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Friday, May 31, 2019

Reorganized



Back when I was in the hospital, friends and family did some cleaning and organizing at my house. They did a great job and the place was a lot more comfortable for me when I got home. They did good work and most of my stuff could be found when needed.

Most.

Sometimes it takes a while to discover things. Last fall I was installing some new cleats on the trailer sailor and broke a bolt. So I finally got around to changing it yesterday. The bolt came out fine, but when I went to get the replacement all my stainless steel bolts were gone. In fact, I had a whole ammo can full of stainless bolts and screws. The can was there, but nothing was in it. No idea why that would have been emptied out in the first place.

The search was on. It was pretty successful -in some ways. The charger for my marine radio showed up. The marine flag mount for the boat was at the bottom of a box of paperwork. In fact, lots of missing odds and and ends were found. Of course, the bolts are still gone. The surest way to find them is to buy replacements.

I even found a handgun in a locked box. Yeah, I forgot about a handgun. Don’t judge me. It was safely stored away, just not with the rest of the guns.

Speaking of locks, my boat locks appeared. My sailboat has three things can be padlocked, the gas locker, the side compartment and the hatch. To make things easy all three locks use the same key. That way I’m never fumbling with a bunch of keys to find the right one. I prefer keyed locks over combinations as they are easier to unlock in the dark. I can feel the key in the dark, but you have to see the numbers to work a combination.

Tomorrow I’m finally going to sort through my storage and see what I really have and what will have to replaced. Really I am. Tomorrow.

-Sixbears

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Searching and rejecting



What a day. My lovely wife and I went on another road trip to look at a possible tow vehicle. The owner said he’d meet us at the address at noon. On the way down we stopped at the bank to have cash in hand.

So we get to the address and discover it’s a small mechanic’s garage. There’s maybe a half dozen vehicles for sale, including the one we saw on Craigslist. That was the first red flag. I set the search parameters to only display private sales, not businesses. While it was a small business, it was a business none the less.

We were a bit early but the vehicle was unlocked so we checked it out. The first thing I noticed was the bad tires. That’s not a deal breaker, but a negotiation point. The interior smelled heavily of cigarette smoke and that was a turn off.

Then we started poking around the nooks and crannies of the car. The power steering fluid was low. Could it be a leak? There was rat poison set up in the compartment for the spare. Did it have rats? My lovely wife found last years inspection paper. It passed, which was good. However, in the past year only about an additional 1000 miles were added to the odometer? I wonder why that was.

The guy was about 20 minutes late. Calls to his phone went to voicemail. By then I certainly wasn’t feeling it so we decided to go to lunch and then head home. There were enough red flags to chase me away.

Later in the day my oldest daughter sends a link for a 32 foot sailboat that a guy is giving away. It appeared in pretty good shape. However, the catch is payment for dockage is due on June first. This boat is in the Boston area and the marina is $900/month. The boat must be gone before the next payment is due. The cheapest place to keep a boat in the Boston area is on a mooring in Salem harbor for $2000. That’s for the summer season.

Had the boat been exactly what we were looking for it might have been worth it. However, it would totally upset our summer plans. We’d end up spending all our summer driving down to Boston to work on a boat. There are plenty of things to do here this summer -projects on the house plus fun on the lake.

Right now the search for a tow vehicle has left me mentally exhausted. I’m done chasing around looking at Craigslist specials for now. I am going to keep the cash handy, just in case something falls into my lap. However, I’m not going to stress about it. We can always beg a tow to launch the boat.

One thing about the day’s road trip. My lovely wife and I had plenty of time to talk about our options. It’s good to remember that we have options.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Connected everywhere



Elon Musk’s Space X just recently successfully launched the first 60 of the Starlink satellite constellation. After six launches they plan on providing service to Canada and the US, possibly before the end of the year. As more launches go up service will expand to the rest of the globe.

If the price is anywhere near reasonable, that will be a game changer. Anyone who’s ever traveled, especially Internationally, knows how difficult staying connected can be. A traveler has to constantly deal with a patchwork of different local carriers. Some people end up with a collection of sim cards that have to swapped out of their phones. It’s annoying.

The convenience and safety of a world wide net is obvious. I know sailors who are excited about being able to connect from the middle of ocean. It’s possible to do it now, but satellite phones are expensive. If they don’t drastically reduce prices and improve service they’ll probably go out of business. Of course, that all depends on the price of the new service.

Just because you can be connected all the time doesn’t mean you should be. When I travel I have both a cell phone and a wifi hotspot device that works in most of the United States. Being able to connect is important to me -even if it’s just so I can post the occasional blog and connect with family. However, sometimes I seal the electronics in a metal ammo can. That keeps them safe and quiet.

We have so many distractions in our day to day life. The last thing I need is to be interrupted while out in nature trying to unwind. When I’m sitting by a campfire, coffee in hand, watching the wildlife, I don’t need is a robo caller trying to sell me something.

How often do we get the chance for a good long uninterrupted think? Self-reflection is good for the soul. Being constantly on-line makes that impossible. While communication is good, use it wisely . . . and perhaps, sparingly.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

So Much for the Internet part deux



As I write this I’ve no idea when or even if my blog is going to be posted. My Internet provider lost service to my town over much of the long holiday weekend. Not only did I lose my web connection, the land line phone also shuts off. Just to make it interesting, we are on the wrong side of the mountain for cell service.

