Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Old List and Ideas

I’m a huge fan of notebooks. Most days I go around with a pocket sized one. There are larger ones kept at home. They are extremely handy for the way I live.

Note taking with electronic devices like tablets and smart phones just does not cut it for me. There’s something about putting pen to paper that activates my creativity. Of course, there’s also the fact that I have huge thumbs that don’t play well with a phone’s keyboard.

There was a technology that worked pretty well for me. Anybody remember Palm Pilots? Instead of a keyboard they had a stylus and a pad where you’d write in a simplified alphabet. Those devices had a learning curve, but I could rapidly take notes with one. There were programs that allowed for drawing and making sketches. The later ones even had color screens and wifi Internet connection. Too bad they went away when smart phones became popular. Smart phones just don’t have the same usability for a note taker like me, so it’s back to paper.

Every now and then I gather up all my scattered notebooks and consolidate things and arrange by category. For example: there’d be ideas for travel, boat improvements, house improvements and what not.

Another thing in those notebooks are “to do” lists. One thing that always amazes me is how many of those plans actually get accomplished. On a day to day basis, the list never seems to go down. Looking at the lists months or years later, a huge amount of stuff gets done.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Gas to Electric

My Oday 19 used to have a 6 hp two stroke outboard. I wasn’t a fan. Sure it could push the boat at hull speed all day, but it was loud, stank, burned gas, and was a pain to maintain. For the last few years I’ve using a 55 lb thrust trolling motor instead of the gasoline one.

The electric motor can only move the boat along at 3 knots instead of 5.5. Still, it’s a sailboat so that’s enough for most things.

The Oday had a gas locker in the cockpit that fit a 3.5 gallon fuel tank. With the gas gone, that seemed like a perfect place for a group 27 deep discharge battery. That’s worked out just fine. While the boat only as a 30 watt solar panel, it’s been enough to keep up with normal demand.

When I had the gas outboard, the 3.5 tank was a bit small for long trips. The final straw was the night it ran dry in the middle of a 4 mile channel coming in from the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, a passing fishing boat towed us in the last two miles. I learned my lesson.

That’s when I came up with a plan for more fuel on the boat. I built a removable box to hold an additional 6 gallon fuel tank. The box fits in the back of the cockpit, sorta a removable lazarette. Of course, a second fuel tank is no longer needed. What is needed is more battery power and additional solar. The lazarette box is a good size for more battery storage. It’s also just about the right size to sit a solar panel right on top.

The box just received a good cleaning and will get fresh paint when it dries. Eventually I’ll have to take some photos when it’s all assembled.


Monday, July 29, 2019

Considering Pulling the Plug

. . . on Facebook. I came very late to the Facebook game, but I’m very tempted to leave early. There were a couple of things that got me to finally get on it. One reason was some business considerations. Mainly it’s how most of my friends and family stay in contact.

People are lazy. They assume just about everybody is on Facebook. If they want to leave a group message, that’s the way it’s done. Hardly anybody wants to bother to contact people another way, be it e-mail, phone, text or whatever.

As much as I limit my Facebook time, it’s still a considerable time suck. The platform is designed to engage you as much as possible. They don’t care if it’s with cute kittens or horrific news about something you care about. The longer you are on, the more they can charge advertisers. The best and brightest are working very hard to monopolize your time and attention.

Before I was on Facebook I felt pretty superior, but that was dishonest. While I didn’t go on-line to check what was happening, my lovely wife did. Then she’d inform me or even have me read the information off her computer. After doing that long enough, the only honest thing was to get my own account.

Recently it occurred to me that while quite a few things engage my attention on Facebook, very little of that interest turns into action. For example, I may be upset about some news item across the country, but I’m not going to drive across the country and do something about it. There’s also the trap that the algorithms optimize things to what you are already biased towards.

So I have to ask myself what will be lost if I get off Facebook. Will people forget about me? Will I no longer be invited to events? Well, if that’s all it takes to be forgotten, I guess it’s not that important to me either.

On the upside, I expect to become a lot more mellow, with a Zen-like calm.

Of course, it would make no sense to give up my account only to look over my wife’s shoulder at her’s. However, she’s thinking about getting off it too. Won’t that be interesting?


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Satellite Communications

Lately I’ve been doing some research on satellite communications. I plan on doing a lot of sailboat travel this fall and winter. Some of those places will definitely be out of cell phone range.

That would leave me with VHF radio. Radios are nice, but of limited range. That’s not to say they are being neglected. My handheld radio will have plenty of backup batteries and charging options. The main boat radio is up and running again and will get a new cable up the mast. Radio is extremely useful. In an emergency it’s the best way to contact nearby help. The Coast Guard monitors radio traffic extremely well. It’s also useful for contacting other boats, marinas, bridges, and locks. However, it’s pretty bad for letting people back home know how you are doing.

Right now the main contenders are the various Garmin Inreach devices. Some of them have GPS features and other nifty tools. Their main purpose, as far as I’m concerned, is communication. They have an SOS button to contact rescue services just about anywhere in the world. You can also send and receive text messages to cell phones. There’s a feature that allows select people to follow your travels on a web site portal. They even have weather report options.

