Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Moving money out of country

I follow this guy who left Russia to avoid the draft. He might look a little long in the tooth to be drafted but that's not the case in Russia.

The video goes into great detail about how difficult it is to take money out of Russia right now. 

The thing to keep in mind is that what happens in one country could happen in other countries. 

Of course, it's always the little guys who suffer most.


Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Yeah . . . no

Do I expect to see much unrest if and when Trump is called up on criminal charges? Each time that happens?

In short, no. The number of people who’ll resort to violence for Trump isn’t that great. For those that do, there are heavy precautions in place. 

We’ve seen from the January 6 trials that those who resort to violence get the book thrown at them. An awful lot of them are being sentenced to the maximums allowable. That has a chilling effect -which is probably intentional. 

Even hardcore supporters of Trump recognize he has a lot of baggage. They are looking for someone else to vote for. 

My main concern of this post is not the politics but the dangers of civil unrest. While an extra bit of vigilance wouldn’t be out of place, things will not devolve into wide spread chaos. 


Monday, March 27, 2023

Bank Failures and Downturns

With the recent increase in bank failures a lot of people are worried. It’s not really a problem -unless you are concerned about money, income, and paying bills. Then there’s the whole economic collapse thing. If you aren’t worried about those things it’s not an issue. 

In the real world, it’s an issue. 

I wasn’t too worried about my local bank but then they sent out an e-mail stating how everything was fine. That had me worried. I’ve had one my banks go under before and that was well before the 2008 crash. The bank I had my house mortgage with went belly up in the 80s. 

Funny thing about that. That bank wasn’t my first choice for a mortgage but my first choice refused me. Eventually the bank that refused me took over the failed bank and ended up with my mortgage anyway. The thing about owing money is that someone will take over your debt. 

It’s the savings side that’ll get you. The easiest thing to do is to keep deposits under the $250,000 insurance limit. The government may cover more but don’t count on it. One thing to keep in mind is that while you’ll get your money back it might take a while. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. 

There is some concern that the fund that backs the Federal insurance would soon run out. The numbers don’t look good. It’s my guess that the government would step in with a huge inflow of money to cover the losses. They have the printing presses after all. 

It’s going to be tough for people who are heavily leveraged with loads of debt. I’m no financial advisor but it would seem that reducing that exposure would be a high priority. Most people will probably muddle through. Just guessing, but it doesn’t seem like a full blown financial collapse will hit just yet.

Even if that would happen it’s not the end of the world. There’s a period when everything resets, but then life goes on for most people. The trick is to get through the tough transition phase without missing too many meals.


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Under the weather

I’ve been under the weather the last couple of days. It appears to be some kind of stomach bug. My lovely wife is just getting over it herself. It really knocked me for a loop. Just to make things interesting it hit while I was dealing with pulled back muscles. 

While I’m better today than yesterday, I’m far from all better. 

Last week, when I was actually feeling good, I went to a long overdue checkup. Today I got my test results back from my doctor’s visit. I haven’t had a physical since 2019 when I briefly had health insurance and it was covered. I was relieved to see the results were good. Not bad for old fat guy. 

Once this stomach bug sorts itself out I’m resuming a diet and exercise program. It’s got to be done if I want to keep having fun adventures. 


Thursday, March 23, 2023

Winter in New England

For quite a few years my lovely wife and I escaped the snow and did the snowbird thing. Now that spring is here it’s official: we spent the winter in New England. 

I’ve been somewhat vague about my wife’s health journey. Let’s just say there’s still things to sort out. She’s got another appointment with her regular doctor next week. After that we are tracking down specialists. It doesn’t appear to be anything life threatening, but there are quality of life issues. Had we been traveling these issues would have been ten times more difficult to deal with. 

As for myself I just sorted out how to get Medicare without ever having paid into the system. That took a minute. Now that I have somewhat decent insurance I’m catching up on a few things. 

We’ve also been dealing with family and friends issues. Most of our family is still in New England so it made sense to stay close to home. 

Will be be traveling next winter? That’s a definite maybe. It all depends on how things sort out. However, we are experienced travelers and can hit the road with very little notice.


Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Moose in the dark

My lovely wife and I had a near miss with a moose on the way home. It was dark and suddenly there was a moose at top of a large snowbank. Holy crap! I stood on the brakes. Fortunately the moose had slowed down as I might have still hit it if the moose had kept up its pace. That gets the heart pumping better than a triple shot espresso. 

It’s been months since I saw moose on the side of the road. That was no reason to relax. It was about three miles from where I once hit a moose with a van. My daughter had hit one less than half a mile from today’s encounter. 

In that very spot I once almost hit a large bull moose while riding a motorcycle. The motorcycle stopped less than twenty feet from the side of the moose. It slowly turned its head my way, snorted, and then let go a huge stream of urine. It was a weird encounter. 

This is the time of the year when they are down from the high country and are on the move. Good thing I’m in the habit of slowing down at night. There are too many critters running around after dark. Heck, it’s warming up enough for the bears to start coming out. After a winter’s hibernation they are on the prowl for something to eat. I’ve never collided with a bear and have no desire to do so. 

Looks like my slow night rides home are going to be even slower for a while.


Monday, March 20, 2023

Snow Pack

Okay, I’m getting a bit annoyed at our snow pack. By this time in March it’s usually possible to walk in the woods without snowshoes. In recent years it seems we’ve had mild winters but they’d linger. Here in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire the weather can be like that. In recent years we go from winter straight into summer. There isn’t much spring at all. Frankly, I’m feeling ready for the switch.

Many I’m just getting tired of paying to heat the place. 

Out west all that water is taking the edge off the drought. Decades of drought aren’t made up for in one wet season. However, the reservoirs are gaining water. The day of reckoning is put off again. 

My youngest daughter and her husband own and run a couple of restaurants in California. They had a major power outage. Even though the power was out their gas stove and grill was still working. If you had cash they could still feed you. They did a pretty steady business during the power outage. Kids were getting kabobs for breakfast . . . and loving it. 

With the cooler weather in March I misjudged my heating fuel usage. My oil tank ran dry a few days before the next delivery. It’s not a big deal as I’ve still got the woodstove. I know how to bleed the air out of the fuel lines and restart the furnace. It’s not rocket science and it saves me a service fee. In a pinch I could always pour a couple jugs of off-road diesel in the tank and burn that. 

Warmer weather can get here anytime and that would be fine by me. 

I may be starting to suffer a bit of cabin fever. 


Saturday, March 18, 2023

Back to the doctor’s

Well that was interesting. It didn’t take too long to take my new Medicare insurance out for a ride. 

My doctor said he hadn’t seen me in a while. 

“That’s good, right?” I said. 

He laughed. 

I like this doctor. He never pressures me to do something I don’t want to do. It’s as if he actually respects me as a freaking adult. Since I haven’t had a full range of blood tests since 2019 I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have that done.

The big thing I needed was a referral to the sleep apnea specialist. Since I’ve finally got insurance I’m looking to get one of the new c-pap machines. They’ve come a long way. For many years I’ve been using second hand machines that I service and reprogram myself. They are getting harder to come by. I was starting to wonder about building one from scratch. 

Hopefully I’ll get along with this specialist. 

It’s interesting how I had to find a way to survive until I could get affordable health insurance at age 65. One the bright side, I must be doing a pretty good job of it. 


Thursday, March 16, 2023

It’s been a trip

Sometimes you just have to take a couple days and drive a few hundred miles just to tell a friend you love him. My brother from another mother is dying in home hospice. We had about 20 minutes where he was conscious and lucid. It was worth the trip. My friend is with us still, but spends most of his time asleep. On the bright side, there’s no pain.

Unfortunately, that evening my wife had some mysterious medical issues. I was concerned enough to call the ambulance to take her to the hospital. Long story short, they stabilized her and four hours later she could go home. No idea what brought the symptoms on. 

There are some possibilities that need to be looked into. She’s got an appoint to see her regular doctor and we hope to get in with a neurologist. Currently she’s fine and pretty normal -but that’s how she was before the “incident.” This could be some variation of issues she’s been dealing with for years. It could even be long covid causing issues. Right now we just don’t know.

As for myself, I’m getting a check up. I just qualified for Medicare so I have to take the insurance out for a ride. I really could use a new c-pap. For the last couple of decades I’ve been reprogramming and rebuilding used machines. It would be nice to take advantage of the newer technologies. 

Anyway, we keep on keeping on.


Sunday, March 12, 2023

Bank Runs

By now most people know that Silicon Valley Bank is going belly up. It looks like your classic bank run. Did you know that Silvergate shut down the day before? They specialized in servicing the crypto market and are part of the ongoing FTX fallout. 

Are these isolated incidents or is it going to get a whole lot worse? All I know for sure is that you don’t want to go to Jim Cramer for advice. A month ago he was recommending people buy Silicon Valley Bank. 

I am not a financial advisor. It had to be said. However, to me it just makes sense to avoid any bank heavily involved with crypto. That’s a given. All the major FTX people have been arrested but that won’t do your bank deposits much good. 

