Sunday, March 31, 2019

Pet Peeves of boat life

The snow is slowly melting off my sailboat and I’m giving some thoughts to getting back out on the water.

There are some common things among the boating community that drive me nuts. Take your normal boating couple. Some men will never give up the helm. You see them there sitting at the helm, maybe smoking a cigar, shouting orders. The female part of the crew has to run around the boat doing things like dropping anchor and tossing lines.

The man may be 250 pounds of muscle, but his 100 pound companion has to do the heavy anchor and line work. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the big strong guy to do the heavy work? The only problem is that he’d never let her take the helm. That’s his job and no way will he give his position of authority and power.

That sort of male attitude occasional proves fatal. Picture this. The guy has a few beers and decides to relieve himself over the stern and falls overboard. (That’s actually a really common accident.) Suddenly the little lady is left all alone on the boat. She’s never had to control the boat before and has no idea what to do. Hours may go by before she flags down help or figures out how to use the radio. Her male companion is lost as sea.

Then some guys think a woman is on board to do all the domestic work. It’s different on a boat. For example, few boats have washer and dryers. You might end up having to walk a mile from your anchorage to the laundromat. You’d think the least the guy could do is to carry the bag of dirty laundry. It’s same thing with provisioning. It could be a long hike back from the store.

Then these same guys wonder why their women don’t like boating. Sometimes the first time they get back to shore they take a cab to the airport and fly home. Those same guys will tell me how lucky I am that my lovely wife is willing to go sailing with me. Oh yeah, they also make fun of me for doing most of the cooking on the boat. They don’t make the connection that perhaps that why my lovely wife sails with me. She also gets all the time on the helm that she wants.

Not only will she go sailing with me, she’ll turn the boat back around to pick me up.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Worse Fights

I grew up in a rough and tough mill town. Fist fights were pretty common and I got into my fair share of them. Some people look for trouble. Others don’t know when to run away from trouble. Running was never my thing. My dad taught me to never start a fight, but he encouraged me to finish a fight. Back when he was growing up the town was even tougher. Every neighborhood had a gang and every gang was unafraid to use weapons on each other.

Trying to mind my own business didn’t work out too well. I got into fights in grammar school right up into high school. For a while in high school I carried an ash billy club. It was longer than the knives the other kids carried and I knew how to break bones with it. Never had to use it, but there were times I was glad to have it. Even after I was married trouble found me and I was throwing punches with a drugged up crazy person in the street.

That’s how it was growing up. It might sound bad, but later on there were fights that paled compared to the ones of my childhood. More grief has been caused by people who’ve never been punched in the nose in their lives. They tend to wear suits. They sit on committees and in board rooms. Sadly, busting their heads isn’t an option because they make the rules we have to live by.

These are the sort of fights that require lawyers and money. They tried to take food out of my kid’s mouths, stole my health care, and robbed my pension. The suit gang makes rules that limit what a person can do with their property. They gang together and extort money from sick with outrageously high prescriptions.

They promise one thing and deliver another. One of their favorite tactics is to turn the little guys against each other and they excel at it. We get so focused fighting for scraps that we never question who actually took the lion’s share.

Street level crime might give you a bloody nose. You could get stabbed or even shot. That’s bad, but in the street you might get in a few licks of your own. The suit gang will destroy everything and everyone you love. Decisions made far away in a tower office can cost your job and put your family out on the street. The endless quest for profit floods communities with opioid prescription drugs. An unholy union between corporations and politicians poisons our food, air and water.

Growing up in an old blue collar mill town was rough. There were some mean characters. However, nobody was as nasty as the gang that bought the mill, ran it into the ground, and finally destroyed it and town. It’s said they provided good value for their stock holders.


Friday, March 29, 2019

Changing your life

One of my pet peeves is people who complain about something in their lives, but they have the power to change that thing.

It could be the terrible boy or girl friend, their job, where they live -anything at all. When someone points out that those things could be changed all the excuses come out. It drives me nuts. They really don’t want things to change; they want sympathetic noises.

People become comfortable in their misery. It becomes part of their identity. They really don’t know who they’d be without their burden. The years tick on by and nothing changes. At some point they end up in a nursing home with nothing but regret.

Dead at 45

I had a doctor tell me I would be dead by age 45. I was 35 or 36 at the time. It wasn’t a warning to change something in my life or I’d be dead by 45. He just up and stated that I’d be dead before I was 45.

It’s great to be 61. While I did have some tough times, the good times more than make up for it. When you are told you are going to die fairly young there’s no sense wasting any time. As soon as I started to feel halfway decent I starting doing things that I always wanted to do.

I was having so much fun I forgot to die on time. Now one of my goals is to outlive doctors. So far so good. Maybe I was lucky to get a wake up call. People always assume they have more time than they do. Life is too short to get stuck in routines that don’t make you happy.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

The cost of being injured

This has been an expensive winter, mostly due to my being injured. Doctor and hospital expensive were bad enough, but the cost doesn’t stop there. My painful injury prevented me from doing a lot of money saving things that would normally get done.

When I was in the hospital I told my lovely wife to order another heating oil delivery. There was no one home home to put wood in the stove. The hospital had me hooked up to tubes and my lovely wife was either visiting me or running all the errands that had to be done.

Then the water heater died. Normally it would be no big deal to do the job myself. Have you any idea how difficult it was to have to actually hire someone? Thank goodness my son-in-law was able to help and that kept the costs down.

