Saturday, December 31, 2022

Another Year

Another year has come to an end. 

Well, that was interesting. 

Sometimes I think the universe throws this stuff at us out of boredom. Do you ever feel like a fish in an aquarium and some snotty nosed kid keeps banging on the glass?

Hope none of you were too heavily invested in crypto. Remember though, no matter how bad your crpyto investments did, you can always laugh at people who’ve invested in NFTs. 

Looks like a fair number of people took a bath with investments in general. Real estate in particular was and is a wild ride. Maybe we should stop looking at real estate as an investment and look at it as a place to live. Heck, it’s an investment if your property has room for a chicken coop and a kitchen garden. That’s real wealth. 

If you were Russian of conscription age it was a good year to visit wondrous Uzbekistan and Georgia. If you were a Russian Oligarch it was a good year to stay the heck away from open windows. 

All I’m going to say about Ukraine is: glory to Ukraine. 

Politics were interesting this year. Once again, the universe had little reason to complain about being bored. 

I’m looking forward to 2023. Whatever happens, I don’t think it’ll be boring. 

On a personal level it was far from being a bad year. I just celebrated my 44th wedding anniversary. That’s pretty impressive for a couple of 20 year old kids who only knew each other 4 months before getting hitched. Apparently there’s at least one person I don’t piss off too badly. 


Friday, December 30, 2022

Infrastructure Attacks

There’s been a number of attacks on the power grid. Personally, I wasn’t too worried about it. However, there are people who’ve asked me how serious these attacks are going to get. Well that depends on what you mean by “how serious.”

If you are on medical equipment that needs electricity and your power goes out, it’s serious. If your power is out long enough that your local water supply is impacted, it’s serious. 

It appears that at least some of these attacks are a right wing attempt to destabilize the country. Will it work? In short, no. The country is too big and too diversified. There’s not enough political support behind the attacks either. Add that to the fact arrested people will do hard time. You know those people who need medical devices and die? That will be a factor when those idiots get sentenced. 

These attacks will mostly fall in the nuisance category. 

The grid is actually in more danger from two other things. The first is weather events. Hurricanes, tornadoes, snowstorms, flooding: those things take down the grid all the time. The second biggest issue is poorly run grid systems. Texas takes the reward on that one. It’s like they are denial that there will ever be another cold day. 

People, as a matter of course, should prepare for infrastructure problems. Sure, they can happen due to terrorist activity, but it’s more likely that other issues will cause more problems. They will happen sooner or later. 

What won’t happen is a successful overthrow of the government through nuisance attacks. 


Thursday, December 29, 2022

Well that was Christmas

My lovely wife and I were about an hour away from heading south to Massachusetts on 26th to celebrate with extended family. Then we got a call that my grandson tested positive for virus-19. Since then my daughter has also come down with it. They’ll be fine, but that did it for the celebrating with a large group. 

However, one of my other daughter’s invited us to celebrate with them in Vermont. We gladly took them up on the offer. They were supposed to host Thanksgiving this year, but had the same issue my other daughter’s family just had for Christmas. It was darn good to get together with at least some of the family. 

We celebrated with a niece on Christmas day, so that was nice. 

I’ve a third daughter in California so getting together with that part of the family is always difficult. 

I’m one of those people for whom Christmas can be a tough holiday. In 2019 I disappeared into the Everglades to take a break from it. Had I known then what I know I now I might have sucked it up and celebrated it with people. Hindsight is 2020 after all. 

I hope everyone got through Christmas in good shape -whatever that looks like for you.


Sunday, December 25, 2022

Merry Christmas!

 Merry Christmas everybody!

Hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday season.

I might be taking a few days off from the blog. My lovely wife and I will be busy with famly.


Saturday, December 24, 2022

While the grid is back up

I’m writing this Friday afternoon. During the night it started snowing. About 8 a. m. the grid went down. That wasn’t a surprise. The big surprise is when the grid came back about an hour and a half later. 

The snow has since turned to rain. The plow built up a nice bank in front of my driveway which became heavily waterlogged. Fortunately, the neighbor’s plow guy took a swipe with his plow and cleared most of it. My lovely wife opened up the drainage around the driveway. The water was about ankle deep and rising quickly. It’s not too often that I shovel snow in a rain poncho.

Anyway, the grid blipped out for a minute while I was writing this. Looks like I’ll be on backup power again soon. 

It’s all good. We don’t have to be anywhere and the woodstove is keeping us warm.


Friday, December 23, 2022

If you were wondering

If you were wondering what happened to my computer yesterday here’s a quick summary. I’m using a Chromebook and had issues with glitchy programs. Not thinking of all the implications, I did a complete reset. What I failed to consider is that I’m also running Linux programs, including my word processor. Those went away. I’d forgotten How I set those up in the first place. It was late. I was tired. It had to wait. 

So here I am, mostly back. With all my messing around I lost a few documents, but most of those can be rescued from backup. On the bright side, I added to my Linux knowledge. 

This should be a nasty day as far as weather goes. Looks like a good part of the country either had this storm, is experiencing it now, or soon will. Here it’s predicted to start as snow, turn to heavy rain, and later switch back to snow. That comes with constant high winds. The odds of the grid staying up are vanishingly small. The same goes for my Internet. I’m hoping the cell system stays up so I can fill everyone in tomorrow. 

The nasty bit is that it’s supposed to turn quite cold. If you don’t have a grid independent heat source it’s going to be rough. We should be snug and cozy, but stuff happens. Don’t do anything stupid as help might not get to you for some time. 

Be well.


Thursday, December 22, 2022

Computer issues

 Hi Folks I'm dealing with some computer issues. It might take a day or two to sort out. 


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Start of Winter

It’s the official start of winter, the Winter Solstice. Sure, I celebrate Christmas, but I also honor the Solstice with appropriate ceremony. Make of that what you will. 

Of course, for those of us who get at least some of their energy from solar panels, it’s a big deal. The days are getting longer. It’s not going to make that much of a difference for a number of weeks, but it’s heading in the right direction. 

Then again, the cloudy days and snow on the solar panels have a direct influence too. There’s not much I can do about the clouds. As for the snow on the panels, I’ve a procedure that works fairly well. My panels are mounted on a steel pole out in the yard. I bundle up with my coat collar up and my mad bomber hat on. That’s to keep the snow from going down my neck. Then I walk over to the pole and give it a good swift kick with my size 15 boots. That jolt is usually enough to knock the snow free from the panels. 

While the longer days don’t seem to help that much in January, February can produce some of my best solar gains of the year. On a clear winter day the sun reflects off the snow and concentrates the solar energy. That’s why snow blindness is a real danger. Thanks to my solar panels that concentrated solar energy is turned into electricity. 

Solar electric panels are actually more efficient when cold -unlike solar thermal panels. Hot weather causes solar electric panels to experience something called electron scattering. In short, less of the solar energy gets turned into electrical energy. It’s counter intuitive, but that’s science for you. 

Longer days are just more cheerful. It’s a lot easier to get stuff done outside in the daylight. Even so, the darkness hasn’t stopped from doing things outside. With a headlamp and a high visibility jacket I’ll shovel snow or go for walks. Winter is way too long if you spend all of it inside.


Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Well that was interesting

Looks like the January 6 committee went out with a bang. That was interesting. Four criminal charges were send to the Justice Department. Trump continues to make History.

Now I know he has a hard core group of believers who listen to everything his says. I’m not looking to change their minds. Faith without proof is a religious belief and there’s no convincing someone to change their religion. 

However, it’s all fake news until you end up behind bars.

It’s time for the nation to move on, but we can’t move on until the legal stuff runs its course. We are still a nation of laws. 


Sunday, December 18, 2022

Snow Daze

We received our first significant snowstorm of the season. Our accumulation, at time of writing, is about 8 inches. We might get another inch or two before it’s all over. It’s a wet heavy snow so shoveling is bit of a chore. This storm hit very unevenly. Some people got a few inches and others got feet of snow. 

Saturday morning I shoveled a path to the road and dug out the mailbox. There was no sense in digging out the car as we had no need to anywhere. The town only made one pass with the snowplow down the center of the road. They are going to come back with the wing plow and bury both my driveway and walkway. Once they are done it’ll be worth digging out the car. 

The grid never even blinked during the storm. It still felt good to have the solar electric batteries topped off just in case. 

We lost the Internet Friday night and it’s still out. Fortunately, I can reach the new cell tower with my phone. It makes a decent hotspot. 

The long range forecast is predicting another Northeaster by the end of the week. Hope it’s snow rather than freezing rain. 


Saturday, December 17, 2022

Crossing into Canada

My niece borrowed my Blazer to make a quick trip into Canada. With the covid restrictions dropped it’s pretty much back to normal. One thing I had to do was to talk to my car insurance company. Canada requires a special proof of insurance card. My insurance company doesn’t charge to print one up. The border agents don’t usually bother asking to see it, but better to have it and not need it. 

My niece had her mace confiscated. That’s something to be aware of. However, they allow you to take bear spray across the border. It’s basically mace in a bigger can. The border agent even told her to bring that next time so the info is current.

