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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Kafkaesque



Sometimes I think I live in a world designed by Franz Kafka. I’m going to do something here that I hate when other people do it. I’m going to be very vague about something, like a teenager’s Facebook post that says something like, “Well you should all know how I feel and do something.” How the heck we should we know anything or do anything? We have no backstory.

In my defense what’s going on is still in play and I don’t want to leave too much of a trail.

Let’s just say that sometimes the price of free help is too high.

Let’s just say I managed to get even a government bureaucrat to acknowledge that something is absurd and silly. In the end I told her I was full up with silly and had to leave. So I did.

Sorry about that folks. Maybe I’ll feel free to give the background later. At any rate, I was pleased with today’s performance.

Thank goodness I don’t take life too seriously.

In other news we have a chance of a rain/snow mix today. April is going out with a bang. Even the long range forecast doesn’t have much to get too excited about. At least the rain has washed most of the old snow out of the yard. The lake is still ice covered.

My health continues to improve. The pounds are slowly coming off, and that’s good too. You know the secret to having a beach body? Put a bathing suit on and get your body to the beach. I am not a vain man. However, it is annoying when good Samaritans keep trying to roll me into ocean, thinking I’m beached.

Remember to have some fun today good people.

-Sixbears

Monday, April 29, 2019

Real ID



Does your driver’s license have a little star on it? Take it out and look at it. It would be on the top right corner. If you plan on getting on a jet and flying somewhere, you’ll either need that star or another form of accepted ID like a passport. Rules passed after the 911 terrorist attacks will fully come into effect next year.

In the state of New Hampshire, my state, having a real ID compliant license is optional. My license does not have a star on it. I could not use it to board a plane. Personally, I think that the Federal government's ID requirement is an intrusion on state’s rights. The requirement for having a compliant ID to fly is an end run around state prerogatives.

If I wanted to fly I’d have to make sure to have my passport with me. Passports are a Federal document so I suppose they have to accept that. Of course, more Americans have passports than ever before. That’s another side effect of the post 911 laws. I used to be able to get into Canada with a nod and a wave. Now I need a passport. A lot of people near the borders who got used to easy access now need passports.

Everyone expects to need a passport to cross International borders. Does anyone else find it weird that for some people it’s necessary for domestic travel? Anyone else bothered by that little star on a driver’s license? Am I the only one who is reminded of a yellow stars having to be visibly worn? Yeah, we are a long way from there, but not as far as we once were.

-Sixbears

Sunday, April 28, 2019

So this is spring



Saturday it was 35 and raining heavily. That’s not particularly great weather for doing much of anything outside. That wet cold seeps right into one’s bones.

There’s a lot of rain in the forecast and not a lot of warmth. The rivers have been high, either at flood stage, over it, or right on the edge of it. One effect that most people don’t think too much about is what this sort of weather does to trees. A lot of our trees are shallow rooted, species like spruce, fir, and hemlock. When the ground gets super saturated it doesn’t take much wind to topple a forest’s worth of trees.

Friday night my lovely wife and I were driving back home from the movies. The wind was strong enough to move our little car all over the road. Between the darkness, rain and wind we practically crawled home. It was a long long drive. There was the constant threat of high water, falling trees or just getting blown off the road.

The returning snowbirds are quite disappointed. My sympathy is . . . limited.

While it’s been cold, temperatures have generally stayed above freezing. Sometimes just barely above, but warm enough to melt snow. The ice on the lake has turned a darker color. All the rain has super saturated it. As the ice gets more rotten, a good strong wind could break it up. Sometimes the wind piles the ice up on the shore. There’s enough force to destroy docks and boat houses.

Right now there’s not much that can be done except hang in there. Vitamin D pills are an inadequate substitute for sunshine.

-Sixbears

Saturday, April 27, 2019

A Country of Storage Units



The country is full of storage units. We have so much stuff that we have to rent a place to keep the overflow. To be fair, there are valid reasons to rent a storage unit, but not as many reasons as people think.

One of the common reasons for renting a unit is that a person is downsizing. Maybe the kids have grow up and they’ve decided to move into an apartment or condo. People who decide to live in RVs or boats have the same downsizing dilemma.

First of all, people get way too attached to their stuff. They also overestimate the value of their things. It doesn’t matter how much was paid for that 1970s furniture. It doesn’t matter how much you loved it at the time. You kids will never want it. That’s a fact. Let it go.

People keep a lot of things for sentimental value. That’s fine, as far as it goes. However, you can’t expect other people to love the things that meant so much to you. I’ve seen a lot of clean outs where the kids have to deal with what their parents left behind. The vast majority of it ends up in the dumpster -right down to the family Bible.

My guess is that the vast majority of stuff sitting in storage units has very little intrinsic value. There are exceptions, but the good stuff should either be used, sold or given away. Storage units are a constant monthly drain on your finances. Eventually, the cost of the rental will exceed the value of everything inside it.

Storage units only make sense for short term use. For example, you might have sold your house but are unable to move in the new one yet. Perhaps you are downsizing and need temporary storage while you figure out what to sell, give away or junk. My thinking is the more valuable something is the quicker you should figure out what to do with it. I’ve seen people who had expensive things in storage but ended up forfeiting the unit for non-payment. They would have been much better off selling those items, even at fire sale prices.

People who run those places tend to be pretty mercenary. One of my daughters moved across country on fairly short notice. She took the important stuff with her, but a fair amount ended up in a storage unit for a month. It was dear old dad’s job to clean it out. I found homes for most of the stuff. However, there were two very nice sleeper sofas that nobody wanted. Those things weigh a ton and I wasn’t going to move them by myself. I decided to leave them behind.

