Friday, December 31, 2010

Transmission part Deux

Well, my $3800 transmission rebuild lasted about 3 weeks. Just loaded up the truck on a flatbed for a 100 mile journey to the nearest transmission garage that will honor the warranty. I'd sprung for the full boat 3 year coverage. Turns out the basic coverage would have been more than enough.

I will be most curious to see what the problem is and why it wasn't fixed right the first time.

One good thing, I have AAA+ and they will cover almost all the towing fee.

Hope the truck is fixed before January 5, because there's an appointment for it at my local garage on the 6th. Having the brakes checked and some new front tires put on. Really would hate to reschedule.

If it's not one thing . . .


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chimney Fire

Got a call last night from a friend of mine. He had a chimney fire and wanted to know that to do. I told him to use a fire extinguisher up the clean out door. Then I told him to squirt a tiny bit of water up the chimney. The idea is that steam rising up the chimney will put the fire out. At that point I told him to call the Fire Department.

This not the general order in which to deal with a chimney fire. Usually step one is to call the Fire Department. My friend lives in a rural area with a volunteer Fire Department and they can take some time to get there. Also, he has an extremely well built ceramic chimney that could have probably survived a chimney fire if nothing was done at all. Most chimneys will suffer damage from the intense heat of a chimney fire.

I was a bit surprised that he had chimney fire. The guy's been burning wood for years and knows how to do it safely. With his really good new chimney, I didn't expect a problem. The chimney fire was caused by the house not being completely insulated. The downstairs is, but not the upstairs.

With the upstairs unheated, the outside of the chimney was cold for a about 24 feet instead of the 4 feet or so that sticks out past the roof. That long cool chimney caused the smoke to condense on the inside. Eventually, sparks set the condensed creosote on fire. The solution is to finish insulating the upstairs. That job just got moved up in priority.

The next day, he had a guy coming over to clean the chimney. No doubt from now on he'll keep a closer watch on it. That's done by looking up the chimney from the clean our door using a mirror.

Having a couple fire extinguishers when out in the country is a very good idea. I've got a couple that I keep handy. I also have a long ladders and a chimney brush. If you a going to burn wood, you've got to keep your chimney clean.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The one strategy necessary to survive collapse

The bad news: there isn't one.

The good news: there are many.

I've been thinking and studying collapse for some time with its various permutations: economic, environmental, energy, civil unrest, pandemic, political disaster -the whole range of possibilities.
Some facts become clear. Collapse happens. If it didn't archaeologists would never have found the dusty remains of a multitude of civilizations because they'd still be thriving today. Anyone with more than a few years of adult life have seen collapse in other countries. It happens, so there's no pretending it doesn't.

Collapse can be slow or fast or a combination of both. The Roman Empire had a long slow slide where most things slowly got worse and worse -then one day the barbarians crossed a frozen river and the process sped up. The fall of the Soviet Union was fairly rapid, only taking a few years, depending on when one would like to start measuring from.

How are we to respond to collapse? Of course, our actions will be constrained by the type of collapse experienced. There isn't just one response for each threat. There are many ways of adapting to each collapse scenario.

One example: your farm land, for whatever reason, is now constantly flooded. What was dry is now wet. How to respond? One could move to higher ground, but that's not the only response. Instead of farming, maybe your could fish, and build your house on tall stilts. Maybe you keep gardening, but from floating platforms. The water could be an advantage and allow for a maritime trading existence, or even piracy that preys on that trade.

Another example: fossil fuels become scarce. Alternative energy sources could be developed or people could find ways of living with a lot less energy. Most likely both strategies will be employed at the same time.

Civil unrest? Move out of harms way, either by leaving the country, or moving to a safer part of the country. Defensive militias could be formed to protect your life and property, or you could join a roving bandit gang to profit off the chaos. Some people may be able to successfully hide. They could hide by actually disappearing from sight by disappearing into the deep woods or a cave. They could hide the way some Jews did in WWII; they successfully pretended to be Christians.

People have a lot of different ideas on how to handle collapse: Run to the hills, Transition Towns, community building, militias, technical fixes, social fixes -and so on.


I'm in favor of the shotgun approach to collapse: many people trying many different things. There will be a high failure rate. That's to be expected. It's part of the process. For the process to work, we've got to share both our successes and our failures. Sharing the failures may be more important than sharing the successes. First, it'll save other people from going down the wrong road. Secondly, a well documented failure often can be the groundwork for someone else's success. Maybe a second attempt, with some changes, will avoid the pitfalls that caused the first to fail.

We've got a lot to work with. Our civilization has left an awful lot of stuff lying around. There are plenty of materials, tools, and equipment ready for reuse. We have vast libraries of information at our disposal. It's never been easier to search for information or to share knowledge. Those are huge advantages. Let's not squander them by insisting on only one right way to do things. The biggest thing that could hold us back is closed minds.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010


The big Northeast storm stranded a lot of people. We've gotten pretty used to getting to our destinations on time. That's a modern development. Travel used to be more of an open ended affair.

