Monday, October 31, 2016

The Lame Duck Weeks

We should know who the next president is going to be after the November election. No matter who wins, Obama will be President until the swearing in ceremony in January. Usually that's a time in government when very little gets done. Everyone's waiting for the new person. Sometimes there's a little bit of panic on the administration's part as they struggle to get their ducks in a row before the opposite party comes in.

I'm trying to figure out what it will be like this time. Normally, the day after the election we know who's coming in and can mentally adjust -or pack up and move to Canada. This might be one of those rare election years when things are up in the air.

It's happened before. Remember when Al Gore was elected President? Then he wasn't. Then he was. Then he really wasn't. We had loads of fun with hanging chads. Just to make things interesting it all happened in a state where George Bush's brother was the governor.

The nation is as divided as it ever was. Trump is making noises that he might not accept the election if he loses. I wonder what Hillery's gang will do if she loses? There just might be enough voting machine shenanigans to cause doubt -in both camps. The danger is that this might not be an election with a “clean” winner.

Say what you want about Al Gore, his conceding saved the nation a lot of uncertainty. Right now it looks like neither candidate is willing to go down gracefully.

Most people are fed up with the whole election. They just want it to be over. Be aware that on the morning after the election, it might not be “over over.”

People have a lot of anxiety about this election. Don't be too sure that relief is on the way.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Drone for home?

The price of small drones keeps falling while capabilities go up. There's a lot of competition between manufacturers and that's a good thing. I'm interested in the lower end of the market. I would not want to spend serious money for something that I'd crash in the trees or land in the lake.

Until recently I always thought of them as toys. Some of the video I've seen has made me reconsider. They can be really useful scouting devices. A drone with the ability to stream live video can be pretty handy. A lot of boaters are using them. Fishermen use them to look for fish. Divers check out dive sites. Sailors can scope out narrow passes before risking their boat.

Property owners are using them to keep an eye on their land. Ranchers can send them zipping along to check out the fence line in short order.

Recently I've been contemplating their potential for homestead security. A lot of remote homesteads have various alarms to protect their property. They range from simple audio alarms to security cameras with video, sound and even night vision. Some people have sensors just around their main gate, others protect their whole perimeter.

A drone could make a good supplement to other security measures. Imagine a simple audio alarm is triggered. The drone could be dispatched to see what tripped it. Even sophisticated camera systems could be supplemented with drone use. While a video feed could provide a limited picture, a drone's eye view reaches further and could zoom in for more information.

What got me thinking about this is that my dog ran something off my property. There was a lot of barking, growing and running around. Never did figure out what upset it. It would have been pretty handy to be able to get a bird's eye view of the action. The dog's great, but she gets just as upset by a bold squirrel as she does by a bear. It would have been good to know what triggered her.

I'm not yet in the market, but if trends continue I may be sooner rather than later.


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Basement Projects

Recently we've had a lot of rain and snow. The snow hasn't lasted, but I think it's pretty much the end of my outside projects that require warm dry weather. Anything having to do with paint, varnish or fiberglass is getting put on hold.

Unless it can be done in the basement. My basement is a dirt floor horror show with barely any room to work. On the bright side, it's heated and any paint spills are not a problem. Before the snow really sets in the smart thing to do would be to get the boat ready. Some of the woodwork can be pulled off the boat and varnished in the basement. Better do that soon before I have to shovel three feet of snow of the boat.

Then I got an idea. I've an old 1974 KZ 900 sitting in a shed. It's so old the insulation has dried up and cracked off the wiring harness. The last time I rode it the battery was always dead because wires kept shorting out. It had to be kick started anytime I wanted to use the bike. Lights starting buring out so I parked the old beast.

Out of curiosity I did quick search on the Internet to see if parts were available. Sure enough, everything down to complete wire harnesses can be purchased. The price isn't all that bad either. When I parked it I sprayed oil into all the cylinders. Right now I'm curious to see if the engine can be manually turned over.

It's very tempting to get the bike on the road. I still have a motorcycle license. If I can get my other projects out of the way, that old bike just might find its way down my basement.

It's funny. I used to use it a lot years ago because it got much better gas mileage than my truck: 37- 39 mpg. Now my wife's car gets the same mileage. Putting an old motorcycle on the road really isn't all that practical, but it could be a heck of a lot of fun.

Maybe a road trip on an old motorcycle might be in my future?


Friday, October 28, 2016

Next Medical Sign-up

Pretty soon it'll be time to figure out what I'm going to do for medical coverage for the next year. That could be interesting.

First some background. I used to have medical insurance through my state retirement plan. It sucked. Even though the plan was subsidized by the state, my personal cost for individual insurance was $1000/month. That was a significant portion of my retirement income. There was no way to keep paying that and still eat.

Having become rather fond of eating over the years, I decided to let my insurance go. That's no small decision as once dropped, there is no way to get back on the state plan. For a couple years I went without insurance. During that time I had a few injuries. While gathering firewood I stuck a pickaroon in my leg. Later I broke a toe, and ripped the skin off my thumb in a fall. Also picked up my fair share of bumps and bruises.

The thumb was ugly, but I managed to keep it free from infection and it eventually healed perfectly. Doctors don't really do much for broken toes anyway so it was just something to live with. As for stabbing myself with a pickaroon; really should have gone to the hospital. If for nothing else than to get a tetanus shot. Eventually the leg healed, leaving an interesting scar.

When the Affordable Care Act was passed I almost did not get insurance. My income is just high enough to disqualify me for subsidies. At the last minute a new company came into the state, allowing me to purchase insurance for $350/month. With strong family encouragement I signed up. Last year my cost jumped to $400/month. During that time I used the insurance exactly once: for a checkup.

Early indications are that my insurance is going to jump up again -and maybe by a lot. Should that happen I'm very tempted to let it go. As it is, every month the money paid for insurance I don't use is bothering me. Last year was pretty expensive and I incurred more debt that I'm comfortable with. It's getting paid down, but ever so slowly.

It would be s a risk to get without insurance again. My life is active and accidents happen. I'm also 58 and fat. On the plus side, I did get a clean bill of health at the doctor's visit. While there they gave me a tetanus shot, so that's finally up to date.

