Sunday, June 30, 2019

Island Life

I was talking to the writer Marilinne Cooper at the Gorham New Hampshire farmers market. She had a table set up and was selling her books. I picked up her most recent mystery, “Snake Island.”

She has a home in New Hampshire, but winters in the Caribbean. All winter long I’ve been following her on Facebook. While I was trying to recover my health here in snow country, she was bouncing around the islands. She had a much better winter than I did.

Marilinne did mention that since the most recent hurricanes the Caribbean has gotten a lot more expensive. Big companies swooped in after the storms and purchased a lot of property. That drove the price of everything up.

However, it’s still pretty cheap to live on a sailboat. There are plenty of places where one can anchor for free still. I’m very familiar with that mode of living. You don’t have to leave the United States to experience that dynamic.

Florida is one of those places where waterfront living is pricey indeed. However, there are still plenty of places where one can anchor a boat. However, certain municipalities have taken action. Some places have put in mooring fields and others try to harass live aboards. Freedom scares the authorities and the wealthy.

Then there are those anchorages with a lot of sea hobos living on derelict boats. Some of those areas aren’t too bad, but others are pretty sketchy. I don’t mind being among them for a few days, but they tend to attract crazy people and law enforcement. That combination rarely ends well.

Personally, I enjoy the smaller and more remote places. Peace and quiet is nice to have. I’ve yet to get hassled by law enforcement. They tend to bother power boaters more than sailboats. There are a lot of checkbook captains who think they can buy a big power boat and drive it like a car. They keep the law busy. Having a small sailboat let me slip under the radar. Often they assume I’m day sailing, not on a longer trip. When the keel is lifted I can get into places power boats fear to tread.

The biggest thing you need is mobility. If one area gets too “lawful” lift anchor and move on. Looking forward to a warm weather winter. Maybe I’ll run into Marilinne Cooper in the islands one of these days.


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Music Festival

Friday my lovely wife and I went to Newbury VT for the Patrick Ross Music Festival and camping. We’ve known Patrick and his family for years. He’s an amazing musician.

There are a lot of acts playing at the festival. In fact, it’s still going on until Sunday afternoon. Originally we were going to camp and catch the whole festival. In the end, we had to cut it down to one day. Still, well worth the drive.

I got to see Bow Thayer perform. He’s got some great songs about outlaws. They appeal to me for some reason.

We got quite the rush just a few miles from home. A large moose cut across the road right in front of me. I stomped on the brakes hard and fast, before I could even fully comprehend what was going on. Missed him by about 30 feet. Very glad we missed him as that would have ruined what was a pretty fine day.


Friday, June 28, 2019


Generally we tend to slowly slide int recessions. They are always declared after the fact. Usually it’s after two consecutive GDP drops two quarters in a row. You night not even notice you are in one. Of course, if your income is dependent on a sector heavily influenced by the downturn, you’ll notice. For most people things just keep getting slightly more crappy.

Then there are instances when recessions happen due to a major shock to the system. One of the biggest causes of those are fluctuations in the availability of oil. Our whole economy runs on oil. It’s not just motor fuel; it’s everything from plastics to agriculture.

Something like a shooting war against Iran would definitely put us in a position to suffer one of those quickie recessions. A significant part of the worlds oil could suddenly be cut off from the sea lanes. Not only that, Saudi Arabia’s production and distribution facilities would be prime Iranian targets.

How would you do in a recession?

Personally, I’ve been in one for ten years. It’s been that long since I’ve gotten a raise from my New Hampshire pension plan. Actually, they eliminated a thousand dollar a year bonus. Even a fairly low inflation rate adds up after a decade. Lately it’s really hit how much prices have gone up. Of course, I’ve been making adjustments.

Sometimes in a recession I actually make out better than during boom times. Recessions depress prices. While my pension isn’t huge, it’s steady. Being able heat with wood reduces the impact of a rise in heating oil. Sometimes I can pick up good deals on things because people are desperate to sell anything for cash.

Everyone’s situation is different. Odds are good we’ll be affected in ways we cannot predict. One thing we do know. Our basic needs don’t change. Focus on being about to take care of them and you’ll be fine.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Puzzled by events

I’ve gone over a lot of analysis of the recent hostilities between Iran and the United States. There are some very good arguments that neither country really wants to go to war. The reasoning is fairly sound. The smart money says there’s going to be some posturing, perhaps some action between various proxy forces, and then it’ll all blow over.

The only problem with that is that the facts on the ground keep proving the annalists wrong. Some things don’t even make sense. One example: the whole idea behind using drones instead of manned aircraft is that no personal are at risk. Then Bolton gets all hot and bothered because Iran shoots down an unmanned drone and we are almost in a shooting war. I supposed if an American pilot had been lost we probably would be in a shooting war. Still, the bar towards full blown war seems pretty low if we are going to fight over Robby the Robot Plane.

A manned invasion of Iran is something that won’t happen. The country is too big, too mountainous and with too large an army. Sure, the US could conquer it, but the butchers bill would be higher than would be acceptable to Americans.

