Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking back on the last day of the year

2016, one heck of a wild ride. I thought 2015 rotted. Little did I know what 2016 would bring. It wasn't all bad, of course. Few things are.

Time takes its toll. Please have correct change. Change that we can believe in? That would be nice, but unlikely coming from the mouth of a politician. So it goes.

I see Mr. Trump has already disappointed many of his supporters. In that fashion he's proven himself to be a politician after all. If you aren't disappointed in him yet, you are either not paying attention or have very low expectations. Give him time.

The Democrats just did not get it. There are a lot of people out there who's needs and concerns were not being met. Many of those peoples' votes were taken for granted. It was Clinton's election to lose, and she lost it. Judging from the post election comments it doesn't look like they've learned anything from the loss.

It's been said that many people voted for Trump because they wanted to break the system. Congratulations. Looks like your wishes will come true. Judging from the lack of political experience of the new administration it will be at least a year and a half until they figure out their jobs. It will be interesting to see how that shakes out. I actually like a few of the new people coming in, but that doesn't mean they won't have a troublesome time of it.

Running government is not like running a business -or at least it shouldn't be. A business exists to make money. How it does that almost doesn't even matter. Government is supposed to provide services. Governments that make money do so for a corrupt elite at the top. We used to point to third world countries that ran that way as a cautionary tale. Now they look like blueprints. I really hope the incoming leaders have more public servants than opportunists. Time will tell.

Personally, I expect a time of troubles. However, there is opportunity in adversity. If nothing else it tests one's mettle and builds character. Now is not the time to ignore your preps. Natural disasters and man made problems continue no matter who wins the beauty contest known as a presidential election. There is no reason to give up on being vigilant.

It's time to double down on my preps.

This year I've decided to drop my medical insurance. Thanks to loopholes in the systems I don't qualify for a subsidy. That means I'm going to have to be more careful about my health, which is something I should be doing anyway. The money can be spent in other ways. Maybe I'll spend it on another old sailboat. Sailing is a healthy lifestyle for me. All that sunshine and exercise does me good.

My solar electric system needs a new battery bank. That'll cost a few bucks. Right now it's just barely adequate for emergency backup, never mind day to day use.

Food storage has been drawn down in some categories, but expanded in others. A complete inventory is due to sort out exactly what needs replacement. One thing I've added this year is freeze dried food. It's good travel food due to light weight and good long term storage. Prep is quick and easy too. During an emergency you don't want to spend all your time preparing dried beans and grinding wheat berries.

I do believe that having more cash on hand will probably be a good thing for most people. There's economic disruptions all over the world and we are not immune from those problems.

2016 was an interesting year and I don't expect 2017 to be any less interesting. Strap in it's going to be a wild ride.


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The last of the year

Christmas is over, but all my family is here until New Years. I've been kicking my cold, but it knocked my lovely wife back a bit. She took a day off to recover. She's doing better today than yesterday so that's a good thing.

We are dog sitting my daughter's new pup while they are visiting my son-in-law's folks at their condo. He's going to get some skiing in while there. They should be back with us sometime in the evening.

A storm is on the way in. The weathermen are predicting between 12 and 16 inches of snow. That should keep us busy tomorrow. I made a quick run into town to pick up a few more groceries and to fuel up the car.

I'm watching the last of 2016 limp off into the sunset. I hope 2017 is better than the year we just had. However, judging from past trends, it's going to get worse before it gets better. There is always opportunity in adversity. It's just a matter of keeping one's eyes open.

Christmas was pretty good overall. The best part was seeing all the kids having fun. I hadn't seen one of my grandkids since he was a baby. The little guy's pushing four now. Once he goes back to California I don't know when I'll see him again. Skype is nice, but it isn't the same.

Hope everyone had a good Christmas. New Years is just around the corner.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all my blog readers. Hope this season finds you and yours well. I've got some of the best readers in Internet land. Hardly a troll amongst the bunch. There may be disagreement but no one's being disagreeable. Mostly what I see is generosity and kindness. That keeps me writing.

It's often a stressful time of the year, so I'd like everyone to cut themselves some slack. Things don't have to be perfect to be wonderful.

This holiday season I have a house full of people and my time will mostly be spoken for. There may be the occasion post or there many not. It all depends on how things shake out.

I hope the coming year is good to all of you. May your enemies be few and friends and allies found in unlikely places in time of need.

All the best,


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Kill it with whiskey

There was a few days of feeling deathly ill. I got well enough that, with the aid of over the counter medication, I could pass for human. My lovely wife also had a bout of what I had. We were quite a pair.

My daughter had a Christmas party at her house with a Yankee swap gift exchange. I told her I was not 100% yet and might not go. She told me that everyone in town was dealing with the same cold so come anyway. She said I could “kill it with whiskey.”