Prices have reached the point where it’s worth considering. There are good options in the $300 - $500 range, plus a monthly service fee. It’s possible to get perfectly useful service for about $15/month. Not a bad deal for something that can save your life.

If anyone has experience with these devices I’d love to hear from you.


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Taking a Break

It’s been a long day. Not a bad day, just a busy one. Taking a break.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Disaster with the preps you’ve got

Does anyone else look at their current situation and figure out if it’s a good or a bad day for a disaster?

Let me explain. Some days you are better able to handle a disaster than others. Ideally, when a disaster strikes, you are prepared for it. All your gear and stored food is in order. Your emergency systems have been tested and are in place. If you have a generator, it’s been recently serviced and there’s fresh fuel stored. Physically everyone in your family is in great shape. Yep, that would be a good day for a disaster.

In the real world, it’s sometimes not so perfect. Disaster may hit when your leg is in a cast, your wife is eight and half months pregnant, and for some strange reason there’s only half a roll of toilet paper in the house. That would be bad.

So what do you do? You do your best with the cards you are dealt. Maybe you’ve been dipping in your preps because you are out of work due to that broken leg. Then the ice storm hits, taking down power and blocking the roads. Believe me, that’s exactly how it goes sometimes.

Preppers often make some bad assumptions. The first one is that they think they can store enough supplies to survive anything. Nobody can do that. You might have enough food and supplies for forty years. Then twenty relatives you can’t turn away drop by to stay . . . and a flood or fire ruins the bulk of your stored supplies.

Another assumption is that nothing bad will ever happen to them -because they are special or something, I guess.

The third big assumption is that they’ll be able to lone wolf their way out of trouble and pull themselves up by their boot straps.

So what does one do? Having some stored food and supplies is prudent. However, you should also be prepared to garden, hunt, fish, gather, trade, and adapt.

Accept that bad things could happen to you when you are poorly prepared. Most of the survival game is mental. It’s not about stuff as much as it is about attitude and skills.

Most importantly, don’t be a lone wolf. Be a wolf pack. Have a group and be willing to both give and accept help.


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the Flies
, by William Golding was required reading when I was about the same age as the kids in the book.

At first I was excited by the book’s premise. I thought it was going to full of cool stuff about kids surviving on an island. What it turned out to be was a book about kids being terrible to each other. What a disappointment that turned out to be. Kid me felt a little betrayed by the teacher for making us read the book. It sounded like it would be a fun read but instead was sad and horrifying.

From the time I was a little kid my dad used to take me out in the woods. He taught me survival skills so I’d be safe if something bad ever happened. A lot of kids back then grew up running free in the woods. I could not help but critique everything the kids in Golding’s book did. The only thing my young mind could figure out was that maybe it was because of the way kids in Britain were raised. Maybe they didn’t have the good fortune to have a wilderness in their back yard.

Good thing I also got to read, My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George. That was more like it. The setting, upstate New York, is a lot like New Hampshire. I could really see myself doing the things the main character did. It was a pretty good piece of survivalist writing, though it would never have been called that.

I wonder what kids are required to read these days? I hope they don’t have to suffer through Lord of the Freaking Flies.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Hard stuff and Easy stuff of Trip Prep

The electrical system on my sailboat was dead. Nothing came on. That was not a good start, but it turned out the main fuse had blown. Once that was taken care of I was relieved to see that there was power to the cabin. That means all the hidden wiring from the battery in the stern to the bow was live.

When my lovely wife and I bought the boat, it didn’t have any electrical system at all. The first thing we installed was the running lights and then the radio. Over the years other things were added: solar electric power, 12 volt outlets, interior lights, depth gauge, and so on. The main battery was moved over to the gasoline locker when the old two stroke was replace with an electric motor. The electrical system was more a product of evolution than planned design.

One the things just upgraded was the power panel. Corrosion had taken its toll on the old one and the new one is 50% bigger. It was great fun sorting out the wires and installing the new panel. Much to my surprise, I actually eventually remembered how I’d done it in the first place. By the end of the afternoon most of it was up and running again.

As convoluted as the electrical stuff was, it was the easy part of preparations.

The hard part of the trip involves where and when we plan on going. I planned on doing the first part alone. Now my lovely wife is thinking of joining me right off. That’s wonderful, but she doesn’t want to spend too many days on the cramped little boat. With that in mind we have to plan a mix of sailing and camping.

I long for the simplicity of rat’s nest wiring. The logistics have gotten out of hand. Campgrounds, boat ramps, anchorages, marinas, mooring fields, boat storage, shuttling the tow vehicle. The are a lot of factors involved, a tiny budget being one of them. Add in things like squeezing in visits to relatives and it’s like three dimensional chess.

Just to make things interesting, we can’t have a firm schedule. Boat travel is heavily dependent on weather and other factors. There are no guarantees that campgrounds will have openings for us when we are ready to camp. With that in mind, we have to have a lot of backup options.

