Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fed up with corrupt elites

The Brexit vote, I believe, is largely a revolt against corrupt elites. To the average working person it's become apparent that the system concentrates wealth at the top. While England appeared to be doing well by economic indicators, the middle class people have been taking it on the chin. Their good jobs are gone.

Of course, that feeling is not just limited to Britain. The popularity of both Trump and even a previously unknown figure like Bernie Sanders is their willingness to attack the status quo. Hillery has the full backing of the establishment and is just barely hanging on.

There's a lot of hope that change will improve the lot of the common people. Unfortunately, recent history proves otherwise.

Anyone remember the Arab Spring? People rising up against their corrupt rulers? Wasn't that long ago. So how has that turned out? Egypt is once again run by a dictatorship. Libya is split into factions fighting each other. Syria is in a grinding civil war. Only Morocco has any sort of stability right now.

How about Afghanistan and Iraq? The places where the US has spent so much treasure and blood. In Afghanistan the Taliban are gaining ground again, mostly due to the corruption in Kabul. Why did so many Iraqi soldiers abandon their posts in the face of the ISIS threat? They did not want to die for an unpopular government in Baghdad. They didn't think their leaders were worth fighting for.

We are in a very dangerous time. The people upset with the elites are strong enough to sometimes overthrow them, but not strong enough to replace them. Political deadlock. Sounds a bit like the US Congress. At least here in the US we are still mostly fighting out battles at the ballot box. While it hasn't been any more successful than armed rebellion, it's a lot less bloody.

Some may object to me comparing the elites in Western Democracies to the elites in dictatorships. I think it's only a matter of degree. Those elites have more in common with each other than they do with the people they rule.

Where will it all end?

Will the elites get their act together and realize their connection with the rest of humanity and work to make our governing systems more fair and just? If they don't they have a fair a chance of hanging from lampposts so there's some incentive there.

Maybe the little people will get strong enough to rule without becoming corrupt elites themselves. I've only vague ideas how that would even work, but I'd like to think it can happen.

If it doesn't we get things like ISIS -a group that replaces corruption with horror.

I am curious to see how the British react when they discover that just because they voted to leave the EU doesn't mean the elites will allow their lives to get better.

Interesting times.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Rich Survival Course

This article amused the heck out of me.

A high end resort is giving its pampered guests a taste of survival skills. While they actually cover some useful skills all they are doing is introducing people to them. It takes practice to make those sills your own. I don't see that happening. I'm betting on those people who use survival skills on a regular basis in their day to day life.

It did remind me a bit of the hysteria surrounding Y2K. A well off computer consultant from the DC area bought a camp next to me.

One evening a few friends were over. We had a campfire going and had maybe a few too many drinks. They put me in a mischievous mood. The new neighbor picked that time to come over to ask me where the property boundaries were. Bad timing as I was listening to the little imp on my shoulder at the time.

While we were taking he mentioned that he was worried about the collapse of technological civilization. He bought the camp as a bug out location. I told him that was great as in a disaster situation neighbors can provide important proteins to one's diet. He kinda avoided me after that.

Sure enough, on Y2K he was at the camp, but sold it right after.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Gun selection in real life

So early one morning the dog goes nuts. As much as I don't like to get out of bed at the crack of dawn, you don't ignore an upset dog. That's one of the reasons you have a dog in the first place.

I knew something was disturbing the mutt, but what? It could be anything from someone trying to steal something, a bear prowling around, or some stranger taking their dog for an early morning walk.

You know those horror movies where someone goes to check out a strange noise and discovers the ax murderer? I'd feel like an idiot to run into actual trouble with all my guns locked in a safe. So that's why I decided to take a gun with me.

Which one? If I knew it was something really nasty I'd take something like my 30-06 deer rifle, or my shotgun loaded with buckshot. However, the odds of something like that seemed a bit long. I could just take a large caliber handgun with a high capacity magazine. Had it been winter that might have been what I'd do as it could be hidden by my bulky jacket. Don't want to upset the neighbors for no reason.

Being summer and a weekend, the lake's population swells and there's a lot more activity and new people. It seemed likely the dog was just upset by people walking around. Some folks think it's unfriendly to burst out of your house with a snarling dog and honking big gun in your hands.

In the end I slipped a little Ruger LCP 380 in my pocket, loaded with self defense rounds. That way I'd look like I was just exiting the house with just a snarling dog. At least I wasn't unarmed. Nobody wants to get shot, even by a small gun. It also can make enough noise to harass a black bear and get it to move on.

What did it turn out to be? I let the dog out, her hackles stood up. She paced around the house and checked out down the road. Then she ran around the woods a bit before coming back to the house. I didn't see or hear anything.

Judging from the recent discovery of bear droppings in my yard, I'm guessing it was a bear that was prowling around the property. Of course, it could have been an uppity squirrel that needed a good barking at. Since I know I might have a nuisance bear, next time I'll bring out a bigger noise maker.

The last thing I want is a dead bear. Better they learn that coming to my house will get them harassed so they go somewhere else. Should something go terrible wrong with that plan, at least I can protect myself. The odds are pretty long that I'd need to shoot a bear, but they ain't zero. Better to have a gun and not need it than the other way around.


