Thursday, February 29, 2024

Salamander on snow


This photo was taken a couple of days ago. 

Two friends, who wish to remain anonymous, took this photo while hiking in northern New Hampshire. 

I’ve never seen a spotted salamander in the snow. That ain’t right. Our unusually warm spell is messing up the natural cycles. 

Last year we had a warmer than normal spring but it was followed by a May frost. There was a lot of tree damage, especially fruit trees. A lot of orchards took a hit. Usually I enjoy eating wild pin cherries that grow on my land. They all turned black and I didn’t get to eat any. That’s an annoyance for me, but a big hit for the birds that normally feast on them. 

We could be looking at a bad growing season. Interesting times. 


Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Ceremonies Matter

When archaeologists did up very ancient hominid remains they take special note of burial sites. They judge the intelligence of the species on how the body was buried. Being buried with things like grave goods and flowers are indicators of mental advancement. These signs of respect for the dead are a big deal.  

Today I went to a funeral that had to be one of the most generic ceremonies ever. One would think that the officiant could say something personal about the deceased. The poor woman spent 86 years in her church. Somebody should have had something pertinent to say about her. 

While it was a pretty poor excuse for a ceremony it’s not the worse I’ve heard of. The priest got my uncle’s name wrong. That’s pretty basic. It’s not hard to get little things like that right. 

In contrast I went to funeral during the height of covid. It was held outside and masked as the deceased had passed away from the virus. The brand new minister barely knew the guy due to limited contact. In spite of that he put together a respectful funeral. All it took was talking to the people in the church who knew the guy well. 

So what’s the big deal about crappy funerals? It’s one of the ceremonies that hold society together. Funerals are for those who survive. They should bring comfort. Lives well lived should be recognized. When a society can’t honor their dead as well as a bunch of Neanderthals it’s in decline. 


Monday, February 26, 2024

The Mother Road

I’m about to turn 66. My lovely wife suggested it might be fun to go on a Route 66 adventure. It’s known as the “Mother Road” as it was the big east-west road at one time. When the newer highways were constructed old 66 fell into disuse. Parts of it are totally in disrepair. However the vast majority of it is drivable, so that’s useful. 

A lot of the old roadside attraction and quirky hotels are still around. It’s sort of a time capsule of a certain time in post war America. I don’t know as much about it as I’d like so a fair bit of research is in order. 

From others I’ve picked up a few pointers. Don’t try to drive every mile of the remaining road. Too much of it goes through the heart of towns and cities. Pick and chose which tourist attractions to see. If you try to see them all you’ll get burned out. It’ll also take forever. When it comes time to stop for the night it might be a good idea to avoid the old hotels. Zip on over to the main road and stay at something a bit more modern. 

Of course, I’m going to have to put together a soundtrack for the trip. It will have to include Bobby Troupe’s Route 66.


Sunday, February 25, 2024

The loss of a good barber

So a buddy of mine was chatting with his barber. That’s what you do at the barber shop. Apparently my friend was telling the barber about some of my adventures. He told the barber about the exploits my wife and I experienced over the years. We didn’t let having three kids stop us from doing things. 

The next time my buddy goes to get his hair cut the shop owner was a bit ticked off at him. Apparently the barber, his employee, took my friend’s tales to heart. The guy quit his job so he and his wife could follow some of their dreams. Apparently they are avid hikers and decided to just do it. The owner has to replace a good employee.

I don’t feel bad about it. Waiting until you are 65 and retired to have adventures is not the way to go. Some things should be done before you get too old. Would my finances be better now had I been  more frugal in my 40s and 50s. Maybe, but so what? It’s only money. I’ve some great memories. 


Saturday, February 24, 2024

Johnny Cash - Hurt

This resonates with me today. 

I'm okay but some of those I love -not so much.


Friday, February 23, 2024

Doomer or not?

On one hand I take being prepared very seriously. On the other hand I also make plans like nothing bad is on the horizon. So what gives?

I like to live a fairly care free life. Having my preps pretty much squared away helps. I’m not worried about most things that can go wrong. Being snowed in. Roads flooded out. Grid down. Thanks to being prepared none of those things really stress me out. 

Security issues? Yeah, I’ve a well stocked safe full of things that go bang. Just as importantly I’m on pretty good terms with what few neighbors I have. In this part of the country a neighbor is anyone within a mile or two. 

You have to prepare for bad things but don’t forget to live your life. I grew up in the duck and cover atomic age. A lot of people believed a nuclear war was baked in the cake. The thought of it was paralyzing to people at times. However, most moved on with life and didn’t spend their time hiding in a bunker. 

