Sunday, July 31, 2016

. . . and I feel fine

It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)


It's a great song. Pretty much sums up how I'm feeling. Change is happing so fast now that it doesn't take decades for things to look totally different. The changes happen in a matter of months, days sometimes.

The world is always ending. Arrangements that once held value and made sense have their time and then time moves on. Hundreds of years ago, the pace of change was so slow that people could barely notice it in a single lifetime. Now the changes happen so fast it could blow your hat off.

Right now there's an awful lot of complicated stuff happening. An engineer will tell you that the more complicated a piece of machinery is, the more likely some critical part will fail. Our very civilization is like a very complicated machine. This particular machine's been running a bit too fast without enough lubrication and maintenance.

The world has complicated trade, military, religious, social, legal, and political arrangements. Globalism has delivered in some ways, providing cheap goods and services. The masters of the system: the capitalists, regulators, and political leaders have done very well. The average guy, not so much. There are winners and losers, but labor has made a quick race to the bottom. Even the Chinese workers are getting too pricey for today's markets.

Add in some real environmental issues and things get ugly. How many people know one of the main causes of the Syrian conflict is a prolonged drought? Crops fail. People get angry. There's blood in the streets.
The threat of war is higher than it's been in years. There are troop buildups that we haven't seen since the Cold War. The Chinese Navy is patrolling disputed waters. Don't forget N. Korea or even the Pakistan/India issues. Africa is a mess. The Middle East is always in turmoil.
Whoever becomes president is going to have their hands full. I've serious doubts about either candidate's ability to handle the problems. Hillery worries me because of her track record. Donald worries me because he doesn't have one -zero experience.

Yet with all this stuff going on, I feel fine. Financially I'm just getting by, but I am getting by. Certainly haven't missed any meals. I've family and friends who are darn good people. My basic needs are being met, along with most of my higher order needs. Things have been a lot worse for me. Heck, I even got a clean bill of heath from the doctor. No mean feat for an aging fat guy.
So I take precautions for tomorrow, but don't let it kill today's joy. Not an easy thing to do sometimes, but can be done. It helps that so many of my preps: my own well, country home, garden, alternative energy systems, improve my life today.
It helps that I've looked death in the face before. We got toe to toe, shook hands, then went our separate ways. Sure, he'll be back, but having been close to death before, I no longer fear it. Instead, I'm enjoying the days and hours granted to me now. They are all the more sweet for being a kinda bonus round.

I feel fine.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Winter plans and Zika

It appears that the zika virus is now established in Florida. The article makes it sound like it's a very localized infection. Maybe it is, but to me it seems likely that it's more widespread. By the way, I was in that general area back in February.

This young sailing couple cut their Caribbean sailing adventure short due to zika. Their concern is that might want to have children in the near future. The more you know about zika, the more that looks like a good decision. It's a shame to have to end a fantastic adventure, but sometimes you have to be an adult.

My lovely wife and I are past the age of having children of our own. That removes one major worry. At first I thought our main worry would be flu like symptoms. While it sucks, that's something that can be dealt with.

Unfortunately, there are other concerns. While the science isn't all in on this one, it appears there may be other neurological issues associated with the virus. My lovely wife is already dealing with those sorts of issues so I suspect zika could make things much worse for her. Right now, we just don't know.

One thing I do know is that we go to places in Florida that are just lousy with mosquitoes. We either camp in the woods or anchor our sailboat near marshy areas. I'd even planned on going back to the Everglades. As it is, the park closes some primitive campsites part of the year due to the huge numbers of mosquitoes. Even in the “slow” season, mosquitoes will get you.

I'm carefully monitoring the zika situation. It's of serious enough concern that I'm going to make sure our house is totally prepared for winter. We just might sit this one out. Winter cold beats mosquito born disease.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Things fall apart, some more

Remember that nice little solar electric system I set up? Especially remember the nice 100 watt solar panel that I salvaged from my shipwreck? That panel just failed. It looks good, yet tests point to there being some sort of internal short. It's just another item that looks like it survived the shipwreck but fell apart later. Salt water takes its toll.

Once it became clear that the panel could not be fixed, I ordered another one. The replacement panel is only a 50 watt. Its smaller size will make it a lot easier to mount on the Oday 19 sailboat later one. The sailboat already has 30 watts of power, so a combined output of 80 watts will more than suffice for my humble needs.