When travel relied on foot or by animal power, long journeys were full of delays. Storms, floods, fire, bandits, injuries, detours, bad roads, and sketchy navigation, all troubled the traveler. Travel by boat could be faster -if you weren't shipwrecked, becalmed, storm tossed, or assaulted by pirates.

People had a more flexible attitude about travel. Some journeys took years. Nantucket whalers would be gone for an average of 4 years. Weeks and months of journey time was common. If you got to your destination within a week of your planned date, you did well.

We've gotten used to reliable and quick travel. A few days delay feels like the end of the world. Our ancestors would marvel at our impatience.

Since I've been getting into sailing, I'm getting in touch with the old hit or miss nature of travel. If you rely on the wind, it doesn't matter that your boat is made is made of fiberglass. Some of the same restrictions apply today. Relying on the wind is just as chancy now as it was a thousand years ago.

Of course, most sailors have an "iron sail," an internal combustion engine. If your are willing to burn fuel, it's easier to keep a schedule. Even then, there are still things like storms that can challenge the modern sailor.

Personally, rather than rely on a motor, I'm going to cultivate a serene attitude. We get there when we get there. It's not the destination, but the journey and all that. The best way to avoid being late is to have no expected arrival time. I do have a motor, but I'd rather burn time than gas. More time on the water doesn't sound like a bad thing to me.


Monday, December 27, 2010


Just waiting for the storm to hit up here in northern New Hampshire. It's one of those storms where places south of us are getting hit with the worse of it. We are expecting somewhere between 5 and 9 inches of snow. (last time I checked with the Prince of Lies -the weatherman).

We had a white Christmas here, without getting hit by a single major storm. Since Thanksgiving, we've been getting the occasional 1 - 2 inches of snow. However, it didn't melt, so it slowly added up to enough to make the cross country skiers happy. Good for them. If you are going to live up in snow country, might as well do something with it besides shoveling.

All my snow is moved with shovel and snow scoop. No mechanized snowblower or plows for me. Figured out that I'd rather shovel than maintain another gas burning machine. Yep, I'm too lazy to use a snowblower. Once refused a free one. Anything that's expensive to maintain isn't free. Also, I love the quiet. Would hate to ruin that with a noisy machine.

Some people really enjoy the winter. I've met people who've retired and moved to this area for the winter activities. When you love to ski, you love to ski. After this next storm, I hope to get enough snow to go snowshoeing. I can leave right from my door and snowshoe out into some amazing country.

People get all bent out of shape about snowstorms -like they've never happened before or something. It's one thing when the south gets a rare storm, but up here, people have no excuse to get excited about it.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Survived Christmas

I'm one of those people who doesn't do all that well with the Christmas holiday. I wish I was a jolly guy. If the stress and depression can be kept to a reasonable level, I'm satisfied. All in all, it was a pretty good Christmas. There were some weird moments, like when my wife chewed out the directors of a Nutcracker Burlesque, from the vantage point of center stage. (long story I'd best not tell.) Things sorted themselves out. We stayed for the show, but I doubt if we'll go back next year.

The best part is seeing all my kids, their spouses, and the grandkids. It's all about family. They are all healthy and happy. My dad stayed down in Florida. He's not that interested in a white Christmas anymore. My wife's family stayed in Texas and Florida. Perhaps they feel the same way about snow.

Actually received some well thought out gifts this year: an e-book reader, clothes that I like and needed, a subscription to "Sail" magazine and some gift cards to West Marine. My heart is set on sailing.

My middle daughter threw a Christmas Eve party -very low key, good food and drink, plus a roaring campfire next to a huge hot tub. Spent way too much time in the hot tub, and will most likely do so again.

Don't know why the holiday stresses me out so much. There was the year my favorite uncle died just before Christmas, but I was already dreading the holiday by then. His passing did make it immeasurably worse.

Every year there's some version of Charles Dickens's "Christmas Carol," going on. I always root for Scrooge to stick to his guns. Maybe employ a good exorcist, send the spirits on their way, then go back to bed. Guess that makes me a Scrooge. Oh well.

Hope those who enjoy Christmas had a good one. For those of us who just try and endure, hope it wasn't too bad. The days are getting longer. We all have a bit more sunlight to look forward to. I do apologize to my poor long suffering wife, who's one of those people who loves Christmas. Thank you for loving me even when I'm a Scrooge. I've no good reason to get down around the holiday. My blessings are many.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Hi guys! Wish everyone a Merry Christmas. Will get back to posting when I get a break.

Peace and Balance,


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Lights

They are fine on other's people's houses. That's pretty much how I feel about them. To me, they are a big waste of energy. Electrical energy, plus the time and personal energy needed to put them up.

My wife, on the other hand, likes Christmas lights, so we have Christmas lights. At least we've made the transition to LED lights, so the electrical energy drain is lessened. The emotional drain is just as strong as ever.

I've come to the conclusion that every year we should just trash the lights when Christmas is over. No matter how carefully lights are taken down and stored, they won't work next Christmas. My lovely wife has amassed a sizable collection of spare bulbs and fuses. It doesn't matter as the bulb design seems to change almost every year.

