Thursday, September 30, 2010

Factory Tales

A buddy of mine called from Kentucky today. We had a good chat. He told me a little story. One day at his factory job he happened to make an observation.

"You know," he said, "We are just a bunch of whores here, performing a series of physical actions for money."

Next thing you know he's called down to the HR department for calling all his co-workers whores. I guess they didn't get it.

Another thing that happened today, one more local factory closed. 225 people are out on the street. This in an area already depressed. I've friends and relatives out of work. Many of these guys are in their 50s, skilled in jobs that have gone away. They are too young to retire, and too old to retrain. Some have trades that can be transferred to other fields. Most don't. Even those with salable skills will have to move to use them.

According to the radio, the company that was going to buy the mill was unable to secure financing. They aren't the only ones. Banks are not lending. Now if this sort of thing is happening all over the country, doesn't expect a recovery. No investment in factories equals no factory jobs. The sad thing here is that everyone agrees the workers are good, some of the most productive in the world.

Well . . . now it looks they are being treated like cheap whores -used and cast aside.

Good night American worker.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Don't wait until you're dead

My grandfather always used to say when he retired he'd take up fishing. At his retirement party, one of his sons gave him a very expensive fly fishing rod, along with everything else he'd need. Ten years later, after my grandfather died, the rod had rotted away from being stored badly. It had never been used.

How many people do you see with plans for their retirement years who never get to do them? Sometimes it's just pain inertia, like my grandfather. He got into a routine and never made the effort to break out of it. A lot of people have serious health issues by retirement age. Others feel they have responsibilities they can't leave behind. Many find they don't have the money to do things in the way they dreamed. Plenty of people don't get to retire but work hard their whole lives. Some people just die.

My lovely wife and I started traveling for half the year when we were in our early 40s. We'd leave during the cold months and travel south until the canoe on the roof racks didn't look silly. Every year my wife would leave her job, not knowing if there'd be one when she got back. Her place of employment never made her any promises. She was always able to get rehired when we came back home, but we didn't worry about it. I was involved in a on-line magazine that required the occasional Internet connection. No big deal. My business could be run from a laptop computer in a tent, and it was.

Plenty of people were envious at the things we saw and did, but not to the point of taking any chances and doing it themselves.

Now my wife's physical problems have gotten a bit worse. In our 50s, we can't do the sort of things we did in our 40s. There's still plenty of adventures to be had. We can build on previous experiences. Glad we did those things when we could.

The big lie is that once you retire, everything will be wonderful. Keep your nose to the grindstone and you'll be rewarded. You'll be rewarded with a ground off nose; in my opinion. People who wait for retirement age to try new things, rarely do. Those who strike off into new directions, have been doing that their whole lives. Retirement just gives them more time to do more of it.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Way too Mellow

The day started with plenty of stuff to rant about. Now, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter at all.

Things took a positive turn when the mail came in around 3:30 in the afternoon. The Social Security judge ruled in my wife's favor. She's going to get her disability pension after all. That certainly takes the pressure off. We've yet to hear when and exactly how much money is coming in, but it'll be enough. Our needs are simple.

Then we went down to my daughter's place. Enjoyed a light dinner with my daughter, her husband and my granddaughter. After dinner, we opened a bottle of wine and retired to the brand new enormous hot tub. Any left over tension just bubbled away.

Just a bit of advice. If your child wants to go to massage therapy school instead of a regular college, just go with it. If this child also wants to study hydrotherapy, by all means encourage this field of study. Anything that allows a gigantic hot tub as a partial tax deduction is a good thing.


Monday, September 27, 2010

City or Country Instincts

I just got back from visiting my daughter and her family. They live in an actual city. My instincts are tuned for the country. It's an adjustment.

Traffic is the first thing that impresses me. Totally different rhythms for city driving. Also doesn't help that I'm driving a "country" truck: Extended cab F-250 with a full sized bed and a tall roof rack. The length and width of the truck makes for tough going in narrow streets. The high roof rack keeps me out of parking garages -too high.

When a car drives by my country place, I most likely know the person -if not by name at least by sight. No such luck with the thousands of cars constantly driving right by my daughter's house. In the country, I can hear cars coming for miles away. My ears are tuned to listen for them. In the city, that kind of attention would drive a person mad. Too much is going on. My instincts are to pay attention to things far away, as well as close, but it's system overload in the city.

Then there is the light. When I wake up at home, and it's light in my bedroom, it's time to get up. This past weekend, I'd wake up in the middle of the night, thinking it was time to get out of bed. No, it was just the lights from the city, tricking my country habits.

My daughter doesn't even live in a very big city. It's not like when I once visited my sister-in-law in Manhattan. Early in the morning, I heard gun shots fairly close by. At first, I wasn't concerned at all. Back home it was deer hunting season. Gun shots at the break of day was no cause for alarm. I'd been listening to them all week. Once I woke up fully, however, I realized no one was hunting deer in Manhattan. Duh!

To live in a city, a person needs different skills. Over time, I get used to it, but it never really becomes second nature to me. I'm like a man living in a foreign country who understands enough of the language to get by, but has to translate the words back to his native tongue to really understand.

On the flip side, I've city friends who have trouble sleeping in the country. It's too quiet. One couple brings a fan to generate white noise so they can relax.

Tonight, I walked outside in the dark to get something from my truck. I head a sound and froze. It was the sound of a leaf falling to the ground and bumping into still attached leaves on the way down. Would not have heard that in the city.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Home Again

Once again we made it home to the Great North Woods. Nice to see friends and family, but also nice to be back.

Spent some time on Massachusetts's North Shore and in Portsmouth New Hampshire, taking in all things nautical.

There's something special about old port cities. The history just permeates them, as if the salt air has preserved the past.

I spent some time staring out over the water, checking out the currents, channel markers, anchorages, available docks, and the variety and condition of boats. Dreaming with my eyes open.

Someday my own boat will sail those waters.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Gone visiting

Sorry folks, I'm on the road again. Visiting friends and family. More when I can.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Credit Card Mystery

Almost every day, I receive preapproved credit card offers in the mail. Isn't this supposed to be a credit crunch? What gives?

I've no idea why they think I should have more credit. My income is so small that if it wasn't for my unusual lifestyle, I'd be desperate. My expenses are dramatically lower than most people's, so we survive. My wife hasn't worked for a year and a half. Currently, I'm running a bit late on my property taxes.

