Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Respect for the law?

The king is not above the law. That’s the whole point of our system going way back to the Magna Carta. It replaced the “divine right of kings” with the equal rule of law.

Today we know that’s not true. Make billions disappear like the Banksters and never do any jail time. I can’t think of a single President in recent history who hasn’t ignored the Constitution at will. Yet if the small guy is late on a credit card payment he can be heavily penalized and his credit ruined. Don’t get caught crossing the street wrong.

Now a study has come out that shows NYPD “consistently violated basic rights" during Occupy protests.

This probably comes as no surprise to anyone, but here we have proof in black and white.

It’s clear that those who make the laws and those who enforce the laws are above the law. The age of the Pharaohs have returned. They ignore the laws we mere mortals have to obey.

Selective enforcement of the law weakens respect for all laws. That’s a basic understanding that countries forget at their peril. Once again we see that “power flows from the barrel of a gun.” (thank you Mao Zedong). If the government’s only legitimacy is the gun at their hip, it’s a very weak legitimacy. It’s the last gambit of the tyrant. One thing they should remember: us little guys can strap a gun to our hip too. The US isn’t quite there yet, but that seems to be the road we are heading down -downhill, full speed and with no brakes.

Hubris is the sin of kings. After getting away with living above the law long enough, they begin to believe they are special elites that don’t have to play by the same rules. Time has a way of proving them wrong. I wonder if they stay awake at night, hoping they will quietly retire or if they fear they will end up like Mussolini, shot and hung up on meat hooks.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Rigged for living

I’ve been puttering around with my van lately -the ambulance to motor home conversion. It’s been set up for camping for some weeks now, but there’s always refinements. I bolted a microwave into place so it doesn’t move around on rough roads. Just built a nice little step for getting in. The side door sits 22 inches off the ground, so a step is handy and a lot safer.

Driving it all the time has been the best way to discover what’s missing. Keeping a lot of water of water and disposable cups has been wonder on our hot days. The 12 volt cooler works well. It’s been really handy for when I discover a good food deal when we are a ways from home. Keeps those water bottles nice and cool too.

There are some canned foods, dry goods, and energy bars stored away. That’s proven really handy and saved me money that would have gone to restaurants. Every time I do a big grocery order, I look out for good storable, easily prepared travel foods. Slowly building up the supplies.
Yesterday I stocked it with some books and a spare pair of reading glasses. You never know when you’ll be stuck waiting around for something. One day while killing time, it occurred to me that having my little pack guitar, a Washburn Rover, would have been nice. That’s definitely coming along next time I go anywhere.

There’s a fishing pole on board, but I need more tackle. Last winter someone liberated most of my fishing tackle out of my shed by the lake. The shed is hard to get to by land, except in the winter when the lake is frozen. All someone has to do is walk across it. Fishing tackle is too expensive to replace all at once.

Since it was an ambulance, it comes with its very own locking drug locker. That’s where my wife keeps the rum because . . . you know . . . rum!

Of course it has our sleeping bags and all that stuff. I should get into the habit of keeping a change of clothes in the rig.

This is a great rig for camping, but it’s a pretty fine bug out vehicle. There something nice about a bug out vehicle where you just hop in and go. Better yet, if for some reason we can’t make it home, we won’t be homeless.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

The games

The Olympic games don’t interest me. I didn’t watch the opening ceremony. Really don’t care who wins the metals.

Spectacle and distraction.

I can’t afford to be distracted now. There’s a stillness in the air, but it’s the stillness that comes before the storm.

Now is the time to think and to plan. There are dark days ahead my friends and I’ve learned a thing or two about dark days.

They may start out slow or with a bang. Sometimes there are really bad days and sometimes the days seem almost normal. One thing for sure, dark days last longer and go deeper than anyone ever expects. It doesn’t matter how prepared you think you are, there’s always going to be something nasty out there to surprise you.

Some days we just endure. We take it. We keep on taking it until we think we can take no more -and then we endure some more.

When preppers worry they buy another big bag of rice or another brick of .22 ammo. Tibetans give their prayer wheels another spin. We add another can of pears to the pile. It’s all the same. We are both trying to insure a better future. Maybe the Tibetans have the right attitude. As a people they’ve known their own dark days.

Look around at the good things of the world. Will they endure or will they soon become a fading memory, like an old photograph left in the sun too long? Maybe we should be like the Parisians waiting for the Nazis to march into town. Drink up all the good wine before the Cretins move in.
Maybe sports are your good wine. Perhaps it is the thing you savor as something that might disappear tomorrow. Fine then, but don’t let it distract you. Don’t wake up like a hung over Frenchman who was too drunk to take the last train to the coast.

When these big International spectacles take place, look past them and try and figure out what’s really happening. Are warships on the move? World Bankers meeting in secret? Politicians sneakily passing another bad bit of special interest legislation? You can be assured that something shady is going on. When people eyes are turned elsewhere, the rogues come out and play.

Yes, there are some big games being playing right now, but not in arenas. No, they are taking place somewhere behind closed doors, with as few spectators as possible.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Killing yourself for health insurance

Over and over I hear of people doing things they don’t want to do -for the health insurance. My lovely wife was just telling me about another one. This woman is doing a job that will most likely get her seriously injured and she’s doing it for the health insurance. There’s another job that she’d really rather do but she thinks she can’t give up her health insurance. The thing is, she’s currently healthy -except for the constant wear and tear her job is doing to her.

The woman could actually do something she likes. If she quit her old job could be filled by a nice young strong person. She’d be healthy and happy, plus someone else could have a job. Still, she’s working the job that’s slowly killing her.