This year, for reasons known only St. Nick, only half of each light string worked. No amount of fiddling with them could get the other half to light. After my wife's patience ran out, I suggest a solution worthy of Solomon. I cut the wires where the lights stopped working and spliced the working halfs together.

Now most of the lights are strung -and my wife hasn't strung me up too, so it's a good year.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

All the eggs in one basket

Nobody hates having all the eggs in one basket as much as I do. Anyone's who's read this blog for any length of time is aware of the great lengths I'm willing to go to have backups. Some might say I've been known to take it to extremes.

Yet now I find myself relying heavily on my Internet connection. Of course, my computers are connected to the Internet. We get a fair amount of news and entertainment through our Roku device connected to the TV. We purchased the device to stream Netflix movies, but found it also connects to whole range of entertainment and news sources. Recently, I canceled my land line phone and went with a voice over Internet provider, Vonage.

Looks like a lot of eggs in the Internet basket.

Last night the Internet connection went down. We lost the computer connection of course. We were watching a Christmas program on Netflix, and the phones were also out of order.

Losing the connection to the TV is no big deal. We put in a DVD and watched that. Missed the Internet connection as I spend a lot of time on-line. The loss of the phone was a more serious issue. We have a cell phone, but to get a reliable signal, we have to go a few miles down the road.

Why did I bundle all those things into one system? For the same reason super tankers are built with only one propeller -cost. I save a lot of money doing things this way. It probably isn't all that much to most people, but anything that reduces my fixed monthly costs is worth considering.

Much of what we do as a civilization comes down to the bottom line. Just like pilling everything on my Internet connection, it's efficient, but vulnerable to disruption.

Eventually, the Internet came back up. Rebooting the network got everything working again. I hope it doesn't go down too often, as I'll have to rethink everything again.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Roadside Assistance

I'm curious how common it is for people to stop and help people who's cars have broken down. It seems pretty common out here in rural NH. I've been offered assistance more than a few times. Saturday, I gave a couple a lift into town. They broke down on a lightly traveled country road in an area with no cell service. Glad I was able to help. No big deal.

It's said that the rich won't stop to help. One time I thought I'd discovered an exception as a guy in a big luxury car stopped to help me out. Turns out he was a retired Navy guy who spent all his money on his car and lived in a one room apartment.

One of friends ran into trouble when he stopped to offer assistance to a woman who'd broken down on the highway. She was afraid and told him to just go. He did. However, she took down his license plate and told the State Police she was scared. At the time, the police were looking for a serial killer, and my friend's van matched the description of the suspect's vehicle.

Next thing you know, the FBI is investigating my friend. They impound his van and forensics teams went over it. He'd been camping and had forgotten to unload his rope and machete. Worse yet, he was having an affair and having sex with his girlfriend in the van. Even worse, because he was about to leave his wife, his emotional state was such a mess that he had inconclusive results on a polygraph test.

In the end, he was cleared as a suspect, but it certainly caused him a world of grief.

Even knowing what happened to my friend, I still stop to help people. However, if it's a single woman, I might just offer to contact the police for her.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Backups for backups for backups

I blame the Boy Scouts. That's where I learned the whole "be prepared" way of life. There are times when I wonder if I've taken things a bit too far.

For example: backing up grid power is a good idea. The grid goes down, be it from wind, snow, floods, non-payment of past due bills -all kinds of reasons.

A moderate sized solar electric system backs up my grid systems. Actually, it's the grid that backs up my solar electric system. Should they both fail, the electrical system in the truck could be tapped. I've three inverters than can run off the truck, a tiny 75 watt system, a small 200 watt system, and a significant 2000 watt unit.

The truck itself runs off diesel, and waste vegetable oil. I usually keep at least 100 gallons of WVO. In a pinch, the truck can also run on #2 home heating oil. Those inverters can run off the truck a long time. Truck die completely? Well, I do have one of those portable batteries used to jump start cars. Then there's a spare car battery kept fully charged.

A friend of mine just gave me a 2000 watt generator. It could be used to power electrical things directly, or it could be used to charge up the battery bank of the solar electric system. The generator has stabilized gas in the tank. Right now, I don't have a lot of gasoline dedicated to the generator. Then again, there is the stabilized gas for the sailboat outboard. When that's gone, I still have a couple gallons of Coleman fuel. That'll work just fine too.

So . . . at this point you are thinking: what, no hydro or wind power?

A good windmill would be nice, but my location isn't the best -too many tall trees and mountain turbulence. That doesn't stop me from searching for a way to make it work. There are possibilities.

Wish I could use hydro, but my water supply would only be good for a handful of watts. Even I have to draw the line somewhere.

That's the chain of backups for just one system. All my "mission critical" systems have backups and work arounds -water, heating, cooking, defense, food, and so on.

The backup mania is extending to the sailboat I just bought. One could say the motor is backup for the sails, but it doesn't end there. GPS will be backed up with a compass and charts. The large VHR radio will be backed up with a hand held. Last week I bought an electric bilge pump, and a hand pump too, of course.

My backup lists go ever on.

