Saturday, April 30, 2022

Is the game broken?

Life is a game. When growing up kids learn the rules and expectations of the game. As folks get older they learn the game isn’t exactly as they were taught. Maybe it starts out when as a kid you discover Santa gives much nicer gifts to the rich kids. If Santa isn’t real, what else isn’t real?

For some people the flaws in the game hit them harder than others. A few years ago my lovely wife and I met an interesting person while we were camping in the National Forest. She was living in her van full time. That’s not all that unusual. What’s unusual is how she got there. Up until 2008 she was a college professor. The collapse of the housing market hit her particularly hard. She went from living the middle class dream to being homeless.

Then she realized that those who caused the crisis pretty much got away with it. The banks were bailed out and the regular people took it on the chin. Maybe you were one of those people?

The inequality of the whole thing broke her and she rebelled. She quit her job. Then she ran up over $30,000  debt on her credit cards. Mostly she took really nice vacations around the world. When her credit ran out she bought the van and disappeared. Having the banks get stuck with her bills was her way of striking out against them. She was getting by doing some sporadic Internet work under an assumed name. Mostly she used public libraries. 

Since the pandemic a lot of people’s expectations and experiences changed. Take the nature of work for instance. I know a lot of people who vow to never step in an office again. Once they starting working from home they knew they didn’t need to go back. Others have decided they’ll go back to work, but will not sell they labor cheaply ever again. 

It was also a shock to see people you know die and others suffer long covid. 

Personally I find all this to be . . . interesting. 

I probably should worry, but I don’t. For me I noticed the game was broken long before I met that woman in the van. However, it was to my advantage to mostly pretend it wasn’t broken. Mostly. 


Friday, April 29, 2022

Student Debt

So there’s serious talk about forgiving student debt. Back when I first went to college I dropped out rather than go into debt. It took 19 years for me to go back to college and that was part of a retraining program after a work injury. 

So how to I feel about forgiving student debt? I’ll all for it. Why not do something for the little people instead of the ultra wealthy for a change? There are plenty of programs that benefit the rich. When a Starbucks barista pays more in taxes than a billionaire there’s something wrong. 

Student debt was taken on by people who were told they could pay it off easily with their high paying jobs. There’s a lot less of those jobs than people expected. Worse yet, you could be forced to drop out of college through no fault of your own yet still have the debt. 

College has gotten stupid expensive at the same time having a degree has less value. 

There are plenty of people who’ve joined the military with the hope of getting college assistance. Think about it though, you have to put yourself in a kill or be killed situation just to go to college? Needing money for college should not be the driving force behind joining the military. You should serve for other reasons and not out of economic necessity.

Forgiving student debt would be a huge boost to the economy. Maybe those young people would start buying houses and starting families again? 

At any rate this discussion is probably moot anyway. After many months of student loans being suspended, a whole lot of people will not pay if it starts up again. A taste of freedom is a powerful thing.


Thursday, April 28, 2022

Gun Safes

There are two routes to go when it comes to gun safes. Either go cheap with basically a steel box or spend $7000+ for actual fire safety. Everything in the middle is a waste of money. 

A basic steel box will keep the kids and mentally unstable people safe. If you want to upgrade a bit change the original lock for something better. Find a tight space to wedge the safe in and bolt the heck out of it. I squeezed mine into a tight nook and added more anchoring points. The idea is that the placement doesn’t leave much room to get leverage on the safe. Then again, a grinder with a cutting wheel can make short work of it.

Most “fireproof” safes don’t provide much protection in the real world. When I was a firefighter I never saw one actually save the guns. Many also provide even less security than a basic steel box. Some of them are built with such thin metal they can be cut with a regular skill saw. Fireproofing is often just sheet rock. That’s why they are so heavy. It’s because of drywall, not steel. 

A cheap way to upgrade a cheap steel safe is with electronic sensors. A buddy of mine has a sensor package that monitors heat, humidity, and motion. When tripped it sends an alert to his phone. One time it went off when there was a 3.0 earthquake so they do work. 

Probably my best gun safe security is that it is pretty well hidden. If you can’t find it, you can’t rob it.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022


While my attention was somewhere else the stock market took at tumble. I was having a great day. The garage was finally able to get my car in for some tires and a wheel bearing. An old friend connected with me and we shared coffee and conversation. My mechanic is retiring so we discussed his future plans. 

