Monday, April 30, 2012

The crazy idealism of youth

As a young person, teenager or even young adult, did you have a lot of crazy idealistic dreams? Are you yourself a young person? Do you still have those dreams, no matter your age?

Never let it go. The dreams may change, but never lose the capacity for being a dreamer. Have you been told: grow up, that’s not how the world works, stop daydreaming, or nobody lives that way?

Is your world bounded by walls? There are all kinds of walls: responsibilities, cultural mores, taboos, religion, laws, money, security, expectations and so on. You might want to head off in a new direction and then bump into one of those walls. It changes your direction. You head off down a new path, looking for a way past those walls -and bump into more walls.

You may feel that you are a rat in a maze. That’s not a hopeless feeling. At least the rat has a chance of getting the cheese. What if you discover you aren’t in a maze at all, but instead are in a big complicated box? There is no exit. There is no cheese.

Running through the box faster won’t get you to where you want to go. Activity doesn’t equal progress. You need new tactics. The first thing you need to do is to look at your life and see if you are in a box. Did other people put those walls up around you? Did you build some of them yourself?

Do you want to be free?

Then you need some new tools. Ditch the running shoes you’ve running the maze with. Put on some climbing spikes and climb over the wall. From your new viewpoint, you might be able to see where you want to go. Can’t climb over? Then take a sledge hammer and break through the wall, or use a shovel and tunnel under. It might be messy, but freedom usually is.

I’m tempted to offer some tactics for breaking out of the box, but that might end up being another wall. “The correct way to break out of the box.” Please. Maybe that’s why I’m suspicious of gurus of any stripe. The last thing I want is to be is such a guru.

Trust your heart. Find your own way. Love hard.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Well Problems

There are plenty of advantages to having a shallow well, but a few drawbacks too. There’s a bit of maintenance that needs to be done once in a while. Periodically, the well gets “shocked.” What happens is that the well is drawn down then given a good dose of bleach. That kills any invasive bacteria that may have found their way in.

It’s usually no big deal. My well sits in the middle of a steep hill. I can drain it down using siphon hoses. That went just fine. While it was draining down, I used a long handle brush to scrub down the walls of the well. Then I gave it a good dose of bleach.

I left for the afternoon. When I got home, no water came out of the faucets. Did I somehow damage my submersible pump when cleaning the well? The last thing I wanted to do was to drain the well again and remove the pump. Maybe it was an electrical problem? Using a multi-tester, it soon became clear there was power all the way to the topside of the well.

By then, it was getting too dark and cold to work on it anymore. All evening the problem ate away at me. Finally I went to bed and tried to get to sleep. Then an idea hit. What if the house filter is plugged solid? The house never had a small micron filter in the system before. I hopped out of bed and went down the basement to change it.

Sure enough, that was the problem. I was so happy I stayed up and washed all the dishes.


Outside the zone

I went down to the firehouse the other day. Quite a few years have passed since I was a firefighter, but there are still some guys there who I used to work with. They are always quick to offer me a coffee and to shoot the breeze.

They asked me how my winter was. I told them of my sailing adventures in the Gulf of Mexico. One thing that surprised me is that all the guys could not imagine doing such a thing. The thought of sailing out in the ocean kinda scared them.

That surprised me. These are guys who put their lives on the line on a daily basis. Doing a bit of island hopping is a heck of a lot safer than running into a burning building. I know, having done both.

Perhaps is just a matter of getting out of your comfort zone and doing something totally different. We live up here in the mountains of NH, a fair distance from the ocean. A few people occasionally got to the beach in the summer or go fishing on a day charter.

There’s a skill set that has to be acquired to go off boating in the ocean. It’s not hard to learn, but it does take a bit of effort. People tend to do what the people around them do for recreation. We learn from our parents, and if they’ve never sailed, it’s not something one would just fall into.

There is one firefighter there who’d love to go ocean sailing. He’s been sea kayaking off the coast of Maine. It can bet pretty dicey out there on a small boat. He’s been my guest on my boat on a few lake sailing trips. Out of the whole fire department, he’s the only one who’s shown any interest in that sort of adventure.

Maybe it’s because he’s my cousin and we share the same adventure genes.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

The problem with being a doomer

You never get to say, “I told you so.”

It’s a real bummer. The world ends. What to you say? Pay up? I win? See I told you so?
No, what you really say is AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! After all, the world’s ending right?

