Monday, October 31, 2022

Reflections on Sailboat Shopping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, October 30, 2022

Back to Canada?

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

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

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

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

Hopefully the borders will still be open come July. 

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


Saturday, October 29, 2022

What a bargain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interesting times.


Friday, October 28, 2022

Are Nomad Days Over?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, October 27, 2022

Unusually warm

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Without a gasoline chainsaw

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Power Grid Heads Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, October 24, 2022

Long Strange Solar Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, October 23, 2022

How the war ends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, October 22, 2022

Remote Learning Stories

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

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

“A what?” I asked.

“A gap semester,” he said. 

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, October 21, 2022

Glorified Homelessness?

There’s a number of articles and videos about the downsides of van life. They make some pretty good points. There’s been a lot of social media posts on how great it is and they gloss over most of the problems. Some of these people haven’t really been out on the road that long. Get back to me after you’ve run low on funds and the transmission gives out on your van. If you can cope with that I’ll follow your channel. It’s not always sunsets on the beach. 

My lovely wife and I did basically the van life thing using a converted ambulance. We never did it for more than six months at a stretch. Believe me, it’s good to know that there’s a house to go back to if things go sideways. For example we had major brake issues while in Florida. My lovely wife was really worried how badly the garage would stick it to us. What if we couldn’t pay? I figured out we still had the ability to rent a car. Worse comes to worse I’d rent a car, clean out as much stuff out of the van as possible and drive home. We’d abandon the ambulance at the garage if the price was too high. 

It turned out we were able to cover the repair, but the garage had us worried for a while. Reviews of the garage were mixed but nobody else could fit us in. One garage wanted us to leave the vehicle and maybe they’d get to it in three weeks. When it’s your home you are kinda stuck. Leaving your vehicle for weeks is not an option. 

How you earn is a living while on the road is an issue. I’ve a small pension and that makes all the difference. Working on-line can be an option. I did it for a while back when I was involved with an on-line publication. However, I didn’t need daily connection. As long as I could download and upload files a few times a week I was golden. As it was I sometimes had to drive for miles to find a place with a good enough connection. 

If you stay in nice secure RV parks with all the services life can be easier, but it’s going to cost you. It might be cheaper to live in an apartment or even a house. Free camping on Federal land is cheap, but you’d better be self-sufficient for everything from power to security. Federal campgrounds are a pretty good deal, especially if you qualify for one of their discount programs. While they can be on the primitive side the campgrounds generally have potable water and bath houses. Some even have full hookups but those will cost more. 

Traveling alone can be rough. I was traveling with my lovely wife which helped a lot. If I was by myself I’d probably be perceived as a big creepy looking guy. Women definitely have to pay greater attention to their security. 

People think you can just pull into a Walmart parking lot and call it good. For one thing not all Walmarts even allow overnight parking. We were two people and a dog yet still felt insecure at some Walmarts. We moved on. When you are tired, or not feeling well, and need a place to stop, it can be stressful. 

I’ve got to agree. In a lot of ways van life can be gloried homelessness. It can be a good time and I’m not opposed to doing something like it again. However, you’ve got to keep your eyes open to the downsides. 


Thursday, October 20, 2022

Doom and Gloom is fun and all . . .

. . . but how are you set for bandages? It’s the simple things that can make a big difference. 

Let’s think about how most home medical kits are put into use. First of all, congratulations if you even have a first aid kit of any sort. That puts you ahead of a lot of people. 

Back to our thought experiment. Say someone gets a minor cut. The kit comes out. The wound is cleaned, sterilized and bandaged. If it is not so minor an injury a bigger patch is used and then you go to the hospital. Just one or two uses depletes significantly the average household first aid kit. That’s not normally a problem. The next time shopping is done the kits can be replenished. 

Now imagine that running off to the hospital is not an option. Then you need a deeper reserve of supplies. Even changing the bandages on a small wound can eat up supplies over a period of time. Now think of a bigger injuries for a longer period of time and you get some idea of the scale of the problem. The cheap kit from the big box store isn’t going to cut it. 

I’m assuming at least someone in the house has basic first aid skills. If you don’t it wouldn’t hurt to take a few courses. Then you have make sure there are enough “tools” for the job. Train to take care of fairly serious injuries on your own for some time. Stock supplies accordingly.

