StatCounter

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Antiauthoritarian



I’ve got issues with autocrats. Here’s an example on how bad my antiauthoritarianism is. I’ve a lot of friends who are in the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronisms.) Basically they are Medieval renenactors. They dress up in period clothes, have interesting events and enjoy good food and drink. I’ve often joined them in archery practice. It’s all good fun, but I can’t join. They take their fake royalty too seriously. That’s a deal breaker for me.


I can’t even pretend to respect even fake royalty. Good thing I’m an American and not British. If the British want to keep pet royalty that’s their business. As for myself I’m glad we got rid of them. It was worth having a revolution to dump the silly gits. 


Forget about living under a dictatorship. I don’t care how benevolent they are, they are still dictators. Most are tyrants and I hate tyrants in general. 


Then there’s Theocracy: rule by a religious elite. If you want to ignore progress and science and claim all wisdom is in your holy book move to Iran. See how well that works for them. 


It’s been said that Democracy is the worse system, except for all the other systems. It’s messy and imperfect, but it mostly works. As long as we have public servants we’ll do okay. When we start to have people who only care to rule we are in trouble. I’m hoping those would be dictators are rejected by most voters. 


I don’t care of they come from the political right or the political left. Authoritarians are to be shunned for the evil that they are. 


-Sixbears

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Direct hit from the sun



In the next day and a half to two days we are going to be hit with another big jolt from the sun. We had a near X class flare let loose right at earth. Actually, there’s we are getting hit by a series of blasts, not just one big one. They add up.


Expect issues with electronics, communications, health issues and earthquakes.


Health issues include aches and pain plus the possibility of serious cardiac problems. That makes sense as the heart is regulated by the body’s electrical system. I know I’m really over simplifying here. 


As for earthquakes -let’s just say all the energy being absorbed by the earth has to go somewhere.


The sun can be a harsh neighbor. 


By the way, you might have already been experiencing computer crashes a lot more lately. It makes sense as computer’s are very sensitive to that sort of thing. Same goes for cell phones.


Anyway, just a heads up.


-Sixbears


Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Long line of survivors



I was looking back on my family history. My ancestors had a pretty good record of getting out of Dodge in time. They got out of the way of armies and dictators when it was still relatively easy to do so. Sometimes they went native and disappeared into the wilderness. They avoided a lot of nasty things -sometimes by planning and sometimes it was just plain luck. 


We also were lucky in that we were often either too young or too old for military service during major wars. My ancestors had a pretty record of not dying from childhood diseases. Many ancestors reached advanced ages in good condition. That’s a bonus as you don’t have to live to old age to pass on your genes. 


Of course, by the very fact you are here to read this, you have a long line of survivors too. Maybe they were clever and lucky. Maybe they just had huge families with the hope that some would survive. Whatever the strategy, it worked. 


Now don’t mess up your ancestors hard work by doing something stupid. There are a lot of bozos trying to get people to die for their causes. Don’t fall for it. Honor your ancestors. 


-Sixbears

Monday, August 15, 2022

Moving States



Currently I like living in NH. All my stuff is here. Seriously though, there’s a lot to like. The lack of sales or an income tax is easy to take. If you like being able to conceal carry a firearm a permit isn’t even needed. 

I need a place where the air and water are clean. It certainly helps that we aren’t on freaking fire half the time like many of the western states. I don’t want to struggle to breath the air. NH doesn’t get as stifling hot as a lot of a places. My house doesn’t have an air conditioner and that’s not a big deal. 

We live on a nice little lake. Over the years I’ve worked to make this place safe and sustainable. Having access to clean drinking water is a huge plus, and I don’t even need anything more technologically advanced than a bucket to get it. A good source of clean water is essential to health. There’s plenty of access to the woods if you feel like disappearing for a while. Hunting and fishing is pretty good. 

Over the years we’ve developed many ties to the community. A lot of my relatives still live in the area. It’s good to have good people around you. 

With that being said, there’s a few things that would cause me to pack up my rags and put the house for  sale. A big one would be if any laws were passed to limit the rights of half the population. Reproductive freedom is a big deal. States that take away rights are going to be in deep trouble as the years go by. Companies will move out and others won’t move in. They know it will be much harder to recruit and keep good people. In five years or so the school systems will get an influx of poor kids who’s parents are struggling. 

Should NH get authoritarian like other states I’d get the heck out of here before the property values went down. I don’t mind politicians who want to server and govern. I’ve got issues with those who just want to rule.

-Sixbears

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Don’t get excited



You’ve got to admit, the FBI serving a warrant at Mar-a-Largo is exciting stuff. Theoretically Mr. Trump could be facing 17 years in prison. Theoretically. Maybe you or I would be facing hard time. The rich, famous, and politically connected face a more lenient justice system.


Make no mistake, Trump is innocent until proven guilty. That’s how it works in our system. 


Frankly, the excitement is probably over. It’s going to take months for this to move forward. Lawyers will meet to see if any documents come under lawyer client privilege. There will plenty of back and forth. Don’t expect anything to happen until after the mid-terms. It’s a unwritten rule that they don’t move forward on high profile political cases near an election. We might see something happen before the end of the year. That’s a long time to stay fired up. 


What you don’t want to do is to physically attack the FBI. It’s no surprise that idiot in OH who attacked  the Cleveland headquarters ended up shot to death in a field. After all, blue lives matter -especially to other officers. 


-Sixbears

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Adult Babies


There are a lot of adults these days that act like children. If something upsets they throw temper tantrums like poorly raised 4 year olds. It’s worse as they can do damage a toddler never could. I feel sad and a bit ashamed for them. 

Now I’m not saying people should be emotionless robots. There definitely are things to get upset about. However, when grown adults physically attack fast food workers for getting their order wrong that’s too much. 

Growing up I was about a head taller than the rest of my classmates. I knew at a young age that I had to control myself. Being so much bigger than most of my fellow students it would have been easy to hurt someone. 

Not only do we have adults that never learned self control we have people perfectly willing to exploit that weakness. Strong emotions shut down the logic centers of the brain. Fear and anger is much easier to induce than love and respect so that’s what they go with. Get someone fearful and/or angry, and you can make them do things they’d never do if in their right mind. Autocrats know the technique all to well. 

-Sixbears

Friday, August 12, 2022

Kentucky Snow Days



This is one is too good not to share. Apparently in a county in western Kentucky they just experienced their second snow day and canceled school. No, you didn’t happen to miss some sort of weird meteorological phenomenon. The temperatures have been up in the 80s and 90s -where one would expect them to be. 


What happened is that there’s a glitch in the new computer program that runs bus schedules. They can’t dispatch the buses so they canceled school. For some reason they decided to use the snow day procedure. Perhaps there’s some actual logical reason to use snow days. That being said it sounds funny as heck. 


The snow thing is bad enough. The next thing that came to mind is how hard is it to schedule school buses? This isn’t rocket science. They’ve been successfully running buses since they’ve been invented -long before computers. Scheduling isn’t a new science. Given the parameters someone from the ancient Roman Empire could figure it it. 


Just goes to show how over reliance on computers is a bad thing. In this case, also silly.


-Sixbears

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Multi-tier Legal System



We’d like to think that in the United States we are all equal under the law. Okay you can stop laughing now. In the real world we get the justice we can pay for. 


I’ve spent way too much time sitting in courtrooms. Not recently, thank god. Some of that time was while on jury duty. Other times it was in support of other people. Once it was because I was involved in a labor case that went to the State Supreme Court. 


You quickly learn from observation why prison is full of poor people. They are the ones without lawyers or really really bad lawyers. When you see a lawyer come into the room with his shirt half tucked in clutching a random pile of loose papers, you know his client doesn’t stand a chance. I’ve also seen elderly lawyers who appeared to be suffering from dementia. The opposing lawyer had to help with the paperwork so they could wrap up the case. 


The labor case concerned safety issues for firefighters. We were told, by inside connections, that while the court thought we were in the right, that they’d side with municipalities. If they sided with labor it would have cost cities some money. When we got in court that’s exactly how the case went. The fix was in before we even entered the room. About a dozen years those very same safety concerns bit me in the butt and I almost died in a fire. My injuries forced me into early retirement. 


One of those state judges, David Souter, was later appointed to the US Supreme Court. That did little for my respect for the court. 


Once when called to jury duty the judge asked if we had any problems with the case. I raised my hand and told the judge I disagreed with the law in question and wouldn’t convince anyone for violating it. 


The judge said, “The law is the law.”


I said, “I don’t care.”


He didn’t like that or me at all. Frankly, I think he would have loved to have a reason to throw me in jail. In the end I was removed from the case. 


In the legal system money talks. It’s almost comical when wealthy people do poorly in court. Recently we have the Alex Jones case where his lawyer gave the prosecution unfettered access to Jone’s phone records. That was a 45.2 million dollar mistake. Where the heck did he get that lawyer? The discount Walmart bin? 