The electric bill is much higher than normal. When my supply line froze the right way to fix it would have been to dig it all up where it entered the basement and redo the insulation around it. Being in too much pain for that, my quick and dirty solution was to use an electric heater and run it 24/7.

My leg is improving, but the doctor warned me to be very careful with it and to limit my time on my feet. As you can imagine there’s a huge backlog of projects just waiting for me. Right now the deep snow is still an issue. There’s at least three feet of snow in most of my yard. Once that’s done there’s a lot of projects to choose from.

As much as I’m looking forward to diving into those projects, I’m going to force myself to take it easy. It’s a matter of picking and choosing the easier or more critical ones and moving up from there. Going back to the hospital does not interest me at all. Self care is priority job one.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Weirdly Dependent

Many people are concerned about what will happen in a collapse situation. We are all aware of the dangers of disruptions in food delivery, power and water supply. Those problems are pretty self evident. Then there are the huge number of people dependent on the prompt delivery of medications. It’s not just for things like cardiac and diabetic issues either. A lot of people will suddenly find themselves going off psych meds cold turkey. That’ll cause some serious mental stress.

Another thing that will cause serious mental distress is when all the cell phones die. In a relatively short period of time, smart phones have become ubiquitous. Everybody has one. Go anywhere in public and you’ll see people on their phone.

People’s whole lives are tied to their phone. They really are amazing inventions, replacing a shopping cart full of single purpose items, everything from cameras to calendars. When a tool that’s used for everything is no longer working people will be adrift.

Nobody memorizes anything. Why should they? If it’s not already in the phone’s memory, a simple internet search will produce the information. We’ve off-loaded our memory into a physical device.

Not only are people going to be mentally lost, they’ll be physically lost. Phones have great map functions. They are easy to use. They are so easy to use that many people never learn directions. Quite a few people even use the map function to go to places they travel to on a regular basis, never really learning the route.

Suddenly going without their phones is going to be extremely stressful. Many people have to constantly check their phone and only a small fraction of that is actual necessary business. The device demands attention and few resist.

Like most people, I use a smart phone too, but I’m aware of its seduction. Currently I’m using a three year old $99 phone with a minimal plan that cost less that $13/month. By today’s standards I’m a neanderthal. Not only that, my lovely wife and I share the same phone. How weird is that?


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Survivalist? Prepper? Something else?

Many years ago I didn’t mind using the term survivalist. After all, if you aren’t into survival what are you into? Dying? Then the term got connected with a lot of people who were acting pretty extreme and crazy.

Prepper made sense. Being prepared for disasters is only prudent. To me that means being able to provide the necessities: food, water, shelter, and basic security in times of disaster. The most likely problems are things like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards, earthquakes and other natural disasters. After than I’d be concerned about crime and possible civil unrest -possibly sparked by a natural disaster.

Unfortunately that term is often being used by people who think they are going to battle government armies using assault rifles and a Jeep with a lift kit. Never mind that armies are equipped to take out tanks and have massive manpower and logistic advantages. Resisting an army is just dreamland. If an army is coming after you it’s time to find another country to live in.

It’s pretty annoying to have my nomenclature stolen out from underneath me. I think I’m going to hold onto the term prepper. It hearkens back to my days of being a Boy Scout where “be prepared,” was a motto you could live by.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Truck Hunting

I’ve been giving some thought to buying an old truck. It will have to be an old one as my budget is limited. It gives me something to do while healing up. At least I can search on-line sites for interesting vehicles.

Trucks, even old trucks, are popular, but I’ve got a few advantages. One big thing in my favor is that I’d prefer a manual transmission. Over the years I’ve had to replace three automatic transmissions. Compare that to the one time I replaced a clutch. Not only was it a lot cheaper, I did the job in my dad’s driveway. A lot of people don’t know how to drive standard, so that reduces the pool of interested buyers.

Another thing in my favor is that two wheel drive is preferred over four wheel drive. Most people here in the snow country want a 4X4. While four wheel drive is nice is the snow, the trade offs aren’t worth it. Two wheel drive is easier to maintain and gives better fuel mileage. My plan is spend the better part of next winter down south and avoid the snow. Not only that, I’m retired. If the snow is too deep I can stay home.

A lot of younger people are looking for lifted trucks. Unless a truck has been lifted at the factory, I don’t want it. Custom lift jobs usually cause a lot of problems. Too much stress is put on parts not designed for it. For example, universal joints end up working at angles that wear them out quicker. I’m looking for a plain Jane truck.

Of course, these are just guidelines. If a low mileage automatic transmission 4X4 comes my way for the right price I could still go that way. While the odds of that are long, it’s not impossible. Never close the door on something just because it’s unlikely.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Marriage Game

A good buddy of mine was in the middle of a divorce. He approached me and asked if I was interested in buying his handgun collection. Now at the time he had at least a half dozen quality pieces. Some were quite rare and collectible. There was no way I could give him anything near market value. Out of curiosity I asked him how much he wanted.

“Twenty-five dollars,” he said.

“What?” I said.

“My wife said to sell my guns and we’d split the money,” he said.

There was no way I was going to get in the middle of that. As it turned out her lawyer had already gotten a judge to prohibit him from selling anything. In the end the guns are one of the few things he actually got to keep.

Then there was the time an acquaintance asked if I would like to buy his motorcycle, a fairly new Honda Goldwing. I declined, but later discovered he was quietly selling all kinds of stuff. About a year later he divorced his wife. Surprise, surprise, he had almost no money in the bank and few physical assets. He quietly turned everything to cash and hid it somewhere. The guy got away with it too. He always was a little sleazy.