Yet day after day, more credit card offers roll in.

I've no savings in the bank. My emergency funds have been cleaned out by emergencies. In fact, my emergency emergency financial backup plan was credit cards. Then more emergencies hit and I did have to use the credit cards. Really hated to do that, but I made a decision that credit card debt, as evil as it is, was the lesser evil.

The only thing that makes sense to me why I get all these credit card offers is that the ones I already have are being paid. Just paid one off completely. That's a good feeling. There haven't been any late payments because my nice single digit interest rate would skyrocket.

Still, it's not much to recommend me for more credit. My local banks wouldn't give me any sort of a loan right now. They know me and see how little my income is. That's fine, as a loan wouldn't be a good thing right now anyway.

However, the big banks keep sending me credit cards. Banks that had really bad relationships with want me to have credit. Don't they check their own records? There are reasons why I now deal with a local Credit Union for most of my business.

My current plan is to pay off the back taxes as soon as possible. Then the existing debt on the credit cards get the ax.

The absolute last thing I need is another credit card. One good thing, at this time of year, that junk mail comes in handy for starting the woodstove.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Furnace cement and fire brick

The old kitchen woodstove is wearing out. I do have my eye on a nice replacement, but until that happens, the old one will have to do.

Old cast iron woodstoves were pretty good in their day, but they had some serious limitations. One major problem is that most have small fireboxes. Some were better than others. Mine had a cast iron firebox extender bolted on the back. It looks like a piece of factory equipment -an option the first owners had installed. Some have been custom built. Wood has to be chopped pretty small for some stoves. That's time and labor.

Most newer stoves are air tight and have bigger fireboxes. That makes a big difference on wood usage and burning time. It's a rare morning when my old kitchen stove has enough warm coals to start new logs. Usually, it's a matter of starting the fire with kindling. In contrast, my air tight stove in the basement holds a good fire 12 - 16 hours.

When I first bought the old stove 20 some odd years ago, it'd just been rebuilt. Twenty years of New Hampshire winters take a toll. The fire grates were repaired by a welder friend of mine. Over time, the cast iron liners failed. Cast iron has been replaced with firebrick and furnace cement. I'm real careful to do a good job. As a retired firefighter, it'd be an embarrassment to burn my own house down.

Today I did another firebrick repair. Used a bit of broken brick that was salvaged out of another stove. Finished up the last of my furnace cement too. The woodstove is going to the top of the equipment replacement list. It's the heart of a home. It keeps the place warm, the kettle hot, and cooks the food. It'll be worth getting a good new one.

However, until more funds come in, here's hoping the patch jobs hold.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Watching the machines fade away

It's no secret that funds in the Sixbears household have been pretty limited for some time now. We haven't missed any meals. Some of those meals have been pretty basic, but we certainly haven't gone hungry. A little food storage certainly does come in handy.

It's other things that slowly fall apart. When it became clear the car wouldn't pass state inspection without a lot of expensive work, we retired it. Since then, we've gotten by with just the old truck. Inconvenient at times, but not too hard to live with.

The washing machine is slowly dying. Over the years, I've taken it apart and put it back together quite a few times. Eventually, machines just wear out. It still washes the clothes, but everything is slowing down. The heavy duty cycle isn't working right. My guess is that the electric motor is wearing out. Doesn't quite seem to have the same power it once had. Laundry can still be done on the normal cycle, so we make do. Even there, it doesn't spin the drum as fast as it used to and the clothes are wetter than they should be. At least they are clean.

One solution is to just run the dryer a lot longer. Of course, that strains the dryer, which had a major rebuild itself last year. Also uses more energy. Good thing I put in nice long clothesline outside. Saves energy and extends the life of the dryer.

The machine I'm really going to miss is the dishwasher. It's one of my vices. Yes, I know it's possible to hand wash dishes using a lot less water and energy. There are only so many hours in the day, and I don't want to spend any more of them than I have to washing dishes. My wife hates this machine as the noise drives her crazy. For me, it's the restful sound of me not hand washing dishes. Anyway, this machine too is slowly fading away. The gasket around the door is starting to leak. The top rack fell out once, but repairs seem to be holding. Wheels occasionally fall off the bottom rack. When this machines goes, it will not be replaced, in spite of my hatred of hand washing dishes.

My household infrastructure is a bit like the national infrastructure. My appliances are like the nations, roads, bridges, canals, railroads -the machinery of a nation. It takes investment to keep everything running. Patch jobs only work so long. The nation has neglected investment in its "machinery." The infrastructure of the nation is slowly wearing down. Just like me, the nation is going to have to struggle along with things that aren't as good as they could be.

One thing that tough times does for me is it makes me focus on what's important. What things in my life are truly important and worth the effort. Maybe the nation as a whole, after going through a rough patch, will figure out what's important and what's not. What machinery is worth the trouble and what isn't.

I'll tell you guys one thing. If my wife won't let me replace the dishwasher when it finally dies, she's going to start washing a lot more dishes her own self.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pirates and renewable energy

Before the days of the steamship, ocean going transportation used totally renewable energy. It had to, there wasn't anything else. Sailing ships were a big deal. World trade started with sailing ships, and it worked great for many years.

Then steam ships came along. They were complicated, dangerous, and used vast amounts of coal. Countries needed "coaling stations," all over the world. It took huge amounts of political and military effort to establish the necessary infrastructure.

Why did they bother? Power, that's why. Steam ships were faster. On the sea, there is the fastest and everybody else. In military doctrine, he who gets there first with the most wins. Steam ships got there first.

Steam also put the final nail in the coffin of the old style pirates. Pirates didn't have coaling stations. When everyone had to use the wind, pirates and the military were on pretty equal footing. A sailing ship could be repaired and provisioned from many different places. They could go as far as they wanted on the wind. Navies didn't have a technological advantage over pirates.

These days pirates don't cross oceans. They are pretty much a coastal phenomena. Once their fuel is half gone, they'd better turn back to home port, or become stranded. Marinas aren't in the business of refueling pirate craft.

Now if we did have ships that ran on renewable power, then maybe the far faring pirate would return. On the other hand, transport ships are slowing down.

Clipper ships used to make better time than today's container ships. Maybe there's hope for pirates yet. However, they need a new kind of ship. Picture a ship that normally travels by sail. It can get far out in the ocean yet not have to worry about running out of fuel. Since container ships are traveling slow enough that a good sailing ship can catch them, the pirate sailer can ease up on it.