Do I have enough medical supplies? Not yet, but it’s writing blogs like these that make think of the possible problems. More supplies are on the shopping list.


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

After Ukraine Wins

Ukraine has to win. If not the fight will become a NATO war and NATO will win. Expect Russia to lose all of their gains including Crimea. They are actually going to be in a worse position than 2013. Ukraine had a lease agreement so that Russia could keep its base there. That won’t happen this time around. 

Expect Russia to have a change of management. I can’t believe the “news” pundits who are worried about what Putin will do. Russia has proven to be a paper tiger. All Putin can do is to threaten nuclear war. I don’t think he’ll get a chance to use a tactical nuke, even if he wants to. How much do you want to bet that western intelligence knows the status of all those tactical nukes? Odds are very long against them making it into the field. 

There’s the threat of strategic nukes. Maybe Putin is desperate and crazed enough to want to go down in radioactive flames. I seriously doubt he’d get the chance. Falling out of high windows is a common problem among Russian elites. It could be his turn. Don’t know if he’s that crazy but time will tell. Sure, it could all go south, but such is life. You play the odds and take your chances. If Russia isn’t stopped in Ukraine it will have to be stopped in Warsaw. 

The nukes will be issue, just like they were when the USSR broke up. That was dealt with. When the Russian Federation breaks up we already have a template to safe the stockpiles. The Russian Federation will break up. It’s not a country. It’s an empire formed by conquest. Already plenty of non-Russian people are worried that they give to Moscow and get nothing back. Then again, plenty of regular Russians have issues with management too. 

Some long range planners are concerned with what will happen to the territory that will be left after Russia breaks up. Who will fill the power vacuum? China was a concern. The Chinese may want to expand and take control of Russian natural resources. That might happen to a small degree but it won’t get far. China is falling apart too. The US just hastened its demise by cutting off Chinese access to high and mid-grade computer chips. It recently even banned the equipment needed to make the low end stuff. That will hamper them. One thing most people don’t realize is that Japan, all by itself, could hold its own against China. They won’t be by themselves. 

So for now the war drags on creating many unnecessary deaths and disruptions. All those can be laid at the feet of Putin’s ambition. Russia has a reputation of coming back from disaster, rallying the troops and going back into the field to win. They did that in WWII. What the Russians gloss over is that they never could have done it without the US supplying food and weapons. Well this time around the aid is going against Russia. 

Russia has already lost its main goals. More countries joined a strengthened NATO. Ukraine is more independent and nationalistic than ever. Just as bad, Russian equipment, training, and leadership has been shown wanting. The war has been lost. Now it’s a matter of how long the fighting will go on. 


Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Worried about civil unrest?

I’m not, but my home in New Hampshire is in a really safe place. We aren’t really a red or a blue state so that’s interesting. It’s probably good as everyone has to deal with others who don’t think like they do. As long as it’s kept civil honest debate is fine. 

It’s different out here in the rural places. For example a “Liberal” here often has guns and enjoys shooting sports. New Hampshire has some of the fewest gun restrictions yet very low gun crime. However, guns really are not your best protection. Cops are not your best protection. A civil society is your best protection. 

That’s not to say there’s no conflict or potential for conflict. The odds of conflict becoming violent are just lower. In the end we do the math and play the odds. 

If you feel you are in a really unsafe place it’s past time to take a really hard look at your situation. If it’s bad now, how will it be when times get rougher? What are your options? What’s your personal situation like? Are you only concerned about yourself or do you have people depending on you?  

My best guess is that we won’t have large organized insurrections. Governments like to have a monopoly on violence to they squash that sort of thing quickly. What’s more likely are individuals or small groups acting out. That sort of thing can cause a lot of localized trouble, but doesn’t spread too far and is short lived. 

In the greater scheme of things civil unrest isn’t on the top of my list. In the northern reaches of the country we are entering the cold and snowy months. Nobody riots in a blizzard.


Monday, October 17, 2022

Crazy car prices

I hope none of you have had the misfortune of needing to buy a new car lately. Maybe it’s just my limited income but holy crap have cars gotten expensive. New cars, especially full sized trucks, are stupid expensive. Who the heck is paying over $75,000 for a Ford pickup? Then the dealerships adds on fees that push the price up thousands more. It’s nuts. 