It can be complicated enough just camping or just sailing. Combining the two really makes things a tangled mess. On the bright side, we’ve been to most of these places before. That helps as the on-line guides don’t always reflect the real world situation.

We are compiling a large pile of notes. It feels like planning the invasion of Normandy. Just wait until we get to the gear list.


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Wrong Skills

Marsha Sinetar wrote a book, Do What You Love and the Money will Follow. Nope. It won’t. Oh there are plenty of examples of people in the book who’ve found their right livelihood. Good for them. It won’t work for everyone.

We live in a weird world. It’s strange what makes some people successful and others not. The world we are living in now rewards certain behaviors, attitudes and skills. Other skills are not so important. However, in other places and times, those less valued skills could have been highly valued. In our world those talents and skills need to be monetized. The ability to turn a passion into a paying gig is whole ‘nother skill set.

Real world example. For most of my life I loved going on wilderness canoe trips. As much as I loved those trips, they never made me a dime. A friend of mine also liked paddling. He turned his love into a company that guided people on paddling trips. Good for him.

I took a lot of people on my trips, but never made money. Of course, those people were friends. They were people I actually wanted to be around. I guess that makes me a terrible businessman. However, it does make me a pretty good friend. Being a pretty good friend doesn’t make you a lot of money.

My lack of business skills used to bother me a bit. I’m an intelligent person with various skills. People less smart and with fewer skills have made fortunes. Then again, it’s been proven that a fairly high percentage of CEOs are psychopaths. We live in a world where some of the worse among us can rise to the top. I don’t feel bad about not making a ton of money in a society that rewards terrible people.

Of course, there are plenty of good and decent people who rise to the top. Their abilities happen to fit that narrow band of skills that society rewards well with money. Good for them. They may even love what they do -even better for them.

You might be rewarded for doing the things you love, but it won’t necessarily be with money.


Monday, July 22, 2019

Oxycotin, addiction and me

My leg infection was extremely painful. Over the counter pain killers barely took the edge off. After being admitted to the hospital I finally got the pain meds needed to actually be comfortable. It took 20 mg of oxycotin twice a day plus dilaudid every three hours to do the job.

After my hospital release I got a prescription to continue with the oxycotin. It was great to have the pain managed, but I really started to miss my mind. As soon as I could deal with the discomfort I replaced oxycotin with Tylenol. Medical people have assured me I’d been on opiods more than long enough to have addiction issues. That can happen very quickly.

Fortunately, it wasn’t that hard for me to get off them. My big motivation was getting my mental clarity back. I was lucky. Too often a long struggle with addiction starts with a painful injury.

Addiction is one of those things that frightens me. Genetics play a role, and there are relatives of mine who struggled with alcohol. One of my cousins died from it.

Frankly, I like to drink. A good beer with lots of hops is a special treat. There’s a sublime pleasure to sipping a good single malt scotch. A nice red wine goes down well. Rum is good even when its not chilled. In fact, there’s a lot of different drinks I really enjoy.

Here’s the thing, I want to keep enjoying them. To do that I make sure I don’t drink habitually. Days or even weeks can go by without drinking alcohol. It’s rare that I’ll drink enough to to get drunk. I can stop after one or two drinks.

Probably the smartest thing would be not to drink at all. However, I always believed that too much moderation was bad for a person. The thought of something being banned can make it more attractive. Knowing I can have a drink anytime I want removes both the anxiety and a lot of the temptation. That’s what seems to work for me. I know alcohol is so dangerous for some people that they should not drink at all.

There’s nothing special about me when it comes to addiction. Thank goodness I don’t have to give up coffee. That’s hard. I’ve done it in the past and didn’t like it.


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Moving slow

The heat and humidity put the brakes on major projects. Instead I took it easy and drank plenty of liquids. I was able to do some preliminary work on a new electrical panel for the boat. It’s going to have to cool off a bit before the new panel assembly is installed.

My lovely wife went to visit a friend who’s recovering from surgery. The temperature had to be close to a hundred degrees in her rented house. My lovely wife discovered three air conditioner units stored in the basement.

She called and asked if I wouldn’t mind coming over and installing an air conditioner. All three conditioners were old and I had no idea if they worked. I decided to take a chance on the largest and most powerful. Those old conditioners weigh a ton. Good thing it cranked right up when plugged in. After an hour at full blast the place was a lot more comfortable.

It’s tough when you don’t have family around to take care of you. My wife’s friend has daughters who’d help, but they are far away in Texas. I’m grateful for my family and friends who’ve stepped up when I’ve been in need.

Cooler weather is coming.


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Things heating up

Of course, I’m going to have to talk about the weather. Dang, it’s hot! Not only is it hot, it’s humid. Heck, as far as I’m concerned even the gravity is set too high. Seriously though, it’s a scorcher.

Normally it’s cool enough here in Northern New Hampshire that I don’t need air conditioning. In fact, I don’t even have AC. Usually the fans are enough. However, today might be one of those bring a few cold beers down to the lake days.