So my lovely wife and I showed up. I poured myself a glass of double barrel single malt scotch, just like the doctor ordered. We had a good time and got to see a lot of friends and family. We stayed long enough for the gift exchange and a bit later.

I ended up with really nice camping flask. It should come in handy should I ever have to “kill it with whiskey” once again.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

No post today

Under the weather.


Connected to the world

I got an email from one of my daughters. She heard from our friends in Berlin Germany. They were not victims of the Christmas Market terror attack. While it is a place they often go, they happened not be there that day.

My High School buddy joined the army and married a German girl. My family ended up spending a lot of time with her family. She has some cousins about the same age as my kids. They'd come to the US for the summer, so they became friends. My daughter and her husband went over to Germany a couple years ago to visit.

Then there's the situation in Turkey. Since my son-in-law comes from there, we tend to follow what's going on. Things are not looking good, and that was before they started shooting Russian diplomats.

I grew up in a little isolated rural area in northern New Hampshire, yet my family has connections all over the world. Some of that is from people like my friend who married citizens of other countries. For example, I've connections with Korea through my uncle's family.

My extended family and friend group looks like the United Nations. We have connections all over the world. International issues are not some abstract issue “over there.” They affect people I know and love.

Trouble in Haiti, violence in Mexico, crime in Africa -all the trouble spots impact people I know. Heck, I even know people who work in Antarctica, so every continent is represented. I thought they were fine, until I discovered they went to New Zealand for a break and had a near miss with an earthquake. We heard nothing from them for days because they were on a wilderness hike at the time.

Things like earthquakes and natural disasters will happen. Some areas are prone to them and that's that. Outside of taking basic precautions there's not much you can do about them. However, there's a lot that can be done to improve the way the people in the world get along.

This Christmas season I'd like a little more peace, harmony and good will toward men. For me, it's personal.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Chipping away at it

The weather went from very cold, to cold and snowing. We picked up about 9 inches of snow. Later it warmed up and turned to freezing rain. After that it was back to subzero temperatures.

The plow left a soggy mess of slush for snow banks. That might have been a good time to shovel it. One of my friends did just that, shoveling heavy wet snow late into the night. Good for him. I wasn't up to it.

Instead I'm dealing with frozen snowbanks. My new shovel is strong enough to handle banging away at the ice, but I don't want to break it. It took some doing but the mailbox and the driveway are now cleared -mostly. The extra parking space at the top of my driveway needs to be cleared out yet, but that's going to wait. At least that's what my shoulders told me.

I've happy I spent money on good snow tires. The five mile trip into the village was on completely unplowed roads. The little Nissan Versa was plowing snow the whole way. The going was slow, but felt reasonably safe. From the village into the next town the road had been cleared somewhat. Once into town, nothing had been cleared.

The town used to be much better at snow removal. They had more men and equipment and kept things reasonably clear. Now they don't move until the storm is over. So it goes.

At least the sun has finally come out. It's been so dark that my sleep schedule was all messed up. It wouldn't be sunny enough to wake me up in the morning so I'd stay up later and later each night. Eventually I was going to bed at 2 or 3 a. m.. When you don't have a normal job, that stuff can happen. I've gotten used to having bacon and eggs at noon. I kinda like it.

There's more snow on the way before Christmas. I hope it won't be as icy. The grandkids are going to want to go sledding.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Civilization's bad deals

Looking around the world I see some serious class inequalities. Take a place like Dubai. The people at the top live like kings. Underneath them is a small class of people who do okay, but only as long as they don't make waves. Below them is a vast army of guest workers with no rights.

China has an ultra rich elite but they too sit on top of a vast horde of worker drones. There is a middle class who's numbers are large, but not in relationship to the the country's vast population.

India is two countries. The rich technological one firmly in the 21st century and a huge number of peasants with few assets and no future.

Of course, much of the world runs with a tiny Kleptocracy at the top and horrible poverty at the bottom. We used to make fun of those poor countries, but that was when we had a prosperous middle class. Middle class in the US of A isn't what it used to be.

We've seen what happens to civilizations with a vast gap between the top and bottom. Eventually the bottom gives up on supporting the top. That's why Central and South America is full of abandoned cities and temples in the jungles.

One of the big indicators of things going south is when the rich start to wall themselves off from the common people. They also tend to accelerate their gathering in of all wealth. At one time their material success was somewhat tempered by their ability to add value to the society at large. There reaches a tipping point where that is no longer the case. Is the work value of a CEO really worth 3000 times the value of the company's average worker? Probably not.

Hundreds and thousands of years ago big discrepancies between the elite and poor could be maintained by military power, tradition and the myth of the divinity of kings. In today's information age the king as god myth probably won't fly. Tradition has some value yet in some places. (I can't understand why England keeps pet royalty, but that's just me)

In today's world the elite eventually can only maintain their wealth and power by force alone. That my friends, is the beginning of the end. All the secret police in the world could not keep the USSR going. US police riding around in military vehicles isn't going to work here either.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to end that way. Societies can become more egalitarian. Spreading the wealth around creates more wealth. Everyone benefits, including the elite who no longer have to cower in gated communities in fear for their life.