The whole end of the world thing doesn’t have a very good predictive outcome. It’s been predicted for a long time and yet it is still here. Even if you guess right, there’s no chance to collect. For doomers, it’s a bit of a waste of time. Let it go.

How about mini doom? Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, blizzards, fire, and really bad relationships. Picture it. You buddy was unprepared for the hurricane so he loses everything, including some family members. What do you say? Ha ha, you really should have bugged out like I told you so? That won’t do much good and you’ll be a real jerk to boot.

When disaster strikes, a decent human being will zip his lip and do what he can to help. Mature human beings don’t gloat.

So here’s what I’m going to do, being a bit less than mature. Now I won’t do this for the hurricane scenario, or something else as harsh. Maybe I’ll use it for the bad relationship I warned the person of. I’ll lift an eyebrow and smirk a very tiny bit, shake my head sadly and say, “dude.” I’m a bit less than spiritually pure. So what?

Some people try really hard to be good because they feel they are building mansions in heaven. Good for them. I’ve set my sights a bit lower: a trailer park on the wrong side of the tracks in heaven. So it’s the “bad” part of heaven. It’s still heaven, right? Just trying to be good enough here.

There’s not much reward in warning people about doom. No one wants to hear it. I’ve accepted that and have learned to chill a bit. I’ve been doing pretty good through the mini doom experiences. People can learn from my example . . . or not.


Friday, April 27, 2012

What the mechanic said and a break between showers

My ambulance/motor home has been at my mechanic’s place in town. Here’s the deal. I dropped it off without an appointment. If he got a bit of time between jobs, he’d take a look at it and get it fixed up to pass state inspection. I trust him to only fix what had to be fixed. The guy has always done right by me.

I knew the vehicle needed tires, so I planned to spend at few bucks on that. One tire was really badly worn and I suspected something like a bad ball joint. The mechanic went through everything: ball joints, brakes, rotors -the works. He said everything was in remarkably good shape. The vehicle had been well maintained. My regular guy doesn’t have alignment equipment, so that will be checked out at another place. It’s not that expensive to get done. Maybe the bad tire wear is the result of adrenaline fueled white knuckle driving while someone codes in the back.

My lovely wife and I made it back home by the early afternoon. The rain had stopped for a few hours, so we took a chance and went sailing. About the time my granddaughter had enough, we saw the storm clouds moving in. Building storm winds moved us right along and we got back to our beach before the rain hit.

Good news from the garage and a bit of sailing. Not a bad day at all.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Out with the old

I’m gathering a load for the dump. That’s a “transfer station,” for you young folk. The big items so far are a sofa and a dishwasher.

The sofa had to be cut up for removal. New railings had been installed after the sofa had been brought upstairs. It was easier to cut up the sofa than to remove the railings. Once cut into bite sized chunks, I easily removed the pieces myself.

That white appliance is a dishwasher. It hasn’t run for a while, but I kept putting off its removal. Pulling it out wasn’t all that hard, but one thing leads to another. Plumbing had to be removed and it was hardwired to the electrical panel. While I was in the electrical panel, I noticed a loose connection, so I tightened everything.

In my quest to simplify life, the dishwasher won’t be replaced. Instead, I’m going to build a better drying rack so hand washing will go quicker. Every energy savings adds up. The small time savings from using the dishwasher does not justify buying a new one. Your calculations may be different.

Most of my house sitter’s stuff has been removed. They took good care of the place while we were gone. My daughter and granddaughter’s stuff is mostly put away. There’s still stuff to be organized. With all the shuffling around, I don’t know where all my things are. That’s no big deal as I didn’t know where everything was before people moved in and out.

In between all the house stuff, I’m gathering up junk wood for the woodstove. Temperatures have been in the 30s at night, only getting into the 50s during the day. By the time the heating season truly ends, all the broken branches from storm damage should be cleaned up.

It’s easy to be productive around the house when it’s cool and rainy outside. Once the sun comes out, look for me in the sailboat.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Response to silly laws

Desperate governments do the darnedest things. Politicians pass law after law, one on top of the other. Eventually, the laws get so overbearing, contradictory, and down right silly, that people ignore them.

Governments lose the ability to enforce the laws. From Ireland to Greece people are ignoring new taxes and austerity laws. On a more prosaic level, how many of us break the speed limit? Fudge on our taxes? Ever barter or pay cash for something, cutting the government out of the loop?