Then you have to ask yourself how many other banks are exposed the way Silicon Valley was. From what I could gather they had a lot of deposited from startup investor money. Rising interests rates put them in a bind where they lost billions. 

So how bad is this going to be? Bank regulations were proposed after the 2008 crash but those were mostly gutted. Powerful interests didn’t want that kind of oversight. If this goes sideways it could get interesting again.

You might want to have funds handy in case your bank suddenly closes its doors. Deposits are generally insured to $250,000 but it could take time for your insurance payout. I don’t deal much with big banks. Most of my financial day to day business is through a local credit union. 

About the only thing I plan on doing is to buy a couple more bags of rice. That’s the level my finances generally run at. Then again, rice is real and you can eat it -which is more than you can say about bank deposits in a failed bank.


Friday, March 10, 2023

Pushing Spring and Tourist Towns

My lovely wife and I went for a drive to a tourist town about an hour away. The roads were perfectly clear of snow and there were only a few flurries. For a moment I wondered if maybe I could take the motor scooter out for a short ride. Then sanity kicked it -something not guaranteed to happen.

If you have to shovel a 30 foot path through 2 feet of snow it’s too early to take the bike out. 

Instead we continued on to the tourist town. It has things like bookstores and coffee shops. Once in a while it’s good to get out of the woods. 

People travel from all over the world to our little mountain towns. It’s nice to play tourist in our own backyard once in a while. I’m always amused when someone tries to sell us a time share. Those salespeople are nothing if not persistent. When I tell them I already have a place in the area they bet they can make me a better deal. 

They can’t make me a better deal. 

I can tie up my sailboat off my private beach. Sure, it’s not a huge lake, but it’s big enough to sail my boat, paddle my canoes, and catch a few fish. I don’t care if your condo time share has a heated pool.


Thursday, March 9, 2023

Retirement Lies

A while back I blogged about a friend who was still working from his hospital bed. Now he’s retired. Retirement for him involves home hospice, dying from cancer, and sleeping 22 hours a day. 

That’s the sort of thing that never makes it into the retirement brochures. It’s more common than you’d like to admit.

Just about everyone has heard of someone who finally retired and died soon after. Maybe they didn’t quite even make it to retirement age. Sometimes life sucks. 

Whatever you do, don’t think giving up that fancy Starbucks coffee is what’s keeping you from acquiring a nice nest egg. Robbing yourself of a few little pleasures isn’t the problem. The problem is that you aren’t getting paid enough. Enjoy life while you can.

My lovely wife hurt her retirement nest egg by taking a few months off every winter. We starting traveling winters when we were in our early 40s. It might have been done on the cheap, but it was done. We had a blast. Not only that, we were young enough to actually enjoy roughing it sometimes. 

We are at the age where a lot of people just start their retirement adventures. Some are actually in good enough health to do interesting things. Good for them, but you can’t count on it. Not only that, if you haven’t had adventures when you are younger you probably will not start in your 60s. People get set in their ways. 

I’ve friends my age are not so much interesting in going places. They are more interested in living in handicap accessible housing near good hospitals. 

Yeah, I’ll probably die broke. Is that tragic or good planning?


Wednesday, March 8, 2023

No Respect for Authority

Actually, I don’t exactly have no respect for authority. I have no respect for authoritarians. Anyone who thinks they can be obeyed without question  . . . well, I question that. That’s one of the reasons I never joined the military. I understand that necessity of authority and discipline for military structures to work. That doesn’t mean it’d work for me. 

Sure, I was in a fire department with a command structure similar to the military. That similarities are only surface deep. I followed my commanding officers because I respected them and their leadership. They also were smart enough to listen to those below them. We had a saying “You can’t be a chief without all the little Indians.” 

Backstopping all that was the fact I worked in a union shop. The union had my back. Conflicts with “the leadership” were often resolved in favor of the little guys. Just the fact the union was there kept the worse abuses in check. 

With that background it puzzles me the number of people who admire authoritarians. Many people in American even liked Putin because he was a strongman who could get things done. Now we see the getting things done part involves human suicide waves to capture a bit of dirt. Then there are the crimes against humanity like missile attacks on hospitals. In spite of his crimes there are those in the west who still admire him. 

I don’t even like authoritarians who agree with most of the things I support. They may agree with me now, but there are no checks and balances to keep them agreeing with me. During Hitler’s rise he purged many of the allies who got him into power. 

US politicians can still make gains with authoritarian agendas. I don’t know why people stand for it. Maybe they never had a decent History class? Maybe I know too much History? 

At any rate, I personally think the general appeal of the authoritarian is coming to an end. There will always be a core of people who support that sort of thing. However, they won’t be enough to get their pocket Hitlers elected. That’s my hope anyway.


Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Readings from the Book of Chapman

That would be the Chapman Book of Piloting and Seamanship

My lovely wife and I have gone back to doing daily readings from the Book of Chapman. It’s a great way to stay up on our skills. It also gets us looking forward to getting the sailboat back in the water. 

We still have our Oday 19 sailboat. This is the same boat we once spent 10 weeks on. One winter we sailed down the west coast of Florida and crossed Florida Bay to the Keys. Good times. We really haven’t gone on any long sailing adventures with it since 2019. Like many people we were dealing with other things. 

The boat is basically in pretty decent shape still. Thanks to Spud I have a nice little Honda outboard on it. What I’d like to do is to completely rewired everything. With a boat that small it’s not really that big a job. The available switch panels don’t impress me so building one from basic components is the way to go. It also needs the shelves rebuilt. Adding more solar electric is also an option. 

The thing about boat repairs is knowing when to stop. You can spend all your time doing upgrades and never get on the water. On the other hand, the boat has to be safe and comfortable. 

This coming season I’d love to get back out on the big wilderness lakes near me. My lovely wife would like to get back out on the Hudson River, which is where she grew up. The coast of Maine is also an option. 

Right now the boat is still buried under a couple feet of snow. In the mean time, we have readings from the good book.


Monday, March 6, 2023

What is Ford thinking?

Ford has applied for a patent for cars that would repossess itself. If you are late on your payments the car drives itself to the impound lot. Another option would be to turn off features like air conditioning. Teslas have always been configured to allow for factory changes. Ford’s idea is just taking it to the next level. 

It all feels very Big Brother to me. Big Corporation? 

Personally, I never want to own a car with “features” like that. Do you really own a car that can be altered or even driven away without your consent? I’d rather buy an old beater and pay cash for it. 

Frankly, I’m not a big fan of keyless locks and ignition. The signal from the key fob can easily be copied using readily available devices. I’d rather have an old fashioned key. The ones with the chips inside are more secure but I like the plain metal keys. It’s nice to have a bunch of cheap copies handy. Of course if you have an old beater with a manual transmission nobody is going to want to steal it anyway. 

Ford’s technology isn’t free either. The extra cost of adding the repo system will show up in the price. How would you feel about paying extra for a “feature” like that?

The obvious thing to do is to not buy vehicles with those systems. That’s how Capitalism works. Of course, Ford might lobby to make such devices required by law. That’s Corrupt Capitalism at work. 

Hopefully there will be enough of an outcry that Ford will drop the whole idea. 


Sunday, March 5, 2023

About a Foot

In the last storm we received about a foot of snow. While it’s something to deal with, it’s nothing like those folks in California had to deal with. Some got up to ten feet. Even people who thought they were prepared to be snowed in were not as prepared as they thought. 

I’m still using a shovel so a foot of snow is enough. The worse I’ve had to deal with at one time was six feet of snow. That storm had dropped about three feet most places but a huge drift formed by my porch. It was one of those storms where people opened their front doors only to face a wall of white. 

No need for a gym membership. Shoveling snow is exercise enough. 

In general the winters have been milder than in the past. While it’s not great to get most of our snow at the end of the winter, we probably need it. The snowpack water will certainly help the growing season. I’d rather deal with a bit of snow in March than forest fires in June. 

It is nice being retired. Sure beats getting up early to shovel out a car before going to work. The fire department never shuts down. If I had to drive through a blizzard to get to work that’s exactly what I’d do. Fighting fires in those conditions wasn’t exactly pleasant either. 

So now I get to the snow when I get to the snow. No setting alarm clocks to get an early start. I make sure there’s plenty of coffee. My lovely wife lit the cook woodstove to bake cookies while I was shoveling. There’s something truly satisfying to having cookies and coffee by the fire after a good workout. 


Saturday, March 4, 2023

Florida Snowflakes

I’m not talking about the weather.

Florida Senate Bill 1316 would require bloggers who write about the governor to register with the state. It’s not just the governor either. It includes the Attorney General, and members of the Florida executive cabinet or the legislature. If you don’t register there are penalty fines. The bill would require monthly reports and require the disclosure on the amount of money made from the writing. 

It’s pretty obvious that the bill is a designed to have a chilling effect on free speech. Historically, public figures have less protection from libel and slander than the regular public. It is assumed receiving harsh commentary is part of the job. Basically, if you want to be a public figure you can expect to put up with  public attacks. 

I guess those poor Florida politicians need a safe space. Apparently they are too sensitive to deal with the realities of lively political discourse. As a blogger it’s pretty neat to realize that those politicians fear me and other bloggers. 