Now some would think I could maybe hope to cruise along until I got old enough for Medicare. The problem is I'm not in the system. As a firefighter in a state retirement system we did not have pay into Social Security nor did we pay into Medicare. No hope for me there.

So what am I going to do? Accept my own mortality? Well, there's that. Emergency rooms will have to treat me if I show up at their door. That's fine in an emergency, but they won't give care for chronic conditions.

Medical expenses could bankrupt me, but I'm not all that afraid of that happening. My parents had good health insurance but medical expenses eventually caused them to file bankruptcy. Even good insurance won't save you from co-pays, travel costs, and other out of pocket expenses. They add up. The insurance I've been able to afford hasn't been nearly as good as the plan my parents' had. If I get really sick or injured, I'm financially ruined anyway.

Next month I'm going to figure out what to do. As for now I'm working on losing some weight and getting more exercise. That probably will do more for me in the long run than buying medical insurance.

Currently we have the worse of Capitalism and the worse of Socialism. If our medical system was truly open market there would be real competition to reduce costs. If it was fully socialized the government would pay for it.

Maybe I'll have to sneak across the border and pretend to be Canadian.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Evaluating Technology

There's a myth out there that the Amish reject technology. They don't. What they do is carefully evaluate technology to see if it will fit in with their community's values. Early adopters they are not. However, if something over time proves useful they will approve it.

There's a story about how an Australian aborigine was given a steel knife. The man admired and was impressed with the steel blade, but ultimately gave it back. His reasoning that while his flint knife wasn't wasn't quite as good, he could easily build another one. If he became dependent on the steel knife, he could not replace it if lost.

In the modern world it's impractical to take the aborigine's attitude towards technology. However, knowing basic bush-craft could save your life. The skills necessary to put together a basic survival tool kit from nothing are good to have. If you can get by with nothing you can go long ways with a little.

The problem with doing things the old fashioned way is that they can take a lot of time. If you've ever hand ground grain to make a loaf of bread you appreciate being able to buy bread at the bakery. Never mind actually growing your own wheat and threshing it. Sometimes I make bread from whole grains, but I didn't have to grow them and usually use my electric mill. To be honest, lately I've been buying my bread.

Time is an issue, there being only so many hours in the day. Another example: the oil company just delivered 200 gallons of heating oil to my house. The house is set up to burn wood and I burn at least some wood nearly every day. However, oil heat buys me time. After a cold night I don't have to get up before dawn to stoke the fires. The oil heat kicks in and keeps the house from freezing solid.

One winter, when we had almost no money at all, I heated the house with wood found within walking distance. It was cut and harvested mostly with hand tools. I did have a small electric saw to cut the logs into woodstove length. Heating oil and firewood was expensive. However, being out of work I had time to process wood. We got through the winter, but it was a daily grind.

Providing heat was just one aspect of survival. Now imagine if I had to forage for food and haul water. What if I had to do my laundry by hand. Make soap? Make candles? . . . and so on and so on. I know how to do these things, but they all take time and energy. That's why I often choose to make use of modern technology; there are more interesting things to do with my time.

Having oil in the tank and a pile of firewood is like having time in the bank. Same goes for food storage. The technologies that allow that are pretty good trade offs in my book.

There are technologies I reject as not worth the bother. Dishes are washed by hand. When the dishwasher broke I figured out it wasn't worth replacing. Snow is shoveled by hand rather than by a modern snowblower. Once the cost of the machine, gas, oil and repair was factored in, it wasn't worth it for me. My driveways are short. Besides, I hate the noise. While I have a clothes dryer, we have both an outdoor clothesline and an indoor one, plus a drying rack. The dryer is mostly used when time is an issue or the weather is too wet.

We've lived completely off grid and it worked. Now we have a mix of off-grid and utility power. The cost of grid power is worth it as it acts like a backup generator that I don't have to store gas for. That's what works for now. Our technology use is always up for reevaluation. There's a constant cost/value evaluation going on.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Why can't we have Pirates?

Iceland is also having an election. Currently the leading party is the Pirate Party. Why can't we have Pirates? The nation started by freaking Vikings gets to have Pirates. The US certainly can't claim to be number one anymore.

It's a real thing. The Icelandic Pirate Party is only about four years old and is currently leading in the polls. The more traditional political parties in Iceland have lost popularity due to the handling of the economy plus some scandals. Voters want something different.

Voters in the US wanted something different too. Unfortunately, we don't have anything as cool as a Pirate Party. Instead we have the same old Republicans and Democrats -two sides of the same coin. Sure, we've some third parties getting a bit of press, but they really aren't threats to the status quo.

Our third party candidates are getting some traction this year, but mostly as protest votes. Yes, I'm generalizing here, but elections are a game of numbers. The Libertarians are like trying to herd cats, but that's the nature of a party based on individualism. The Greens have yet to build any sort of grassroots base. Even the Libertarians have people running for things like school boards and state representatives. You don't start at the top.

No matter who wins next month, there's going to be a lot of disappointed people. There will be those who lost the election, of course, but that's just the beginning. I seriously doubt either candidate will be able to deliver on their promises. Before long those who voted for the winner will be disillusioned.

Trump supporters have a lot more on the line than Hillery supporters. Nobody expects real change from Hillery. If they do they haven't been paying attention. Most people who will vote for her have fairly low expectations. There are true believers, but they are kinda embarrassing.

Should Trump win, expectations will be high. However, outsiders don't have that great a record for getting things done. A president is not a dictator. Working with Congress is required to get anything major done, plus it has to pass muster at the Supreme Court. A Trump presidency stands a good chance of being hamstrung by Congress and the bureaucracy.

Iceland's Pirate has come almost out of nowhere. I've no idea if they'll be any good or not. Iceland's a tiny country but they could be a good test bed for new ideas. They are worth watching to see how they do.

At least they have a cool name. If that sounds silly to you just remember that in the US we once had the Bull Moose Party. Okay, it was really called the Progressive Party, so that's another disappointment.

2016 is shaping up to be a weird political year all over the world.


