Friday, May 31, 2013

Heads up on GPS

Just saw this important article about GPS on “Yachting World.” I've got to thank Boat Bits for the link.

Looks like for the rest of the year, there's a chance GPS signals will have accuracy problems and may even fail completely. Blame increased solar activity.

I've warned before about being too reliant on GPS. Don't completely depend on a complicated electronic device. Something as simple as dead batteries could turn them into a useless brick.

Worse than complete failure, in my book, is reduced accuracy. You think you are doing fine, but are actually in a dangerous area.

Just passing this along. It might be better to put one's money in maps and charts rather than expensive GPS units. I'll still use my cheap one, but it's just one navigation tool in my box of tricks.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Expensive Poverty

In poor countries, things like shampoo are commonly sold in single use packaging. While the tiny package doesn't cost much, it's actually much more expensive per ounce than buying a large bottle of the same shampoo. The problem is that really poor people can't tie up all that money in a bottle of shampoo. Then they'd need a safe place to store all that valuable shampoo.

It's even worse with food. We know buying in bulk saves money. If a shopper can afford to buy in bulk, the cost per meal goes way down. Unfortunately, poor people can't afford to. They buy a 12 oz bag of dried beans instead of the 50 pound bag. With limited funds, there's no buying the big bag, even though there are long term savings. Limited funds necessarily make a person short sighted.

When times are good, stock up and not just on beans and rice. Buy molasses in the gallon jug, olive oil in the big can, big jars of honey, sugar, spices, and so on. If you suddenly find yourself poor, you'll at least avoid the single serve package trap.

Imagine the cost of something if you have to buy a tiny bottle of cooking oil, small box of sugar, single use spice packet, individual tea bags, cup of rice, and handful of beans -cheap meals become a lot more expensive.

Big businesses market tiny packages to the poor -and it's keeping them poor. People living on two dollars a day can't buy anything in economy packaging. Now if a person could take that two dollars a day up front for a year: $730, they could buy in bulk and actually eat well enough. It wouldn't be fancy, but it would keep body and soul together.

Now lets look at a typical middle class family making $50,000/year. They have the same problem of not enough working capital to save money. They can pay a monthly electric bill, but they can't save enough to put in solar electric panels. They can't afford a new car, so they spend a lot of money every month to keep an old gas guzzling clunker on the road. (been there, done that) Money is not available for home insulation and new windows, so they pay high heating and cooling bills.

In the long run, investing in these things save money, but if you need all you've got in the short run, it's impossible.


Gas Burners

I like big boy toys as much as the next guy: motorcycles, ATVs, motorboats, cars and the like. They are fun and all, but they burn gas. I've got too many gas burners as it is. There's my lovely wife's car. It doesn't go very far and on average uses less than half a tank of gas/month. The 6 hp outboard on my boat uses gas, but it's a sailboat and we mostly sail.

There's the diesel van. Not technically a gas burner, but it does use fossil fuels. 95% of the time it runs on waste veggie oil, so that's not too bad.

Then we have all the small motors in people's lives. The gas lawn mower got ditched over 20 years ago. For about 15 years the lawn was mowed using a push reel mower. No gas or any other fuel needed. Once that wore out, I got lazy and bought an electric mower. The gas weed whacker was replaced with an electric one and hand tools. The chainsaw was replaced with a small electric and a 3.5 foot long manual crosscut saw.

What about a leaf blower? They are the Devil's own invention. I use a rake. I like quiet.

My though is that a person can complain about the oil industry or they can do something about it. No, I'm not 100% “pure,” but only God is perfect.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Holes in people's lives

I guy I went to High School committed suicide a few days ago. It's taken me some time to process it. We weren't super close, but close enough that I went to his wedding. While we didn't usually hang out, we've share a few beers at barbecues and the like. Most of us know people at that level. It could be classmates, coworkers, friends of friends and the like. While not close buddies, we had enough in common to have things to talk about.

Now he's gone. One day he went up his deer stand and hung himself. I don't really know why.

Sure his house was being foreclosed on and his truck repossessed. His love life was a mess. A few years back he lost a good manager's job. It was tougher to make a living as small businessman. There were a few other things that I suspect might have been bothering him, but I won't get into it here.

Not everyone with those problems takes their own life. At least, I hope not, as a number of my friends are dealing with similar issues. So far, they keep on keeping on.

Even though we were not super close, his death will keep affecting me for years. Suicide punches a hole in a web of relationships. Already I'm dealing with the depression of those who were very close to him.

Death is hard enough and I'm no stranger to it. Accidents, disease and old age are things we deal with. No one gets out of this world alive. However, quiting the game before your time is worse. The whole thing about it being an unnecessary death is a punch to the gut.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Working Nomad

There's a perception that only those who've retired can live a nomadic lifestyle. There certainly are plenty of those who retire, trade their house for a big RV and hit the road. Then there are those who've found a way to be nomadic and make a living along the way.