Often new laws have unintended consequences. People who didn’t mind paying a small tax or fee, will balk at paying big money. In the end revenues go down not up. That always ends badly for governments. The Roman Empire taxed farms so heavily that it wasn’t worth working them and they were abandoned. That was at a time when Rome really needed the food. Expect that sort of stupidity in the dying days of empires.

What about the poor cop on the street? He’s the guy who’s supposed to enforce those laws. Law looks a lot different in the street than it does in Washington. The cop knows he’s only got so many resources so he’ll pick and choose what to enforce. Lot’s of “B. S. laws” get ignored. At the extreme the LEO knows some of those dumb laws could get him killed.

Civil disobedience can overwhelm the system. That’s one of the tactics of mass protest.

Even individuals can muck up the system. I had an uncle who was audited by the I.R.S. year after year. He looked forward to it. It was one of the things he did for fun and profit. Yes, profit. He’d wear the auditors down and in the end they’d let him get away with a lot just to get rid of him. They aren’t used to fighting against people who don’t fear them. Eventually, they didn’t even audit him anymore. My uncle was disappointed.

It’s illegal to be poor in the US. Sit in at your local courtroom sometime. Case after case it’s people who did some like violate some insurance requirement or had “defective” equipment on their vehicles. When you live paycheck to paycheck, something simple as minor car repairs can break the budget. I know what’s it’s like to drive an “illegal” vehicle, hoping to make it to payday. I had to drive to get to the job, but the job didn’t pay enough to keep the car in tip top shape.

Now they want to make it illegal to not carry health insurance. If the requirement stands up in court, it won’t stand up on the street. People without health insurance don’t have it because they want to be a burden to society. They just can’t afford it. You can’t get blood out of a stone.

Laws get ignored so more laws are passed. Governments believe that the new laws will do the trick, or better enforcement is the key. Rarely do they admit that the original law was the real problem.

Stupid unenforceable laws condition people to seek ways around them. Day by day respect for the government is lost. Eventually, there’s a government that has very little influence outside of the capital. For example, take Harmid Karzai, the President of Afghanistan. He’s often called “The Mayor of Kabul,” because that’s about how far his real influence reaches. The reality out in the provinces is totally different than the reality in the capital.

Historically, governments have collapsed under the burden of unenforceable laws. The invading barbarians just finished the job. The only historical exception to this, that I’m aware of, is the Eastern Roman Empire. They reached the point where laws and centralization could no longer be enforced and maintained. Their response was for the central government to do less. More authority was given up to the outer reaches. Things got a lot simpler, but the empire endured.

The federal government could follow that historical example: shorten its reach, let power flow back to the states then, to the counties, cities and towns. It could narrow its ambitions. Instead of policing the world, it could police its own borders.

So how are we going to bet? More silly burdensome laws and we go the way of the Western Roman Empire, or decentralization and we follow the Eastern Roman Empire?


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Free government backup service

The NSA probably has copies of all our e-mails.

Now many people may think of this as a huge invasion of privacy. Isn’t that silly? The government would never do anything to infringe on our rights.

Obviously they are providing a free backup service. How many times we’ve lost e-mails, thinking they were gone forever? Fortunately, the NSA has thoughtfully saved copies of all those e-mails.

Isn’t it nice to know our tax money is going for something good? Now since we’ve funded the NSA, and the government works for its citizens, a simple request should produce copies of all those e-mails.

Keep up the good work NSA.


Monday, April 23, 2012

To the south and west

A sizable snowstorm is predicted for the Northeast. Lucky for me, it’s predicted to be to the south and west of my house. Millions of other people won’t be so fortunate.

Actually, my area is better suited to weather a snowstorm right now. The leaves are just starting to come out. Snow causes a lot more damage on trees in full leaf. Those branches come down, causing damage to property, people and power lines.

If you are in the affected area, I hope you have a storm plan. When the 2011 October snowstorm hit, power went out for weeks in some areas. We did fine in that one too, as most of our leaves had already dropped from the trees. Sometimes there’s advantages to a colder climate.

Right now we are getting some badly needed rain. Fire danger has been extremely high. Several days of soakers will put us in pretty good shape. Looks like we are going to get them.

Weather events happen all time, all over the country. Sooner or later your area will get hit with something. For that reason alone, people should have some basic preps: food, water, heat, the ability to cook, lighting and even things like books and board games for entertainment.