Of course, then you have people who are so arrogant that they think they are above the law. They are the ones who ignore those high priced lawyers and get into trouble. 


In the end though, it’s poor people who suffer the most under our system. If we were all equal under the law, the prison population would look much like the general US population. It certainly does not. 


What we can do about it is a subject for another blog.


-Sixbears




Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Storm Watch



Well that was interesting. So Mr. Trump had visitors down to his place in Florida. Unfortunately he wasn’t there in person to greet his company. Instead he was in New York giving a deposition concerning a different legal matter. 


It’s a big deal to get a Federal warrant to search a place -especially for the rich and powerful. You have to convince a Federal judge that a crime has been committed and that the evidence is located in a certain place. They don’t hand them out like party treats. 


In a more perfect world politics would have nothing to do with it. Now if you don’t like Mr. Trump you can say that the reason this didn’t happen earlier was due to his political clout. If you are a fan of Mr. Trump you might think this was some sort of a witch hunt. 


It’s important to be aware that nobody has been charged with a crime -yet. That may change. Mr. Trump says he’s not worried. So now the thing to do is to wait for the legal system to slowly grind onward. 


Personally, I have hope and faith that justice will be done. We are still a nation of laws. 


-Sixbears


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

On the edge of a storm



Lately we’ve had a lot of thunderstorms predicted. There have been all these pop up storm cells. Sometimes we get them, sometimes we don’t. Even when we don’t get the storms we feel the tension in the air.

That’s how it feels in general to be a prepper right now. It feels like there are storms coming. The signs are there. The signs could be political, environmental, economic -or something else entirely. It certainly feels like something is coming down. 

In conversation a lot of people are telling me it feels like they are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Most of these people aren’t preppers but they follow the news. 

While people are worried, there’s not a lot of consensus on what to worry about. In general they pick their favorite fear and concentrate on that. Of course, there’s a lot to choose from. Here’s the thing about disasters -you can easily get more than one at a time.

Of course, the disasters are already here, depending on where you live. Eastern Kentucky was flooded. Ukrainians are in the thick of it. Sri Lanka is an economic basket case. Cuba just lost a lot of their oil storage in a massive fire. On top of that their ancient power plants are all well past their due date. Heck, it even matters what US state you live in. Some places are doing a lot better than others. Even your rights and freedoms vary by state.

Just like those pop us storm cells: some places are going to get while others have near misses. 

-Sixbears 

Monday, August 8, 2022

More Retirement Myths



A lot of us boomers have some of the last old school retirement plans. Defined benefits that you can rely on are huge. Even smaller pensions, if you can rely on them, are extremely valuable. The good news is that those of us with such plans probably won’t starve. The bad news is that the retirement promoted in the brochures doesn’t fit the reality. 


The big issue is health. When people are socking away money, scrimping and saving, they think of those healthy looking older people walking on sunny beaches. That does happen. What happens more often is that instead of beaches you are more concerned about good doctors and hospital access. You aren’t taking a lot walks on the beach when in the middle of chemotherapy for cancer. Even some of my healthy looking friends are dealing with diabetes and other conditions. It’s not uncommon to be taking handfuls of medications every day. 


Another big issues is the age difference between spouses. I’ve buddies who’ve retired but their spouses still have another seven or eight years to work. By they time their partners retire they’ll be well into their 70s . . . or dead. Who knows? For some they have plenty of other things to do before their partner’s retire. Others just don’t know what to do with themselves. Many end up going back to work just to keep busy.


That’s another issue: some people have no lives outside of work. When they retire they lose their whole identity. No one in the retirement park cares that you were a big wheel in the Midget Widget Company. These people are lost. 


It’s funny the number of people who retire and think they have to either by an RV or go on a cruise -maybe both. They might not even be all that interested in doing it but because it’s someone else’s dream they think they should do those things. Once they do them they can feel kinda let down and then they have to figure out what’s next. 


Do what you actually want to do. A former classmate just took an early retirement. He’s doing something he’s wanted to do for some time. He bought a comfortable chair and put in a quite room far from electronics. That’s his place to read books in peace. That’s the big thing he never had time to do while working. 


There are young people today who know the boomer retirement won’t be there for them. With that in mind they are enjoying life now. If that involves a spotty work record and less savings, so what? You can do a lot more things at 30 than 70. Money does not buy youth and energy. Those people see that even the “good” boomer retirements have downsides. Often it’s working 40 years in a job you hate for people you don’t respect. 


In the end it’s not about retirement, jobs, or money  -it’s about life and living. 


-Sixbears

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Career options



Could it be that high school guidance councilors are falling down on the job? Are they steering people away from good options?


Thursday my lovely wife and I drove over to Vermont to listen to the Patrick Ross Band. They are on all the streaming services. We’ve known Patrick and his wife Cindy for years. We went to their wedding.  One winter they house sat for us. He’s making a decent living as a full time musician.


In fact, we’ve a number of friends making a full time living as musicians. Guidance councilors never tell someone to follow that career path. They also don’t tell people they can be artists or writers. However, I’m friends with at least a dozen people who make all or significant parts of their income from those professions. 


We don’t live in a major arts city. Most of those creative people have backgrounds in blue collar towns.   None of them are pampered trust fund people. None of them were told by guidance councilors to follow artistic careers. Good thing they follow their own passions.


-Sixbears

Friday, August 5, 2022

China Danger?



China is upset about the US Speaker of the House’s visit. Sabers are being rattled. Are we in danger of seeing another war break out?


Normally I’d say it was all posture, but these are not normal times. In my opinion the issues are less about Taiwan than they are about what’s happening internally in China. 


Chinese people have heavily invested in real estate to the point where there are whole “ghost cities” where nobody lives. It’s the most amazing real estate bubble in history. Now that bubble is bursting. The ruling party is doing all they can to suppress the news of investor protests. This bubble alone is enough to take down the government. 


That’s only part of the economic troubles. Manufacturing is fleeing the country. A lot of it is going back to North America. Low cost manufacturing is going to places like Vietnam. China is just not a good place to do business anymore. They’ve become a lot more hostile towards foreigners. 


Demographically the country is in trouble. They have a rapidly aging population and due to their one child policy a much smaller working class coming up to support them. The demographics are even worse when you consider the Chinese preference to having boys rather than girls. 


China can’t feed itself without imports. They import both food and fertilizers. If that stops a lot of people will starve to death. They also import a lot of their energy: coal, oil, and natural gas. 


To make the situation worse the Chinese leadership is basically just Xi. He has no checks and balances. He could make the calculation that losing hundreds of thousands of people to invade Taiwan is worth it if they are going to starve anyway. 


It would not turn out very well for China. Not only does the US have Taiwan’s back, Japan would be in the fight. It seems that China has gone out of its way to antagonize Japan. Who knows why? That’s a mistake as Japan’s military is highly underrated. They keep a low profile, but are actually modern, sizable, and capable. 


So how does this affect your average prepper? First of all, don’t panic. These are the sort of things we prep for. There would be a lot of economic disruptions. If we are lucky it would remain a regional conflict, but these things could always spin out of control. Unless you are high up in a major country’s power circles there’s not really much you can to about it. When the avalanche comes the best you can hope for is to be out of it’s way. You aren’t going to stop it.


-Sixbears

Thursday, August 4, 2022

Vacation Land



Recently I was asked if we ever take living in a beautiful area for granted. My lovely wife and I do not. We still stop to watch the wildlife and sunsets. 


Today we decided to take the Sea Eagle 420 kayak out on the lake. It was a pleasant paddle with osprey overhead and loons checking us out. There’s a lot less motor traffic on the lake since the price of gas went up. 


After our paddle we went for a swim. The water was just cool enough to be refreshing but warm enough to be comfortable. 


In the evening I took the scooter on a long ride down back country roads. There was very little traffic. 


If you are going to live in a place that’s a vacation destination it only makes sense to stop and smell the roses. Otherwise, what’s the point? 


-Sixbears

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

An electric vehicle that makes sense



No, it’s not a car or a truck. Right now the technology really doesn’t make sense for most people. You have to live in the Goldilocks Zone. That’s where it’s not too hot, too cold, too hilly and where electricity isn’t too expensive. 


What does make sense are electric bicycles. They come in a variety of styles, sizes, and capabilities so there’s something that’ll fit your needs. You can even get models designed to haul considerable cargo. A few types only work with pedal assist; you have to pedal all the time. Most others have a throstle that basically makes it a small electric motorcycle. Electric bikes are becoming really popular here in hill country. Even older people can now pedal up steep hills with ease. 


So will I get one? Not in the near term. A motor scooter makes more sense for me right now. Being able to travel with traffic on 50 – 55 mph roads makes sense. If I decided to go electric I’d probably just add a kit to my existing pedal bike. If you have a pedal bike you like that might be the way to go. 


Electric bikes have one huge advantage over electric cars. If the battery dies you can still pedal it home.


-Sixbears

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Worse than the price of gas



There’s one thing worse than the high price of gasoline. That’s not being able to get gasoline at all. Most people in the US don’t think about that. It could happen and it has happened. 