My lovely wife and I once met a couple who were living in a big 5th wheel. Both of them were musicians. They had a deal with a big RV campground chain. In exchange for a performance at the campground they would receive two free weeks of camping. For other expenses, they'd work gigs in whatever area they happened to be in. His wife had a small glass shop in the back of the trailer. She sold her artistic creations at campgrounds and though other outlets.

Traveling artists of all sorts are common: musicians, writers, painters, craftspersons, strippers, and street performers.

Then there are those who work in construction jobs: carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers, oil field workers, and so on. The jobs tend to pay well, but are for a limited period of time so a lot of workers live out of RVs and trailers. I've even met one guy who traveled from job site to job site on a bicycle and lived in a tent. He'd just traveled from North Carolina to the Florida Keys to do highway construction.

I know of a couple small business owners who run their companies by remote control. They are in contact with a their managers through the Internet, skype and by phone. Both these businessmen are on the road for about 6 months of the year. The other 6 months they are more hands on with their operations.

Sailors too have found ways to live on a boat and earn as they go. It ranges from working temporary jobs in different ports to performing services for other boaters like boat repairs. Of course there's the whole range of artistic endeavors that can be done from a boat as well as on land.

Being a nomad is not just for the wealthy retired.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Burning the pallets

You know how to tell the heating season has gone on way too long? It's when you start burning the pallets your firewood used to sit on.

I woke up Sunday morning to 32 degrees. No snow at my elevation, 1300 feet, but just a couple hundred feet higher than me, they got 3 inches of snow on the ground.

By Wednesday temperatures should be back in the 80s.

There is a theory that he Neanderthals went extinct during a time of rapid climate change. They could not adapt to changing climate conditions.

You know who did find a way to adapt? We did, of course. Our branch of humanity is pretty clever. It doesn't seem real noticeable on a day to basis, but when push comes to shove, at least some of us figure things out. The beauty of humans is that we can communicate ideas. Once someone figures out how to survive in a changing world, the ideas on how to do it spreads around.

The world is changing. Doesn't matter if it's man made, natural or a combination of both. Darwin did not say it's the strong that survive, but the most adaptable.

Today's adaption is burning the pallets. There's more where those came from.


Sunday, May 26, 2013


I can deal with flood watches on Memorial weekend. It's not barbecue weather, but I can deal. The rivers are running high and are brown with mud. It's not nice, but it's not too out of the ordinary.

However, when the rain starts to have snow mixed it, that's too much. No telling what it'll be like in the wee hours of the morning. Could be interesting. I'm glad I live on high ground.

The house batteries are charged up. A bit more food has been added to the larder. The woodstove is keeping the house warm. I'm about as prepared as I'm going to be.

When the weather is this nasty, my little dog refuses to go outside and do her business alone. She insists I bundle up, put a leash on her, and then she's fine. Nobody, not even little dogs, like to suffer alone.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Roads and Bridges . . . and boats?

By now most people have seen the dramatic photos of the bridge collapse in Washington State. It's certainly something to think about while driving.

Thinking back, there's a least three major bridges that I've driven over that later collapsed. Two suffered structural failure. One was struck by a ship. Lucky for me, these failures happened while I wasn't on them. That doesn't make me particularly special, as many thousands of people cross questionable bridges every day.

There are a lot of bridges in the US that are well past their prime. Repairs get put off to some mystical future date when the economy is better. All to often that day never arrives, at least as far as bridge work goes. Basic maintenance is put off until small problems become huge problems. “Temporary” repairs become the only repairs.

While it's attention grabbing when a big bridge goes down, most people soon forget about it. That is, unless you happen to be one of the unlucky ones who's now isolated on the wrong side of the bridge. Short commutes become very long or impossible. Think about all the bridges you cross on a regular basis. Now imagine they are gone. How would your life be affected?

One place I love to go is the Florida Keys. It's a long series of islands connected by many bridges. There's a pretty high population density on those little islands. I always wonder what would happen if something destroyed one of those bridges. Imagine if a hurricane, earthquake, or terrorist event destroyed a number of the bridges at the same time. Not only would all those people be stranded, the one water pipeline that supplies the Keys is on the bridges.

I don't feel comfortable down there unless I'm on a boat or have one with me. I know a guy who worked on a island in the Northwest who kept a canoe on his work truck. It's an earthquake area and he didn't want to be stuck on the island.

If bridges are a big part of your life, maybe keeping a small boat with you might be a good idea. Perhaps even an inflatable in the truck of your car might be prudent. Bug out vehicles are nice, but if the bridge is out, you'll need a plan B.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Side Panels

These are the side panels of my Ooze Goose boat build.

The one on the ground on the right is mostly complete. The one on the left is “in progress.”

The rain was just starting as this photo was taken. Everything is now wrapped up in that blue and silver tarp.

Notice my sophisticated boat yard. It's my yard . . . and that's my boat project, so -boat yard.