The United States is in a unique position right now. We have the wealthiest President and administration ever. They could easily take the badly trodden historical trail to ever increasing wealth concentration, or they could focus on making the system work for everyone.

If they don't the masses have an unusual opportunity to make their voices heard. If they can't exercise their power as citizens, they can exercise their power as consumers. The businesses of the elite are vulnerable to boycotts, job actions, bad reviews, protests and other actions. Nothing hurts a crook like taking their money away. Just a little something to keep in mind


Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Craigslist boat

If I'm in snow country and cruise warm southern waters, the next best thing is cruising Craigslist for another boat.

There are people out there who warn potential boat buyers to never purchase a boat off of Craigslist. Only deal with reputable brokers and dealers. (as if that's a thing)

Just assume that everyone who's trying to sell a boat is lying. If you want to be kind you can assume that the boat seller is lying to himself too. He may be remembering the boat the way it was, not the way it is.

There are those who recommend paying a boat surveyor to inspect the boat. That's not a bad idea, in principle. If I was buying an expensive boat that's what I'd do. The surveyor fees are a small fraction of the investment. Be aware that not every surveyor is completely honest. They often have close ties to brokers and have incentive to give higher marks to some boats than they deserve.

However, if buying a smaller boat those professional fees are a significant expense. If you are mechanically inclined you can do your own inspection. There are good books on the subject and lots of information on the Internet. Having owned a couple sailboats I have some idea what to look for.

People tend to focus on the pretty stuff like wood trim and shiny stainless steel. What you really should focus on is things like hull integrity, sea cocks, rigging, sails, engine condition and all that other boring stuff. My wife got really excited when we bought our last boat because all the rigging was new and the chain plates had been rebedded. Not the sort of thing that would excite most wives, but she's special.

Always budget in for unexpected expenses. There's always something that will pop up after the boat is purchased. You might find yourself replacing something, not because it's broken, but because it's outdated. Electronics are a big item that gets outdated fast. That, and you find what was once a $10,000 item can now be replaced with a better $300 item.

There are some great deals out there, but as always, buyer beware.


Saturday, December 17, 2016

I don't believe in science

It's okay to believe in things like God. We take things on faith when we get to the limits of logic and reason. Even in the 21st century there are many mysteries beyond human knowledge. Faith helps many of us deal with the uncertainties of life.

The thing about science is that it's not about belief. It's a method of figuring out what is true and factual. It's the best reasoning at the time with the available facts.

People get upset when science changes its opinion about something. That's actually a strength of science. As new knowledge becomes available a better understanding of reality is arrived at.

Theoretically, you don't have to take a scientist's word on anything. You could study the subject yourself until you had a good working knowledge of the particular field of interest. Then you could look at the available data. Maybe you'd even run experiments of your own to confirm others' observations.

Yes, it's possible, but not really practical for most of us. We should have all received a good grounding in the scientific method in school. When the US was afraid that the Russians were going to get to the moon before us, science was pushed in the school systems. I had the good fortune to be in school when money was available for the teaching of science. Of course, the quality of science teaching varied greatly by district.

If you have a decent understanding of how science works you can at least make an informed judgment about the quality of a person's scientific work. It also helps if a vast majority of trained scientists reach the same conclusions. The guy who 97% of the scientists thinks is wrong might actually be right, but that's not the way to bet.

Problems arise when science become politicized. German science was set back in WWII when “Jewish science” was rejected. Big mistake. We got the atomic bomb and they did not. Soviet scientists had to labor under the watchful of the state. Approved science got support. Politically unpopular scientists found themselves chopping wood in Siberia.

Western nations are not immune to political influence over science either. The Canadian Government destroyed years of climate observation. It's one thing to disagree with the conclusions from the raw data. It's something else entirely to throw out the data just because you don't like what it implies.

There's some fear that the Trump administration might also throw out unpopular data. With that in mind there's currently a mad rush to back up governmental data on non-governmental computers. It would be a shame to lose data paid for with US taxpayer money. Actually, it's probably a good idea to have this stuff backed up anyway. No sense having all our eggs in one basket.

In conclusion, I don't believe in science, but I have respect for the scientific method. That steady increase in knowledge is the reason why we don't conduct human sacrifices on top of pyramids so the sun will keep rising every morning.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Colder than a banker's heart

Temperatures are dropping. Supposed to get to around -12 F. Wind chill temperatures are predicted to reach -40, doesn't matter if you prefer Celsius or Fahrenheit. Forty below is forty below.