We all know people who’ve been devastated by divorce. If you are lucky it’s just someone you know and hasn’t happened to you. It’s rare that a divorce goes well and no one feels that they were screwed over. There’s only one couple in my experience who’ve had an amiable divorce where they split in a calm and reasonable manner.

It really matters who you marry, yet so few of us are really prepared to wed wisely. Matters of love and lust make us all a little crazy. Throw in money, religion, culture, society and all the other factors around it and level headed decisions are nearly impossible. There should be a course taught in school or something.

As for myself, I was lucky. When you marry at twenty after knowing your spouse for only four months the odds aren’t good. However, in my defense, we always communicated well with each other. Even after just four months we had a good idea about our values and life goals. It wasn’t all luck, but there was that too.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

So this is spring

Here in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire we received about eight inches of heavy wet snow. The snowplow deposited a three foot bank of the heavy wet stuff in front of my driveway. I’ve said for years that March will break your heart. It gives you a few nice sunny days to give you some hope. Then it dashes that hope with an early spring snowstorm.

If that’s not cheering enough, I’m into my third day of a really nasty cold. I got through the whole winter without a bad cold. Then spring comes around and there you go. Oh well, at least I feel too crappy to play with the snow.

Part of the storm was supposed to be rain, but here in the North Country it stayed snow the whole time. There are warmer days on the way or so the weatherman says.

Then there is April. Most people have heard the saying “April showers bring May flowers.”

Here it’s “April blizzards freeze your gizzards.” What, you say? Snow in April? That’s not uncommon at all. In fact a May snowstorm is not out of the question.

However, if I have to guess, we’ll have a faster transition to warmer weather than in the past. In more recent years spring and fall have been shortened. Last fall we got snow cover in October and it never melted. In fact, it’s still here at the bottom of three or four feet of more recent snow. It was like we didn’t get fall at all. This may be one of those years when we go almost directly from winter to spring.

We also have a wetter climate than what we used to have. The State of New Hampshire has quietly recognized the change. They’ve been replacing culverts with ones of much larger diameter. Drainage ditches have been dug deeper.

My guess is that when all this snow starts to melt we are really going to need those road upgrades.


Friday, March 22, 2019

Solar, weed, money and culture

When I got into into solar electricity it was still pretty expensive. The industry was mostly supported by hippy pot growers and NASA. Since I wasn’t doing any satellite launches from the lake law enforcement assumed I wasn’t with NASA. They actually staked out my house with an unmarked car. That was pretty funny as we have just one road and the guy stuck out. I went over and invited him in for a cup of coffee but he didn’t take me up on the offer. The agent just drove off. Rude.

Now solar electric is going up everywhere. Solar electricity installer is one of the fastest growing jobs in the United States. You can’t get any more mainstream than that.

Speaking of going mainstream, another huge growth industry is the legal marijuana industry. That’s impressive considering that it’s not legal in many states still. There’s so much money involved that it wont be long before it’s legal everywhere.

In New Hampshire only medical marijuana is legal. However, it’s legal for recreational purposes all around us: Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and the whole freaking country of Canada. New Hampshire decriminalized it and frankly cops generally think they have better things to do. Once New Hampshire figures out a way to make money on it it will be legal here too.

The real economic revolution is going to be when hemp farming is legal and mainstream everywhere. Many years ago the wood paper industry lobbied to make hemp illegal because they could not compete with the fast growing plant. There’s going to be some big changes in agriculture and more fortunes will be made.

It’s funny how things are counter culture until someone figures out how to make a buck on it.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Emotional Strength

There is a print on my wall done by a local artist. It’s a winter scene. A lone Viking stands slumped shouldered. He’s been in a harsh battle. His gear is battered. There are bloody footprints in the snow. In the distance, down the hill from him is his ship and it’s on fire. My first thought when seeing the print was that someone was having a bad day.

I like the print a lot. I used to think the Viking was pretty screwed. Lately I don’t think so. The warrior is a survivor. He may be the only one left of his band, but he did survive. My thought is that if he walked away from the battle, he can survive the loss of his boat. Sometimes in life all you can do is endure. Endurance is victory.

I must be getting old. These days I see a lot of young people who lack emotional strength. They don’t have what it takes to deal with adversity. It’s not all their fault. After all, it’s my generation that raised them. Helicopter parents who remove every obstacle in their kid’s path do them no favors. Eventually they’ll run into something mommy and daddy can’t fix.

For me, it’s really embarrassing to see a grown adult throwing a temper tantrum. That is so immature. In fact, even if I could help that person I’m inclined not to. They are unpleasant to be around. It’s one thing to have a brief flash of emotion, but then it’s time to buckle down and deal with the problem. Being emotionally upset and throwing a hissy fit fixes nothing.

In our technologically advanced and pampered world it’s possible for the emotionally immature to survive. Heck, someone might even coddle them and try to make it all better. All that does is enable further poor behavior. When events cause things to go wrong too many lack the mental strength needed to keep on going.

So I think of that lone Viking watching the boat, his way home, burn. I can imagine him squaring his shoulders and then trudging onward.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

The long road to hiking

My lovely wife and I went to a presentation recently about local hiking trails. The Cohos Trail system goes from the southern tip of Coos County right to the Quebec border. There it connects to a Canadian trail system.