This heat wave is affecting a significant portion of the country. The power grid is going to be stretched in a lot of places. Prepare for outages. Yesterday I made sure my home battery bank was in top condition. The last thing I want is for the fans to stop working and for the ice-cream to melt. We should be in good shape here, even without AC. Thank goodness for all my shade trees.

Thank goodness I don’t live in a city. (Of course, I’m always thankful for that, but heat and humidity in the concrete canyons are the worse)

Speaking of things heating up, what’s going on with Iran? Drones are being shot down. Ships are being captured and crews interred. Frankly, when the most recent tensions started, I never expected things to get to this point. We are perilously close to this being in a shooting war. The war of words is quickly turning into a war of bullets.

This is one of those conflicts that has the potential to spiral into something much bigger. There are alliances involved. For example, it’s the British who’s ships are being attacked, but we are their allies and will jump in to support their efforts. There are long simmering hatreds in the region, especially between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Politicians may have something like a raid or limited action in mind, but all the pieces are position for a large regional war. Perhaps it could even turn into a world war. I hope wiser minds pull away from that, but once these things start they have a bad habit of getting out of control. That’s what History tells us, but we are probably doomed to repeat it instead of learning from it.

At any rate, hope everyone keeps cool . . . and keeps their cool.


Friday, July 19, 2019

To the Sea!

My lovely wife and I went on a little road trip to the coast of Maine. We connected with friends. Next day we went for a walk along the ocean. Later we did some shopping at Hamilton Marine.

There’s only so much sailboat shopping that can be done in the mountains of New Hampshire. I had quite the list and gave the state of Maine a financial boost. Got everything from a new mast antenna cable to bottom paint -and a bunch of stuff in between.


Thursday, July 18, 2019

Back to Martial Arts

My old martial arts instructor has come out of retirement. That’s pretty exciting. He’s spent the last couple of years working on a whole new system.

I had the chance to work out with him and a couple of his old students. This is all part my getting into better physical condition. The new system is great, designed to strengthen joints and encourage heart health.

It’s also focused strongly on effective fighting. Moves have been paired down and simplified. A lot of martial arts has become more focused on the art part and less on the martial. Our sensei acknowledges the new system doesn’t look as pretty. It’s designed to work in smaller spaces and concentrates on effectiveness.

We trained outside on uneven ground with the distraction of mosquitoes. That’s a plus in my book. In the real world fighting doesn’t just happen in antiseptic dojos. We even got to practice a poker game gone wrong fighting scenario using improvised weapons. How cool is that?

This chance to workout with my old teacher has been a godsend. My strength, flexibility and balance really took a hit when I was sick. I’m now strong enough to be able to work on getting stronger. Sometimes we are too sick to work on getting healthy. Not only is this great for my body, it’s going to be good for my state of mind.

Way back when I suffered lung damage and had to leave the fire service, this teacher is the guy who got me back into better health. He had a lot of exercises designed to strengthen my lungs. After two years of training with him, I was well enough to go back to college. Working with him and a couple of the old students was great and I’m looking forward to a lot more of it.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Prepare by doing

Back when I was a kid my family was into canoe racing. We acquired our fair share of trophies and ribbons. There was a paddling team that had developed a special series of exercises to prepare for races. Those guys looked in great shape. They had fantastic precise technique. Dad and I left them in our wake.

They asked us what exercises we did to train. What we did was paddle rivers . . . a lot . . . as hard as we could. As dad figured it, if you wanted to get good at something, do that thing as much as possible.

With that in mind, all the sailing I’ve been doing on my small lake is good practice for this coming fall’s sailing adventure. It’s not perfect as there’s no tides, currents and shoals to deal with. It does offer good practice with variable winds, busy boat traffic, anchoring, and lots and lots of tacking and sail adjustments.

Normally coastal sailing doesn’t involve a lot of tacking. Even when sailing into the wind, one usually does a few long tacks rather than a lot of short ones. That’s a lot more efficient. Should I ever be in a narrow channel with a dead engine, all that small lake tacking practice will come in handy.

My lovely wife and plan on doing some sailing along the coast of Maine, so that’ll be perfect. Looks like we are canceling our Lake Champlain plans. A number of the lake’s bays are suffering from toxic algae blooms. People’s dogs have died from contact with the water. There’s no need to take a chance while that’s going on.

We also have some trips planned to some large wilderness lakes. That should be fun -and good practice too!


Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Knocking off the projects

I started out the day figuring out my boat trailer lights. They weren’t working when I launched the sailboat. Since the boat ramp is really close to my house, I took a chance and drove it over anyway. Before taking the boat any distance that had to be fixed. Fortunately it just an issue with the trailer plug. A little clean up, some careful trimming with a knife and it was good to go.

The afternoon project involved my pole saw and my small battery powered chainsaw. Some trees came down in my trail to the lake and had to be cut up. Then there was a large tree branch hanging out over the water. In the past my sailboat drifted to it and the mast and rigging got tangled up. My polesaw was just barely long enough to trim the branches. Working overhead like that can be exhausting.

I did a few little boat projects, but then ran into a major issue. The wind had kicked up and it was perfect for lively sailing. Just as I was about to take the boat out, my lovely wife came down the trail and joined me. It’s like she could sense the boat was going to leave the beach. Enough progress had been made on the projects. There’s no sense living on a lake if you don’t take advantage of it.

