Friday, September 30, 2016

Watch the Banks

Germany's Deutsche Bank is in trouble. Pressure is being put on the German government to bail it out. Let's see how that sorts itself out. Right now the politicians don't look like they want to do a straight bail out. Anyone remember Lehmans?

The bank caught my attention because I wonder if it will be the final straw that brings down the financial house of cards. There's a lot of unsustainable financial things in the worlds, everything from the overblown derivative market to real estate speculation in Canada and China.

At any given moment something “too big to fail” is going to fail. Then it will be a scramble to see who can get what they can out of the system. There is no way that all debts are going to be paid. A lot of that debt is going to be student loan debt, so that's a plus . . . I guess.

Anybody have any idea why the US bailed out the banks in 2008? Yeah sure, the banks are big political players and the politicians take care of their own. However, the banks do a lot more than buy off politicians. They are the key to keeping the economy going, at least the way it's currently set up. Everything from the drilling of oil to the planting of seed relies on the banks.

If all they were doing was being the middle men between investors and those in need of loans, it wouldn't so bad. That's a solid and valid function of banks. Unfortunately, that sort of work is unexciting. While the pay is steady it's not crazy sky high lucrative -like all the speculative things they've gotten into.

In 2008 they were bailed out of all those bad decisions to keep the economy moving along. Will Germany be willing to do the same? They many not even be allowed to under German law. Could be interesting.

Of course, I'm not a financial advisor. What I am is just some guy with a good front row seat to the sh*t show. We appear to be in for some interesting times.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Waiting for the warmth

It's that time of year again where it's freezing in the morning, warm in the afternoon, and then the temperature plummets as the sun goes down. Any outdoor project that needs warm temperatures has a very narrow window of opportunity. Yesterday as I in town people were dressed for both warm and cool temperatures. The bundled up folk were probably a bit warm at that moment, but the shorts crowd would soon be freezing. Of course, most folks don't stray too far from their cars so they'll either turn on the heat or the AC as needed.

There's not enough time, good weather, or money to get everything I wanted to get done finished. Such is life. This is a rebuilding year for me. Hopefully some of my current efforts will produce some income down the road, but we shall see.

I did get a $50 check from my medical insurance. They had a cash incentive to get a physical this year. Since I'd promised to kids to have a check up anyway it was a bonus. It took months for them to send the check, but it finally came in. The first thing I did buy a bottle of rum . . . for medicinal purposes. Don't worry, not all the money went for booze. Some went for chocolate and ice-cream.

My in-laws had hoped to catch the fall colors when they were here, but they were a bit early. It's not an exact science. Even though I see it year after year, it never gets old for me. If I have to drive into town I pick the most scenic routes for the time of day, depending on the light.

Last year I had to go down to Florida to be with my dad so I missed out on the fall activities. Nothing is being taken for granted this year.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Another 400 mile day

Yesterday I did a quick down to Massachusetts to pick up my lovely wife. She went with her parents down to my daughter's place. My in-laws were flying out of Boston the next day. I stayed at home to deal with the guy who was looking at my woodstove. It was a lot of extra travel, but I did get to see my daughter and grandkids one more time so totally worth it.

The road loop around Boston does not seem to ever have a slow time. Unless, of course, you count those times when traffic is so heavy the highway becomes a huge parking lot. The good thing about driving in that kind of traffic is realizing it's an occasional thing for me. My gratitude for not having to commute like that on a daily basis is endless.

There are a few more outside projects that really have to be done before the snow flies. The next one is changing the door that goes out onto the deck. The old wooden one has seen better days and never was very well insulated. That wasn't a problem when we were going south for most of the winter. Now that we are definitely staying here for at least most of it, we need something better. One of my daughters and her husband renovated a house and no longer needed one of the outside doors. It's a fairly new steel clad insulated door, perfect for my needs.

Not sure if I'll switch it out today or just do the prep work. Feeling a bit worn out and just might take it easy. Changing an outside door goes a lot better if the weather is nice and today will be only so so. That just might be enough of an excuse to wait a day.