Then the storage unit owner expected me to pay a disposal bill. That wasn’t going to happen. I knew he also owned a trailer park and those sofas would end up in a rental unit. He just thought he could get a little more money out of me. He didn’t know me very well.

-Sixbears

Friday, April 26, 2019

It’s fine



The snow’s melting but the lake is still ice covered. Flood warnings are happening on a regular basis. That hasn’t affected me all that much. One restaurant that we sometimes frequent has part of the parking lot underwater fairly often. A friend of mine has been unable to work as his employer built on a flood plain. Duh. What did they expect to have happen?

My leg and toe continue to improve. My health gets a little better every day. Right now the most annoying thing is a lingering cough. With my weak lungs that may hang on until the truly nice weather gets here.

The local micro climate has been a good eight to ten degrees cooler than what’s predicted. Days that are supposed to get into the mid fifties only reach the mid forties. My guess is that my local area is adversely affected by the giant chunk of frozen ice on the lake right next door. Prevailing winds have been blowing off the ice.

There have been some amazing deals on sailboats just under thirty feet. By today’s standards that’s not too big, but it’s a good size for us. There’s room to satisfy my lovely wife’s needs and wants, and it’s small enough to be easily single handed. Smaller boats are much cheaper all around, everything from spare parts to dockage.

Those deals tease me as I’m really trying get my medical bills sorted out first. Hopefully I’ll have a better idea what’s happening there in a couple weeks. That would be the responsible thing to do. Of course, there are times when I question myself for even trying to act like a mature adult. It’s a lot less fun.

So anyway, all in all, things are fine.

-Sixbears

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Bugging out of your country



Most of my readers are from the United States, but not all. I am curious. How many people have a bug plan to leave your country?

First some background. The only reason I’m around today is that my ancestors bailed out of their home countries. They were avoiding everything from extreme poverty to genocide. It’s pretty illuminating to see how often my ancestors were a step or two ahead of the four horsemen. The lesson was not lost on me.

Of course, the fact that any of us are alive today is a tribute to our ancestors wise planning or dumb luck -probably a healthy mix of the two.

I am curious to know what triggers would cause someone to leave. The United States is a huge country. Most people’s bug out plans probably don’t involve actually leaving the country. Usually it’s something like bugging out a crowded city to some place in the country. It might involve leaving one area to go somewhere with more relatives and friends that can be relied on.

I’d also like to include the idea of bugging out for a limited time. For example, maybe someone doesn’t like what’s going on but is not ready to give up completely. Perhaps they’d rather just spend the next few years sipping cocktails on a Roatan beach. The idea is that once things blow over it would be safe to go back home.

My lovely wife and I have a list of warning signs that we are watching out for. If enough of those red flags come up we would definitely pack up our rags and get the heck out of Dodge. No, I’m not going to list what those red flags are. They will be different for everyone. Currently sheltering in place makes a lot more sense. However, we do have a plan, worse comes to worse.

Having a bug out plan makes all the difference. You want to be first in line, not trying to escape when everyone else is. Back when I was a firefighter my lovely wife and I had a bug out plan for our town. The local industry was one of the heaviest users of chlorine gas in the country. Should something go wrong there was the potential of filling the valley with toxic gas. Sure enough, the facility had a major fire. It was my job to go to work to do my part to prevent the disaster. I chose to do that. However, my lovely wife knew that if that plant was on fire it was her job to take the kids and drive upwind at least 10 miles. That’s exactly what she did. We’d planned for exactly that disaster. As it turns out the plant was safely shut down. It had to be done manually as one of the first things destroyed was the control room. I was proud to have done my small part to support those people. It was a real comfort to know that worse come to worse my family was going to be safe.

Do you have a worse come to worse plan to keep your family safe -even if that means leaving your country behind?

-Sixbears

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Sailboat lucky break



Two things conspired against me last fall. The first was a badly infected leg that slowed me down and made everything I did extremely painful. That certainly limited what I did. The second thing that went against me was the early October snow that is only now melting.

Normally the electric trolling motor on the Oday 19 is stored safe and dry in the boat’s cabin. Then I would stretch a huge tarp over the whole boat and secure it well. Neither of those things happened. Instead the motor spent the winter in an uncovered cockpit. It eventually became completely encased in ice.

The ice in the boat finally melted and the motor was free. To my surprise when connected to a battery all the charge status lights came on. To my delight it worked perfectly in forward and reverse. That is one well built motor to have survived.

There was some water in the bilge but it doesn’t look like it did any harm. Since the boat is on a trailer I was able to use a siphon hose to empty the water instead of the bilge pump. Easy does it.

The trolling motor is the only motor I use on the boat. Even with a good load in the boat, it moves at about 3 knots. That doesn’t seem really fast, but the hull speed is only 5.5 knots. It’s not worth the hassle and expense of a gas motor to get an extra 1. 5 knots. The electric is quiet, safe, and doesn’t stink.

It also gets powered by the sun. In normal use the solar panel has no difficulty keeping the boat’s deep discharge battery charged up. Some days the motor never gets used at all. It is a sailboat. Sometimes it’s used for maybe a quarter mile to get on and off anchor. The most I’ve had to motor is about 5 miles. The wind had totally died and the day was getting on. It barely made a dent in the battery charge. My guess it could go 20 or 30 miles, depending on wind and current.

I’ve got about half the equipment I need to add a second small solar electric system to the boat. The boat’s electrical systems are set up to quickly and easily switch from one battery to another. For my canceled ICW trip I had planned for three completely independent small solar electric systems. Redundancy is good.