Monday, October 24, 2016

October Snow

I woke up to snow blowing around Sunday morning. It didn't sick on the ground at my place, but accumulated in other places nearby. Cars coming from 20 miles north were covered in inches of snow. We were just below the snow line. 100 – 200 feet higher elevation got lots of ground cover. It will warm up enough in a few days to melt most of it.

Back when I was kid, might have been the winter of 68/69, snow started falling in October. It never melted and kept piling up all winter. My dad and my uncle were at their hunting camp when the snow started coming down. They had to shovel 3 foot deep snow for a ¼ mile to get to the main logging road. That had not been plowed either, but some logging trucks had broken trail the 9 miles into town. It was a tough trip in a Plymouth sedan.

Life in the North Country can get interesting. I'm sure my kids remember Halloween costumes that had to fit over snowsuits.

My lovely wife and I have been snowbirds for quite a few years now. Nothing like October snow to remind us why. Some years we'd hit the road before now. Not this year. We are sticking it out. Usually we'd be gone by early January at the latest. I'm starting to question our resolve for staying here through the winter.

I don't feel like doing much outside when the wind is howling and there's a mix of snow and rain. Nothing you do outside in those conditions is going to be fun. I'd much rather get colder temperatures and light fluffy snow. Not too cold, but cold enough to keep everything from turning into mush.

On the bright side, I'm feeling pretty healthy yet. With my damaged lungs I'd often start a hacking cough in early October and it would last until May. That's on of the main reasons we'd head south. Warm moist Florida sea air would soon quiet the cough. Over the years my damaged lungs have improved somewhat. It's a slow process.

Well, this little taste of snow is a wake up call. This week I'll be shopping for new snow tires for the car, getting the old tank filled, and piling up more firewood. So it goes.


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Age and Experience

There are some good things about getting older. When you are young every first disappointment and disaster is literally the worse thing that's ever happened. As you get older you get a lot more experience dealing with the crud of life. That's a gift.

As a young person you freak out when the cute girl doesn't like you, your car breaks down and you step in dog poop on the way home. When you become a mature adult every relationship is not a crisis. Cars have broken down so often that you've developed skills to deal with it. You've changed baby diapers filled with weapons grade poop that would put any dog to shame. Then you make yourself a sandwich because you haven't lost your appetite.

One of big skills in life is knowing that, over time, most things sort themselves out. You learn how to fix what can be fixed and how to endure the stuff you can't.

When you are young even a bright sunny day might not make you happy. As a mature adult you feel great when no one's shooting at you. Heck, some days you feel great because those shooting at you have lousy aim.

The future will have a lot of challenges. Any fool can see at least the potential for tough times ahead. Thank goodness I've done my time in the trenches. It gives me a bit of perspective.

I do not believe that what does not kill us makes us stronger. Sometimes what does not kill us leaves us maimed for life. Sometimes it kills us. However, it's been my experience that scars are often the price that has to be paid -so you pay it and move on.


Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pulled the boat

My lovely wife and I pulled the sailboat from the lake. There was a 70% chance of rain, but we looked at the sky and decided to chance it. The long range forecast predicts a lot of rain, ending the week with a chance of snow. We pushed the North Woods sailing season about as long as could.

We got on the sailboat late morning and sailed around until mid-afternoon. By then the skies looked threatening. Rain held off until we had the boat loaded and parked in my driveway. Luck was with us; the sails were nice and dry when we packed them away.

Unfortunately my cell phone battery died so we didn't get a chance to take any photos. Foliage season is past peek. The red maple leaves are gone but there are plenty of yellow and orange leaves yet. Loons and an eagle are still hanging around and that's always nice.

Now that the boat is up next to the house I can do a few little projects. It's in pretty decent shape overall. On our last night sail we noticed one of the running lights has to be replaced. The trailer could use some new tires. A couple months ago I purchased one as a spare. Next month I'll buy another one and replace both of them. The old ones, while worn, still hold air so that will give me two emergency spares.

I'm tempted to build an arch to mount solar panels on. We don't absolutely need it, so much will depend on the quality of the material I can scrounge up. A friend of mine built me a really nice tiller a few years ago. While on the water I noticed it could really use a good sanding and some varnish. That can be done in the basement when the weather's bad. No worries.

The idea is to have the boat and trailer ready to go at a moment's notice. Should we decide we had enough of winter cold we could hook the trailer to the van and disappear. It's good to have options.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Time Management

The only thing we have in life is time. It's our most precious commodity. Time is life. When we go to work, we sell our time, which is like selling little bits of our life. Be careful how you sell your life.

Now I get that people have to have some sort of income. If you can make a living doing a job you love, that's ideal. Unfortunately, too many people work to survive. If that's what you have to do to support your family, that's a noble sacrifice.

If, on the other hand, you are working at a job you hate to buy things you don't need or want, that's a really bad deal. It's also one of those things that sneaks up on people. Many people sacrifice to buy stuff that they are only getting because that's what's expected of them. We are social animals and it's easy to follow the herd.

What I can't understand are those people who have good retirements and then don't know what to do with themselves. Did they forget to have dreams? Could it be a lack of imagination that causes people to take crappy jobs, “to stay active.” Maybe they've been stuck inside a box so long they don't know what to do with themselves when they get out?

Recently, as favor for a friend, I joined one of those professional networks. My profile is probably one of the weirdest ones. I make it very clear that I am not looking for a normal job, nor am I'm looking to climb the ladder of success. It's the job resume for someone who does not want to work a real job.

That doesn't mean I won't work. However, I'm doing work that I either really enjoy or work that pays really really well. Ideally, one that does both. That being said, if there's some dire need for money and my employment options are limited I'll take the job until the crisis is over. That's one of the things I did when I first got married and had some surprise expenses. Sacrifices are made for your family.

I will donate my time, but that's something else. We all have to do our part to make the world a bit better. People have been confused to see me do work for free that I refuse to do for pay. Giving labor out of love for my fellow man is a gift that makes me feel good. However, they often can't pay me enough if that satisfaction is taken away.

My view on time and work is skewed by my life experiences. One of the major influences is when I was seriously injured on my job as a firefighter. No one could tell me if I was ever going to improve or how close to normal I could get. Many months of suffering went by before I could even think of having a future. Since then, I know how truly precious time is. I got a second chance at life and I'm not going to waste it.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Being out of touch

Doesn't this seem like a great time to be in some other country than the United States? Not forever, mind you, just until around the third week of November or so. That should give the dust some time to settle.