At some I point I began to wonder if the problem was on my end. Just in case, I untangled all the wires and cables, double checked the connections and rebooted everything. No joy. That’s when I took the cell phone for a little ride into the village where there’s a cell tower.

Instead of being able to reach my provider, the call was routed to an answering service. The nice lady on the phone was able to tell me that service was out in my whole town. That’s all the information she had for me, but it was enough.

The service came back briefly -just long enough to make an important phone call. Later I took my niece and lovely wife to dinner. When we came back the ‘net was down again. So it goes.

On the bright side, with the phone out of order, we received no robo calls. It’s amazing how peaceful life is when the phone isn’t constantly ringing. I’m tempted to unplug the phone and only plug it in when I want to make a call. After all, it’s my phone and I can do what I want with it.

When the phone is not working, we have a service that records messages and sends them to my e-mail account as an audio attachment. It’s a lot easier and quicker to see which messages are junk and which are valid that way.

That service is pretty good while on the road. People call my home landline and I can get the message anywhere in the world with an Internet connection. (everywhere but home lately.) If it’s important I call them back on my cell phone. People have no idea that my house is empty, and that’s the way I like it.

-Sixbears

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day



I’m taking the day off to honor this day.

-Sixbears

Sunday, May 26, 2019

In case you aren’t worried enough



I came across this interactive map of global incidents, everything from disease to terrorism.

http://www.globalincidentmap.com/

The free version is 24 to 48 hours behind. The subscriber version is closer to real time.

Even the free version can be very useful. Some incidents like disease outbreaks don’t go away in 24 hours. I’m sure over time it’s possible to get a pretty good idea where the worse trouble spots are. It’s said that knowledge is power.

It can also paralyze people. When given too much information or too many choices, people tend to stress and freeze up. With that in mind, it would benefit oneself to learn how to separate the wheat from the chaff. Not everything is high priority. Some threats are more immediate than others. Some situations are more likely than others. While it’s easy to get upset about threats, being able to keep a cool and logical head is essential.

If it’s true that ignorance is bliss, why aren’t more people happy.

-Sixbears

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Dried Beans



Dried beans are one of the cheapest and easiest foods to store. They are also filling and nutritious. Combined with rice they make complete proteins. That’s why a lot of preppers store plenty of beans.

Unfortunately, too many people think of beans as just a cheap long term storage emergency food. That’s a huge mistake. Unless it is part of your normal diet, it will cause problems during an emergency. The last thing someone who’s under stress wants to do is to try new foods. It’s also not the time to learn how to cook them to your liking. They should be part of your normal diet.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve made a number of bean dishes. We had spicy black beans with rice, Boston baked beans, Kidney beans, and refried pinto beans. I make large batches and freeze the leftovers. One of the problems with working with dried beans is the long prep time, so it’s worth making a good sized batch.

Normally I soak them overnight, rinse, then throw them in the crockpot with enough water to cover. If in a hurry a pressure cooker can have presoaked beans ready to eat in thirty-five minutes. There are plenty of recipes out there and I encourage you to find which ones work for you. Once you do find which spices and ingredients work for you, make sure to have plenty of them stocked up too.

The crockpot is handy, but if the grid goes down other cooking methods are necessary. Pressure cookers are a good idea. They work great on a kitchen stove, but are a good idea for an emergency camp stove. The shorter cooking time saves a lot of fuel. My cooking arsenal includes four different types and sizes of cast iron Dutch ovens. Those are good for charcoal or campfires. In a pinch a regular cooking pot also does the job. I’ve slow cooked bean in a regular pot on top of the woodstove using the lowest temperature cooking area.

Storing beans is a good idea. Cooking and using them on a regular basis is an even better one.

-Sixbears

Friday, May 24, 2019

Little odds and ends



The rain held off until the evening, giving me a chance to get some outside jobs done. I moved a little more firewood today, but I’m still placing myself. The large deep discharge battery is back in the boat. That thing weighs a ton. Last fall the charge controller shorted out. Today the spare went in. It was the same model as the old one so it slotted into place without much trouble.

A friend came over for coffee and a walk. It’s really nice walking along the lake this time of year. My distance keeps improving. Overall, I’m feeling pretty good, but my endurance needs to be built back up. Its a slower process than when I was 20, but it has to be done. Use it or lose it.

When my friend and I got back to the house we discovered my lovely wife on the computer. She’d been looking over the bidding on a sailboat on Ebay. I wonder how close we came to owning another sailboat. That came as a surprise.

I’m also waiting to hear about a truck on Craigslist. A buddy of mine spotted it. The truck needs a few repairs, but my buddy assures me they are all relatively cheap and easy fixes. There are a couple people ahead of me to view the vehicle, so it might be gone by the weekend. If it isn’t my lovely wife and I are going to take a drive out to see it. The truck is way over Vermont so it’s a bit of a haul.

