Sunday, June 30, 2013

More thoughts on collapse

There are numerous schools when it comes to the collapse of civilizations. A common way to break things down are the fast collapse vs the slow collapse people.

In the slow column we have people like John Michael Greer, (The Archdruid Report) and this theory he calls Catabolic Collapse. If you really want to get into the subject, it's worth reading. His material is also well referenced. Check his sources. Basically, civilizations fall back, regroup and recover, but not as high as before. Over time, everything ratchets down.

I used to get my fast collapse fix from a site called “Life after the Oil Crash.” That was a peak oil site and had some persuasive arguments. It's been shut down. Peak oil, at least concerning conventional oil, has already happened. Everything hasn't quite fallen apart yet, at least not as fast a predicted.

Lately I've been of the opinion that Greer may be onto something. We may be in for a long slow overall decline with periods of partial recovery. I'm also open to the possibility of fast collapse, as that has happened to civilizations too, if less frequently. Our civilization is vulnerable to various threats to our electrical/computer infrastructure. A massive CME could suddenly set us back hundreds of years, and I don't thing everything would fully recover. 50 years of power grid building isn't replaced in a day, a month, or even a year.

Past localized disasters like Katrina show us what happens. The richer areas got rebuilt, but the less affluent, non-tourist areas got much less attention. Should a world wide event happen, those areas that are rebuilt to modern standards will be small, scattered, and rare. They will also do their darnedest to keep poor people like me out.

From a prepper persecutive it makes sense to be as self reliant as possible, as that will serve a person well no matter what happens. However, if there's a slow collapse, it makes sense to focus on satisfying wants and needs as locally as possible. Personal connections matter. Stored food and supplies are useful to bridge the gap until things stabilize. Local economies take a bit of time to establish themselves.

Should a fast collapse happen, those preps will bridge the gap until one can learn to satisfy basic needs on a fairly primitive level, as it won't get better for a long long time. There will be no Coast Guard helicopters swooping in to save the day. Self preservation may be more along the lines of knowing how to build a raft, grow food, snare a rabbit, tan hides, make cordage -the whole primitive skills thing.

Even in a slow collapse scenario, local areas can experience their own fast collapse: earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and so on. If it's happening to you, it doesn't matter much that the rest of the world is fine. 100% of your world is in fast collapse.

In short, I think everyone is right, under certain circumstances. All you have to do is to be prepared for anything and everything all the time. Easy, right? Of course none of us can be that prepared, but everyone should have at least some level of self-reliance. Most importantly, be aware that this stuff has happened in the past and some version of it will most likely happen in the future. Attitude makes a big difference. You aren't special. This stuff happens to good and bad people alike.


Saturday, June 29, 2013

Insult to Injury gets funny

Ever have one of those days? Not to get into the details, but my lovely wife had to make an emergency trip to the doctors. Thank goodness my middle daughter could take her, as I was babysitting until my youngest daughter could drive home from work. Anyway, everything is under control and my lovely wife will be fine.

I finally make it home and pick up the mail. I've been picked to report for grand jury duty on July 29. I already have to report for petite jury duty on July 8. That can't be right. Of course, by the time I got the mail, the offices were closed for the weekend. I'm beginning to feel like the only guy on the list.

Then I discover my blog has somehow been deleted. It wasn't too hard to get Google to make it right, but still, today of all days.

Things were just starting to get weird enough that my strange sense of humor was about to kick in. When things get too absurd, I start to laugh about it. Then if something else goes wrong, my laughter gets a little wild. Just because the universe is joking with me doesn't mean I can't laugh too. Kinda freaks out the people around me though.

Never claimed to be normal.

It did get me into trouble at the fire station a time or two. My pager goes off and I'm called to a major structure fire in town. While fighting that fire, I see a huge bolt of lighting strike on the other side of town. Sure enough, that bolt from the blue set another house on fire.

I get shuffled back to the station with a load of heat exhausted men. We are a small department with almost no mutual aid. As soon as I get into the station, the last of our equipment gets dispatched to a major car accident. For some reason the chief though it would be a good idea to have me fill in on the communications desk. There I was, no idea who's in charge of what incident or even where most of the equipment is. At that point the fire alarm at the hospital goes off.

Now I was already punchy from fighting the first fire, things are crazy busy, and then the hospital has a major problem. I should have bumped the problem up the chain of command, and asked if there were any available units. But no, my sense of humor had kicked in. I got on the radio and say, “To whom it may concern, we have a major alarm at the hospital.”

Well, the chief quickly pulled me off the radio and starts chewing me out for sounding unprofessional on the radio. Well heck, it was his own fault for putting me there. By then I'm out of control and he's funny too. I can't stop grinning, even while being chewed out. Probably just as well he had too much on his plate to deal with me much longer.