Some of these things were design, but others seem to have just grown out of a general attitude. Looking back, it's definitely the Boy Scouts that got me started.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Do you really want or need a job?

I used to think it was all about having a job. If you have a job, there's a good chance of getting the necessities of life.

Later my thinking moved beyond the "get a job" idea to "get an income." Income might come from a job, but it could be from self-employment, investments, royalties, rents -whatever. (choosing the right ancestors and inheriting -nice if you have that going for you.)

Now I'm not even so much concerned about having an income. Instead, I like to think about having a life. What does it take to live? What are the trade offs? Would you rather work hard so you can buy all the things you need, or would you rather reduce your needs, produce things for yourself, and work "for the man" a whole lot less.

Does working in your garden make you happier than working in a cubicle? Are you happy to ride to ride a bike rather work hard to keep a car on the road? Would you rather spend your days fishing than fighting traffic?

How important is freedom to you? What is your time worth to yourself? Time is life. How do you want to spend it?

Personally, I'd rather find ways of living on my shrinking income than search for more work, but that's just me. Others can make their own choices.

You are making a choice, aren't you? It's not just a matter of automatically keeping up with the Joneses? The dream you are pursuing is your own, not someone else's?

I'm not saying to avoid getting a job -if that's what you like. I myself, once had a job I loved, and the schedule was flexible. It was good for me at that time in my life, but I wouldn't go back now if I could. Life moves on. Priorities change.

It can be eye opening to examine the assumptions we live our lives by -even things as basic as getting a job.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dehydration Danger

Dehydration is a danger in cold winter climates that isn't taken seriously enough. We tend to think of hot weather as being dangerous, but cold weather can be even worse.

In the winter the air is often dryer than in most desserts. We lose much of our sense of thirst. Who wants to drink a glass of cold water when they are feeling chilled? Worse, what we do tend to drink is coffee and tea, which are diuretics that tend to dry us out. My lovely wife used to work in a hospital, and most winter patients were at least somewhat dehydrated.

We do tend to sweat in the winter. Snow shoveling, skiing, snowshoeing, splitting firewood -winter activities are vigorous. Dressing in layers can help reduce water loss. As one's activity level increases, outer layers can be shed to keep cool enough to prevent sweating. When at rest, the layers are piled back on.

In the summer, most people have caught on to the idea of carrying a water bottle around. In the winter, it's at least as important, but water freezes. When hiking, I've wrapped water bottles deep in the spare clothes to keep them insulated. A thermos can keep water from freezing for a long time. Keeping water near your body, under your jacket is an old trick. Back in the day, we used to use wine skins because they were fairly flat and easy to wear under a coat. Today there are water bladders that do a good job. Sometimes I'll just keep a few smaller water bottles in my jacket's inside coat pockets.

Never try and rehydrate by eating snow. The energy loss isn't worth it. It takes about the same amount of energy to turn snow into water as to turn water into steam. Your body's core temperature will drop into the danger zone long before your body heat has melted enough snow to yield significant water.

Ever melt snow for drinking water? If you are backpacking, better bring lots of fuel. It's a bit discouraging to stuff a big pot full of snow and only get an inch of water on the bottom. My family used to own a primitive hunting camp. It didn't have much, but it did have a woodstove. Since wood was plentiful, we often melted snow rather than cut a hole in the frozen stream.

Snow melt tastes funky. There's a sort of burnt taste to it. Stirring the snow while it's melting reduces the off taste quite a bit. Running the water through a water filter works too. However, how are you going to keep the filter from freezing?

The key to proper winter hydration is to drink water long before you are thirsty. It takes conscious effort but it's a survival skill worth cultivating. Drink until your urine runs clear. If you start to pee orange, you've waited way too long. If you've been going all day haven't felt the need to pee, that's another indicator of trouble.

One trick is to make sure you are fully hydrated before leaving the warm house. Much easier to drink inside than in a blizzard outside.

Don't let winter's chill lull you into a false sense of security. Drink plenty of water and stay healthy.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Too fat to suffer

It was "install drain pipe in an unheated crawlspace day." When I say, "unheated," I mean it was -6 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning and didn't make it any higher than the single digits on the plus side.

By "crawlspace" I mean it was too tight for a fat guy like me. It was tight enough that my buddy couldn't wear a winter jacket. We were running drainpipe under my buddy's house. The house has no foundation but sits on low piers.

My role was planning and supervision. I started out by handing out tools and instructions, but after a while he didn't even need that. Eventually, he was handling the job just fine while I went inside and had a nice cup of hot tea.

We had to set up the PVC cement using a hair dryer. Assembled as many parts as possible in the house near the woodstove, but final connections had to be made in the crawlspace.

Eventually, the crawlspace will be closed in and insulated. For the rest of this winter, hay bales will be piled around the house to keep the heat in. Once the hay bales begin to break down, they'll eventually be used in compost for the ever expanding garden project. Waste not, want not and all that.

Next week, the plan is to install some actual plumbing. Water has been run into the house, but right now they get their water from a garden hose. That project will all be inside work near a nice warm woostove.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

The advantage of a long busy day

My lovely wife and I headed out early and got home late. She went off to round out the Christmas shopping, sparing me the pain. Instead, I got to play plumber at my friend's house.