Why is it that the prepper is ridiculed for being prepared? He’s accused of being paranoid. You aren’t paranoid when bad things really do happen.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

That’s it for propane

At one time I had four propane appliances: tankless water heater, refrigerator, stove, and clothes dryer. Propane used to be cheap. It’s not that way anymore. Now I’m down to just my stove and dryer. The stove is an old cast iron woodstove with two propane burners on the side.

Just a few days after we got back from our trip, the propane ran out. Most people would just call the company and get it refilled. Three things stopped me from doing that. The company I used to have propane service from when out of business. A new company would want money up front and a 2 year contract. We really don’t use that much propane anymore.

We almost never use the dryer. We have a clothes line outside and a drying back by the woodstove. During the cool months, the woodstove is going so we cook using wood. It works for me.

However, now it’s warming up, so the woodstove doesn’t run all the time. For a couple days, we used a portable two burner electric hot plate. That worked, but was a pretty big strain on the solar electric system.

Rummaging around my stuff, I found a 20 lb propane tank -the type used on a propane grill. It still had propane in it, so I hooked it up to the house system. It works just fine. I wouldn’t want to run the dryer too often on it, but it will fuel two small stove burners a long time.

This is the sort of Redneck fix you can expect to see more of as people make do with what they've got.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Living with limited resources

It takes practice to get used to living with few resources. It’s too easy to use resources without even thinking about it. Flick a light switch. Use the bathroom. Get something out of the refrigerator. Drive to the store. Do the laundry. Check e-mail and social media. All these things use energy.

We use energy without even doing anything. AC or heat keeps us comfortable. Water is kept hot and food kept cold -just in case we’ll want to use it. Everything from TVs to cell phone chargers constantly use power, even when the devices themselves are turned off.

Think of all the connections to your house. Most people are connected to the electrical grid. Many still have land line phones. Plenty of us have fiber optic connections for Internet and/or TV. Quite a few places have natural gas service. Just about all city dwellers have municipal water service. All those connections delivery energy and resources of one sort or another.

Cut off all those supply systems and see how well you do.

I’ve found that few things beat a small sailboat for experiencing life with limited resources. There are no utilities connected to a boat sailing in the ocean.

We had to make good use of our fresh water. We used it for drinking and cooking, Most washing of clothes and ourselves was done with salt water, with just a bit of fresh for rinsing. (that fresh water rinse felt extravagant.)

My electrical needs were satisfied with a 30 watt solar panel, which is very small, but our needs were small. We ran navigation and anchor lights, a cabin light, and charged radios, a cell phone and batteries.

Our first week on the boat, we used 2.5 gallons of gas for the outboard. I thought that was excessive. The next 4 day trip we went on, we used a quart of gas. We got better.

I cooked using a one burner Whisperlite International backpacking stove. Cooking used up about 1.5 quarts of fuel per week. At first, I used regular Coleman fuel. When that ran out the stove ran just fine on the same gasoline that we had for the outboard. Since then I’ve added a Backcountry boiler from Boilerwerks. It does a fine job boiling water using sticks and twigs.

Refrigeration? Nice when you have it, but not necessary. Our little cooler would only last about 3 days. After that, we did just fine with canned, dehydrated, or dry foods. Some fruits and veggies lasted just fine without refrigeration. There was always the option of fresh sea food too.

You don’t need to live on a sailboat to strip life down to its essentials. Live in a tent for a week -not in a campground, but out in the backcountry. Backpackers are quite familiar with paring down one’s resources to the essentials.

Picture yourself living in your house, but without all the connections that bring energy and resources in. How well could you live? Could you live? Would the house get too hot or too cold? Do you have water storage or alternative supplies? Will all your food spoil? Can you find a way to cook it?

You get the idea.

When resources are not being constantly piped into your shelter, be it a sailboat, cabin in the woods, tent, or even your suburban house, how well can you do? How long will you last?

Will you be having any fun? Remember, those times we spent in a sailboat, back packing or tenting, we were out having a good time. The better we could use limited resources, the longer the fun could continue.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Something I learned from my dad

Dad grew up in a tough mill town. Fights were common.

My dad said to never threaten anyone. He never did.

He had a few reasons. Threatening someone gave them advanced warning. If the guy really needed a punch in the nose -punch him in the nose. Don’t use words when a fist is needed.