We’ve come dangerously close to running out of gas in sizable parts of the country due to hurricanes. When pipelines are damaged the clock starts running. Local supplies don’t last that long. In fact, authorities have downplayed the damage to prevent panic buying. It worked too. If everyone decided to fill up at the same time the system couldn’t handle it -and that’s during normal times. Add in an actual supply issue and gas could easily run out. 


There are things that can affect local supplies. Areas have run out of gas for various reasons. Locally we once ran out of gas due to a blizzard. Just a few days delay and gas stations were closing right and left. 


During the Arab Oil Embargo supplies were spotty. It wasn’t impossible to get gas, but it wasn’t always easy. There were times when you could only gas up every other day depending on your license plate number. On a long trip it took some planning as gas stations did not stay open 24 hours. I remember being parked in front of a gas station early in the morning waiting for it to open. 


I don’t store a lot of gas at my house. The stuff is dangerous. I have a storage place that can be locked located outside. Even with stabilizer it doesn’t last too long. You have to keep rotating the stock. Rather than try and store a huge volume of gas it might serve you better to figure out how to get by without it. 


-Sixbears

Monday, August 1, 2022

The way back home



How do you plan on getting back home in a massive disaster? 


Here’s a scenario: You live in the suburbs but work in the city. You are at work when all the power goes down. Traffic is not moving and public transportation is down. A giant bug out bag type kit is probably not something you’d have at your office. Even if you did walking through the city with a big bag of stuff might attract unwanted attention. 


You will want a few things. It’s important to have proper clothes for the walk. Too many people rely on their car’s air conditioning or heater to keep them comfortable. Your solution might be as simple as having a proper jacket and hat with you at all times. 


You are not going to be too comfortable walking ten miles in high heels or dress shoes. It’s not uncommon for people to keep work out clothes in a gym bag at the office. That could be your proper get home clothes option right there.


A folding knife, lighter, and small flashlight could fit right your pockets and not attract attention. Throw in a couple of energy bars and a water bottle and you are better off than the vast majority. Some cash could come in handy too. Even in an end of the world type disaster some people will still take cash for useful goods. 


It’s important to know the way home. It would be worthwhile to actually walk back one day to see how that works in the real world. Be aware of alternatives to major roads: bike paths, railroad tracks, wooded areas, dry canal beds -know your options. Be prepared to navigate without electronics. Map and compass skills are old school but work without a cell connection. 


We’d like to imagine that a disaster would hit while we are at home where our preps are. That only works if you never ever leave the house. Who can or wants to live like that? A few common and inexpensive items can do wonders to improve your chance of getting home.


-Sixbears

Sunday, July 31, 2022

How to disappear and live off the grid



I stayed up late last night to finish reading How to Disappear and Live off the Grid by John C. Kiriacou. He’s a former CIA counterterrorism officer. 

I’ve mixed feelings about the book. Read it more for entrainment purposeless rather than for definitive knowledge on how to disappear. Much of the book is spent on covering the exploits of people who’ve tried to disappear in the past. While that can be entertaining, it’s not useful. How a person could disappear in an earlier time is not so useful today. Most of those methods just don’t work anymore. 

He did point out the differences between someone who’s fleeing the law and someone who’d just trying to leave their old life behind. It also matters how serious the crime is. In short, disappearing from the law is a lot harder due to governments having a lot more resources.

Some stuff is pretty obvious. Careful planning is going to make a difference. Being on social media will get you noticed. Staying in contact with people from your old life will get you found out. 

He makes a big deal about establishing secure communications. I think you have to pick through his recommondations very carefully. Some of his suggestions sound like bad advice to so that antigovernment types will get caught. 

Reading his book one would get the idea that it takes a lot of money to disappear successfully. He makes it seem hopeless for people of limited means. I know that’s not true. 

In my travels I’ve come into some seriously off the grid people. All of them are of limited means.  Some are just avoiding bad financial situations, but one guy was definitely dodging serious legal trouble. I know he was doing it successfully for years. It would not be right to reveal his methods as it would give too many hints to where he’s hiding. 

There are some basics to going off the grid. You always need food, shelter, water, and a certain amount of safety. Being totally isolated from people is bad for your mental health. Most electronics spy on you.  

Having transportation is useful if you can avoid the pitfalls. For example, while a car means freedom, the paperwork of ownership is a leash. Things like gps, toll transponders, On Star, and other services track you. There are pros and cons to public transportation. 

All in all, the book was better for entertainment than useful info. Actually, it was a great source for things that don’t work.

-Sixbears

Friday, July 29, 2022

Bugging out in the wilderness



I was reading a book recently with a big section about bugging out into the wilderness. The problem with such a book is how general it has to be. Of course we need the basics: water, food, and shelter. A big issue is that your strategies will vary greatly depending on the local environment. 


For example I have a pretty fair idea on how to survive in the Great North Woods. I’ve lived here all my life and spent a lot of time in the woods. My dad started teaching me how to survive here from the time I could walk. That gave me a good background to build upon. 


I also spent enough time in Florida to at least learn the basics. My lovely wife and I spent many days staying with locals who showed us how they survived in the woods. One of the difficulties about Florida is that it’s really about three or four different environments. The skills needed for the north central region are different from the requirements of the Everglades. 


Personally, I know my desert skills are not up to the task. My basic survival knowledge is good, but it’s the little things that can kill you. I don’t even know how much I don’t know. Nobody ever taught me the skills. Frankly, it’s not the sort of place I’d want to bug out to if I had any other choice at all. 


What it comes down to is that books are good, but there’s no substitute for local knowledge.


-Sixbears

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Looking for adventure



A lot of my blog posts concern being prepared for emergencies and survival. I’ve also posted about projects I’ve done, like boat building and converting diesel vehicles to waste vegetable oil. Some of my posts concern travel in everything from a converted ambulance to sailboats to train trips. 


Survival is critical as you can’t have any adventures if you check out early. Survival by itself is pointless. Just surviving is not living. At least that way I feel about things.


So now I find myself getting that itch again. Maybe it’s due to travel being limited the last couple of years. Maybe it’s just time to do something interesting. 


There are some limitations. My budget is not that large. I’ve never spent any more than $2500 on a sailboat. Even my ambulance was picked up at auction for a ridiculously low price. The projects I’ve done were all fairly low cost. Many of them ended up saving money in the long run. 


So what shall my lovely wife and I do next? I’m open to ideas. Some things are out. We aren’t exactly in condition to hike the Appalachian Trail. We used to go on long extended canoe camping trips, but my lovely wife had both shoulders rebuilt. No sense in ruining those surgeon’s good work. While small aircraft are fascinating the hobby is beyond my budget. 


I thought she had completely ruled out motorcycle adventures. Today she said she might be okay riding on the back of one again -if we didn’t go too far in a day. That could be done on a budget. We wouldn’t be on a new Harley-Davidson, but an old Honda Goldwing might be doable. That being said it was an idea she was only sorta lukewarm to. 


So I’m throwing this one out to my readers. Any idea what would be a interesting adventure? 


-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Winter is coming



It’s looking pretty bad for Germany and Austria this coming winter. The price of natural gas has gone up considerably. Even worse, availability is a concern. Natural gas is used extensively for heating. With that in mind a lot of Europeans are buying cheap electric heaters. Even those tiny heaters use a couple of thousand watts of power. Unfortunately, their grids are also powered by natural gas. Switching to electric heat only stresses the grid more. They’d better prepare for blackouts. 


Woodstove sales in Europ have been brisk all year. Some people are worried about air quality, which will probably be impacted. I happen to wonder what the heck they’ll be burning in those woodstoves. Europeans generally lack the access to woodlands that we have in the United States. They may end up burning construction debris and furniture. Paints, varnishes and preservatives make that a dangerous thing to do.


Here in New England heating oil prices are still very high. Eversource electric power company is about to have a 47% rate increase. While our grid is more robust that a lot of other places, heating with electricity will be expensive. 


As some point I might find myself charging my 60 volt Toro electric chainsaw from my solar panels so I can cut firewood. At least I live out in the woods, so that’s handy. 


-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Armed Revolution



Surveys indicate that about a third of the country think armed revolution may be necessary at some point. I wouldn’t read too much into that. People of all stripes are dissatisfied with the government. It’s a big freaking step to take up arms. 


Who do you plan on shooting? Why is that a good idea? You do realize that people shoot back, don’t you? Then there’s the role of law enforcement and the military. They get a say in how that shakes out. 


Burning it all down sometimes seems like the only solution. Democracy is slow and messy. Revolution appears quick, but it isn’t. Historically civil wars last about 10 years. That’s a long time to be in constant danger. Don’t expect the power and water to keep flowing. Supply trucks don’t make regular runs into combat zones. Medicines won’t be available. Millions would die. 


When it’s all over the government that is formed probably won’t be better than what we have now. That’s just how these things tend to sort out. That’s if you are on the winning side. Things will really suck for the losers. 