Instead is looks like the idea would be to bomb Iran into submission. Bomb them enough and either the government will change or they’d come to the negotiation table to give the US what it wants. That’s exactly what Germany did in WWII. Remember how the Luftwaffe got the English to sign a peace treaty with Germany? Me neither as it didn’t happen. The bombing didn’t work. Just to make things interesting, there’s a good chance that if Iran’s government changed it would be replaced with a more conservative and hostile one.

So who would really win should the US and Iran go to full scale war? Israel and Saudi Arabia would be delighted to have their major enemy weakened. It would also give Russia and China more room to maneuver. With US forces committed to Iran, there would be fewer resources available to keep other adversaries in check.

Logic and reason tell us that the Iranian situation won’t get out of control. However, logic and reason appear to be in short supply.


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Back on the Road

My mechanic replaced the fuel lines in the Blazer. It was ready by late Monday Afternoon. My lovely wife and I picked it up Tuesday morning. We did some driving around, just to see if anything else was going to fall off it.

In the afternoon we loaded up an office desk that a friend had given me. The seats fold flat giving a good six feet of space. That’s not too bad for a moderately sized SUV. In a pinch, I could throw a sleeping bag in the back and it would be comfortable enough.

By the end of the week we’ll be heading over to Vermont Friday for a weekend of camping at a music festival. After we come home we’ll have a two day turn around before loading up for camping on the coast of Maine. We aren’t going to sleep in the Blazer as we’ll be more comfortable in our tent. It’s big enough for a queen sized double thickness air mattress.

The load out will be a bit different for the Maine trip. We plan on taking our inflatable Sea Eagle kayak since we’ll be on the coast. Might even squeeze in my bicycle.

After our Maine trip we plan on towing the sailboat to a number of places. A few trips might be day sails, but other trips we plan on sleeping on the boat.

All this camping and and sailing should be a good shake down for our winter plans of . . . camping and sailing. Hopefully we’ll work the bugs out before heading south for the winter.

It’s wonderful that my health is good enough to be able to do these adventures. My health issues set me back a lot further than I’d like to admit -even to myself. Fresh air, exercise, and following the good weather should keep me healthy. I can’t afford another winter of cold and misery.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

The real enemy

There’s all these articles lately about how the Baby Boomers ruined everything. I guess it’s a backlash from blaming the Millennials for the ills of the world.

When I read what the Boomers supposedly did to ruin things, I realize I didn’t do or support the vast majority of those things. In fact, many of them I opposed. Then there’s the fact I sorta lived like a hippie most of my life. That’s a weird thing for a professional firefighter to do, but that’s what happened. I never fit comfortably in any particular box. In short, my lovely wife and I are not your typical Baby Boomers.

To be fair, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of the Millennials are not responsible for “killing” things. Their biggest “crime” is not having enough money. Blame the older generations for that. No, blame the thin slice of the older generations that actually control what happens.

In fact, the whole blame game concerning which generation ruined what is a red herring. It’s rule by divide and conquer. It’s just like when the owner class pits the middle class against the poor, black against white, or even religion against religion. While us underlings are squabbling among ourselves, the ruling class keeps ruling. Of course, their biggest fear is that one day we’ll have had enough, band together and decorate some lamp poles.

This is not fear of those most of us consider rich. The small business owner who’s been able to put together a few million dollars is not the problem. The problem is with a class of people for whom millions are rounding errors. We are not even human beings to them. If a few million people have to die for them to make money, it’s no big deal.

They fear that one day we’ll see the wizard behind the curtain. Those people have have names and addresses. Most of the things we love are not dying. They are actively being killed . . . for money and power . . . by a handful of powerful people.

Go back to sleep now. Everything’s fine.


Monday, June 24, 2019

Rolling Molotov Cocktail

We didn’t have the old Chevy Blazer out of the shop that long. My lovely wife and I were going into town to move some furniture from my daughter’s house. There was a slight gasoline smell as we drove down the road. When we stopped it produced a puddle. Fortunately, it stopped leaking when the engine was turned off.

That happened Friday night around 6:30. My daughter’s place isn’t too far from my mechanic so I drove it over. The shop was closed, but the mechanic’s wife was in the office doing paperwork still. She let me in and I was able to explain what happened and dropped off the key.

They shop’s been super busy and they are trying to wrap up the jobs before going on vacation Independence Day week. I hope they can get to it before closing the shop.

Back in my firefighting days I went to a lot of car fires. Twice they were driving down the road with no idea they were on fire. It’s a weird feeling to be following a burning car and trying to get them to pull over. One guy was deaf as a post and never heard the sirens. He only stopped when the gas tank fell off as he went over railroad tracks.

Believe me, I thought of that when driving the short distance to the garage.

I’m at the point where this used vehicle project is starting to run over budget. After years of driving old cars, I’m not terribly surprised -just a little disappointed. Hopefully this will be the last major repair for a bit. You never knew how things will turn out in the long run.


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Unpushing the button?

Okay, so President Trump actually launched an attack on Iran and then canceled it before anything physical happened. I’m having a hard time processing the whole thing.