Of course, an old fashioned sailboat won't work. Once the container ship realizes the sailing ship's intent is hostile, they can say the heck with conservation and kick the engines into high gear. Old fashioned sailboats would be left behind in a puff of petrochemical smoke.

New pirates need a scaled up version of this:
It's a boat built for sail, but can fire up a big engine and go up on plane, speeding right along. The valuable and limited fuel would only be used for zeroing in on the kill -and perhaps while trying to escape pursuit. Changes the game, doesn't it?

Who knows, with advances in solar electric panels and electricity storage, maybe a ship could have a powerful electric motor for high speed propulsion. The pirate ship sails slowly along, while solar panels charge up a massive bank of ultra capacitors (or other advanced battery system) That energy gets used up in a massive burst when the ship needs to go really fast for short distances. With renewable energy, this cycle could be repeated many times. A "green" pirate ship could stay out on the open ocean for a long long time.

Something to think about.

I don't know why I just reinvented piracy, but there it is.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Yard sale season

Yard sales. When the snow comes, they'll be gone. One good thing about the snow. Yard sales always look to me like a half way house to the dump. Quick! buy this crap now and save me a trip to the transfer station!

There is nothing so sad as the mark down on electronic devices. Those things just do not hold their value. It doesn't matter how many thousands of dollars that were once spent on an electronic gizzy. After a few years, they end up on the yard sale discount table going for pennies on the dollar -if you are lucky.

Then there's the orphaned devices. Today I actually saw a Pocket Mail device for sale. Unless the buyer owns a museum, there's not a lot of reason to pick it up. It always was an odd device. It basically was a slow acoustic modem with a keyboard. For monthly fee, it was possible to send e-mail by holding the device up to the receiver of a regular phone. One of the selling points was its ability to send e-mail over pay phones. Remember pay phones? The company that once provided the service has gone the way of the pay phone.

Old stereo equipment can often be had for the cost of hauling it away. Tube type computer monitors? Heck how about TVs with tubes? Old desktop computers . . . next to worthless. Although I've been known to pick up older computers, load up a Linux operating system and give them new life. Often computers are junked because the MS operating system is corrupt. Even so, how many computers can a person use at one time?

There are exceptions to the steep depreciation of electronic equipment, but it's niche markets. There's some demand for old style arcade computer games. Some old electric musical instruments have value. They aren't giving away old Fender amps.

I look at all the stuff out there on yard sale tables and ask myself how much expensive new stuff will suffer in deep discount hell? Most of it? That thought keeps me from spending too much money on new electronic gizmos.

Now good quality hand tool, those are hard to come by for a decent price. A good quality hand tool will still have value 100 years from now. Haven't seen a lot of those at bargain prices.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lead me not into temptation

So I get this offer in the mail to refinance my mortgage. In fact, I'm already approved. Place a phone call and they'll lock in my low low rate and we are good to go. But wait! There's more! They'd approved a loan amount of what my house was once worth during the crazy days. The offer looked legit.

I should not be tempted that way. I had a flash of inspiration. Take their loan and take it for the full amount. Buy a really nice blue water sailboat and equip it well. Take another $100,000 and turn it into precious metals and foreign currencies. Then hop on that boat, sail the hell away and never come back.

Sweat broke out on my brow . . .

. . . a few deep slow breaths.

Okay, I'm better now. It was a crazy idea. However, I've been known to follow though with crazy ideas. They turn out well more often than one would suppose.

However, my wife and really don't want to disappear on a world cruise right yet. If someday that's what we really want to do, we'll find a way to make it happen.

As for now, I like having my local credit union hold what's left of my mortgage. It's not a huge debt, and there's hope of actually owning the place outright before I'm 104 years old. We've ties to the area, family and friends. Most importantly, I like where I live. My house is my home, not a super sized ATM machine.

Still, they shouldn't tempt me like that . . .


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Water Test

One of my daughters nagged me to get my well water tested. It was tested years ago, was fine, so I forgot about it. She kept on my case about it and even dropped off a testing kit from the state lab. Finally, to shut her up, I sent samples to be tested.

The state sent me a quick reply that there was bacteria in the water and the well should be sterilized. I felt pretty silly about that. Went right out and bought a jug of bleach to do the job. Pumped out the well this morning and bleached the heck out of it. Ran bleach water through all the plumbing and let it set for the day. Added a filter for drinking water. It'll be days before all the bleach is flushed out of the system.

There's a lesson for me here. I shouldn't take something like that for granted. Doesn't matter that year after year the well tested fine. Sometimes things change. I used to sterilize the well every spring. Since the well always tested fine before, I got out of the habit. Also never liked the bleach smell that took a few days to clear.

Now it wasn't a serious problem. No one's been getting sick from it. However, it wasn't going to get better on it's own. What contaminated the well? I don't really know. It could be surface water from a heavy rain. That would be my guess.

From now on, I'm not going to take my well for granted. Spring bleaching and regular water testing is back on the schedule.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Provisional Yippee

We won't know for sure until we get an official letter in the mail, but it looks like my wife's long struggle against Social Security has been won.

Now I know that Social Security is in big trouble. Can't see how payments will ever keep up with inflation. That's a mid to long term issue. In the short term, we'll be able to catch up the taxes. Also hope to eliminate a bit of debt we picked up from a previous emergency. You know those emergency funds people are supposed to have? Well, once those are gone, it doesn't mean the emergencies stop.

The good news, is that except for property taxes, all other bills have been getting paid. Not bad, considering how we took a good 50% drop in household income. Preps helped out a fair bit. Dipped into the food storage as needed. Although, even that's not in bad shape. I had a little bonus money last month that allowed me to restock a bit. I have made some partial payments on the property taxes. We are in no danger of the house go up for auction or anything like that.

In the short term, we plan on knocking down debt. Might get a new kitchen woodstove -something more efficient that doesn't go through as much wood and holds a fire better. That'll save me work later as I'll need to gather less firewood. I can plan now for being lazy later.

My wife's medical conditions are worsened by stress. She was suffering enough to have to leave work. The stress of fighting Social Security has only made things worse. Now I hope she can find some measure of relief. That's priority one.