Being retired I can spend more time surfing the web looking for deals. Friends of mine as also keeping their eyes open. One of the things I’ve discovered is that the local market has been pricing vehicles on the high side. Demand for old beaters must be strong around here. Unless something good pops up soon I’m pretty much going to have to travel for deals.

All in all things are moving along. Life is good.

-Sixbears

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Fragile Services



The local power company robo called and left a message that the grid was going down in two hours. They shut it down for repairs. Currently I’m powering my computer on my off-grid solar electric system.

Unfortunately, this won’t get posted until the grid comes back. Apparently my Internet is also down. The router powers up just fine on my power system, so the problem is on their end. Whatever. I take comfort in my personal library of actual paper books.

The power company estimated that the grid would be down for about four hours. We shall see.

Not much else going on around the homestead. We walked down to the lake today. The loons were playing right off our beach. Watching them never gets old. A kingfisher noisily went about his business. Their flight pattern always amuses me. It’s like they forget they have to flap their wings now and then so they do this flap, flap, and drop pattern. Beats the heck out of television.

I moved some of next year’s firewood around, but a lot less than I’d hoped. While I feel pretty healthy, my endurance is lacking. Months of inactivity and injury will do that to a person. Over time that should improve. Exercise is a good thing.

It’s not making the main stream news all that much, but there’s a really bad ebola outbreak going on in Africa. It’s happening in the middle of a war zone, so that complicates everything. The major world heath organizations admit they don’t have a handle on it. New cases keep appearing that aren’t on their list of people who were known to be exposed to the virus. That means there’s sources of the disease they’ve yet to discover.

In the past the spread of the disease was limited by people’s lack of access to rapid transportation. That slowed the spread down to a walking pace. This time around it’s affecting a population with access to cars and air travel.

Just to make things interesting, the United States has a lot of troops in Africa these days. Returning troops could unwittingly bring the virus back with them. If you want see what troop movements can do for disease spread look up how the Spanish flu traveled at the end of WWI. It’s speculated that the disease traveled by troop train, among other methods.

One thing about ebola is that it’s a fairly fast acting disease. To be frank, people died before they could spread it too far by walking. Air travel changes all that. The thing to do would be to shut down air travel before it could spread. That’s unlikely to happen fast enough. By the time they think about it, the cat will be out of the bag. You could still have sea travel as there would be time for symptoms to show before a boat crossed the ocean. Then again, I certainly would not want to be stuck on a quarantined boat carrying a plague.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A life well lived?



My college alumni magazine came in the mail. I may skim it, but usually it goes in the burn pile. My lovely wife happened across it and read a lot of the bios. They sounded pretty impressive.

I may have gotten my lovely wife a little mad at me . . . for reading between the lines . . . out loud. She might not have liked how I pointed out a few things. One guy had an extensive military career. It sounded good in the bio and I have to give the guy credit for serving. However, he wasn’t on the pointy end of the stick. All his assignments were basically office jobs. Those are important and essential to war fighting, but the guy never had to dodge a bullet his whole career. His bio read like he single-handedly defeated armies in hand to hand combat.

Another bio may have gotten somewhat polished up due the alum being a major donor to the college.

Of course, a bio in a magazine like that is just a slice of someone’s life focusing on the good things. There’s a certain amount of spin here. That’s fine, for what it is.

It did get me thinking. People’s lives are complicated. Few are ever all evil or all good. Some people have to overcome great trials and may become stronger for it. Others may just become broken, or jerks even. You never can tell. During the course of a long life there’s plenty of time to do good and bad things. The only people who do no wrong are people who do nothing at all.

There are things that may appear to right and correct at the time, but later on prove to be exactly the opposite.

Even as a kid I was pretty leery of heroes. Maybe I was just a cynical little snot. Maybe it’s because I saw people who were respected in the community doing mean things in private. However, it did become clear to me that I should try to become the best version of myself. It wasn’t to get standing in the community or praise from others. Trying to do your best is a gift you give yourself.

-Sixbears



Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Storm watch



I thought I’d do my post for Tuesday while I’ve still got a solid Internet connection. We are at the beginning of a sever storm watch. Judging from past experience, there’s a better than even chance that my Internet will go down. Such is life in the woods at the end of a very long line back to civilization. There are too many trees and some are going to take down wires.

Last night a couple of thunderstorms rolled through. My lovely wife said it looked like there was a lightning strike near our beach. All I know is that the thunder was loud enough to shake the house. I’m not going to wander down to the beach with a possible hail storm on its way.

While I can do without the hail, I’m actually counting on a bit more rain. When the sun came out I soaped up the boat. Rather than run the hose out to it I’m waiting on the rain to do a rinse job. Eventually we’ll have some decent weather and I’ll launch the boat off the trailer.

In other news, my lovely wife and I checked a few more potential tow vehicles. Once this bad weather passes I’m going to make a few phone calls and make some some serious offers. The worse they can say is no.

-Sixbears

Monday, May 20, 2019

Your state matters



It matters which state you live it. In a way the US is almost an association of fifty different countries under a big Federal umbrella. In general, Federal law overrides state law. However, that seems to be less and less the case.

Currently it’s the abortion debate. I’d love to get into that, but I’m not going to. Too many men have already done their bit. Another one is marijuana laws. It’s still illegal under Federal law, but states have their own laws.