There’s always something of major concern. Sometimes those bad things happen. If you are lucky there are things you were able to prepare for. Some things are like an asteroid strike where everyone’s odds are pretty low. Such is life. 

No matter what you do you will die in the end. Don’t forget to live before you die.


Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Left Coast

My youngest daughter just moved into her new house in California. There’s plenty of room so she’d love if we’d visit. It’s been a few years since we’ve been out there. California is a long ways from New Hampshire so we don’t get to see each other as much as we’d like. I must admit I’m tempted. 

My lovely wife and I have traveled quite a bit but we haven’t explored much of the west. We rarely get much past Texas. It’s a big country. I would love to drive out there and take time for adventures. It might be just the thing to do next winter. 

We also haven’t been to the Northwest. It’s probably best to visit during the summer. The problem is that New Hampshire is so darn beautiful then that it’s hard to leave. Living on a lake we have plenty to do on our doorstep. My lovely wife has expressed a serious interesting in doing some fishing this year. She even bought a lifetime license. 

The main attraction of California is to see family. I’ve a grandson who’s turning 11 soon and could use the bad influence of a disreputable grandfather.


Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Planning for the Scooter Cannonball

The next Scooter Cannonball will take place during the summer of 2025. About a year before that registration will open. I’m going to register as soon as I can. 

The event has fascinated me for years. It’s one of those nutty things that look like fun -that’s if you idea of fun is a grueling coast to coast event. It’s a timed event with checkpoints. Daily miles run from around 350 to 500. The route tends to avoid highways and has a certain amount of dirt road travel. 

Over the past year I’ve been slowly building up to it. I can now change a tire on the side of the road with the tools onboard if needed. Every time I do a project on the scooter the tools are added to the kit. I’ve also added stuff like USB charging. Today I received a Garmin motorcycle rated GPS. It’s essential to understand the ins and outs of the device. Getting it now allows me time to get proficient. 

The plan is to go on some extended trips during the coming riding season. It’s a good way to test the equipment and the rider. One of the things I did last summer was to ride dirt roads to improve my skills. Believe me, a scooter is not exactly an ADV bike. However, a careful driver can make it happen. 

It’s not a cheap event but it’s now a priority for me. So why now? I’m getting freaking old. Too many of my friends are dying without living out their dreams. Others have had sudden health declines that came out of nowhere. I’m not in great shape myself, but I’m working on it. Right now I’m doing better than I was doing last year so that’s something. 

In 2023 out of 250 people who registered 180 made it to the starting line. I may or may not finish, but I’m doing all I can to start. Just getting there would put me ahead of all those who don’t show up.


Monday, February 19, 2024

Whole House Water Filters

I was about to change the house water filters when I discovered they were all gone. That’s what happens when you buy them by the case and don’t keep track. Eventually that box of filters runs out. Much to my disgust I had to go to the hardware store and pay retail prices. It’s time to order a couple cases of filters again but this time I’ll keep track of the usage. 

When my dad owned the property we never even used water filters. Nobody ever got sick from the water. I’m not that trusting. I run a corse sediment filter that feeds into a fine filter with activated carbon and all that. 

Our well is shallow and it only makes sense to make sure the water we drink is pure. The funny thing about whole house filters is that we end up flushing out toilets with clean filtered spring water. It sounds kind posh though. 


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Game Camera

I received a nifty little game camera for Christmas. For now I’ve been using it around the house. One of the cool things is the ability to take night photos. That’s how I got a few shots of a fox that hangs around. Mostly the camera’s photos are of squirrels and birds. There’s a few shots I can’t quite figure out what the heck is happening but that makes it interesting. 

Once the snow melts the plan is to set up down in my cedar swamp. Judging from tracks there’s moose, deer, turkeys and bear that make their way through there. Who knows what else? While I know they pass through my swamp it would be nice to know how often and when. It’s also a good way to see if anyone is trespassing. 

The price of game cameras has gone down in recent years and the features have gone up. This one cost about $35. It’s not a big investment to see if it’s something I’m interested in. Even a couple more cheap ones would be worth it to see exactly what happens on the further edges of my property. 


Friday, February 16, 2024

The Sun is Dying

The sun is dying. The world is doomed. Everybody hide! 

That seems to be the way a lot of people are treating the total eclipse that’s coming this spring. There are lots of businesses that are closing their doors during the event. People plan to lock their houses and head out of town. 