Cold temperatures maker her condition worse. With a new stove in the kitchen, I'll be able to keep the house toasty warm for her. Better yet, maybe we'll just head south for the worse months of the winter.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Without weapons or other tools

Like a good Boy Scout, I try to be prepared. Normally I keep a few things in my pockets. My key chain has a bit more than keys on it: bottle opener, Swedish Firesteel, and P 38 can opener. Then there's my handy dandy Leatherman tool. No sense having opposable thumbs if you don't have tools with you. Now I'm also in the habit of carrying my little Ruger LCP handgun. Better to have it and not need it and all that.

Last week I bumped into a sign at the local medical clinic. Wouldn't you know it, they have a policy against guns -even permitted concealed guns. As it turned out, I did happen to have my handgun with me. Went back to the truck to secure it there, then promised myself to never do business with that clinic.

Today I took my wife to a Social Security hearing. Social Security is serious about security -their security. I knew enough to keep all my tools out of the building, but ran afoul of rules I didn't expect. They don't allow any electronic devices. I've been reading an electronic book on my old Palm Pilot and had hoped to pass the time reading. So much for that idea.

Then there was the time the state called me for jury duty. Almost went there with a jacket pocket full of 9mm ammo. The jacket had been worn last at target practice. That would have been a big whoops. My guess is that the guards wouldn't have just laughed it off. No sense of humor those guys.

I've already vowed not to fly on airplanes, but it looks like that mentality has spread far beyond the airport.

Personally, I subscribe to Heinlein's philosophy: a well armed society is a polite society. Hey, I'm all for politeness.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One more year with the oil furnace

Heating oil is the major fuel source for home heating in New England. There's an infrastructure in place. Oil is distributed by many small delivery companies. There are thousands of service men available. Some work for the delivery companies, others are independent. Parts inventories are kept for the most common burners.

I've decided to keep the oil furnace for one more year, at least. Even though I've plenty of firewood this year, I'm going through the expense of getting my oil furnace serviced. It's not my primary source of heat, but it's worth fixing to have as a backup.

It's one of those things I had to think about as I've been steadily moving away from the petrochemical industry. It's one thing to be angry at big oil, it's another thing entirely to do something about it. My disgust with big oil predates BP's Gulf oil disaster. Over the last 30 years, my use of petroleum bases fuels has been in steady decline.

Yet here I am, getting my oil furnace fixed. The house needs a backup source of heat. Friends of mine who heat exclusively with wood don't go anywhere more than half a day's travel away. They have to get home before the woodstoves die out, the house cools, and the plumbing freezes. In the past, I too have had only wood for heat. However, back then, I was still living in town. My dad lived just up the road and he didn't mind coming over and keeping the fires burning. I'd do the same for him as he had wood heat too. Now dad's in Florida, his wood heat days long over. For someone to stoke the stove, they'd have to drive up from town on snowy roads: time consuming and a big hassle.

Part of the reason for repairing the furnace is previous investment. I've had the furnace for 20 years. It was paid for years ago. Repairing the existing furnace is much cheaper than putting in any other backup heat source. Besides, what could I use as backup? Electricity? Sure, except I expect to be totally off the grid. My solar electric panel won't handle the massive load electric heat puts on a system. Propane? Looking to do away with that too.

Maybe I'll have more friends or family move in with me again. If that happens, they can load wood in the stoves.

For now, I'll keep the oil furnace going. I'll keep a minimum amount of oil in the tank, just enough for backup. Backup is good. If I can't get home before the woodstoves die out, or if I get sick or injured, or even if I get a major attack of laziness, the oil heat will be there.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Raiding the Stealth Garden

We had a lot of people over for dinner. Things were going pretty well, but we didn't have nearly as many potatoes as I'd though we had. There's no just popping over the store to pick up a few things. It's a five mile drive.

Then it occurred to me, maybe I've some potatoes in the stealth garden. It's my plant it and forget it garden. For a bit there, I'd forgotten about it myself.

It's not much of a garden. A couple years back I took a huge truckload of hay bales and stacked them in the woods. After letting them overwinter, seed potatoes were stuck into the hay bales. That's about all I do with this "garden." Really should have added more hay bales last fall. However, I did dump a big pile of grass clippings on the whole mess this spring.

Turning the grass over revealed plenty of potatoes for my big meal. One nice thing about growing potatoes in hay is that they don't have any dirt to wash off. A quick rinse and they can be popped in the pot.

This year I tried some sun chokes, but raccoons dug them all up and ate them. Oh well, better luck next year. Nothing got into the potatoes, and that's a good thing.

Planting in hay is quick and dirty way to expand garden space without a lot of work. You could pile the hay bales right on grass, bare gravel, and even on cement. It doesn't much matter. I'm told that if you use fresh hay in the spring, a little liquid fertilizer needs to be added to get the process moving. I've found that just letting the hay bales overwinter gets the decay process started enough.

Once the hay breaks down, it's a pretty good compost to add organic matter to a regular garden. Next spring, I'll wheelbarrow over a few loads to my normal garden. Couldn't hurt.

Now all I've got to remember to do is to harvest the rest of my potatoes before the snow flies.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Still Collapsing

Talked to dad on the phone today. There's a double wide in his park in Florida going for $3,000. The guy would take less. He was rebuilding it. Stripped it down to the studs. Put in new drywall and new floors, then gave up on the job. Not only is the guy asking $3,000, he's leaving behind about $1,500 worth of tools. Don't expect housing in Florida to bounce back in the short term. Someone could move in, finish the job, and live darn cheap. At this give away price, it's not selling. This is a nice park: huge live oaks, manicured lawns, ponds, swimming pools, recreation centers, and other niceties.

There's a lot of toys for sale. Lately, I've been checking out the used sailboat market. Prices are dropping -fast. Oh there are plenty of boats asking top dollar. Most likely the owners owe money on it and can't drop the price lower. It's funny and sad at the same time. I'd be looking at at similar boats going in the 3,000 - $4,000 range. Then there'd be the occasional boat, little different from the rest, asking $12,000. Apparently, he didn't get the memo. No one's buying toys right now.

Cash is king. Loans are hard to get.

So we have deflation in things like houses, boats, used cars, motorcycles, RVs, and electronics. What is increasing in price is food. They are being sneaky about it. When is the last time you saw a one pound can of coffee? Most often they are in the 12 oz range, or less. If it wasn't gardens and Farmer's markets, fresh veggies would not have been a big part of my diet this summer. So things we can live without are going down, and things we need are going up. Not a good mix.

How about unemployment? Anyone actually believe the government numbers? If you do there's a bridge in Brooklyn that might interest you.