I must admit to being a bit sore. The road trip didn't really give me much of a rest after moving that heavy cast iron stove. The young guy who came to pick it up was supposed to have help with him to move it. He's young, over 6 feet tall and in his 20s yet could barely lift his end of it. Never mind carry it any distance.

However, he was willing to buy the stove so I was determined he would leave with it. With the use of scrap lumber, a dolly, steel ramps, ratcheting straps, and a come along, we made it happen.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Visit from Texans and heavy lifting

My in-laws made the 2000 mile trip from Texas to New Hampshire. I pretty much ignored the Internet during their visit so as to enjoy their company while they were here. This trip is how they decided to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. Most of their grandkids are here in New England so we were all able to get together. We had meals, campfires, and even went to an outdoor concert. Good fun.

I've always gotten along with them. Maybe it didn't hurt that we always lived far enough apart so we never got on each other's nerves. They are good people.

My lovely wife went down with them to Massachusetts where they'll be catching a flight early in the morning. I stayed behind. A guy wanted to buy my old wood burning kitchen stove. Unfortunately, his buddies who were supposed to help him load the stove bailed on him. We moved it just the two of us.

Good thing I had a dolly and some heavy duty ramps. He had some strapping and a come along. Doors had to be removed. The deck needed some temporary reinforcement. It took some time but we got it loaded without any injuries. He'll have to figure out some way to unload it. Not my problem.

Lots of catching up to do now that my company is gone.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Security Tax

I wonder how much of our national resources now go toward paying the “security tax.” That's money spent on things that are supposed to keep us safe.

The most recent bombings in the US didn't do all that much damage. Compared to what happens day to day in a place like Afghanistan, it's just another market day.

The response to those bombings is hugely expensive. NY security is now tighter than it's ever been. Just think of all the police overtime, then add in all the extra private security. Just for fun and games try to imagine how security threats will affect business in the future.

If you were a tourist wouldn't you rethink your vacation plans? Even Paris France, one of the world's top vacation destinations, is seeing a drop in tourism. Would you open a business in a neighborhood that had a bombing or a race riot? If you did you'd have to spend money on security doors, cameras and maybe even private security guards. Someone has to pay for all those extra measures.

We end up with a perfect storm of business activity going down while at the same time security costs are going up. In the United States, in most areas, security was a pretty low cost operation. My home town used to be so safe that businesses would sometimes forget to lock their doors at night. Property crime is still pretty low, but I bet no one forgets the locks these days. More people are installing alarms, heavier locks and employing security companies.

Right now things still aren't too bad, even with the TSA slowing down air travel causing many hours of lost productivity. At least suppliers don't have to worry about highwaymen robbing their supply trucks. Although during the recent Charlotte riots highway traffic was stopped, cargo removed from trucks and set on fire. One more data point. One more incident of the security tax in operation.

Should we include the US military in the security tax equation? The trick with security is to have enough so that doing business is safe, but not to waste money on unneeded services. Thanks to the world we now live in, the basic cost of security keeps going up.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Endless Summer

I woke up this morning and dressed in shorts. Not that many years ago I could count on frost being on the ground this late in September. Didn't even close the windows last night. Of course, weather is fickle and it could snow next week. I've run my woodstove one day this month and really didn't need to.

Compared to much of the country we lucked out this summer. The weather was hot, but not too hot. While we had some mild drought conditions we did much better than the southern part of the state. There was just enough rain to keep the woodlands from going up in flames. I've friends downstate who had water restrictions in their town. Other friends in Maine had their well go dry. My well dropped about 5 inches but held steady after that.

The summer has blinked by. My days are full. Many projects are still not completed, but that's the nature of projects.

There have been a lot of get togethers this summer with friends and family. More are on the way. Tonight it's pizza and pool at my cousin/s. My in-laws are coming up from Texas on Thursday. We'll be joined by my oldest daughter and her family on Friday.

Last year at this time I was called to Florida to be with my dying father. With the exception of a short trip to bring his ashes home in November, we were down south until the end of March. With dad gone there is no hurry to head south anytime soon. In fact, we are needed here right now. A family member is going through a rough time and we want to be around.

