Friday, August 31, 2012

Your bug out vehicle and Mr Murphy

This past summer a buddy of mine tried to leave his home on Kentucky to go on a much needed vacation. The tow vehicle for his camper had last minute problems. They left a day late but didn’t get very far before more car problems forced them to limp back home.

Undaunted, they threw a tent and some camping gear into the wife’s car. That didn’t get very far before mechanical problems surfaced. In the end, the trip was canceled.

These vehicles are not old beaters but newer well maintained cars. Sometimes the roll of the dice come up against you. It happens more often than we’d hope.

Now imagine if they weren’t going on a vacation but were bugging out to avoid a disaster, like a hurricane.

If something happened right now, how well do you think your current escape vehicle would do? Be honest. Has it ever broken down without warning? Ever have to call road side assistance? Do you have a backup plan if that vehicle fails? What if your backup fails?

What would my friend have done? My guess is that he’d fire up his old Korean War era Jeep and bug out with that. His wife has always hated it, but the thing just runs and runs -not fast, and not comfortably, but it keeps on moving. I bet he knows every back road and dirt trail out of his area.

What would I do with failure of all vehicles? That depends on the season and where I’m heading. I could be reduced to heading out on snowshoes pulling a toboggan in the winter. During the warm weather, my exit could be by canoe or even bicycle.

I remember TV footage of the evacuation of Galveston Texas before a hurricane struck. Traffic was bumper to bumper and barely moving. A guy on a bicycle pedaled past all the stopped cars. He figured to be over 100 miles away by time the storm hit.

Whatever your plans are, don’t wait until the last minute. Bugging out early gives you time to deal with whatever Mr. Murphy throws your way.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bugged out

I know a couple of guys who bugged out before Isaac hit -almost 7 years before. After Katrina, they figured living below sea level wasn’t a really good idea. The mountains of New Hampshire seemed like a safer bet.

It’s a tough thing to do. They had no relatives here. They never saw snow before so they needed a whole new set of clothes. Driving on snow takes time to learn. Heck, they didn’t even do very well walking on icy sidewalks. Fortunately, they had job skills that were in local demand.

Relocation is tough, but for them, it was worth it. They never wanted to be flooded out ever again. For some strange reason, they didn’t trust the politicians when they said everything would be fixed and it would never happen again. They’d rather face a New Hampshire blizzard than trust the levees of Louisiana.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Gulf Coast residents. They’ve been through hell ever since Katrina. At least there’s two guys I don’t have to worry about tonight.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Found fuel

The jug of waste veggie on the left is one that I’d forgotten about. I had about 1/2 dozen jugs of veggie in an old utility trailer. The oil in the old jug is at least 4 or 5 years old.

For comparison, the jug on the right is one I just picked up from the restaurant.

The oil in the left jug is partially hydrogenated soybean oil. Notice that it’s a slightly lighter color at the bottom of the jug. That’s oil that’s still partially solid. The photo was taken when the air temperature was about 70 degrees. Once the jug sat in direct sunlight for a few hours, it became totally liquid.

The new jug is canola oil. It stays a liquid down to about 15 degrees. This stuff is much easier to deal with during cool temperatures. I used to keep a few jugs of soybean oil behind the woodstove to keep it liquid. I’m really glad my oil source upgraded from soybean to canola.

What do I do with the old veggie? Use it in my van, of course. It might be ugly and old, but it burns just fine. With diesel approaching $4 again, I’m not going to throw away any usable fuel. The heated veggie fuel tank keeps the soybean oil hot and liquid -no problems feeding it to the engine.

I did learn a valuable lesson. Waste oil can keep for some time. I’m pretty sure it keeps much longer than untreated diesel.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Some thoughts on energy

There seem to be two main camps when it comes to energy. Drill baby drill pretty much sums up one of them. The idea is that there is still plenty of oil, gas, and coal out there. We just have to develop them better.

The second camp says we are running out. Put the whole Peak Oil movement into this group. There are arguments that we are actually past peak and already into deep energy decline.

Throw those two groups into a pit and see the fur fly.

Now imagine that the first group is right. On the bright side, we can keep on doing what we’ve been doing. Our cars, houses, and businesses can keep on running the way they always have.

The dark side is that we keep on running the way we’ve always run. The petro chemical industry continues to lay land to waste and pollutes our air and water. Even the cleanest fossil fuel technology does at least some damage. The really dirty ones, like coal plants in China, are foul indeed.

Big energy money continues to spend lavishly to buy political power from the top to the bottom. That has a real negative affect on democracy. The average guy and gal continue to pay ever increasing energy bills. Business as usual has some pretty negative things associated with it.

The running out camp thinking spans the gamut from things are getting bad to things are about to get apocalyptic. Every system that depends on energy, from agriculture to the military will either slowly fall apart of collapse overnight. Wow, things look grim!

What’s an individual to do? The good news is that they don’t have to wait for one group to be proven right to act. Let’s say the drill baby drill group is right. There is plenty of energy still in the ground. Okay, fine, but it’s still a limited resource. It might last 10 years or 100, but eventually it will run out. Even if it’s fine for 100 or even 200 years, why should we use it all up as quickly as possible? Shouldn’t we leave some for our decedents?

Let’s say it’s good for 1000 years. Do we want to be part of 1000 years of slavery to the big energy companies? Downsizing energy use and using sustainable alternatives frees a person from a bad system.

If the running out crowd is right, that same strategy puts a person in position where they still have enough energy to live comfortably.

Having low energy needs that can be mostly met though sustainable alternatives gives a person freedom. The best part is that action can be taken right now. It’s best to not wait to see who’s right as either scenario has big downsides. Individual influence doesn’t mean much. However, a whole lot of people acting for personal freedom can change the world.