We had enough wind to allow us to push the boat a bit. There were a lot of pontoon boats, bow riders, and kayakers on the water. Technically a boat under sail has the right of way, but in reality one has to keep their head up, especially when sailing close to hull speed.

A family of three loons seems to like our sailboat. They always come over and visit. We also had a couple of osprey diving for fish right near us.

By the time we put the boat away we were pretty beat. It was all I could do to struggle back up the hill to the house and to cook a late dinner. All and all, a productive and fun day.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Population crash?

It’s common knowledge that over population is a major problem. The world has only so many resources.

What most people don’t realize is that populations can crash and go into steep decline. If we think about that happening we think of possible causes like war or plague. Populations decline rapidly when people are actively being killed off.

It doesn’t have to be that dramatic or even all that noticeable to the casual observer. Numerous countries are dealing with the problems of a rapidly aging society. Japan, Russia, and most European countries are not growing. It’s expensive to have kids and people no longer rely on them in their old age. We also no longer need a dozen children to run the farm. The United States would be in population decline itself if it wasn’t for immigration.

There are countries that are still growing, but as women in those countries gain freedom and education, they have fewer children. Demographic shifts from increasing population to declining population can happen in a relatively few years.

Artificial chemicals in the environment have been reducing fertility rates. It’s possible we may just poison ourselves to death. In industrialized countries, male testosterone levels have been plummeting.

Changes in population have some serious political ramifications. We all know that China’s one child policy had unintended consequences. Due to cultural preferences, a majority of families decided to have a son instead of a daughter. Now there’s no enough marriage age women for all those young men.

Russia’s decline has military issues. As they years go by, they’ll have fewer and fewer young men available for service. They may be at the point where if they want to achieve military goals, they’d better do it soon. In ten or twenty years, they might not have enough men in uniform.

Immigration in the United States has kept our numbers up. The population is becoming browner and less Protestant Christian. That will only be a problem is they don’t feel like real Americans. In the past the country has been able to assimilate foreigners and they’ve adopted American values. As long as the country can continue to do that we’ll be fine.

Many animal populations go through boom and bust population cycles. We might not be as isolated from the rest of the natural world as we’d like to think. Creatures that exceed their environment’s carrying capacity often crash to extremely low levels. Something to think about.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

2012 When the lights almost went off

A friend of mind came over to visit. He is former military. The subject of an EMP type attack came up. The military is retraining certain crews on how to do things the old way. The thought is that if the satellites and electronics got knocked out, they’d still able to function.

I pointed out how close we came to a solar storm in 2012 that could have wiped out the electronic age. The coronal mass ejection from the sun was estimated to have been as powerful at the storm that caused the 1859 Carrington event. Back then our most sophisticated electronics were telegraph systems. The jolt from the sun set telegraph stations on fire.

That strong of a solar storm would have sent us back to something like the 17th century.

Here’s the thing, the storm of 2012 actually did happen. We were just lucky that the earth was not in the path of the storm at the time. We missed it by something like nine days.

I jokingly pointed out that had that solar storm hit earth, we’d be having our conversations are a campfire. That caused us to pause for a bit. Then we thought . . . campfires are nice. That wouldn’t be all bad.


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Winter prep

People who live in cold northern climates know that summer is the time to get ready for winter. You don’t start looking for firewood when there’s snow on the ground. In the old days it was a matter of life or death. If you didn’t have your firewood and food stored by the end of summer, you might not survive the winter.

Currently we have the advantage of ships and trucks bringing goods from all over the world. Instead of counting turnips to see if there will be enough until spring, we can eat bananas from South America.

This year my efforts are going towards being ready to head south for the winter. I now have a tow vehicle for the boat. My lovely wife and I are doing repairs and upgrades to the sailboat. Our camping gear is sorted out. We are knocking off the jobs that have to be done before we leave.

I’ve made it very clear to people that if you need my help for something, it better before October. That might seem like a long ways out, but it isn’t. Time has a way of slipping by. My fear is that by the end of September everyone will remember they need my help with something. That could get interesting.

With that in mind, I’m hoping to get all my critical stuff done before the end of August. That gives me a little leeway if things are delayed. It would be just my like to have two weeks of steady rain when there are outside projects to do.

Just to complicate matters there are still some jobs that need to be done just in case I’m stuck up north. Anything from a family emergency to a health crisis could change my plans. With that in mind I’m also making at least some minimal preparations for winter. You never know.


Friday, July 12, 2019

Life skills

I’m returning to another of my pet peeves -people who don’t have basic life skills. What set me off this time was a friend’s mother passed away. He’s now spending the summer at his dad’s because dad does not know how to take care of himself. The guy doesn’t know how to cook, clean, or do laundry. My friend is recovering from a back injury but has to spend his time babysitting his father.

One can argue that is a generational thing. However, my dad knew how to take care of himself. He learned at an early age. In fact, dad owned sewing machines, not mom. Of course, dad not sew clothes much. Mostly it was things like hunting packs, seat covers for his Jeep, tool bags and the like. Still, he knew how to cook, clean and all that.