Some years I could not wait to head south. The warm moist Florida air has been good for my firefighting damaged lungs. I've been feeling pretty good this summer, and have the lab tests to prove it. If I keep the humidity up in the house and take my vitamin D, I should be fine.

I haven't mentioned it on this blog, but my lovely wife has had a few medical scares. She had some normal medical screening while we were in Florida. Tests indicated that some things needed to be followed up on. Our copies of the medical tests were lost in the shipwreck. There was some difficulty getting the raw data from the Florida clinic. The local doctors wanted to compare current tests with the old. Turns out it was nothing to worry about. However, she had a biopsy taken for an unrelated problem. That turned out to also be fine. I am relieved.

With the political, economic and social state of the country right now, it makes sense to stay close to home. My lovely wife and I do plan on a trip or two into Canada, but we live so close to the border that Canada is a local trip.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Currency Collapse?

Anyone else paying attention to the currency markets out there? I'm not a financial guy. There does seem to be a lot of scuttlebutt on the Internet.

If you do feel something is about to go down are you doing anything about it? Some folks I know are adding more ammo to their preps. Others are investing in precious metals.

As for myself, I've added some more food to my storage. If you are going to store food the best bang for the buck has always been things like whole grains and beans. This time around I purchased something different, a big bucket of freeze dried food. Two reasons, variety and light weight storage.

Freeze dried food takes up a lot less space and is quick to prepare. I'm going to keep it stored in my van. That way I'll have some food if we decided to head out somewhere at a moment's notice. If it was in my house then all my eggs would be in one basket.

In a major currency collapse my personal income would most likely disappear -or become worthless. Good thing it's only money.

Seriously though, has anyone any inside information where this is going in the near term?


Sunday, September 18, 2016

In Search of Footwear

If you are going to spend any money on anything, buy yourself good footwear. It doesn't matter if you are getting boots for 40 below or flip flops.

Flip flops? Why spend money on flip flops? I wear them a lot. For me, they are more comfortable than slippers around the house. They are also great for someone who's in and our of the water a lot. There's a surprising difference in comfort between the cheapos at the big box store and $30 ones.

If I wear the cheap ones my feet and back are killing me by the end of the day. Quality ones provide some support and that makes a big difference. They are also less likely to blow out on you. A flip flop that fails all of a sudden could cause a bad fall.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are my heavy duty winter boots. I've two pairs. One pair is heavy, mostly due to the steel toe. You wouldn't want to go on a long hike with them, but they are great for things like moving firewood that you could drop on your foot. My other pair is just as warm, but lacking a steel toe they are much lighter. Those are my winter sports boots for things like snowshoeing or ice fishing.

What I'm lacking right now is a good lightweight boot for the shoulder seasons. It's a time a year when you are most likely to run into mud or slush. Waterproofing is important. They are the sort of boots I like to wear when on a day hike or doing out small game hunting. Years ago a friend who worked at L. L. Bean snagged me a nice pair of leather mid weight boots. I wore the heck out of those until they were totally gone. Unfortunately, they have become so pricey that even a quality footwear guy like myself chokes on the price.

One of my big problems is that I have size 14 feet, and they are wide. Shopping in my area is extremely limited, especially for bigger sizes. Footwear is one of those things that I hate to order on-line. That being said, I've been reduced to doing just that.

I'm signed up for Amazon prime so I take advantage of the free shipping and free return policy. Yesterday a pair of Keens came in. The hiking sandals I purchased six months ago fit great so I hoped the boots would too. Nope, too small. It was back in the box and out the door the same day. Now I'm waiting for another pair from a different company to come in. If those don't fit they'll be shipped back out too.

It's a crazy way to shop for boots. Years ago there was a local company that made military footwear. They had a store that sold seconds at a steep discount. I miss those days. Not only that, there used to be two cobblers in town. Prices were reasonable and they did good work. Once I even had zippers put in paratrooper boots so I could wear them at work.

Maybe I'll just have to learn how to make mukluks.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pipeline Break

A pipeline that runs from TX to NY broke causing a massive spill.