But don’t worry about changing the world. Change the way you live and reap the benefits right now, for yourself. No need to hop into the bear pit. Live better right now. Gain independence and freedom. What’s not to like?


Monday, August 27, 2012

Foul flavor of doomer

There are a lot of flavors of doomers out there. The one that leaves a real sour taste in my mouth is the investment doomer. They know things are going in the crapper. Their nice charts and graphs point it over very clearly. Often they have impressive credentials in business and/or government.

Dire problems that will cause suffering and death for untold millions are looked upon as good investment opportunities.

“Opportunities in food commodities due to agricultural woes.”

“Peak oil energy bets to make you rich.”

“Three little know investment strategies for societal chaos.”

“Protect your lifestyle in a currency collapse.”

“Pharmaceutical companies to bet on for the upcoming plague years.”

“Best defense contractors positioned to take advantage of a Middle Eastern war.”

I’m not a fan of vulture capitalism. It’s that attitude that encouraged American capitalists to invest in Nazi Germany. (Prescott Bush comes to mind) Mack truck helped the Soviets build trucks -which ended up hauling war materials for North Vietnam.

Anyone else think it’s wrong to profit off the suffering of others?

When there’s a storm and the corner store doubles the price of bottled water, they are profiteers. If it’s done on a large scale and millions are made, then it’s being a wise investor.

Here’s an investment opportunity: rope. It’s idea for hanging all the bastards who get rich on the suffering of others.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Adventures on two wheels

Way back when I was a kid, 10 speed bicycles were just coming into common use. It was a big deal to have a bike with “gears.” After struggling up hills with a single speed bike, those low low gears made hill climbing a lot more fun. Going down those mountain roads we’d shift to the highest gear. Sometimes we’d hit speeds of 40 mph. That was pretty darn fast on those old bikes in the days when no one wore a bike helmet.

By the time I was 14, I really wanted a motorcycle. A few of the kids from school had mini-bikes with 5 hp engines. A couple kids even had regular dirt bikes. Pedal bikes were still our main form of transportation. We’d go all over: across town, out into the country, and way out on dirt roads to beaver dams with fishing poles strapped to the bike frame.

I didn’t get an actual motorcycle until the ripe old age of 34. I owned a couple of older KZ 900s. They were pretty fast bikes but the handling took lots of body English on our curvy mountain roads. My lovely wife and I rode our motorcycle all over New England and even to the top of Mt. Washington.

Eventually, I parked the bike. It needed a new wiring harness. Worse yet, it burned gas. By then I’d gotten heavily into vehicles powered by waste vegetable oil. It was cheaper to drive my F-250 pickup than the motorcycle. The truck had the advantage that it could carry a canoe. I toyed with the idea of a veggie powered motorcycle, but there aren’t a lot of diesel motorcycles. None were in my budget.

Now here I am, 54, and back to a pedal bike. How does it feel after being on a motorcycle? Pretty good. Sure, it’s slow. It’s a lot of work sometimes, but I’m at the point in my life where the exercise can only do me good. My life has been pretty much cut free from schedules, so it doesn’t matter how long it takes me to get somewhere.

Having a vehicle that needs no gas, license or registration is a really nice feeling. I still get a thrill riding down those steep hills. (with much better brakes and a helmet this time.) Bike technology has come a long way since the days of the old 10 speeds. There’s a much wider choice so it’s possible to find a bike for what you want to do.

My two wheel adventures have come full circle. I might even take a fishing pole and see if I can find those old beaver dams again.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

To market, to market

I love going to the weekly farmer’s market. Of course, the food is always great. That’s where I pick up most of my naturally raised meats. The veggies are amazing. There are plenty of baked goods if that’s your thing. Then there’s the chance to try foods I wouldn’t normally eat. At the last market, I tried some pickled kielbasa. Sounds horrible, I know, but this was wonderful. It was like discovering a new sin.

While all the products are great, one of the big attractions is the chance to connect with people. Market day brings them all out. It can be tough to keep up with friends and relatives. Lives are busy. At least once a week, I’ve got a chance to meet up with people and make plans to see each other later in the week.

Sunday I’m going to a friends to pick up some firebrick. With those bricks I’ll be able to rebuild my kitchen woodstove and keep it running another season. He’s also found some dry firewood for the right price. We’ll get together on that too.

My lovely wife and I met up with some other friends we haven’t seen in a while. They’ve been off on adventures of their own. They just drove from northern New Hampshire to Alaska and back. We got to pick up a few travel tips.

While in town, we caught a free outdoor concert by a sax player we really enjoy. Ran into more friends there. Even heard of a possible job lead for an unemployed buddy of mine.

Market combines so many wonderful things: good food, good friends, and it’s a boost to the local economy. Darn fine mental health break too.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Storm Isacc and other potential threats

Poor Tampa Florida. First the Republican National Convention takes over the town. Then a storm threatens to become a menacing hurricane. They can’t get a break.

Next month Charlotte, North Carolina will host the Democratic Convention. Will they be in the cross hairs of a storm too? Charlotte is as likely a storm target as anywhere.

Is god sending a message to the politicians? While it is tempting to think “acts of god” punish evildoers, that’s probably not the case. Think back to hurricane Katrina. God must have hated Baptists as plenty of churches got clobbered. Using the same logic, he loved the gays and party animals of the French Quarter. Could it be we got the whole “what god likes” thing backwards?

I don’t think so. Let’s leave god out of the whole thing for now.