I like to keep up to date on the requirements for crossing the border. My lovely wife and I keep our passports up to date and we know where they are. Canada is so close to us that it only makes sense to keep that option open. When your bug out options may involve an International border it only makes sense to be prepared. There are friends and relatives across the border who’d welcome us. It’s good to keep all options open.


Friday, December 16, 2022

Free Covid Tests

Just a heads up that free covid tests are available once more.

All you tax payers paid for it. Might as well get something for your tax dollars. I just ordered mine -and I don’t even pay taxes. 

It’s funny how we take them for granted now. In early 2020 decent reliable tests weren’t even available from hospitals. While the home tests aren’t perfect, it’s another tool to stay safe. With the flu going around and other respiratory illness, it’s handy to eliminate one virus anyway. 

It’s been my experience that not every part of the country will stock enough in drugstores. Better to have tests on the shelf than to drive all over town trying to find one. 

I know not everyone will bother with tests. That’s their business. However, if you are sick stay home, no matter what you may or may not have.


Thursday, December 15, 2022

Oil Price Hike

On Monday I ordered heating oil at $5.009/gallon. By the delivery date on Wednesday it was up to $5.099/gallon, a 9 cent increase in a couple of days. I can’t help but think they do that sort of thing on purpose. I’ve yet to get a surprise drop in price on delivery day. Maybe I have to change oil company.

At any rate, there’s now 100 gallons in the tank for emergency use. 

One of the reasons I decided to order heating oil is because there’s a big snowstorm on the way. We had just a dusting of snow on the ground when the delivery was made. After the storm I’d have to shovel and sand a fairly long path to the tank. I plan now so I can be lazy later. 


Wednesday, December 14, 2022

So now we have fusion?

We’ve had fusion for some years now. The problem is that up until now the energy needed to generate fusion was greater than the energy created. It is a big breakthrough but we have to keep it in perspective. The energy gain was about enough power to heat ten kettles of tea water. That’s not exactly something ready for commercial use. 

There’s a long running joke about fusion. Commercial fusion is 20 years away. Always has been. Always will be. 

My issue with commercial fusion isn’t about any dangers. Fusion should be fairly safe -should be. I guess my issue is with the way the grid should be configured. Fusion is a huge investment in a massive facility. It has the same drawbacks of any other massive power plant. All that energy has to be transmitted over long distances. If that one plant goes down a huge area would be in the dark. 

Personally, I think we’d be much more secure with a massively diversified power system. It’s already happening with solar and wind systems. The problem is that they are using new systems to tie into old grid architecture. We’d be much safer with the grid broken down into a huge number of micro grids. It would be a much more secure system. We’d also save a bundle on high energy distribution systems. 

Maybe fusion plants would make sense if built next to industrial processes that use huge amounts of electricity. Mining and refining come to mind. 

Guess we’ll see in 20 years or so.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Fuel prices

The price of gas is at a more reasonable level -if you don’t live in certain places on the west coast. One of my daughters lives in California and I can’t believe the prices. Of course, I don’t have to cross the country to see much higher prices. All I have to do is to take a short drive north into Canada. No wonder why so many people want to work from home. 

Of more concern to me this winter is the cost of #2 heating oil. At the end of the summer I poured 5 gallons of diesel into the house tank. That was just enough fuel for my furnace guy to do the annual service. 

A few weeks ago I call the oil company and discovered heating oil was going for $6/gallon. No thank you. The woodstove’s been working fine. Monday I checked and the price had dropped to $5/gallon. I ordered their minimum delivery, which is 100 gallons. That price is not guaranteed. They only deliver one day a week out in my neck of the woods. If their schedule is full sometimes it takes two weeks for them to get to me.

Last spring their minimum was not expressed in gallons but in dollars. At the time that was $300. They made the mistake of printing out a confirmation receipt at that price. By the time the delivery showed up the bill was closer to $390. Since I had a print out I was able to hold them to the $300 price. No wonder they are going by the gallon for me this year. Oh well. 

100 gallons of fuel is decent enough backup if my wife and I go somewhere for a while. The problem with a woodstove is that someone has to feed it. It’s also nice if I’m feeling under the weather and want to take it easy. 


Monday, December 12, 2022

Old Graveyards

New England has some very old graveyards. Compared to Europe they are brand new, but by North American standards they are ancient. 

Look at the birth and death dates and you’ll notice a awful lot of children compared to new graveyards. While life in general was harder, it’s disease that really took its toll on kids. 

There are a lot of negatives to the modern world, but a much lower childhood mortality rate is a solid plus. Most of that is due to vaccines and medicines. That’s just a fact. Before you go throwing out all modern medical practices spend some time in an old graveyard. Reflect on all those short lives. 

Of course, we’ve reached the point where medicines have more serious side effects than the problem they solve. Just listen to the side effects of drugs advertised on TV. Your problem might be ugly toenails, but the “cure”could destroy your liver. It seems there are more than a few of those drugs out there. One could be forgiven for not trusting all drugs and medicines. 

Health care definitely falls into the old 80/20 rule. You get eighty percent of the benefit from twenty percent of the effort. There are a lot of low hanging fruit when it comes to health care. There are easy and cheap things that take care of most health issues. For example, money spent improving nutrition and education could save billions trying to fix problems caused by bad habits. 

Another thing you’ll notice about old graveyards. There are quite a few people who lived to advanced old age. If they survived the diseases of childhood their active lifestyles and unprocessed foods did wonders. 

There’s a lot that can be learned form the past.


Sunday, December 11, 2022

Hunkered Down

Most years I can’t wait to head south to warm weather. One of the main issues is that my lungs suffered some damage during my firefighter years. Cold dry air irritates them and colds are tough to deal with. 

This year I haven’t been bothered by those issues too much. One thing that has certainly helped with the dry air is wearing a good face mask. I’ve been using RZ masks for the last few years. Some of my masks have caps instead of valves to be travel and hospital compliant. I’ve no connection to the company -just like their products. 

With that issue under control it’s been easier to get the exercise I need. Other physical problems that plagued me recently are currently not an issue. I’m finally starting to lose some weight. Not much yet, but it’s going in the right direction. 

It’s been really nice to connect with old friends. The tribe has gotten a bit scattered over the last couple of years as most of us turned inward. During the summer some friends and I made a point go gather weekly around the campfire. Here it is, well into December, and we are still gathering. Of course, we sit a lot closer to the fire these days. 

Reducing the area of the house I’m heating has saved a lot of money. An added bonus is that the part of the house we are living in is toasty warm. 

My lovely wife and I love to travel, but right now it’s been good to be close to home. Of course, I’m also in the planning stage of other adventures, so that’s good. We aren’t going to be hunkered down forever. 


Saturday, December 10, 2022

Grid Attack

People are shooting up key parts of the power grid. It’s happening all across the country. Either it’s a coordinated attack or a bunch of copy cats. The FBI is involved so there has to be suspicion of some serious stuff. It you are in a area that lost power you know it’s serious. 

Our power grid has a lot of big fat targets. Keys parts can be destroyed by something as simple as a high powered rifle. Even random shots can take infrastructure down. If you understand how the components work and their weak points it’s even easier. 

Security has been stepped up, but it’s almost impossible to protect everything. There’s too much to protect and it’s too easy to find weak points. What will probably happen is that when people are caught the government will throw the book at them to make an example. The hope is that harsh prison sentences will deter others. 

So how does that affect you or I? That depends. How important is grid electricity to you? Most people use it everyday for everything. What’s your backup power like? Can you stay comfortable without the grid? How long can you manage without? It might be a long time.

Here’s the thing nobody is talking about. There number of spare components for grid repair is limited. There’s a certain amount set aside of normal issues. Parts wear out and fail. Storms are a concern. Accidents happen. The power companies can swap among themselves if there are normal disasters. 

What they can’t handle is too much going down all at once. There are only so many spare parts and qualified people to install them. What might normally be a few days or a week without power could stretch out for much longer. Large population centers and key facilities will be fixed first. If you are not in a one of those places grid power could be gone for an extra special long time. 

One solution would be a massively decentralized grid. Power generated and used locally avoids much of the vulnerable infrastructure. Instead of a few dozen targets to take down most power it would take thousands of attacks -a much harder thing to accomplish.

In the mean time, better have your backup solutions handy.


Friday, December 9, 2022


I got to spend some time visiting with a friend who’s working as a middle school guidance counselor. He “retired,” got bored and went back to work. His wife has years to work yet so that part of the issue. Schools are having a hard time filling that position. My buddy was hired by a private company to do the job on a contract basis.  

He works in a fairly wealthy school district in southern New Hampshire. The kids have plenty of opportunities open to them. Money is not an issue. With all the opportunities and options in the world they all want to be Social Media Influencers. That’s the number one career option they want to follow. 

First of all, I didn’t even know that was a career. Apparently there are people making a living being personalities on social media. Go figure. 

These kids think they can just make videos on their phone of them doing nothing special and get a million followers. I suppose that can happen but I wouldn’t count on it.

A little research revealed some things the successful ones have in common. First of all it doesn’t hurt to be incredibly photogenic. They have interesting personalities. They have a solid grasp of video making. It can take many hours of editing to get a few good minutes of video. A lot of them have whole teams of people to do the technical stuff and the marketing. 

The pace can be relentless. You are only as good as your last video. The pressure of “always being on” takes its toll. Quite a few people burn out. 