Monday, June 27, 2016

Finding your tribe and bears

My lovely wife and I were at a friend's birthday party over the weekend. It was your typical party by the pool: a bit of music, food on the grill, and a few drinks. Not a bad way to spend a nice summer's day. There was a great mix of people. Some were family, some where old friends and others were new friends.

One of the new friends sighed contentedly and stated, “I've found my tribe. It's taken me 10 years.”

Have you found your tribe?

It's more than just having a group of people you can go to a party with. These are people who'll help each other. It's nice to be able to get help when you really need it. Of course, the flip side of that is being there to help others.

Do I expect them all to pull together in a big crisis? No, but I'm betting that enough of them will to make a huge difference.

In other news we've got a bear hanging around the house. Sunday, in the middle of the afternoon we discovered a new pile of droppings in the yard. While grabbing the shovel to move it off into the woods my lovely wife thought it might be a big dog. I told her it looked like bear leavings to me. Sure enough, as she tossed the mess down the hill into the woods she startled a young bear. I was surprised to see it wandering around in the middle of the day with so many people around. Someone may be feeding it so that it's become accustomed to people. That rarely ends well . . . for the bear.

The day before a good friend of mine hit a very large black bear with his van. My buddy came out of it fine, but his van was totaled -didn't do the bear any good either. Critters are on the move this time of year so extra caution is called for.

In spite of the bear issues it's looking to be a great summer with the tribe.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Independence Movements

The successful vote for Britain to leave the EU, Brexit, has given new life to other independence movements. It's no surprise that Scotland is putting independence from Britain back on the table. They wanted to stay in the EU. Same goes for Northern Ireland. Those two movements look likely to succeed.

Of course, Texas independence movements are not new, but they do have a catchy new name, Texit. Now I don't want to mess with Texas, but didn't they push really hard to get into the US the last time they were their own nation? Maybe they should get back to their roots . . . as Northern Mexico.

Okay, I'm just having a little fun here, but then I came across this movement, NH Independence. I'm a citizen of NH and this is the first I've ever heard about them. We do have the Free State Movement but they pretty much are working within the system to change it from within. It's difficult to make any broad sweeping statements about what the Free Staters as they are a bunch of independent thinkers who often disagree amongst themselves.

So where does this all end? At some point do we want to split my town apart because we are in two different river valleys? Do we spit across religious lines? Throw out the French Canadian immigrants who've been coming over the border?

I'm trying to put all this into some sort of historical perspective. We've been in a long period where smaller groups have been clumping together to form larger and larger nations. The US was a bunch of young states that ended up forming a powerful Federal system. The EU was a bunch of older countries that formed a different sort of unit, strong in some areas and weak in others.

In more recent years we've had a breaking apart of big collective units. The USSR is no more, broken apart into many states. Even smaller countries have split apart, North and South Sudan, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Canada almost lost Quebec. There are a lot of little independence movements in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa that hardly anyone has heard about but some of them could be successful. In general, we seem to see a trend where people want to form smaller groups.

I can't even start to figure out the situation in China. They've been going against recent trends with the addition of Hong Kong. However, China is in a state of flux and anything can happen there.

The US could stay a nation but with the individual states once again running their own affairs. Federal powers could be severely limited like they were in the early days of the republic.

Things could turn ugly with a bunch of little squabbling nations continually at odds with each other -like the way Europe used to be. The trick is to get the benefits of a close knit group but without the wars.

I'm also a big fan of freedom of movement. In the US people don't even think about it when they drive across state lines. It was getting that way in Europe, until the refugees swarmed over the borders. Now borders are tightening up.

On a personal level I love freedom. That's one reason I still call NH, the “Live Free or Die” state home. I get that people want to go their own way. If we can do it in so that we can avoid the mistakes of the past, I'm all for it. Just how that's to be done, I'm not sure. Maybe we can replace the United Nations with a system that actually works. Little nations in constant war was bad enough. Now that many of them have access to nukes, chemical and biological weapons, it's unacceptable. The human race has got to get its act together.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

What comes next?

Britain voted to leave the EU. The Brexit campaign, against initial expectations, was a success. Now what? It's going to be a tangled mess. The politicians have their work cut out for them: everything from replacing EU laws to negotiating trade deals. Britain will really have to get its trade deals in order quickly. It's an island that lacks the resources to feed itself and produce the raw materials it needs.

It was an interesting vote. London was all for staying in. Scotland was heavily in the stay camp, as was Northern Ireland. I bet Scotland feels angry about not leaving Britain when they had the chance. Who knows, this might be what finally unites Ireland.

Stock markets took a tumble around the world. Let's see what happens on Monday. If after a weekend to contemplate the situation the markets continue to fall, then we have a problem. Right now the reaction is mostly emotional.

There is some speculation that other countries will consider leaving. For that reason the EU may try to make the British exit as painful as possible. At least there's been some talk in that direction. On the other hand, punishing a major trading partner might not be a great idea.