We expect to be in contact with the world 24/7 these days. Back in the day I'd disappear into the woods for a while. I had no idea what was going on in the rest of the world. There could be a major war going on and I'd have no idea. With most people having smart phones, people get upset if you don't get back to them instantly. Stay out of touch for a week and you are forgotten. . . or fired. Employers want you to be reachable at all hours of the day or night.

A few years ago my lovely wife and I were sailing down the west coast o Florida. Soon after leaving the Everglades City area we lost cell phone connection. There's a low powered tower in Flamingo, but it's only for AT&T service. At the time we had a Verizon phone so we were out of luck. Bad weather kept us in port for a few days.

Once the weather cleared we sailed across Florida Bay to the Keys. In the middle of the afternoon we came close enough to a tower to get service. Suddenly the phone came alive as messages flooded in. Once we were at anchor it took a long time to go though them all. The funny thing is, maybe one or two were of any real interest and none were all that important.

I'm not a hermit, but it is nice to take a break from all the noise and confusion once in a while.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Quest for socks

I never appreciated my grandmother's knitting when I was a kid. She kept me in winter socks and mittens the whole time I was growing up. Today it would cost a fortune to have custom items knitted to fit me perfectly. She's long gone, but maybe she can still feel my gratitude.

Finding decent socks these days is nearly impossible. To be fair, my feet are size 14 and wide. There are specialty stores on-line that sell socks that might fit. However, socks are the sort of things you really want to handle first. How do they feel? Is the stretch just right? Are the proportions correct? Is the material too thick or too thing?

There are plenty of places that have off the shelf socks that claim to fit me. Here's the thing. When socks say they fit size 9 to 15 . . . they don't. Sure, it might be possible to stretch them onto your foot, but that's not a true fit. Even if you do get them on, they'll never be comfortable, plus they won't last. Socks are such a simple thing but bad socks ruin your day.

That's why, weather permitting, I wear sandals. No socks are required. In fact, it's considered a fashion disaster to wear them. (Okay, I've been informed that for many people, like diabetics, socks with sandals are doctor's orders.) For the rest of us, going without socks is normal. For casual around the house stuff and beach wear, flip flops are fine. If there's serious walking involved a good pair of hiking sandals do the job.

With winter on the way good socks are a necessity. Finally found a pair of decent boots. Now socks are required. Even tried wearing my hiking boots without socks. Not good. My feet stuck to the inserts in the boot and sucked them half out when the boots came off. In the short term, I stuck with socks that sorta kinda fit.

Maybe I'll give up on socks completely and learn how to use Russian foot wraps. If properly wrapped, they work better than socks. The Russian army only recently started to use socks . Actually, it's a skill that might be good to have.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Air gaps and winter prep

This year, for the first time in quite a few years, my lovely wife and I plan on staying in NH for most of the winter. More effort is going into winter prep than travel prep. The house is more weather tight than it's been in years -and I'm not done yet.

My daughter and her husband did extensive house renovations. One of the things they no longer needed was one of their outside doors. It was in excellent shape and much better than my old door to the deck. Thanks to my daughter's door gift my house is noticeably warmer. Today I just cut up the old wooden door for firewood. The only insulation that door had was the reflectix I stapled on it. That wasn't the most attractive fix but it's what I had at the time.

I'm a big fan of expansion foam in a can. It's great for sealing pesky air gaps. While it's pretty messy stuff to work with, that doesn't matter much in my unfinished basement. There's one more section behind my battery bank yet to do as it's hard to reach. My solution will be to duck tape a spray can to a long pole and pull the trigger with a piece of paracord. Sure beats moving a half ton of batteries.

Oil heat is common in New England. The price of oil is lower than it's been in a long time. It's nice to have a furnace to back up my wood heat. That way if I happen to sleep in, the furnace keeps the house from getting too cold. Sure beats waking up to a 39 degree house and then spending the rest of the day getting it up to temperature. We also couldn't leave the house for a few days without getting someone to stoke the stove.

One thing I don't like about winter is that I tend to gain weight. Too much staying inside when the weather is bad. However, a good friend gave me a kit that turns my pedal bike into an exercise bike. Yes, I'm actually using it. I've used stationary bikes in the past and can stick with it.

I should have more firewood cut up, but that will happen. My one hope is that winter passes as fast as this past summer did.


Monday, October 17, 2016


My lovely wife and I had the pleasure of going to the Riverfire Festival in Berlin, NH this year.

There's a lot of activities for the kids, a costume parade, food vendors, music -and the river is set on fire.

Years ago the river was divided in half between two different paper companies. Their boomdocks remain. Pallets are stacked on them.

. and they are set on fire.

It's something to see. We met up with family and met friends there so it was a pretty good time.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Tentative Plans

My lovely wife and I brought our coffees down by lake Saturday. It's a beautiful time of the year. Had there been any wind at all we would have taken the sailboat out. Instead we sat at our picnic table and watched the wildlife. The loons stayed on the other side of the lake. A large bald eagle was perched above our heads in a tall pine tree. It got into a brief tussle with an osprey but the eagle held its ground.

It was a good time to discuss our future sailing plans. While we lost our Ranger sailboat last winter, we still have our Oday 19. Good thing, as we are not in a position to purchase a bigger boat this year. The Oday has a new mainsail and overall it's in pretty good shape. We will soon put it on its trailer so the boat will be ready when we want to go somewhere.

By where? When? We are definitely sticking around for the Christmas holiday season. All our kids will be around this year so it's going to be a special time. After that, however, our schedule is open. We might stick around all winter or we might head south to warmer weather.

One of the things we hoped to do was to sail the Intra Coastal Waterway down the eastern seaboard. Instead of doing it all at once in a bigger boat we could do it in sections with the boat we have. We could trailer the boat to the water, sail a section of it, then pick up the boat with the van and trailer.

Years ago my lovely wife and I did that in Florida. We sailed that boat 600 miles down Florida's west coast and ended up in the Florida Keys at Bahia Honda. I hiked through the park until I got to Rt 1. There I caught a bus to the Marathon airport where I rented a car. I backtracked and picked up my lovely wife and the dog. We left the boat at anchor and paddled the inflatable kayak back to the rental car. It was deflated and packed in the trunk.