Before going into town I put a big batch of New England Baked beans in the crockpot. It’s nice to come home to a warm house and a traditional dinner. 

Then I checked the stock market and saw that it took a tumble. That did nothing to harsh my mellow. Maybe if I had more skin the game it would make a difference. For some folks the stock market is a real emotional roller coaster. Seems like a waste of energy to get upset about it. 

Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the market had a 1920s type crash. In fact, I’ve been kinda expecting a hard crash for years. It’s amazing how financial tricks have been able to kick the can down the road for as long as it has. I’ve learned not to bet against the financial gnomes. 

When I was younger I was taught the market was a way to invest in companies and for them to get financing to grow. In my old and bitter years I’ve come to the conclusion that the markets aren’t much different from the rigged games in Vegas. 

Just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Musk and Twitter

So Elon Musk just acquired Twitter. Just goes to show you can have more money than sense. 

No doubt he’s going to generate a lot of press about all the changes he’s going to make. In reality there probably won’t be that many on an operational level. Major changes would probably alienate enough of the regular customers to tank the platform. It would soon become as successful as Myspace.

Of course my view is that of an outsider. I’m not a twit so I don’t Twitter. 


Monday, April 25, 2022

Social Media is Gasoline

It blows up every little spark of conflict. The vast majority of people would never talk to each other in person the way they do on-line. For one thing, in person you can get punched in the nose. Keyboard warriors are bold until they have to actually face consequences for what they say. 

I’ve been off Facebook for some time -well before the last presidential election. It did wonders for my blood pressure and mental health. However, Facebook is a persistent little monster. While setting up my new computer it somehow reactivated my old account. There was a frantic scrabble trying to turn it off again. Then it forced me to figure out how to set it up for permanent deletion. Supposedly there’s a 30 day countdown until it goes away for good. 

Internet communities are both good and bad. It’s good that you can find other people to to celebrate your love for 17th century English poetry. It’s bad because bigots can find other hateful bigots. It’s said that reasonable people can disagree. That’s true, except for on the Internet. Few people have learned the gentle art of disagreeing without becoming disagreeable. 

On the Internet all opinions appear to have the same weight. There’s usually enough people in any subgroup to reaffirm each other’s beliefs. It doesn’t matter if you promoting disgusting things like cannibalism or wearing crocks to the office. There are groups that think those things are okay. 

Of course, this sort of communication is new. We are in a steep learning curve. There will probably be more checks and balances built into the system as time goes on. Who knows, maybe we’ll just have to start teaching Internet politeness to kids in school. 


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Scooter Trip

We finally got a break from the rain and occasional snow. Some errands were piling up and I decided to use the scooter to run them. My lovely wife gets a major discount on one of her medications. The catch is the only pharmacy in the area offering that deal is over 40 miles away. Both cars are in need of work. One is getting fixed on Tuesday, the other has to wait until May 5th. With the break in the weather the scooter looked like a good idea. When I left the house temperatures were in the 40s. Briefly they got into the low 50s. I bundled myself up and it wasn’t a problem.

I’m big guy on a little Honda PCX 150 scooter. Good thing the speed limits around here top off at 55. Most of my travel was on 40 – 50 mph roads. That’s where the scooter performs well. Sure, once today I hit 65 on the little bike, but that was downhill with a tailwind. 

In the course of the day I hit the pharmacy, two different Tractor Supplys and did a week’s worth of groceries. The previous owner had purchased a nice set of saddle bags that go on and off the scooter in about a minute. Very handy for cargo. In the end I did about 125 miles through the hills on about 6 bucks worth of gas. Not too bad at all.

I also had one heck of a good time. It’s a fun little bike.


Saturday, April 23, 2022

Freedom of the open road?

In late 2019 I was thinking about doing the full time RV gig. It was something of a passing thought and I’m glad it passed. What happened is that my lovely wife and I had spell of wet and cool tent camping. You get crazy ideas after sitting around in a wet tent. Good thing the feeling passed. 

RV living is not what it used to be. Just a few years ago it was much easier. There were a lot more free camping spots.  Campgrounds were less expensive and fuel was cheap. Free public land has been closed to camping due to overuse, litter, property destruction and unruly behavior. There are even fewer Walmarts that will let you stay overnight. 