So if things are getting weird and I start laughing about it, that doesn't mean everything is going to be Okay. Most likely it means things have gone sideways and there is a brand new malfunction in the mix.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Test, blog deleted

Hi loyal readers!

Could someone please leave a comment to let me know the blog is visible.

For some strange reason it was deleted for a while.

Thank you.


Ten minute auto body repair

New Hampshire is one of those states with a mandatory yearly auto inspections. I've always hated those. It's not that I want to drive unsafe cars. The problem is that I often don't have the time or the money to keep a vehicle up to state standards. Sure, my safety equipment is up to snuff, but some repairs get pushed off into the future.

The big one now is the stupid “check engine” light. I hate that. Who doesn't? Of course I looked under the hood and found the engine still there. Now what? About the only reliable way to sort that out is with a fairly expensive electronic tester. Usually is something stupid like a fouled environmental control sensor or a tiny leak in the fuel vapor capture system. Maybe it's just gremlins. Who knows?

The other big one is holes in the car body. We live in snow country where they use a lot of salt on the road. Salt equals corrosion.

My lovely wife's car had a typical body rot problem: a hole in the rocker panel. There are a number of ways to do a really professional repair job. In the past, I've even done a few, so it's not like I don't know how. However, the car is old and I didn't have much time to mess around. Here's what I did.

I put some disposable gloves on. Mixed a big glob if body filler, the kind with fibers in it. (Bondo) Took it in my glove covered hand and smooshed it into the hole. Then a took a plastic putty knife and smoothed it out a bit. Once it hardened, I sprayed the rocker panels with undercoat. Done. The undercoat has enough texture that it hides the fact the Bondo wasn't sanded.

The car passed inspection, no problem.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

What does something really cost?

Time is money. No secret there, but what does that mean to the average guy? One easy rule of thumb is to figure out how much you make an hour. Now if you are making hundreds or thousands of dollars an hour, forget the rest of this blog post. If on the other hand, your income is more in the poor to working class range, pay attention.

How much is your life worth? What would you prefer to be doing with your time? One of my big complaints about our labor saving devices is that the true costs are not added in. One example from my life: I don't own a snowblower, a very common device here north of the White Mountains. Once I factored in the labor needed to own one, the hours of paid labor needed to maintain it, against the time saved, it wasn't worth it. My driveways are not all that long. In my case, a shovel is the true labor saving device.

Throw in some less quantifiable benefits, like quiet, fresh air and exercise. It's a clear win for the shovel. While I'm figuring costs, why not consider the impact on the planet? It's not like we are going to be living anywhere else, so it only makes sense to take care of it.

How often do we see people working long hours to buy toys: boats, ATVs, fishing gear, fancy cars -that they have no time to use?

Speaking of cars, imagine if you could get by with one car, or none at all. You could afford to buy a really good bike and pedal for many many hours instead of working to pay for the car. In fact, a lower paying job within biking distance could put more money in your pocket that a higher paying job you'd have to drive to.

I'm at the point in my life where earning more money is a pretty hit or miss proposition. I have huge incentives to find the low cost alternative. Sometimes it's the only alternative.

There are a number of things that I will pay good money for, even though I can do the job myself. While I do some car repair, working outside with barely adequate tools is tough to justify. My mechanic, with his professional took kit, expertise, and car lift, can do the job a whole lot faster and better.

Another big one is moving large volumes of dirt and rock. I could do it all with a shovel, and I gladly tackle smaller jobs, but I'm leaving the big jobs for heavy equipment. Hiring someone with a backhoe for a few hours saves many days of back breaking labor.

Maybe I can justify it with the money saved from not having to go to physical therapy to get my back straighten out?

People often buy things without really thinking through what it's costing them in time. All we have in life is time. Are the things we buy worth hours of our precious lives?


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

So much for plans

“I can't wait until the kid is 18,” my friends with young children say.

I smile a little inside. What magic is supposed to happen at 18? Do they go off to college that they pay for themselves? Get a good paying full time job? Move out into their own place? Maybe, but not very likely.

It does happen, but not often. I went to one semester of community college that I paid for, quit, and got a job as a firefighter, and all before I was 18. By the time I was 19, I was in my own apartment. Married at 20. That was in the 70s, and it was rare enough back then. Today? Might as well search for unicorns. My parents had it easy, didn't they?

There are stories of kids who are awoken on the 18th birthday, given luggage and told to move out. Those families probably have other issues too. They probably aren't the type to get together on the holidays either.

So I consider myself fortunate that my kids and grandkids are in my life. Spring and now summer have been very busy, and not much like I planned. That's life. I don't regret it. It does take up a lot of my wife's and my time. We should get a break by the end of July, but I'm not holding my breath.

In the mean time, I'm working on my boat build, and upgrading my Oday 19 sailboat. I'm pouring over my charts, reading sailing blogs, and going over cruising guides. So many sailing trips planned for this season have been canceled. If it wasn't for the fact the boat is anchored on a small lake off my beach, I wouldn't be sailing at all.