The last of my deck plates came in from West Marine. The boat will have three water tight compartments: two under the seats, and one between the lazarette and the transom. 8” deck plates will allow access into the compartments.

Two 6” clear deck plates will be used as cabin windows. They will be installed with permanent bug screens and will be able to be opened from inside the cabin.

So far I've built the side panels, a front and rear transom, cabin bulkhead, and a lazarette. The next step is to fit them all together and then the bottom can be attached. By then, passersby should be able to see I'm building a boat without having to ask.

Now all I need is a few breaks in the weather . . .


Thursday, May 23, 2013

The small struggles

All my time could be spent getting upset about the condition of the world. The news is full of outrageous injustice, evil and stupidity. When it gets right down to it, there's not all that much stuff that I can take effective action on. Of course I do what I can. My few dollars go towards those people and companies doing good and away from those who aren't. What little political pressure I can muster goes where it will do the most good. Like an Aikido artist, my weak efforts use the strength of my opponents against them.

In spite of the news; in spite of the world being crazy. I go though my day as best I can.

My lovely wife has been baby sitting our new grandson a lot. I helped her out today: made coffee, breakfast, fed and played with the kid a bit. Yes, I'm tough enough to be tender.

One of my new waste veggie oil suppliers called. His restaurant just changed the fryer oil. While there, I picked up some take out for my lovely wife and I. Might as well give them a little business. They've already saved me hundreds of dollars in fuel costs. A little take out doesn't hurt the budget. Besides, I know he uses quality oil and it's just been changed.

Over the last couple of days I've picked up over 100 gallons of waste oil. Considering that diesel is still hovering around 4/gal in these parts, that's a big savings. My stored oil was pretty low after my winter vacation, but it's building back up. Moving all that oil around keeps my muscles strong. Better than going to the gym.

We are all born into a world that was set up the way it is a long long time ago. Waking up to the flaws can be disheartening as no one person can totally disconnect from the system. However, that doesn't mean one can't do what one can, and that can be a lot more than they imagine.

The opposite of love is not hate, but fear. I refuse to be motivated by fear. Instead I go though my day as centered as possible. I chop wood and carry water. (and veggie oil, and maintain my solar electric system, and so on.)


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Travel water filter

For over a decade I've been using a MSR Miniworks water filter -a lot. I first got it for backpacking and it did a fine job. While my stomping grounds have plenty of free flowing water, it also has the giardia organism. Believe me, nobody wants those little buggers multiplying in your small intestine. The symptoms are unpleasant and possibly even life threatening.

When my lovely wife and were traveling around the country, we still used the water filter for our drinking water. The quality of the campground water or even municipal supplies varies. Why take chances?

Now I make to bring it on our little sailboat. We've filtered water right out of fresh water lakes. Of course it doesn't work with salt water, but we bring it along anyway. One never knows the quality of marina water supplies. It also gives us the ability to filter and rain water we collected on the boat.

The MSR is easy to clean and replacement parts are available. Mine has seen a couple of filters and all the gaskets and O-rings changed.

There are a number of good backpacker type filters out there. I've used some other good ones before I got the MSR, but they've been discontinued. When looking for a portable filter system, at the bare minimum get one that can filter giardia and most bacteria. Make sure it's tough enough to last and can be serviced. A cheap filter that fails, allowing you to get sick, is an expensive filter.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Trip to Windows Land

99% of the time my computer runs in Ubuntu, a version of Linux. Once in a great while there's something that can only be done using Windows. It's usually because there's a special program with no Linux equivalent. This time it's because I had a printing job to do. Normal day to day printing works just fine with the generic Linux program, but once in a while I have to do something fancy and need the full Windows version.

I hate going to Windows land. I go there so infrequently that once there it seems every single Windows program decides to update. Some of the updates I stop because I don't have time for all that and I don't need that program right now. Then the computer has to reboot a couple of times. Eventually, Microsoft gives me my computer back and I poke around until I figure out what needs to be done.

Windows runs slower than Ubuntu. On my cheap little netbook computer it's noticeable.

Finally my job is done and I can shut the computer down . . . but I can't. Windows doesn't want me to shut down until it does another 10 updates. Once that's finally done, I can boot my computer back up in Ubuntu. It starts up quickly and I get right to work.

The International Space Station, where computer problems could be life or death, has decided to do away with MS Windows completely. They are going to 100% Linux.

I can understand why.


Monday, May 20, 2013


There's a lot of chatter about potential incoming meteors all across the Internet. Some of the speculation seems pretty wild. I won't link to them because I lack the skill to judge the voracity of their claims.

What is real is this visible to the naked eye event that happened on the moon. It was a fairly small rock that caused all the commotion: 80 Kg or about 175 pounds. A rock that size would not look out of place in the rock wall by my garden.

The Earth has something the moon doesn't, an atmosphere. A lot of the energy from a rock that size would be absorbed before it ever hit the earth.

