for much longer distances, but the ocean is big.

The sailors would monitor their radios to see how things were going. Maybe if too much chaos existed back home, they'd sail to a different country.

Even small shallow draft sailboats can be pretty good options. It's surprising how many uninhabited islands exist in the United States. There are also marshes along the coast that cannot be gotten to by land, yet make handy hiding places for boats.

The United States Coast Guard can't stop all boat traffic. Smugglers get in all the time. Even Haitian refugees come in on small primitive sailboats.

Sailboats have some disadvantages, the first being their relatively slow speeds. Those big white sails are pretty visible for some distance too. Other factors depend on the boat. Is is complicated and need constant work to keep it seaworthy? Does it need to burn fuel to keep everything running?

Rugged simple sailboats, with solar power and rain catchment, can go a long time without support. There is also a long tradition of sailors helping each out. That is so basic to water folk that it will probably still hold for most people in a crisis.

Is the sailboat strategy guaranteed? Of course not, but it's a chance. Sometimes in life that's the best you can hope for.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

With a grain of salt



The Internet is a vast resource. There's an awful lot of information out there. The downside is that there are lot of people who claim to know things but are full of hot air.

It's one thing if their opinion is about something like a movie, where it doesn't really matter what people think. It's something else when it concerns serious things.

We've all run into armchair warriors. They know everything about how battles should be fought and how people should prepare for danger. Many of them have never had a shot fired at them in anger or even been punched on the nose as a school child. Trusting their “knowledge”could be deadly.

Recently I was trying to find some knowledge opinions about a boat I'm looking at. The boat was much larger than my Oday 19, yet people on a sailing forum wouldn't take such a boat out in four foot seas. That seemed weird to me. The boat in question had a reputation for being well built. My lovely wife and I have no problem sailing our 19 foot boat in four to six foot seas. Only when the seas get above eight feet does the ride get too uncomfortable for my liking.

The best that I could figure out is that the people on the forum were not actually rating the seaworthiness of the boat. They were confessing their comfort level. There's a big difference. I happen to enjoy a “lively” ride with a little spray flying around. Apparently they did not. It's actually quite hard to find out what the boat, rather than the sailor, can handle.

For just about every subject out there is someone saying how hard it is or how expensive. It can take a lot of digging to find out the real story. If I'd have listened to every naysayer I'd have never gotten anything done.

Don't be discouraged if at first you find people telling you something can't be done. If you find a large number of trusted sources have cautionary tales, that's a different story. Even then, your personal situation may be just different enough to tip something into the can-do category.

-Sixbears

Monday, July 10, 2017

Lifting Regulations



Getting rid of government regulations is popular. Should it be? What do we mean by regulations? If it's stupid regulations against having solar panels on your roof, chickens in your yard, or collecting rain water, I'm all for getting rid of those. Maybe that's the sort of thing that people think about when they hear about “excessive government regulations.”

Too often it's stuff like getting rid of regulations that are actually protections. Why should we be in favor of getting ride of regulations that provide us with clean air and water? Who benefits from that? The handful of rich factory owners who pollute do. They get rich, our kids get sick.

How about labor regulations? If you are a small businessman they can be tough to comply with. If you are a working Joe trying to make a living wage, your opinion may differ. Then again, it may not. I'm surprised at the number of workers who would really gain from forming a union yet are proud not to have one. Well good for you, it's much easier for your corporate owners to exploit you. Maybe you are one of the few who benefit from the current system because you are willing to stab your coworkers in the back?

Then there are the regulations that are near and dear to my heart: fire codes. Those codes were written in blood. For example, crash bars on exit doors were mandated because firefighters had to remove all the dead bodies piled up in front of doors that would not open. Most of the fire code is written because people died. I would not be so quick to throw them out.

Are regulations perfect? Heck no. That doesn't mean they should be thrown out willy nilly. Some solid research on why we have them would be in order first. Maybe what we need is better regulations, not none at all.

-Sixbears

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Storm warnings



The radio keeps cutting in with emergency broadcasts from the Weather Service. There are a lot of thunderstorm and flood warnings. Looks like the worse of the storms will be to the south of me. Good thing, as I've just had a new windshield installed in the van and hail could really mess that up.

I never used to pay too much attention to them, but storms appear more powerful in recent years. We are also getting actual real tornadoes. Growing up I was told we didn't get tornadoes in New England. I guess we did, but they were few and weak. Maine just had 5 tornadoes in a single day. Some of them did major damage to property. Fortunately nobody got hurt.