I've friends with experience and education who've been out of work for months. Others are working for a lot less money than they used to. People who used to be able to work all the overtime they wanted are now lucky to put in 32 hours/week. Until the regular Joe starts taking more money, in real uninflated dollars, there won't be a recovery.

It's entirely possible, likely even, that the economy will never be the same. Eventually things will stabilize and it will be the new normal. However, my guess is that it'll be a lower level that what we had before.

Collapse is an uneven business. Some things take a small hit. Other's go right down the drain. Even in a downturn, there are people who do well. Some parts of the country will turn in to ghost towns, others areas may even boom. Overall, however, there seems to be a downward trend. The highs are never quite so high but the lows drop lower.

On the bright side, if I time it right, I might be able to get a sweet little sailboat for a song. Then if things go really well, I won't have to sell my house and live on it full time.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Waiting for the coffee

The worst part about cooking on a woodstove is waiting for the morning coffee.

Okay, it's no secret that I'm cheap, frugal if you feel polite about it. The last time I bought propane for the stove was about 13 months ago. Don't expect to buy any this year. Maybe I won't ever buy any again. The only things left that use propane is the stove and the clothes dryer. I can live without a dryer. Between a good clothesline and a drying rack by the woodstove, it's workable.

The propane stove might be missed. Still debating whether or not to keep a couple propane burners. You see, it's the darn perked coffee I've come to love so much. Put it on the propane burner, the water heats up and the coffee is perked. Easy. Fast.

Then there's the woodstove. During winter proper, it's nice. I keep a huge kettle of hot water on the stove at all times. It helps humidify the house and there's hot water available for warm drinks at all times. This time of year, the woodstove is only lit on really cool mornings, or when I want to take the dampness out of the house.

So I lite the stove and I wait. All that cold cast iron has to heat up. The big kettle of water seems to take forever. The very tiny hint of a caffeine headache begins. My body knows I usually have a hot steaming cup of organic, fair trade, home roasted, spring water brewed coffee by now.

My lovely wife tends to sleep in those mornings, waiting for coffee alarm. She's smarter than me.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Cops Want Your Drugs

Here's a article about the Sheriffs in N. Carolina wanting to know who's on painkillers:

Okay, that's just the way cops think. Can't blame cops for being cops. However, you can blame the politicians who hold the cop's leash.

The government types always have good reasons for invading your privacy. They want to stop people from getting multiple prescriptions. They want to stop people from selling prescription drugs on the street. Mostly, they want to stick their noses in your private business.

Take the so called privacy form, HIPPA. Everyone who's been to a doctor in the last couple of years has had to sign one.

You know who's exempt from the privacy laws?

Law Enforcement
Judicial and Administrative Proceedings
Specialized Government Agencies

Seems to me like the government has pretty good loophole into your medical stuff as it is. There are plenty of other privacy exemptions: Workman's Compensation, Research, and even Marketing. They can even use your private medical history to try and sell you stuff. Don't believe me? Read the forms.

What the laws have done is make it harder to get treatment. It's a hassle for medical people to talk with each other about your medical history. Seems to me like those are the sort of people you'd like to have access.

My lovely wife is on one of those controlled medications. It's a real pain in the butt to get her prescription filled when traveling. Of course, they won't let her just leave with 3 months worth of meds. Oh no, she has to get it filled every month. So one month we are in Florida and have to get the prescription filled. The Florida pharmacy has to talk with her doctor in New Hampshire. Then he has to fax the information down to Florida. The process takes two or three days. The next time it was filled, we were in Kentucky. Same process all over again.

We get back to New Hampshire and her medicine is about out. It's the start of a long weekend and the pharmacy, along with everyone else, is going to be closed. I get there just in time. However, her account has been canceled. To get the prescription filled on the road, the home pharmacy's account had to be closed. Can't have two accounts open for this drug. Luckily, there was still someone as her doctor's office and he was able to fax over the information. The pharmacist stayed late so he could fill the order.

Here's the thing. Had he not been able to fill the prescription, my wife would had gone through serious withdrawal pains. I wasn't going to let that happen. All I would have to do is pick up a wad of cash at my ATM, and knock on a few doors. Someone would have sold the drugs to me illegally.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Goodbye Summer People!

The first big batch of summer people have left. Labor day seriously thins out the population here on the lake. Took the canoe out on the water. There were only two other boats on the water when I set out, but soon there was just my canoe. No drunken water skiers. No high speed boats on too small a lake. My lovely wife and I paddled around and checked out the osprey and loons. I even caught a good sized trout for dinner. It doesn't get much fresher than that.

Today I drove 50 miles to a tourist town. Traffic was light. Picked up some books at a bookstore. We were down in that area before Labor Day, but the people we were riding with absolutely refused to fight the traffic to get to the bookstore. Don't really blame them. Now it's no problem at all.

There are still a few die hards around the lake. Some will be up every weekend. That'll pretty much stop come Columbus Day. After that, the lake will be left to a few die hard permanent residents. It's peaceful. I like it.

I'm not exactly a hermit. During the heat of the summer, I loved having my beach overrun with family and friends. It was fun. There was lots of stuff going on. However, I do like my quiet time. It's a chance to gather my thoughts and get back in touch with my more spiritual side.

I like that too.


Thursday, September 9, 2010


So I turn on the radio in my truck. There's a bunch of experts all talking about the housing market.

Now I'm no expert . . . thank god.

Their advice left a lot to be desired. I don't remember everything they said, but a few things stuck out. One caller asked about strategic defaults. That's where the home owner can afford to make the payments, but they paid way too much for the house. The place is worth a lot less than what they owe, so they walk away from it.

The so called experts were all against this tactic. Shows you what they know. Sure, your credit rating will take a hit, but you can repair your credit in less time than you could pay off the house. Besides, what does anyone need credit for? Making more debt? Isn't that how all these problems started in the first place?

Suddenly, all the experts are promoting renting instead of buying. Didn't this same bunch of goofs, not too many years ago, say you couldn't lose in real estate?

Now they are saying that real estate has always been a bad investment???? Historically houses only go up 1% a year over inflation, they claim. Where they get their statistics, I don't know.

I've seen plenty of people make money with their house. I did it myself. Buy an affordable house that needs work. Fix it up yourself. Make it a more comfortable place to live. Should you want to sell, it's worth more money due to the sweat equity put into it.