In spite of my inability to property winterize the boat, it survived in pretty good shape. Now I can concentrate on upgrades instead of repairs.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Batpucky



There are days when I’m on the ragged edge of giving up even trying to play by the rules. Right after getting out of the hospital my lovely wife, with the help of my son-in-law, filed paperwork with the hospital. They have a program that’s supposed to provide assistance for people without medical insurance. I didn’t fill any of it out as I was still tripping pretty high on pain meds.

Last week I called the hospital to check the status of my case. The person at customer assistance said that before they’ll cover me I need to apply for state aid first. She said she’d send me paperwork in the mail. First we hear of this. It came in on Friday. We had company from out of the state for the Easter weekend. Monday my lovely wife and I tackle the paperwork. Turns out it it was due on Tuesday. Good thing I pestered the hospital or the game would have been over without me knowing it.

Since time was of the essence we filled out the on-line form. Thank god my lovely wife was here to help me and keeps things on file. It took hours to fill out the on-line form. The system kept trying to log us out. It actually succeeded in doing that once and we had to redo a couple pages of info. Anyway, it was done on-time.

I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify for the state program, but the hospital requires I file for it. I started out pretty willing to pay for the bill, but was looking for a payment plan. The more they mess with me the better being in default looks. My credit rating would take a hit, but you only need credit to buy stuff you can’t afford anyway.

Every year I care less and less for playing by the rules.

-Sixbears

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Mud Season



I guess it’s official; it’s mud season. It’s raining now with another flood warning. In fact, rain is in the forecast for the foreseeable future. There’s enough ice and snow melted to make way for mud. The woods roads are all closed to keep from getting deeply rutted. This is what passes for spring here.

On the bright side, with any luck, the ice on the lake will break up. I’m looking forward to throwing the sailboat back in the water. It needs a clean up and a few minor repairs, but that shouldn’t take long. My lovely wife wants to make new cushion covers but that doesn’t have to be done before launching the boat.

A friend of mine is wrapping up the last of maple sugaring season. He’s got one more boil before calling it quits for the season. It was a rough one for him. He had to cut sap lines out of the ice using a chainsaw. In the end it appears the season will be just a little under the average. That comes as some relief. He never knows if he’s going to make or lose money from year to year. Good thing he loves it.

Our garden area is in the one sunny spot on our land. Most of my land is shaded by trees. The snow melted down enough for my lovely wife to poke around in the garden. She discovered some sunchokes that over wintered in good shape. Nice to have one more thing to throw in the pot. I don’t much care for them plain, but enjoy them mixed with mashed potatoes or added to a soup.

So it looks like we’ll finally get to say goodbye to winter. It’s been a long one.

-Sixbears

Saturday, April 20, 2019

My education journey



I’m essentially self educated. Sure, I went though high school like most people. After that I tried community college for one semester but dropped out after that. For the next nineteen years I was self taught.

When still eighteen years old I was lucky enough to get into the fire department. Since I loved to read, a good chunk of my disposable income went towards buying books. Across the street from the fire station is the public library. Over my years in the fire service I read a good sampling of the books in our little library.

My self education was of two general types. I was a sponge for information and since I never knew what would catch my attention I read a wide variety of books. The second type of reading was for specific subjects and information. A subject or a project would catch my interest an I’d read all the information on the subject that I could find. It could anything from boat building to falconry. I learned enough to build a few boats over the years and I learned enough about falconry to realize it was a larger time and money commitment that I was interested in.

Somewhere along the way I got interested in dome homes. That sent me down the rabbit hole of learning a lot of geometry that I never learned in high school. I still live in the dome built during those years.

Two years after leaving the fire service, at the age of thirty-seven, I went back to college for a four year degree. By then I was a fully formed grown adult, not some impressionable teenager. College did not completely change my world view or anything like that. If anything I got to bring my experiences and self education to the halls of academia. That wasn’t always appreciated, but more often than not it was useful.

The thing that college did was give me a few more tools to continue my self education. My searches and research became more focused and organized. Also, I was better able to express myself. In general, the formal college experience gave me a few more tools to keep doing what I always did.

It was interesting to go back to college as a non-traditional student. I had a whole college at my disposal. There were plenty of courses that I took, not because I needed them for my major, but because I found them interesting. Really, that’s the best and most fun way to go to college. It won’t land you a job, but will provide you with a wider education.

If I had to pick what part of my education was most important I’d have to say it was the self directed part. That’s where I learned to think outside the box.

-Sixbears

Friday, April 19, 2019

Foot doctor follow up



I just had a follow up visit with my foot doctor. Darn, I’ve got a foot doctor now. Anyway, it went pretty well.

A few days ago my toe was all swollen and tender. That was disturbing as it had been feeling pretty good until then. Then it occurred to me that maybe I’ve come down with gout again. That’s the same toe where a gout attack is usually expressed. High uric acid levels run in my family so we are prone to the condition. Sure enough, once I started treating it like a gout attack the swelling was reduced in half overnight and almost better a day later.

Then the foot doctor informed me that the procedure she did on my toe could actually cause a gout attack. Wish I’d been warned about that before. At any rate, the foot is doing well and won’t have to see her again for a few months.

Good thing I didn’t go to a foot doctor twenty years ago. Back then I was suffering from excruciating heel pain. (Plantar Fasciitis) A number of my friends were suffering the same thing and opted for surgery, with fairly poor results over all. I was too busy to be off my feet then and have a high tolerance for pain so just sucked it up. Eventually the problem just went away.

