Monday, September 30, 2019

The Season of Making Do

My lovely wife and I got really good at van life. The converted ambulance was working really well for us. Sadly, it needed expensive repairs we could not afford so we sold it. Then there’s sailing, the other thing we love to do. We could not afford a bigger sailboat this year. In fact, I refused a free sailboat just because we couldn’t pay the dockage fees.

Instead of a van, we’ll be camping in a tent this winter. To a lot of people that may seem like a big step backwards. It’s not for us, as we never completely gave up tenting. Last year we picked up a really nice L. L. Bean Alpine 6 tent at a half price sale. We tented instead of renting a hotel in Rhode Island last fall and the cost savings paid for the tent already.

Instead of buying another sailboat we are hauling our Oday 19 trailer sailer with us. The upgrades to the boat and trailer haven’t been very expensive. The Oday gets along just fine using free wind and the sun. The gas motor was replaced with an electric on charged by solar panels. It’s super cheap to run.

The one thing we did buy was a 2004 Chevy Blazer to tow the boat. We don’t have a lot money into that vehicle, but so far it does the job.

I was able to salvage a lot of stuff off the van before selling it, like the solar electric system, small fridge, inverters, 12 volt fan, and other odds and ends. We will be able to camp in cheap National Park sites that lack electricity and be very comfortable.

People ask me what we’ll do if it rains all the time while we are tenting. First of all, it’s a really good tent and can handle a certain amount of rain. However, if the rain goes on long enough it stops being fun. At that point we can always spend a few nights in a hotel. We save enough money tenting that we can afford a hotel now and then if we want to.

A winter of camping and sailing is cheaper than spending the winter in our house. We are turning the heat and electricity off. The Internet is being suspended until we return. More importantly, it’s a lot healthier for us.

In a year or two, if all goes well, we’ll look for a bigger boat. If that doesn’t happen we’ll figure something out. We always do.


Sunday, September 29, 2019

Taking everybody with you

One of the downsides of travel is leaving your friends and family behind. Sure, you meet people and make new friends along the way, but there’s something about people you’ve known for many years. They get you.

My lovely wife and I once met a group of people who traveled in RVs together. They were all friends who used to be teachers at the same school. They retired early together so that they could explore RV adventures as a group. We met them over twenty years ago, and we haven’t found another group quite like that.

Possibly it’s the way we travel. Maybe groups like that tend towards higher end RV parks? No idea. I also don’t know how long the teachers traveled together. They’d been traveling less than six months so anything could have happened.

In the sailing community there are people who have larger boats just so they can entertain. They’ll sail off to some exotic location. Friends and/or family fly out to spend vacations with them. It seems to work for them.

My lovely wife and I considered looking at boats large enough for crew. Then it occurred to us that few of our friends and family would visit. Many have busy lives and taking a few weeks off is difficult. Money is an issue. Those who have the time to sail with us for extended periods of time aren’t really into sailing and adventure. It’s surprising how many people we know easily get sea sick. For some reason a lot of people don’t want to put up with tight quarters, storms, sketchy plumbing, bugs, heat, cold, and weird food. Yeah, there’s that, but there are also dolphins, sea turtles, and sun downers on the beach. Some folks don’t think the highs are worth the lows.

Instead of trying to take everyone with us, we go home for at least half the year. That mostly works. Of course, the months of travel and adventure change a person. The people back home don’t quite get you the way they used to.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Pulled the boat

The Oday 19 is finally out of the lake and on the trailer. I took it for one more sail across the lake and back, then headed for the boat ramp. I set out to do the job alone. It took a little back and forth to maneuver the trailer down the ramp. It’s different with a new tow vehicle. Years ago I added some guide poles to the boat trailer and it makes all the difference. The boat came out of the water nicely centered on the trailer.

There’s only one difficult part to do alone: taking down the forestay. That’s the cable that goes to the front of the boat to hold the mast up. When alone I cleat off the halyard and take as much pressure off it as possible. There’s a lot of on and off the boat to get it right. Just before that job my lovely wife met me at the boat landing. It went so much better with two. Her timing was excellent.

Now that boat is on the trailer it’ll be fairly easy to sand the bottom and apply fresh bottom paint. That’s the beauty of a small trailer sailer. The whole job will only take a little sandpaper and less than a gallon of bottom paint.

There’s a couple of little jobs to do on the boat, but they’ll go much faster with the boat on the hard.

It was a nice day for it. Temperature was in the low 60s, wind was light, and it was sunny. Some years I’ve pulled the boat in a snowstorm. That’s waiting a bit too late.


Friday, September 27, 2019

The robotic future is here

The robotic future is here.

. . . and it's more than a little creepy.


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Up on the Mountain

Okay, it’s a low mountain, but a mountain none the less. My lovely wife and I hiked up Mt. Jasper in Berlin NH. This is an absolutely beautiful time of the year for it. Brownie the Sailor Dog also enjoyed the hike. She acted like it was the best day ever.

