Monday, April 29, 2024

Golden Horde

There’s a concern among rural preppers that we’ll get overrun in a crisis by people leaving the big cities. How much should we be concerned about that? I’m not too sure of the answer but I’ve some thoughts.

My last blog discussed the possibility of a massive hacker attack that takes down utilities and services. That’s one scenario but there are other things that can set us back to the 18th century. A massive solar flare could do the job nicely.

So what would most city dwellers do when the lights go out? I’m guessing the vast majority of city people would try to wait it out. Most people don’t understand what’s involved to bring services to their apartment. All they know is that there are people in charge of that stuff. 

By the time they realize that things won’t come back to normal it might be too late to safely leave the city. Studies have been done on how difficult it would be to evacuate a major city. If everything went right it would still take a long time. There are plenty of choke points where traffic could come to a halt. Just one flipped over burning tractor trailer truck on the highway or an accident on a bridge could shut things down. 

A lot of city people don’t even own cars and rely on public transportation. They’d be reduced to travel within walking distance. Some would have bicycles but they also rely on the roads. 

During the pandemic we did get some city people move to our lake. They were quick to tell everyone they were relatives of the people who owned the cottage. They turned out to be decent and self-reliant neighbors for the duration. 

If the disaster happened during the winter nobody would be able to get here on unplowed roads. I wouldn’t be going too far myself but that’s something I planned for. 

So what causes people to move all at once and in large groups? War is a big one. Nothing like an invading army to provide travel motivation. Drought and famine are the reason large groups of people to pick up stakes and get out of Dodge. Massive earthquakes, hurricanes, or other natural disasters will also do it. 

So how much of a threat are city refugees? I’m really not sure. One thing to remember is that cities are huge. Even a small percentage of those people could move on and overwhelm rural resources. 

Let’s hope we don’t have to find out. 


Sunday, April 28, 2024

Hack Attack

A good friend, a fellow prepper, and I were having a discussion. He was concerned about our country’s vulnerability to foreign hackers. It’s already happened on a small scale. Well, I guess it’s small scale if you aren’t one of those affected. 

What concerned him was a potential hack attack across various platforms: grid, Internet, water supply, water treatment, and communications. My argument was that a major hack like that is a one shot deal. Our computer people would soon be able to patch up most of the problems once they came to light. 

He pointed out that even a two week disruption for most people would be a major catastrophe. My error was in thinking how a total systems collapse would affect me, not in how it would affect others. Two weeks or two months without those systems wouldn’t be that big a deal for me. Between my solar electric system, good water supply, septic system and food storage our household wouldn’t suffer. 

It’s easy to forget that most people have little to no backup for these things. There are people that don’t even do their own cooking, never mind have food storage. If they do have food they have no way to cook it with the systems down. Water could be a major issue for multitudes. It could get ugly relatively fast. 

So I have to concede to my friend’s argument. A major hacking attack is something to be concerned about. Fortunately, your preps for everything from winter storms to hurricanes will get you through. You do have preps? Right?


Friday, April 26, 2024

Good weather for wrenching

It was a good day for wrenching on the scooter. Temperatures were in the 40s and it was sunny. That meant it was nice enough to work on the scooter but a bit cool for riding it. 

The little Honda PCX 150 was due for an oil change. My model does not have an oil filter. Instead it has a fine copper mesh filter that looks like an over sized thimble. It’s possible to gently clean the mesh and reuse it. Rather than mess with that I just replaced it as it’s a two dollar item. 

The next item that was due for replacement was the air filter. It came as a bit of a surprise to see just how dirty the filter got. Then I thought back to all the miles of dirt road driven and it suddenly made sense. So how did I end up riding so much dirt with a machine really not meant for it? First of all there are a lot of pretty cool dirt roads to drive around here. The second reason is for practice. The Scooter Cannonball is still on my radar and there’s usually a fair bit of dirt on the route. 

Last fall I had to replace a swing arm bolt and was able to find a replacement at Tractor Supply. There probably wasn’t any real reason to change it to an OEM part but I did that anyway. It has been my experience that Honda OEM parts are generally the way to go. They are less likely to leave you stranded on the side of the road. The last thing I did was check all the other bolts and screws on the machine. 

My next project will be probably involve changing the drive belt. The replacement belt and necessary tools are already packed on the scoot if the old one fails. However, it makes sense to replace it before it fails. Mr Murphy dictates it will otherwise fail at an inconvenient time and place. 

There’s some nicer weather on the way so I’ll probably be doing more riding than wrenching in the near term.


Thursday, April 25, 2024

Food Storage Changes

The best bang for the buck with food storage is to buy basic staples in bulk: wheat berries, rice, beans -that sort of thing. I also have a rotating stock of canned and frozen foods. While it’s not the cheapest way to go there’s a fair number of meals in 25 year storage buckets. They last, are easy to prepare, and provide some variety. I like to take a bucket or two along when we go camping. That’s saved us from having to make long trips into town for food shopping numerous times. 