Since I finally had a foot doctor to ask questions of, I told her about the heel pain and how it went away. She said that a change in footwear can make a huge difference. Switching to Birkenstock sandals often help. Sure enough, someone gave me a gift certificate to place that sold Birkenstocks and I found them to be extremely comfortable. They were so comfortable I wore them all the time. Apparently they cured my feet.

It’s important to have my legs and feet in good condition. My walking distance keeps improving all the time. Whene summer gets here I hope to be out on the hiking trails again. Being able to walk long distances is a huge survival ability. After months of limited mobility it’s wonderful to be comfortable waking again.

-Sixbears

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Thoughts on Notre-Dame



I had mixed thoughts about the fire at Notre-Dame. On one hand it’s a beautiful historic building that’s significant to the French culture and religious people around the world. On the other hand, it’s just another burning building.

As a former firefighter I’ve seen a lot of buildings burn. Believe me, if it’s your house it’s more tragic than some church in France. However, my experiences taught me about not becoming too attached to things. Some families would be grateful just to have gotten out alive. After all, stuff is just stuff. People are important, not things.

At the end of the day, Notre-Dame is just a thing. Even Christians are taught that a church isn’t the building they meet in but the group of people who meet in Christ’s name. Even devote French Catholics have to admit that Notre-Dame was more of landmark/tourist attraction than a functioning church.

Most of the industrialized world has been becoming more and more secular. That’s the trend. Like it or hate it, that’s the way things are going. Churches in general are becoming relics of the past. The church I went to as a kid is now a secular music venue. Times change.

I’m sure France is looking to rebuilt Notre-Dame out of its significance as a historical building rather than as a place of worship. You don’t hear about tens of thousands of parishioners who will no place to meet. That’s because it barely functioned as a church. There’s probably a handful of elderly pensioners who will have to find something else to do with their day.

Personally, I’m happy nobody, firefighter or civilian, died in the fire. That’s the important take away for me.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Retail Ruins



There’s been a lot of press ink spilled on the demise of retail. All you have to do is look at the huge number of failed and failing malls to get a feel for that. Add to that the number of main streets falling into ruin and maybe they are onto something. Right now there are numerous YouTube channels that do things like explore dead malls.

Apparently, hanging around the mall was a once a rite of passage for suburban youth. When I was growing up the nearest real mall was at least one hundred miles away. When I did get to to a mall it was a big deal as it was something different.

Over the years I slowly came to the realization that malls didn’t really have much of what I was looking for. My shopping tends more towards hardware stores, building supply, marine supply, and books. Malls used to have bookstores, often two or three different ones. These days you are lucky if a mall has even one, and they generally aren’t doing well.

Last week on a rare sunny day my lovely wife took the long trip over the White Mountains to the tourist town of N. Conway NH. It was like driving from winter into spring so definitely worth the trip south. The downtown is crammed with lots of little shops. They cater to the Massachusetts tourist crowd taking advantage of New Hampshire’s zero percent sales tax.

It was pleasant to be able to pop in and out of the many shops. They even had things I wanted to buy. They had some odd items like a special tea infuser and a universal peculator glass top. Combining all our purchases I think we spent something like sixteen dollars. We certainly aren’t the ones keeping the downtown alive.

Closer to home, away from the tourists, the local downtown isn’t doing all that well. Of course the major employers left, along with half the population. It’s hard to keep a downtown vibrant when that happens. There are some businesses hanging on and a few new ones trying to make a go of it. I’ve seen worse looking main streets. Still, it’s a struggle.

On-line shopping is a major force. Frankly, it’s a lot easier to get things home delivered than to drive miles hoping someone will have what I need.

Currently the largest employer in the nation is Walmart. Even they are quietly closing some stores. It’s a drop in the bucket, but there’s no business law that states they can’t go under too.

I thinking that maybe there are fewer people who shop recreationally and are sticking to things they really need. When you get right down to it, we generally need a lot less stuff than we buy. Economic and social trends could quickly rewrite the retail map.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Flooding



Spring floods are here. There’s currently a flood warning stretching into Tuesday. I’m located on the bit of higher land between the Androscoggin and Connecticut River watersheds. Being on a hill the water drains down in seasonal streams. A good part of it runs through my basement. It comes in one side and out the other. No harm done.

The culvert just down the road from me is out. The state road crews are out trying to keep the major roads open. It was looking pretty dicey in a number of places. One thing you never do is drive through flood waters. There’s no guarantee that there’s a road still under that water. People tend to underestimate the power of flowing water. It’s very easy for your vehicle to get swept away. Just don’t chance it.

Flooding was not unexpected. With all the snow we got a few warmer rainy days was all it took. On the bright side, the snowpack is finally going down. It’s got a ways to go, but should melt a lot quicker now that most nights stay above freezing.

One thing about living in the hills. Once the rain stops it doesn’t take too long for the waters to recede.

-Sixbears

Monday, April 15, 2019

More War?



The administration is laying the groundwork for war against Iran. Today they will be designating Iran’s
Revolutionary Guards
a terrorist organization. So what’s the big deal? In short, as I understand it, that allows the administration a loop hole for going to war. Another Congressional authorization is not needed to fight terrorist organizations.

War monger Pompeo, who did much to get us involved in the Iraq mess is now in a position to advance another foreign war.

So why would we want to go to war with Iran? Darn if I know as our strategic interests are not compelling enough for war. However, Israel would love it if we did their dirty work for them. Netanyahu is very much in favor of US involvement.