There’s a couple I know who got married because one of them lost health insurance. Both of them are healthy but they rushed into marriage for that all important health insurance.

What really drives me nuts is that the insurance that they are sacrificing for isn’t even that good. Plans have been whittled back until they don’t provide the same sort of coverage that they used to. The polices are written to conceal their true weaknesses. Even if a service is technically covered they deny payment on trumped up excuses.

I know from experience that fighting an insurance company is very hard to do -especially when I really was sick and not at my best. If my lovely wife hadn’t dealt with the insurance companies for me, it would never have been straightened out.

People are making large sacrifices for insurance only to get screwed by the insurance companies anyway. The decisions aren’t driven by logic. Destroying real health for something that may or may not help you when sick doesn’t make sense.

Fear is driving these decisions. Give up fear. Think the unthinkable.


Friday, July 27, 2012

The propane company, final chapter

Today the propane guy showed up at my door to let me know he was taking away the empty 250 pound propane cylinder. That should be the end of our dealings with that company.

They used to be a pretty decent company, as far as these things go. However, they grew too big too fast and then went bankrupt. Since then they’ve racked up an impressive record of environmental violations and non-payment of taxes.

My propane usage has steadily dropped over the years. The last fill up of the tank lasted over 3 years. My lovely wife and I were going to eliminate the last two items that used propane. We have a dryer and a 2 burner propane stove. We did not count on our daughter moving back in with us with our granddaughter. No way did my daughter want to do without that dryer.

When the big tank finally ran dry, I wasn’t going to fill it up again. Instead, I connected a 20 pound propane cylinder (like on a barbecue grill) onto the regulator and called it good. That handled our very limited propane usage.

Three weeks ago a worker from the propane company noticed my little tank and took some offense to it. Unfortunately, I was down to the lake and my lovely wife talked to him. He wanted that tank removed immediately. The guy told my wife that I’d better call him that afternoon. Nobody tells me what to do on my property.

I felt no need to talk to him. In my mind there was no problem. Things went merrily along until this morning when the guy showed up to remove the tank and regulator.

As soon as they were gone, I rummaged through my stuff. It just so happened that I just happened to have a regulator of my own, along with all the fittings and hose to connect my little 20 pound tank. All the connections were tested using soapy water. Nothing bubbled up so the job was safe and successful. Everything is running just as before.

Once my daughter is on her own again, I’ll be done completely with propane. In the mean time she’s happy to have it at her disposal.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Craptastic tools

I own a pretty good caulk gun. Bought it years ago. It’s served me well, but I can’t find it. Perhaps it’s on loan to one of my friends. There’s a chance it’s here but well hidden. With all the people moving in and out of the house, stuff gets misplaced.

No problem, I thought, I’ve only got about 4 caulk tubes to apply. A medium duty one from Walmart should do the job. There was a nice recognizable name on the side: Stanley. How bad could it be?


The first thing I discovered is that while it appeared to have a built in cutter for the tube tip, it really didn’t. Sure, there was a hole for the cutter in the right place, but no cutting blade inside. It only massaged the nozzle without cutting it. After cutting it with my pocket knife, I discovered the pin to break the seal was almost too short to do the job.

One tube of construction adhesive did get successfully applied. Right as the second one began to flow, the caulk gun came apart in my hand. That was the end of that. I wasn’t happy.

Now I didn’t have high expectations from a Walmart tool, but really. One tube of caulk? That’s it? Of course, while the brand name is familiar, it was made in China. That’s the last Stanley tool I’ll ever buy. The name no longer has any value for me.

This wasn’t really a tool. It was more like a stage prop, like using a convincing fake rubber knife instead of a real knife. This prop just had to look like caulk gun long enough for a fool like me to purchase it. No way could it actually perform the job of a real tool.

Stanley joins the long list of other companies that traded a good name for short term profit. At least it was an inexpensive item. The worse washing machine I ever owned was a Maytag. They used to be reliable and well built. Mine never worked right. My bad luck was to buy one on reputation just as they stopped giving a damn about quality.

How do they build anything in China? Not with Chinese tools -that’s impossible. They must import tools from Germany or something.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How did that get there?

Today I finally started repairing some roof eaves on my house. One side can be reached from my porch roof using a short ladder. I haven’t been up on that roof since last fall. On the roof was a dead mouse and a dead squirrel. Looks like they’d been there for a while. How weird is that?

My best guess is that a hawk or an owl has been sitting on my roof to eat its kill. Unless I discover I’ve got a weird enemy who throws dead rodents on my room, I’m sticking with my avian theory. Birds are out to get me.

Bard owls live close by. I’ve hawks, vultures, and eagles that buzz my house.

Many years ago my dad almost got in hit in the head by a trout while sitting on my deck. An osprey was flying up from the lake and lost its catch.

Until TVs went digital, I had an antenna on my roof. Woodpeckers used to bang away on it. From inside the house it sounded like someone was riding a Harley motorcycle up there. That got me out of bed in a hurry a time or two.

There’s a very large dark bird with an immense wingspan that I’ve yet to get a good look at. It keeps disappearing in the trees before I can identify it. No firm idea what the heck that is. Maybe it’s an immature eagle -or a roc.

Unless I start finding dead deer on my roof, I’m not going to worry about it.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Road trip for gold

It has been one long day. I’ve some friends who no longer own a car. Heck, they no longer have jobs either. I told them that if they ever needed a ride anywhere or if there was something I could do, please let me know. Today they let me know.