So I guess Influencer can be a job. The thing is, the kids figure the seconds to minutes they see on the screen is all the work there is to it. 

Nobody wants to be a doctor, nurse, dentist, engineer, scientist, EMT, firefighter, construction worker, butcher, baker or candle stick maker. I hope we have someone around to keep the lights of civilization on. 


Thursday, December 8, 2022

To the hospital

In my previous blog I talked about my friend who’s in the hospital. I was appalled that he was still working from his hospital bed. Apparently there are people in his company that figured out the optics of that weren’t very good. His meetings have been canceled until he can work from home again. 

The good news is that it looks like he’ll be going home in a few days. It was looking bad for a while there. My lovely wife and I decided to make the three hour drive south to see him. We stayed with other friends so we could be there longer. 

Cancer sucks. 

My once athletic friend is now a very frail old man. The medical system can’t cure him. What they can do is play whack a mole with growths as they pop up. This time around they couldn’t find a growth causing his recent problems. Right now they are blaming his current issues on changes in his medication. 

It wasn’t a good time for us to go south for a couple days, but it was worth seeming my friend. He’s been like a brother to me. What kind of a friend would I be if I couldn’t make time to go see him? This could have been end of the road for all we knew. 

I have to say it again: cancer sucks.


Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Dying in harness

Monday I got a phone call from a good friend of mine. We go way back to middle school. He’s been struggling with an incurable cancer. There are treatments that are supposed to extend his time but they aren’t a cure. 

He called from the hospital. Another good friend was with him and I’m glad he wasn’t alone. He had an episode where he was mentally confused and could not hold down solid foods. The mental fog has cleared up, but he still can’t eat. The guy isn’t doing well.

So my other buddy drops in on him at the hospital and finds our friend in a zoom meeting. He’s working from his hospital bed. That’s just wrong. He claims he has to keep working for the medical insurance. That says so much about work in America and our health care system. The poor guy is supposed to retire next year but I don’t know if he’ll make it. 

I’m beyond disgusted. 


Monday, December 5, 2022

No Bad Weather

There’s a saying in snow country that there’s no bad weather, just bad clothes. There is some truth to that. If you have the proper gear even blizzards aren’t that bad. That being said, it’s surprising how many people don’t gear up properly. 

Basically they’ve gotten used to going from a warm house to a warm car. Remote car starters are popular as you can warm up the car before you get in. That’s all well and good until it isn’t. All it takes is for a breakdown or getting stuck to ruin your day. Dress like you might have to walk for miles in bad weather as you just might have to.

My lovely wife used to have a 50 mile one way commute through the mountains to get to work. Winter commutes were pretty bad, especially when she worked the night shifts. Nobody was out on the roads then. She knew she’d be on her own for a while if she got into trouble. She was always dressed for the weather and the car had survival gear like sleeping bags, space blankets, and emergency food and water. 

Currently there’s enough gear in our car that we could set up camp in the snow. Not only do we carry sleeping bags and blankets to keep warm, we even have a winter rated tent in the car. It might seem excessive and we may never use it. However, I’d rather be over prepared than one of those people with a thin jacket, no hat or gloves, and dress shoes. 


Sunday, December 4, 2022

Stealth Camper Van

There’s a lot of videos, blogs and articles about “stealth camper vans.” Seriously? Don’t even bother with stealth. It’s a waste of time. 

I could go into any Walmart parking lot and point to which vehicles were being lived it. My accuracy rate would be way up there. First of all, they are in the back of a Walmart parking lot. What the heck else would they be doing there if not for housing someone for the night? You see any van type vehicle in the regular overnight parking spots and odds are it’s someone’s home. 

If you see a van out on Federal land in a dispersed camping area -it’s occupied. You might as well put on some solar panels and other creature comforts. You aren’t fooling anybody but yourself. 

In my travels I’ve come across only two vehicles that had pretty good stealth. One was a big box truck. They could park in an industrial area near other work trucks and nobody would notice. I saw them in a county campground and they’d opened up hidden windows and a fold out staircase. The conversion was a work of art. When traveling there was no hint this was anything but your basic cube truck. 

Then there was a guy who had a “construction van.” It had a business name on the side and ladders on the roof. The guy made a habit of spending his nights parked near construction areas. His rig looked just like any of the other contractor vans out there. 

Of course, if I saw either of those vehicles parked on a Walmart back lot I’d be suspicious. 

Frankly, most “stealth van” builds aren’t worth it. Any security guard or cop with more than three months on the job gets a feel for who’s who. Stealth builds might fool a lot of people. What it won’t do is fool the very people who’ll knock on your door and tell you to move along.


Saturday, December 3, 2022

Climate Refugees

There’s a little store in the village down the road that sells a little of everything. You know the sort of place. They have everything from gas, to pizza, to hunting licenses. I had a 20 pound propane bottle in need of filling. They do that too. It’s much more economical to get a tank refilled then to do a tank swap. Not only that, the swap tanks are usually a bit on the light side and cost more too.

There was young man working there who’d I’d never seen before. Turns out it was the owner’s son. The guy used to live in Florida but his place was on the St. John’s River. Both hurricanes flooded him out and there’s nothing left. Now he’s here in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire. He’s probably safe from hurricanes for a bit. 

He’s not the first person to move up here after a hurricane. When Katrina wiped out New Orleans we got a bunch of new people. One guy said he moved up north as it was about as far away from the Gulf as he could get. 

We get some nasty weather, but I’ll take a blizzard over a hurricane any day. When southerners move north to avoid weather you know there’s a issue. 


Friday, December 2, 2022

Snow Squalls

Well that was interesting. I wandered out to my back lot to see what the firewood situation was like. We’ve been getting a lot of windy days and there’s plenty of trees on the ground. We also have a fair amount of standing dead wood. It’s all good and dry for the woodstove. 

The plan was to drop some of those dead trees, but it was too windy. It a minute it would go from sunny and calm to a snow squall. You don’t want to be in the middle of cutting down a tree when the wind picks up. I know that from my early years up here at the lake. 

I’d been dropping a lot of trees along the power line. It was going really well -until it wasn’t. My last tree was starting to fall in the correct direction. Then the wind came out of nowhere, lifted the tree up and sent it 180 degrees in the opposite direction. The tree collided with the power pole and snapped the top off. 

Then I had to make an embarrassing call to the power company. They sent a crew over. The first thing the guy said was, “Who’s the lumber Jack?”

“That would be me,” I sheepishly said. 

They fixed the pole and didn’t even charge me. They don’t give out any free power poles these days. One embarrassing encounter with the power company is enough, thank you very much.

With the conditions in mind I settled for dragging already downed limbs to the house. A man has to know his  limitations.


Thursday, December 1, 2022

Rail Strike?

Congress is busy trying to pass legislation to prevent a railroad workers strike. That might not necessarily prevent the strike. They would just make it an illegal strike. 

Frankly, this is all unnecessary. The railroads are making record profits. Over the years they’ve been shrinking their workforce. The workers have some very legitimate concerns. The smart thing would be to address those concerns. Instead the owners are leaning on their friends in Congress to force employees to keep working. Looks like President Biden will have to give up his “friend of the unions” claims. 

So how much of a big deal would a rail strike be? Very big indeed. There are three main ways goods are moved across the country. The most economical is by barge. That’s great for getting grain from the heartland down the Mississippi to the rest of the world. It’s not so good where there’s no water access. 

The next most economical is by rail. Most people don’t realize that the vast majority of bulk goods moves by rail. Rails, unlike canals, go just about everywhere. The nation would shut down without rail transport of goods. 

Trucks are the third major way goods are moved. It’s a lot more expensive than rail. Not only that, truck transport can only add on a limited amount of new capacity. 

Without rail we are looking at some serious shortages: food, fuel, chemicals, building materials, components, machinery, fertilizer -the list is endless. It would be a very good idea to be able to live off your preps for a while. Many things would no longer be available and the things that are will increase in price. That’s just supply and demand. 

Will they go on strike? I can’t say. However, if it was me I would not be put off by some law passed by Congress. Union leaders have a long history of being willing to go to jail. All union activity used to be illegal so that’s par for the course. Frankly, I’d support a wildcat strike as sometimes that’s what it takes. 

However, make sure you have your stuff squared away as it could get uncomfortable when the economy shuts down. 


Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Being out in the woods it’s not uncommon for my Internet connection to go down. That’s the case right now as I write this blog. Normally I wouldn’t be able to post under these conditions. However, within the last year a cell phone company installed a new tower that allows for a connection. 

To get this blog posted I poked around on the cell phone and figured out how to use it as a hostspot. 

I’m not one of those people who lives on their phone, but I like being able to communicate in an emergency. When the Internet goes down I also lose my landline phone as it’s voice over Internet. Until the new cell tower went it my only way to message was with a Garmin InReach satellite device. It’s great when there’s no cell signal at all. The downside is that it’s only good for short text messages. Still, it works from just about anywhere.

A good communication solution is short wave radio, but I’ve never taken the time to get into it. We have a bunch of hand held family band radios and a couple of CB radios. I also have a small hand crank/solar short wave receiver. That way I can at least get the news. 

Communication isn’t something to be taken for granted -especially when you live out in the woods.