If something bad happens to someone, the cops always look for the guy who threatened the victum in public. Even if you didn’t harm the guy, you are still a suspect because of your words. On the other hand, if you really really do harm someone, there are no threats in the public record.
Dad thought threatening someone was a sign of weakness. Words are empty. He had no respect for “big talk and no action.”

Some people yell when mad. Dad did just the opposite. If someone really ticked him off he’d get real quiet. He’d walk up close to the guy and talk in a low voice that only they could hear. The guy would have to pay attention and listen closely. Then dad would tell him the consequences if his actions continued. It wasn’t a threat in dad’s mind -more of a promise. He’d explain to the guy exactly what kind of hurt he was in for. The choice was his. Dad kept his promises.

My father told me to never start fights, but to finish them. In spite of his toughness, he never looked for trouble. In a fighting town, trouble would sometimes find him. Not all those fights were won, but the winner didn’t get away without a world of hurt. Nobody wanted to mess with him again.

As a kid, I knew little of dad’s rough and tumble past. He never wanted me to have to grow up the way he did. Over the years, more and more stories from the old days came to light. I learned a few more while visiting him in Florida this past winter.

Dad’s 76 now and living the typical retired guy life, but heaven help the man who threatens him. My old man is still tough enough if the need should ever arise.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Golden hours

Everyone’s collapse is different. National, State, and Regional situations may be going down the tubes, but what really matters to us is what happens on a family and individual level. Of course, the flip side is also true. It doesn’t matter how well the national economy is doing if you are injured and out of work.

It’s been a weird week in these parts, and not just the weather. People are shooting each other right and left. Two sizable local industries have just closed. They were the sort of jobs with things like health care, dental, retirement plans and vacations. Other friends who didn’t even work at those places have lost their jobs.

In contrast to all that, I launched my sailboat in our little lake. My wife, granddaughter, and dog joined me for a gentle pleasant sail. It felt incredible to have a tiller in my hand again. In spite of myself, I was darn happy.

That’s not to say I don’t have empathy for people having problems and tragedies. I feel for them and do what I can, but life is too short not to grab a few golden hours now and then.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Moving right along

For those new to my blog, I’ve been converting an ambulance into a mini motor home.

I hit a major snafu with a title problem. That was resolved while I was on vacation this winter. Now that I’m home the project continues. Today I went to town hall and was able to actually register the vehicle and get some plates for it.

Right after that it was down to my insurance agent to buy insurance. Then home to put the plates on, charge up the battery, and take it for a road test. It runs well. The big 7.3 turbodiesel powerstroke engine purred right along.

My mechanic has to look at it. There’s excessive tire wear on one of the front tires and needs to be replaced. Then we have to figure out why the tire wore badly. It could something as simple a bad alignment or maybe a bad ball joint. The state of NH allows ten days from the time of registration until it gets an inspection sticker. The garage can do that at the same time as the tire fix.

One of my friends has been gathering materials for a trailer hitch all winter. He’s ready to install a custom hitch. Last fall he crawled under the vehicle and took measurements.

It needs a few creature comforts installed: a table that folds out into a bed, stove, and 12volt fridge.

Even more important than creature comforts is converting the diesel to run on waste vegetable oil. This will be my fourth WVO vehicle. I’ve assisted on several other conversions. Every conversion is custom and a bit different. There’s a shakedown period where any kinks are worked out of the system.

It’s great that this project is moving again. Since my pickup truck, and boat hauler, is falling apart, the ambulance conversion project has moved up in priority.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Too nice.

The weather here in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire is too nice. Monday, it was over 85 degrees here. That’s a fine hot day for the middle of summer. While it’s nice to run around in shorts and flip flops, at the back of my mind, it feels like something is wrong.

The ice left the lake about a month early -earlier than in anyone’s living memory.

Water levels in the lakes and rivers are at summer levels instead at spring flood levels. We really could use some rain, and I hate to say that. For the last few years we got so much rain I jokingly called our area the NH rain forest.

Cooler weather is predicted. I’ll be burning wood to take the chill out of the house again. That will feel weird too.

Strange days.


Things that embarrass the United States

The Secret Service gets caught “stiffing” a prostitute in Columbia. It’s described as a “Tremendous embarrassment to the USA.”


Yeah, it’s a bit of an embarrassment that they didn’t pay a worker her wages. As a US citizen, I feel no embarrassment at all.