As you can imagine, they are more than a bit strapped for cash. They’ve got some gold and silver jewelery, plus some collector coins. We traveled over 250 miles checking out different dealers. It was an eye opener.

Now one can always expect to take a big hit on a quick cash sale, but dealers offered well under 30%? Not being any sort of collector myself, I’ve no idea how that compares to the market. It’s not reassuring when the dealers are caught in a series of bold lies. It’s also not reassuring when the dealers lack the equipment to properly weigh and test the items.

It’s one thing when the lies come from a guy in a bare bones office in the low rent part of town.
One coin dealer at an Internationally known company did the same thing. This place operates out of a large modern building in an industrial park. They offered prices on some well known items that were just north of robbery.

By the end of the day, my friends had sold exactly nothing. They plan on taking their time, and are looking into other ways of selling what they have. Today yielded some good leads, or so they say. I’ve no knowledge or interest in the market, so I’m not able to judge.

On the bright side, my lovely wife and I got to spend the day with good friends who we don’t see often enough.


Monday, July 23, 2012

The scene at the boat ramp

My lovely wife and I went up to the big lake Sunday. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, the sort of day people dream about to get them through the cold of a NH winter. As you can imagine, the boat ramp was a very busy place.

What I saw going on there on there needs to be noted. As busy as it was, everyone was terribly polite. One guy came over and asked me if I was ready to launch or could he go next. My sailboat needs a bit more preparation than a power boat. I still had a few things left to do, so I let him go first.

Which brings up the second thing I noticed. Everyone was really fast and competent. By the time I finished with my few little things, the guy had already cleared the ramp. People had all their gear loaded in the boats before they launched. All they had to do was climb aboard and head out. Everyone’s motors started right off.

So often in life people are stupid and rude. It’s nice to see they don’t have to be. One inconsiderate person could have jammed up the single ramp and it would have been chaos. It was nice to see there was no one like that there today.

It did get me thinking about all the other times in life when forethought and politeness could make everything a whole lot more pleasant.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Cold Turkey Nation

20% of the Us population is on some sort of psychiatric drug.

Now add in all the other other people who need street drugs or alcohol to get through their day.

While we are at it, put in all the screen addicted people who only survive by zoning out in front of a TV or computer screen.

Does this sound like a healthy society to you?

Some of us are reasonably happy and functional without mind altering substances. Perhaps they are like the person with an abusive spouse who’s found successful coping mechanisms to reduce the abuse. Others may be like that abusive spouse, fine with the abuse because they are the one dishing it out.

Now imagine that everyone stops taking meds and the screens are turned off. What would happen then? There would be a lot of pain. Cold turkey withdrawal is hard. Then a lot of people would go into depression.

A little bit of depression isn’t a bad thing. It’s around because it has some evolutionary benefits. People withdraw from the world and reflect inward. From melancholy periods comes insight. It’s a time to find out what’s not working in one’s life and maybe make a change. Now I’m not talking about deep clinical totally dysfunctional depression. Frankly, I’m glad there’s treatment for that. However, in it’s milder form it could be just what a person needs to restart their life.

When someone says they have a hard time fitting into society, I think that might be healthy. There’s not a lot of joy in the way things are currently set up. My guess is that we are doing things that go against basic human nature. Why would someone want to fit into a system if it takes mind altering coping strategies to survive it?

We don’t choose the world we are born into. Throughout history there have been many different types of societies. Some have worked better than others. When the colonists came to the New World, they bumped into cultures different than those in Europe. A persistent problem for leaders of the new settlements was that their settlers kept running away to live with the Indians. They often voted with their feet to join a culture that was a lot more satisfying than their own.

Too bad disease decimated the native population. It allowed the Puritan ideas to win by default. It’s a shame too, as the Puritans didn’t believe in having any fun. It was all work and no play with those guys.

We are not responsible for the world we are born into, but as grown ups, we can choose a different way to live. Go cold turkey on your culture. Break the addiction. Maybe then it’s possible to live like a human being -a mentally healthy human being.


Saturday, July 21, 2012


The political season is heating up. I’m getting those phone calls from the political parties. They are all in tither about if I’m voting Democrat or Republican this fall.

I think I’m going to start telling them I’m voting Collapsitarian. The system won’t get reformed until it totally collapses. Maybe I should vote for the one most likely to collapse the system fastest.

That still makes it a hard choice. Both of them have proven track records of supporting the policies that will bring on collapse. Nobody’s looking to put the bankers who got us into this financial mess in jail. It’s clear that they are above the law. Nobody wants to untangle ourselves from foreign wars. There is no candidate who’ll really look out for the 99%.

The last election proved to me that the president is a prisoner of the White House. Obama and Bush pretty much followed the same policies. Sure, there was some tweaking around the edges, but nobody is willing to strike at the root of our problems. As long as big money controls the process it won’t change. They own both major parties.

For the record, I’m registered in New Hampshire as an Independent. We are largest voting block in the state. It drives the major parties nuts trying to figure out who we’ll vote for. I’m happy to contribute to their confusion.

I will vote in the election, but only because the local politicians really do have direct impact on my life. The Selectman who can change my property tax and land use regulations is an important choice. Big money doesn’t have quite the same sway with the local positions. It’s still possible for a person of character to win, spending no more money on the campaign than the small registration fee. Everyone knows everyone in a small town.

As for the national election, consider voting Collapsitarian -or at least tell that to the pollsters.