When countries encounter major financial troubles and social upset, they often look to foreign adventures as both an economic stimulus and a distraction. There are plenty of early indicators that the United State is in for a serious economic downturn. The underlying problems that caused the 2008 recession are still there. What little reforms that were proposed or implemented have been watered down or eliminated. Multiple economic hazards are in play. That’s a subject for another blog post.

Students of History are aware that once a country goes to war, the outcome is rarely what was planned or expected. Add to that the fact that this country does a terrible job supporting the troops. The government is pretty good at getting enough war material to the front. What their terrible about is taking care of their warriors after the battles are over. About two dozen vets commit suicide every single day and little is done. Even soldiers wounded in battle have to fight for their promised benefits. Right now the best way to support the troops is to keep them out of unnecessary wars.

For me it looks like the country is revving its engines to drive off another cliff and there’s little I can do about it.

-Sixbears

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Year of the weasel



In my travels this past winter I saw a lot ermines. Stoat or short-tailed weasel, if you prefer. Normally they are pretty shy and rarely seen. My guess is that either they had a spike in population or had to travel more to find food. Maybe it was a combination of the two.

They look cute but are mean little predators. Two of friends lost all their chickens to ermine attacks this winter. A single one of the little monsters can easily wipe a backyard coop overnight. One of my friends decided to give up on raising chickens entirely due to the attack.

The loss of backyard eggs isn’t the end of the world -not now anyway. It does go to show how difficult it can be to produce your own food. Currently it’s possible to order chickens and rebuild one’s flock. During an emergency, when you could really use the extra food, replacing them will be a lot harder or impossible.

There are plenty of things that can go wrong with homestead food production. Wild animal attacks, disease, bad weather, and don’t forget theft. Another friend of mine gave up on gardening as more of it was stolen than he was able to keep for himself. It just wasn’t worth it.

That’s not to say that one shouldn’t do these things to be more self-reliant. It’s best to learn how to deal with setbacks before the organic fertilizer hits the rotatory cooling device. Even if you are really good at small scale food production, things out of your control can wipe out your efforts.

So what do you do then? That’s where it’s good to have a fair amount of food storage. It’s good insurance against a bad harvest or animal attack. If you can add in wild plants, fish and game, your supplies can be stretched even further. There’s the added bonus of having some fresh food and variety.

Don’t let the weasels get you -be they cute little ermine or walk on two legs.

-Sixbears

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Cabin Fever



I think my lovely wife has come down with a case of cabin fever. She make her way down to our beach. The part of the trail that’s on the hill gets sun so was there wasn’t much snow. The section through the cedar swamp was hip deep. She pushed on and made it to the edge of the frozen lake.

When I asked her why she did that she said, “Because we own it.”

Okay then.

Two days ago my neighbor spent hours plowing snow. Friday he took his Harley Davidson motorcycle out for a ride. He had to avoid the icy patches in his driveway. If you need to wear a snowmobile suit to ride your motorcycle, you just might be pushing the season a bit.

Today it might get up to 60, the highest temperature in our foreseeable weather prediction. Who knows what shenanigans people will be up to.

-Sixbears

Friday, April 12, 2019

Range and independence



My wife’s little car doesn’t have great range. After around 300 miles I start to look for a gas station. Of course, what do you expect for a vehicle with a 9 gallon gas tank?

That’s in huge contrast to the diesel/veggie vehicles we drove. Even the van got pretty good extended range. Of course, it got good range due to having two fuel tanks even though it wasn’t very fuel efficient. The all time winner for range was our old Mercedes 240D. We had the normal diesel tank plus another 19 gallon veggie tank. One year I towed a small utility trailer filled with veggie jugs and went over 3000 miles before having to get more fuel.

Of course my veggie/diesel days are over. Waste veggie is much harder to get and the new diesels are difficult to convert to veggie use.

However, I’m still attracted to vehicles with a lot of range. These days I’m not thinking about range on land as much as range on the water.

Sailboats, theoretically, have limitless range. Theoretically. In reality they have diesel or gas engines and their dinghys often have powerful outboards. The fossil fuel engines are not necessary.

There are people traveling the world, successfully, in full sized sailboats without engines. Plenty of people still row or sail their dinghys.

My little 19 foot sailboat can be pushed along about 3 knots using a simple electric trolling motor. A small solar panel keeps it charged up. My dinghy is a two person inflatable kayak that paddles fairly well. There are larger sailboats out there with larger electric motors. They too use solar and/or wind generators to keep the batteries charged up. When your fuel station is the sun and wind range really is unlimited.

Then the limiting factors are other consumables, big ones being water and food. Many boats now have reliable water makers on-board that turn salt water into fresh. Throw a fishing line behind your boat and fresh fish can greatly extend your food stores.

Eventually you’ll have to stop somewhere for other consumables and to replace broken or worn out parts. However, that might not be for many miles and months. That’s true range.

-Sixbears

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Slow Day



Not much going on at the homestead. We got a few more inches of snow overnight and it didn’t get warm enough to melt at all. This is the winter that keeps on giving. Seven months of snow so far. Oh well. Rumor has it that spring is coming, but you can’t believe everything you hear.

In other news I discovered someone I never want to do business with. My lovely wife and I saw a nice little truck with a for sale sign on it at a small used car dealership. We were running errands and had limited time so we didn’t stop to talk with a salesperson. That’s just as well.

When I talked to the guy on the phone it was a truly unpleasant experience. His main concern was that I show up today with cash in hand. It was all I could do to get the actual specifics about the truck. The truck was actually pretty close to what I was looking for. However, the salesman was rude, unwilling to negotiate, and kept asking over and over if I had the cash. He wanted to sell right now. That pop up red flags for anyone else?