It brought back a lot of memories. Over the years I’ve hiked significant sections of the trail. In fact, the CT has only been around for 20 years so I’ve hiked parts of it before it was one long contiguous trail. Some areas didn’t even have any trails back then. It was a bit sad to think of how many years it’s been since I’ve been out on those trails. However, it did cheer me up some when they covered a section my lovely wife and I hiked just two summers ago.

Last summer my leg infection issues started so there was no hiking at all. Months of inactivity and infection damage took its toll on me. By the time I went into the hospital it was about all I could do to walk across the street to the mailbox.

A couple weeks after I left the hospital my doctor gave me permission to go on 5 minute walks. That’s it. Five minutes. Since then I’ve built up to half mile walks over hilly terrain. It’s not climbing Mt. Washington, but it’s a start. Strength is returning.

By the end of the summer my lovely wife and I hope to be back on some of those trails we used to hike years ago. It’s a good goal and it inspires me to keep exercising.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Hospital bill

The hospital sent me the bill for my stay there. They even sent a nice return envelope as if I could just write a check and pay it. A lot of people think that if you just send them any money at all they can’t won’t send your bill to collections. That is false. They have to agree on a payment plan that’s acceptable to them first.

With that in mind I gave them a call. It’s funny, when they answer the phone they have a tenseness in their voice as if they are expecting to be yelled at. I really would not want their job. They chilled out once they heard I was not angry.

As soon as I got out of the hospital my lovely wife filled out a bunch of paperwork asking for assistance with the bill. When I told customer service that they made a note on my bill so it would not go into collection. She told me there’s a huge backlog for assistance and it might take a while to get to my bill. That’s fine as far as I’m concerned. If they could put it on hold forever that would be perfect.

Eventually they’ll get around to my account. At that point we’ll see what happens. They may forgive my bill (possible but I’m not holding my breath.) We could come to a mutually satisfactory payment plan. If they don’t want to work with me there’s always the option of going into default. That would hurt my credit rating, but so what?

In other news I am getting better. Saturday I spent the day up and about and had hardly any swelling at all in my legs. That’s progress.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Super solar electric conditions

This time of year my solar electric panels produce well above their normal ratings. A number of factors come together.

One thing many people don’t realize is that solar electric panels are actually more efficient in cold weather. During warm months having good airflow around them is important. That reduces something called electron scattering. Long story short, hot weather reduces efficiency.

When the leaves come into the trees they provide some partial shading on the panels. While it’s possible to cut them down their loss would be worse than any power gain. The fact that I have trees for shade eliminated my need for air conditioning. Gathering a bit more light at the cost of having to add a power hog air conditioner would be a bad deal.

Right now there is still plenty of snow cover. Reflected sunlight gives the panels a huge boost. Sunshine on snow is so powerful that the condition known as snow blindness is a real threat. The energy that can cause eye problems for outdoor enthusiasts does wonders for my battery bank.

Once the snow is gone that big solar boost will disappear. However, I have some smaller solar electric systems that will make use of reflected sunlight. The solar panel on my boat gets a boost from sunlight reflected off the water. That reflected sunlight is one reason sunscreen at the beach is so important. My solar panel on my shed next to the lake also benefits from water reflected sunlight. Unfortunately my main house panels are too far from the water to benefit.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Do I miss the van?

Quite a few people have asked me if I miss the van. Yes I do. My ambulance van to camper conversion was pretty sweet. After seven years of ownership I had it pretty much dialed in to where I wanted it. The ability to run on waste vegetable oil was a big plus.

On the other hand, its time had passed. The days of being able to find free or inexpensive waste vegetable oil have come to an end. When running free veggie fuel the van was economical to drive. When burning diesel at 12 mpg -not so much.

It wasn’t one thing that convinced me to let it go. The van was at an age where it would need some pricey repairs. A 2001 vehicle isn’t going to run forever. This month it would have been due for rear brakes. Registration, inspection and insurance would have also come due this month. It’s nice not to have that stress in my budget, especially after my hospital stay.

The sting is lessened somewhat by having all the camping gear and alternative energy to tent in comfort. Our new L. L. Bean tent is well made and has already paid for itself. Before selling the van all the solar electric stuff and the 12 volt refrigeration were removed. It’s really nice to have independent power when tenting.

Friends and family members are doing camper builds and complete refurbishing of classic trailers. Right now it’s been enough to be able to watch and help out a bit. I’ve seen a lot of different camping rigs over the years and have some ideas on what works.

Will I get another van? I’m really not sure right now. To be honest, I’d get a lot more use of a truck these days. Even an old solid SUV would be good. The van was fun, but it’s time to move on and have some new adventures.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Gonna need a bigger boat

My lovely wife and I were taking about our boating plans. The current thinking is that we’ll do a lot of local New England trips with the Oday 19.

Currently we don’t plan on hauling it south for the winter. There was a lot of discussion about that. The big issue with the two of us on the Oday is the bathroom facilities, or the lack of them. We have a simple bucket composting head on the boat. That’s fine for a few days on the water. The issue is that we have to rearrange everything in the tiny cabin to use it. If only one person is on the boat it can be set for both sleeping and head access. With two people there’s just no room.

To spend the winter on a boat we are going to need one big enough for a separate head. Another consideration is that some of the places we want to stay require regular pump outs so we need a boat with a holding tank. Right now we probably can’t fit a bigger boat into our budget.

So what will we do next winter? Looks like one more winter of camping. We’ll bring our Sea Eagle double kayak with us. My lovely wife wants to scout out some anchorages using the kayak. That could be fun. If all goes well buying a bigger boat should be in the budget for the next winter.