Friday, July 20, 2012

King Corn abdicates

It’s looking bad for the this year’s corn crop. Heat and drought in the nation’s heartland are taking a toll. What corn that is produced may cost a lot more to ship. Low water on the Mississippi is shutting down barge operations causing shippers to resort to more expensive trains and trucks.

Food is going to get pricey. Not much corn is actually eaten as plain corn, but it has been the cheapest sugar on the market so it’s used in just about everything. Corn also has a major role as an animal feed. Expect the price of meat to go up.

Then there is energy. Ethanol derived from corn is a significant portion of our liquid fuels.

What will happen? Nations that depend on cheap American corn for food are going to experience unrest. A major component in the Arab Awakening is rising food prices. It’s going to get uglier. Cheap US corn destroyed Mexico’s local corn producers -and now the price is going up.

Will fuel get more expensive at the pump? By rights it should, but collapsing world economies may keep the price down for a while. Of course, if it’s your personal economy that’s collapsed you won’t be buying much fuel either.

I’m not a big fan of corn. It’s a heavily genetically altered plant that relies on chemical inputs and is grown on a massive factory scale. High fructose corn syrup is something I’ve cut out of my diet -and feel better for it. Ethanol fuel has ethical issues. Is is better to feed American cars or poor people? It’s not even a very efficient way to produce fuel, just barely producing a bit more energy than it consumes.

Even though I don’t eat any corn and prefer grass raised meat, I’ll suffer along with everyone else. When a major grain like corn is in trouble, all food is going to go up in price. Stock up on food now while you still can.

One problem will most likely go away. Boaters have been worried that the government would approve E15 gasoline. That’s 15% ethanol as opposed to the 10% currently allowed. The current formula has been very bad in the marine environment so the 15% was expected to be much worse. My guess is that there won’t be even 10% ethanol in that E10 gasoline.

Being so hugely dependent on one major food crop has always been a recipe for disaster. It was bad new for the Mayans. Reliance on potatoes was bad for the Irish. Of course, corn production has been terrible efficient and therefore cheap. The problem is efficient systems are often fragile.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pile of healing

In my family, we used to say that given enough junk, my dad could repair or build anything. When he sold his house and moved to a trailer in Florida, all that junk had to stay behind.

It wasn’t really junk by then, but raw materials. He had organized piles of scrap metals, plastics, wood, hardware, wire, motors, electronics, fabrics, just about anything imaginable.

Most of this stuff was snapped up by people from the same school of thought. They tend to drive old trucks with big tool boxes in the back. You never know when something might need to be taken apart and hauled away.

My buddy Jeff calls his scrap collection his “pile of healing.” With the junk from the pile he can make most things better. His wife wasn’t too keen on that pile until he showed her how much money it saved them. We built a nice solar panel rack from junk out of the pile. In fact, we saved literally thousands of dollars on his solar electric installation by digging through the pile.

The trailer hitch on my van is the happy marriage of scrap from two different fix it guys. It takes skills and tools to make it happen, but sure pays off in the long run.

While not in my dad’s league, I’m a bit of junk collector myself. Today it hit me how far down that road I’ve traveled. My lovely wife and I were talking about our woodstove in the basement. It takes too long for the heat to make its way upstairs. What it really needs is a hood with some ductwork to channel the hot air directly upstairs.

Well . . . I’ve got this hood from a glass blowing furnace that would almost fit. All I have to do is modify it with some metal from the jacket of a scrapped hot water tank. There’s some left over hot air duct that could direct the hot air to a repurposed cold air return register. Of course the whole thing will be fastened together by salvaged screws and rivets.

By the way, the last time I visited my dad in Florida, he had just added a second shed for his stuff. Over time he’s slowly acquired a somewhat scaled down scrap collection. There is no stopping an old tinkerer. There’s always something that needs to be repaired or built.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Ranting and doing

It sure is fun to get going on a good rant sometimes. There’s plenty of subject matter. Injustice and criminality abound.

That has its place, but ranting without ever doing anything is just a waste of time and personal energy.

My wife has a friend who used to go on and on about how she thought her husband was cheating on her. She had this whole rant down cold. My lovely wife asked her if she wanted to hop in the car and see what he was really up to. The thought of finding out for certain terrified her. She refused to do it.

My lovely wife said, “Did you want me to help or did you want me to make sympathetic noises?”

In the end the husband confessed. They got a divorce. Both their lives got better.

We were staying at a campground. The guy next to me was going on and on about the price of diesel. He was a truck driver and the price of fuel was killing him. I showed him that my vehicle was veggie oil powered. I told him there are truck drivers out there running veggie at least some of the time to reduce their expenses. The guy got mad at me for beating the system. How dare I do something about the high cost of fuel.

Most people complain about their power company. How many do anything about it? A buddy of mine just put in a small 45 watt solar electric system and some LED lights. Sure, it’s a small step, but it’s a step. At least he won’t be sitting in the dark when the power goes out. What really drives me nuts is those people suffering under huge utility bills but refuse to do even simple conservation measures.

The rants go on and on: jobs, politics, economy, personal problems, the environment -the list is never ending. Complaining and ranting about something gives the illusion of doing something. It’s not.

There’s a reason we say actions are louder than words.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The powerful and the paranoid

Roman emperors had a lot to fear, including their Praetorian Guard. The very people who were supposed to protect them often were the ones who did them in. The lesson has not been lost on the powerful throughout history.

To this day rulers fear their own guard detail. In modern times it still happens. Third world dictators get bumped off by their own security who think they’d make much better dictators. Sometimes someone with a political ax to grind makes it into the inner circle. Occasionally a once loyal guard becomes disillusioned -familiarity breeds contempt.