I'm glad we have some snow cover. Snow is actually a pretty good insulator. That's why the Inuit built houses of the stuff. Since we've got some snow on the ground the frost won't be driven quite so deeply. There have been winters when having a water line buried 6 feet deep isn't deep enough. The frost goes deeper. I've seen cold Decembers like this before, but I've got to go back something like 37 years.

A couple days from now it's supposed to warm up and give us mixed precipitation. Franky, I hope it stays cold enough to remain as all snow. The driving is better on snow than ice.

We let the dog out to do her business, but it takes her several attempts. She makes it as far as about six feet from the door, then turns around to come back in. Of course, she still has to go so she tries again a little later. It might take her three or four attempts. Eventually, she gets brave enough or desperate enough. I suppose I could put a leash on her and take her for a walk, but I know how to use indoor plumbing so don't feel the need to go out.

We've been getting these little snow storms that give us only an inch or two at a time. However, since it's been too cold for the snow to melt, it keeps adding up. The weather can go from clear sky to whiteout conditions in less than a minute, then back again. If you are into weather it's pretty interesting.

I am curious to see how far south this Arctic vortex will dip. When Florida dips into frost territory, I'm just as happy to stay home. Once it's cold enough to bundle up in a jacket, it's cold. If going south doesn't allow me to wear shorts and sandals, might as well not bother.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Investing in winter

I was walking around a Lowe's the other day and spotted a nice little snowblower. I've got a problem with small gasoline engines as the fumes bother my lungs a lot. That's why I use electric chain saws. The neat thing about this snowblower was that it was a battery powered electric. It would be pretty handy around my house. I'd just spent two days shoveling so it looked pretty good.

Then it struck me, how much do I want to invest in winter? It's bad enough that I had to get fuel for the woodstove and furnace. The car needed snow tires so that was another expense. Winter clothing and new boots had be purchased. Heck, I even bought a new snow shovel.

Next year I'm hoping to avoid the whole winter thing completely. Money spent on things like a snowblower takes away from the sailboat kitty. If all goes well my lovely wife and I will be somewhere in the Caribbean. I hope it doesn't take longer than that to get our sailboat situation sorted out.

There are times when I wonder if I should sell my place in the hills of the Great North Woods. When I'm drinking a cold drink on my beach in the summer those thoughts are far away. Now that temperatures are dropping down into subzero territory and the snow's piling up . . .

I do love New England in the summer. Most of my family and friends are here. Then again, New England has a coastline. Summers off the coast of Maine and winters in the warm islands is totally doable.

Now if only I could find a boat my lovely wife will fall in love with and is in our budget . . .


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

People who aren't what you expect

An old high school friend introduced me to a young woman. I believe she was one of his fencing students. Nice person, who happened to be a lesbian. (My lovely wife is comfortable with me hanging out with lesbians since I'm of no special use to them.)

She also spent a lot of time on the shooting range. My buddy is a bit of gun collector and had a lot of shooting information to share. That was important to our lady friend as she was a writer. Her creative outlet was lesbian fiction, but with a twist. Some of her characters carried a gun. The writer really wanted to have all the gun stuff down correctly. Believe me, that's rare in a lot of fiction of any persuasion.

I almost fell over laughing when I read one of her books. My buddy had become a character in her books. All his idiosyncrasies, habits and mannerisms were there. The big difference is that instead of a bald guy, the character was a chubby blond woman. You should have seen the look on his face. Priceless.

One day I go a call from my writer friend. Her other writing gig was writing for outdoors magazines. She had VIP tickets to a big hunting and fishing show. She was wondering if I'd like to go, all expenses paid. She needed a guy who looked like someone who'd go hunting and fishing. She learned nobody took her seriously. My job was to look like I was the sports writer.

I'd ask someone questions and she'd take notes. However, sometimes her vast knowledge would leak out. We were talking to a guy who'd shot a record buck at long range. She happened to know what kind of bullet drop he had to deal with, judging from his rifle and choice of ammo. The guy gave her a funny look but she was spot on.

So if you are reading a magazine, the writer might not be a big guy with a beard. The author might be a cute little lesbian lady. You never know. That's why people use pen names.

(by the way, I really am a big guy with a beard, honest)


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Winter dehydration

It's easy to get dehydrated in the cold of a northern winter. Even though I'm aware of the problem, I let it happen to me. Saturday, my lovely wife and I hit the ground running. We had a busy day with no down time to speak of. By late afternoon I was starting to feel a bit wonky. Pushed through it, finished my errands and got home by early evening.

Only then did it occur to me that I'd only had a cup of coffee to drink all day. Then I drank 5 glasses of water in a row and felt much much better. Except for feeling like an idiot. I know it's necessary to keep drinking when it's cold, even though you don't feel thirsty. Heck, I even wrote a blog about it years ago.

Cold dry winter air just sucks the moisture out of a person's body. If you are doing work outside in those conditions it's even worse. Dehydration is a serious concern for winter hikers, but anyone doing outside activities can fall victim to it.