My lovely wife and I still plan on hitching up the boat and heading south in the fall. The family knows well in advance where we'll be and can plan accordingly. We'll be happy to meet them in any southern port this winter.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sobriety Check Point

So there it was, 1:30 a. m. and we were just driving into town and roll up to a sobriety checkpoint. I'm driving, accompanied by my lovely wife and a good friend. We'd spent the evening at a bar listening to a great band. Yes, I'd had a couple of drinks, but that was in 3 hours, plus I had a meal at the bar. While I was sure I'd pass the sobriety test, who in their right mind wants to put up with the hassle? All I wanted to do was get home.

They waved me pass and I didn't even have to stop. In the dark, from the front, my motorhome conversion still looks a lot like the ambulance it once was. They looked at me a bit funny as I drove past and they could see the murals on the side of the vehicle, but we'd already been waved through.

Much easier all around.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Emergency Roof Repair

I just spent two days helping a friend with emergency repairs on his garage. The emergency was not caused by storm damage or any act of God. This one was caused by the abrasive action of a mortgage company rubbing against an insurance company.

My buddy is starting a new job soon, but right now funds are tight. He told his mortgage company he'd be a month late with the payment.

His reward for being up front with them? They sent an inspector to his property to see if it was occupied. ($30 fee for that) The inspector noticed the garage roof was in rough shape. The mortgage company notified the insurance company. The insurance company threatened to cancel the house insurance if the garage wasn't repaired. No insurance, no mortgage, no house.

Here's the thing. My friend knew his garage is in bad shape. It's bad enough that it would cost more to fix it than to build a new one. He plans on tearing it down in a year or two. In the mean time, it's full of stuff that will take time to find new homes for. A lot of it is stuff his wife's kids have placed there until they could settle in at new places of their own.

My buddy, myself, and another friend gathered together a pile of materials we and other people had donated. Then we tried to get the most visual impact from our limited materials. The whole roof is well past it's due date. Even the plywood under the shingles is too weak to walk on. We reinforced a couple roof beams and replaced some plywood before anyone could go up on the roof -one guy, and only in the repaired area.

In the end, we patched the worse area where a neighbor's tree had fallen on the roof. Most of the eave boards on one side was replaced. It looks much better than it did, but we hope the inspector doesn't get too fussy.

Now if the guy had a paid off house, there would not have been a nasty mortgage company to deal with and he could have told the insurance company to bug off. Of course, few people, including me, have paid off houses. The system can jerk us around -another penalty for being in the working class.


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Same planet, different worlds

Part of what you get out of travel is what you bring to it. My lovely wife and I have a certain, shall I say, style? First we traveled with a canoe and a tent. Now we have the ambulance/motorhome conversion pulling a sailboat. We have a lot of fun and interesting experiences in our travels.

Some of friends, family and acquaintances from home have traveled to some of the same places, yet had totally different experiences. It first stuck me how different talking to my uncle and cousins. (the prosperous ones) Where we had a great time on the water, beaches, canoing or sailing, they went to play golf. We camped in places of great natural beauty, they stayed in 4 star hotels. We might have had a beer in a small funky bar, listening to a local Blues band, they ate in the restaurant hotel.

They said they had a good time. We know we did. What they spent in three days kept us going for a month.

We almost met up with friends of the family in our travels down to Florida last year, but we were heading back north while they were going south. They went to a lot of the towns and attractions that we went to. Unlike my relatives, they didn't stay in a hotel, but in their slide in truck camper. One would think we'd have experienced more of the same things, but not really.

The guy's retired military so he and his wife stayed on a lot of military bases. Some of them have great campgrounds, not open to us civilians. Of course, since it's all former military people camping there, they have a lot in common. That's nice, but limits the type of people one will meet up with.

One of the places they went was Key West. Now Key West is a pretty small island, but unless we ran into each crossing Duval Street, my wife and I would never have bumped into them in a week on the island. I guess they just aren't the type of people to share shots of white lightning with a local character at 3 a. m. in the rain. There was a great band playing and nobody wanted it to end.

It's not just where you go, but what you bring to a place that matters.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Nitrile Gloves

One of the reasons I decided to take a break from epoxy work on the boat was that I ran out of nitrile gloves. Cleaning gorilla glue off my hands was bad enough. Epoxy is worse.

So why didn't I use gloves when working with glue? Funny thing that. I wasn't just working with glue, I was driving a lot of screws at the same time. The first and last time I tried to drive a screw wearing gloves, the glove rapped around the screw and ripped right off my hand. Should have seen that one coming.