While on the mountain I decided to do more real world tests of the Inreach satellite communication device. A text was successfully sent to my daughter and her reply came back just fine. I also downloaded a basic weather forecast. There’s the option for a more detailed premium forecast or a marine forecast. Since this was just a test, basic was fine. Actually, for most of my needs, basic is detailed enough.

While it’s possible to use the Inreach mini as a stand alone device, to really use all its functions you have to pair it with your cell phone. It’s worth doing just for the ease of sending text messages. The biggest and most important feature is the SOS button and that works just fine directly from the device.

It was a good day for a hike. While not a huge hike, it’s nice to have my health back so I can enjoy little excursions like this.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Weird Articles

I keep coming across all these workplace articles. People complain about their job: work conditions, lousy coworkers, bad bosses, poor pay, long hours -stuff like that. At that point I expect the authors of the articles to have some useful advice about getting out of that bad situation -probably by leaving the job as fast as possible.

Nope. That’s not how things are treated in these new self-help pieces. They tell workers how to suck it up and keep plugging away at a crap job.

There are reasons to work bad jobs under horrible conditions. For me, it’s only acceptable if that’s how you keep your kids from starving. Even then, all your energies should be going towards finding something better as soon as possible.

People do some amazing things to keep working bad jobs. Some months ago I ran into a relative of mine working the front desk of a certain company. I asked her when she left her old job. She hadn’t. This was a second, almost full time job. She then mentioned that she probably wouldn’t have to take happy pills if she wasn’t working so much. This is a woman who survived cancer, only to go on and make her life a living hell.

I’ve seen people lose important relationships with loved ones because they were working 24/7. They didn’t even like their jobs all that much.

I guess we all make choices. Personally, I’d live full time in a tent before I gave up my life to make a few bucks from a bad job situation.

The workplace articles are pretty discouraging. True, worker’s rights are slipping, but that’s no reason not to fight the decline the whole way. We are supposed to be happy slaves. The whole situation makes me a little angry -and I’m not going to take happy pills about it either. Anger can be useful.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Travel Shutdown

Thomas Cook, a major British travel firm, went belly up. About 600,000 people were stranded by the company’s collapse. British citizens are covered by a government insurance that guarantees they can get home. The other nationalities, who are the majority of their clients, are not so lucky. Various governments are trying to figure out what to do. My guess is that some people will just have to make their own way.

That must have come as quite a rude shock to a lot of people. In this day and age one of the main reasons for booking with a travel agency is that you don’t have to figure out anything yourself. It’s cheaper if you do your own planning and booking, but that takes some time and effort. The very sort of people who are stranded are the sort who don’t like to deal with unknowns and just winging it.

That’s what you get for trusting someone else with your transportation. Usually I like to drive myself. If the destination is across water, I want to take my own boat.

Of course, next month I’m trusting trains to get across the country. However, I don’t see the government abandoning Amtrak and stranding all the passengers. Even if that happens, it’s not like I’m across oceans. 3300 miles is a long walk home, but it can be done. I wouldn’t want to do it, but it could happen.

After the September 11 attacks people were stranded all over the country when all civilian planes were grounded. Amtrak was shut down for a short while. Some bus transport was suspended. People who absolutely had to get somewhere piled into cars and drove themselves.

We take long distance travel for granted, but the system is a lot more prone to disruptions than we’d like to think. During the terror attacks governments stranded people, but something as simple as bad business decisions could do it too. Just ask Thomas Cook clients about that.


Monday, September 23, 2019

Back to the Doctors

I’ve a doctor’s appointment today and another one scheduled for early October. Today’s meeting is with my foot doctor. It’s just a follow up on the minor operation she did on my toe. The work she did came out much better than she expected it to. None of the potential problems she was worried about happened. This should go well.

The next meeting is a little more serious. This doctor is the one who got me admitted to the hospital for my leg infection. There are darn few doctors who’ve earned my respect over the years but he’s one of them. I’ve actually been following his suggestions. He put me on a water pill, an aspirin a day, and a low salt diet. I monitor my weight on a daily basis to see if I’m retaining water. I can tell if too much salt gets into my diet as its easy to put on pounds of weight in a day -and then lose it the next if I’m good.

I’ve friends my age who’ve had serious health scares. Fortunately for them, they’ve had good medical insurance and get regular check ups. Having no insurance, I’m one of those guys who has to be dragged into the doctor’s. It is sobering to think that had I had some of the issues my friends had, I’d be dead right now. By the time symptoms show up it would be too late.

Of course, I could have died back when I was 35 and went out on disability from the Fire Service. My doctor says I’m the longest lived of anyone who’s gone out on disability that he’s had as a patient. I must be doing something right.