I’m going to keep an eye on that legislation. I don’t know if pertains to just Florida bloggers or if the are casting a wider net. No matter. If they pass that bad law the only thing for any self respecting blogger to do is to violate the law. 

It’s called free speech. There’s an old legal document going back to the founding of this country that has something to say about it. Maybe we should send the the Florida politicians a copy? 


Friday, March 3, 2023

Finally repaired

I finally managed to get the Blazer back on the road. We had a mix of snow and rain today so I was lying in a slushy mess to work under the vehicle. 

It wasn’t the worse conditions I’ve dealt with to repair a vehicle. That would be the time I changed an electric diesel pump on the ambulance/camper conversion. The repair was done in dry pleasant weather in central Florida. The weather wasn’t the issue.

No, the problem was that the vehicle was sitting in a field full of fire ants. I threw a tarp on the ground and did the pump swamp in near record time. In spite of my precaution and haste the ants bit me seven times. Being attacked by fire ants is a serious distraction. I hate those little buggers. 

Winter has plenty of issues, but it’s big advantage is it’s ability to kill of the creepy crawlies. While we have ants that will bite you, they don’t have the acidic burning sting of fire ants. It’s also nice to have almost no venomous snakes and no alligators. 


Thursday, March 2, 2023

The Joys of Snow Country

First of all I have to admit that the new blanket of fresh snow is very pretty. Better yet, it’s the light fluffy stuff, not the white concrete we had earlier in the season. 

While it wasn’t too terribly hard to shovel, we certainly got a fair bit of it. Before I did anything else the shoveling had to be done. For me, perhaps the most important job is shoveling a path to the road and digging out the mailbox. When you live in the country that mailbox is a lifeline to the greater world. 

Sometimes I can afford to wait a day or two before digging out the cars. This was not one of those times. We were getting low on fresh foods. With another crappy day in the forecast it was worth going into town while the weather was mild. 

The Blazer transmission linkage project was calling me. After all, was sunny and had warmed up to 38.   YouTube university made it look like a fairly straightforward job. Unlike in the video, my Blazer has a hefty skid plate in the way and the job got a lot bigger. There’s only so much lying down on the ice I care to do. 

With that in mind I called the garage -and got their answering machine. They never called back. That’s fine. It gave me some time to think of another fix. I’ve decided to do a temporary repair that should last a few months. By then it’s be warm, dry and much more pleasant for shade tree mechanic work. 

That’s the plan anyway. 

I’ve the advantage of time and a second car so there’s a lot less pressure to fix things immediately. 


Wednesday, March 1, 2023

More Delays

Ho boy. Like they say: if it’s not one thing, it’s two or more things. Maybe I’m the only one who says that. 

I haven’t had the mental energy to blog lately. Too much stuff going on. Sometimes I don’t blog about the other stuff going on my life and this has been one of those times. 

There are a lot of time sinks right now. For example my lovely wife dealing with a damaged tendon in her thumb. She has to baby it so it’ll heal, but has to use it enough so it doesn’t seize up. Because of her injury there’s been a bit more of the daily chores that need my attention. 

Of course, there’s the snowstorms that keep coming in. Shoveling seems to be taking up way too much of my time. 

Just to make it interesting there’s enough other stuff that breaks down and needs my attention. 

Then there’s all that boring adult stuff like paperwork that needs doing. I try to simplify my life in that regard but paperwork seems to breed paperwork. Some of it is good. For example, I’m actually getting Medicare this month. It will be good to have some sort of health insurance. 

Anyway . . . 

Life goes on.


Monday, February 27, 2023

What’s up with Real Estate?

It depends where you are. Some properties have dropped by over 25% and that’s a crash by any measurement. Other places have dropped only a few percent. Some areas have no change at all. Currently the big price drop appears to be in new construction. Developers are making deals. 

One thing that’s clear is that we are in the early days of the price drops. There is very little demand at the current interest rates and prices. 

For me the really weird thing about real estate investment is that it’s an investment. Maybe we should stop looking at houses as financial instruments and look at them as places to live? I’ve done plenty of things with my property that supposedly hurts resale value. That means nothing to me as I’m not looking to sell. The things I’ve done are for my use, comfort, and enjoyment. Why anyone would be concerned about a hypothetical new owner is a mystery to me. 

There are a lot of things that artificially push up the cost of housing. I’m not against safety standards or anything like that. However, when you are prevented from building a tiny home because of zoning restrictions something is wrong. There are places that restrict the use of solar panels, rain catchment, gardens, outside parking and on and on. 

I wonder how much less homelessness there's be if we didn’t focus on the neighbor’s resale value? 

The ultimate expression of real estate as investment happens in China. They’ve built whole ghost cities where nobody lives. The only function of those properties is to get resold. There’s even a popular distinction in China between houses you invest in and houses you actually live in. 

I’m hoping this current downturn will refocus attention on what houses and apartments are actually for -places for living.


Sunday, February 26, 2023

Winter Travel?

The last time my lovely wife and I traveled south for the winter was in 2019. We came home in 2020 in a big rush. Then we didn’t to far at all for a while.

Last year we were in Texas, but that was to help out my in-laws. It certainly wasn’t a our normal fun filled adventure travel. Instead of getting a crappy T-shirt we got Covid. Not my favorite winter trip. 

Here it is, the end of February and we’ve been in the frozen north the whole time. We were hoping for a late winter trip -at least as far south as South Carolina. It’s not looking good. In fact, an early spring fun adventure trip doesn’t look like it’s in the cards either. That could change, but I’m not holding my breath. 

There’s a chance my lovely wife might actually end up in Texas again to assist her folks again. That’s not a fun trip at all. However, we are trying to get some of her medical issues sorted first. Right now it’s more important that she take care of herself. 

As for myself I’m looking to schedule a doctor’s appointment sometime soon too. Now that I have Medicare I want to try it out and get me some of that sweet modern medical care. -but seriously, I need a prescription refilled. I’d also like to try some new medical devices for my sleep apnea. For a long time I’ve been using salvaged c-pap devices that I service and reprogram myself. It would be nice to get something new and maybe even see a doctor. Well, seeing the doctor part isn’t a high priority as long as I can get the equipment I need. 

Anyway, by the time this stuff is sorted out I might not want to leave the Great North Woods. It’ll be spring and good weather will be on the way.


Saturday, February 25, 2023

Garage Envy

Being a shade tree mechanic isn’t much fun in -11 wind  chill temperatures. Not only is it hard on the mechanic even the parts are more likely to break from the cold. That’s especially true for plastics. That’s why I’ve got a new shifter assembly sitting in kitchen instead of installed on the Chevy. 

I really envy those people with nice garages to work out of. None of friends and family have anything suitable to borrow either. My daughter had a really nice garage built but then sold the house and moved out of state. Dang. 

It’s a good thing I have two cars and don’t really need the Chevy right now. Unfortunately the weather doesn’t look that great for the coming week. When we finally get decent weather I might be involved in something else and won’t be able to take advantage. 

As much as it goes against my frugal nature I’m seriously considering talking to a local repair shop in town. If they quote me a price that’s not too terrible I just might bite the bullet and pay someone to do the job. With the proper tools and a lift it should take less than an hour. 

I’ve done car repairs in sub-zero temperatures before. Once I changed a water pump on a car parked outside my house in the street. After the job was done I discovered the replacement pump was defective from the factory. In the end I did the whole job twice. The things you do when young and broke. 

Now that I’m old and broke . . . 

Anyway, if the winds would die down and the temperature get closer to 30 I just might attempt it. 



Friday, February 24, 2023

More Medication Issues

Less than 24 hours before the big snowstorm my lovely wife discovered her prescription could not be filled. The local pharmacy “discovered” it would be 7 to 10 days before they could fill that type. My lovely wife needs these meds to have anything like a normal life. 

There was a mad scramble trying to get it refilled in a different town. That required getting the first pharmacy to release her order. It also required a new script from the doctor. Two hours before the pharmacy was set to close I received a call it was ready.

Then they quoted a price well over a thousand dollars. Yeah, that wasn’t going to fly. My lovely wife told them to apply the codes for a program she’s a member of. That reduced the price to a little over fifteen dollars. Huge difference. 

We made it to the pharmacy about a half hour before they closed and four hours before the storm hit. Almost every time she has to refill her order there are issues. The stress takes its toll.

As for the storm itself we actually didn’t make out too badly. We got about a half foot of light dry snow. That sure beats freezing rain, ice and wet snow. It’s sure a lot easier to shovel. 

I also got the part I ordered to fix the Blazer. Things are looking up.


Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Potassium Iodide Anyone? Everyone?

So the biggest land war in Europe since WWII has ground on for another year. It’s been interesting to say the least. Most of us expected to see Putin in Kyiv not Biden. The best laid plans of mice and men and all that. 

So the question is, how desperate is Putin? His goals have not changed. Apparently some people are slow learners. 

Assume for a moment that the current Russian push does not go very well. Maybe the Ukrainian effort is really successful. They’ve pulled some big surprises in the past. Don’t sell them short. 