My off grid friends are just now getting around to getting some plumbing. They didn't have time to work on the house during the warm months. The guy's wife is a real trouper. Not many wives would put up living in a partially completed house with no plumbing. However, even for her, the situation is getting old.

Today we hooked up a couple of sink drains. The kitchen sink is a re-purposed soapstone monster that's so big, two strong men could barely lift it. Let's just say hooking it up to modern drains was interesting. We accomplished it with only one trip into town to hunt down more plumbing parts.

The bathroom sink is brightly colored and was bought in Mexico from a street vendor. An old dresser was modified to accept the sink and plumbing. Fortunately, I didn't have to do the carpentry on that. The plumbing was interesting enough.

Left that job just in time to catch up with my wife and take her to a late afternoon appointment. Had a quick visit with one of my daughters who lives in town. Finally made it home well past our normal dinner time.

The big advantage of having such a busy day is that I didn't have a chance to see the news. No news, nothing to get angry about. It felt like a mini vacation. Best of all, I got to build things with my hands and help out friends.

It was a good day.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Disappointed, but not surprised

The GOP bill blocked a bill that would have provided medical benefits and compensation for emergency workers who risked it all on September 11, 2001.

That's how our government treats heroes. People who put themselves in harm's way are treated like crap. Bankers get their bonus money.

Wonderful world.

It's disappointing, but not surprising. The treatment of our returning veterans is another national disgrace. Often their medical care is poor. Soldiers are denied disability benefits. A high percentage of the homeless are vets.

Those who put body and soul on the line are just fodder units.

The wealthiest 2%, however, get theirs.

Makes me wonder why there aren't riots in the streets.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Yelling

The snow and deep freeze that affected the middle of the US is just starting to move into New Hampshire. While the Midwest was getting clobbered, we had unusually warm weather. Monday morning, it was 50 degrees. At my dad's place in Florida, it was 39. That just ain't right.

Just to make it interesting, we also got 2 days of rain that turned our 6 inches of snow cover into a slushy mess. Before it turned to frozen slop, I decided to move my sailboat -in the rain, in the dark.

The sailboat had been parked down a fairly steep gravel driveway next to the house. Once the slush freezes, there's no hauling something that heavy up the hill. Decided to move it and park it in a very tight parking spot across the street. Careful measurements showed the boat would fit, if parked exactly at the right angle.

My lovely wife guided me with a flashlight. Here's the thing guys. When backing a trailer, never, never, ever, yell at the wife. Fortunately, it's one of those things I've learned from watching other people. The temptation is there. Even if you've parked trailers before, sometimes the conditions are less than ideal. Communication can be difficult over the roar of the big diesel truck engine. Visibility can be poor.

I'll always remember the time I saw a retired couple trying to back a new camper trailer into a camping site. There was an awful lot of yelling -both ways. In the end, they manged, with a lot of screaming and arm waving, to back the trailer right over the picnic table. Fun to watch, I must confess; from a safe distance.

I vowed to never become that couple. It took some time, but the boat trailer is parked safely. Better yet, my wife still loves me. Even though it took a long time to get it right, my temper was held in check. She was doing her best in bad conditions, and in the end the results were good. This is part of the sailboat experience. No sense making bad memories before we even hit the water.


Monday, December 13, 2010

The Ghost of Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev, at the time of this blog post, is still very much alive. All the same, his ghost haunts the corridors of the power elite.

As the ruler of the USSR, he tried to reform a failing system. Perestroika was an attempt to reconstruct the stagnant economy and change social structures. Glasnost was supposed to open up political society. By changing the Soviet Union, he was trying to save it.

He failed, of course. Economic realities brought the country down. He was lucky to escape the collapse with his life. Since then, he's been in the political wilderness. However, he did get a lovely Nobel Peace Prize as a consolation gift.

The lesson is here for today's world leaders is simple: don't try to fix the problems, don't attempt reform. Hide the problems and try to keep the broken system going for as long as possible. Don't let the people know how badly and long the system has been screwing them.

In America, we have the Ghost of President Carter. (also still very much alive at this writing.) In 1976, he saw the country was going to run into some serious trouble and took the early steps necessary to save the nation. Had the country kept moving forward with alternative energy, we'd be much lest dependent on fossil fuels.

Of course, he wasn't any fun. I didn't like him myself, but I was still a teenager. What excuse did the adults have? They didn't want to face reality either, I guess. Reagan was elected, the nation got a boost of cheap energy from Alaska, and the good times kept rolling along. Reagan, unlike Charter, was very popular indeed, never mind that we were eating our seed corn.

For the world's leaders the lessons were plain. Avoid real change at all cost. It's a good slogan, but whatever you do, don't actually do it. Cross your fingers that some stroke of good luck will pull your chestnuts out of the fire in the nick of time. (Reagan's lesson.)

