Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Storm Damage

We got hit pretty hard with a storm. Lots of rain and high winds. Our place is fine. The grid has come back up. Phone and Internet, however, are still down. No idea when they'll be back. I'm doing a quick post from a coffee shop.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Different Viewpoint

Saturday my lovely wife and I joined some friends over in Maine for lunch. We met in a town that I don't normally go to. The town is located on a good sized lake. Since the last time we've hung out there, they really improved their waterfront. They built a really nice park and boat launch.

My friends own a large double sea kayak and got excited by the waterfront park. They really want to use the boat launch. Many years ago my lovely wife and were hard pressed to find a good place to launch a canoe on that lake. Now with the park upgrades it's really easy to launch small boats.

The park really got me thinking of other parks we've encountered on our travels. When we are on a sailboat, we keep our eyes open for good places to take the dog to shore. Also we look for places where we can land and get other supplies. Some of Florida's waterfronts are very heavily populated. It's not always easy to find a place where we aren't trespassing on some grouchy landowners property.

Parks have often worked well for us. We'd find a park on paper or electronic maps. Then we'd anchor off and paddle the kayak in. Often we'd lock the kayak to a park bench. Public park benches and picnic tables are usually fastened securely to the ground to keep them from wandering off. Then we'd walk the dog and do any other business we were there for.

Filling my lovely wife's prescriptions can be a logistical nightmare. We search on-line for any pharmacies in the area where we plan on being in the next few days. They have to be fairly near the waterfront. Then we look for anchorages and potential places where we could land. Everything has to be within walking distance.

Once we decide on a place she has to call the pharmacy she picked out. Then she calls her doctor's office back home to set up the prescriptions. That usually takes a few days lead time. It's not a smooth process as the medical system is a complicated mess. Heaven help you if you have to work around holiday weekends. There's only a narrow time window when they'll fill her order. One of the medications she takes is both expensive and highly regulated, but it works, so that's what we are stuck with. It's a hassle, but only for a few days every month.

So seeing that nice waterfront park got me thinking. Most people think of that kind of park as a nice place to enjoy the water. We think that too, but we also think of parks as a nice place to come ashore and enjoy the land.

One funny thing. We only see the “no dogs allowed” sign after we've walked through the park and come to the entrance. No one has ever given us any grief about it. They don't post those signs at the water side.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Navigation Skills

Lost hikers have died because they relied on GPS and their phone. Signals are lost and batteries fail.

Even in this electronic and technological world, there is room for the simple compass. They are cheap and reliable, but require a few skills. However, those skills are really not all that hard to learn.

What is it about GPS navigation that's so much better than a compass? Precision. We've gotten used to being able to know exactly where we are. A compass is not nearly so direct. However, with a compass and a good map or chart, you stand a fair chance of getting your position close enough. While you probably won't always know exactly where you are, often you'll be able to figure it out. Extensive map and compass skills are beyond the scope of simple blog post. There are organizations and institutions where those skills are taught. If nothing else, there are some good videos on the Internet.

When I was a young lad running around in the woods, my dad gave me a compass and instructed me in its basic use. All a compass really does is point to magnetic north, but knowing even one direction provides key information. My dad would send me off, a young boy, alone, into a huge softwood swamp without trails. He'd tell me that when I wanted to get out, just head east. In that direction lay a long dirt road running north to south. Eventually I'd bump in that road. Once on the road all I'd have to do is head south until I came to the camp. Sometimes it would turn into a long walk, but at least I was not lost.

The key is to trust your compass. There were times I swore I was heading exactly in the opposite direction, but the compass did not lie. In fact, if you head in a straight line long enough, eventually you'll come to civilization. A person with no navigational aids tends to wander in circles. It appears the way humans are built. Circles don't get you out of the woods.

The best thing about a compass is that require no batteries to operate. They are simply a magnet on a pivot that orientates with the earth's magnetic field. They can be messed up by being too close to iron, steel or other magnetic fields. Avoid being to close to those things and they'll work properly.

Sometimes the old ways are best. I'm not saying to throw away your GPS. They are great; when they work. A compass is a necessary backup. Not only that, they work great together. When boating, I'd start heading to a GPS waypoint. Then I'd mark the direction with a compass and turn off the GPS to save batteries. When I estimated that I was getting close to the way point, I'd turn the GPS on to confirm my compass navigation. After that it's on to the next way point.

Old school navigation skills could save your life someday.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Same problem for Harleys and sailboats

So what's the connection between Harley Davidson Motorcycles and sailing? They are both suffering from some of the same societal pressures. Neither Harley Davidson nor the sailing community quite know what to do with Millennials.

Sales of the big motorcycles are down. Not enough young people are getting into riding. One obvious reason is that those big American iron monsters cost a fair penny. Young people are financially strapped, as they are stuck between the high cost of education and low paying jobs.

Another issue is that they didn't grow up taking engines apart and swinging hammers. Their generation grew up with screens. Instead of bending tin they are more likely to sling computer code. Different skill sets.

Of course, boating can be expensive too. Then there's the issue of the skills necessary to keep a boat going. It's been said that sailing is boat repair in exotic locations. Fewer of this generation are likely to know where to even begin.

A lot of Harley and boat owners have a similar obsession. They have a real pride of ownership. Some of these folks rather clean and polish their rides than actually take them out. Millennials are less likely to want to own things. They are all about experiences. Rather than buy a physical object, they are more likely to travel to Thailand to tour the temples.

I'm not sure what Harley is going to do about their motorcycle sales problems. Their advertising doesn't seem to be pulling in the young crowd. Their current customers are getting pretty long in the tooth. The changes the company would have to make are probably too radical for the old guard. If they could reduce the price, maybe develop some slick new electric bikes, and find a way to sell a motorcycle lifestyle young people connect with; then they'd have a chance. Leather jackets and fossil fuel behemoths aren't cutting it.

A segment of the sailing community is starting to make progress reaching Millennials. To reduce cost they are promoting club memberships with shared boats. Groups are offering basic maintenance courses for people who've never turned a wrench before. There are some nice beginner sailboats hitting the market, so that helps. Also there's a huge market of good used boast, but they have the problem of people needing the skills to restore them.

One of the things starting to drive interest in sailing are all the great videos on YouTube When Millennials see people of their generation out exploring the world and having the time of their lives, it generates interest. It's the best advertising the boating community could have, and they didn't even have to pay for it.

The world is changing. Businesses can ignore the change and go under, or they can adapt.