First off, launching such an attack really could be the start of a full blown war. According to the Constitution that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. Yes, Congress has given up huge chunks of its responsibilities, but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

Did we just come within hours of the start of WWIII? While I might be overreacting, but who’d have thought that the assignation of just one man by a random Serbian could start WWI? Historically, tensions can build for years until a spark ignites the whole pile of tinder. There’s no good way to predict how things will sort out. What if Russia and China decided to help its Iranian ally? Stuff happens.

Some wars have to be fought. Some don’t. Others are blundered into. Before anyone gets too hawkish take a good look around. How many of your friends, kids, or grandkids should be put into harm’s way. It’s not just soldiers who die in war. Civilians bear the burdens as well. In recent conflicts the US mainland had been fairly isolated from retaliation. Wars have been kept “over there.” That could change. Then again, when it’s your kid who comes home in a box, the war has come home too. How many come back from war, physically somewhat sound, but a PTSD mess?

I’m not one of those people who think it’s inevitable that we go to war with Iran. However, I’m not in charge of anything. There’s some analysis that Trump held back because we don’t have enough assets in the region yet. More men, ships and equipment are on their way right now. That implies they expect a significant conflict. We shall see.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Attempted Armed Robbery

Details are sketchy right now, but there was an attempted robbery just a couple miles down the road from me. A gas station/convenience store was robbed by masked men.

A customer in the store pulled out a little 380 handgun and emptied a magazine at the robbers. He shot a finger off one of the men. They hopped in a car, drove to the boat landing at my lake and abandoned the car. Then they tried to flee through the woods.

They happened to abandon the car next to a campground right next to a camping retired Rhode Island police officer. He and another retired police officer pursued the men. The robber with the bleeding hand went to a nearby cabin, about five or six down from my place. He knocked on the door and asked the cottage owner to call 911 for medical help.

All the robbers were apprehended. I was told they were druggies from Berlin NH. My information came from one of the retired police officers

Statistically, NH is one of the safest places in the country. Statistics don’t matter when it happens hear you.

It’s really not a good idea to try to rob a mom and pop store in this area. Odds are good that someone will be packing.


Friday, June 21, 2019

On a Dark Deserted Road

No post yesterday because my lovely wife and I took a spontaneous trip to Maine. I’ve an old friend there who’ve I’ve known forever. We joke that we don’t have a History, we have a Mythology.

So we popped in for a surprise visit. He and his wife host a weekly craft night where people bring their projects over and everyone hangs out. We had good conversation, pizza and even got some projects done.

We decided to make the long journey home late at night. I was driving along on a very rural deserted road. There were no artificial lights or even houses nearby. It was mostly woods with a few small open fields.

Something in the review mirror caught my eye. Moonlight reflected off shiny metal. A car was driving right behind me with its lights off. The car followed me for at least a mile. That was pretty weird and more than a little disturbing. The car eventually pulled off the road and only then turned their lights on. Does anyone have a reasonable explanation that makes any sort of sense?

Right after that a cat ran into the road and we were unable to avoid it. Those two incidents, right after each other, shook me a bit. The rest of the ride home was slow and tense. Outside of seeing a deer on the side of the road nothing else happened. By the time we got home we were exhausted. Normally that drive would not have worn me out so much, but it was a lot more stressful than usual.

No wonder the horror writer Steven King lives in Maine.

In other news, the Blazer is finally sitting in my driveway. The mechanic did a great job. It handles and drives well. As soon as the rain lets up I’ll be launching the boat in the lake.


Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Moving forward

After my leg started to heal up I decided to get an annoying ingrown toenail dealt with. I’m glad I did as it makes walking a lot more comfortable. That makes it easier to get back into condition. The followup at the foot doctor’s went well. In fact, she was surprised how well it healed as she herself had her doubts. A three month visit is scheduled and then she recommends a yearly visit.

My legs are still doing well. However, it’s one more thing I have to watch. Now I’m wearing long pants instead of shorts for leg protection. At least I’m not wearing hockey pads. . . yet. Who knows maybe I’ll end up with a pair of logger’s jeans with keval inserts. Since it was a fairly small injury that started the whole leg infection drama I’m cautious.

While in town I talked my mechanic about the Blazer. Turns out it was almost ready last week, but the wrong tires had been shipped to the shop. The new tires have finally come in. Since it’s in the shop anyway I’m having the alternator changed. There’s the very beginning of some bearing noise coming from it. Might as well fix it now rather than 500 miles down the road somewhere.

So all in all, life is good. It feels good to be moving forward again. That being said, I can’t just pick up where I left off. Maybe I had too much time to think about things. There’ s been the need to reassess my priorities. During the coming year there are a lot of things I’d like to accomplish and experience.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019


They say violence isn’t the answer. 98% of the time I have to agree with that statement. Too often people are quick to anger, often attacking something or someone just because they don’t understand. Better communication and conflict resolution skills really can work. I want to walk the earth with an open hand to my fellow man and peace in my heart. That’s the example my children should see.

Then there’s that pesky 2% . . .

Once in a great while violence is totally the answer. While it’s not as common as people would like to believe, there really are psychopaths out there. Sometimes a little directed violence is exactly what’s needed.

One of my own daughters solved a bully problem by physically defending herself. The bully took such a beating she went temporally deaf in one ear. My daughter was pulling her punches too. We have a very good martial arts teacher. After that incident, months of bullying came to a screeching halt.