During the pandemic RV camping became really popular. Lots of new people got into the lifestyle. Too many new people didn’t know how to behave. Disgusted mom and pop campgrounds sold out to big corporations. The new owners put in new rules and higher prices. RV manufactures had difficulty getting parts. Demand was high and a lot of RVs were slapped together. Poor quality will plague the industry for years. 

Tent camping doesn’t look too bad right now. My lovely wife and I have a week booked on the coast of Maine this summer. I’ve also got some stealth scooter camping planned. I’ve a black cover for the scooter and a small dark green tent. I don’t have to get all that far off the road to disappear. 


Friday, April 22, 2022

The Year of Gardens

The price and availability of food are issues we have to deal with. I don’t think food will be unavailable. Good food at a good price might be. A lot of my friends have decided to go all in with gardens this year. They aren’t new to gardening. This is the year those gardens are going to be bigger and more intensely managed. 

Unfortunately, my gardening space is fairly limited and already maxed out. What I do have is access to good fishing and wild foods. If you’ve noticed the price of good quality fresh fish lately you many have gone into shock. I’ve heard that the price of lobster is expected to be in the $100 - $125 a pound range. That’s insane. Fresh lobster rolls from the coast of Maine will be off my menu. What will be on the menu is crayfish from the lake outside my door. 

Our household already eats beans and rice dishes on a regular basis. Fresh herbs and veggies thrown into the mix makes a big difference. Make sure you are well stocked on spices and know how to use them. It might be a good time to expand your palate. I grew up with the New England spice rack: salt and pepper. By learning to use spices the same basic ingredients can be a variety of dishes: Asian, Mexican, Indian, and others. Heck, even a good hot sauce can make the same basic foods a lot more interesting. 

If you can’t garden this year, maybe pick up some heirloom seeds anyway and you’ll have them for next year.


Thursday, April 21, 2022

Breakup of Russia

We live in interesting times. No matter what happens on the battlefield Russia lost the war. In the unlikely event it could take over all of Ukraine it would still have lost the war. There’s a big difference between taking a country and holding it. 

One of Russia’s main goals was to reduce the threat of NATO. Instead, NATO hasn’t been this strong in years. One of the big lessons of the Ukraine invasion is the importance of being in NATO. Finland is massing tractors on the border just in case. 

So what happens to Russia after the peace is signed? One thing is that the staggering level of its loss of manpower will come out. Most of those dead soldiers come from the poorer parts of Russia. Like poor boys from rural Alabama the military is one of the few ways out. Just like always, it’s a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight. There’s a lot of districts in Russia you’ve probably never heard of who are going to be upset with the outcome.

To add to the unrest the Russian economy is circling the drain. That’s not going to play well in the hinterland. Just to make it interesting, Russia will no longer be able to afford to enforce the peace the way they used to. Iron fists are expensive. 

One thing to remember about Russia is that it’s an empire. There are the remnants of many different countries within the border. Many have their own institutions, languages, religions, and ethnic differences. In a few short year those former countries could very likely be countries again. It all boils down to how long they will tolerated sending their wealth and manpower to Moscow. It might not be all that long in the big scheme of things.

Geography is going to be a really really interesting subject.


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Deals on used cars

If anyone has looked at the price of used vehicles recently you know how bad prices have gotten. There’s been delays getting new cars so used are even more popular than ever. Even old vehicles like my Blazer are selling for two or three times what I paid for it. While I could make a profit, buying a suitable replacement is way out of my budget. 

In spite of that, there are still some good deals out there. The catch? You know there’s always a catch. The cars selling for decent prices have manual transmissions. Most drivers don’t know how to drive a stick. It’s not that hard to learn and you’ll save a bundle.

You may even be getting a more reliable vehicle. Take my 2015 Nissan Versa Note for example. The CVT automatic transmission that came with that model is garbage. Even when new the performance was terrible. It accelerated like a fat man jogging. They quickly went downhill from there. On the other hand, the 5 speed manual gave better performance and has much better reliability. 

All you have to do is master one skill. It’s a skill with immediate return on the time invested.


Tuesday, April 19, 2022


America and freedom, heck yeah! Ain’t freedom great? Don’t we all love freedom? Then why do so many Americans oppose other people’s freedoms?

Freedom of religion.

Freedom from religion.

Freedom to marry who you want to marry.