The EU was partly formed to prevent the squabbling between nations that had just produced two world wars. For all its many faults, the EU was successful at reducing barriers between peoples. That's no small accomplishment considering the history of Europe and the diversity of its citizens.

Almost nobody is talking about NATO. Will that alliance also be weakened? Time will tell.

I am surprised that Britain would be the first to leave. I was expecting Greece, but the politicians there do exactly the opposite of what the voters want. Italy, Spain, Portugal -those countries also are having issues so leaving might make sense. The Scandinavian countries may now start to wonder if membership is worth it. Their economies are relatively solid so they will be watching Britain closely to see how it goes.

Of course, I might be getting too “thinky” about the whole thing. From the rhetoric of the final campaign days it appears the vote came down to keeping brown colored refugees out. Finer points about membership were lost in all the noise.


Friday, June 24, 2016

To Market

Thursday was our first local farmer's market of the season. That might sound a bit late to some of my readers. However, since snowfall in May around here is common it takes some real effort to have produce in June. Thanks to greenhouses and hoops houses in in the fields they make it happen.

There's a lot of other locally produced items for sale at the market, not just vegetables. Some purists are offended but I rather like some of the arts and crafts available. For example a local potter has been doing some amazing work. She once made a steam punked themed coffee mug for me. It looked like it was constructed with rivets and washers, but was completely ceramic.

I usually spend a few bucks on locally produced meat. It's not cheap, but I'm willing to pay for humanely raised clean meat. The difference in taste is amazing.

Unfortunately, the local farmer is having a hard time getting help. So far he's had two of his new hires not even show up. One he caught sleeping in the fields . . . three times in one day. The farmer even offered me a job driving the hay truck. I could have started today. He's that desperate. Then again, if I said I'd show up, I'd show up. Apparently that counts for a lot these days.

In spite of my close brush with gainful employment, I really enjoyed the market. My lovely wife and I met up with a lot of people we haven't seen for some time. There was even some really good professional live music. The musician knows I'm a sailor so he played some Jimmy Buffett tunes.

We took the veggie van into town. The diesel tank sending unit started to plug up again. While it takes longer for the unit to plug up, there's still enough grit in the tank to clog the screens. No big deal as the veggie tank is now in good shape and that runs fine. If the weather is good tomorrow I'll flush the grit out of the diesel tank again.

We have some good weather in the forecast so there should be plenty of time for both work and play.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Back from the shadows again!

Yep, as promised, I'm back. The Sixbears household was hopping with lots of family. We had a blast.

Apparently my navy of small boats: sailboats, rowboats, canoes and kayaks weren't enough. One of my daughters brought up three paddle boards. I used to think those things were a fad that wouldn't last. There were already better ways, in my opinion, to travel on the water.

My thoughts have changed somewhat. I still think they aren't really that practical as boats. However, where they is excel is as swim toys. Odds are that paddle boarders eventually go for a swim. That's fine as they are easy to get back back on. Unlike a canoe or a kayak they don't fill up with water. The paddler hops back on and is ready to go. Anything that coaxes people outside, getting exercise and having fun can't be bad.

There is one guy I know who uses a paddle board as a dinghy for his sailboat. He has a small Seaward. The keel can be lifted so it draws very little water, allowing the boat to anchor quite close to shore. It's a very short trip on the paddle board. Personally, I'd rather have my inflatable kayak, but that guy did make it work.

In my spare time I installed shallow bilge keels on the Ooze Goose 12 foot scow. Once the new paint dried the boat was flipped over and loaded on my trailer. Thank goodness it's still light enough for me to load it myself by hand.

Once I flipped it over I notice the deck received some damage over the winter. A little fiberglass work should take of the problem. That can be done the same time the rudder is being built. Also noticed the tips of the oars could benefit from a protective layer of fiberglass.

One of my Father's Day gifts was a rather hefty gift card from West Marine. Some of it was used to replace things lost in the shipwreck. Part of it was also used to purchase a NH State flag to fly on my boat. Even though NH has a tiny coastline, our state flag has a boat on it. Our state motto of “Live Free or Die” would not look out of place on a Jolly Roger, so I'll fly my state flag with pride.

The weather has been uneven. Temperatures were near 90 and sunny. Wednesday it was wet and cool enough that I lit a fire in the kitchen woodstove. That will probably be the last fire for a while as another warming trend is expected. If this turns out to be another long hot summer I'm going to spend as much of it on or in the water as possible.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Family Visit

I've got family staying with me for a couple days. The blog will be right back after.

By the way, had a great Father's Day.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Depressions without depression

During the great Depression times were tough. Most folks endured financial set backs. Some people lost everything. Many people truly suffered.

In spite of the huge monetary losses, a lot of people were actually in pretty good spirits. They may have lost a lot of money, but they still found joy in their hearts. There were those who say that the Depression was a happy time for them.

How is that possible? For those who's families and friends joined forces to help each other there was a “we are all in this together” feeling. Being able to contribute to a group for a good cause creates a lot of satisfaction. Their financial capital was low, but their social capital was high.