There are people who’ve mistaken my kindness for weakness. I’m also willing cut people some slack. However, if they persist they will discover the friendly teddy bear can become a grizzly. Maybe if I was more spiritually advanced even those rare incidents would not happen. After looking in my soul I’ve decided I’d better keep my powder dry.

We live in a strange world. Most of the world leaders who are quick to send troops into battle have never been in a real fight in their life. In the halls of the elite conflicts are not settled that way. They have lawyers to fight things out for them. They don’t know what it’s like to get punched in the nose or skin their knuckles. I’ve no idea if they know what violence on a personal level is like. It’s a sweaty and ugly business at times -really best avoided if there are reasonable solutions.

So give peace a chance. Jesus said to turn the other cheek. Maybe only after we’ve turned the other cheek should we resort to violence? He probably didn’t imply that, but I’m not a Biblical scholar.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Amateur Lumberjacks

My neighbor mentioned a while back that he wanted to cut down the huge white pines next to his house. Well, Sunday was the day.

Normally I wouldn’t be too concerned about a guy cutting tress on his own land. However, these trees were so tall they could cross the road and do damage on my land. My boat was in range, as were my solar panels and my parking area.

I couldn’t move the boat as my tow vehicle is still waiting for the mechanic to have time work on it. Fortunately the parking area was free of cars. There wasn’t much I could do about the solar panels.

Right off the bat I could tell these were not professionals. They looked more like his drinking buddies. While they had a chainsaw, they didn’t have any protective gear like hard hats, Kevlar chaps, or eye and ear protection.

They tied an old frayed rope to one of the trees to keep it from falling in my direction, but it really didn’t look up to the task.

So the guy cuts about 75% of the way through the first tree. Then he turns the chainsaw off. He came to conclusion he should cut the second tree down at the same time as some of their branches were interwoven. While he was setting up for that the breeze was visibly opening and closing the cut in the first tree. There was no rope tied to the second tree.

Finally he went for it. Both trees came down exactly where they were supposed to. I was relieved, not sure how much of that was talent and how much was luck.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Year of Camping

It looks like it’s going to be a good year for camping. At the end of the month we plan on camping at a music festival. It’s one of those festivals with a lot of fiddles, banjos, and guitars. We went a few years ago and had a great time.

Next month we’ll be camping with family on the coast of Maine. That’s always a good time. We’ve been going there ever since the kids were little. Now they bring their kids. It’s the same people running the campground too, so it’s like coming home.

We have a lot of trips planned for the Oday 19. With a boat that small, it’s just camping on the water. Some trips may involve throwing a tent in the boat and camping along the shore.

When fall rolls around I hope to head south for a couple months on the boat. After that my lovely wife and I plan on doing a mix of boating and tenting. With all that going on, it’s possible we may spend more time camping than living in a house.

In past years we’ve done so much camping that people we meet can’t believe we actually have a house somewhere. I guess we do a good job living like homeless people?

There’s a big difference between going camping for the occasional weekend and doing it long term. People on a short trip come home with piles of laundry, dirty pots and pans, and in desperate need of a shower. That doesn’t work day after day, week after week, and month after month.

After months of camping we come back fitter and tanner than when we left. However, we still enjoy coming home. It’s good to live easy for a while. Then there are all the family and friends we’ve missed. Being semi-nomadic works for us. I really missed not being able to travel last winter and plan to make up for it.


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Failing the people

Recently I saw an article about how companies are no longer going to concentrate their advertising on Millennials. It’s occurred to companies that young people have no money. What hasn’t occurred to them is that the low wages they pay have anything to do with that. Even Henry Ford realized he had to pay his workers enough money so they could afford to buy the cars they were building.

Young people are so screwed over. They were sold a bill of goods. It was fine to go deeply into debt for college because good jobs would be theirs. That didn’t happen. They were told that doing things for “exposure” was a good idea. That same was said for unpaid internships. For companies that’s even better than slaves. Slaves have to be taken care of.

So when young people say that maybe Socialism might look good to them, don’t be too surprised. Capitalism hasn’t done them any favors lately.

Personally, I don’t think any pure form of any particular “ism” is the answer. The world is a messy place. For example, Capitalism is great, if it has enough protections built in for the things that Capitalism is bad at, like taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. Socialism is fine if there are enough exceptions to allow wealth creation.

I don’t care what it’s called. Let’s put together something that takes care of people. While we are at it, let’s make sure we take better care of the planet. If the plants and animals can’t survive, neither can humans.

Whatever we decide, we’d better do it soon. How long will the youth put up with what they have going on now?


Friday, June 14, 2019

Tanker War

If you’ve been following the news lately you are aware of the ships that were attacked in the Straights of Hormuz. Another tanker attack recently did not receive much news. Coalition planes attacked three Syrian tankers. Syria is an ally of Iran, so it appears to be a little proxy war going on.

Speaking of proxy wars, Saudi Arabia is fighting in neighboring Yemen against fighters supported by Iran. The Saudis are also committing horrendous human rights abuses against civilians, but apparently that’s not a problem for the Trump administration. Trump has bypassed Congress to make sure the Saudis get absolutely everything they want -including nuclear technology.