My lovely wife and I are already looking past the November election. No matter who gets it, we are going to have an interesting time. Our nation will be going through some challenges. About all I can do is to prepare to endure. The basics of personal survival remain the same.

Will I be going to Canada? Yep, maybe as soon as next week. Don't panic; a trip to Canada is a comfortable day trip from where I live. We are thinking of taking my granddaughter to check out some of the sights in Quebec. It will also give me a chance to see exactly how bad my French is.

My project schedule got move back another couple days. A few months ago my shoulder got hurt. A few hours of clearing downed trees with a chainsaw let me know it's not completely healed. Between a sore shoulder and hot weather, the projects will wait. There's no sense pushing so hard as to get injured.

I scored another 30 gallons of really clean waste vegetable oil. That should power the veggie van for some miles. My lovely wife and I will be attending a meeting downstate next month. We plan on parking the van at a friend's house and sleeping there. Sure beats paying for a hotel room.

I'm still plugging along on my other projects. Home repair never stops.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Not enough popcorn

There's not enough popcorn to watch the political mess unfold.

For me the big thing that stuck out from the Republican convention was the overall tone of fear. That's a red flag in my book. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of stuff to be concerned about. The problem, at least for me, is that fear is a proven method of manipulation. Fear shuts down higher reasoning. It appears that the Republicans are heavily invested in using fear for their campaigns.

Surprisingly, the Democratic convention is turning out to be an even bigger mess. Their theme is unity, but that ain't gonna happen. A lot of Bernie supporters are only in the game because they want real change. Hillery is heavily invested in the current political and economic power structures so she's not going to really fight for change. It doesn't matter what language Bernie's folks get into the party platform. Once in power, politicians conveniently forget about that stuff.

Trump ran a successful outsider campaign. A good part of his success was not playing by the rules. Bernie also ran an outsider campaign, but the tried to do it within the party framework. Now it's come out that the party was sabotaging his efforts all along. Yes, there's a token resignation, but the damage was done. Of course, Bernie lacked Trump's billions so it's amazing he did as well as he did. That just goes to show how ready people are for real change.

How about third party candidates? The big argument against voting for a third party is that “This year the election is too important to vote for a sure loser.” That's always the argument. I say, if you really find a third party that appeals to you, go for it. Right now neither the Republican nor the Democratic parties are doing all that well. Might be a good year for a third party to get some traction.

I know it's tempting to stay home on election day. That would be a mistake. Local elected officials have a big influence on your day to day life. You can complain about the National politicians, but the local guy can double your property taxes while at the same time cutting property value in half. The loacl stuff can happen a lot quicker too.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm a registered in the state of NH as an Independent. The way NH state law is set up, I can declare for either party in the primaries, vote, then re-register as an Independent before leaving the building. I don't' think there's ever been an election where I've voted a straight ticket as I vote for the individual, not the party.

What we really don't want to happen is to see the democratic system fail. Look at the mess in Turkey. The military coup failed and now the counter coup is slipping into a full on dictatorship. Let's let Turkey be a cautionary tale, not a road map.

Pass the popcorn.


Monday, July 25, 2016

Life without AC

There's not air conditioning here at the Sixbears homestead. Supposed to hit around 90 and humid today. That's nothing by Texas standards, but most folks in Texas have AC.

On the bright side, it was 57 degrees this morning. The trick is to leave the windows open at night and close them in the morning. Thanks to all my shade trees it generally stays fairly livable in the house. If it gets too bad we can always take a dip in the lake.

Saturday's storms took down a lot of trees and power lines. Plenty of folks are still without power. Some of them will be in for a tough time. We didn't lose the grid, but our solar electric systems could get us through all by themselves.

Refrigeration is a significant power draw for most people. However, the giant water coil installed in my refrigerator helps a lot. Cold water from my well runs though that coil every time a drop of water is used in the house. Not many wives would let their husbands experiment with major household appliances. Good thing most of my experiments work. There is sometimes a problem with condensation on the coil, but a towel takes care of that in short order.

The resources of my little camper van conversion are also at my disposal. The solar electric panel on the van's roof can power the 12 volt cooler a long time. It also has a 1000 watt inverter to provide additional power if needed.

Thanks goodness I don't live in a city's heat bubble. The combination of heat, humidity and bad air would do me in.


Saturday, July 23, 2016

Internet here in the sticks

Thursday night my Internet went down. Living in the backside of beyond, that's not a terribly unusual occurrence.