It will be interesting to see how human beings deal with Isacc. There’s a struggle between money, politics and prudence. Let’s see how it goes. There’s pressure for the RNC convention to go on as scheduled. Changing the time or location would be a huge expense. It would upset the whole political calendar. There are strong forces are work to keep everything “business as usual.”

Here’s the thing about hurricanes. We know a lot more about them than we used to, but we still can’t predict what they’ll do with 100% accuracy. Decisions, important decision, have to be made on the best available knowledge -which isn’t good enough.

Now if I was living in the Tampa area, I’d certainly not base my evacuation decisions on what the politicians are doing. Come to think of it, I don’t want to base any of my important decisions on what politicians do. Republican or Democrat, doesn’t matter. Most of those guys have only a nodding acquaintance with reality.

What’s going on right now in Tampa is worth keeping an eye on. It’s a chance to see how political leaders deal with reality. Could be instructive.

Anyway, I don’t think god is sending a hurricane specifically to the Republicans.

It’s trailer parks. God hates trailer parks -at least that’s what the evidence shows. Every “act of god” wipes those things out.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Foil hat rumor that I hope is true

For years there has been rumors that there are massive secret underground cities where the rich and the government types will go to escape disaster. Thoughts vary about the disaster’s cause: plague, flood, fire, comets, alien invasion, atomic war, civil unrest, crab grass -pick one, I don’t care which.

Of course, the rumors are fueled by the fact that there really are underground facilities for government types and the rich have hide outs of their own. The foil hats believe the installations are more numerous and much bigger than what we can confirm though normal channels.

I really hope the foil hats are right. Picture this: some disaster suddenly looms on the near horizon. Poof, all the politicians, big wig military people, billionaires, celebrities, and corporate CEOs disappear down some holes in the ground.

Most of us will survive the disaster, whatever it is. People are tough. In fact, once all the “ruling class” disappears, all us little guys will finally have a chance to band together and get things done. Our politics, social status, and religions won’t matter as much with all our asshat leaders no longer stirring up trouble.

After the disaster has passed, we’ll have to hurry to make sure the doors on those underground bases stay shut. Imagine what sort of a living hell it will be down there -a society made of nothing but the greediest, most deluded, and most evil people. The smell will be horrible. Those doors must stay closed.

Now if there really isn’t a major world shattering disaster coming down the pike, we’d better find a way to fake one -for the good of society.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Teach your children well

Are you a handy sort of person? Know which end of a wrench to grab? Not afraid to tear things apart and rebuild them? Great! Do you share this knowledge? With kids?

I know a number of adults who’s fathers never taught them how to fix or build anything. Parents who don’t know how to do that themselves I cut a bit of slack. Just a bit. Why aren’t you and your kids learning these things together? Worse yet, there are plenty of adults who are good with tools and for whatever reason never taught their kids how to use them. They’ve cheated the kids out of a valuable education.

Young kids learn by copying other people. Of course, if they are chased away any time there is “real work” to do, they’ll never learn how. Before long they won’t even ask to watch or help.

I know it can be a real pain. You’ve got to have one eye on the job and one eye looking out for the kid’s safety. There will be a million “why” questions that you’ll have to answer. Tools and materials will go missing. Nails will be bent over. Some materials will be wasted. Sometimes you’ll have to undo the whole job and start over. Five minute jobs can stretch into two and half hour jobs.

Be patient. Be kind. One day the kids will pitch in to help and the job will get done faster and better. They’ll have skills that they can take with them in life. Some find a career that they love. It’s a powerful thing, being a tool using animal. Opposable thumbs are a terrible thing to waste.

So the other day my daughter send my granddaughter over to help me build tables for the van. I showed her to measure and cut wood. She learned the value of a good wood glue and screws. When I needed a measuring tape or a carpenter’s square, she handed them to me.

Of course, the kid is five. Eventually she wandered off. I ran out of wood -when I’d bought plenty. She’d taken my lumber and build a corral around the sleeping dog. I told her that she did a good job, but that I needed the bigger pieces to finish my job. She could keep the smaller scraps. My granddaughter that that was fair. Now she’s got a stash of materials piled under the blackberry bushes. They are like giant building blocks to her.

It’s all good.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Financial bubble bath

Anyone remember the Internet bubble? Wasn’t that a wacky fun time? Kids with any sort of crazy idea and the ability to sling a little computer code had millions thrown at them. Most of the money was pissed away, of course. Nice headquarters, on-site chair massage, skateboards in the office, junk food on demand -the sort of business one would expect from college drop outs.

The beauty of it was there were thousands of bright kids working crazy hacker hours for small money and big stock option promises. A few were smart enough to cash out and buy nice things in the real world. Most didn’t and saw all their work disappear into smoke and vapor.

We never learn. Hard on the heels of that bubble came the housing bubble. Not as much fun as the Internet bubble, but a more direct appeal to naked greed. Turn your house into a giant ATM! Exotic Vacations! Buy a honking big SUV! Get an even bigger house you can’t afford!

Anyone with a bit of common sense could see both of these bubbles for what they were -bubbles. A few good ideas did well (Amazon) others not so well. Whoever thought buying dog food on the ‘net was a good idea? Some companies could not even clearly state what the heck they were trying to sell. Most likely because they were trying to sell stock and promises.

Housing could not go up forever, especially at the crazy break neck speeds they were going up. Rising values only papered over bad loans for a relatively short time. Reality had to intrude sooner or later. When the music stopped, as it always does, there weren’t nearly enough chairs to go around. Quite a few people discovered that the “Greater Fool,” was not someone else but them.

Speculative bubbles have a certain smell to them. After experiencing a few bursting bubbles in recent history, a person’t nose gets educated. Anyone else out there getting a whiff of something? Are there people with vested interests saying things will go on like this for a lot longer? Are there cheer leaders saying that this time things are different?