To get health insurance right now I’d have to sell everything and move into a tiny apartment and do nothing. That would kill me, so what’s the point? Instead I’m going on adventures.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Digital Nomad

There’s a lot of stuff to sort out before hitting the road. The clock is running since we have to be ready no later than the third week of October. I’ve been concentrating on the physical stuff, the tow vehicle, the boat, camping gear, and whatnot. That’s necessary, but preparing for our digital life is important too.

When we travel there are still bills that need to be paid. My goal is to avoid having to write paper checks. Unfortunately, one company we deal with is back in the dark ages and can’t be paid on-line. Good thing it’s a quarterly bill so we won’t have to do that too often. Just about everything else can be handled with on-line payments.

To get on-line we’ve two laptops, a cell phone, and a mobile hotspot device. Our cell phone plan is pretty bare bones and doesn’t have a lot of data. While it’s possible to add more, it’s expensive. In the long run it’s cheaper to use a Straight Talk hotspot. That device allows us to connect a number of devices to the Internet at the same time. Last time I used it we had very good service just about everywhere.

Unfortunately, when I tried to reactivate the hotspot the cell phone app informed me a new SIM card was needed. I really really really hate dealing with customer service. Fortunately, while it was still a pain, Straight Talk’s customer service department seems to have improved. They are sending me a new SIM card for free. It’s a good thing I’m not trying to sort this out while on the road.

My lovely wife and I are one of those weird couples who share a single cell phone. For this trip we might pick up a really cheap burner phone. There may be times when we are separated and still need to be in touch. We also have a couple of small two way radios. They can be surprisingly handy and don’t rely on the cell phone network.

Last but not least is my Kindle book reader. It’s always nice to have access to a lot of reading material without having to carry a hundred pounds of books.


Saturday, September 21, 2019

North Korean Weapons Program

In spite of some nice photos, smiles and handshakes, North Korea continues its nuclear program. This Newsweek article states that they could have up to 40 nuclear bombs in 2020. Too bad we aren’t paying all that much attention to them right now.

The crisis of the week involves Iran, another nuclear wanna be. Of course, they are working towards a bomb, while North Korea has already tested theirs. No matter, now we are going to worry about Iran. In fact the US administration is blaming them for a Saudi drone attack. That drone attack, while it did impressive damage, didn’t kill anyone. Pretty strategic, especially when you consider US drones just killed 30 farmers in Afganistan. That should insure a good supply of people who hate the US.

Does anyone remember when Venezuela was the big crisis? Those were days. Lately it seems that the United States can only focus on one crisis at a time. Not only that, some crisis are more popular than others.

Do you know who has not forgotten North Korea? Japan. They will not tolerate a nuclear armed North Korea forever. They have not been silent about it either. Not only that, Japan has seriously pushed the constitutional limits on their military. One small example: they have helicopter carriers that only need VTOL jets like the F-35 to be actual air craft carriers. By the way, they have a very aggressive program for acquiring F-35s. Imagine that.

Should Japan attack North Korea, the US would soon be drawn into the conflict. Any idea how China would deal with an attack? Is history going to repeat itself?

Interesting times.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Back up plan

My lovely wife and I have pretty firm plans for this winter. We decided on towing the sailboat behind the Chevy Blazer and do a mixture of sailing and tent camping.

Someone asked us what we’d do if there was a problem with the Blazer at the last minute. We both said we’d just load camping gear in her Nissan Versa and head south anyway. We’ve car camped with the little car before without problems. I bet we could even fit the Sea Eagle inflatable kayak in the car and do some paddling.

You’ve got to be flexible.

The first year we spent the winter south, almost 20 years ago, we did it in a Dodge Neon. Back then we carried an Old Town Discovery canoe on the roof that was bigger than the car. We traveled all over the south without any problems. Heck, we even had a dog with us back then. The Neons have a reputation for being crap cars, but ours never gave us any problems.

A few years ago we ran into a couple who didn’t even have a car. They flew to Florida and had an Uber take them to the campground. Their camping gear was minimal, but it was enough.

If there’s a will, there’s a way.


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Twilight of Manufacturing

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned that couple who were traveling around the world using human power had been using second hand $100 bikes. They’ve been on them for thousands and thousands of miles with few problems.

However, it wasn’t just luck. One of the travelers, Zoe, has a background in Industrial design. She’s firmly convinced that a lot of older stuff was put together much better. There was a small weight penalty for going with older bikes, but they aren’t racing. It’s more important that the bikes hold together. The last thing you want is some major breakdown on a Peruvian back road in the middle of nowhere.

My auto mechanic is not a big fan of modern manufacturing techniques. One of his big complaints is the amount of cheap plastic built into cars these days. They use plastic on critical components that used to be metal. Even expensive cars use cheap plastic.

It’s not even good plastic. It’s possible to make good plastic parts that last. Like everything else, the good stuff cost more money. Instead they use junk that’s guaranteed to fail.