Friday, October 27, 2017

How we travel plan

Our travel plans get pretty convoluted. One of the problems is that we aren't planing for a week's vacation but for a trip that takes months. It's not so much a vacation as it is a lifestyle. We plan on traveling with our ambulance/mini motorhome conversion towing a sailboat.

Economy is a factor. We can't afford high end RV resorts. In fact, our rig is too Bohemian for most of them. They have restrictions on how old your RV can be. It keeps the riff raff like me out.

Florida has some really nice state parks. While not the bargain they were years ago, they are still reasonably priced. They also tend to be very popular so getting in is hard to do on a spur of a moment basis.

By the way, most campgrounds now use Reserve America for their booking. You are going to need an account with them if you are going to do much camping at all.

Since the state parks are popular we tend to make our reservations with them first. Many of these parks are booked up months in advance, especially the parks in the Keys. So how do you get in at all? You are going to need a good Internet connection and be able to check it regularly. Because so many people book far in advance, often they have to cancel their bookings. Life happens. The key is to check Reserve America often so you can snap up those suddenly free sites. They will only be open for a very short time. He who hesitates is lost.

Another trick is to spread your trip over a number of nearby campgrounds. Sometimes we've booked into three nearby campsites and used a private campground to fill in any gaps. We are also not opposed to spending a night or two in a Walmart or a truck stop.

There are passes available that can greatly reduce the cost of Federal campgrounds. My lovely wife qualifies for the the Access Pass so we can camp for half price. Federal campgrounds are some of the best bargains out there, even before discounts. They tend to be fairly Spartan, but are set in beautiful natural areas. Generally they are clean with good bathhouses. Some have other facilities like camp stores, snack shacks, canoe rentals, and other things.

There are free camping areas, but they are much more common in the western states. We haven't stayed at any of the free ones in the southeast so I can't recommend any from personal experience.

Launching the trailer sailor can be a bit more tricky. There are a lot of boat launches in Florida, but very few allow overnight parking. Those that do often have a limit of a few days. To find suitable boat launches I recommend Active Captain. I'm willing to pay a few dollars to be able to leave the van and trailer in a more secure boat launch.

One place we are thinking of launching from is Flamingo in the Everglades Park. We could leave the van and trailer there then sail across Florida Bay to the Keys. We've sailed the bay before and are familiar with the anchorages all the way down to Bahia Honda.

Finding places to stay can get a little crazy. Just to make things interesting, we've been known to change our minds on where we want to go at the last minute. Then we've got to cancel appointments and try and make new ones. You've got to be flexible.


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Boat trailer and other things

The rain paused for a few hours, allowing me a chance to work on the boat trailer. One of the lug nuts took a four foot cheater bar on the wrench to get off. I kept waiting for something to snap, but it came off in one piece. WD-40 had loosened the others well enough so they didn't need any heroic measures.

I hadn't been too happy with the grease seals they ordered for me at the local auto parts store. That was a real disappointment. I even had brought the old seals in so they could take the numbers and measure it. The project got put on hold while I ordered some new seals on-line. The ones I found for myself fit better and look to be of better quality.

Now the trailer has new wheels and wheel bearings. A fairly simple wheel and bearing change became a bigger project than expected. Imagine if the job had to be done on the side of the road somewhere instead of my driveway. What would have happened is I'd have paid for a tow truck and a mechanic. There wouldn't have been much choice. That's what happened years ago when a bearing fried while crossing the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail.

When I started the job I was wondering if the bearings even had to be changed. The first wheel looked pretty good, but the second set had one bearing that was badly pitted. No doubt it would have been just good enough to get me out on the highway somewhere before falling apart.

Feeling ambitious I thought I'd do some work on the van. The veggie filter needed changing and that went pretty well. Then it came time to start the vehicle and nothing happened. The van's been sitting for a while. My first guess what there there was some corrosion on the battery terminals. After cleaning them the van fired up. I'd hoped to do some minor body work, but by then the clouds rolled in and it started to rain. So much for that. Considering it was supposed to rain all day, I was happy to do what I did.

After months of inactivity I'm working towards getting back in condition. It's a process. There were times when I actually felt old. However, not as old as I felt when I was 35 and almost died from smoke inhalation, so there is that. One thing about being badly injured at a fairly young age, you appreciate the good days like never before.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

What a difference a year makes

A year ago we had snow piling up on the ground. This year I'm running around outside in my shorts and sandals. The extended warm spell has allowed me to get more projects done. Well, that and we did some hiking. Can't have all work and no play.

Here's a quick update on my well supply line project. I was able to run a ½ water line about 23 feet down the old line before friction became too much. I dug down to the supply line, cut into and retrieved the ½ line. Then I connected the rest of the larger supply line to the ½ line. I'd hoped to get past the break in the supply line, but apparently it's further down.

The good news is that there's 23 feet I don't have to dig and it's the part under the house foundation footing. What I'm going to do is run new line from the hole I dug all the way down to the well. Since I'm only going to be here until early January, just shallow burying it should work. The frost doesn't usually go down deep until late in the winter. If we get some predicted show cover I'll be fine for sure.

My buddy is just finishing up his fire duties with the Forest Service, so he's coming up to help soon. We should be able to knock out the rest of this project in an afternoon. Next spring I can take the time to dig up the rest of the line until I find the break.

Rather than mess around with the water lines by myself, I went back to working on my boat trailer. All the lug nuts on one side are very hard to move. Every single one of them had to be hammered free. Right now I'm waiting for WD-40 to work it's magic on the last two. Swarms of midges drove me back into the house. Here's a little hint: do not have a coughing fit in the middle of a midge swarm. That does not go well.

The warm weather has saved me a bundle on heating costs. I haven't even bothered with the woodstove yet. Running oil heat a little now and then has been enough to keep the place warm. My lovely wife and I may even go sailing another time or two before I have to pull the boat out of the lake. It's all good.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cost of Housing

I must admit, I've gotten a bit out of touch with the true cost of living. It occurred to me that I haven't had a raise in decades, yet still I survive. However, the slow increase in prices takes its toll. At least my housing situation is fairly stable. Taxes and insurance are the biggest portion of my housing bill.

Part of my bill is actually mortgage, which I'm kinda disappointed about. Twice in my life I was within striking distance of paying it off, then financial crises hit. Stuff happens. On the bright side, I kept the house and it's still cheaper than living in an apartment.

There are things you just can't do in an apartment that save me money. Having a garden, a well, my own septic system, firewood, and room for solar electric panels. I would be hard pressed to find room to park my various trailers and vehicles. Most landlords would take offense if you decided to sandblast and weld in the driveway.