So what will a desperate Putin do? Will he actually follow through with his treats and go nuclear? I really don’t know, but I’m not afraid of the the rhetoric. Having grown up in the duck and cover age of the Cold War I’ve seen it all before. It seems every other week there would be a threat of global nuclear destruction. You can only maintain a level of high anxiety so long. After a while we’d shrug and go on with our lives. 

Personally, I can’t see Putin going the whole strategic nuclear weapon route. However, I see a less than zero chance that he might try one tactical battlefield nuke -just to make a point. He must know that going full out strategic war would be his death warrant. One nuke . . . he might think he can get away with that. 

I wonder if the Russian nuclear forces are as shabby as the rest of his military? Just a thought -and not one to bank on. 

What might be more likely is for the Russians to damage a Ukrainian nuclear power plant. They’ve put nuclear plants at risk before. It’s entirely possible that there would be a radioactive release from that sort of thing. It seems like the sort of “accident” that could lend itself to some level of deniability. 

With that in mind it might not be too bad an idea to have a few bottles of Potassium Iodide around for the fallout. 


Tuesday, February 21, 2023

It ain’t over yet

We’ve had a fairly mild patch of winter lately -with the exception of a couple of brutally cold days. Just to show how weird it’s been, we went from record cold to record warmth in the space of a week. That ain’t normal. 

Anyway, there’s a fair bit of snow in the forecast for the Great North Woods. I’m of two minds. In a way I’m pretty much over winter and wouldn’t mind more spring-like weather. On the other hand a decent snow pack helps prevent drought conditions. That makes a big difference. Just look at New Hampshire drought maps from previous years and the North Country does better than the rest of the state. 

At one time the Forest Service called Coos County “the asbestos county” as we have fewer and smaller forest fires. I’m sure deep snow packs were one of the reasons for that. 

Even with the predicted snowfall we are not having a particularly snowy year. That could change and March snows could bury us. Heck, April and May have been known to deliver significant snowfalls in the past. Of course, that was the past. Past performance is no indication of future results. 

Shoveling is just part of my winter exercise routine. Looks like I’m in for another workout. 


Monday, February 20, 2023

Some Days

Sometimes I’m too busy to blog. Saturday was one of those days. 

It had been a full day and I’d been looking to wind down for the evening. Then I got a text from my niece. She was driving my Blazer and she couldn’t get it into gear. We exchanged text messages but she still couldn’t get it sorted. Fortunately she was only a town away. 

She stopped at a gas station and was stuck. Good thing she was parked away from everything and not at the pumps when it happened. There was no figuring it out in the dark. In the end we transferred everything to my car and we came home. 

The rest of the evening was spent doing research on what the problem could be. Thanks to Google and YouTube University I had a plan. I’d suspected, and hoped, it was a simple linkage problem. Had the problem been in the transmission itself that would be the end of the Blazer. There’s only so much money I’m willing to put into a 2004 Blazer. 

In the daylight I was able to find the disconnected linkage and was able to make temporary repairs. It was a relief to be able to drive it home. New parts are on order. 

Since my favorite mechanic retired I find myself doing a lot more of my own repairs. If some untrained Bozo is going to work on it I’d rather that Bozo be me. There are garages I trust for some things but I really don’t have a general all around mechanic anymore. I’m going to have to bite the bullet and find a new guy I trust. 

 . . . but not today. 


Saturday, February 18, 2023

Feeding Everyone

Back during the Great Depression my mother’s parents fed everyone. Family, friends, neighbors -they fed a lot of people. 

My grandfather was one of the lucky ones who kept his mill job during the depression. It wasn’t a great paying job, but it was steady. My grandmother kept a huge garden and grew a lot of food. 

I’m old enough to remember the sizable shed-like building they had on their property. It housed an outdoor kitchen where my grandmother would cook her massive meals. There was a huge long table made out of old wooden doors and sawhorses. That’s where everyone would eat. 

Sometimes relatives would come down from Canada with food from their dairy farms. They’d also bring huge crates of salted fish. There were always huge mounds of potatoes -endless potatoes. 

My grandparents were far from well off. How they squeezed in all their kids into their small house was a mystery to me. They never owned a car. However, they shared what they had and took care of people. It’s just what you did. 

It was a depression, but you didn’t have to be depressed. By everyone sharing what they had they got by. From all accounts they kept their spirits up and had some good times. 


Friday, February 17, 2023

Tighter Belts

Interest rates are going up. That’s certainly putting the brakes on housing markets. It’s going to make borrowed money in general more expensive. I’ve seen it before. It’s been worse. When I bought my first house interest rates were around 16%. That sounds crazy high. However, I paid just $15,000 for the house. That’s not a typo. Sure, it was a small house and needed some work, but my monthly payment was less than $170. 

As conditions change there were be winners and losers. If you have the cash there’s going to be some good deals. We aren’t quite there yet. There’s going to be a lot of pain before the really good deals show up. By pain I mean things like bankruptcies, foreclosures, repossessions -rinse and repeat for a few cycles. Right now businesses and individuals are doing their best to hold on but not everyone is going to make it financially. 

In a couple years I expect to see some really good deals on used cars and I’m planning accordingly. Right now the prices on toys like boats and motorcycles are already softening. They toys are the first to go. 

Historically I tend to do pretty well during tougher times. I don’t have the right mindset for hopping on financial bubbles. Boom times don’t really benefit me much. When things get tight, that’s where I tend to do better as I can make my limited income do more for me. 

Of course, I’m no financial advisor. My finances have been messy from time to time over the years. There’s more to life than dollars and cents.


Thursday, February 16, 2023

Everything on the phone

Smart phones are amazing. Ironically the phone part is probably one of the weak links in all things they do. In reality they are powerful little computers. 

My beef is that they are used for more than they should be. 

Let’s take a simple example. Next to where I charge my phone I have a nice powerful rechargeable flashlight. The phone has a flashlight but that’s a poor way to use your phone. It’s pretty awkward to hold your phone in an upright position as a flashlight. It’s easy to drop it that way. A regular cheap stand alone flashlight is easier to use. If you drop it you aren’t damaging an expensive and fragile electronic device.

Then there are gadgets that are just silly. One those things that crosses the line for me is electronic meat thermometers that link up with your phone. Really? Do we need an electronic gizmo when a cheap stand alone meat thermometer works just fine?

Another one is automobile scan tools. I’m not a pro mechanic so the cheap $30 - $40 scan tools do most everything I need. They tend to be in shock resistant rubberized cases. I really don’t want my phone around heavy tools, grease, and fuels. 

If your phone is needed for everything you are big trouble when it breaks. You didn’t lose just a phone, you lost dozens of tools. 

Here’s a pro tip, carry around a small note pad and pencil or pen. You’d be surprised how much handier they can be than taking notes than on a phone. Personally, I feel a lot more creative writing on a pad than thumb typing on the phone. It also has the advantage of being able to jot down information and rip the page out to hand someone. Their are no issues with dead batteries. 

Smart phones are wonderful, but just because they can be used for everything doesn’t mean they should be.


Wednesday, February 15, 2023

The Collapse

Recently I was asked by someone when I expected the collapse to happen. 

Well that’s not a common question from most people. To put it into context I just happen to be storing a good amount of survival food for her husband. Their current space lacks the room but they are looking for something bigger. 

I both expect and don’t expect a collapse. It all depends on what you want to define as a collapse. Whole countries collapse, yet most of their people continue on. On any given day you can find areas of the planet going through their own local apocalypse. A day’s journey away and everything can be fine. 

Being prepared for natural and man made disasters is just prudent. 

So how about the whole planet experiencing a collapse? That could certainly happen. One day it will. I’m just hoping it’s millions of years in the future when the sun starts to burn out. 

There are definitely things that could set civilization back a long ways. We’ve come very close to strategic nuclear war and that would have been a collapse by anyone’s measurement. So far, we’ve dodged that one. Personally, in spite of everything going on in the world right now, I think we are further away from that possibility. At least we are less likely to do the unthinkable by accident. 

What do you do? The average person has very little influence on things like global disasters. What we do have is the ability to plan for the small collapses. That’s where things like stored food, water, and other supplies make a difference. It also helps to know when you should be down the road when an local apocalypse is about to happen. 


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Stuff Happens

I’ve been AWOL for a while. Stuff to do and to deal with. 

Things appear to have settled down a bit. My lovely wife, kids, and grandkids are well. My father-in-law’s health is a concern but he’s been moved to a better hospital -one with equipment, supplies and better doctors. Good thing my sister-in-law lives in the same state as her parents and has been able to take time off from work. There’s only so much my lovely wife can do from 2000 miles away. 

On the bright side it’s looking good for getting Medicare. It’s a process. I could stress about the way things have been going but it’s not like I expected things to go smoothly with Social Security. I had to laugh when I got a letter in the mail reminding me of my appointment -a day after the actual appointment. Fortunately, I was on top of things and didn’t need the reminder. It will be nice to have some sort of medical insurance again. 

There are also some things in the works that could improve our personal finances. I won’t know for sure for a few months yet but it’s occurring. We aren’t talking a huge pile of money but when you live pretty frugally in the first place it doesn’t take much extra to make a difference. 