Then I drove back to where the van and trailer were parked. A couple days later I drove to the park, inflated the kayak and fetched the boat. It was a hassle, but much easier than sailing the the boat another 600 miles.

One of the things I'd love to do is to go back to Lake Champlain. In Vermont. It's not all that far from where we live in New Hampshire. We could drop the boat in the lake and make our way through the canals to the Hudson River. My lovely wife grew up on the Hudson so she'd really like to go back. We could take the Hudson all the way to the sea. At some point I could either make my way back to the van or have a friend drive it down to pick us up. That would be a good spring or summer trip.

It's not the same as doing it on a larger boat but there are advantages. I can raise and lower the mast myself without special equipment. That's super handy when going through the canal system. Bigger boats hire boatyards with cranes to do the job. We always have the advantage of being able to tow the boat back home. Sure beats trying to find a good and inexpensive boatyard to store it.

If we leave in the winter we could do a southern section of the ICW. Options are open. Our plans are tentative, but by communicating with each other we are on the same page. By using our existing boat and equipment we can do our next adventures on the cheap. Eventually we'll be in a position for a larger boat, but we won't have to wait for that to have fun.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

War Drums

What the heck people? There's been a lot of chatter on the Internet about rising US/Russia tensions. Russia just did a public defense test involving 40 million people. They've instructed their citizens to come home immediately.

We are dangerously close to having US and Russian forces come into direct conflict in Syria. There's threats of cyber war. I'm just skimming the surface here. A little research will reveal some serious crap going down.

It's easy to ignore the threats as posturing and saber rattling. That would be a mistake. Normal rational people would not even think of starting WWIII. Unfortunately, there are people in positions of power who think such a war is winnable.

. . . and all the troops will be home by Christmas. That was the promise of WWI. It had been a long time since there had been a serious conflict. Politicians had ambitions. Generals had outdated ideas about what it would take to win a war. Instead of a short war it dragged on and on destroying some of the best and brightest of that generation. It ended badly enough that it set up the conditions that lead to WWII.

Now we come to a time when the remaining WWII vets are quite ancient. Few are in positions of influence. We have a generation of leaders with no personal memory of world wide hot conflict. It's said that generals always prepare to fight the last war. That kind of thinking isn't good enough.

We think cyber war involves the hacking of e-mails. That's trivial. Now imagine all the computers in the world's banking systems going down. GPS satellites turning off. Power and water plants shutting down. All communications going down. The military losing control of its assets like drones.

That's only the stuff I can imagine happening. History has shown that in war time weapons are used that no one has ever seen before.

It used to be that our fear of nuclear weapons kept all sides from using them. There are people in power who fully believe a nuclear war is winnable. Are they crazy? Delusional? Is their hubris so great they cannot see how dangerous that is? Could they be so evil they don't even care?

Even something like a cyber war, where no shots are fired, could kill millions. If a country is in complete upheaval from all their electronics shutting down, going nuclear might seem like the only way to go. Scary stuff.

Whatever the happens, it won't hurt to able to take care of your basic needs on your own. Theres not much of a downside being prepared and huge upside if things go sideways. If things really get crazy we end up with the whole northern hemisphere as a radioactive wasteland. Know anyone in Patagonia? I don't, so I'm stuck riding out this mess. Crazy times.


Friday, October 14, 2016

When dreams turn into nightmares

Life on a boat is living the dream. Youtube is full of videos of people exploring sandy beaches, watching dolphins frolic, and drinking sundowners while watching another perfect sunset. Who would not want to live the life?

One of the Youtube channels I was following is: Sailing Miss Lonestar. They seemed to be a fun loving couple with a couple of kids. They started out on a powerboat then flew up to Maine to pick up a sailboat. Things did not go as planned. Long story short, they had an ugly breakup, and the kids are living with grandma.

This clip includes the part where the boat is repossessed:

Nobody wants to see dreams fall apart, but it does happen.

One of the glossed over parts of boat life is the number of alcoholics. There are people who's drinking was somewhat limited by the demands of a working life. Once they have time on their hands and fewer responsibilities the one drink in the evening becomes many. The drinking starts earlier and earlier in the day. There are boats anchored in harbors where the big draw is cheap rum.

Personally, I found I drank less while on a boat. Normally, I might have a few drinks a week. On a boat at anchor I was always aware that the boat was my responsibility. One drink was fine, but it would be dangerous to become impaired. Things happen out on the water: anchors drag, boats collide in the dark, people fall overboard, thunderstorms pop up out of nowhere -a skipper has to be ready.

I was talking to a couple that had been living together for a long time on a small boat. They had a pretty simple way of judging if a couple was going to make it as cruisers. If you are comfortable spending your time together in the same room at home, you'd probably do well in the small spaces of a boat. (the same goes for those who live the RV life) Couples who are used to spending most of their days apart tend to not do very well.

I think it was courageous for Sailing Miss Lonestar to keep posting. She got a lot of negative comments. People can learn from her and her husband's mistakes.

-or you can make the same mistakes yourself. Your choice.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Tow vehicle

My ambulance/camper conversion vehicle is still in pretty good shape. It could use a couple rear tires before the snow flies, but that's about it. It's a great camper, plus all the camping stuff can easily be removed giving a lot of space for moving things. The van, powered by the old 7.3 Powerstroke diesel is a towing beast. Loaded with gear and towing a boat hardly slows it down.

Unfortunately, it's not going to last forever. New replacement vehicles with that kind of power sell for around $60,000. That ain't gonna happen. How about another used vehicle? While that's not totally out of the question, one in good condition will still cost more than I can spend. When I got the van it was an amazing deal as I am friends with the people who own the ambulance company. One cannot count on lightning striking twice.

With that in mind, my lovely wife and I purchased a sailboat that we were going to leave in a boatyard in Florida. That way we would not need to tow a boat and could travel to Florida in a small car, fly down or even take a bus. Losing the boat in a shipwreck put an end to those plans. Such is life.