We’ve got no business getting in the middle of a fight between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It’s hard to overstate how much those two countries hate each other. The fight goes all the way back to the Shia and Sunni split and gets worse from there. The hatred is so strong that I think Iran would alley with Israel if they agreed to attack Saudi Arabia.

Our history in the region is a laundry list of unintended consequences. Here’s a few high points. The US had allied with the Shah but he was replaced by radical clerics. Later we supported Saddam and Iraq in a war against Iran. Things didn’t go well with the war or with Saddam for that matter. We are currently in a situation where Iran actually has a lot of influence in Iraq where militias backed by them operate freely.

The Saudi’s are not the best allies in the world. They export radical Islam around the world. Never forget that most of the 911 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia. The only reason we supported them in past is oil. Frankly, they are of much less strategic importance to us in recent years.

The US is not as susceptible to price fluctuations in oil. Headlines screamed out that oil prices had “spiked,” but in reality they were less than four percent. I’m old enough to remember the oil embargo days when a spike in oil would be at least forty percent. Crazy times.

Personally, I think we are stumbling into a conflict where we have little to gain and much to lose. I’m sick and tired of seeing young American troops being put in harm’s way when very little of US strategic value is at stake.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Health Progress

A friend drove across the state to visit for a couple of days. Tuesday the weather was bad so we stayed inside and caught up. Wednesday the weather was nearly perfect. He and I and the dog went for a good walk. I’ve slowly built up my endurance so was able to handle a two mile walk. Half of it was level ground the other half was rolling hills. That’s a big improvement over the short five minute walks I started with after my hospitalization.

Now I know a two mile walk isn’t climbing Everest, but it’s a start. I’ve feeling pretty good about being able to physically handle an extended sailing adventure by the fall. Those of you who’ve never cruised on a small boat won’t believe how much walking is involved. Mainly, you don’t have a car and rides cost money. Just about everything involves a walk: groceries, hardware, and laundry are some of the most common errands run on foot. How many grocery stores do you see with a boat dock? Darn few.

One marina I stayed at involved a quarter mile walk on the docks to my boat. The place was huge. A trip to the marina restrooms and back was a half mile hike. The grocery store was about a mile past the marina. Restaurants were way off in a different direction. Without even trying I could easily walk a half dozen miles. Sometimes it was quite a bit more. No wonder I slept so well by the end of the day.

After my buddy left my lovely wife and I did a little boat project. A scupper hose had to be fixed. My large low land gorilla hands had a hard time in the cramped space. My lovely was able to get the parts aligned with her delicate digits. She’s a pearl beyond price.

More bad weather is predicted so it’s back to indoor projects for a bit.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

New mobility, new options

I searched long and hard for a tow vehicle for my Oday 19 sailboat. Now that I finally have the Chevy Blazer, we should be in good shape for new adventures.

Last fall the plan was for my daughter to use her truck to tow the boat down to the Virginia Intra Coastal Waterway. I was going to then be on my own from there. The plan was to sail down to Florida on the ICW. After that the plan got complicated, involving planes, buses, cars, and another borrowed truck. My health issues postponed the trip until this coming fall.

With my own tow vehicle things are simpler. I could drive myself down to Virginia and then go sailing. The Chevy and the trailer would be kept in cheap outdoor secure parking. At any time I could take a bus or fly back to get it. Then I’d drive down to the boat.

Once the boat’s on the trailer there are options. I could store it in Florida and drive back home for Christmas. After the holidays my lovely wife and I would head south and do a mix of sailing and camping.

One of the potential issues with a fall sail down the ICW is the weather. Mid-October in Virginia could be pleasant or it could freaking snow. This trip is not about suffering. If the weather is cold and nasty a good backup plan is to head directly to south Florida. I’d like to do what‘s known as the Florida loop. That’s where you cross the state on the Okeechobee canal, head down the west cost of Florida to Key West. From there boats loop around to the east coast and head back to the canal. That would be a nice little adventure on a small sailboat.

Of course, after that it’s back to NH for the holidays and to pick up my lovely wife. Then south again for that sailing/camping mix.

In other news another little boat project has revealed its ugly head. It’s raining and the boat’s scupper (cockpit drain) was partially plugged up. While trying to clear the debris out of the scupper hose, it came right out of the hull. While that’s annoying, it’s a lot better to have it happen in my driveway than on the water.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The power of supplying power

My in-laws own a summer place in MO. Recently the electric company told them there was a problem with their electric meter. The company decided it was faulty and was under reporting their usage. It was nothing my in-laws did. One would think the company would replace the meter and go on from there. Nope, they figured my in-laws must have used $1200 more in electric power and billed them that amount.

Had it been me I’d have told them to get their ugly meter off my house. Of course, you can have that attitude when you already make a significant part of your power from solar. Rather than give $1200 to the power company I’d plow that back into more off-grid power.

The electric company is a monopoly. There are supposed to be regulators that prevent them from predatory practices. Unfortunately big companies generally have a lot of money and money is political power.

There are so many companies that supply essential things for our lives. We depend on the them for electricity, communications, water, sanitation, food and medical treatment. A good part of the attraction of living in a remote homestead is to be able to take care of one’s own needs.