Other powerful people are also at risk. It’s believed that more than a few Popes succumbed to being poisoned by their own medical staff. How else do you get rid of a bad or demented Pontiff?

Rich business people have been kidnapped because their staff conspires with the kidnappers. Not too long ago in Florida a couple was murdered by one of their staff. Being in a gated and exclusive community didn’t save them.

Death by Praetorian Guard doesn’t happen all that often in First World countries. That is, unless you believe some of the Kennedy assignation theories. What we seem to get is things like the Secret Service prostitute scandal -incompetence and unprofessionalism.

Even in the First World, leaders are always worried about their safety. The less they have in common with the average person, the worse their fear. They become like the royalty before the French revolution, completely disconnected from the plight of the common folk. They don’t understand them so they fear them.

“Emperors” are in a bind. What class of people are they going to get their guards from? Certainly not from the aristocrats who would never sully themselves with such work. They have to recruit from the lower classes, a group of people they have little in common with.

The more a country is run by a tiny group of elite, the more likely it will become a police state. The paranoia starts at the top and goes all the way to the bottom. It’s a sickness that expresses itself in checkpoints, searches, security cameras, militarized police, and a general surveillance state. They aren’t really trying to protect the country as a whole, but the elite who run it.

I don’t feel bad for these people. They created the conditions that require them to sleep with one eye open. The guard at the door is just more person to be anxious about.


Monday, July 16, 2012

The life you love becomes the job you hate

I love being outdoors. When I was young I thought the ideal job would be some sort of wilderness guide. Being paid to be out in the woods, what could be bad about that? The people you guide, that’s what. It was a bad enough when it was just clueless city people who complained constantly. A local guide had a client on a 7 day wilderness trip. Nice vacation, right? The client decided, without telling the guide, that it would also be a 7 day vacation from psych meds.

Electrical work is interesting. I’ve wired houses and installed solar electric systems. Would I want to do it every day? Nope, then it would get boring. I’m perfectly happy to drive out to a friend’s place to change a faulty charge controller before I’ve even had my morning coffee. Once in a while it’s interesting and fun. If I had to do this sort of thing every day it would bore the heck out of me.

That’s pretty much how I feel about carpentry, plumbing, auto repair and any other trades you can think of. I love it once in a while. Specializing would suck. Life should be interesting.

I was lucky enough when I was a firefighter that I never knew what the day would bring. It could anything from hanging around the station reading books to a major industrial fire in a chemical plant.

One guy I worked with taught me a valuable lesson. The first year on the job he got a bid driving the ladder truck. He liked it -for the next 27 years. Being an officer had a lot of paperwork and politics he despised so he refused all promotions. I felt the same way about driving the pumper, so that’s what I did for most of my career. When the officer test would come around, I’d take them to prove that I could do it, then refuse the job.

Did you ever hear about some management type person complain about how the job is no fun anymore? Darn few ever ask for a demotion. We are status driven people. They’d rather do a job they hate for higher status than a job they love for lower status.

Then there are those people who have a job because they have a job. It’s not their life but something they do for money. Glenn Cook writes Fantasy and S/F novels. For decades he wrote them while working a mindless job at an auto plant. There was a local musician who composed all this songs while working a factory job. He said his hands knew what to do, leaving his mind free to compose.

We all have to do something to put food on the table. Don’t make the mistake of turning some hobby you love into a job you hate. People who do that end up with both a crappy job and one less good hobby.


Sunday, July 15, 2012


The average house is like a patient on life support. It’s hooked up to all sorts of utility I V lines. There are water connections, sewer connections, electricity, gas, phone, cable and Internet. Some are bigger than others, but all depend on a monthly bill being paid.

Now picture an off-grid house with well, septic, and solar or wind generated electricity. Those are some big utility bills they won’t have pay. Right there are three less companies to owe money to. Ever get an error on a utility bill? How did that go for you? Companies have the advantage. The law system works for them a lot more than it works for you.

Houses are now being repossessed for unpaid utility bills. Imagine losing your house for an unpaid water bill. Isn’t that like killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer? The response far outweighs the problem.

Lately I’ve noticed people quietly moving onto tiny bits of marginal land. The lots aren’t suitable for a normal house. Sometimes the lots are too small or they are too close to wetlands, or other permitting deal breakers. Instead, they are “temporarily” parking trailers on their land. I’ve also seen Tumbleweed Tiny House types. They are tiny houses built on a flat bed trailer and they look great.

There are certain clues that these vehicles aren’t being parked for the weekend. A trailer that has two 100 pound propane cylinders hooked up to it isn’t there for the short term. Another give away is when someone puts in an outhouse. Personally, I’d rather use a humanure toilet, but to each their own. Then a couple solar panels appear and they are established for the long term.

Some people don’t even own marginal land, but keep their portable house moving. It might sit on National Forest land for a bit, then spend a couple weeks in a campground and maybe stay a while on a friend’s land. It might make a few day stop off at a Walmart parking lot.

Of course, I’m a big proponent of living on a sailboat. Make sure you pick one designed for independent living. Some boats these days are designed with such heavy power usage that they need to either live at a marina or at least make frequent stops there. What you want is a boat perfectly capable for long stays at anchor or on the move.

Your average house has big problems. It’s heavily grid tied, true, but it’s also heavily tied into political and financial systems. It has to conform to everything from building codes to deed restrictions. It can be a trap. A house used to be one of the few ways the working class could build wealth. Now it’s often a drain on finances with little hope of making it all back.