How about our other vehicle? Yeah right. Our little Nissan Versa Note isn't rated to tow anything at all. There are after market hitches available, but towing anything larger than a small utility trailer is taking your life in your hands.

If the van did give up the ghost, I could get a friend to launch my sailboat on the lake in the spring and pick it up in the fall. Since I'm less than a half mile to the boat ramp it wouldn't even need a highway capable tow vehicle. Heck, it could probably be done with a small Jeep.

So what about sailing adventures down south? Once the van's gone, it's going to be tough. We could go back to what we used to do when we first started traveling south for the winter. Back then we had a tent and a canoe on the roof racks. We cut way down on our canoeing after my lovely wife had surgery on both shoulders. Plus we ain't getting any younger. Still, as long as we keep our canoeing ambitions to a reasonable level it's still doable.

Of course, I could just buy another sailboat to keep in Florida. It's still cheaper than buying a honking big tow vehicle.

This is a recovery year for us. We are rebuilding our finances and considering our options. Who knows, we might get another crazy idea and do something completely different.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bugging out revisited

Normally I'm not a huge fan of bugging out. Much rather bug in. Home is where my strength is. That's where I have access to resources and it's where my tribe is. For most situations, staying put makes perfect sense. I'm in the middle of nowhere so things like urban riots don't affect me. Food and energy shortages are easier to deal with when there's fish in the lake, game in the woods, and trees to burn for heat.

However, there are times when the logical thing to do is to bug out. Hurricane Matthew is a pretty good recent example. If you are living in the path of a hurricane it makes more sense to avoid it than defy it. The hurricane don't care. If you are in the path of a wildfire, just getting out of the way is the thing to do. Sure, you could lose your home and most of your possessions, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Your life and the lives of your loved ones are at stake. Everything else is just stuff.

You also have to pay attention to the political situation. At one time Germany was the country most friendly to Jews. That's why there were so many there just before WWII. Obviously things changed for the worse and it didn't take too long. Very few Jews survived by staying in Germany and those who did suffered greatly. WWI Jewish vets who fought bravely and served their country never thought it would turn on them. Even putting their lives on the line for their country was no protection. Germany has few Jews to this day.

What if someone wanted to avoid the horrors of WWII completely? Where could they have gone? Some countries in South America? Switzerland? -there were few places unaffected.

What would you look like when you got there? Perhaps you'd be in the same boat as the Syrian refuges today? Escaping with few possessions and resources puts you at the mercy at the host country. It's a rough way to go with uncertain outcome.

As always, those with means have better options. You don't have to pay a smuggler to cram you on an overcrowded boat with uncertain seaworthiness. Instead you board a commercial flight and go through normal passport control.

Even then, if you happen to be of the wrong political persuasion, you'd better get out before they start rounding up your kind. It doesn't matter what your kind is. As long as you are perceived to be different you can become a scapegoat. Just because you are wealthy doesn't mean your passport can't be revoked and your funds frozen.

With that in mind, bugging out early makes sense. Know which way the wind blows and avoid denial.

What about the rest of us with moderate means? Do you have relatives or friends in a safer place? Would they be happy to see you and help you get set up? Sadly, sometimes people have better luck with strangers than family. Strangers might give you a break.

There is something to be said for becoming a citizen of the sea. When power was being transferred from white to black rule in South Africa, citizens were forbidden from leaving the country with their wealth. A fair number got into sailing during those days. They did not have permission to leave the country, but one day their sailboat just disappeared over the horizon. Some had a little gold and jewels hidden in the bilge. Others left with just the boat. I know of some who became Dominican citizens because getting Dominican papers used to be fairly cheap and easy. Not sure what the situation is today.

People who don't have a plan are victims. Sometimes bugging out is the only thing to do.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Seven out of Ten

According to USA Today, 7 our of 10 Americans have less than $1000 in savings. It's not just the lower classes. Nobody has any money saved. Even the well off are spending it as fast as it comes in.

I am not surprised. Two big reasons. The first is that wages have been stagnant for a long time. Hard to save much money when there isn't much extra. The second reason is that there's so little incentive to save. Banks have been paying less interest than the rate of inflation, often much less. Worse, there are banks that now have negative interest rates. Saving money is actually a money losing proposition.

Unfortunately that means few people have money stashed aside for an emergency fund. It's also well known that only are tiny percentage of people are saving for retirement. Few people believe that Social Security will be there for them yet almost nobody has the private means to get by.

No wonder so many people think they'll have to work until the day they die. That might no be so horrible a thing if we all loved our jobs. Would you do your job without pay just for fun? Darn few would.

Could it be that people don't expect the current financial situation to last? Currency collapse is overdue by historic standards. Why save dollars if they are going to go the way of the Continental?

In the end, it's probably a simple case of few people having anything left over at the end of the month.


Monday, October 10, 2016

The mosquitoes move in

In a previous blog I mentioned that Hurricane Matthew might cause the Zika virus to spread. Sure enough, this article explains how that could happen.

In short, there are now more places for mosquitoes to breed. Doors and screens are damaged allowing mosquito entry. People don't have AC with the power out so they need outside ventilation. There are also more chances for infection as residents work outside to clean up the mess.

We've seen this before. Hurricane Katrina created conditions that encouraged the spread of the West Nile virus. Here we go again.

It appears there's about a three week window after the storm moves on. That's how long it takes for a new batch of mosquitoes to hatch. That gives folks a bit of time to take precautions.

When planning your storm kit it might be a good idea to include anti-mosquito measures. Make sure to have plenty of bug repellent and head nets. Mosquito bed net canopies are effective. Not only do they help prevent disease, you can get a good night's sleep instead of swatting bugs all night. Maybe even include spare window screening and the tools necessary to install it.

We fear creatures like alligators and bears, but it's the lowly mosquito that kills more people.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

What an election year

What a crazy election year. Trump is in the hot seat for they things he said about women. Never thought I'd actually see him apologize. It was just for a moment before he went on the attack again, but he did apologize. At the same time Hillary has to deal with an email release of speech transcripts she wanted to keep secret.

In my opinion we have a choice between two despicable people. I don't care who you are going to vote for and won't argue about it. Both of them are an embarrassment. Sorry, that's just how I feel. It would not hurt my feelings if both of them dropped out.