Unfortunately that’s not practical for most people. Even if you live in a remote off-grid locations there are still big companies that you rely upon. Eventually you will need replacement parts and they have to come from somewhere. Most people who live out in the country are heavily dependent on their vehicles to get into town. Few people homebrew their own fuel. Even if you do all these things, nobody has an MRI machine in their basement. We are all need the medical companies.

So with all the things we are stuck with, do we just give up? Just because we can’t be perfectly independent doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can. As for the rest, going it alone won’t work. Taking big money out of politics and holding politicians feet to the fire might.


Monday, June 10, 2019

Living in public view

It used to be that only movie stars and popular musicians had to deal with living in public view. You had to be famous enough to be followed by paparazzi. Now we live in an age where everyone has views and followers.

It’s one thing to be active on Facebook. It’s another thing when you start to derive a significant part or all of your income from your public presence. There are people making a living just by being pretty Instagram models. Youtube and Patreon have make it possible for just about anyone to be Internet famous -and to make a living doing it.

That sounds great. Instead of working a 9 to 5 job you could make a living filming yourself having a good time in fabulous places. That sounds great, but then your income depends on you always being that fantastic person having a great time. A lot of people don’t know how to deal with that. It’s also a huge stress on relationships.

Recently two Youtube sailing couples have split up due to the pressure of always being on. Like one of them said after the breakup: you don’t know what happens after the camera is turned off. There’s a pressing need for interesting video footage. Forgot about just lying around the beach, reading a good book, and goofing off. You have to sail to some interesting dive site, pet the pigs on an island, have a “meaningful” connection to the locals, create drama with other people -and so on and so on. You have to look good doing it too, even if it means putting makeup on at remote anchorages far from other people.

Then there’s the need to have constant pictures of the hot girlfriend or wife, the cute kid, and the amazing pets. Smile and show a little cleavage, the diesel tanks need to be refilled.

Some people are a lot more chill about the whole thing. They photograph and film to make a record for themselves or so the folks back home know what’s up. Sure, it’s for public view, but they don’t film with that in mind. Most importantly, they don’t rely on their Internet fame for their income. That gives them the freedom to film what they want -or to not even film at all.

Fortunately, my outlet is this blog. Good thing I don’t have to rely on it for income as I’d starve to death. Another good thing is that I don’t have to rely upon being pretty. Tough to do as a 61 year old fat man. Mostly I just post plain old fashioned text for a limited audience. That’s fine.

Andy Warhol's said "In the future everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" We are now living in that future. It’s a brave new world.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

Time out for allergies

The sun was out. It was a pleasant 72 degrees. Sounds like perfect weather for outside work. Only problem is that my allergies kicked in. The pollen is thick this year. It was an antihistamine and eye drops day. I did managed to mow the lawn yesterday. For that to happen I actually wore an RZ filter mask. While it was hot and somewhat uncomfortable, it allowed me to breath.

The weather is supposed to be good for a couple more days. That will give me a chance to do some fiberglass work on the sailboat. I’m going to build a sort of skid plate for the bow. The Oday 19 is a beachable boat, but running it up on the sand causes wear and tear. It is handy to be able to run it up on shore so the skid plate will remove any guilt about damaging the finish.

I hope to get the boat into the water before next weekend. It really doesn’t need any more repairs. The little things I’m doing to it now can wait if need be. The boat and trailer still need to be registered. Hope to get that done at the town hall on Monday.

The Blazer is in the garage. I had my mechanic check it out. I knew there were a few things that needed to be done when I bought it. I had hoped to put off buying new tires for a few months, but he pointed out dry rot that I hadn’t noticed. The last thing I need is to have a tire go while towing a boat. The guy’s a good mechanic so he’s super busy. I hope he can wrap up the repairs this week so I can use it to launch the boat.

Maybe in a few days my allergies will calm down enough that I’ll feel like doing outside stuff on a boat. We had a slow cold start this string. It looks like all the plants are doing their darnedest to catch up. It’s been years since I’ve seen the pollen this bad.


Saturday, June 8, 2019

The Dark

I’m always amused when people move out to the country and get to experience how absolutely dark it gets out here. Those new people are easy to spot. At night their places are lit up like a baseball stadium. Moving from the city, even a small city, they never get to really experience the night. Usually they fear it.

It’s funny when you think about it. For most of human existence we had no lights at night. Then for thousands of years it was the light of campfires. There’s something about campfires. The bigger the fire, the more darkness is revealed.

When I was a very young child my dad taught me not to fear the dark. He showed me how it was rarely truly dark and how to take advantage of what little light is out there. Even when it’s pitch black, there are ways to sense what’s out there. Instead of fearing the dark I started to think of it as a big warm blanket that covered everything.

Perhaps we are missing something when we don’t get to experience the dark. Studies have shown that our mental health is improved by being around nature. Even being able to see a single tree can improve our mood. Being on and around bodies of water has been proven to be restful and healing.

Electric lights allow us to break free of our body’s natural rhythm. That can’t be good for us. Heck, maybe that’s one more reason so many of us are a little crazy. Of course, it could just be be that modern civilization has left us all more than a little sleep deprived.