Today's leaders have let the charade go on too long. It's like when a little kid tells a lie, then has to tell bigger and bigger lies to cover for the original deception. Too much has been hidden from the public. It will all end in tears, but who's tears? Today's elite are doing all that they can to push the problem off one more generation. It's what the previous generation did. It's too late to fix the problems without sever pain. No political leader has the stones for that sort of difficult decision.

Even if a leader tried to open up and reform the system, it's too late. In the Soviet Union, it was probably too late by the time of Leonid Brezhnev, but he was able to push the problems aside long enough to live out his days. That's what's going in in the world today. Our last hope of an easier transition was back in the 70s.

Gorbachev did not collapse the USSR. That puppy was going down anyway. His attempts to fix the problems may have hastened the fall. No way to know for sure. Today's world economy is also going down. The elite know it too. Their actions betray them. A last ditch effort is being made to skim off what's left of our wealth. It's working pretty good for them too, as people can't even understand the scale of the wealth transfer from public to private hands.

President Obama's freedom of movement is limited by a very tiny cage. He can pace around it all he wants, but there will be no breaking out from the narrow cell. The elite remember Gorbachev.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter changes everything

I hate doing outside projects in the winter. Problem is, there's way too much winter up here in northern NH. Those projects have to be done sometime. People point out that on the calendar it's not winter yet. Right. Friday morning it was -11 Fahrenheit, there's six inches of snow in the ground, and my lake is frozen. If that's not winter, I don't know what is.

Shoveled out the sailboat so I could work on it. Removed some woodwork so it could brought in the warm basement for varnishing. Took a bunch of measurements for other things I'm adding to the boat. Everything will be built in modules and the final installation will have to be done when I haul the boat down to Florida. Really don't like working with fiberglass when it's this cold.

Next week I'll be installing drain pipe in an unheated crawlspace. Probably have to work with portable heaters and heat guns to get the glues to set properly.

Ever try to work with thick gloves on? How about mittens? Nothing like trying to use metal hand tools that are ice cold.

It's not all bad. A friend of mine is moving some heavy equipment on a road that's too soft and muddy in the summer. Not that the road's frozen solid, it'll bear the weight. Once my lake has a good foot of ice on it, I can drive my truck on it. It's the easiest way to bring heavy things down to my beach, or back up from it.

When it's really cold and we are buried in snow, I always remind myself that at least black flies are down to a bare minimum.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

They are afraid

Prince Charles and Camilla got caught up in student protests.

This is what the powers that be are afraid of. In spite of Britain having an almost complete surveillance society, the rulers can't even keep themselves safe.

Now imagine if all the crimes of the power elite became public knowledge. How much rioting in the streets would we have then? No wonder they are afraid of Wikileaks. The politicians are calling for blood over leaked information that's actually relatively mild. It's embarrassing, but not earth shattering.

Perhaps those in power have much darker secrets? Why do they fear the truth so much? How evil have they been?

Maybe, just maybe, we will find out.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Odds and Ends

Everything takes longer and costs more.

My 3 day repair job stretched out to almost 2 weeks. At least it's done now, and appears to be done right. One of my expense surprises is a couple hundred dollars of tax tacked onto my bill. I'm from NH. We don't tax sales. MA taxes everything. It never occurred to me that I'd have to pay tax on the truck parts. Should have known.

When I went to pick up the truck, it wouldn't start. The garage put a charger on it and it eventually turned over. Ran an errand for my daughter. Picked up a door at the building supply store. Had dinner with my daughter's family. When I can to go home, once again, the truck would not start.

After I popped the hood, it was pretty clear that the battery terminals were dirty. Cleaning them up was all it took for the truck to start. It's the simple things sometimes. One would think the guy at the garage would have caught that. Oh well.

With all the delays, we didn't get home until midnight. Then we were up early to drive into town to kid sit our granddaughter.

Home again

Made it home around midnight. Got to experience subzero temps and snow at the same time. Interesting trip, but pretty beat.

More later.

Bed now.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Road Tripping

On the road again. Driving down to Massachusetts to pick up my truck. The garage assures me that the transmission has been fixed.

Once I have the truck, my daughter would like me to pick up a new front door from the building supply store. She can't fit it in her Subaru.

Then it's back to southern NH for a dinner meeting with friends. After dinner, we have to find our way back home. We've an important appointment we can't miss Friday morning.

At least I won't be traveling alone, as my lovely wife will be along for the ride -along with Brownie, the traveling wonder dog.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Trim the budget

A common refrain among preppers is that you can find enough money to prep if only you'd cut the fat out of the budget.

For many people, that's true. Stop dining out. Eat less meat. Eliminate TV cable. Do more of your own repairs. Buy used instead of new -you get the drift.

Those things work, but only if you haven't already cut you budget that far. It's possible to cut way back, start to free up a bit of cash, then something happens to wipe out all the gains. The car breaks down, and there's no other way to get to work, so it must get fixed. Medical insurance payments jump up 50%. (happened to me this year). Injuries or sickness are a double blow -no ability to work plus medical bills. Property taxes take a big jump. Divorce. Stuff happens.

What's a prepper to do?