Every year there are more and more older boats hitting the market. The leading wave of the baby boomers are aging out of the sport. Fewer people are going sailing so there’s a glut on the market. Those wealthy enough for newer boats aren’t even going to look at the older and smaller ones. That’s perfect for us as we plan on getting the smallest boat that will fit our needs. They are a lot less work and much cheaper to maintain.

It’s nice to be healthy enough to get serious about future plans.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Food budgets for your needs

There are some people who live on ridiculously frugal food budgets, like a few dollars per person per week. It can be done, especially if you can garden a little and forage a bit. That’s fine. Some people are even satisfied with that sort of thing.

If you are the type of person who has no problem eating a half cup of plain oatmeal for breakfast every single day then maybe you can pull it off too. For some people food is just fuel. They eat only to make the hunger pains go away.

Then there are people like me. Growing up food was a huge part of my culture. Family and extended family meals were hugely important. They still are. We love eating good food, cooking good food and serving attractive meals. It’s an experience, one of life’s joys.

The food budget for the second group of people is going to be a lot higher. Just accept that and plan accordingly. That doesn’t mean you can’t be frugal, just not as frugal as the food is only fuel crowd. We have to add a lot more variety, spices, and quality ingredients.

Sometimes we can save a lot of money by spending more time. For example homemade bread with pea soup made from dried peas is yummy and cheap, but takes a lot of time. The peas have to be started the day before. Good bread takes hours to make. It’s a lot more work than a bowl of rice.

If you are not fussy about your meals, food storage is easy. If good food really means something to you, prepare your storage accordingly. Don’t assume you’ll go from the food is life camp to the food is fuel camp overnight. You’ll be very unhappy if you try.

In a crisis, a hot dish of good food can do wonders for your mental health. Plan accordingly.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Snow fleas and snow melt

There’s nothing like a mild day to bring the snow fleas out. The snow is heavily peppered with them, especially by the spruce trees. These arthropods are not a true flea but actually a type of springtail. They do appear to jump like a flea.

Snow fleas do not bite and are harmless to humans and pets.

They do serve a valuable function. Kids like to eat snow. It doesn’t matter that you tell them they should not. Telling them eating snow reduces core temperature and may lead to hypothermia doesn’t impress them. Pointing out snow can be dirty won’t stop them. Showing them a zillion little jumpy black bugs all over the snow gets their attention.

Snow has a lot of interesting stuff in it. Melt down a big pile of snow for drinking water and you’ll see a fair amount of grit in the bottom of your pan. No telling what that stuff is. Boiling snow melt is the absolute minimum treatment necessary for safe drinking.

I like to also run it through a good water filter. Then I know it’s safe. A filter can also do wonders for the flavor. Melted snow by itself has a weird flavor to it -sort of a burnt taste. Constantly stirring the melting snow helps the flavor, but doesn’t eliminate the off taste.

The first time someone melts snow for water they will be surprised how much snow it takes for a small amount of water. It’s a pretty fuel intensive operation. Winter backpackers know to take plenty of campstove fuel if they are going to melt snow. Usually it’s worth the effort to chop through an ice covered stream to get liquid water. Melting snow is that much of a pain.

One of the big dangers of winter hiking is dehydration. People don’t feel thirsty and must force themselves to drink. If you have to get water by melting snow flea infested snow, it won’t feel worth it. Better to bring water in insulated containers rather than deal with the snow.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Recession on the way?

Are you prepared for the next recession? Some financial gurus have recently issued warnings that another one is on the way. It could be within a year. There are some troubling early warning signs.

I get weird indicators from the strangest places. There are sailing forums that have some pretty well off people on them. Those people live in a different world that I do. One guy was complaining that professional fiberglass work was so expensive. He said he didn’t have much work that needed doing, but he really didn’t want to pay the current rate for skilled labor. That attitude kinda flipped me out. This guy happens to have two large and expensive boats, one kept on the east coast and another on the west. His insurance costs are likely higher than my annual income. No doubt his marina storage fees are outrageous. So where does he want to save money? He wants to take it out of the wages of a person who’s making a blue collar living.

The boat owner casually mentions that he would wait a year for the recession and then be able to hire desperate workers for less. I was angry, both by his acceptance of a recession and then his casual attitude towards how he was going to exploit workers. If that does comes to pass, I hope the work is shoddy and the flipping boat sinks.

My big indicator of a recession: good waiters and waitresses. When times are getting tough people have to take jobs that they are over qualified for. That’s when you get people with college degrees waiting tables. In a booming economy, restaurants have to take what they can get. So if the help is particularly helpful, that could be an warning sign. Of course, if you can’t go out to eat yourself, that’s an indicator that the recession has hit you personally.

Recessions are only publicly announced many months after we’ve been in one. Prepared people notice early warning signs and adjust early.


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

There go the neighbors?

The weather got above freezing so everyone was out and about yesterday. It was a good day for me to go outside and do some walking. I got to talk with folks living around the lake. Apparently, it was a rough winter for all of us.

My side of the lake is hilly. Driveways are steep. One neighbor told me he’s thinking of selling his place. His driveway is long, winding, and steep. We had a storm that left us with four inches of slush on the ground that froze solid. It took him four days with am ice chisel to clear his driveway. The guy is well up into his 70s so maybe he probably shouldn’t be messing with that anymore.

We give up on parking next to the house. One of the first projects I did after buying the place was to make some parking spots on my land across the road. That gave me parking on the same level as the road. My driveway by the house becomes a narrow path that we sand heavily.