As cheap as it is to live here, I could do it for less on a boat. Of course, there are plenty of ways to spend way too much money doing that too. The first step is to have a boat that's just barely big enough for your needs and is cheap and easy to maintain.

The next big thing is where you keep your boat. Marinas have both pros and cons. Ease of shore access is a plus. You don't have to dinghy to shore for everything. Being at a dock cost money. They charge by the foot, so a smaller boat saves you money there too. Usually they have space to park a vehicle. If you are staying in one place for a long period of time, a vehicle is handy. Then again, in some places most of your transportation needs can be handled with a cheap bicycle.

You can save money being on a mooring or anchoring out. Anchoring is the cheapest, as it's free. Being on a marina's mooring ball has the same disadvantage of anchoring when it comes to needing a dinghy. On the plus side you have access to a dingy dock, rest rooms, laundry and other marina facilities. While anchoring is free, finding a safe place to land your dinghy can be a problem. There are places with good free dockage, but you have to look for them.

Bradenton Beach Florida has a free dinghy dock off their anchoring field. They even have free public showers. They also have a lot of sea hobos on marginal boats that some people consider eyesores. Other places charge a small fee for dinghys and some even offer showers. The beauty of living on a boat is that if one area gets too hostile to your presence, you lift anchor and find someplace else.

Plenty of people live in a vehicle full time. These vary from massive motorhomes to people living in their cars. Chose your vehicle wisely. Just like a boat, the size and complexity of your vehicle greatly affects your monthly cost.

Then there's the little issue of where to park. High end RV parks have all the amenities, but you pay though the nose for them. On the other end of the scale are people dry camping at Walmarts and free public land areas.

When my lovely wife and I travel in the van, we do a mix. We can stay at Federal campgrounds for half price, so that's a first choice. They tend to be bare bones, but many have electric and decent bath houses. After that it's state, county and private campgrounds. While we use Walmarts and truck stops, it's usually just for overnight while traveling. There's more free camping in the western part of the country than the eastern. As we don't usually go too far west, that limits our free camping.

There are other ways to live that are inexpensive, but I'll leave that for the young and adventurous. One could always live out of a backpack and travel by way of shoe leather and thumb. Heck, I've met people who've lived for months out of a canoe, spending most nights camped on a beach somewhere. Men willing to do that are a dime a dozen. The amazing thing to me is that I've met couples doing that together. Women willing to go along on that sort of an adventure are precious and rare indeed.

There are ways to make apartment living at least somewhat cost effective. The key is finding a place to live where you can get rid of your car. Outside of housing, cars are usually your next biggest expense. If your necessities are all within walking distance and the area has decent public transportation a car is not needed. Finding a comfortable place that's cheap, well located, and not in a slum won't be easy. If you are committed to apartment life, then it's worth finding a place where those things come together. Then all you have to do is hope that your rent doesn't rise out of reach.

Housing is a huge expense, but it really affects your quality of life.


Monday, October 23, 2017

Somewhere along the Cohos Trail

My lovely wife and I decided to take advantage of the good weather and went for a short hike. We did a section of the Cohos Trail in the Nash Stream area.

Cohos is the old spelling of Coos County. The trail crosses 170+ miles from one end of the county to the other. Much of it is in wilderness areas. Coos County is the largest county in the state of New Hampshire but has the smallest population. The county is geographically larger than Rhode Island, but has less than 32,000 people.

My lovely wife and I did a small section hike in the Nash Stream area. Then we went for a short drive to see more of the state forest. There's an interesting area where camps circle the high ground around a meadow. That meadow used to be a pond, until one day the dam broke. One of the camps is actually named, “Broken Dam Camp.”

I've been slowly strengthening my leg that had suffered a bad infection. My lovely wife is working on her ankle that was badly sprained during the summer. We didn't do a super long hike, but it's the longest we've walked over uneven ground since our injuries. Our legs held up and were not reinjured, so that's good news.

All in all, a fine day.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Old School Tweet

A friend of mine has starting sending me old school tweets. That's what he calls sending a postcard. He got to thinking that a post card was the original short form communication. His postcards are works of art, literally. One side has original art work. The other has a short message. Unlike something like an e-mail, these are getting saved.

Another friend just had his father's quality fountain pen restored. He actually uses it to write letters. What amazed me is that there still are people out there who restore fountain pens. There must be enough demand.

Some people restore and use old typewriters. It's not just hipsters either.

As for myself I was one of the holdouts for rotary dial phones. There was a real classic in my office. The old Ma Bell phones a sound quality that newer phones just don't have. When I went to an Internet based service the old phone was no longer compatible. It was hard to let it go. To be honest, if I had a lot of calls to make, I'd use a push button phone. Dialing with a rotary got pretty tedious.

We've had long distance communication for some time. However, back in the old days everything was written down and physically carried from place to place. Imagine how tough that was when writing was cuneiform on clay tablets. The switch to light weight paper must have felt like a great leap forward.

Now communication is fast, inexpensive, and all too often trivial. In the old days if you were going to write a letter, you put some thought into it. That's why it's so nice to get original postcards from a friend.


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pacing myself

The digging for the water supply continues. After months of inactivity, I decided to pace myself. No sense getting injured again. It takes too long to recover. When you are young, you never think of pain killers. Later on, ibuprofen is your friend after a hard day of work. Lately, I've been at the point where I wonder if maybe I shouldn't take ibuprofen before starting the day. I haven't yet, but it has occurred to me. Instead I've decided to let sore muscles let me know when it's time to stop.

I am making progress and haven't hurt myself, so that's good. It's a little tricky digging on the side of a steep hill. The supply line can't be too much further down. That is, if I'm digging in the right spot.

Hope to wrap this up eventually and move on with my other projects. The boat trailer and the van will take a couple of days of preparation -nothing too major. That is, as long as it doesn't do something like snow. Anything is possible here in the Great White North.

My order of stainless steel clippy things for the sailboat's jib sail came in. The brass ones are pretty beat. I had tried some really interesting quarter turn polymer clips, but they were a bit too small for the sail. The stainless steel ones are rated for 700 pounds each, so they should easily do the job.

The weather looks pretty mild for the next week or so. The unseasonably warm weather has been a lucky break for me. I'll take what I can get.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Bad jobs worse than no job

A University of Manchester study shows that having a bad job is worse than not having a job. Unemployment is stressful, but the stress of having a bad job negatively impacts your health even more. The lowest stress factors were for those with good jobs.