So I thought my food storage was pretty much squared away. Then my lovely wife developed food allergies. A lot of that dehydrated storage food was now a problem for her. These are not simple food sensitivities but full blown allergies that swell up the face and cause airways to shut. That’s not something you want to deal with at any time and especially not during an emergency.

Fortunately I have friends who also store similar foods. We’ve been swapping out things my wife can’t eat with things she can. We will still be left with some she can’t eat but others in the household can. They can also be used as give away items or trade items. 

The thing about food storage is that it’s not a do it once and forget it sort of thing. Needs change and one has to be adaptable. Also, it’s good to have a variety of foodstuffs as you never know how dietary needs could change.


Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Hi Profile Criminal

Well that’s interesting. The Secret Service is meeting with prison officials. They are hammering out the logistics and procedures for imprisoning a former President. Looks like some people are now thinking the “unthinkable.”

There’s no guarantee that Trump will be imprisoned, but plans are being make just in case. This will be the first time a convicted felon has Secret Service protection. I would not like to be one of those guys. Spending one’s days protecting someone in prison is a far cry from wandering around in the sun on a golf course. 

One of the main concerns is how the country will react. One of the reasons for this blog is to prepare for disasters. Civil unrest is one of those concerns. So the questions is: how will Trump’s supporters react? Will a million people in red hats take up arms? 

I don’t think so. That’s not so say that there won’t be some individuals or small groups acting out. However, it appears that any uprising will be well within regular law enforcement’s capabilities. What’s more like likely is nasty posts online. The fact that so many January 6th participants have ended up in jail is a deterrent also.

So from a civil threat standpoint I give reactions to jail time as a low level threat. 


Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Tesla’s next mistake

Elon Musk and Tesla haven’t had a good run lately. The Cyber Truck fails as a truck. It’s doing pretty good as a cautionary tale. It’s embarrassing when an old school company like Ford makes a better electric truck. Heck, Rivian makes a better truck -and it’s barely keeping itself afloat as a company.

Now it looks like Tesla and Musk are putting low cost electric cars on the back burner. Instead they are concentrating on self driving cars. That, in my opinion, could be a fatal mistake. People who love cars don’t buy them to have an AI do the driving. That’s called taking a taxi. Why would anyone want to own a personal taxi that a computer drives?

Car companies, and Tesla might be one of the worse, have fallen in love with subscription services. To unlock advanced features requires monthly payments. It seems weird to buy a car yet some of the features built in require subscriptions. 

What would really be nice to have are small, cheap, and efficient electric cars. Ideally one that can be recharged with a cheap home charger. It doesn’t appear that any US companies are working in that direction. 

The closest thing we have to a cheap and efficient electric vehicle are electric bicycles. 

Personally I’m pretty disappointed with Elon. His pet projects and increasingly erratic behavior are concerning. I’m not qualified to give financial advice, but it looks like Tesla stocks, even with current losses, are overvalued. 


Saturday, April 20, 2024

Catching up

Sometimes your backup also fails. That was the situation for our cars. The Escape lost a wheel bearing at the same time the Nissan blew a clutch. First we got the Escape back. Today the garage finally got the right part for the Nissan and that’s back home too. We were not in any position to bug out anywhere or even do basic errands. 

Today I put a third vehicle on the road, my Honda PCX 150 motor scooter. It needed the battery installed, tires pumped up and fuel tank filled. The little beast started right up. The next thing it needs is an oil change but I’ve got everything to do that at home. 

We plan on having a few people over for a campfire. There are some nice dry maple branches that came down over the winter. All they need is a bit of work with the chainsaw. 

Normally I’d have done the oil change and chainsaw work but I have to pace myself. Spending a week in the hospital can take a lot out of a person. While my doctor is pleased with my progress he doesn’t want me to overdue it. In the past I’ve powered through but sometimes had to pay the price for being stubborn. That’s pretty much how I ended up in the hospital in the first place. 


Friday, April 19, 2024

31 Dollars

It cost 31 dollars to register my 150cc motor scooter. I could have saved a couple bucks by going all the way down to the DMV but I love the town hall one stop shopping. There was only one person in line in front of me. It only took about 10 minutes for her business and about 5 minutes for mine. 

While waiting I had a nice chat with the town librarian who’s in the same building. In small towns most services are crammed together under one roof. It’s convenient. 

The scooter has its new state sticker and I dragged it out of storage. All it needs is for the battery to be reinstalled and It’ll be ready to go. However, I’ll probably change the motor oil before going anywhere.  Maintenance is important. 

I’ve been looking forward to getting the little Honda on the road for a while now. It didn’t help that we got two big snowstorms during the month of April. Yeah, this month. That’s already melted. The town has also swept the sand off my road so that’s a good sign. 

So I spent my 31 dollars and I’m ready to hit the road -well worth the price for all the joy it gives me.