There may be area shortages and price hikes. The good news is that they are scrambling to get it fixed as soon as possible.

I've two concerns here. The first one, of course, is environmental. It's a significant spill. The second thing is that it illustrates how fragile some of our major infrastructure is. This one pipeline supplies a huge region of the country.

There are work arounds. Fuel can be shipped by truck and boat. However, a pipeline is the cheapest most efficient way to transport fuel. Someone down the line has got to eat the costs. Most likely that will be the consumer.

I've yet to see any mention on how this happened. Most likely is was an accident. Now imagine if terrorists wanted to harm the country. Small teams could cause multiple breaks all along the line. It would take a lot longer to find and fix the problem. Imagine there being hidden explosive charges positioned to go off once the line starts flowing again. Panic could grip the nation when fuel supplies ran low.

I'm not going to write up a terrorist how to, but there are many soft targets in our infrastructure, the grid, transportation, water supplies, and so on. A combined attack could cause wide scale national disruption.

Of course, with the neglect of much of the nuts and bolts that keep our country running, it would not take a terrorist attack. We could have have multiple failures on any given day from neglect alone.

That's why it's important to be able to take care of your basic needs. Most people are likely, in the short term, to panic over gasoline. While inconvenient it's rarely a matter of life or death. You should be more concerned about where your food and water come from.

The systems that keep a modern nation functioning are brittle. They should not be taken for granted.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Spur of the moment road trip

My lovely wife and I took a spur of the moment trip down state. We visited a relative in the hospital. She's doing much better and will be out in a few days. While we were in the area we visited friends and took care of some business.

My lovely wife and I spent the night in the van. We dry camped in a friend's driveway. The solar powered 1000 watt inverter worked out well. All it took was a couple hours of sun to replenish all the power we used overnight. Not bad at all.

When we got home a huge bucket of freeze dried food had been delivered while we were gone. Too bad we didn't have it with us on the trip as we spent too much money eating out. The van has a small microwave that would make heating up the meals fairly easy.

The idea is to keep the van better stocked with quick to cook meals. That way when we head out out spur of the moment we'll have all the stuff we need. One good thing is that all the bedding had been stored in the van. All I did was put in a fresh water brick and toss in some fresh clothes.

The van ran well and most of the trip we burned waste vegetable oil instead of diesel. Highway speeds were not a problem, nor was there any difficulty in the mountains. Since I worked over the fuel systems we've traveled around 1000 miles. I'm finally starting to trust it.

While it was a good trip, we are exhausted and happy to be home.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Economically depressed, but not depressing

All my life I've lived in Coos County New Hampshire. It's the largest county in the state geographically -bigger than the whole state of Rhode Island. It also has about 33,000 people. That's an extremely low population density for the Northeast.

I've watched my home town go from a population of over 20,000 to a population of less than 10,000. The economic experts do not expect things to get better. While the state of New Hampshire is doing well as a whole, all the growth has been in the south.

It's tough to make a living, but if you have any sort of regular income it's possible to get by. As you can imagine, house prices are quite low. So low that a lot of people are buying second homes and fixing them up. Quite a few of my friends and family have done so. In fact, I joke that I'm “second homeless.” Prices are so low that I overheard the busboy at a local restaurant say he just bought his second house.

Many of them rent out their second homes. Some are long term rentals, but others are taking advantage of the short term rental market from Airbnb. They generate money from people traveling through and from those who come north for the recreational opportunities.

A cousin of mine bought the house next door so he'd have room to put his pool table. No kidding.

One good thing about the economic downturn in the area is that the air and water is cleaner than it has ever been in lifetime. It's a beautiful place to live with a lot of recreational activities. Even in a locally depressed economy there are opportunities. A builder friend of mine recently built an ATV dealership and is putting in a 200 campsite campground.

People talk about bugging out and think you have to go out to remote communities in the Northwest or out in the dessert somewhere. Maybe too many people have that idea. There are other places, even east of the Mississippi that make sense too. It all depends what you are worried about. If what you really want is to get out of the city and someplace rural, check out the economically depressed areas.