Disposable gloves are great for those messy home projects. I've used them from everything to auto maintenance to septic system repair. For the septic system, I wore a pair of cheap leather work gloves over the nitrile gloves to prevent punctures. Believe me, working on old smelly septic systems are bad enough without cutting your hands in the middle of it. When done, the nitrile gloves and the leather ones got thrown away.

Latex used to be used everywhere in the medical field, but people developed allergies. My lovely wife spent over thirty years as a medical lab technician and is now sensitive to latex. We even have to be careful what clothes she buys. Latex is used in everything from shirts to underwear.

The switch over from latex to other materials was slow, as latex is a lot less expensive. There used to be a latex glove factory near me. Most of the workers developed chronic illnesses. The place shut down and I think it was largely to avoid lawsuits.

My next trip into town I'm picking up a box of the good disposable gloves. I do have a few pairs in my medical kits, but I know better than to raid them. Stuff just doesn't get replaced like it should. If I open a medical kit looking for gloves they'd better be there. Medical use is a lot more serious than boat building.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Boat Glassing

I put another 10 hours or so into the boat project, but there's not much to photograph. Pretty much looks like the last photo. The difference is that there's now a layer of fiberglass on the bottom, including the stern and bow transoms.

It took a lot of digging around the basement, but I found a trash bag of 6oz fiberglass cloth. Once upon a time I built and repaired canoes and kayaks. The glass cloth is three feet wide and long enough to span the length of the boat twice. It covers from several inches down the sides and overlaps in the center of the boat.

When I lay down fiberglass and epoxy, there are always a few puckers and bubbles. Over the years I've discovered it's easier to sand them out and patch them later. Working with wet glass drives me nuts. As soon as one pucker is smoothed out, another is formed somewhere else. All the time, the resin is slowly hardening, so the clock is running.

Today I did some sanding and repair, but there were fewer problems than I feared. While working on the boat, UPS showed up with more resin and a roll of 9oz fiberglass tape. That will reinforce the seams.

Between the fiberglass and thicker plywood than what the plans called for, the boat will be a tad heavier than some builds. At least the weight is down low where it can help a tiny bit with stability.

The resin is a two part mix with a 2:1 ratio. They are poured and mixed into clear containers with volume measures built in. The nice plastic container I first used broke, so now I'm using a mason jar. Like much of this boat project, I'm using what I have around the house.

Some people like to sand until they get a perfectly smooth finish. I did that one time -on a canoe that I then took through white water rapids. After that my sanding got a lot less finicky. My boats will get dinged and scratched. They get used and abused. Perfect finishes are for show boats, not play and working boats.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Who's going to riot?

I was wondering what group of people in the United States would riot. Now I'm not talking the regular players who are always protesting in the streets. Once in a while those protests get fairly large, but nothing on a national level. What would bring very large groups of people into the streets across the nation? Who would these people be?

Well the thing that's missing right now is real pain. Violations of the Constitution won't drive people into the streets. Not being able to get food, and shelter will bring them out. Nothing focuses the mind like a tight belly. Politicians better keep on approving food stamps, as they are helping to keep the lid on.

Cut off food, electric power, fuel, and housing. Then people will feel real pain and riot in the streets.

You know who's not going to riot? The prepper. Sure, a lot of them are well armed, but the vast majority of them will be protecting their homes. Thing is, these are the people who most likely will still have homes and food. All they'll want to do is protect what they have.

A fair number of them, like myself, live way out in the woods. Kinda hard to riot all alone on an isolated back country road. In a city, riots are within walking distance -for thousands and thousands of people.

Most preppers are not trouble makers. Thinking though potential problems and protecting against them is what they do. It's the unprepared who'll be mighty upset, and quickly, if their basic needs and wants are suddenly gone. Those are your rioters.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Actively Disengaged

Seven out of 10 workers have "checked out" at work or are "actively disengaged,"
from LA times, quoting a Gallop Poll

I love that term, “actively disengaged.” Not only do they hate their job, they are actively hostile towards it.

Well duh. Anyone who's been in the working isn't surprised. People are treated like crap, used and abused by employers. No wonder so many are just putting in their time. You know where else people are doing time? Prison.

Give people a living wage, responsibility, control over their environment, rewards for doing well, reasonable work hours and maybe they'll be a bit more engaged.

The only logical response to companies that treat their employees like disposable commodities is hostility. After all, those companies are hostile to the workers.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Chemical Weapons?

The United States Government has decided to get more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war. The “red line” that was supposedly crossed was the use of chemical weapons. Does this sound like Iraq's “weapons of mass destruction” to anyone else? Evidence is weak, and we aren't even sure which side is responsible.

Could someone explain to me why a Syrian civil war is worth American tax dollars or even American lives? These things have a way of escalating.

Nobody remembers history so we are doomed to repeat it. The Syrian problem has already involved its neighbors. How long will Israel be on the sidelines? Russia? China? Who knows where this will end?