I’m full up with embarrassment. I’m embarrassed by our politicians. Our health system is shameful. The level of economic disparity in our country is an embarrassment. The fact that the TSA has a bigger budget than NASA is another one. We claim to be the land of the free yet lock up more people than anyone else; that’s embarrassing.

Anyone who’s surprised with governmental scandal has very little contact with the government. It’s the purest example of the Peter Principal at work: people rising to their level of incompetence.

If the government would lock up some of the criminals on Wall Street, I’d feel that maybe it was my government. Right now, I can’t feel that much for a government that acts more like a tyranny than a representative republic.

The SS got embarrassed . . . good.

More departments need to be shamed in public.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

While we were away

Telephones. Facebook. Skype. US mail. E-mail.

We kept in touch with people while we were down south. However, now that I’m home, it’s obvious we missed a lot.

Relationships changed. People moved. Jobs were lost. Medical procedures. Building demolition. -stuff happened.

It looks like my house sitters are well on their way to moving out. We are in no hurry to see them go, but they made other arrangements. It certainly was nice to come home to a house that was up and running. We haven’t even seen them since we got back. The wife is on a pleasure trip and her husband is out of town for work.

One of my daughters moved back, along with her daughter. For a very brief period in my life, I thought our house was too big. It isn’t.

Then there are the people you know but don’t keep in contact with. One of neighbors drove by and stopped to chat. He asked about our trip. I asked about his winter. He had a heart stent a few weeks ago, and he’s not feeling all that well. Dang.

Life goes on.

There’s a lot of catching up to do and I’m just hoping there will be more good news than bad.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Home in New Hampshire

My lovely wife, Brownie the Sailor Dog, and myself just pulled into our place in New Hampshire.

The truck made it without any more major pieces falling off it.

Good to be home. We'll deal with everything and unload in the morning.


Leaving the dead behind

Traveling back from Florida, my lovely wife and I made a side trip to the Mid Hudson Valley area. That’s where my wife grew up, but we didn’t stop to visit any friends or relatives -no living ones anyway.

We stopped at the cemetery to pay our respects. The only close relatives that are still in the area are the ones who aren’t going anywhere. My wife’s family is scattered all over the world. The younger ones left for different opportunities. The older retired ones left to avoid high taxes.

Our first stop is always at my brother-in-law’s grave. He was still a teenager when he died in a boating accident. The guy was just then starting to grow into an interesting adult. I think I would have liked the man he was becoming. His gravestone shows a backpacker on a mountain top gazing at distance peaks and clouds. It was a sketch he’d done just before the accident. I’m glad it’s on his stone.

Then we visit the rest of those left behind: grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, classmates, and so on. My in-laws have a stone there too, but fortunately the death dates are still unwritten.

My wife knows her way around that marble orchard. I wonder if our kids will ever take the time to visit the graves. Will the grandkids feel enough connection to their past to want to stand there under the shade trees near the pond? Will they contemplate lives lived and then ended?

Will they wonder about the young man who sketched the backpacker?


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sailing the asphalt seas

My lovely wife and I had a good day on the road. We made it from W. Virgina to Salem MA in 12 hours. I’m pretty beat, but it was a good drive.

We’ll visit a couple days before making the last little jaunt up to our place in northern NH.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good old boys auto repair

Slow going on the trip back home. After spending the night in N. Carolina, we headed out, but didn't get far. The truck was behaving odd again. It would suddenly shift from side to side -not good.

Pulled into the NAPA repair shop in Lumberton. The guys found a broken bracket that allowed the front axle to shift from side to side. They were able to weld it up and get me back on the road. Nice guys who know their stuff.

Due to our late start, we only made it as far as W. Virgina. Tomorrow, if all goes well, we should make it to my daughter's in MA.

We are tired, but Okay. Got the last room in town that allows dogs.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Booking Error


I drove all the way to the campground in S. Carolina only to discover we didn't have a reservation and they had no vacancy.

The mistake was ours. We got the date wrong. That's the first time in all our years of camping that we did such a dumb error. Oh well, live and learn.

I decided to keep driving and we took a hotel in N. Carolina.

We were able to reschedule with the park for next years trip.

That makes it the earliest we've reserved a site.


The long and winding trail northward

We are slowly making our way out of FL. Hope to be in S. Carolina for a couple days.

The wife at the St. Augustine campground is pretty sketchy. It’s hard to get the blog up and the signal drops out all the time. If my blog posting drop out for a few days, it’s because we are traveling. Not to worry.