Good thing I’m in no hurry to buy. I don’t respond very well to high pressure tactics.

There was another vehicle that could have worked to tow the boat. The downside? It was boring as unsalted crackers. I don’t want to be too picky. However, that car looked like something driven by a blue haired lady going down the fast lane of Florida 95 at 45 mph with the left directional on for 50 miles. Even I have to have some standards.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

How far off the financial grid can one go?



How practical is it? Gorges Smythe in a comment on yesterday’s blog mentioned he knew someone who only dealt in cash and didn’t use banks. It’s a hassle, but it can be done.

In fact, I’ve known a few people who lived that way. They were tradesmen like carpenters and plumbers. They got away with it by working off the books. Back in the 90s there were a lot of illegal Irish working the trades in the Boston area. When the economy back in Ireland improved a lot of them went back home. Right now I’ve got no idea what the current situation is.

Those guys had a lot of problems. It’s tough to do even simple things like rent an apartment or own a car. There are work arounds, but a lot of them are illegal. Of course, the reason those individuals were working off the books in the first place is that they were here illegally.

Fifteen or twenty years ago I’d run into self employed people living in campgrounds. A lot of them were doing arts and crafts that they’d sell. One guy even had a complete woodworking shop in a trailer he towed behind his RV.

In recent years I’ve met very few people living that way. It’s harder to live strictly in a cash economy. Even people who sell arts and crafts these days take credit and debit cards. Simple plug and play devices connect right to cell phones and most vendors have them.

These days it’s more likely that people generate income using the Internet. Even rather small payments from things like YouTube and blogs make a big difference when you are living out of your van. Many people are like me and have a pension deposited in an account. I’ve also met people who were traveling using income from rental property. One guy’s income came from undeveloped property he rented out to hunters

While I often take out a good bit of cash to handle day to day expenses, I need to be part of the electronic banking system. I suppose I could get by strictly using cash, but I’d have to take a big pile of it with me before hitting the road for months on end. That has risks of its own.

For example, a lot of people on sailboats hide bundles of cash in hidden areas of their boat. That’s great for emergencies. Personally, I never got around to doing that, keeping cash in my wallet. Well guess what? I lost my wallet when my sailboat broke up on a reef and sank. I lost my cash, debit, and credit cards. Fortunately, my lovely wife and I carry one credit card that the other does not carry. That way when they have to be canceled we still have one to live on The year of the shipwreck we got home on my lovely wife’s card.

Normally I keep a card for emergencies, like the time the van needed extensive brake work before we could drive it home.

While it’s possible to live without a bank account, credit and debit cards, it’s tough. It’s one thing if you stay close to home. If you want or have to travel, it’s three times harder to do.

Americans have slowly been getting away from a cash economy. However, there are plenty of places in the world where most things are handled using cash. That often comes as a shock to travelers.

Of course, we are all just one grid collapse from a cash and barter economy.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Escheatment Fee



I received a notice from my bank that they were now charging an escheatment fee. Yeah, I had to look that up. Apparently if an account is abandoned the money gets sent to the state. Then, just to add insult to injury, the bank now charges a $50 fee to handle that. They charge $50 to help the state take your money away?

Okay, that was interesting. Then no more than two days later I get a notice that my savings account is in default for lack of activity. Thanks to looking up escheatment fee I knew where this was heading. First thing Monday I walked into the bank and had it sorted out -without paying any fees, thank you very much.

Here’s the deal with the savings account. I never wanted a savings account with that particular bank. What I wanted was to take advantage of their really great free checking account with no ATM fees -even from banks not in their system. The bank requires a minimum amount of money in a savings account to have a checking account. I put in the minimum necessary and forgot about it.

Thanks to them trying to shut down my account I now have to show some activity. I’m going to move a single dollar all around the system on a monthly basis, just to show activity. How foolish is that? The sad thing is that I’m only dealing with this particular bank because my old bank was even worse.

While in town I went to my follow up appointment at my doctor’s. He said the leg looks great. Keep doing what I’m doing. See you in six months. Pretty good news. Next week I’ve a follow up appointment with the foot doctor and I’ll be done for a while. Things are looking up.

-Sixbears

Monday, April 8, 2019

Enough Already!



Today we have a winter weather advisory for my area. Three to six inches of heavy snow is expected. Enough already! Sunday it was sunny and got up to forty-five. You what that means? It was a nice day for ice fishing on the lake. While the fishermen had to pull their shacks off the ice by state law, it is plenty safe for walking on yet.

The average ice-out date for the lake is around April 21. Things would have to warm up dramatically for that to happen this year. In the past it’s gone out as late as the middle of May. That’s rare, but possible this year. There was a good four feet of ice on the lake and that doesn’t melt overnight.

Most of my yard is still buried in up to three feet of snow. It has melted down in areas that have been getting a lot of sun. Where’s there’s shade, like under the trees, forget it. This is the winter that keeps on giving.

I’ve friends a hundred miles to the south of me who are in the process of prepping their garden. For weeks now they’ve been taking their coffee breaks outside. It’s claimed that Mt. Washington has the worse weather in the world. I believe it. I live north of the mountain and it’s a definitely a different climate zone from the southern part of the sate.

More fuel blocks for the woodstove is going to be delivered on Tuesday. I told the guy he can drop the pallet right on front of the sailboat and trailer. No doubt it’ll be mostly used up before I can launch the boat.

I pray to God that I am in a position to spend next winter in a warmer climate. Cabin fever is no joke.