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Feeling the lack

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I put the scooter up for the winter. I already feel the lack. It’s funny how I got used to going for a ride. Sometimes just a quick ride into town and back was all I needed to put a smile on my face. I’m even dreaming about riding motorcycles. That’s gotta be a sign. 

Winter might be a long one. On the flip side, I used to wait anxiously for a good snow pack. That’s back when I was doing a lot of snowmobile riding, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. One thing I’m not going to do again is to buy another snowmobile. They are pretty hard on gasoline and the price of even used machines is pretty high. Then there’s the issue the constant repairs. At least I still have a good assortment of snowshoes. 

This time of year has never been my favorite. It’s dark. There’s usually not enough snow to play in. The lakes aren’t frozen so ice fishing is out. I could probably spend more time hunting, but all my old hunting buddies aren’t around anymore. It’s not as fun alone. 

Anyway, before you know it Christmas will be here. 

Of course, one solution for the seasonal blahs was to head down to the West Coast of Florida for a bit. Unfortunately it’s not a good year for that as the area needs to recover. We have reasons to spend this winter in the frozen north so I’d better snap out of it. 


Sunday, November 27, 2022

More Supply Chain Disruptions

We’ve had a lot of upset in the supply chains. Expect more. China is going through a massive covid outbreak right now. Their lock down policies have thrown a monkey wrench in production. We still have a major war going on with all the disruptions in fuel, food, and raw materials that entails. 

Take a minute and do a quick mental inventory of what you have at your home right now. I want you to think of two categories. The first one is consumables. That’s stuff like food, fuel, and water. How are you set? Can you get by for a few days? Weeks? Months? Years?

The second category I want you to think of is critical parts, materials, and items. Do you have the materials and skills to fix things? Here’s a simple example: the handle on our toilet broke. We had a replacement and it only took a few minutes to fix. We were having an ice storm and going out for a new part would have actually been dangerous. If we didn’t have the replacement part there were a couple of ways I could have temporarily fixed the old part. 

At a bare minimum you should have replacement parts for things that regularly fail: faucet washers, fuses, light bulbs and so on. Think about anything that had to be replaced in the last year. Stock up on those things. Every household is a bit different and has different needs.

Brush up on your repair knowledge. Make sure you have the tools and materials need to fix things. Be prepared to make do with what you have. The key here is flexibility.

While there may be supply chain disruptions, it doesn’t mean there won’t be anything available. However, what you might have difficulty getting exactly what you want. That could involve eating unfamiliar foods to fixing things with the “wrong” parts. One time I needed a connector for a plumbing job and it wasn’t available. In the end I cobbled three different parts together to do the same job. It was a pain but it worked. It’s still working a decade later. 

You don’t have to panic but you might have to think outside the box.


Saturday, November 26, 2022

So Far, So Good

To save energy we’ve shut down the upper floors of our house and are only heating the downstairs. There’s insulation between the floors so heat loss is slowed. To close it off I built a door at the top of the stairs and plugged air vents with insulation. That’s worked out really well to keep the heat on the first floor.

We’ve had some single degree nights and the downstairs is still comfortable. The kitchen woodstove easily keeps things toasty. Upstairs the temperature has dropped into the 40s. Another thing I’ve noticed is the snow hasn’t melted off the roof at all. That’s another sign we aren’t losing a lot of heat. 

Should nobody be around to feed the woodstove there’s electric heat as backup. Electricity is an expensive way to heat, but it’s used sparingly. Our electric bill has actually gone down from the month before. We can also use heating oil if necessary. I’m not going to get a full tank as that stuff has gotten too expensive. Instead I’ll pick up a few jugs of off-road diesel. It’s actually cheaper than heating oil and that makes no sense to me. It’s essentially the same stuff.

It’s early in the heating season, but we’ve snow on the ground that hasn’t melted. It certainly looks and feels like winter. 


Friday, November 25, 2022

Black Friday

It’s a crazy shopping day -or so they say. I wouldn’t be able to testify to the fact as I won’t see it with my own eyes. I’m staying home. As far as I’m concerned the day after Thanksgiving is Leftover Day. Heck, I baked a loaf of fresh bread just for the turkey sandwiches. 

I suppose this is the start of the Christmas shopping season. It used to be a time of great stress for me. Fortunately I’ve lowered my expectations. Also, I’ve cut way back on what we buy for Christmas. Basically we’ll get a few things for the grand kids, something for the lovely wife, and that’s about it. 

I’m sick of people being called “consumers.” Locusts are consumers. Instead I’d rather be recognized as just another human being. There’s so much more to being human than consuming. People complain about the over commercialization of Christmas -then go shopping crazy. Let’s not do that. We can start by sitting out Black Friday.


Thursday, November 24, 2022

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Remember, it’s a day to give thanks. Gratitude is underused and overlooked. Hope everyone has a good day. 

I’m doing the traditional turkey in the wood fired oven with all the fixings. Since our gathering was scaled down there will be a lot of leftovers, but nothing wrong with leftovers. 

Be well.


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Back to the moon

At the time this blog is being written NASA’s spacecraft Orion is orbiting the moon. Congratulations NASA. They’ve finally duplicated 1960’s exploits. Unlike the Apollo days the plan is to continue forward and actually establish a presence. They also hope to do it this decade. That would be different. 

I’m old enough to remember the moon landing. Kids in those days really thought we had a chance to someday work and live in space. You can imagine how disappointing the following decades turned out to be. 

The space shuttle was pretty cool, but it was never the “space truck” that was going to make space travel affordable. Too many compromises were made along the way. However, I am glad I was able to see one of the last shuttle flights before they shut down the program. It was an impressive thing to see and feel. 

This time around it actually looks like government/private business partnerships are paying off. That might actually be the special sauce that moves mankind off our big blue rock. The current NASA program is a throwback to the old ways of doing things. It will probably turn out to be a footnote in History. Even NASA will need lander from SpaceX to make things work. 

All in all, I’m glad we are going back -even if I’m too old to live the dream.


Monday, November 21, 2022

Hot Water

Over the years I’ve used a number of different methods for heating household water. Most people don’t give it much thought -until the water runs cold. Often hot water is heated by a furnace doing double duty. The furnace could be oil, propane or natural gas fired. Heating hot water is fairly efficient when also heating the house. During the warm months it’s less efficient as the furnace is only running to heat water. 

Another common method is the stand alone hot water tank. Usually they are in the 40 – 60 gallon range and are heated by electricity, gas, or oil. There are also tank less water heaters that heat water as you use it. As long as there’s fuel for the heater and water, it will make unlimited hot water. 

One of the things I did many years ago was to install one of the first tank less water heaters in my part of New Hampshire. It ran on propane. When it ran properly it was wonderful. Unfortunately it did not work well during bitterly cold sub zero temperatures. The local propane company had to install an electrically powered heater plate – cutting into its energy efficiency. The unit would also need diaphragms replaced due to freezing on a regular basis. When it finally gave up the ghost the local propane company refused to sell me another one. Instead they put in a regular tank type.

When that one died one summer we were really hard up for money. All I could afford was a cheap 2.5 gallon, 120 volt water heater. It’s the type of heater often installed in a stand alone bathroom where water is only needed for the sink. I was running my whole house on it. It’s just enough water for hand washing, doing dishes, and for very quick Navy style showers. 

It certainly wasn’t enough for a bath. To produce more hot water I built a batch solar hot water heater out of salvaged junk. The solar heater fed into the small electric. Between the solar heater and the small electric we got through the summer. It was cheap to run, but a thrown together batch heater would not survive the cold weather. 

By the time that happened I’d scraped up enough money to buy a 40 gallon electric tank. However I didn’t replace the little tank. It did most of the work on a day by day basis. I rigged up a switch that would turn on the big tank when I wanted a lot of hot water. Now the water heater used 240 volts and switch used 120. The 120 volt switch would trip a 240 volt relay salvaged from a pottery kiln. The odd thing was that the relay made a weird low humming sound the whole time it was engaged. It helped remind me not to leave the switch on all the time so that worked out. 

Right now I’ve got a 40 gallon electric tank that can be preheated from a coil on the back of the woodstove. 

Over the years it’s been a lot of fun and games experimenting with different water heating options. Heating water is a big energy draw so it’s worth looking into ways to do it for less.


Sunday, November 20, 2022

So Much for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s not overly commercialized. Unlike Christmas expectations are low. Be grateful. Eat good food. It’s a fine holiday. 

This year my lovely wife and I were looking forward to Thanksgiving at my daughter’s in Vermont. It’s been a few years since we’ve been able to gather for the holiday. Unlike some families we really enjoy getting together. 

Then I received a call from my daughter. Her husband and her daughter have both tested positive for covid. They are sick, but not go to the hospital sick. Still, it’s enough to shut down the gathering. Oh well. Looks like another intimate Thanksgiving in New Hampshire. 


Saturday, November 19, 2022

Crypto Currency Collapse

Well that didn’t take long. FTX, the crypto currency exchange went from a “worth” of billions of dollars to practically zero in a matter of days. Just to make things interesting other crypto exchanges were invested in FTX. In fact, it seems like the whole industry is invested in each other. More will go down.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m inventing Sixbears Coin. I’ll be issuing 16 coins. Each one will be “worth” a billion dollars. Now my company is worth 16 billion dollars. What can you do with a Sixbears Coin? You can try and sell it to some greater fool for 2 billion dollars. 