Of course, there's Old Man Winter. A good friend of mine, who now lives in the souther part of the state, says he can't move north again because the winters here are longer and colder. He's right, even though he only lives about 140 miles south of me. Between him and I are the White Mountains and it divides the state into different climate zones.

I happen to love it here. It's possible for me to live on a lake with a small income. In recent years I've been meeting people who are taking advantage of the low cost of living. Some have earned money in other places and figured it would go a lot further here. Other people have jobs that then can do anywhere with a decent Internet connection.

It's the sort of place that people think of bugging out to. In my case all I have to do is stay home.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Simple electric sailing

Big and complicated ruins everything. One of the things I've always enjoyed about sailing is how simple it can be. All you need is a stick in one hand, a line in the other and off you go. Of course, as boats get better, things get complicated. Complicated means expensive.

My recent issue of Sail Magazine has a long article about electric propulsion on boats. The focus of the article mostly concerned hybrids, a combination of fossil fuel and electric engine. It's sorta like a Prius of the sea. In my eyes the big problem is how complicated everything is. You have all the issues with having a diesel or gas engine, plus a very high tech electric motor/battery system.

Of course, I'm the guy who didn't like the complexity of a 6hp 2 stroke outboard on my Oday 19. I know a fair bit about small engines. Even when the throttle broke and the parts disappeared into the Gulf of Mexico I was able to rig a temporary fix.

Now I have a simple electric trolling motor. Plug it in and go. Maybe something could damage the prop, but I've got a spare one of those. If the motor fails, replacement is fast and fairly cheap. Everybody carries them. The boat already had a small solar electric system. Not only do I not have to haul gasoline around, the sun refuels the battery for me.

Of course, that's on a small 19 foot boat. What about a bigger boat? Lets say something big enough for a couple to live on. The sailing Uma people pulled the old diesel engine out of their sailboat and replaced it with an electric motor. They could have bought a special marine drive system, but instead made their own using a forklift motor. They were pretty clever and saved a bundle.

So how well does it work if you want to motor all day? In short, you can't. What if you use a generator to charge the battery that powers the electric motor? That sorta works, but is horribly inefficient. Maybe if you had a generator anyway and needed just a little more power to go a few more miles it might be worth it.

Here's the thing. They are SAILboats. There are plenty of people traveling the world in boats that don't have any engine at all. An electric engine is perfect for things like getting in or out of harbors. Last year I was halfway across an 8 mile long lake when the wind died completely. Our little electric motor easily moved us the 4 miles back to the dock. It wasn't fast, but it did the job and there was plenty of battery power left.

So what do you do when your boat becomes becalmed? You make yourself a nice cup of coffee and find some other way to entertain yourself. Also have good ground tackle to anchor. Have plenty of provisions to wait it out.

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people will motor even if the wind is blowing. Some people treat sailboats like they are motorboats with big sticks. Others will motor because while they are moving, it's not fast enough for them. Then there are those who motor because they never bothered to learn to sail really well.

That's great for sailboats, but so what? Here's what. The principles of simplicity apply to many different machines and systems. The simpler something is, the less likely things will go wrong and the more likely it is that you can fix it yourself.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Needed a sail

Just look at this ugly face. Someone needed some sailboat time -badly.

This is the view over the stern. All my worries are disappearing behind me.

I'd been trying to get out in the sailboat for three days. Responsibilities and duties intervened over and over again.

Finally I untied the lines and raised anchor. The weather until today had been perfect for sailing. Rain moved in while my lovely wife and I were out on the water. She was in the cabin taking a nap. It was warm so the rain didn't bother me at all. It still felt good to be sailing again.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Old weapons, modern battlefields

The other day I was watching a news clip of Kurds fighting in Syria. The Kurds were in old Russian T-55 tanks. They were great tanks . . . in WWII. However, they still proved effective against ISIS.

There's an awful lot of old style weapons seeing service all over the world. It's not all generation 5 fighter jets, and composite armor tanks. There's a lot of older stuff out there too, especially in places like Africa and former Soviet satellite states.