Marine stainless steel is something else that’s taken a huge tumble in quality. US made stainless from the 70s is much better than the junk coming out of India and China. People have been known to seek out junk boats just for the steel hardware to put on new boats.

Recently I was talking to a restaurant owner who uses a lot of induction stoves in his business. I happened to mention that my old cast iron works just fine. He told me that a lot of the new “cast iron” doesn’t have enough real iron in them to work right. The guy claimed that magnets won’t even stick to some of them.

So what’s going on here? Have we forgotten how to build stuff? The main issue appears to be money. Things are being manufactured as cheaply as possible. Personally, I’d rather have a few good things that last than piles of broken junk.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Human powered world travel

My lovely wife and I went for a drive to Rangely Maine. There was a nice talk by a young European couple, Zoe and Oliver, who’ve been traveling the world. Mostly, they are doing it all self powered. They’ve traveled by bike, backpacking, sailing and canoe so far. Here’s their Youtube channel.

So what does it cost to travel the world? That’s the question Americans tend to ask. In other parts of the world they are more interested in their marital status or why they don’t have children.

Yeah, yeah, but what does it cost? They estimated their trip would cost about $30/day. They worked for about four years and saved their money. They bought $100 bikes and took off. They still have the same bikes. The young woman, Zoe, had to fly back to Holland to have ovarian surgery. Flights home and back were not in the original budget. In spite of that, it’s been actually costing them less that $20/day.

They stress they are not tourists but travelers. There’s a huge difference. My lovely wife and really relate to that as that’s how we tend to think of ourselves. You’ve got to slow down, travel back roads, and get to know the locals.

One of the things you discover when traveling that way is that people, in general, tend to be kind. It’s something most people should do. You don’t have to go for years or do it with a bicycle, but you should travel if you can.

Don’t be a tourist who goes from resort to resort as you’ve never learn anything special. It’s also cost you a lot more than 20/day.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Winter is coming

No, I’m not talking about Game of Thrones. I’m talking about the snow and cold that afflicts the northern parts of our country. Winter in snow country is not something you want to go into unprepared. Back in the old days, those who didn’t prepare froze or starved to death. It wasn’t pretty. If you put up garden veggies or heat with firewood, you have some idea what kind of effort is involved. Winters can be harsh, but thanks to modern technology, it’s a lot easier than it used to be.

A former military friend of mine always worries about winter. He felt that if something nasty was going to happen to the country, winter would be the time for it. Heck, natural disasters provide enough drama even without there being evil intent. One good ice storm can take the power down and render the roads useless. He felt winter would be the the time for an adversary to do mischief.

With that in mind he recently added almost 500 dehydrated long term storage meals to his preps. He already had food storage, but it was bulky. Commercial dehydrated stuff is easy to transport and keeps for years. If you can boil water, you can prepare it. Buying in bulk like that, his price per meal was pretty reasonable. The guy felt is was cheap insurance. He now feels a bit better about the approaching winter.

Of course, my response to this coming winter will involve heading south. The idea is to trailer the sailboat south until it stops looking weird.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Saudi Drone Strike

A drone strike took out half of Saudi oil production. From a military standpoint, it was brilliant use of asymmetrical warfare. Houthi rebels claim to have launched the attack out of of Yemen. In spite of that claim, blame is being pinned on Iran.

Personally, I think it could have gone down a number of ways. It could have been an attack launched directly from Iran. It’s possible that drone technology could have been transferred to Yemen from Iran. The Houthi rebels are often supported by Iran. Don’t discount the possibility that the rebels did it all themselves. We live in a time of open source warfare. Things like drone technology are available on-line. A bunch of rebels could have home brewed their own drones with off the shelf components.

So what happens next? If we aren’t careful, a much wider war.

With the refinery down, the world loses something like 5 percent of its oil. Here’s the rub, some countries are a lot more reliant on Saudi oil that others. For example, the US doesn’t need it, but China and India could really feel the lack. It will affect the spot market so prices will go up. I’ve heard so called experts saying that gas prices in the US could rise as much as twenty-five cents. Frankly, that’s nothing.

What’s more important is possible effects of a larger war. More Saudi oil could be taken out. Iran, Kuwait, and Iraq could all be pulled out of the market if war comes to the shipping straights. A nasty regional war could spiral out of control. Does anyone see Israel not being drawn into this? Russia? China? The US?

This could be the start of something really nasty.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Wages and the Gig Economy

California passed a law that requires companies in the “gig” economy to treat workers like employees. Of course, the law is just a starting point. Companies like Uber are trying to get some watered down version when it comes to implementation.

Companies are complaining the law will ruin their businesses. My take on it is pretty simple. If your business model requires that your workers earn less than a living wage, you don’t deserve to be in business. Seems like a scam to me. Uber has never made money, yet it’s co-founder just bought an amazing mansion for 72.5 million dollars.