I’m told that people who follow total eclipses tend to make it a five day event. Just about any sort of lodging in or near the path has been booked for many months. About a year ago good friend of mine who lives in Maine asked to stay at my place. He just recently reconfirmed. The guy and his wife are willing to camp on the lawn but we could still have snow at that time. Fortunately for him we got a new mattress for the loft guest room. 

As for myself I just ordered a bunch of eclipse viewing glasses. I’m smart enough not to stare directly at the sun. 


Thursday, February 15, 2024

Fiber Blocks Downsides

In previous videos I mentioned I use fiber blocks in my woodstove. They are made from compressed sawdust, wrapped in bundles of six and loaded on a pallet. Buying them by the pallet the local lumber yard provides free delivery. 

I like them because they are easy to use and put out a lot of heat. One downside is that they don’t hold a fire as well as real firewood. To get around that I either load real firewood in the evening or just let the furnace kick in during  the night. 

Today I dealt with the other downside. If put on a slow burn they tend to generate a lot of soot. It’s not like creosote that creates a fire hazard. Instead the soot is light and fluffy but it can restrict flow through the stovepipe. About twice a winter the stove pipe has to be removed from the stove and cleaned out. It’s not a big deal but can get messy. At least the build up is in the stovepipe and not the chimney, which remains surprisingly clean. 

Next winter I’ll probably end up using more natural firewood and less fiber blocks. The reason for that is the number of my trees toppled by heavy snow and high winds. If I have to clean them up anyway I might as well burn them. 


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Road to Wellness

I’ve a friend who’s started radiation therapy for cancer. The clinic is about an hour and a half drive from his house -all the way to Vermont. Treatments only take about a half hour, so that good. 

My buddy has to go five days a week for the next six weeks or so. Fortunately we are splitting up the driving between his friends. 

Tuesday was the first day. We really lucked out as the big snowstorm didn’t quite make it to the North Country of New Hampshire or the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. 

By the way, to hell with cancer.


Tuesday, February 13, 2024

11 Months and Counting

That’s how long it’s taken me to get a new c-pap. I started the process back in March 2023. It has not been delivered yet, but the company I ordered it from just charged my account. Maybe it will be in before next week. 

It took months to see the heavily over booked sleep doctor. To shave a month off my appointment time I went to a different town where he sometimes has hours. Then it took months for the paper work and insurance to get processed. Eventually the approval came in.

Then I find out the machine I actually want is not covered by insurance. The compact model that can run on lithium batteries fits my life style better.  In the end I decided to pay out of pocket for what I actually wanted. After questioning the medical supply company it came to light that my co-pay, for the machine I didn’t want, would add up to over $500. The machine I wanted was a bit over $900 without insurance. 

Another downside to having insurance pay for it is that they monitor your usage over the internet. Seems invasive to me. My doctor said a lot of people take issue with that. They do the bare minimum to satisfy the insurance and then turn the machine to airplane mode. Of course, you can do what I did and buy your own machine and not report to anyone. The doctor says there’s a memory card that can record anything he needs for therapy and only he gets the info. That’s an option. 

Next time I might just go ahead and build my own darn machine. I’ve gotten pretty good at repairing salvaged machines so I have some idea how they work. 


Monday, February 12, 2024

Thunder Dome

One of the reasons I built a geodesic dome for a home was its strength. The geometry of a dome makes it very good at resisting massive snow loading. The dome never needs to be shoveled. If the snow gets thick enough it tends to fall off. 

That went pretty well when we used to get deep fluffy snow. When huge sheets of snow slid off the roof it wasn’t too dramatic. In recent years our snow has been very heavy and sticky. Often we get rain on top of that to make it heavier. 

Now when the snow falls off the house it’s an event. There’s a roar and sometimes the whole house shakes. It doesn’t cause any damage to the house. However, I really have to make sure there’s nothing underneath when it comes down. It could really squish stuff -like that little pop up shed I set up late last fall. Oh well.


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Sports ball?

I guess the Super Bowl is happening today. Frankly, I can’t even remember who’s playing. In the big scheme of things, for most people, the game does not matter. Unless you are personally involved in the game it doesn’t really affect you either. 

However, people like to take sides and shout . . . I guess. 


As long as everyone has fun. It is a game after all. 

For me, the big thing that comes out of Super Bowl is some amusing commercials, so there is that. I’ll watch those later on YouTube.


Saturday, February 10, 2024

Shipping and canals

The Suez Canal is in the news lately due to attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. Canals are shortcuts that can save a lot of time and money. A lot of ships are taking the very long way around the tip of Africa. In a just in time world that causes some supply side disruptions. 