A guy I knew got divorced in his 30s and didn’t know the first thing about cooking. The poor guy lived on woopie pies and Pepsi. Had he not soon remarried he probably would have died from a heart attack.

When I was dating my lovely wife I cooked for her. Back then I knew a local butcher who’d custom cut steaks for me. Trust me. Girls think guys who can cook are sexy.

On the flip side, girls should know their way around tools. My girls certainly know to fix things. They should also know how to change a flat tire or do basic auto maintenance.

I also think that everybody should know basic firearm safety. Even if you have no interest in taking up shooting sports you should at least know how to clear a gun and make it safe. That’s just another handy life skill.


Thursday, July 11, 2019

New fitness incentive and a storm

I’ve a new fitness incentive. I just ran up the hill from the lake in my fastest time in about a year. My secret? Mosquitoes. Just before sunset I came back to my beach and tied up the sailboat. Then the swarm hit. Shorts and a t-shirt didn’t provide much protection. Best cardio workout ever.

But seriously folks. I’m still working on getting my endurance back. I figure it’s about 85% of what it was before my leg infection got bad. Not that I was exactly an athlete before, but I had been pretty active. When you are a big guy it’s the only way to stay healthy.

In other news I see a serious storm has popped up in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s either going to be a strong tropical storm or it might reach hurricane status. Heavy rainfall will most likely be the biggest threat. As I write this its path is still not certain. If you are anywhere from Texas to Mississippi better be ready. For that matter, Florida is experiencing high winds and rip tides in places. Be careful everybody.

That storm is pretty much in line with the hurricane season forecasts. Conditions are ripe for these pop up weather systems over the warm Gulf waters. We aren’t supposed to have many big storms that start off the coast of Africa and travel across the Atlantic. That’s good, but the Gulf storms can be plenty big enough. Another consideration is that there’s less time to prepare for them.

Hope everyone takes proper precautions down by the Gulf of Mexico.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Bugout Blazer

Taking the old Chevy Blazer out to the coast of Maine for camping was a pretty good shakedown cruise.

We were really happy nothing broke down and nothing major fell off the beast. My confidence wasn’t too high since it had to make an emergency trip back to the garage just before the trip. The fuel line developed a massive leak and that had to be attended to. On this trip nothing more broke. Actually, the more we drove it, the better it seemed to run.

When I pulled the 105 watt solar panel off the van I made wooden rack to fit the load bars on my lovely wife’s Nissan Versa. That worked out fine for last year’s camping trip. Luckily the rack was exactly the right width to fit on the Blazer’s luggage rack. It was easy to set up the solar electric system.

Having our own solar electric saves us a bundle at campgrounds. For example, at the campground on the coast the difference between nonelectric and electric sites is about $30/night. That adds up quickly. We also save money by not buying ice as we run our small 12 volt compressor fridge cooler.

A lot of our camping gear is going to stay in the Blazer. That way if we ever have to bug out we’ll be able to leave in minutes and still have our survival gear. To be honest, what will most likely happen is that we’ll end up going camping more often as most of our stuff is ready to go. We even have dehydrated food for the two of us for several weeks.

The ambulance/camper conversion was great. It was pretty roomy and we could dry camp just about anywhere. The Blazer is not a mini mobile apartment. On the plus side, it has a much lower profile and four wheel drive, allowing us to use narrow dirt roads. Everything has trade offs.

By the way, When I hit the road this fall I’ll still be able to dry camp in places like Walmart parking lots. The boat will be hitched up behind the Blazer. It’s perfectly suitable for sleeping in while on the trailer. That worked out for me a time or two back when the boat was towed with my a pickup truck.

Unlike the ambulance, my lovely wife is perfectly comfortable driving the Blazer so that’s another plus. So far it seems to have been a good purchase.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Back to sailing

I’m back to dealing with stuff closer to home.

The sailboat has finally been launched. That was interesting. Lots of delays. The fist time consuming thing was getting the receiver hitch set up. Thanks to WD-40, a hammer and an ax I was able to pound it into place. That hitch will stay in place for the foreseeable future.

Due to the repairs and upgrades I did on the sailboat, it was a lot more disassembled than normal. Sorting out the rigging and all the hardware was a chore. The sails had been stripped off so they had to be bent on again. Eventually all the standing rigging and running rigging was sorted out. Normally my lovely wife helps me set up and launch the boat, but I did it by myself this time.

This was the first time towing with the Blazer. It seems to tow the boat just fine. Backing down the boat ramp felt weird with a different vehicle, but it didn’t go too badly.

After a very short sail I headed to my beach to pick up my lovely wife. She then took over the tiller and I pretty much became a passenger after that. No matter. I’ve got a spouse who’s willing to go sailing so it’s all good.

The boat is going to need a few more things. My lovely wife is still working on new cushion covers. The bottom needs new paint, but since it’s not going in salt water the rest of the month, it can wait.

Right now it feels good to know I can physically handle the sailboat again.