What was unusual is that it was still out 15 hours later. My land line phone uses voice over Internet so that was down too. I had to drive 4 miles to the other side of the hills to get decent cell phone coverage.

There are a few advantages of dealing with a small service provider. One is that I got to speak to a real live human without having to pick from a long list of menu items first. Another is that the person is located in my state and speaks perfect English. After talking with my provider I learned that no one else complained about an outage so the problem was most likely on my end.

My plan was do a lot of business on-line. However, with no connection to the 'net that wasn't going to happen. Just as well. It was 85, windy and I had a sailboat in the water. My lovely wife packed a cooler and we zig zagged around the lake most of the day.

When we got back to the house there was a note from the service guy on my porch. He figured out that my problem might be a bad power unit so he left a replacement. It took me about two minutes to plug it in. Next thing you know I was back in business.

Once my phone booted up I called my provider to let them know everything was running perfectly again. I also had some good things to say about the service guy taking the initiative and leaving the part I might need. The lady on the phone was really happy to get positive feedback. She assured me she was going to let the service guy know I was pleased.

All in all it was a great day. The sailing did my lovely wife and I a world of good. Business can wait.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Basic Solar Electric

Here's a very basic 100 watt solar electric system.

The solar panel is a 100 watt Renology purchased through Amazon last year. This particular panel is one of the few things salvaged from the sailboat. Since it's set up to be portable I built a frame out of 2 x 4s and painted it white.

The battery is a fairly inexpensive 12 volt deep discharge from Walmart. Sitting on top of it is a cheap 10 amp charge controller, also from Amazon.

The charge controller is just clipped onto the battery. That way it's easy to switch it over to a second battery if necessary.

The plan is to mount the charge controller in a waterproof box, maybe an ammo can. Then the battery and charge controller will get secured all together in the wooden box. Not shown is a 400 watt inverter that will go with the system.

For now the whole arrangement will be providing power to my shed down the beach. If needed the whole system fits into my sailboat.

Simple and easy, yet enough power for basic needs.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tech Support

Sometimes a man has got to know his limitations.

As part of a little business venture, I'm putting together a new website. It has some tweaks that are a bit different that most sites. A buddy gave me a quick lesson on how to set it up.

Maybe too quick . . . should have taken better notes . . . and learned how programing is done in the 21st century. Back in my day it was all ones and zeros, and sometimes we didn't have ones. Plus, I wasn't very good at it back in the day either.

Please, don't give me a bunch of advice on which programs to use or youtubes to watch. I broke down and got my buddy to help me remotely. Since tech support is kinda his day job, he's really really good at it.

I also got to realize how poky my computer is. For now it's going to have to do until the new business brings in some money. Eventually everything will come together.

Good thing I've some smart and helpful friends. One of the big lessons I've had to learn in this life is to ask for help. For someone who's as independent as I am it was a really tough lesson to learn. Over the years I've sometime struggled alone or did without. At my age I don't have time for that anymore. Too much left to do in the years left to me.

Someone once put it perspective for me. He said, “Remember how good it feels to be able to help someone?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Why don't you let someone help you once in a while so they can have that good feeling too.”


Monday, July 18, 2016

Drinking right out of the stream

When I was a kid I used to hike in the woods. It was common for me to drink right out of the streams. It never made me sick either. These days, thanks to the prevalence of giardia, everything is run through a water filter, or at least boiled.

It's only in recent years that I've bothered with putting a water filter on my house. Now I'm careful to get really good filters that handle both biological and chemical threats. Just ordered another package of filters to keep on hand.

My lovely wife pointed out the cover on my shallow well needs to be replaced. Our well is a traditional rocked up shallow well. A good cover is key to keeping out contaminants. The fit has to be good and tight.

Our course, once again, I'm working without much of a budget. With that in mind I'm going to use what I have around the house. There's also the issue of avoiding anything with harsh chemicals that could leech into the water. Pressure treated lumber could stand up to the wet environment, but the “treatment” is actually poison. Instead I'm going to cut up some cedar beams from downed trees. Cedar is naturally rot resistant.

One of these days I'm going to to build a traditional spring house. They were a lot more common in the days before refrigeration. It's just basically a well insulated little shed over the well. Very low tech, but very useful.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Trouble and markets

As I write this a coup is taking place in Turkey. Erdogan, the increasingly authoritarian ruler has apparently been deposed. I say apparently because he's escaped the country and is calling for the people to rise up against the military. With communications almost completely shut down it's difficult for me to know what's going on. Of course, the US government appears to have also been caught flat footed on this on so I don't feel too bad.