So all in all, things aren’t that bad. Pretty good even. 


Friday, February 10, 2023

Rough Times

I’m avoiding specifics here to protect people’s privacy. 

We had a rough day recently. I had to take my lovely wife to the hospital all of a sudden. Fortunately that turned out better than it could have. 

That same day my granddaughter was locked down in her school for a mass shooter incident. Turned out it was a hoax, but that’s something you don’t find out until later. That was upsetting. 

Another daughter and her husband run a couple of Mediterranean restaurants. Some of their employees are from Turkey. They lost numerous friends and family in the earthquake. At least one employee can’t even go back to comfort survivors as he’s here on political asylum. 

Other friends and family are dealing with some heavy stuff too. Right now I’m feeling a bit emotionally wrung out. There are still things that I have to deal with and I’m moving forward. 


Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Fun with Medicare

I’m going to be 65 in a couple months. One of the neat things about turning 65 in the United States is that you can finally qualify for socialized medicine. Some people don’t like to call it that. Sure, whatever helps you sleep at night. 

Anyway, I’m not exactly a shoo in for the program. As far as Social Security is concerned I’m pretty much a ghost. The last time I paid into Social Security I was when I had a part time job when I was 18. I haven’t exactly contributed to the program.

Let’s back track a bit. First I tried to figure out if I qualified by going to Social Security’s on-line site. That didn’t get me very far. Then I went to an organization called Service Link that’s supposed to help people with these programs. After a couple of meetings they gave up and sent me to the Social Security office an hour away. 

At first they didn’t get very far. They had a hard time believing I didn’t have to pay into the Federal system because I was a firefighter covered under a state plan. That covered my retirement, but Medicare was not part of the deal. In later years firefighters were entered into the Medicare system, but I never was. 

It occurred to me that plenty of housewives, who’ve never worked outside the home, get Medicare under their husband’s contribution. I asked if I might get in under my wife’s contributions. They think that might work. However, they had no record that we ever got married. Don’t know how that happened. 

At any rate I had to go back to the SS office so they could make a copy of my marriage certificate. Of course, I was dealing with a new person and they had no idea what I was talking about. They couldn’t find any record of my application. Hey, it had been two whole days, so it’s no wonder we had to start from scratch. 

As it turns out my application is under my wife’s SS number. I’m still pretty much a ghost to them. 

Currently I’m scheduled for a phone interview at the end of the week. Let’s see how that goes. 

Personally, I think this is pretty amusing. One can’t take these things too seriously. Worse come to worse I can always do what I’m doing now: running up bills I can’t pay. What they heck, they can only ruin your credit once. After that you’re pretty much free. That’s one less thing to worry about. 


Monday, February 6, 2023

Frozen again?

I heard from a friend in Maine. While he got through the deep freeze in good shape, many of those around him didn’t. Their issues range from power outages, to furnace failure to lots of frozen and burst pipes. Then there were those who converted to heat pumps, only to discover the limits of heat pumps. In short, it can get too cold for heat pumps to work at all. 

My supply line froze again. The second time around around it only took about 30 minutes to thaw it. All the tools I needed were out and ready. 

It didn’t make sense that it would freeze again so I did a deeper inspection. It turns out the heat tape I put on the supple line had failed. It could have failed weeks ago but our temperatures were mild enough for it not to be an issue. There’s plenty of winter left so I’m replacing the heat tape. 

This cold snap got me thinking about Ground Hog Day -the tradition, not the movie. When I was a kid I always thought the six more weeks of winter was supposed to be the good outcome. Only six more weeks, what an early spring that would be! The ice doesn’t normally leave the lake here until the third week on April or so. Sometimes it extends into May. 

That doesn’t mean I won’t have my scooter out before then.


Sunday, February 5, 2023

Frozen supply line

I woke up Saturday morning to a frozen water supply line. It was -22 and the wind had been howling all night long. Dang. 

It took a couple of hours but I was able to thaw the line. It’s a process. The supply line is black plastic pipe so warming it with a torch is a bad idea. The pipe has a splice about 4 feet off the ground. It’s taken apart there and a smaller diameter hose is snaked down to the blockage. The other end of the hose has a funnel attached. 

A big kettle of water is heated up. The hot water is pored down the funnel and through the hose. The hot water slowly melts the ice blockage. The hose spewing hot water is slowly worked down the supply line until all the ice is gone. 

Once the ice is thawed the splice is reconnected and we are good to go. Then it’s safe to turn the well pump back on. 

Normally I only have to do this if the house has been shut down for part of the winter. At least I have a procedure that works. 


Saturday, February 4, 2023

So far so good

This blog post is being written late in the day on February 3. 

So how are we doing with the deep freeze? Overall, pretty good. 

Right now it’s -22, without the wind chill. During the afternoon the furnace had difficulty. In spite of running straight out the furnace was losing ground. That was due to the high winds combined with the cold. The wind was blowing from across the lake and not much slowed it down. As the wind died down the house became cozy again. 

As of this writing we still have the grid, so that’s a bonus. 

I didn’t venture outside. Frostbite takes about a minute to set in during these conditions. Saturday is supposed to be cold, but it’ll warm up Sunday. We’ll be back in the high 30s by then and that’ll be down right balmy.


Friday, February 3, 2023

Real Winter

First some good news. My relatives in Texas were just south of the ice line. My father-in-law was able to make it to his cancer treatment and back. 

Here in northern New Hampshire they are predicting -20 Fahrenheit. That’s about -29 Celsius for the rest of the world. The windchill is supposed to be about -50. Just to the south of me on Mt. Washington it will be -100. That’s colder than the average temperature on freaking Mars. (-81 F)

Thursday was a good day to run errands before the deep cold settled in. Cars don’t behave too well when it’s that cold. I’m perfectly happy to stay home. Why put extra wear and tear on my car when I don’t have to? Also, why put extra wear and tear on me. 

This sort of weather was a lot more common when I was a kid. I remember the occasional -40 day. Fahrenheit or Celsius, it doesn’t matter. 

Since my lung injuries I’ve been bothered by cold air. Long before the pandemic I was wearing face masks during cold weather. A good facemask made a big difference for my breathing comfort. These days I just sorta blend in. 

My main concern is about the wind. The last things we need is trees taking down power lines. 

On the bright side there’s much milder weather right behind this cold spell. 


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Ice Storms

I was watching the weather channels with a focus on the ice storms in the south central part of the country. My in-laws are in that area but right on the fringe of the storms. We haven’t heard from them so I’m hoping no news is good news. 

In my travels I’ve run into southern ice storms. My approach is to take the first exit that leads to a hotel. I learned to drive in snow country. There were times I drove through through raging blizzards. However, I won’t drive in ice storms. It doesn’t matter if you have a giant truck with four wheel drive. When the wheels hit the ice there’s nothing that will help. 

With the exception of studded tires. New Hampshire is one of the few states that does not regulate or ban their use. I’ve used them in the past, but only because I was given studded snow tires for free. They help but they aren’t magic. In fact, they only encourage you to drive when you shouldn’t Even if you have traction, nobody else does. Bumper cars with real cars is no fun.

When there’s an ice storm it’s a real pleasure to be able to stay home. Back when I was a firefighter I knew I’d end up driving the fire truck on ice to get to accidents. It’s pretty freaky to be sliding sideways down a hill with a fully loaded pumper with crew. I never crashed, but sometimes it was more luck than skill. 

If you get caught in an ice storm get off the road. Don’t be the reason first responders have to go out in dangerous conditions.


Wednesday, February 1, 2023

To simplify

Marie Kondo made a career of coaching people to simplify and tidy their lives. You were supposed to get rid of anything that did not bring you joy. 

Something drastic happened to her. Her house is no longer tidy. So what happened? She had three kids. 

Anybody who’s had kids knows what happens to your house. It is no longer a house for adults. It’s a house for kids. Kids play. Heck, it’s important to their development that they play. Their toys will not be isolated to a single room. If you are lucky you won’t step on a Lego with bare feet in the middle of the night. Odds are you will. 

In the end,  even the Queen of Clean could not conquerer the clutter of kids. 

Fortunately my lovely wife never got caught up in that tidy madness. For a lot of couples it seems like the wife would decide it was the husband’s things that didn’t bring her joy. I’ve seen my lovely wife’s craft room so that wasn’t going to fly. 

One person’s clutter is another person’s resources. While I’m not a hoarder I do like to have materials to work with. If something needs to be repaired I don’t go running to the hardware store. I poke around my junk piles and see what might do the job. A little cutting, a little welding, a bit of a paint, and stuff gets fixed. 

My organization goals don’t involve getting rid of stuff. My goal is to have better organized junk piles 


Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Off-grid and YouTube off-grid

There’s a lot of “off-grid” content on YouTube. It’s trending and a lot of people have jumped on the bandwagon. There’s money to be made -apparently. 

Some of these channels are pretty glitzy. What gets me is that money does not seem to be an issue. They have 20,000 watts of solar electric, and every battery powered tool imaginable. Some even fly in building materials by helicopter. I can’t even imagine. 