You don't even have to work outside to get dehydrated. During cold weather home humidity can plummet. Good humidifiers can prevent that, and make your house feel warmer too. The humidity in my house was fine until temperatures dropped to sub zero temperatures. Normally a big kettle of water on the woodstove provides enough moisture. I've had to add a second kettle and a big roasting pan full of water.

Another thing I do is hang laundry on an inside line. Why run the dryer to expel that valuable moisture out of the house? We normally do the laundry in the evening. The clothes dries overnight and we pick it up in the morning. That way if we have company during the day they don't have to look at it hanging in my kitchen.

It's easier to remember to drink when it's hot and sunny outside. Who wants to drink ice cold water when it's freezing out? I like to keep a big jug of room temperature water in the winter. It goes down better when it's not freezing your fillings.

I'm lucky I remembered to drink before I got really sick. Just because a person knows better doesn't mean they always do the right thing.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Good old lead acid batteries

There are two common types of home solar electric systems. There's totally grid connected. They are pretty straight forward. Solar panels are directly connected to grid. The energy generated is credited towards your monthly bill. Once it's installed the homeowner doesn't have to think about it. It just works.

The other common type is for off-grid systems. The solar panels feed your own battery bank. You are responsible for managing your power use and storage. It's more hands on, but you are independent from the grid and never get a utility bill.

There are some hybrids of the two major systems. Some grid-tied systems have small battery banks for emergency use during blackouts. Otherwise, even though their panels were generating power, they could not use it.

I've got a simple system that's set up to be mostly off-grid. The solar panels cannot back feed into the grid. However, I can change the battery bank from the grid. My configuration normally uses the grid like a backup generator.

Lately I've been using the grid a bit more than I'd like. My house battery bank is on its last legs. It's been in service for almost 11 years, a long time for golf cart batteries. Now a smart person would have put a little bit of money aside over the last 11 years for when the replacement comes due. Yep, that's what a smart person would do. I wasn't that smart.

By spring I should have the funds to replace the battery bank. I'm using 12, 6 volt golf cart batteries. They are wired up to provide 24 volts which supplies an inverter that makes normal house AC. The advantage of golf cart batteries is that they are common and can be carried by one person -a strong person, but not a freakishly strong person. They can be swapped out in a day.

There have been some advances in battery technology. Batteries have always been one of the big limiting factors of alternative energy. When I first put in solar electric I'd hoped batteries would have improved by now. They have, but not at a price point that makes sense to me. Maybe Tesla's gigafactory will eventually bring the prices down low enough for me to consider them in the future.

For now I'll be going back to good old fashioned flooded lead acid batteries. They lack the energy density of the new batteries, but it doesn't really matter. It's not like in an electric car that has to haul the weight of the batteries. My battery bank sits quietly in a box in the basement. Every few months I pop the cover and check the water level in the batteries and top them off if necessary.

Even though I've had to use the grid a bit more, my bills are still very low. Since my house was designed for off-grid power it uses energy efficiently. That being said, it will be nice to have a full power battery system once more.


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Had to look it up

You know how once in a while you hear some story that's so outrageous you just have to check out its veracity?

There's this story going around that Nordstrom is selling rocks . . . in a leather pouch . . . for $85. I thought, nope. This is too stupid to be real. However, according to it totally is.

It's supposed to be selling quite well too.

Okay then. Our country's situation can now be easily explained. Many Americans are as dumb as a box of rocks -or a bag of rocks in this case.

I'm shipwrecked in America, the land of idiots. The dumbing down is complete. I've got to get a bigger boat and sail over the horizon. Excuse me, for you rock buying Americans, I'm going to sail off the edge.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Who's got your back?

You never know who has your back and who'll stab you in the back until push comes to shove. It's true that everyone is your friend when you are riding high. When the going gets tough is the time you discover who your true friends are.

I know from first hand experience. When I got hurt on the job as a firefighter it was a four year struggle to get my benefits. When you sign up they promise to take care of you if something goes wrong, but they sure don't deliver. That's no surprise to all the injured and disabled military veterans out there.

Over the course of four years our financial situation became increasingly desperate. Being somewhat prepared helped. Most folks think having supplies for a year is enough. It helps, but by year three of a crisis those are long gone. Fortunately, my disaster was something that only affected my family. It's not as if the rest of the world was going through a crisis.

Even though other people weren't hurting, many avoided us like the plague. Apparently poverty is toxic and must be avoided. Some people we thought would be there for us were not. Now some actually were in worse shape themselves than anybody knew. They were hiding their problems successfully. While they might have wanted to help, in reality they had little to spare. Others just cut us out of their lives.

Then there were people who we never expected anything from who stepped up and helped when it was really needed. There were friends who lived far away who came though in amazing ways. Sometimes what we really needed was to know we weren't alone because there were times we sure felt that way.