Some people have come to the conclusion that a house is to provide shelter, nothing more. They are opting for less space, bills, and more freedom. It’s hard to repossess a house for unpaid utility bills or taxes of you don’t have to pay any in the first place.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day on the big lake

My veggie van passed the “tow the sailboat test.” Worked great. The roads were pretty rough with some sections under construction, but everything pulled well.

Of course, the whole point is to get the boat on the water.

We had a great day. Not much traffic besides us two sailboats. We only encountered a handful of power boats and maybe another handful of paddle craft. Very little traffic on such a big lake.

My two 5 year old grandkids had a blast.

Our friends were at the camp at the north end of the lake, so we landed and had a visit and a swim.

The wind failed on our way back so I fired up the kicker. Hadn’t bought gas for the boat since the winter in Florida. It ran well, so those fuel additives really pay off. We made it off the lake in time to have dinner at a local restaurant.

Good fun had by all.


Friday, July 13, 2012

Random things

Did you ever avoid talking to someone because you knew they’d be a bit saner later?

I don’t watch certain movies or read certain books. They stir up my demons and give me nightmares. I function much better without nightmares. Does that make me like a sober alcoholic? I’m not cured, but I’m functional.

Door to door religion. A friend of mine had the best experience ever with door to door religion salesmen. There was a knock on the back door from a religion salesmen. He let him into the his living room. Just then then there was a knock from the front door. It was another religion salesman selling a different brand. This person was also invited into the living room. Soon both salesmen were arguing with each other. My friend quietly left the room and they didn’t notice.

Why is it we are never taught the stuff we want to know in school? How to chose a good life partner. How to be a thoughtful and excellent lover. How to shoot. How to detect BS . . . Okay, I know that one. If we taught how to detect BS, school would lose its power over us.

Intelligent people make their own rules. They also do outrageous blunders that a dumb person woudn’t even know how to try.

Just following orders wasn’t an excuse for the Germans in WWII. It isn’t an excuse for anyone today either.

Policy is something that makes smart people do dumb things.

Sunrise is overrated. Give me a sunset instead.

It’s a common observation that most grownups feel like kids who are faking being grown up. However, some are actually grown up and not faking it at all.

You can be a man, a violent man, and not hurt anyone.

Is there anything done in an office cubicle that couldn’t be done better somewhere else?

What’s the difference between office cubicles and rat mazes? Rats have some hope of getting the cheese. The office has no prize and no way out.

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man how to steal fish . . .

I had a very short career as a substitute teacher. I was told I had to teach the kids life skills. They gave me a room full of losers and troublemakers. I taught them how to bypass locks. Figured it be useful for the life they were heading towards.

Someone once asked me why barns in New England often have little steeples on top of them like churches. I said it’s because both barns and churches have been known to house cattle.

Retirement is wasted on the old.
Why are encouraged to be like busy bees? What’s a bee’s life like anyway? Work work work and someone else gets the honey.

The rich hate happy poor people.

Why don’t we all just point and laugh at politicians. They take themselves so seriously. Let’s hit ‘em where it hurts.

The slow runners are the ones in court.

Teach your kids how to cook, both girls and boys. A person who can’t cook is someone without basic skills, like not knowing how to blow your own nose or wipe your own butt. Gotta know how to feed your own mouth.

There are atheists in foxholes. Deal with it.

In math class we discovered that love wasn’t the answer.

Well, that’s enough drivel for today. Thanks for your patience.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sailing Craigslist

My lovely wife and I had lunch at a coffee shop and did some web surfing while there. We are still keeping an eye out for a second sailboat. Our main place to shop has been Craigslist. If nothing else, we see what people are asking for their boats.

Prices have been all over the map. In general, the prices are better in depressed areas -no surprise there. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some great bargains all over.

I love the little stories behind why people are getting rid of their boat. Sometimes they want a bigger boat. That’s the reason the reason why the guy who sold my my sailboat let it go. He had a bigger boat sitting right next to it. He needed the room.

Often it’s a case of someone no longer having the time to sail. I got a kick of the guy who bought a boat, but before he could get it ready for the water, he got married. No time for sailing. Then he had a child -even less time for sailing.

People sell there boats because they are too old to enjoy them anymore. That’s kinda sad, but often they’ll make someone they like a good deal just to know their good old boat is back on the water. They hope it brings the new owners the joy it brought them.

Then there are the really cheap damaged boats. Careful there. How damaged? Have you the skills or only think you have the skills. Do you want to spend all your time repairing or sailing?

The prices are so good that I’ve got to seriously resist buying too big a boat. Buying it is one thing, maintaining it is something else.

I feel the clock is running. Summer is zipping along. If I we want to buy a boat and get it ready for winter sailing, we’d better hurry. By November it’s too cold to work outside on a boat. That’s why I’m searching now.

Of course, actually having a perfectly fine boat already certainly takes the pressure off.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Where have the family reunions gone?

Is it just me or are there a lot fewer family reunions going on? In my little circle there seem to be none at all this year.

Have they fallen out of favor?

Is the price of travel too high?

Perhaps not enough people can get the time off?

Sometimes I think it’s a generational thing. The WWII generation used to be all about big family gatherings. There were huge crowds at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every summer there’d be big outdoor reunions with plenty of food and drink.

Their kids may have kept things going, but with few and smaller events.

Now, there doesn’t seem to be enough of the older generations in a position to organize get togethers.

Maybe things like Facebook have killed it off. Electronic connections substitute for physical interactions. If that’s true, it’s too bad. It’s one thing to see the electronic version of your relatives. It’s something entirely different to have a beer with them and maybe throw a few horseshoes. There’s something to be said for face to face interactions.