As boring and tedious as the process can be, our best bet to improve lives are political solutions. Efforts to make our elections fair and our voters educated will produce the best results. The United States already had a civil war caused by political failure. That didn’t work out very well for most people.


-Sixbears

Monday, July 25, 2022

Military Recruitment



Currently the US military is only meeting about 40% of their recruitment goals. 


This is good news. So why do I think that way?


First of all, it appears that most of the military aged young people don’t think the country is in danger. There was a huge increase in people signing up after 911. People thought the country was under attack. Of course, then a lot of those kids found themselves fighting in Iraq -a country that had nothing to do with the 911 attacks. 


Under Trump it probably didn’t help when he refereed to military personal as suckers and losers. 


Lower recruitment is a sign that the economy isn’t doing too badly. Poor kids with few opportunities are prime recruitment targets. When even unskilled service jobs have to pay real money the rigors of military life are a lot less attractive. 


Some people feel a need to serve their country. That’s honorable. However, you can serve your fellow citizens as an EMT or a Firefighter just as easily. In the time of pandemics there’s also plenty of risk if that’s what excites you.


The nation has several options to deal with unmet recruiting goals. There’s always conscription but that doesn’t provide the best of troops. Just ask the Russian conscripts in Ukraine how they feel. 


The military could reduce its size. Heck, they might have to. 


Another option is to make the military a more attractive option. I’m not just talking better pay and better veteran support. Those would help, but what you need are missions the public feels good about. Nobody wants to die for oil companies and other corporations. 


-Sixbears

Sunday, July 24, 2022

How hot is it?



How hot is it where you are? It got to around 90 here in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire. It’s been known to get hotter. Once in a great while we experience triple digit temperatures.


I still don’t have AC and still really don’t need it. How does that work? Fortunately, while it gets hot during the day it cools down to about 60 at night. That’s when I use fans to pull cool air into the house. My house is also shaded by huge hemlock trees.


Cities have heat island effects. All that brick, cement, road tar and black roofs really absorb the heat. I happened to drive through town on my scooter. Being out in the air like that it’s easy to notice when the temperature suddenly jumps up. Heading out of town it’s a relief to get back under the trees. 


In the northern part of New Hampshire it’s still not terribly dry. I’ve a daughter in California and it’s bad out there. Personally I couldn’t deal with the heat and the smoke from the wildfires. I’m also concerned about family members in Texas. They need AC to survive and the TX grid is pretty fragile. 


There are huge sections of the country dealing with the heat right now. Hope everyone is getting by and that you have a backup plan if the grid goes down.


-Sixbears

Saturday, July 23, 2022

After Camping Report



I’ve had some time to process how our camping trip at the beginning of the month went. We were gone for six days, which is plenty of time to test things out. If you have everything you need for a week you can pretty much go indefinitely. You don’t bring enough food and laundry to last for months. On a long trip you do like you do at home: wash your clothes and do some food shopping. Repeat as needed.


For years we had our ambulance to camper conversion all dialed in. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever. The old girl needed more work and money than I wanted to invest in it. With the price of gas the way it is we downsized to a Nissan Versa Note. It’s a tiny car. 


Even though it’s small it was large enough. We packed our big L. L. Bean Alpine 6 tent, air mattress sleeping bags, clothes, toys, chairs, a table, electronics, water, cooking gear, 2 stoves, optics, and a fair bit of food. It all fit with room left over. 


One of the clever things we did was to mount a 105 watt solar panel on the roof racks. The panel charged a group 27 deep discharge lead acid battery. The battery powered some 12 volt outlets and a 400 watt inverter. Our solar electric system took care of all our electrical needs. We even power a small cooler type compressor fridge.


The compressor types are much more efficient and work better than thermoelectric coolers. One of the things I always hated about camping was using ice and coolers. It seemed I was forever buying ice and often the food would get soggy. While my fridge is little no space is lost to ice. 


In the end we had everything we needed and quite a bit we could have done without. There was still room for more stuff. Even packed as we were, the car got a solid 35 mpg. It does help that we have the manual transmission rather than the crappy CVT automatic that was an option. 


All in all it was a great trip. I feel confident that we could easily travel for months with basically the same set up.


-Sixbears

Friday, July 22, 2022

Homeless in the National Forest



Studies have been done and there’s new laws on the horizon. The “Journal of Forestry” has an article about a recent study concerning homelessness and Non Recreational Campers. What the heck is a Non Recreational Camper? (NRC). 


They list ten categories, everything from retirees living in their rig to fugitives. It’s interesting that they are lumped together. The main thrust of the study seems to be about dealing with homelessness in the forest. In short, it’s not allowed. Dirty vagabond kids and retired people in million dollar RVs are lumped together. They also seem to be targeting groups like Rainbow Gatherings. 


To be fair the National Forests have suffered a lot of abuse. People don’t follow the 14 day camping limit. Too many people damage the forest and leave heaps of trash and human waste behind. Law enforcement officers are looking for stronger laws. 


So how do avoid being recognized as an NRC? First of all respect the 14 day camping limit. That’s already on the books. Never admit to being a NRC. You are not living in your RV, you are camping. In conversation with LEOs mention the scenic places you’ve visited and mention the tourist attractions you are on the way to. It wouldn’t hurt to keep your RV stocked up all those promotional pamphlets about tourist traps. Have an “official address.” You are going to need one anyway to register your vehicle. It could even be a friend or a relative who will accept your mail and say you “live” there. 


If you are living in a car or van it really helps to have a canoe or kayak on the roof. That makes you look more like someone on vacation. 


So what’s the difference between a hobo with a backpack and a legitimate backpacker? Trekking poles. If a LEO asks you what you are doing be prepared to name local hiking trails. Have hiking apps on your phone. 


Being homeless is hard enough without running afoul of law enforcement. Be careful while bending the law. 


-Sixbears

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Double energy gain


Recently my solar electric panels haven’t been performing as well as they should. Partial shading seriously reduces their efficiency. Over the years the trees have been growing in. 


I did as much trimming as I could with a manual pole saw. One limb was too big for that so I dug out my electric pole saw, only to discover its battery was dead. Unfortunately it takes up to 9 hours to charge it up. That limb will wait until tomorrow.


There’s a big increase in solar power output already. Power output could be improved by cutting some some maples that shade the panel in the morning and late in the afternoon. Those trees will all go in the firewood pile. 


So I’m getting both solar electricity and firewood. I love it when there’s a double benefit. 


-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Winter Heating



A week or so ago I received a letter from Irving Oil Company. They are one of the big players in New England’s energy mix. Irving’s generally the company I use when gassing up the car or filling the heating oil tank. 


The letter was about their price protection plan. It’s supposed to lock in the price for the season and let you spread out payments. So I log onto their site and use the direct link to the program. The link is dead. After poking around site the protection plan page was eventually found. In big letters it stated the program was unavailable in my area. Since they sent a letter about the program in the mail it seemed like a sudden reversal. 


Currently heating oil is running about $5.50/gallon. If the oil company thinks it’s too risky to lock in a price like that we are in trouble. What do they know that the rest of us don’t? 


Looks like my plan of only heating a third of the house and doing it with wood is still in effect. 


-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Without Rule of Law



I’ve been asked when do I think we’ll be in a without rule of law situation. That’s a tough one. 


Look around the world and see what’s going on right now. Sri Lanka is a recent example. When protesters are swimming in the president’s pool things have fallen pretty far. The country is essentially bankrupt. It’s still not in complete collapse. The government’s been replaced and the new people are going to the International Monetary Fund for a bailout. They think the country will be stabilized in a year. 


That might be optimistic but time will tell. The thing about a country like Sri Lanka is that they are part of an International community. Outside forces can help restore order. Sri Lanka could even sort their own problems out themselves. While the rule of law is shaky there, it hasn’t totally disappeared. 


Haiti is another country where the rule of law is pretty spotty. It doesn’t help that the police are greatly outgunned by the gangs. They still have rule of law. Enforcement might be sketchy, but it’s there. If you are poor and not politically connected you’d better believe you must watch out for the law enforcers. 


Power vacuums do not last for long. When gangs become powerful enough they make their own laws and government. It’s pretty rough and ready, but it exists. Over time there are gangs and terrorist groups that end up being the legitimate government. 


We sometimes experience lawless situations in the US. In New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina there were areas without rule of law. It was temporary, but for a few days law enforcement was pretty darn thin on the ground. 


Being without rule of law is not necessarily a time of total chaos. A generally polite and civil society is your best protection. Most people do the right thing because they want to be good people. Law enforcement is actually only effective if most people act that way. It’s the outliers that need laws and law enforcement. 


If we are lucky, we’ll never experience true lawlessness. When laws and civil society both break down it’s ugly. That’s one reason why so many people settle for crappy governments. While they aren’t great, the population knows what chaos is like and don’t want any more of it. If you need an example look at the current state of Egypt. 