Thanks to the opposing laws you have weird things. For example in my state medical marijuana is legal. However, if a doctor is receiving Federal funds to treat you, that doctor can’t recommend pot for your condition. Here’s another weird one. The weed is legal and both Canada and Vermont. However, you can’t bring it across the border -the border is manned by Federal agents.

Gun laws vary tremendously from state to state. For example, New York has a lot of firearm restrictions. It’s extremely difficult to get a concealed carry permit. In my state of New Hampshire, to carry a concealed firearm, all you need a firearm and a way to conceal it. There are no permits required at all.

The list goes on and on. It covers everything from air pollution standards to boating regulations.

If you don’t like the laws in your state you basically have three options. You can become politically involved and try to change the laws. That can be time consuming, difficult, but sometimes satisfyingly successful. Another option is move to another state. While it’s a lot easier than changing countries, it can be an expensive and difficult solution. Then again, often it’s worth it. One new friend of mine is so happy to be in New Hampshire she’s never going back, even though her old friends are almost a thousand miles away now.

The third option is to become an outlaw. That has merits too. I’ve always been more concerned about doing what I consider morally right rather what’s legal. Remember, everything the Nazis did in WWII was legal.

-Sixbears


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Fun with electricity



A friend had a little electrical problem. Let’s just say she went to change a light fixture and lost power in half the house. That’s not good. She was ready to refinance the house and send an electrician’s kid to college. Then someone recommended that she call me.

It’s always interesting to figure out house wiring that’s been changed and updated over the years. Some updates were more successful than others. I found a couple of ancient connections that were made with what looks like medical tape. No wonder it was a problem. I fixed that right off. While the wiring needs improvement I now feel that its not going to burn the house down.

Before I left we put together a shopping list. On the bright side, there’s plenty of room in the electrical box for new breakers. With a little assistance she’ll be able to add a few much needed circuits.

While we were sitting at the table putting the list together, a light in the hall kept going on and off. It took me a time or two to realize it was doing that by itself. For a moment there I was afraid there was some kind of loose connection doing it. Well it turns out the light is on a motion sensor and the dog and cat kept setting it off.

More rain is predicted for sometime today. There’s even a chance of thunderstorms tomorrow. At least we don’t have flooding as bad as along the Mississippi drainage area. Then there are the tornadoes affecting parts of the country. At least that’s a rare problem in these parts. Live goes on.

-Sixbears

Saturday, May 18, 2019

The Gig Economy



It seems everybody’s got a side gig these days. Most folks have some sort of side thing going on to make a few bucks. I get it. It’s tough to get by on just one job these days. There are plenty of people who don’t have a regular job so they put together a bunch of part time ones. One friend of mine once had nine jobs going at the same time. When did she sleep?

I get it, but I don’t like it. Nobody has a hobby that is just a hobby. The thing that people once used as a distraction is now just another chance to make money. Hobbies used to provide stress relief, but if you really need that income from the hobby, it’s stressful.

Is it possible to just hang out and socialize with friends anymore? It seems every party is a networking opportunity or a chance to sell something to someone.

Okay, maybe I’m just a terrible business person. Rarely do I use my skills, knowledge and tools to make money. If someone needs something I’m much more likely to donate my skills and time for free. I think that back when families could live on a single income they could afford to be more generous.

It has gotten really hard to find volunteers these days. About the only way volunteer organizations can still function is because of all those people who have decent retirements. Of course, those nice retirement packages are a thing of the past. Instead of reading to children the recent retirees have to put on a funny vest and work retail. The Nation is poorer as a society for it.

-Sixbears

Friday, May 17, 2019

Peace and Quiet



I just saw this article about 10 towns in New Hampshire that offer nothing but peace and quiet.

I happen to live smack dab between two of them. One of them I go to because it has more going on than what I have in my town. The other one, however, doesn’t even have a gas station or a place to buy a gallon of milk. My town has that, at least. Of course, the gas station is a couple miles from where I live.

My house is in one of those places that when a car goes by, you usually recognize it and know the driver. When someone in the area gets a new car it takes a while to get used to.

The world is getting more urban. People are leaving small towns and heading in the cities. A small town is considered doing well if its population is static instead of shrinking.

Small towns used to have a business or two that provided employment. A lot of businesses moved to cheap labor countries. Other jobs have been automated. It also makes more sense to have economies of scale. Did you know that most of the world’s socks are made in one city in China?

Cities have a lot of stuff going on, but you’d better be prepared to pay for everything. Urban life isn’t cheap. On the other hand, wages tend to be higher. The trick, if you can do it, is to have big city wages and live in a small town. Thanks to the Internet that’s possible for a select group of people. For some jobs it does not matter where one lives. As long as they can get on-line, they can work.

Peace in quiet isn’t for everyone. It can drive some folks insane, but it’s what I need to stay sane.

-Sixbears

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Never ending heating season



I’m still keeping the woodstove going all day long. Normally by now I’d only light a fire in the morning to take the chill off. Within a week or so the last of my pressed sawdust fuel blocks should be used up.