Why don't we try four years without a president? Spain has been running without a national unity government and some Spaniards think it's going better.

Maybe a small part of me is an Anarchist.

Perhaps there are an infinite number of parallel worlds where anything is possible. We just happen to be living in one of the more unlikely ones. Maybe there are worlds where voters get to choose between two really good choices. Wouldn't that be nice?

So the question is: why even vote? For me, there's nobody at the top of the ticket that I like. To counter that I'm paying careful attention to everyone else on the ballet. The President is not a dictator. They have to work with Congress. It's important to make sure we have some adult supervision in Congress for a change.

The state and local politicians can mess me up quicker than the Feds can. In these crazy times it's critical that good people get in. I don't care what party affiliation they claim as long as they can work with people for the greater good.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

Could be worse

It looks like Florida missed the worse of the storm. A little jog to the east made all the difference. Of course, if you sitting in a house with a huge oak poking through the roof, it's bad enough. Haiti, on the other hand, had it much much worse than initially thought. The death toll keeps on rising there. As I write this the storm is on its way to Georgia. It could just as easily kink to the west so they aren't out of the woods. Besides, the storm surge and rain are going to be bad enough.

Were people wrong to bug out? Heck no. Those who successfully rode it out were just lucky. Is it a good idea to trust your life to blind luck? Not for me.

I had hoped we'd get a good soaking in New England to break the drought. That does not appear to be in the cards. It should be interesting to see what happens to the storm from this point on.

There are lessons to be learned. Once again, basic supplies like bottled water flew off the grocery shelves. With a little planning people could have safely stored tap water for almost no cost. Add a good water filter and you'd be in great shape.

Hurricanes are slow moving disasters. Thanks to modern technology we see them coming from miles away. If you can't successfully deal with a hurricane without panic, how will you survive other disasters? Many of life's trials come without warning. You have to deal with them using the resources at hand.

Here's something to think about. Imagine that instead of a hurricane you have to deal with a massive earthquake. There is no chance to bug out. You don't have any warning so no emergency shopping trips to Publix. The earthquake hits, your stuff is messed up and there's no way to drive out of the area because roads and bridges have been destroyed.

As a thought exercise, imagine having to live for months on end with just the resources you have on hand. To make it interesting, assume 50% to 95% of your supplies were destroyed in the disaster. For an added level of realism, imagine sustaining a debilitating injury at the same time. Do you feel confident about your situation?


Friday, October 7, 2016

Hurricane Matthew and why we can't have nice things

I've spent enough time in Florida that I could vote there. That would be illegal as I'm still a New Hampshire resident. Apparently that's not such a big deal in Florida. People do it all the time.

My lovely wife and I have spent time all over the state. This storm is not just something happening 1500 miles away. We have favorite places and people we know down there.

Someone tried very hard to sell us a condo that is now very close to the predicted landfall area. We did not buy one, but their final offer was tempting -to my wife. I held firm and it didn't hurt to be tight on funds at the time.

We were seriously considering storing our sailboat at one of the boatyards in the path of disaster. Imagine if we'd have hauled the boat out, repainted the bottom, replaced and installed hardware. Then we'd have paid storage for 7 or 8 months. Matthew could have destroyed our boat. Good thing we lost it in a shipwreck back in February. That's right folks, get your disaster over early and avoid the rush.

A free house trailer was offered to us in an area that's at least in the tropical storm band. If the winds don't get it, flooding might.

Once the storm moves on, the damage remains. The bigger the area that's affected, the longer it will take to get things fixed. Take electric power for example. If damage is limited, workers come from outside the affected area and restring the lines. For example, Georgia power workers could come down to help Florida crews. However, if Georgia is also affected they will have nobody to spare.

The storm surge could flood salt water into fresh water supplies. Imagine if a major city lost its water supply. Sewage systems will be overwhelmed: knocked out then raw sewage will pollute the flood waters. Someone will have to clear downed trees, fix roads, check bridges for damage -the list goes on.

On top of that, now imagine if the storm loops around and hits everything all over again. Frankly, if I was in charge of restoring infrastructure, I would not budge until I knew for sure that danger had passed. Why fix something only to lose it a few days later?

There is a lot of potential for civil disturbance. Most people pull together in a disaster, at least in the short term. The longer the disaster lasts, the less good will there is to go around. When supplies get short with no end in sight, it could get ugly.

Here's a thought. I wonder what will happen to all those Zika mosquitoes? At the very least, eradication efforts are on hold.

Pray hard folks.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Jehrico Mountain Park

My cousin and I took a little trip on his ATVs in Jehrico Mountain Park. There's now a nice little state run campground on this lake.

This is the view from the warming hut. Way in the distance, if you zoom in, you'll see some windmills.

This is what they look like up close. Windmills have come a long way. These are whisper quiet.

The last two photos are views from the windmill area.

I hadn't been into this part of the country since the ATV park went it. Many years ago I used to hike into this area. There were some old logging roads,but much of my traveling was through the bush. Some winters, if the snow conditions were right, it was possible to get into the area on a snowmobile.

The trip was loads of fun, but I don't expect to buy an ATV anytime soon. Rather spend what little disposable income I have on sailboats. Choices have to made.

This is beautiful country and I'm lucky to live here.


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Worth overdoing

I've been following Sailing Uma on Youtube. They are a nice young couple who did an amazing rebuild of an old sailboat. The boat is currently in Haiti so you can imagine I've been somewhat concerned.

At the time I'm writing this he seems to have pulled though just fine. The boat is some distance from the main part of the storm, but it looks like they still experienced some serious weather. Right now he's alone on the the boat as his partner flew back to NY to be with her mother.

He knew he was going into the Caribbean at the wrong time of year. Most boat insurances won't even insure your boat if you are at certain latitudes during hurricane season. With that in mind he acquired a massively huge anchor. It's crazy large for a boat that size and he even has two rodes on it. (anchor ropes) If you have to anchor a boat to sit out a storm in bad weather that's a darn good tool to have in your kit.

Of course things like picking the right anchorage is also essential. If you can tuck yourself away among the mangroves that's super helpful. I've experienced gale force winds while stern tied to mangroves and believe me, those trees are tough. They also dampen waves and block the wind.