My grandmother fed a lot of people during those hard times. She had a huge outdoor kitchen set up in a small barn. Running down the center of the building was a long table made out of old doors and saw horses. She had a huge garden and people would contribute what they could. It was a big deal when relatives came down from Canada with crates of salted fish.

From the tales my grandfather told me, a lot of times those dinners turned into parties. Of course, US Prohibition was still in effect and those Canadian relatives often smuggled a few bottles of booze over the border. That might have helped a lot with the party atmosphere.

A lot of people were just grateful that they were not as bad off as some other people. My grandfather managed to find just enough work to keep his large family fed -a good accomplishment for the times.

If you believe that those days will never come again, then this is just a quaint story about the old days. However, if you think we haven't seen the last of depressions then there are some lessons here.

Just because it's a depression doesn't mean we have to be depressed. Having people to rely on, some level of self-reliance, and good attitude go a long way.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Weird thing about technology

My lovely wife has been on my case about cleaning out the old electronics. Over the years they've gathered dust in one of the loft rooms. I told her I'd get to it. She doesn't have to remind me every year.

Today was the day. I loaded up the car with obsolete tower computers and their monitors. Down to the transfer station we went. They already had a tractor trailer truck nearly full of electro-junk.

It got me thinking. Of all my tools, electronics have a pretty short life. All that cutting edge stuff becomes useless in ten years or less.

More primitive things last a lot longer. My old 19 inch tube TV is still working. It's an open secret that flat screen TVs last about 2-3 years or so. How is that an improvement?

The more primitive the technology, the longer it's useful. Hammers and hand saws keep going year after year. My axes, splitting mauls, and sledge hammers will be my grandkids. Firearms, with a little care, are still functional 100 years later.

My car is going to be junk in 10-15 years, if I'm lucky. Yet I'm still paddling a canoe that's older than I am.

There's something to be said for simple rugged designs.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Ship Shape

My boat insurance company (Boat US) wanted current pictures of the Oday 19. Since I had to take them anyway, why not share with my readers?

The original 6 hp gas motor was replaced with a 55lb thrust electric trolling motor. It moves the boat at 2.5 – 3 knots, which is fast enough. The motor doesn't get much use. For example, today it was used for about 5 minutes. The wind was from a bad angle for sailing to the beach so we just motored in the last 100 yards.

The little 30 watt solar panel has no difficulty keeping the battery charged. The old gas motor could move the boat at hull speed, 5.5 knots. That was fine, but I really don't like dealing with gasoline. The gas outboard was a two stroke. That meant I had to mix oil in the gas, not my favorite thing. While the trolling motor is slower, it's quiet and clean. When I go on a long trip I'll add another battery or two plus an additional 100 watts of solar power.

I'm finally getting around to rigging up my little 12 foot homebuilt Ooze Goose for sail. The plans called for a dagger board but I didn't want to put a hole in the bottom of the hull. Instead, the boat was going to have leeboards. That idea was also scrapped. Instead I decided to put a couple of shallow bilge keels. The boat needs a few more inches of draft, but bilge keels have no moving parts. They are rugged enough to hold the boat on the hard with a full load. Simplicity won out.

Leeboards had already been roughed out. Fortunately I can use them to build the rudder so it's not much loss of time and material.

My cousin was looking for an old sail to decorate his man cave, which has a nautical theme. The old Oday sail was traded for an extra mast and sail from one of his small sailboats. The sail should power the Ooze Goose without any difficulty.

The days are long and the weather is good. It's good to be on the lake.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Odds and Ends

I dropped the veggie van at my favorite garage early in the morning. The vacuum pump had been slowly fading. Since it's what powers the brake assist it's fairly important. The job isn't terribly hard to do, but requires a couple specialized tools. One time the garage let me borrow the tools to fix a vacuum pump on my old truck, but I felt a bit bad about it after. I'd started the job not knowing how much of a pain the job would turn out to be without the proper equipment. My mechanic bailed me out that time. I felt a lot better about letting him do the job from start to finish this time.

The clean out of the diesel tank may have done the job. Sending unit filters were plugging after about 10 – 20 miles. It's been about 50 with no problems. Keeping my fingers crossed. Also, the veggie side of my fuel system has a brand new filter so that's running a lot better too. If one tank causes problems we should be able to continue on using the other one.

We are planning some remote lake trips in the near future and we need the van, as tow vehicle, sorted out. The boat has a new sail and it's even been insured. Liability for 12 months was less than $100 so it would be crazy not to get it. Insurance on the other boat saved me close to $10,000. (I'm surprised they still want to sell me insurance.)

Family and friends are keeping me busy. My lovely wife and I have been going to a lot of events, gatherings and parties. It's just felt good to reconnect with old friends and to meet new ones. As much as I'm comfortable living like a hermit in the woods, it's good to have connections to people. None of us are going through this world alone -even if we think we are.

In a recent Blog Harry Flashman pointed out the danger of conflict with China. I could have written a whole blog post about that alone, but Harry said it well enough. The danger there is real. Plenty of potential for things to get out of hand.