-Sixbears

Sunday, April 7, 2019

“Blackout” Podcast set in Great North Woods



First of all let me be upfront and say I’ve had nothing to do with this podcast. It’s set in my area and covers what happens in a National blackout. This is not a podcast put together in someone’s garage. The podcast stars Academy Award winning actor Rami Malek.

Here’s an NPR interview about the podcast:

Here’s the link to the podcast itself. It’s also on most podcast streaming services.

First off the majority of the accents are pretty far off. More Boston Massachusetts Than Berlin New Hampshire. However, they did pronounce “Berlin” the way the locals do, so that’s something. One accent is pretty close, but it’s more what we would call old Yankee. While that’s still around you are more likely to hear a version of a local French accent, or people actually talking in the local French patois.

What I find fascinating is that a regular visitor the area decided that it would be an interesting setting for an apocalyptic story. I’ve been thinking about my area in those terms my whole life. They get a lot of stuff right, the geography, how it is to have a Federal prison, the economic depression, and the isolation -especially the isolation.

One actor says something to the effect that people are either born here or are here hiding from something. Seems legit to me.

I’ve listened to the episodes that are currently on-line. It’s pretty good. Lot’s of strangeness. People don’t know what’s going on. Some turn to violence. There’s also some big conspiracy of some sort going on in the background.

I’m curious to see where it all goes.

-Sixbears



Saturday, April 6, 2019

Old vehicle shopping fun



Shopping on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other on-line markets is interesting.

There’s the large number of people who sell their items then never take them off the site. Then they get snippy when people keep asking about them. Duh.

Of course there’s a fair amount of misrepresentation like photos being years out of date. Sometimes it’s not even the same vehicle but stock photos of the same model.

Then there are a lot of people who don’t even know exactly what they have. I’ve seen that a lot when looking at sailboats. For example a lot of time the sailor in the family passes on and nobody else knows anything about boats.

Well, the last few days it was cars, trucks and SUVs actually. I know I’m shopping at the bottom of the market so the offerings all have issues. Basically I’m looking for a tow vehicle that can haul a couple thousand pounds of boat and trailer without self-destructing. I’m willing to overlook a lot of cosmetic stuff, willing to do some repairs, but really don’t want to buy total junk.

Lately my quest for something good has run the gamut. One guy had sold the truck that interested me but hadn’t taken it off the Internet yet. However, he was super polite about it and just sold it so that’s fine.

One guy was super sketchy. He said he sold it but could it get back if I was still interested. Say what? That was just one of many red flags I got when talking to the guy.

Friday there was a nice couple who had an older Jeep Cherokee for sale. It looked and sounded pretty good. The price was right. However, they said there was some frame rust and they didn’t know how bad it was. I knew that going in so I was prepared. I brought a tarp to put down on the muddy ground and took a lot of photos with my phone.

Then I showed the photos to two different welders who worked on cars. Neither of them wanted to touch it. Both basically said that once they got in there the job could quickly get out of hand. Road salt takes a toll on cars and trucks up here. I politely thanked the people for showing the Jeep to me but passed on that my welders didn’t want to touch it. That was fine.

The good thing is that I’m not in a hurry. The lake is still frozen solid and the boat and trailer are still buried in snow. The pile’s gone down, but there’s plenty more to go. My daughter is willing to launch it with her truck later on. We could at least sail on our little lake. We would like to haul the boat to other places in New England this coming summer, which is why we want our own tow vehicle.

In other news, my toe is recovering much faster than what the foot doctor led me to believe. It already feels much better than before the procedure. Often the toe is infected when it has a badly in-grown nail. I’m thinking that the heavy duty antibiotics I was on for my leg wiped out any trace of that. Maybe that’s why it’s healing so quickly.

Live goes on.

-Sixbears

Friday, April 5, 2019

Long range planning



There’s a famous psychological test that was originally done by Stanford called the marshmallow test. The basic idea is that young children had the option of getting one small reward right away or waiting for later when they’d get two rewards. The results seemed to show that those kids who could delay gratification would grow up to do better later in life.

Years later the tests were thrown into some doubt. The results may not be due to the kid’s virtues so much as a measurement of economic background.

Delayed gratification only makes sense if certain conditions apply. If you expect to be treated fairly, feel safe, have and can maintain excellent health, waiting until later makes sense. In a less secure environment getting what you can as soon as you can is actually the wise decision.

Take something as simple as retirement planning. If you can put aside and invest money while you are young, by the time you reach retirement age a nice bit of wealth can be accumulated. That makes perfect sense, but only really applies to a select group of people.

Take someone who’d seen their parent’s lose their nest egg when the real estate bubble burst in 2008. They thought their investments were “as safe as houses.” Turns out in an overheated real estate market houses aren’t that safe. Then they find themselves in a low paying job, poor health care, and a long history of being ripped off. Due to poor diet and stress they may find themselves with type 2 diabetes and a heart condition before they are forty. It happens all the time. Investing in the stock market for their sixties makes no sense to them. Buying a bass boat and having some fun now does. Considering they may never make it to 60, that makes a kind of perverse sense.

If a kid from a poor background is offered a marshmallow now or two later it makes sense to get it now. That one treat is real. The second treat might be a trick. He fears he’d end up waiting for two and getting nothing instead. When you see the rules change without warning and rip offs are common, delayed gratification is a shaky bet.

Countries do well when everyone feels they are being treated equally and fairly. It gets dangerous when the elite skew the game heavily to their advantage at the expense of all others. At some point the common people get sick of never having a chance at that second marshmallow. When people feel they have no future and nothing to lose, short term solutions, often involving violence, seem like a viable option.