Another important concern is that while your boat may be anchored perfectly, other boats can and usually will drag. Imagine being in your little sailboat while other boats are dragging anchor at a high rate of speed. Not good. Much of life is like that. You may be prepared but have to deal with problems caused by those who did not.

I am curious to see how he'll manage after the storm. I've read accounts of sailors surviving storms only to have to leave because the harbor they were in is now chaotic. Government services break down and there are desperate people in town looking for anything they can get. Will his partner even be able to fly back into the country?

Well, I'm sure their boat is well provisioned. Worse come to worse he can sail back to the US to pick her up.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Made Worse by Man

Hurricane Matthew is churning up the Caribbean. Haiti is going to suffer tremendously. A storm of this magnitude is a danger anywhere, but Haiti is especially vulnerable. The island is heavily deforested. Even moderate rainfall causes floods because there is nothing to absorb and slow down the water.

Recent cyclones in the Philippines and China had injuries and loss of life also caused by man made actions. Deforestation, the loss of mangrove swamps combined with building in areas that historically flooded are recipes for disaster. It's not an “Act of God,” when the hand of man is responsible for a disaster being much worse.

The United States has done its fair share of stupidity. Some years ago I was talking to a Floridian who remembers the way it was in the old days. There were no multi-million dollar condos on the beach. Back in the day they had little beach huts. If a storm came by and wiped them out, they'd be out a couple hundred dollars. More often than not they'd rebuild with stuff they found washed up on the beach. No worries.

I'm a little ticked off that I'm going to have to pay higher insurance rates because greedy developers constructed substandard buildings on barrier islands. There's been a huge construction boom since the last last time Florida was hit with major hurricanes.

It's not just Florida. That's been going on all along the coast, in one form or another. Hurricane Sandy showed that even New York was in danger.

There will be storms, but the actions of man can lessen or increase the impact. All this stuff is well known. The problem is that those who profited are not the ones who will pay the price. You can bet that most of the ones who profited from coastal development will not be around when the storms hit. What do they care if an old real estate project gets wiped out? They'll probably hurry to cut deals to build new places for the next batch of suckers.

We can point our finger at Haiti for deforesting their land, but that's caused by desperate poor people with no other good options. They need wood for cooking fires. It's a vicious cycle as a lot of that wood is used to boil water to make it safe to drink and it's unsafe because of deforestation.

If the Matthew impacts the United States that's what will be in the news. Haiti will be forgotten, even though they will most likely have the most human suffering.

So many times people say it's bad luck when often it's mostly bad planning.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Like a Tourist

There's a reason tourists visit northern NH this time of year. It's pretty darn beautiful.

Sunday was overcast with the occasional drizzle. It's the sort of day most tourists stay home. For me, it was a perfect day to go for a drive.

My lovely wife and I Drove a loop through parts of Coos County. We even stopped for a coffee in Colebrook NH.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

How's this for a place to hole up during the zombie apocolapse?

When we got home I gathered up some lumber scraps and fired up the wood cookstove. It took the dampness out of the house, heated water for tea and warmed up a pizza. It's been too warm to run the woodstove all the time, but running it for a few hours a day works out fine.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

More clean energy news

Here's another chart showing the rapid price drop in clean energy sources. If you haven't checked out prices of clean energy within the last six months, your information is out of date. Things are changing that fast.

The Achilles heal of alternative energy has always been storage. My own house system still uses old style lead acid batteries, a technology basically unchanged in over 100 years. Now there are battery options that make sense for balancing grid power -something many thought would never happen.

Few people realize how fast the energy landscape is changing. In five years it will be a different world. That does not bode well for coal and oil production. Coal especially is in trouble as it's used extensively to generate electricity. Liquid fuels still have a huge role to play in transportation, but even that market is under threat.

That's not to say the coal and oil markets will completely disappear. If nothing else they are important sources for a variety of chemicals. Some will argue that those chemicals are too important to waste burning them for fuel. At any rate, the demand for coal and oil will go down significantly.

If you live in coal or oil country you might want to consider alternatives. It's going to be tough for a lot of workers. Believe me, having grown up in a dying mill town I know how that feels.

On a personal level, I've been playing with alternative energy for over 20 years. Today I volunteered to help install a grid tied solar electric system. It's a good way for me to learn what today's technology looks like. The system is going on a large warming hut for a local cross country ski club. Grid tied makes sense in this case. While the hut is only used in the winter, it will generate power all year long. The summer energy credits can be used in the winter when it's needed for heat. Should be interesting.

There are going to be plenty of winners and losers. Some industries, like coal, have already lost. Why would someone invest in a coal burning plant when something like a wind or solar plant can harvest free power?

I'm going to have to stop calling it “alternative energy.” It's already mainstream in some areas and those areas will continue to expand.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Invasion of the Pumpkin People

Small game season opens October first. The woods will be full of people wearing hunter orange. I just bought some new orange hunting clothes myself. My hunting wardrobe is kinda psychotic. Some of my stuff is bright orange so that other hunters will see me. Then there's my cammo hunting clothes so I can be invisible in the woods. What's the thinking behind that?

When small game hunting I go for visibility. For me, small game hunting is fairly casual. I'm less likely to end up on the backside of beyond where few people go. It's likely I'll meet other hunters out there. With that in mind, it's more important to be seen.

Deer season is a more stealthy affair. It involves hiking in while it's still dark. That's when I'm going to end up in the middle of nowhere. There aren't too many hunters out there so I don't mind disappearing. Much of my deer hunting consists of sitting still for hours on end barely moving a muscle. I become the forest. Squirrels have been known to run up my leg thinking I'm just another part of the tree.

On my out of the woods I'll often pull an orange hat and gloves out of my pack. As I get nearer my vehicle there's a higher likelihood of meeting other hunters. Then I want to be seen.

Frankly, I'm not really all that interested in deer hunting anymore -it's too much work. Small game hunting, on the other hand, is more relaxed and fun for me. Besides, my lovely wife doesn't much care for venison. She does like how I cook up rabbits and game birds.

Last year I didn't get to go out at all. This year I'm happy to join the Pumpkin Army. Getting out is great exercise and does much for my mental health.