Even old firearms are still seeing service. For example the old SKS rifles, predecessor to the AK-47 are still out there. They were produced in huge numbers and they function just fine.

Then there are new weapons based on old designs. From South America to Afghanistan propeller driven combat planes are in service. They make sense when fighting low intensity wars against insurgents lacking their own air capacity. Cheap, easily maintained aircraft that are slow enough to linger over battlefields are more effective than F-16s.

So where am I going with this? I'm thinking that future battlefields will not be as we imagine. Currently most wars are being fought by surrogates that are heavily supplied by outside allied nations. Now imagine a world war where most countries are engaged to one degree or another. That seemingly endless supply line of war machines and supplies would come to an end. Everyone would be fighting with what they have, even if it's obsolete.

A general sterilize the planet nuclear exchange is the only thing that would quickly end the struggle. Barring that, the other high tech toys would soon be exhausted in combat. Then the dust would be blown off the old museum pieces and those would be thrown into war. There are a lot of old mothballed war machines that could be put into service.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

-Albert Einstein

Old Albert knew where this all ends. The world has not seen the horror of a world war in many years. In WWII the US manufacturing base was protected by its oceans. The Russians moved manufacturing over the Urals to be out of easy reach of bombers. Germany really began to suffer in its war effort when Allied bombers finally reached their factories in sufficient numbers.

Manufacturing is very different today. Most of the high tech stuff is built from parts and materials sourced from all over the world. If war cut off those supplies countries would be forced to drop back to simpler and more primitive designs.

In the end, it's all sticks and stones.

Let's not go there.



Thursday, September 8, 2016

No need to be cured

I don't fit all that well into “normal” society. However, I am lucky that I've been able to make a life that works for me.

It's the young kids that have it rough. There are only so many approved life paths out there. Worse yet, many of the societal approved paths don't work anymore. Hard work is often not rewarded. Higher education often does not result in higher pay.

The mental health professionals in the United States have it rough. They are underpaid, too few, and lack all the tools they need to do their job. It doesn't help that their major toolkit consists of drugs. Insurance companies love drugs. They are fast and powerful. Other therapies take a lot of man hours and well trained people.

A major problem is that the mental health professionals are working within the confines of an insane society. How do you “fix” someone to function in a dysfunctional world?

I wonder how many mental problems would be solved if people had decent jobs that provided meaning and a living wage? While money does not buy happiness, poverty is a great cause of unhappiness. Don't believe me? Suffer with a toothache that you can't afford to get fixed sometime.

There are many people out there with real needs that are not being addressed. Mental health is no joke. Okay, I joke that insanity works for me, but maybe I'm the sane one after all.

If I was counseling people I'd soon lose my license. I'd prescribed things like dropping out and hiking the Appalachian trail for year. Working as crew on a sailing boat and leaving the country. Living in a squat while making jewelery for cash. Hey, if it makes you happy, go for it.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Hanjin Time

Hanjin, a major Korean shipping company, has filed for bankruptcy. What a mess. There are ports that won't let the ships in because they fear they won't get paid. Hanjin also has the fear the creditors will seize their ships if they do go to port.

This is not a small company. Imagine what it's doing to global supply chains. The just-in-time system is a very tightly choreographed ballet of incoming and outgoing materials and goods. Imagine a company that needs a certain widget to complete its product. Now imagine that it's sitting on a boat somewhere with no hope of unloading any time soon. Disruptions will work their way though the economic system.

The global system is very efficient but that efficiency comes at the cost of fragility. It's cost effective to not have a huge warehouses full of widgets and only get them delivered when needed. That's great until your stuff is sitting on a ship that can't unload. Almost nobody has those huge warehouses full of stuff anymore as their competitors who reaped the advantages of just-in-time would have eaten their lunch. Now I bet there are companies out there would are wishing they had a bit more redundancy in their system.

Then there's the issue of the sailors stuck on the ships. Eventually they will run out of food and fuel. Somebody's going to have to do something or we'll have large derelict ships abandoned by their crews.