That’s not too big of a deal as there’s plenty of natural wood available. Over the winter a lot of maple branches came down. They are dry, easy to cut up, provide plenty of heat, and are within easy walking distance. If that’s not enough there’s some standing dead wood that could be cut up. If I don’t want to bother with any of that, there’s enough heating oil left to use the furnace. However, I’d rather save the oil for next fall.

If all goes well I hope to not buy any fuel this coming winter. I’ve a pile of cut up wood that should be seasoned by the end of summer. Frankly, I’m hoping to shut the place down during the month of October and head south for the winter. It might even be more economical to camp or sail than to heat the place next winter.

With unease in the Middle East, it’s entirely possible that heating oil will take a big spike. The world may see a shooting war in the next few months. Already pipelines and oil tankers have been under attack. If you do burn heating oil and have the money, now might be the time to top off your tank.

-Sixbears



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Still Shopping for Wheels


A buddy of mine has been keeping an eye out for a tow vehicle for me. He noticed there were a couple of vans for sale at the Mt. Washington Auto Road.

These are the vans the company used to take passengers up to the top of the mountain. There are some pros and cons to that. The obvious downside is the fact that they are driving up and down the largest mountain in the Northeast all day.

On the plus side, since they don’t want to fly off a cliff and plunge down into the Great Gulf Wilderness, they are well maintained. They are also only driven during the summer months, so that limits wear and tear a bit. One of the neat things about these vans is that they have special low gear ratios for the slow mountain trip. When they are put back on the market, the original road gears are reinstalled.

The large vans were in great shape, too great a shape for me. The price was way out of my budget. By the way, while we missed getting snow, there was fresh snow on the ground at the base of the Auto Road. It’s several hundred feet higher than where I live and that made all the difference.

In our travels we did come across a van owned by an electrical company. They’ve moved away from residential work into more commercial projects. Because of that their old vans have been replaced by much larger vehicles.

I’ve got my eye on their Ford F250 work van. It’s basically a big empty box. That’s a plus for me as it’s a blank slate that I could do something creative with. The towing capacity is very good. While the van lacks a hitch, that’s not necessarily all bad. At least the van hasn’t been used to tow big heavy things over the years. It’s not that hard to put a good hitch on.

Now if only I could get the price down a bit. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

We really hadn’t planned on vehicle shopping, but since we needed to go into town anyway, we made a day of it.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Rust and repairs



I must admit to getting a little discouraged about finding a cheap tow vehicle for the boat. Of course, it doesn’t help that my budget is a bit limited. It’s not just the price of the vehicle, there’s registration, insurance, inspection and the inevitable unexpected repairs. Probably the smart thing to do right now is to stop looking and make a plan B.

People are a lot more liberal than I am on what “good” and “excellent” condition mean. FYI people, a vehicle is not good if it needs a head gasket, brakes, and the frame welded. No wonder people were surprised when I sold my “fair condition” van and it could be driven away.

My daughter is willing to launch the boat on the lake, but that limits us to sailing round and round a fairly small body of water. It’s fun, but not a lot of adventure there. If nothing else I get a lot of practice tacking.

At least we still have my wife’s little economy car. There were a few times in the past when we had no working vehicles at all. Living out in the woods we pretty much need some form of transportation. It’s either a car or walking -and it’s a long long walk to anywhere.

As much as I miss having a second vehicle, I don’t miss the expense. Of course, for what I spent on doctor’s bills I could have picked up a decent used truck. So it goes.

-Sixbears

Monday, May 13, 2019

Freedom of the Seas



One thing that the world takes for granted these days is the freedom of the seas. The open ocean is, generally, a pretty safe place. Well, it’s still the sea, which is inherently dangerous, but it’s not like there are pirates everywhere. While there are few pockets here and there, the world has never been so safe for International shipping.

The short reason why it’s so safe is that the US Navy makes it so. No other nation has the global reach that the US does. Thanks to the US being the world’s policeman cheap and secure International trade is possible. The free trade system that the US created after WWII also created huge trade deficits. Even so, it was worth it at the time. Deficits were less important than alliances, especially with the competition from the USSR.

To vastly over simplify, it worked. There is no longer a Soviet Communist threat. What’s one thing that generally happens to victorious militaries? They get downsized. When it comes right down to it, why maintain an expensive system to create alliances when they aren’t as important anymore. Without the strategic importance of free trade, why suffer the economic burden?

The recent trade war with China is a case in point. The US can survive a trade war better than China can. The US is still an industrial nation and can once again tool up to cover any Chinese shortfalls. China, on the other hand, needs export growth to provide jobs for a restless population. It’s less about money for China that it is about political stability. The long term domestic fall out for a trade war is much worse for China that the US. Why worry if the Straight of Malacca is open or not?

I was surprised to learn how much we’ve already pulled back from International commitments. It goes back to George W. Bush and continued through Obama. The pullback still continues. Don’t be distracted by the occasional deployment of military might here and there. The overall trend is downward.

One huge reason for maintaining open sea lanes was the US dependence on imported oil. Right now the United States can pretty much take care of itself using just North American resources. The rest of the world is going to have to scramble for energy, but the US is in a pretty good situation. Don’t be surprised if you eventually see things like European or Japanese ships escorting oil tanker convoys.

Some really basic things about the way the world works has quietly changed. Things will get interesting.