When I became a sailor I became a lot more aware of the weather. Wind direction, strength, and potential storms are critical to life on a sailboat. Wind direction alone can make sailing dangerous. For example, a north wind blowing against the Gulf Stream generates some nasty waves. Wind can blow the water out of Florida Bay, influencing water level more than the local tides.

Just south of me is Mt. Washington, home to the worse weather in the world. It can be shorts and T-shirt weather at the trailhead, but near winter conditions above tree line. People have died because they were not prepared for the harsh conditions.

I keep foul weather gear in my vehicles year round. You never know when the weather can turn nasty.

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Rethinking Crypto Currencies



In the past I wasn't much of a fan of crypto currencies like Bitcoin. They just didn't seem real to me. Actually, they still seem a bit sketchy to me. They don't appear to be a good investment. Sure, they've risen in value quite a bit over the years, but their volatility concerns me.

While they are nominally independent of government control, governments have indirect influence over them. The easiest thing for governments to do is to make them illegal. Then it would be pretty difficult to convert them into the coin of the realm. While you would still own them, you could not use them on the open market.

Then you have the weird situation where some governments have significant numbers of Bitcoins. China has some influence that way. In the United States the FBI acquired a large number of them from arrested drug dealers. They have enough to influence the markets if they wanted to.

In spite of those issues, there are times when it might be a good idea to have some Bitcoins. The main one, in my opinion, is the fact that they exist electronically. There is nothing for an inquisitive border guard to confiscate. Someone could leave their country with little physical money, yet have enough in a crypto currency account to start a new life in a new country. That's no small thing when you life is on the line.

In some places crypto currencies are very popular. Australia is concerned by the number of their citizens that are heavily invested in them. There are warnings that Australia is on the verge of a financial meltdown. Those in the know have taken precautions and parked some of their money where governments can't easily reach it.

As for myself, I'm not in the market. My “investments” are more along the lines of buying a twenty pound bag of rice.

-Sixbears

Friday, July 7, 2017

Week on the coast



I just got back from a week camping on the coast of Maine. At one time there were 23 family and friends camping at the same campground with us. Good times.

I'm pretty beat after the drive home. The rest of the unpacking can wait until tomorrow.

There was one weird thing that happened to me. There was a very large and angry wasp in the van. I was driving down twisty Maine roads with lots of traffic. That nasty bug was all over my windshield. In a panic I took at quick punch at it when it landed right in front of me. The wasp escaped the attack, but my knuckle connected with the windshield and broke it. There's about an 18 inch star pattern in the glass. What I can't figure out is how I was able to do so much damage and not injure my hand.

The funny thing is that the wasp flew out an open side window right after I did the damage.

Outside of the bug incident, it was a really great vacation. Now all I have to do is to connect with the guy at the local glass shop.

-Sixbears

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Astana and other weird places



I'd never even heard of Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. At least I've head of Kazakhstan. So apparently there's this amazing city full of futuristic architecture out in the middle of nowhere. Actually looks like it might be an interesting place to visit.

It's a big world. We like to think of places like New York, London, and Paris as the pinnacle of city living. While they are all great cities, the world is a big place full of interesting cities. We just got used to Dubai springing out of the desert from almost nothing. They aren't afraid to do bold things. Not only will they soon have a flying passenger drone company, they will have two competing companies. Yes, Dubai will be the first place with actual flying cars, the dream of futurists.

Asia is full of cities with millions of people that most westerners don't even know the names of. They aren't on the normal tourist trails. The world does not stand still. High technology and bold design can show up anywhere on the planet.

We like to think of our major cities as eternal, but they may eventually fade into insignificance. In the 12th century the largest city in the world was Merv. Ever hear of it? It wasn't in my History books when I was in school. The city was located in Central Asia on major trade routes. Now it's not even a memory for most people.

Cities rise and fall. Those on top can disappear in a relatively short period of time. Who knows what wonders the sands of time have buried? It's amazing how much the world can change in the short span of a single human life.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Tour of the Back country



GPS is such a handy thing, until it isn't. I've an old GPS car unit that hasn't been updated in over 11 years. A lot of new construction is not in its data base. While it's useful, I just don't trust it 100%. Heck, even if it was brand new I would not trust it 100%, but I'd trust it more than my old unit.

So my buddy and I are in separate vehicles going to a third friend's house. It's in rural Maine with a lot of small crisscrossing back roads that all look the same. We were also traveling at night, so that didn't help.

I came to a crossroads. My GPS unit said to go straight, but a right hand turn would have brought me to a town from where I knew how to get to my friend's house. It took me a few moments to decide what to do, but I decided to trust the GPS as it would probably shave a minute or two off the trip.

As soon as I went through the intersection the friend following me pulled me over. He was sure I was going the wrong way. My thought was that his GPS is much newer than mine so it's likely there is a new and better way. No problem.