The thing is, I’m not real sure what speculative bubble is giving off the foul smell. Something doesn’t feel right, but what is it?

Well there’s the whole frack the gas bubble that’s getting a little long in the tooth. It’s a weird little investment bubble, but where else can people put there money with any hope of double digit return? It might be popular with the institutional investors, but the average Joe isn’t overly inspired by it. The natural gas bubble smells, but it’s not enough to account for all the weird bubble smell out there -not by half.

So what is it?

I’m guessing that the next bubble is is a huge over investment in money itself. Money creation has gotten easier and easier. The printing pressings don’t even have to run. Ones and zeros in a computer are nearly free to create. With money so easy to create, it’s no wonder they make so much of it.
There are two economies out there. There’s the economy where things are made, traded, grown, goods exchanged and services preformed. Then there’s the fake economy of investment vehicles, derivatives and the like. That wouldn’t be a problem except that the fake and real economy use the same currency. That’s just weird. It’s like play money can be used to buy real things. Of course, it’s all well and good as long as most of the play money stays in make believe land. Problem is, I think that the make believe money itself is a bubble. When it bursts, people are going to have to draw on real world assets to cover their play money bets.

When that happens, the currency collapses. The financial system breaks and shuts down. It’s happened before. We tend to look at the last big depression of the 1930s. While there are lessons to learn there, we may actually have more in common with the whole slew of panics that took place in the 19th century. Most, of not all, of those panics had speculative bubbles that set them off. It’s a deep bit of history worth exploring.

So my bet is on some sort of currency collapse. Does the Euro look like a good brand? How about the dollar? As long as world trade and especially petroleum trading took place in dollars, a nation needed a pile of them. That’s not quite so true anymore. Trades are being made in everything from straight barter agreements to the use of precious metals. Don’t worry much about the sounder smaller currencies. When the big boys go belly up, it’s a game changer.

I’m I worried? Just a little. The big question is timing. When will the next bubbles burst? I’m surprised the game has kept going for as long as it has. Of course, nothing lasts forever.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Out of steam

I started working on a very involved post, but exhaustion overtook me. In the morning, I’ll look my work over and see if I was onto anything or just spinning my wheels.

My lovely wife and I have been taking care of two 5 year old grandkids -one who broke her wrist a few days ago, poor kid. She’s doing well enough, but nobody is getting much sleep.

Tomorrow we’ll be down to just one grandkid, (the one without the broken arm) and some sleep will make the whole world look a bit better.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

The wrong side of history

Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of history. Every now and then change happens fast -fast in the eyes of historians anyway.

Take the collapse of the Soviet Union. It did not fall through invasion. Tanks and guns could not save it. All the Draconian laws, secret police and surveillance could not save it. Even reform could not save it, as it was too little and too late. The rot was deep and wide, right down to the main beams of the empire.

Now imagine all those people heavily invested in the old empire. The party members who lost their party, and their privileges. Military men found themselves in an army that could not even feed them. Think of all the snitches and sneaks who lost their protective patrons.

Secrets come out. I wish I could remember the names, but one prominent East German dissident discovered his own wife was a snitch for the secret police. Awkward does not begin to describe it. She found herself on the wrong side of history.

When I see so called democracies going down the same road I know where this is heading. I’ve seen it before. Maybe I don’t know the timing, but there is a certain smell of rot in the air. Of course, all those in power try the same old tricks from the same old play book. They crack down on dissent. Surveillance camera go up everywhere. Every effort is made to instill fear in the population. The grip of the iron fist becomes tighter and tighter. Being on the wrong side of history, none of this really matters.

The police state is a big solid looking dam holding back a huge reservoir of people. The dam looks solid, even when the first tiny cracks are forming. A tiny stream frees itself from the dam, and the crack widens and widens. Before you know it, the whole thing comes crashing down.

There may be efforts to pile sandbags into the gaps. Midnight raids. Extra legal detentions. Torture and intimidation. It might even work for a while. For a while. Eventually, even the jack booted thugs begin to realize they are on the wrong side of history. Who wants to make a stand to the death when the big boss is heading out the back door with a suitcase of jewels, booze and a hooker on each arm?

We’ve all got to ask ourselves, are we on the side of the angels? Will history make us look foolish? Congratulations, you’ve won a gold medal in a game that no one cares about. Then you discover the medal isn’t gold, but lead that only hold you back and drags you down. That’s what it’s like to find yourself on the wrong side of history.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

New Bicycle

I really went and did it. In a recent post I mentioned that I was looking for a bike that would stand up to my size and weight. There were some bike choices if I wanted to spend over $2000, but that certainly wasn’t in the budget.

The guys at the local bike shop set me up with a Jamis Expedition. This model has a steel frame so it should hold up to my weight. After buying a helmet and a few other accessories, the price tag came up to around $400.

The shop owner really wanted to make sure I had a bike helmet, not so much for my health but for his. He feared that if something preventable happened to me, daughter #2 would kick his butt. Since my daughter is a second degree black belt, his fears may be well grounded. At any rate, bike helmets have some a long way. It’s light and comfortable enough that I soon forget I even have it on.

After a short ride up and down a few hills, it has become very clear to me that I really need this kind of exercise. It’s going to take a few weeks of steady riding to get in any sort of condition. No matter, I’m having a blast. This is my idea of exercise: doing something fun.

I’m glad I went to an actual bike shop to pick this out. They did a lot of research to find a bike that fit what I wanted to do. They did all the set up and adjusted everything so it would be comfortable. The first tune up will be free. Sure beats the service from a big box store.