The big difference between Sixbears Coin and FTX is that FTX got real people to invest real money into the company. Those FTX coins couldn’t actually be used for anything like keeping the lights on or putting coffee in the break room. Investors’ money did those mundane chores. 

It kinda looks like Monopoly money. If it was just a board game there wouldn’t be a problem. The problem is that unlike a $10 board game. FTX cost investors some serious real money. That real money going down a rabbit hole has real world implications. There’s even some whispers that this is a black swan event could take down world markets in general. 

Won’t that be interesting?

What always amazes me is that real people with serious money buy into these things. Then again, it look like Elon Musk just spent billions of dollars on Twitter and is quickly killing it. Just because you are rich doesn’t mean you  can’t make some amazing mistakes. 


Friday, November 18, 2022

Why No YouTube?

People have wondered why I don’t have a YouTube channel, or even Instagram, Tic-Toc or any of the other platforms. Heck, I’m not even on Facebook. 

There is money to be made. Even if the channel doesn’t take off the creator usually isn’t out a lot of money. There’s a fairly low bar to entry. There are a lot of people who have no other source of income and do just fine. Some are even getting rich.

I have a few reasons not to. The first is the cost in time. While the monetary costs of entry are low, the time costs can be quite high. It can take days to shoot and edit a good 20 minute episode. When having adventures I can barely be bothered to snap a few photos -never mind shoot video. It’s all a matter of being in the moment. Life is better when not viewed through a lense.

A big reason is keeping most of my life to myself. Feeding the media beast can become an all encompassing thing. A person’s whole life becomes the business. It’s like living in “The Truman Show.” At some point nothing is really real. 

Then there comes a point where people don’t do things for the experience but for the footage. Your life isn’t your life but a polished produced life. 

So why do I blog at all? I think I have a few good things to share now and then. I’m certainly not doing it for the money. Call it a sense of civic duty combined with desire to build community. 

I’m not against anyone for going the public creator route, but one should be away of the hidden costs.


Thursday, November 17, 2022

The Silly Season

The silly season starts early this time around. Trump announced his candidacy for President. Anyone else remember when we actually got a break between elections? 

So  . .  . how’s 2028 looking for everyone?

Anyway . .  I’m not going to play the game until later. 

Too much politics too early in the season is bad for digestion. 

Okay, maybe I’m going to play a little. Anyone else find Trump’s announcement boring? Is that why even Fox News cut away before the end. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Heating off-grid

We are about to be hit with a mix of snow, ice and freezing rain. Those are perfect conditions for the grid to go down. Currently the home battery bank is being topped off from the grid -while I still have it.   The yard has been picked up so nothing is lost under a big white blanket. You never know if this is the snow storm that will cover the ground until spring. 

A nice pile of fiber blocks has been stacked next to the woodstove. It’s much easier to haul them in on a dolly than a toboggan. We should be in pretty good shape. Our woodstove is a cookstove type so cooking on it is a dream. The oven is always hot and that’s handy for cooking and baking. 

Heating with a woodstove is a lot more work. However, burning fiber blocks takes a far bit of work out of the equation. Another bonus to the blocks is that the chimney doesn’t have to be cleaned as often. However, nothing beats the convenience of a oil or gas heat. 

While I have a oil furnace it’s currently too expensive to use. Last time I checked heating oil was over six dollars/gallon. It’s not just the cost of oil either. Most people don’t realize it, but most oil or gas furnaces use a fair amount of electricity. The gun that ignites the fuel uses electricity. Pumps or blowers also draw from the grid. It adds up.

Perhaps one of the more frustrating things is to have plenty of oil but still can’t heat your house due to having no electricity. There are some gas furnaces that can run without electricity, but they tend to be smaller. Even those often have an electric fan to help circulation. While not absolutely necessary the fan certainly helps. 

I was given a propane direct vent heater but it’s still sitting on my porch. I’m not sure if it’s worth installing. Currently the only thing running on propane in my house is the dryer. I don’t even have a delivery service of propane anymore. The old one I used to deal with went out of business. All I’m using is 20lb tanks like you’d use in a barbecue grill. Something bigger would be needed for heat. 

We’ll see how this storm treats us. If we are out of contact for a bit it’s probably just because the wires are down. No worries. We don’t have to go anywhere and can hunker down.


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Summer to Winter

Well that was quick. Friday evening it was 68 degrees. Monday I woke up scattered snow in the ground. It never warmed up enough to melt. Would it be too much to ask for another hurricane to push more warm weather north to New Hampshire? Yeah, it probably would be, and pretty selfish too.

However, it doesn’t look like that’s in the cards. We are expecting snow Wednesday – Friday. 

With that in mind I finally pulled the plug on my scooter riding season. Monday afternoon I assembled a small shelter for the scooter. It took much longer than it should due to cold temperatures and high winds. It took a lot of trips inside for fresh coffee and to warm fingers. Eventually the job was done and the scooter was inside. Gasoline has been stabilized. The battery still needs to be pulled and put on a battery minder for the winter. Outside of that it should be good until spring. 

This is not the latest I’ve ridden on two wheels. One year I communed on a KZ-900 motorcycle until the middle of December. It was about a 60 mile drive. The motorcycle was my only vehicle so there wasn’t much choice. I’m lucky to be alive. Hitting a patch of ice at 60 mph in a corner is never fun. 

It could be worse. One year I pulled the boat out of the lake in the middle of snowstorm. That involved wading into the lake to sort out a problem with the trailer. Compared to that putting the scooter away was a piece of cake.


Monday, November 14, 2022

Basement reclamation

Ever so slowly I’ve been reclaiming my basement. One big thing was dealing with the last of my veggie oil storage. I ran diesels on waste veggie oil for years and kept a good supply in my basement. Most of the jugs were stored on a huge rack built of 2X6s and plywood. Over the years a few jugs leaked and the rack got really saturated with veggie oil. 

Once the jugs were gone I cut up the rack. We had one heck of a bonfire in our fire pit. Good thing I picked a day with low fire danger. The first piece burned hot enough that I kept backing up my chair until it was 25 feet away. After that I cut the rest of the pieces a lot smaller. I knew it was going to burn hot, but didn’t realize exactly how hot. Oh well, no harm, no foul. 

With the rack out of the way it’s now much easier to install more insulation in the basement. Insulation is cheaper than heating fuel right now. Last year spray foam did wonders for air leaks and I’m going to pick up a few more cans of the stuff. 

One of the things I discovered was a broken outlet. Something heavy must have smashed it. The live electrical contacts were hanging out there in the open. It’s a wonder nothing shorted out. Glad that’s fixed. 

Over the coming weeks there will be an extra contractor bag of junk on trash day. Once all the junk is gone I’ll finally be able to organize my tools and materials. It’s one of those mundane things that have to be done now and then. 


Sunday, November 13, 2022

Long Range Planning

Right now long range planning looks like about six months -at best. There are so many things in play that anything could happen. That’s my take on it anyway. 

Isn’t that exciting?

With that in mind about all we can do is to make sure we are flexible. That can look like very different to different people. 

We are told that you have to be debt free and have money in the bank to have options. That could not be further from the truth. Sure, those things are nice and can be useful. However, they can be a prison too. If the quest for those things keep you in a job that’s slowly killing you, what’s the point? You can be poor with a terrible credit rating and still be extremely happy. Your creditors may be sad, but that’s on them. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness. 

So my long range planning currently consists of fuel for the woodstove and a pile of potatoes and squash. Trust me, there are worse plans out there. How’s that crypto currency working out for everybody? Real estate investments? Beanie Babies?

From person experience I know everything can go from fantastic to horrible in a single moment. Once someone survives that they shouldn’t really worry about anything ever again. The Buddha is right. There is power in letting go of your attachments.

I’m not saying to only eat drink and be merry. Then again, there are worse things than being a fat happy drunk. Yeltsin was more fun that Putin. At least he didn’t start a major land war. 

Anyway, people have ideas for the things they need for life to be okay. What’s neglected is taking care of your head space. If your thoughts are giving your ulcers maybe it’s time to change your thinking. 


Saturday, November 12, 2022

Guess we still have a Democracy

Okay, okay, it’s actually a representative republic by design but whatever. In reality it’s more of a Corporate Kleptocracy but we cope. 

Putting aside semantic details for a bit let’s just take a big deep breath and let it out. All in all the election went off without too many shenanigans. There were incidents here and there but nothing too crazy. 

Well, there was that guy at the local polling place who was calling everyone Communists. He got pretty worked up but then starred recognizing people. Then he was all, “but you’re okay, and you’re okay and you too. You are all good people.” Then he sorta wandered off. 

Kinda weird, but pretty harmless in the big scheme of things. 

Best I can tell people didn’t so much vote for Democrats as against crazy. Republican Governor Sununu summed it up pretty well. He figured the voters thought: policy we can fix later. Crazy we can fix now. He did very well in his reelection. In fact, main stream Republicans did very well -there just weren’t enough of them. 

Frankly, I really hope for politics to become boring again. Those guys should quietly do their jobs and keep from flying off the rails. 