Back in the early ‘80s I paid $15,000 for my first house. Sure, it was small and needed updating, but it was an actual house. I did six weeks of work on it before we moved in, but we could have moved in right off. So when I see a truck for $75,000 my mind says, that’s five first houses. Intellectually I know decades of inflation have to be figured in, but my gut still says five houses. 

Supply issues caused some issues with new cars, but those days are over. There’s some indication that dealerships aren’t putting too many cars on their lots to give the impression there’s still a shortage. Eventually growing inventories will catch up with them and prices will come down. 

Then there’s the fact that it’s getting more expensive to borrow money. A lot of people don’t even focus much on the actual price of things. They focus on their monthly payment. When money was cheap they could eat higher prices. With money getting tight, not so much. 

Of course with new cars so hard to get used cars went up in price along with it. It was not uncommon for used cars to go for higher than the list price of new cars. That’s madness, but when the new cars where unavailable it was what the market could bear. 

Used car prices are starting to come down and I expect them to drop a lot more in the coming months. One reason is that new cars are available so that will reduce demand for used. Another thing that’s going to happen is that more used cars are about to hit the market. 

So how do I figure that? Times are getting tough. People are finding themselves short of cash. A car is one of the few things a lot of people own outright. Selling it in a hurry is a way to pay the other bills. Most people aren’t selling their only car, but people are wondering how many cars they really need. A lot of kids are going to find themselves taking the bus. 

As for myself I’m going to keep up on vehicle maintenance. I’m in no hurry to jump into the car market any time soon.


Saturday, October 15, 2022

Hope we get snowed in

Weather predictions are a bit of a guessing game. With that in mind there are indications we’ll have a big snow year in northern NH. My ideal winter has a lot of snow and not a lot of sub zero days. That’s below zero Fahrenheit for my International readers. Of course, when it gets to forty below it doesn’t matter what scale you use. Fortunately it’s been a few years since that happened. 

Deep snow cover actually provides insulation for the ground. The frost doesn’t go down nearly as deep and my water lines don’t freeze. The worse is when sewer lines freeze. You do not want to know the details. Lets just say that the next summer I dug up the lines and added four inches of high density foam insulation. 

We had only a mediocre snow year last winter. That’s one reason we were on the edge of drought during the summer. Fortunately we received enough rain to keep the worse problems at bay. As it was farmers had issues and some wells went dry.

A deep snow pack is great for winter sports. If you are going to spend winter in snow country you have to learn to play in it. If you don’t it’s one long winter. 

Actually, what I’m looking forward to is the quiet and isolation. Nothing beats sitting by a warm fire with a coffee and a good book as the snow comes down.


Friday, October 14, 2022

An Interesting Winter

. . . but maybe a good spring? 

We shall see. I can make a pretty good argument for the interesting winter part. We already have an interesting fall. Just following the current issues will be enough to hold our attention. 

Inflation is in the news, and in the grocery stores. I’m not sure that the Fed’s job killing efforts are the way to go. However, I’m not an economist. Too bad, as it’s a great job. You can always be wrong and still work in your field. 

Real estate has some negative trends going on. High interest rates are making home loans more expensive. Since hurricane Ian you can expect insurance rates to go up too. Places that were hot markets during the pandemic are cooling rapidly. Turns out a lot of urban dwellers don’t like living in rural Lower East Podunk Nowhereville. 

This mid term elections are heating up. I’m betting there will be more than a few surprises on election day. Of course everyone will accept the results, shake hands, and plan for the next election. Right. That doesn’t happen so much anymore. Personally I can’t believe how many people are still stuck on the 2020 election. The world keeps on moving. Try to keep up.

The war in Ukraine is getting more intense. The Ukrainians are wisely hitting Russian logistics very hard. Russia’s response has been to hit static civilian targets. It’s a war crime and it doesn’t advance their cause. Expect more Ukrainian gains. Russian conscripts are going into a meat grinder. Some military experts expect winter to cause a major slow down in intensity. They might be in for a surprise. 