When I dropped my health insurance due to the high price, I promised myself I’d use some of the savings to improve my health. The first thing I started doing was eating better. I feel great and took off some weight. Even my lovely wife took off a few pounds, just by having healthier food in the house. Buying this bike should help me take off more pounds and get in better shape.

Don’t forget the bonus of having a really practical and efficient form of transportation. My daughter has a cargo rack for me so I’ll be able to carry a bit of gear. Maybe I’ll strap a fishing pole to the back and really have some fun. It’s like being a kid again.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Camp Dreams

When I was a little kid, my dad and a couple of friends built a hunting camp. It was about 9 miles of bad dirt road to the worse dirt road the camp sat on. I loved that place. It had no running water, an outhouse, a woodstove and a couple propane lamps. It was one 16 X 16 foot room. There as a table and chairs, a rocking chair, and a couple bunks.

Outside there was a pretty decent shooting range. Water was from a brook down the hill. The nearest neighbor was another camp about 4 miles down the road. It was packed during deer season, with extra folding bunks taking up all the floor space.

I probably used the camp more than anyone else. Not only was I there during deer season, I used it all year round. It was a base of operations for small game hunting, hiking, fishing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and cross country skiing. Sometimes I’d go up there just for some peace and quiet.

The original partners eventually sold out and I was in no position to buy it. In fact, the deal was done before I even knew it was up for sale. Losing the camp really broke my heart. I used to have dreams about that camp, only to wake up and realize it was gone.

Years later, I can finally say I no longer miss it. Well, maybe just a little. The camp is not as isolated as it used to be. Roads have gotten so good it’s easy to drive there with a regular car. In the past, it wasn’t unheard of to have to hike in the last few miles. A logging company clear cut some of the best hunting areas. The camp is on leased land. Fees used to be nominal, but have gotten pricey -even on a simple deer camp.

Two things have filled the hole left by the loss of the camp. The first is the sailboat. It’s like a tiny camp on the water. The other is my tiny camp on the land, my converted camper van. Mobility and the lack of property taxes are big pluses the camp never had.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Security Systems

Does anyone else wonder what we are getting for the huge sums of money spent on security? Are we any safer for the increased travel delays and hardships?

Remember the “virtual fence” on the US/Mexico border? You are supposed to forget it. A cool billion was spent on the scheme and it was quietly shelved.

Has TSA made us any safer? Turns out even their most expensive machines can be beaten without too much trouble.

How about this recent article about a stranded jet ski driver who walked past all the JFK security and never set off an alarm. He wasn’t even trying to beat security.

Bombs blew up in Iraq’s Green Zone. Gate crashers drop in on Presidential parties. Kids board airplanes without even having a ticket. Nuclear plants fail the most basic of security tests. Facial recognition scanners can be avoided in a myriad of ways.

It’s almost like we don’t know how to do security. That is not the case.

Bombs do not blow up on EL AL (Israeli airlines) planes. If they can do it, being a prestigious target, then anyone could do it.

A Vietnam Vet told me a story of two bases. The US base had rolls and rolls of barbed wire, mines, and machine gun towers. Stuff was stolen from there all the time. Right next door was a Turkish base. It had only one narrow strand of wire to mark off the base. Nothing was every stolen. Trespassers were shot and their heads put on a spike. That put a damper on petty theft.

Now are skies are going to be full of drone aircraft. How effective will those be? Judging from past performance, not very. How effective have security cameras been to prevent crime? Will putting the camera up in the air be any better?

None of this stuff is really about security. It’s about big paychecks for security firms and defense contractors. They are very effective at feeding at the government till.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bulldozer butchery

There’s a new owner of the land down the road from me. He’s putting in a new house. It’s his land; that’s all well and good. It saddens me the way he’s going about it. Now I understand bulldozers and excavators really speed up a job. I don’t have any deep philosophical objections to heavy equipment. They are just tools.

Oh, but the way they are using those tools. Just because your big machines can push all the trees over doesn’t mean it’s what should happen. That’s what they did, just pushed everything over e and buried some of them with gravel. The rest have been shoved to the side of the lot in a tangled mess. The landowner will have problems from this for years to come.

Eventually, they’ll want to clean up the mess on the side of the road. It won’t be easy. I was offered free firewood once from a lot that was bulldozed in a similar manner. After a few trips I refused to try and rescue more wood. It wasn’t worth it. Some of the trees were still under a lot of tension and would spring free as they were cut -very dangerous. The wood was covered in dirt which constantly dulled the chain. Footing was all lose rocks and boulders, not something you want to stand on with a running chainsaw.

All the buried trees will, over time, slowly rot. His land will develop sinkholes and bumps that will make it very difficult to have a nice yard. I can’t wait to see how they plan on putting in a foundation on top of all this fill.

Right now they are hastily dealing with some nasty erosion problems. It’s a good thing they are working far from the lake or inspectors would be handing out some hefty fines. In fact, they lucked that most of the wetland inspectors have been laid off.

With a little planning, they could have harvested all the trees they destroyed. In fact there was probably enough quality wood there to build a nice house. There are a number of sawmills in the area who could have done the work for a very reasonable price.

I hate senseless waste and destruction, even on a relatively small scale. The trend in house construction has been to level the land, turn it into a barren lot. Then grass is rolled out and new trees planted. Of course, the new trees don’t really mature well because they are sitting in compacted mineral soil. They look good long enough to sell the house.

Whatever happened to working with the land?


Tuesday, August 14, 2012


For those of you in deep drought, you’d probably love to have my problem. It’s the rain. Thunderstorms are normal here in northern New Hampshire, but not like this. When we get rain it’s been unusually heavy.