Shipping runs on very thin margins on the best of days. It's a fragile system. Now we get to see how the whole global economic system responds to a major shock. The global economy suffers from the fragility that comes from high efficiency.

Usually it's not one blow that triggers major economic depressions. However, there reaches a point where the system experiences one last insult that it cannot absorb. This shipping crisis probably isn't strong enough to bring the house of cards down on its own, but it is a major stressor. A banking crisis, catastrophic weather, political miscalculation, war -any additional factors could send things into a tailspin.

Should that happen we'd get to see how the system is restarted -if it can be. We may see global trade reduced for many years to come.

I hope someone figures out how to keep the coffee coming.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Winter's coming

Summer has come to its unofficial end. With the kids heading back to school it's going to really quiet here on the lake. Between that and some good weather in the forecast I'm going to enjoy myself while I can.

Last year I'd really hoped to do some hunting. Sadly, about this time last year, my dad realized he did not have very long to live. My lovely wife and I went down to Florida much earlier than we'd originally planned to be there with him.

This year I have plans to disappear into the woods for days at a time. The converted ambulance/camper is running well. The old hunting camp is no longer in the family, but my buggy is like a camp on wheels. It should make for a good base of operation. Really looking forward to it this year.

My lovely wife and I are unsure of we are going to head south at all this winter. It might be a good year to stay close to home. We'd planned on having a sailboat waiting for us in Florida. Since we lost that in a shipwreck we don't feel the pressing need to head right down. However, we could hitch our smaller sailboat to the van and head south at a moment's notice.

Would you believe I actually miss snow? Huge snowstorms that snow us in for days. That didn't happen here in northern NH last year, but this year might be different. There are years when a single snowstorm would bury my driveway in snow deeper than I am tall. Sure, some of that was drifting, but it's pretty impressive none the less. Better put a new shovel on my shopping list.

Maybe I just really miss snowshoeing and cross country skiing. If I get to do all the hunting I want to do this fall, I should be in pretty good condition by the time the snow falls.

Right now it feels like a good year to stick close to home. My lovely wife and I have a lot of friends and family in the area. In times of trouble it's good to be on home turf with one's own tribe.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Sense of Wonder

I've been reading Science Fiction and Fantasy ever since I could read. Of course, growing up in the 60s and 70s I really thought I might have the chance to go to other planets. There was a sense of wonder. Progress was amazing and the universe was open to us. Then we got to the moon. The space race ended and everything got pulled back.

There were some amazing space missions using robotic craft. That's great for science, but doesn't do much for a kid who wanted to go to Mars. Closer to home we benefited greatly thanks to a constellation of satellites: gps, weather satellites, communications, heck, even google satellite maps.

Skylab was interesting, but wasn't meant to last. Anyone remember when it pancaked in the Australian Outback? The Russians had MIR. Now we have the International Space station and the Chinese are taking steps towards a station of their own. That's all well and good, but growing up I expected that stuff 40 years ago.

Recently there have been some exciting developments in private space programs. A company is even planning a robotic moon mission. However, there are setbacks like that little explosion at the Cape recently. Oops. Stuff happens.

Growing up I came to a better understanding of the costs involved. Getting out of Earth's gravity well is hard and takes some serious money to make it happen. The space shuttle was supposed to lower costs but compromises doomed it from the start. Reusable rocket boosters should lower costs, but not to the point where blue collar folks will be working in space anytime soon.

That's the thing. Space was supposed to be for everyone. That was the Science Fiction promise that turned into just another dream. We got some cool cell phones but didn't get the stars. It's a disappointment.

There's been a lot more dystopian Science Fiction. It's not so much about exploring the universe but about things going wrong here on Earth. No one writes the way Heinlein used to, in spite of what publishing houses claim on the book jackets of new authors. We were going to make the universe ours. In recent movies if we do run into aliens it's because they came to us, not the other way around.

Some years back I was talking to guy in the publishing industry. He was saying that when people are optimistic they gravitate more towards Science Fiction. When they are depressed about the state of the world they read more Fantasy for the complete escapism.

Looking at the state of the world right now . . . I think I'm going to have to publish some Fantasy books.