Friday, June 7, 2019

Year of the Amphibian

My lovely wife and I went down to the lake. There’s no sense living on a lake if you don’t go down to the water often. I don’t know the reason why, but there were so many frogs singing away that we had to raise our voices to communicate. There were frogs along the beach and swimming in the lake. They left large egg masses in the shallows. On the way back up the trail I startled one of the largest toads I’ve ever seen in my life.

The huge amphibian explosion should be a good sign. They are especially sensitive to pollution. Apparently our lake water agrees with them. Three cheers for environmental protections.

I’m glad we have so many critters around that eat bugs. This year has been particularly bad for them -or good if you happen to be a bug eating amphibian.

The bug explosion has hampered my outdoor projects a bit. I putter around until the cloud of bugs gets too thick then I run into the house for a while. Rinse and repeat. While it’s tempting to push on through, working with power tools while distracted is a bad idea. In spite of the frequent beaks, a lot of stuff is getting done.

In the last few days I knocked out a number of little boat projects. It won’t be long before I’ll become amphibious myself and spend half my time on the water.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Following the Rules

I was talking to a friend of mine about rule breaking. She grew up as a Navy brat and following the rules is part of her DNA now. It actually bothers her at times.

My lovely wife and I told her to think of them as suggestions rather than rules.

It’s funny, we follow most rules most of the time. We appear to be fairly normal law abiding people. Here’s the thing, rule following is not automatic for us. Almost daily we consciously decide to follow the rules.

Of course, we break stupid and senseless rules every chance we get.

There are rules and there are rules. Some rules were written in blood. Take fire codes for example. Those rules exist because people died in fires. Other rules are there just to make life more comfortable for the ruling class. It’s more important to be moral rather than legal.

Slavery was once legal, but it wasn’t moral. In Nazi Germany eliminating the Jews was legal -and a monstrous moral crime against humanity.

Now I see that people are going to jail for feeding the hungry. I don’t think the authorities have the moral high ground here. I could not call myself a Christian if I didn’t follow Jesus’s teachings about that. Heck, I’d be a bad atheist humanist if I didn’t feed the hungry.

That’s just one example of doing what’s right rather than what’s legal, and a pretty clear cut example. Sometimes things are a murkier. However, I can’t just outsource my morality to a legal authority. Besides, sometimes breaking the rules is too much fun.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Blazer Photo

For those who wanted to know what the used Blazer I picked up looks like:


Pulled the Trigger

I finally pulled the trigger and bought a tow vehicle. It’s an old 2004 four door Chevy Blazer. Considering my limited budget I think I did fairly well. The original owner had paid for good undercoating so it’s not rusty. That’s a big deal in the land of winter road salt.

It has about 100,000 miles on it, but it’s been well maintained. The previous owner and I use the same mechanic. Another big thing, at least for me, is that it has a tow package and good roof racks. Having four wheel drive doesn’t hurt either.

There was no one in line at town hall so it took about fifteen minutes to register it and get new plates. The insurance office had me set up in about ten minutes. The new title will arrive in the mail. What it needs next is to pass the state inspection. While it has a current sticker, it sat for months after the owner lost his license. My mechanic is going to go over everything and make sure it’s fine. Yes, I have a mechanic I trust to do that without over charging me or making unnecessary work. I drove it about fifteen miles to get it home and nothing bad happened.

The Blazer is more than capable of towing my sailboat, and that’s what it’s all about.


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Real life food storage examples

This past winter, while trying to get well, I watched a lot of sailing videos. One of my plans is to sail my own boat to the Bahamas. With that in mind, I concentrated on the sailors that went to the islands.

It’s occurred to me that the Bahamas trips provided great insight into food storage and food foraging. Food in the Bahamas is expensive and the selection can be very limited. There’s a huge incentive to bring as much food as possible. Since most sailboats have limited storage, that can be a challenge. They don’t have any giant chest freezers like in some people’s homes either.

It’s interesting to see people on a half million dollar sailboat down to black beans and corn meal. Even when they resupply, they are at the mercy at the little boats that haul supplies to the islands. If the boats are late, the stores are empty.

So how about fish? Yes, there are people who eat a lot of fish. However, if you are down to fish three times a day, it’s going to get pretty boring. Foraging? Not much is grown on those islands. About the only thing I see being foraged are coconuts. Fish and coconuts, both good eating, but day after day?

So what seems to work best? Dried foods that don’t require refrigeration work well. Your basic beans, rice, flours, and pasta are popular. Good cooking oils and spices make a big difference. Some foods do well without refrigeration: eggs, cabbage, carrots, onions, potatoes. It seems that people have very different thoughts when it comes to canned goods. Some boats are packed chock full of cans. Others seem to use them more sparingly.

People who are serious about cans remove the labels to discourage bugs who feed on the paper and glues. Remember to write the contents on the can with a marker. Another thing people do is to remove as much excess packaging as possible. That’s a pretty good strategy for anyone with limited storage space, like in an apartment or an RV.