Another neighbor just came back from from two weeks in Florida. She’s starting to catch on why her sister spends six months of the year down there.

My new neighbor across the street has spent the winter plowing using a 4X4 ATV. He’s been out there all hours of the day or night. The guy already needs a back operation so he’s constantly in pain. Arizona is looking good to him.

The thing is, most of my neighbors are getting up in age. One of the things that puts people in nursing homes is taking a bad fall. When you are dealing with ice on the ground for half the year, the odds start to run against you.

I’m not a kid anymore myself. While I’ve no plans to sell the place, I definitely don’t want to spend the winter here in the frostlands. Aging kinda sucks.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Beware of bears

In won’t be long before the black bears will be coming out of hibernation. In fact, the NH Fish and Game has already warned that they are on the move in the southern part of the state. It won’t be long before they’ll be coming out here in the north.

This promises to be one of those bad years. When the bears went into hibernation they weren’t in great shape. It was a bad year for natural food sources. They didn’t put on as much fat as they normally do. After the bears wake they’ll be even hungrier than normal. Hunger will overrule their normal caution and they’ll get into trouble.

Most of the time, when bears come into conflict with humans it results in a dead bear. I know several people who’ve had to shoot bears. When a bear breaks into your house and comes into your kitchen, options are limited. The game wardens are pretty ticked off when someone shoots a bear, but if one came into my house that’s how it would end.

I still can’t believe there are still people who leave birdseed where a bear can get it. My trash doesn’t get put to the curb until just before the city truck comes by. People should take precautions about food that would attract bears.

Bears have a good memory. If they’ve found food on your property once they’ll keep checking. A neighbor used to keep bags of birdseed in a shed. One year a bear broke the door down and ran off with 20 pounds of birdseed. After that my neighbor kept the seed in his basement. No matter. For the next two years a bear would rip the door off the shed to see if there was food there again.

Normally, my dog is pretty good about chasing bears off the property. She will only harass them until they cross the property line. Dogs have a very good understanding of boundaries. Once the bear is off my land, its not my dog’s problem anymore. That’s pretty smart, really. How much should a little beagle mix be expected to stand up to a bear anyway?

A few years back some idiot fed a large mama bear just down the road from me. The bear became bolder and bolder and was starting to scare the guy. Then he moves away, leaving behind a large bear that was very accustomed to getting food from people. It was a problem bear for a couple years. I’m not sure what happened to the bear in the end, but I suspect that one hunting season a hunter shot it.

Personally, I’ve never hunted bears. The last thing in the world that I need is a dead bear. I’m rather fond of them. Because I like them so much I do what I can to keep them from becoming pests. I’m hoping we have a really good berry and nut year so they won’t be a problem. The only thing is, the bears wake up before most of their food sources are available. That’s when bad encounters are likely, and remember, when humans and bears clash, it’s always bad for he bear.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Demonetization Vs Freedom

YouTube is in a panic. In an overreaction to some real issues, they are putting serious limits on numerous channels. Two big restrictions are demonetization, where ads are removed, and the shutting down of comment sections. Both affect a YouTuber’s income. Removing ad revenue is pretty direct -no ads, no advertising income. Shutting down the comment section affects how popular a site is. Popularity affects how much income it can generate.

So why is this important to me? I don’t have a YouTube channel. What concerns me is that it’s now just that much harder to make a living while traveling. Video channels are good money making options for people who love to travel. The two nomadic communities I follow most often are those living out of their vehicles and those living on boats. Both of them generate content by showing the lifestyle and all the interesting things to do along the way. A big part of their allure is as a how to do it yourself.

Quite a few of these people have come to rely on YouTube income to support their travels. Many people are putting in crazy hours filming and editing their product. Only a handful make serious money at it. However, quite a few get enough to live at a subsistence level. Many others are happy to have a few extra bucks for fuel and repairs.

There are only so many ways to generate income while enjoying the freedom of nomadic living. In the past a lot of people only began to travel when they retired. Defined benefit retirement plans often provided a decent living and it’s too bad those are pretty much a thing of the past.

Another way to generate income is to have investments. If you are clever and lucky, you could have passive income from that. It could be everything from stocks to rental income. Of course, those things generally require a certain amount of hands on management. By working hard, investing well, and having a certain amount of luck, it’s possible to live as a nomad before you are ancient.

Many nomads of years ago made their living from selling articles to magazines or publishing books. Unfortunately, magazines are dying and their author payment budgets reflect that. Book publishing has always been hit or miss.

I guess I’m concerned about a few things here. There’s the fact that one of the few good money making outlets for nomads is now shaky. It’s hard to live free when everything costs so much. Then there’s the realization that big companies can crush us little guys at will.

The only way to travel free will be as a vagabond tramp with a backpack. I’m getting too old and out of shape to hop trains.


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Spring Floods?

This year’s snowpack is huge. Another 3 to 5 inches is predicted for Sunday. However, by the middle of next week we are going to have a warming trend where temperatures will climb above freezing.

In recent years the season changes have been abrupt. Last fall we went from mild weather to snow on the ground that stuck around all winter. Maybe people were caught with their boats still in the water. If we have an abrupt warming spell it’s going to be interesting.

Spring floods are no joke. Even here in the mountains it’s an issue. The rivers and streams overflow their banks. There have been days when we’ve hunkered down at home because all the local roads were impassable. Culverts, roadway, and even bridges have disappeared. Never drive over a flooded road. Even when I drove a lifted 4X4 pickup I’d turn around. The only exception was when there was a state road crew on the job and they assured me there was pavement under all that water.