Monday, July 8, 2019

Trump Talk

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of Trump. So I get back from vacation to see some more stupidity about our President. Sure, he did say something about battling for airports during our war for independence. Yeah, he did get his military parade like all his dictator friends have. Plus we are tearing kids from their parents and maintaining concentration camps.

I always questioned the man’s integrity but I don’t attack him on a daily basis. He’s just one man but the system of checks and balances no longer works. The two party system takes some of the blame as party loyalty appears to be more important than the business of governing. Congress has consistently given up its power to the executive branch.

Frankly, I don’t see why people still support Trump. I know that will get me into trouble. Personally, I have a number of friends and family members who’ve suffered from his policies. On the other hand, I know people who’s investments are doing quite well so Trump’s all right by them. Some of us can be bought for 30 pieces of silver.

People will believe what they want to believe but the truth is still the truth. I have a freaking degree in journalism so I know something about how the news in made. Frankly, Fox News is basically an entertainment channel and sometimes a propaganda outlet.

Rather than constantly attacking the administration, my concern has been to prepare people for disasters. Believe it or not, not everything is the fault of Trump: things like asteroids and earthquakes. Other things such as the likelihood of going to war is higher under Trump. My focus has been on people being prepared to provide for their basic needs in an emergency.

There are a number of serious challenges facing the planet today. Good leadership would go a long way towards mitigating those issues. Our current leadership is generally making things worse and that scares the crap out of me. That’s one reason I want people to be prepared to survive -no matter what they believe. Beliefs can be changed. Nothing can be changed if you are dead. I want us all to get through these trying times together.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Maine coastal vacation

My lovely wife and I just got back from a camping trip to the coast of Maine. We caught up with some of our kids and grandkids. Good times.

Temperatures were in the 90s with high humidity. Our tent was pitched right off the bay so we got some sea breeze in the evening. That made all the difference. There was no rain at all. One hot night we took the fly right off the tent. It was magical being able to fall asleep looking up at the sky.

I did a lot of walking. Good thing I’ve been working on my endurance since recovering from my leg infection.

It was also a test of the old Blazer. When I bought it I was strictly focused on finding a vehicle that could tow a boat. Things like air conditioning weren’t even on the radar. However, with the high temperatures and humidity, it was a blessing that the AC worked perfectly.

While on vacation I never went on-line and didn’t check the news. Now that I’m back I see the world is crazier than every. It was good to take a break from all that. More later.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

Robo calls destroyed my phone

They didn’t really physically destroy my land line phone (though I’ve been tempted to hit it with a big rock) robo calls have pretty much rendered it useless. It’s a real problem and a lot of people are plagued by them. Here’s a problem that’s universal, crosses party lines, and nobody seems able to fix it.

What they’ve done is train me to not answer my phone. That sucker is going to go to voice mail. My lovely wife was able to program the phone so that when the kids call the tone is different. At least my cell phone gets a lot fewer junk calls. Then again, the ringer on the cell phone malfunctions often so I miss a lot of calls there too. It’s not a bug, its a feature.

On the bright side, I no longer have to worry about being hounded by creditors. I’m still waiting on a resolution on my hospital bill so that might be an issue. Since I’m not answering any calls at all, the creditors won’t be able to reach me either. Maybe they’ll send something in the mail, but that’s not much of a problem. I sort my mail while standing next to the woodstove.

When I travel the phone gets shut down and the answering service gets switched to something that senses messages as an e-mail attachment. The vast majority of robo calls don’t leave messages, so that’s not a problem. Real people know to leave a message.

Being able to communicate by phone was pretty good while it lasted.


Friday, July 5, 2019

The price of gas and toys

Right now the price of gas is pretty darn low. That’s nice, but don’t get too comfortable. Do I have any special knowledge? Nope. I’m just a pessimist. Okay, I’m not such a pessimist that I didn’t just buy a used Chevy Blazer that tops out at 20 mpg on the highway. In my defense, I can’t pull my sailboat and trailer with a motorized baby buggy. We still have my lovely wife’s little four cylinder econobanger that gets almost 40 mpg. That’s the daily driver.

Speaking of sailboats, I’ll still be able to use mine if the price of gas skyrockets again. I’ll only need enough gas to tow it to the ocean. Then I’m set. A few years ago I replaced the 6 hp gas outboard with a 55 lb thrust 12 volt electric. The boat’s battery is charged with a solar panel. Nice. Even with I used the gas motor it averaged out to less than half a gallon a day. I ended up walking the gas can to car service stations. It was embarrassing to fill up at a marina and purchase 3 gallons. The boat next to me would have 3 or 4, 300 hp outboards and take a long time to fill up.

In the past when the price of gas shot up, the tourist industry would collapse. People are a lot less likely to drive across the country in a big RV. Purchases of gas burning toys, everything from RVs, to ATVs plummet.

In the past I’ve owned a few snowmobiles. They are fairly hard on gasoline. They are vehicles with large tracks that are always under power. During a gas shock many years ago, the snowmobile was parked and I took up cross country skiing.