Friends met us in St. Augustine. It’s a great city for lovers of history, as I am. The old Spanish fort was never taken in battle. However, it did change ownership through treaty. It got me thinking. Maybe what we need is the Special Forces equivalent for diplomats.

“Send in the diplomats! They are the only ones who can take the fort!”

How’s that for a battle cry?

Sunday was a day of rest. Taking it easy after playing tourist. Hope everyone had a good Easter Holiday.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Survival value

Survival skills: what are they? Sure, we think of the ability to build a fire, find clean water, and gather food. Those are ancient skills that have stood the test of time. They are rightly called primitive skills. Some of those skills have been around as long as man has walked on his hind legs.

What about modern survival skills? Anything that helps you survive is a survival skill. How about the ability to deal with bureaucracy? Ever consider the skills necessary to survive a totalitarian government? Computer hacker skills? How are your breaking and entering abilities? How well can you navigate modern finances?

Our basic needs don’t change. How we satisfy them can. Primitive skills satisfy needs in a direct manner. In many ways I get more satisfaction from them. Maybe I’m a romantic. The problem with modern survival skills is that they are very useful, but only in certain contexts. Civilized skills hold sway only while civilization is fully functional. Modern skill sets change as technology and culture change. Keeping up with changing conditions is a challenge.

One may prefer one set of skills over the other. However, in the end, the only real measure of their value is if they work or not.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

How we’ve been trained

Most modern humans are pretty bad at cooperation. It should be natural. We all need each other to survive and thrive.

My guess is that, to a large extent, it’s been trained out of us.

All our lives we’ve been divided up into different teams and told to compete with each other. As school kids we are taught to hate the team from the next town. Everyone is trying to do better than everyone else, be it at school, in sports, at work, or just about anything.

Most of our games have winners and losers. The winners are better, of course -never mind how they went about winning.

I’m as bad as anyone else. Just ask anyone who’s played games against me. I’m in it to win.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There are activities without winners or losers. Ever put together a puzzle with other people? No matter who finds the next connecting piece, we all are happy about it. The goal is problem solving. The activity is simple enough, but it is one way we can work together for a common goal. There are some board games that do the same. As a kid, I used to play Dungeons and Dragons. (Yeah, I was a Geek sometimes.) It takes all the talents of the group to have a successful quest.

The quest of life needs a team. Wouldn’t it help if we got more practice working together?

I’ve got to ask myself: who benefits from our disunity? Is there a reason we have so little training in working together. Have we been divided so we can be conquered?


Friday, April 6, 2012

Too much stuff

It’s hard to believe I used to disappear off into the wilds with just a backpack. It took two days to load everything up for our trip back north.

To be fair, we’ve been gone for over three months. We left NH in early January, so we needed winter clothes. Since we got to Florida, we’ve been in a warm spell -even for Florida. It’s been three months of sandals, t-shirts, and shorts.

We brought the sailboat, so we needed all the boaty things.

Then there is all the camping stuff. Right now I’m in a campground in St. Augustine Florida, the first time camping this trip. That camping gear has been in the way until today.

Our little side trip to TX had us come back with another load of stuff from my in-laws. We came back with everything from blankets to boat anchors.

My dad loaded us up as well -photos to power tools.

We picked up books from all over. (sorry kids, we can’t help ourselves, we’ll fit them in somewhere.)

Next year, we’ll travel lighter -really.

At least the truck has been running well, something I don’t take for granted.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Greeks lead the way

Barter and alternative currencies are taking off in Greece.

When currencies and economies fail, people are finding ways to succeed. It makes sense. Just because some abstract medium of exchange fails, that doesn’t mean people and communities have to fail. People still have goods and services to exchange. They can do that directly or use some alternative currency. It doesn’t really matter what they use, as long as enough people use the same thing.

Bitcoin has potential.

Now I know somethings have to be paid for in the coin of the realm. It’s been a long time since property taxes were paid in turnips. Fine. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. The beauty of these alternative exchange systems is that it’s not all or nothing. They can be phased in over time covering more and more of people’s needs.

Greeks are discovering the new barter systems do more than exchange goods and services, they build community. Anything that eases a tough time in Greece is a positive. Make no mistake about it, times are tough over there.

Pay attention to how the Greeks deal with the economic turmoil -over there may be coming over here all too soon.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Another aspect of tribal life

Surviving alone, while possible, is darn tough. Humans are social people. We evolved living in small tribal groups. A lot of preppers have caught on to the need for community for survival. While that’s true, there are other things that can learned from tribal groups.

