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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.