These off-grid places are impressive, but I can’t relate to them. While I’m not totally broke, I don’t have helicopter money. It’s pretty easy to solve homesteading problems when you can throw plenty of money around. They also can afford to hire professionals whenever they need help.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the person who goes out into the woods with little more than an ax and builds using native materials. While I’m not at that extreme, I’m closer to that end of the spectrum. 

It’s surprising what you can accomplish with a little knowhow and persistence. You focus on basic needs, not every possible gadget on the market. Plenty of people do wonders with native materials and salvaged items. They do well with tiny solar electric systems, hand pumped water, composting toilets, and wood stoves. 

Of course, most of these people don’t have YouTube channels. Those that do tend to have few followers. They don’t have the glitz and frankly what they do looks like a lot of work. Nobody wants to see that. 


Monday, January 30, 2023


I’m trying something different for pest control: ultrasonics. I picked a half dozen devices from Amazon. They’ve been deployed around the house. 

So why am I’m going that route? It’s those darn flying squirrels again. There’s been some damage on one of the house’s overhangs. A section of wood has come loose allowing enough room for flying squirrels to make their way in. 

It should be fixed, but that’s not going to happen during the winter. The damage is about 20 feet up in the air. While I have a ladder long enough for job, it’s glare ice on that side of the house. That makes the job too risky in my book. 

In the mean time I’m trying out the ultrasonic devices. The instructions say it can take up to two weeks for the pests to leave. In a couple days I’ve noticed a lot less squirrel activity. It sounds like they come into the house, don’t get very far in, then leave. They certainly aren’t sticking around. 

Only time will tell how effective this solution will be. Has anyone else tried this type of pest control?


Sunday, January 29, 2023

Solar angles

So how did I adjust the angle of my solar panels? 

The angle is decided by your latitude. As for myself I’m close enough to the 45th parallel for it to be my baseline. What that means is that my solar panels are perfectly adjusted to the proper sun angle during the equinoxes. 

My solar panels can be adjusted to either 30, 45, or 60 degrees. It’s a simple system. The panels are mounted on a pivoting rack. The angle is adjusted by moving two support arms to one of three ½ threaded rods mounted on the pole. All I have to do is to remove a couple of nuts to move the supports to a different rod. It’s low tech and simple -and robust. 

The 30 degree setting pretty much gets me through the summer. The 45 setting is good for spring and fall. 

Right now, in the winter, they are set at 60 degrees to catch the low winter sun. That steep angle works out fairly well as the snow slides easily off the panels. One of the tricks is to mount the panels with the long dimension straight up and down. That makes it easier for the snow to slide off. 

If I had to pick one angle for the panels year round it would be the 60 degree winter angle. It’s the most efficient angle for the winter, the time when I need to capture every photon available. While not maximizing the panel efficiency the rest of the year, the longer days make up for it. 

So how about tracking the sun east to west? It’s not worth it in northern climates. It’s probably not worth it most places. Instead of spending money on an expensive tracking system, just add more panels. Right now that looks more cost efficient. Point your panels due south and call it good.

Actually, my panels aren’t quite due south. That’s due to my location. My house is on the side of the hill that blocks the early morning sun, but I get more sun later in the day. With that in mind my panels point just a tad more west than due south. 

I had a good year to save up money and plan my installation. One of the things I did with that year was to take regular observations on where the sunshine fell. By the time I was ready to install the solar array  I knew exactly where it had to go and which trees needed to be cut. 

Lately the solar panels have been producing a fair amount of power again. The days are a bit longer and  we’ve had more sunny days. Sun reflecting off the snow adds significantly to the amount of solar gain. You can get a similar effect next to a body of water. I’ve a little 50 watt panel powering a shed by the lake and it produces all I need. 


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Back at it

It’s been a tough patch. I blame cancer. I’m fine. The lovely wife is fine. The kids are fine. Recently my father-in-law has been going through a bad patch with his chemo. I’ve a couple of cousins dealing with breast cancer. My mother and her sister both died from breast cancer. My cousins are getting early treatment and I’m hopeful. 

A while back I blogged about a friend who was working from his hospital bed. He’s not working anymore. He had a bad episode and ended up back in the hospital. He couldn’t talk or do much of anything. For a while there it looked like the most we could hope for is to get him into hospice. Fortunately, he recovered enough that he’s back home -for now. Thank goodness for home health care. 

A lot of the guys I worked with at the fire department died of cancer. Cancer rates are high among firefighters. 

The high number of my friends and family dealing with cancer got to  me. It was overwhelming for a bit there. 

This is not the blog I intended to write, but it’s what came out. Thanks for bearing with me. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2023


Currently I’m dealing with some things. Nothing too dramatic but it’s a huge draw on my mental and emotional energy. 

I’m going to take a bit of time off from the blog. 

We are fine, but very occupied.


Monday, January 23, 2023

Coughing Hacking Sneezing

My lovely wife and I went to a small concert. I’m guessing there were over 200 people there. We went to the same venue back in the before time. You know, pre-2020. 

In years past you’d be treated to a lot of coughing, hacking and sneezing. The lack of that sort of thing really stood out. Apparently sick people now stay home rather than go to concerts. Of course, my sample is pretty small. I’m curious if that holds true in other places?

I’m guessing it’s not as socially acceptable to spread your germs everywhere. I hope that’s the case. 

Another practice that can go away forever is coming into work sick. People used to take pride in dragging themselves into work even if they were half dead. That never made much sense to me. How does it benefit the company if everyone gets sick and works well below par? 

Back in my firefighter days we had that tough guy pride. Guys would work the job no matter how bad they felt. Often they’d gamble on having a slow day. Being the young guy with things to prove I fell into that trap myself. As I got older I learned better. 

Instead of gambling on having a slow work day, I would ask myself if I could handle a bad day at work. One of the first times I called in sick the department was out all night in sub-zero temps at a sawmill fire. There was no way that I could have done the job properly and would have not pulled my weight. That really made it clear to me that sick people should stay home. 

It looks like that attitude has spread, and that’s a good thing. 


Sunday, January 22, 2023

Electric Cars

Electric cars make a lot of sense -some places. If you have cheap renewable electricity and a mild climate, it’s great. They are also a pretty good deal in places with high gas prices. I saw an awful lot of them out in California, but gas prices are silly there. 

I hear stories about electric cars having a hard time in cold climates. It makes sense that a lot of that power is needed to keep the interior of the car warm. Cold temperatures reduce battery power by quite a bit. There’s anecdotal tales of cold temperate charging where the car loses power faster than the charger puts it in. 

On the flip side of that, Norway is full of electric cars. Why don’t they have the same problems?

At any rate, newer battery designs promise to be less susceptible to cold temperatures. Of course, we have to deal with the technology we have available right now.

I wonder if we are concentrating on the wrong kind of vehicles? The focus has been on things like fast cars, powerful trucks, and huge SUVs. Perhaps it would make more sense to develop more cheaper smaller cars? More people would buy them and there would be more demand for charging stations. Just a thought. We need something between an electric Hummer and a golf cart. 

Right now the most practical electric vehicle for the average person is an electric bicycle. 


Saturday, January 21, 2023

Young Adults

One of my pet peeves is the extended adolescence much of society expects from young adults. Not much is expected of 20 somethings. It’s accepted to be a decade of partying and bad decisions. Nobody is expected to get serious about a career, marriage or starting a family. In fact, it’s often considered a mistake for a young adult to be serious about those things. 

Yet somehow it’s perfectly acceptable for 18 year old adults to serve in the military. At that age you aren’t considered wise enough to rent a car but are expected to kill or die for your country. Just as weird is the fact that it’s legal for 18 year olds to act in porn. 

Personally, I treat and expect 18 year olds and especially those in their 20s, to be and act like adults. It would be hypocritical for me not to.

At 18 I was a full time firefighter running into burning buildings. I was buying land at that age -to add to the land I earned at 16. My lovely wife and I both got married when we were only 20. That was 44 years ago so we much have been mature enough to know what we wanted. 

It does young adults no favors to treat them like little kids. 


Friday, January 20, 2023

Lazy Man Prep

There’s a few things I like to do before a storm. There’s a fair chance that any sort of bad weather can take down the grid out here in the country. I’ve some solar electric power, but storms come with a lot of clouds. They can also do things like bury solar panels under two feet of snow. 

The first thing I do is top off the house battery bank. That’s a given. 

After that I like to use any energy intensive appliances. One of my indulgences is a dish washer. I once moved apartments just to get one with a dishwasher. I don’t use it on solar power when sunshine is limited. 

Another thing I do is the laundry. Sure, clothes can be hand washed, but it’s a pain. I don’t mind doing it for a handful of items, but certainly not for a full laundry load. The washer is something else that I don’t normally run off-grid during limited sun days. 

Anything that runs on rechargeable batteries gets topped off: laptops, phones, flashlights, you name it. 

Modern appliances can save a lot of time and effort. A little preplanning allows me to concentrate on other things when the grid goes down. Heck, maybe I just want to sit by the fire and read a book instead of doing manual labor. That works too.