Now that our only vehicle is a little economy car, I’m not even going to think about it. Even if the car could wade through the water it’s not going to happen. Modern cars are so full of electronics that water really messes them up. You might think you got away with it, but six months later electrical systems begin to fail. Once those start to go it takes a professional with the right diagnostic tools to even begin to try to fix it.

It looks like it won’t be long before the start of our fifth season: mud season. All the dirt roads are closed and weight limited are placed on many of the paved ones. There’s a reason houses in the north have mud rooms. It’s a place to deposit your muddy boots and rain coats before entering the house proper. It was the first addition I put on my house when transforming it from a seasonal cottage to a four season house.

One of the scary things to watch is an ice jam on the river. As the ice breaks up into huge chunks, sometimes those chunks dam the river. Picture a flood full of mini icebergs. The ice can easily scrub dams right off the river banks.

As much as I’m a bit leery about how fast the snow might melt, I am looking forward to spring. It’s been a tough winter for me.


Friday, March 8, 2019

Home Schooled

When I went back to college there was a really smart guy in my class who’d been home schooled. College was his first experience with the formal education system. He was bright, funny, articulate, polite and an interesting guy. He also didn’t stay in class very long. Basically he didn’t have much patience for the normal bureaucratic BS that every large organization has. My freshman class was larger than normal and that put a strain on the college’s ability to cope. The home schooled guy just walked away from the whole mess.

I’ve always wondered how he turned out. Back then I thought he was in for a hard time if he walked away from every stupid situation. The vast majority of us have to deal a certain amount of crap “out in the real world.” How was he going to be able to deal with a bad boss? Unfair deadlines? Unreasonable expectations? Would he walk away when things got tough and didn’t make sense?

Years later it occurred to me that maybe he turned out just fine. It could be he went on to have an amazing life because of his unwillingness to put up with crap. Sometimes we settle and suffer things we shouldn’t have to.

Then I got to thinking about the times I walked away from things: jobs, school, and relationships. You have to let the stuff that doesn’t work for you to find the stuff that does.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Ain’t dead yet

My x-ray appointment went well. I was in and out of there in about 20 minutes. A few hours later my podiatrist called. She had already examined the x-rays. We came to an agreement on a suitable treatment. My appointment will be during the first week of April. I figured I might as well get everything done while I can. My foot isn’t bothering me too badly, but I’m not walking a lot of miles yet. If not attended to the foot could get worse.

The podiatrist was concerned for my leg. The last time she saw me it still had opened wounds. She said she would not work on my foot if my wounds were open. I assured her they were closed and the healing was going well. My progress has been so good it’s been hard to believe.

These doctors don’t know me all that well. Years ago I was told I’d be dead before I was 45. I’m turning 61 this month. I’m pretty good at exceeding expectations. Sure, I spent a couple years passing out and coughing up blood, but that didn’t stop me. After two years I was well enough to go back to college. Another year later and I was driving a car once more. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t healthy enough to cross the street without stopping halfway to rest.

This time around one of the doctors took one look at my fat self and decided I was diabetic. Never mind that my lab tests are perfect. In fact, all my blood tests are in the normal range and my blood pressure is good. Even my oxygen levels are good. Not bad for a guy who’s levels were in the low seventies for months after my lung injury. By the way, lungs take a long time to heal -it’s hard.

The recent hospital stay, with it’s heavy duty intravenous antibiotics and drugs finally eliminated the persistent infections. It would be a shame to have all that good work go to waste. When I was discharged my daughter took me into her home to take care of me. While I was there family and friends got my house ready for my return. I’ve got good people.

Many people prayed for me and set positive energy my way. I thank you all. I’m sure it’s made a big difference.


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Health Progress

I’m still making headway with my recovery from the leg infection. The leg looks better all the time. Still paying attention to the doctor’s orders. He has me going for short walks three times a day. When not walking, he wants my feet to be elevated. Leg swelling is still an issue, but progress is being made.

Today I’m going back to the hospital for more x-rays. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with my leg infection. This time is for a recurring problem with ingrown toenails. Sometimes it’s painful to walk. The x-rays are to check to see if there are bone spur issues. Since I plan on doing more and more walking, taking good care of my feet is essential.

Might as well get all my doctoring done before the bills come in. Currently none of them have been defaulted on, but that might change. The big bill for my hospital stay hasn’t come in yet. Let’s see if they are able to cut me a deal or not.


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Civil War?

Recently I’ve seen a lot of articles in national publications speculating on the possibility of a US civil war. The country is so divided that there’s speculation that any number of events could set off massive civil unrest.

My initial response is discount the threat. The demographics of that sort of thing don’t make any sense to me. Where would the dividing lines be? During the war between the North and the South the battle lines were clear. Things are muddier now.

Would you go with Red State VS Blue State? Urban Vs Rural? Conservative Vs Liberal? I see problems with any of those line ups. What about “Purple States?” There are a number of states that are so evenly split that they could go either way in any election. Cities tend to be more Liberal than the country. However, even that’s just a generalization. There are places in the Vermont countryside that are liberal and Conservative cities in Texas.

Then there’s the fact that older people tend to be more conservative than younger people. Do you expect parents to fight their kids? I don’t. Not in any great number at least.