Friday, September 2, 2016

Then the lights went out

Recently I did some work on my well. That stirred up a lot of silt which plugged up the house filter.

You know how one decision can start a chain reaction down the line? Well, a couple years ago I forgot to drain the filter housing and it froze and cracked. That filter unit had a nice shut off. To get my house water flowing again a new filter housing was quickly needed. Being in a hurry and tight on funds a cheaper housing without a built in shut off was purchased.

The big downside of that decision is that now I have totally drain down the pressure tank to replace a filter. Filters don't have to be changed all that often so just living with it was was the thing to do. While it's a pain I had no idea that decision almost cost me a couple thousand dollars worth of electrical equipment.

After working on my well the filter plugged up almost completely. Unfortunately it would not allow the pressure to drain down. In the end I slowly untwisted the filter housing with water spraying everywhere.

Suddenly the basement lights all went out. I did not realize the water spray reached all the way over to my house inverter. It's an old style 24 volt DC to 120 volt AC unit. While old it just kept plugging along. That is, until water sprayed directly into the vent holes.

After getting a flashlight I made sure the solar electrical system was disconnected from the house panel. When I built the alternative energy system I made sure it was possible to connect the solar to the gird side. The idea what that if I ever had a problem with the solar side the solar powered entrance panel could be run off the gird panel. In practice it often worked the other way around when I wanted to power the few grid circuits off of the solar side. While I was able to power up the house and get the water working again, the house was now totally reliant on the grid.

After the better part of a week I felt the inverter had enough time to dry out. With fingers crossed I hit the start button. The old unit fired right up. Thank goodness for old fashioned technology. The new style inverters are not built like tanks.

It's no secret that I'm trying to rebuild my funds after an expensive winter. Buying a new inverter was just not in the budget. To add insult to injury my electrical bills were going to be higher at a time when solar generation is pretty good. Fortunately, everything is back up and running the way it's supposed to.

Sometimes God smiles down on idiots.


Thursday, September 1, 2016

Why I'm not going to Burning Man, ever

It's in the desert in the middle of summer and I'm not an idiot. Tickets are pricey, if you can get them. The festival is often a playground for rich, or at least well off people. Sure, there are still plenty of people who do it on a budget, but there are also crazy expensive encampments that have all the amenities.

People go there to experience something totally different than their normal lives. Then they go back to their normal lives. The paint, feathers, weird clothes, and whacky accessories come off. The drugs work their way out of their systems. A hot shower, a plane flight and then it's back suits and ties. Only a tiny percentage of the people who go to Burning Man live like a Burner the rest of the year.

I don't want a life that I have to escape from. If your day to day life is such that you really need something like Burning Man once a year, you probably are living wrong.

Getting together with a bunch of people for whom the normal rules of society don't apply is loads of fun. Why not live that way all the time? Is it because at some point someone has to climb the tree to shake the coconuts out of it? Burning Man is not a lifestyle, but a vacation escape. It's like going to a resort somewhere, a great party but few can live like that full time.

How many people really want to live a Bohemian lifestyle? I happen to know a lot of artists, musicians, and writers. They do some amazing work. They won't be at Burning Man anytime soon either. Frankly, they can't afford it as art rarely pays well. The most successful of them are living a middle class life with middle class worries. Others are wondering how soon they'll be able to file for bankruptcy again.

Burners talk about how wonderful a giving economy is. I agree, so I operate as much as possible in that system. It's like barter, but no one keeps an exact tally of what was exchanged. It works too, but only among people who you consider to be your tribe. Those who constantly take without giving eventually find themselves without a tribe. That's what makes it possible.

I can't even pretend that I have a normal life to go back to. Part of the year I live in a dome in the woods. Sometimes I live in a converted ambulance, meeting interesting people in parking lots and remote campsites. Other times I'm living on a small sailboat with the other boat bums.

Who needs Burning Man?

It might be fun to put a suit on, get a hair cut, trim the beard, put shoes on, and pretend to be a business man. Let's call it the Corporate Man festival. I'll work in a soul killing profession for a week just so I can really enjoy the rest of my life.