It was a real eye opening experience. They say what does not kill you makes you stronger. Maybe, but then why is there PTSD? Sometimes what does not kill you wounds you for life. There are things we never were able to do for our children and that hurt.

Now many of you may be going through tough times or will in the near future. Don't be too discouraged when some people you counted on aren't there. You aren't responsible for their actions. Be open to the good things that come your way from unexpected directions. Some little thing you once did for someone might have stuck with them and they really come through for you years later.

There's a saying that bread cast upon the waters comes back to you. Your good deeds really do come back to you. You are doing good deeds, right?


Friday, December 9, 2016

The Lack of Civility

The pendulum has swung away from political correctness. At the outer edge PC seems pretty silly. We can't do anything at all that might somehow insult someone's delicate sensitivity somewhere. That can be pretty paralyzing when tough issues need to be discussed.

The pendulum has violently swung completely to the opposite direction. Many people are now just fine with spouting out any hateful thing at all. There are no limits. Any racist or misogynistic rant is supposed to be just fine.

Since when did we lose any sense of basic civility? Did everyone's mother's forget to instill the idea of manners? It's like listening to kids who's mouths need to be washed out with soap.

There is nothing wrong with disagreement. There is something wrong with being disagreeable. If you are spitting venom when you yell, odds are you lack a persuasive argument. Volume is not a substitute for facts. Mao stated that power flows from the barrel of a gun. If your argument relies on power alone, that's the sort of intellectual company you are keeping. Be honest with yourself.

I'm a big strong white male with a large ego. I could have gone through life quite successfully bullying people around. I'm glad I decided to reign that in and listened to other, sometimes softer voices. By doing so I was able to learn and grow. You can't grow if you believe you already know it all. Sometimes I've been convinced to change my opinion and have become richer for it.

Being civil is a sign of strength. It takes a lot of strength to hold one's tongue. Right now I see a lot of weak people pretending to be strong. They are strong in the way a mob is strong, violent, energetic, and mostly brainless. Like lemmings they sometimes all go over the cliff together.

All I ask is that folks remember the basic manners their mommas should have taught them.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Job Security

On the wall in my home office is an old cartoon. A young man is working on a computer. His hippy parents suggest he should learn the guitar so he'll have something to fall back on. The cartoon works because it turns the old job security idea on its head. People who follow creative pursuits were often encouraged to have a “real” skill to fall back on.

I graduated from High School in 1976. We didn't know it yet but the world economy had changed. As luck would have it, all these years later, a lot of my creative friends are making a living. Many of the ones who took conventional career paths lost their jobs.

Back in the day there were two basic paths. If you did not go to college there were good paying jobs in the mill. It was good enough for our fathers and grandfathers. The other common path was college and a steady corporate job. Of course there were more options, but if you showed up at the guidance councilor's office you wouldn't think so.

Well, the good mill jobs went away so the blue collar guys didn't fare very well. Their jobs had provided good livings: a house, cars, boats, snowmobiles, and maybe even a camp on a lake. Nothing solid replaced that. Many of those people lost everything. Some even committed suicide. Some committed slower suicide using drink and drugs.

The college guys often didn't do as great as planned either. A lot of those good corporate jobs went away too. Some had their steady jobs replaced by contract work. People made a living, but they had to work harder at it than their parents did.

A friend of mine had gone to college to study plastics. He even managed a crew in a plastics company for a time. For the last couple of decades he's been making a living with his guitar. Another guy is a struggling artist. Work is hand to mouth, but he has a house and a downtown studio. I'm also connected to a lot of writers. Not all are full time, but many have turned their writing into a decent second job.

As hit or miss as creative jobs can be, they aren't outsourced to China. Nobody wants to go to a bar to see a Chinese guy play guitar over Skype. Some things just have to be live.

I'm not sure what future jobs will look like, but I'm guessing today's guidance councilors are still giving bad advice.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Safe App

My buddy was showing me one of his new rifles the other day. After he put the key in the gun safe he got a text on his cell phone. He's got a device that sends him a text if anything happens to the safe. It can detect everything from movement to temperature to humidity. There are a number of different companies who make similar devices.

They don't give them away, but when you consider the value of the contents of your average gun safe, it's worth it. Guns aren't like other valuables either. It's one thing to lose something like jewelery or gold coins. That's a loss, but a stolen gun can be used to commit other crimes.

I checked on Amazon and a Liberty Safe monitor, with free service, sells for less than $200. That's just one example. Considering that a single gun is worth more than that, it's something to look at seriously. I'm not promoting any one brand. Do your own research.

The device itself runs on a battery, but it does need to be able to connect to wifi. That could be a weak link. In a grid down situation it would be disabled. A clever thief could cut Internet service before breaking in.