It's going to get interesting over the next few days. Turkey is an important member of NATO and is a key player in the region. The best solution right now would be the one that resolves the situation quickly. Unfortunately there are hints that this won't be over in a day or two. The longer the situation remains unresolved, the worse it's going to be.

Coming on the heels of the horrific loss of life in France, the world is on edge. How much turmoil can the world absorb before it freaks out? Look to the financial markets on Monday and Tuesday. That will be a good freak out indicator. If the markets go nuts then we aren't in Kansas anymore. I am not a financial advisor, so my opinions are not investment advice. With that in mind, if the markets tank early in the week, it would not surprise me if they stayed in turmoil for some time.

When the Brexit vote caught people by surprise, the US stock market took a tumble, but it soon recovered. This time it's different. People are dying out there. This time the news won't be quickly absorbed and adjusted to.

Next week should give us some idea how the rest of the summer is going to turn out. Just to make things interesting there's a huge heat wave predicted over most of the country. Can we say: crazy from the heat?

Should the world get another major shock in the next few days, batten down the hatches. We are in for rough weather.


Friday, July 15, 2016

The Lucky Generation

Recently I went to my 40th High School reunion. It occurred to me how lucky my generation was.

Sure there were a lot of crappy things going on. The economy wasn't looking that great. In fact, we graduated at what would turn out to be about the peak of the middle class economy. It's been downhill ever since.

Over time the major employers in my home town went out of business. Good jobs were lost long before people could even think of retiring. That's the same period of time when good defined benefit pensions started to be phased out.

So our wages turned out to be stagnant or even lost to inflation. The housing bubble hit us pretty hard. The medical insurance system turned to crap just as the bulk of us started to really need it. Even people with good technical skills found themselves out of work.

So how are we lucky?

Growing up there was no Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or anything else like that. In those days cameras were bulky and used expensive film. Today everyone has a much better camera on their phone that can take almost unlimited pictures for next to nothing.

Looking around at the bozos I went to school they are all pretty lucky that most of their exploits were not saved and shared around the world. By today's standards, nobody would have hired us and may have filed criminal charges. Our generation's stupidity is mostly archived in the weakening minds of those of us who were there.

For that I am grateful.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bear induced home improvement

Yep, still have a nuisance bear hanging around. He dropped a couple of big steaming piles in the middle of my trail to the beach. Very rude.

About 44 years ago my dad and I put in some steps to get down the steep hill leading to the beach. They were 4 foot cedar logs spiked into the ground with 2 foot long sections of pipe. Dirt was packed in behind the logs to make a series of landings. Certainly made the hike down the hill a lot safer.

Cedar is great for anything that has to touch the ground as it's resistant to rot. Resistant being the key word, not impervious. Over the years the bottom of the logs got a little punky, allowing beetles, worms and other bugs a home. Even so, the steps were still pretty good.

That is, until the bear ripped up almost half of them to get to the bugs. Now I knew the stairs would need replacing within the next few years. I'd planned on replacing them a couple at a time. Thanks to Mr. Bear, that schedule has been greatly accelerated. The first couple have already been installed.

My deck, which is over the basement doors, needs replacing. A lot of stuff was stored under the deck and had to be moved out. The bear's pulled a lot of that stuff out from under the deck to inspect my basement doors. So it looks like clearing up the stuff under the deck is about half done. Unfortunately, the bear is a very messy worker. Some of that stuff will have to be dragged back from my swamp.

As of this evening there are now motion sensor lights under the deck. I'm not sure if they will discourage the bear or give him better light for his visits.

There are also some fresh scratches around the doors of my veggie van. That's what I get for running a diesel on waste veggie oil. To a bear, my motor fuel is good enough to eat. I'm hoping that once the wild berries ripen the bear will leave my place alone.

Sure, I could shoot the beast, but even though he's given me some extra work, that's not quite a fatal offense. So far yelling at him and my barking dog get him running. Should he stop being shy I'm afraid I'm going to have to resort to more drastic measures.

Paint balls filled with cayenne pepper?


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Of Blogs and other Things

I enjoy writing this blog. It connects me with a larger community. My readers are great people. Over the years it's allowed me to share my knowledge, opinions and projects. Good fun.