If the extra expense is temporary, it might be a matter of putting preps on hold until the extra bills have been eliminated. If you already have preps, use them. What have you got them for if not for something like this? It doesn't have to be the end of the world to use your stored food. Financial hardship is reason enough. Replace your preps when you get back on your feet.

Sometimes no amount of budget trimming can fix the budget hole. It's going to keep getting deeper. This is where your most important prep comes into play: mental preparation. The ability to take a good hard look at the reality of your situation and act accordingly. Nothing but hard choices here. Bad things are going to happen, no matter what you do.

Living in a state of denial can't go on forever. Eventually the sheriff shows up with an eviction notice, the car gets repossessed, the IRS comes after you, the spouse can't take it anymore and leaves -bad stuff happens.

Clear eyed assessment of the situation can lessen the pain. Maybe it's a matter of selling the house before the bank takes it back. If you can't sell, maybe walking away is the thing to do. Don't wait until your last dollar is gone. There are people who would benefit from bankruptcy, but don't have the money to pay for it. I've seen it happen. Whatever the problem is, the sooner faced, the sooner it can be put in the past.

Consider doing things you thought you'd never do. A friend of mine moved into an old trailer to save money while he went back to school. The money saved made all the difference. When I was out on injury leave, my wife worked nights for the extra money. Then, since she was on a night schedule anyway, she took a second job that was also night work. She didn't do it forever, but it made a difference.

Don't let pride prevent you from doing something to solve your problems. Last winter, my wife was out of work, and my daughter and granddaughter moved it with us. It was hard for me, but I went down and applied for heating assistance. As much as I hated it, it was better than letting my family freeze.

Sometimes budgets don't have any fat in them. There are no easy answers. All the same, it's good to remember that hard answers are better than no answers.

A good prep skill is the ability to endure. Given enough time, everything changes.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

If you see something, say something

DHS in partnership with Walmart has expanded its "If you see something, say something." program.

I see something.

I see the expansion of a police state.

I see our government spreading mistrust in our fellow human beings.

I see state sponsored paranoia.

I see a country using fear to control the masses.

I see the loss of liberty.

Do you see what I see?


Life in America

My dad in Florida acquired an accidental roommate. The guy across the street from him, Bob, couldn't find work. He sold his furniture, then his car. Back in August, he had the house up for sale. Bob was watching dad's cats while dad visited with me here in New Hampshire. Dad said that if Bob was able to sell his house, he could move into dad's spare bedroom.

The house sold, so dad acquired a roommate. It was just going to be until the guy could find work. However, there's not a lot of jobs in Florida, especially for a guy pushing 60.

A couple days ago Dad came home to find Bob doubled up in pain, so he called 911.

Turns out that Bob had advanced cancer. He hadn't been feeling well, but like most Americans without medical insurance, he ignored it. Now it's too late. If he makes it out of the hospital, it'll only be to go to hospice.

Bob's friends have passed. He's divorced and what little family remains have never visited. Somewhere there's an estranged son. It's fallen to dad to take care of his few remaining things.

I can't help but feel sad. Bob's story isn't all that unusual in today's America. Families don't hold together. There's little social support.

When a friendly neighbor is your closest human connection, it's a sad thing indeed.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Freeze up

The small lake I live on is freezing up. Ice is growing from the shore to the center. If the wind is calm, it should be frozen over by morning. It'll remain frozen until the third week of April or so.
Also watching the freeze up in Washington D. C.. The lame duck congress is seems to be seizing up. It's a disturbing spectacle. Unemployment benefits run out and congress battles to keep tax cuts for the richest 2%. Majority Leader Harry Reid sets the moral tone by fighting hard for Internet gambling. Just so happens the gaming industry funded a goodly portion of his reelection campaign. At one time politicians would at least try and hid the fact they are bought and paid for by corporate masters.

The whole show disgusts me.

About the best we can hope for is political gridlock. If anything gets done by what's left of this congress, it won't be to help the little guy.

I'd rather watch the lake freeze than follow the news.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

In Disguise

I've got a disguise. It's to make me look like something I'm not. In my closet, is a suit and tie. Generally, I only wear it when in front of a judge.

When you go to a strange land with foreign customs, it good to try and blend in a little. Your high school French will never fool the Québécois, but at least you are taking a stab at it. I know I don't quite look like a normal citizen, but in a courtroom, dressing up is one of those customs flaunted at your own peril. At least I'm trying.

Today I was in disguise once more. The transmission shop is having a heck of a time finding a key part to my transmission. Rather than keep me waiting, they offered to reimburse me for car rental. Of course, that assumes that I'm capable of renting a car.

I carry a lot of odds and ends on me for emergencies. I've a metal match fire starter on my key chain, along with a can opener and a bottle opener. Always carry a multi-tool. I've a small solar charged flashlight. In NH, I carry a concealed 380 handgun. For the rental car emergency, I carry a pristine credit card with no debt on it. In the strange wilderness known as a city, it's as important a survival tool as anything else I carry.