Not that long ago it was expected that everyone would have a crappy job at some point in their life. Most people expected that it would be temporary until they were promoted to something better. It was looked at as paying your dues. Now people get bad jobs and stay there. My father-in-law started working for a company cleaning glassware in the lab. He only had a high school education. By the time he retired he ran his own chemistry department and had multiple patents. That type of upward mobility is rare these days.

So how do you avoid the pitfalls of a bad job, yet still survive? In some countries it's easy to stay on the dole for a very long time. That can be a trap too. Remember, the best health outcome is generally for people who have good jobs. The longer you are out of the work, the less likely it is you'll be able to land a good job.

If you have a crappy job, focus all your efforts on getting a better job. Be prepared to change companies. You might have to move. Whatever you do, don't get settled into that bad job. Avoid decisions that may require you to hold onto that bad job, like taking on too much debt. People can put up with a lot of they feel they are making progress towards something better.

However, be prepared to quit. There are a lot of unhealthy jobs out there. Either the job itself is dangerous and unhealthy, or the work environment is psychologically toxic. If you hate your boss and co-workers so much that you want to shoot them all, leave.

I know a lot of people who have either been forced into early retirement, or discovered their pension is inadequate for their lifestyle. A lot of people end up working crappy jobs later in life. That just plain sucks. There are strategies around that.

Savings are great, if you've got them. Unfortunately, often times any savings are wiped out in the months leading up to retirement. Medical disability retirement is notorious for that, especially in the US. A person has a medical condition, so in the months and years leading up to their forced retirement, they work less. Less money ends up in the pension fund. Then they get sicker or injured and out of pocket medical expenses drain what savings they have. They may even have to pay for a lawyer to get their benefits.

Companies often find ways to get rid of people before they reach retirement age. A good friend of mine in his late 50s just got let go. There's one business in the area that is so bad that when someone actually makes it to retirement it's a surprise.

So what do you do when you find yourself in that situation? My friend who was let go has savings and few debts. His wife still has a good job. He's got time to find a new job he likes and would be more than happy to make half what he was making in his old job. His lifestyle won't change much.

The other option is to downsize aggressively. Reduce your living expenses to the point where you don't have to stress about the bills. One guy I know lived pretty hard and fast after a divorce and blew through his savings in two years. Now all he has is his small pension. These days he works out in the gym, plays his guitar with friends, and takes his dog for long walks in the woods. It's cheap, he's in good condition, and his mental state is better than it's been in years. He'd rather live that way than work a crappy job for more money.

There's a certain stigma to being unemployed, but it's healthier than a crappy job. A lot of so called unemployed people are still very busy. They may barter their time and skills for things they need. Many work odd jobs off the books. Are they gaming the system? Maybe, but nothing like the millions of dollars big business gets in tax breaks and subsidies from the government.

Your health is at stake here. Don't get trapped in a crappy job until it kills you.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

The never ending well project

I put in a long day on the well project. When my buddy came over we happened to flush a lot of red gravel out of that section.. That got me thinking. The red gravel is only at the top two thirds of the hill. That must mean the break is in that part. Earlier I suspected the break might be where I had to spice it years ago, but the soil is much darker in that section and none was in the line.

Long story short, I went into town and picked up 100 feet of ½ PEX plastic pipe. I stuffed as much of it as could down the water line. I'm guessing it went about 40 feet or so. Measuring the remaining line will tell me how far down the blockage is.

Then it's a matter of taking a tape measure and figuring out how far down the hill the break is. That's where the line break should be located and the place to dig. If I'm lucky I'll be able to cut out the bad section and splice in the ½ inch PEX.

½ inch line cuts down the flow some, but it's enough. In fact, my temporary surface line is just ½ inch hose. Still has enough volume for showers and laundry.

The fun continues. By the way, all the suggestions and comments have been helpful. Thanks.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Are you looking forward to the collapse?

Someone recently asked me that. In short, heck no. Just because I have a few more preps than most people doesn't mean I want it to happen. For goodness sake, I'm 59 and fairly comfortable. I've figured out how to get by in the world we have. I could probably go a long ways in a fast collapse situation, but that would be by virtue of my isolation and keeping my head down. That, and the ability to live on bugs and tree bark if necessary.

It might have been more interesting back when I was 18 and full of myself. Of course, I'd probably have ended up dead within six months -or some kind of primitive warlord. That's how things shake out in a fast collapse situation. The most likely outcome would have been dead. Young idealist people who take up arms don't usually turn out well.

For large segments of the population a slow collapse is underway. The middle class is running faster just to stay in place. Young people are really getting the short end of the stick. Working low wage jobs while carrying a large student debt is not sustainable. They have little investment in the system. Heck, if they organized they could crash the financial situation by not paying their student loans all at once.

Income disparity is very bad right now. When 8 people have more wealth that the poorest 4 billion, something is broken. It's been getting worse. Fewer and fewer people will continue to control more and more -if this goes on.

There are some serious challenges, economic, environmental, energy issues, disease, and so on. In a lot of sectors we are already in a slow collapse. It's not everywhere and everybody, but problems have a way of worsening each other.

Is there no hope? Actually, there are some positive signs. People are fighting the good fight, searching for patches and fixes. Solutions tend to be incremental over time and aren't particularly sexy. Often they aren't very satisfying, but as long as they are good enough, we keep on keeping on. Gradual change over a long period of time is change I can believe in.

While I have preps, I'm hoping to only need them for fairly normal disruptions, things like storms and financial set backs. While the whole world crashing and burning is exciting, I'd rather have a nice cup of coffee and a good book.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Day of Discovery

My friend came up to help me with my water line issues Monday afternoon. He brought a pressure washer. Together we were able to really clean out the supply line. After over forty years there was plenty of grit built up in the line.

It went a lot quicker with two. Also helps that my friend is 20 years younger than me and in good shape.

We never did restore the full pressure to the line. Thanks to there being two of us, he was able to observe the well while I was watching the system in the basement. I saw little build up of water pressure in the house system. He was able to notice that even though I wasn't getting much water, the well steadily dropped. Working alone I never noticed that as the well had time to recover by the time I got back to it.

That tells me there's definitely a leak somewhere in the line. The next step involves pick and shovel work. I know just where I'm going to start too.

Years ago there was a shallow well pump house about 15 feet from the well. The surface pump would push the water up the hill. That worked fine when the place was a seasonal cottage. In the winter the pump house had to be heated to keep everything flowing. Back then the power went out all the time, so the well pump was constantly in danger of freezing.