One thing to come out of all this is the weakness of Russia. They are struggling and are getting clobbered by the Ukrainian's use of western weapons. Here’s the thing. The west is only now starting to send a little of the top shelf stuff. The Russians have been getting beat with second and third tier weapons. 

Energy is an issue and will continue to be until at least spring. Europe is going to have a long cold winter. However, they are working very hard to fill the huge gap left by departing Russian fuels. By next winter they won’t even miss Russian energy supplies as they will have found alternatives. 

Gasoline prices really aren’t all that bad in the US right now. The big issue is diesel and heating oil. I know heating oil is too expensive for me this winter. The woodstove will be our primary heat source. My neighbor locked in a lower price with a prebuy program. Soon after I checked into the program only to find it was suspended in my area. 

By spring my guess is that a lot of the financial instability will be over. The trial and error school of economics will have sorted something out. The election will be behind us and new people settled into office. It’s just a feeling, but I think Russia will be seriously looking for a way out of Ukraine -if they haven’t been pushed out by then. A change of leadership is probably already in the works. As the weather warms up pressure on diesel and fuel stocks will drop. 

Spring could have a lot of things sorted out and some positive trends started. 

Of course, freaking Putin could decided to go nuclear and all bets are off.


Thursday, October 13, 2022

Last Good Day

I have garage envy. One of the things my house lacks is a decent garage -or any sort of garage at all. It sure would make storing the boat or working on cars a lot easier. 

Wednesday was a beautiful day, sunny, in the high 60’s at the peak of foliage season. It would have been the perfect day to take the scooter down back roads. Alas, it was not to be. The long range forecast  shows rain for the foreseeable future. There’s even a chance of snow next week. 

We have several days of flood warning. I’m not too concerned about flooding out here in the hills. It can cut us off from town now and then. That’s one reason why we have a well stocked pantry. 

With that in mind I set the scooter keys down and picked up the toolbox. In the morning I winterized the sailboat. It’s currently sitting under a well tied down humongous tarp. The boat is ready for snow. 

In the afternoon I changed the front brake pads on my lovely wife’s car. My regular mechanic retired so I was forced to go somewhere else. The car needed its yearly inspection during the month of June. It passed, but the mechanic said the front brakes were getting thin and would need replacement. He quoted me a rather hefty price to do the job. 

With that in mind I went down to the auto parts store and picked up brake pads. So there I was, four months later, finally changing the pads. Turns out I could have waiting a lot longer. The pads were only about half worn. Since I already had the new pads I changed them anyway. 

It took all afternoon to change the pads. The job wasn’t that hard, but since it was such a nice day everyone was out for a walk. I spent as much time visiting as working. One bicycle rider, who I’ve never met before, stopped and asked if I needed help. That was real friendly of him but I politely refused his assistance.

Eventually it all got done. By then I was too beat and it was too late go go play. Oh well. Sometimes even I have to adult.


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Go Fund Me Medical

I just sent off a donation for someone to get medical care. They have really bad long covid symptoms. A lot of people are suffering to various degrees. The estimates vary. I’ve seen numbers as low as 1 in 13 and as high as 1 in 5. At any rate, it’s a lot of people. 

Symptoms vary. Some sound fairly minor, like losing one’s sense of taste. That doesn’t sound so bad until you eat a gas station yogurt with fuzzy mold. Then for some people they get a sense of taste again, but it’s not normal. For example everything might taste like gasoline. As you can imagine it’s really hard to eat enough to stay healthy. 

The person I’m donating to has problems so debilitating that they have no life at all. There is a treatment that might help but it’s only available in a few countries. The US isn’t one of them. That’s an issue. No doubt this person is not alone. 

Numbers are hard to nail down, but there are a lot of US citizens that can no longer work. If they are “lucky” they might get some sort of disability payment. I know from harsh experience that nothing messes up retirement planning like an unplanned medical retirement. The sudden drop in income creates a lot of hardship when someone’s too sick and weak to deal with it. A lot of people don’t even get that. 

Long covid is something that will have to be dealt with. There’s a lot on the line for individuals and the nation. There has to be more research and better treatments. Problems aren’t going to go away by themselves. While Go Fund Me campaigns can help a few, it’s not a national health policy.