However, there's not a lot that I can personally do about China. All I can do is get my own house in order and hope for the best.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

While your attention was elsewhere

The economic collapse picks up the pace. German bonds have hit the zero mark. For a brief while they were trading in the negative territory. That's not a sign of a healthy economy.

The immediate fear is that Britain will leave the EU. In the background there are a whole slew of Eurozone banks in difficulty. Right now money is running to Germany as it's considered to be the strongest economy in the zone. However, Germany has problems of its own, the immigration crisis being just one of them. Expect Germany to go through some political turmoil in the near future. Where will the smart money go then?

As I've said before, the collapse is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet. The chaos of Venezuela is what collapse looks like. Goods are in short supply. The power grid is hit or miss. Politics are a mess. Robberies are way up as people keep what money they have at home rather than trust shaky banks.

You don't have to leave the US empire to see collapse in motion. Puerto Ricans hold US citizenship, yet do not have a state. For a while it's status as an almost state had some economic and political advantages. Enough so that statehood never gained enough political traction to get the job done. Now it's in turmoil. The US supreme court has ruled that Puerto Rico cannot restructure its debt. Basically, it's a US colony lacking the sovereignty to solve its own problems. The problem isn't “over there.” Puerto Ricans are US citizens are coming to the mainland in droves. Their island home isn't working and the major problems are political and economic.

When the economy “recovered” new jobs were not created like always happened in the past. Companies have learned they can get by with less people. Machines are cheaper. This is a systemic change. Even the President recognizes that some jobs will never come back. Education is only a partial answer as even computer programmers won't all find work.

Politicians will use people's fear to hide the truth. While we are worried about terrorists the banks will be taking our homes and our jobs are going away.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Civil Defense Show

I was a kid in grammar school back in the duck and cover days of civil defense. We used to have drills where we'd all file down to the basement lavatory. Somehow that was supposed to protect us from atomic warfare. All I could think was that we were going to die in a stinky bathroom. While the room was in the basement, it was lit with a long row of chicken mesh windows at the top of the ceiling. Even as a little kid that didn't make much sense to me.

Since I showed some interest in bomb shelters my mother gave me a bunch of civil defense handouts to read. I was probably in the 3rd or 4th grade. By then I was reading a few years above my grade level. Government literature is generally written at about the 6th grade level so it wasn't that hard to understand.

Soon I came to realize that the self defense drills had very little to do with self defense. It confused the heck out of me. The adults around me didn't want to hear about how many feet of dirt we'd really need or anything about air filtration. They blindly went through the motions of doing something that was supposed to make us feel like the government had a plan and a solution.

That is when I came to realization that the government wasn't going to keep us safe. We'd have to do it ourselves. It was a harsh lesson to learn at a young age.

By the time I was a firefighter in the late 70s, the civil defense thing was a joke. Some of the basements of public buildings still had the emergency fallout shelter signs. There was a pile of civil defense supplies rotting in one of the back basement rooms of the firehouse.

The stash had been picked over pretty well. The supplies were stored in metal canisters, which by then were often repurposed as trash cans. They had some very low quality paper goods including feminine supplies. Woe be it to any lady who would actually have to use them. There were containers of hard round candy that survived the years in good shape. Those proved to be pretty popular. All in all, the whole civil defense exercise turned out to be both a deception and a waste of resources.

We can look back at those days and laugh. Then we can look around at today's TSA and Homeland Security and cry.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Shooting too big to ignore

The massive shooting of 50 people in Orlando brings great sadness to my heart.

There are those who will use this shooting to push political agendas. People demand that “something be done,” but decisions made in the heat of the moment are rarely good ones.

As for myself I'm going to pray for those who've lost their lives and for the families and friends of those who remain.

That's all I can say for now.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Watching Europe Unravel

Looks like there's a better than average chance that Great Britain will leave the EU. That could very well be one of major nails in the European Union's coffin. The union was suffering economically before it got hit with a major refugee crisis. There are a number of member countries where membership no longer makes any sense. Greece is the big one, but Portugal, Spain and Italy aren't that far behind.

We can't talk about the EU without mentioning NATO. There's speculation that Russia could take over the Balkan countries in 60 hours. The situation is supposed to get better sometime in 2017. That just tells me that 2016 is especially dangerous.

Poland is certainly paying attention. It's going all out to increase its tank force and is acquiring other armored vehicles. They have their own tank factories but are also buying Leopard tanks. The country is also addressing gaps in its air defenses. They are acting like a country that's going to need all that military hardware.

To make things even more interesting there's crazy talk in the Pentagon. Some planners believe that tactical nukes could be used on the battlefield without it escalating. Now I might not be a military genius, but just maybe using tactical nukes might soon lead to strategic nukes? That's been the assumption in the past.

So we have a perfect storm of factors: economic, political and military. One can only hope that cooler heads will prevail.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Trip to the hospital

Fortunately, it wasn't for me. I spent a very long day taking a friend of mine to his appointment at a major hospital several hours away.

Those big hospitals are a zoo. We went to one far wing of the place only to be told we had to be in a different wing right across the complex. Once we got there, we discovered the first place was wrong and that's actually where he had his first appointment.