It could end in a world war, that's where.

History could show up what to avoid, but if we can't even remember the Iraq war, there's not much hope of learning from earlier conflicts.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Boat building hints

Someone asked me how I got the bottom panel on my boat project secured to the sides. It does have a pretty good bend to it.

I piled up some lumber in the middle of the plywood panel and put some weight on the ends to give it at least some bend in the right direction.

The glue was applied and the panel squared up on the back. Working stern to bow, I screwed it down with very hefty decking screws. The long screws were able to pull the plywood down into position.

Once the glue dried, I removed the decking screws and replaced them with shorter brass screws. The hole and divot left by the decking screw made a good pilot hole for the brass screws. It would be labor saving to just use one screw type to do the job, but the brass screws weren't up to the task by themselves. The decking screws were able to pull the panel down, but left a lot of exposed screw inside the boat.

The glue could have probably held the panel in place by itself, but I'm a belt and suspenders man, so hence the brass screws.

Later the whole thing will be reinforced with fiberglass tape on the outside. There will also be epoxy fillets on the inside of the hull. So maybe I'm a belt, suspenders, a rope and safety pin sort of builder.

I do not want that hull to spring apart the first time I hit a rock with it.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Franconia Notch by bike

Why should the tourists have all the fun? My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter, explored the Franconia Notch by bike. It's funny, I drive though the notch all the time, but it's been years since I stopped to check out the sights.

The bike trail is incredible. We left from the top of the notch and did the whole length of the park. The bike trail is away from the highway. Even though it was a weekend and the park was busy, we often had the trail to ourselves.

We positioned the van on south end of the notch. That way we had a bit more downhill than uphill. There was still plenty of uphill for my tastes. Great day and a good time.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

A couple hours for the boat

It's starting to look a bit more like a boat. In fact, flip in over and put it in the water and it'll behave like a boat. That's progress in my book.

It's rough. The extra glue needs to be cleaned up, holes filled, and the bottom fiberglassed.

All that so I can flip it over and build the cabin, seats, and so on.

Right now there's a tarp covering it to keep everything dry. As time and breaks in the weather allow, I'll whisk the tarp off and play with the boat some more. Good fun.

It's a nice break from all the depressing news out there.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Antique Solar Panels

My original 8 solar panels are over 20 years old. I guess that makes them antiques. The 20 year warranty is expired, but that probably doesn't matter much. The company that made them and the company that sold them to me are both out of business.

More importantly, they pretty much look and function as well as the day they were installed. I have done nothing to them. How many things keep functioning for 20 years, day in day out, in the heat of summer and cold of winter?

As for the rest of the system, the battery bank has been chanced a couple times. That's to be expected as lead acid batteries have only so many cycles in them. The charge controller was replaced, not because it failed, but because I upgraded to better technology. The old charger has been saved as a backup.

The inverter is an old 2425 Trace. It's original. It converts 24 volt DC to AC house current. It also functions as a battery charger. This is long past its warranty date, but keeps on ticking. It works hard as I'm powering a ½ horse submersible pump and power tools with it -along with the rest of the house stuff.

The only other thing that's been replaced on the whole solar electric system is one battery cable on the battery bank. That was my fault. Once of the connections was loose and improperly corrosion protected. The connector had a lot of corrosion on it so I replaced the whole cable.

The cost of the system was paid off in energy savings in 7 years. The piece of mind from having a good power supply independent of the grid was immediate. When times were tight, it was nice to know the lights were going to stay on.

My guess is that my grandkids will one day have to figure out what to do with those old solar panels.


Thursday, June 13, 2013

The linchpin of preps

A linchpin is that little pin that keeps the wheels from falling off -both in actuality and metaphorically.

Everyone who's at all into being prepared has their pet prep. For some it's all about security. They may become a bit over prepared in the gun department. Of course, if someone comes to shoot you and you don't have a gun, you are drastically under prepared.

For some it's all about their bug out vehicle. There are some amazing ones out there. Anyone who grew up liking cars and trucks will be temped by the quest for the baddest bug out vehicle.

Then there's food. One well know survival blogger is big on 3 years of food storage, as that's what you need before you achieve 5 years of food. I like to eat so having a lot of meals packed away isn't bad. Really nice to have a lot of food when 5 friends and relatives stop in for a 5 year visit. The hope is that they'll move on after eating cracked wheat month after month.

One of my biggies is potable water. Three very uncomfortable days without it and you are dead. So I'm all about having a secure supply and good water filtration.

The list could go on and on, but I won't. Suffice it to say there are lot of important preps and everyone has a favorite for most important. We tend to focus on those we like best.

Consider that there may be something even more important than the stuff you own. Even more important than your knowledge and skills. Adaptability. Things never go down the way we plan or expect.