-Sixbears



Thursday, April 4, 2019

Checkmate in Venezuela



There’s a lot of gnashing of teeth about Russian and Chinese troops being stationed in Venezuela. National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton is having kittens over the whole thing.

Okay, first of all, John Bolton should have gone to prison for his efforts to get us into the second Iraq war. Anyone remember the non-existent weapons of mass destruction? Why he’s got a position of power in this administration is beyond me. That’s just my opinion.

The limited number of Russian and Chinese troops can’t actually provide much of a military threat. What they can do is act as a tripwire. If US troops invade and start killing Russian and/or Chinese troops things could escalate dramatically. The foreign troops in Venezuela basically provide the same guarantees that US troops in Berlin did during the Cold War. They aren’t strong enough to be much of a threat, but there’s enough of them that they could get killed and incite the folks back home.

US moves in Venezuela have been blocked. It’s checkmate unless some idiot decides to risk WWIII. The smart move for the US here is take our lumps and walk away.

Something of concern closer to home is the flooding in the Midwest. Early indications are that food production in the region will suffer greatly. Expect food prices to go up. They probably won’t go up in a hyperinflation spiral. That’s where a three dollar loaf of bread is suddenly a hundred dollars or more. What we are more likely to see is that three dollar bread rising in price to six dollars. That’s high, but not the end of the world.

It’s not just grains, of course, but all the farm animals that rely on those feeds. Maybe it won’t be as bad as feared. There’s also the chance that good harvests in other parts of the country could help keep prices down. Over the next few months it wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on the sales and stock up your pantry and freezer if you can. You might be able to put off the impact of price increases. Every little bit helps.

Of course, if the US decides to have a little South American military adventure, you’ll be glad you’ve got a well stocked pantry.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A few little things



It’s nice to be feeling well enough to get some necessary projects done. With my bum leg I was unable to make my way to the basement. The only access is from an outside door. Dragging my open wound leg through ice and snow was a non-starter. Tuesday I finally was able to get down there. There’s still about a foot and half of snow in the path. It had frozen hard enough overnight that I was able to carefully walk on top of it.

There were two badly neglected jobs that had to be done. The first was topping off my solar electric batteries with distilled water. I was much relieved to see that while the water level had dropped it was well within the normal safe range. That was a huge relief to me as I’d just purchased them last summer. It’s not really a good idea to spend a thousand dollars on a battery bank then totally ignore them for months.

I also changed the water filters while down there. When I first moved up to the lake I had no problem using the water directly out of the well. Over the years there’s been more construction and more year round residents. As a precaution I’ve installed a couple of full system water filters. The first filter is a coarse one for filtering out any sand or silt. The second one is a fine filter designed to take out any biological or chemical contaminates. It’s probably over kill, but that’s one less thing to worry about.

When the snow is finally all gone I hope to clean out a lot of stuff out of the basement. I’ve some jugs of waste veggie oil to get rid of. There are still other people around burning grease so they’ll probably be happy to pick some up. That will clear up some space. Then I’m going to haul a lot of junk out to the dump. If I haven’t used it thirty years I probably won’t need it in the near future.

Today I go in to get my nasty in-grown toenail operated on. It will be a lot less painful after that. By the time my toe’s healed up the snow pack should be just about gone. Then I can hit the ground running and catch up on other things.

. . . and fishing. Way behind on fishing.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

How the power went out



The grid went down twice within a few days. Normally it’s the usual suspects, high winds, heavy snow, that sort of thing. Both times the power went down the conditions were mild. So what took down the grid? Traffic accidents did it. Poles were taken out by drives who lost control.

After the first outage the power company e-mailed me a questionnaire about the outage. It was the normal sort of thing, asking questions about how I thought the situation was handled. The final question was how about how I thought the company could improve. My suggestion was that the CEO and top management could resign. (It’s my opinion that they are overpaid and corrupt.)

When the power went out a couple days later I had to wonder if they just read my questionnaire and cut my grid power out of spite. Seems a bit paranoid of me, but never underestimate the pettiness of a major corporation. Turns out is was a second vehicle running into a service pole accident. Of course, if it happens again in a few days I’m going to start to wonder.

When bad weather conditions are predicted my normal standard operating procedure is to top off my house batteries from the grid. That way if it the power goes down the house system is starting with a full charge. As luck would have it this last time my batteries were at about medium to low charge.

So what did that mean for our day to day life? We still ran the water pump, lights, TV, and my computer. What we didn’t do is laundry or use the microwave. One of the reasons the batteries were a bit on lower side is that the next day was predicted to be sunny. I knew they’d get topped off in the sun the next day. No need to use grid power when the sun will do the job for free. All we had to do was to not go crazy with power usage for one night.

I actually get more annoyed by the fact we lose the Internet at the same time. That also takes down our phone service. We are on the side of the mountain that’s shaded from the cell tower so cell phones don’t connect here. One of my concerns when that happens is how massive the power outage is. If it’s local it’ll be fixed in day or so. More widespread outages could take weeks.

One handy guide is the lights across the lake. They are on a completely different loop than my side of the lake. If they still have power the situation is limited to my loop. When they are in the dark the outage is much more widespread. It could take some time to get power back. When the other side of the lake is also dark, I resort to my battery powered radio. It’s got batteries, a crank generator and a solar panel. If the closest radio station is on and not in a panic things aren’t too bad. If they are down I can switch to short wave stations and find out what’s going on in the world.

-Sixbears

Monday, April 1, 2019

No blog today

My Internet and grid were down all day so didn't get a chance to write a blog. It came back late Sunday.

-Sixbears