One can dream. 

New Hampshire remains a purple state, neither red nor blue. While Sununu did really well his success had very short coat tails indeed. The Democrats are going back to Washington. Surprisingly Democrats did very well lower down on the ballot in more local races. Pretty unusual for a mid-term election. 

Actually, keep an eye on Sununu. He could upset the political calculations in 2024. The press kept asking him about a presidential bid. The guy didn’t say no. He can draw in Independents. Sununu would do very in New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary. That would definitely give him some recognition. 

Anyway, enough politics for now. Glad it’s over without the cities catching fire. 


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Storm Safe

It looks like an interesting week as far as weather is concerned here in the US. Florida will take a hit from either a Subtropical storm or maybe even a low end hurricane. Expect the usual mix of rain, flooding, storm surge and tornadoes. 

It’s not just Florida. That storm could affect a good portion of the east coast. Other parts of the country are looking at snow and other harsh weather. 

That’s in the short term: the next few days.

New England is looking at an interesting winter. Heating oil stocks are low and expensive. Natural gas shortages may cause heating and electricity issues. I’m personally in pretty good shape due to having a good woodstove and solar electric. Most of my neighbors have wood backup, but that’s because we live out in the woods. If you don’t have that option better get some warm quilts, clothes, and sleeping bags. 

Releasing oil from national stockpiles or “drill baby drill” won’t help. Refinery capacity is maxed out. There are no incentives for oil companies to increase output. They make more money when there are shortages. Right now oil companies are trying to extract as much profit as they can. Fossil fuels will eventually run out -or get to expensive and energy intensive to recover. They are milking profits from a dying industry. It won’t go overnight, but you don’t have to be Nostradamus to see where it’s heading. 

To sum up: in the short term we get some interesting weather. Mid term -this winter, much will depend on the harshness or mildness of the weather. Long term, it’s renewables or nothing. 


Monday, November 7, 2022

Night Owl

The return to standard time is always hard. My lovely wife and I are not morning people. Having more light early in the day is of little use to us. On the other hand we really miss that hour in the afternoon. November is a gray enough month as it is. It’s the time of year when I up my vitamin D intake as I’m not going to get it from the sun. 

Growing up it was always a struggle to get out of bed. Jobs with early start times weren’t that great either. Night shifts were my favorite. Problems arose when having to deal with the rest of the world. Most businesses and offices have day hours. How rude of them. I know it’s different in a lot of places, but we can’t get breakfast 24 hours a day around here. 

Left to our own devices our bed time tends to drift to somewhere between 2 or 4 a. m..  My guess is that our night schedule is partly due to modern technology. When we are camping or living on a sailboat our schedule slowly adjusts to a daylight routine. 

That’s not to say we become morning people. Maybe it’s just too hard to sleep in when there’s so much early morning activity. We might be up, but we aren’t at our best. If it wasn’t for coffee I don’t know what we’d do. 

As much as I’m not a fan of losing an hour of light, I wish they’d stop changing the clocks. Pick daylight savings time or standard time and stick with it. 


Sunday, November 6, 2022

Unplanned detour

Saturday’s weather was unusually warm. I can’t believe I haven’t put the scooter for the winter yet, but with these nice days it might be a while yet. 

I was having a pleasant ride through the mountains. The plan was to make a big loop and come back home well before dark. I was about 35 minutes from home only to find that the road was blocked for construction. I was forced to backtrack about 70 miles.

There’s wasn’t enough gas in the tank to get me back to civilization. It’s a good thing I carry an extra gallon in the top box. There was no cell connection. Like an idiot I left my Garmin inreach satelite device at home. 

By the time I pulled into my driveway it was dark and a storm was on my heels. Good fun.


Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Stuff We Worry About

More often than not we worry about the wrong stuff. We can be all caught up in our little world, worrying about one issue or another. 

Then some other stuff happens out of the blue and all those other problems are forgotten. Take some poor Ukrainian worrying about normal stuff. Maybe he can’t figure out why his washing machine isn’t draining right. Perhaps his car is making a funny noise. Then thousands of Russian troops come pouring across the border. He’s not going to be spending his time looking for the washing machine warranty papers.

Take all those people who got hit by Hurricane Ian. They had normal issues like everyone else. Maybe the boss at work was on their case. The noisy neighbor was bugging them about the long grass on their lawn. A massive hurricane and storm surge drives all that from one’s mind.

People could be all worked up about anything, but a massive earthquake will drive those worries away. Nothing like life threatening terror to refocus the mind.

So think about all that crap you are losing sleep over. Would any of it matter much if a major disaster suddenly hit where you live? It’s good to keep things in perspective.

A buddy of mine and myself have a saying. Things could be going wrong but we say, “At least no one is shooting at us.” 

Now don’t you feel silly for getting ulcers over day to day stuff? 


Friday, November 4, 2022

Old School Solar Electric

Almost 30 years ago I installed solar electric at my house. The original solar panels are still working just fine and putting out decent power. Another original component is the Trace 24 DC  to 120 AC inverter. The charger function stopped working a couple years ago. All I did was wire up a 24 volt stand alone charger on a switch. That allows me to top off the batteries from the grid. The inverter part still works just fine. Considering one of the items it runs is a ½ horse submersible well pump that’s saying something. There’s a significant power demand when the pump comes on. 

The charge controller was still working but I changed it out for a much more efficient Outback controller. About the same time more solar panels were added. 

I’m using 6 volt golf cart batteries and get about 10 years out of them. About the only maintenance I do on the whole system is to occasionally top off the batteries with distilled water. There’s something to be said for a technology that just works. 

Most of the new systems people are installing are grid tied. That eliminates the whole battery bank issue. Of course, if you are off-grid you definitely need batteries. The problem with the grid tied is that when the grid goes down those solar panels aren’t doing you any good. Some people spend a bit more money and also install some battery backup for those emergencies. 

Since local grid power just took an almost 50% price increase I’m seriously thinking about more solar upgrades. I’m not sure if I’m going to expand my old stuff or add another complete stand alone system. Currently there’s a small system powering my boat shed next to the lake. It was easier to put in a separate system rather than maintain the 350 feet of power lines strung through the trees.  

Solar was one of the best investments I’ve ever made. When times got tight for a while it was a comfort to know I had power that could not be cut off by some heartless corporation. 


Thursday, November 3, 2022

What the GOP expects

It’s come out that the GOP leadership expects Trump to be charged for his crimes sometime after the mid-term elections. Where the Republicans came up with that I’m not really sure. Garland is holding his cards close to the vest. It’s his actions that actually matter.

Only the fact that the Justice department is hesitant to charge a former president has kept him out of jail. You or I would be in prison right now. Those are the facts. You can like them or hate them -or totally disbelieve them. Still doesn’t change the facts. 

So what happens after that? I’d like to think that everything would work out in the court system. Apparently there are plenty of poor and middle class people willing to pay a billionaire’s legal bills so that’s not an issue. He will be well represented. Currently his legal defense looks nothing like his political statements. Don’t confuse the two. What he claims in public and his defense in court are totally different. 

If all you’ve been doing is listening to his statements you are going to be pretty shocked with the legal process. That’s on you. What you do with that information will make all the difference. Don’t be like that bozo that attacked the FBI and died in a field. 

Some politicians, political pundits, and propagandists predict violence when Trump is charged. That’s probably overblown. If it isn’t then you can refer to the January 6 trials to see how that sort of thing shakes out. Lots of jail time for the little guys. 

One big question is why the GOP is making these predictions? They must feel that Trump is no longer useful. There is no loyalty in either direction so that’s not a surprise. To people at that level the little guys are fodder units in their political wars. Don't’ make yourself a casualty. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2022

I was wrong about bug out boats

I used to think that a sailboat was a pretty good bug out vehicle. Sailboats have a lot going for them. The big one is that they don’t rely on fossil fuels to get around. Theoretically a decent sailboat can go around the world using just the wind. In reality most will use at least some gasoline or diesel. However,   electric propulsion has come a long way. 

Sailboats are pretty self contained. Almost all of them have solar and/or wind generators. Many can produce their own fresh water from sea water. In a way they are really excellent off grid houses. Sailors generally like to keep their boats well provisioned. Some can go weeks or even months without resupply. Line fishing and spear fishing often stretched those provisions even further. 

So what’s not to like? 

During the lock down phase of the pandemic live aboard sailors had a hard time. It was especially bad if they were in a foreign country. Some countries just forced boats to leave without even getting a chance to provision. There were people forced to make long dangerous journeys with few provisions and little fuel. 

Many countries shut their borders completely. The few countries that did allow foreign boats could make any rules and charge whatever the market would bear. In the United States it was even difficult for domestic boats. For a while all the marinas were shut down. It was a stressful time. 

Once in a while real world events reveal the holes in what looks like a good idea on paper.

There are still good reasons to bug out by boat, but that’s a case by case basis. It certainly helps if you have a capable, well provisioned craft and a place to go. 


Tuesday, November 1, 2022

55 miles and 20 feet

Day are getting shorter. There’s a pretty narrow window between warm enough and darkness. Sure, I could get up early and deal with the sub-freezing temps. On the other hand I could wait for it to warm up into the 60s. Guess what I’ve been doing? 