I hope it’s not a widespread change and just something in my little group.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Paddling the Magalloway River

I was able to get a photo of me paddling the Magalloway River Friday night.

That’s me, the old fat guy paddling the canoe. I do look kinda happy.

My canoe is an Old Town Discovery 174. I call it my Tupperware boat because it’s mostly plastic. I’ve some beautiful wood planking and rib canoes at home, but this one I don’t mind bouncing off rocks.

Most of this area is a wildlife preserve. Their strategy was to buy property from willing sellers for good money. There isn’t a lot of private property left, but I know some of the holdouts. My feeling about the preserve are mixed. It would be great to have a camp on this river, but it isn’t going to happen. The few remaining are way out of my price range. At least the river isn’t lined with condos.

There are rules and such, but nothing too harsh. Those I don’t like are easy to ignore. They have a number of established camping sites which they charge good money for. That is, if you are there during the season when the campground is open. Theoretically, someone could camp early in the season or late. Those are good times to camp as the bugs are gone.

Of course, someone with a dark green canoe could just pull it off into the dense woods you see behind me and disappear.

Theoretically, of course.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Tied to the land

Feudal serfs were tied to the land. It was owned by their masters -as where they. While conditions varied from place to place and at different times, that was pretty much the way it was.
Good thing those days are over, right? We own our land now -unless we have a mortgage. Then the bank really owns it. All you have to do is to pay on it for half a lifetime and it’s all yours.

Except it isn’t, as you’d better not fall too far behind on your taxes. Then your Feudal Overload, I mean the state, will take it away from you.

It’s not that bad, right? Serfs could not leave the land and we can. We can sell it and move on. That is, unless we are underwater on the mortgage. Then we can’t sell at all. Then all we can do is sneak away in the dead of night.

In some ways, serfs had it better. They worked a lot less than we did. Certain times of the year they really did work hard, but that was seasonal, planting and harvesting. The Feudal calendar was loaded with religious holidays that gave the peasants days off. They could only work when it was light out. Think about that you night shift workers. They didn’t take their work home with them.

Their lords had responsibilities to the serfs. At bare minimum, they provided protection. Some provided everything from food for the workers to health care.

What does you bank provide you? Nothing. Some of those old responsibilities are taken up by the state, even though for most people, they pay more to the bank than to the state. Come to think of it, right now it seem a pretty thin wall between the banks and government. Bankers are in high positions in government and government has guaranteed bank profits.

So I’ve got to ask myself: why did the Feudal serf system die out? Was it because our current wage slave system is more beneficial to the overlords?


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Frozen in Florida

My lovely wife and I often found ourselves frozen during our winter Florida visit. How could that happen to a couple of New Hampshire people? It was actually a warmer than usual winter in Florida, a place not known for cold. We spent a lot of time outside adapting to the warm temperatures. It takes a couple weeks, but after that the warm days didn’t bother us much anymore.

What bothered us was air conditioning. It seemed that businesses and homes were kept at temperatures better suited to hockey rinks. We’d come in from outside dressed for warm weather and the temperature difference was a shock.

It’s surprising how many people who live in warm climates are not heat adapted. They move from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned job. Then we get something like the recent storm that took down power for millions of people -during a heat wave. Those people are not adjusted at all. Their don’t don’t know how to live without AC. In fact, some die.

It’s like they’ve been living in an artificial northern climate. They are like snowbirds that fly down to Florida for a week’s vacation. After leaving the frozen north, 70 feels really warm. A Florida golf course owner told me when temperatures get to 80 or above business drops way down as they lose all their snowbird customers. It’s too hot for them to be chasing a little white ball around the grass.

Of course, when the grid goes down, more than AC is lost. All those electric labor saving devices no longer function. A person has more physical stuff to do just when it’s really hot to do it.

Some of the less affluent might have an advantage. They are the ones driving around in older cars with busted AC units. If they have AC at home, it’s set at higher temperature to save on the electric bill. They are more likely to have jobs requiring them to work outside in the sun.

If you’ve lived your life in the AC climate controlled bubble, and it suddenly goes away, don’t expect to adapt in a day. Take it easy. Realize it takes time to adjust. Drink water, stay out of the sun, move only during the cooler times of the day. Some areas establish cooling centers, places with running AC where people can spend the day. People with health problems should take advantage of them if they can.

People have gotten used to living in a constant temperature environment. When it’s hot out, there’s AC. Here in the north, it can be just as bad but at the other extreme. Some people go from their heated house to their heated car to their heated job. Many who live in northern climates lack a good pair of boots, a decent warm coat, or even warm hats and mittens.

Our modern technological world can be fragile on times. It can let you down just when you rely on it the most. Getting a bit more adapted to the natural world won’t hurt anybody, especially if done when it’s not an emergency. Consider it part of being prepared.


Friday, July 6, 2012

What a day!

I got started early and drove into town for supplies. Picked up lumber, hardware and paint for a house project. Did some other shopping since I was in the “big city” ~10,000 people.

My lovely wife and I spent the afternoon sailing on the lake. I think we are having some of the best weather in the country right now.

After sailing the canoe went on the veggie van and I headed upriver to an evening paddle. It was the start of the annual “Source to the Sea Trek.”

While I’ve paddled much of the river many times, I never signed up for one of these organized events. It proved to be a lot of fun. There was a good mix of people I knew and new people to meet. Before I was a sailor I was a river rat, and this was the river of my youth. Good memories and good times.