Since my friend can only walk short distances I pushed him in one of the wheel chairs provided by the hospital. Only after crossing the complex a couple times did I discover one of the brakes was defective and dragging the whole time. That came as some relief to me as I thought I was just in terrible physical shape. With the brake fixed it wasn't bad at all.

Being in that hospital brought back memories . . . terrible terrible memories. I once came to in the surgical wing of that place with no idea how I got there. The first words I heard was: he's not a good candidate for surgery.

Say what? Yeah, bad memories, but at least this trip my buddy had good results. I'll put that in the good memory column.

It also helped that we had a yummy dinner at a decent Chinese place. On the final leg home we stopped for a drink at an Inn neither of us had been to in a long time. We were remembered and treated like royalty. The owner did not let us pay for our drinks. It was on the house. Nice.

In spite of dealing with the hospital, we had a pretty good day. We decided to do another road trip next week. This time it'll be a fun trip to places to we want to go, so that should be even better.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Reconsidering Cities

Cities have risen and fallen. There are cities that once were the biggest and brightest in the world that are nearly lost to history. Some were lost until explorers hacking their way though the jungles and wild places of the world discover their remains. Humans have gathered together in cities for a long time.

People have been moving from the country to the city for as long as there have been cities. There's the opportunity for trade, culture, religious gatherings and pubs. Don't forget pubs. Some researchers have speculated that one of the major reasons we've settled into cities is so we could stay in one place long enough to brew beer.

For all their attractions cities usually were very unhealthy places to live. Things go wrong when you put lots of people together, add questionable food, water and sanitation. Cities could not sustain their populations from internal growth. The death rate was high enough that cities only grew because of the constant influx of new people from the countryside.

In more modern times that changed. Sanitation improved. Food handling got better. Water systems were made safe. Advances in technology made cities much more livable. Many cities in warmer climates owe their recent growth to the invention of air conditioning.

During the Great Depression, on average, people survived better in the cities than in the country. At first the country folk had the advantage because they were more self reliant for basic needs. As the depression wore on, the greater financial and political clout of the cities overwhelmed country folk. Think of all the farms that were lost to predatory banking practices and you have just one major example on how country folk lost out. There were those who survived but they were smart enough or lucky enough to avoid the traps of the greater society around them.

Today most cities are growing. Even Africa is experiencing huge urban population growth. Subsistence living has a hard time to compete with the lights of the big city. Security is another factor. Small villages do not have a lot of protection against “revolutionaries” or even just plain bandits.

So the cities win? That's the place to be?

Maybe not for much longer. Cities are bigger, reliant on technology, and infrastructure has gotten more brittle. War can now be waged against cities without ever marching troops. Clever teams of computer hackers can take down city services from thousands of miles away.

If you physically attack a city, your best bang for the buck is attacking the grid, communications, transportation, water, and other services. That can be done with everything from high tech weapons to small commando teams with small arms and explosives. If biological weapons are also employed when services are down things could get very bad indeed.

So what's a person to do? In a slow grinding economic collapse a person might be better off in a city where there's more opportunity. As a country boy I hate to admit it but that's certainly a good possibility.

Should there be direct attacks against major cities, you are much better off in the country. If you've prepared by having access to food, water and can provide your own security, so much the better.

Events in the real world, however, tend to get messy. Even in a time of major turmoil some cities may do quite well while others burn to the ground. Parts of the countryside could be doing well while other parts are unsustainable.

My personal hell would involve cities being totally unlivable, yet still having enough financial and political clout to reach out into the country for the resources they need. That could get very messy indeed.

The point isn't to get all depressed about no place being safe but to open one's eyes. Look at where you live now and take a cold hard look at the potential hazards. Then keep an eye on what's actually happening in the world.

Of course there are people who only want to live in big cities and those who only want to live in the country. It's hard to get those folks to admit that their chosen location might not be the best. I'm one of them as I am not a city person, even though there would be some advantages to me living in one.

No matter where you are, having a plan and some supplies can make a big difference.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

So much for Rio

I was just reading an article about journalists backing out of covering the Rio games due to the fear of the Zika virus.

When something directly affects journalists you can be sure it will be on the news. Brazil is one of the more heavily affected countries. Every thing recently discovered about the zika virus reveals it to be worse than we first thought. The effects are more wide ranging and it's ability to be be spread through sexual contact increases the risk of it spreading.

That's just one thing putting a damper on the Olympic games. Sailors have expressed concern about the pollution in the harbor. Teams who've practiced there report coming down with various health problems ranging from rashes to sever intestinal upset. There's also a lot of debris in the water. One team collided with a half submerged couch.

Then there is the political turmoil in Brazil. Corruption scandals have affected just about every layer and branch of government. Combine that with some economic upsets and a lot Brazil lions have very little interest in the games. Other problems take precedence.

The recent Olympic games have a history of costing the host country a lot of money. If the Brazil games turn out to be a disaster I wonder about if that will be the end of them?

In the past the games have suffered boycotts, and suspensions due to war. This might be first one disrupted by disease.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Huge pile of gifts

Thanks Dennis!