-Sixbears


Sunday, May 12, 2019

Road trip Results



Friday was a long day. I drove a couple hundred miles. We spent time with family and went to my granddaughter’s concert.

This was the furthest we’ve traveled and longest I’ve been on my feet since getting out of the hospital. To be honest, my right leg was a bit sore and somewhat swollen at the end of the day. However, it was right back to normal in the morning

Saturday my daughter and I tackled a couple of ceiling fan projects. We got one installed and fully functional. The second one was a bit tougher. The old one did not want to come down. We didn’t have the instructions, of course, so we had to figure out how everything went together. After we removed it, we discovered the electrical box was poorly secured. No wonder the old fan wobbled like a drunken frat boy.

I offered to see what I could do about that, but the day was getting on. My daughter said she has someone who can secure the electrical box for her. After that, thanks to having put up the first fan, she feel pretty confident she can install the second one. Nothing like a couple of good ceiling fans to keep cooling costs down.

The trip back north was pretty slow going in the Boston area. It is said that Boston is an hour away from Boston. Once we got north of Concord New Hampshire, we pretty much had the roads to ourselves. That’s the kind of driving I enjoy.

A van I was interested in checking out was pulled off of Craigslist, so that didn’t happen. No problem. I’m looking to contact another person closer to home about their vehicle. Something suitable will eventually come my way.

I hope all you mothers out there have a Happy Mother’s Day. I know I miss mine so connect with yours if you still can.

-Sixbears



Friday, May 10, 2019

Couple days on the road



My lovely wife and I will be on the road for a few days. We have a house/dog sitter for the duration. We have some fun family things going on.

I may even get a chance to check out a potential new tow vehicle for the boat. That’s not set in stone, but it’s a possibility.

I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to keep posting while traveling and didn’t want people wondering what happened to me.

-Sixbears

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Needless Complication



So I was watching this video of a guy on a million dollar sailing cat. This boat had everything. He was getting ready to sail from Florida to the Bahamas. Nice, right?

Then he had a mechanical problem and was forced to postpone his trip. It took a bit to understand what the problem was. Basically, the boat would not shit into forward. Normally there’s a cable that runs from the transmission to the captain’s position in the cockpit. When a lever is thrown it moves the cable that shifts the transmission. Simple enough.

That was too simple for this expensive boat. Instead of a simple cable it’s a fly by wire system. The lever in the cockpit does not directly control the shifting. Instead it sends an electronic command down some wires to a special control box. Inside that box is a bunch of electronics and motors. It takes the electrical signal to shift and then converts into a command to electric motors that actually do the shifting.

They’ve replaced a simple direct linkage with electronics and motors. When the system breaks nobody can or knows how to fix it so the whole expensive unit has to be replaced. That sailor was stuck on the dock until a new part and boat mechanic could be found.

So I had to ask myself, why did they replace a simple mechanical system with a complicated device? The best I can figure out is that the shifting lever might have a much smoother feel to it. That’s it. That’s all I could see.

Of course, it’s not just on boats. Take most luxury cars and look how fast they depreciate. There’s a reason for that. As they age they have all kinds of computer/sensor/electrical issues. Hook a good mechanic’s scan tool up to one and there could be dozens of faults. Even with multiple faults, it could still be issues that don’t even flip the check engine light on. Of course, those small problems have a bad habit of becoming large problems.

I think off all these messed up complicated issues whenever anyone talks about self-driving cars. No doubt those will break down in interesting ways.

Fancy electronics, computers, and fly by wire have their place. That sort of thing makes sense in something like a fighter jet where a split second can be the difference between victory and death. Of course, they have the advantage of highly trained crews and the endless money supply of the full industrial political complex.

Lacking bottomless dollars and not having a fighter jet, I’m going to stick with simpler technology wherever it makes sense.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Two Good Days



I picked up a nasty cough during our cold went spring. My damaged lungs can be slow to heal from something as simple as a spring cold. A two day break in the weather made all the difference. In just a couple of days my lungs were about 80% better. Because I can breath easier I can do more walking and increased my distance.

Those two nice days were a reminder that I really have no business spending winters in the cold. My lungs feel much better with warm humid air. With that in mind I’ve been working towards getting my boat south for the winter.

My lovely wife and I have been exploring a lot of different ideas. There are a number of things up in the air. We might get a tow vehicle for our Oday 19 trailer sailboat. If that doesn’t come together we can always borrow a truck. We are still open to the idea of buying a bigger boat on the coast and sailing it south. There are options.

Those boat ideas are all well and good, but my middle daughter came up with a good point. I need a fall back plan for living down south if the boat stuff doesn’t happen. With that in mind I’m exploring other options for cheap living down south. Hey, worse come to worse I could always pitch a tent in a National Forest somewhere.

As much as love NH in the warm weather, the cold weather could kill me one of these days. If nothing else, it’s the difference between suffering and feeling like my lungs were never damaged.

-Sixbears

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Power Vs hand tools



So what’s better to have, power or hand tools? Okay, that’s a trick question. It’s better to have both.

Let’s face it power tools really save a lot of time and effort. There are darn few jobs where I reach for the non-powered tool first. Once in a while it’s quicker to use a hand tool for a small job than to bother stretching out an extension cord.