I am dismayed at the number of workers who don’t think they deserve a living wage. It’s not normal to have to work three low wage jobs to make a living. Productivity is way up and CEOs are doing quite well, thank you very much. Of course, at the end of slavery, some slaves were worried that they wouldn’t have their masters to take care of them anymore. The owner class has always done a pretty good job brainwashing people.

Even Henry Ford realized that the workers building his cars had to earn enough money to buy the cars they made. When the poor and working class earn more money, they spend it. That spending stimulates the economy and everyone benefits. The wealthy don’t stimulate the economy as much. They can only eat so many meals and wear so many suits.

At some point the economy is going to have to be reorganized. Even China, a land of low wages, is going into automation to reduce costs even more. If your job pits you against machines, you will lose in the long run.

I’m not sure what the solutions are, but building companies on the back of starvation wage workers isn’t going to work long term.


Saturday, September 14, 2019

Trump Care

My medical coverage fiasco continues. Years ago I had to let go of my state insurance place when basic coverage for just me reached a thousand dollars a month. That’s a lot of money for someone on a state disability pension.

For a couple years I was on Obama Care. The only claim I made on it in two years was for a yearly checkup. Then that insurance became too expensive and covered too little, so the plan was dropped. In fact, my plan was crappy enough that the company was banned from doing business in the State of New Hampshire.

I paid out of pocket for my doctor’s visits after that. However, when I became hospitalized for nearly a week, the bill was much more than I could handle. For a number of months I tried to come to some sort of agreement with the hospital. They have a plan in place for people without insurance.

The problem with that plan is that to qualify I had to have exhausted Social Security options. What they could never get into their heads was the fact I wasn’t in Social Security. To be fair, most people are, but there are exceptions and I was one of them. Instead of paying into SS I paid into a state plan. NH firefighters were exempt from SS.

Apparently, because of that little glitch, my application for assistance was denied. It would have been nice if they’d told me. After months of dealing with their process they quietly sent my case into collection.

What that means is that I’m now in the Trump Care system. Thanks to the example set by the President I know what to do: not pay my bills. If I have to I’ll declare bankruptcy. After all, like Trump said, it’s just good business. It’s a strangely liberating experience.

I also owe money to the doctors’ offices as they are separate from the hospital. Unlike the hospital, they were quick to come to a payment arrangement with me. I’ve been making monthly payments and will until the bill is paid. I do what I can. However, when what they want is impossible . . . it’s impossible.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Coast Guard warnings and travel booking

Here’s a link to Coast Guard news about hurricane Dorian. Some of this directly concerns conditions in the ICW. In short, look out for missing navigation markers, markers off station, shoaling, and whole host of navigation issues. It’s warnings like these that help me feel good about rescheduling my ICW adventures to the spring.

My lovely wife and I have made a lot of progress with our trip planning. We’ve booked time into some hard to get into campgrounds. It’ll be nice to have a place to land when we get down south. Sure beats scrambling at the end of the day. We avoid that bad feeling when the day is getting on and all the campgrounds have full signs on them. Getting decent reservations can be tough during peak seasons. Many campgrounds are booked a year ahead of time.

We’ll be using our L. L. Bean Alpine 6 tent this year. For some of the areas we like to camp, getting a tent site is easier than an RV site. Being able to generate our own electricity with solar opens up more sites and provides a good comfort level.

We also have the boat. We can stay in a marina or even out on anchor. That’s the amphibian advantage. There is the option to stay on land or on the sea. My lovely wife and I have been making a list of good boat launch places. Launching the boat isn’t the problem so much as finding a secure place to park the tow vehicle. Just about every boat ramp has its own rules and restrictions, so research is a must. Of course, on-line information is no guarantee for what conditions on the ground will really be like. One time a state web site warned that the parking ticket machine at a boat ramp only took one dollar bills. I scrambled to get a pile of ones, only to discover they actually had a credit card reader newly installed. One dollar bills didn’t even work with the new machine.

You’ve got to be flexible when traveling. Adapting to reality is more useful than complaining that things are not as advertised.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Solemn Day

The anniversary of the September Eleven terror attacks was a solemn day for me. As a former firefighter the loss of so many of my brother and sister firefighters was a hard blow. Just as hard, I knew that many of the firefighters who survived would suffer debilitating health issues. Many of those have died. The fact that some many of those “survivors” have been badly treated hits home.

Of course, many others loss their lives that day. It was a sad day for the nation. We’ve never been the same.

I’m going to have to cut it short right here.

May God keep their souls.


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

So Much for Peace and Quiet

There’s a crew tearing up the road right next to my house. It’s loud, the house shakes, and I can barely hear myself think. My lovely wife’s car had to be moved down the road so it wouldn’t get blocked in. For the last couple of years the town has been trying find the funds to rebuild the road. Looks like they are doing it now.

It’s not like the road doesn’t need it. While it was paved, there never was a proper base laid down. The job was so poorly done that occasionally tree stumps would pop through the tar. Last winter it was pothole city.