That shallow well pump was replaced with a submersible pump. The line in the pump house had a splice put in it and buried. I'm going to dig up that splice. The connectors are usually the weak point in a water line.

This is where it gets interesting. If I find the problem is with the connectors, they get replaced; job done. If that's not the problem I'll take the line apart so I can test both sides. If the leak shows up in the 15 foot section, we'll dig that up and replace it. If the problem is in the 50 foot long section, then I move to plan “C.”

I'm not going to dig up 50 feet of line with cold weather nipping at my heels. However, today we discovered that we can fish a smaller line down the pipe, as long as there are no splices. We pushed a good 30 feet of line down the pipe as a test. Getting another 20 feet or so down the line looks doable. I'd have to buy a longer line, but that sure beats digging trenches in the snow. I would not have full volume, but it should work at least as well as the surface line I'm using now. That would get me though the cold weather.

All in all, while we didn't solve the problem, progress was made. I think we figured out how to proceed. My buddy will be joining me again when the day warms up a bit. During the cold hours of the morning I'm going into town to get more parts.

At least I know more than when I started.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Another beautiful day on the water

It started out simple enough. My lovely wife and I went down to the lake to do some work on the sailboat. We did get a few things done.

Then the wind kicked up and we just had to lift anchor. The rest of the afternoon was spent sailing. We didn't bother with the jib, only the mainsail. The wind was very uneven. Sometimes there was very little wind and we were barely poking along. Then a gust would blow down from the mountains and almost bury the rain in the water. Good fun.

The leaves are past peak, but temperatures were up in the 70s. Pretty amazing for the middle of October.

I tried to capture this eagle being harassed by a crow. The phone isn't the best of cameras. My lovely wife was at the helm and we were riding one of those mountain gusts while quickly running out of lake. We had the place to ourselves.

This evening there's a chance of 80 mph gusts in the mountains. Interesting weather. As I write this it's starting to sound like a freight train out there.


Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Big Picture

We like to think of progress moving in a straight line. Humans have gone from living in caves to sending probes to explore the solar system. Our grunts and gestures evolved into literature and song. Crude ideas dimly imagined grew into philosophy and science.

The problem with all that is the fact it ain't true. Sure, in general we've advanced in many areas, but it hasn't been a straight line. Even the ancient Greeks went through periods of decline where few could read or write. The same thing happened to the Egyptians.

At the end of the Bronze Age civilizations collapsed. There were invasions from the mysterious Sea Peoples, of which little is known. Populations crashed, trade networks failed, advanced government functions ceased.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold
-W. B Yeats

Things really could fall apart again. We've some pretty good examples what that looks like. Puerto Rico and a number of Caribbean Islands are excellent examples. However, as bad as things are there, they are lucky. The outside world is intact and aid can be sent in.

Imagine much bigger disasters. The Yellowstone volcano, when it blows will affect most of North America. Recently I was reading where a nuclear EMP could shut down America's grid and that would eventually kill 90% of the population. A huge coronal mass ejection from the sun could do even more widespread damage.

The list could go on and on. The big question is what are we going to do about it? Governments could get their act together and make our civilization more resilient. There are fixes for many known potential disasters. Our extremely vulnerable grid could be hardened for example. It's not magic and while costly, is a lot less costly than everything going dark. Actually, protecting their populations against huge dangers are what governments should be doing. It's not something that can be done on a local or personal level.

We've fixed big problems in the past. I'm old enough to remember horrible air and water pollution. The ozone hole has stabilized and is rebuilding. Y2K really could have done serious damage had not government and business gotten their act together and fixed most of the problems. Once there is political will, stuff gets done.

Of course, stuff does not always get done. Right now our leaders not only lack to the will to solve problems, they can't even agree what the problems are.

That's where we come back to being prepared on an individual level. Our needs are basic: food, water, shelter, clothing, security -it's not a long list, unlike the list of wants. Having survival skills and some preps makes all the difference. It's the right thing to do. You can't help anyone else until your needs are attended to.

We are at a unique point in history where our knowledge is vast. I only hope we have enough wisdom to use that knowledge wisely.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Water line progress

The water line project continues. After getting the ninety degree elbow off I was able to run a pipe snake down the line.

There appears to be a lot of very fine silt and sand packed into the plastic pipe. The pipe snake pulled up a lot of grit. A friend of mine is going to bring up a pressure washer and we'll will try to flush the rest of it out of the line.

That water line has been in use for over forty years. There's about a twenty foot long section of pipe that lays pretty flat. That appears to be the dirtiest part.

I was tempted to play around with it some more, but my lovely wife and I had to go to a wedding. You do not shut off the water while your wife is getting fancied up for a get together.

I'm glad my friend is coming up to help. Some jobs are just easier with two.


Friday, October 13, 2017

Boat shows and stripper clubs

The Annapolis Boat Show and stripper clubs have something in common. It might be fun to check out the goods, but you really don't want to get involved. The costs of doing so are too high. The boat show is going on now and I'm not going anywhere near it. Also not going to see strippers, but that's not the real point of this blog post.

I don't even enjoy looking at new boats in sailing magazines anymore. Even small sailboats are way out of my price range. In fact, I can't even afford most of the water toys some people bring on their boats. I'm letting my sailing magazine subscriptions run out.

Take any item, put the word “marine” in front of it, and the price shoots up. Smart boaters have learned that the last place you look for parts is the marine store. A good well stocked hardware store, at least ten miles inland, is a valuable resource. Things like fuel filters, belts, and engine thermostats can often be found at the auto parts store.

One of the last things you want to do is to pay someone to work on your boat. Being able to do fiberglass work will always save you a bundle. You don't need to have all the skills necessary but if you have some skills you'll have something to barter. A lot of boat work isn't hard, it's just tedious like sanding and painting.

If I'd first learned about sailing at boat shows, I'd never have gone sailing. Once you start looking around, you find all kinds of perfectly serviceable used boats in just about anybody's price range. If you fix one up yourself, you'll have a huge advantage over credit card captains who buy their way into sailing. Eventually, every boat needs work. If you have a simple boat, your problems will be simple ones. Often big new boats are stuck at marinas while their captains wait for parts or have warranty work done. They are stuck in port because of problems with systems that my boat does not even have.