-Sixbears

Monday, July 18, 2022

Okay Boomer



I hate that phrase, but I see where it’s coming from. I’m generation boomer and I must admit that sometimes we are clueless. When you grow up in large cohort of boomers sheer numbers twist things. There were so many of us the world had to adjust to what we wanted -not so much the other way around. 


There were downsides. It wasn’t uncommon for my classrooms to have forty or even more kids. There were times we were all reaching for the same thing. In some markets that made job hunting or house buying tough. However, the economy expanded at such a rate that mostly our large numbers were absorbed. 


Thanks to an expanding economy we generally did pretty well for ourselves. Many mistook good luck for talent. A lot of us thought we did something special. Sure, it took effort, but effort was rewarded -and sometimes just bare minimum competence was rewarded. 


Too many of my generation have no idea how much conditions have changed. I had a blue collar job and money was tight, but I did raise three kids and bought a house in my 20s. That sort of thing is almost impossible with a high school education these days. It’s tough to do with a college degree. 


Boomers rode a good economic wave. Most of us are making it to retirement on the momentum from that wave. We don’t realize the follow up waves are pathetic little things. A college educated couple lacks the buying power of an old school boomer factory worker. 


Of course, it certainly helped to be while, straight and Christian. That’s another story. 


Younger generations blame boomers for using up all the good stuff and now they can’t have any. Maybe there is something to that. I’d like to think we were pushed along by social pressures at the time. That might be the case but the lack of compassion for younger generations is telling. 


When younger people want a functioning social safety net boomers yell Socialism as if it’s a curse. Many of us actually believe we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps -which is hilarious. The original meaning of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” was to attempt to do something impossible. 


Boomers, because of their sheer numbers, had to be catered to. It made most of us think we were something special instead of just numerous. Younger people have it rougher than we did in a lot of ways. Frankly, I’m come to appreciate their attitude. Young people don’t put up with the crap at work we boomers did. Being a good little worker bee drone is not a virtue. Companies have no loyalty to the workers. 


Generational conflict doesn’t benefit anyone but the establishment bosses. When the generations pull together towards a common goal stuff gets done.


-Sixbears

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Wasted Day



I wasted a perfectly nice Saturday. It was going to be a ten or fifteen minute phone call to sort some cell phone issues. My old cell phone company had been bought out and service went down the drain. There were issues with connecting to cell towers. 

With that in mind I tried to set up an account with another company. The sim card came in the mail in a timely manner. However, their on-line activation did not work. So much for trying to deal with companies on-line. This is where phone service hell came in. We started in the morning and didn’t finish until the evening -and by finish I meant I was finished with the company.

Monday I’m going to be reduced to walking into a cell phone phone store in town to see what they can do. After setting my unlocked android phone on the counter I’m going to grunt and tell them to make it go. Hopefully by Monday my patience will have returned. The on-line service folks used it all up. For some reason every time my case was bumped up the chain of command the techs got dumber. Was that a plan? 

Anyway, the day would have been better spent fishing. The morning started with me having accounts with two cell phone companies and the day ended with me having no accounts. That’s progress, of a sort. 

-Sixbears

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Last call for beef



If you need to add some more beef to your freezer you should not wait too long. There are some major factors working against cattle men these days. The big one is drought. Hard to grow cattle on dust and sand. Normally ranchers would truck in hay to keep their herds alive. Current transportation costs make that a bad deal. The only thing they can do is to ship their underweight cattle to market.


That will help supply in the short term, but it’s like eating your seed corn. If the drought ended next month it would still take a very long time for the herds to build up again. 


Personally, I’ve built up a bit of beef in the freezer but not all that much. We don’t eat beef like we used to anyway. We’ll always find something to eat as we are not picky. While a steak or hamburger is nice now and then, beans and rice will keep you alive just as well.


-Sixbears

Friday, July 15, 2022

Inflation!



9.1 % inflation last month. Buckle up Buttercup, it ain’t over yet. In fact there’s no reason for it to go down in the near future. That rate is from the United States. Guess what? For the rest of the world it’s worse. Europe is really getting it on the chin. Compared to most other places the US is a freaking success story.


Did you expect a major war without world wide consequences? The number one wheat exporter, Russia, is invading the number four wheat exporter. That can’t but help affect food prices. 


To make the food situation worse fertilizer is in short supply. China is restricting the export of phosphates. Russian potash exports can’t get out of the country. Nitrogen fertilizers are made from natural gas which has gotten too expensive. Looks like there will be some adjustments to say the least.


So what do you do? Everybody knows you have to reduce expenses but this is big. Adjusting your thermostat a few degrees isn’t going to do it. Cutting out your monthly dinner and a movie won’t cover it. Desperate times will call for desperate measures.


Everyone’s situation is different. Some people still have money to burn. One of the reasons inflation is so high is that prices have yet to seriously limit demand. Apparently there’s a lot of money saved up from reduced spending during the pandemic. Some people are determined to get out and enjoy the summer no matter the cost. 


For other people times are already tight. When you have a pile of bills it’s a matter of who gets paid and who doesn’t. Hint: can they repo or shut off something if the bill isn’t paid?  If they can’t those are your lower hanging fruit. 


Look into whatever government assistance is available but don’t count on it. One year my daughter and granddaughter moved back with us and we qualified for fuel assistance. Great, but the program had no money. The next year the program had money but we no longer qualified. Funny how that worked out. 


Plan for the long term. You can’t paper this over with credit cards and expect to catch up when times are good. It won’t be over in a month or two. 


-Sixbears

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Long Term Energy Planning



Fossil fuels are pretty darn handy. There’s awful lot of energy in a cup of gasoline. Even the best electric batteries are nowhere close. That’s why electric cars are so aerodynamic: they have to squeeze every bit of performance from those batteries. 


The problem with fossil fuels is that they are limited. The fossil fuel age has been extended with better technology and extraction techniques. That gave our civilization a breather. In recent years alternative energy systems have improved a lot. We are about to see how far they can go.


Keep an eye on Germany. They are in for a tough year. Currently the direct Russian gas pipeline is shut down. Who knows if it will ever open again? Germany had hoped to top off their storage facilities before winter. It didn’t happen. In the near term Germany will do a lot of stop gap measures in an attempt to keep the lights on. They are even reopening old coal plants, which is bad news for air quality. 


What you won’t see are massive build outs of infrastructure to allow them to accept liquefied natural gas imports. Some floating LNG plants will operate in German waters, but that’s about it. Nobody wants to plow money into dying technology. Instead they are doubling down on alternative energy. Of course, had they done that from the get go they probably wouldn’t be facing a cold dark winter. Part of the reason for using Russian gas was political. They thought Russia would not invade its neighbors if they were financially tied to the west. Oops. Bad plan. 


The US is in a much better energy situation than Germany. We produce a lot of fossil fuels domestically. The problem is that eventually those sources will also run low. It’s inevitable; we just don’t know the exact timing. Politicians that favor fossil fuels over renewables are doing the country a disservice. As we’ve seen from Germany the worse time to switch to renewables is when you have no other choice. 


That’s all on an International and National level. What does your personal energy situation look like? Do you “import” all your energy or do you produce some of your own. When my budget is tight it is good to have solar electric that a power company can’t shut off. I’ve also kept my house warm by walking out my door with an ax and a crosscut saw. It’s good live in the woods. Still, even an apartment dweller can put a solar panel in a south facing window and make some power. 


-Sixbears

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Solar Storms



If you are reading this, congratulations. Your grid is still up. We have a serious amount of activity on the sun. It’s possible there will be CME blackouts. Just to make things interesting solar activity has  been linked to earthquakes. All that energy hitting the earth shakes things up. 


The sun is going through a period where blackouts could happen at any time. Are you prepared? If you in an area suffering from heat I hope you have options. Life without AC could be dicey. Also there are people who need to keep medications refrigerated. 


As for myself I sleep much better using a c-pap machine. It’s plugged into my solar electric system. I can also run it on my other backup systems. If you do use a c-pap look to see if it has an option to run directly on 12 volts. I had to buy a separate power cord but it works just fine. The machine uses a lot less power running on 12 volts. Most c-paps them use a transformer to step the power down from house current and there’s efficiency loss there. 


No matter where you live it pays to plan for life without grid power. In some places lack of grid power is life threatening.


-Sixbears

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Where to live



It really matters what state you live in. If you find yourself in a state where you don’t feel safe you have about 5 years to move someplace else. Moving will get harder as the nation deals with a number of issues. After 10 years you might find it extremely hard to move for various reasons. One reason could be that you home no longer has any value on the market. For example, imagine you live in a drought prone area and your town’s water supply dried up. Who would want to buy into that?


Politics are an issue, of course. You might not want to be too different from your neighbors when folks are having a hard time. That’s when they look for scapegoats. Some areas are more tolerant towards different cultures and beliefs. Will they still be tolerant in the future? In the 1920s Germany was one of the best places in Germany to be a Jew. We know how quickly that flipped. 