The weather has been fairly nice so I wanted to get some outside painting done. That’s not going to happen while the road crews are stirring up dust. One of projects was to get the boat out of the lake, but it would be difficult to get my boat trailer past the construction. Some things are just going to wait.

Today’s plan is move my operation down to a local coffee shop. Might as well try and sort out my electronic issues in a calm and quiet place. The hot coffee will not hurt either.


Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Electronic Gadgets

It’s a good thing I don’t keep track of all the time I spend sorting out electronic gadgets. If I did, I’d probably chuck them all in the landfill and go live in a cave.

It certainly feels like I wasted most of the day on them. Nothing is ever simple. A friend gave me a nice little netbook computer that’s perfect for traveling. It came with a version of Linux similar to the versions I’m familiar with. All I wanted to do was to install Skype on the computer as it’s a nice way to communicate.

Well, there was a software problem in the operating system. Fixing that took some time but I sorted it out -not exactly sure how. That’s the nature of computer issues sometimes. Once that was fixed Skype installed just fine. Then, just to make things interesting, the mike volume is way too low. That could be either a software problem or a hardware problem. The only way I’m going to know for sure is to pick up a cheap mike and bypass the installed one.

Moving on, I tackled trying to bring my Inreach device to full function. That requires a phone app and bluetooth pairing. Of course, I couldn’t just download the app. Nope, had to sort out some stuff on the cell phone first. After the app downloaded, it would not pair with the Inreach. Then I started to wonder if the Inreach was working at all. That required going outside and connecting it to the Iridium satellite system and running some test functions. Those were fine, so I can use it for preselected messages and the all important SOS feature. I’ll get back to other issues a bit later. No sense waiting until I hit the boiling point.

At that point, not having yet my fill of frustration, I decided to look into reactivating my Straight Talk hotspot device. We are going to need Internet while traveling. Installing the phone app went well. Trying to activate it, not so much. It gave me two types of errors, pretty much at random. One seemed to indicate the problem was on their end. The other error said I had a bad SIM card. Lovely.

So yeah, I’m done. A good part of the day went down the rabbit hole.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Permission to be yourself

Kids are told a lot of stuff growing up. Some stuff is good. Some stuff is crap. To a kid it pretty much all looks the same. Most of the people telling kids crap don’t know they are telling them crap. Intentions are good, but conditions change. Just because a person is older doesn’t mean they are wiser, sadly.

Then there are people who are trying to influence kids for their own benefit. I’m looking at you military recruiters. They might be some of the worse, but are far from the only ones. There are coaches more focused on their careers than the kids playing for them. Parents can be worse,. They could be trying to experience their younger years though their kids. Other people want their kids to follow in their footsteps. How many kids end up in the family business for the simple reason that’s what’s expected? Far too many is my guess.

It’s not just kids that live their lives following someone else’s script. Adults do it all the time too. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. Some people go to their graves never being anyone but who they were expected to be. Other people reach a point in their lives where they realize they aren’t living authentically. The triggering event can be the death of their parents. All of a sudden there are these middle aged people who realize they’ve been living for their parents their whole life and now they don’t have to. I bet you can think of a few people who made major life changes later in life.

Being stuck in the role that parents or society required you to play happened a lot in the old days. Serfs, for example, didn’t have a lot of opportunity to do much else. These days there are a lot more options, yet most people will end up doing what the people around them expect. Even the “rebels” will rebel in a certain established way.

Right now I’m seeing a lot of changes happening in society. Fundamental things are different. The danger is that while many things have changed where it matters, the surface appearances haven’t changed as much. it’s happening with changes in the legal system, politics, economics, religion, medical care, and who knows what else.

Don’t sleepwalk your way though the changes. Many of you see what’s going on, but still act as if the old rules apply. You’ve got to give yourself permission to break out of the box.


Sunday, September 8, 2019

Bahama Reports

Information out of the Bahamas is pretty sketchy right now. That’s what happens when most of an island’s infrastructure is scrubbed by a Cat 5 hurricane that refuses to leave.

By now everyone’s seen the aerial views of the devastation. There’s been some footage from people on the ground. One of the things that stuck out for me was the complete destruction of the airport. That’s definitely slowing down relief efforts.

With limited hard and verified information coming out of the islands it’s difficult to know what’s really going on. Rumors and wild stories fill the news gap. Two big rumors really caught my attention.

The first one is that of armed looters. There are stories of armed gangs taking what they want. It’s said that they have even taken over the few houses that are still standing and kicked their owners out at gunpoint. The second rumor is that the death toll is considerable higher than official numbers. So what do I think of these rumors?

Personally, I’ve doubts about the armed looters. That’s not to say they don’t exist, but my guess is that the problem is overblown. The rumor mill inflates reports of violence. From the few reports I’ve observed it seems like a situation where everyone hears something from someone else. First person reports appear to be lacking. I’m really hoping that will turn out to be the case.