Once in a while the only solution is to spend money at a marine store. Even there, a small simple boat can save you. Prices really climb the bigger your boat. A boat that uses generic, off the shelf parts is cheaper to repair than boats with proprietary systems. There are stores that specialize in used equipment, and that can save you big money.

Sure it might be nice to check out curvy, sexy, tarted up . . . boats. Look but don't touch.

In other news, my water line project advances. I dug down to the ninety degree elbow but did not remove it. Managed to pull a muscle while digging -all part of the joys of digging in tight places. Rather than remove the joint and take a chance dirt would get in there, I put the job off until later. My lovely wife had the phone with the bore scope app on it, so I couldn't scope it out yet. Besides, it was coffee time. Priorities.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Mired in Muck

I got back to trouble shooting my well water supply line issues. There have been a lot of distractions requiring my attention. To be honest, the though digging out the line from the basement side was discouraging. However, there's no putting it off any longer. The problem doesn't appear to be on the well side. It's time to face the horrors of the basement.

The house has a partial basement with a gravel floor. The area by the water line has been accumulating junk for years. One of the problems with working in the basement is that I've had to admit to myself that a lot of my stuff down there is junk. Since I've been unable to find a use for most of that stuff for years, it's time to let it go.

Just clearing up the area around the bench filled four large trash bags. Not everything was junk. In fact, I'd found some useful things that I'd totally forgotten about.

Unfortunately, while moving the bench out of the cramped basement, it bumped into my jury rigged plumbing. The jostling caused one of the joints to start leaking. A lot of water poured out before everything was shut down and repaired.

The area where the supply line comes into the basement is the lowest spot. Everything turned to mud. Rather than struggle with that mess, I decided to wait a day for it to dry out. That was a setback, but it shouldn't take me too long to dig up the line. There's a ninety degree elbow that has to be removed before my pipe snake and bore-scope can go down the line. It's possible that debris got jammed in that elbow, which would account for drop in water pressure. My fingers are crossed.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Strange Off-Grid Solutions

Off-grid is pretty straight forward these days. Solar, wind, and generators are all fairly mature technologies. Someone with basic handyman skills can cobble something together.

Years ago there was a lot more hippie-tech. It didn't matter how odd or weird something was, as long as it did the job.

There was a guy who had an off-grid house deep in the woods. It was about a 50 mile drive for him to get to work. He took an old car, beefed up the suspension and removed the back seat. Where the seat was he installed a heavy duty battery bank. The car's alternator was upgraded to a more powerful one. The battery bank charged on his daily commute. When he got home at night he plugged the house into the car's batteries and had power for the night. He lived alone so there was no need for power when he wasn't there.

About ten years ago a guy I knew was looking for a viable electric car for his half hour daily commute to his business. Unfortunately, the technology wasn't ready for prime time yet. His idea was that he'd charge the car off his business's power and write it off as a business expense.

That did get me thinking. Electric cars are now coming into their own. Some businesses are allowing their workers to plug in while they work. I bet you there are people who charge at work, then tap into their car to run some of their household.

I've got a shed running on a small solar electric system down by the lake. This fall I'm going to remove it and install it on the boat. Next spring, to power the shed, I could run power from the boat, across a dock and into the building. Some care would have to be taken, as running power over water needs special protection, but it's very doable. Normally power is run from docks to boats, but there's no reason it couldn't be done the other way.

Sometimes it pays to think outside of the box.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Living Like at Camp

Just about every natural disaster takes down the power grid. Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, snowstorms, tornadoes, and even solar storms. Throw in human error and it's a miracle the grid works at all.

I'm a big proponent of alternative energy. Even small solar electric systems can be a huge help. Then I got to thinking about how I used to spend many a day at my dad's old hunting camp. My dad and his friends built it about fifty years ago, when I was a little kid. Solar electric wasn't an option back then.

Here's what the place was like. It was sixteen by sixteen feet square. The camp was framed with spruce poles. Walls were constructed from salvaged boards. There was a small covered porch in the front. It had a woodstove, a bunk bed, a full sized bed, sink, and a propane stove. Propane came from a hundred pound cylinder. It ran the stove and two gas lights. Propane was the big luxury item in the camp. At first they used a kerosene lantern.

Water came from a brook maybe a hundred yards down a steep hill. Behind the camp was a woodshed and an outhouse. The toilet seat for the outhouse was kept on a hook behind the woodstove. You would not believe the difference in comfort that made, especially in sub-zero weather.

To get to this camp required a nine mile trip up a logging road, then about another quarter mile down a fire road. Many a year we were unable to drive all the way to camp. Sometimes we only had to hike the fire road. For a few years the last three miles would get blocked part of the year. One year my cousin and I traveled the whole way on cross country skies.

Occasionally someone would bring an AM/FM transistor radio. It wasn't all that often, however, as we were at camp for the quiet and isolation. Entertainment consisted of cards, a cribbage board, books, and magazines. It was nice. Actually, it was wonderful.

I got to thinking about how my lovely wife and I would survive at our house with no electricity at all. Let's say the grid goes down and for some reason my solar electric gets knocked out too. It would be a lot like camp. We'd have to keep the woodstove going in cold weather. Jugs of water would need to be hauled up from the well. The toilets could be flushed that way, but it's a lot of work -maybe more hassle than an outhouse. Actually, if I could use the composting toilet from the sailboat it would save a lot of work.

Lighting might become a problem. Eventually all my LED headlamps would run out of batteries. We've some candles, but they wouldn't last forever either. Maybe we'd just go bed when it got dark.

As for entertainment, there's playing cards, a cribbage board, board games, and thousands of good books to read. Actually, it doesn't sound too bad to me. There's something to be said for a less technological lifestyle.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Friends from St. Thomas

My lovely wife and I just got back from a party to welcome back our friends from St. Thomas. They weathered two Cat 5 storms.

Their house was well built and 600 feet above sea level. It survived in good shape, one of the few. They had a generator. The wife insisted they get one when they moved onto the island. In their little community there were only four generators.

Their biggest difficulty was getting off the island. In the end they were able to board a Norwegian Cruise line boat. The cruise line treated them well and even allowed everyone to take their pets. Three days later they were in Ft. Lauderdale FL where they caught a flight to New England.

The husband has applied for work in Maine as there's little for him to do on St. Thomas. He felt that since he has the option to find work off island, he's not going to compete with those who can't leave. They will rent out the house, as it may be years before they go back.

It's estimated that power restoration will take at least three to six months. St. Thomas is a United States territory but not a lot of aid has come from the mainland. In fact, Denmark had donated as much as the US to the recovery effort. That's a little embarrassing.