Lately I've had some time to reflect on where I am right now in my life. It's said that the unexamined life is not worth living. There is truth to that, at least as far as I'm concerned. Over the past weekend I've had the opportunity to connect with a lot of people I haven't seen in some time.

Some of my old business partners are looking into a variety of business structures that would allow us to advance our personal goals. It's very very tempting to jump back in. While we've kept in touch, my participation has been minimal. Lately I've been putting more time into those activities. I know I'm not being very specific but some things in my life are private and separate from the blog. Also, it would not be fair to my associates to blab about their business activities in my daily writing.

In short, there are only so many hours in the day. Some things have got to give. Unfortunately, as much as I love writing the blog, it's not a very lucrative pursuit. That's fine, but with recent financial set backs, the budget needs a bit more attention. When I caught myself thinking of actually doing jobs I don't like just for the money, it was a wake up call. There are other pursuits I love that have money making potential, but they need more attention that I've been giving them.

Will I stop writing this blog? Not in the near term. What could happen is that from time to time I may miss more posts than I normally do. Please be patient with me. My hope is that I can establish a good work/play balance that will allow enough time and energy for blog posts.

So it's either all that or a Gypsy woman read my Tarot and turned my life upside down.


Saturday, July 9, 2016


Let me get this straight. Protesters march in Dallas against police shooting black people. Police get shot. This will not end well.

First of all, there are police who use excessive force. Secondly, they don't just shoot black people. Thirdly, shooting cops is not the answer.

Since most cops are serious professionals who use proper procedures odds are those cops shot in Dallas were not the bad guys.

Cops everywhere are going to be extremely twitchy. If you are driving along and get pulled over by the police be extra careful. Roll down your window and keep your hands on the steering wheel. Do not make any sudden movements. Pay attention to the police officer's commands. This is serious business. After Dallas they will be much more likely to respond aggressively to any perceived threat.

Order is not kept by the police. There aren't enough police to come close to doing that. Order is kept by most people following the rules and minding their own business. When that social contract breaks down the riots will only stop when the rioters are exhausted.

Heck, there aren't even enough military troops to impose order. The government can concentrate a lot of force in a limited area, like a single city. They cannot respond that way to a large number of major cities in revolt. That's why the race riots of the 60s went on until they burned themselves out.

Studies done after the 60s riots pointed to economic disparity as being at the root of the unrest. Those reports were buried as there was no political will to do anything about that problem. The divide between the haves and the have nots has gotten a lot larger in recent years. Yes, it's been bad for people of color, but poor whites are doing worse now too.

Class is something rarely talked about in America. We'd like to think that we all have the potential to be upwardly mobile. Sadly, upward mobility in this country is mostly a myth. Education used to be a path to a better life, but that's much harder to do today. The high cost of education combined with global trading networks makes it difficult to get ahead. Even if you do move upward, the odds are very long that you'll crack the glass ceiling to the upper levels that actually have the power.

Those who want to frame the struggle in terms of black & white are using the old divide and conquer technique. Poor blacks and poor whites have a lot more in common than they'd care to admit. To the elite they are fodder units, little more. For that matter, most of the cops on the beat are working class folk struggling to get by. The elite don't respect them either. After all, we've seen quite clearly that laws are only for poor folk.

Just because the anger in America is misplaced doesn't mean you can't get caught in the crossfire. Keep your head down folks. The backlash is getting ugly.


Friday, July 8, 2016

The End of Self Reliance

In early posts I may have mentioned the guy who bought a small piece of land down the road from me and put in a small trailer. He'd been homeless in Rhode Island. The guy had been living rough and unemployed for about five years.

The homeless shelter in RI closed on April 1st. That's when he paid a guy to tow the old trailer to his land here in NH. He and a friend lived in the trailer. Later he had a falling out with his friend and shipped him back to RI. The buddy got his retirement settlement and finally had enough money for full time alcohol consumption.

So the guy goes from homeless to living in a trailer on a small piece of land. It has electric power and a gravity fed water source. Before too long he'd gone through most of his money. However, he did own the land, his trailer, a motorcycle and an old car free and clear.

Unfortunately the guy was unable to find work -even work that paid barely above minimum wage. It's really hard to find work if you have a five year break in your employment history. To be fair, I would have been hesitant to hire him myself. The guy's got some anxiety issues and other minor mental health issues that would indicate he might not be the most reliable of employees. Living on the street will do that to a person.