Actually, that energy price hike might have saved my life. I’ve scars from being stitched up after a snowmobile accident. My lovely wife never told me not go snowmobiling, but each season she’d buy extra life insurance on me. I might have gotten a bit crazy with those machines from time to time.

It just makes sense to me that eventually prices will rise again. There are many things that could cause shortages. When prices rise, people cut back to only buying what they have to buy. The gas burning toys get put away.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day to my fellow citizens of the United States. Hope you have a good one. I’m spending it with friends and family. Grateful for the good things all around me.


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Solar rigged for camping

Monday I dug out our 105 watt camping solar panel. Originally it was mounted on the van. Last year I screwed it to a wooden luggage rack that I built to fit on the Versa’s Thule bars. As luck would have it, the rack is almost the exact width of the luggage rack on the Blazer. It tied on nicely.

It feeds through a charge controller to a deep discharge battery. The battery has a double cigarette lighter type power connector attached with battery cables. There is also a 400 watt inverter for our small AC loads.

Thanks to having our own power, we can stay at the less expensive campsites. I need power for my c-pap device. Without it I don’t get a very good night’s sleep.

The c-pap is a necessity, but I’m really fond of my little 12 volt compressor cooler. For me one of the worse things about camping was using ice chests. Ice is expensive and it can be a hassle to find it sometimes. Food gets ruined by the cooler getting too warm, or getting soggy from melted ice. While the compressor refrigerator is small, none of the space is take up with ice.

Our solar electric system handles other odds and ends too: a Kindle reader, a phone, radio, and a fan to keep us cool. It also inflates our huge double thickness queen sized air mattress.

The small solar electric system has worked out well. Right now someone could put together a similar system for about $250. If you camp a lot it will pay for itself. For example, at the campground we are staying at now, the difference between campsites with electric and without is about $25. Thanks to having our own power, we often stay at really inexpensive or even free campgrounds.

I’m really happy to see it fits on the Blazer so well.


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Power of the Mind

We like to talk about being prepared for emergencies. Usually the discussions revolve around things like food, shelter, water and security. After all, those are necessary for survival.

All of them pale in comparison to the power of the mind. Our mental abilities and attitudes make all the difference.

I see it all the time here in the mountains. People go hiking, get into trouble and respond in two different ways. Some people panic. Things on the hike go wrong: they get lost, gear fails, or they have an injury. It could be anything or nothing at all. Some people just freak out being in the woods. These people have to be rescued. Sometimes they die on the mountain.

Other hikers encounter the same problems but deal differently with them. When things don’t go as planned, they make a new plan. Most of these people hike out on their own and their troubles don’t make the news. Even if they have a major injury and have to be rescued, they do things that make their rescue more likely.

Every year there are are sailors rescued from perfectly sound boats. They may be experienced some bad weather or mechanical problems. Sometimes there’s nothing major wrong at all, but they mentally can’t handle being on a boat in the ocean.

Some people weather bad storms and find themselves hundreds of miles off course, They make any necessary repairs and sail to their destination like nothing happened. Sometimes they have major issues like being dismasted, yet jury rig something and keep on moving.

Normal life experiences challenge the mind. We see people who fall apart because they lose their job, get divorced, or have a health issue. Their lives are broken and they turn to alcohol and drugs. Other people deal with the same issues with a different attitude. If you met them on the street, not knowing what they were going through, you’d never guess they had problems.

That’s not to say those who cope well don’t suffer. They do and they have doubts and black days like everyone else. The difference is that they act or endure so they come out better on the other side.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Stealth urban warrior clothes

Even those of us who live out in the boonies have to go into town sometime. Some of us have this idea that we can hole up on our homesteads when things get bad. In reality, that’s rarely feasible. Often areas go into a slow collapse. We still have to do business in the city, but the city is a lot more dangerous.

That’s a problem. We can’t just gear up as if for battle in black tactical gear. We have to be somewhat stealthy. There’s the possibility of being caught up in things like riots or just being attacked on the street.

It is possible to dress in fairly normal looking street clothes yet have a higher level of protection. Start off with steel toed shoes or boots. They’ll protect your feet if someone tries to smash your toes. They’ll also protect your toes if you have to give someone a good swift kick. There are steel toed shoes now that look like regular light hikers or even sneakers, so they don’t stick out.

For pants I’d go with motorcycle jeans. They look like regular jeans, but are much tougher, designed to protect a rider from serious road rash. The level of protection really varies and is pretty price dependent. However, the better armored pants could probably turn a knife blade.

For chest protection it’s hard to beat a good leather jacket. You can even go for a more dressy style rather than the biker look.

Eye protection is important. A good pair of shooting glasses will do the job. Get a pair that looks more like normal eye glasses or sun glasses.

Protecting your hands are important. Rugged gloves could save your favorite fingers. Shop for something that provides a lot of protection, but doesn’t look like welding gloves.

Of course, you could spend real money and dress completely in ballistic nylon. That can get seriously pricey, especially for more normal looking clothes. If you got the budget go for it. The clothes I suggest here are all normal things people would wear but will greatly increase your personal protection level.