We have seen the effects of meteorites before, recently, in fact. The February event in Russia was quite spectacular and injured about 1500 people.

Statistically, the Earth doesn't get hit with honking big chunks of rock from space all that often. A statistician might think since we just had the Russian event, so we might be in the clear for a while.

Like I stated earlier, I'm no expert, but something about the moon event caught my attention. The lunar impact was not an isolated event, but part of a swarm that hit both the moon and the earth. Now meteors enter the earth's atmosphere all the time. Most are only detected with special instruments. Only one impact on the moon was large enough to be special, out of the whole swarm.

Here's where I'm speculating. What if the earth is moving through a particularly chunky part of space right now? What if the next swarm of rocks is significantly bigger? That would have implications for our complicated and interconnected technological civilization.


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Where civilization went wrong

Humans spent most of our existence as hunter/gathers. That's what we are evolved for.

Life, in most ways, wasn't too bad. About 4 hours of each day was spent doing what was needed for survival: food, clothing, shelter -the whole bit. The rest of the time was spent socializing, telling stories, making music, and doing the wild monkey dance.

Even that hunting and gathering stuff was done with other people. Their “work” is what a lot of people do to relax these days -berry picking, basket weaving, fishing, hunting, and the like.

So it look like the whole agriculture/civilization thing goes against our nature. No wonder we are stressed out.

Now I happen to like some things about civilization: cold beer, hot showers, and good books. Maybe a few other things. We are clever people. By now we should have figured out how to get back to the 4 hour/day work schedule. In fact, since we are supposed to be so smart, why can't we meet our needs on 2 hours or less.

Instead, we have people working 12 – 16 hour days. Their phones and computers keep them tethered to work, even on their so called days off. Normal social life: visiting, music, mattress dancing -all that now takes place on special occasions, if at all.

We've been enslaved. Partly it's been by our own greed. We fell for the allure of big houses, beads and trinkets. Mostly, however, it's been forced on us by the tiny percentage of people who actually run things. Civilization has been a scam by a priest/king class that puts them on top and everyone else serving their wants and desires.

I believe we have the technology and know how to get back to our natural rhythms and still have a decent civilization. There's enough stuff for everyone to have enough. Automation could be put towards freeing up time for everyone rather than making a tiny elite filthy rich. We might have to do more gardening, but if we've got a lot of time, how bad will that be? There are techniques like permaculture and some forms of hydroponics that require little labor once set up.

Our houses would shrink down and we'd have a lot less clutter in our lives. On the upside, we'd live like humans again. Life could be one big party.

Why don't we stive for that? Looks like this current version of Civilization/industrialism/priest/king thing has just about run its course anyway.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

No Cash, no Sale

My lovely wife and I were picking a few things up at a store. We got to the check out and there were a bunch of people just milling around. The cashier asked if we had cash as the credit card system was down. We had enough cash for our purchases so we settled up and left. The other people there were all paying by one type of card or another so they couldn't buy anything.

Now some people like to have gold or silver as a backup for when the plastic cards don't work any more. That's all well and good as long term strategy, but the cashier wasn't taking precious metals. Cash, on the other hand, was perfect. Yes, I know there are some small business owners out there that would happily barter precious metals for their goods, but they are the exception. For your average purchase when plastic won't work, cash is the thing.

With all the solar flares popping off lately, there's a chance that satellites and power systems necessary for electronic purchases might get disabled. Keep a bit of cash available for any last minute purchases.
I don't normally go around with big wads of folding money, but I don't feel comfortable unless I have some. Maybe I'll have to buy some food or fuel in an emergency. Batteries, candles, and lighters won't stay on the shelves long either. Those with cash can score some last minute supplies.

In a long term disaster, cash won't be any good either. The thing is, few of us will know if the problems are short term or long term. From a person's perspective on the ground, they can't tell if it's a local temporary power outage or if a CME has taken out the National grid for years. Don't be that guy hanging around the check out, waiting for your credit card to work again.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Multiple bloody wounds

I went out to do some chainsaw work and a bit of wood splitting. Only minutes later I was bleeding from a number of tiny wounds. The black flies are really bad right now. Outside work is going to wait until the bugs die down. There's always the cover yourself in bug repellent option, but that can wait. There are enough poisons in my body as it is.

Some years the bugs are bad, some years they aren't. This is just one of those years. On the bright side, black fly season is often fairly short. They have to make room for the mosquitoes, deer flies, horse flies and moose flies. Maybe it'll be a good year for birds, bats, frogs, toads, fish and everything else that eats bugs.

When I was a kid people were a lot more casual about using insecticides to eliminate bugs. Campgrounds “fogged” the whole area by driving a truck blowing big clouds of insecticide out the back. Us kids used to play in the fog. My dad had a hand held unit that he used to spread bug killer around the yard at home. Of course, that was back in the days when we didn't care if our lettuce had DDT on it, as long as it was crisp. The chemical companies assured us these things were safe to use.