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Chance to remake the grid

Elon Musk is like someone ripped right out of a Science Fiction novel. He has his finger in every futuristic pie -everything from electric cars to rocket ships.

Mr. Musk has offered to re-power Puerto Rico using solar panels and his advanced battery technology. He's already used his devices to power some small islands. Elon claims there's no reason his power systems cannot scale up. Already he has employees on the ground, attaching his batteries to existing solar panel infrastructure.

This could be a huge boon for the island. Right now all their energy is generated using expensive fossil fuels. The island's grid was pretty shaky before the storm. It would make little sense to invest a lot of money in a power system that was inadequate to begin with.

Solar makes so much sense for a place like Puerto Rico. I live in cold and cloudy northern New Hampshire. We have one of the worse locations for solar power in the United States. In spite of that, I've used it successfully for over 20 years. Sure, I'm just one nut -an early adopted. Now I'm not alone. There are large arrays of solar panels popping up all over the place. Companies are in competition to install them. Even the cross country ski club's warming hut has enough solar electric to power a heat pump.

If it can work here in the frozen north, it should excel in the sunny Caribbean. It should also excel in sunny Florida, but the power lobby is so strong there that they've put up legal road blocks to solar. Not cool at all.

I really hope that PR makes a deal with Elon Musk. It would be a perfect test bed for large scale use of the technology. The island could then avoid importing expensive and polluting fossil fuels. Another added bonus is that solar is diversified. The whole island would never lose the majority of its power again. Now all you have to do is to take out a few power plants and some high power transmission lines and the island goes dark.

I really hope this works out. First of all, it would be great for those on the island, but would also show the rest of the country that it can work on a large scale.


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Oh look, another storm!

Looks like Tropical Storm Nate is going to hit New Orleans as a hurricane. At this time, it's not supposed to be a strong hurricane. As far as I'm concerned, a hurricane is a hurricane. New Orleans has difficulty handling normal rain storms, so I'm guessing flooding is going to be an issue. It's always an issue.

Nate is going to fill in the area missed by Harvey and Irene. That will mean that pretty much the whole Gulf of Mexico will have been hit this season. I can't help but wonder how the insurance industry is doing. Interesting times.

I hope that even though this is not a Cat 5, that people take it seriously. Flooding is usually the biggest killer, not the wind.

After Katrina a number of people had moved up to northern NH. One guy told me it was as far away from the Gulf as he could get without leaving the Continental US. I was told by one person that cold and snow did not bother him as much as the threat of hurricanes. Right now, I'm pretty sure he is glad he didn't go back.

By the way, there's weeks of hurricane season left.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Small Boat Solution

Reports are coming out of Florida about the situation on the water. The devastation has been extensive in the Keys. I hear something like 70% of the boats were lost down there. Even boats that survived are sitting still. There are so many wrecks and so much debris in the channels that it's not safe. Then there's the little problem of where do you go? Quite a few marinas are out of business. Even people who don't normally stay at marinas still use their fuel docks, fresh water, and pump outs.

My lovely wife and I plan on sailing the waters of Florida this year. We are taking down our Oday 19 sailboat. With the swing keel retracted, it draws only a foot of water. That will allow us to get into places where most boats cannot go. Instead of being hung up on debris or new shoals, we should be able to pass right over most of them.

In the past we've gotten by quite well without marinas. We used Google maps to find things on shore, then located anchorages that let us reach what we needed. We've anchored off shore, kayaked to town and chained our kayak to a park bench. When I needed gas I'd often just carry a gas can down to a filling station.

Since the boat is a trailer sailor, we can pick and choose where we want to launch. If a section of waterway looks too sketchy, we'll be able to trailer it to a better location.

That's great. It's a good little boat. We even bought a new mainsail for it last summer. There is one persistent problem though. The cabin isn't very large. It is big enough for both of us and the dog to stretch out and sleep comfortably. There is not much room for anything else.

A bigger boat would be nice, but my lovely wife has a different idea. Instead of having a bigger boat, she wants to have smaller crew. If we both lose some weight, there will be more room. Dang, she's got a point. It even fits our budget much better than buying a bigger boat right now.

Salad anyone?


Thursday, October 5, 2017

One thing leads to another

I finally felt healthy enough to do some work outside. I tried the 25 foot pipe snake from the well side of the supply line. Did not notice any obstructions. The next step is to try it from the basement side. That will require moving a lot of junk and some digging. My 10 meter long bore scope came in the mail late in the afternoon. It connects directly to my cell phone and has a decent picture. Can't wait to try it. That might show me things the bore snake could miss.

While we were out and about, my lovely wife asked me to move some things down by the beach. It was such a beautiful day that we decided to have lunch next to the water. The sun was so warm that we lay out in the sailboat's cockpit, soaking up some vitamin D.

Then the wind picked up so we had no choice. My lovely wife and I just had to lift anchor and raise the sails. We spent the rest of the afternoon sailing. Heck, I even did some fishing while we were cruising around. Temperatures were in the high 70s, the fall foliage is filling in, and bugs were few.

It was like a day in Paradise. Unlike some Paradise spots, there were no poisonous snakes, no sharks, alligators, or Zika mosquitoes. Don't get me wrong, once the snow flies up here, I'll gladly take my chances with the critters to have a little warmth and sunshine. However, for one day, it was Paradise here in the Great White North.

My lovely wife appears to be recovered from her bout of plague. Occasionally, I still try to cough up a lung, but that's normal for me. It didn't seem to bother me much at all while sailing.


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Cultural Appropriation

I was at a birthday party some weeks ago. I got there late, but apparently the wine had been flowing for some time. The subject of cultural appropriation came up. One young lady was extremely against one group of people adopting things from someone else's culture. She wasn't just talking about made in Taiwan “Indian” dream catchers either. Nope, she was pretty absolute about one culture not being able to borrow anything from another.

I'm hoping that in the sober light of day, she felt a bit sheepish about her position. Considering her Austrian background and the fact that she was arguing in English rather than German . . . Well, how dare she appropriate the English language like that. Sounds silly, I know, but her arguments made about as much sense. She did have a youthful passion though, so I'll give her that.

Personally, I'm a huge fan of adopting from other cultures. Let's use a computer analogy. A human being is the hardware. Culture is the software that runs on the system. Culture is the program that makes humans do what they do. Computers can be more useful with better programs. Humans can function better when operating with a better culture.