Recently there was an article in the Portland Press Herald (Portland ME). A scientific study discovered that storms really have been getting worse in New England and they’ve been doing so for 50 or 60 years. That squares with what I’ve observed.

Our roads are showing a lot of damage from the storms. Road damage in the spring is normal. Snow melt and spring rains have always taken their toll. The difference now is that the damage continues all summer. We got flash floods that we only rarely had before. There’s road damage in places that never had problems. The rain comes down so hard and in such volume normal drainage can’t handle it.

The damage isn’t that visible on the highways or in the cities. It’s the rural areas that are really suffering. Road shoulders are getting washed out in so many places the road agents can’t keep up. All they can do is to mark the worse places with traffic cones.

The washouts are getting deeper and deeper. Now that the shoulders are gone, the pavement is breaking up and sliding away. In recent years the town road budget has not kept up. Some roads have been depaved because they could no longer afford to patch them. It would not surprise me if that happens to my road eventually.

So . . . for you people in drought, we have your rain, but it’s not doing us much good.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Weddings and diaspora

My lovely wife and I got in late from a wedding. I spent Sunday feeling hung over -which is pretty odd for a wedding reception that didn’t serve alcohol. A high school buddy of mine married into a religion that doesn’t believe in the stuff. To each their own. His only daughter, who’ve I known since she was a baby, was the bride. Some events you just have to show up to.

My high school buddy was from New Hampshire. His wife grew up in California. Their daughter when to college in Idaho. She met her husband there, who’s from Nevada. Family get togethers are going to be problematic. With their family scattered all over the place, I felt it was worth making the effort to attend. For me, it was about a 300 mile round trip. Doable. They were glad my lovely wife and I showed up.

Just to make things interesting, there will be another reception in Nevada a week from now. Those poor kids. They should have eloped.

The wedding brought home to me how people have scattered all over the place. Cheap, reliable transportation changed everything. People don’t have to marry the girl next door anymore.

I married someone from New York state, but we don’t visit anyone there anymore. Almost all my wife’s family left the state. High taxes drove them away. My in-laws are over 2000 miles away. My dad lives almost 1700 miles down the road. At least my kids and grandkids are in New England.

My experience is not unusual. Families are scattered. It’s harder and harder to have real cohesive connections with relatives. Social media doesn’t cut it.

Historically, there was strength in tight knit large family groups. Families would take care of their own. It’s a lot harder to provide support to people living thousands of miles away. It’s not like you can casually drop in for a cup of coffee.

It’s not all bad. A family’s eggs are not all in one basket. If one place is having a bad time (everything from natural disasters to economic problems) odds are there is a relative in a better place who could help you start over.

Yeah, these are the sorts of things I think at weddings. At least I rarely voice that sort of thing out loud at these functions. Instead I say: yes, she looks lovely. Nice decorations. They look good together -and so on. However, in my mind, I wonder what kind of relation my friend will have with his grandkids.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Multitask Myth

One of my childhood friends has been a teacher for many years. Good teachers are always going back to school to further their education. He found himself sitting in a class filled with mostly 20 something students. If that wasn’t enough to make him feel like an old fossil, he was the only one using pen and paper to take notes. Everyone else had laptop computers, ipads or iphones -sometimes all three at the same time.

My friend received an “A” for the course. Most of his fellow students didn’t do nearly as well. He noticed most of what his fellow students were doing with their electronics had nothing to do with the lecture. They thought they could listen to the professor and update their Facebook at the same time, but they could not. Sending a text to a friend and taking notes didn’t really work either.

In our hurried busy world, people like to think they can accomplish a lot more multitasking. Things might bet done but they are done badly.

There’s an old Sufi saying that “a focused mind is the most powerful force in the universe.” I’m also old enough to remember when “be here now” was popular.

My teacher friend was focused on what the professor was saying. His attention was in the classroom, not in cyber space. That is why he got an “A.”

Our attention can be diffused like a bare lightbulb. The energy goes all over, but is weak. Focused, our attention is like a laser, coherent and concentrated enough to cut steel.



My lovely wife and I got in very late from a wedding reception. I'll be posting more after some sleep.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

What do you do?

How often are we asked that question? What they mean is “what do you do for work.” It means more than that, of course. So many of us are defined by our jobs that we usually get a good idea what someone is like by knowing their job.

Most of us self define ourselves by the work we do. I am an engineer. I am a factory worker. I am a nurse. I am a carpenter. Instead of doing that, change your mental landscape a bit. Say: I am myself, who currently is making a living as a carpenter. You job is something you do, not what you are.

In a busy life, we do many things. We are more than a cog in a machine. Defining yourself by your job is self limiting. It’s one of the things that keeps people doing the same thing year after year.

What happens to a person who identifies with their job and then loses it? They have a bad time. They don’t know who they are any more. Not only do they have to deal with a loss of income, they have to deal with a loss of identity.

I think that’s why so people complain about being retired. Retired has a lot less status than worker, professional, manager, boss, or whatever the job was. Retired -put out to pasture. Useless.

People who’s lives are full of other things look at retirement as a blessing. More time is now available to do the other things they enjoy. Sadly, too many people have too few other things to enjoy -even people who don’t even like their jobs.

Imagine being defined by a job you hate. Why would someone let that happen to themselves?

Yesterday I was hanging out at the farmer’s market, talking to a farmer. We were talking about tractors and diesel engines, among other things. Eventually, he asked the question, “what do you do?”

“I’m doing it,” I said.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Decisions, decisions

What to do? What to do?

For us northern folk, there is nothing so comforting as a big wood pile. When the air gets frosty, it’s nice to know there is plenty of wood to get through the harshest winter. Around these parts, winter is never very far from our minds. Prudent people have their wood squared away by now.