While it was still chilly I was dealing with some end of the month business on the computer. One of the things I did was order a couple more pallets of fiber blocks for the woodstove. The price hasn’t gone up and they are still in stock. No idea how long that happy situation will last. There’s a certain comfort in knowing where you winter heat is coming from. 

The nice thing about a woodstove is that it doesn’t need the grid to function. My woodstove is a modern interpenetration of a wood kitchen stove. The big difference from the older stoves is a bigger airtight firebox. Not only does it provide heat it’s great for cooking and baking. 

To make room for the pallets the scooter had to be moved about 20 feet. I did that -after taking a 55 mile side trip. Being able to tool around on two wheels this late in the season is a bonus. It was a perfect day to meander around on the 35 mph back roads. Some were paved. Others were dirt. Eventually the sun started to go down and the temperature was going down with it. It was time to park the scoot. 

There’s always tomorrow.


Monday, October 31, 2022

Reflections on Sailboat Shopping

My lovely wife and I were reminiscing about the times we went shopping for sailboats. A few of our excursions stand out. 

She brought up the time we looked at a bilge keel Westerly sailboat. They are very popular in England. When the tide goes out they can sit level on their two keels without tipping over. That’s super handy in places with high tides. 

On paper the boat looked like a good fit for us. It was a smaller Westerly that sat on a trailer. When we got there the boat didn’t exactly match the photo. It had been sitting in the guy’s yard a long time. There was two feet of water in the boat. We felt bad for the old guy and helped him pump the boat out. No way were we going to buy a boat that neglected. 

Then there was the issue of the trailer. It looked pretty sketchy. The guy eventually admitted he had a crane at the marina take the boat on and off the trailer for him. No way could it be launched at a ramp. 

That reminded us of another trailer sailer we looked at. It was an Oday 22 in excellent condition. Everything ran perfectly. The sails were almost new. Once again, the problem was the trailer. It was a weird beast of a trailer constructed mostly of heavy wooden beams. On the phone the owner said he used the trailer every year. Only when we got there did the guy admit that he only lived a half mile from the marina and never went over 15 mph. Here too,  a crane was used to load and unload the boat. 

Living in the mountains of New Hampshire we don’t have a lot of sailboats in our area so we like to check out any that come for sale close to home. One the guy was willing to practically give a boat to us. The  catch? It was in a field surrounded by huge poisonous hogweed plants. We weren’t going to go anywhere near it. Another boat had a seriously bent mast. The same boat had been rewired with all the junctions meeting deep in the bilge -where all the water settles. Hard pass. 

A Catalina on Craigslist looked extremely well equipped for the price. Once we got there we could see that all the equipment was actually there. The problem was that everything was worn out and on its last legs. 

We also would occasionally check out boats too big to be hauled to boat ramps. At one time we entertained keeping a boat in Florida. That way we wouldn’t have to tow anything all the way from New Hampshire. One Peterson we looked at appeared to be a jewel. It was clean and looked in excellent shape. A known tiller issue had already been fixed. The deal breaker? When we lifted the floor boards we saw the keel bolts were piles of rust. They didn’t even look like bolts. No sense buying a boat that has a keel about to fall off. 

We still get tempted to buy bigger boats, but right now we are sticking with our little Oday 19. 


Sunday, October 30, 2022

Back to Canada?

Looks like I’ll be able to use my passport again without much hassle. Canada dropped the covid requirements as of October first. For a while they had a special phone app to enter the country. That’s been dropped too. All I’m going to need is my passport.

Well, that and a new Canadian insurance card. To legally drive in Canada they require  a “Canada Non-Resident Inter Province Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Card.” They are available from your insurance company. 

I live very close to Canada. Not being able to just casually cross the border has been annoying. Normally I like to visit lat summer or early fall. It’s a bit late for me now. However, I’ve been invited to a friend’s place in Newfoundland. That would be an interesting trip. 

Pre-covid my lovely wife and I were looking at an adventure in the Maritimes. Maybe we’ll finally get to do it next summer. Some of ancestors came from there and it’d be nice to see the area. 

Hopefully the borders will still be open come July. 

What I really miss is the days when a passport wasn’t required to cross into Canada. A driver’s license and birth certificate did the job. More often than not they wouldn’t even ask to see them. Those were the days.


Saturday, October 29, 2022

What a bargain

The United States has sent the equivalent of 3.5% of it’s defense budget to Ukraine. 

So what did we get for our money? We got to support a democracy against an invading imperialist country. That’s worthwhile all in itself. Even better, the Ukrainians are breaking the Bear. They are winning. 

We used to think of Russia as a near peer power. Now we know they are a near to near peer power. They aren’t a strong second, they might not even be the world’s third most powerful military. Actually, Japan is probably stronger right now. 

The best thing Russia can do is to get out of Ukraine and make peace as soon as possible. Then Russia has to figure out how to get its young people to come back. It’s demographics were already pretty bad with a small youth population. It’s pretty hard to run an economy without working age people. 

Russia had one strength: oil and gas exports. It’s quickly losing those markets and they won’t return. Europe lucked out with a mild fall. They were able to top off their natural gas storage and line up alternatives. With that sorted out world natural gas prices are coming down. Russia also lost foreign investment and technological know how. Western companies are gone and won’t be coming back in the near future. Russia’s major export, fossil fuels, are in trouble. 

Another big export for Russia was arms. Orders for their weapons are being canceled right and left. Who wants to invest in weapons that are being beaten by the west’s second string systems? Imagine if NATO air power had come onto the battle field? Ukraine is beating Russia with hardly any air power of its own. 

So . . . 3.5% of the US defense budget. No US troops in combat. The end of the Russian empire. 

One more head’s up. Russia better watch out for China. You may have noticed that China has been pretty distant from their “good friend” Russia. Wonder why? Don’t be surprised if China decides to carve off a chunk of Russia. China’s domestic issues are bad right now. Their economy is in trouble and people are restless. A war might be just the distraction needed. 

In the past China may have been tempted to attack Taiwan. The Ukrainian example demonstrates that might not be such a good idea. Much of China’s weapon systems are knock off copies of Russian equipment. Taiwan’s stuff is western. There’s also little issue of US support for Taiwan. Of course, the fact you just can’t drive tanks across the water is another big problem. None of these problems are an issue if China decides to go against Russia. They’ll probably wait until Russia is even weaker than it is now. 

Interesting times.


Friday, October 28, 2022

Are Nomad Days Over?

RV sales took a huge jump during the pandemic. Prices of RVs went through the roof. Not only was demand going up, supply chain issues and lock downs made it tough to build them. A lot of RVs were built with unskilled labor using substandard materials. One would be wise to check when a RV was built when shopping for a used one.

Prices are coming down. It will take a while for the real market values to stabilize. Most new RVs are financed and banks are in no hurry to lose money on them. However, eventually they’ll have no choice. Banks can only hold onto repossessed property for so long. The used market has had some serious drops as people get hard up for funds. Prices will drop more. 

Even if the price is right, should people buy into the lifestyle? While the RVs might be a better deal, the cost of camping in general has gone up. Mom and pop campgrounds have been bought out by large corporations. Even though there are fewer campers, profits for those companies have gone up. That’s mostly due the price of camping sites going up. 

There was a nice little campground in the Keys we really liked. They were bought out. Campsite sizes were cut in half to add more sites and the price of a site tripled. The new owners also added a lot of new restrictive rules and were no longer dog friendly. Let’s just say we’ll never stay there again.

There are also fewer places to camp for free. Fewer Walmarts allow overnight parking. Free Federal dispersed camping has been banned in a number of places. Sadly, that’s the fault of campers who had no respect for the land. Vegetation was destroyed. Trash and even human waste was left behind. Nasty. 

Fuel prices have taken their toll. While gas is a bit more expensive, diesel prices are outrageous. Motor homes and tow vehicles get poor fuel mileage. People are traveling less and staying in one place longer to save fuel. 

Now security is a growing problem. People are more worried about personal safety. As times get tough people are more likely to get violent. Theft, always an issue, is getting worse. 

There are ways to keep costs under control. Instead of big RVs or giant 5th wheels with big tow vehicles people have downsized. Smaller towed trailers and vans are more popular. That last time I went camping we used a tent and an economy car. There are good state and Federal campgrounds that are still reasonably priced. 

If my lovely wife and I hit the road we’ll use the tent and car again. Right now we are thinking of maybe traveling late winter or early spring. By then we should have a better idea of conditions on the ground. With the current conditions we are happy that we never became full time nomads. It’s nice to have a home base. 


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Unusually warm

We’ve had some unusually warm days. On Tuesday it got to 75 degrees. That’s pretty much unheard of for late October in northern New Hampshire. It’s more common to have snow on the ground by now. 

As weird as it is, that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying it. I thought the motor scooter would be in storage by now. As it is I’ve had some of my best riding during the fall. Go figure. 

It’s also given me time to get some last minute outdoor projects done. One guy was telling me he’s never prepared in time for winter, but this year he actually is. 

The real bonus has been on the home heating front. It’s still been cold enough at night to need heat, but those warm days make a big difference. Oil companies have record profits right now. They also have record high prices. Coincidence? I think not. If the warm weather hurts their profit margin it won’t break my heart. 