Freedom to choose your own medical procedures.

Freedom follow your own political beliefs.

The freedom to believe unpopular beliefs.

Basically, people want the freedom to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. 

How hard is that? All we have to do is mind our own business. 

Of course, if we all did that politicians couldn’t use identity politics and cultural wars to drum up support. Instead of getting us all riled up against each other we might look at how so many politicians sell us out. We just might see how badly politicians are at their job of running the country.

Just a thought from my little corner of New Hampshire, The Live Free or Die state.


Monday, April 18, 2022

April options

Today’s weather is supposed to be fairly decent. Decent for the Great North Woods in April kinda decent -mostly sunny and temps in the 50s. I’m thinking of taking the scooter a couple towns over for its state required inspection. After renewing the registration the inspection should take place within ten days. It would be nice to get that done before the northeaster pummels us with sleet and snow. The weather folks are predicting 3.5 inches in our area. 

You know that old saying: “April showers bring May flowers?” Here it’s more like:  “April blizzards freeze your gizzards.”

One spring we postponed a wilderness canoe trip due to getting 5 inches of snow. The next weekend we went and temperatures got all the way up to 70. It was a beautiful trip. 

Taking the scooter for a ride to get the inspection would be a fun indulgence. What definitely has to be done is to prepare for the storm. I want to move a lot of woodstove fuel onto the porch. It’s a lot nicer to get it from the porch than from under a tarp in the yard during a snowstorm. 

By the end of the week better weather will be here again. It’s all part of living in out in the country.


Sunday, April 17, 2022

Back in the USSR?

Not likely. One of the big mistakes people make about Russia is that they still think of it as the USSR. It’s not. The whole country is only half as economically powerful as California. With that paltry economy they’ve got to cut corners somewhere. Add in the high level of corruption that comes with military spending and we have Russian tanks being towed away by Ukrainian Tractors. 

What Russia does have is a robust nuclear force. So what does that make them? Basically they are North Korea. If it wasn’t for the nukes no one would take them seriously anymore. 

The problem is, they have nukes. That’s about all the have and that’s dangerous. When your only working tool is a giant hammer, it’s really tempting to use the hammer. Without nukes NATO could push Russia back to their borders over a long holiday weekend and still have time to watch the football game. 

Russia has another nuke issue. Some annalists are claiming Russia thinks of tactical nukes and strategic nukes as being totally different animals. If you think that way it makes sense to lob a nuclear artillery shell on the battlefield. 

The West thinks all nukes are nukes. If those mindsets are true, it’s easy to see how things could quickly spiral into a nuclear war. 

Russia is in deep trouble. Their economy is basically extraction based. Their big money maker is oil exports. Minerals are strong. They also export a lot of wheat. What they don’t do a lot of is add value to products. They are pretty limited in what they can do. It doesn’t help that their education system is also in bad shape. Most of their high technology toys are imports so sanctions are really hurting that sector. 

Demographics are against Russia as its population is both aging and shrinking. Anyone with skills and ambition is trying to leave the country. Putin is aware of this. I wonder if he was thinking it was now or never to flex Russian muscle. Apparently it was already too late. 

If it wasn’t for those darn nukes we wouldn’t worry. Because they have nukes we must beware the sick and wounded Russian bear.


Saturday, April 16, 2022

Feeling great joy

Well that was interesting. Did you ever do one of those jobs that took way longer than it should have? Back when I owned a decommissioned diesel ambulance it gifted me one of those experiences. The 7.3 Powerstroke engine had a fuel filter right in the middle of the engine. The first time I changed the filter it took hours and some blood. Eventually that filter could be changed in under 20 minutes -in the dark -in the rain. 

Changing the rear tire on my little Honda PCX 150 scooter gave me another one of those experiences. I thought that after all the hassle of getting the new tire mounted and inflated, putting the wheel on would be easy. It would have been had I not tried to put parts together out of order -about six times in a row. Like an idiot I’d forgotten exactly how it came apart. Then the shop manual was a just a bit vague in that one section. 

Eventually I stopped assuming I knew what I was doing and figured it out for real. 

The I went for a glorious ride about the lake. While a short ride, it was a joyful one. Nothing seized up or fell off. Success. 