Monday, October 10, 2022

First Responder Trauma

I know a Professional who counsels First Responders who suffer from on the job trauma. She was very busy during the hight of the pandemic. It’s important work and I only wish there were more mental health professionals in that field. 

Recently the things they deal with have changed. They aren’t complaining so much about dealing with death and destruction. The ones still working emergency services are handling that aspect better. There’s a new wave of complaints and it’s something the trauma professional didn’t train for.

The big complaints now are things like low wages, long hours, under staffing, excessive overtime, lack of respect from superiors, and things of that nature. When the blood and guts part of your job isn’t the worse part something is definitely wrong. 

The counselor is even hearing from people in upper management. There was a Fire Chief practically in tears because the city refused to budget basic safety equipment. He didn’t want to send people into harms way without proper gear. It broke his heart. 

It’s shameful how we treat people who put themselves in harm’s way to help others. 


Sunday, October 9, 2022

Odds and Ends

Well, it looks like Russia’s logistic problems keep getting worse. At the time of writing the Kerch bridge that connects Crimea with Russia has suffered significant damage. No idea exactly how bad or for how long it’ll be out of order. Not only was the roadway damaged, the rail bridge was also shut down. Russia moves everything of significance by rail. Right now I don’t know how it was damaged, but if it happened once it can happen again.

On Friday I dropped off another load of waste vegetable oil to a biodiesel company in Vermont. That’s about the last of the stuff I had stored back when I ran diesel vehicles on waste vegetable oil. With that gone it’ll be much easier to sort out my basement, including adding more insulation.

When we got back home from Vermont I saw a very large black bear about 200 feet from my house. It would not surprise me if his sensitive nose picked up the lingering smell of vegetable oil. There was a small amount of spillage on the grass and that would be enough for a bear to investigate. 

I’d also like to add a bit more to my blog post about tents. I’m a big proponent of using large, comfortable, well made tents. They are really great if you are establishing a base camp for a couple weeks or longer. We also travel with a small tent that’s quick and easy to set up. That’s really helpful when traveling and you are only stopping overnight. 

If traveling by van there’s another neat trick with a small tent. Let’s say you have a great dispersed camping site. Even though you are living out a the van, set up a cheap tent on the site. You don’t even have to put anything in it. The idea is that it serves as a place holder. If you go somewhere with your vehicle there’s still something on your site to show it’s occupied. 

Well, that’s a few random things I want to write whole blog posts about. 


Saturday, October 8, 2022

Racing Winter

When you live in the Great North Woods winter is a big deal. It gets pretty chill up here snuggled up against the Canadian border. 

For a lot of years I didn’t worry about winter’s chill. I spent a lot of winter down in Florida and other parts in the sunbelt. One of my favorite areas was exactly where Hurricane Ian made landfall. It will be a while before we go back down there. 

Right now the current plan is to spend most of the winter here in the Frostlands. Fortunately we’ve had some pretty decent weather this fall. I’ve been able to get some projects done. However, the clock is running. It can go from T-shirt weather to snow in matter of weeks. There are years when the snow starts falling in October and stays on the ground well into spring. That would definitely bring some projects to a halt. 

My plan to reduce the area of the house we heat is going well. I was able to frame up and install a door that shuts off the whole upstairs. All we have to do is to bring our bed and few other items to the first floor and we are good. The basement is getting a lot of junk cleaned out. That will make it a lot easier to beef up the insulation down there. There’s some R-19 sitting my mud room just waiting to be installed. 

My first delivery of fiber blocks for the woodstove came it on Thursday. I love the free delivery when bought by the pallet. The new forklift operator did an amazing job coming down my questionable driveway. He saved me a lot of work by dropping it so close to the house. 

With OPEC cutting production I probably won’t be buying much fuel oil, if any. They priced themselves out of my budget. Now they’ll get nothing from me. 


Friday, October 7, 2022

Capitalist War Fighting

Ukraine pays cash for Russian soldiers who surrender. They have nice payouts if you surrender with equipment like a helicopter or a tank. It’s probably the best deal these Russians are ever going to get. They are also offered Ukrainian citizenship. 