As for the second rumor, I fear that might be right. It’s said that the islands smell of death. People in the news reports were reporting the death of loved ones and could show where the bodies are. Considering the flooding and wind conditions, many bodies could have been washed out to sea. This is bad.

One good thing about the Bahamas is that it consists of over 700 islands and most of them had only minor impacts. There are places in the country for people to go that are perfectly fine. Another good thing is that it’s a fairly well off country with a good standard of living. This is no third world hell hole. I hope their recovery is swift and suffering limited.


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Current plan, version 87b

It’s official! My lovely wife and I booked train tickets. At the end of October we’ll be leaving Boston for San Francisco. We will be staying with family out there for a bit before taking the train back. Thanksgiving will be here in New England. While back here I’ve some business to take care of. After that we’ll hook up the boat and head south the first week of December.

The train trip was a fairly quick decision, partially influenced by hurricane Dorian. While we had discussed cross country train trips in the past, our plans were always vague and in the distant future. This year it seemed like a good time to go. There’s also the little of issue of my having a grandson out in California who’s growing up without me. I want to be more than voice on the phone to him.

We’ve even booked some campground time already. After a bit of camping we will head right down to Biscayne Bay off of Miami. That will also give us good access to the Keys. Should be fun.

We’ve been traveling down south for many years now. Some people go to the same places over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s only normal to fall in love with a few favorites. There are places we like to get back to on a regular basis. However, it’s always nice to fine new places too. Some of those become new favorites. It’s also good to have backup places.

In the spring I’ll do some sailing on the ICW and see how far north I want to go. My lovely wife will drive the Blazer and boat trailer, meeting up with me along the way. That should be fun.


Friday, September 6, 2019

April instead of October

I’ve been going a little nuts trying to figure out if it would be safe to sail the ICW this fall. It’s going to be a few weeks before we have really in-depth info on the waterways there. Hopefully damage won’t be as bad as last year’s hurricane.

One thing about having a trailer sailor is that we can leap frog all the way past storm damage. With that in mind I think I’ll sail the ICW from the south to the north. As far as I know we’ve don’t get hurricanes in April. I don’t know how much of the route I’ll do, but there are some interesting options. More research is needed.

We are putting together some plans for the end of October, but I’m not willing to share them right now. A lot of things are in flux. It’s mostly good stuff, but even good stuff can cause stress.

Speaking of hurricanes, I’m really sad for the people in the Bahamas. I know someone who’s family has a house near where the hurricane hit the Bahamas first. Well, they had a house. No idea if it’s still there. A few years ago my lovely wife and I were in Freeport. It’s strange and a bit disturbing to realize that everyone and everything we saw there has been affected. You can’t take anything for granted.

Dorian is not over yet. I’m hoping people stay safe.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

Cooking with induction

I’ve been cooking with an induction cooktop for a couple months now and want to share my impressions. This is the particular model I’m using: Schönes Bauen Lyon Induction Cooktop Countertop Double Zone 1800W(120V)

When the weather is cool enough to use my wood cookstove, that’s what I use for cooking. During the warm months a regular old fashioned resistance electric cook top did the job. Since switching to induction there’s been a drop in my electric bill of about $25. I’ll have a better idea after a few months of use if that’s typical or if other factors helped dropped the bill.

Most of my cooking gear works just fine with induction. All my cast iron works great. The stainless steel items perform well, including my stainless steel coffee peculator. I suspected my copper bottom pan would not work and that’s been the case. That pan’s been moved over to my camping gear. One disappointment was my Presto 6 quart pressure cooker. Really thought that would work but it does not. Looking on Amazon I see there are pressure cookers designed to work with induction.

At first the device looked rather intimidating as it is an unusual technology. However, it didn’t take long to get used to it. One thing that I ended up using a lot more than expected was the timer feature. It’s easy to use so I use it. The timer is perfect for getting hard boiled eggs right and perking coffee.

Cleanup is quick and easy. Since the top itself doesn’t really heat up, food spills don’t have a chance to really burn onto the stove.

The reviews stated that the stovetop has a fair amount of fan noise. This is true. It’s said that if the stovetop is mounted in a counter top the noise is lessened quite a bit. Frankly, it’s not too big of a deal with me so there are no current plans to permanently install it.

All in all I’m pretty pleased with induction.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Disappearing Colleges

My lovely wife received her Medical Laboratory Degree at Vermont College. She became licensed and went on to have a long career in the field. Now the college is gone. Things change. Life moves on. The place served its purpose. No need to get teared up about it.

My college went though a different sort of transition. At the age of 37 I enrolled at Lydon State College, also in Vermont. They no longer go by that name. They merged with another college and are now known as Northern Vermont University. Pretty bland name, in my opinion. They really missed a great opportunity. Lyndon State merged with Johnson. They could have called the new college Lyndon Johnson.