To make matters even more enjoyable, the ice had just melted off the lake. That’s my unofficial start to spring. Ice-out was about a week ahead of the average, around April 21. There’s about a month’s leeway when that will happen, from about April 10 to May 10, give or take. While it hasn’t been a super warm spring here, there’s been plenty of rain and wind to break up the ice. So between having my toy ready and the lake open, it was a good day. 

Of course, there’s more rain and even some snow in the forecast, but that’s life in the Great North Woods. 


Friday, April 15, 2022


It took some doing but I finally got the bead set on my scooter tire. I learned an important lesson too: it’s not going to be reasonable to do a roadside tire swap. A small 12 volt compressor doesn’t have the zip necessary to do the job. My cousin’s pancake compressor sorted it right out. 

The one thing I didn’t do was the old explosive aerosol trick. Yes, it often works, but it’s not exactly safe. Wrapping a ratchet strap around the tire helped. A little soapy water helped. I even kept it behind the warm woodstove overnight to soften the rubber. Still wasn’t enough. 

So the roadside repair thing might not work, but I’ve learned that with a good compressor the job can be done at home. That saves a few bucks. There’s always a patch kit and pump on the scooter so at least emergency repairs can be done. 

The tire’s fixed. The bike is registered. Insurance still current. Time to put it all back together and go for a test ride. With the price of gas the way it is the scooter will get a lot of use. 


Thursday, April 14, 2022

Catching up

I took a long break from the blog. Basically, there wasn’t a lot going on. Being in a high covid risk group our household locked down pretty hard. That’s the choice we made. Travel was curtailed. We took in our niece for the duration. Frankly, it just wasn’t that interesting. As things open up we are doing more. 

In my previous post I mentioned doing some work on the Honda PCX 150 scooter. Currently the issue is setting the bead on the new tire. That should be sorted in a day or two and then the scoot can be put back together. 

The weather hasn’t been all that great anyway. The snow just melted out of the yard. The ice has started to break up on the lake. It’s open water around the edges. The ice has turned dark and there’s a lot of pencil ice. It shouldn’t be too much longer. Right now it’s in the 40s and raining. Still woodstove weather. 

One of the things I plan on doing with the scooter is to continue riding the Northeast Back Country Discovery Route. Most of the Maine and NH sections were knocked off last summer. It’s been hilarious to be on back roads with giant expensive ADV bikes. The scooter has been able to go everywhere but the more technical sections. Deep water crossings are also an issue. As long as I go slow and avoid the worse sections it’s pretty safe. 

In 2023 there will be another running of the Scooter Cannonball. That’s worth looking up if you like to see crazy people doing stupid things. I’m really tempted to participate. With that in mind I’m getting in better condition and learning how to do roadside scooter repair. Even if I don’t do the official run I might do a cross country trip on my own. 

Years ago I was tempted to participate in the Florida Challenge. It’s a small sailboat race down the Gulf Coast of Florida, ending in the Keys. While I didn’t run it, my wife and I took our Oday 19 sailboat down the coast and covered about 90% of the course. We took longer and really got to enjoy the experience. 

While I’m getting older I think I have a few more adventures in me yet. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Scooter project

The weather has not been cooperating with scooter projects. Between the rain and cold it’s been pretty nasty working conditions. I’m not as willing to work in the cold as I used to be. We’ve had some days where temperatures rose up into the 50s, but it doesn’t hit those temperatures until well into the afternoon. It takes time to warm up from those below freezing mornings. 

Currently I’m changing the rear tire on my Honda PCX 150. Every tool used is noted so that a scooter specific tool kit can be put together. The shop manual helps, but not quite every tool is covered, especially when things don’t go quite to plan. Right now I’m spending more time hunting down tools than actually doing the work. I wish I had a dedicated shop space but you make do with what you have. 

I’ve some long trips on the scooter planned and need to know how to do my own work. That can be the difference between a good trip and a failed one. 

Even though I didn’t have much time to work on the bike, I was able to remove the rear wheel. Next I’ll be replacing the tire. Mounting tires is something I haven’t done since I was a teenager. At least I should have all the tools for that job. 

It’s been fun to turn wrenches again, especially for a project that’s not time critical. Better to learn how now than on the side of road far from home. 


Monday, April 11, 2022

What they say, what I see

Recently there was this report on how solar electric power doesn’t make sense for the the Northeast. The report had some seriously negative things to say about solar electric north of Boston. 