99.99% of the time I don't give a crap about credit cards, credit ratings, or the state of my driver's license. For the way I live most of the time, it just doesn't matter. When it does matter, like at the car rental place, I'm pretending to be someone I'm not: a solid citizen. Today I found out I can still pull it off. For a bit there, I wasn't even sure if that credit card was any good. It wouldn't be the first long expired piece of plastic in my wallet. At least they are good for slipping locked doors -a more likely use for my plastic than renting a car.

Most people still live in that world I only visit. My grasp of the customs is a bit rusty, but today I found out I could pass one more time.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Basic Operating Instructions

When things malfunction, the thing to do is to pull out the operating instructions. Something might be functioning pretty good for years, but then the works gum up. Going back to the manual often reveals the problem. Basic maintenance might have been neglected, operating short cuts taken, or features added that hurt reliability.

That's why I like to occasionally read the United States Constitution. It's our country's operating manual. If nothing else, focus on the Bill of Rights. It's surprisingly easy to read and makes sense. One can't but help wonder how the works have been so messed up with such straight forward instructions.

Reasonable people can disagree and interpret things differently. The Supreme Court is supposed to sort such things out. How good are they doing? How often do they do a complete 180 on earlier decisions? Does what they do make sense to the the average reasonably intelligent person?

You know how some people just can't read or understand a basic manual? Perhaps more care should be taken on who gets on the court. In my humble opinion, a background in law should be a disqualifying factor. Lawyers don't use plain English. It looks a bit like English, but over time legal language acquired meanings different from plain English. Since the Constitution was written in plain English, we should appoint people who know what English is. Beware those who corrupt the meanings of plain words.

When all else fails, go back to the basic operation instructions.


Friday, December 3, 2010

And then the electricity

Still at my daughter's place in the city.

Really not used to being dependent on a city's infrastructure. First it was the water supply. Last night, it was touch and go whether or not the grid would go down. High winds took out power lines all around. In the end, our little part of the city was spared.

I haven't had to worry about power outages for over 20 years. The grid might go down, but my solar electric system always provided enough power for basic needs. Had the power gone down here in the city, we'd have been reduced to candles. (and the small solar charged flashlight I carry with me.)

After all these years of living in the woods, it's an uncomfortable feeling to be reliant on "the grid." Not just the power grid, but whole network necessary to provide services to city dwellers.
Out in the country, I have solar electric, a good well, trees for firewood, and there are wild foods all around me. No wonder most of the time I feel pretty independent.

Even having backup power in the city can be a problem. When everything is dark, a well lit house may become a beacon for trouble. Having comforts no one else has is something that has to be hidden. It's a security issue. It might not be too bad for a day or two, but as time goes on, desperate people could feel justified to take what they need.

One thing I'm having difficulty with is the constant traffic noise. I guess city people must tune it out. Where I live, the sound of even one vehicle means something. Often it's someone coming to my house, as there's not too much else they could be going to. Some days the only traffic is the rural mail delivery.

Nope, not a city boy. As much as I'm enjoying my visit with my daughter and her family, I can't wait for my truck to be fixed so I can head home.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Water Break

I'm still hanging around my daughter's house in the city. Yesterday afternoon there was a water break in a major supply line. Water pressure soon dropped and in a couple hours was reduced to a trickle.

The thing that really bothered me was there was very little I could do about it. Living in the country, I've lots of options if the taps run dry. Since it's my own water system, if it breaks, I'm the one to fix it. If it can't be fixed, I could take a water jug down to the well and fill it from the overflow. Should something be wrong with that, there's aways the lake and a water filter.

Those options weren't open to me in the city. It really went against my nature to just wait for the city crews to fix the problem. Even entertained the idea of setting up some water catchment since rain was predicted. Of course, 12 hours later the problem was fixed. Everyone will soon forget how tenuous their water supply is.

Hope to get my daughter to store some water for emergencies, but all I can do is plant the idea.

The plan for a long term emergency? Drive up to New Hampshire and stay at my house.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Nothing to hide

Personal privacy is constantly under attack by governments around the world. How many times have we heard people say that if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear? Somehow, we are supposed to accept the loss of privacy because it's supposed to protect us.

Lets turn that around. Why is the government so afraid of Wikileaks? If they are doing nothing bad, they have nothing to hide.

Anyone else remember when Obama promised more open government?

England's citizens are constantly scrutinized by thousands and thousands of cameras. The United States isn't far behind. This too, is supposed to be for our protection.

Let's have cameras that follow politicians around -just to make sure that aren't doing anything shady. If they are honest, they've got nothing to fear, right?

Why should individual private citizens be constantly under scrutiny? Doesn't it make more sense to watch those who have the power to start wars between nations? Shouldn't we be watching the policy makers, captains of industry, powerful bureaucrats, police, and top military leaders? They are much more likely to mess up your lives than some thief on the street.

At one time, a free press had some ability to watch over such people. Ever since press power became concentrated in a handful of companies, that power is gone. When no one paid attention to Internet news sources, those independents were left alone. Now that they have some influence, governments want to put severe limits on the Internet.

What have they got to hide?

Perhaps certain actions by our government and corporate masters don't stand up all that well to the light of day?