Thinking back on those days, it's a wonder we didn't all die of cancer before adulthood. Of course, some of us did.

Now I'm more likely to go with armor rather than chemicals: long pants, long sleeve shirts, a hat, and maybe a head net if they are really bad. If bug repellent is used, it'll go on my hat rather than on my skin. I have to be very careful which bug repellents I use. Thanks to all my chemical exposure during my firefighter days, some bug repellents trigger violent coughing fits to the point of unconsciousness. I'd rather get bitten by bugs.

Today I was caught unawares. Yesterday the bugs weren't bad; today they darken the sky. That's how it goes sometimes.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

We Shoot the Whiners

I just discarded my previous attempt at a blog post. It sounded too much like whining. There's a saying at my house: we shoot the whiners. Not only did my children not whine, they'd stop their visiting friends from whining. So the last thing I need is to post something that sounds whiny.

On a positive note, I finished cutting and splicing the side panels for my boat. Sorry, no pics. Batteries in the camera were dead. Before they were charged up again, the rain moved in so everything is wrapped in a tarp.

With any luck they'll be a break in the weather and the project can continue. If you've never built a boat before, add time for the glues and epoxy to dry. That's one reason boat builders never have enough clamps. We build until all our clamps are used up and then the project sits.

The dog keep me company while I work outside. She's quick to defend me from dogs fully half her size. Since she's a beagle/Jack Russel Terrier mix, that's not a lot of protection. When she was a puppy she had a rough time with a few larger dogs, so she's not very friendly toward them.

At least no one comes around unannounced. She puts on a good show when someone comes around the property. (It's the UPS man, come to kill us all!) To give my little dog her due, there haven't been any bears around either. Most black bears don't like growly barking dogs. That's pretty impressive considering I'm aways handling waste veggie oil for my van and bears love grease.

So I've got a plan for the next time I run out of clamps and weather is still good. The dog and I will take the canoe out on the lake and see what the trout are up to.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pressure cookers

Pressure cookers have been in the news lately, and not in a good way. Going around with a pressure cooker is a good way to get reported to the police.

It's a darn shame too, as pressure cookers are useful devices -for cooking. Most people, if they use them at all, only haul them out for home canning. In many parts of the world they get almost daily service, and for good reason.

Pressure cookers are a fast and energy efficient way to cook. Anything that can be prepared in a crock pot in 8 hours can usually be done in about 30 minutes with a pressure cooker. They do a nice job on vegetables, everything from leafy greens like spinach to harder veggies like squash and turnips.

Ever peel a squash? It's a pain, isn't it? Dangerous even. Just quarter, scoop the seeds out and cook it in a pressure cooker. Then the skin easily peels away.

Tough piece of meat? Pressure cook it. They could probably make shoe leather taste good.

Anyone who has dry beans in their food storage needs a pressure cooker. The dry beans can be put to soak in the morning then popped in the pressure cooker for dinner. I've even made traditional Boston baked beans in mine.

Some pressure cookers are fairly pricey. Mine is a lower priced Presto stainless steel one with a rocker weight. The disadvantage of the cheaper ones is that they have rubber gaskets that need to be replaced. I keep a spare gasket and emergency relief plug as backup. Only had to change the gasket once in 10 years of regular use, so that's not too bad.

Take back the pressure cookers from the terrorists and put them back in the kitchen where they belong.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Garden Knowledge

I was talking gardening with a friend of mine the other day. He's been gardening for a long time. On top of that, he's inherited a lot of family knowledge about growing things around these parts.

In the past his knowledge served him well. His gardens produced well. The last few years his gardens haven't done as well. He says the old ways don't quite work as well. From what he's seen, he's a firm believer in climate change. More of his growing is done indoors or under cold frames.

Right now, after some really nice weather, we actually stand a chance of snow the next two nights. Temperatures are predicted to be 27 degrees Fahrenheit. A few days after that, we could get back up into the 80s. I'm just glad we still have our starter plants inside.

At least the wild greens are doing well. I think I'll pick a mess of those for the pot tomorrow.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Stuff from China

There's a lot of useless junk that comes out of China these days. Apparently, there's a demand for that junk or they wouldn't build and export it.

It's not all junk. While washing our newer dishes today I noticed the “made in China” label on the back. It got me wondering if dishes are even made in the US anymore. My cupboard has plenty of US made dishes, but they were all made long ago.

We exported a lot of industry and jobs. For many things are are no longer any locally made products. It's imported or we do without it. China now builds these things using cheap labor and factories with few safety and pollution considerations. That last bit gets ignored, until we see the pollution photos from Beijing or the big brown cloud crosses the Pacific and comes to North America. Sometimes the planet seems too small.

What if the planet got big again? Imagine those big container ships no longer showing up at our ports. Any number of things could stop the ships: trade war, currency collapse, tsunami damaging ports, war, massive earthquakes, fuel shortages, and so on.