It seems that the most successful sailors have all the food they need for their stay. When they shop in the islands it’s to provide some variety to their menu. They may pick up a few fresh tomatoes and other produce that doesn’t last long. They don’t need them to survive, but they provide an emotional boost. One thing that I found interesting is that chickens appear to be running all over those islands, but the stores run out of eggs quickly. Go figure.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with dried eggs. I started with Augason Farms Dried Whole Egg Product in a number 10 can. It’s easy to prepare, one measure of egg powder to one measure of warm water. So how was it? On the plus side it’s really easy to cook with and the results are excellent. By themselves . . . the taste is a bit odd. It’s not bad, just different. Best results were in an omelet with lots of fixings and seasonings. If I was down to beans and corn meal, having some somewhat odd tasting eggs would actually be welcome.


Monday, June 3, 2019

Still looking

I thought I kinda swore off looking for tow vehicles for a bit. Then another potential one showed up in the next town over. Tuesday morning I’m going to take a look at it. It’s more than what I wanted to pay, but it is currently registered, inspected and on the road. Another bonus is that it already has a tow package installed. My thinking is that maybe I’ll spend a little more money up front and not get stuck with big repairs right away.

Of course, my budget puts me in the market for vehicles that are 15 – 20 years old. I’m not going to bother with photos or many details until I actually pull the trigger on something. Old beaters are always a gamble, but that’s what the limited budget dictates.

My lovely wife is working on new cushion covers for the sailboat. The ugly coarse covers from the 80s have seen better days. The foam looks in good shape, so there is that. I’ve found a few areas on the boat that could use a bit of fiberglass repair, but it’s nothing major. Might as well do it while it’s out of the water. The bottom paint is in bad shape, but since I plan on being in fresh water lakes for the early part of the summer, it can wait.

Since I put new wheel bearings on the trailer it’s only rolled about four miles so those are still good. The tires are new as are the safety chains. The LED trailer lights are only a few years old. The winch was changed from cable to nylon strap. The old cable was getting frayed and dangerous. Glad to see it gone.

The new charge controller for the solar panel is keeping the battery fully charged. I absolutely love not having a gas outboard on the boat. While the electric trolling motor only pushes the boat about 60% the speed of the gas, it’s a lot less hassle. The thing just works. Yesterday I found my spare prop for the motor so that will go in the boat soon too.

If I buy that tow vehicle I’m going to spend a small fortune at the town hall. That vehicle will need to be registered, along with the boat and the trailer. At least I can do it all at my town hall. For a small fee they’ll process everything in town, saving me a trip to the DMV. For three dollars I can have one stop shopping and avoid a twenty mile trip to the state office. While there are rarely long lines at the DMV, it’s nice not to have to go there.

So with the weather slowly improving, I’m getting anxious to get the boat in the water. If I don’t buy a tow vehicle soon, I’ll register the boat and trailer anyway and persuade someone to tow it to my boat ramp. At least I can sail around my little lake.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

The last conservative professor in Vermont

Recently I’ve been reflecting on my college days. After my injury in the fire service I eventually felt well enough to go back to college. One of my English professors was quite the character. I called him the last conservative professor in Vermont. He was a crusty old curmudgeon with views way to the right of every other professor in the college.

He took a liking to me. His brother was a fire chief and he had great respect for the profession. Perhaps because of that I got to know him better than most. The old guy had a zest for life and living. His wife was less than half his age and looked like a tall blond model. The professor was an accomplished gourmet chef and bought fine wines by the case. Over the years he made some wise investments and did quite well in the markets.

About once a month he’d have one of the Science professors and his wife over for dinner. The English professor would cook one of his amazing meals. Eventually the men would the retire to the sitting room for drinks and cigars. Knowing what was coming the next, the wives would retreat to another room.

The Science professor was about as liberal as the English professor was conservative. Apparently their political debates were legendary. They were both frighteningly intelligent and well informed. Neither gave an inch. They both enjoyed the lively debate. Remember, in spite of their vastly different politics, they were fast friends.

So I was thinking how rare it is for people of opposing political views to be friends today. That’s disturbing. When the opposition is thought of as being less than human, that’s when atrocities happen. When you can share a meal and debate politics while respecting each other -well, then you live in a better society.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Hair today, gone tomorrow

I am not a vain man. Clothes have never been about fashion. If my pants have good pockets it’s what really matters. Shirts keep the sun and bugs off . . . and paint, epoxy, tar, etc..

As for my hair, it was easy to let it grow long and put it in a pony tail. A bit of brushing and a hair tie and it was good. The last time it was cut was four or five years ago. My hair became soaked with epoxy while working on a boat. It was hacked off in a bit of emergency grooming, right down to the skin -not exactly a professional job.

Well, almost on a whim I decided to see my local barber and get it cut professionally. He used to cut hair part time back when was a firefighter. He’s continued with his shop since his retirement from the city. The place is old school, like something out of the 50s. It’s so old school that for cutting my hair and trimming my beard, he charged $7.

You know how when someone in the movies wants to hide their identity they grow a beard and let their hair grow longer? That always seemed backwards to me. It takes time to do that. If you normally have long hair and a beard, cutting them off changes your appearance a lot quicker. Just a random thought there. I’m not trying to hide from anyone.

My lovely wife seems to like the short hair, so it’s all good. Actually, she didn’t mind it long either. I think it’s me she likes.