Climate and weather are big considerations. The western drought has been going on for a while now. There’s no reason for it not to continue. Historically, long periods of drought has been a major factor in the downfall of civilizations. Wildfires, heat waves, storms of all sorts -they matter. 


So what am I doing? As much as I enjoy the south in winter I could never live there full time. The heat would destroy me in the summer. When out west the smoke from wildfires gave me a lot of breathing difficulties. Right now I’m pretty good in the mountains of New Hampshire. 


Vermont is also a nice place but I’d take a beating financially due to their tax system. It’s hard to give up New Hampshire’s lack of sales or income tax. Maine’s taxes don’t affect my personal finances as badly and I’ve a lot of friends there. Currently I’m going to stay where I am. Politically my state is a “purple” state, divided between Republicans and Democrats. It makes it hard for any one party to go too far off the rails. 


While I currently like it where I am, staying here is a choice that I make. It’s not automatic. Things could change that would make moving a good idea. If your state is about to go down the tubes it’s best to get out before most people realize that fact.


-Sixbear

Monday, July 11, 2022

Sitting it out



It’s my guess that were are going to get some serious political shakeout by the end of the year. Politics will be almost unrecognizable by 2023. With that in mind it’s probably best to let some things run their course. Not too much I can do about it anyway. Try not to hate your neighbors. 

What I can do is pay attention to the basics. It looks like we are seeing some price relief in key areas: fuel, shipping, and even used cars are coming down in price. The housing bubble is busting in a number of of places. Not everywhere as some markets are still hot. In fact, there are areas of the country where prices never inflated all that much in the first place. 

I’ll probably put off buying lumber for house projects another few weeks. There’s a balancing act involved. Prices may be lower in the future, but my construction has to be done before the weather turns cool again. One year the price of 2X4s was so high that I ended up framing a well cover in peeled cedar poles. I could rough saw some of my own lumber but it’s a pain and time consuming. 

Dehydrated long storage food has come down in price. A friend of mine now has enough dehydrated food to last him about a year and a half. I’ve restocked some, but there’s more bang for the buck in other dried foods. Beans, rice, wheat berries and oats are good staples to have. Don’t forget lots of spices to keep things from being too boring. 

Our garden looks like a confused jumbled mess and that’s a good thing. Our raised beds are hidden behind the tall sunchokes so people don’t even know we are growing food. We also have a lot of flowers for bees. This fall the plan is dehydrate a huge mess of sunchokes. I really like them in soups and stirfrys. 

While the days have been pleasant, nights have been cool -down into the 30s even. Pretty chilly for July. I actually have the heat on right now.  On the bright side, we are still not quite in drought conditions. 

This could be an interesting hurricane season. There’s probably a good reason the weather folks have added a category 6 to the hurricane scale. Conditions look ripe for some interesting weather. If you live in a hurricane prone area better check your preps. Even if you don’t live in hurricane alley be aware that disruptions ripple through the country. Food and fuel supplies could get disrupted. 

Medications could become an issue. Locally we’ve seen a lot of supply disruptions and pharmacy closures. That could be because we are rural and at the tail end of supply chains. These issues could become more widespread. With that in mind we’ve been expanding our knowledge of local herbal alternatives. They’ll be better than nothing. 

There’s been a rise in religious intolerance. What I mean by that is religious people are being more intolerant of other’s religions -or lack of religion for that matter. One of the strengths of the US is that it’s a secular country. If you want to live in a theocracy move to Iran. 

To sum up, shore up your preps and remember to be kind to one another. Like it or not we are all in this together. 

-Sixbears

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Stones in Georgia



If you are unfamiliar with the Georgia Guidestones look it up. I’ll wait. Most people have heard about them -especially since they’ve been blown up. 


They are, or were, perfect for any theory you wanted to propose. They were big, meant to last a long time, were inscribed in multiple languages and had a mysterious origin. To this day no one knows who paid to have them made and installed. It is important to remember they were put up in 1980 during the height of the cold war. A civilization ending nuclear war was pretty much expected. 


I’ve known about them pretty much since they were installed. While mildly curious about seeing them it never happened. Mainly that’s because they were located in the middle of nowhere. There was no other reason for me to make the trip. I suppose Elberton GA just lost its only tourist attraction. 


The stones were always a sort of conspiracy Rorschach test. You could interpret them to fit your pet theory of the day. I’ve heard arguments from the left that it was a right wing conspiracy. The right claims it’s a left wing project. Frankly, there’s a little in there for everyone. All you have to do is mix and match, stir, simmer and serve while hot. I’m not going to go into that.


However, and it’s always a however, there are some curious things. One thing that bugs me is that someone is willing to solve issues with explosives. This time it’s just a  bunch of stones. Who knows what will get blown up next? The other curious thing is how quickly the rest of the monument was torn down. One would think a long in depth forensic investigation would be ongoing. Nope, it was quickly torn down with heavy equipment. 


One more thing: there’s supposed to be a time capsule buried six feet under the stones. I wonder if that’s been dug up while all that equipment was on site? 


Curious. 


-Sixbears


Saturday, July 9, 2022

The beat goes on



New York City just issued an indoor mask advisory . . . again. Buckle up for another round. Covid is the gift that keeps on giving. Blame the new variants. The current covid maps clearly show NYC is a hotspot. California and much of the west looks bad. Florida is on the rise, probably from more people staying indoors and using AC. 


Dang, I know this is unpopular news. I just had a fairly normal feeling camping trip with a lot of friends and relatives. On the other hand we were mostly outside so ventilation was excellent. Currently New England numbers are pretty low so that helped my sense of security. Even so, I worse a mask when shopping in stores. While New England numbers are good people travel to the coast of Maine from all over. It would not surprise me if Maine sees a spike because of it. 


Personally I was never bothered by wearing a mask. It might help that I’ve invested in really good masks that are comfortable and effective. Since I have a preexisting lung condition I’m probably more cautious than most people need to be. 


I was feeling fairly crappy the day after coming home from vacation. My covid test was negative. I suspected it was mostly my bad allergies kicking in, but it didn’t hurt to be cautious. Besides, I have all these free covid tests lying around anyway. 


My guess is that we might be dealing with outbreaks for a year or two yet. I hope I’m wrong. 


-Sixbears


Friday, July 8, 2022

Back from vacation



We had a good camping trip. Between family and friends we occupied six sites with over 20 people. Additional friends in the area came over to visit. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen so many of the family together. It was a bit overwhelming. 


The weather was ideal. We only had two rain showers and those happened at night. 


The 105 watt solar electric system mounted on my car’s roof rack served us well. There was enough power to run a small fridge, my cpap machine, and to charge electronics. All those sunny days didn’t hurt either. 


Nothing like evenings around a campfire.


I was almost totally out of touch with the news and it felt pretty good. 


-Sixbears

Friday, July 1, 2022

Vacation



I’m disappearing but only for a week or so. My lovely wife and I are finally going on a much delayed camping trip on the coast of Maine. 


I’ll be back. 


-Sixbears

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Induction Stove Top



During the cool months we cook on a wood fired cookstove. It does a great job. It’s a modern airtight design. The oven is large enough to handle a 25 pound turkey. We don’t cook on wood during the warm summer months. It’s not the 19th century. 

For summer cooking we’ve had everything from a regular electric stove, to a propane stove, and even a simple two burner hotplate. Our most recent solution has been a fairly inexpensive induction cook top. The two burner unit was something like $130 when we purchased it. So how has it performed?

There are pluses and minuses. On the plus side: it’s fast, energy efficient, and the burners cool down very quickly as they only get hot from the pan. It’s safer. Downsides: not every pan works with induction, the digital controls lack fine running. There are times when I’m cooking  setting #2 is too low and #3 is too high. There is no 2.5. Water spilled on the controls can change the settings. It doesn’t take much -just condensation from a lid dripped onto the top can change programming. 

Fortunately most of my pans are cast iron and they work great with induction. Some stainless steel works, but some doesn’t. Of course, glass doesn’t work at all. When shopping for new cookware look on the label to see if it’s compatible. 

Another weird thing for off grid people: mine doesn’t work with modified sine wave inverters. It needs a pure sine wave power source. That’s a problem for me as I’ve still using a 25 year old Trace modified sine wave inverter. It’s been indestructible and the vast majority of my equipment works just fine on it. For now I’m running the induction stove on grid power. It barely moves the meter. 

In spite of the negatives I’ve been pleasantly surprised on how well I like cooking with it. The stove top models are cheap enough that you could buy a one or two burner stove and test is for yourself.

-Sixbears

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Water Security



How secure is your water source? Do you even know where your water comes from? If one day you turn the tap on and nothing happens can you get water from somewhere else? 


Everyone who talks about being prepared stresses the importance of water storage. I don’t bother storing water. I don’t have to. My water comes from a well 50 feet from the house. I can lift the well cover and touch the water with my hand if I want. If that fails there’s an 80 acre fresh water lake 300 feet away. There’s also a never used well on my property across the road just sitting there. 