Just to make things interesting the Panama Canal is in trouble. The issue this time isn’t attacks but climate and weather. The canal uses a lot of water. The feeder lakes are not getting enough rain to run the canal properly. Shipping now has to take the treacherous route around the tip of South America. Once again, we have supply disruptions. 

An interesting little canal came into operation in the last couple of years. Poland built the Vistula Canal.  The reason? Russia. Ships leaving that part of Poland had to pass through the Russian controlled waters of Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea. Economically it probably doesn’t make sense but politically it’s a genius move. 

So what’s the big deal about canals? Shipping is still the least expensive way to move goods around the world. Anything that affects shipping affects the world economy. 


Friday, February 9, 2024

Bugging out might be the thing

In general I’m an advocate of bugging in. Your home is where your resources, friends, family and community are. You know the terrain and can plan for your local conditions. That works for a lot of issues -perhaps the vast majority of them. 

The  big downside to bugging out is that you are basically a refugee. There’s only so much stuff you and bring with you to a place you might not know all that well. You may have to rely on the kindness of strangers. It’s not a comfortable spot to be in. 

However . . . 

Picture being a German Jew in the 1930s. All the home prep in the world will not save you when the Nazis come to power. The only thing to do is to bug out. Those who left Germany early had a leg up. They could plan, liquidate assets, and move somewhere else. They were looked at as immigrants, not refugees and that’s a big difference. 

It takes a lot of courage and will to leave when few see how serious the threat is going to be. 

Keep your eyes open, prepare for the possibility of bugging out, and leave earlier rather than later. 


Thursday, February 8, 2024

Will the US Attack Iran?

Probably not. The proxies supported by Iran in other countries will not fare as well. They are toast. The US military is quickly eliminating anyone who was directly involved with the fatal attack on a US base.  We’ve seen air strikes and drone strikes. There’s probably some very clandestine wet work happening on the ground too. That won’t make the news -at least the details certainly won’t. 

The US really really really does not want to get into a land war with Iran. It’s a populous and mountainous country. It would make the Iraq invasion look like a Boy Scout outing. Also, Iran really really really does not want a direct war with the US. 

The US would not have to invade Iran or even bomb the interior to cause major economic problems. Just look at the Port of Kharg Island Oil Terminal. It’s the main oil export hub of Iran and it’s a very exposed target. Knocking that out would kill the country’s main source of export income. The US knows this. Iran certainly does too. 

My guess is that in the long run Iran will lessen its support for terrorist groups. It would not surprise me to see the US eventually closing a bunch of bases. I bet most people didn’t even know we still have bases in that part of the world. 

Of course, the US doesn’t have to be involved for the region to have major conflicts. It’s not always about us.


Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Lost Books

There was a recent study where it was determined that digital books do not have the lifespan of old fashioned paper books. Good quality paper books can easily last 500 years or more with minimal care. Digital books are reliant on specific technologies. I’ve some 3.5 floppies lying around and I’ve no idea idea what’s on them and that’s a fairly recent technology. 

All my important reference books are real physical books. Digital has advantages. Whole libraries can fit on a device that fits in the palm of your hand. That’s great until the device breaks or the batteries go dead. 

I have digital copies of my scooter’s repair manual. When on a longer trip I always make sure to have digital copies on at least two devices. One of them is a Kindle book reader as the battery life is much longer than that of a phone. 

Digital note keeping never felt right to me. Maybe I’m just old. That being said, it’s nice having my crucial information written down in quality notebooks. I’ve also cheap notebooks for specific tasks. If you have to work under a car and need specific information, a few notes on a cheap notebook works much better than a digital tablet. 

I’m old enough that my notes are often written in cursive -which is almost like a secret code to young folks these days. 


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

On the Road

No, I’m not referring to the Beat novel by Jack Kerouac. Today it’s about keeping vehicles on the road. I just shelled out over $500 getting exhaust of my Ford Escape sorted out. I knew for months there were minor exhaust leaks and now I know why.

Some industrious yet barely competent welder shoe horned in an exhaust never meant to go on an Escape. That was interesting. Fixing that fix required more than I could do on my own -especially working outside in the ice and snow. 

A few weeks earlier my wife’s car needed new tires. There was no way the old ones were going to make it through the winter. 

More expensive than those items, however, was the cost of keeping the vehicles insured. If you’ve had to insure a vehicle lately you probably noticed a steep increase. In my state of New Hampshire car insurance is not technically required. Of course, you’d be personally liable for damages and that could ruin a person. Then there’s the issue that as soon as a state border was crossed I’d be breaking their laws. 