That's also a problem for someone like me who powers down their house completely when away for months at a time. I save money by shutting down electric and Internet service when away. However, it might be worth keeping it running for security purposes. I do have other ways of protecting my safe, and no, I'm not going to tell about them here.

It is tempting to join the 21st century and take advantage of the technology that's out there.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Happy Feet!

I'd like to thank Carolyn for my new socks. A while back I wrote a blog about how difficult it is for me to find good socks that fit my size 14 feet. I got some good advice on where to purchase some. However, Carolyn went the extra mile and a half and actually knitted a pair for me.

They feel amazing. I haven't had socks that felt this good since I was a little kid and my grandmother knitted socks for me. Actually, no insult to my dear departed grandmother, but these are better.

In a world filled with tragedy and woe it's pretty neat that someone will do something nice for some guy in the woods who writes a blog. It's not the first time I've received nice things from readers. You guys are the best.

Since these socks feel so amazing it's occurred to me that knitting skills should be elevated in the hierarchy of survival skills. If your feet aren't happy, the rest of you suffers.

Thanks again Carolyn!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Well that was interesting

Chaos in Italy! The Italian “No” vote won.

The PM is going to resign. Lets see what happens from here. Good thing I've got a fresh bag of popcorn.

Did I wait around all day watching the action? Nope. It was a beautiful day so my lovely wife and I drove over to Maine to visit friends. Life goes on. I've been friends with that guy since the 8th grade. We email all the time, but nothing beats a real life face to face visit.

In these troubled times it's good to stay in touch with friends. If that friend also happens to be a firearms engineer, all the better. He showed me some of his recent projects. The guy works from home so he has quite a selection of reference guns.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Italy is going to the polls. How they vote on this referendum could spell the end to the Euro and the European Union. There's a populist push in Italy and if they pull out of the Euro it could be the beginning of the end.

Well, not the beginning. You could look at Brexit or even other previous events. What happens in Italy could certainly speed things along. I bet, incorrectly, that Greece would have been the first to drop the Euro as it probably makes a lot of sense for them to do so. To prevent that from happening the will of the voters was thwarted. The average Greek has little faith in the normal political process these days.

Maybe some more duck tape and spit could hold the union together, for a while. My guess is that it will eventually fracture into several regional blocks that have enough in common to make an alliance worthwhile. Most likely there will still be NATO or something like it.

When the Euro falls there may be a short term bump in the dollar. However, the dollar will be just the best of a bad lot. Fundamental weaknesses may cause fiat currencies to tumble -which is all of them. That, boys and girls, is what we call currency collapse.

If we are lucky it will happen fast. Why is fast better than slow? We've had a slow collapse. Middle class wages have been losing ground in real terms since the 1970s. A lifestyle that once could be sustained by one blue collar job now takes two or three. One spouse could work while the other took care of the house and children. Now both spouses have to work and often one or both must work two or more jobs. That's what slow collapse looks like.

In a fast collapse nobody has any money. It's pretty horrible as with no money few goods and services are exchanged. That will be a time of hardship.

How is that better than a slow collapse? In a slow collapse the bottom gets eaten up. Middle class become poor. The poor disappear. Wealth is concentrated in a few hands. Everyone else has nothing. That's the path we are on now. In a fast collapse nobody is going to take your house away. The banks will disappear or if they do survive they won't be able to do anything about your house. There will be nobody to sell it to.

The smart way to handle a fast collapse is to clear up all the unpayable debt: mortgages, student debt, derivatives -everything. The stores, factories, houses, and businesses are still standing. All they need is a new financial framework to make it all work. Wise leadership could get ahead of the problems and restart the economy. If they don't a couple of different things could happen. One is that everything freezes, falls apart, and it takes decades for recovery -if it ever happens at all.

Another thing that could happen is that a financial system could build from the ground up, starting with barter and moving onto some other medium of exchange later. Governments and central bankers could even be cut out of that system so expect official resistance. They'd rather have a broken system they are in control of rather than a functional one that's independent. Of course, it will only work if they have something real to pay the cops with.

So keep an eye on Italy and see what happens next.


Saturday, December 3, 2016

Not that bad in the mountains

Looking back on some of my recent posts it looks like I'm suffering pretty badly from cabin fever. It's not that bad, really. A lot of my writing has been about travel, but winter is a good time to think about travel. Yes, technically it's not quite winter, but the big fat snowflakes falling outside right now says winter to me.

My lovely wife and I often kick around different travel scenarios. That way if we do decide to hit the road we have some idea what we'll be doing. Nothing ruins travel with a spouse than being on different pages. If she's thinking of wilderness camping and he's thinking room service, there will be problems. We like to iron out some of that ahead of time.

I do live pretty well out here in the mountains. Most mornings I rarely set an alarm and wake up when I wake up. Then I light the woodstove and put the kettle on to perk. It takes a while to make coffee starting with a cold woodstove, but I'm in no hurry. While coffee is heating up it's a good time to check e-mail.