In reality there are three major tool categories, not two. There are power tools that have to be plugged into house current. There are hand tools that rely on human power. Then there are battery powered tools. They’ve come a long way, thanks to better battery technology.

Picture this: a hurricane is coming and you are trying to board up your windows. The power goes out ahead of the storm before the job is done. Then you can pull out your battery powered screwdriver and continue putting up plywood. Of course, if the batteries die before the job is done, you’ll be happy to have some hand tools to finish the job.

When it comes to tools it’s not an either or situation. It’s an all the options thing. As a rule of thumb I like to have a least one human powered tool for every job that I’d need a power tool for. Most backup manual tools are pretty straight forward, a hammer for a air nailer or screwdriver for a bit driver. Then there are some tools one might not think of. What do you have for a chainsaw replacement? An ax? Not the best solution. I’ve got a 3.5 foot long German cross cut saw. When sharp it makes pretty quick work of even good sized logs. It’s much cleaner and faster job that a thousand whacks with an ax.

We are tool using animals with opposable thumbs. Embrace your heritage and make sure you have some good tools.

-Sixbears

Monday, May 6, 2019

Back to the Beach



Snow is down to just a few patches here and there. Sunday the ice finally melted off the lake. We had a nice, mostly sunny day. Temperatures rose up to 69, the warmest it’s been this year.

A friend joined my lovely wife and for a walk down to the beach. It didn’t take long for the first fishing boats to get out onto the water. We saw geese, loons and osprey.

Right in front of my beach an osprey landed on a good sized trout. The osprey had a real struggle to get back into the air. The osprey did one circle, climbing about 20 feet off the water. The large trout wiggled free and plunged into the lake. It was quite the sight. Like all fishermen who lose a catch, the loon was very upset.

Today is supposed to be another warm and sunny one. However, by Tuesday we will be back to cool temperatures and more rain. While the frequent rain is annoying, it drastically reduces the fire danger.

I’ve a small solar electric system in my beach shed. The plan was to take the battery up to the house for the winter. Like many of my plans, it never happened. I feared the battery might have died from the cold. However, when I inspected it, it was holding a charge just fine. The solar panel must have provided enough charge to keep the battery from freezing.

The shed, only six by eight feet, has a four foot by eight foot window on the south side. On a sunny day, in the middle of the winter, the shed can get to shirt sleeve temperatures. No doubt that must have helped keep the battery from freezing..

The solar system has a cheap 1000 watt inverter. The unit powered right up. That’s great as it’s got enough strength. For lights and small power tools. I can work on boats right next to the water rather than hauling then up to the house.

It’s official, spring is really here in the Great North Woods.

-Sixbears

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Hopeful signs



Saturday the ice on the lake was about half gone. It’s supposed to be half way decent today and tomorrow so that should take care of the rest of it. There still snow piled at the end of my driveway, but it’s shrinking fast. It’s entirely possible that we might have something that looks somewhat like spring. Maybe.

The loons are back on the lake. Once again their haunting cries echo across the hills. For me, nothing says northern lake like the sound of the loons. The eagle is hanging around the open water. Osprey are back. There are even patches of green here and there.

For folks in most of the rest of the rest of the country, spring has been around for some time. I’ve even heard some people complaining about the humidity. We’ve barely had any time in the low 60s. I think the only reason the snow’s melted so fast is due to all the rain we’ve had.

With better weather I’ve been able to do more walking. I’ve a long way to go before I’m back in condition, but progress is being made. There are a lot of projects I’d like to dive into, but I’m going to pace myself. It’s also means I’m going to organize the jobs by priority. I’m sure I won’t get them all done. The last think I want to do is to reinjure myself.

One project pretty high up on the list is getting the sailboat ready for the water. Our nice weather is too short to spend all of it swinging a hammer or pushing a shovel.

-Sixbears

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Slaves to the Algorithms



Being Internet famous can be a brutal thing. Believe me, I’m certainly not talking about myself. There are YouTubers, Bloggers, Instagram models and people on other platforms who make their living from their on-line presence.

It’s a shaky way to make a dollar. You can go from making a good income to having your on-line existence canceled overnight. Recently I was reading about an Instagram model who’s channel was canceled for some reason. She was really upset as she really had no other job skills except sex work or fast food. It’s weird when your job is to look good and appear to be having a fantastic life.

Over the winter I’ve been watching a lot of S. V Delos, a sailing YouTube channel. Recently they announced that they will be cutting back on their videos. The filming of their lives was beginning to interfere with them living their lives. They out and out said they refuse to be slaves to the YouTube algorithms. I think it’s a brave and wise decision -it’s also a rare choice.

There’s this other guy, who will remain nameless, who posts daily but basically just begs for money. He doesn’t really do anything but he talks a lot about the amazing things he plans on doing. It does appear that his scam is coming to an end and YouTube will be better without him.

This blog is technically monetized and I do get the occasional check from Google. It’s just about enough to keep me in coffee, so that’s good. There are certain types of articles that increase traffic, but it’s not worth concentration on those stories. I write because I enjoy sharing. Perhaps there are people out there who find some of my little ramblings useful, or at least entertaining. My readers are good people and I enjoy their comments. Very few trolls come to my blog.