Thursday, April 18, 2024

Dirt Road of the Internet Superhighway

Living out in the sticks it’s tough to get decent Internet connections. Even when most people still had dial up my phone connection was half speed. That was due to the poor quality of the landlines. 

Later on I subscribed to a satellite service called Wildblue. They are no longer in business. It was better than dial up, but data limits were a problem. Also, when there were massive thunderstorms over upstate New York they would block the signal. 

Then I finally got cable Internet from a company called Argent. I liked them. It was a small company started by a guy who hated Comcast. The company had some glitches, but their service department was amazing. When they were setting up my service the technician was having problems. The owner of the company was camping in my area so he came over and sorted things out. 

I don’t think I’m going to get that service from Spectrum, the company who bought out Argent. Time will tell. On the plus side the service technician came on time and swapped over the equipment without any problems. 

It’s funny how I lived a good part of my life without the Internet. Now I depend on it for everything. 


Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Last of the Sticks

My little Nissan Versa is back in the shop. Recently they changed the clutch and damaged a gasket. It developed a small transmission fluid leak. It was supposed to be a fairly quick job but as we all know that’s not the way things turn out sometimes.

The replacement gasket they were sent is actually for an automatic transmission. When I checked in on them they were frantically trying to locate the correct part. None of their suppliers had it on hand. Since my car is taking up one of their bays I’m sure they’ll get something overnighted if they can find it. 

There aren’t a lot of stick shift cars in the US anymore. They are much more popular in Europe. Back in the 70s there were a lot of imported small cars with stick shift. There used to be a big difference in fuel economy and that was everything. Automatic transmissions are now a lot more efficient than they used to be.

I went with a stick shift as the Versas at the time had pretty doggy CVT transmissions. It’s basically the same type as the transmission on a motor scooter. While they’ve gotten better I’m still not a fan of the type-unless it’s on a scooter or a snowmobile. Cars -not so much.

There are high performance cars that have manual transmissions. A skilled driver can get a lot more zip out of a manual gearbox. As for my little economy car the performance, while not a race car, is much better than the automatic. 

At any rate, I’m back to waiting for parts. They have to out there somewhere.


Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Ice and other things

Today there’s a fair chance the ice will leave the lake. It’s broken up into pencil ice with areas of open water. Had it been windy on Monday the lake would probably have completely opened up. This will be a few days earlier than the old average ice out date. 

Trout season doesn’t start until the fourth Saturday in April. Hopefully I’ll have the boat in the water by then. My lovely wife is really looking forward to fishing this year. It’ll be nice to do that together. 

I’m still not fully recovered from my week in the hospital. Later in the week I’m meeting with my doctor. We are in the process of putting together a plan to prevent further leg infections. For those who know me it won’t come as a surprise that weight loss will be part of that. 

Treatment is a lot different in the US if you have health insurance. Five years ago a doctor wanted to schedule cardiac tests. However, having no insurance at the time the hospital wanted $20,000 up front. That didn’t happen. This time around I have insurance.  The doctor just went ahead and had tests done while I was in the hospital. The good news is that my heart is in good shape. Also thanks to having insurance the weight loss clinic will accept me. 

I’ll have to pace myself until my leg is fully healed up, but at least I’m now chipping away at my projects. That feels good. 


Sunday, April 14, 2024

So That Happened

Has anyone been wondering what the heck happened to me? I know I sometimes drop off the grid for a while but usually I give some warning. This time around events ran away from me. 

First and foremost I was spending a lot of time helping my brother from another mother, John “Little Wolf” Schmaing. Back in January it was discovered he had an aggressive brain tumor. His biological family is way across the country in Montana. Fortunately his acquired family and friends stepped in to take care of him. There were a lot of trips for cancer treatments. During that sort of crisis there’s a lot of things that need to be done. 

In spite of John putting up a good fight he succumbed to cancer on Friday. The love of his life and good friends were by his side. This is his last blog post:

In the middle of all that I happened to spend a week in the hospital. I thought the doctor was just going to prescribe more antibiotics for my recurring leg infection. Nope. He pointed out that home treatment wasn’t working all that great and recommended a hospital stay. That wasn’t fun.

At my best I’m a hard draw so it takes a pretty good phlebotomist to get my blood. Starting IVs is also a disaster. Due to being on blood thinners and diuretics getting a good vein was even harder. After a couple days both arms were black and blue from the back of my hands to my shoulders. It looked like the lamest sleeve tattoo ever.  They ended up installing a Picc line for the duration. 

Just to make things interesting I got a norovirus that was running through the hospital. My 24 hour bug ran seven days. Not fun at all.

Fortunately, I was home in time for the eclipse. Some friends from Maine came up a day ahead to beat the crowd. We went to the boat landing which is just around the corner from my house. There’s a great view of the open sky and the White Mountains are visible in the distance. It’s a beautiful place. The eclipse experience was amazing. During totality an eagle and two crows flew right over our heads. It was like something out of a novel.

So . . . I’ve been busy. It’s been an emotional roller coaster.