I am not one of those people this year. Frankly, I’ve become a bit complacent. I haven’t planned on a full winter’s woodpile in a few years. My plan has been to either shut the house down or get a house sitter to heat the place. It’s not that hard to heat the house until January. Last year I did it with a few gallons of heating oil, some wood a friend gave me, and junk wood casually gathered.

What if I can’t travel south for the winter? What will I do then? There is no way that I’m buying heating oil. The price is too high. The basement woodstove will be hooked directly into my heating ducts, warming the whole house. That is, if I can find something to throw into it.

Now the first couple months of heating season will be easy to cover. A friend has some wood he needs hauled out of his yard. It’s good and dry. In a pinch, I can take my crosscut saw and get a fair amount of dead wood within walking distance of my house.

The problem with that is that as the winter goes on, wood has to be gathered from further and further away. Now imagine that we get a lot of snow. That complicates things. Much of the wood gets buried and hidden. What you do find has to be gathered on snowshoes. Work. Work. Work.

Now you see the comfort of a big woodpile?

For me, the drop dead, final time to hustle, is the month of September. During that month it’s possible to get a dead and down permit from the National Forest and gather enough dry wood for the winter. Forget about doing much else that month.

Today, I may have gotten good news. A friend of mine has discovered a huge source of seasoned oak -enough wood for both of our households, and then some. With a small bit of money, some sweat, and barter, my winter heat problem could be solved soon. It all depends on if he can close the deal or not.

The same friend just let me know he has some firebricks that I can have. With those, I could reline my kitchen woodstove and definitely get a few more years out of it. I love to cook on that stove in the winter, so that’s a great thing indeed. It’s perfect for those fall and spring mornings when all that’s needed is a small fire to take the chill out of the house.

Ideally, I’ll have a good solid year’s worth of firewood in the yard and not need it. With any luck at all, my lovely wife and I will be heading south again. Any wood left over will be the start of the next year’s pile.


Thursday, August 9, 2012


There is something primeval about a campfire. Our primitive ancestors must have felt like gods when they harnessed the power of fire. Warmth, cooking, light, and protection from wild animals. Fire is almost magical.

Most of us don’t need fire the way the old ones did, but that doesn’t mean we enjoy a campfire any less. One of the joys of living out in the country is the ability to have a fire ring in my yard. I spent the summers of my youth sitting around a campfire, feeding it, poking it with a stick, burning hot dogs and marshmallows, and just watching it.

We had a campfire last night. I’d cut some dead limbs out of a big hemlock tree that were overhanging the driveway. A campfire was the perfect way to get rid of them. The grandkids were all for it, of course.

Before long we had a nice bed of coals for roasting marshmallows. The kids loved that. My lovely wife started a story and encouraged the kids to keep adding to it. The got into it and came up with a funny tale. Eventually, the kids ran out of energy and were all herded off to bed.

My dad, my lovely wife and I sat around the dying fire, enjoying the quite. We talked in low voices and watched the stars come out. After a while, my dad said: this beats the hell out of TV.

It sure does.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Now I’m Suspicious

According to this article in Forbes I’m not a suspicious person because I don’t use Facebook or other social media. I must have something to hide, right?

There’s a couple of things about that attitude that really disturbs me. The first one is that if someone wants privacy, he must be doing something wrong. We’ve become such a surveillance state that holding anything private is a questionable activity.

Just as disturbing to me is the assumption that a person has to do what most other people are doing. Conformity has an ugly history. Nazis were big on conformity. Conformity = normal = good. Nonconformity wasn’t consider just bad but a threat that had to be stomped out. Nazis stomped very well.

I don’t have a problem with other people using Facebook. It’s how a lot of people communicate and stay in touch. However, as for me, I just don’t feel the need. AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. Sorry to shout.

Being a private detective must be the easiest job in the world now. Just get connected a suspect on Facebook and learn everything you need to know.

Yep, must have something to hide. Suspicious. On the other hand, if you film cops they get all upset. They expect to be hidden from public view. It’s like they have a secret. Secret Police. Now where have I heard that term before?

Governments and government agents are getting more and more secret all the time, just when citizen privacy has come under suspicion. Shouldn’t we be a lot more suspicious about what government is doing?

It’s been argued that “Black Budgets” and secret operations are needed. How else could we fight secret wars around the planet? In my book, that’s a good solid argument for open government. A republic or a democracy needs its citizens to be informed. Too bad for government types that it limits their actions.

I keep getting this mental image of a light going on in a dark room and cockroaches scattering.

Since not being on Facebook is suspicious, perhaps all government operations need to be up there for everyone to see. While we are at we should put the inner workings of Facebook on Facebook.


Monday, August 6, 2012


Since my dad is visiting from Florida I’ve been driving him around to his old haunts. He’s connected with a lot of his old friends. Dad’s having a blast. One of his childhood friends is coming over in the morning for coffee.

Dad was buddies with a Russian Orthodox monk, which is a bit odd as dad is not of that faith. No matter, they really enjoyed each other’s company. As luck would have it, after being posted all over the world, the monk is back in dad’s home town. They were like a couple of kids when they got back together.

Using the Internet, I was able to locate one of his old Florida friends who now lives in the state next door, Vermont. Dad surprised him with a visit.

My father had a mini-stroke a year ago. He feels fine now, is getting treatment, and everything is under control. There were a few holes in his memory. This trip has filled in a lot of the holes. Just driving around town has brought back memories he didn’t know he had.

We’ve been spending our evenings talking. He’s told me stories of his youth that he’s never told me before. I guess a lot of things have been stirred up.

I’m having a good time myself.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Camping Pics

Here are some photos from our coast of Maine camping trip.