The guy with a great survival shelter, stocked to the max, may suddenly lose it in a divorce -or a fire. (the divorce is nastier as fire might spare something) You could have the perfect prepper set up, but find yourself thousands of miles away and unable to get home. That's when the ability to quickly assess the situation and adapt to it is crucial.

So if I have to pick a linchpin, it would be adaptability. One never knows what the universe might deliver.

A buddy of mine says he isn't too sure if there is a god, but feels certain that there must be a devil. There must be a powerful supernatural force against him as all the crap that has come his way is far outside random chance. He should be grateful. The guy's gotten really good at rolling with the punches. Practice, practice, practice.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Near Miss

My lovely wife were making our way home in the dark when a good sized moose (there really aren't any small ones) sauntered out of the woods and into the road. I stepped on the brakes and swerved to the soft shoulder. Missed it by about 25 feet. I'm glad I keep my brakes in top condition.

Unlike deer, the eyes of a moose don't reflect headlights. It doesn't help that their natural color blends in with everything -including night. All a driver can do is to keep alert to any moving patches of darkness. Sometimes the only warning is when the fog line is suddenly blocked from view.

There are areas where moose are more likely to be seen so extra care is taken approaching those areas. However, moose don't run on rails. They go wherever they want so could pop up anywhere. When the bugs are bad, they often come out to the roads where there are fewer insects.

Once we got home I discovered a 4.5 gallon jug of waste veggie oil had broken free and slide across the cabin of my camper van. It had sprung a small leak and several cups of oil had spread across the van floor. I poured the rest of the veggie into the van's veggie fuel tank and put off the clean up until morning.

One of the good things about a ambulance/camper conversion is that ambulances are designed to be hosed out. No doubt my van has seem much worse stuff than a veggie oil spill. A bit of Simple Green cleaner, a few buckets of hot water, and it was in pretty good shape. Pretty minor damage, considering how bad things would have been had the van hit that moose.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Making the innocent look guilty

In a surveillance society, it's extremely easy to make innocent people look guilty. Take a guy going about his daily routine. Given enough camera footage, it can be made to look like he associates with very unsavory characters.

Say Joe Average is walking down the street and some random guy happens to walk next to him. Later, that random guy commits a crime or a terrorist act. The authorities can pull up footage of that chance encounter and suddenly Joe Average is associating with criminals.

Add in some other unflattering footage, phone conversations taken out of context, and before you know it Joe Average is a menace to public safety.

How long before the witch test is used? If we dunk them in water and they drown, then they are innocent. If they float, they are witches. Apparently it worked back in the day when witches were considered a problem.

The man who sinks and quietly drowns under the flood of tyranny is fine. Those who struggle for air and freedom obviously are “terrorists.”


Monday, June 10, 2013

Overheard Conversations

I don't like to eavesdrop on conversations, but sometimes it's unavoidable. So I'm looking at some camping gear in a store the other day, minding my own business. An older gentleman, dressed like a businessman, was talking to one of the clerks. His voice was loud enough that half the store could hear what he was saying. Maybe he thought we all should benefit from his opinion -or maybe he was just hard of hearing and assumed everyone else was too.

He was ranting about this young lady he saw walking down the street, three little kids in tow. According to the businessman, a young lady had no business having kids in this economy. She should have been concentrating on her education and career. According to this man, that young lady's life was pretty much over.

I thought back to how 30 years ago someone probably said the same thing about my lovely wife. We got married at 20 and in four years had 3 children. Back then, my lovely wife still looked like she was 16. Someone seeing her with the children could have made some very unkind judgments.

My wife did interrupt her education for a year to have our first child. She even took a few years off from work when the children were babies. Later, she went back to work, in the field she trained in, and had a 30 year career.

From a biological standpoint, our only real measure of success is passing on our genes. Having children young makes sense. The biological clock is no joke and really can't be cheated.

From an economic, social, and intellectual standpoint, having children while financially secure and mentally mature makes sense. Obviously these things are at odds with each other. At best, we find a compromise and a balance that we somehow make work.

Now I really have no idea what that young woman's situation was. However, she had one huge advantage that the business man and I lack. She is young. Just because she has children doesn't mean her life is over. It could turn out awesome. It might be harder to make her way in life with little children, but some people are inspired to succeed because they have children.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

It's a Trap!

There's a lot of buzz in the Internet about “Cloud Computing.” That's where information is stored on someone else's computers and individuals access that information over the Internet. I've always felt that if its not on your own computer, its not really yours.

When I say it, I'm just some lone Luddite who won't embrace the wave of the future. When people like GNU founder Richard Stallman weigh in against it, thats something else. Stallman is a founder and a leader of the open source software movement. He knows computing. If that's not enough for you, Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, has nasty things to say about it too.

Stallman's argument is that you are putting your data in the hands of a third party and are locked into their proprietary systems. While that's a concern of mine, I'm also concerned that you need a good Internet connection to access your own material.