What would we do then? At first, we'd mostly do without. Maybe eventually there would be some new factories in North America. That might take a while if factory machinery is only available from China. Tools would have to be built to build the tools.

Manufacturing might get very local, like at the household or neighborhood level. It wasn't all that long ago when a lot of things were made at home. My grandfather used to make everything from kid's toys, to violins, to snowshoes. Homemade things were normal. The home was a not just a place where things were consumed, but a place where things were produced. Sometimes the products weren't as shiny as the factory versions, but they got the job done.

Of course, few of us can manufacture semiconductors and plastics in our home. Life would get a lot more low tech. It's happened before in the historical past. Back in the day of the Roman Empire, their pottery production was so good and cheap that it was exported all over the empire. Local production could not compete so died out. When the empire fell, the Roman pottery was no longer available. Most people had to use wooden plates and cups. What pottery that was produced was rare, expensive and of poor quality for a long time.

The world economic system that now makes things cheaply and efficiently is a fragile system. Fragile things break.


Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Gambit

Growing up I played a lot of chess. There's a tactic known as a gambit. That's where a piece is sacrificed, usually to gain a better position.

It was a hard tactic to learn. Chess is a game where maintaining a single pawn advantage is often the difference between victory and defeat. Putting oneself at a material disadvantage, on purpose, is a bold and risky thing to do.

The thing is, done right, it's a way to win the game. Once I moved my focus beyond having the most pieces to achieving victory, sacrificing towards that goal made sense.

That was a life lesson for me. It's not about the points, (dollars). It's about living a life in which you feel like a winner. Sometimes the bold move is to sacrifice money for freedom. (a better game position).

In the end, we all die and the game comes to an end. However, some enjoy playing the game a lot more than others. Victory isn't based on how many game pieces you have.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Printed Gun

I was trying to figure out why everyone is so cranked up about the 3D printed gun. It doesn't look particularly potent.

65 years ago or so, my dad and all the kids he grew up with used to build fully functional zip guns. They'd raid the local junk yard for parts and materials. Some of the kids were pretty clever. They were at the point where their zip guns could auto eject and chamber another round. They hadn't gotten all the bugs out, jams were common, but they were on their way. At the bare minimum, those kid built guns were at least as usable as the new 3D printed guns.

By the time these kids were 13 – 15 or so, they stopped playing with zip guns. At that age they all had real guns. Homemade guns were fun to build and shoot, but they weren't accurate enough to shot a squirrel in the eye at 100 yards.

Today the average Redneck with a few tools can build a gun with the junk in his garage. It's not rocket science.

So I'm thinking, why is the government so freaked out about a 3D printed gun? It's probably not about this particular gun. When the technology gets advanced enough, they could print out assault rifles. Oh wait, the technology is already advanced enough to pretty much do that. How do you think the firearms companies prototype their new designs? They can print directly in metal. It's a hugely expensive process, but we all know how fast technology can advance and prices come down.

One thing that the printed gun does is put firearms in the hands of a whole different class of people. At first it'll be the computer nerds. Just like they were the early adopters of computers, they are the early adopters of 3D printers. Now everyone and their grandmother use computers. At some point in time everyone and their grandmother will be able to download and print guns. The skill level needed will be minimal.

There are huge economic pressures for the rapid development of 3D printers. Companies won't have to keep parts in stock. You need a part for your obscure make of car? No problem. Just load up a file and print it out. Think of the transportation and inventory savings. Now imagine being able to print out parts at home. Even simple things like screws, bolts, coat hangers, kitchen gadgets, and other everyday things. It would be worth it for me, just to save trips into town.

Of course, a functional gun is pretty simple too. The government could try and regulate or even shut down 3D printing, but at a huge national economic cost. Worse, their efforts probably won't work. Bet you are only a couple clicks away from being able to download a pirated version of the gun.

Maybe we'll see if Heinlein was right, “A well armed society is a polite society.”


I need a garage

I need a garage, not to keep my vehicles out of the weather, but as a dry place to build stuff.

Our long period of dry weather came to an end. I'd gotten used to day after day of zero percent chance of precipitation. My boat project and even a lot of my tools, were left outside and uncovered. Last night there was a chance of rain, so the tools and lumber were piled up on the porch.

We did get rain. The next morning I discovered my clipboard with 40 pages of boat plans were left out in the rain. Yes, I felt like an idiot. I was able to separate the pages using a sharp knife blade. Every flat surface in the kitchen was covered with wet sheets of paper. They dried and are perfectly usable. There is a back up electronic copy saved on my computer, but with the price of printer ink, who wants to print out another 40 pages?

The big problem with a garage is paying property taxes on it. My taxes are high enough, thank you. What I should do is buy a nice big tent like affair like Joel at: A Wood Man's Wanderings. Of course, he's building a huge boat. I guess I can put in with the occasional work stoppage due to bad weather as my boat is tiny.