One neglected item is the need for people to leave their tribal group for a period of time. Let’s face it, even the most easy going people can get on each other’s nerves.

Tribal peoples developed a number of solutions. Sometimes day to day survival needs provided the separation. Hunting parties would leave for days at a time. Other groups would make special journeys to gather plants in season or materials needed by their culture. Some groups would send parties out to trade. Often people would leave the tribe on vision quests or other spiritual journeys.

Some African tribes would split the tribe into two or three different groups for periods of time. Sometimes it’s because there wasn’t enough resources, like during a drought. The group would spread out during lean times and gather back together during the good times.

When groups got back together again, it was usually a time for celebration. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Old hurts are forgotten and the good things about people are remembered. The different groups have experienced different things. They have something new to talk about. It keeps everyone sane.

On a personal level, my lovely wife and I will soon be wandering back to our tribe. It sure will be nice to see everyone again.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Muddling through and making do

For decades serious thinkers gave well reasoned and researched warnings about impending problems. Pick your poison: energy depletion, economic downturns, financial collapse, environmental degradation, agricultural shortages, civic unrest, climate change, encroaching tyranny -you get the idea.

The argument has been that proper planning and investment in solutions could do much to soften the blow. That may be true, but except for individual and local actions, no big grand sweeping schemes have come to fruition. In a world that only looks as far as the next quarterly report, election cycle, or news deadline, it’s no surprise so little has been done.

Now that many of those dire predictions are coming true; what’s a person to do?

First of all, don’t expect the people who’ve ignored the big picture for so long to provide any last minute solutions. It could happen but don’t hold your breath. Get into your head that you are pretty much alone here. Friends and family might help, but don’t expect much beyond that.

Forget the high tech solutions that will keep your world humming along as if nothing has happened. Where would the investment money come from? It ain’t there. It doesn’t exist. Inflated made up fiat currency purchases fewer and fewer real world goods and services. The deadline for financial investments in such things are gone. Instead, the money (which is really debt) went into jacking up house prices and purchasing fictitious things like derivatives.

What we are left with on an individual level is making do and muddling through. If you still have a job that pays a somewhat living wage and a roof over your head, count yourself lucky. There’s still a chance to soften the blow as things grind slowly downward. Lose those things and options become limited rather quickly. How many people are one paycheck away from disaster? One major car repair from ruin? One medical bill from bankruptcy?

Plenty of people are making do right now. I’ve a former neighbor who’s been on that slow slide. He used to have an apartment in town and a cottage on a rural road. His pension fell short of what he had counted on. He gave up the apartment and moved into the cottage. Eventually, he lost the cottage due to the inability to pay the taxes. Last I heard, he took his ice fishing shack, loaded it on a small flatbed trailer and hooked it up to truck. That’s where he lives now.

He can’t even move in with his kids as they are undergoing even worse domestic disasters. At least he still has his truck.

Recently there have been a series of house fires, some with tragic loss of life, caused by candles. People are burning candles because their electric power has been cut off. A few solar charged LED lights would have been a cheap and wise investment.

Picture the guy who lives in a house with all the services cut off. His car sits on blocks. The alternator and battery have been salvaged to build a small wind generator. The car’s lights have been wired into the house to provide at least some lighting. Maybe even the car radio has been installed in the house.

The hood of the car is missing. It’s been removed and hammered into the shape of barbecue grill. The windows have been used to build a solar cooker. Some of the car’s wires are now rabbit snares. He checks them on the way to the lake to haul his water. The guy built a water filter from homemade charcoal and fine sand. Not quite trusting it, he boils his drinking water in the solar oven.

His house sewer system no longer works. He does his business in a bucket and composts the waste in his backyard. The compost is later buried in the yard and squash seeds planted on top.

That’s how muddling through and making do could look. Your mileage may vary.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Truck repaired

The truck is repaired. We are on schedule to leave my dad’s on Thursday. We only plan on going as far as St. Augustine. Friends are meeting us there for a few days. It’ll be nice to see old friends from New Hampshire.

It’s time to slowly make our way north. There are things that need our attention back home.

It’s been a great few months. My lovely wife and I are tan and healthy. Sailing’s been great. Spent some quality time with my dad and friends. Still, time moves on and so do we.

In a couple more weeks this bear will be back in the woods.