Once the coffee is ready I bring a cup to my lovely wife's who's usually waking up around then. A wife who starts her days with coffee in bed is a happy wife. After that we usually have a leisurely breakfast.

Only then do I tackle the projects of the day. As some point I usually have a little on-line business to attend to. There's a few projects that should bring in a few dollars down the line. We shall see.

After lunch today I decided to putter around with my motorcycle project. It got moved to a better spot in the basement. The seat and gas tank have been removed to allow easier access. The electrical system does not look as bad as I feared. I did discover a expedient field repair I'd once made then totally forgot about. The main fuse had blown and I didn't have a spare. Instead a hasty bypass was done, without even the benefit of electrical tape. For some reason it was forgotten about and the bike driven for hundreds of additional miles. The hasty patch didn't stand up well to years of storage either.

Tomorrow we have to go into town to the post office. While there we'll combine as many errands as we can. We'll probably meet up with some friends while in town. My lovely wife is excited by the fact that I have to go to the hardware store. She loves the hardware store.

Even when our days are quiet we are doing well. We are warm, dry, aren't missing any meals and are surrounded by thousands of good books. Life could be worse.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Young, rich or healthy, pick any two

Congratulations, the Republicans won. The first thing they want to do is to get rid of Obama care. That should be fairly easy for them to do. Replacing it, on the other hand, is going to take hard work. Support for repeal is widespread among the incoming majority. What's lacking is any sort of consensus on what to replace it with.

I'm not going to go into any long in depth analysis of the different proposals. That information is out there and it's complicated. My reading of the different plans appear to favor the young, rich and healthy. You'll do pretty well if you have any two of those. Old, poor and sick? Too bad. There's lots of denial that's how it will turn out, but looking at the numbers, that's what I coming.

I just made my very last last health insurance payment. I had it for two years. The first year the price wasn't too horrible. The second year it went up but I continued to pay. This coming year it's getting dropped as the price is too high. In the two years I made payments I used exactly $125 in covered services. Hardly worth what I paid for it.

I've been feeling particularly mortal these days. Another of my fellow firefighters just died from lung cancer. A lot of guys I worked with died from cancer. Cancer rates in general are pretty high for firefighters. Workman's comp rarely pays the bills. They want to know at exactly which incident you came down with cancer. It's not like getting a broken leg. Cancer is often caused by repeated exposure over a period of time.

Because of that our individual insurances pick up the tab. The last guy who passed was able to get coverage at the VA because he was a veteran. They saved him from his first bout of cancer, but then it appeared a few years later in his other lung and that did him in.

Judging from past experience, I don't have a lot of hope for a decent health plan. Heck, even though I'm on a medical disability from the fire service, they don't have to cover related medical costs. They found a loop hole where they admitted my injury was job related but didn't have to cover it. That sounds unbelievable -unless you've had dealings with insurances yourself.

My guess is that any new plan is going to have all kinds of loop holes for people to fall though. I'm not going to argue about it. Just remember my words six months down the line.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Trips and talk of trips

It's funny. My lovely wife and I can spend day after day together in the same house, but nothing stimulates travel plans like going for a drive. I'm feeling better and so is my spouse. We decided to head over the mountains for dinner and a movie.

The weather looked mild with a chance of rain. It wasn't bad except for when we were crossing Pinkam Notch in the White Mountains. On the way back home the rain turned to snow. The new snow tires made all the difference. We didn't break any speed records but we never slipped one bit either.

Over dinner we started talking about possible travel plans later in the winter. Right now we are kicking around two options. One idea is to take the camper van and tow the sailboat to Florida. Once there we'd do a mix of camping and sailing. The Oday 19 is a bit small for us after having been on the Ranger 23. Four feet doesn't sound like a lot but there is a big difference in interior volume. With that in mind we'd only spend a few days at a time on the boat. Since it's on a trailer, however, we could leap frog all over the state and sample a number of different areas.

The second idea is to go minimalistic. We'd toss camping gear and the inflatable kayak into the little Nissan hatchback and go. That would allow us to go into some places our big rig can't go to. There are some nice camping spots that are tent only. That would require more research. We haven't stayed at some of those places in years. Other places we've only heard about.

One advantage of taking the little car is that my lovely wife is comfortable driving it. She's driven the van before but really does not like it. Towing a boat isn't something she wants to do either. By switching drivers we could go a lot further in a day.

On the other hand, with the van we don't have to drive as far every day. We can stop anywhere along the way and sleep in the back. While it takes longer to get anywhere we are lot more rested once we get to our destination.

We aren't even 100% sure we are going south this winter. If we do go it won't be for the 3 – 6 months we've done in the past. Right now we are thinking maybe a month, month and a half. Of course, with us everything is subject to change. We are nothing if not flexible.