Speaking of tiny, my boat will be essentially a 12 foot by 4 foot rectangle. 12 is a magic number. As long as the boat doesn't have a motor, 12 foot and under boats do not have to be registered. This boat will move by sail and oar. In fact, my heavy duty stainless steel oarlocks just came in the mail.

After a few days of rain, more dry weather is supposed to come in. With any luck, baring distractions, I'll be back at it. Maybe it's just as well I don't have a big dry garage to work in. Nothing else around the house would ever get done.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

The sailing bug takes another bite

I'd finally gotten the household chores done and it was on to the boat project. After cutting out a couple of intricate side panels, my lovely wife and I had lunch.

While sipping our coffee on the deck, we looked out over the lake. A cold front was moving in and the wind was picking up. With no debate, we decided we must take our sailboat out. That's all there was to it.

Sailing on a small mountain lake with a storm moving in is . . . lively. One minute the air is almost dead, then a 35 knot gust comes out of nowhere. There are constant changes in wind speed and direction. The lake isn't all that big, so at hull speed one quickly runs out of water.

It's really great sailing practice. Before long my lovely wife and I were working like a well oiled machine. By the time we called it quits, the little lake was covered in white caps.

There's no sense living on a lake, with a boat in the water, if one isn't prepared to drop everything and go sailing.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Is your there still there?

Bugging out to the wilderness.

If you have to bug out, it's a darn good idea to have a location in mind. There's a subset of preppers who are comfortable with heading out into the wild places. Remember a great place you've been to and thought it would be an ideal place to lay low for a while?

That's all well and good, but is your place still there? When I was a kid there was a rather extensive wild area that looked like a good place to disappear. It had a thick tree canopy, lots of small streams for drinking water and fishing, and no roads into the heart of it. Even experienced woodsmen had a fair chance of getting lost.

Last time I was there I almost got lost, but that's because there are so many logging roads it's easy to confuse them. That deep forest canopy? Clear cut.

One of my buddies was checking out recent satellite photos of his ideal wilderness bug out location. He hadn't been out there in a year and the satellite imagery was about 6 months old. Since he'd been there, two logging roads had been extended to the periphery of his chosen area. Fortunately, that's about as far as it's practical to log. Beyond that it's too steep and rocky. My friend will use one of the new roads to preposition some gear and supplies.

Recent satellite images are a great place to start, but nothing beats boots on the ground. Things change. That great access road may have a bridge that's about to collapse. Hard to tell from commercially available satellite info.

Bugging out is certainly not my first choice. Heck, I'm pretty much living in a bug out location to begin with. If I do have to head deeper into the woods, I'm going to want to know that the woods are still there.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Disorganized and happy about it

The outside stove is now hooked up to propane and runs fine. I baked a nice chicken dinner in the oven to test it.

Every single part and fitting was recycled -salvaged from all over. Sure, it's a pain to have to rummage through piles of old stuff. It's really nice to have brand new shiny parts fresh off the hardware store shelves. The job goes a bit faster when every piece doesn't have to be removed from something else and cleaned. As great as that is, there's a certain satisfaction in doing a good job and not spending any money. Subtract the time it would have taken for a trip into town and salvaged parts are quicker.

By the way, anyone messing around with propane connections, make sure everything is checked for leaks. This is not done with a cigarette lighter. Fill a spray bottle with soapy water. Spray all the connections. Bubbles are a sign that the connection is leaking.

Some people have all their parts sorted and organized. I'm not one of those people. Should anyone clean and organize my stuff, I'd be unable to find anything. Normal organization and I don't get along. My poor dad is just the opposite. It used to drive him nuts when he helped me on a job and all my tools and parts were scattered to the four directions. Never mind that I knew where they were. The mere fact that everything wasn't in it's own labeled jar, box or place on the pegboard, drove him to distraction.

Back in my firefighting days, my truck was always organized exactly the same way, even though it went against my nature. Every firefighter had to know exactly where everything was. Seconds lost looking for something could be the difference between life and death. For anything less than death being on the line, I quickly slip back to my disorganized ways.

A messy mind is a creative mind.


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Summer Kitchen

There's a rural tradition. People had summer kitchens. They were located away from the main house, in a shed or under a partial shelter. That was one way to help keep the main house cool in the days before air conditioning. When I was a kid, even though my grandparents lived in town, they had a summer kitchen in a big shed. They also had a big table in the shed that sat a lot of people. It seems there were always extra mouths to feed.

I was tempted to buy a propane grill, but decided to repurpose my old kitchen stove instead. It's an old wood/propane stove. For now, I'm going to just hook up the propane burners and oven.

The deck under the stoves has been reinforced. Soon I'll stretch a fabric roof over the stove to keep the weather off. This is going to be a lot of fun and I'm not buying anything new.

By the way, there's no air conditioning in my house either, so this will help it stay cool.