I’ve had some requests on how the interior of the ambulance to motor home conversion looks. Here are a few real life photos.

This photo is from the open back doors. The bed is set up -and kinda messy after a night’s sleep.

The 12 volt cooler was moved near the door for easy outdoor access. The microwave and dry foods area can also be easily accessed.

My granddaughter thought she was a monkey. All the original cabinets are still in place

Old Sixbears tuning up the pack guitar. I strummed a bit by the campfire.

Here’s a nice little sailboat we met out on the bay.

Good times with friends and family.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Well Met

It has been a time of happy meetings. A buddy of mine who I’ve known since Jr. High School surprised us and had a reservation in the same campground my lovely wife and I were in. We had some good times around the fire. The next day we paddled off the coast of Maine. My lovely wife and I in our canoe, my buddy and his wife in their double sea kayak.

On Friday my lovely wife went with the kids to the beach. My friends and I went to the Maine Maritime Museum. Both my buddy and I have dabbled a bit building small boats, so the museum was a real treat. It had been over 25 years since I’d been there last. That’s way too long between visits.

My lovely wife and I got home Friday night between 11 and midnight. At 2 A. M my dad snuck into the house and took at nap on the couch. He’d driven all the way up from Florida without telling us he was coming. He likes to surprise people. My dog, who barks like crazy when anyone comes to the door, didn’t make a sound. I guess all that bacon my dad gives the dog paid off.

We spent the morning catching up with friends and relatives. All three of his great grandkids will be here during his visit. Two out of three of his grandkids have connected with him already. One of my daughters is over in Europe for a couple weeks, so she won’t see him. It should be a good time.

I think tomorrow dad and I will make our way out to the range and see if we can make a little noise and smoke. Looks like good times ahead.


Friday, August 3, 2012

At the speed of paper

I'm currently on vacation staying at a campground with a weak and sketchy Internet connection. That's fine, as it assures that I'm really on vacation.

News comes to me in the form of the local newspaper -which is fast enough for a guy on vacation.

I'll be near a better connection in a day or two. Thanks for your patience.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Fear and hate

I’m really sick of politicians trying to manipulate me through fear and hate. I’m certainly not going to put up with it from clergy. While I consider myself a spiritual person, organized religion and I tend to not get along.

My lovely wife, on the other hand, used to really enjoy going to the local church. She had a lot of friends there, loved church music and enjoyed a good sermon. The most recent pastor has been slowly drifting into positions of intolerance and hate.

Once in a while I used to accompany my lovely wife to church, but that had to stop. It was all I could do to keep from shouting out from the pew and calling him out on his BS. It’s bad enough that his theology was questionable, but twisting history and science to fit his prejudices was beyond the pale. Since I was not officially a member of the church anyway, I thought it best to just not go.

As it is, my lovely gentle wife once walked out on his sermon and slammed the door. She did not hesitate to tell people why she left either. After that, the pastor toned things down, but now he’s back to his old self, and then some.

Most of the congregation has slowly drifted away. There are a hard core few who buy into the fear and hate and encourage the pastor. My lovely wife figured that pastors come and pastors go. She could wait this one out. After last Sunday’s hate filled sermon, she’s decided to wait for a new pastor from outside the church. Enough is enough.

Whatever happened to peace, love and understanding?


Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Once I had a film crew following me around. It’s actually pretty cool. People look at you like you must be famous.

Yeah, I’m famous -Internet famous. That means a very very tiny percentage of people spread extremely thinly over the whole planet might recognize me.

That day, however, people really wondered who I might be. A young eager team with very expensive equipment followed me around. A man in his early 40s asked me serious questions. It was all very impressive looking.

What had actually happened was a friend of mine was part of a college film project. They needed a big guy who didn’t look like a 23 year old college student. Being in my early 40s at the time, I fit the bill and had a few free days. It was loads of fun and I could see how being followed by a film crew all day could inflate the heck out of a person’s ego.

This past winter my lovely wife and I might have mistaken for other people -important people.

We tried to get into a mid range restaurant for dinner, but it was packed with a long waiting line. My lovely wife spotted a restaurant down the road that was advertising live music. Being a fan of live music, we thought we’d treat ourselves.

Once we got in the door we realized the place was a lot nicer than it looked on the outside, a whole lot nicer. What the heck we thought, it had been a while since we ate out, let’s go for it. There was supposed to be a waiting line for this place too, but we were soon ushered to a table. It was a nice table.

It was a really top notch dining experience. The waiters were right there when we wanted them and invisible when we didn’t need them. When we looked up for one, they were tripping over themselves to get to our table. After a while, it became obvious that the rest of the restaurant wasn’t getting nearly the attention we were. The place was packed, a bit short handed, yet our every whim was attended to.

The food was great. The wine superb. Dessert to die for. I left a good tip, but nothing out of the ordinary. As soon as we left the building a woman came running out of the restaurant, all out of breath. She apologized for not meeting us sooner, but it was very busy. She was the manager. All right then. She wanted to know how our dining experience was. The manager appeared relieved when I told her we had a wonderful dinner. I said good things about the food and the staff.

Weird, but in a good way.

The only thing I can figure is that I must have been mistaken for a food critic. Either that or they thought I was Sixbears the Enforcer from the East Coast Mob.

I’ve also been mistaken for a certain Science Fiction writer. That’s kinda fun too. There are a lot of overweight writers with beards and pony tails.

My dad used to get mistaken for a golf pro who was big in the 60s and 70s. He’d shake their hand and give them golf tips. Pretty good for a guy who never played the game in his life.

So, I’ve been “famous,” by mistake. Although, come to think about it, most of those celebrities are famous by mistake too.