With a little searching I was able to save $600/year in car insurance. The kicker is that the whole year had to be paid in advance. It’s been an expensive few weeks. On the bright side, I just paid $2.89/gallon for gas so that’s nice. 


Monday, February 5, 2024

Beard disguise

It seems that any guy who doesn’t want to be recognized grows a beard. That can be pretty effective. A couple days ago I ran into a cousin of mine and I only recognized him by his voice. He’d grown a beard. It wasn’t a regular beard but the sort of beard that a hobo with no access to running water grows. He’s probably not hiding from anyone. He’s just gone to seed. 

To me it seems it would be more effective to normally have a beard. Your disguise is shaving it off. Shaving a beard is a lot faster than growing one. Don’t do the rookie trick of shaving it off just before you do something drastic -especially if you have a solid tan everywhere else. That fresh pale skin is a dead give away. It’s the sort of thing the TSA looks for. 

So I’ve got a beard but I’m sorta fond of it. Maybe I’ll just shave my head. 


Sunday, February 4, 2024

Dark Days

Well it’s official. I was listening to the news on the radio. A meteorologist stated that Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire just had the cloudiest January on record. No wonder I had to turn to grid power so much. 

It was still worth having a solar electric system as I kept the battery bank charged up. Even without sun the batteries can keep the household going for a few days. At least it was during January, a month that’s not normally very productive. 

On the other hand February can generate good solar electric power. The days are a bit longer and the tend to be sunnier. Winter sun has some advantages. The lack of leaves in the trees is a plus as my panels can have some summer leaf shading. The big advantage is that snow reflects a lot of light onto the panels. Solar panels are also more efficient on cool days than super hot days. 

There’s some sunny days in the forecast so I’m looking forward to that. Sunshine is like free money falling from the sky. 


Saturday, February 3, 2024

My Illegal Border Crossing

The Canadian Border used to be a lot more porous than it is now. Back in the day you could enter Canada with a driver’s license and a birth certificate. More often than not they wouldn’t even check those things. 

Back when I was a teenager I was working for a furniture company as a delivery driver. This is in the days before satellite navigation and google maps. The boss handed us some hand written directions and sent us on our way. So there we were, two teenagers looking for a place off a dirt road in northern New Hampshire. 

We got lost and crossed a rickey bridge. Eventually we ended up on paved roads again, but all the signs were in French. Somehow we had crossed into Quebec. I turned to my partner and said: let’s retrace our steps and get back to the US before someone notices. 

Nobody stopped us and we even found the right delivery address. All’s well that ends well. 


Friday, February 2, 2024

Your Favorite Disaster

Preppers tend to have their favorite disaster. There’s that one thing they feel they are particularly prepared for. That can be fun and all, but is prepping a game to you? The stuff you actually should be ready for is probably a lot more mundane.

In early 2020 I met a guy who felt the major health crisis was the time to buy a new gun. Okay . . . 

Don’t get me wrong it’s always fun to buy a new gun. My gun safe wouldn’t be so packed if it wasn’t. However, he probably should have been planning for supply chain disruptions instead. Remember when toilet paper was in short supply? 

Often it comes down to the basics: food, shelter, and water. Medical supplies are good as is having some sort of backup power. A backup method of communication could be a life saver. If nothing else you can assure friends and family you are fine. That way they won’t be tempted to risk life and limb in a disaster zone to check on you. 

The biggest drain on my preps wasn’t a natural disaster or civil unrest. It was plain old job loss from an injury. My two years of preps looked pretty good -except it took 4 years to sort out my finances. That’s where having a tribe is essential. Friends and family helped get us through. 

Prepare for the most likely things first. Then treat yourself to that rocket propelled Zombie Killer 5000.


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Ah Texas . . . sigh

So now Texas is acting like it can overrule the Federal Government. That’s not a thing. Abe Lincoln settled that question some years ago. Either they don’t know History or are pretending to not know it. It’s a shame that we have governors who don’t know how government works. Considering we had a President who didn’t know how government works it’s no surprise.

Apparently settling the border issue is now off the table as a certain Republican would then have nothing to run on. 

In the mean time there are desperate people drowning in the river. Of course, they aren’t voters so I guess their lives don’t matter. Being downright mean to refugees is policy -for shame. 

We are a country of immigrants. Deal with it. Due to grandstanding political posturing we aren’t fixing the problems in a sane manner.