Over the weekend I went on a hundred mile trip across northern New Hampshire and northern Vermont. On the short trip, mostly along Rt. 2, we drove past thousands of solar panels. They were mounted on houses, barns, or mounted to stand alone arrays in fields. Apparently someone didn’t catch the report. 

My own solar electric system was installed over 20 years ago when the price of solar was much much higher than it is today. It still made sense for me. Back then the big markets for solar were NASA and northern California pot growers. In fact, after I installed my solar panels, I discovered a nondescript car parked a bit down the road. There was a guy in it watching my place with binoculars. On the second day I walked up and knocked on his driver’s side window. I invited him in for a coffee. The guy never said anything. He rolled up his window and drove away, never to be seen again.

But I digress. 

My system made sense at the time because the grid used to go down here all the time. The power company would not believe us when we called in to report the problem. They only had complaints from us. At the time almost all the other people on that power loop were seasonal cottages. Rather than get a big backup generator to power the house, we went with solar. It would handle all critical needs in an outage and provide power all the time for free too. Once I subtracted the cost of a quality generator, the price didn’t look too bad. 

What really sealed the deal for my solar array was the power company itself. My lovely wife called to complain about the poor service and constant outages. They insultingly told her there was nothing we could do about it. After she hung up the phone she turned to me and said we were getting solar. 

During an ice storm we lost power for about two weeks. The first couple of days some of the people around the lake fired up generators. Then they all ran out of gas. The roads were incredibly icy so going out for more gasoline was dangerous. That’s if you have found a gas station that had power to run the pumps. We had a lot of company over to watch movies and take showers at our house. Near the end we’d reached the point where either the sun would have to come out, the grid come back on, or we’d have to conserve power. As it happened the grid came back.  How do you put a price on that comfort and safety?

Anyway, it might be better to talk with people actually doing things that listen to some egg head’s report how it’s impossible.


Sunday, April 10, 2022

100 Year Old Battery Technology

Lead acid batteries have been around for over a hundred years. So how come with all the new lithium batteries out there are they still in common use? Odds are very good that the battery in your car is a lead acid battery -unless you drive a Tesla. There are good reasons a gas or diesel vehicle has a lead acid starting battery and a Tesla has lithium.

In short, price, weight and energy density. The battery in a fossil fuel vehicle has one major job, to start the vehicle. A lithium battery could do the job, but why spend the money on a much more expensive battery? Lead works. A Tesla has a huge battery bank. Lead acid is heavy as . . . well, lead. It also lacks the energy density of lithium. For electric cars to make any sort of sense at all a lighter and more energy dense battery is the way to go.

Lithium works great in power hand tools. The power and light weight make sense in something you have to lug around all day. Who wants to use a 50 pound cordless drill? Cell phones and other electronics benefit from compact and energy dense batteries. 

For a while Elon Musk’s power wall was going to be the big thing for off grid houses. You don’t hear that much about it lately. One model was discontinued and they’ve been tweaking the designs. They are  kinda spendy. Personally, I’m still using lead acid batteries with my house solar electric system. It’s a  huge price savings and the weight isn’t an issue since the house isn’t driving down the road at 80 mph. 

My small solar electric systems that I use for camping are still using lead acid. They are heavy, but the systems are small and only use one deep discharge battery. The weight penalty is acceptable. 

However, I did consider using a lithium battery for a 50 watt solar electric system I was going to bring on a long canoe trip. Weight was an issue in a canoe, especially when it came time to do a portage. As it turned out the trip didn’t come together so I never spent the money. 

Lithium batteries are pretty good, but expensive enough that you have to decide if your application really needs them or not. Industrial scale production brings the price down and that helps. In the long run lithium will probably be replaced with some cheaper and even more energy dense. There’s a lot of incentive to engineer in that direction.


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Long Term Solar Electric

Over 20 years ago I put in my first 400 watts of solar electric power. It was expensive but I’d recently sold a house and had some investment money. They are rigid monocrystalline panels. That type are more efficient than polycrystalline but also more expensive. Rigid panels are also longer lasting but heavier. However, as the old saying goes: quality only hurts once. 

I’ve added more panels to the array, but the original ones are still putting out excellent power. There’s been so little efficiency drop that it’s not noticeable. 