Sadly, my camera’s batteries died and don’t have any photos. Maybe I can get a few from some of the other participants.

I’m beat and calling it a day.


Bureaucratic overkill

It’s against the law for me to take my dog to the farmer’s market in the next town. Were there problems with dogs at the market? Nope. Nobody complained about dogs. In spite of that, they are banned.

Where did this come from? Apparently some creepy guy was taking his pet snakes to the local playground and scaring the kids. At one time the problem would have been dealt with by dealing with the one creepy guy. Instead, the City Council meets and bans all pets from all parks and every public event. Bureaucratic overkill.

That’s what happens at the local level. It doesn’t get any better at the State and Federal level. If anything, the overkill gets worse. It’s all over the place. Down to Florida they had a problem with a few derelict boats sitting at anchor. After the state got hold of the problem there were no anchor zones, mooring fields, and whole departments to manage them.

With government the feedback loops all push toward more complexity. Bureaucrats always want to grow their domains. It makes them feel more important. They can show they have more responsibilities and demand bigger budgets. Governmental rules and regulations grow like cancer.

There’s only a few things that can stop it. Public outrage sometimes work. When enough people get angry something’s got to give. Often it’s a simple matter of financial constraints. The money to enforce dumb rules just runs out. That’s not something to rely on though. The bureaucrat in charge of silly walks, just might have more political clout than the bureaucrat in charge of public safety. That’s how you lose police, firemen and teachers and the recreational director gets new assistants.

In the worse cases of bureaucratic overkill the repose may get so out of hand that the original problem never really gets addressed and is forgotten. Take the whole ban on dogs things for example. Maybe they should have focused on the fact that there’s a creepy guy hanging around playgrounds.


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Medical training

Yeah, I’ve had medical training. I know when to bleed a patient, when to apply leeches, and when to shake a turtle shell rattle and burn a sage bundle.

Recently it’s come to my attention that my medical training just might be a wee bit out of date.

Seriously, it has been decades since I’ve sat in a formal emergency medicine class. Quite a few of my friends work in EMS. Talking to them has really brought home how some of the thinking about emergency medicine has changed.

Reviewing the new literature would help. The book “Where there is no Doctor,” is darn useful too.

Even so, there is something to be said for actually taking classes. The price is reasonable. It would give me a reason to actually do the studying and practicing. For me, nothing beats learning from people who actually use this stuff.

It’s something to think about as part of living a prepared life. Actually, what you really want is for all the people around you to know this stuff. Convince the people in your life to join you in class. That way there will be someone close by to help you in an emergency.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Lightning trumps fireworks

My lovely wife and I walked down to the lake to see the fireworks. A lightning storm moved in just before dark. We weren’t about to take a sailboat with a giant aluminum lightning rod in the center out on the lake.

Instead we thought to watch from shore -until the rain really started to come down. That was enough for us.

My guess is that any fireworks not set off tonight will go up on the next clear night.

In spite of that, it was still a good day.



Victory: the difference between a national holiday of independence and a historical footnote concerning treasonous acts.

Everything the Founding Fathers did was against the law -British law.

Victory; it’s what turns a wild eyed rebel into a statesman.

Happy Independence Day to all my American readers.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Winter Plans?

It may seem weird to be planning our winter activities during the Independence holiday week, but that’s what my lovely wife and I are doing. It takes planning to escape frosty New Hampshire in January to go sailing in the sunny south. It affects everything from how much firewood we get now to when the boat and trailer get serviced.

Last November I was making modifications to the the sailboat. My fingers were frozen and there was hope of actually trying it out in the water. Those improvements worked right the first time, but that’s not something a person can count on. As it was, the solar panel for the boat was only installed once we were already down to Florida. My my fingers were in no danger of freezing, the area where my boat was parked has a fire ant infestation. They tagged me a few times.

Later this month we are meeting up with a guy who has a sailboat he wants to get rid of. My lovely wife and I are toying with the idea of leaving a second boat in Florida. It’s a 25 foot trailer sailer, so we could park it at my dad’s place for the summer. It would be nice to not have to trailer a boat thousands of miles. If that doesn’t work out, we’ll just keep hauling around our current boat. At least we have a good solid vehicle for it now.

We are kicking back and enjoying the holiday week. Hope everyone has a good time.


Monday, July 2, 2012

An inch at a time

If something changes a tiny bit at a time people tend not to notice. One day they wake up and wonder how the heck did things get the way they are.

Many years ago a coworker and I played the occasional practical joke. Our victim: the boss. Every day that we worked, we’d move his desk and chair about an inch back. Eventually, his chair was so close to the wall that he had to squeeze to get between the chair and his desk. One day he got up quick from his desk, banged the chair against the wall and said, “How the f**k did my desk get here?”

Every day day now I see people banging their metaphorical chair against the wall and wondering how things got the way they are. It could be that final law that gets passed and you realize it’s not the government you thought it was. Perhaps is the steady climb in food prices until suddenly all the good stuff is too darn expensive. Maybe it’s the day a person realizes they no longer have anything in common with their spouse.

Slow changes tend to be invisible. Companies take advantage of that when a pound of coffee goes from 16 oz, to 15, to 12, then 11.5 and one day you find yourself buying 8 oz of coffee. Governments take advantage of that effect when power slowly shifts away from the people to the government.

Thing is, even the most preoccupied person can have the epiphany that their chair is hitting the f**king wall. That’s the tipping point when tiny change is no longer acceptable. That’s when people stop squeezing and start moving things out of the way.