Point is, you've got to live somewhere. As far as I'm concerned, rent is like setting your money on fire.

Another way to look at a house is how it can work for you. Does it have a well and septic system so you don't have to pay water and sewer bills? Good garden space so you can save money on food? Can you raise chickens, rabbits or bees? How is it situated for alternative energy: solar, wind, microhydro? Does it have a woodlot for firewood? Space for a home based business? Critically, do the local laws prohibit some or all these things? Some places even prevent people from having a clothesline, one of the easiest and cheapest ways to save energy.

There are all kinds of ways around housing expenses. Some people buy cheap junk land and slap a trailer on in. It's not pretty, but has low debt and low taxes. Quite a few families live in RVs and never own any land. Plenty of places to stay for free or darn cheap. Some people live on boats. There are co-housing arrangements where more than one family lives in a house and shares the expenses. Frankly, that's about the only way any of these Mc Mansions could ever make any sense.

Don't expect anybody in main stream media to say anything about alternatives. A house doesn't have to be a prison. There are options, but middle America isn't suppose to know about them.

I had to turn the radio off. No sense getting all worked up over those guys. There are times I do wish there were more radio stations available out here in the woods. On the other hand, silence is good. Better sometimes.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Expect politics to go weird

"All politics is local."

Thomas "Tip" O'Neill

Lets assume that old Tip was right. People votes reflect what's happening in their local lives.

So . . . I've got to ask . . . How are things where you are? What are local conditions like?

I am curious. I want to know. You see, there's this theory going around that in weird times, we elected some goofy politicians. Dmitri Orlov has often talked about that sort of thing happening when the old Soviet Union fell.

Now if the majority of us are experiencing weird times, we can certainly expect some wacky elections.

Having grown up in a dying mill town, I got to see collapse on a small scale. As the local economy went into a death spiral, politics became odd indeed. Lots of crazy ideas were put forward to save the town. In my opinion, most of the solutions were worst than the problem.
Politicians promised stuff that didn't even pretend to make sense. It's a good thing that small town mayors only have so much power. There's only so much damage a pocket Hitler can do.

Of course, that was during a time when most of the country was doing well. The nation could absorb a few nut cases at the local level. What happens when a goodly number of the local politicians are nut jobs. Add them all up, and the country is run by nut jobs.

Take a look around at your local politics. Getting crazy? If it is, just so you'd know, that might be the way the nation's going.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I'm going hunting next month

That is, if nothing too terrible happens between now and then. October in northern NH is a great month, one of my favorites. Nothing beats walks in the woods with the old shotgun. I used to do a lot of small game hunting during October, mostly grouse and rabbits. These last few years, hardly any.

October would come along, and I wouldn't like the size of my woodpile. Instead of hunting, I'd be in the National Forest with a dead and down firewood permit. After a couple good frosts, all the weeds of summer are dead and it's easier to find downed trees. It can be a bit of mad scramble, as I'm not the only one with a permit. First come, first serve.

Kept a shotgun in the truck and would occasionally bag a bird while in the pursuit of firewood. It fills the stewpot, but it ain't hunting.

This year my driveway is piled so high with firewood, I wouldn't know where to put another load. It's a good feeling, like money in the bank, except it's real. Now that I know we won't freeze this coming winter, I can afford the time to wander into the back country.

In an earlier blog post, Buried a Bloody Sock in the Woods, I mentioned how I'd gaffed myself in the leg with a pickaroon. Leg's on the mend. Started going for long brisk walks to get in shape for hunting season. I should be in good condition for opening day.

After small game season, my dad comes up from Florida and we go deer hunting with primitive firearms. It's enjoyable, because it's a way to spend time alone with dad. As far as the actual hunting goes, small game hunting might have an edge. I don't get up at 3 AM, like we do for deer.


Monday, September 6, 2010


I'm getting a serious desire for wandering. When I was a kid, it took the form of putting on a backpack and wandering into the mountains. Other times I'd disappear with a canoe down a remote river system. For quite a few years, my lovely wife and I traveled the back roads of America, living out of a tent.

Now I've got a serious hankering for cruising on a sailboat. My practical knowledge of sailboat living is pretty limited. Until that can remedied, I'm doing all the reading on the subject that I can. There seems to be almost as many opinions on the "proper" way to live and travel on a sailboat as there are sailors. Opinions on boats vary widely. Like anything else I do, I'll have to develop the right method that suits me.

I'm narrowing down my requirements. The sailboat should be big enough to live in: sleeping space for 2 adults, stove, sink, cooler or fridge, and some sort of head. Enough storage to be independent for a few weeks at least.

It should also be on the small side. Less boat is less to take care of. There's less to fix, to sail, and parts are often cheaper. I'm looking for something that can sneak its way into shallow waters. Being able to go shallow opens up more anchorages. There's interesting places to explore that a big boat won't be able to get near.

I want a boat that can make the crossing to the Bahamas and do some island hopping. I am willing to wait for good conditions. My schedule won't be that pressing. I do not need a boat capable of circumnavigating the world.

People that go from living in a house to living in a boat complain a lot about the lack of space. I'm looking at it from another angle. Even a tiny sailboat can carry more than what I used to fit in my backpack, yet a single backpack would keep me going all week. I thought canoe camping was luxury. Why, I could carry more in a canoe than I'd want to carry on my back. Then there are all those years my wife and I lived for months at a time out of a car and tent. Our first year we lived out of a Dodge Neon, and we had a dog with us. It's the car we happened to have at the time.

One of things I learned from car camping is to have enough consumables to last for a long time. Some of the places we camped were pretty remote. There wasn't a grocery store around the corner. It was darn handy to know we could live off our stores for a good long while. Good training for boat travel, I think. I got pretty creative with a few basic ingredients.

There are some basic steps I'll be taking over the next year or so. I'll soon be taking my NH Boating Safety course. Might as well get that certification under my belt. It's cheap and relatively easy to get.

Later this winter my wife and I are seriously considering getting some ASA certifications. My dad in Florida lives close to some sailing schools. We could crash at his place and save lodging costs. Anybody have experience with ASA certification? Is it worth it?

I'm pretty good with tools. No stranger to engines. I'm experience with fiberglass and small boat repair. However, one of the attractions of this new adventure is that I don't know everything. There's all kinds of new and interesting things to learn.

The used boat market seems to be in a big downturn. Prices on good boats are going down all the time. I'd love to get one before something like stupid like super inflation hits. Keeping a close eye out for deals. Only wish I knew exactly what I was looking for . . .