In addition to my house system I’ve four small solar electric systems. There’s a 105 watt rigid monocrystalline on a removable roof rack used for off-grid camping. I have a flexible 50 watt panel also for camping. That is a light weight panel so it can easily be moved around to follow the sun. There’s a 50 watt rigid panel that provides power to a remote shed. 

The last panel in regular use is a 10 year old extremely cheap 30 watt Chinese rigid moncrystalline mounted on the sailboat to charge electronics. That’s had a lot of abuse in harsh conditions and I’ve no idea how it keeps working. 

As you can see I’ve gone heavily into monocrystalline panels instead of polycrystalline. Mono panels are more efficient so take up less space and generally last longer. Polycrystalline do have an advantage in lower light conditions, along with the cost savings. 

The biggest issue with solar is the up front costs. After that the sun is free. Had I invested the money instead I’d have either lost it or spent it by now -judging how things have gone over the years. As it is, those old panels are quietly doing their job.


Friday, April 8, 2022

Russia must be stopped

The war in Ukraine is entering a protracted phase. It looks like the US is going to back Ukraine with a lend lease sort of a arrangement. In effect this has become a different sort of engagement, one of attrition. With the US and probably other NATO members backing Ukraine, it pits the manufacturing power of the West against Russia’s sanctioned crippled production. Russia can’t win that sort of conflict.

What it can do is kill a lot of people and commit a lot of war crimes. They are doing that now and it’ll probably get worse. Russia has decided it’s not going to back down. What they would really like to do is recover a lot of the old USSR territory. All the Ukraine, about half of Poland, the Baltic states, Moldova, and bits and pieces of other countries. It appears that’s the course they’ve committed to. 

In a conventional war NATO would eliminate Russian forces in short order. The big what ifs are chemical, biological and nuclear options. While that’s a risk for the west, it’s an even bigger risk for Russia. NATO ground forces would stop at the Russian border. Western nukes would not. 

Of course Russia has made some serious miscalculations already so who knows where this will go? One can hope their nuclear forces are in as bad a shape as their conventional ones but don’t count on it. 

The world is on the brink. Better buckle up buttercup.


Thursday, April 7, 2022

Pushing Spring

Here in the Great North Woods spring doesn’t exactly follow the calendar. It was sunny and in the 50s today, which was nice. Most of the snow around the house melted and I was able to get the motor scooter out of the basement. 

It was tempting to go for a ride, but logic and reason prevailed. The roads are still covered in winter sand. The back tire probably should be changed first. Then there’s the little issue of it not being inspected. At the end of the day it was the sand that put me off. One year I dumped my old KZ-900 after hitting sand on a mountain curve. Only needed about six stitches. Scars are reminders of lessons learned. 

Most nights it still gets below freezing, so there’s truly no hurry. The ice doesn’t leave the lake until about the third week of April. I’ve seen it stay around until the second week of May. 

As you can imagine gardening around these parts is a hasty affair. There’s a thin sliver between the last spring frost and first fall frost. People make it work. 


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Can’t afford an apartment

I’ve come to the realization that, if I had to, I’d be hard pressed to afford even a one bedroom apartment in town. It’s actually cheaper for me to live in my water front home on the lake. Good thing we bough the place when we did. 

Living out in the country allows all kinds of savings. The house has its own well and septic. There’s room to do projects that save me money. Cars can be repaired in the driveway. Fishing and hunting is a short walk away. One year we heated with dead wood gathered within walking distance of the house. The solar electric system provides a significant portion of our electricity. There’s a small garden. 

All these things have somewhat isolated me from price increases. Good thing as my income has not gone up in years. My return on this place is much better than most investment plans. 

The sad thing is that very few young people could do this today. Wages have not kept up with inflation. It’s very hard to gather enough money together to buy independence. No wonder the antiwork movement has taken off. If you can’t reap the rewards of the system, why even play the game?


Monday, April 4, 2022

Camping on the coast

It looks like, in spite of high gas prices, campgrounds are still booking up quickly. My lovely wife and I  just booked a week on the coast of Maine in July. We’ve been going to this campground since the kids were little. Now they bring their kids. 

Unlike a lot of campgrounds, this one is still owned by the same people. A lot of mom and pop campgrounds have sold out to big corporations. The new owners hike the rates, often doubling them or more. One campground we used to love in Florida doubled the rates, halved the size of the sites, and put in a bunch of restrictions. Unfortunately that’s a trend. 