A couple years ago a friend wanted my help to do a podcast. It was a niche subject that I don’t really touch on in this blog, but I have some knowledge of. The guy had a very ambitious posting schedule and the project was going to take a lot of work. It had reached the point where we had the computers, audio equipment, software, and quiet studio space. We had a podcast platform lined up. It was all set to go, then my podcast partner’s life got complicated. Once in a while he floats the idea past me, but his life is still busy seven days a week. I certainly wasn’t going to shoulder the whole thing by myself.

I wonder if we would have become slaves to the algorithms? Would we have tailored the shows to squeeze out every dollar? Probably not, now that I think about it. Both of us are too independent to worry about the bottom line.

-Sixbears





Friday, May 3, 2019

Still Making Stories



The other day I happened to see a friend of mine downtown. He was talking to guy I didn’t know. My friend had to tell some of the stories of the adventurous things we’d used to do. That was fine but it got me thinking. For the last twenty years I’ve been asking this guy if he wants to go with me on adventures. I haven’t stopped. He always said he’d love to but just could not get away. You’d think by now I’d catch on and stop inviting him.

The thing is there are other people out there to ask. Sometimes they join me. There’s another friend of mine who is involved in a lot of different activities. Even though we live hours away, we end up doing things together. One time he was with a crew and they were trying to figure out who was oldest. As it turned out my friend’s beard was older than the next oldest guy. That’s the sort of thing that can happen when you marry someone quite a bit younger than yourself. My buddy says he’s doing all he can to “avoid the habits of the old.”

That phrase stuck in my head. What are the habits of the old? Well, one habit is talking about all the things you used to do without doing any more new things. It’s easy to get stuck in one’s ways. People get comfortable and don’t want to leave that comfort zone.

Sometimes people lie to themselves about all the things they are going to do when they retire. Unless they’ve been actively having adventures all along, it’s rare they are going to start when they retire. They sell their dreams for a paycheck until one day there are no dreams left.

-Sixbears

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Well Water Plan B



Last fall I was in a mad scramble trying to fix the water supply line to the house. It was fine on the well side and fine at the house, but somewhere in the sixty or so feet between -not so fine. I’d put in a shallow buried line as a temporary fix. It was only meant to last for the summer.

With bad weather looming and no fix in sight, I came up with plan B. I went down to the building supply center and bought foam panels. Each panel was two feet by eight feet and two inches thick. Using tent pegs I stacked the panels over the water line. Then my son-in-law and I buried everything under a few inches of dirt. It wasn’t an elegant solution, but the water line never froze all winter.

It did freeze once in the basement, but that was because I was unable to insulate inside as well as I would have liked to. My infected leg was acting up. As a stop gap measure I set up a small electric heater to keep the pipes from freezing. It was supposed to be temporary but then I ended up in the hospital. My recovery was slow and long so the short term heater became long term. It raised my power grid usage quite a bit, but at least we had water.

When I came up with plan B I was hoping it would last until the first of the year. My thinking at the time was we could always shut the house down and go camping in Florida. Little did I know that instead of seeing warm beaches I’d be seeing doctors and hospitals. Fortunately, the emergency fix worked well enough to keep the water flowing.

I’ve a lot of house projects to catch up with once the weather warms up. However, I’ve planning on seeing those beaches this coming fall and winter. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men . . . and bears. . .

-Sixbears

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Like the Amish



Sometimes I think the Amish have some good ideas. Most people think the Amish shun technology. That’s not quite accurate. They adopt technology all the time. What they have is a process where they evaluate a technology to see how it fits in with the overall good of the community. While I might question their technology choices, it’s not a bad idea to access the technology we use.

New Technology always has unforeseen side effects. Wouldn’t it be nice if improvements were actually real improvements?

The best car I ever owned was a second hand Mercedes diesel from the early 80s. It had a hundred thousand miles on it when we bought it. My lovely wife and I put an additional four hundred thousand miles on. The engine was super simple. The car was my first veggie fuel conversion experiment and it survived my tinkering and ignorance.

I would not want a new Mercedes today. They are way over engineered. Somehow they thought it was a good idea to stuff an absolute silly number of computer processors and sensors in the thing. When the electronic system acts up they are extremely difficult to diagnose and fix. Thea are a much nicer car than the old 80s version, but new ones do not age well. Don’t take my word for it. Look at how fast they depreciate.

When I was a little kid I always thought newer much be better. With age comes wisdom. For example, I really like having a nice wood fired cookstove. It heats the house. We cook on the top and the oven works well. The stove has zero electronics and needs no electricity. There could be a massive EMP and the stove would still work.

Not all new technology is bad. I’ve been really impressed with solar electric. My original solar panels are around twenty-five years old and still generate electricity. The newer panels are a lot cheaper, but there’s no reason to think they won’t last for years and years too.

Of course, solar cells are not new technology. The first solar cells out of Bell Labs were made over sixty years ago.

You don’t have to be as conservative as the Amish while adopting technology. However, it’s probably not a good idea to be on the cutting edge either. You’ll pay a premium to be the one discovering all the bugs the engineers missed.

-Sixbears