He's the blog reader who gifted me all this camping gear. There's an amazing amount of stuff, all in excellent condition: chairs, table, kitchen box, 2 Coleman multi-fuel stoves, a pile of quality cast iron cookware, water jugs, cooler, and so much more.

Some of the gear is going on the boat. A few items will end up in the van. The big green kitchen box and most of the rest of the stuff will end up in a shed by our beach. My lovely wife spotted that kitchen box and quickly decided that we need a kitchen at the beach. I guess we won't have to walk all the way up the hill to cook fresh caught fish.

I bet you are wondering how it all fit in my little car -along with my lovely wife and Brownie the Sailor Dog. The big green kitchen box we tied to the roof racks. A lot of the lighter items were put inside first. The table bag and a folding chair were also tied up top. By folding one of the back seats down everything else fit inside.

We even had room to buy books and some new clothes for my lovely wife. Well worth the trip.

I've some of the best blog readers in the world.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Security and travel

Sometimes we don't realize how good we have it. There have been few times in History when people have been able to travel great distances in relative safety.

We like to think that's possible because of all the roads, trains, and airlines. That's what makes travel quicker and easier. The thing that really makes long distance travel possible is security. At one time a person took their chances going to the next town. Bandits lurked along what passed for roads. Now we can travel thousands of miles in relative safety.

Yes, there are places that are more dangerous than others, but overall the average person is safe. It's amazing that someone can travel across the vast distances of the US. In addition, a US passport allows one to enter almost every country in the world without a Visa. Many other countries have similar arrangements. That's simply amazing.

We can even travel to countries that we consider our rivals, like Russia and China. There may be some political tension, but the average person can still travel to those places.

The world has many conflicts, but we aren't in a world war. Count your blessings. Borders would shut pretty quickly.

It's bad enough that the Syrian refugee crisis has caused enough turmoil that Europe is considering closing its borders once again. That would be a great loss of freedom. Europeans love their travel.

I only wish I could travel more than I already do. Who knows how much longer these historically unique times will last? I hope to get a few more stamps in my passport in case the dark days ever come again.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

New sail!

Finally, my new mainsail for the Oday 19 came in. A neighbor happened to stop in at the same time. Together we down to the lake and set up the boat.

The new sail is a bit different than the old. One of the big differences is that this one is loose footed. It's not attached the whole length of the boom -just at the far end. That's the new trend in sails. It's supposed to give the sail better shape. Whatever. The good news is that it fits well. We took it out for a little spin around the lake.

The only problem now is that the jib sail looks shabby by comparison. No matter. It still works just fine.

While in town a couple days ago I bought a spare mounted tire for the sailboat trailer. Right now it's a spare. In a month or two I'm going to buy a another one and mount the new ones as a set. That will give me two older tires for spares.

The boat is pretty well set up for lake sailing right now. The electric trolling motor is used so little that a 30 watt solar panel has no difficulty keeping the battery charged. Sure beats messing around with gas cans and spark plugs.

I've come up with a design where I can drop in a lazerette box with two additional deep cycle batteries and a charge controller. Another 100 watt panel will sit right on top of the box. That should give me all the power I'll need for longer trips.

Of course, it is a sailboat so I hope to hardly use the motor.


Saturday, June 4, 2016

My own electrician

Sometimes it's a lot more fun to work on other people's projects. All my electrical tools were organized in a rugged carry bag because I've been helping others. Ever start to do a project but get discouraged because you can't find all the tools you need? Since everything was packed in the bag there was no excuse to not work on my own electrical issues.

My solar electric system has major components that are over 23 years old. The inverter has a built in charger. The charger was turned on by a simple switch in my kitchen that activated a high amperage relay in the basement. The original relay had been salvaged from a fire horn. There was no telling how old it was.

When the charger stopped working the natural assumption was that the relay finally gave up the ghost. The quick and dirty solution was to hook up a battery charger directly to the battery bank. Unlike the system with the handy switch in the kitchen, the charger required that I go down the basement to turn it on. Fortunately the charger has a timer option so it's not necessary to go back down stairs to shut it off.

I was able to free up a relay from a hot water tank project. I removed the old relay and installed the replacement. Only after I threw the switch did I learn that I'd misdiagnosed the problem. While the relay switch was old and ratty, it was actually the charger part of the inverter that had died.

Since the inverter part is still purring along I'm in no hurry to replace it. I can keep using the heavy duty charger in the basement when the batteries need topping off. The only drawback is that I have to go outside to get into the basement where the charger and battery bank are. Right now I'm thinking that I could wire that kitchen switch to an outlet in the basement. That outlet could provide power to charger without me ever having to go downstairs.

There's a battery meter that's also in the kitchen so I'd know when the battery bank is charged. Of course, I could just spend a couple thousand on a new inverter/charger, but that will wait until it's absolutely necessary.


Friday, June 3, 2016

Dirty Diesel

Here's a quick sum up of the way my diesel to waste veggie oil converted van operates. It starts on diesel. When the engine and the waste veggie oil both warm up, a flick of a switch draws fuel from the waste veggie tank. Before shutting the engine down for the night it has to run a few minutes on diesel to flush the veggie out of the engine.