You can understand why the drought in the west freaks me out. Water comes from far away and it takes some major engineering to get it to homes. It also takes a fair bit of energy to pump it to where it’s needed. People living in dry regions need water storage to deal with even minor interruptions. Should something major happen you might have to bug out before your storage goes dry. 


There are always problems with bugging out. Now imagine the reason your water went dry is due to a major catastrophe. The same disaster that shut your water off might have shut down your road system. That would be nasty. 


So what can you do? Move. That works but is it practical for you? Do you feel lucky? There are alternatives. Even the parched west has natural sources of water. Might be worth finding out about them and if you can access them in an emergency. If you are by the coast is might be worth looking into ways to desalinate sea water. People living on boats have been doing it for years with water makers. (reverse osmosis systems.) Even low tech solar distillers work. It’s even possible to build small scale solar stills with junk washed up on the beach. It might be a skill worth learning.


Something to think about before you get thirsty. 


-Sixbears

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Economic Indicator



One of my personal economic indicators is my car repair situation. When things are going really well I like to have the garage do most of the work. During hard times I work on my own cars. In the last couple of years I’ve really felt the need to save money where I can. During this new period of high inflation it’s even more critical than ever. 


I don’t have a garage so I have to work exposed to the elements. Worse than a little rain is the bugs. There’s nothing like having a deer flies land on you while your greasy hands are trying to install something. It’s even worse in the winter cold. Imagine changing a water pump on the side of the road in -30 temperatures. It’s not a fond memory. In the past year I’ve gone back to dealing with the discomforts in the interests of economy. 


My car recently passed state inspection. The garage noted that while the front bake pads were legal they were getting thin. He helpfully sent me off with an estimate for replacing the pads and rotors. Like that’s going to happen. In a few weeks I’ll be changing the pads. Currently the rotors are fine and since I’m changing the pads early they’ll stay fine. 


More tools have been added to my collection and they’ve paid for themselves on the first jobs. The Blazer had the dreaded check engine light come on. Before the availability of cheap code readers that was always a trip to the garage. Yesterday I hooked it up and discovered it was a minor leak in the pollution system. All the possible repairs are cheap. Just making sure the gas cap was on on securely might have fixed the problem. 


Keeping the vehicles in good repair is essential right now. Replacing them is not in the budget. Besides, you can’t bug out in a vehicle that’s sitting up on blocks. 


-Sixbears


Monday, June 27, 2022

April 12, 1865



Confederate troops fired on Ft. Sumpter starting the US civil war. 


The division was caused by slavery. Some revisionists would like to say it was about “states rights.” While that might technically be true the right they wanted to protect was the right to keep slaves.


In the modern world slavery is recognized for the evil it is. There is nothing more basic than having control of your own body. Slave owners could even tell a slave who they could make love to. Slave owners had control over female slave’s babies. It was a dark time in our History.


Naturally, escaped slaves would flee to free states where their rights were respected. The slave states did not like that and got certain laws passed. Those laws required people in free states to capture escaped slaves and send them back. Those laws finally broke the nation as the free state people were having none of it. 


Those who forget History are doomed to repeat it.


-Sixbears

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Satellite Messaging



I’ve had a Garmain Inreach mini since 2019. So how’s that been working out for me? In short, pretty darn well. 


They use the reliable Iridium satellite system. The system pretty much gives you world wide coverage. That matters to me as I’m often beyond the range of cell towers. In fact, I can’t even get cell service at my house. 


The mini works best in conjunction with a smart phone. I’m using my old phone that no longer has an active subscription plan. While the mini works fine alone some things work much better using a phone app. The mapping function really needs a phone screen. Messaging is more convenient using a cell phone than hunting for the letters one by one on the mini. 


The SOS feature is a covered button right on the mini. That’s a great feature if you ever need assistance anywhere on the planet. The service can check your GPS location and send the appropriate aid. The messaging feature is useful in an emergency too as you can give details of your situation that will help the rescuers. 


The Garmin has a lot of features and it’s worth checking to see if they are right for you. There are now a number of other Iridium based messaging systems so it’s worth comparing. They have different plan requirements and offer other things beside simple text messages. Personally, I use messaging, weather updates and maps the most. 


The big thing for me is the piece of mind knowing that SOS button is there. I don’t send a lot of messages but when I do I’m glad I can. Last winter our grid, Internet, and phones went down. I stuck a shovel in the snow out in the yard with a clear view of the sky and hung the mini on the handle. From inside my warm house I connected using bluetooth with my old cell phone. Thanks to the satellites we were able to tell family members we were fine. 


I always take it with me when hiking, on the scooter, or out boating. 


They’ve come out with a Garmin inreach mini2 that’s supposed to be an upgrade. Since mine still works I’m not going to bother. There are some good articles comparing different companies and systems but make sure they connect to the Iridium system. That’s the key to communication beyond the reach of cell phones. 


-Sixbears


Saturday, June 25, 2022

Alternative Energy Dead Ends



I’ve been interested in alternative energy for decades. Some experiments worked out really well: solar electric, batch solar hot water, waste veggie oil powered vehicles, cold well water refrigeration -a lot of stuff. 


There are some notable alternative energy projects I didn’t do for various reasons. The big one was wind energy. Plenty of places have good locations for wind power. My location isn’t one of them. It’s not the price of the wind generator so much as the price of the tower. When in the mountains fairly tall towers are needed to get above turbulence that can rip your windmill apart. There was a guy in town who had one on too short a tower. Periodically the darn thing would throw blades like giant spears of death. He’s lucky no one got killed. 


Micro hydro needs a good water flow with a sufficient gradient. That wasn’t going to happen with the trickle that comes from my well overflow. 


At one point I got way too deep into the design of methane digesters. There are farms that use animal waste to generate methane to run generators and stoves. It was the same energy source used in the movie “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.” The only problem is that you need a lot of farm animals to make a go of it -and you are shoveling lots of animal poop. Most farms have discovered they get better use from their animal wastes by composting everything to reduce fertilizer inputs. 


Anybody familiar with wood burning cars? During WWII a lot of gasoline vehicles were converted to run on wood chips. The wood was turned into gas with a big complicated mess of pipes and valves. There are people building wood gasifacation systems to this day. It’s more of a novelty that truly practical, unless you have special circumstances. I was tempted to build one, but it wouldn’t make financial sense to do so. There are some cool YouTube videos out there. 


As much as I loved to tinker with alternative energy I had some serious restrictions. It either would have to have a very good chance of working and saving money or be put together on the cheap from salvaged junk. Oh yeah, my lovely wife said I couldn’t burn the house down either. That was seriously tested when I built a heater to burn waste veggie oil. Let’s just say I had some fuel flow issues. 


After setting off smoke detectors on three floors and sending a plum of black smoke high into the air, my lovely wife put an end to the experiments. Too bad. It was just getting interesting.


-Sixbears






Friday, June 24, 2022

Power Outage Lessons



I guy I know had to deal with a six day power outage in Ohio not that long ago. He wasn’t prepared. 


Lucky for him he was able to borrow a small generator from a neighbor. Basically all he was able to do was to keep his fridge and freezer from thawing out. In spite of the triple digit heat he didn’t have enough power to run a single AC unit. They spent the whole time in their basement where it was cooler. 


The big lesson is that he wasn’t prepared at all. Another thing he learned was that generators can be expensive to run. He spent $50/day on gasoline. 


You’ve got to ask yourself if you really need a freezer. I don’t think I have much more than $50 worth of food in my refrigerator's freezer compartment. Many years ago I owned a very large freezer and would stock up by buying food in bulk. Even back then the math didn’t work out for me. Electricity costs ate up any savings from bulk buying. If you fill your freezer with wild game and caught fish your numbers will be different than mine were. 

 

All my serious food storage doesn’t require refrigeration or freezing. It’s freeze dried, dehydrated, dry stored or canned. 


If you plan on a lot of frozen foods in your preps you’d better have a way to keep it frozen. Preferably one that doesn’t cost a fortune like a thirsty generator. However, you’ll probably choke when you see how many solar panels and batteries it takes to run a big freezer. 


If you have something like medication that needs refrigeration it might be worth investing in a tiny cooler type fridge. Make sure to get one with a compressor, not thermoelectric. The compressor types sip power while the thermoelectric are power hungry and don’t really cool that well anyway. 


Something to think about.


-Sixbears


Thursday, June 23, 2022

More Stupid Drug Store Issues



A while back I posted how an automated notification sent me on a while goose chase to get my lovely wife’s prescription filled. It’s almost a 100 mile round trip but the drug store is in a program that saves us hundred’s of dollars every month. 


So my lovely wife gets the drug store on the phone and they say her meds will be ready after 10 a. m.. Fine. I drive out there, taking the scooter because gas ain’t cheap. There’s one heck of a line at the drive through and I wait over 40 minutes to talk with the pharmacist. I’m patient, but it’s starting to wear thin.