The beautiful thing about human beings is their ability to adapt and change. If you have exactly the same set of values at 60 as you had a 10 you haven't been paying attention. A 10 year old has the programming that their parents put into them. That's useful, otherwise we'd be no better than monkeys. However, our parents, through no fault of their own, passed down some crappy ideas. That might the same crappy ideas they got from their parents. They might not have even been bad ideas to start with, but are no longer useful in a changed world. As a person ages, they learn how to self program and adopt new cultural programming from the world around them.

Thanks to the Internet, we have exposure to a vast array of cultures and information. I've a theory. Given enough time, a “world culture” drawing from the best practices across the planet will emerge. Actually, there will probably be a number of new cultures as one size does not fit all. Everyone's built a little different.

Back in my college days it was fashionable to assume that all cultures were equivalent. Even Anthropology had a certain level of political correctness. When I studied some of these cultures, I was pretty glad many of them were dying out. Cultures based on incest and murdering all strangers really do not need to survive.


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

To the Grocery Store

Monday I felt well enough to go into town to do a little grocery shopping. My lovely wife is in the middle of suffering from whatever it is I had. I'm still feeling pretty weak. Instead of heading into town right after lunch, I found myself exhausted and took a nap first.

We have enough food in the house to last quite a while, but variety starts to suffer. Also, when not well, some comfort food really hits the spot. So what does my lovely wife do while I'm shopping? She's on the Internet researching all the foods that we should avoid. That info might have been more useful to me before I went to town, but whatever.

I actually did fairly well, mostly because I avoid most prepared foods. The closer is is to being pulled from the ground or cut from the animal, the better. It's also a lot cheaper. True, food prep takes time, but there are some pretty good cheats along the way.

One often overlooked kitchen tool is the humble crock pot, or slow cooker, depending where you come from. It turns some of the cheapest ingredients into some of the best food. Cuts of meat one step above shoe leather, dried beans, peas, and root vegetables are great in a crock pot Add some spices and time and you've got a good hearty and cheap meal. Sometimes I get even more primitive than that by using a cast iron dutch oven on the woodstove.

Food supply is one of those big things that concerns my lovely wife. Our garden space is small and the growing season is short. It's one of the persistent problems in our quest to be more self-reliant. We can heat with wood, use the sun for electricity, get our water from a well, but we don't grow much food.

Personally, I'm not all that big into farming. My ancestors disliked it enough to embrace the rigors of 19th century factory life. However, I'm going to have to figure something out. One thing I've learned is that our native wild plants do pretty well here, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pin cherries, and a whole bunch of edible greens.

My filbert trees that I planted some years ago are getting productive. We've just got to remember to use netting to keep the squirrels out of them. I like sun-chokes, as they seem to thrive well on poor soil and neglect.

One of these days I'm going to have to throw up a green house and maybe some vertical gardening. Whatever I decide on, you can bet it'll be low maintenance. For now, the grocery store isn't all that far away.


Monday, October 2, 2017

One Motor Away

My lovely wife has always said our Oday 19 is too small to make the jump from Florida to the Bahamas. Plenty of boats that size and smaller have made the trip. What she really meant was that it was too small for her.

It's not like she needs a mega yacht to feel comfortable. She was willing to make the crossing in our Ranger 23. Of course, we were going to haul it out first and really go over everything. As luck would have it, we lost the boat and never got the chance.

Then yesterday she surprised me and said that if we had a strong gas outboard on the Oday 19, she'd be willing to make the crossing. That's a huge change for her. It almost made me want to go to the marine store and pick up an outboard.

So what changed her mind? I'm just guessing here, but I've got an idea. We watch a lot of videos of people sailing the Bahamas. An old Distant Shores video featured a boat with a lift keel. I think, with the keel raised, they drew less than two feet. Now this was a full sized cruising boat, not a glorified dinghy like our Oday. However, the Oday, with keel raised, only draws about a foot of water.
She may have reached the point where having a shallow draft is more important than having a larger boat.

So why would she want a good outboard? One of the strategies for crossing the Gulf Stream involves waiting for a perfectly calm day. While there's no wind to sail with, there's no wind to churn up the waves. Northerly winds blowing against the current is especially bad. With a good motor one can just power across.

Right now the only motor on that boat is a 55lb thrust electric trolling motor. It can push the boat around at about half speed. That's fine for most things -it is a sailboat, after all. The electric motor is not a good choice for a longer passage in a strong current.

As for myself, I was thinking that next year we could get a slighter bigger lift keel boat and go to the Bahamas then. Of course, once we are down to Florida this winter, it wouldn't be that hard to pick up an outboard and scoot over to the Bahamas. It would not be the craziest thing we've ever done.


Sunday, October 1, 2017

Tired, Sore, Injured or Old

Last week I went on a moderate walk in an attempt to get back in condition. I was surprised how sore my muscles and joints were. I figured that old age was catching up on me. Maybe it is, but that really wasn't the problem. It was the start of my getting sick.

On one hand, sickness passes and I'm probably not stuck with all those aches. On the other hand, I'm been sick for a week. That's no fun either. Also not making any progress getting back into condition.

It's true that when you are young you bounce back from just about anything. Decades later, not so much. In fact, some of those old injuries resurface and start to complain all over again.

At 59 I am pretty lucky in a lot of ways. Many of the firefighters I worked with are now gone. Cancer is a common killer in the profession. All that chemical exposure take a toll. Even though my lungs were badly damaged with smoke inhalation, I've avoid the big “C” so far.

Another common problem is joint damage. Knees, hips, shoulders -the job takes its toll. We used to ride standing on tailgate of the truck back in the day. An older firefighter told me to always keep my knees bent; it would save me grief later. He was right. I did and it did.

Of course, I've plenty of other opportunities to do damage in the years since leaving the service. My shoulder does this weird popping thing. However, it still works, so what's a few sound effects?

I've a doctor who's amazed at how good I'm actually doing. Part of that might be that I avoid doctors a lot so they don't get the chance to kill me. Years ago a doctor wanted to put me on weight loss drug. Instead of taking the drug, I dropped the doctor. Later the drug was recalled because it caused heart damage. Well, I'm still fat, but my heart is good.

Speaking of heart, I've also got love in my life. Never discount the healing power of love. A happy marriage makes for a happy life. I also avoid a lot of stress by just not dealing with a lot of BS. It's surprising how much stuff goes away by ignoring it. That attitude probably came from my dad. He'd listen politely to someone telling him what he had to do. He didn't argue. Then dad would do whatever the heck he wanted to do. It's funny what life lessons stick.