Thanks to screens and honking big filters the veggie tank can process some pretty nasty fuel. Unfortunately, the diesel side is put together differently. The sending unit inside the diesel tank has some built in coarse filters. Unfortunately, when they get plugged options are limited.

To physically access those filters requires the removal of the 35 gallon diesel tank. It's the sort of job that one does not attempt lightly. Two years ago I had the sending unit replaced by my local mechanic. It was a nasty job and cost more than a few dollars.

Today I tried something different. Using a big compressor I blew air backwards through the fuel line to clear the filters. That works for a while, but since the crud is still in the tank those filters soon plug once more.

I've a small 3.5 gpm diesel fuel transfer pump. I was able to pump just about all of the fuel out of the tank. Then I added about 3 gallons of clean fuel. Once that was in I rocked the van to stir up any gunk that had settled to the bottom of the tank. After the tank was pumped dry once more I added about 4 gallons of clean diesel to the tank. That should get me back to town where I can refuel.

So what happened to the 25 gallons of dirty diesel? 15 gallons went into my heating oil tank. Diesel fuel and #2 heating oil is very similar. Oil tank filters are cheap and easy to change. 5 gallons went into my veggie tank. The veggie filter can easily handle the dirt particles. Another 5 gallons is sitting in a fuel jug. That diesel will also be used to cut waste veggie until it's all used up.

The van started fine and air purged itself of the system. I've yet to give it a good road test. Hopefully I've removed enough dirt from the tank. If not I can always repeat the whole process once more.

Where did the dirty diesel come from? I've no idea. When I'm around home I'm pretty careful where my diesel comes from. On the road there's no telling what you're going to get. It only takes one tank of bad fuel to cause endless problems. No doubt that bad fuel is the reason I've had to change the diesel filter mounted on the engine more often too.


Thursday, June 2, 2016


Apparently, manliness is not what it used to be. Let me dig up my old curmudgeon hat, yell at the kids on my lawn, and share a few thoughts.

In a recent article they were talking about how fewer and fewer of today's young men rate themselves very highly on the manliness scale. Of course, it's all in how you define what it is to be a man.

When I was growing up it was being able to stand tall, look someone in the eye and a good firm handshake. Your word was your bond. Women were treated with respect. Crying was reserved for rare occasions, like when a broken bone was poking out. A man knew his way around tools, firearms and fishing poles.

I was lucky enough to enter the Fire Service at the tender age of 18. There are few jobs today that make such good use of testosterone, strength and daring.

Of course, I wouldn't top out on the so called “manliness scale” they were using either. I'm not afraid to change a diaper or nurture children. There's nothing wrong with reading good poetry. You don't have to be all womanly to realize that a particular paint color brightens up the room. Being able to wash dishes, cook good meals, and do laundry are all useful skills for living.

Maybe some of young men's confusion about manliness is a lack of role models. I learned it from my dad. Too many young boys grow up without good male role models. Most of the dads on TV are bumbling fools.

Some poor deluded fools thing manliness is all about drinking too much and fighting. Sorry guys, having some self control is a better gage of manliness.


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Off-Grid 12 to 24 volt

My buddy and I just changed his off-grid system from 12 to 24 volts. For months he just sat on $3000 worth of solar electric equipment, waiting for me to be available to help with the installation. He didn't trust anyone else . . . well, anyone else who would work for barter instead of real money.

His old system consisted of solar panels wired for a nominal 12 volts to charge a battery bank of 12, 6 volt batteries wired at 12 volts. A cheap 12 volt DC to 120 volt AC inverter provided house current.

The cheap inverter caused buzzing and humming in some of their electrical equipment plus could barely power the water pump. They'd often fire up a generator to pump water.

The new system has all the bells and whistles. The big upgrade is a large sine wave inverter that has no difficulty quietly powering all their electrical needs.

The first thing we did was to rearrange the 12, 6 volt batteries into 3 groups of 4 batteries wired to provide 24 volts. Those three groups were then wired in series to increase amperage. The solar panels were also wired in series to boost their voltage. He lucked out in that his charge controller was designed to automatically adjust from 12 to 24 volts.

The sine wave inverter was a bit more of a challenge since I was unfamiliar with that particular make and model. However, I knew it needed to have a DC input and an AC output. It could also work as a battery charger so there had to be another AC input from the generator. That was the important stuff. To confuse the issue there were a lot of extra wires to send data to all the special electronic montoring and adjusting gizmos.

Good thing I brought my reading glasses along as it took some digging around circuits and manuals. There was a brief moment of tension until my buddy noticed one of the circuit breakers wasn't completely flipped into the correct position. At the end of the day we flipped a few switches and turned the lights on, so it was all good.

According to the solar electric supplier the 24 volt DC based inverters are supposed to handle loads like water pumps better than their 12 volt counterparts. Kinda makes sense, but it also helps that the new inverter is a quantum leap in quality.

All in all it was an interesting day.