Imagine going five years without having to make any serious mental decisions. He found it pretty stressful to figure out things like how to get mail and pay his electric bill on-line.

He's actually a pretty decent guy. We'd occasionally get together and play cards. I lent him some tools from time to time. He gave me a hand with a few projects around the house. At the beginning of the summer I cut him a burn barrel from a steel drum.

While I was on vacation he gave me a call. He decided to go back to Rhode Island. A neighbor is buying the land for what he paid for it. The trailer is being sold for $50. He's selling his small car to by one big enough to sleep in. That's his plan, to live in a car for a while. The money from the land sale should keep him going for some time, if he's careful.

This is his last weekend here. We are going to get together to play a few more card games. He's returned the stuff I loaned him and even dropped off the burn barrel. I wish him well.

Most people don't realize how easy it is to slip into homelessness: some bad breaks, a few bad decisions, and before you know it five years on the street have gone by. Once you are one the street is really hard to get out of that lifestyle. Thank goodness this guy doesn't have alcohol or drug problems or it would be even harder.

Moving up here was probably not the best of decisions. That land was cheap, but it's really isolated -not the best area for a guy who needs to be around people. Maybe his stab at self reliance was a failure, or maybe he's learned enough to get back on his feet at a later date.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Coast of Maine

My lovely wife and I just got back from 6 days on the coast of the Maine. We went camping and joined up with 23 friends and family. It was great: lobster feeds, campfires, a bit of shopping, walks along the water, fun and games.

My Internet connection was pretty sketchy so I pretty much stopped following most of the news. Unfortunately, I couldn't post to the blog, so I guess it turned into a real vacation. Now that I'm back there's a lot of things in need of attention.

This was the first real test of the ambulance/camper/veggie van since I worked on the fuel systems. Looks like I finally have it all sorted out. Everything ran the way it was supposed to. Most of the trip was powered by waste vegetable oil. I also burned enough diesel to give that fuel system a good test. No plugged lines or air in the system so that problem is finally solved.

I should be back up to full speed sometime tomorrow.


Monday, July 4, 2016

100 years of little progress

Let's go back a 100 years: a time of railroads, cars, electric lights, telephones, airplanes, and mass communication. Now compare it to today: a time of railroads, cars, electric lights, telephones, airplanes, and mass communication.

So now we have computers -big deal. Have they really contributed much to our day to day quality of life?

I'm old enough to remember life without personal computers, never mind cell phones. Back then one of my great pleasures was having a good cup of coffee and reading the morning paper. Now I have that coffee, turn on the computer and connect to the Internet. There's a lot more information available on the Internet, but somehow it doesn't quite capture the pleasure of a good newspaper. You could say I could always go back to reading the newspaper in the morning, but there aren't a lot of good ones left.

Medicine has made a lot of progress but there are huge numbers of people who can't afford even the equivalent of 100 year old medicine. There have been times in my own life where I was one of those people.

We didn't have a zillion games to play on our iphones. Instead, we did things like play cards or board games with real human beings -face to face. We've lost that human connection.

I'm not saying that things were better, just that we have not come as far as we think. 100 years ago the world was in the middle of WWI, a truly horrific time. As bad as it was, at least there wasn't the threat of atomic bombs ending all life on the planet.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Light the night

There's nothing worse than checking out a strange noise in the night with an under powered flashlight. That very thought occurred to me when checking out a strange noise in the middle of night. A pale 15 foot blob of wavering light lacked a certain amount of authority.

We had a nice a self contained hand held spotlight on the boat -the perfect thing for spotting crab pots in the dark or channel markers. Alas, it went down with the boat.

That's one of the things I've been meaning to replace. Since we haven't been night sailing with our other boat, I keep forgetting to buy one. However, like I discovered the other night, it's a good thing to have around at all times. Better to spot trouble in the night hundreds of feet away rather than dozens of feet away. Oh well, it's on the list.

One of the really nifty things about using a converted ambulance as a camper is all the floodlights. We kept the floodlights on both sides and the back. The front light bar was also converted to flood lights. There's even a hard wired hand held spotlight in the cab. With all the lights on night becomes day. Nothing's going to sneak up on us unseen.

I'm not even afraid of the dark. When I was little kid my dad had all these little games we'd play in the dark. He taught me how to get around. Once you get used to the night you don't fear it. Even now my night vision is still pretty good.