If your work is stored “in the Cloud,” a computer has to connect to those far away servers. No connection, no work. Not only that, you've no idea what's happening to your data. Would you store all your personal papers in a stranger's house on the other side of the world? Why should you do that with your electronic information? How would you even know if someone was going through your data for their own interests?

If it's not saved where you have physical control of the storage device, you don't really have control at all. Remember possession being 9/10 of the law?


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Storm Bait

My dad lives in a double wide trailer in Florida. As you can imagine, I worry about him every time a storm blows through the state. All he got from the last one is some much needed rain, so that's a good thing.

There's an old joke that god hates trailers. That's why he steers so many tornadoes and hurricanes towards them. If I was rich, I'd put a trailer park about a half mile from my mansion so that storms would steer towards them. Lately, however, it seems severe storms have been hitting some pretty high priced real estate.

Those of us in the mountains of New Hampshire used to think we were immune from tornadoes. The weather service though so too. Thanks to everyone waking around with mini movie cameras on their phones, we now have proof that tornadoes do hit us in the mountains. We don't even need to live in a trailer park.

Since hurricanes Irene and Sandy did so much damage, some of us now watch hurricane season almost as much as Floridians. This is too much. At Florida doesn't get blizzards . . . yet!

Nasty weather isn't just for trailer parks anymore. It seems anyone could get hit with anything anywhere.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Grid and Off-Grid

Take a modern on-grid house and compare it to a modern off-grid house. Day to day life can be almost indistinguishable between the two households. Lights come on at the flick of a switch. Water flows out of faucets. Refrigeration keeps food cold. There's power for music, computers and TVs.

A well designed off-grid house can provide a perfectly normal “modern” life.

Now take the on-grid house and triple the number of people living in it. Perhaps grown children have returned to the old homestead -with their families in tow. It happens all the time. Maybe friends have lost their homes and were taken in. Sure, it's going to be crowded. Everyone will get in each other's way. The electric bill will skyrocket. Fuel use will go up. The water bill will take a big jump. Maybe there's even a sewer fee that has to be paid. All the utilities go up, some by quite a lot.

It's a different story in the off-grid house. Triple the number of people and choices soon become clear. Either drastically reduce personal utility use or run out. Off grid homes are designed and built for their normal load. It's too expensive to built a huge system just on the off chance there might be a later need. Sure, many off-grid houses have backup generators, but they are only supposed to be used occasionally. Constant use quickly wears out even expensive generators, plus they need fuel. That's not free or even always available.

During power outages I've let people stay at my solar electric powered house. We drew more power from the battery bank than the sun was putting in. Hot water use exceeded my wood fired hot water production and a propane fired tank picked up the slack. After 4 days of that, either the grid had to come back on or serious conservation would go in effect. As luck would have it, the grid came back up and our company left.

Here's something critical to remember about an off-grid house. Long term, no mater how many people are living there, they can only use the resources available. It might be tough to get used to, but some energy and resource use is better than none.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Some Assembly Accomplished

I finally got a chance to work on my boat project.

This is a shot from the bow. The boat is upside down. Notice the prominent bow transom.

Looking from the stern to bow. Here the stern transom, lazarette and cabin bulkhead are visible, along with that massive bow.

While it's upside down and all open, the mizzen mast step will get installed between the stern transom and the lazarette. After that the bottom of the hull goes on and it should start to look more like a boat.

While it's all opened up some hard to reach places will get epoxy and fiberglass.

It's only a 12 foot boat so it's easy to flip over. I had it on its side when setting the cabin bulkhead in place. That made it a lot easier to get a tight fit as gravity was working for me.

Unfortunately, between the weather and my schedule, I won't be able to get back to it until sometime next week.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A day of boat stuff

Puttered around doing a bit of work on the boat. Discovered I'd glued a couple pieces of wood on the transom wrong. The top went on the bottom and the bottom on the top. Minor problem. Cutting it out and regluing new pieces shouldn't take all that long. It's the first component of the boat that I built -and I got it wrong. No biggie. Getting things a little wrong now and then is all part of building stuff. It's easy to not make mistakes. Just do nothing.

I actually made some progress on the side panels. Once the little transom problem is sorted out, I should be able to start assembling the components I've built. Looks like the rest of my work came out the way it was supposed to.

My lovely wife and I spent an awful long time tying to figure out what we are going to do about a dinghy for out other boat. So far we've gotten by just fine without one. Our Oday 19 only draws a foot of water with the keep retracted. On fresh water lakes, we bring it right up to shore. Down to Florida, the tides aren't all that big, so usually we just anchor within wading distance to shore. Places with high tides, mud bottoms, and cold water don't lend themselves to wading.

There was a roll up dinghy available at a local discount store. It was seriously price reduced. It took some research on-line to learn about it. Finally, I located some reviews, and they were all bad. A bargain isn't a bargain if the product is junk.