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thinking about getting another dog

It's been about a year since we've had a dog in our household and we are thinking about getting another one.

I'm careful to follow up any talk about getting a new dog with a couple conditions. That doesn't mean it's fine and dandy for friends and relatives to drop off puppies they can't get ride of. I'm not responsible for other people not getting their animals spaded or neutered. Maybe I'm not really interested in your Rottweiler/Doberman mix. Dogs live a fairly long time and the fit with the family should be a good one.

The best dog we ever had came from a shelter. The poor beast had been adopted out of the shelter, then a few months later it had been dropped off again. I've no idea what had happened to the dog, but every time I happened to raise my voice even a little, he would roll over on his back and pee itself.

Fortunately, with lots of patience, the dog, Mickey, got over it. He was odd looking -half beagle and half black lab. Picture a mostly black dog with white feet and a white chest. It was a little bit taller than a beagle and much longer. It ran funny.

The dog developed a great personality. People I didn't know, knew my dog. He looked pretty harmless, and just ate up attention. He was good with kids. Cats would snuggle up to it. Yet I saw him chase away bear and moose.

Because of the beagle in him, I though he might make a good hunting dog. He wasn't all that good. He'd chase rabbits and sometimes bring them around. Fairly often he'd lose the scent. Occasionally, he'd decide to point birds. On the plus side, he had so much darn fun hunting that you didn't mind he was only middling at it. The sound of gunfire never spooked him, a bit plus.

The old boy lasted 18 years. Broke my heart when he passed.

I did keep a large mixed breed dog for a year, but had to find it a new home. My granddaughter came to live with up for a while and the dog wasn't child friendly. Hated to see the dog go, but since it was a threat to my grandkid, it was no contest.

Now my wife and I have the house to ourselves once more. She's starting to bug me to get another dog. Now I know every dog is different. There will never be another Mickey. However, there are certain qualities I'm looking for. It should be a medium sized dog. Too big and everyone is frightened of it. Too small and no one takes it seriously. Mutts are preferred. Some sort of hunting breed in the mix would be good. The dog must be good with kids.

Out in the country, a dog is the best alarm one can have. They hear things coming long before humans can. The new dog should be able to perform a number of critical jobs. It should chase the darn squirrels out of the garden. The mutt should keep the raccoons and bears at bay. (or at least make a fuss about them.)

One of the reasons we are looking at a smaller breed, is that it's more convenient to travel with a smaller dog. Many hotels and campground have a 40 pound weight limit on dogs. It's just plain easier to travel with a dog that doesn't fill up your whole vehicle. (also easier to clean up after -no minor consideration.)

Big dogs can make for some awesome security. I've friends we visit occasionally. They've always keep a couple of big German Shepards. Every time I get to their gate, I stop the car and call the house on my cell phone. Even though I've been there many times before, the dogs won't let me in unless their owners give the approval. Once my friends give the OK, the dogs relax and we are fine for the duration of the visit. Should we go away for a couple weeks then come back, we go through the whole drill all over again. Those dogs know what their job is and take it seriously.

One of the reasons we are holding off on a dog right now is that funds are tight. I feel we aren't in a position to responsibly take care of another dog. It's not just the day to day expenses, but things like vet bills. It's fairly easy to run a sudden $1000 bill. If you can't afford to pay vet bills, you can't afford a dog. With any luck, we'll be in a better position soon. When that happens, no doubt my wife will be making the rounds of the animal shelters.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bad Design Ticks Me Off

It's one thing to replace a vehicle part that wears out or breaks. It's another thing entirely to have to keep replacing parts because of poor design in the first place.

A couple days ago the driver's side door handle broke on my '94 Ford F250. Sure, you are thinking, it's a '94, parts are going to break. Maybe so, but the same part over and over and over again?

Used to just get another from the used parts bin at the local salvage yard. Problem is, my truck isn't the only one that keeps breaking handles. The salvage yard can't keep them in stock. Last time I had to buy a new handle. Took the whole door apart so that I could inspect and tweak the mechanism. When I was done, the door latch worked better than it ever did the whole time I owned the truck.

The new handle lasted about three weeks.

Today I went down to Tractor Supply and picked up a piece of flat stock steel. With a torch, vice, drill, reciprocating saw and a hand file, a new handle was soon fabricated. This one shouldn't break.

Instead, the door will probably fall off the truck next.


Feeding the Beast

When on a diet, food becomes even more important. I love good food most days, but when on a diet . . . So when the amount decreases, the quality becomes even more important.

Yesterday, I went out for blueberry pie. What? Doesn't sound like diet food to you? It is if you have it instead of dinner. Calories are calories. I love blueberry pie, always have. Picture a pie with a good bottom crust that can stand up to a good soaking in blueberry juices. The top crust is slightly brown and a bit flaky. The blueberries, oh my the blueberries, small and wild berries baked with a bit of sugar and cooked just enough to turn some into juice while leaving others still plump and round.

That's the pie I was hoping for. It's the sort of the pie the restaurant used to serve. What I got a pie with no top crust, a pile of uncooked flavorless cultivated berries on top of a dry hard crust. The dollop of whipped cream on top couldn't save it. Hungry as I was, I left most of it on the plate. I could not believe my disappointment. Perhaps if my expectations hadn't been so high.

It did not help that the day before I was served an inedible buffalo chicken salad from a different restaurant. Now I expect a bit of spice from buffalo chicken. What I don't expect is chicken so spiced as to be dangerous. Sure, you are thinking, I'm just a New Englander who thinks a spice rack is a salt shaker. Maybe that's how I grew up, but I've traveled. I've eaten in places in New Mexico where my wife and I were the only Anglos, places where they can't even make mashed potatoes without filling it with hot chillies. I sent the buffalo chicken back to the kitchen. It took two days for the my mouth to feel completely right again.

It's hard enough to adjust to a new way of eating. Maybe it's best to avoid all restaurants for a while, at least until I get this diet and lifestyle thing under control.


Friday, September 3, 2010


I'm keeping an eye on the remains of hurricane Earl, Way up here in the mountains of NH, it's not supposed to get too bad. I'm expecting a rainy weekend with some decent wind.

There's not all that much to do to prepare. I'm bringing in the deck furniture and making sure all the windows are secured. Later tonight I'll be topping off my battery bank from the grid. Don't expect to get much sun the next few days. If the grid does go down, I'll at least start will full batteries.