She tells me I’m a day early. She does not care that I had confirmation on the phone that I could pick up the meds. Just to make things interesting, the pharmacy will be closed the next four days due to staffing issues. If everything goes perfectly I might be able to pick my wife’s meds before she has medical issues. I probably shouldn’t mention that this is a Walgreens in Littleton NH, but the truth is the truth. 


Well, it is what it is. Rather than have the whole day turn into a bust I did a little detour. The road up to Week’s State Park in Lancaster NH is open. There’s a new little shack near the entrance. My first thought was that they were now charging to go up the road. Nope, there was just a young guy there to give out information. The road is a pleasant little ride on a scooter. Great views.



While I was at I figured might as well take a selfie:




Got my good side too!


-Sixbears



Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Appliances



When money is tight it’s tempting to cheap out when replacing major appliances. Sometimes you can get away with it, sometimes you can’t.


First off, I’m going to mention two names. Samsung appliances, pretty much across the board, are terrible. That’s what the appliance repair guys tell me. Then there’s my experience years ago with Maytag. They were still advertising  “the lonely Maytag repair man.” The guy was all alone with nothing to do due Maytag quality being so good. When I bought mine they were just starting to make them in China. Worse washing machine I ever owned. The repairman came to the house twice and never got it to stop leaking oil. 


Rule of thumb when buying appliances is to get commercial grade if you can afford it. They are expensive, but cheap in the long run. Too bad my budget doesn’t run that way. If you have to pick one appliance to go commercial I’d go with the clothes washer. 


Dryers tend to last a fairly long time for most brands. If you don’t mind mismatched appliances you can get some real bargains on the used market for dryers. 


All the appliance guys use Bosch dishwashers. Not cheap, but I got mine gently used for $50 because it didn’t fit the previous owner’s kitchen remodel. Great bargain. Washing dishes by hand isn’t the end of the world either. 


Where you can save money is refrigerators. The trick is to avoid bells and whistles. Don’t get things like ice makers in the door. Go simple and you can go cheap. Of course, there is always commercial grade but that’s a lot of money where a cheap simple fridge will usually do the job. 


Stoves are generally pretty trouble free or only require inexpensive repairs. Even Samsung stoves aren’t terrible. The one thing you have to do to avoid premature stove death is to avoid the self clean function. The high heat generated by that function will age the stove like crazy. 


When appliances are out of warranty don’t be afraid to go to YouTube university and repair them yourself. Might as well give it a go if your other option is to throw it out. I don’t know about your budget but I’m not in a hurry to do that. 


-Sixbears

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

My Kid Proves Me Wrong



For years I’ve been saying that precious metals have a problem as a store of wealth. I said you can’t gas up the car and pay the attendant with a piece of gold. Nor can you go to a restaurant and get a couple of meals with gold. 


Then my daughter tells me about a trip her and her husband went on. They wanted to go on a long car trip but had very little money. What they had was a pile of gold watch cases. My son-in-law once worked for a jeweler. The old guy gave a bunch of scrap to my son-in-law when the jewelry shop closed down. 


So here’s what they did. When getting low on gas they’d pull into a town with a pawn shop. After pawning one of the cases they’d have enough money for a tank of gas and a couple of meals. Rinse and repeat for the whole trip. 


So while they couldn’t actually pay the gas station in gold, they were able to do the next best thing. My own kid showed me I forgot to account for individual ingenuity when it comes to precious metals. 


-Sixbears

Monday, June 20, 2022

Electric rates



Eversource, my local electrical company, is set to double electrical rates by August 1, 2022. Other parts of the bill won’t be going up so in effect it’s about a 50% increase. That’s not something I wanted to hear. 

I shouldn’t be surprised. Some back of the envelope calculations showed that electric heat would actually be cheaper than #2 heating oil. That’s probably no longer the case. At least I now know. 

My winter heating options are more limited than I’d like. I’ve a propane heater sitting on my porch that will probably never get installed. It was going to be backup as it can run without electrical power. The price of propane is discouraging enough for me to put the install off indefinitely. 

Right now my best options are more insulation, reduce the square footage of the house we heat, and firewood. I like using compressed sawdust fire blocks in my woodstove. The local lumber yard will deliver them free if you buy them a pallet at a time. Not doubt the price of those and availability could be an issue. What I’m down to is old school regular firewood. At least I live in the woods surrounded by trees. It’s a lot of work, but beats going broke or freezing. 

-Sixbears

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Drought Map



I just checked New Hampshire’s current drought Map: https://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/CurrentMap/StateDroughtMonitor.aspx?NH 


As of right now things are looking pretty good. I was concerned at the end of winter. The snow pack wasn’t that great going into the warmer weather. It looks like we’ve had enough rain to keep things under control. That’s a relief. 


We’ve been fortunate. I’ve friends and family in other parts of the country dealing with triple digit temperatures. We’ve had pleasant days in the mid 70s during the same time period. It looks like we are not going to be affected by heat domes in the near future. 


If conditions stay good it’ll be great for local agriculture. I might be stocking up on local foods at the end of the summer. For me that will mean mostly potatoes, squash, carrots, beans, and apples. Might be a bad time for anything grown in California. There are other regions also suffering from drought and heat. You might want to see what your area grows and how that’s working out. 


My dad used to tell me stories about when he was a kid. On Christmas he would get an orange in his Christmas stocking. It was a big deal. I always remember him thoroughly enjoying oranges as an adult. He was delighted that he could get one anytime he wanted. 


We may be reaching a point in the not too distant future where certain foods will once again be a rare treat. 


-Sixbears

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Kind of a Jerk



Elon Musk is kind of a jerk. The richest man in the world is pretty thin skinned. A little criticism and he freaks out. Just look at how quickly he fires people who say anything he doesn’t like. He’s really quick to cut off a person’s livelihood. Now imagine living on Mars where he could cut off your very air. It’s not like you could strike out on your own.

Actually that must be the dream of all bosses. Talk about a captive workforce.

So that got me thinking of the Great Resignation. One of the big things behind people willing to quit their jobs is the ability to get another one, usually at higher pay. That little bit of freedom is driving businesses nuts. 

There are other ways people are kept in check. I bet you know people who are only working because they need the medical insurance. If you have a chronic medical condition or are supporting someone who does, you are stuck. 

Student debt is another method of control. That keeps the hamsters on the wheel. 

High housing prices and the price of necessities keep us in chains too. 

From the viewpoint of Wall Street things are working out just fine. Now once they cool the economy and increase the unemployment rate, those pesky job resigners will have no choice but to take what’s given them. 

At least they can’t turn our air off . . . yet.

-Sixbears

Friday, June 17, 2022

Cheaper than the library



High fuel prices make for some weird economic decisions. I was talking to my  niece and we figured out it was cheaper for her to buy a book online than to borrow it from the library. That’s not an electronic book but an actual paper and ink book. A good part of that is living out in the country where everything is a fair drive down the road. 

I never thought I see the day. The only thing that makes sense is that fuel prices have not been fully integrated into home delivery yet. Someone is eating the cost. That can’t go on forever. Of course, the delivery van is not delivering one book to the countryside but hundreds or thousands of items all over. It’s a lot more efficient than your lone trip to the city library.

My wife is a bit concerned with all the packages showing up at our house. However, I’m getting some stuff delivered while that’s still an economical option. It’s not like the bank is going to pay me any worthwhile interest.

Speaking of high fuel prices, my neighbor was talking about how she really made out with her heating oil prebuy last heating season. She was still paying $2.75 when prices had skyrocketed to over $5.00. She’s not sure if her oil company will even offer a prebuy option this coming winter. 

Just to make things interesting, I remember some years back during another price spike one company had amazing prebuy options. A lot of people signed up and sent in their checks. Oil prices continued to go up and the company just plain disappeared. The remaining oil companies struggled to meet demand as people were left high and dry. No doubt there will be scams this time around too. People have short memories.

With transportation and heating costs going up we’ve got to take a good hard look at how we do things. You may discover weird stuff like buying a book is cheaper than borrowing it for free.

-Sixbears

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Heads up on food storage



Just thought I’d give everyone a heads up. Prices of some dehydrated emergency foods have come down. They aren’t quite at 2019 prices, but we probably won’t see those again for some time -if ever. However, some products have dropped a lot from their highs. You still have to shop around. 


They aren’t the most economical way to store food. You can do a lot better buying things like rice, dried beans, and oatmeal in bulk. 


There are advantages that make it worth having. 25 year storage is a big one, of course. Ease of preparation is nothing to sneeze at. Usually it’s just a matter of adding boiling water. In fact, in a pinch you could rehydrate with cold water and still safely eat them. Their compact size and light weight are good if you are traveling. 


I like to take some when car camping. Sometimes it’s nice not to have to leave the campground to go food shopping when normal supplies run low. With the price of gas right now they could pay for themselves by reducing the number of trips you have to make. 


If you ever have to bug out they are easy to take along. I recommend actually taste testing a few meals to see what you like. There’s no sense in have food storage that don’t want to eat. 


-Sixbears