It’s a really smart move for the Ukrainians. They get enemy combatants off the battlefield and they acquire equipment at good discounts. This is one of the few wars were both sides use so much of the same equipment. Not only do the Ukrainians get equipment, they know how to use it. 

I don’t know how often this sort of equipment transfer takes places. It probably pales in comparison to the vast amount of weapons acquired from fleeing Russians. They say the amount of Russian equipment captured far exceeds the amount of equipment supplied by the west. 

Imagine the frustrations of Russian logistics. Equipment is shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. It finally makes it to the front lines. Then the Ukrainians acquire the vehicles. They paint fresh ID information over the Russian “Z.” Before long the vehicle is back in combat -against the Russian side. 


Thursday, October 6, 2022

In Tents

A friend’s son was looking to do some traveling. He priced out different types of small camper trailers. Tear drop campers are very popular and caught his attention. Aliner makes some nice A frame pop up trailers. They have the advantage of low windage when folded down. Set up is quick. Unlike most pop up it has hard walls, which is a nice feature. 

So in the end he picked up a good canvas tent. A lot of people are going that way. The young man might have also been inspired by the example of his dad who once traveled the country in a tent. Like father like son. 

There are some advantages to tent living. For one thing you don’t need a conversion van, expensive RV or a huge tow vehicle. Heck, you can strap a tent on a bicycle and call it good. You don’t have to look for huge parking spaces. Camp sites are much cheaper as you don’t need full hookups. There are more site options. 

While a tent is cheaper, there’s such a thing as a too cheap. Spend a few extra bucks and get a quality tent from a reputable company. Don’t get a bargain tent from a big box store. They leak. That will ruin any trip and might even put your health in jeopardy. Our L. L. Bean tent survived Florida thunderstorms with 60 mph winds. 

If you are not backpacking or cycle camping weight isn’t a big issue. Get a sizable tent. My lovely wife and I feel comfortable in a 6 person tents. Attached vestibules big enough for a couple chairs and a card table gives us even more living area. 

Sort out your sleep system. Find something that works for you. It could be an inflatable mattress or cots or something else. One couple I know have a foldable bed frame mated with a roll up mattress. They like their comfort and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

So what do you do if you have day after day of crappy weather? Rent a hotel room. After all, with the money you saved not buying an RV you can afford a hotel now and then.


Wednesday, October 5, 2022

A good age for college

It always seemed weird to me for people to go to college at 18. By then I’d had more than enough of formal schooling. The thought of four more years depressed me. Of course, everyone told me I needed higher education for a good job. With that in mind I signed up for a two year program. I lasted one semester. 

Dropping out was the best thing I ever did. By the time my friends were graduating from college I was married, had two kids, and bought a house. When times got tough I always thought that it was still better than high school.

All good things come to an end. Due to an injury I had to live my job and take some time to recover. After two years I was still a mess, but healthy enough to sit in a classroom. At the age of 37 I found myself back in college. 

If you separate college from employment it can be really enjoyable. Going to college as a financial decision kinda sucks. Too bad that’s the way the system is rigged. My school bills were paid as part of my “rehabilitation.” Without worrying about the money I decided to take courses that I wanted to take and pursue my passions. It was a pleasure. My first year I was a 4.0 student and never dropped out of the honor rolls. That’s because I was having fun.

From a development standpoint going to college in your 30s or later is much better. By then you know who the heck you are. You also have enough sense of self not to believe everything you are told. There’s something to be said for real world experience. 

That did get in trouble sometimes. For grins and giggles I took a business course. No matter how hard the professor tried I kept thinking like labor instead of management. The just in time business model was the big thing. Probably still is, for all I know. The professor didn’t like me pointing out how tiny supply disruptions could shut the whole process down. The professor really didn’t like when I pointed out unions could target a small segment of an industry and bring everything to a halt. Then it happened that a company that made brake parts went on strike and shut down auto manufacturing across the board. Turns out being right doesn’t make one popular. 

Still, I got over it. So what if a professor wasn’t too thrilled with me? No one was shooting at me. I wasn’t jumping into burning buildings. When you get a little older you get some perspective. 

In a more perfect world we’d go to college if and when we really wanted to. Ideally after we’ve lived a bit. 