Outside of putting a saw in my truck, there's not much more to do. No need to stock up on groceries. We keep a fairly well stocked pantry. Water situation is good.

One cool thing about living in a dome, they do great in storms. The shape deflects the wind. The geometry of a dome makes it strong. That strength is good to have when tree branches start flying though the air.


A Tale of Two Professors

There were two professors, one taught English, the other taught Science. The English professor was an accomplished gourmet cook with an impressive wine cellar. On a regular basis, the professors and their wives would get together for dinner. The English professor would cook a first rate meal, then they'd open a fine bottle of wine.

At that point, knowing what would come next, the wives would retreat to the kitchen. The Science professor was a staunch liberal, and the English professor a political conservative. After their regular dinners, they'd debate politics late into the night. I'm not sure if either of them was ever able to move the other an inch either way. That's not the point.

Politically, they could not have been further apart. However, they both had deep respect for each other and were good friends. How many people in today's political environment are friends with their political opposites? Could they sit down to a meal then have a rigorous, animated, yet respectful debate? Could they find common ground on anything?

American politics has been removed from the intellectual realm and deep into the emotional spectrum. Be honest with yourself. Do you make the best decisions when emotionally upset? I've come to ask myself, why have our political leaders moved us from intellect to emotion? In the current political climate, people on the opposite political side are demonize. How can we find common ground with those people we don't respect as individuals?

I've a theory that it's all part of a divide and conquer scheme. While we are yelling and screaming at each other, the people who really run the country avoid scrutiny. The big questions never get asked. (Like who really does run the country? Hint -follow the money)

The thing that really frightens me is history. There once was a highly advanced country. It was tolerant of other religions and valued intellectual achievement. However, it suffered military setbacks and economic ruin. A man rose up and appealed to the people's emotions. He was very good at it. The country was Germany and the man was Hitler.

Ask yourself an honest question. Do the politicians you listen to appeal too much to your emotional side and override your intellect? Where could this lead? If you can't picture that person having a civil dinner with political opposites, maybe there's cause for worry?


Thursday, September 2, 2010


My lovely wife and had a late lunch in town at a new place that just opened. The building was nicely remodeled, but the kitchen staff hadn't quite gotten its act together. We were warned there was a 40 minute wait to get served. No problem. We didn't have any pressing engagements and we enjoy each other's company.

While there I ran into a guy who went to high school with me so very long ago. He wasn't in any hurry. The guy is a big wig in the State Employment Office. Long leisurely lunches don't turn any heads there.

After lunch, we chatted for a bit and caught up. He mentioned the concept of fun-employment. That's when a person who's collecting unemployment really embraces it. The idea is to treat it like a long vacation. Instead of fretting about the next job, they kick back a bit and live a little. Why not? Retirement for many of us is only a dream, so might as well take that extended paid leave when it falls in your lap.

A good friend of mine was laid off when his factory closed. He referred to his unemployment checks as his "artist's grant." For years the guy did in art in his spare time. After being laid off, he really threw himself into his art -painting, sculpting, photography, mixed media and he explored many different styles. After the factory reopened, he worked just long enough to be able to afford a top notch computer with cutting edge graphics programs. He quit the factory job and did art full time once more.

He had two blissful years doing art, reading philosophy books, and hanging out in a small cabin along the river. One day he had a massive stroke, almost died, and was totally paralyzed. At least he had those two years following his dreams.

The story of his life isn't done. Over time, he recovered good control over his left side and some over his right. The guy used to be right handed so it looked bad. After two years of recovery, he's back to doing art, using his left hand. This month he's got a major art showing, with 40% new work. He calls the show, "The Bonus Pictures." One of the things that got him through the tough times was all that philosophy he read during his "artist grant" days.

Another friend of mine works seasonally. Last winter he didn't even look for work, but improved his small farm and worked on a new house. Now he's really looking forward to getting laid off at the end of this month.

My cousin is a firefighter and suffered a bad foot injury in the line of duty. A large diameter hose broke and the metal coupling smash his boot flat, as if the steel toe protector didn't even exist. There was a time when he recovered enough to get around, but wasn't up to working yet. Now my cousin is an avid pool player. I encouraged him to fly down to Florida and stay with my dad. Dad's the president of his local pool club. They had a great time shooting pool all over central Florida.

We've been brainwashed with this whole Protestant work ethic. Doesn't that idea serve the masters well? Where did slaving for some overlord become something noble? Hope you wear your chains lightly. The whole economic system is set up in such a way that we never have any time to really think. What is it that we really want in life anyway?

If you do find yourself unemployed, turn it into fun-employment.

As for me, I describe myself as self-unemployed.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Adventures in Town Hall

Went to town hall to get a dump permit. Most people get new permits every year. I haven't bothered. The guy who mans the transfer station usually "forgets" to take my permit. Since they don't expire, it lasted a long long time. Finally, the permit got so ragged that it was time to replace it. They are free, so why not?

The line at the Town Clerk's window, that's why. Now I have a pretty good relationship with the Town Clerk. Often I can do things like register my car with half the paperwork missing. She's helped me work around state requirements. Today she wasn't cutting anyone any slack. All the paperwork had to be in order. Now I don't know if her higher ups read her the riot act or if she was just having a bad day. It did not help that the computers were crashing, and the Internet was down. Might have just been a bad day.

Eventually I got far enough down the line to say hello. She asked if I too had to register a vehicle. Only getting a dump permit, I said. She then informed me that I could get that from another office. Got to meet a new secretary, who had absolutely no sense of humor. At least there was no line. She did issue my permits.

Why do I even bother with things like dump permits? It's the little details that officials focus on, often missing the big picture. Take one of the recent times I went to the transfer station. I had my permit, so I could go in and unload my truck. Never mind that I had boxes of mixed debris that really should have gone into separate piles. Never mind that the stuff came not from my house, but from my daughter's -in another state. (as state with strict and crazy rules and crazy bureaucrats that looks a lot like Massachusetts.)

So yeah, I'll fiddle with the little details. It gives me a chance to get away with the big things.

I remember the time a rookie cop in town caught a guy who'd shot a sheriff in a neighboring state. He stopped the car because a taillight was out. Running the guy's license showed he was a wanted man. It's that one little detail, a burned out taillight, that tripped the guy up. Had his running gear been in order, he'd have sailed right by.