Plenty of people with small sailboats tow a dinghy. I'm not too keen on that, but it does solve the “where the heck do we store the dinghy” problem. There's no room on deck to stow a tender, so something that could be deflated and stored is tempting. I'm still thinking an inflatable double kayak would be ideal. It would work as a tender and be fun to paddle in the mangroves.

Of course, we could just spend money and stay at marinas all the time, but I'm allergic to spending money for nothing.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Holding on to anger

There was a man who owned a piece of land near me. He had about 6 acres and a summer home there. Our property was separated by a 3 acre parcel that was mostly swampland.

He always wanted to own that 3 acre lot. Over the years he kept telling the tale of he was promised first refusal on that property. If it ever went for sale, he would have the first chance to buy it. For whatever reason, that didn't happen. The land was sold to someone else.

It bothered the guy that he didn't own it. Year after year I'd hear the same tale on how he was cheated out of owning that land. The weird thing was, he didn't even want to do anything with it, just own it. The new buyers never did anything with it either. After all, there's only so much that can be done with three acres of swampland.

In his later days, the guy came down with Alzheimer's disease. He forgot the names of his grandkids and kids. The last thing he held on to was the hatred of losing out on the land purchase. He didn't know anything else except how he had been wronged. It made him angry and sad until his last days.

That's one of the reasons I've learned to let a lot of stuff go. I don't do it for them but for me. Anger should not be the last thing a person holds in their heart and mind.


Monday, June 3, 2013

A few hours on the lake

My lovely wife and I took the sailboat (Oday 19) out on the lake. It's always fun sailing on a mountain lake. We were sailing along then a gust of wind from the mountains tried really hard to lay us right over on our side. There were a few moments of scrambling -and then the wind died down anyway.

The sky was blue with only a few clouds. Then a mass of dark clouds rolled in, along with a rain squall. We quickly took the sails down and anchored. Once the main sail was secured, I joined my lovely wife in the cabin.

Snug in our little cabin we waited out the storm. It was a good time and place to talk about our planned winter sail in southern waters. We discussed a few boat improvements to make our journey more comfortable. She pointed out a few areas of the boat that needed attention. There's always something that can be fixed.

The rain came down heavy enough that I finally found where a small leak was. An occasional drip ran down one of the bolts holding the pulpit in place. I'm going to do the smart thing and remove and rebed the whole thing. It will be both water tight and secure. It doesn't take much of a leak to ruin a person's sleep.

When living in small spaces, tiny improvements can make all the difference.

The rain blew over and we secured the boat until next time. Nothing like time on the water to lift one's spirits.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

As Sound as a Continental

Currencies have a finite life. Some are shorter than others. In the US, we don't use Continentals anymore. In fact, we've gone though a number of currencies in the last 200 years or so.

Federal Reserve Notes, (dollars) have had a pretty long run, but they too will come to an end. Why should this currency be any different that all the other ones in history? Look at how its value has been inflated away. Last I checked, compared to gold, it's worth something like 3% of its original value.

Don't confuse currency with things of value. They only have value if people are willing to exchange them for items of real worth: food, clothing, housing, services, land -everything in the real world.

It's an exciting time to be alive. Sure, we've seen minor currencies collapse in Zimbabwe, Argentina and other places. Odds are most of us alive today will see the US dollar fold too. That will be interesting as it's been a global reserve currency. Losing one of those hasn't happened before.

Countries tend to survive the collapse of their currencies. Governments, on the other hand, do not. At the very least there's major changes at the top.

Of course, it's a time of turmoil and chaos. Many of use do badly during chaotic times. However, there are a few who surf the chaos wave and have one heck of a ride.

Remember, it's just a currency. They come and they go.


Saturday, June 1, 2013


In a busy life, I've worn a fair number of hats and did a lot of different things. Sometimes I meet someone who knows me and I can't quite place the face. Usually if I know what they know me from I can make the connection.

A while back one guy totally had me baffled. He knew me, but I had no idea who the heck he was. We went to school together -when we were about 10 years old. I'm 55 so that was a long time ago. How he figured out who I am is beyond me. So much for long hair and a beard being a disguise. Never mind the action of decades of active living.

Once he told me who he was, I knew the name, but still could not see the boy in the man.

Then there was time I had a doppelganger living in my area. We looked enough alike that we were mistaken for each other. A stranger came up to me and said he wasn't sure if I was *** or his brother. Not having a brother, I had to tell him he was mistaken. He didn't believe me at first.

Unfortunately for me, my body double liked to spend a lot of time in bars. My wife's coworkers would say they saw me partying hard when I was spending a quiet evening with my dad. The first time that happened, my wife took a little convincing.

The guy moved out of our area. I never got a chance to meet that handsome man myself.