Of course, I could be buried under feet of snow in a few weeks. In the mean time I’m making the most of it while it’s mild.


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Without a gasoline chainsaw

I’ve been dealing with lung damage for a long time now. Dirty two stroke engines can send me into serious coughing fits. The coughing can be so bad I pass out. That’s not something you want to have happen with a running chainsaw in your hands. 

In spite of that, over the years, I’ve gathered a lot of my own firewood. Fortunately a lot of wood can be gathered within walking distance of the house. I drag whole trees to the house where they are cut up with a corded electric chainsaw. Usually my 120 volt chain saws are ordered special so I can get more powerful ones than they normally sell in stores. 

For a few years I had a F250 pickup truck with a 7.3 diesel that ran on waste veggie oil. I wired up a huge inverted to run my 120 volt saw. The Forest Service sells permits for dead and down wood. There’s National Forest land nearby with a lot of dirt roads. With 100 foot cord it wasn’t too hard to quickly fill up the truck with wood. If the trees were further than my cord was long it wasn’t worth dragging them out anyway. 

I’ve never been one to trust the availability of petroleum products. Maybe it was due to coming of age during the Arab Oil Boycotts. Sometimes it’s good to have an old school backup. Mine is a 3.5 foot German crosscut saw. If you have to go with manual power, don’t scrimp on cheap saw. Make sure you know how to sharpen and maintain it too. 

In addition to the hand saw there’s a new Toro 60 volt battery chainsaw. That saw does a pretty good job. If the grid goes down it can also be charged on my household solar electric. 

One nice thing about gasoline alternatives. They are much quieter. That can be important during interesting times. 


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Power Grid Heads Up

I came into a disturbing bit of information about the power grid. I’m curious to see if anyone else has heard about this.

This information comes from a tech guy in a big IT company. He’s concerned about the power grid having issues this winter. The guy claims that parts for the grid have been hit with supply chain issues. There are no spare parts and nothing available for grid expansion. 

I can’t but help wonder if Hurricane Ian’s grid damage sucked all the slack out of the grid parts supply. It would also be interesting to see if some of those areas don’t get their power back. 

I would encourage people to have at least a small solar electric system. Even a 100 watt system is enough to keep a light on and your phone and radio powered. There are plenty of off the shelf systems out there. 

You could go old school and do what I’ve done for years. Get a deep discharge 12 volt lead acid battery, like a trolling motor battery. Take 100 watt solar panel. Connect it to a cheap 10 watt charge controller. Connect the charge controller to the battery. That will charge your battery. To get the power out, wire in a 12 volt cigarette connector to the battery. Then you can use car chargers for your electronics. A small inverter in the less than 1000 watt range will give you some AC power. You could get fancy with fuses and switches but they aren’t even necessary for such a small system. 

Having even just a small amount of renewable power makes a big difference.

Please let me know if you’ve heard anything about grid issues.


Monday, October 24, 2022

Long Strange Solar Road

Roughly 30 years ago my lovely wife and I decided to install significant solar electric power. Back then there were basically three groups of people invested in solar: NASA, California pot growers, and us. It was expensive and plenty of people told me it wouldn’t work here in northern New Hampshire. 

Back then it wasn’t plug and play like it is now. I read a lot of books. There was a company in Massachusetts, Fowler Electric, that dealt in kits. That saved me a lot of headaches. At least someone had some knowledge of New England conditions. I still did all the work myself and fabricated my battery storage, electronics layout, and solar array. 

So why did I go with solar when no one else was? I’d wanted to do it for a long time, but my wife needed convincing. Living out in the sticks our power went out a lot. Worse yet, when we’d call the power company they wouldn’t believe that our power was out. They didn’t receive any other complaints. That’s because in those days what neighbors we had were seasonal. It would be months before they’d notice. 

One day my wife called the power company to complain and they insultingly told her there was nothing she could do about it. She hung up the phone, looked at me, and said, “We are getting solar.”

Other people in my situation put in big generators and called it good. I’m not a big fan of gas or diesel generators. One of my jobs in the Fire Department was to keep the generators on my truck running. It was a royal pain. You do all the maintenance, test weekly, and sometimes they’d fail when you needed them most. 

So I subtracted the price of a hefty generator and the solar numbers looked a lot better. Then when I added in the fact it would offsetting my grid power every day it was even better. Having power that could not be shut off was the best. 

My neighbors still thought it was a waste of money and wouldn’t work. Then we got a massive ice storm that shut down the grid for a week. We watched across the lake as folks started up their generators. Then over the next few days we watched their lights go out as they eventually ran out of fuel. The roads were too dangerous to drive on so getting more fuel was difficult.  My lovely wife, sick of years of ridicule, made sure we had a lot of lights on every night. People knew we didn’t have a generator as it was totally quiet. 

Since we aren’t total jerks we had a lot of folks over for movie nights and let people take hot showers. While our solar electric system wasn’t big, it kept the lights on, the water pump pumping and ran some electronics. 

We still have the original solar panels. They’ve been added to over the years. The charge controller was upgraded to a more efficient model. Our original inverter is still chugging along. The batteries have been changed a few times, but they’d last a good ten year before needing replacement. The expense isn’t too bad figured over the course of a decade. 

So, in short, solar works -even here in the Great North Woods. 


Sunday, October 23, 2022

How the war ends

Russia doesn’t have much of a military. They’ve proven to be a third rate nation. What they did have was a first rate propaganda department. When I hear US politicians parroting Putin’s lines I realize how effective the propaganda has been. Why so many in the US suck up to dictators is a mystery to me. Do they love authoritarianism more than democracy?

Be that as it may, the Kremlin’s propaganda has lost a lot of its polish. The attempts to insert viral videos in social media has gotten clunky of late. Perhaps a lot of those clever computer savvy young people have now fled to Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and parts unknown?

Enough of that little side trip. So how does the war end? Russian victory? Not going to happen. It was known right from the start that Russia failed to commit enough troops and resources to hold the country. It was thought they had enough to take it, but taking it and holding it are two different things. As events on the ground have demonstrated, they didn’t even have a strong enough military to take it in the first place. All they can do now is commit atrocities. That doesn’t win the war. That creates life long enemies. 

Will the war end with a peace treaty? What would that look like? Ukraine has no desire to let Russia keep an inch of Ukrainian soil. Why should they? Russia will just try again later. That’s what history has demonstrated and Ukraine isn’t going to settle for that again. Now if Russia would give up all claims to Ukraine, returned Ukrainian citizens, paid reparations and demilitarized the border, they might get a treaty. Might. 

Let’s say the Russians are pushed back to their 2013 borders. What happens then? In the past the thing to do would be to continue on to Moscow. The west won’t let that happen and I don’t think Ukraine wants or could do that. Now if for some reason NATO got involved, that definitely could happen. However, it’s unlikely.

So how does it end? First lets think about how Putin ends. I can’t see how he survives this. He’s as clever and vicious as a cornered rat so it could go down dirty. Will the rest of Russia let him drag down the country? Will his replacement be even worse? Get your popcorn ready. The show is about to start. 

There’s a fair chance this will end with the breakup of Russia. It’s not a nation. It’s an empire. The bits and pieces that make up the empire are getting tired of what’s been going on in Moscow. What military Russia has left may end up diverted to holding onto the remains of a Russian rump state. 

So what can Joe Average do about this? Not a whole heck of a lot. There will be turmoil aplenty to go around. Expect some economic upsets around the globe. The US is actually in a pretty good place in the long term, so that’s a plus. Concentrate on the basics: food, water, shelter, and personal security. That will help immensely with day to day living. The next six months or so will be quite the ride. 


Saturday, October 22, 2022

Remote Learning Stories

Right now most of the kids are back in school. There are still some classes in some places that are taking place on-line. That’s more likely to happen at the college level. Most parents are relieved to have their kids back in school. Even home school families are glad. They often have events with other home schoolers and those were canceled. Sometimes they participate in one or two regular classes like band or lab science that can’t be easily done at home. 

It was hard on kids. A buddy of mine was telling me his kid took a “gap semester” during the seventh grade. 

“A what?” I asked.

“A gap semester,” he said. 

The kid decided to take a semester off from remote schooling. His parents were checking to see that he was keeping up with the assignments. The kid discovered he could just hit the submit button and the system would accept it. About halfway through the semester the teacher got hold of the parents. Only then did they learn the kid wasn’t actually doing any work. All the submissions were blank pages. Eventually it got sorted and the kid caught up. 

Then there’s what happened to my grandson who’s in grammar school. He was doing his zoom class but there was a glitch in the system. When it came back on-line the system recognized my grandson as the host, not the teacher. Maybe being close to the school with a strong Internet connection had something to do with it. 

My daughter heard outrageous laughter coming from the other room. My grandson had changed his name to Spiderman and was telling silly stories to the rest of the class. Everyone was laughing. Better yet, he kept refusing the teacher’s requests to be let into the meeting. 

My daughter had him let the teacher in. The lady was pretty cool about it. She thanked him for letting her into the meeting and went on with the lessons. 

Most families made the most out of a bad situation. This hit everyone before they had a chance to prepare so there was a lot of winging it going on. At least there’s a few funny stories to come out of it.