Colleges have a lot of scams, everything from expensive text books to expensive parking passes. Heck, college in general is pretty much an expensive scam. Then, as if they haven’t ripped you off enough, the alumni association wants you to donate a pile of money. I guess college really was the best time in some people’s lives and the college really wants to tap into that good feeling.

For me college was a good experience, but not “send them a pile of money good.” The association stopped bugging me when I told them I had a degree from their college so lacked any marketable skills and lived in poverty. Actually, I learned how to write creative letters like that in college so it was all to the good.

College is an expensive scam. Thanks to the high cost, poor people are disadvantaged. Either they can’t get an education or they are burdened with so much debt their wealth building opportunities are curtailed.

Where they get you is that a degree is the price admission in so many fields. My lovely wife would not have been able to get into her field without the degree. At one time it was possible for many different fields to learn on the job, sometimes with additional training. Those jobs are rare these days.

At some point these colleges are going to price themselves out of existence. Not going to college is not the end of the world. I had a pretty good life in my years before going into college. For me, it was a good experience, but only because my bills were paid by Vocational Rehabilitation. I left college without any debt so was able to pursue things I loved rather than having to focus on making enough money to pay off loans.


Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Plans and other plans

My lovely wife and I have been looking at the predicted storm path. Last year parts of the Southeast coast got torn up pretty good. This year might be a repeat of that action. Not only that, there’s still a fair bit of hurricane season left. My Intra Coastal Waterway trip might get messed up again.

With that mind, my lovely wife starting plotting. She came up with an idea that we could maybe go out to California for a couple weeks -by train.

I’ve got to ask, has anyone of my blog readers crossed the country by train before? Any tips, hints or suggestions? A cross country train trip is something we’ve talked about now and then but never too seriously. The tentative plan would be to leave at the end of October and come back right before Thanksgiving. After the holiday we would hook up the boat and make our way south.

I never can tell what my lovely wife might be planning. One year she booked a short cruise over to the Bahamas. That was a surprise as she hadn’t even asked me. I gave her a lot of grief about it, but ended up having a wonderful time. Once of the places we spent time at was Freeport. Hurricane Dorian stalled out over it and it must be awful there now. Disasters on the news are a lot more real when you’ve been to the places where they are taking place.

In the mean time, I’m still sorting out the boat and getting all our gear ready.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Hurricane view from here

It’s pretty impressive seeing a monster hurricane right off the coast of Florida. It’s upsetting to see where it is in the Bahamas. I’m been on Grand Bahama and really wonder how they are doing. It doesn’t look good. All the Bahamas are low islands. There aren’t many good options when geography is working against you.

For that matter, Florida is pretty low too, but at least it’s large enough that going inland gets you away from the worse of it. Then all you have to worry about is the rain flooding everything.

As I write this there’s some thought that the storm could turn up the coast instead of making a Florida landfall. We really shouldn’t focus on the whole landfall thing. With a storm like this a near miss is bad enough. Hurricane Michael was miles off shore and still managed to do a lot of damage to St. Augustine. After Florida, who knows where it’ll go? People are on alert all the way to the Virginia line.

Right now I’m glad my sailboat is here in New Hampshire rather than in Florida. There’s something to be said for a boat that can easily be loaded on a trailer and hauled out of harm’s way. I suspect my plans to travel the Intra Coastal Waterway from Virginia to Florida might once again be thwarted by storm damage. Should that happen I’ll look for someplace warm that’s in good shape and sail there.

About the time hurricane season wraps up down south, snow season starts up north. It’s good to be a mobile nomad.

For now, my prayers are for all those in Hurricane Dorian’s way.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Quebec’s Beach

When people in Quebec want to go to the ocean they all seem to head to Old Orchard Beach Maine. There’s a lot more French being spoken on the beach than English.

It’s not my favorite beach, not because of Canadians, but because it’s so darn crowded. There are plenty of other less crowded and wilder beaches in Maine.

In spite of that, Saturday I found myself at that very beach. My lovely wife and I were invited to get together with relatives. Of course, most of them were from Quebec, so they had to go to the beach they all love. To be fair, you can get poutine there and if there’s a more Canadian dish I don’t know about it.

Some of my Quebec relatives speak good English. Others . . . not so much. That’s fine. My command of the French language is about 60 – 80 percent, depending on the subject and speed of delivery. A day at Old Orchard Beach provides pretty good immersion.

I thought I was doing fairly well until I realized I couldn’t understand the people a few beach blankets over from us. Turns out they were speaking Spanish. No wonder I was lost.

After the beach we scooted over to Portland Maine for dinner. On the way home we stopped in on some of our Maine friends and enjoyed some campfire time.

There was a chance that the northern lights would be visible in our area. We stopped along a dark section of road. The northern lights didn’t show up, but it was a wonderfully clear night for star gazing. I love it with the Milky Way is super visible and dominates the sky.

It was a long day, but a good one.