Gone in a Blink

Early May and my lovely wife and I feel the pressure of time whizzing by. Last year, summer came and went before we knew it. Yesterday my lovely wife expressed the fear that this summer would also come and go before we knew it. It's true that a person can't be everywhere and do everything.

We are blessed with a stretch of warm dry days. My days start early and end late. Last year bad weather moved in before my deck could be repaired. Winter's snow didn't help it any. I just replaced a number of deck boards and did some painting. Of course, the job has already grown in size. Some things that looked good don't stand up well to closer inspection. (like too much else in life)

My lovely wife has dived into gardening and yard work. Pretty soon she'll need me to do the heavy lifting. It's my own darn fault, with all my talk of prepping. She's taking this home grown food thing seriously.

At least I've started building my boat. Now that time and money have been spent on it, I'm committed to finishing it. There's nothing worse than a partially completely boat that never sees the water. I'm glad I started it before the time and money could be spent on something practical.

The better half is away babysitting as my daughter is going back to work. There are times I wish we lived in a civilized country -one with paid maternity leave. While my wife's away, I'm going to launch our sailboat in the lake. That way it'll be ready when we have an hour or two to spare. Besides, I've got fish to catch. Food security, right?

It's important to get out and enjoy the good weather with family and friends. There's only so much warm weather here in the North Country. Finding a balance, that's the key. My life is a healthy mix of work and play, but only if a really long time scale is used.


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Boat Build

I'm sneaking in a few hours now and then on my boat build.

From left to right: transom, lazarette, cabin bulkhead, and front transom.

Next will be the side panels. Once those are done I'll be able to assemble components and it'll start to look like a boat.

The need to reinforce my house deck has taken me away from the boat project. Replacing some floorboards and will add a couple more braces. Good thing the weather looks good for the foreseeable future.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Like a Bad Acid Trip


People are stressed, depressed, suicidal, PTSD, medicated, crazed and angry. Modern times take a heavy toll. Sooner or later we all run into people who are on the raggedy edge How do you deal with them?

I came of age in the crazy 70s, so I have a strategy from back then that works pretty well. Treat these people like they are on a bad acid trip. They are under the influence of powerful forces that just have to run their course. All you can do is keep them from hurting themselves or other people. Assure them that what they are experiences isn't reality. The crisis will pass. All they have to do is ride it out. Things will get better. Don't do anything drastic.

Of course, you yourself could be on the raggedy edge. Same treatment. The acute crisis will pass. Later you'll be in a better state of mind to deal with things. Don't like craziness run away with you. Stay safe. Stay away from sharp pointy things. Your mind is out of balance, but its temporary. Don't do anything permanent while under the influence of modern life.

Yep, life is sometimes like a bad acid trip. I've never done acid, but life has taken me on some bad trips. Don't panic. This too shall pass.

Peace and Balance.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hiatus from Hunting

The ice has finally left the lake, so I'm finally getting around to picking up a fishing license. Normally I buy my hunting license at the same time. A combination license is a few bucks cheaper than buying them separately. It's automatic for me.

Fortunately, my lovely wife isn't running on autopilot. She pointed out that I really don't need a hunting license this year. I won't be around for hunting season. We'll be heading south to go sailing. I guess I'll take that hunting license money and buy a Florida fishing license when I get down there.

I used to love to hunt. My dad had a hunting camp up 9 miles of dirt road. I've some of my happiest memories from those days. Now the camp is gone. The woods I used to hunt have been clear cut. It's not the same.

Worse, I've no one left to hunt with. My dad's legs won't take him up the mountains anymore. Some of the guys I used to hunt with have passed on. Others have moved away. A few have just stopped hunting as they no longer have the time.

I do enjoy hunting alone, but eventually it gets old. I don't have to carry a gun to enjoy the solitude of the woods.

That doesn't mean I've given it up for good. Who knows what the future will bring?


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Veggie oil connections

I drive a vehicle powered by waste vegetable oil, so I don't just eat at a new restaurant. I have to talk to the owner to see what they do with their waste veggie. Turns out they have a company that's supposed to haul it away. They haven't yet and the barrels are filling up. The owner wasn't too happy with them from the get go as they didn't set up the collection barrels where she wanted them. If the company doesn't provide the service they promised, she now knows I'm willing to do the job.

My lovely wife and I spent the day running errands. As soon as we got home the phone rang. It was another new restaurant that wanted their waste oil hauled away. They'd called me last week, and already the had more waste oil than they knew what to do with. Their place was was hard to find. They don't even have a sign yet. It's a tiny place with just a few tables. They have a huge bank of fryers and were doing a brisk take out business.

After loading up their oil jugs I went home only to get a call with another veggie oil lead. A restaurant added fries to their menu and the waste veggie is piling up. This one I passed on to a friend of mine who also burns veggie. He lives much closer to the place than I do so he's in a better position to pick it up.

I'm happy to pass on this one as I've got enough. Besides, the guy salvaged a propane regulator I needed and is going to help me move a stove.

I love the underground economy.