Thursday, January 19, 2023

Back Home

I know I’ve been MIA for a while. My lovely wife and I got together with family in Massachusets. It was the gathering we were supposed to have for Christmas, but people got sick. Everyone is now recovered and it was a wonderful visit. 

In fact, it was such a nice time we were in no hurry to get home. We stayed longer than originally planned. Then on the way home we visited with friends in southern New Hampshire and spent time with them. I’ve friends that I’ve kept in contact with since my Junior High days. 

We also were able to avoid traveling in bad weather conditions. I don’t mind a little snow, but freezing rain is something to avoid if at all possible.

While the trip was great, it’s good to be home.


Sunday, January 15, 2023

Winter Joys

We received a few inches of snow. Then it rained, making a heavy slushy mess. I headed out with my shovel to remove the snowbank before it turned into an 18 inch wall of ice. 

I was a bit dishearten to see my mailbox had been clipped by the snowplow. It was a crumpled mess sitting in my driveway. Lovely. A bit of hammering turned it back into something resembling a mailbox. Now it’s lashed to the pole until a new one can be purchased. 

It could have been worse. 

One year a plow, in a two mile stretch, destroyed over a dozen mailboxes and damaged over 300 trees. He also managed to destroy a boat on a trailer that was parked in a driveway. The plow caught the bow of the aluminum boat and peeled it open like a sardine can. 

Some years ago I stopped at local mom and pop store for some gas early in the morning. The plow truck pulled to the store. The driver almost fell getting out of the truck. About a half dozen empty beer cans fell out with him. There were plenty more still on the floor of the cab. Yeah, his contract wasn’t renewed. 

Plowing is a tough job at best of times. Being up all night plowing during a storm causes bad fatigue. I’m cutting the plow guy a little slack this time. The mailbox was getting old anyway. 

However, if he clips my new one . . . 


Saturday, January 14, 2023

Waiting for the camping crash

Camping have gotten really expensive the last few years. There are a lot of factors, everything from high fuel costs to increased demand. Another factor is the number of mom and pop campgrounds that have been bought out by big corporations. There are even fewer free overnight spots in places like Walmart and Cracker Barrel. RV camping in particular has gotten super expensive.

The last time I was camping we used our economy car and a tent. I’ve a 105 watt solar panel mounted to the roof racks to power our small fridge and other electrical needs. That reduces our costs quite a bit. Tent sites tend to be cheaper as are sites without electricity. 

Right now camping sites are still in high demand. Even places that get snow are packed solid. However, more and more people are giving up. I can’t say I blame them. The cost, the lack of open camping sites, and inflation are taking their toll. Eventually reduced demand will put a little downward pressure on camping costs.

I’ve in the process of planning a long scooter trip. My route will take advantage of a lot of cheap camping tricks. Friends and family let me stay overnight and that’s handy. There’s some dispersed camping on my route. However, some stealth camping will be involved. 

So how does one stealth camp with a bright red scooter full of reflectors? That’s why I have a large black cover and a dark green tent. I don’t have to be very far off the road to be difficult to see. The trick is to set up just before dark and to get out early. Practice good light discipline and don’t have a fire. It brings me back to the days when I was a kid and stealth camped while on a bicycle. 

Outside of stealth and dispersed camping, Federal campgrounds are probably the best deal out there. They are even better deals if you have one of their many discount cards. 

I must admit, I miss the days when you could pull into almost any campground at the end of the day and find a place.


Friday, January 13, 2023

More about wild foods

In my previous post I mentioned the difficulty of relying on wild foods for survival. I’ve experimented with it in the past with mixed results. 

It’s one thing to shoot a grouse or a rabbit and have that as part of your dinner. The sides, cooking fats, and spices are not sourced from the wild. Believe me, those additional ingredients make all the difference. Having a bit of wild game at hunting camp was pretty common, but it wasn’t the only thing on the menu. 

One of the more efficient ways of getting a lot of calories is fishing. A friend and I lived off fish, raspberries, and wild greens for a few days. The food was a bit bland but we didn’t go hungry. It didn’t take hours and hours to source our food either. It wasn’t that hard to do: where the fishing was good and the berries were ripe. 

Then there’s the three days I tried to live on wild foods in the winter, in the mountains of western Maine. I ate a lot of rock tripe. It kept me full. That’s about the best one can say about rock tripe. It’s a fungus that grows on rocks. You have to boil out the acid dissolving chemicals in a couple changes of water. 

There was almost no sign of game up in those mountains. Had it been a true survival situation I might have tried to get one of the beavers hanging around a small mountain pond. Their fat would had been essential nourishment. Of course, it’s illegal to just shoot beavers so it would have had to be a matter of desperation.

In a real survival situation you can’t be afraid of eating things you normally wouldn’t. I would not refuse insects and amphibians for that matter. 

All in all, even the worse MRE doesn’t look that bad in comparison.


Thursday, January 12, 2023

Backups: Longer and Harder

It’s great to have backups: energy, water, food, etc. When things fall apart it’s nice not to freeze and starve to death in the dark. 

What a lot of people don’t realize is that those backups take up lot of time and energy. 

Take something simple like losing your water supply. I’m fortunate to have a well on my property where I can fill water jugs from an overflow pipe. It’s about 75 feet down a steep hill from the house. You soon realize that water weighs 8.33 pounds per gallon. It take about a gallon and a half to flush the toilet.  People should have a gallon per person per day for drinking and basic hygiene. Filling a bathtub is a major chore. That’s for someone who has a water source close by. Now imagine the closest water source is miles away.

My house has an oil furnace. Due to the high cost of heating oil I’m mostly using the woodstove. The woodstove needs regular attention. Since I wasn’t able to spend the time and energy ahead of time to gather firewood I bought pallets of biobricks. They are basically compressed sawdust bricks. The bricks are easy to handle and burn hot and clean. 

I supplement that with wood from dead trees on my property -when I have the time and energy. It’s not too bad using a chainsaw. My backup for that is a 3.5 foot German crosscut saw. After that I’m down to an ax. Each drop in technology consumes more time and effort.

Anybody who’s had to use a generator for power knows that it’s a lot more work than flipping a switch. Just keeping up the fuel and oil levels takes time. If you run out of fuel getting more can range from inconvenient to impossible. Frankly, that’s one of the things I like about having significant solar backup -it just works with little maintenance. 

Then there are the people who think hunting and fishing can replace having food storage. The vast majority of people who think that way will go hungry. Unless you live in a cabin in the middle of prime hunting and fishing land it’s probably not going to work. Even then, there are days when you will come home empty handed. Even under the best circumstances gathering wild foods will take a lot of time and effort. 

Now imagine you are trying to do all those things at once. There are only so many hours in the day. It’s almost impossible for an individual to do everything. A larger community can split up the jobs, but they also have greater needs. 

Just because there are backups for life’s necessities and comforts doesn’t mean you have the time and energy to do them. I’d rather heat up some beans on the woodstove, drinking coffee make with water from my solar electric powered well pump. A little planning goes a long way. 


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Sorry Rocky

Living out on the country eventually you have to deal with different critters. Normally my biggest hassles are dealing with bears and mice. Mice try to move in this time of year for food and warmth. Bears are a pain as they are always looking for an easy meal. One even ripped the molding off around my basement door looking for a way in. 

I’ve got about four or five different ways of killing mice. It seems they don’t always fall for the same kind of trap. Poisons aren’t used as other animals could eat poisoned mice and get sick. Mice aren’t a problem right now. 

Bears are in hibernation. That’s handy. It gives us a break. One of the things that discourages bears is careful disposal of trash. The trash is put out at the last minute on trash day. Normally I wouldn’t worry  about last minute disposal since the bears are hibernating. Unfortunately there’s a family of foxes living nearby and they’ll pick through trash too. 

Tuesday morning I had to deal with a critter in the house I’d never dealt with before: a flying squirrel. My lovely wife and I were woken up by a very disturbed flying rodent. It’s pretty weird chasing a squirrel around the house when it leaps and glides everywhere. Eventually I got it corned in the kitchen and was able to whack it. It might have been nice if I could have captured it, but that wasn’t going to happen. It was hard enough to hit it, never mind capture. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2023

No More BS

Okay folks. I’ve had it. No more post comments about election denial. No more support for the Jan. 6 coup attempt. No more BS from people who get all their information from propaganda sources like FOX New or NewsMax. Enough is enough. 

You will be deleted. Find another forum for your silliness.


Monday, January 9, 2023

Brazil’s Trump

Brazil’s Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, lost his election. His supporters did not accept the election results and stormed government buildings, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Presidential Palace. Brazil is a powerful modern country. It’s a shame to see them acting like a Banana Republic. 

Currently Bolsonaro is in Florida, which continues to be a sunny place for shady people. 


It’s 2023 people. Just because you lose an election doesn’t mean your opponents stole it. 

Elections in the US have been stolen. Al Gore beat George Bush. Lucky for George his brother was in the swing state of, dare I say it, Florida, and helped make sure the recount went a certain way. However, to save the nation from turmoil, Al Gore conceded. Once can debate the wisdom of that decision, but that was the action of someone more concerned about the nation rather than personal power. 