For campers on a budget that’s a problem. A lot more people are now trying to camp free on Federal land. That’s great, but the more popular camping spots are overwhelmed. It doesn’t help that so many campers are destructive and leave a mess in their wake. Because of that there are places that have been closed. 

At least I didn’t buy into the RV market. Last year the average price of an RV was over $73,000. That’s just crazy. Heck, I’ve seen little teardrop campers going for over $60,000. That’s a lot of money for something that’s essentially a rolling bed. People are taking on $1,000/month payments and that’s before they even leave the driveway. Full hookup RV sites can be stupid expensive -if you can afford the fuel to even go anywhere. 

Then there’s the issue of tow vehicles. People are paying $100,000 for a truck capable of hauling a 5th wheel or a tow behind. That’s if they can even find a vehicle to buy.

This will be our first camping trip since early 2020. We’ve missed it. Hopefully we’ll figure out camping for next winter too. That’s totally up in the air as conditions are unsettled. However, when we do decide we can load up and be out the door quickly. Our record for packing up and leaving to go camping is 20 minutes. Good bug out practice too.


Sunday, April 3, 2022

Fossil Fuel Folly

Recent events clearly demonstrate the problems with being reliant on fossil fuels. It’s a serious security concern. Do you really want to be reliant on an oppressive anti-democratic government like Saudi Arabia -or Russia? 

European countries are now dealing with that very issue. On the bright side, spring is coming. Europe will not be nearly so reliant on Russia to keep from freezing. That will give them time to find other fuel sources for the near term. One thing European countries are doing is greatly accelerating their transition to renewable energy. Being good for the environment is one thing, but now national security is at stake.  Time to get serious. 

The US should also be getting serious. Our national security is at stake. Then again, the clean energy bit would be nice too. 

I had the great displeasure of experiencing a Texas fracking operation up close and personal. A drilling rig went up right across the road from my in-laws. It was awful. The house constantly vibrated. The noise never stopped. If the wind was wrong the air was filled with nasty choking chemicals. The crick that ran though the property had a nasty sheen of petroleum. Had that sort of pollution taken place here in New Hampshire there would have been hefty fines or perhaps even jail time. Things are different in TX. My in-laws didn’t have much of a problem with it but they are getting a tiny check from the oil company. I wonder how they’ll feel if their water well is contaminated too. 

On a personal level, I think I’m done purchasing heating oil. I’ve got to do my part, no matter how small. 


Saturday, April 2, 2022

Mud Season

Mud season is a real thing here in the Great North Woods. Lately we’ve been getting these depressing combinations of rain, freezing rain and even snow. There’s a bone deep chill that comes with heavy rain on days barely above freezing. 

On the bright side those are the days when the woodstove really shines. That wonderful radiant heat is just what the doctor ordered. The half gallon kettle is always on the stove. 

I’m looking forward for mud season to come to an end. There’s only so much one can do when everything turns to slop. It’s a lot harder to exercise outdoors. That’s annoying to me as outdoor activities are how I get into condition. 

Recently a leg injury has limited what I can do. Thank goodness that’s finally pretty much healed up. Now all I need is some decent weather so I can actually do things. 


Friday, April 1, 2022

Interest Rates Panic

People are panicking about the rise in interest rates. If you bought a house at a low rate with an adjustable mortgage that’s a reasonable reaction. People lose houses when that happens. It’s going to be bad for a lot of people. 

However, it is like they say, every crisis is also an opportunity. Back in the 80s I bought my first house with an 18% interest rate. Sounds insane, I know. It was also an adjustable rate. People thought I was nuts. Back then people were talking Weimer Republic rates of inflation. Since rates had shot up to 18% percent they thought there was no reason to see rates go much much higher. 

The funny thing is my monthly payment was really cheap, much less than the rent we were paying. House prices had collapsed because no one was buying. My wife and I picked up a small fixer-upper and moved in six weeks later. It was a great house for us. Every time the rate was adjusted my payment went down. During those years my lovely wife quit work for a few years to take care of our young children. 

Had we gone with the prevailing conventional wisdom at the time the opportunity would have passed us by. 

I am not saying the same thing will happen this time around. For all I know we could get to Zimbabwe rates. What I am saying is to look at the details and make your own decisions.