So I'm following him and the route sorta makes sense. For the first 10 or 15 minutes or so his route seemed plausible to me. As time went on it slowly dawned on me that something was wrong. Finally he pulled over and said his GPS told him we were there, but we obviously were not.

As it turned out he had the right name of the street, but the wrong town. It's a really weird street name too. We went back to following mine and eventually made it to our destination. It took about 20 minutes longer than it should have.

Had I not hesitated at the intersection he never would have questioned my route. Had I newer GPS I would not have hesitated. It also didn't help that it had been a long day for both of us. Only later did we figure out that we didn't even have to take two vehicles. In fact, a couple days later we made the trip together in my van.

In the end we only lost 20 minutes, not the end of the world. I did get to see a great horned owl with a massive wingspan fly out over the road, so that was worth the trip for me.

I think I'm going to have to retire the old GPS. Maybe paper maps are the way to go. Or I could just bring my lovely wife. She's always willing to tell me where to go.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Solar or wood fired clothes dryer



The propane ran out for our dryer. It's not a big deal. We used to have several propane appliances, but the dryer is the only one left. We did away with the automatic propane service and the 500 lb tank. Now I use 20 lb tanks like you'd use on a grill. The dryer is used so little that I haven't gotten around to having the tank filled.

During the winter we hang the clothes near the woodstove. That works out pretty well. Wood heat tends to dry the air out, so the added humidity from the laundry is a good thing.

We also have a clothesline. Low tech, but does the job. In fact, sunshine is very good for sanitizing laundry. That's an added bonus. The only problem is that we've had a lot of rain recently. I keep a close eye on the forecast and satellite data. Often there is enough of a break between storms to use the clothesline. In a pinch, we can always resort to hanging it inside. Without the woodstove going, it takes longer to dry, but it does dry.

In a real pinch, I suppose I could run down to the village store and get the propane tank filled. We will make sure it's full and the dryer ready to go when we have company. It's especially handy when the grand kids come to visit as they have a unique ability to generate laundry.

The dryer is getting on in years. I've already torn it apart and replaced parts three times. Limiting its use stretches out its life. It's funny how we got it in the first place. One of my wife's friends stayed with us for a while. She was appalled that we didn't own a dryer. She could not imagine living with towels that had not been tumbled with fabric softener sheets. This is a woman who was living with us because she could not afford rent at the time. She talked her father into buying a dryer for us. Go figure.

As for my lovely wife and I, we are perfectly happy living without a dryer.

-Sixbears

Monday, July 3, 2017

Happy Independence Day!



I'm taking the day off and enjoying myself. Hope everyone has a good holiday and be careful. It's a holiday that traditionally combines alcohol and explosives, so what could go wrong?

-Sixbears

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Future Home?



My lovely wife and I were talking. If we didn't live where we live now, where would we live? While we didn't narrow it down to a specific place, we had some idea what we'd like.

We'd like a tiny house, a shack really. The catch is it would need to be on a waterway that connected to the ocean and have a really good dock. We wouldn't actually live in the shack. We'd live on a nice sailboat docked at the property.

The shack would be a good place to keep some of our stuff, park a car, and to keep a washing machine and dryer. Heck, a good garage would probably do the job.

Of course, it would have to be cheap, but that's not out of the question. There are places in the US that fit the bill. There are also places all over the Caribbean that would fit the bill just as well too. If we did end up on an island somewhere we'd probably want some sort of airport on the island too.

We may do anything like that, but we may. Unless you think of possibilities you'll end up doing nothing at all.

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Summer sailing trips?



My lovely wife suggested a sailing adventure on the Hudson River in New York. She grew up on that river so it would be a kind of going home for her. We will have to sit down with Active Captain http://activecaptain.com/ as a planning tool. Relying on her childhood memory won't cut it.

The Hudson is an interesting river. It's steeped in history so has a lot of fascinating things along its banks. The river is large and tidal many miles from the sea. It takes a fair amount of skill to sail it.

We are also tempted to go back to Lake Champlain, the “West Coast of New England.” It's another great place to get out on a boat. We went there in the early years of owning our Oday 19 and had a great time. There was too much to explore in the three days we were on the water. We could even sail into Canada from the lake so that would be an interesting thing to do.

Last year we'd planned trips on remote Maine wilderness lakes, but thunderstorms caused us to cancel at the last minute. Before we knew it, the New England sailing season was over.

We don't want the days to get away from us this summer. Of course, as I write, there is another summer storm keeping me inside. I hope we get enough decent days to get at least some of those adventures done.

-Sixbears