So what does all this have to do with being prepared? Quite a bit really. It’s not a particularly good survival strategy to follow those who are more concerned with power than people. Bolsonaro’s followers have been arrested and will probably spend a long time in jail. That’s what’s what happened to Trump’s followers who stormed the US Capital. There will be more trials and more jail terms. 

Be careful following kings with feet of clay.


Sunday, January 8, 2023

Cyber Attacks

Just a heads up. There have been a series of cyber attacks in Europe. The systems under attack right now have been financial. Where people have noticed it is at the checkout counter. In short, cards either aren’t working at all or transactions have been incredibly slow. Cash is king. Keep some of that folding money handy. 

I’m not sure if there have been attacks on the US systems -yet. Europe might be a test case. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to figure out who’s probably behind the attacks. 

There may be a cyber war going on in the background that we are totally unaware of. The only times we see it is when the defenses fail. Let’s hope that it stays that way.

Financial systems aren’t the only things in danger. Any system relying on computers could be attacked. The grid and water supplies could be taken down. Even things like automated transportation scheduling could cause some serious hardships.

To sum up, keep some cash money handy and watch out for other attacks.


Saturday, January 7, 2023

About those eggs

If you’ve been to the grocery store lately you know what our egg situation is like. Avian flu has struck the major egg producers and a whole lot of chickens have been culled. That’s the problem with industrial scale farming -when thing go wrong they go wrong on a large scale. 

In my local stores the egg section is pretty empty. We also have the weird situation where organic and free range eggs can actually be cheaper than regular eggs. That’s because the specialty eggs are smaller operations and less prone to the disease. 

Of course you could always raise your own chickens. That’s great if you are into that sort of thing. As much as I love eating eggs raising chickens really doesn’t fit my lifestyle. My lovely wife and I like to travel too much. We don’t have anyone who’d be willing to take over when we are gone. 

What we’ve been doing is buying a lot of local eggs. They were never cheap, but now their prices aren’t any worse than the poorer quality eggs. Even with today’s high prices, eggs are a fairly cheap source of protein. I’m not going to drop them out of my diet if I don’t have to.

Eggs are not one of those things I want to stock up on. I’ve tried different powered and freeze dried eggs. They aren’t that good. I’ve found the powered eggs are suitable as a cooking ingredient but not very good for things like omelets. The freeze dried eggs taste bad and the mouth feel is like eating sponges. I don’t recommend it. 

Worse come to worse I’d rather do without eggs than eat bad ones.


Friday, January 6, 2023

Silent Speaker of the House

As of this writing Kevin McCarthy has lost 11 votes for Speaker of the house. I hope it’s been resolved by now. It a way it doesn’t matter. The office has been greatly diminished. Love them or hate them the Republicans had a record of keeping their membership in lockstep. That’s gone. It’s pretty clear that a significant segment of the party has their own agendas.

In the mean time we do not have a functional house of Representatives. If you believe they were sent to govern, they aren’t doing that at all. However, if the only thing of importance is power this could go for a while. 

Electing a Speaker of the House is the simplest thing they have to do. This does not bode well for a the nation. It certainly looks like serving the citizens of the nation are way down on the list of priorities. 

Don’t expect any Republican bills to make it into law. They weren’t going to pass the Senate or the executive branch anyway. That’s just math. One of the weird things this has done is to strengthen the Democrats in the House. Unlike the Republicans they’ve been able to vote in lockstep. Are we in reverse world?

The nation has a lot of challenges right now. Apparently any solutions won’t be coming out of the House. We may be looking at 2 years of rule by Presidential decree. 

Miss Polosi yet?


I had to say it. 


Thursday, January 5, 2023

Red Tide

No I’m not talking about a Communist invasion. This time I’m talking about Karenia brevis, the red time organism. In particular I’m talking about the waters off Southwest Florida. 

For the last few years I’ve been paying close attention the conditions in those waters. It’s one of my favorite places to sail. It’s good sailing of you have a shallow draft boat with a swing keel. My lovely wife and I sailed that area numerous times and really love it. It’s certainly a lot more laid back than the hectic Atlantic coast. 

However, those shallow warm waters are susceptible to the growth of red time. Between the fish kills and the toxic air I’ve no interest in dealing with that. I’ve sensitive lungs to begin with and don’t need to suffer for nothing. 

This past summer it was starting look like red tide was finally fading away. Then Hurricane Ian hit. All the run off from the land to the sea cause huge growth in the toxic organism. It hasn’t subsided yet. Maybe it will be better next winter. I really would love to sail there once again. 

By the way, I get my red tide updates from The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Trucking Boom Over

Remember not that long ago when truck companies were begging for drivers? Now they are laying them off in droves. Transportation companies are letting people go and not even paying them the money they owe. 

To me that looks like a sign the economy is tanking. Early indicators are that this past Christmas season was a huge disappointment to retailers. Amazon just let 10,000 people go. Considering the size of their workforce it’s a drop in the bucket, but could be the beginning of a trend. 

Apparently a lot of people are dealing with inflation by buying only what’s necessary. It’s also hard to keep buying stuff when you’ve lost your job. Duh. Captain Obvious here. However, some economists seem baffled by facts like that. 

If you want job where you never have to be right you could be an economist. Failure in that field doesn’t appear to have any downsides. 

But I digress. 

Back to trucking. It’s not the great job it used to be in the 70s, that’s for sure. The industry has been pushing out experienced drivers and replacing them with cheaper new hires. Now it looks like even those new people will be let go. 

There’s still a lot of stuff that has to move by truck. Food and fuel come mind. On the other hand, there’s a lot of things people don’t need, like cheap plastic junk from China. People are cutting back on nonessential purchases. 

Are there any upsides to this? It should reduce diesel demand and that should bring the price down. No idea if that’ll happen or how long it will take. Fuel supplies have supply side pressures that could negate the lower demand. 

2023 already looks challenging. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Dangerous Weather

Right now in the Great North Woods we are having some dangerous weather. One would think that would be because of winter cold. That’s not the case at all. It’s actually been on the warm side. The warmth is the problem.

The temperature has been moving above and below the freezing mark. It’s hard to dress properly. You stand a fair chance of getting wet from from rain, then everything freezes. That makes everything from outdoor activities to driving a bit dicey. It’s also perfect weather for taking down the grid. That can happen from freezing rain on power lines and trees. Also car accidents take out power poles. 

If the weather stays above freezing ice isn’t an issue. If it remains cold at least things stay dry. You can always dress for the cold. Personally I’d rather travel on snow covered roads that icy roads. 

There’s been some people ice fishing on the lake. I’m not one of them. There are places with more than enough thickness to be safe, but there are hidden thin spots too. More of those develop during thawing and freezing cycles. As a rule of thumb I don’t get out on the ice until I see trucks driving on it. I’ve no interesting in taking surprise ice baths.

The only bright side to this mild weather is that it’s easier on the heating bill. That’s no small thing, so guess I’ll take the bad with the good.


Monday, January 2, 2023

Neighborhood Test

Here’s a test to see what kind of neighborhood you live in. Picture this. You walk into your neighbor’s yard and their dogs come out. Are they happy to see you or will they try to rip your throat out?

If it’s the former, you’re on pretty good terms with you neighbor. If it’s the latter, that could be a problem. Could you imagine getting on better terms with them? Are you already feuding? Why does it matter?

It matters a lot. In a bad situation are they part of the solution or part of the problem? 

Recently we got hit with a pretty significant storm. The grid went down. So what was one of my first thoughts? I was wondering if my neighbor was going to be okay. We are all on private wells here and without power the well pumps don’t work. That’s one of the major reasons I put in solar electricity so many years ago. Water is life. I also saw that they had enough wood in their woodpile to last a while. 

As it turned out the grid was only down for an hour and a half. The neighbor had their plow guy clear the snowbank from behind my cars. They ended up helping me out more than I helped them -this time. 

By the way, the neighbor’s dogs love me.


Sunday, January 1, 2023

Happy New Year! (no, really)

Happy New Year!

Wasn’t 2022 a rush? We slid into 2023 with steam blowing out of the radiator and the wheels on fire. On the bright side, here we are. 

Just because it’s a new year it doesn’t mean everything resets. Reality doesn’t much care for a date on the calendar. 

What can change with the new year is our mindset and attitudes. That’s why people make resolutions this time of year. Here’s a few hints about that. Don’t sign a gym membership. Wait a month and see how you feel about the gym then. What you can do is set specific and realistic goals. I know -that’s boring. It also works better than trying to change everything all at once using unstated and vague methods. 

You can’t keep on doing what you’ve always done and expect different results. Even small changes in routine can cause big results. Most people get into ruts and stay there. It doesn’t even have to be a comfortable rut, just familiar. 

There are indicators that 2023 will be full of changes. Odds are the economy will be going through some convulsions. That doesn’t mean that you personally have to suffer. Looking back at past years I personally did just fine during economic downturns. In fact, sometimes those were my better years. I was motivated to do things differently. It payed off. 

Be well everyone. Don’t like 2023 worry you too much. After all, you survived the burning wreck of 2022.