Race war? Nope. Just don’t see it. There’s plenty of race tension, but it appears to lessen with each generation. I doubt there’s the numbers and the organization to make it happen.

I don’t really expect a full blown revolution. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean I don’t see the possibility of serious civil unrest. Individuals, groups and small regions could suffer severe localized problems. It doesn’t matter to you if the whole country is in revolt. If there’s burning and shooting in your neighborhood that’s all that matters.

In general, however, I don’t expect a full blown civil war. Most people will complain on Facebook rather than take up arms.


Monday, March 4, 2019

The Flaws of Big Data

Big data is an amazing thing. It’s all the rage in business and government circles. Every wonder exactly why companies want your personal information so badly? That information and all the information from millions of other people gets crunched by massively powerful computers.

It’s said that the future is predicted by the past. That’s the point of big data. Prediction. Think of it as the computer age version of the Oracle of Delphi. Instead of some mystic priestess we have massively parallel computers churning away in air conditioned basements all over the world. While big data lacks the allure of the priestess, it doesn’t speak in riddles. Proper analysis can yield solid results.

How are these results used? They are used in every way imaginable. They are used to sell people things -everything from corn chips to politicians. No doubt the military and spy agencies use the technique to predict how people are going to act.

The powers that be love a tool, especially a tool cloaked in science, that gives them an edge. From the beginning humans have wanted to be able to predict the future. With big data they think they have that tool.

In day to day operations, they sorta do. I’m only going with “sorta.” They can predict a lot under normal conditions. I did promise there were some flaws here. One big flaw is that people have free will. Most of the time it doesn’t matter. In reality most people don’t use a lot of their free will. The free will they use generally doesn’t matter. They are deciding if they should wear a green shirt or a blue shirt to work. Rarely do they question if they should forget the shirt and the job too. Most people don’t make radical changes.

Most people sleepwalk through life. However, people still have the ability to use free will. When their day to day conditions change, they could do the unpredictable. It could be the pressures of things slowly changing over time that suddenly reach a head. Perhaps there’s a major outside shock like a massive earthquake that upsets the normal routine for millions.

Big data uses past actions to predict future actions. If a lot of people discover better actions or if the old actions are no longer worth it, big data’s perdition powers are worthless.

Actually, I don’t think they’re doing that great a job of predicting things right now. For example, I just bought a new recliner. Since then I’ve been bombarded with advertising from various recliner manufacturers and dealers. Having just bought one doesn’t it make sense that I’m be the least likely guy to buy another one right now?


Sunday, March 3, 2019

Day Off

I'm taking the day off from the blog. Family has come from out of state to visit.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

The simple sailboats

I’ve got time on my hands while recovering. One of the things I’ve been doing is watching a lot of YouTube videos. Since one of my interests is sailing I’ve been watching a lot of sailing channels. It’s not all bikinis on the beach videos either. The vast majority of them have been of sailors doing repairs on their boats.

It’s said that sailing is boat repair in exotic locations. All too often, that’s the truth of it. Boat repairs are one of the biggest expenses for the sailors. There are some beautiful boats out there that I could not afford to own, even if they were given to me. For example, one couple is sailing around in a nice 54 foot sailboat with all the amenities. This is a boat worth about $600,000. The owners estimated that yearly repairs ran then around $60,000.

That might seem like an awful lot of money, and it is. However, it’s not surprising. A nice boat like that has power everything: winches, windlasses, air conditioners, generators, solar panels, and every appliance anyone could ever desire. The problem is all that machinery is in a harsh environment of salt water and vibration.

One of the attractions of sailboats is that if an area starts to feel sketchy all one has to do is raise the anchor and sail somewhere else. That’s all well and good -unless your boat is on the hard in some third world country while repairs are underway.

One couple was stuck in just such a boatyard recently while waiting for parts. They found the boatyard in the middle of a land dispute involving mercenaries, firearms, and a bulldozer destroying buildings. The couple grabbed a couple of backpacks and paddled their dinghy across the bay to safety. Their boat is still stuck in the yard. Who knows when or even if they’ll be able to launch it again.

There’s something to be said for simple boats that can be fixed quickly and on the cheap. If you can’t do emergency repairs with duct tape, zip times and WD-40, maybe it’s too complicated.


Friday, March 1, 2019

Pakistan and India

The conflict between Pakistan and India is troubling. I was pretty concerned when they started shooting down each others jets. By the way, was anyone else surprised to see that old MiG 21s could go toe to toe with F-16 jets?

It does look like things have calmed down a bit but tensions could easily escalate. India is having an election right now so that complicates matters. My main concern is that they are neighbors with nuclear missiles. They are so close that there’s very little time to figure out if a launch is real or not. The use it lose it risk is high.

Pakistan has some serious problems in any conflict. For example, India could park its aircraft carrier off the coast of Pakistan and choke off trade. The conventional forces of India could dictate terms of any settlement. That puts Pakistan in a touch situation. Either they accept Indian terms or use their nuclear trump cards.

Of course, the 500 pound gorilla in the room is China right next door. How will they react?

For that matter, what will the US do? We’ve been in fairly tight with Pakistan when we needed the country as a base for operations in the area. Now that we are pulling out of the region, do we need to be such good buddies with the authoritarian regimes of Pakistan? One would think our natural ally would be India, the world’s largest democracy.

Why be concerned about a local conflict half a world away? When nuclear weapons are used anywhere on planet earth, everyone feels the effects. Even if they have just a conventional war, it could set off world wide economic collapse. All the major economies are connected.

Interesting times.