Of course, it sure is nice to be able to totally ruin someone else's night vision.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Traveling and the police

If you travel across country you are going to cross a lot of different police jurisdictions, everything from the local Barney Fife to jack booted Stormtroopers. Stay on the road long enough and you'll eventually have an encounter with the law. I've developed a few rough and ready rules of thumb for dealing with them. It helps to have a plan for the day you do get stopped.

Number one is always be polite. I keep my hands on the wheel in plain view and the officer is always addressed as sir. Never rise to taunts. Some badge wearing sociopaths try and push your buttons hoping you'll rise to the bait and push back. It's not about defending your manhood here, it's about getting home in one piece.

That being said, you don't have to give in to everything they say. If they ask if it's Okay to search your car feel free to say no. Make them get a warrant. I've seen cars totally trashed by cops on a fishing expedition looking for evidence. If they don't find any some cops are not beyond planting some. With full access to your car it's easy to do.

If stopped at a road block they can only really hold you for about 15 minutes. Ask if you are being detained. If they say you are then it's a whole different legal framework. Odds are they'll let you go.

There are cops who'll ignore the law and stomp all over your rights as they don't care. You won't win that battle on the side of the road. Later on a good lawyer can make merry hash of a bad stop, especially if you keep your cool. A hefty financial settlement and getting them fired is much more satisfying that taking a swing at them. Besides, they'll either beat the crap out of you or just plain shoot you.

Avoiding trouble in the first place saves a lot of grief. Stay informed. Two years ago Maryland was stopping the cars of people traveling on the highway who happened to have concealed carry permits. There are specific ways to cross state lines with firearms and it's easy to make minor errors. Keep up with the law.

Recently I heard that Oklahoma was scanning debit cards and stealing money right out people's accounts. It's wrong, but it's legal because they say it's legal. As for myself I'm keeping out of Oklahoma.

Find your people and share information with them. If you are traveling in an RV, talk to other RV owners about their experiences with the law. Same goes for everything from hitchhiking vagabonds, to van dwellers, to any other group of people. Some places are more friendly to your particular life style than others. Most folks are happy to share what they know.

It's true that most cops are good, but that means some aren't. There are whole departments that make a point of hiring sociopaths. They are rotten from top to bottom. You really do not want to be in their jurisdiction or in the the sort of group they like to target. There are places that treat RV folks just fine, but beat up people traveling through on bicycles.

It sounds grim, but most folks most of the time are just fine. Be prepared for the exceptions.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Return of the bear

The dog woke me at 4 a. m. again, all excited. This time I figured it was probably a bear so I grabbed one of my larger handguns on the way out the door.

My little 30 pound beagle mix once again successfully chased the bruin off.

The bear had been busy. Some years back I used to store waste vegetable oil in 60 gallon plastic barrels. The waste veggie would be left a while to let some of the crud settle out. Then I'd pump the veggie from the top of the tank to use in my diesel engines. In more recent years my oil supply started to put the waste veggie back in the 4.5 gallon containers they came in. It made for a lot less handling and the barrel system was discarded.

The drums were pumped out and the residue cleaned up with a biodegradable degrease r. Apparently not all the grease got cleaned out of one of the barrels. Over the years some rain water collected in it through the little 3 inch bunghole.

The bear dragged the barrel down the hill and dumped out out the grease, water, and degreaser slurry. Believe me, it's foul. If the bear ate any of it, he's not going to be feeling well. If he does get sick he'll avoid my place, so maybe it'll work out.

He also flipped over a log bench and tore it apart. The bench's been sitting long enough that the base logs have a little rot in them. The bear destroyed the bottom of the logs looking for bugs and worms. Can't blame him for that as that's what bears do in the wild.

Years ago I had a sock type grease filter that I had soaking in a 5 gallon bucket of degreaser and water. In the night a bear came by and drank half the bucket. That bear stayed away and I wasn't bothered by bears for years.

A friend recommended pouring some ammonia in a garbage can. When the bear digs in the can he'll get annoyed and move on. I'm going to try that next. Also going to reinforce my basement door.

There's a guy from Rhode Island down the road from me who's feeding the beast. I've yet to get it into his head that he's not doing the bear any favors. Nuisance bears get destroyed. I really do not want that to happen this bear. At this point I'm mostly concerned with keeping him away from my place.