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Building Stuff

No doubt there will be another spike in lumber prices. There’s an awful lot of housing that needs to be rebuilt in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Prices had gone up during the pandemic when a lot of people were staying home. To keep busy a people did home renovations. Once things eased up a bit there was a housing boom. New houses were being built and older ones renovated. 

If you need materials for a house project you’d better pick them up now. 

I’d been putting off a few projects at my house waiting for prices to get a bit more reasonable. The prices at the local building supply stores had dropped below that of the big chains. It helps to be close to local saw mills. It felt good to be able to buy the lumber I wanted. 

It had been a while since I’d built anything of significance and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy it. In that way I think I take after my dad a bit. He never needed therapy; he had tools and stuff to build. He was almost always in a better mood after time in the shop. 

My complaining about lumber prices about to go up comes from a privileged position. It’s not like I lost my house in a storm. However, the projects I’m doing are necessary to get through the winter in good shape, so they aren’t trivial either.


Monday, October 3, 2022

Two ways to build on the beach

The video coming out of Florida’s west coast is dramatic. The damage is horrific. There are whole communities where most houses are destroyed. 

Most, but not all. 

There are a few houses here and there that appear to have suffered minimal damage. Some of their neighbors have nothing but the slab left. So what happened?

Really good engineering and construction happened. It’s not magic to do it right. All it takes is a clear eyed assessment of the dangers then building accordingly. It’s an expensive process but if you’ve got the money it’s worth it. It’s especially worth it if you plan on weathering the storm. Then it could be the difference between life and death.

So what’s the other way to build on the beach? You build a shack using junk left over from the last hurricane. That way when the next storm knocks it all down you are only out about a hundred bucks. Since it’s a shack you know better than to try and weather any sort of hurricane in it. Fortunately, you don’t have much at risk so it’s easy to get out of Dodge. 

That probably makes a certain amount of sense, but forget about being allowed to do it. The people who write the building permits have an interest in nice big taxable buildings.


Sunday, October 2, 2022

Touch the Moon

My lovely wife and I went on a guided tour of the Maine Gem and Mineral Museum.

The gems and minerals were interesting and all, but the meteorite collection really blew me away. There are bits of the moon and Mars that were knocked into space due to massive asteroid strikes. Some of those bits made it to earth and survived the entry into the atmosphere. The museum collection has  more moon rock than NASA. How cool is that?

They even let you hold a piece of the moon and a piece of Mars. How often can anyone do that? What really blew me away was the meteorite that’s over 7 billion years old. Our solar system is 4.5 billion years old. It’s literally older than dirt. You can even touch a piece of it. 

Good road trip.

I’ve an update on the friends and family in Florida. Most have gotten back to us. All in all they did very well. It’s funny how these things turn out sometimes. One of our friends had minor house damage from a fallen tree. One block over a neighbor’s house was completely destroyed. 


Saturday, October 1, 2022

Easy woodstove fuel

Here in New England oil heat is common. I won’t say it’s popular -not at the current price of heating oil. The prices are insane. It doesn’t make sense that heating oil is about fifty cents a gallon more expensive than off-road diesel. It’s the same stuff. 

My furnace has been serviced but I’m not too sure how much I’m going to use it. I just might buy off-road diesel 5 or 10 gallons at time. That will give me enough fuel for backup in case we leave the house for a few days. 

We’ve had some chill night where it’s gotten down below freezing. To take the chill out of the house I’ve been using a couple of electric heaters. Even though grid power has gone up by 47% my electric bill hasn’t been too bad. Sunny days gave my solar power a good boost. Of course, I’m not going to use electric heat when it gets really cold.

For that we have the woodstove. While I have some firewood I’m also using fiber blocks make out of compressed sawdust. They burn clean and hot. The price only went up by $10/ton over last year. Compared to heating oil it’s a bargain. The local lumber yard delivers it for free if you buy a pallet at a time. 

I’ve friends who have no choice but to heat with oil. To make matters worse, their hot water is provided by the oil furnace. My hot water comes from an electric tank, but there’s a water coil on the woodstove that greatly reduces the electrical usage. 

Personally, for some strange reason, I’m actually looking forward to snow this year. No doubt that feeling won’t last if we get back to back blizzards.